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: 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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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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