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Hiring Handbook: Dealing with Internal Applicants

Internal job postings are a really important part of the hiring process.  They don’t always provide the best candidate but having interest from internal candidates for a new role is great.  You want to have the kind of work culture where people feel good about moving forward and are willing to putting up their hand.

There can be awkward moments too.  There is always a candidate who is totally under qualified. And the one that you want to apply doesn’t.

Treat all internal applicants with great respect.   This is one of the best examples of internal customer experience. How they feel about the interview process will have a significant impact on the rest of their time with your organization no matter what the outcome.   

Even if someone is not at the level to be considered a realistic candidate, spend some time with them.  Listen to their objectives and why they are interested in the role.   This is a rare opportunity to have this kind of candid conversation.

Chances are they already know they are not qualified.    They were really just looking for a chance to talk with you when it was not a work situation or a performance review.  Talk with them openly about what they need to do to get ready for a role like this.  Give them some guidance on laying out a plan and help them understand the resources are available to them through the company.  You’d be shocked at how many people are not aware of what programs are available to them.

When you have your eye on someone and they don’t come forward, you can reach out to them directly to see if they will talk with you about the role.  They may be under the impression that they are not qualified or they may not have realized the process was underway.  Make sure you let them know that you will keep it confidential if they’d prefer.  They may be nervous about even whispering about something new because of their relationship with their manager.  Be aware and be sensitive.

Make sure that you provide timely feedback for these candidates just as you would for external ones.  Again, this is a true representation of your internal brand.  A positive career conversation for internal candidates is a win for the company and a win for the employee.

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Hiring Handbook: The Dinner Interview

Interviews over meals are tricky.  I’m not just talking about formal job interview type lunches.  If your manager or even a client invites you to lunch, it’s really an interview too, isn’t it?

This is not about your gang at work going out for pizza on a Friday.  Those meals are meant to be fun and casual.  If you spill your iced tea or end up with pepperoni in your hair, it just becomes fodder for the Christmas party.

Accepting a lunch invitation is like accepting a new project.  Scope out where you are going and who will be there.  Have a few ice breaker questions in your back pocket and chew a piece of gum on your way over.

I arrived at a lunch yesterday and the person I was meeting was already there and had ordered a beer.  It was tempting but instead, I opted for Diet Coke, citing my waist line.  Truthfully, while it was a benefit to my waistline, it was really a way to keep myself from getting light headed and giggly.

The menu was harder.  How do you choose something tasty and minimize the risk of looking like a goof while I eat?   Carrying a Tide Stick is not enough.  Prevention is the way to go.  Trust me.

Here are some things to avoid:

  • Any pasta or noodle that may require slurping.
  • Things that come with a red sauce.
  • Be careful with food that you eat with your fingers.  This may sound silly but only choose this option if the filling is solid or holds together.  I attempted a club sandwich yesterday and no matter how well I managed to wrap my fingers around those little triangular layers, they fell apart resulting in a shower of bacon and tomato pieces.  Ugh.
  • Burgers.  They look so good but ketchup and mustard running down your arm leaves a) a nasty residue and b) a sketchy impression.
  • Food with a lot of bit and pieces.  Poppy seeds are a real killer.  The person across from you will be staring at your right incisor instead of making eye contact.  Even if they are gracious enough to tell you that there is a seed in your tooth (which they won’t), it’s almost impossible to dig it out without floss.

So good luck and bon appetit!

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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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