Category Archives: Job Search

Hiring Handbook: What to bring to an Interview

It does not matter what side of the table you sit on for your next interview, there are certain things you need to bring to look credible and interesting.

Hiring teams and candidates alike need to be prepared and ready to have a great conversation.  We know that candidates put a lot of energy into doing their research and preparing their stories.  It is important for hiring managers to do some pre-work as well.

Bring the job description and the candidate’s resume.  You may not need to refer to either during the conversation but you will have them handy.  Also, it means that you can give both at least a passing glance on your way to the interview room.  

Bring your coffee cup or water bottle only if you are prepared to offer the same to the candidate.  It will be awkward for your candidate to watch you chug away on your hazelnut flavoured latte with extra whip when they have nothing.

Bring some tissues in your pocket.  Nothing is worse than sniffing through an interview.  Also, if you have a tissue to hand to the other person, you look like a hero.

Bring a pen and something to write on.  Even if you don’t end up writing down, it is a sign of respect that you are prepared to jot down notes or questions.

Bring your phone to the meeting but only if it is on silent.  No fooling around on this one.  Having your phone chirp away during a conversation is distracting even if you manage to avoid looking at it (and that’s pretty hard to avoid).

One last thing:  leave your gum in your office.  Gum has a way of moving around while you are talking and frankly, it’s gross.  

These things may seem small, but they go a long way to setting the stage for a great conversation and that’s the goal right?

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Hiring Handbook: The Importance of Timely Feedback

You have just finished interviewing a candidate and it went really well. The conversation flowed naturally, the answers were crisp and to the point and the motivation was clear and rational.

What do you do?  Usually, you jump in and start making arrangements for the next step in the process.  You let the candidate know that the experience was positive and you are looking forward to next steps.

What if the conversation was not so good?  Do you quickly let them know?  Probably not.

Sometimes, you want to get a second opinion.  You think maybe there is some common ground but you are not sure about the delivery and communication style.

Mostly, we don’t give feedback on the less-than-positive candidates because we don’t want to give bad news.  And it’s true.  Telling someone they are not getting the job can suck. 

But it doesn’t have to.

You can always find something positive to say about a conversation. Start with that. Then describe what’s missing from the candidate’s experience that you feel will pose a risk to their success in your organization.  Make it clear that you liked what they had to offer but it just was not right for what you need right now.

Most candidates will appreciate knowing what was missing (although once in a while you will get a “crier” but that will just further solidify your decision). 

All candidates will appreciate that you took the time to call.  It is shocking to hear how many candidates, having invested time to prepare for, get to and participate in an interview, never hear back at all.  Nothing.  Nada. Niet.

That not only leaves a bad taste in their mouth but it can provide the impetus to get on glassdoor or monster or twitter to let the world know what happened.

It only takes a few minutes to reach out. Take the time to do it right. 

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Job Journey: The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers are looking for 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 such as inadvertently giving confidential information about the business or inappropriate details about the candidate.

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

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

Be nice to people when they leave the organization, regardless of the reason for their departure. Set up at least one coffee date per month with a former manager or colleague. You never know when you are going to need someone who can authentically vouch for your performance at work and verify the stuff that’s on your resume.

There can be an unexpected bonus in all this networking: coffee dates often lead to opportunities in the form of introductions and job leads.

Smile and bring on the double double!

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Job Journey: What to do Between Interviews

Most hiring decisions take more than one interview. In fact, it’s not uncommon for there to be three or four interviews. Then there are the references, background checks and the offer discussions. All in all, a process that takes weeks and sometimes, months.

It’s a pretty stressful time. You lie in bed at night wondering what’s happening. When you have a bad day at work, you toy with the idea of quitting because you feel like that new job is just around the corner. Or you worry about taking on a new project because you might not be there to see it through.

Ignore all of these temptations. You don’t have the job until you sign an offer and until then, it should be business as usual. Keep doing your thing and making people happy.

Interviewing is stressful and can be distracting but it is important to stay focused on your day job. When you leave, you want it to be on your terms. You don’t want to have problems putting together references because you suddenly became a “performance problem”.

The other thing is to be careful about who you tell. Most of us have one or two friendlies at work. It can be okay to confide in them but only if you can really trust that they won’t share it with anyone else. And if you choose to share what’s happening with them, don’t do it in the office. Go out for coffee, meet after work or go for a walk. It’s too awkward to have that kind of discussion in and amongst your boss and team. People make assumptions and then gossip about those assumptions. Imagine if you hear from someone in another work group that you were not considered for the new project because they heard you were leaving.

Your partner and your outside-work friends are the best people to share your progress and help you decide what to wear. Your mentors are excellent for this too. They can give you more context, help you lay out the strategy for the next steps or just help you de-stress.

Be patient and try having some warm milk before bed.

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Job Journey: Interviewing Ad Infinitum

We always hear about the neighbor who got a job with a handshake. You know the one. He was in the line at Starbucks and got talking with the guy in front of him. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, he is starting his new gig.

That mostly happens in the movies.

It can happen in real life but it takes a lot longer than the story makes it seem.

Very few companies make hiring decisions after one interview. In fact, very few seem to make them after three interviews.

There are two things at play here. One is making sure that the work group supports the hire. It’s a lot easier to onboard successfully if a bunch of people gave you a thumbs up. On the other hand, if you don’t work out, the finger pointing is not at one person but at the whole group.

The other reason for multiple interviews is to make sure that the best candidate is chosen for the role. The theory here is that the first interview is a series of get-to-know-you session with a larger group of candidates. That group gets narrowed down to a “short list” of candidates. They are presented to the hiring managers for review. Generally, they fit the skills, experience and compensation.

The hiring manager whittles that group down to a small group of two or three. At this point, any of the candidates could do the role. The conversation is to determine who would bring the best of the other necessary qualities: fit, energy, relationship building and so on. That conversation is usually with a Director or Vice President, someone who is one or two levels above the hiring manager. This is where things get pretty serious. The company will make a choice and there is no second place award.

Each of these stages require similar preparation. Review the interviewer’s profile. Where do they fit in the company? How do they relate to the role you are considering?

They will surely ask you many of the same questions as others before. Make sure you sound just as fresh and energetic at each stage. The people at the second and third stage are meeting you for the first time and as you go up the food chain, those first impressions really count.

Bring plenty of your own questions as well. Senior level managers want to know that you have done your homework and have a genuine interest and curiosity about the business.

Finally, book your haircut appointments for the next six months. That way you will always be fresh and ready on the outside as well as the inside.

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Job Journey: Tips for a Panel Interview

It can be common, especially for senior level roles, to have one of the selection stages be a panel interview.

Initially, it can feel intimidating but it can be very constructive and useful. It provides a really efficient way to meet a cross section of people from the organization. You can think of it just like any other meeting where you would research, prepare and present.

Find out as much as you can before the interview. It’s helpful if you know the names and titles of who will be sitting on the panel. That will give you some insight into the types of concerns they may have. You can check on LinkedIn or look for corporate bios.

Make sure you have a strong introduction statement. Once you all get past commenting on the weather, someone will inevitably ask you to talk a bit about yourself. You need a well practiced summary that illustrates two things. What you have done and why you are there.

Bring a pad of paper and a pen. When the panel members get introduced, make note of their names. That way, when you respond to a question, you can use their name.

Bring questions of your own as well. There probably won’t be time for many but you really seal the impression you have made with a well chosen and thoughtful question.

When the panel stands up, that’s your cue to stand as well. Shake each person’s hand and thank them for their time.

Head on out and get working on those thank you notes!

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Job Journey: Interview Questions You Should Ask

You are sitting with the hiring manager.  It has been a great conversation.  You have answered all the interview questions with aplomb.  You have provided colourful examples of your work and experience.

In other words: you are rocking the interview.

Then the manager says “Do you have any questions for me?”

And you say “No, you have covered everything.  I’m good.”

Boom!  You blew it!

There are always questions.  You cannot possibly know everything at the end of an interview.  It will look like you are not really serious about the job and not really much of a thinker if you don’t have a few questions of your own.

Your questions can focus on the team, the manager or the company.

  • How would you describe the culture of the team I would be joining?
  • Based on your experience, what are the personality types that succeed here?
  • How serious is your competition?
  • Are there a lot of development opportunities?

Or the classic:  what would success look like in six months?  I don’t love this one but it is effective in providing good insight into what the manager is looking for down the road.

There are a myriad of choices.  Prepare five or six questions on your note pad.  Look down the list to see what has not been covered in the conversation and lay it out there.

This gives you a chance to turn the tables to see how the interviewer reacts as well as the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the organization.

Make sure your interview preparation includes developing your own interview questions.  You never know what you will learn.

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