Tag Archives: jobs

Job Journey: Interviewing Ad Infinitum

We always hear about the neighbor who got a job with a handshake. You know the one. He was in the line at Starbucks and got talking with the guy in front of him. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, he is starting his new gig.

That mostly happens in the movies.

It can happen in real life but it takes a lot longer than the story makes it seem.

Very few companies make hiring decisions after one interview. In fact, very few seem to make them after three interviews.

There are two things at play here. One is making sure that the work group supports the hire. It’s a lot easier to onboard successfully if a bunch of people gave you a thumbs up. On the other hand, if you don’t work out, the finger pointing is not at one person but at the whole group.

The other reason for multiple interviews is to make sure that the best candidate is chosen for the role. The theory here is that the first interview is a series of get-to-know-you session with a larger group of candidates. That group gets narrowed down to a “short list” of candidates. They are presented to the hiring managers for review. Generally, they fit the skills, experience and compensation.

The hiring manager whittles that group down to a small group of two or three. At this point, any of the candidates could do the role. The conversation is to determine who would bring the best of the other necessary qualities: fit, energy, relationship building and so on. That conversation is usually with a Director or Vice President, someone who is one or two levels above the hiring manager. This is where things get pretty serious. The company will make a choice and there is no second place award.

Each of these stages require similar preparation. Review the interviewer’s profile. Where do they fit in the company? How do they relate to the role you are considering?

They will surely ask you many of the same questions as others before. Make sure you sound just as fresh and energetic at each stage. The people at the second and third stage are meeting you for the first time and as you go up the food chain, those first impressions really count.

Bring plenty of your own questions as well. Senior level managers want to know that you have done your homework and have a genuine interest and curiosity about the business.

Finally, book your haircut appointments for the next six months. That way you will always be fresh and ready on the outside as well as the inside.

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Job Journey: Interview No-Nos

Interviews are stressful and sometimes we blurt out things without knowing how they will be interpreted by the hiring manager.

Here’s what interviewers don’t want to hear:

I want this to be the last job of my career.

Even though your intention is to totally commit to this role, that’s not what the interviewer hears. They hear that you are looking for place to park for the next couple of years until you retire.

I will take this job until the right job comes along.

This is fine to think but not to say. No one wants to hear that a place on their team is not the most appealing thing since sliced bread.

My objective is to have your job.

Telling the hiring manager you want kick them out of their office is not the best way to display your ambition. Talking about wanting to lead a team or run a project is a better way to do this.

I’d like to work from home.

What the interviewer hears is that you don’t feel like this job is worth getting dressed and commuting for every morning. If the position is not advertised as “remote”, then its not and the expectation is that you will be in the office with everyone else. You can ask if work from home programs are available but that’s about as far as you can go.

Hiring is about finding the right person for the role. Part of this is assessing skills and experience and part of is assessing the risks the person presents. Make sure your answers do not lead them to consider risks that are not there. Practice your interview responses with this in mind.

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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.

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Want to Advance your Career? Stop Eating at your Desk

It is easy to get in to the habit of eating at your desk.  It seems like you are squishing in some extra work and looking super productive.  In fact, you look anti social and usually end up with heartburn.

Lunch was invented for a reason.  We need to stop and refuel.  It is a chance to change our surroundings and interact with different people.  It does not mean you have to spread out the white tablecloth and silverware.  Even if you just grab a quick salad or sandwich and sit with a few people, you will head back to your desk feeling refreshed.

The eating area is a common gathering place so you can learn a lot.  Not just gossip either.  You can hear what other groups are working on, get in on the good jokes and get exposed to a lot of different kinds of food.  You never know when you might have to opportunity to share your knowledge of where to get great Korean barbecue with the CFO.

Three other things to consider when deciding what to do about lunch:

Walking through a cube farm with your lunch smells wafting by is not always going to make you popular.

Crumbs in your keyboard is definitely frowned on by IT.

If you are not into eating (diet, Ramadan, cleansing), a walk outside is a great alternative.  Especially if you do it with someone else.  This can be extremely refreshing.  We refer to this as “walk n’ rant”.

So take the time and change your space.  It will be worth it.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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