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.

2014 at a Glance

SAMSUNG CSC

Wow. We’ve made it through another whole year and it seems like they’re flying by faster and faster. As I take a moment to reflect on my personal and professional highlights of 2014, I’m reminded of how much can change in a year. It’s a nice reminder of what can be accomplished, but also that there is still so much more to do.

From a personal standpoint, I moved from Charleston, SC, to Boston, MA. After over a decade of dreaming about travel, I finally took my first European trip to Paris and Rome. I took the leap and became a puppy parent. And I made plans to finally tie the knot with my long-term fiancé in 2015.

From a professional perspective, I continued to build my strategic skills for the talent acquisition space, specifically in recruitment planning and employment branding. I finally had an opportunity to attend a human capital conference, which I absolutely loved. I was even able to meet professional contacts I connected with via social media over the years. Currently, I’m in the process of switching my employer/career, but that will come in due time.

As for blogging, here are the most viewed blogs posted in 2014:

 

Overall, I was both surprised and happy to see that my top post of all time was one of the first ones I wrote on this blog back in 2012: Basic requirements: A candidate’s search for a qualified employer. Since writing this post, my professional career has changed so much. I’ve learned more than I could imagine, gained so many new skills and really saw my potential. I was challenged often and always found a way to rise to the occasion, no matter how impossible it may have seemed.

As I restart my job search in 2015 and finally have a moment to reflect, I reviewed this specific blog post from 2012 and realized that even years later, the things I want from an employer still ring true today. I’ve had a great opportunity to work for a company that hit most of these points for the last 2+ years, letting me know that these companies really do exist. I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.

Happy New Year!

Rediscovering Your Identity

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Identity is a funny thing. We spend our time trying to distinguish it, both personally and professionally, and then spend our lives trying to build and protect it once we know what it is. Our experiences and surroundings transform it. We go through cycles of trying to fit in, to making sense of who we are. Other times we are trying to stand out and become indispensable. And when we find a place where our identity makes sense, we get comfortable with the easy flow of knowing who we are and where we fit. But what happens when that comfortable place is gone?

It’s been a while since I’ve written last, mainly because I’ve been going through a transition that has tested my feelings towards my identity. In 2012, I developed my personal brand without even realizing it. I started this blog, joined online discussions, participated in Twitter chats, guest blogged, networked and so on. I was sharing my knowledge about HR, talent acquisition and business. And with each conversation, research and experience, my knowledge continued to grow to the point where I was able to provide valuable insight and suggestions. From the people I networked with, to the company I worked for and the clients I supported, I was able to make an impact. I started to work harder, I tied my name and experiences with my professional work and I truly believed I was going to build my career with that one company for at least five years, if not more. I was set… until I wasn’t.

A move to Boston from South Carolina made it difficult to keep up with the cost-of-living increase. I struggled but I tried hard to make it work. After all, I had built a reputation internally and externally. People from all levels, interns to c-level, came to me for brainstorming, mentorship or suggestions. My personal brand had seemed to merge into my company brand.  I excelled because my company was able to give me the things I needed to move forward that I couldn’t get myself. So, naturally, I wanted to be loyal and give back. We were a unit—an equal balance of give and take.

When it came to the point when I had to regretfully move on, I dealt with the loss. I fell silent; on social media, with those I networked with and with blogging. I had become so ingrained in the company and what I was doing there, that I truly believed that without my employment, all the things I’ve done over the last 2+ years was suddenly lost. As if with the end of that employment came the end of my worth and my ability to be impactful and valuable. It had been the first time I had felt so loyal and deeply connected to a company, that I wasn’t sure how to accept that I was now an outsider. I was no longer able to voice suggestions, develop strategies, author something or get recognition for a job well done. I was floating along without a home, without a purpose.

As I stated in my last blog, sometimes you just need time to handle the changes in life. You can be sad, in shock, in disbelief or even happy. Whatever you feel, it’s important you face it head on as soon as possible so you can start to make a plan for your next step. Over the last few weeks, that’s exactly what I did. I dealt with the sense of feeling orphaned and questioned who I was as a professional. Would my opinions matter without the backing of an organization? Or would I just be a random person who’s “faking it until I make it” and in which everyone can see right through?

But then I remembered something.

I built my personal brand before this company found me. My blog, my conversations and my interactions on social media were mine. Even while employed there, my thoughts were still my thoughts. Some of the ideas we implemented came out of my head based on what I knew or researched and my ability to make sense of it. Sure, my work at the company did help me learn more and helped me develop my professional skills because of hands-on experiences. But my capability to absorb that and develop it into something useful was because of what I knew on my own.

My identity is still my identity as long as I’m still breathing and pursuing it. It didn’t come about as some Frankenstein experiment developed by a specific employer. No; it was a compilation of several experiences and the way I processed it. My identity won’t change unless I change it myself, no matter if I’m employed by one employer for the rest of my life, work for myself or become a freelancer. This identity comes with me.

And with that notion, I began to feel better about the change. Maybe I haven’t found my “home” yet, but I no longer feel like I’m a wanderer that doesn’t belong. This is all about growing up and the sooner I get used to it, the better I’ll be at bouncing back without missing a beat.

I know well enough that I’m not the only one who has experienced this situation when going through a transition, voluntary or not. Letting go, moving on and getting used to a new chapter in your life (personally and professionally) is not always easy. An important reminder is to know that no matter what happens; you don’t lose yourself or what you’ve accomplished when something comes to an end. In fact, it’s just another addition to help shape your transformational identity.

 

Overcoming Professional Failures

Edison

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host a career-based chat for soon-to-be college graduates. Overall, it was a positive conversation and I was excited to provide suggestions to help these students prepare for their future in the working world. As always, I welcomed fellow chatters to connect with me if they ever need to network, brainstorm or just need general advice. Needless to say, I was happy to see that someone took me up on my offer and the discussion got me thinking.

One student brought up her concerns about her future and asked me how I overcame professional failure. It was an interesting thing to revisit, especially because only a few short years ago, I was struggling with my own disappointments and downfalls. As an introvert, it’s not always easy for me to get out of my own head, particularly with less-than-favorable scenarios. But, as always, I find a way to dig myself out and move forward. In the end, those situations were what helped me provide the advice I was able to for this specific individual and hopefully it will allow her to look beyond her own setbacks and know that things do get better if you let them.

Professional failure can come in a lot of different forms and for a lot of different reasons. It doesn’t simply stop at getting terminated. As I considered my own ups and downs, as well as my peers’, I realized that there are many things that people can deem a failure. Aside from being fired, being laid-off is also one that people consider a downfall. Even if it was for reasons beyond them, it’s a terrible feeling knowing that your livelihood is suddenly stripped from you. Counting pennies is never fun, nor is the constant stress from wondering when you’ll get back on your feet. But, failure still doesn’t just stop there.

You don’t need to be jobless to feel the sting of failure. For example, perhaps you were counting on a promotion or working hard to move laterally or upwards within your current company. When you finally put yourself out there, you are shot down. It’s heartbreaking to know that you’re working so hard only to find out that your peers don’t believe in you. It can feel the same way when it comes to performance review-based or annual raises. As long as you’re meeting expectations, it could be expected to get some kind of bump in pay, even if it’s just to manage any cost-of-living inflations. Maybe you are just doing your job or maybe you’re exceeding expectations, even performing duties outside of your role. If you’re denied that raise, it’s hard to stop wondering why you weren’t deserving of it.

A lot of other things can be considered failures aside from the ones mentioned. It all depends on what a person values, needs and expects from their employer. It’s ok to fail and to experience the emotions that go along with it. It’s ok to ride out the sadness, disappointment and pain. The key is to know when and how to move on from it, which some people find it hard to do.

I’m a big believer in letting yourself feel what your body naturally wants to feel. If you are angry or sad or lost, feel that. Let it all out, even if it’s a few hours, days or even weeks. Repressing it isn’t going to help, but neither is drowning in it. After you succumb to whatever you’re feeling, you eventually have to come to a point where you’re like, “Ok, enough is enough.” And that’s the point where you can put it behind you and move on. If you’re struggling to get to that point or if you’re at the point but have no idea where to go from there, you need to remember that your failures don’t define you. That one little moment or one thing will not negate all the progress and success you’ve had throughout your working life. It’s important to embrace that and go with it.

Am I saying to pretend that the failures didn’t exist? Of course not. Sometimes people truly do fail because of something they did. Learn from it. Sometimes people fail for things that were out of their hands. Also learn from it. The important thing is to take those lessons to help you be better prepared for your future. But even so, this shouldn’t be your sole driving force and this shouldn’t be on the forefront of your mind as you try to propel forward. The good you’ve done in the past matters and those are the things that are going to matter in the future. When you are speaking to your next potential employer or your next potential manager (if you’re going for a promotion), you need to think about that. Let that build your confidence and let that provide you with that steely resolve that, yes, you are the right person for this job. Don’t let that little sense of doubt make your conviction wane.

Failure happens to everyone. You’re not the only one, so don’t think that you’re singled out with a big sign on your back that says, “I messed up,” or “I’m not worthy”. You’re not the odd man out and, chances are, you will continue to face these challenges throughout your career. It’s just the way things are. The important thing is to learn how to move forward without letting any of these roadblocks put a hold on your progress.

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Virtual Employment for Attraction and Retention

You belong somewhere you feel free

During the HCI event last month, several employers expressed the changes they’re seeing in employment trends. More employees and candidates are aggressive when attempting to progress in their career path and many are willing to make risky moves to get there. Additionally, it was noted that more people are becoming mobile in order to reach their career objectives. Because of this, employers are seeing an influx in voluntary turnover and shorter employment tenure. So, why aren’t employers considering telecommuting or virtual work to help retain their employees?

Over the last two years, I’ve been a full-time virtual employee. I typically receive the same responses whenever mentioning this to new acquaintances, ranging from curiosity, skepticism, envy or disapproving. Many people ask me if I feel isolated or if the lack of face-to-face time has prevented me from moving up within the company. Surprisingly, I’ve progressed faster in my career, learned more and had stronger development opportunities in a virtual setting than I ever had in the office.

Virtual work requires a person to hone in on specific skills or build new ones. It’s all about adaptability and identifying resources to use to your advantage. You learn to be independent due to the lack of “crutches” (aka constant coworker/superior feedback) or validation. This forces you to rely on your own decisions. Also, accountability is a must. The lack of micromanagement allows you to focus on producing results and perfecting processes. Of course, this only can happen if an employer has the infrastructure, processes and leadership to allow employees to succeed. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools are necessary to understand employees’ skillsets and help develop them for career succession.

Over the last week, I spent some time researching if more employers have embraced virtual employment options. Much to my dismay, the majority of the positions I’ve come across dealt with customer service (contact center, reservations, etc.), sales, consultants for software development and recruiting. Many of the positions were contract or freelance opportunities. I was surprised that more employers aren’t opening up to additional full-time positions that can be virtual, nor creating opportunities for internal mobility to higher-level positions. I’ve been someone who’s experienced both… and I continue to be successful this way. Sky’s the limit for my career potential as long as my employer has opportunities to support it.

Virtual employment can help retain employees for a couple of reasons:

  • It allows them to have better personal opportunities: We all hear about work-life balance or work-life blending. The point is, people have other needs outside of the workplace. For example, my fiancé recently got a fantastic job promotion that would require us to relocate 1,000 miles away. There were no second thoughts about accepting it. All I did was take a couple of PTO days to move and I was set. I didn’t have to worry about quitting my job or dealing with a lapse in compensation when I was struggling to find work. The process was very seamless.
  • It allows employers to find and develop talent: there are plenty of people within the country that may possess some amazing skills but might not be located near a major branch or headquarters. Organizations can utilize this talent by offering them employment without requiring them to relocate. This can be the same deal if an employee is ready to be promoted but can’t relocate. Rather than giving them the less-than-ideal options of staying underemployed, relocating or forcing them to consider another employer in order to move up in their career, a virtual option can help retain an employee while giving them internal mobility.
  • It focuses on what matters: Results. Much like the purpose of ROWE (results only work environment), virtual work can be supportive of a results-focused situation. Micromanagement is disengaging and sometimes people don’t perform their best work during normal business hours. Being strapped to a desk can lower productivity. And maybe some people thrive when they’re blasting music, while others might prefer a quiet workspace with no distractions. Virtual work makes it easier for people to find their happy place without having to deal with formal requests or pushback from their peers.

Virtual employment can be a fantastic opportunity for both employer and employee, as long as it’s done right. Consulting an Organizational Development Specialist and researching technology to ensure a virtual environment can function the same as a traditional environment will be necessary.

If you’re curious to know more how virtual employment and virtual internal mobility works, ask me! I’ll be happy to tell you about my ongoing career story. Connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Performing with Purpose

 

When reflecting on my career progression, I recall the early years when I first started working. I relied on delegated orders, would dutifully fulfill them and wait for new assigned tasks. It was an endless cycle of repetitiveness and I often found myself on autopilot. Sometimes I even found myself disengaged when I couldn’t identify the intent of some of my responsibilities. But, being young and not feeling like I was experienced enough to have a voice, I continued performing without ever questioning it…that was a mistake.

As I’ve made my way through my career, obtained a degree and became more involved in understanding business and organizational development, I started to see that never questioning anything has done a disservice to my growth and a disservice to the betterment of the organization I was working at. Asking thought-provoking and well-structured questions won’t make anyone question your competency (as I often feared it would), but it gives you a chance to perform better. At this stage of my career, I make it a point to perform with purpose. And to do this, you have to start with one simple question – Why?

  • Asking questions: Once I started to know why certain tasks relevant, I was able to get a bigger picture. Asking what or how always helped too, but I felt the “why” was the most important thing to know. Questioning this allowed me to gain insight into the overall purpose of each function, what the expected outcome was, etc. Knowing this information not only helps you do your job better, but also sets you up to do MORE.
  • Performing better: knowing key details as to the purpose of your task and what’s the expected outcome can help drive the direction of your performance: It gives you a starting point, a path and a goal that you are aiming to meet or exceed.
  • Continuous innovation: set up time regularly to review the information you gathered from asking questions and critically analyze it. With the fast changes in business, it’s important to constantly reevaluate processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Even if you aren’t in a role to implement change, your analysis and suggestions can help leadership see ways to positively impact the business.

No matter what level employee you are or how swamped you are at work, I urge you to take the time to ask questions, find ways to perform better and look for opportunities to innovate. I’d personally rather take the time to do these things and ensure every function I’m performing has a purpose than keep my head down. To help your professional growth and your organization’s growth, its things like this that can help move everything forward.

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The Evolution of HR and Talent Acquisition

The Sky's The Limit....or is it?

When I first started this blog back in June of 2012, my experience with HR had been quite different than what it is today. At the time, my knowledge came from textbooks and from working at small organizations with one-stop-shop HR departments. My job experience typically had me in roles that did everything from initially recruiting candidates, on-boarding, new hire orientation, training, employee relations, payroll, off-boarding, and general HR management. I had a hand in everything and at the time I thought this was everything I needed to know about HR. It wasn’t until shortly after I started the blog that I realized how wrong I was. Either my experience had been sheltered, the HR function had changed rapidly, or a bit of both. Regardless, the HR function has evolved right before my eyes.

Some of my most noteworthy discoveries:

  • HR and Talent Acquisition are two different things: Due to the fact that my experience had dealt with everything from start to finish, I thought that this was the norm across the board. It wasn’t until I got a new job as a sourcer (which I had no idea what that was at the time) that I learned how talent acquisition is a beast in its own right. Effective talent acquisition involves an in-depth strategy, involving anything from candidate mining, to employment branding, to better interviewing options. Once I saw how this was done, I almost wondered how anyone could even fathom handling all the other HR duties on top of this function. As time went on, I saw more and more companies splitting talent acquisition off from the HR department.
  • Recruiting has gone social: When I first started this blog, I was using it as a supplement to my resume. I wanted people to see my knowledge and passion. To promote it, I started using social media sites only to eventually get hired via Twitter. Once I got settled in my job as a sourcer, I was deemed the social media recruitment queen and had to create training on how to do this effectively. Needless to say, I like to practice what I preach so I often incorporated social media into my sourcing efforts. Candidates are also recognizing how much social plays in the job hunting game and now take the time to use social as a means for personal branding. Honestly, looking at some of these creative resumes was a lot more fun than staring at the typical resume format over and over.
  • HR tech is going beyond HRIS and ATS systems: Prior to my most current employer, my experience with HR tech was the typical HRIS and ATS systems. With the acceptance of social media in the workplace and the increase of technological advances, new HR vendors are emerging rapidly. HR technology now can include anything from video interviewing and social media recruitment platforms. Also, there are platforms for onboarding, recognition, training, career succession, and more. It’s wild how much has been developed over the last few years and I hope to make it out to the HR Tech Conference one of these days to see some of the interesting options.
  • The 2020 workplace is right around the corner: Not to alarm anyone but time is flashing by. Although it’s no secret that 2020 is known as the “Gen Y Takeover” of the workplace, companies need to start revamping their offerings to attract these candidates. Competitive companies are taking the time to understand Gen Y values and apply it to their culture or perks. For example, some companies are offering flexible work schedules, telecommunication options, social media friendly environments, creative workplaces, assistance with student loan payments and more. It’s no longer about offering a hefty paycheck but about creating a situation where work-life can be blended better.
  • Typical employment is changing: Say farewell to the idea that your employees are bound to stay with you for their full career. That’s not really a thing anymore. In fact, it seems as if more companies are contracting employees or more people are becoming free agents and/or consultants. When I first started recruiting, I was told to stay away from the job hoppers but as the years went on, I’ve realized that “job hopping” is becoming more of a regular occurrence. Some employers are actually even embracing those types of people because the amount of knowledge and skill they picked up from employer to employer.
  • Talent acquisition is becoming more proactive: Companies need to be prepared because any one of their employees can be a potential risk thanks to proactive recruitment. Recruiters are now taking time to build relationships with passive candidates and talent pools are now being upgraded to talent communities. Passive and active candidates are easily in contact with recruiters and are up to date about opportunities as they arise. Posting and praying is becoming a thing of the past and recruitment is now about two way communication.
  • HR law is becoming a bit trickier: HR law seemed to be so much easier to handle before social media and alternative workplace options came creeping in. Sometimes it boggles my mind to even try to consider what could be a liability in these situations so I’ll leave that to the professionals. There are way too many gray areas for me to process.
  • The usual training programs don’t cut it anymore: If you’re relying on classroom trainings during new hire orientation only, you’re doing it wrong. More companies are expanding their training through various means, such as job shadowing, social learning, mentorship, support for continued education and online learning. Additionally, training is no longer focused only on new hires. Instead companies are now offering trainings or refreshers for people who want to keep up with the fast paced changes in their industry. If an employee wants to take control of their career progression, these new options for training and development can allow them to do so.

If someone asked me two years ago what I thought my career progression would have been, I would have said HR assistant, to supervisor, to manager, to assistant director, and so on. If someone were to ask me now, I would have absolutely no idea. For example, my current job role is in marketing for HR and the talent acquisition industries. Never in my life would I have thought I would fall into marketing but apparently this is one of the many areas that someone in HR can go, especially with the emphasis on employment branding. I definitely am not complaining because it allows me to keep up with the industry and continue to learn. The sky’s really the limit and based on what I’ve seen over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to continue to be the case.

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