A Message For Those Who Hire


Hi there! Up front let me state I’m an Employment Counsellor and I acknowledge I’m working with and supporting people who are after job interviews with the goal of getting hired.

You and I want the same thing; good people working on behalf of you and your organization to best serve your customers and clients; increasing your profits and minimizing your expenditures.

I know some of you are still doing your own recruiting and hiring while professional Recruiters and Headhunters are coming onboard to help source talent for other organizations. Time is money and you’re not in the charity business; you want a good pool of qualified people from whom to select the right candidates to join your workforce. So it’s not about what you can do for an applicant but rather what can they do for you. What you find annoying and don’t have time for are the applications from people who clearly don’t meet your stated qualifications, and even more frustrating are those who misrepresent or downright lie about their qualifications and their abilities.

You value enthusiasm, punctuality, integrity and you must have people who genuinely get along with others and who are willing to take direction with a positive attitude.

How am I doing at stating what you’re after? Anything you’d like to add? Feel free to comment when you’ve finished reading so others fully understand what it is you want. I suppose it’s fair to say that if an applicant can prove how they are going to add value to your company, they’ve got a good shot at joining you through the selection process.

To land the best candidates, allow me to share some of the things which will help me and others like me, get you the best people.

  1. Demonstrate the integrity you expect in others. This means, be true to your word and don’t say you’ll get in touch after an interview if you really don’t plan to. If you say you’re making a decision next week, fine; live up to that.
  2. Online applications have limited value. There’s an irony here in that online applications will keep job seekers away from your business. Think about who has the time to sit down and fill out your 86 question online application. You’re not always getting the go-getters; you might be getting someone in their fuzzy slippers and housecoat with hours of free time to sit and do your applications. And don’t you value meeting people to assess them in person anyhow?
  3. Scrap distance to your workplace as a cause for concern. Yes you need people to show up when scheduled. Leave getting to your place when required up to the applicant; that’s their responsibility. Don’t assume people who live 4 blocks away will have better attendance and punctuality than the people who live in the next town or city.
  4. Age biased? You and I know the pros and cons of both the young and the old. With that being said, what’s young? What’s old? Don’t whitewash all the applicants in either group or you’ll miss some real gems. Young people want and need the value of learning on the job, and while you’re not a charity as I stated above, you can train and shape this person. At the other end of the spectrum, not every mature person has health issues and demands to be paid a premium. You’d be surprised at the tremendous value you’ll receive from someone with life and work experience who wants nothing more than to contribute what they’ve got for another 5 or 6 years.
  5. Ditch the “welfare bias”. You might not be aware of this but many in receipt of social assistance are highly motivated, skilled and incredibly educated. Whatever image you have in your mind as portrayed in social media is probably wrong. There are people with Masters, Degrees, Diplomas and Doctorates receiving welfare. Some of the finest people I know; some of the best workers I know, at one time received support from the social assistance system. Continue with your unfounded bias and you’re missing out.
  6. Interview integrity. This is an opportunity for both the applicant and your organization. So how about conversing with applicants respectfully. If you’re going to ask them off-the-wall questions about what animal they’d like to be, how would you feel if they asked you in return an equally odd question such as whether you’d like to wear a toupee or a shave your head completely at 45? In the limited time you have to assess this person, treat them with dignity in the interview. Make the most of your questions and respect their time too.
  7. You get what you deserve. Please don’t be one of the organizations that lets new hires go two days before their probation is up as a way to save paying benefits. Do this with regularity and we’ll send you employees that can in our opinion only hold down jobs over a short-term or perhaps none at all. If you want the best, be the best yourself.

Absolutely love to hear from those who interview and hire; business owners and those in Human Resources. There are many poor employers out there with poor hiring practices. Thankfully, there are far more excellent employers out there who recruit, hire and train with integrity and accountability. If people are the most important part of an organization, we collectively need to see them as such at the very first contact.

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Debriefing 3 Interviews With 3 Outcomes


At 54 she’s got a lot of experience to offer; both Life and employment. It’s become extremely frustrating however over the last year to keep up the positive self-esteem. Oh for a while the image projecting out can be convincing, but the exhausted life savings, the move from living on her own to moving back in with her daughter, the sting of having to apply for assistance to provide money to live on; it’s just all been too, too much.

She and I have worked together, along with 10 other job seekers, since April 23rd, right from 9:00a.m. sharp each day through to 2:30p.m. We’ve covered resumes, cover letters, thank you notes and rejection letters; we’ve had mock interviews, talked about using the STAR interview format, looked at specific hard to answer questions that might arise – why we’ve even talked about how to predict with great accuracy the questions that will be poised.

Throughout the time together, I’ve asked her and everyone else to be positive; sure go ahead and have your moments of disappointment and acknowledge your frustration, but come back to the positive person you are more often than not, and come back as soon as possible. Yesterday at the close of the day, this was a big challenge for her; it wasn’t as easy to do as it had been earlier.

Now it started well enough this week; I mean after only working together for 5 days, she’d landed 3 interviews spanning Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first one was admittedly for a volunteer administrative role and the last 2 for paid employment, both in dental offices.

When everyone was gone at day’s end, she lingered and told me the outcomes of each, feeling so let down and disappointed, angry and frustrated as she spoke. The volunteer role she’d applied for wanted her in fact; they could make use of her every Tuesday for 8 hours.

The first of the employment interviews lasted all of 10 minutes; interviewed by a very young, bubbly woman who seemed to have clones of herself working around her. While she asked questions related to the job that were relevant, it seemed no matter the answers provided, at 54 the applicant just wasn’t a good fit. That wasn’t said outright I learned, but it was strongly inferred as, what else might, ‘not a good fit’ refer to?

The 3rd interview? Well imagine this situation wasn’t hers but yours. You’ve just had a 10 minute interview and you’re surprised and disappointed. You pull yourself together as best you can and after driving to the next appointment with your best face on, this interview is over after just 3 minutes! The Dentist determined her expected wages started at $22 p/hr and he was only able to start at $18. Game over; job lost. She was in a word, overqualified. He told her that even if she took the $18, he’d expect she’d keep looking and leave him soon and he wanted a long-term employee. She was honest in return and said that yes, she’d take the job if offered but keep looking.

If you read my blogs on a regular basis, you’ll hear me often say that you should get yourself connected with a supportive professional, and this is a good example of why. 3 bad experiences actually have positives to be drawn, and these can often be seen by having 3rd person objectivity.

First of all, the volunteer job is 2018 experience, a possible reference, provides purpose and relevant, current training in the environment she’s seeking. By telling the organization she accepts, but will continue to job search and if/when full-time employment is offered she’ll leave, she’s got a lot to gain while giving of herself and benefitting the organization. Win-win.

The issue of age at the 2nd interview? Not easily overcome I grant, but she needs a strategy to deal with this in an interview, and ironically, Age is the topic for today’s class; be someone too young to be taken seriously or too old to be of value; (not how I see it but how people themselves interpret these issues).

The 3rd job? Turns out there was more. The Dentist was impressed with her background and ability to not just work out front at Reception but also her qualifications to take x-rays and work in the back assisting in procedures; something he finds hard to find on a fill-in basis. So he suggested she think about self-employment; contracting herself out to offices. He had 3 offices in 3 cities and could use her on that basis in all 3.

Word gets around within an industry. Do well, and this Dentist would surely pass on his find to other Dentists; why he even asked her if she’d be willing to have him teach her in one area she knows she needs some brief upgrading. To get to the farthest of the 3 offices he runs, he offered to pay her more too.

After our talk, she left feeling better – much better – yesterday afternoon and in a few hours, we’ll be discussing the issue of age and how to address it; which she’ll find helpful too.

You see there are positives to be drawn from every experience; things to learn, to frame differently and to derive benefits from. Not every interview has to end with the job offer you’d hoped for at the outset in order for it to be a positive outcome. Is she employable? ABSOLUTELY!

 

Eventually, You HAVE To Talk To People


Typically you’ll find I go out of my way to help people cut their anxieties when it comes to the job search process. The title of today’s blog however, has likely raised the stress meter for a few people who struggle with holding conversations.

Yes, there are a lot of people who have difficulty interacting with others; which ramps up even higher than normal when the conversation is expected to be a lengthy one and about them personally. “I don’t like talking about myself”, is a common opening statement I hear often with people who find the interviews and conversations associated with looking for work to be so intimidating.

Now some are great at texting and email. Here at a keyboard, they are more at ease communicating. If they had their way, they’d apply for jobs and be hired based on the qualifications and skills highlighted in their resumes without having to go through the in-person interview.  While some of these types are looking for jobs where they have extremely little interaction with other employees and the public, there are others who will do well once they get hired, become familiar with their new settings and co-workers, and only then do they communicate easier.

Can you feel empathy for such people? I mean, it’s hard to fully grasp what it must be like to have such an acute anxiety about talking to others. Most people I know find job interviews stressful, but job interviews aren’t something we go through every single day of our lives. Face-to-face conversations on the other hand, well, most of us have these many time a day, each and every day. Constantly being in a state of anxiety and heightened stress has to be taxing on both the mind and the body.

Every now and then I’ll hear from someone who was so debilitated on a given day with the fear of being in a conversation that they skipped their job interview altogether. Even though they both want a job and need the income, the barrier of talking to someone they don’t know for 45 minutes to an hour where they are expected to do a lot of the talking just became greater than the desired outcome; a job offer.

It’s not unheard of for some of these people to become physically ill and throw up before job interviews. Their stomachs are churn, their skin becomes tingly and they sweat heavily. The palms get clammy and simple things like eye contact and saying, “Hello” become major challenges.

There is no quick fix I could pass on here in a blog. However, there are some ideas and strategies that tend to help which I can recommend. For starters it can help to look at a job and deconstruct the interaction you’ll have with others. For example, you might balk at the idea of being a Cashier. All those people lining up to interact with you all day long! However, when you break things down, much of your conversation with any one of them will likely be a brief greeting, asking if they want a bag for their purchases, and telling them the total due. Many customers aren’t going to expect or really want much more than that. So while you might be meeting people all day, you’ll only have short, scripted conversations with any one of them.

Looking at a factory job or on an assembly line, your interactions are likely to be restricted to those on your immediate team and perhaps the Security Guard who lets you in and says goodbye to you on your way out. Focus on your work and you might find you fit in rather well, even though there are people around you who are busy doing their jobs.

It can also help sometimes to clue others in to your anxiety. Telling an interviewer that you’ve come to realize that your best work is done independently, and that you like to keep to yourself doesn’t mean you’ll always get shown the door. There are many jobs where the most desirable employee is one who can focus on their work and go for extended periods without the distraction of conversing with others.

Thinking of the above, it raises the important point of making sure you’re going for the right kind of fit when looking for work. This isn’t true just for those with conversation anxieties, but for everybody. In this case, you may do well in a job where you control your surroundings. Take the Potter working with clay in a workshop, a farmer working in a vast field, a Conservationist working in a forest, a Fish and Wildlife Biologist working in a wetlands.

Just walk down any street these days and you see people with ear buds listening to music or podcasts who in so doing, shut out others around them and send the message that they don’t wish to be disturbed. Technology might be tolerated or even encouraged in some jobs if it helps you do your work better.

Of course, sooner of later you do have to talk to people; we all do. One thing to try is short conversations in small doses, where over time you increase your confidence and reduce your fears. Little things like saying, ”hello” to people you pass on the street instead of silently walking by. It might not sound like much, but it’s a small step.

What I Think While Interviewing You


First of all you may not even care what I’m thinking when I’m sitting down across from you in this job interview; but you should. After all, you’re hoping I offer you the job we’re talking about. So it stands to reason that if you know what I’m thinking, you have a chance to either let me go ahead with those same thoughts or you’ve got time to change my mind before we’re done.

So let’s begin with my first impression.

When we met the reception area, I quickly looked you up and down and I started with your clothing.  I’m giving you top marks if the clothes are clean, fit with our company dress code and I’m evaluating your judgement in not just what you’re wearing, but how your clothes fit, the coordination and the appropriateness of what you selected to wear.

At the same time – and we’re talking about 3-4 seconds here – I’m taking in your hygiene and personal grooming, your facial expression, noting any obvious piercings or visible tattoos, and noting how you looked just before you realized I was the interviewer. That’s a lot to take in over 3 or 4 seconds, but I do this for a living you understand. Actually you do it too; you’re looking me over I believe and sizing me up as we meet.

I’m offering you my hand by the way as a traditional form of greeting, and how you react to this is also information I’m gathering to assess your suitability. After all, you’ll be meeting many people should I hire you, and your comfort level in how you greet them reflects on us as an organization. I’m impressed most with a firm but not overpowering handshake in return.

Now I understand you’re likely nervous and that’s to be expected. Some nervous excitement given what’s at stake is a good thing actually, but I’m checking as we begin hoping you haven’t got extreme nervousness to the point where I don’t get to see the real you. I’m actually hoping to put you at ease to the extent I can so that I can assess the person you’ll be on a daily basis. Telling me you’re extremely nervous and not yourself isn’t helping your cause. How can I really see you fitting in with my other staff if the real you isn’t present?

Now that we’re seated, I’m noting your posture and like the fact you sit slightly forward and you’re making great eye contact. The smile I’m giving you as we begin is hopefully reminding you to smile yourself – there it is! I’m now wondering if that smile looks natural or forced; because a natural smile is welcoming and appealing to customers and makes for a friendlier workplace. I know not everyone walks around smiling all day, but what I really want to avoid is hiring someone with that brooding, all-too-serious face that seems set in a constant frown. That’s not going to be a good fit here.

Now as we begin the questions and I listen to you speak, I’m sizing up how much you know about the job you’re interviewing for. A question asking what you know about our company, the job itself or why you’ve applied is designed to give you the chance to tell me how much – if any – research you’ve done. If you’re really interested and invested this opportunity you’ll do well in this. If you don’t answer well, I’m unimpressed and guessing we’re just one of 50 places you’re applying, hoping somebody hires you.

I’m really liking the fact that you answer the questions I’m asking. You obviously know yourself well, and the examples you’re giving me are backing up your claims  when it comes to your experience. How you handled situations in past jobs gives me a really good idea of how you’ll behave and act if I bring you onboard here.

You know what I’m also thinking? I hear energy in your voice; you really sound enthused about the job and you’re convincing me that you’re really looking forward to the work. This seems like more than just a job to you; I like that. This is after all, a company I’ve put a lot of hours and dedication into. I’m in a place to select an applicant who will bring some real energy and be a positive addition; because let’s face it, I’m going to work with whomever I hire.

Another thing I’ve noticed as you’re talking is that you look like you’re using your brain. I mean, you’re answers show you’ve thought about the questions asked, and the answers don’t sound rehearsed and fake. Your facial expressions are moving between serious and thoughtful to smiling – the odd laugh added which shows a natural side. You’ve prepared some questions too I see, and bringing along your résumé, the job posting, a pen and having it all organized in front of you tells me you’re ready. I like that because you’re not just saying you are organized, this proves it.

Having wrapped up with a handshake again and walked you out, I noticed you also stopped just long enough to shake the hand of the Receptionist and gave her a quick word of thanks. Full marks for that.

I’ve got other people to interview, but I’m impressed. I’m thinking at this moment you’re making a strong case to be hired. Well done!

That Interview You Turned Around


When it goes bad you don’t want anyone to know; or at least not the details of your interview as it went from bad to worse. Then there’s that time it turned out to be an amazingly positive experience; that one you’ve shared with others I’m sure!

But what I’m most interested in hearing about, and what I’d love to have you share here with others, is the interview you turned around. You know, the one that got off to a bad or even terrible start; the one you were late for, the one where you spilled something all over yourself just minutes before you met the man who’d eventually become your boss.

Why? Simply put, your turnaround could be quite inspirational and beneficial to others. Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who have interview anxieties. Some fears are well-grounded and others are just overly active imaginations running unrestrained, picturing all kinds of bad scenarios full of what might go wrong. And as we all know, sometimes when one little thing goes wrong, a fragile mind-set can suddenly picture other things going wrong, and in no time at all, the person has predicted their own future and there’s a cascade of errors and bumbling’s which all started with that one little slip up.

So you can see I hope, that your personal experience might indeed be the very stuff that could assure someone that when something goes wrong, the interview can indeed be salvaged. So how did you do it? What did you say or do that hit the restart button, that changed the atmosphere in the room, that turned a nay into a, ‘you’ve got the job!’?

 

Allow _____ To Make Changes To Your Device?


Last evening as I initiated the shutdown procedures on my laptop, I was advised of a major update available, and so as I want to run the latest and greatest, (without really even having the remotest idea of what that entails) I said yes. Then I got the message, “This may take awhile”. So I went to bed.

At 4:30 a.m. I rolled out of bed and fired up the laptop, fully anticipating there would be a slight delay as the updates came on the screen. Sure enough, this particular update was more extensive; it not only affected the laptop but synced my phone so I could move seamlessly from one device to the other. Great! Now I sat here in the quiet of my sanctuary looking at two screens on two devices.

Of course up came the inevitable messages on both, “Do you want to allow _____ to make changes to your device?”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I get these messages, I feel like saying, “Gee I don’t know if I want such-and-such program to make changes to my device. Do I?” But more often than not I find myself clicking on the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so” button. You’ve seen that button on your device too haven’t you? I bet you have.

Sure it’s an online world; the update told me this in fact. “We’re protecting you in the online world” came up right on the screen of my laptop as the updates installed. That’s good I suppose.

It suddenly struck me as ironic; this constant decision I make and I assume many other users make, to trust the updates we install and although we might pause to consider, we inevitably click on the, “Okay” button to go ahead and give a program access to our contacts, send and receive emails on our behalf or track our physical locations. We assume these are things we’re supposed to do so we do. Well, the majority of us do.

So why the irony? Right, back to that. I find it ironic that people will give more trust to an electronic update of their devices storing all kinds of personal photos, phone contacts, financial banking and password information but when it comes to allowing someone right in front of them to make changes to their resumes or give them updated information on how to best prepare for interviews, many decline.

When you’re not having success interviewing but refuse to take advantage of free workshops and seminars on how to interview better, isn’t that akin to declining the latest and best updates on your phone or laptop? Updates designed to make your phone, computers, laptops, tablets etc. function better? I think so.

So we want the latest version of whatever piece of technology is available but when it comes to ourselves, the knowledge we have and the way we go about things, it’s like we’re okay walking around in a Windows 10 world masquerading as a Commodore 64 and expecting to be taken seriously.

Things change. Progress, updates, process improvements, best practices, accepted norms, innovation and new-age thinking; ignore these and you’ll stand out alright, but for all the wrong reasons. I read an article just last evening from Martin Ellis who lives in England. Martin is a respected colleague of mine though we’ve never met in person. You can find him on LinkedIn and view his articles through his profile. He was sharing for the umpteenth time his thoughts on resumes for the present day and how to best compose them. While acknowledging that there are many people with varying advice out there, his thoughts and ideas are worth a serious read. He offers them up with the intent of helping people.

Now so does my Kansas City colleague Don Burrows. Don’s written excellent books on the subject and famous for getting his clients to stand out like a meatball on a plate of spaghetti. He loves that analogy, and again, the man’s got testimonials attesting to the success of his methods and recommendations.

These two and the many others I could cite and point you to – as well as others I’ve yet to discover – want you to succeed. In order to do so though, you’ve got to be willing to do one thing and that’s embrace change. In other words hit the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so button.” Do it with confidence.

You may not really know at the start that what you’re doing will work or be in your best interests. So sure be cautious. However, like anything you update, use your personal judgement and actually reserve judgement until you can test the results of what you’ve learned. I suppose if I don’t like an update on my computer I can revert things back to the wallpaper I had before just as you can revert back to your old resume if you’re attached to it.

But like that old Commodore 64, your vinyl 78’s and that stereo console your parents had sitting on that 12 inch shag carpet in the late 60’s, things change; and for the better.

Get hip to the trip daddy-o and you’ll find it’s groovy.

Job Interviews; Know Your Lines


If you’ve ever done any community theatre, film or television work, you’ll know then at some point the Director tells the cast to be, ‘off book’. This means you’ve got a target date to have memorized your lines. From that point on, you can’t carry around the script with you on stage or in front of the camera. If you need help with what you’re supposed to say at any point, you just say, “Line?”, and someone who is following along off stage or set will give you a prompt. Eventually, the Director will go further too, cutting off the prompts altogether, so if you don’t know your words at that point, you’re on your own.

Job interviews however, don’t work that way. First of all, memorizing specific answers word for word has never been advised. Let me correct that; somewhere, someone I’m sure has dispensed that advice, but please, don’t try to memorize your answers to questions you presume you may be asked. This is a bad strategy, in fact it’s one of the biggest critical mistakes you could make in preparation for employment interviews!

On the other hand, don’t go to the other extreme, (which many people do I’m afraid to say) and just plan on, ‘winging it’. Making everything up on the fly, in the moment, with no advanced preparation at all is setting yourself up to be exposed as ill-prepared and you’ll eventually find yourself growing increasingly anxious and embarrassed as it becomes clear you weren’t ready for it.

What you’re really going for is to come across as authentic and genuine, answering questions put to you with confidence and intelligence. In order to do so, you need an understanding of the position you’re after, how it fits in to the organization you’re applying with, and the ability to market your skills, experience, education and personal suitability as THE right person to be hired. If you can successful communicate this, you’re well on your way to making the best possible impression you can and landing an eventual offer.

One obvious suggestion is to do some research. Now I bet you’ve heard this before, but perhaps you haven’t really understood what it is you should be researching. Sure you should visit a website, (it is 2017 after all) and click on the, “About Us” tab. That’s a start. In the days before the internet, many job applicants would drop by an organization well in advance of a job interview and pick up brochures, financial and Annual reports. These are still largely available for the asking, and in some situations it’s a great idea to pop ’round and pick them up, with the added benefit they get to see you and you them, you get an idea of the atmosphere, how employees dress etc.

Accessing LinkedIn information is another source for this research. Research not just the company but the people with profiles who work at the organizations you’ve short-listed yourself as possible destinations. What’s their backgrounds and what routes did they take to get where they are now? How are they going about branding themselves? What have they got to say in terms of their current position? How are they dressed for their LinkedIn image?

Now all this is good but back to knowing your lines. In a play the beautiful thing is that at the first rehearsal you’re handed the script. You not only know what you have to say, you know what everyone has to say! No job interview however works this way and that’s actually a good thing. So lose the anxiety over trying to memorize answers.

You do need something to hang on to that gives you some structure and some reassurance. You can get this by looking at a job posting, networking with people who work where you want to work or those who hold down similar jobs to the one you’re after now; ideally all the above. Job postings highlight what you’ll be doing, the qualifications employers demand and often who you’ll be reporting to.

Knowing what they expect you to do should give you an idea what they’ll ask you about. It’s likely your experience will come up as they seek to see if you’ve got the skills, which come out as you relate what you’ve done in the past. Using skill-based language therefore, (I listened, I resolved conflict, I negotiated contracts, I led project teams) that mirrors their current needs will prove helpful.

An interview format will surround the content of your answers with structure and this structure ensures you’re focused and only say enough to answer the questions without running off at the mouth. Not always, but if you look at a company’s pages, you might even find information on how to prepare for interviews with them. As they want to see you at your best and make good hiring decisions, they often don’t mind sharing interview preparation information. It’s there for the looking.

So, get off book before the interview. Know what you want to say and what you want to stress. Deliver your words with confidence and certainty but at the same time by all means reflect on questions asked to compose the best answers. During this conversation with the interviewer(s), have a few thoughtful questions of your own that show you’ve given some thought. And like the best actors, be memorable!