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Hiring Handbook: What Candidates Want

People keep saying the job market is tight.  What they mean is that there are a lot of interesting jobs out there for people who want them.

I see this change in two ways.  The first is that almost all of the candidates I am working with on searches are employed.  They are not necessarily unhappy but they are open to hearing about roles that might different or better in some way.

The second thing that has changed is that people who are unhappy and actively looking at new roles usually have two or three solid (ie real)  opportunities on the go and will likely be presented with one or two job offers within a matter of weeks.

This does not mean we need to panic about hustling people through the interview process or start throwing around giant bonuses.  Those are not solutions. They are band aids at best.  

The main thing people are looking for is satisfying work with people they like.  They want the chance to learn, grow, develop and be appreciated.

Look around your place and your team.  Are you offering that?

When you meet new candidates are you able to talk about those qualities and how important they are to your organization?

Can you name three people on your team who have earned promotions or moved into lateral roles to get different bits of experience?

It is common for candidates to ask about this in an interview.  Along with compensation, they want to know what the future might hold.  They are not looking for a guaranteed path to the corner office (which is good, because those don’t really exist anymore….).

They are looking for shiny experiences that they can share with their friends and be proud of what they do.

If you don’t offer that, maybe it is time to start rewriting your playbook.


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Hiring Handbook: December Hiring

This week, I had two clients ask if it is still possible to hire this year.  They were deciding whether they wanted to interivew now or put the whole thing off until January.

Of course you can hire now!!

Think of the consequences of holding off until January.  That likely means you not have the problem solved by late February and the new person will not be up to speed until the end of March.  That’s the end of the first quarter.  That is a long time to wait for a solution.

We have six weeks until the end of the year and unless you have a 15 step interview process, that’s plenty of time to line up conversations with decision makers.

If you make an offer next week and the candidate gives two weeks notice, they could start on December 10.  They could meet everyone at the holiday cookie exchanges and spend time learning what to do and where to go.  They would take the Christmas break and be back in the new year ready to work.

There’s nothing wrong with a December 28th job offer either.  That would really brighten up someone’s New Year’s Eve festivities (and possibly your own!).  They could resign on the 31st and get started on the 14th of January when everyone is in full swing.

How much does it cost to have a seat unfilled?  Think about lost revenue, lost productivity for the team members who are providing stop-gap coverage and the time you are spending worrrying about the fact it is not filled.

Don’t just throw up your hands and put hiring off until January. Make an informed and defensible choice. Your holidays will be better for it.



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Hiring Handbook: Letting People Go

Last week, I had the chance to hear Dominic Barton speak to a business audience at the Rotman School of Business.  He was the long standing Managing Partner at McKinsey & Company.  This guy knows a thing or two about talent.  In fact, he has just published his fourth book, called Talent Wins.

He made it his mission to interview CEO’s to learn about the things that were critical to them.  One of the major themes that emerged was people. Looking back, CEO’s wished they had spent as much time worrying about their people as they had worrying about their budgets.

In fact, one of the top statements was “I should have let people go sooner.”

You could have tipped me over with a feather……Let people go sooner?  That’s quite a thing to say.

But he makes a good point. If you think back to your stellar performers, you knew who they were right away.  They just seemed to “get” everything.

Others seemed to take longer.  Maybe you were nervous in the first month, but after that, they were up to speed and by six months in, you had forgotten that you were ever concerned.

Then there is the group that never gets up to speed.  There is always a cloud of concern creeping around their interactions.  You spend more time with them, or put them on some kind of improvement plan.  Maybe you even get them a coach.

If those investments don’t pay immediate benefits, then you have some decisions to make and the sooner you make them, the sooner you can get productive again.

Take a look at the strengths that the person demonstrates.  Is there anywhere else in the organization where they might be better suited?  If not, then let them go.  Chances are, they know it is not working out and consciously or unconsciously, it is bugging them too.

Do a confidential search to find a replacement (with more accurate assessment criteria) and then make sure you provide for a gracious exit.  You will all be better off for it.

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Thanks – 401 Times

No career or hiring advice today.  Nope.  Today is a day for celebrating and giving thanks.

This is, according to WordPress, my four hundred and first post.  I wrote out the number to make sure that it looks as big as it is.

I don’t remember what I hoped to achieve when I started this blog, but it has far exceeded anything I ever imagined.

And it’s all because of you.  Whether you read it every week or just once in a while, I appreciate it.  

To my parents who have read it since the beginning – thank you.

To my current and former colleagues who point out good content and bad content (as in spelling mistakes) – thank you.

To the people who think I am funny and tell me so – a special thank you.

To my husband who is my biggest fan and search engine optimization guru – a very special thank you.

You all form part of a great community where meaningful work and supportive colleagues win the day.  Thanks for spending part of that day reading my stuff.

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Hiring Handbook: Using Positive Interview Questions

Unemployment is very low.  It’s sign that the economy is cruising along and companies are growing.  When someone leaves an organization, they are actually being replaced as opposed to the last few years when the work was just spread around.  People are pretty happy. They are not desperate to find a new gig.  They don’t hate their boss and they are not being laid off.  In many cases, they are up for bonuses for the first time in years.

That means that when people are exploring new job opportunities, they are doing just that: exploring.

When candidates are in this state of mind, it does not work to start an interview with this question:

“So, why are you looking to leave?”

Chances are they are not looking to leave their current job.  They are just interested in finding out more about the job you are looking to fill.

It’s not that you have to do a total sales job on why your company is amazing and how you are a shoe-in for the manager of the year.

But you do need to focus on asking for and providing positive information.  You can ask questions about why the candidate is interested in your company.  You can also ask about their every day work and the successes they have had. They can talk about what kind of manager brings out their best.

These types of questions will elicit a positive discussion and let the best qualities of both the candidate and the organization shine through.

Asking the typical questions that come from a more interrogative point of view and elicit more negatively toned answers are not going to do either party any favors.

So, before your next interview, take a look at the questions you plan to ask. Evaluate whether they will provide the framework for a positive or a negative answer and adjust accordingly.

It will be worth the investment.

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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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