Category Archives: interviewing

….blooper of the week

Hardly a week goes by where we don’t have experienced candidates say something just downright stupid that cost him or her the job. This week a guy I’ve known for almost 20 years who is really a very good salesperson got into an interview with a hiring authority and in the process of talking about himself said, “Well, I do know that I have a few good years left in me.”

When I followed up with the hiring manager he said, “Tony, is this guy ready to retire? We aren’t looking for someone who has just a ‘few good years’ left in them. We are looking for a long-term commitment.” It didn’t even have to be sad that this candidate already had his age going against him. He’s in his 50s. But lots of guys and gals in their mid-50s and beyond get hired. But drawing attention to it as though you were on your last leg or just “a few more good years,” does not help your case of being hired.

Unfortunately, most folks don’t seem to think about, “How does this sound to a prospective employer?” They don’t seem to think about the fact that hiring authorities are looking for just as many reasons not to hire a candidate as they are reasons to hire a candidate. When a candidate gives even a minor reason not to be hired, it can be totally blown out of proportion. So, a smart candidate thinks about absolutely everything he or she says in light of how it appears to the potential employer.

Over the years, I’ve had some real doozies articulated by really good candidates:

One said, “I have just overcome a great battle with cancer, but I’ve sure learned a lot.” When asked what the biggest obstacle he has overcome, one of my candidates said that he had recently recovered from a nervous breakdown. I have had candidates, both male and female, explain that they were in the middle of an awful divorce, an awful child custody suit, and awful business or personal lawsuit and other kinds of terribly traumatic or distracting events. Some of these people even justified what they did by claiming, “They just want to be honest.” Well, you can be honest by saying, “Your baby’s ugly,” or you can be tactful and claim, “What a cute looking baby…looks just like you!”

The moral to all of this is really simple. Think about what you are saying and how it is going to come across to a prospective employer and if there is the slightest chance that it might hurt you or put you in a negative light, shut up!

 

 

…..resume on a napkin

For those of us that remember recruiting and placing people in the late 90s, we can remember candidates metaphorically having one interview, writing their resume out on a napkin and getting hired all in the same interview. Some recruiters…who are no longer around for these reasons,…thought it would last forever. Get a candidate  an interview and get a placement.

Many of us with any brains or who had seen a number of recessions knew that it wouldn’t always be that way. Hell, in the year 2000, I personally billed $4.3 million. I did think I was pretty good, but in my heart I knew that I wasn’t that good and that I was taking advantage of a very unique technology expansion in the DFW area. I still bill better than $1 million every year, but I have to work even harder than I did back when I did the 4.3 million.

“It’s the economy, stupid,” as coined by James Carvell for President Clinton. But that’s what it was…the economy. There is a tendency for recruiters to think that when they do real well it’s because of how good they are. By the same token, it’s really easy for all kinds of professionals to think that they can get a new job or change jobs really easily because they didn’t before when the economy was really good. Every week, I have a candidate tell me that they would like to get back to earning the kind of money they earned a few years ago. They say things like, “are you kidding me, I made that kind of money 10 years ago!”

Times change and economies expand and contract. We’re in a better economy than we have been in many years and, for the most part, it’s easier to find a job or to change jobs and make more money. But even in my discipline, high-tech sales, the 90s and 2000’s  produced a ton of salespeople who are now more numerous than the market will demand. Looking back on this profession since I got into it in 1973, every expansion and contraction of the economy has created “runs” in certain industry verticals that will never come about again. I remember  interviewing a sales guy in the late 70s who made $100,000 a year selling diodes and resistors (if you don’t know what they are, look them up).

For most of us, we are very blessed with this economy. It too will come to an end somewhere along the line. I just hope it doesn’t all collapse at the same time like it did in 1986 when real estate, oil and gas and banking all went on there butt in Texas and we had a very rough time for a few years

Our economy, especially here in Texas, is a lot more diversified than it was then. We’re especially fortunate to have a very diversified economy and therefore able to withstand an economic downturn more easily.

Employers need to move on hiring candidates a lot faster now than they did even 18 months ago. Having a protracted, drawnout interviewing process is going to lose candidates to your competitor. I just had a client tell me today, Friday, that he could have a candidate that I presented him hired by next Tuesday. A year and a half ago the same client told me that it would take him one month to hire anyone because of the process they have to go through. Hardly a week goes by that, even with our explaining what the market is like, we don’t have three or four clients that miss hiring a candidate because they just take too much time for their “process.” Today, it even happened that one of our clients got mad at me because his process was taking too long and that I should know how to keep the candidate from taking the job he took from his competitor because our client was taking too long to hire him.

Napkin, anyone?

…CBD story continued..

 

We interrupt last week’s blog to bring you up-to-date on the CBD oil story I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s going to be hard to believe what you’re going to read here.

If you will recall, our candidate got “temporarily” eliminated because he failed a drug test because he had been using CBD oil. He had barely failed the drug test our client’s company had him take and the people that gave the test called him and asked him what was going on. He explained that he had been using CBD oil for his joints. The testing lab told him that they had old equipment that couldn’t tell the difference between CBD oil (from hemp) and the THC that is a result of smoking marijuana.

So, our client was kind enough to convince their HR (Hiring Roadblock) department to let the candidate take the test again because, even the testing lab admitted that they didn’t think it was THC because the percentages of the positive test were so low. So, our anxious candidate goes down and takes it again. Same lab.

Three or four days after he took the test again the HR (Hiring Roadblock) department calls the hiring authority and the candidate and says that the tests were either mislabeled or he took the wrong one and they weren’t sure but he needed to go back to the lab and have a follicle test (hair) done. Of course, we’re asking what about the second urine sample that he gave. Well, HR (Hiring Roadblock) is insisting that they are not going to use the second urinalysis. He absolutely has to take a test using his hair.

So, the candidate drives down to the place where he gave the first urinalysis and he is told that the lab there doesn’t do follicle testing and he has to go to another one of their labs. Okay, so he drives all the way across town to another lab site only to be told that his hair was too short to have a follicle test done. So what now?

Both the hiring authority and his boss are anxious to get this guy hired so they start asking the HR (Hiring Roadblock) what they should do. Almost one week later the HR (Hiring Roadblock) department tells the two hiring authorities that they will go back and use the results of the second urinalysis. The HR (Hiring Roadblock) department tells the two hiring managers that they can’t do anything until they get results back from the lab. So everyone waits and waits and waits. Our poor candidate has now been going through this ordeal for almost a month and he needs to go to work. He’s getting frustrated almost to the point of telling them to shove it.

One week after the HR (Hiring Roadblock) department says they are still waiting for the results of the second test, our candidate goes online to the website of the lab where he took the tests, and sees a “check results here” tab, opens it up and finds that the results of his test were not only negative but they had been posted on the website four days earlier. The company’s HR (Hiring Roadblock) department  says they still hadn’t gotten the results of the test.

I couldn’t make this story up if I tried. So, I get the candidate to send me a picture of the lab report that he took off the lab’s website showing that his tests were all negative and I sent it to the HR (…you  know) department along with the two hiring authorities. One day later the HR (…you know) sends me an email and says “Your candidate can start tomorrow.”

So, the candidate started this week. So far so good. Moral to the story: don’t use CBD oil if you’re looking for a job… try to go to a modern drug testing lab…and make sure that lab not only communicates with you but with the people they have a contract with.

This situation turned out okay, but I wonder how many people have or could lose their job opportunity because they used CBD oil and the company they were applying to just wasn’t that open-minded. Think about it.

….making a job offer – part I (for employers)

You would think that the event of making a job offer to
a prospective candidate would be an easy, logical one.
In fact, you might be surprised to find that we even
have to address the whole idea. Wrong! The fact is that the
actual process of making an offer, once a final candidate has
been identified, can be one of the strangest, riskiest parts of the
hiring process. One would think it should be the simplest part
of the transaction, but it can derail a smooth-running process
very easily. Our sense is that at least 10% of job offers that
should be made and accepted go south because the making
of the offer gets botched, usually by hiring authorities. Very
few hiring authorities will ever admit to messing up a perfectly
good hire because they didn’t give the necessary time and
attention to the job offer.

Just recently, we dealt with a hiring authority who told us
on a Friday that he would make an offer to our candidate the
following Monday. We checked with the candidate, and the
candidate was ready to take the job. By the following Wednesday,
the candidate had gotten an email from the hiring authority
saying that he had gotten distracted by an important project
and just hadn’t gotten around to getting the offer paperwork
together. He stated that his intentions were to still hire the candidate
and the candidate should hear from him in a day or so.
Later on the next Friday afternoon, the hiring authority finally
reached out to the candidate to make him an offer, only to find
out that the candidate had accepted another job the day before.

Our client even had the audacity to be mad at the candidate
for not, “understanding the pressure he was under.” Well, the
candidate was under pressure as well. He actually accepted a
position that wasn’t as good as the one our client was trying to
offer, but the candidate needed to go to work and he felt he was
being strung along by our client.

Time for a commitment

The final step in the hiring process is making an offer. It
can be traumatic for both candidate and employer. This is the
time for people to make commitments. Up to this point, every
interaction between candidate and employer is speculative.
There is minimal risk on each person’s part. True, there has
been a lot of effort on the part of both candidate and employer
to interview each other, but there’s no commitment, therefore
no risk, until an offer is made.

There is a final twinge of fear on the part of the employer
and candidate when contemplating the possibility of an offer.
Employers often become fearful that their offer will be rejected,
that the candidate they’ve courted for weeks and exhaustively
interviewed will refuse their offer. The candidate who has been
pursuing an offer, but also evaluating the firm they are interviewing
with, likewise becomes fearful. They fear that they
won’t get an offer, and if they do, they’re anxious about what
it might be. This step in the process is difficult for everyone.
The offer step in the hiring process should be a simple and
natural progression of the interviewing process, but it gets
confusing when people either lose sight of its importance or
overreact to it. In fact, if the interviewing process is done correctly,
the offer step should be easy.

A pre-offer conversation is a selling opportunity

The most successful hiring authorities have a pre-offer conversation
with a candidate. This can be a face-to-face meeting
or a telephone conversation. The hiring authority explains to
the candidate that he or she would like to discuss what an offer
would look like and also any details about the job that haven’t
been discussed in the interviewing process.
If the hiring authority hasn’t done it already throughout
the interviewing process, this is the time that he or she should
be selling the candidate on the job and the opportunity. This
conversation is the candidate’s opportunity to ask any questions
he or she might have, but it also provides an opportunity
to the hiring authority to find out the answers to any questions
he or she may not have answered. It should be a friendly, calm,
and open conversation.
In this conversation, the best hiring authorities get a good
indication as to whether or not the candidate will accept the
job. In fact, the best hiring authorities actually qualify the candidate
in this conversation. They discuss every aspect of the
job offer. They answer all the candidate’s questions. Then, they
simply ask the hard question of the candidate, “I’m ready to get
together for a formal meeting to offer you the job. Can you see
any reason that you wouldn’t accept it?”
If for some reason the candidate hesitates or gives noncommittal
answers like “Well, when I see the offer in writing, I’ll
know better,” or “I’d have to think about it,” or anything that
isn’t a positive like “I would accept it,” then the best hiring
authorities may rethink making the offer. If they get these
kinds of answers, they simply ask a candidate what they’re
thinking or what might stand in the way in order to find out
why they are hesitant. It never hurts to be blunt and ask, “Why
are you hesitating? I don’t want to make an offer unless I know
it’s going to be accepted.”

And It’s hard to give a blanket strategy for all things that can
come up at this point of the process. The best hiring authorities
are prepared for just about anything and they always have
the salvation of backup candidates. They always have several
other people in the queue in case their #1 candidate falters.

More to come next week…

 

…..Sad, unfortunate reasons for not hiring good candidates… Hiring managers!!! please listen up!!

Some of you are going to read this and think, “Tony, you are all wet..these are perfectly good reasons NOT to hire someone. They are a reflection of how the candidate will do in the job.”

Just this week we had candidates eliminated at the initial interview for these reasons: (these were not kids… They were pretty senior, experienced professionals)

  • He put his phone on the desk next to him and even though it was turned to silent, it kept vibrating.
  • The candidate was 20 minutes late to the interview, even though it was raining and she was given the wrong suite number
  • The candidate’s phone goes off in her purse during the interview
  • The candidate couldn’t remember what he earned five years ago
  • The (engineering candidate) wrote a very poor resume

Well, there were probably a lot of these kinds of things with lots of other candidates. Unfortunately, interviewing and hiring authorities have a tendency to come to conclusions about candidates and their abilities to be good employees based on very small and often, very few things. Each one of these candidates was eliminated because of these things they did.

Most of these folks were experienced professionals. Okay, maybe they are not real good at interviewing, or they simply make mistakes. I submit to you that these are not good reasons for

them to get eliminated as candidates. Maybe their interviewing capabilities aren’t so good, but we are trying to hire professionals that are going to help us run our business. We aren’t hiring professional interviewers.

I know these kinds of things will annoy most people that are doing the interviewing. They annoy me when I’m interviewing. But it isn’t smart to judge the candidate’s ability to do a job or their track record based on mistakes like these. In most all of these cases, the interviewing/hiring authority totally dismissed the candidate after these things happened.

Maybe our guard should be up when things like this happen. But to totally dismiss the candidate because of these kinds of things is not only unfair, it’s just not smart. So, let’s all give candidates the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like this. Let’s analyze their track record, find out how they have performed in the past. Let’s all dig deep into their background, find out their successes and failures, what they can or can’t do for us.

(The engineer graduated from A&M with a 4.0 average in engineering. He had 10 solid years of experience with one firm and had been promoted three times. So, in the eyes of one person he’s a lousy resume writer, but an excellent engineer.)

 

….the cost of not using a recruiter..

 

I guess all people businesses can tell some strange stories. Just this week I spoke to a friend of mine who has been a hiring authority over the past 15 years, as well as a great manager. He moved to a new company about a year ago and has been needing to hire a salesperson for nine months. I called him two or three times since he had gone to his new firm but never had the chance to speak with him.

He’s one of the most successful managers that I’ve dealt with in all the years I’ve been in this business. He hasn’t hired all that many people, but the ones he has have absolutely loved him because he’s helped them make more money than they ever have. Once I got them on the phone and found out he had been looking for a salesperson for nine months, I asked him why he didn’t call me. He explained that his corporate “recruiting department” won’t allow him to pay a fee and that they are supposed to be getting him good candidates. I asked him how many candidates you’d seen in nine months. (It’s not surprising that he may not have hired someone, because he’s very picky and very careful.) He told me that in nine months he had only seen three candidates.

He admitted that he was phenomenally frustrated. He was not going to hit his numbers this year because he was one salesperson short and since he was covering the vacant territory, he couldn’t help the other five salespeople that he had. Each salesperson’s quota is right at $1 million, and the vacant territory he was covering had only sold $450,000 with three weeks left in the year.

So, his company doesn’t want him to pay a $20,000 fee and yet they are willing to let a very experienced…expensive… first-line manager trying to manage five salespeople forfeit close to $450,000 in sales as well as become very, very, very frustrated with his company. He told me that he had told his boss that he absolutely had to find a salesperson before the new year began. He told his boss that he just didn’t think he could go on like this.

I often wonder how many managers out there go through this kind of frustration. My friend’s corporate recruiting function is in New York. There is absolutely no way…short of a miracle…that they would ever be able to find the same quality of candidate in Dallas as we could. I interview two to three candidates a day…and have for 45 years. I have more than 100,000 candidates in the database that I’ve interviewed face-to-face. How are three twenty-something year old recruiters in New York going to find a better candidate in Dallas then I would even though my client is very picky. I know that I can find him what he needs. Can you imagine how much money this is really costing them?

If my hiring authority has to go through the same agonizing experience at the beginning of the year, I imagine that I will have another excellent sales manager as a candidate. The cost of not paying a fee can be very high.

… Always court two or three candidates at the same time

all hiring authorities need to be aware that they should never focus on one great candidate to hire and not also keep at least two other candidates in the process.

This came to light…again… This week when after a whole six weeks of interviewing the one candidate they narrowed it down to our client made an offer, only to have the candidate turn the job down. Our client was so darn sure that the candidate would take the job, she quit interviewing our other candidates.

The number one candidate they were looking for gave them every reason in the world believe that he was going to take the job. We kept telling the VP that she should keep interviewing as well as keep the other two very well-qualified candidates in the process. We kept reinforcing our experience that it’s best to keep two or three candidates in the queue while pursuing a first choice. The VP said that she knew that’s what she ought to do… But didn’t do it.

The process, which was only supposed to take two weeks, had dragged on so long the best candidate, the one VP tried to hire, decided the company didn’t really know how to make a decision.The VP kept giving us all kinds of excuses as to why she could move faster, Including her one week of vacation, and that she was so darn busy, she knew she needed to move faster but just couldn’t. She didn’t even have time to call the other candidates and let them know that she was going to do her best to make a decision and that they were still in the running. In fact, she wouldn’t even give them the time of day, return their calls or their emails. She was just so darn sure her first choice was gonna take the job. There just didn’t seem to be a need to keep the of the other candidates hopeful.

We even told the VP that our (her) number one candidate was actively interviewing and other companiesso…me of ours and a couple of once he had found on his own. She gave us lipservice that she understood that but was just so busy she get to it when she could..

When she made the offer, the candidate hadn’t heard from her in a whole week. He wasn’t feeling loved or a high priority of the VP. When he turned it down he explained to her that she just simply hadn’t been in touch with him nor made him feel needed or wanted and felt like he needed to go to work for someone else.

Instead of being apologetic, she got mad. She couldn’t believe that he had “strung her along” by implying that he wanted the job and then didn’t take it. The candidate called us to explain that his gut was certainly right and that she showed her true colors. She was not somebody he really wanted to go to work for.

Although the VP was very frustrated and downright mad, she called us and wanted to get two of the other candidates she had interviewed back in the queue. One of these candidates couldn’t believe that she was calling him six weeks later to see if she would be interested in the job so she turned it down and the other candidate had gotten promoted where he was so decided to stay with his company.

The VP was so mad that she had to start all over that she was literally yelling at us for not keeping the other two candidates available. (Like we had control of that…right!). Yesterday, the VP got fired. She claimed that the CEO let her go because she bungled the interviewing and hiring of our candidate. We really doubt that that’s the only reason that she got fired. But, I’ll bet everything I own that she probably managed everything else she was responsible for the same way that she went about hiring and probably botched that stuff up too.

Regardless of her competency as a manager, the lesson is, that it’s always good to keep two or three candidates in the queue until you actually hire someone.

…i didn’t cause it, I can’t change it and I can’t cure it

this is one of the many mantras of Alcoholics Anonymous and it applies to many of the aspects of, especially, a job seekers emotional reaction to much of the rejection and refusal they receive in their quest. It’s so important to remember this mantra, because it reminds the job seeker what they can and can’t control.

Here are some of the things they don’t cause, they can’t change and they can’t cure:

  • Knowing that they are very qualified to perform on a job… If they can get the interview.
  • Not being able to get their resume read by people who would really understand.
  • Not being able to get an interview, even though they tried everything they can.
  • Not hearing anything From a prospective employer after applying.
  • Being told they would get in an interview and then never hearing from the company
  • being told they are a “great” candidate and then never hearing from the company
  • being told that they are “in strong consideration,” and never hearing anymore
  • being told they would be brought back as a “finalist” and then hearing nothing
  • being told they would receive an offer and then never hearing anything from the firm

Remember, as a job seeker you can only control your actions and your emotions. If you do your best to get lots of interviews and try to get into as many interviewing cycles as you possibly can, you won’t have to worry about what you can’t control or influence. Focus on the things that you can cause that you can change And that you can cure.

 

….”but you called me”

My candidate is a guy that I’ve known for almost 20 years. He’s been both a client of mine as well as a candidate. He has a decent opportunity where he is. But the first line management job he’s got Isn’t really ever going to go anywhere and the company he’s with doesn’t wish to grow.

When opportunities come along that are better than what he’s got, he and I discuss them. An opportunity came along for him to be able to do what he’s doing now but expand his span of control to two other offices. So, he decides it would be a good idea to interview with the client.

I reminded him that it is a management job and that I don’t see many of them during the year and he should do his best. He has a low keyed style to begin with, but he is really good at what he does. I warned him that there are two other candidates like him interviewing and that he needs to sell himself harder than he thinks (…he knows he is good).

He does a good enough job to make it through the first interview and the VP who interviewed him decides that he should take the candidate to the next interview. The guy’s track record is stellar, but he’s interviewing style is relatively placid. I can’t seem to get him to understand that getting a job and doing a job are two different things. He might be the most qualified of the three (and he is) but he still has to sell himself and let the employer know what he can do for them that the other candidates can’t.

In spite of all of my coaching, teaching and cajoling he goes into the second interview and even says to the hiring authority, “what you see is what you get. My track record speaks for itself.” And that’s the extent that he sold himself.

What’s amazing about this whole thing is that his track record is absolutely excellent and it’s better than any of the other candidates. But just because he tells the hiring authority that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t prove it with numbers and examples. He doesn’t. He gets around to explaining how successful he has been, but he doesn’t do it with a lot of enthusiasm, fervor or passion. He tells the hiring authority, literally, “what you see is what you get.”

The hiring authority understood exactly what our candidate was saying. But the reason the hiring authority was looking to hire someone is that he just fired the last branch manager because he wasn’t very passionate or enthusiastic. The previous manager did an okay job but never really felt passionate or communicated enthusiasm to those he managed.

Our client passed on our candidate. When I explained to our candidate that he just didn’t really sell himself very hard even though he was the most qualified. Frankly, it was rather painful to tell him, because the job was really a good one and even though they would probably hire one of our other candidates, we really wanted to see the guy get the opportunity, because he was good and deserved a great opportunity.

In his frustration of listening to what I was saying and that he wasn’t going to get a chance to move further, he said, “Tony, remember, you called me!” I reminded him that when he was hiring candidates, he looked for candidates who would actually sell themselves and do it enthusiastically. He kept saying that it was different with him, because “he wasn’t looking for a job. I called him!”

Obviously, the lesson here is that if you’re going to interview, it doesn’t matter whether I or any other recruiter “calls you.” The person that’s doing the hiring is comparing you with any other candidate and how or why you got there, doesn’t matter. If you don’t sell yourself because you think it makes a difference who called you you’re grossly mistaken. You have to sell yourself as though you were actively looking for a job

 

…the ‘other side of the crazy coin’

Last week I wrote about some of the crazy instances of what people do from both the candidate as well as the hiring authority situations. There are lots of folks that also do it right:

  • The candidate who presented a 30 – 60 – 90 day plan of what he would do in the first three months of the job if he got it.
  • The candidate that had called the competitors, dealers and customers of the company he was interviewing with. He also called previous employees as well as some present employees.  He had taken excellent notes and offered a “report” to the hiring authority. (The hiring authority said it was so well done that he sent it two levels up in his company.)
  • The candidate who sold his features, advantages and benefits so clearly that the hiring authority said it was the best presentation that he had ever seen.
  • The candidate who ended the interview by asking the employer, “Have I made it clear about my experience and abilities… Do you have any questions that I might need to clarify? How do I stack up with the other candidates you’ve interviewed?…and ..What do I need to do to get the job?” (he got hired!)
  • The candidate who was persistent enough with the hiring authority that, even though he was told that he came in third in the initial interviewing process, kept calling the hiring authority, sending him emails as to why he was the best candidate they could hire. The hiring authority got tired of the first two candidates putting him off and not being enthusiastic about the job, picked up the phone and simply hired the candidate who wanted it most.

And a few hiring authorities who also do it right:

  • The hiring authority who interviewed for candidates on Monday, had two candidates back on Wednesday to go through a number of interviews in the company and hired one on Friday.
  • The hiring company whose managers who did the interviewing (all four of them) asked the same questions of all of the candidates (all four of them) making it very easy for all of them to compare the quality of the candidates and have a clear system of hiring and everyone knew.
  • The vice president who called every candidate back, exactly as she said she would. She gave them excellent feedback on how they interviewed and, for the ones she was not going to pursue, let them down gracefully. She kept the door open for two of the candidates on down the line.
  • The hiring authority who admitted that he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for and admitted it. He simply asked us to send him the five best candidates we had and he will interview them, relying on our judgment, since we see so many candidates and have a better comparison than most any hiring authority.

People might be crazy, but sometimes they overcome their own craziness and manage their business competently.