Category Archives: Interview

Interview Feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly

Getting feedback from a client after an interview is essential. It’s pretty great when a hiring manager calls to say the interviews went well and they want to move the candidates forward in the process. 

Sounds positive right?

But it’s not enough information. It’s tempting to let them off the hook and just move forward. That kind of thinking with come back to bit you later.

You need to know why they like the candidates. “He’s really nice” is not a valid reason to hire someone.

I am not saying you should hire people you can’t stand but you do need to identify what it is about their experience, style and education that makes them seem likely to fill the gap in an organization.

This is equally true when the hiring manager declares that a candidate is not a fit. What is is about them that makes them not a fit? It it something that will develop over time or a characteristic that is not likely to change?

Not knowing a company’s acronyms or specific processes can be overcome. You can even ask questions during the interview about how the candidate has gotten up to speed in the past for some reassurance. 

If the candidate shows up late, chews gum and takes a call during the interview, those might be characteristics that make that person a complete non-starter.

But be clear about what specifically is good and what is missing or misaligned. That’s the only way to increase your chances of making a successful hire.

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The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are. 

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like. 

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

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Looking for that first job?

All kinds of new grads are being released in the wilds of the employment world this month.

They have a degree or a diploma in hand and are ready to land their dream job.

Wrong.

It’s really too bad that we have set them up for that expectation.  You first job will never be your dream job.  That only happens in the movies.

When you emerge from your sheltered school environment, you feel like you know everything.  Then you get a job and you realize how much you actually don’t know.  You also learn what having a “job” and a “boss” is really like.

It can be an ugly time.  But it’s also a time of great learning; it kind of caps off your education.  That first manager will really help shape what you want to do in your life.  If you are lucky enough to have a great manager, then the job itself is almost irrelevant.  You will learn about balancing work and life, about setting priorities and answering to different types of people.

If, on the other hand, you have a bad manager, it is still a great learning opportunity.  You learn a lot about the things that you don’t like and the things you will never do when you are a manager.

All this comes into play when you are looking for jobs number two and three.  At this point, you are starting to hone in on the things that you are really good at and the type of manager you need have to continue to develop.  Now, things are starting to shape up and you might actually be able to see what your dream job might really look like.

So, don’t get too hung up on your first gig.  Just start. Get a job,  make some money and continue learning.  That’s all that’s going to matter in the end.

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LinkedIn has a new look – this is not about that

Over the last few weeks, LinkedIn has rolled out their new “look”. I have read lots of good and bad things about but I am still experimenting with it so this is not about that. 

There is a feature that is often ignored but is quite brilliant for keeping in touch when you really don’t have anything to particular to share or ask.

When you go to the Notifications tab and scroll through the boxes, you will see the notes that let you say happy birthday or congratulations on a new job. I used to dismiss this as kitschy and not really of value.

Today, I was the recipient of a zillion birthday wishes and I can tell you it is not kitchy. I smiled with each and every incoming ping.

True, I don’t know everyone who took the time to message me but most of their names did ring a bell. As a sidebar, I also got two lunch dates out of it!

If you really do know the person, take a moment to personalize it, even if just a little. It will make it that much more meaningful.

This may not lead you to your next dream job but it will remind people of how thoughtful you are and that’s becoming a high value trait in many organizations. 

Best wishes for a great day whether it’s your birthday or not!

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It’s Just as Hard at the Top

Barack Obama is on a job search.  What does one do after one has been the leader of the free world?  

It’s not as easy as you might think.  Sure, he has a vast network of international politicians and dignitaries but what do they know about finding a job?

  • Let’s loook at his recent experience:
  • Delivering earnest speeches
  • Consoler in Chief
  • Negotiating everything from multi latereral trade deals to agricultural deals
  • Wearing only white shirts and blue suits

After eight years of this, what is he ready to do next?  Of course, he will start a foundation and write him memoirs but really, then what?  He is a young guy with a long future ahead of him.  

I guess he could go back to being a law professor.  Students would line up forever to hear him give lectures.  While I am sure that would be gratifying, I don’t think it would compete with his former life.  

And would a University Dean would hire him?  Can’t you just imagine the questions?

“You seem a little experienced for this role…..why are you interested in it?”

“I see that you have travelled extensively.  This role has no opportunity for travel.  Won’t you get bored?”

He would face the same wierd questions we all do.  Employers are nervous whether you are a former President of the United States or a former president of the Star Trek Fan Club.

The key for him and for you is to learn to tell your stories and explain your experience with confidence and clarity.  

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Cold Weather Interview Prep

It’s winter here in Canada and if you are doing the interview circuit, you need to be prepared.

There is nothing worse than sniffling during a conversation.  You try to be subtle by wiggling your nose or casually wiping your sleeve near your nose but face it: there is no substitute for a tissue.  So start each day by putting one in your pocket, sleeve or bra strap.

If you have a bit of a cough or a tickle (and who doesn’t these days?), then put some lozenges or tic tacs in your pocket, purse or briefcase. You can pop one while you are waiting for your meeting to start.  It will give you something to do with your hands.

Make sure you give yourself extra time before the interview but don’t hang around the reception area – that’s not cool.  Plan to take a few minutes in the lobby for your body temperature to sort itself out.  Your face and hands will be cold but your armpits will be working overtime so rather than greet the person you are meeting with cold hands and the tell-tale half moons of nervousness, spend a few minutes in the lobby.  Take off your coat, blow your nose and wait until everything comes to room temperature.  Then head upstairs to announce your presence.

Finally, no matter how much of a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fan you are, don’t take your coffee into the meeting unless you are prepared to offer some to the other person.

So to sum up:  arrive early, finish your latte in the lobby, pop a tic tac and set yourself up for a great conversation.

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Top Ten Gifts for Job Seekers

It’s that time of year again – the time of year when we fill the malls looking for the perfect gifts.  Is there a job seeker on your list?  It’s unlikely you can find them a job to wrap up and put under the tree but here are some things they might really appreciate.

  • A new dress shirt and scarf/tie – that’s bound to make them feel better as they step into their next interview
  • A month of LinkedIn Premium – you can read about that here.gift
  • A couple of hours with a career coach
  • A compilation of the best career podcasts or TED Talks
  • A gift subscription to a magazine. A real magazine that comes in the mail.  That way when they go to the mailbox, there will be something good to look at instead of just bills.
  • A gift certificate from Vistaprint for business cards or personalized thank you notes
  • Resume review with an experienced resume editor
  • A fancy pen or folio to complete the accessories for their interview outfit
  • Guest passes to a couple of yoga or meditation classes
  • Coffee gift cards. There will always be time to use up before interviews and wrapping your hands around a hot cup of coffee or tea is a lovely way to deal with that.  As an added bonus, if they meet someone randomly, they can offer to take them for coffee without worrying about having cash.

All the best for some great shopping!

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