You’re so Vague- You Probably Think This Post is About You

Let’s face it, interviewing is tough. And it’s not just tough on the candidate’s end, it can also be tough on the interviewer. It can be long, tedious, and exhausting. Even after you put in all this time and effort, something ends up shifting, causing you have to go through the steps all over again. Unfortunately, some of these situations are out of our control. We can’t change policies or laws overnight nor can we change economic and financial shifts that can influence the outcome or length of these hiring practices. However, interviewers could definitely make the interviewing process less painful simply by being open and honest. This can help candidates get a better understanding and hopefully limit some frustrations they experience.

First off, let’s stop being vague: No one likes playing guessing games, especially when it involves their career and financial security. Before going through the recruiting and interview process- get the facts. Simplified and generalized job descriptions aren’t good enough. Sure, it’s opening up your candidate pool because a large number of candidates could say, “Oh, sure, I could do that/I’ve done that.” But we’re trying to focus on the specifics. Recruiters complain about being overwhelmed with unqualified resumes, but part of the issue is because their job descriptions are too ambiguous that these candidates might actually believe they are qualified. Let’s present the position properly straight off the bat.

If you’re going to ask tough questions, be ready to answer them, too: Candidates are interviewing your company just as much as you’re interviewing them. Before interviewing candidates, make sure you have all the details and know what questions are safe to answer and which information you are allowed to provide. Choosing an employer is tough and candidates are weary of getting themselves in a bad situation. If you plan on asking candidates detailed or hard questions, do not shut them out when it’s their turn to ask you things about the job and company. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them to make a decision of whether or not to take a position with you if they don’t have a realistic idea of what they’re getting themselves into.

Make sure you’re on the same page for timelines: Nothing is more frustrating than going into a job interview (especially when you are hurting for work) and finding out that either the interview process is extremely extensive, the position isn’t open, or that there isn’t a huge rush for the job to be filled. Explain to the candidate from the beginning all these details. Let them know how long the interview loop is, the typical timeline, what each interview entails, and a timeframe they should expect to hear from you at the end. This is even truer for positions that aren’t officially open. I’ve been in those shoes before- I’ve interviewed for a company who said the position isn’t open yet but it will be fairly soon. I had my heart set on it so I rejected other offers to ensure I was ready to start ASAP… 6 months later, the position still wasn’t open, I still had no idea when it would be even after asking several times, and my savings account was almost depleted.

The candidate experience is important and it isn’t fair to hook and hold candidates without their knowledge. Be open- tell them all the details you can about the position so the candidate knows if it’s something they want to continue interviewing for. Be honest about interview timelines or hiring timeline expectations.  I understand that we are trying so hard not to let quality talent turn away from us, but you should let your candidates make informed decisions. I’m sure they will appreciate the fact that you aren’t wasting their time or giving them the run around. It could even help build a better relationship and retain potential talent even if the job isn’t available right then.

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Your Hiring Process Repels Candidates.

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Interview or Interrogation?

Being in the HR industry and having been a job seeker before, I have encountered many different interviewing scenarios. I’ve been the interviewer, the interviewee, and sometimes even the spectator. Some experiences have been great, while others had me cringe. Recently, a few acquaintances and I had discussed some of these cringe-worthy situations which shed some light on the experiences candidates have during this. One of the most notable experiences has been delightfully dubbed, “the interr-iview”. Basically, it’s an interview turned interrogation. Regardless of the candidate’s experience in the workforce, both early careerists and seasoned professionals find this experience to not only be unsettling, but it also turns them off from wanting to work for your organization. With that being said: are your interviews scaring talent away?

Not everyone is a pro at interviewing candidates, and that’s perfectly fine. However, there are some steps you can take to help you create a better interviewing experience:

  • Create a list of questions: having a list of set questions can not only ensure you are fair to each candidate, but it can also allow you to focus on things that matter. Having these questions can help you focus on important facts and can prevent you from asking things off base (or even potentially illegal).
  • Limit the barriers: sometimes having a desk or a conference table separating you and your interviewee can seem rigid and cold. Interviews are about getting to know one another. You need to not only see what the candidate’s experience is, but also get a feel for how they can fit in your organization and vice versa. Having a barrier could create an atmosphere that is stuffy, calculated, and overly “perfected” – AKA not a great indicator on who either of you really are. It’s best to find out about each other beforehand rather than realizing it’s not a fit a few months down the line.
  • Think about your follow up questions: it’s not unusual to have follow-up questions for elaboration or clarification purposes. However, it’s important to be aware of your delivery of these questions. Are you abrasive or accusing? Are you confusing or judgmental? Think about your wording and tone to allow the candidate to know you are generally curious, not disbelieving.
  • You have an impression to make, too: candidates are interviewing your company just as much as you are interviewing them. Are you welcoming? Are you open to answering questions? Are you creating an experience that allows opportunity to build relationships? Or are you treating a candidate like you are above them and shutting them out? Remember, your impression can be a factor when a candidate is deciding if they would like to work for you or not.

Having good interviewing skills is crucial when it comes to obtaining talent. Not only that, a good or bad candidate experience can also help or hinder your chances of attracting talent in the future. Think about your interviewing skills and experiences- is there anything you would change?

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Don’t Botch Your Interview

Whether you’re proactively looking for a new opportunity while employed or aggressively looking while unemployed, the fact is that job seeking is not an easy feat. In this economy, landing a job can sometimes take a painstaking, long time. And finding a job that is aligned with what you’re looking for or at a company you’re targeting can also seem like a far-away dream. But, sometimes throughout your job search you will land that interview you’ve been fighting for. Be sure to not let your eagerness, nerves, or out-of-practice interviewing experience mess up your opportunity.

Here are some tips for your interview:

  • Don’t talk too much or talk over the interviewer: it’s important to listen to what the interviewer has to say about the job duties and requirements before you indulge too much. If you speak too much or too soon, you might find yourself having to retract or cover yourself so you didn’t talk yourself out of a job.
  • Do your homework and ask questions: recruiters like to see that you have done your homework and have well-thought out questions. They do not like hearing questions that could have easily been answered by reading the job posting or company website. It will show you didn’t care enough to do your research. Additionally, doing your research can help you have examples prepared to show your relevant experience.
  • Don’t over indulge: like I mentioned above, you don’t want to talk too much. Answer the question at hand with relevant experience and move on to the next question. You want to give enough information to prove you are qualified but don’t overdo it.
  • Speak positively about your past employers: speaking negatively about employers can be a huge turn-off for recruiters. Even if you had a bad experience worthy of complaining about, it’s important to show a recruiter that you are professional. Find something positive to say, regardless of your situation.
  • Speak positively about failures: failures are inevitable but it’s important to talk about the positive things you’ve accomplished during this situation and things you’ve learned and effectively applied to future experiences.
  • Carefully consider what weakness you share and how it will affect your qualifications: most of the time a recruiter will ask you about strengths and weaknesses in an interview. Be sure to consider what weakness you want to divulge beforehand to ensure you don’t say something that can make a recruiter question if you’re still qualified to satisfactorily perform the job duty needs.
  • Don’t corner yourself: make yourself open to negotiation early in the interview stage. You don’t want to corner yourself into a specific salary or job function by declaring something before finding out what options you have.

Interviews are your time to put your best impression forward. Be sure to carefully consider different questions a recruiter may ask you before you step in the interview to ensure you have the best examples readily available that will paint you in a positive light.

 

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The Truth about Filling Jobs

A survey shows many Greensboro employers had trouble filling jobs.

Many candidates who are passively and actively job seeking have openly talked to me in the past about their frustrations with the interview process. They often want to know: why a job opening stays open for months at a time; why their application status seems to be at a stand-still; why their interviews are spread out over weeks at a time; why there seems to be no conclusion or status update after the interview process; and much more. I’ve been a job seeker before so I can understand how frustrating it can be to have unresolved answers about an application. However, I have worked HR roles and am currently recruiting so I understand the typical job-filling timeline.

Job openings aren’t always open right away. Additionally, some jobs call for a rigorous interview process that can sometimes make the application/interview process seem to drag on forever. The facts below can help job seekers understand why processes are the way they are:

  • Jobs aren’t always readily available: Sometimes companies post job openings because they are preparing for a change in their workforce. Maybe someone is taking a new position and the ramp up time will take several weeks, maybe someone is retiring/quitting and isn’t leaving for another few months. Perhaps a department is planning on expanding in the near future. The point is the job won’t be filled tomorrow. Recruiters have the time to interview a large amount of eligible candidates and will make the decision closer to the time the job will open. Therefore, the job will be open, just not right away.
  • Recruiters create candidate pools: Sometimes, positions aren’t even open. However, to prepare for future ramp ups, recruiters will source for qualified candidates, interview them to ensure that they are qualified, and will keep them in their recruiting systems so they can easily keep track and contact candidates when (or if) the position does become available. This means that you could have interviewed for a position that may take several months to open, or it may never open.
  • Some interview processes can be long and tedious: Most job seekers are used to the typical interview loop of two interviews. However, some companies are implementing new interview processes which could include various interviews with different departments or team members to see if there is a cultural fit, or “shadow days” where the candidate gets to spend half a day in the position to see if it’s a candidate/job fit. These extra interview processes can double or even triple the typical interview timeline.

With that being said, I feel that candidates (whether they are jobless or currently employed) should spend time networking with recruiters for positions and companies that might be of interest to them. This can keep candidates ahead of the game if there ever comes a time that they lose a job or are ready for a new venture. Candidate’s job seeking efforts could be compromised if they are dealing with financial strain and stress. It’s best to network and interview when that pressure is off to ensure they are making good choices. Additionally, since these processes can take several weeks or months, it would be good to get a head start, especially in this economy where anything can unexpectedly happen.

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Early Careerists: Don’t Burn Yourself Out

Post written by: Vera Swain

Did I format my résumé correctly? Should I have included a cover letter? When I follow-up on the application who do I follow up with?! Such are the questions I and thousands of other job-seekers have asked ourselves during our job search, and for some of us, myself included, at times, we’re still not sure of the answers. Such are the trials of the dreaded job search. But these are trials we must all go through at one point, so how do we cope? How do we stay positive when it looks like no one wants us; why do we continue to apply when we believe no one’s reading the multitude of applications we’ve already put forth?

I’ve been applying for jobs since I was 15 years old. I guess you could say I was an über-early careerist. At that age, though, landing a job was a lot simpler. I went down to the local Taco Bell because it was within walking distance, I filled out an application, and I was hired on the spot. Then I went through hell for six months until I was 16 and could apply for a more lucrative position in the bakery of Atlanta Bread Company. Today, the job search could still be done this way. Taco Bell is still open and doing better than ever. But now that I’ve been out of college for a few years and am officially an adult, this isn’t the kind of job search I’m embarking on lately. It seems that once you walk across the stage, diploma in hand, you’re no longer allowed to fill out paper applications for jobs. The job you want involves an online application to which you must attach a résumé and a cover letter and maybe even references. No longer do you complete your application, walk up to the cash register and say, “Is your manager here?” And just like much of your adult life, this new job search is a lot more stressful than it was as a teen.

So, how do we make the process less stressful? How do we see the light when it seems like the end of the tunnel is barricaded by a brick wall, ten feet high? Follow these simple steps and you may be able to survive the job search with your sanity intact:

1. Slow down. I know your instincts might be telling you that you need to apply to as many jobs as possible because with more worms, you’re bound to catch at least one fish. I think, at the height of my job search madness, I once applied for at least 50 jobs in one day. This was when I moved to Las Vegas after graduating college and I was determined to find a job in hospitality. I don’t know about you, but filling out one application is stressful enough; imagine 50! Slow down. Take a break. Do two to three applications a day. You can’t devote the proper attention and time needed for an application if you’re doing this many at a time. Write cover letters. Customize your resume. Breathe.

2. Network, network, network. I’ve found that networking has helped me alleviate some of the strain of the job search because it makes me feel like I’ve got a team on my side. Through networking, I’ve been able to gain access to recruiters and hiring managers I never would’ve found if I didn’t know who I know. Talk to your friends; if they’ve got a job you admire or work for a company you’d like to work for, see if they can connect you to a recruiter at their workplace. Use LinkedIn. I’ve been introduced to several recruiters and hiring managers by a friend who is a very avid LinkedIn user. When your friends and previous coworkers can help you in your job search, it takes a large weight off your shoulders.

3. Read. Do your research on performing an effective job search. There are countless books on the market on how to go about finding a job. These books can help you find new methods when it seems like you’re not doing anything right. In addition to these books, read articles on the Internet. I’ve learned so much about constructing a cover letter, strengthening my resume, and contacting recruiters through articles I’ve read on the Web and books I’ve borrowed from the library.

4. Have a drink and RELAX. Sometimes the easiest way to de-stress is the most obvious. Take a break when your eyes start to blur. Ride your bike. Watch a movie. Go out with friends. Clearing your head will better prepare you to tackle your next round of applications and will give you a new lease on the process.

I know the job search can be stressful. I’m actively searching. But it doesn’t have to be maddening. Use your resources, relax, and breathe. You’ll find the job you’re looking for because you’re experienced and suited to it, not because you drove yourself crazy looking. And when you do, let me know; I’ll treat you to the drink I mentioned above.

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About the writer:

 Vera Swain is a young professional who is active in the job market. Currently, she is seeking a position in Marketing in the Los Angeles area as she is in the midst of relocating from one coast to the other. When not writing and job searching, Vera can be found with her nose in a book on her feet on the dance floor. Always seeking adventure, she is an avid traveler who loves to see and experience new things, especially food. To hear more from Vera, follow her on Twitter at @swverausc214 or check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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Do’s and Don’ts for your Phone Screen Interview

The phone screen has become a common trend in the recruiting industry. Recruiters are constantly bombarded with an obscene amount of resumes on a daily basis. Therefore, in the search to find quality talent, they have resorted to initial phone screens to weed out those not qualified and cut down time. This initial option has become a crucial part of the interviewing process. Candidates must recognize that in order to get to the next step and land a job, they must take the phone screen seriously.

I’ve been a job seeker and I’ve also recruited before. Having experience on both sides has allowed me to compile some great tips and advice when it comes to phone interviews. Candidates- please take note of these do’s and don’ts. All phone screens and phone interviews should be handled with a high level of professionalism. If not, you could be struggling to find a company who will give you the right of passage to the second interview.

DO:

  • Treat this as a face-to-face interview.
  • Handle it professionally.
  • Be ready and available to take the phone call and ensure you have enough time available in case the call runs longer than expected.
  • Your homework: Research the company so you can show the recruiter that you truly are interested in them.
  • Be prepared and be sure to have relevant examples to display that you are capable of doing the job successfully.
  • Ask questions! Recruiters like this and it can help them clearly see if this would be a good candidate/job fit.
  • Get straight to the point. Phone interviews are typically quick screens, so be sure to state the facts quickly and highlight the things that can really show that you would be an asset.
  • Ensure you are in a good service area. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to decipher what the other person is saying if they are cutting out or dealing with dropped calls.

DON’T:

  • Miss the phone call, especially if it was scheduled.
  • Have unnecessary background noise (i.e. dog barking, children screaming, tv blaring, etc.)
  • Ramble about things that are irrelevant. The screen was meant to cut down interviewing time so don’t make it longer than it has to be.
  • Take a call while driving or outside. Find a quiet room or even sit in a parked car. You must stay focused!
  • Ask what the company is or what the job is when answering the call. This will make the recruiter assume that you have application-blasted a bunch of companies and aren’t completely interested in this one.
  • Have unprofessional ringtones or voicemails. That is a huge turn off and could cause the recruiter to question your level of professionalism.
  • Come off as passive. Be enthusiastic about this job. Make sure the recruiter remembers you and your optimism.
  • Chew gum or food while on the phone. All the recruiter will hear is you chomping and will be distracted from what you’re actually saying.
  • Take the call in a restroom. Toilet flushing is extremely unprofessional (and creates some awkward visuals).

Remember, the phone screen/phone interview is your way to get on the gatekeepers’ good side. It is an extremely important step in the interview process. This can either make or break your chances of getting the golden ticket to enter into the next round of interviews. As a candidate, it is in your best interest to not take this lightly. Just because it is not face-to-face does not mean it’s any less important. In fact, this step could be even more so because this is your first impression and could define you as a hirable or non-hireable candidate for the company. Make sure you do your best!

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