Category Archives: interviewing

…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.

… taking tests

hardly a week goes by that at least 10 or 15 of our candidates are asked to take some kind of test… These things can range anywhere from IQ tests, psychological tests, math aptitude tests, personality surveys and so on. We’re constantly asked if there are any “secrets” to doing well on them.

The concept of testing intelligence was first successfully devised by a French psychologist  in the early 1900s to help describe differences in how well and quickly children learn at school.  Thus began the argument that continues today between those that believe  testing is an indication of a lot of things and those that believe  that testing  really can’t measure much of anything.

Since 1973, I’ve seen candidate testing admin flow in popularity.. Believe it or not, it seems to Evan flow depending on the economy. Testing of job candidates can be very expensive, so it’s one of the first things that companies stop doing when the economy gets difficult.

Job candidates  should be prepared for what I call the “paradox of testing.” Every company that has ever used testing as part of its selection process is going to tell every candidate that at most the test accounts for only 25% of the final decision. Don’t believe a word of it! Whatever kind of test that is used, from graphical analysis to psychological interviewing, is a qualifier that you must pass with the minimum standard arbitrarily set by someone or some group in the organization or you aren’t going to go further in the interviewing process. Whether hiring authorities are companies will admit it or not, the test becomes a binary, black and white, proceed or go home qualifier. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.

So, when a hiring authority tell you something like, “oh, by the way, we have some psychological (or aptitude, or skills, or intelligence)  testing you need to do as a candidate, but don’t worry about it. Everybody comes to work here has to take it and it really doesn’t account for much more than 10% (or 25% or 50%) of the decision,” don’t believe a word of it! Testing becomes the gate that has to be passed through before you can be considered as a viable candidate.

Testing objectifies the hiring process. When supposedly objective tests decide on your viability as a candidate, no hiring her interviewing authority involved in the process of hiring has to have her butt on the line, has to take a stand  on your candidacy,  or has to run the risk of being the only person who likes you and wants to hire you. Now a hiring authority is still going to have to make a decision in choosing someone to be hired. But the convenient thing about testing is that it also functions as a cover your butt issue.. If hiring you turns out to be a mistake, but you did well on the company’s battery of tests, the hiring authority can turn to everyone else and say, “well, she did well on the testing!” It’s just another way of passing the buck of responsibility. The test becomes the qualifier, screening out tons of candidates should know one person has to and it’s convenient and easy.

Please don’t tell me that testing is stupid and it doesn’t work. Part of my graduate studies-admittedly more than 45 years ago-included extensive studies about testing. I can make the case that testing will never measure passion, commitment, focus, and, in general “heart,” the real things it separated top performer from an average one. But as you know, the people who manage companies don’t really care what you or I think. If somebody sells a company on the idea that any kind of testing will help it hire better people in the company invests thousands in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in this testing, it’s going to use it-no matter what.

—–next week—does testing work?

 

…malapropisms

malapropism (noun): the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect,

Well, it’s not a very amusing effect if you’re a candidate using these kinds of things in an interview… In fact, it’s not amusing at all, it’s downright disastrous… Like in can cause you to lose a perfectly good job… I’ve written about this before, but admittedly it’s been a while just this week I had candidates tell me that they wanted to “hit the ground moving… Hit the floor running… Hit it off the bat… Hit it off the ball

In the recent past I have had candidates say things like: “pass mustard“…instead of “pass muster”…”took off like haywire”…instead of “wildfire”…”preaching to the congregation“…instead of “choir”… “give their best foot forward,” …”I’m living fat on the hog” and “the cream will rise to the crop”…ok, we are amused and kind of laugh…

But in the interviewing situation, they can be disastrous…especially if they are repeated…repeatedly…at best, they are distracting and, in most cases, don’t reflect well on the person being interviewed…at worst, they can cost the candidate a job. They are so distracting in an interviewing situation that a hiring authority will often remember your malapropism and not remember anything else about you or the interview.

Now, you say “well, people shouldn’t be so harsh. It really doesn’t reflect on the candidates intelligence or ability to do the job. So what! It’s no big deal.” It is a big deal… It is a big deal. Employers are looking for just as many reasons to eliminate you as they are looking for reasons to hire you. And don’t think for one moment they’re not going to think “this candidate just isn’t very bright.”

What to do? Ask the people around you… Your spouse, friends, coworkers… If there’s anything in your speech patterns that seem odd or are incorrect that they’ve noticed. Analyze your own speech and see if you use these kinds of things at all and be sure they are correct. If you’re not sure, don’t use them.

We’ve emphasized before that interviewing takes practice. But you have to practice  in the right way. Eliminating these kind of things from your speech patterns will make sure that you don’t “kick yourself in the foot.”