Asking Questions During the Interview Process

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

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

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

Some questions might include:

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

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

The Importance of Accurate Interview Notes

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

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

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

But why are follow up questions important?

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

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

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

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Recruiter Spam and Other Recruitment Fails

someecards.com - Thanks so much for calling to tell me about this exciting opportunity! I'll just file it under

Throughout my career, I’ve been a sourcer and recruiter for various industries and positions. I’ve learned what works for each industry, new tricks and new tools to make the most out of recruitment initiatives. I attempted to perfect the process but even I’ve slipped up a few times and have made the faux pas that many recruiters make at some point in their careers.

Although I was deeply involved in recruitment and interviewing, it’s been a while since I’ve been a job seeker so the opportunity to help friends during their hunt has helped me gain perspective of what it’s like to be on the other side of the recruitment process.  Seeing the job hunting process in motion has brought to light the many things job seekers face that contributes to a poor candidate experience.

The most common recruitment mistakes I’ve seen:

  • Recruiter spam: One of my friends who is a software development is constantly blasted with emails from contracting agencies, third-party vendors and the like. All of the messages are impersonal, don’t seem to match his experience except for a couple of keywords and require him to apply to their jobs. This basically takes recruitment to the laziest form by requiring the candidate to put in the work before physically having a conversation, especially since the recruiter was the one who reached out to the candidate first! Also, it’s noticeably a template. He’s gotten to the point where he automatically deletes the emails without even looking at them, rendering this recruitment process useless.
  • Lack of candidate profile competency: Similar to the recruiter spam issue, I’ve had another friend deal with recruiters reaching out to her about jobs that aren’t even remotely relevant. Of course, we all experience companies reaching out to us about its sales jobs if we post our resumes on the job boards. But in this instance, it’s even worse. She connected with a recruiter via LinkedIn and the recruiter seemed to quickly respond that he wanted to speak to her about positions at the company. She decided to apply to their graphic artist position just to be in the ATS by the time the phone screen was set up. A week later, she finally got to the phone screen stage in which the recruiter spoke to her about their account executive positions. Not only was my friend annoyed by the fact that her resume had NOTHING to do with sales, but also by the fact that the recruiter didn’t check their own systems to see which jobs she applied to. This was enough to turn her off from the company completely and she decided to opt out of the interview process.
  • Poor communication and updates: As a recruiter, I completely understand how hard it is to move the process along. Sometimes other people drag their feet. Sometimes it’s impossible to get updates from hiring managers in a timely manner. Sometimes the job has been put on hold and that news hadn’t trickled down to you yet. Things happen but it’s no excuse not to be respectful to your candidates, especially if they reach out to you about updates. Even if you have no update, it only takes a few minutes to respond back to tell them as much. So many people have become disengaged due to the lack of communication that candidates actually pulled themselves out of the process and recruiters lost out on great talent.
  • Broken processes: In another example, a friend recently had a phone screen with a company that reached out to him about one of their positions. It turned out this position was more senior-level but the candidate was more of a fit for junior-level. The recruiter informed him that there were entry-level positions within the organization but he didn’t currently handle them. After they got off the phone, the recruiter emailed him the name of the recruiter handling those entry-level positions but made no effort of passing along his resume to one of his own coworkers. Perhaps he wasn’t recruiting for the position, but the company should all be on the same page when it comes to filling their jobs. For example, if I couldn’t use a candidate but thought another recruiter could, I would instantly pass it along even if I wasn’t 100% sure if it was a fit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to bash recruiters. That would completely go against the industry I love dearly. I’m writing this to bring awareness of things recruiters may be doing wrong and even pinpoint my own mistakes as I progressed in the industry. As a recruiter, it’s important to realize these things and make adjustments so you can create a better candidate experience. As a candidate, I understand how frustrating these situations may be. Some of them might have been caused by poor training, poor business processes or maybe a recruiter is just new to the industry.  Be patient but also know your limits and know when it’s time for you to walk away from a bad experience.

How Video is Transforming Interviews

 

web cam interview

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

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

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Recruiters: How Deep Does Your Research Go?

Richard Branson Reputation Quote

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

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

How can recruiters go the extra mile?

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

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

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Employer Brand: Is Yours Costing You Candidates?

After being in the working world for a few years and seeing the many different working environments an individual could be involved in, I believed that performing extensive research on a company’s brand was important for me once I returned to the job market. When I looked for jobs a few years ago, I never thought to look further than the job description I was applying to. Needless to say, I was often unprepared and didn’t have any intelligent questions to ask the recruiter once I landed an interview. Even worse, I wasn’t prepared to make an informed decision if I was offered a job and would occasionally find myself in work environments that were less than appealing. After seeing the difference that research can make, I often try to preach this to the candidates and job seekers I speak to.

Recently, I saw how helpful research could aid in a job seeker’s journey for a new opportunity. One of my good friends had just graduated with a new degree but was having a hard time moving up in her current company. Her current company was a tech giant and although it offered great opportunities and benefits, red tape and politics made it nearly impossible for her to transition into a new role. Reluctantly, she decided to apply to jobs outside of the organization to see if there were better chances for her elsewhere.

A few weeks into applying, she received a call from a recruiter asking to set up a phone screen. I told her the first thing she should do to prepare for the interview is to complete in depth research of the company. This included anything from press releases, social media, forums, Glassdoor sites, etc. Of course companies try to do a great job of presenting their employer brand in a positive way on their career sites, so it’s important to get some feedback from real people, such as employees or previous interviewees. Needless to say, she saw some red flags via employee reviews on their Glassdoor page. With this being a job out of state and with a company that wasn’t as secure or well known as her current company, this was a bit disturbing. I urged her to bring up these questions in her interview.

The first phone interview went well but when it came time for her to ask the recruiter questions, she completely stumped the recruiter. Apparently, the recruiter had no good response to the probing questions referencing what their current employees were saying about the company. Despite the poor responses, the recruiter suggested that my friend ask the hiring manager during the next phone interview. Although hesitant, she agreed for the next interview just to hear the hiring manager out. Unfortunately, the hiring manager also didn’t have much good to say ease my friend’s mind. It’s a bit concerning when members of company don’t even know its own brand well enough to be able to answer these types of questions during the interview process. How did they expect to convince people that they were competitive against tech giants?

Candidates should take note of the situation to properly prepare themselves to make good career moves. Additionally, companies should work with their recruiters and hiring managers to ensure they prepared for these sorts of situations. Needless to say, when my friend received a job offer from the company, she quickly rejected it. She was thankful to have taken the time to research its reputation otherwise she might have left her great company for something that was an awful career move.

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Marketing and the Recruitment Professional

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I remember when I first started learning about talent acquisition and recruitment. It seemed like the role focused more on keyword searches to find a bunch of resumes on job boards. Once a large stack of resumes was acquired, I then spent time interviewing individuals for jobs. If a job wasn’t open, I performed discovery calls to proactively build talent pools in the event that a new position opened up. Search, review, interview, document, and repeat. After a few months of going through this cycle, I felt turned off by the systematic approach. I thought this function was supposed to be about communication and genuine human interaction, not a robotic process. I bowed out from the recruitment role and eventually came back a couple years later to discover that it had morphed into something bigger and better.

When I originally decided to pursue a degree and career in human resources, I never dreamed that marketing skills would be imperative to have. When I returned back to the recruitment field, I soon learned that the role had taken on a new form and the successful recruiters were the one who blended talent acquisition skills with marketing. No longer did recruiters source the job boards for hours on end. Instead, they had structured their day to have equal time for sourcing/recruiting, interviewing, and now, marketing. After I got a sense of what people were doing, I dove right in and created a marketing strategy of my own.

  • I said farewell to posting and praying: Instead of posting job openings and waiting for people to apply, I became more proactive. How was I going to share this with people? More importantly, how was I going to make this engaging? My job promotions had started off as a link to the job with the title and location. Soon, I developed it into mini-marketing campaigns. These campaigns offered details that job seekers really cared about: company culture; things happening in the company; details about the office environment; details about the people they’d work with; and more insight to the projects or things they’d impact if they took the job.
  • I went to the places that allowed resumes to come to life: If you guessed social media, you’d be partially correct. Although social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have been great, there is so much more out there. I started researching candidates and found blogs, portfolios, interest groups, other specialized social sites, and more. This helped me see more of what they had to offer than what their resume initially stated. It took their resume and made them into a 3D version of a candidate. I loved it.
  • I nixed the template messages: When I receive a message that seems even remotely “spammy”, I typically delete it before I even read it. How do you think candidates feel when it’s obvious that they’re just another person on a list for recruiter spam? I took this into serious consideration and decided to spend more time on message customization. After I researched the candidate thoroughly through social sites, read more about what they like, or learned about what opportunities they were looking for, I got cracking on some message creations. I let them know why I was contacting them and what individual characteristics stood out to me. Additionally, I’d include specifics about the opportunity based on what the candidate seemed to be interested in. Does it take extra time and effort to do this? Sure, but the response rate increased because of it.

Of course, there are plenty of other things that a recruiter can do to blend marketing skills into their recruitment strategy but these were some of the first ones I eased into once I got back in the game. It was nice to start seeing a candidate as an individual, talented person rather than a keyword search result. It was also amazing to see how people responded to my creativity. In a sense, it felt honest because I was spending more time connecting opportunity with the right people and vice versa. If you’re in talent acquisition/recruitment and you haven’t tested these skills out yet, I highly recommend it.

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