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Hiring Handbook: Interview Like You Mean It

As a manager, interviewing is one of the most important things you do. You can’t build a great team that will reach great objectives if you don’t hire great people to be on that team.
Interviewing is the first step to hiring those great people.

When you interview someone, you are trying to figure out if they are the right person to help solve the problem or gap in your team.

Do they have the right skills and attitudes to be the fixer you need?

You establish this through questions and conversation and most importantly, concentration. We expect candidates to be highly engaged in the interview process. It is reasonable, therefore, that the hiring manager should be present in body and mind as well.

Before you step into an interview, take a few minutes to put aside the million things that you are working on. Think about the role (and problem) this person might be able to fix. Take another look at their resume.

Put down your phone, square your shoulders and head in to shake hands and say hello.

Try to start with an open ended question as an ice breaker. “Tell me about yourself” is a bit tricky. It can lead to a really long answer if the person is nervous. It also could sound like you are covering up the fact that you did not take time to look at the person’s resume.

  • How did you get started in this industy?
  • Why are you interested in our company?
  • What have you heard about our technology?

These are all open ended but with relatively controlled answers that will give you some insight into the the person right from the get-go.

Pay attention. Call out something interesting. Ask follow up questions. This is your chance to figure out how they think and how they might fit with you and your team.

If you are, at this point, rolling your eyes because interviewing is a drag and you never meet interesting candidates, then get with your recruiting folks and get that fixed.

The world is full of interesting people. Find them, talk to them and hire them.

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Hiring Handbook: Interview with Efficiency

The first interview is a funny thing. It’s a bit like a first date but in many ways, has more riding on it.

This makes the opening questions really important. The wrong question can end up using way too much of the allotted time while adding very little value.

To be effective, an interview has to have some structure. I am not saying you need to run it with an hourglass, but thinking about how much time you want to devote to each question can provide a strong foundation for a good exchange of information.

It’s nice to start with a bit of an ice breaker. You can comment on the weather, ask if they found the office easily or if there was a lot of traffic, something innocuous and universal. It’s really just to warm up their voice and help you, the interviewer, shift gears from what you were doing before.

It’s tempting to launch into their career history with something like “tell me about yourself” or “how did you get here”. There is no doubt you will learn a lot about the candidate but it may not be the stuff that is relevant to the position you think (and hope) they can fill. You are also opening the door for a very long answer.

Think about a question with a more contained answer.
• Why are you interested in this role?
• What do you know about this role?
• Tell me about your current position.

This will give you more of a “here and now” starting point. You can then use that answer to tease out their skills profile and motivation and easily loop in things like how their education has contributed to their success and development.

You will still get all the information you need but you are less likely to lose a bunch of time at the front end hearing about their formative years as a server or fitness instructor.

Keep it moving and interesting – it will better for you and the candidate.

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Hiring Handbook: Review and Refresh Job Descriptions Every Time

As companies change, job descriptions change. At least, they should. If someone has been in a role for a year and you are replacing them, it makes sense to review the job description to see how it has changed over that period of time.

Too often, this review does not happen and job postings and the interview process are all designed around stale material. It is no wonder that candidates in the process don’t seem to “fit”.

Just taking a few minutes to hear from the departing person how they feel the role has changed well be helpful. Their soon-to-be former colleagues may have comments as well.Even something like a software platform change is useful to note. Hiring someone who is already familiar with the tool will all value to the team way faster than someone with the skills everyone used to use. It’s pretty simple to work that into a job description.

There are other factors as well. If your organization has a new leader who is charged with making positive change or the company has merged or acquired another group, potential candidates want to know. You need your role to stand out and be interesting. When a company shows that it is moving forward in a positive way, it represents growth and challenge to the right kind of candidates.

To get the best applicants, resist the temptation to post the same old thing. It will get you the same old candidates and that’s probably not what you need.

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Hiring Handbook: Effective Recruitment Planning

Recruiting takes time. We all know that but sometimes we lose sight of exactly how long it will take to fill a vacancy. We stare into space and count the weeks on our fingers and figure that in six weeks we will have our seat filled and our problem solved.

Unless you have a perfect unemployed candidate living next door, that will not be true. Searches today take 8 to 12 weeks. Yep, that long.

Unemployment is very, very low. That means that your candidates have jobs and they are busy. They are not spending every work day cruising LinkedIn looking for your opening. They might look briefly on Monday morning, after a particularly ugly sales meeting or maybe while they are on vacation. This will add at least a week the process.

There are usually more than two people involved in the interview process. Count on adding one week for each person/step to account for travel, special projects and the flu. Three people? Add three weeks.

Companies, managers and roles change fast. Job descriptions have to be reviewed, revised and agreed upon before they can be posted. Add a week.

Once you fall in love with a candidate, you will need to do references. Those folks will be busy and working. Add a week.

When you successfully put a bow on the offer and the candidate accepts, they will have to give notice. Most people with integrity want to offer the employers three weeks notice not just two. They care about making sure they leave things as neat and tidy as possible. Then they will want a week to relax and get their mind and backpack organized for their new gig. Add four weeks.

And there you have it: 12 weeks.

Don’t put yourself under the kind of pressure that may cause you to make a short sighted decision. Be rational when you are laying out your recruitment plan and make the best possible choice to fill the gap.

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Job Journey: How to Talk about Money

When you are looking at a new opportunities, money should come up early and often.

I know everyone likes to look really cool with a “money isn’t everything” attitude and it is true, money isn’t everything but it is important. Really important.

It is a key factor in your financial health and household contribution but it also plays a part in your psychological health and sense of accomplishment. Getting paid at the end of a long and difficult week should feel satisfying. (If it doesn’t, consider going back to the first chapter of the Job Journey!)

Money is a tough subject and should be treated with respect and not too much innuendo. Being cagey is not the best approach.

People tell me that they don’t want to give away the farm. They think if they give an answer that is too low, they will ultimately get hired at a rate that is lower than it should be.

Here is what really happens: you tell me you are looking for $50,000 and I know that my client wants to pay around $75,000. You are not leaving money on the table by saying $50k, you are saying that you are not working at the level that my client needs. There are almost certainly other factors in your experience and responsibility that will not line up either.

You could tell me you are at $50,000 and you would need a salary of $60,000 to consider moving from your comfortable office and friendly colleagues. That’s constructive and helpful. I still would not put you forward for the other job, but I would have a good sense of your objectives.

People also tell me that they are used to making X but they are willing to be “very flexible” for their next role. They mention this on the first call. Before they have heard about the job. This is a good illustration of giving away the farm. You don’t want to tell a recruiter that you are willing to work for cheap right off the bat. We are liable to take advantage of that down the road.

When you are interviewing for a role and it has great people, is close to home and the work sounds amazing, then you can offer to work for less. You can do that when there is a really good reason, not before.

Before every interview, write down two numbers: your annual compensation now and the annual compensation you would like. You can throw out whichever makes more sense when you are asked the dreaded money question. Sounding confident will go a long way to getting you want you want.

 

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Job Journey: Taking a Break

People always assume that hiring stops for the summer.  It’s not actually true.  Lots of hiring managers want to have their new team members ready to start after Labour Day.  That means interviews are going on now.

Summer is definitely a good time to keep an eye out for good job postings and network (ie cocktails, golf and concerts) like crazy.

But it’s also a good time to take a break.  Put it all alway for a couple of weeks.  Take some time to let your mind wander and live without a list for a few days.

So……taking my own advice….I’ll be out for the next two weeks living my life and not thinking about jobs (much).

 

 

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Job Journey: Negotiating Vacation

As you get higher on the food chain, compensation packages have more and more elements: vacation, bonus, education, work from home, pension plans, parking and more.

One of the first things to consider is vacation.  It should be pretty straightforward but it is not always so.

If you have been with a company for a long time, you may be entitled to four, five or six weeks of vacation per year and maybe you can even carry it over into the next year.

You might be able to secure that in a new role if you are moving to a very similar organization ie hospital to hospital or between divisions of a global entity.

If you are starting from scratch in a company, you will be looking at something between two and four weeks to start.

Yes, there are still companies that start everyone at two weeks. That can be tough pill to swallow when you are negotiating an offer and you are already quite smitten with the opportunity and the people.

In these cases, there may be no flexibility, even if they really, really want you.  If the supervisor has been with the company for ten years and just earned a third week of vacation and then you show up with three weeks in your first year, it can make for a pretty tense environment.

The other piece of vacation is understanding when you are actually able to take the vacation you fought for.  One of my clients has a policy that you have to accrue all of your vacation before you can take any of it.  This means no paid vacation for a year.  That’s a long time.

Other companies are quick to provide four weeks but require that one of the weeks be used between Christmas and the New Year.  In reality, you have only three weeks where you can actually choose to be off.

It’s important to keep these things in mind in the early stages of interviewing.  Asking about vacation policies and practices can be easily dealt with towards the end of a first interview and should definitely be covered in a second interview.

You don’t want to discover that a company has tiny, rigid vacations after that all-important last interview.  It can be heartbreaking and stressful.  Get it on the table early and respectfully.

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