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Thursday
Feb102011

Interviewing with a hiring manager at an Agency? Absolutely!

It is becoming more common for recruiting agencies to invite hiring managers they are working with into their office to conduct interviews.  The biggest reason hiring managers like this process is that they can basically do one stop shopping.  Recruiters put together a line up of their best candidates and present them to the hiring manager back to back in one day.  The value is a manager can do 1 to 2 weeks of interviewing in an afternoon or morning.  That may sound great to a hiring manager but what about to the person who is looking for a job?  Is this a good idea?  Should I take the interview?  Answer...Absolutely and here's why.

  • Quick feedback.  Ever interview with a company and not hear back for weeks?  That may be due to the fact it can take weeks for managers to conduct all their first interviews.  If the manager can do the majority of his first interviews in one afternoon they can decide who they like, and who they want to spend more time with and who is a definite no.  
  • Faster process.  If the hiring manager does like you, chance are you can schedule the next interview before you even leave the building.  Most of the time the recruiter you are working with will have direct access to the hiring managers schedule.  The idea is to eliminate any down time between interviews and keep the process moving.
  • Seriousness factor.  Think about it. If the hiring manager is willing to take a half day of his own time to travel to a recruiting agency office to do interviews, chances are that manager is very serious about filling the position.
  • Undividied attention.  Typically the recruiting agency will provide the hiring manager a private room to conduct the interviews.  Because the manager is off site, there is less chance of anyone interupting the interview. This means 100% of the managers focus is on interviewing you vs. managing the daily routines of the office.
  • Inside information.  Try and ask the recruiter if you can be one of the last to interview with the hiring manager.  This way the recruiter can provide you with any insight from the previous interviews.  Ask the recruiter what the hiring manager has liked about the other candidates and also where they have fallen short.  If you are working with an experienced recruiter they will know some of the questions the manager has asked and which questions have stumped the candidates.

Hiring managers typically establish a hiring process that works for them.  Some work thru agencies and in a lot of cases will conduct first round interviews at the recruiters office.  If the job sounds interesting my advice would be worry less about the venue and more about preparing to impress the manager.

Friday
Jan212011

Making It Easier On Hiring Managers...Makes it easier on you!

I am currently hiring a whole new crop of recruiters and, when this happens, I get to experience things from the hiring manager perspective. It's always a great reminder of what works (and what doesn't).

Listen, it's pretty simple. Assuming a candidate has the requisite skills for the job, the actual and final hiring decision is almost always an emotional (and even subliminal) one. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a hiring manager say "I don't know what it is, but I just like that guy." Remember that they almost always will have 2-3 qualified people to choose from. And they will choose the one they like the most. Period...end of story.

The best way to start getting the hiring manager to like you is to accommodate them.

Think "old school Butler" here in the way you interact with them. No, I'm not asking you to bring them their slippers and breakfast in bed. What I am saying is that you should come from the position of serving them. Ask yourself what you could do to make things easier or better for them. A busy hiring manager just wants one thing...to simplify things. Be someone who does that.

Here are some things people did for me this week during my interview process with them. What a shocker...I really liked them and want to bring them all back in for the next round! ;)

  • Good Example #1: My cell phone went off (my bad) during an interview. I saw the number and actually did want to pick this person up, but wanted to be polite. Instead of doing nothing and hoping our conversation wouldn't get interrupted, the candidate smiled and said "Like your ring tone....do you need to grab that? I completely understand. " HINT: Let them grab their call! They'll most likely keep it brief and, when they get off this call, they'll feel completely appreciative towards you
  • Good Example #2: I was speaking with a candidate about doing a second round interview and they could clearly see on my desk the large list of people we've interviewed and my unorganized, scratchy notes on who was coming back when. They said, "I'm sure it's been hectic getting everything organized...just know that I can do whatever interview times workout best for you." It is absolutely daunting to keep track of all the people you spoke to, when the candidates are available, when your team is available to meet them, and to somehow pull this all together seamlessly into an organized schedule of interviews. HINT: Do everything you can to both acknowledge this scheduling effort and be as flexible as possible.
  • Good Example #3: I always set up check in calls for feedback. Saves me the time of chasing candidates down. I asked a candidate to call me on Thursday at 3:00pm and, voila, he called me smack dab at 3:00pm. I said this window because I knew I had that time free and if he was checking in later I might not be able to discuss the feedback with him. By sticking to this, he demonstrated that he listens, follows direction and is willing to accommodate my availability to speak. HINT: If a hiring managers give you a specific day/time to check back in, follow those instructions exactly. If they leave things loose with you about calling them back, ask them if a particular day/time works best for them to show your interest in accommodating their schedule.

Next up...examples of things we intentionally or unintentionally do that make things more difficult on the hiring manager. Stay tuned!

Friday
Jan072011

Avoid these 10 interviewing mistakes

Happy New Year everyone! It's that time of year when people focus on improving something in their lives. If finding a new job is your new year's resolution this year, please make sure you avoid some of the common mistakes people make when interviewing for a job. You may have the perfect resume and skill set for a job, however if you fumble up ever so slightly during the interview you may be overlooked. Here are 10 mistakes you can't afford to make.

  1. Don't be late. That sounds easy enough but you never know what might happen. Plan for traffic or delayed mass transit. There may be security in the building that slows you down. A good rule is to allow an extra 30 minutes just in case. At the same time, don't be too early. If you've made it to your destination early, hang in your car or a coffee shop and arrive 5 minutes before your scheduled time. Spending 20 minutes in their lobby can be perceived as overly desperate and is almost as bad as showing up late.
  2. Never wear white socks to an interview, EVER! Even if the interview is casual attire, wear dark socks.
  3. Always bring copies of your resume. Chances are, every place you interview has a copy of a resume you sent them. Even so, it's best to be able to provide your resume to others who you may meet during the interview. During the interview if anyone asks you for a copy of your resume, politely offer him or her a copy. Never reply with "you should have a copy of the one I sent you." It may seem innocent but you come off as confrontational.
  4. Complete every application the company asks you to fill out. Don't write "see resume" on an application just because that information is on your resume. It may seem like a time saver to you, but to the company you will be tagged as someone who doesn't follow direction.
  5. Never smoke a cigarette before an interview or chew gum during an interview. Also, don't rest your sunglasses on your head or leave a hat on while interviewing.
  6. Treat phone interviews just as seriously as face-to-face interviews. Although it may seem not as formal as a face-to-face interview, phone interviews or "phone screens" are sometimes the most important interview of all. Some hiring managers use these quick phone calls to screen out the definite "NO's." If you don't take it seriously, you may never be invited in for a face to face.
  7. Respect everyone you interact with at the company on your interview. Be polite and professional. You may have impressed the hiring manager but if you were rude to the receptionist or human resources, you most likely won't get the job.
  8. Turn your cell phone off unless your current job requires you to answer every call. If so, inform the person who is interviewing you that this is the case. This actually may impress to the manager how dedicated of an employee you are.
  9. Ask for business cards. You need to remember everyone you met with so you can send them a thank you note. In addition, if you have tough time remembering names in general, leave their business card on the table in front of you during the interview so you can see it just in case you need to address them by name.
  10. Don't guess on questions you don't know. In some instances, interviewers will continue asking questions about your skills to see what you know and what you don't. Typically, if they are asking the question they know the right answer. Guessing makes you look bad. Instead, tell them as much as you know about a subject, and follow up by describing how you would go about finding the rest. Employers are looking for people who are resourceful, not people who guess, or worse, people they might perceived as a liar.
Friday
Dec032010

Don't be a JabberJaw!

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more of a turn off then a blabber mouth. You could be the number one candidate with the absolute best set of skills. But if you talk too much, you're out. So don't be a Jabberjaw (Anyone with me on this obscure, late 70's cartoon reference? I love classic Hanna-Barbera!)

Here's why talking too much in the interview is a problem...

  • It shows that you are not perceptive and don't pick up on important signals (such as the one your audience is sending you that you are boring them)
  • It shows that you can't get to the point (which either means you don't understand what the question/topic really is or you are deliberately ignoring this...which is worse?!)
  • It shows that you have the potential to be annoying to talk to (and will likely annoy other coworkers and potential clients. Yikes!)

In your defense, Jabberjaw, we know why you do this...

  • Maybe you are probably really excited and passionate about the topic at hand
  • Maybe you're a slave to detail and can't bear to leave any important little tidbits out of your explanations
  • Maybe you really want this job and are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the hiring manager to try and make a good impression
  • Or maybe you were born this way and your parents never helped you out and taught you how to  communicate properly and unfortunately you have honed this bad skill for decades

Here's what you can do to control the "urge to purge" when interviewing...

  • Focus on the core. Identify the main topic to any question the hiring manager raises and stay hyper focused on this in your response. Really think about this and you are ever unsure, ask the Hiring Manager for this clarification before you respond. Otherwise you run the high risk of missing the mark big time.
  • Stay away from level "3" details. In any interview response, there are primary details (level 1), supporting details (level 2) and what I call "annoying" details (level 3). You need to be smart enough to sort out where your explanations land. When you include too many of the lowest level 3 details, you will begin to lose your audience. Stay disciplined and show your good instincts in what you choose to talk about. 
  • Implement the two minute rule. I know, that doesn't sound like very long. But speaking for 5 minutes straight with no interruptions is fatal. You need to break up long discourse and engage your audience to make sure they stay with you. This can be as simple as saying "Does that make sense?" or "Is this the level of detail you are looking for?" or using any other typer of pause that checks in with the person you are speaking to. The great thing about doing this is that if the Hiring Manager thinks you are speaking too much, they will grab this window to stop and/or redirect you....which is a good thing. Let them!
  • Catch yourself. If you are afraid you have said too much, don't worry! Just simply ask the Hiring Manager i if you have gone on too long. Ex: "Gosh..I gave you a lot of information there. Was that too much?" At least this way they can't accuse you have not having the good judgment to know that this is going on. Also, ask your friends or family if you are ever guilty of being a bit of a run-on sentence and be willing to hear their feedback.

So reign it in people. Not only will you make your points more clearly, you will demonstrate that you are a great communicator...an essential trait for ANY position.

Monday
Nov222010

Your reason for leaving (under the microscope)

I know, I know....it's easy to complain about some aspect of your job that isn't ideal (a crazy boss, a long commute, low pay, etc..). But make sure to evaluate if these are "surface" or "core" dislikes and also take stock of everything else that is great about this job to gain a fully balanced perspective. 

Why do I say this?

Because I can't tell you how often I've had candidates come in and tell me they want to look for a new job based on some really surface-level thing they dislike about their current situation. When I probe deeper, we learn that they actually have it pretty good. It's sort of like talking to your 42 year old girlfriend who's still single and manages to find one silly thing to hate about everyone she dates rather than looking for the reasons for why they might be a really nice guy. A bit frustrating. And just like my girlfriend, this person will never find true happiness.

 So let's help everyone apply some common sense and objectivity to this important decision to leave your job. First, ask yourself these 4 key questions:

  1. Do you enjoy your work?
  2. Do you believe you can grow your skills (and ideally also your career path) at this company?
  3. Do you trust your coworkers and boss?
  4. Do you believe in the company's core services/products?

If you said "no" to any of these questions, you should look for a new job. These are what I would call dealbreakers. However, if you said "yes" to all these questions and still want to leave, ask yourself these other questions....

  1. Do you have a balanced or imbalanced role? Try the 80/20 test. Is 80% or more of your role exactly what you were hired to do and what you enjoy doing? Let's keep in mind that shifts in the business will require some mature level of flexibility on your part and "grunt work" or any other undesirable tasks are part of the package. However, my experience is that when this type of work creeps up over 20%, candidates can get uneasy (understandably) and will want to look.
  2. Do you have a tolerable or intolerable commute? Driving in your car another 10 minutes should not make that much of difference in your daily routine and/or commitments at home. Yet, pushing your commute to an hour and half and missing dinner with the family every night of the week will.
  3. Is your boss just a little annoying or flat-out dysfunctional? We should all be mature enough to deal with a boss with less than ideal idiosyncrasies. And let's also keep in mind that finding a boss who you get along with perfectly is a bit of an anomaly. And, frankly, I'm not sure you want to be that close to your boss. It distorts the natural objectivity and appropriate distance necessary for the working relationship. However, a dysfunctional boss is a serious problem. If you don't trust them, if they harass you, if they never acknowledge your hard work or take advantage of you...then you should leave.
  4. Is your team sometimes challenging or completely incompetent? Working with a team of people will ALWAYS pose issues. This won't be much different in any other company. The path towards gaining consensus, earning respect and establishing a fluid workflow with a team takes time and a strong commitment by everyone (and typically always has it's share of bumps). When there are issues, you should be working with the team and your boss to resolve them. However, if this communication is not working and your team does not have the capability to support you, then the goals will never be achieved and you need to consider leaving this company.
  5. Is your pay a little or a lot off? Making 5K or so less than one of your peers is not the end of the world (especially if there are a lot of other aspects to your job that make your situation a lot more attractive than your peer's job).  However, if you have hard evidence that your compensation is 15-20% lower than credible comparisons in your industry, than that is a good reason to leave. 

Bottom line: Don't jump ship based on a single, surface level frustration. Take inventory of how good you have it first and only leave if there are solid foundational reasons for doing so.

Tuesday
Nov162010

Be a Professional when you resign

Resigning from a job is an important part of the job search process.  Leaving a company can be uncomfortable for both you and the people at your company.  In today’s world it is so important that you resign in the most professional manner possible.  Chances are you may cross paths with someone from this company again.  Here are some tips to keep in mind that can help to eliminate some of the awkwardness of resigning as well as insure you don’t burn a bridge down the road.

Always write a resignation letter

Even though a resignation letter may not be required it will be received as you being professional.  It doesn’t need to be detailed.  All it really needs to be is a confirmation that you are resigning and notification of your last day.  You are much better off not going into details about why you are leaving or what you will be doing.  The letter is a representation of your professionalism not an opportunity to trash talk anyone or anything as your leaving the company.

Don't ever resign over email or voice mail

Unless it is physically impossible to sit down with your manager, you should always make this a face-to-face conversation. You should do this person the courtesy of speaking with them directly. A phone call is fine if this person is not local to you, but make sure this is a one-on-one conversation and not a message left on their voice mail.

Be prepared to talk about your last day of employment

Because giving notice can be an uncomfortable conversation sometimes we are not clear about when our last day is going to be.  Make sure you not only have this date in your resignation letter, but you also discuss this date with your manager when you give notice.   Also it’s a good idea to know how many days of accrued paid time off you have.  If you know this up front you can use these days as your last days of employment if you choose.

Leave on the best note possible

Work diligently up thru your last day of work.  These are the days that your manager and co-workers will remember you by.  This will pay off big if you need a reference in the future.  Also don’t bad mouth anyone on your way out.  Stay as positive as possible and thank everyone for the opportunity you had to work there.  Lastly try and document as much or your work load as possible.  Writing documentation on your work will help your replacement transition in much smoother. 

Thursday
Nov112010

Is it OK to tell a recruiter my salary?

"How much money do you make?" This is typically not a question you ask other people. And this certainly isn't a topic you openly share with just anyone. That’s because income is very personal.  In fact, most people are very uncomfortable telling others how much money they make.  However, when it comes to working with a recruiter one of the first questions they ask is “what’s your salary?”  Is this appropriate?  Yes.  Should I tell them?  You should if you choose to work with them.  That’s because a good recruiter will use this information to help you, not hurt you. 

Recruiters want to know what you are currently making so they don’t waste your time (or theirs) sending you to jobs that pays less than your salary. They also have a reputation to uphold which means they don’t want to waste the time of the companies they work with either.  They look bad if a company makes an offer you turn down because it’s less than your current salary. 

Recruiters ask every candidate they work with about salary.  Because of this they know the going pay rates in the marketplace.  A good recruiter will tell you if you are underpaid or paid at the higher end for your skill set.  Take advantage of that.  When you tell recruiters about your salary ask them how you compare to others.  Ask them what they think your skills are worth in the marketplace.  Talking about salary with your recruiter should be a discussion.  They should know what you want and what you feel your worth.  

Lastly, recruiters get paid by the company who wants to hire you.  But that doesn’t mean they will deliberately get you a lower offer.  It’s quite the opposite because most are paid based on a percentage of your salary.  Good recruiters will try and get the best offer possible that their client is willing to pay you, because they want you to accept the offer.  Telling your recruiter about your salary is totally appropriate.  Not telling them puts your recruiter at a disadvantage which in turn could hinder your ability to get hired.

Monday
Nov082010

State the obvious in your interview!

You may think that certain things are cliche to say in an interview. But say them anyway! You can substantially upgrade the impression you make by hitting on these common points.

Here are the top three OBVIOUS things to say in an interview:

1. I want this job.

I can't believe I actually have to remind people to say this. It is such a boost to an employer when you state your true interest in the position. Some candidates feel that this should be assumed and that by virtue of the fact that you have driven your car to their office and are sitting in front of them in a suit that they should know this. Don't make them guess! Tell them that you are interested in this position and why so you can set the tone, show them you did your homework and do indeed know what the position is. This will be very reassuring and flattering to the Hiring Manager.

2. I believe I'm well qualified for this position.

Don't let your resume do the talking for you or assume because you have had a good discussion about the position and your skills that this point gets made on its own.  The best time to say this is towards the end of the interview. It creates a nice opportunity for a summary statement of your strengths and exudes the appropriate level of confidence. Also, always be detailed and specific about why you do feel you are qualified.

3. I really enjoyed meeting with you.

This is an absolute no-brainer and a necessity. Always express that you enjoyed speaking with them at the end of the meeting. It's flattering to the Manager and shows your good manners. If you can speak to any specific elements of why it was so enjoyable, mention these things. This could be something you learned or thought was interesting and/or cool.

These may seem like silly things to have to suggest, but these three statements when well-timed and delivered sicnerely along with the actual specifics can make a BIG difference.