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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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.

More Links:

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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