Category Archives: interviewing

…some of the myths of hiring

Our company has experienced ten recessions and expansions in employment since 1952. In many ways, they’re alike in the sense that the economy is more difficult and hiring slows only to be followed by an expansion. We all know objectively that these expansions and contractions are always going to happen. None of us know when. The mistake most of us make is to “read our own press clippings” and think that we’re smart enough and wise enough to outsmart and outrun a downturn in the economy. If we survived two or three recessions we realize that, as one of our ex-presidents successfully campaigned, “It’s the economy, stupid.” A good economy masks many sins.

Here are some myths about hiring that many hiring authorities use as criteria for hiring. The most successful hiring authorities realize that these are myths:

We’re really good at hiring.” Numerous studies show that the typical employment interviewing process is only 57% effective in predicting subsequent employees’ success. That’s only 7% better than flipping a coin.

“We’re so busy; we just don’t have time to screen candidates. Someone else needs to screen the best candidates.” And of course, everyone doing the screening knows exactly what “best” is, even if the HR person doing the screening has only been on the job three weeks or it’s somebody’s admin trying to “take a load off the boss.”

“We never make a mistake hiring.” You’re either a liar or you’ve never hired anyone.

“Don’t send us anybody resembling the last person who didn’t work out. We want to avoid anyone who is too short, too fat, too old, a woman, a man, had a degree,  didn’t have a degree, had too much experience, didn’t have enough experience, (or whatever the reason why we think that person didn’t make it.) It couldn’t be that we just made a mistake and so did they.

“We have a proven system for hiring. I’m just not sure what it is this week.” These “systems” seem to change with every management change.

“The more money we pay, the better candidate we can hire.” We do get what we pay for. However, it takes more than just money to attract a good candidate.

“Hiring good people is one of our highest priorities. That’s why it’s taken six or seven weeks to get through the process.” Do the paychecks show up this way too? What quality candidate is going to wait for this? Your actions are speaking so loudly that the candidate can’t hear your words.

“We need young people because they’re highly energetic.” People who have energy have energy. It has nothing to do with their age.

“We need someone with ten to fifteen years of experience.” The question should be about the quality of the experience.  Some people have one year of experience ten times and it doesn’t mean their ten years of experience is better.

“MBAs are better.” American society has deemed that more education makes a person better. It simply isn’t so.

“Why would someone with an MBA, a Ph.D., and a graduate degree want this job? A person with that much education is overqualified.” Unless it’s a scientific or academic position, (and even then, the degree level has nothing to do with capabilities), it’s hard to prove any degree causes someone to be underqualified or overqualified for any position. Let the candidate decide.

“We have to have a degree.” Ditto to the above. There are some professions, such as accounting, engineering, and scientific research, where a degree indicates an inclination toward and proficiency in a particular profession. Companies often require a degree to avoid having to interview more candidates than they wish and to let someone else, i.e. the school, “certify” the candidate. There are an amazing number of apprenticeships that companies can develop that can do the same thing.

“No online degrees. Only degrees from top-tier schools, and no foreign universities.” Within a few years, every university in America will offer online degrees. Some studies show that online students are more diligent and hard-working than classroom students. The question should be: “What did you learn?” A degree from a foreign university like Oxford might also be ok!

“People with high GPAs are smart.” Maybe book smart, but that doesn’t always translate into common sense and diligence.

Next Week: the other fifteen…

….decision fatigue

 

Our candidate had made it to the finals. After three weeks of interviewing and four or five interviews he finally made it to, what the hiring authority told him would be the last step. Any recruiter that’s been doing this for more than five years doesn’t believe a hiring authority when they say “there is just one last step.” Now the hiring authority may think that, but most of us who have been around for any length of time know that may not be so.

And sure enough, after what was supposed to be the final interview and an offer being made, the interviewing authority, two levels above the hiring authority, told our candidate that someone would “get back to him.” After two days of trying to follow up we finally reached the hiring authority, the one that has the need to hire, and he told us that he was phenomenally frustrated with the whole thing because his boss’s boss still wasn’t sure that our candidate was the right one. Our client had been looking for a candidate on and off for four months. They tried to hire two of the candidates they really liked in the beginning of the job search and because they did not act fast enough, the candidates took other jobs.

We tried to explain to our client that they were suffering from paralysis-by-analysis and since they were afraid to make a decision, they were likely not to make a good one. They kept saying “we don’t want to make a mistake… we don’t want to make a mistake.” So they added all kinds of hoops the candidates needed to jump through thinking that they are going to protect themselves that way. They thought that the process, if they did it the right way, was going to protect them. It didn’t.

Our candidate could not believe it. He was mad as hell now and was saying things like, “these guys are so sharp and bright I can’t believe they have turned out to be such wimps at the end of the game”. He obviously wanted the job and could do a really good job of it, but for some reason nobody, even the hiring authority, could quite figure out why the people above him were so frightened and so unwilling to commit to our candidate who was his choice.

This company was suffering from “decision fatigue.” Decision fatigue is “the deteriorating quality of decisions made by people after a long session of decision making.” Our client was deciding “not to decide”, which, of course, is a decision in and of itself.

The longer the interviewing process takes and the more people that are involved in it, the more likely that the people involved in the hiring process will succumb to decision fatigue. They will just get tired of the whole thing and “decide” not to hire anyone. Or worse, they will hire the next candidate who comes along, whether they’re qualified or not because they are just so tired of dealing with the hiring process and having to make a decision on somebody.

Numerous studies show how individuals, even highly intelligent individuals, after a while just plain get tired of having to make a decision and blow off the hiring process even when they know they are making a mistake. 90% of hiring decisions that are ridiculously elongated well beyond what any reasonable person would expect are plagued with this disease. And that is the reason the decision is dragged on for so long, if it is even made it all.

If you’re a candidate and you find that, while you are interviewing, the company you’re interviewing with has been looking to fill the position for a very long period of time and can’t seem to decide, you now know what’s going on. It’s decision fatigue. If you’re a hiring authority and you’d like to know why you and your peers get so bogged down with these kinds of decisions when you seem to be able to do other things so well, you now know what’s going on. It’s decision fatigue.

 

“Take this job and shove it… I ain’t working here no more…”

(Johnny paycheck, circa 1977)Candidate comes to my office this week says, “it felt so good. It felt so very good when I told these guys that they could take their job and stuff it where the sun don’t shine. I explained to them that I’d had enough. I just couldn’t take it any longer. There browbeating and taking advantage of me and all the other employees in the company just had to stop.

“Hell, nobody else in the company had the guts to do it… those weaklings. And while I was telling them to stuff it, I enlighten them as to what they could do to change things so they wouldn’t lose people like me. That they ran a disgraceful company and they should be ashamed of themselves. They just sat there and looked so surprised. Those fat som-bitches acted like they didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. What a joke! It felt so good to tell them I was leaving.”

Well that was eight months ago and our candidate is still looking for a job. He didn’t think he would have any trouble finding a job. He didn’t think about what was that happen when he left like that…the kind of reference he might get. In fact, our candidate didn’t really think at all.

He thought he had a job lined up with a friend at church that had given him a “we’re always hiring at our place just give me a call” comment. In eight months he’s only had three interviews and he didn’t even come close to getting the job. On top of having a difficult time in finding a job, he’s really embarrassed about the way he quit. He says that he knows that the people he told what they could do with their job know that he’s out of work and are really laughing.

Here’s the lesson, the matter how mad or frustrated you get don’t tell people what they can do with their job until you found a new one. Bite your tongue. Calm down and endure. Find a job before you leave this one. You never know how long it’s going to take to find a job. The people that this guy told off don’t really care about why he left. They aren’t going to change the way they do things because of any employee leaving.

Our poor candidate is in a world of hurt and most of it he created for himself.

 

… You want how much?

 

There was an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal about how high salaries haunt some job hunters and eliminate them before they barely get started interviewing. The article claimed that:

  • Human resources executives say that asking about pay right off the bat helps contain compensation costs, insures that candidates have reasonable expectations and spares recruiters chasing prospects they can’t afford.
  • Focusing on compensation history “holds down wages because now the jobs are being filled by people with lower salary expectations”… “We have a whole generation of people who are permanently adversely affected.”
  • Finance chiefs are probably looking ahead and saying they want to keep the escalation of labor costs from going up in a way that will put pressure on earnings.
  • Employers may feel they can lowball applicants because they believe there is still a surplus of qualified candidates.
  • Workers over 45 years old take a bigger hit than workers under 35 years old
  • Some employers hesitate to hire at far below a past salary, concerned that the employee would resent earning so much less. (…and therefore leave or look for another job with a higher salary.)

The conclusion of the article is that when job candidates are asked what they want to earn and then tell a perspective employer what their desire is, they get eliminated.

Unfortunately, what the article doesn’t tell the prospective job seeker is how to deal with this issue. Here are ways a job seeker can deal with this question and keep themselves in contention for the job.

  • When asked, “What kind of money are you looking for?”, don’t try to guess what’s on the mind of the interviewer. Answer the question by stating something like, “In my last position I was earning $XXXXX. I’m not as concerned about what the starting salary is as I’m concerned about the opportunity in my ability to perform. My experiences have been that if I give good service, the money is going to take care of itself.”
  • Don’t pay any attention to what a “published” salary might be. Just because an organization publishes a certain salary doesn’t mean they’re going to pay that.
  • Quit thinking that people are trying to “lowball” you are anybody else. When you deal from a defensive attitude like that you won’t negotiate very well.
  • Remember to communicate that money is the fourth or fifth reason that people work. The company, what they do, the people… all are a lot more important than just money.
  • Quit thinking that just because you’ve made a certain amount of money that you “owe it to yourself and your family to get an increase.” An increase may not be what the market will bear. A lateral move or even a step backwards in salary is common in today’s market.
  • Communicate as much as you can that you are “open” regarding money. You might even give an example like, “In the last two jobs that I’ve had I started out at a lower salary than what I had made before and I wound up getting salary advances because of my performance. Again, I’m not as concerned about the entry salary as I am about the company, the people and the opportunity. If all of those things work well, the money usually works itself out.”

It doesn’t take a mental giant to know that older employees, because they usually make higher salaries, are more likely to take less money in finding a new job than younger workers. But that’s not because they’re older, it’s because they have been making more money. A “younger” candidate making more money than a hiring organization might want to pay will have the same problem.

For a while, companies will try to “contain” salaries and earnings. But as candidates become harder to find and the job market gets better, these companies will have to pay more and increase starting salaries to compete for good candidates. It happens every time we come out of a recession.

A job seeker’s pay history may very well be a challenge to deal with. But if it’s handled the right way, it can become no more than a minor issue.

Here’s Why You Should Take Every Interview Available to You

most of the candidates that we work with are presently have a job and interviewing is a hard thing to do. Let’s face it interviewing is a pain in the butt and even though it’s a necessary evil nobody really likes doing it. Michael was an exceptional candidate and two years ago we got them an interview that he really didn’t want to go on.

he actually fought us on it. He said he knew the company, they were a competitor, they had a tremendous amount of turnover, that he never go to work for him and on and on. We convinced him that nobody knows anybody like they think they do and he at least ought to go on the interview and talk to them. He even mumbled something like, “well I guess if I don’t go, you won’t get me other interviews?” we assured him that that’s not the case, but he ought to go on the damn interview.

he went. He really liked the guy he was talking to and wasn’t as unhappy with the company as he thought he would be. He went through a number of interviews, personality surveys and corporate visits. He got the offer but turned it down because we found him a better opportunity. fair enough.

Two years later Miguel decides that he needs to look again. His present company had changed hands and were now being purchased by a private equity company and there was just way too much up in the air about what was going to happen. Being good recruiter’s, we began by looking at the company’s we had referred him to once before.

of course we contacted the company he got the offer from a couple of years ago. Things have really changed. They had a new CEO and a new executive vice president of sales.. Sometimes timing is everything. The new EVP had recently let the manager in the Dallas office go and happen to need a new Regional Director.

the EVP interviewed Miguel on his way through Dallas the Monday after we called him. Not only was the EVP thrilled with Miguel’s experience and background, but some of the managers at corporate, whom he had interviewed with a couple of years ago, remembered him as stellar. It didn’t hurt that his psychological testing that he had done before predicted success.

Within one week of learning of Miguel’s availability, our client hired him as a regional director.

Lesson: … Interview with anybody that even might be interested in your skills or experience. Making a good impression. You never know if you might be speaking to them again.

… Your first impression

 

The recent cover article in Psychology Today summarizes the latest research regarding first impressions. This is one of those topics that people are aware of but they hardly ever apply them to the interviewing situation. The article summarized as follows:

  • We look at a person and immediately a certain impression of his or her character forms itself in us. A glance, a few spoken words are sufficient to tell us a story about a highly complex matter.
  • People depend on first impressions to assess a person’s extroversion, openness, agreeability and conscientiousness. Studies have shown that the judgments of these characteristics made after knowing someone for a minute are usually as accurate as those made after knowing the same person for years.
  • First impressions are almost perfectly accurate 30% of the time.
  • The presence or absence of physical warmth similarly sways first impressions. Psychologists found that subjects holding a cup of hot coffee as opposed to iced coffee rated the person they met as especially warm and generous.
  • People who sit at a wobbly table or sit on a wobbly chair judge the people they meet as unreliable.
  • A person’s face at first glance can form a strong impression. For instance thin lips and wrinkles at the  corners elicit judgments of distinguished, intelligent and determined. Persons who were baby faced were perceived as physically weak, naïve and submissive, although also honest, kind and warm.
  • The more a face resembles the viewers face, the more the viewer is predisposed to like it.
  • A single piece of highly negative information undoes a positive first impression, but it takes a lot more… like doing something heroic… to overcome a negative first impression.
  • First impressions are most unreliable when there’s a narcissist in the room. Narcissists are just plain hard to read. They make incredibly good first impressions.
  • Getting to know people over an extended period of time alters first impressions. But for the most part it takes a long “getting to know you” period to alter those impressions.

A study at McGill University as far back as 1965 found that people decide to hire other people based on the impressions they get of the candidate in the first four minutes.

These facts about first impressions have a lot to do with the interviewing situation. For a candidate, they need to know that it is really important to make a good first impression. Dressing appropriately, looking people in the eye, having a firm handshake and all of the things I’ve discussed in previous blogs about first impressions and the first interview apply. Most candidates totally underestimate the impact of that very first impression. They will give it lip service and say things like, “Tony, I know that… but everybody dresses casually for interviews.”

If you’re a hiring or interviewing authority you want to be aware of the pitfalls of first impressions. Get to know candidates over a period of time, preferably in different environments to confirm, deny or alter first impressions.

Realizing the psychologist’s findings you might want to reconsider going on a job interview on wobbly, stiletto heels or interviewing at a noisy Starbucks after buying the interviewer an iced coffee.

 

 

 

… know when to say “I don’t know…”

Our candidate was as perfect a fit as we were ever going to find. Our client needed a great candidate but also insisted upon a very technical background. It had taken us 67 days to find the guy and he made it through the first interview with flying colors. Eight people had preceded him and all failed.

Candidate calls and says, “I nailed this… I’ll get this offer.” We warned him that he could never let his ego get bigger than his game and he just needed to keep on interviewing well and then gracefully, humbly get the job. He was feeling pretty strong about being the only one of many candidates who got through the initial interview and went into the second interview with a panel feeling really confident. Well, as we’ve discussed before, a panel interview is totally different than a one-on-one interview. But that didn’t turn out to be the problem.

The problem came when one of the members of the panel asked him a relatively technical question that, in reality, had no real answer. The guy that asked the question was trying to show off among his peers. Our candidate took the bait and just started talking and talking and talking and talking. He knew in his heart that he really didn’t have the answer and was simply trying to baffle them with bull shit. Everyone in the room, including our candidate, knew exactly what he was doing. This all happened yesterday.

We’re not sure what’s going to happen. We haven’t been able to get feedback from our client. The people in the company know how hard these kinds of candidates are to find and, if they have any sense, they will still try to hire the candidate.

But the lesson loud and clear is: don’t act like you know something when you don’t. When you don’t know the answer simply say, “I really don’t know.” Trying to BS your way through an interview will only lead to disaster.

…TMI

It happened twice this week, and happens all the time. Candidates are asked a reasonable question and give not only Too Much Information, but way too much information and it ends up costing them the job. We had a well-qualified candidate for senior-level inside sales manager’s job. She made it past the first interview and when she went to the second interview for some reason or another she felt compelled to explain to the female hiring manager why she wore a wig. It was a very expensive wig and unless you look closely you couldn’t even see that she wore one. She went on and on, according to the hiring authority, for five or 10 minutes about the condition of her hair. It had absolutely nothing to do with the job… nada! On top of thinking that the conversation got weird, the hiring authority totally lost interest in the candidate. And what’s worse, the candidate didn’t even detect it.

The second situation had to do with a very well-qualified V.P. This guy is in his late 40’s and has 20 years of solid experience and you think you would know better. Somewhere in the conversation with the CEO of one of our clients, he started talking about all of the problems he was having with his 16-year-old. Now most of us who have raised kids know parents always have problems with a 16-year-old, especially a male 16-year-old. For some crazy reason our candidate felt so relaxed with the CEO, he told the CEO about his kid’s problems at school, his kid’s challenge with hanging around the wrong kinds of other kids and, can you believe this, his kid’s drug problem. End of interview! Although the CEO had a tremendous amount of empathy for the candidate’s situation he didn’t feel comfortable at all hiring someone who might be so distracted by his 16-year-old that he might not travel or work like he should.

Some years back, we had a very accomplished female candidate. She had recently gone through a rather ugly divorce and didn’t mind sharing her woes over the divorce with prospective employers. We warned her not to do this under any circumstances. Many people however in situations like that can’t help themselves. She made it past three interviews with one of our clients and was a finalist. In fact, we were told it was hers to lose. In the final interview with the executive VP she ended up telling her personal story. After the interview she told us that even though she had gone into her personal story more than she would like, the hiring VP totally understood her situation. The executive VP told our candidate that she had recently gone through the same kind of ugly divorce and they spent 20 minutes commiserating. Our candidate knew that, this time, talking about her ugly divorce only helped her, because the executive VP really understood and empathized with her because he executive VP had just gone through the same kind of ordeal. Unfortunately, she was totally wrong. The Executive Vice President wasn’t going to hire her because, according to the EVP, she knew what a basket case someone is when they go through that kind of thing and since it had just happened to her she knew, from experience, that a person going through that ordeal wouldn’t be focused for at least a year.

Here’s the lesson:Don’t give TOO MUCH INFORMATION !!!It will work against you

…how to find out how you stack up

this is so simple it’s almost stupid and very few candidates do it. This idea applies not just on finding out where you are in the order of interviews, but also applies in finding out how you stand in the whole interviewing process. A few examples will give you the idea and a good candidate just needs to remember to practice them, then execute.

these questions are not as effective when you are dealing with an interviewing authority. They are most effective with actual hiring authorities. Now, you can ask somebody in the HR department whether you’re the first or last candidate to be interviewed, but it probably wouldn’t matter that much. But asking the real hiring authority where you are in the interviewing process does make a big difference. Most candidates are not going to have the courage to ask and if you do, the hiring authority will have a lot more respect for you.

so, when you go to make the initial interview with the hiring authority you simply ask, “Mr. or Ms. hiring authority, how many people are you interviewing and in what order of the process am I?” As we discussed in the last post, if there are number of people in the process and they are being interviewed over a long period of time it certainly would be appropriate to ask the hiring authority, “if I may, Mr. or Ms. hiring authority, I’d like to go last in the interviewing process. Would that be possible?” Most hiring authorities will accommodate you, especially since you will probably be the only one to make this request.

if the hiring authority asks you why you would make such a request, it certainly doesn’t hurt to say, “well, once you have seen a number of the people on the market for this position you will better be able to make an evaluation of my abilities and experience. you will also be able to give me feedback as to how I stack up with the other candidates.”

At the end of the interview, especially the initial interview it is very appropriate to ask at least these three questions:

“do you need any clarifications about my experience or my background as to how it fits this particular job?”

“How does my experience and ability stack up with the other candidates that you have interviewed?”

“What, in your opinion, do I need to do to get the job?”

These are very bold questions and most people don’t have the courage to ask them. Mainly because they don’t want to be rejected. For some crazy reason people want to postpone being rejected. Remember, if you’re in a job search “no” is the second best answer you can get. And if the answer is going to be no, the sooner you get it the better soon you can move on to other opportunities.

the parting thought on these questions has to be that they take practice. No matter who you are, unless you are interviewing on a weekly basis, you aren’t used to asking these questions and will be reluctant to do it unless you practice them in mock interview situations with your spouse or a friend. A savvy hiring authority will admire your courage and you will find out really quickly where you stand in the interviewing process.

… is it best to be first or last in the interviewing process

We had caller on our radio program this week who asked, “Is it best to be the first or last in the interviewing process?” He was referring to the initial interviewing process and went on to add that he wanted to know whether it is best to be first or last in the follow-up interview process, as well. This is a really good question. It’s been my experience in the last 43 years of seeing people get hired:

If you know the initial interviewing process is going to be short, like all in one day and there are going to be no more than four candidates interviewing, it probably doesn’t matter whether you are the first or the last. Some people say that it is best, in this situation to be first because you “set the bar.” Others will say it is best to be last, because of the law of recency that will be discussed in a few minutes. But, my experience has been that even being in the middle is fine because if you interview well enough (and that is a big if for lots of people) and you show yourself to be an excellent candidate, your succession in the intervening chain  won’t matter. The thing to do is, as you set the interview, ask the hiring authority how many people he or she is going to interview and over what period of time. We will discuss this next week, but asking these questions is as important as jockeying for position in a group of interviewees. Most hiring authorities will be more than happy to tell candidates about the  people they have interviewed or plan to interview and a candidate can make his or her decision about asking to be a particular position at that time.

The biggest challenge of being first or last in the initial interviewing process comes when the interviews take place over a longer period of time. I’ve been involved in initial interview processes that take from one day to seven or eight months. If the candidate knows that the initial interview process is going to be greater than any one or two day period of time, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to request being the last one interviewed. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is the law of recency. It simply states that people remember best the most recent candidate they have interviewed. If a candidate interviews reasonably well, he or she is looked upon more favorably than the other candidates. (Candidates who interview poorly will certainly be remembered but that memory won’t be positive.)

The second reason is that as most hiring authorities move through the intervening process they get a better idea of what they are looking for relative to the talent that might be available. They, therefore, are a little more realistic about evaluating candidates and are more likely to be positively impressed with the fourth or fifth candidate over two or three weeks than they would be if the candidate was the first one.

Being the last to be interviewed doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the job. You still have to interview really well and impress on the hiring authority that they ought to hire you. The candidate can certainly try to position themselves to come across in the best light. Only about 30% of the initial interviewing processes that even us, as professional recruiters, participate in, are accomplished in one or two days.

So, if the initial interviewing process you are involved in is no longer than a day or two, try to be first, then maybe last. If you find the initial interviewing process is going to be over a week or two, try to be last.

Next week will discuss the questions a candidate should ask to find out if he should jockey for position or even if he or she can.

(The caller on the radio program revealed that he found out the interviewing process that he was going to be involved in had already been going on for almost three months and  they had already interviewed 18 candidates. It’s obvious that these folks have no idea what they’re looking for. Being first or last won’t matter in this situation. They are still going to be confused.)