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Red flags in recruiting

 

Anyone who has spent any time recruiting knows how discouraging it can be. Some days I feel like I will never fill my requisitions.  Doesn’t anyone stay at a job longer than two years anymore? What happened to proof reading your resume?  When you look at hundreds of resumes on a regular basis it is easy to become very adept at finding the red flags.  On one hand, this is your job as a recruiter, but on the other hand, you don’t want to over screen, either.  Here are some of the common red flags and when they matter:

Job hopping
Maybe I’m getting old, but I am definitely seeing a trend with the emerging workforce and a lack of longevity at their positions.  Back in ‘the day’, transferring from job to job labeled one as a ‘hopper’, which was undesirable and indicated a lack of loyalty and lack of patience.  That may or may not still be the case, but it is also the norm – like it or not.  If you are hiring someone who has graduated college in the last five years it is highly unlikely they have or will settle down at one company and earn their way up the ladder.
 

Gaps
Gaps can be a red flag, and they can also be a sign of a crazy economy.  They can also mean a situational life event.  Significant gaps used to mean that someone was either unemployable or had left work to become a parent and was re-entering a workforce that had passed them by.  This is not necessarily as big an issue anymore.  There have been massive layoffs and great candidates have been jobless for lengthy periods of time.  As well, staying home with the kids is not as isolating in this day and age as it used to be so don’t assume a mother re-entering the workforce needs substantial retraining.  These are definitely points of clarification, but not deal breakers.

Cannot give you specific examples
This is more of a deal breaker, in my experience.  If a candidate has said in their resume or cover letter that they are a skilled change agent, and cannot give me a specific example of a change they have implemented, guess what? I’m suspicious.  When I ask them for an example and they use third person “you just do this,” instead of “I did that” I doubt they actually did what they are claiming.  That’s why I love behavioral interviewing.
 

Is not open to feedback
I have recruited for clients who are pretty easygoing about resumes and I’ve also recruited for clients who are sticklers.  If a candidate gives me a resume that is formatted incorrectly, or has typos, there is no way the sticklers will accept the candidate so I usually end up asking the candidate to fix up their resume.  If they refuse to do so, it’s usually a good indicator that this is not a great fit.
 

More than one communication problem or unprofessional communication in setting up interview
Maybe it’s not fair, but I’ve been doing this long enough to say with some confidence that if there are glitches in the interview or onboarding process, it’s usually not going to work out.  Sure, Murphy’s Law may occasionally be in effect, but for the most part, if someone can’t manage to get the interview time right, they will probably not end up being your superstar.

Overly concerned with themselves
I’ve actually interviewed candidates who interrupt my opening sentence to demand information about the salary, or hours or working conditions. Usually when this happens, I end the interview pretty quickly.  If the candidate did want to contribute and bring skills and innovation to the organization they hid it too well for me to be excited about presenting them.  

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My personal interviewing ‘don’ts’

As a continuation of last week’s post, here are some of my interviewing ‘don’ts’.  These are interviewing techniques that, although common, I have not personally found very effective.   I’m willing to bet a cup of coffee that I’m mentioning one of your favorite, ‘go-to’ questions.  That’s okay.  If these work for you, and help you differentiate a strong candidate from a weak one, keep using them.   Some of these are on my list because they used to be very good questions; so good that everyone started using them and career coaches started prepping people for them, so I found over the last few years the answers are a bit ‘canned’.  You can always re-tweak your question to get a more authentic answer.  Some of these are on my list because they prevent you from finding out good information.  Again, find what works for you and stick to it. 

Talk too much about yourself
This is the worst interviewing mistake, and senior executives are just as guilty of this as novice managers.  While it is important for the candidate to get to know you and your company, it is not okay to spend the whole interview talking about yourself and not ask what you need to from the candidate.  I have noticed that people who tend to do this, also tend to like everyone they interview (because they like talking about themselves)

Ask yes/no questions without follow up
This tends to happen when the interviewer has already decided the candidate can do the job (which can be for various reasons).  They will say things like. “Are you good with Excel?” or “This job requires attention to detail, which I assume is no problem for you given your history?”.  Usually when you ask a yes/no question it’s obvious what the right answer is, so if you don’t ask for follow up, or examples, you’re really leaving a lot unanswered.

Ask ‘greatest strength/greatest weakness’
There are people who are very attached to these questions and nothing I say will convince you otherwise but I personally don’t find them very useful.  I’m not sure most people are accurate on their self assessments and/or motivated to share those honestly with their potential employer.  Furthermore, every interview coaching book I have ever read advises candidates to prepare an answer to this question.  You’d have to be born under a rock not to know to answer this either with a strength disguised as a weakness (I care too much) or as a story of personal triumph (I used to … but now I …)

Ask what animal the candidate would be on the carousel…or what animal they would be period, or what kind of tree
People who ask these believe very strongly it can give you insight into a person’s self-concept and values.  For example “I’d be a mighty oak tree because I’m mighty and strong and resist adversity” or “I’d be a weeping willow because I cry all the time” etc.  I’m not sure I know how to interpret the answer and, as above, whether a person’s self-assessment is true.  And because their job does not require them to be a tree, I am skeptical of the predictive validity. 

Ask situational questions as a predictor of how the candidate would do in that situation
This also is a pet technique for many and if you insist on asking it, that’s fine.  I don’t like these questions because I don’t think they have a lot of predictive validity.  Creating an imaginary situation and asking a candidate how they would respond in it just doesn’t make sense.  People who like this technique insist that it tells them how well people think on their feet, are creative, etc etc.  To me, it just tells me how well they respond to imaginary situations.  If needing to respond to an imaginary situation is a job requirement, however, this should be part of the interview

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Interviewing Do’s (Don’ts to follow)

I’ve taught classes for managers on interviewing skills countless times over the years.  What I’ve found to be true is that interviewing is like potato salad:  Everyone has their own way of doing it and everything thinks their way is the best.  I know a manager who is adamant that the only question he needs to ask prospective candidates is “if you were an animal on a carousel, which animal would you be?”  I totally disagree but have not been able to convince him to this day.  Making a good hiring choice is so important that most people are highly invested in whatever they think increases the odds of finding a great candidate (or avoiding a nightmare).  I have a personal list of do’s and don’ts that I’ve found over the years to have good predictive validity. Hopefully you have success with them as well.

Absolute Do’s

A job description review for job requirements, competencies and duties
This is probably most important.  Never, never, never interview someone without this.  You’re doing everyone a disservice.  Requirements are your non-negotiables that someone needs in order to do the job.  For example, if you’re hiring an accountant a requirement might be an accounting degree. Competencies are skills someone has acquired, such as proficiency with excel and duties refer to the tasks people will be doing, such as coding journal entries.

Craft behavioral interview questions based on the above
My unshakable belief is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that if someone has successfully executed the necessary components of the job previously there is a high likelihood they will do so again, so the interview questions should ask what people have done, and not what they would or could do.

Create an interview sheet with each question, rating and notes
This is so important because it keeps you objective and fair throughout the process.  We are all going to find candidates we relate to better than others and having an interview sheet ensures every candidate has an equal chance to provide the same information to you.

Ask clarifying questions
I sometimes forget that the candidates can be very good at hiding their nervousness, and so sometimes when they say odd, off the wall things it can take me aback. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to repeat what they said or to clarify.  In fact, imagine in every interview that you will be relaying the interview to a very inquisitive six year old.  They will have no compunctions about asking why, so you’d better not either!

Address concerns
This goes along with the point above, but it cannot be overstated.  If the candidate has said something that suddenly puts them into the do not hire camp, please address it (if appropriate).  For example, if the candidate has implied that they do not like working directly with customers, and that is part of the job, please say so.  On the other hand, if your concerns are illegal, you may need to look at your own biases.  For example, if you inadvertently learn that your candidate is a member of a protected class and it changes your impression of them, you need to look at you and focus your attention all the more on the job requirements and whether the candidate can fulfill them.

Address salary expectations
By now, everyone has chewed on the old chestnut stating that in salary negotiations, the first person to mention a number loses.  I get it but, please!  It makes recruiting almost impossible when candidates are secretive about their salary requirements.  Just tell what the job pays, and let the candidate decide if that works for them or not.  

Mention any background checks or pre-employment drug tests
Different companies have different philosophies on this, but if you will be administering a pre-employment drug test or background check, tell your candidate and let them decide if they want to continue the process. It saves time and money to give them a graceful out.

Again, these are just some things that I have found to have good predictive validity.  There are also some don’ts that I’ve done well to stay away from that I’ll be sharing next week.  Until then, happy hunting!

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From the Recruiting Desk – Tips for your job search

Part of the services Limitless HR Solutions offers is recruiting, so part of my job is matching job searchers to people who are hiring.   From a recruiting standpoint, there are really three things to take into consideration: Does the skill set of the candidate match with what the company needs; is the culture a ‘fit’ for the candidate, and lastly, does the candidate demonstrate social/emotional intelligence?  Much of the time, it’s like gold mining, and sometimes it’s like gold mining in reverse.  

As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, I am well aware that a resume is a marketing tool and sometimes it’s not an entirely accurate one.  Behavioral interviewing is my best tool for determining whether someone has actually done what their resume claims.  For example, the resume might say ‘Managed customer accounts worth $250 million’.  Behavioral interview questions will address what specific things they did when they say ‘managed accounts’ and you may find out they did exactly what you need them to do in this role or (reverse gold mining) by ‘managed’ they mean ‘took orders when established clients called them in’.  

So tip number one for job searchers:  You will greatly increase your chance of an interview if your resume makes it easy for me to determine the things you did and the results you got.  I’m sure I’m not the only recruiter who is also a resume writer so please do not ‘fluff’ up your resume to make it sound more impressive.  We can tell.  And do you really want to land a job that is way above your experience level?  

Recruiting for cultural fit is as important as skill (see previous article).  This is relatively easy to get a sense for; and especially when both sides are honest.  I firmly believe that in any relationship-dating or working, there is a lid for every pot.  If not having established policies for things gives you a rash, please don’t say you thrive in chaos.  

Tip number two for job searchers:  If you haven’t done so, please take some time to figure out what you’d really like to be doing.  If you’re feeling desperate to land a job, this may seem like a luxury you can’t afford but trust me.  You’ll stand a much better chance of getting by the me’s of the recruiting world if we sense this is a good fit and not that you’re saying whatever you have to because you’re worried you’ll never, ever get a paycheck again.

The last thing is emotional or social intelligence.  I’m not sure if this can be learned or not.  After some of the candidates I’ve spoken to I’ve wondered if they are playing an elaborate joke on me.  Why would someone go to the trouble of applying for a job they clearly don’t want?  

Tip number three for job searchers:  Unless a recruiter calls you out of the blue, you will be aware that you have an interview.  If you don’t at least do a cursory google search of the company you are interviewing with as well as a review of the job description…of the job you have applied for…you will NOT endear yourself to the gatekeeper…ERRRR recruiter.  

Tip number four for job searchers:  It’s a good idea to be pleasant to the recruiter.  If you berate them for information, or demand a higher salary before the interview has started, or complain about the job description, we will think you are a jerk and will not recommend you for hire.  It saddens me that this cannot remain and unstated rule, but alas, it cannot.

Happy Hunting!

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Finding Great People: The Pre-Interview

In a previous post, we discussed how to more effectively post ads and screen resumes.  If you follow those tips you will be much more likely to interview qualified candidates so as not to waste anyone’s time.  But what makes for an effective interview?  First, consider making use of a qualifying phone screen.  Interviewing takes time for both yourself and the candidate so it is smart to make sure you’re only interviewing those most likely to succeed in your organization.  After you have determined the candidate has performed similar tasks in the past and that they seem to be a cultural fit, the next step is a qualifying phone call. 

The purpose of this call is basically to determine whether your impressions from their resume and cover letter seem accurate, whether there is ‘chemistry’, and if the candidate’s basic requirements match what your organization has to offer.  You should schedule about thirty to forty-five minutes for the phone interview with the candidate so an email invitation is best to ensure the candidate is prepared.  During this interview you will want to review their skills and ask questions to get a feel for their proficiency in necessary skills. 

Behavioral interviewing is the best way to determine whether a candidate has actually performed certain tasks. So, ‘tell me about the various ways you’ve used Excel in previous jobs’ is a better question than ‘What level of Excel are you?’ or ‘This job requires extensive spreadsheet skill.  Are you okay with that?’  You should also verify that the reporting location and working hours are a fit for the candidate.  After the phone interview you will have an idea of whether this person will fit in your organization and you can decide whether or not to schedule an in person interview. 

If you have many phone interviews, it is a good idea to wait until they are all concluded before you schedule the interviews, unless someone is so outstanding there is no doubt in your mind.  After your phone screens, it is best to be courteous and inform candidates you have not selected that they will not be moving forward in the process.  IT is worth your time to do your due diligence with this step to ensure you are getting the best possible candidates into your organization.  If you have additional questions about interviewing, please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

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Finding Great People: The Pre-Interview

In a previous post, we discussed how to more effectively post ads and screen resumes.  If you follow those tips you will be much more likely to interview qualified candidates so as not to waste anyone’s time.  But what makes for an effective interview?  First, consider making use of a qualifying phone screen.  Interviewing takes time for both yourself and the candidate so it is smart to make sure you’re only interviewing those most likely to succeed in your organization. After you have determined the candidate has performed similar tasks in the past and that they seem to be a cultural fit, the next step is a qualifying phone call.  The purpose of this call is basically to determine whether your impressions from their resume and cover letter seem accurate, whether there is ‘chemistry’, and if the candidate’s basic requirements match what your organization has to offer.  You should schedule about thirty to forty-five minutes for the phone interview with the candidate so an email invitation is best to ensure the candidate is prepared.  

During this interview you will want to review their skills and ask questions to get a feel for their proficiency in necessary skills.  Behavioral interviewing is the best way to determine whether a candidate has actually performed certain tasks. So, ‘tell me about the various ways you’ve used Excel in previous jobs’ is a better question than ‘What level of Excel are you?’ or ‘This job requires extensive spreadsheet skill.  Are you okay with that?’  You should also verify that the reporting location and working hours are a fit for the candidate.

After the phone interview you will have an idea of whether this person will fit in your organization and you can decide whether or not to schedule an in person interview.  If you have many phone interviews, it is a good idea to wait until they are all concluded before you schedule the interviews, unless someone is so outstanding there is no doubt in your mind. After your phone screening calls, it is best to be courteous and inform candidates you have not selected that they will not be moving forward in the process.  It is worth your time to do your due diligence with this step to ensure you are getting the best possible candidates into your organization. For more information on how to conduct effective interviews, please contact us