Finding Your ‘Culture Fit’ During the Job Search

Job fit isn’t the only thing you should focus on during the job search. Even if the job sounds right, knowing a company’s culture can help you determine if an opportunity is truly right for you.

What does culture fit mean and how can you identify it during your application and interview process? Learn more in my recent blog found on VentureFizz. Click here!

Asking Questions During the Interview Process

Interviewing is never easy no matter how skilled or comfortable you are when it comes to selling yourself.  Preparation prior to the interview can be involved and the amount of interviews within an interview loop can be demanding. The agonizing waiting period between the final interview and offer can be stressful. But, throughout the whole process, many job seekers are more focused on impressing the interviewer and landing that offer, causing them to forget that the interview is mutually beneficial for them, as well. This process is a prime time for a job seeker to investigate the company by asking deep questions to as many interviewers as possible. This can ensure that the company is worth the effort.

When I was in talent acquisition, I’d often ask my candidates if they had any questions at the end of the interview. A good portion of the time, candidates didn’t have any. Or if they did, they were often very basic. The questions typically covered things like pay, expectations, management style and so on. Many of those questions could have been answered by simply reviewing the job description or doing research on the company. In the end, the responses didn’t clearly show a candidate why this is a good employer for them for the long-term. Knowing salary details and day-to-day duties are important, but it doesn’t get to the core regarding what else the candidate would face if they accepted an offer. More importantly, the answers could easily be a canned, elevator-speech that gives no deeper insight. When all is said and done, a candidate may accept a job only to realize that there are a ton of deal breakers that they missed.

Whenever I’m interviewing somewhere, I like to take the time to ask each interviewer unique questions. It’s a fantastic way to learn about their experiences and the variations between them, allowing you to get a fuller picture of the company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be job-specific; the questions can have a range between job details, company culture, values, general experiences/examples and so on. The important thing is not to just listen to the responses, but also to take notice of their reactions when answering. Does their face light up? Do they seem cautious and guarded? Is it a genuine answer or does it seem practiced and calculated? These things can help you see which responses are more honest and which ones seem suspiciously reserved.

Some questions might include:

  • What was a defining moment at the company that made you say, “This is why I’m here”?
  • Do you have an example of a situation internally or with a client that resonated with you?
  • What makes you proud to work here?
  • What is the dynamic of the team you work with? How do they function during good times? More importantly, how do they work together during the bad?
  • What makes your experience with this employer different from previous ones? What makes you stay?
  • What is one project that you could work on at the company, whether you believe it would be implemented or not?

Hearing their stories is a great way for a candidate to envision themselves at the company. Even if all of the responses are positive, some of the answers might shed light on things that a candidate does or does not want to face at their workplace. These things should be considered heavily along with the traditional aspects such as compensation, benefits, perks, culture, employee value proposition, job, department, managers and the like.  When an individual spends a significant time at work, it’s best to identify whether it is a right fit or not.

The Importance of Accurate Interview Notes

Interviews have evolved. No longer do people go through one or two face-to-face interviews before landing a job. The interview process has become more complex, with variations of interview options and multiple people involved in the process. With that in mind, it’s not impossible for candidate information and responses to get lost in translation. Could interviewers create issues by filling in the blanks while writing up their interview notes?

Recently, I’ve been thrown back into the trenches of recruiting. Although my current job deals with strategy, it’s amazing to see how much recruiting has progressed since the time I’ve been directly involved in it and it’s great to remember all the little things that go into the recruiting and interviewing process, from sourcing, to outreach, interviewing and submittals. In the current project I’m involved in, we’re even utilizing the live video interviewing technology. And as always, HR compliance is definitely stressed through this process.

As I’ve been going through the interviews and getting back into the swing of things, I recall the importance of keeping interviews conversational. Rather than interrogative, it’s important to cover the questions on the interview screener and even more important to ask follow up questions throughout the process.

But why are follow up questions important?

As the candidate is moved throughout the process, many people will come in contact with them. From recruiters, hiring managers, department heads, and so on, many people will be interviewing them on different things. And, as such, many people will rely on the previous interviewer’s notes to get a background story prior to interviewing them. Certain questions need to be documented and a detailed synopsis should be written up and passed on to the next interviewer. But what happens if responses get misconstrued?

Communication is fascinating and many different people can perceive the same information in different ways. Additionally, people’s minds can connected points A to B with little information. But, how things are understood (or misunderstood) and people’s ability to fill in the blanks can affect the end result of what the candidate really meant. This can skew information and potentially disqualify a candidate from progressing when they were actually a great fit.

So recruiters, don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Don’t even be afraid to touch base with a candidate after an interview for further clarification. It’s better to cover your bases than miss out on a great hire.

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How Video is Transforming Interviews

 

web cam interview

Over the years, I’ve seen the interview process transform into something proactive, innovative and sometimes creative. Within the last year, I had the pleasure of utilizing video for candidate interviews. Being a virtual recruiter who recruited people outside of the immediate area, I was eager to see how this could change the initial stages of the screening process. Needless to say, I really found the value in these options.

Check out my most recent post on WilsonHCG’s blog and learn more about the benefits of video interviewing. Click here.

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

Lately, I’ve somehow found myself in the position of an informal career coach. I’ve been assisting job seekers who have been off the job market for several years and who were overwhelmed and intimidated by the way this whole process has changed. I was able to guide them through the process, from resume writing, personal branding, researching companies, and developing questions to ask during the interviews. As I went through this journey with them, I was surprised to learn that some of these questions have left recruiters scratching their heads. When I recalled my own experience in recruiting, I remember being in the same boat as these individuals. It wasn’t until later in my recruiting career that I realized how important it was to do deep research about a company to be able to confidently provide the information that these candidates wanted to hear.

To really create a positive and informative candidate experience during the interview process, a recruiter has to think like a candidate thinks. I know when I was a job seeker, the first thing I would do was essentially stalk anything and everything about a company before my interview. If I came across something negative, I wanted it cleared up early in the process so I knew whether or not to move forward. When applying this knowledge to my recruiting career, I noticed a huge difference. Transparency helped me build a trust with my candidates and they felt more confident when it came down to making a decision.

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

  • Talk to people within the company: Even if you work at the company you’re currently recruiting for, it’s important to speak to several people in different roles or departments. Getting an overall idea of employees’ opinions of the company can help you paint a solid picture for your candidate. So rather than saying, “It’s a great place to work,” you’re able to provide several perspectives, making your examples well-rounded.
  • Check out reviews on Glassdoor: Alright, I get it. I’m kind of a snob when it comes to this point but it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. I’ve had plenty of job seekers tell me that they completely stumped a recruiter when they referenced specifics from these reviews. Needless to say, the job seekers would drop out of the interview process because they felt like there was a disconnect or that the company was potentially hiding something.
  • Know your employer brand: Employment branding is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Being on the marketing side of things, I see the amount of effort companies put into their brand to make sure they have various examples of why working for the company is great. The content put out can be a fantastic resource to provide to the candidates and can help keep them engaged throughout the process.
  • Do a deep Google search: What’s your reputation? Employment branding and content pushed out by a company attempts to paint the company in the best light, but what about the stuff that WASN’T put out by the company? What are brand ambassadors, customers, clients and/or competitors saying? Do credible news sources or amateur bloggers have something worthy of sharing? Are your employees bashing or praising the company on social media? Knowing these things beforehand can help you discredit things that aren’t true, give a deeper explanation for things that are, or promote things that are aligned to what the candidate values.

When I started doing this in my own recruiting practices, I was able to really make the most out of my conversations with candidates. If they mentioned something they were interested in, I had the specific details they needed. If they were concerned about something, I was able to ease their mind or give them the hard facts so they could make the call. If I was a job seeker, I would hope that the interviewer would do the same for me. After all, job seeking is hard these days and accepting a job offer can be nerve-wracking.  Essentially, a candidate is making a big decision based on referrals and other people’s opinions. It would make a huge difference if recruiters were able to incorporate these details during the interview loop.

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Revamping Your Interview Strategy

Oh, interviews. The bane of many job seeker’s existence. The thing that causes stress, anxiety, and frustration. The part of the job hunt that we try to prepare the hardest for and yet it sometimes doesn’t seem to be enough. The one thing that has us beating our brains, trying to figure out where we went wrong if we end up not landing the job. After being a job seeker and then a recruiter, I can safely say there is no magic formula to help you be an expert interviewer. However, regardless of how strong of an interviewee you are, there are still plenty of ways for you to properly prepare yourself to make you feel confident in your abilities. After being rejected several times when I was a job seeker and then working on the other side of the interview table, I soon found ways that have helped me and the candidates I’ve coached be more successful during this portion of their job search.

Here are some best practices to help you prepare for your interviews:

  • Review the job description and company details in depth: look over the job description and get a feel for the types of skills they seem to be looking for. Really absorb the verbiage they use when describing their expectations. Once you feel you have a clear understanding of this, make sure to check out their career site and company details. Take the time to understand their company culture, their mission statement, and even try to find employee testimonials to gain some insight of what it would be like to work there. Having these details will set you up nicely for the next step.
  • Take stock of you own skills: more often than not, candidates end up talking themselves out of a job. Either they say too much or they say too little. It’s important to find that middle ground that allows you to provide the information you intended to without causing the interviewer’s eyes to glaze over. Compare your experience against the job description. Can you sum up your experience and skills in a couple solid sentences that seems to hit the key things they’re looking for? Make it easier for the interviewer to see your transferable skills by finding ways to express your experience clearly, concisely, and in a way that will closely match their job description.
  • Write it down: many times, the first interview is an introductory phone screen. It will be very beneficial for you to write down the skills you assessed in the step above to ensure you have all the details readily available. Additionally, write down examples of how you used these skills on the job. Aside from general questions about your experience, recruiters will also ask you situational or behavioral questions that help them assess your level of experience in the skills they’re requiring. Having these examples written down already will allow you to get straight to the point without getting stumped or providing unnecessary details. It can also allow you to reduce your nerves when you’re racking your brain for an example without causing too much of an awkward pause.
  • Use your network: there are many people out there that you can connect with that have either worked in a similar job, a similar company, or actually worked/works at the company you’re interviewing at. Take the time to talk to them about their interview experience. There may be a chance that certain interview questions stuck out in their mind. Knowing these questions beforehand can help you be one step ahead. If you don’t feel comfortable connecting with people you don’t know, do a general search for interview questions relevant for the job you’re going for. They may not be the exact questions, but they could give you a good feel of what you may be asked throughout the interview process.
  • Use your resources: the internet is a wonderful tool. Candidates have the ability to research the company in depth. PR pieces, forums, and blogs can help job seekers get a sense of what’s happening in the company or get an idea of what others are saying about the company. Websites like Glassdoor provide detailed reviews in regard to employees’ overall feelings about working for the company. Some interviewees also give details about their interview experience, things to look out for, questions they were asked, and provide general advice. Not only will reviewing these details help you with your interview, but it can also help you formulate impressive questions for the recruiter.
  • Show that you did your homework: recruiters are often impressed by candidates that have done their homework. They’re even more impressed by the candidates that seemed to go above and beyond and looked deeper than just what is on the company website. In that same regard, they also enjoy well-thought out questions that are a step above the general ones that they’re typically asked. Did you see something on a blog that interested you? Ask them more about it. Was there an employee review that sparked up something that concerned you? Try to get clarification on the situation. These are the types of things that help the interviewer feel like you genuinely care about the company you’re recruiting for.
  • Follow up: doing well in your interview isn’t the last step of having a good interview. It’s also about what you do AFTER the interview. If you have a LinkedIn account, be sure to connect with the individuals you spoke with. If you have the email or phone number of those individuals, be sure to send a follow up message to thank them and reiterate your continued interest in this position. This can help them feel that you are serious about this job.

Interviewing is definitely a tough thing to master and although I wish I had a way to assure you that this will help you land a job 100% of the time, I can’t. The important thing is to use this as a guide to help you build the confidence and skills you need to do better during your interviews. But above all else, the best thing you can do is learn to be adaptable. If something you tried during an interview didn’t work out as you had hoped, take the time to evaluate what went wrong and find a way to tweak your tactic so you have better luck next time. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off.

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Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

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Job Seekers: Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a Job

There are plenty of articles, books, infographics, and videos which discuss the best interview tips for job seekers. They provide insightful ways to research companies before the interviews. They teach you about the different interviewing steps. They provide interviewing blunders so seekers can learn from them. And they give suggestions on how to make a candidate stand out in the interview process. Mostly, these are all great resources for job seekers to use, but what about teaching them how NOT to talk themselves out of an opportunity during an interview?

Although I’m in a recruiting role now, I have also dealt with the ups and downs of being a job seeker. As I perfect my recruiting skills and collaborate with other recruiters, I’ve learned some of the mistakes I’ve made when I was searching for a job. I realized that sometimes saying too much could actually work against a candidate and extra information could cause a recruiter to think the following things:

  • You’re all over the place: I completely understand when a candidate wants to talk about all of their experiences in detail because it shows some additional skills and initiative that they believe will add value. Sometimes this is true, but if you present it wrong or overelaborate these experiences, you may take away from the core point that you were trying to make. The purpose of the interview is to show the recruiter that you are perfect for that specific position. If you clutter it up with other details, it might cause some confusion.
  • You’re not as skilled as they initially thought: Your resume might say you have five years of experience in a specific position, but if you go off on a tangent about all the other duties you preformed while in that role, the recruiter might believe that your job didn’t focus solely on the function they’re looking for. You may have gained those skills through additional side projects. If this is the case, make sure you present it in a way so recruiters know that it was something extra that you did and that your previous job fully-involved all of the duties that the recruiter is targeting.
  • You don’t know what you want: One of the biggest things I’ve seen when it comes to this is the fact that candidates tend to talk a lot about irrelevant experiences and skills they have. They may think it helps show their diverse skill-set and years of professional experience, but it can make a recruiter wonder where your true passion lies. Are you just taking this job because you have enough experience to meet the requirements or will this job keep you engaged enough?
  • You talked yourself into a corner: make sure you ask the recruiter questions in regard to what they’re looking for in a candidate and what the expectations are. The last thing you want to do is have to backtrack a previous statement you made about why you didn’t like a specific job/duty or what you thought you were the weakest at. It’s extremely hard to recover from that.

I won’t lie, I’ve been this type of candidate before. I was excited to land an interview and wanted to tell the recruiter everything I possibly could about my professional experience so they thought I could be an asset to their company. I thought my broad skill-set would help them see that I was adaptable and flexible. Unfortunately for me, it was quite the opposite. Instead, the recruiter received a jumbled amount of information that didn’t help them easily see how my skills perfectly matched their job opening. Even if I did have a great match of skills, they couldn’t determine that with all the additional chatter about “this” and “that”.

I strongly suggest for candidates to take the time to really re-read details about the job and the company and then consider great examples from their previous experiences that fluidly matches what the recruiter is looking for. Think of these answers beforehand so you can get straight to the point effectively and don’t include any unnecessary details that isn’t relevant. As a candidate, you want to paint the best picture for the recruiter so they can see that your transition into this position will be a smooth one.

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Job Seeker: Don’t Rule Out a Phone Interview

The interview process has evolved over the last few years. I recall interview processes only being an interview or two before the company made a decision on whether or not they wanted to hire you. With the changes in the economy and workforce, recruiters are now overwhelmed with a large amount of candidates applying to their job openings and do not have enough time to interview them in that capacity anymore. Therefore, the interview processes have changed into a series of steps, with phone interviews typically being the first one.

Being in talent acquisition myself, I spend most of my week setting up initial phone interviews to determine if the candidates are: interested in the job; interested in the company; and meet the basic requirements. I’ve been a job seeker before and, trust me, it’s a full time job in itself. Surprisingly, I’ve come across plenty of candidates that have decided against doing a phone interview because they were either in the interview process with another company or holding out for a company to reach out to them about their application. In those situations, I can’t help but shake my head. As a job seeker, you should be exploring as many relevant opportunities as you possibly can, especially if it doesn’t require too much time out of your day. You never know what can happen during your job search (or what WON’T happen), so it’s best to have your feelers out as much as possible.

I’ve seen plenty of candidates who’ve waited on a company to contact them about their application just to find out a month later that they were never going to receive that call. I’ve also had candidates hold off on interviewing with other companies because they were interviewing elsewhere, only to be rejected by the company at the final interview stage. Putting off other interviewing opportunities not only wasted time, but they also ended up losing out on opportunities because other available candidates jumped all over it. As a job seeker, you not only have to be aggressive in your search, but you also need to ensure that you don’t make rash assumptions about things. For example, a phone interview isn’t going to land you a job within 20 minutes, so you still can buy time in case the other opportunity you’re waiting for comes through. Or just because the opportunity or company isn’t ideal for you doesn’t mean other opportunities that are more of a fit won’t be presented.

Phone interviews don’t require too much time or effort and can benefit you:

  • It’s quick: phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and will allow you to get started with the interview process without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. This is a way for you to determine if it’s something you would want to dedicate time to.
  • It gets your name out there: this is an easy way for recruiters and companies to get to know: you; what you’re looking for; and what you’re abilities are. Even if the job opportunity isn’t right for you, you’ll at least be on their radar for something else down the line.
  • You can learn about a company or opportunities: sometimes a job description or an “about me” section on a company website doesn’t do an opportunity justice. I’ve almost ruled out companies in the past based off of these two things but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my assumptions were wrong once I spoke to the recruiter. The additional details allowed me to determine if it was a right fit or not.
  • It can help you pipeline: Like I said earlier, sometimes the timing or the opportunity isn’t right for you at the moment. However, it can help you determine if it is a company you want to look into down the line. This can be a great way to build a relationship with the company so once you do feel like the timing is right, you can easily reach out to the recruiter and get the ball rolling.
  • Recruiters like to help: Let’s say you didn’t like the opportunity that the recruiter initially reached out to you about- that doesn’t mean it’s over. Recruiters often network with each other to see what each other are working on (internally and externally). If the recruiter you spoke to knew someone who is looking for a candidate with your talent, it is very likely that they’ll pass on your resume to the other recruiter.

Before you turn down a phone interview, think about all the benefits above. A thirty minute phone call can help you be even more strategic in your job search.

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Job Shadowing as Part of the Interview Process

Recently, some business contacts and I were discussing some of the issues that HR and companies face in terms of turn-over. Of course, we dissected the many reasons why employees decided to voluntarily leave: pay; lack of advancement; culture issues; and so on. One of the other issues that I had mentioned was the fact that employees feel like they weren’t given a realistic preview of the job before accepting the role. This had us all thinking about our interview processes. Many interview processes have extended from a simple face to face into a longer interview cycle. These cycles can include phone screen, face to face meetings with several members of the team/organization, and presentations. Even after all of those different scenarios, employees still feel that this is the case. So what could we do better?

I thought about all of the interviews I’ve been a participant of over the years and considered the details. Many of the interviews were informative, both over the phone and face to face. The recruiters and hiring managers took the time to interview my skill-set and was also open to answering questions I had about the company, the day-to-day, and the expectations. And although that might seem sufficient, I realized it really wasn’t.

It wasn’t until I experience an interview that involved a 2 hour to half day job shadowing session that I really felt like I got a good sense of the job. In this session, I took time to sit down with multiple people in the organization: people I’d work directly with on a team; people that I would support; and department managers. In each of these instances, the person I was shadowing would take time to show me what their role entailed in a hands-on way. I was visually able to see their to-do lists, the systems they used, their processes, and so on. Additionally, I was able to take notes, ask them questions, and get a better understanding of how it all worked. This also allowed the person who was “interviewing me” to see how much I truly understood about the job and really actually see if the experience I claimed to have was legitimate.

In addition to getting a realistic view of the role, the company, and the people I would potentially be working with; this also gave the company an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of how I would fit in. They tested my knowledge, they saw how I was responding, and they saw how I interacted with different members of the organization. This was a fantastic way to not only see if the role/candidate was a match but if the candidate/company also had a cultural and value match. It helped me feel extremely confident when it came to deciding whether or not it I would be happy in this role and company. It ensured that surprises were limited and I knew what I was getting myself into. And vice versa.

Although recruiting and interview processes are extensive as it is, I would love it if more companies took the time to include this in their interview loop. I would be curious to know if this could help limit the turnover of employees, whether voluntarily or not. I know it made a huge impact and difference in my candidate experience.

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