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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Finding a Company Fit through the Interview Process

For those who have read some of my previous blogs, I’m sure you can see that I enjoy writing about finding a fit between candidate and company. I strongly believe that job seekers can find what will make them happiest if they spend time determining their values and what they truly want out of an employer. If they have the luxury of time, I typically urge people to hold out for a company that can offer them the closest to their ideal. If not, then I suggest for those who need to take a job for financial reasons to still continue to search for their perfect situation. Although this information is all fine and dandy, it does not give suggestions or tips for what happens once you land an interview.

So, let’s fast forward a bit. Let’s say you took the time to dig deeper into your inner self and were able to determine what you really wanted out of a company and job. After a little soul searching you were able to find a few companies that seemed to be aligned with your requirements and decided to apply to an open position there. Well, it was all smooth sailing up to that point but what happens when someone actually calls you in for an interview? How do you prepare for the interview to ensure that the company is how you perceived it?

My best suggestion is to have well-thought out, structured questions. Unfortunately, candidates in this economy have shied away from asking questions for fear of turning off the interviewer. Contrary to popular belief, most interviewers actually enjoy speaking to candidates that ask solid questions. This shows that the candidate did their homework, was genuinely interested in learning more about the company, and actually took the time to think of ways to contribute to the interview rather than it just is one-sided. Good questions can not only impress the interviewer but also help you get a better feel for the company before deciding to accept a job offer that might come your way. The interviewer may also get a better feel for you, too.

To prep for your interview, re-research the company by doing a deep dive. Get down to the nitty gritty and find all the legitimate details you can in regard to the company. Once you’ve compiled all the important information, compare those notes against the things you want out of a company. Connect the link between the two and take the time to formulate some intelligent questions. If aren’t sure where to start when it comes to creating these questions, feel free to look at the link at the bottom of this article written by Jacquelyn Smith from Forbes.com. She had some great questions to ask, as well as questions to avoid.

I’m sure you’ve done your research before committing to anything big, pricy, or long-term: buying houses, moving, purchasing a car, deciding on a college, and so on. Why should a job be any different? You spend a good portion of your life at a job and typically, most people try to find a company they can commit to long-term. Try to get the most information you can before making that commitment. That includes asking questions and getting informative answers from someone on the inside. It pays to take this extra step.

Take control of your employment choices and continue on the path of finding that perfect fit for you. Don’t let it all fall apart once you get to the interview stage. After all, you’ve made it this far in your career goals- don’t give up on what you want now. Best of luck!

Ideas for interview questions:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/07/06/the-questions-you-should-and-shouldnt-ask-in-a-job-interview/2/