Tag Archives: interview

Back Door References – Just another form of gossip

In most searches, the final step is reference checking.  The candidate provides three or four people they have worked with or reported to.  Those people are asked a series of questions about the candidate’s work style and reliability and if the references are done right, they are also asked about areas of improvement and for an explanation of why they left the company.

This exercise is not meant to confirm that the person can do the job.  It provides verification of the good things you saw in the candidate.  And when you see common themes in what people have said, it’s a pretty sure thing.

Sure, this can seem like a bit of a rubber stamp.  But that’s okay.  If every reference check gave you crappy feedback, then you would soon realize have a major problem with your vetting and interview process.

Sometimes impatient or unsure hiring managers take this into their own hands and call people who have worked with or know of the candidate.  Many industries are small enough that this is possible.  This is called back door reference checking.

From a privacy standpoint, this is totally wrong and really crosses the line.  There is a reason we ask a candidate for people to call.

If you hear something bad, what will you do?  Call the candidate and tell them that their former manager said they were unreliable?  What if that manager was on leave for harassment?  You don’t know.  You have no context.

What if you call a former colleague and they happen to mention it to someone else in the organization?  What happens to that candidate who was quietly exploring a new role and all of the sudden everyone knows?  Bad news.

Do don’t play fast and loose with people’s careers.  If there is a particular point of view you want included in the reference, just ask.  That’s the best way.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview

Mastering the Skype Interview

This week has been interesting. I met a lot of people – about half in person and the other half virtually.

I like the skype interview. I don’t feel guilty about making people come all the way to my office (and mortgage their car to pay for downtown parking). It’s also easier to fit in to busy people’s schedules.

Here is what I noticed. The people who met me in person had obviously taken care with their appearance and their timing. There was a general sense of preparedness about them when I met them in our reception area.

The skype chats were different. It seemed to be a much more casual thing. Not too much care with the surroundings and not to concerned about attire.

Now, I know that different industries have different “uniforms”. If you meeting someone from a financial institution, you need to look well dressed and successful. Cuff links and monogrammed cuffs are optional but the suit is mandatory.

But even if you are interviewing in a software company with Red Bull on tap, you are probably going to put on a clean t shirt.

Don’t let a video interview be your downfall. It is just as important as an in-person one.

  • Be ready – test your wifi connection with a friend before the call
  • Look neat – you can take the TV news anchor approach – shirt and tie on top, shorts on the bottom
  • Have your resume and place to make notes beside you
  • Turn off your phone – you know it’s going with that obnoxious ring tone you assigned to your brother-in-law in the middle of the thorny salary question
  • Remove distractions – let everyone (including your dog) know that you are in an important meeting

These things won’t necessarily get you the job but they will help you make a better impression.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search, recruiter

Interview Feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly

Getting feedback from a client after an interview is essential. It’s pretty great when a hiring manager calls to say the interviews went well and they want to move the candidates forward in the process. 

Sounds positive right?

But it’s not enough information. It’s tempting to let them off the hook and just move forward. That kind of thinking with come back to bit you later.

You need to know why they like the candidates. “He’s really nice” is not a valid reason to hire someone.

I am not saying you should hire people you can’t stand but you do need to identify what it is about their experience, style and education that makes them seem likely to fill the gap in an organization.

This is equally true when the hiring manager declares that a candidate is not a fit. What is is about them that makes them not a fit? It it something that will develop over time or a characteristic that is not likely to change?

Not knowing a company’s acronyms or specific processes can be overcome. You can even ask questions during the interview about how the candidate has gotten up to speed in the past for some reassurance. 

If the candidate shows up late, chews gum and takes a call during the interview, those might be characteristics that make that person a complete non-starter.

But be clear about what specifically is good and what is missing or misaligned. That’s the only way to increase your chances of making a successful hire.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interview, Job Search

The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted 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 like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.

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

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

You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.

Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like. 

Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.

I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.

What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?

2 Comments

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search

Cold Weather Interview Prep

It’s winter here in Canada and if you are doing the interview circuit, you need to be prepared.

There is nothing worse than sniffling during a conversation.  You try to be subtle by wiggling your nose or casually wiping your sleeve near your nose but face it: there is no substitute for a tissue.  So start each day by putting one in your pocket, sleeve or bra strap.

If you have a bit of a cough or a tickle (and who doesn’t these days?), then put some lozenges or tic tacs in your pocket, purse or briefcase. You can pop one while you are waiting for your meeting to start.  It will give you something to do with your hands.

Make sure you give yourself extra time before the interview but don’t hang around the reception area – that’s not cool.  Plan to take a few minutes in the lobby for your body temperature to sort itself out.  Your face and hands will be cold but your armpits will be working overtime so rather than greet the person you are meeting with cold hands and the tell-tale half moons of nervousness, spend a few minutes in the lobby.  Take off your coat, blow your nose and wait until everything comes to room temperature.  Then head upstairs to announce your presence.

Finally, no matter how much of a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fan you are, don’t take your coffee into the meeting unless you are prepared to offer some to the other person.

So to sum up:  arrive early, finish your latte in the lobby, pop a tic tac and set yourself up for a great conversation.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search, Uncategorized

Interview like a Star – Don’t make these Mistakes

I polled a couple of colleagues today and was surprised at the rapid pile of responses I got to “biggest interview mistakes”.

These are real life examples.  I am not making them up.  Promise.

  • leaving your phone on during an interview
  • taking a call on that phone while you are in an interview
  • forgetting to do up your middle button
  • having lettuce in your teeth
  • arriving late
  • not knowing who you are meeting
  • wearing clothes that don’t fit
  • being drunk
  • interrupting the interviewer
  • sweaty palms
  • speaking too quickly
  • rambling – if you can’t remember the question, you have talked too long
  • offensive jokes
  • asking about other possible roles in the company
  • using LinkedIn to connect with the hiring manager or president before the interview

All of these can be avoided with two simple steps.  Prepare the day before and do a 360 review with a mirror before you get to the interview location.

In fact, these steps are pretty sensible for any meeting   Go ahead and practice.  You will be happy you did.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Your Personal Highlight Reel

How was your year?  Seriously.  How was it?  What did you do?  What did you learn?

When asked this question at a cocktail party or an interview, many people go blank and it is a big missed opportunity.

Don’t even think about saying “same old, same old”.  Not only is it probably not true, it just shows that you are too lazy to think of something interesting.

If you did something big like change jobs, then it’s easy.  You can ride the “new job” train for about nine months and then it’s not new anymore.  For everyone else, you need to actually spend some time looking at your calendar from February and April and those other months you can’t remember.

All the memories will come flooding back: that awful conference, that great presentation, the month your boss was away and you got to take over.  Those are the things you need to be able to talk about.

You might even want to work them into your resume.  At the very least, practice telling the story about the things that you did.  I am not suggesting that you bore your cousins to death by telling them the minute details of how you implemented a new quality assurance standard.  Just distill it into a couple of sound bites.  Those typically go well with eggnog and cookies.

So flip through Outlook and make a list.  You might be surprised.  Maybe it was a pretty good year after all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interview, Resume