Category Archives: interviewing

…so what do you do??

So, what you do if you do your own background check and you find things in your background that most likely an employer won’t like? And you never know what an employer can tolerate and what they can’t. For instance, some non-financially oriented companies don’t really care if you filed a bankruptcy or had credit problems. But banks and financial institutions will not likely hire you if you have problems like that in your background. Where things like DWI’s show up on one background check and not on another. The thoroughness of some of the services varies.

If you are totally surprised by what you find and you are absolutely certain the information is wrong there are procedures you can follow to have the record purged or you can provide information to offset the impact of the problem. For instance, not too long ago, one of our candidates had a bankruptcy report on their record. It turns out that their ex-spouse was going through some emotional and mental problems and cleaned out all of their savings by gambling. Once the candidate explained this to people the problem did not stand in the way of being hired.

Here is the important thing. And it is very important! If you know that they’re going to be some problems in your background or credit check, you need to be able to explain it to a prospective employer before they discover it through the background check. Now there are some things you can’t do much about. You’ll probably have a very hard time talking yourself around a felony appearing in your background. Most companies simply aren’t going to hire someone with a felony. But other problems, even as serious as DWI’s will often be overlooked if the candidate is good at explaining them and explaining how the circumstance has been rectified.

It is amazing the number of hiring authorities who are downright sympathetic with the candidate’s past problems. My sense is that is because many of them have challenges like these in their own past. So, you do the best you can by saying something like, “Look, I really want to come to work here, but you need to know that when you do a background check you’re going to find a bankruptcy 10 years ago… a DWI five years ago… that I was fired in my last position…etc. Let me explain the situation…” Then give a very calm straightforward explanation of what happened. Whatever you do don’t get emotional, defensive, claim that the information is a lie or the records are a mistake or anything like that. Any kind of denial or defensiveness or justification will seal your fate. Explain the situation as reasonably well as you can and then ended by saying “If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to explain further. How do you think this information is going to impact my candidacy?”

This last question is absolutely essential. You will get a really good idea if the problem is going to stand in the way by the reaction of the hiring authority when you explain the situation and then ask this question. Some employers are going to overlook some things. Some employers are going to overlook others. We know plenty of sales organizations that love to hire candidates who have either file bankruptcy or had very bruised credit with the theory that those people who need money will work a lot harder than those who don’t. Sometimes, that works out very well.

The explanation that a candidate has to have when they are going to counter these challenges has to be exact, precise and practiced way before the interviewing situation. If the explanation is a poor one or it is communicated in a poor manner, the candidate is not likely to get hired. I can’t emphasize more the need to practice the explanation to the point where it is a smooth, low keyed and polished. The difference between being able to explain this in as reasonable fashion as possible or the way most people would, is the difference in getting the job or not.

Practice, practice, practice.

…background, credit and other checks

I was on the Jerri Willis Report tuesday

http://www.foxbusiness.com/on-air/willis-report/videos#p/157870/v/3974561102001

Discussing background, credit and other kinds of “checks” that employers can and will do before you are hired. Just this week one of our excellent sales candidates who is had a 15 year history of knocking it out of the park for three excellent high-tech firms, failed a drug test. Yeah you read right. He failed a drug test. The company used a hair sample to discover cocaine in his body. He had reported for his first day of work and was summarily dismissed. This was the last guy in the whole world you would ever imagine to have cocaine in his bloodstream. He is in his early 40’s, in great shape and had been not just successful but extremely successful in the sales jobs he said.

80% of employers are going to do some kind of background checks on you as a candidate. 35% to 40% are going to do a credit check. My estimate is that 25% of the candidates that are close to getting hired get eliminated because of something a company finds either in their background check, credit check or social media review.

There are third party companies that provide these kinds of services to employers. The depth and the thoroughness of the checks really varies. Some of the services simply go to public records about arrest records, DWI’s, bankruptcies, tax liens, Judgments and verification of a degree or college attendance. More sophisticated, and expensive services dig deeper into public as well as private information like exact dates of employment, salary history, and character assessment ( like interviewing your neighbors).

If a company you are applying to uses a third-party service, they have to get your written permission to conduct a background check. Technically, if they don’t hire you because of what they find, they have to tell you the reason. Well, they are suppose to tell you the reason. Nine out of 10 organizations, if they find something they don’t like, are not going to tell you what they found or why they are not hiring you. They are simply going to say that they have moved on to another candidate.

Companies are relying more and more on these kind of checks because other information, like reference checking your past employers, are harder and harder to do. Most companies have very strict policies about giving previous employment references and some simply won’t do it. Prospective employers, then resort to extensive third-party background and credit checks.

As a job candidate, you might as well assume that accompany your interviewing with is going to do an extensive background check, credit check, educational check and anything short of a proctology exam. Complaining about this is useless. Hoping you can avoid them is wishful thinking. You best assume that anyone you interview with is going to do extensive checks.

90% of the people that have any kind of issues in your background, know it. Once in the rare while, a candidate is surprised by what might show up with these kind of checks. So, in order to be prepared, a perspective job candidate should run background checks on themselves before it’s done by a prospective employer. It is essential that a job candidate know exactly what a prospective employer is going to find when they do these checks.

Next week: What to do with the information you get.

 

 

 

 

 

…and now the right way to answer the questions

The answers that most people give to the question of, “why have you been out of work so long” Are usually pretty poor. The reason they are for answers is because candidates don’t think about, “how does a prospective employer in vision me and my work ethic with this answer?” They answer the question from their Point of view instead of the hiring authority’s point of view. The biggest fear hiring authority has is that, if a candidate can afford, even though they say they can’t, to be out of work for six months or so, if they get hired and they wake up one morning and don’t like the job, they will take another six months off and the employer will have to start all over in looking for someone.

So, here are some of the do’s and don’ts regarding the answers that most candidates give:

Well, I hadn’t taken a vacation in a number of years, so I decided to take some time off. (DON’T EVER, EVER SAY SOMETHING THIS STUPID…EVER! An employer imagines that if you can take six months off for a “vacation” you don’t need to work very much and you could turn around and take another “vacation” six months into their job.

Well, I had the money to do it so I figured I may never get a chance to do it again, so I took the time off. This is just a stupid as the previous answer for the same reason.

I got laid off and had a great severance package so I took some time off to see the world. (ditto)

I decided to start my own business. It didn’t work out so now I have to find a job. (The answer here has to be more Specific and positive as well as a benefit to a prospective employer. Something like: “I decided to start my own business. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be and I simply ran out of money. But boy did I learn a lot. And here is what I would learned and how it would apply to your job here………………………….” 

I’ve been looking for a job for six months… No one will even interview me. I’m being discriminated against because of my age. (Quit whining! Quit being a victim! Employers absolutely hate to hear statements like this!)

I spent the last two years: Taking care of children, taking care of my elderly parents, recovering from an illness, dealing with personal issues..(With every one of these statements you need to make sure that you communicate the employer that the issues have been RESOLVED. You need to say something like: “I’ve been raising children up until now, but they are grown and out of the house… Or on their own… Or they can now take care of themselves after school, etc. and I am now free to work as early or late as I need to.” Or, “my parents have passed away”… Or, “we’ve hired full-time help for my parent… And it will allow me to work as early as late as I need to without interfering.” 

When it comes to recovering from an illness you absolutely have to tell the hiring authority what the illness was and it has been RESOLVED. Some authors will tell you that you legally don’t have to tell a hiring authority what your illness was. That may be true but it’s first-class stupid if you don’t. The reason is, if you don’t tell them exactly what it is and that you have fully recovered, they are going to assume it’s something that is going to recur six months after you are hired and you will become ill again and will have to leave your job. So don’t pay any attention to the people that claim you don’t need to tell them what you are recovering from. If you want to go to work you need to present your illness and COMPLETE RECOVERY just this way.

The bottom line lesson is that if you’ve been out of work for any length of time close to six months or more you need to give a hiring authority a very good reason you’re still a very good employee and that hiring you is not a risk.

 

…the reasons you’ve been out of work for six months

I went on the Willis Report Today on Fox business network the topic was, “what do you say in an interview when you’ve been out of work for six months or more?”I have to admit that the reasons I’ve heard over the years are pretty phenomenal. In this post I’m going to share with you some of the most popular reasons that I’ve heard and then in the next post I will address the best answer you could give in each one of the situations. Here’s a hint: put yourself in the shoes of the hiring authority and think about what the statement communicates.

Well, I hadn’t taken a vacation in a number of years, so I decided to take some time off.

Well, I had the money to do it so I figured I may never get a chance to do it again, so I took the time off.

I got laid off and had a great severance package so I took some time off to see the world.

I decided to start my own business. It didn’t work out so now I have to find a job.

I’ve been looking for a job for six months… No one will even interview me. I’m being discriminated against because of my age.

I spent the last two years: Taking care of children, taking care of my elderly parents, recovering from an illness, dealing with personal issues

next week, the right answers!

 

 

“…I really don’t have to find a job…”

James came to us looking for a job. Last year he earned almost $450,000 and had been quite successful. He had been out of work for the past six months and told us very clearly that he was going to be very picky about what he did because he “didn’t really have to find a job.”

James explained that he had money in the bank a lake house, boats, four cars, a 6000 sq. ft. house etc. He explained that he had been very successful in the things that he had done and was going to only go to work in the perfect job. He kept emphasizing that he didn’t have to find a job but that he wanted to.

We warned James that it’s not a good idea to go into an interview telling people that you really don’t need a job. The problem was that James had been out of work for so long that any hiring authority with any sense is going to ask him why he had been out of work for so long. All he knew to say was, “Well, I got money in the bank, etc. and I’m being very careful about interviews that I take and the kind of job that I want.”

James claimed that in those six months he’d actually interviewed at one organization that he thought would be a really good job for him. He got into the third round of interviewing and then got eliminated. He said that the organization wouldn’t tell him why he got eliminated. He claimed that he was now searching for an opportunity as good as that one and since he “didn’t need a job” he could wait for the right one to come along.

Here’s why James is going to be looking for a job for a very long time unless he changes his approach. When a hiring authority here’s a candidate tell them, “I really don’t need to work” what runs through the hiring authority’s mind is this idea, “If I hire James and in four or five months he doesn’t like what’s going on or gets his nose out of joint he could leave the job, walkout because he doesn’t really need to work.” No employer in their right mind is going to run a risk on hiring somebody that doesn’t need to really work. No matter how much they like the candidate they can’t risk the candidate walking out because he really doesn’t need to work.

We’re certainly going to work with James and helping him find a new job but we are not going to encourage him to, nor are we, going to tell anybody that he doesn’t have to work. Nor are we going to tell them that he has money in the bank, houses, cars etc. we are going to explain that he has been looking for a job for six months, and that it is been a difficult market and that he is looking for just the right opportunity.

Any time any candidate tells or even implies to a hiring authority that they don’t have to work, the interviewing or hiring authority Isn’t going to run the risk of hiring them.

 

…never take it personally

…today one of my candidates got called by an employer i sent him to a month ago…the candidate called him as the employer told him to do…candidate called the guy close to 25 or 30 times over two or three weeks…never got a return call

frankly, i and you know that is rude…i kept telling my candidate to keep calling…don’t take it personally…these hiring folks will tell you that hiring is a priority but not call you back even though they say they will…rude, rude, rude

well, today, out of the blue, the hiring authority calls the candidate, tells him that he’d like to see him tomorrow and talk about an offer…never apologizes or acknowledges his never returning the calls…nothing..

well, the job is a good one..so, my candidate is going to go to the interview monday and talk to the guy…

lesson…never take it personally…we won’t know why the employer didn’t return the calls, but the job is still good one and the candidate should consider it…

 

….the seven minute and five minute nails in the coffin

Eric is really a good candidate. Admittedly he’s only been in his profession for 10 years so, he’s a bit young, but nonetheless a great candidate. We gave him the job search solution online program (www.thejobsearchsolution.com) as we do with all of our candidates who we get interviews for. He took the course, especially the part about initial interviews and telephone interviews. Admittedly, the first interview we got him was with one of our toughest clients. It was to be a 30 minute telephone interview with a regional director.

According to the regional director, he asked Eric one question and Eric took s-e-v-e-n minutes to answer it. Seven minutes! We asked the regional director how he knew it was seven minutes and he said, “I timed him.” The regional directors said that after Eric had gone on for six minutes he said to the man, “Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is…” and then answered the question…the whole question… in two sentences. Had Eric simply given him the answer that he gave at the end of the seven minutes, he would’ve answered the question. According to the regional director Eric even said, “I know I’m going on too long.”

The regional director asked another question and said that he timed Eric again and Eric spoke nonstop for five minutes. The regional director had tremendous empathy for Eric but ended the interview then.

The lesson? Practice interviewing. Answers, especially over the phone should never be more than 2 to 3 minutes and that’s when you are telling a story. And the time with a question like “Did I make that clear?”

In debriefing with Eric, he told our recruiter that he realized he had talked way too much and that he had learned from his mistake. Eric is a good guy and he probably has learned from it, but boy it’s painful.

A wise man learns by mistakes…a wiser man learns by others mistakes.

…a hard lesson for John

Just when were talking about taking tests, one of our candidates, John, was told he had to take a test by our client. It was a sales personality test and, he claims, that he had taken a number of them before and he said there wouldn’t  have any problem. Of course, we coached him and since he had said that he had taken this exact test before and done well, we all assumed there would be no problem.

One of the first things you learn as a recruiter is to have absolutely no expectations and assume absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, John blew the test. He just didn’t come across as a strong salesperson even though his track record was excellent.

Here is how he tried to outguess the test. His rationale was that since the CEO of the very small firm he was interviewing with was not really a sales guy and really doesn’t come across very aggressively that he should lighten up on being too aggressive. It was one of those tests that asked you 50 or 60 questions like “How would you describe yourself?” And then gives you a scale of 1 to 5… 5 being the extreme high and 1 being the extreme low. So, when he was asked if he would describe himself as aggressive he was supposed to choose the number that reflects his aggressiveness. When he was asked if he was quiet, he was supposed to choose the number that are reflects whether he considers himself to be low or high in being quiet. The second set of questions asked basically the same thing except the question was “How would others describe you?” And the same kind of questions are asked.

Since John thought the CEO was not really a sales guy, he was afraid to come across to aggressively, so when asked on the scale of 1 to 5 if he was aggressive, he answered the question with a 4. When asked if he was low keyed, thinking the CEO was low keyed, he answered the question with a 3. Well, you can see where this is going. He second-guessed every question, didn’t communicate how aggressive he was, even answered one question by saying he would rather read a book then go to a party And did not come across as a salesperson at all.

The reason the CEO of the small firm was using this test was because he knew that he, himself, wasn’t a sales guy at all, would have a hard time identifying a sales guy and hired a consulting firm who recommended the test to choose successful salespeople. The CEO called and was phenomenally disappointed. He really liked  John and wanted to hire him. His consultant, however, convinced him that John, in his heart, was not a sales guy.

If John had just answered the questions the way he really felt without second-guessing what kind of answer he thought the CEO was looking for, he likely would have been hired. So, the moral to all of this is to just take the tests, do your best and don’t try to outguess or second-guess them.

 

…how to take tests

Well, just this week we had a wonderful candidate get rejected for a position because he blew the test. I’ll tell you what happened after we discuss how to take tests. Unfortunately he just didn’t listen to our teaching.

First, what ever you do, don’t bitch and moan to the prospective employer that testing is a lot of nonsense. In some cases, it very well is, but if a prospective employer does it as a routine part of the selection process, Your opinion isn’t going to matter. If you voice your negative opinion too much, you’ll be eliminated for that reason alone. So, just decide to take the test in stride and resolve to do the very best you can. And, don’t say something stupid like, “Oh, my God, I’m absolutely awful when it comes to test.” This may be true, but for goodness sake don’t tell that to a prospective employer.

Second, before you take the test, get lots of rest, eat a good meal, and relax. Do the very best you can. Look at it as a challenge. Take it in stride. Trying to prepare for a test is hard, but there is a bit of salvation. Find out what kind of test you are going to be taking. Is it in the intelligence test, a personality test, etc.? You might even be able to get the name of the test before you take it. This can be valuable because if it is a test that you might be able to find online, you can practice taking It. For instance, the Wonderlic test is used to measure how quickly a person thinks. A person can buy the test online and take it….as many times as they want. It’s one of those kinds of tests where the score can be improved upon rather drastically with practice. Certain types of sales personality tests can be mastered by doing the same thing. So, if you find out about the testing early enough and find out what kind of test it is going to be, you may very well be able to improve your score by practicing.

If the test is either paper and pencil or taken online do not be over analytical and agonize over each answer, nor be flippant about the answers that you give. Be thoughtful in your answers and above all be consistent in your answers. Don’t try to read into every question what the interviewer is trying to get at. That is a losing proposition.

Whatever you do, do not try to outguess the test! Don’t sit there and ask yourself, “What are they trying to find out when they asked that question? Because if they’re trying to find out ‘that’ then I will answer ‘this” so they will think ‘that’ when I answer ‘this’ so they will think ‘that’ of me,” you’re finished. Every one of these kinds of tests asked the same question in three or four different ways. No one is good enough to outguess them. Besides when people try to outguess the test their scores are usually so goofy they invalidate the thing.

Next week, an example.

 

…does testing work?

Well, testing certainly creates an environment of homogeneous people. Being included or eliminated in the interviewing process by testing procedure is just as valid or invalid as any other crazy reasons by which you may be included or eliminated. And it’s like the old joke of the guy who snaps his fingers to keep the pink elephants away. Since he keeps snapping his fingers and no one sees any pink elephants, the system works. If companies never hire anybody who doesn’t do well on whatever kind of testing they have, they never really know how valid it is or isn’t.

My gut… and it’s only my gut… tells me that the companies that use any kind of testing don’t have any more or less success or turnover than companies that don’t. But, hey, what do I know? They ain’t asking me my opinion, and they don’t care. If they invest in testing, claim that it gets them better employees, and so on, then I guess it does. (I worked with a company five or six years ago who hired a CEO from me. The company had had a succession of three CEOs in three years, all miserable failures. After a couple of weeks on the job, the company discovered that my candidate hadn’t taken the company’s testing. She was given the tests, and the test indicated that she would not be successful and that she shouldn’t of been hired. Well, the company certainly couldn’t let her go over that, so, as with a lot of stuff that goes on in business, nobody said a word and just let it be. She was not only one of the most successful CEOs the company ever had she grew the organization 115% in four years. When the company was sold, she and the major stockholders made millions of dollars. The company is now a division of a major corporation and guess what, it still uses the testing to qualify candidates before hiring them. Go figure!)

Bottom line, tests work if the company believes they do!

Next week, how to take tests.