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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Switching Gears: Changing Your Career Path

In life, sometimes what you set out to do turns out to be different than you imagined it. Maybe once you get involved in your career or degree you realized that it doesn’t spark your passion the way you initially believed.  Maybe you’re scared of making the change. Maybe you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and pursuing something new is too much of an effort. Whatever the reason may be, I hope people realize that if you feel in your heart and mind that you want a change, then you should consider it. Making a change towards something that would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t as hard as you may think.

As I was thinking about this subject, I decided to interview my good friend, Nader Owies. Nader took the plunge and made the change to follow the career path that he was honestly passionate about. Here’s what he has to say about getting courage to take those chances:

Ashley Perez (AP): Why did you decide to change your degree from Political Science to Film?

Nader Owies (NO): “I never actually changed my degree; my game plan while graduating from undergrad was still to go to law school. While in school, I minored in film to fill my elective requirements and I ended up with so many courses I just spoke with my advisor about getting a minor degree, as well. The real decision was after school, when I was applying to law schools. I always had the reservation about what I was getting myself into. The truth was- I hated politics, and law, but working in law or politics paid well and from my experience at school I came to learn that I was good at both, so why not right? That, and my parents chanting the standard,’ Be a doctor or lawyer’ song that all parents learn when they have kids, were pushing me towards it. I don’t remember the exact moment or anything, but my idea of what I wanted out of life kept showing me that I was heading in the wrong direction. Sure, I could be a successful lawyer or politician or whatever else and have enough money to be comfortable. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my happiness for that. I wanted to love what I was going to be doing almost every day for the rest of my life, whether it made me a lot of money or not.”

AP: What are some of the reservations you had about making this change and how did you overcome them?

 NO: “My parents were a big factor: both of them being Egyptian, and anyone with foreign parents knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say convincing your parents that you want to go to film school rather than law school is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Beyond them, the only other reservation was the change in lifestyle. I knew what going to graduate school meant:  I had to leave everything I know behind, pick up everything I owned and chase my dream. Very few people have the guts to do that, and only about 5% of those people actually succeed at it. However, I kept telling myself, there is always going to be a million reasons not to do something, yet there is always going to be one reason do to it- because you want to.

AP: What are some challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?

NO: “Most of the challenges had to do more with the practical things in life rather than the educational journey I was going on. School came easy because it was what I loved; every day I was watching and talking about films. The challenges weren’t anything different than most people go through. Basically it was just becoming an adult and having to deal with things you never had to worry about before. My only advice for anyone going through that transition: don’t put things off for tomorrow, just do them right now.

AP: What was the one piece of advice that led you to be inspired enough to take this chance?

NO: “I had a professor in college who told me something I’ll never forget. He said in a lecture one day, ‘You will spend the majority of your adult life at your job. If you are simply there to make money you will find that the stress will kill you before you ever make as much as you want and you’ll be miserable the whole time.’

AP: What are some of the most memorable successes and failures you’ve had while pursuing this new degree and career?

NO: “The good thing about working in movies is that your successes and failures are very apparent. You can literally watch them on a big screen. There are a few projects I worked on here and there that while piecing them together in the edit room, I had that realization that I was stitching together a huge dud. And no matter what I did in the end it would still be a dud. But you live and you learn; take the lesson and move onto the next one.”

AP: What advice would you give college students or recent grads in regard to this?

NO: “Always work your ass off. I’m sure it is this way in plenty of other industries, as well, but in entertainment, your reputation is everything. People will hire you on reputation alone, so make sure you leave a good impression with everyone you work with, and do the best you can with what you’re given.”

AP: What are some realistic factors you wish you knew before doing this?

NO: “How expensive graduate school really is. I always knew the amount, it’s just until I did the math and realized that paying back that amount over ten years that I would actually be paying more than double the amount I initially borrowed. I know that no one would give out loans without interest rates attached, but in the name of education and bettering the human race, someone should make it illegal to charge that much for seeking knowledge.”

I’ve known Nader for several years and always held him in high regard. He has a great head on his shoulders and was the perfect person to trust to give advice about this subject. Yes, he’s had reservations, challenges, and failures. But the point is, he faced these situations head-on because he knew that the end result was going to be worth it. He would rather try to obtain the things that he was passionate about than take the easy and safe way through life. If you have a passion, try to pursue it because if not now, then when?

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Photo Source.

Assessments to Find the Best Candidate/Job Fit

Over the course of the last month or two, I was networking with a contact I met via LinkedIn named Bob Gately. We had connected through a discussion post I had started on the LinkedIn: HR group. This post talked about some of the issues that candidates experience during the interview process. One of the main issues I had brought up was: whether or not the rigid interviewing process was potentially causing companies to lose quality talent. After months of commenting on this discussion, Bob introduced me to an assessment called the ProfileXT.

As the discussion post grew longer and longer with comments from various HR professionals, it became apparent that there seemed to be a lot of conflicting views and practices. Although there was a lot of great information, it also became clearer that no one seemed to be on the same page. Everyone seemed to have different interview criteria and practices. Also, no one could determine the most effective way to interview in regard to pinpointing the right candidate/job fit.

And then Bob chimed in.

Bob had mentioned an assessment that he had been using for several years called the ProfileXT. Because I was sincerely intrigued, I spent time discussing the details of this assessment and I was completely blown away. This assessment measures candidates’ personality traits, and their math and verbal competencies. It then takes the results and compares it to the criteria that a company determines to be the qualities that lead to higher success rates. Basically, the assessment works like this:

• Company determines their current best employees for each job function and has them take the assessment. Assessment results will give a range of certain qualities and traits that these employees have. This sets the bar for what would make a future employee successful at this job.

• Candidates going through the interview process take the assessment. The assessment involves a series of questions that measures their personality traits, as well as their math and verbal competencies.

• After the assessment is completed, a report will be generated that shows where the candidate falls on a scale of 1 to 10 for each criterion (there are a ton!)

• The scales can then be deciphered against some literature that explains what each criterion means and what their score translates to in that regard.

• Once the scores are translated, they can be compared to the company’s “Successful Employee” range and determine if the candidate possesses the necessary qualities and traits that the company believes would make a nearly-ideal employee.

Although this explanation is extremely general, I’ve attached some documents that Bob provided to give more detail on how this assessment works. Some of the main benefits of this assessment are as follows:

• The assessment can identify the talent that is ideal for the job and company.

• It allows candidates to find out their strong/weak qualities so they can determine which jobs would be best to apply to.

• It can help candidates understand themselves better so they can sell themselves with supporting documentation.

• It can reduce turnover.

• It can make the selection process less biased and can conform it in a way so that everyone’s on the same page.

I really thought this was a great tool. I was able to test it out and felt that the results were very accurate. It was also amazing to see the success percentages that were generated when I compared my results up against jobs that I’m interested in doing. Mind boggling!

I suggest that companies consider giving this assessment a trial run. I’ve attached more information on it and also Bob’s contact information so you can get additional insight on how it would work for your company. If you’ve used it (or are planning on using it) I’d love to hear how it’s helped you during the talent acquisition process.

PII Case Study SOS Reducing Turnover

PII PXT Users Guide

Are Applicant Tracking Systems Helping or Hurting?

Today, I spent some time thinking about the many different HR topics I could share with you all. After some careful consideration, I felt that a post about applicant tracking systems (ATS) may be a useful subject for both recruiters and job seekers. As we navigate through the technology age, more companies are using online application systems for their job posting and candidate selection processes. This can be a very useful tool when it comes to finding a candidate/job fit. However, many recruiters and job seekers are not using it to their advantage. Thus, making the applicant tracking systems hurt rather than help.

ATSs are used to help weed out resumes and applications that are not qualified based on the job description criteria. This can help the recruiters tremendously by cutting down the time they need to spend sorting out these resumes. However, if your resume is not formatted in a way that is favorable to the system, you may be losing out on opportunity.

First, I would like to go over information and suggestions for the job seekers:
in order to properly restructure your resume in a way to benefit you, you need to know what type of information these systems pull from it. Keywords are one of the most important things you can focus on when reformatting your resume to your advantage. ATSs look for specific keywords unique to the job description and then rank your resume against those metrics. So, in order to be ranked in the top percentile, you may want to consider trying the following:

• Use keywords and phrases that are similar to the content in the job description.
• Send your resume in format that ATS can read, such as a .doc or rich text (ATSs have a hard time reading PDF format).
• Get rid of things that ATS can’t process, such as tables, graphs, or pictures.
• Don’t get too creative with your section headings. If you have “Professional Overview” for your job experience but the system is looking for “Work Experience”, your work history may be overlooked.
• Your employer and title should be presented before your dates of employment.

Those little tips could help you get your resume noticed by the recruiter which is the first step to proving that you are a fit for the job. After that, it is up to you to stand out in the interview process. Feel free to look at some of my previous posts for tips and suggestions on how to do so.

Now, onto the next part: it’s not only up to the candidate to find ways to best utilize the applicant tracking system. It’s also up to you, recruiters. I’ve done recruiting before in different roles and have used ATSs like Taleo and Field Glass. One issue that I noticed on our end (and really irked me) was the lack of documentation in the systems. I know there is only a specific amount of information that we can place in those systems for legal reasons, however, there are things you can do to create a useful and detailed history. Some suggestions of good applicant tracking from a recruiter standpoint are:

• Update statuses through the hiring process (i.e. referred to hiring manager, interview set, offer, etc.).
• Make notations of information gathered in each step. (i.e. Candidate interviewed well and has brought in an interesting portfolio that is attached to hard copy of resume).
• Document the outcome (i.e. candidate has great potential but was passed due to lack of education. Currently finishing school and is interested in applying again once he/she meets the requirement).

I feel that having this documentation could help recruiters make better decisions. If a recruiter saw that an applicant had the status of “Not Hired” in the system they may wonder things such as: what was wrong with the candidate that they weren’t hired; did the candidate interview poorly; did the candidate fail pre-employment checks; and so on. These thoughts could potentially make them pass on a perfectly good candidate. This candidate could have been well suited for the company but the recruiter would never know because the documentation wasn’t there, nor would they know which recruiter to ask if they were trying to get more clarification.

Applicant tracking systems can be great tools. They can help impressive candidates get noticed by recruiters and they can help recruiters find qualified candidates sooner. In order to make that situation happen, we must use it for its intended purpose to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, some of these suggestions will make your experiences with ATSs more successful.

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I’d love to hear more suggestions on how you made applicant tracking systems work for you. Send me a comment or tweet @ashlaurenperez

Some great articles to read on the subject:

5 Insider Secrets to Beating Applicant Tracking Systems
LinkedIn Q&A

Companies Mentioned:

Taleo
Field Glass