A Recruiting Must-Know: How to Write a Candidate Follow-Up Email

Writing the right follow-up email is an art. A good follow-up email to your candidates after an interview can do wonders for your recruiting efforts, and even for the candidate you end up hiring.

Maintaining good communication with your candidates ensures they remain engaged and gives them the respect and appreciation they deserve after setting aside time to sit with you. However, not all recruiters have the time to sit down and spend time deciding what to write in a candidate follow-up email.

It’s important to know the anatomy of a good candidate follow-up email so you can write your own follow-up templates. Below you’ll find pre-written examples.

Why Should You Care About Candidate Follow-Up Emails?

Although many recruiters tend to think about candidate follow-up emails as an optional matter, the reality is rather different.

Candidate follow-up emails allow you to establish an open channel of communication with your candidates. It lets them know that your company appreciates their time.

Job interviews are pretty stressful to many, so follow-up emails, even just to let them know you appreciated their time, can go a long way. They allow you to begin on the right foot with whoever you end up hiring and help you leave doors open in the future for the candidates that don’t make it.

According to Glassdoor, 74 percent of candidates read employee reviews from companies before giving their opinion. Candidate follow-up emails help you capture good talent from the beginning, attracting talent instead of hunting for it.

Plus, since over 50 percent of companies expect the candidate to follow up after an interview, taking a proactive approach can help you land better talent.

In essence, follow-up emails help you and the candidate communicate openly, and establish a professional relationship.

Anatomy of an Ideal Candidate Follow-Up Email After an Interview

Here’s what the ideal candidate follow-up email looks like:

Subject Line

The subject line gives your readers a reason to open your email. Although your candidates will likely be eager to open any email coming from you, the subject line helps you establish the tone and gives them a preview of what’s to come.

Here are some examples:

  • Thank you!
  • Thank you for your time this morning/afternoon
  • Follow-up on your [DATE] interview
  • About the [position title] interview
  • Great talk yesterday!

To avoid confusing your reader, tell in the subject line the purpose of the email whenever possible.

You can, for instance, write “Thank you!” in the subject line if you’re not expecting anything of them. Like when you’re thanking them for taking the chance to speak with you or when the job has been given to someone else.

Whatever you end up writing, keep it formal and concise.


We rarely go immediately to the point in the business world. Instead, you can use the intro to thank them for their time or follow up with something that came up during the interview.

It’s always best to mention your candidates by name and mention the job position they interviewed for.


Now, you can finally deliver on your subject line.

When writing the body of the article, it’s always better to keep it short. Write a body of about 100 words, and break down sentences to make it easier to read. Instead of offering as much information as possible, give them only the information they need to know and go to the point.

However, you can still make it personal by adding a few extra lines on top of your template. This works incredibly well when you’re especially keen on a particular candidate, and want to keep them engaged.

To make your emails even more effective, look through your past email exchanges with other candidates in your email provider or HR software tool and write down the main asking points. Then, you can organically weave the answers into the body of your email and make sure you’re giving the candidate the information they need.

Finally, check on your interview notes before sending an email to make sure the candidate didn’t ask for a file or a piece of information beforehand.


Now, it’s time to end the email on a positive note. You’ll, again, want to keep it simple, professional, and friendly.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Thanks again,
  • Best,
  • You’ll be hearing from me soon!
  • Let’s stay in touch!
  • Let me know if you have any other questions.

You may also want to take this chance to encourage them to contact you if their circumstances change, to let them know more about the onboarding process, or to soften a rejection with the candidates who weren’t chosen.

After adding your signature, you can use a “P.S.” to quickly add onto a ready-made template some extra information without worrying about fitting it into the body and flow of the email. You can even add a personalized signature to your closing to make it more personal.

Great Examples of Candidate Follow-Up Emails After an Interview

Here are a few examples of follow-up emails to get you started:

Simple Post-Interview Follow Up Email

Here’s a simple template to thank the candidate right after the interview and before you’ve made any final choices:


I just wanted to thank you for giving us a chance earlier today/yesterday to get to know you better and talk about the [JOB TITLE] opening.

I was impressed with your experience and, although we haven’t made any decisions yet, I was glad to see that [COMPANY] and you share some of the same values. We’re still conducting interviews until [DATE]. After that, you can expect to hear back from us before the [DATE].

Thanks again, it was great meeting you.


This simple follow-up email is an excellent template for your immediate follow-ups. In less than 100 words, the email gets to the point while keeping the tone friendly and professional.

You can even use this template to automate responses and add a simple “P.S.” at the bottom when you need to add something else in any of them.

Job Rejection Template

Here’s a simple template to let your candidates know you won’t be considered for the job position:


Thank you for giving us a chance earlier today/yesterday to get to know you better and talk about the [JOB TITLE] opening.

Unfortunately, the hiring team will be moving forward with other candidates.

At the moment, we’re looking to hire someone with a different business profile. However, I would love to keep your resume on our records to let you know as soon as we have a job opening that fits your profile.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any doubts or feedback for me or [COMPANY NAME].

Thank you again for your time. I enjoyed getting to know you and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.


This template lets you inform your candidate about your decision of not hiring them in a tactful and streamlined way. The rejection is softened by talking about the candidate’s profile instead of them, and the open invitation for feedback and questions may give you valuable data on your hiring process.

Finally, the closing lets you end on a positive note, wishing them well and leaving the doors open if you reencounter them.

Job Offer Template

Here’s a simple template to offer the candidate a job:


I want to thank you for giving us a chance earlier today/yesterday to get to know you better and talk about the [JOB TITLE] opening.

The team enjoyed meeting you and, after finishing our interviews, we’d like to offer you the role of [JOB TITLE] at [COMPANY]. This is a [TEMP/FULL-TIME/PART-TIME] position in the [DEPARTMENT] at [COMPANY], with a [MONTHLY/ANNUAL/YEARLY] salary of [$X] and [BENEFITS].

I’m sure you’ll fit right in with the rest of the team, and we’re excited to have you with us if you decide to accept the offer. Please find the list of documents attached to this email to finalize your hiring process.

We need your documents and signatures by [DATE], with [DATE] as your expected start date.

We’re excited to introduce you to the team and start working together.



When you’re offering someone a job, even if it’s something as obscure as an online job for a college student, it’s okay to flesh out more ideas and write a longer email. After all, the email should include all the information your candidate needs to decide whether or not to start working with your company.

Give your candidate clear timeframes, and make it clear when you expect to hear back from them to follow through with their application. Since you’re welcoming them into your team, you can start to transition to a less formal tone and more into the tone you have when dealing with your teammates.

Make sure you let them know you’re looking forward to working with them, and don’t forget to add any attachments before sending your email.


Not all of us can send a personalized note to every single one of our candidates. However, we can still show how much we appreciated their time with easily modifiable templates, cutting time, and establishing a clear channel of communication.

Streamline your follow-up process through the right recruiter tools, and automate your responses to keep up with all your prospects easily.

Photo: Vlada Parkovich

4 Proven Ways to Improve Recruiting and Remote Hiring

To say COVID-19 has changed the recruiting and remote hiring would be an understatement. For a start, it’s likely you’re relying more heavily on the expertise of the rest of your HR team, your recruiter, or business leaders while navigating the interview and remote onboarding process. To help you improve the remote hiring process, we’ve put together our top four tips for interviewing virtually, including how to answer some tough questions from candidates.

1. Decide on the Remote Hiring Process 

Before you do anything else, decide on the steps involved in the remote hiring process. Make sure everyone understands the types of interviews and stages the candidates will have to go through. This also allows an opportunity to offer candidates an outline of what to expect. This will be an unfamiliar situation for most, so planning and preparation are key. For example: The free version of Zoom limits meetings to 40 minutes. So, ensure everyone understands the rigid time frame.

If you’re using an agency to help you? Be sure to allow for scheduled follow-up calls with the agency. This will help to keep the process you’ve decided on to move more efficiently.

2. Produce an Information Pack for Candidates 

A great employer branding tool, an information pack can be prepared by and sent to the candidates before the interview/s. The pack can include: 

  • Background information about the company
  • What they should expect from each stage of the interview process 
  • What you’re looking for in an ideal candidate 
  • The technology and login details required (for example: Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.)
  • Point of contact details throughout the interview process 

Sending this information to the candidate will help them have a great candidate experience. It will also allay some of their anxiety while enabling them to prepare to the best of their ability.

3. Encourage Managers to Use a Scorecard

A job interview in person is hard enough. Throw in video technology, and the degree of difficulty increases. When it comes to video interviews, keep your job as simple as possible. That way, you can focus more on making a fair assessment of each candidate. One way to do this: Produce a scorecard unique to the position the candidates are interviewing for. By isolating the top skills or qualities and giving them each a score out of 5, 10 or 20 (depending on the weighting of each), it allows you to quantify where a candidate sits. The scorecard can also help eliminate unconscious biases. After all, managers will only score in relation to the candidates’ demonstrated skills.

4. Prepare for Tough Questions from Candidates 

During the remote hiring process, chances are there will be questions you and the hiring manager may not know how to answer. So prepare ahead of time for some of the most common candidate questions. Below are a few of these questions with tips on how to prepare for them. 

What’s the workplace culture like? 

As the majority of candidates going through the remote interview process won’t have been to your offices, you should explain what it’s like for a newcomer. Things to mention include virtual social activities, daily/weekly catch-ups and the technology you use to keep your staff connected. 

Once hired, what should I expect from the onboarding process? 

The minute details are not helpful here. Instead, provide a high-level overview of the virtual onboarding process. Mention any hardware that would be sent to the new starter’s home and give an outline of the first week of induction/training sessions. It may also be worth mentioning if your workplace organizes a work buddy for new starters and who would be responsible for leading the onboarding process, whether it’s someone from the HR team or the new starter’s line manager. 

How well is the company working remotely?

This question is a good opportunity to mention any wins or challenges the company has faced. Assure the interviewee a remote onboarding process exists. You can also mention how regularly the company meets online and the other ways everyone keeps in touch – whether by Slack, Zoom, emails or phone calls. 

What has your company learned from the transition to working from home? 

Similar to the above, think about any learning curves the company has faced while working from home, whether they have had to do with systems, communication or staff surveys. A candidate may also want to know if the company now recognizes the value in working from home if this wasn’t already in place.  

What types of measures are you looking at to return to the office safely?

While you’re probably still figuring out the details of the policy that will allow a safe return to the office, you should be able to mention the aspects you’re considering. These could include staggered start times, transport options, an increase in remote working or providing PPE. 

Tell me about your flexible working policies?

The answer to this question is likely something all candidates will want to know. If you aren’t already aware, talk to management to find out the company’s thoughts. In some cases, work practices aren’t affected or will not be reduced. In that case, then simply explain why the company has taken this stance. 

The remote hiring process is new for many of us. Which makes this is a great time to learn new hiring methods. Put these tips to work, and hire the best candidates!

5 Tips to Spot A-Players in a Job Interview

Did you know that “33 percent of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone?” According to info gathered by Undercover Recruiter, first impressions are incredibly powerful, but as a hiring manager, you should put into practice the right tactics to make sure you are hiring the best possible candidate.

With big and small companies competing to hire the most talented candidates, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to spot A-players effectively. After going through the resume screening process, the job interview is the first chance for managers to meet the aspirants in person. Hence, making the most out of this opportunity is decisive to recruit top talent.

Here are some useful ideas and tips to help hiring managers detect the real gems during a job interview. 

  1. Always look for potential, not just past success

Reading the resume will give you an idea of the aspirant’s merits and abilities, but previous achievements don’t mean future success. When looking for top talent, it may seem more appropriate to choose candidates who have done a similar job with brilliant results. However, when hiring employees for a startup or small company, the ability to grow and adapt to extremely challenging environments becomes more significant than previous accomplishments.

On top of that, a young, bright and self-motivated employee can perform much better with a lower salary than a big shot that can be approached by another company with a better offer anytime. 

  1. Ask the right questions

You have limited time during a job interview so make sure you ask the  to identify the top candidates. Each question you ask during the interview should have a clear purpose and well-defined criteria to measure if the applicant fits in with what the organization needs.

As an interviewer, you should craft questions to discover if the candidate has the following abilities: specific skills for the job, organizational and leadership skills, initiative, problem-solving mindset, the capacity to work under pressure.

  1. Make applicants complete a task

A good way to test some of these skills is to present the candidate a real life case study and ask him or her to come up with a solution. People who have the right thinking process will be able to come up with brilliant ideas even when given minimal guidance.

There are different types of tasks you can present to your candidate depending on what you want to address. For instance, if you want to figure out if the candidate is innovative and a fast thinker, you can pose a complicated puzzle. Here is a case in point:

“Mr. John has 25 horses, and he wants to pick the fastest 3 horses out of those 25. He has only 5 tracks, which means only 5 horses can run at a time, even he don’t have a stopwatch. What is the minimum number of races required to find the 3 fastest horses”?

You can find the answer and other interesting puzzles on

  1. Do they ask the right questions?

The moment when you ask the candidate to ask any questions is a great opportunity to pay special attention and find out if you are in front of a genuinely talented employee.

As career experts recommend, motivated candidates show that they have “prepared and have thought it through. It’s important not just to ask a question that you could find the answer to online, simply so you have something to ask. Instead, ask a mixture of open questions, which help you to find out more, whilst displaying your interest in the company and the role”.

Questions about the culture of the company, training, current challenges, performance evaluations and opportunities for professional development show that the candidate is interested in working for the organization and looking forward to taking an important step in their career.

  1. Interview top candidates as many times as you need

Don’t feel embarrassed about asking candidates to come for one more interview. You are making an important decision, and you need to be sure you are selecting the right person. You not only need an individual who can perform the job better than the others but also someone who fits in very well with the company’s culture and gets along with all the team members. To get their opinion, if possible, arrange an interview with each member of the team and your top three candidates. Once the best candidates get to know all your team members, you will have a better idea of which one is the best fit for the team.

Although conducting many interviews can be tedious and time-consuming, think about it as a necessary investment. Hiring the right person from the beginning will save you time in the future and will be decisive if you want to exceed the business objectives.

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How to Crush Your Interview

As a Career Services professional who teaches interviewing to hundreds of students annually vying for some of the most competitive opportunities in the country, I geek out every time I get to talk, teach, or practice interviewing.  However, like many people who interview tons of people, I find myself disappointed to learn the person sitting across me from me hasn’t adequately prepared…

So how do best prepare?  Whether you’re trying to break into a startup, mom and pop-business, fortune 500 company, or global NGO, there are a few simple and time efficient things you can do to prepare to absolutely crush your interview.

Before The Interview

Learn Everything You Can About Your Target Organization, Office, and Interviewers

I often find that candidates don’t know much about the organization to which they’re applying.  At the very least, I suggest you know the following:  basic information about the organization’s mission, competitors, industry or market, client base, flagship products or programming, and recent news/headlines.  It’s obviously not possible nor practical to learn everything possible about your target organization, but 1-2 hours of research should provide you enough baseline knowledge to understand organizational priorities.

Often overlooked, but just as important, is taking time to research the specific people interviewing you. Learn anything you can about individuals you’ll be spending significant amounts of time with (e.g., alma maters, work history, press coverage, social media presence, etc.).  The more insight you have into who person is that’s interviewing you, the better chance you have of identifying areas off which to build rapport.  This can provide rich context for better targeting your answers and having more meaningful conversations.

Craft A Compelling (But True) Reason For Why You Want the Job

In almost every interview, “Why (Organization Name or Position Title)”, “What Interested You in This Position” or some kind of permutation therein is the first question asked.

The trick for answering these types of questions to be specific, targeted, genuine, and, ideally memorable. Think through what, specifically, about this opportunity is unique?  Why do you want to join this community?  What 2-3 experiences or character traits do you offer that makes YOU uniquely qualified?

For instance:  “There are so many things I like about this job but, of everything, I’d say the opportunity to develop relationships in new and local markets is the most exciting.  I’ve been working in the area for three years, and already have contacts at Organization X, Y, and Z that would be interested in partnering with us.”

Targeted research can also come in a lot of handy.  Prior to your Interview, try to speak with at least one person connected to your target organization to learn more about the culture and extrapolate potential talking points.  If that’s not possible, focus on one or two specific aspects of the opportunity that are genuinely appealing and connect them to your work history and/or personal interests.

The people sitting on the other side of the table from you want someone who’s not going to just be competent, but interested in doing the work.  Enthusiasm and warmth go a long way towards selling yourself for this question and establishing rapport with your interviewers, while provide you with positive momentum for the questions that follow.

Prepare 6-8 Compelling Examples of Past Successes

Behavioral Interviewing, where you’re asked to cite specific examples of your past experiences, is widely practiced as past experiences are generally the best indicators of future behavior.

To prepare for these questions, I suggest identifying a number of past successes and/or challenges you resolved that they’re particularly proud of.  While I don’t think there’s a magic number, I find that 6-8 examples are usually easy enough to remember and can cover a lot of potential questions.  The same answer you give to “Provide an example of a time where you launched a new program”, could very well apply to “Provide an example of a time you worked through a significant obstacle”.

For each one example, write out the context of the presenting issue, specific actions that you took, and the positive end result.  Think of the acronym CAR as a shortcut…

  • Context – “I just started working for this Rent-A-Car company when an irate customer came in saying he was overcharged. I asked him which piece of his bill he was upset with, and learned his daily wasn’t discounted at the rate he was used too. As I looked into the matter more, I saw that he had been doing business with the company for years, and generally paid roughly 20% less than what he was charged for the week… a byproduct of our increased fee system and the fact he didn’t book with his company credit card.”
  • Action – “I let the man vent for a few minutes, and didn’t interrupt as he explained why he had received a discounted rate in the past through his company. I empathetically told him I’d be upset too, as I brainstormed potential solutions. I quickly calculated that two days of a free rental would slightly more than make up for the lost cost, and offered him two free rental days on us.”
  • Result – “The customer shook my hand, thanked me for my patience, and told me he’d be back soon with more business. Sure enough, he continued to rent from us, and even referred a few clients our way.”


Like anything, the more you practice interviewing, the better you become.

Consider hiring a career/interview coach and scheduling a practice interview.  A good coach will run you a few hundred dollars; money well spent if you get the job.

Day Of Your Interview 

Body Language Priming

If you haven’t seen Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk: “Your Body Shapes Who You Are“, check it out.  As silly as it sounds, just 15-20 seconds of “Power Posing” will go a long way towards making you feeling more confident.

Prime your mind and body to kick butt… you’ll thank yourself (and Amy!) later.

I’ve also found a quick, but intense, exercise sessions do a lot for activating your brain and elevating energy levels.  Even 3-5 minutes of high-intensity exercise can help you feel sharper and more confident.

Ask Targeted, Insightful, and Inclusive Questions 

Your fourth grade teacher lied to you… there are stupid questions.  I’ve personally seen candidates ask about vacation time, benefits, and aspects of the job that either indicated they weren’t all that interested or could have been answered with a bit more research.

Another common mistake I see is the candidate not asking questions targeted towards, or inclusive of, the specific people in the room. Again – a tiny bit of research into the individual’s interviewing you can go a long way.  For each specific question you craft, I’d suggest following one of two strategies or a combination therein.

  1. Ask something that shows your level insight into the organization and is open to anyone to answer.  For example:  “In my time here, I’ve noticed ________.  What makes (organization name) unique?”.  Another question I like: “What are you looking for in an ideal candidate”, will oftentimes give you a read on how well you’re doing, as the interviewers will likely either repeat talking points from your conversation or point out some of your areas of weakness.  Either way, I’ve found this question is an easy way to take the pulse of the room….
  2. Ask targeted and specific questions to each individual about their areas of expertise.  This approach requires a bit more research, quick-thinking, and the ability to tactfully elicit quick responses.  When pulled off well, though, it’s an absolute home run.  During a Director of Career Services search, I saw a candidate address eight of his potential team members by name asking them a specific and relevant question about their role (.e.g, “what kinds of trends do you notice at the front desk”, “how do you incentivize programmatic participation”, etc.).  This sealed the deal for our team, who made an offer to the candidate that very night.

Following The Interview

Nail the Follow-up

Send a quick, but thoughtful, email or hand-written thank you note expressing your gratitude for the opportunity to interview with their organization. Be sure to reference one specific thing you discussed, and leave the door open for potential future correspondence.

Bottom line 

Interviewing can be intimidating, but, like anything, gets easier with practice.  6-10 hours of targeted research, preparation, and practice will go along way towards making you feel more confident walking-in, and prime you for success.

Above are just a few of my tips.  I’d love to hear from you, though… what do YOU do to prepare for interviews?

A version of this post was first published on the blog. Wake Up Be Awesome Go To Sleep.

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Selling Yourself in the Interview

As 2016 ambles forward, more recruiters are going to be hiring than ever before. Not only are Millennials taking the job market by force, but plenty of current employees are planning on making a job transition, both inside and out of their own career paths. With all of that competition, selling yourself matters. It’s essential to stand out from the pack and highlight what makes you more hireable than the Joe Shmoe interviewing before you and the Jane Doe interviewing after you.

Know What You’re Looking For

The first thing to know before you even go in to interview is what you want out of your working environment. 20 percent of employees in the workforce right now are determined to find a new job before the end of 2016, according to a survey by The same survey found that, besides salary, the most important factors that come to light when considering a new positions are job stability, good benefits, location, good boos, and good work culture. Consider, before you plow headlong into a new position, which of these perks are important to you and whether or not you can live with your new position in the absence of any of these factors. If you’re one of the lucky ones balancing the call for multiple positions, weigh your options against each other, and shoot for the best fit.

Skills, Skills, Skills

Having the right skillset for the job is imperative in today’s work environment. The Skills Gap is a very real issue, with a Corporate Voices for Working Families and Civic Enterprises study finding that more than half of business leaders think it is difficult to get non-managerial employees with the necessary skills, training and education that they need. As the skills become more complex, the gap becomes larger, with IT firms stating that a whopping 75 percent are understaffed or are currently looking to hire. While you don’t have to get every single certification out there to prove that you’re qualified, bringing concrete examples of what you do know can help your chances out greatly.

Soft Skills & Emotional IQ

Perhaps even more important than hard skills are soft skills. Soft skills refer to a set of personal attributes that enable somebody to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people, perhaps the most important of which is Emotional IQ. Even if you’re the best programmer in the world, if you can’t work on a team, you won’t get hired by somebody that needs a team player. On the flipside, even if you’re not the best programmer in the world, you might still get hired because you possess an aptitude for learning and an attitude that says, “I can work with anybody and love it”. This type of flexibility and positivity has been tested for and found in 90% of high performers and explains 58% of success in the workforce across industries, according to some.

Ask Good Questions

In any interview, the best candidates don’t merely answer questions, but they ask them too. Hiring managers want to see that applicants are engaged and excited to work wherever they ultimately end up. If an interviewee isn’t asking questions, how does that person know that they company they are applying for is going to be the right fit for them? Asking questions that show a proactive nature and evidence of critical evaluation are perfect. Here are two examples queries listed by US News as two of the “smartest interview questions you could ever ask”:

  • “If you were to rank all the people who have done this job in the past, tell me about No. 1 and why you would put them there?”
  • “You’ve described this as a place that welcomes innovation. Can you tell me about a time when you failed at something, or when someone else in the organization failed at something? How did the organization deal with it?”

Be Yourself

Selling yourself matters but the most poignant piece of advice that you can follow during an interview is to just be yourself. We all know that there are plenty of toxic leaders out there that probably shouldn’t be managers, the type of people that are crotchety and mean, quite possibly sadistic, and quick to put down anybody that challenges their authority. These managerial types are easy to spot right off the bat by the way they make you feel like a doormat during the interview. Fortunately there are plenty of other managers who are not like that, and these are the ones that you want to work for. Imagine, for a second, that you sail through the interview with the first, mean boss, because you act like another cog in the wheel who will mindlessly follow orders.

The problem is that once you land that job, your true colors will shine eventually. Be yourself from the get-go. As Liz Ryan mentions on Forbes: “You can laugh at a job interview. You can be yourself. You can make a joke. You can be real. I talk to hiring managers all day, and I’ve never heard one of them say ‘I talked to a job-seeker who seemed very qualified, but was too real.’”

Ultimately, know what you want, know what you can do, know what you’re willing to do, ask questions, and be yourself. This is the road to success in the 2016 workforce. The sooner you find yourself doing these things, the sooner you will have landed the job of your dreams.

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What Just Happened? Decoding the Job Interview

There is plenty of advice out there concerning what to say and do, during an employment interview. However, I find there is little written about how to sort out the jumbled mess of feelings and observations that you are left with. Even with the best of intentions and lists of potential questions — interviewing is not (and never will be) a perfect process. In some situations, you are not really sure what has actually transpired. In fact, you may leave feeling you know less about your potential future there, than when you began.

Over the years, I’ve experienced a number of job interviews. Interestingly, even with my training, I was a poor bet to predict the actual outcome. However, looking back, I could have nailed down the “gestalt” of the interview. This could have offered a few clues as to what might (or should) transpire next.

To be blunt, many organizations still do not have a clear structured interview process — and even if they do — the conversation might ramble into territories “off the grid”. Paying close attention to these moments may offer you needed clarity. I’m going to share a few of my interview experiences, including what was said and how I felt after reflecting on the interview. I’ll also let you know if I landed the role.

#1 – The Interview as a “Call for Help”

In many situations, organizations are not really sure what they need. You may have responded to a job posting, however when you arrive it’s clear the situation is quite fluid. Ultimately, their actual needs become cloudier as the conversation continues. My read: They are in flux — but at the same time the prospect of challenge and growth increases. Truth: If you end up in an interview smacking of this, inquire about what they need to accomplish right now. Size up whether or not you fill that need, and if you’d still like to pursue the relationship. Assess alignment and your chances from there. My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 2; Adequate fit 0; Job Offers 0. (Satisfied with this outcome.)

#2 – Playing Close to the Cuff

During the job search process, some interviewers present as so professional, that it is quite difficult to get a read on them as a “human-being”. There is little feedback or emotion during the interview, and you have absolutely no idea where you stand. My read: Chances are you wouldn’t be there if you are not qualified. If this is your potential boss, you’ll likely need to be a self-starter. Truth: You won’t know, until you know. (I left with this is in mind, “I’m never going to step foot here again.”) My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 1; Job Offers 1. (Surprise.)

#3 – The Passive Aggressive Interview

These interviews feel like a boxing match. The interviewer seems determined to show you every “wart” of the organization and wait to see if you will call their bluff. It’s almost as if you are running a race, and with each successive hurdle you sustain an injury. Truth: I feel as if the interviewer(s) want to be sure that you are willing to endure, what they have endured. My read: the organization is likely unhealthy. So, figure this fact into any decisions. My scorecard: Interviews 3; Invitations to return for follow-up 2 (Respectfully declined.); Job Offers 0.

#4 – The “Non-Interview”

This is really an endorsement for taking shorter-term projects, that could set you up to land a longer-term role. Personally, there have been situations where my career was either “in transition”, I was tied to a particular geographic location or the job market was simply very, very tough. My read: Part-time or project-based roles are great realistic job previews for both you and the employer. Truth: Your network is vital to find these gems. My read: Every workplace situation is essentially an interview, so gather as much information as possible. My scorecard: “Interviews” 3 ; Job Offers 2.

What scenarios have you encountered? What were your strategies to “decode” the interview? Share them here.

This post was first published on The Office Blend on 12/22/15.

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7 Ways Candidates Blow A Phone Interview

I’m consistently amazed by how unaware the average job seeker is of how to establish a positive first impression on a phone interview. I hear the same frustrated complaints from employers of all industries and sizes – that candidates who voluntarily submitted their resumes in hopes of discussing a position they’re supposedly interested in just can’t seem to get it together. Remember when all you needed was a solid resume to be guaranteed a face-to-face interview? For the sake of saving time, resources, and money, recruiters have become much more selective on who they decide to meet in person. In an effort to weed out time-wasters and soft-skill-deficient candidates, recruiters are conducting phone screens to find out who’s off their game.

1. They’re unprepared to take the call.
If you’re 4 beers deep at a Yankees game or trying to wrestle a dirty diaper off a screaming baby, you probably shouldn’t answer a call you don’t recognize. Yet, most of the candidates my recruiting team speaks with are under the impression that it’s better to answer a call you’re not completely prepared for than to miss the call altogether. It’s not. If you find yourself in a situation that isn’t suitable for a professional conversation, don’t pick up. Instead, call back within 24 hours, after you’ve collected your thoughts, can speak confidently, and have locked down a quiet location.

Not to mention, they start timing you from the second they leave a voicemail, which brings me to my next point. If you’re actively looking, you should have a professional voicemail with specific instructions to avoid an unwanted game of phone tag. For example, “Hi, you’ve reached Mark Smith. If you’re calling in regards to my resume, please leave your name and number as well as the best times for me to reach you.”

2. They expect the recruiter to fill in the blanks.
“Hi, what job did I apply for again? What company are you calling on behalf of?” It pains me to admit this, but these responses are the norm when an employer reaches out to a candidate, even for high-level positions. You’re a job seeker, which means you probably apply to several jobs each week. We understand that it’s tough to keep track, but it’s essential – if only for the sake of a recruiter’s sanity – that you start taking notes. Just by picking up the phone and saying, “Hi Wendy, you must be calling in regards to the Customer Service position I applied for last week.” Mind blown.

3. They conduct an unorganized job search.
This goes hand in hand with my last point. Today, it’s not enough to print out a handful of resumes and call it a day. We always recommend that our candidates keep a spreadsheet of every job application they submitted with corresponding dates, company names, and relevant contacts. Or, if you’re a tech wiz, try these awesome job search apps. That way, when the phone rings, you’ll have a handy guide that’ll save you from playing guessing games. Also, it’s important to keep your background information and portfolios within arms reach to provide some quick material for preliminary questions. It says a great deal about your personal brand if you’re prepared to answer a challenging question, and even have some on-hand stats to back up your argument. And for bonus points, don’t forget to browse company websites and connect with HR personnel on LinkedIn. Taking that extra step makes a huge impression.

4. They don’t understand why recruiters really call.
More often than not, recruiters aren’t calling to simply schedule a personal interview; they’re calling to conduct a prescreen. In other words, to decide whether they want to move you forward. Remember all that research you were supposed to do when you applied for the gig? Use it to show recruiters you know something about how their company culture works and that you’re serious about the job.

5. They have a bad “radio personality.”
Phones are tough – all you have to make an impression is your voice. Candidates, especially introverts, often fail to heighten their energy over the phone. Nobody’s expecting you to sound like Ron Burgundy, but you should at the very least sound excited, confident, and prepared. Excessive “umms,” stammering, or sounding like you’re dead inside are huge turnoffs to recruiters. The only way to overcome this obstacle is through practice. Record yourself on any device you have handy, and ask yourself this difficult question: “Would you hire you?” Getting your career narrative down in a way that engages and connects with an employer is essential to winning that face-to-face meeting.

6. They have a weak or unprofessional online presence.
Chances are, if recruiters are interested in what you have to say, they’ll be googling you before then end of your conversation. A half-complete LinkedIn profile or a racy Facebook picture is all it takes to eliminate you from the game. Just last week, one of my recruiters found a candidate with a stellar background and scheduled her for an interview right away. But just minutes before their call, she discovered an R-rated photo online that involved a stripper pole. Needless to say, the recruiter’s mind was made up before the conversation started.

7. They fail to treat a phone interview with the same decorum as they would a personal one.
Just because you didn’t put on a suit or block out time in your day doesn’t mean it counts any less towards your chances of securing the job. Request follow up procedures, send personalized thank you notes, and be sure to highlight any takeaways to reinforce your sincerity. Take it from me, the small things really do matter.

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How To Avoid Common “Interview Pressure” Induced Mistakes

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever said or done during a job interview? Are you aware of the top mistakes that are most common during the interview? You may be doing things you’re completely unaware of, and this could be hurting your chances to get the job you really want. Think you know how to ace a job interview like a pro? You could still stand to benefit from the downfall of others who have come before you. Here are the mistakes you should avoid, and what you can do to improve.

  1. Too little or too much confidence
    Most people are aware that they must appear confident during a job interview, but did you know that it’s possible to be overconfident? If you’re not confident enough, you appear unsure of yourself, and your potential employers will be looking for people who know they can do well in the position. Having too much confidence can also be a big problem, because you can appear too cocky or sure of yourself, rather than letting your work and experience speak for you. It’s important to find that happy medium.
  2. Talking about how they can benefit you
    Many make the easy mistake of focusing too heavily on what the prospective company will do for their career, as opposed to highlighting what they can individually bring to the table. The company doesn’t need to know what they can do for you; they need to know what you can do for them. Impress them, but do it in an honest way.
  3. Not dressing appropriately for the job
    Do some research online for proper attire to wear to the office if you aren’t quite familiar with office etiquette and standards. Have you ever heard the saying “Dress for the job you want”? That applies here. Personal grooming is a must for any job interview, as well as dressing like a sharp, professional, sophisticated individual. It’s okay to show off a personal sense of style, but do it in a tasteful way. High cut skirt lines for a female or jeans for a male are never a great idea. Something as simple as this can make the difference between getting hired and getting dismissed completely by your potential employer.
  4. Being pretentious or fake
    By all means impress the interviewer, but by no means do it in a fake way. Playing up your strengths is essential, but be genuine about it. Most employers can see through BS pretty easily, and once they detect you’re being fake, they won’t want to hire you. They’ll want people on their team who are trustworthy and straightforward. In this case, it pays to be yourself.
  5. Over-sharing
    At the same time, being yourself doesn’t mean making the interviewer your best friend and telling them everything. Know what is appropriate to say and what isn’t. One of the most common mistakes people make in a job interview is being far too familiar. This shows up in the form of a bad joke in poor taste, or talking too much about family or problems that are going on in the person’s life. Remember, you want the interviewer to like you, but you don’t need to tell them your entire life story.
  6. Being unprepared in the interview
    This can absolutely kill your chances to be hired. Remember to do a couple of things in order to prep for the interview. The first is to research the company you’re applying for. This way, you can bring up positive points about the company during the interview to prove that you’re prepared. You’ll also be ready to answer the question, “So why do you want to work for this company in particular?” If possible, research in depth. Sometimes you can even find interview questions they may ask that others have made available online. Some even post about their experiences with the entire interview process. This gives you incredibly valuable insight into how everything will go, once you get the interview. The more prepared you are, the better. The second thing you’ll need to do to is to think of answers you will have for challenging questions they could ask. If you already have an answer in mind, it should be able to flow naturally during the interview. You’ll also want to come prepared with specific questions of your own.
  7. Arriving too late
    This shouldn’t have to be emphasized, but if you have a problem with time management, get it in check at least for the interview. There’s nothing worse than arriving late; it demonstrates an unprofessional attitude as well as disrespect to your potential employers. Arriving too early is also not great, as that can make you come off as too eager, or desperate even. Aim to be there no more than 10-15 minutes before your scheduled interview time.
  8. Talking negatively
    It’s okay to be honest if you’ve had a bad experience in the past with a former job, but find a way to spin it in a positive way. Employers know that bad situations happen, but it’s how you deal with it that matters. Make sure to communicate to them how you were able to turn it around. And whatever you do, don’t ever bad mouth former employers or former colleagues. This makes you appear self centered and even childish.

No matter what you do, be prepared to be professional, put together, confident, and remember to have a good time during the interview. Your potential employers will want to see how you can contribute to a positive work environment not only with your work ethic, but your personality as well. Let it shine through, and get that job you really deserve.

The Body Language Business And The Now of You

“You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen…”
— R.E.M. (“Exhuming McCarthy”)

Look at me. Eyes right here. Watch my face, my arms and my hands as I talk. In fact, watch my entire physical demeanor. What does it tell you?

Now, imagine that you’re on your way to a job interview. The grueling commute of only inching along has take its toll on your already fragile job-searching soul and you take a deep breath when you finally park.

You enter the building and the interviewer escorts you to the interview room. You’re asked to sit and the interview begins.

It’s then you notice the interviewer’s facial expressions changing rapidly – happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused – over and over again.

“You do know why you’re here, right?” the interview asks, hands fidgeting and doing a tabletop dance.

“Yes,” you answer. What’s wrong with this person, you think.

“If you were a bicycle, what part of the bike would you be and why?” the interviewer asks.

Are you for real?

“Well, I’d be the gear shift, so I could help my team and the company be agile in a such an ever-changing—”

The interviewer interrupts and slams both fists onto the table and shouts, “Why do you want this job?!?”

You actually jump in your seat. Anger flashes off and on the interviewer’s face like a series of poorly lit red-eye stills.

The interviewer, with arms now crossed, eyes rolling, speaks again, “It’s a business imperative that you understand the difference between right and wrong and all things in between.”

“Um … okay?” you say.

You squirm in your seat but keep your line of sight focused on the interviewer, fighting with your face not to betray your confusion and fear.

“We all know the difference and meet our business objectives every single day. We really do. But we need to ensure you can do the same,” the interviewer says, arms outstretched and palms up.

You nod and twiddle your thumbs. The interviewer gives you a “thumbs-up,” then just sits stone-faced at the table in front of you, waiting for you to respond.

You choose your words carefully, your confident gaze never wavering from the interviewer, your hands clasped together in front of you on the table.

“I do understand the difference,” you say.

“You’re hired!”


Sure this is a nonsensical scenario, but I’ll bet some of you have experienced your share of bizarre workplace encounters. Plus, we’re always in workplace situations where body language and facial expressions contribute greatly to the “now” of you, and the other person, in the moment.

In fact, we’ve actually been reading each other’s outward appearance and disposition for thousands of years, or at least trying to, in order to discern what we should do next in these contexts:

  • To Befriend
  • To Berate
  • To Educate
  • To Elevate
  • To Hire
  • To Kill (in case of emergency)

Yes, a brutal oversimplification, but it’s even more complicated with the micro-expression nuance that science has tried to explain in recent decades. For example, how Ekman and Friesen introduced the notion of “micro-affect displays” in a 1969 article in Psychiatry, but it wasn’t an extensive study and this subject has been mostly ignored.

Except, of course, the hundreds of millions of dollars that governments have dumped into the study of body language and facial expressions to uncover spies and terrorists, with some success, but also a big waste of money when it comes to “reading” passengers at airports, according to one expert referenced in an Economist article. Also in 2013, the U.S. General Accountability Office “deemed facial cues worthless as a way of detecting people with bad intentions in airports” according to a New York Magazine article.

Closer to workplace home, however, there are those who are applying the science of reading “face” to screening and hiring. For example, Dan Hill, a facial coding expert, was hired by the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team to read faces. This includes the faces of college prospects and NBA players in order to determine if they have the right emotional attributes that will give the Bucks the competitive edge.

In the New York Times article linked above, Dan Hill states that our faces betray our true emotions and can predict our even truer “intentions, decisions and actions.” He uses the psychologist Paul Ekman’s widely accepted FACS, or Facial Action Coding System (I referenced Ekman above about “micro-affect” displays). The FACS is used to decipher “which of the 43 muscles in the face are working at any moment.” This includes seven core emotions: happiness, surprise, contempt, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

But there’s an entire litany of researchers and experts who warn that reading too much from body language and facial expressions is dangerous and misleading; too many liars are too good at being bad without anyone “seeing” it. Many of you in HR and recruiting have experienced hiring “train wrecks” time and again to know how unfortunately true this is. And many of you have interviewed with HR and recruiting train wrecks.

What is clear is that individuals not only need to be aware of those around them and be able to read body and face in context, they also need to be self-aware enough to manage their own emotional reactions to the reading.

In other words, you need to be able to be flexible and fluid enough in your speech and physical reactions to what happens around you, in the workplace and the “homeplace,” to convey honest conviction, confidence and definitive decision-making without betraying your fears or discontent. That doesn’t mean you don’t betray some in the name of personable transparency, but again, it’s all about clarity of context.

Deborah Thomas-Nininger, founder of DTN Productions, a training company specializing in business etiquette and reputation management, expressed on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that body language conveys everything from confidence to approachability; it’s more honest than the spoken word. Literally in the blink of an eye, we can make someone feel quite valued or unceremoniously dismissed.

That’s why developing our softer skills is today’s differentiator and managing our “emotional intelligence” is so critical in the workplace (and the homeplace). This is the body language business and the now of you, so manage it well.

Unless you’re one of the liars too good at being bad; in that case, keep your hands and face to yourself.

About the Author: Kevin W. Grossman co-founded and co-hosts the highly popular weekly TalentCulture #TChat Show with Meghan M. Biro. He’s also currently the Product Marketing Director for Total Talent Acquisition products at PeopleFluent.

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Trust But Verify In Hiring

During dealings with the Soviet Union, former President Ronald Reagan coined the term, “Trust, but verify.” It is not too difficult to decipher the meaning of this phrase and apply the concept to your company’s human resources best practices.

A large part of an organization’s human resources function involves the onboarding of new personnel. Would it be surprising to know that in many cases the determination to hire someone happens within five minutes of meeting them? What happens when a charming applicant gives all the right answers? Besides having a successful interview, one very important part of the recruitment process is background and reference checking. Reference checking is vital to verify a candidate’s background and can be an important step in insuring positive turnover rates. The cost of a bad hire is often overlooked but it can negatively impact your company’s bottom line by wasting valuable time and resources. Combined with proper interviewing techniques, reference checking can help you to verify that a candidate’s abilities are a match to the skills that are needed to successfully perform in a specific position in your organization.

Reference checking involves personally contacting former employers (with the candidate’s approval). Advise the former employer whom you are contacting of your purpose for the call or email. Be sure to identify yourself and your company and inform them that you are seriously considering the candidate for employment, and that you would like to ask a few questions in relation to the candidate’s experience and qualifications. It is also a good idea to give a brief description of the role you are considering the candidate as the person you are contacting may be able to use that information to provide specific feedback relating to the role.

Here are a few questions you may consider asking:

  • What were the job functions of the position the candidate held with your company?
  • Based on the job duties we are offering this candidate, do you personally believe that this candidate can successfully perform this job?
  • What management style did this candidate best respond to?
  • Did the candidate excel in a team environment, or work better alone?
  • Was the candidate dependable? Attendance record? Punctuality?
  • What areas do you think the candidate can improve on?
  • What are the candidate’s three strongest work qualities?
  • Would you re-hire the candidate? Why or why not?

Taking these simple steps to verify a candidate’s good character and qualifications can make a huge difference in your decision about whether or not to ultimately hire him or her. Though we all like to trust that each candidate’s self-proclaimed qualifications and achievements are accurate, it is always a wise idea to verify information, as ultimately this candidate will be involved in essential functions of your business when they become an employee. By staying well prepared and keeping in mind common interview mistakes, as well as having all the information you can gather during a reference check, you will be able to rest assured knowing you are making the right hiring decision for your organization.

About the Author: Michele O’Donnell leads MMC’s team of HR consultants. Her experience spans the broad scope of labor law, regulatory compliance and HR best practices, drawn from her rich experience as director of HR for several firms throughout her career.

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10 Pre-Game Interview Tips Candidates Won’t Laugh At

Not often enough are we ever truly prepared for what lies ahead in our daily obstacles. Sadly, this tends to be the case when interviewing candidates. But what if our hiring strategy took the time to incorporate interview tips that could earn better hiring results and keep candidates from laughing at our approach? Success makes it easy for us to forget that it may have been our preparation that led to a positive outcome. Hiring talent is kind of a big deal. Think of the time and money that gets invested into finding and hiring talent. And even worse, when hiring goes sour it can tap on employee turnover and disengagement to the bill.

Wooing talent is about bringing your “A” game to the interviewing process. It’s not about making the interviewing process awkward for candidates. A study done by Robert Half found that 36 percent of 1,400 surveyed executives discovered their leading factor for failed hires other than performance problems, was poor skills matching. Meaning, perhaps there’s something missing in how we prepare ourselves to interview candidates. Remember, candidates are expected to show up prepared for an interview. Shouldn’t we hold ourselves accountable as well?

Preparation is what allows us to take steps forward in evaluating skill sets, personality traits, and candidates more effectively. Incorporating specific interview tips into our pre-game regime is a simple reminder that interviewing candidates is a serious business, not a laughable one.

10 Pre-Game Interview Tips Candidates Won’t Laugh At 


1. Be Timely

If you schedule an interview with a candidate, please be on time. Place yourself in his or her shoes, and ask yourself, “How would I feel if the interviewer showed up late and rushed our meeting?” Show up on time, because it tells the candidate you’re taking the process seriously.

2. Show Up With A Game Plan

When you know why you’re interviewing candidates, then you know what to look for. Figure out before you interview candidates the kind of skills and experience that will be needed to fill the position, then incorporate them into your hiring game plan.

3. Actually Review CVs

If HR managers are spending an average of 6 seconds reviewing CVs, then how prepared are they really to interview candidates? Take a good look at the candidate’s CV before you meet. You might discover something that you would like to investigate further during the interview.

4. Prepare A Set Of Questions

Depending on what you’re trying to measure and understand from a candidate, you’ll want to ask questions that will draw out the answers you seek. Don’t just use a generic template of questions for interviewing candidates. Curate your questions based on their skills and interests.

5. Establish Dialogue Pre-Interview

Engaging with candidates before you meet them is a part of the entire candidate experience process. So be friendly and hospitable to candidates. You don’t want them tweeting about your cold candidate experience.

6. Prep Candidates About The Interview

Interviews are like awkward first dates. Don’t surprise candidates during the process. Talk to them before the interview and give them a sense of where its direction will go. Honestly, what do we gain from letting candidates walk into interviews like blind bats?

7. Be Presentable

Being presentable doesn’t just imply wearing professional attire. It’s about telling candidates who your organization may be. How your organization is presented aligns with how candidates think about your company. Display intelligence, support, and feedback during the interviewing process.

8. Practice Small Talk

Interviews are about sizing up candidates. And neglecting to make small talk with candidates creates missed opportunities to better understand what candidates are about. We get so caught up on measuring skills and experience that we forget who people are is also worth measuring.

9. Don’t Be A Doodler During The Interview

While being a doodler during a college lecture may have only been harmful to yourself, when it comes to interviewing candidates it’s not acceptable. Be present, and mindful of the time commitment that candidates have made. Hear what they have to say. Don’t be rude.

10. Remember To Fine-Tune Your Skills

While preparation gets us closer to perfection, it’s asking for feedback about our performance that tells us what we can do a better job of preparing for. Becoming better at interviewing candidates is about being able to provide candidates with a better experience.

Fernando Ramirez is a seasoned blogger on trending human resources, thought leadership, and recruiting topics. He is a contributor on TalentCulture and This article was originally published on JobisJob, which is a job search engine that gives jobseekers and recruiters a headstart in the employment game by making it as easy as possible for you to find them, and for them to find you.

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The Great Rated! Interview: Employer Brand, Transparency and Job Candidates

I had the recent pleasure of speaking with Great Rated! CEO Kim Peters. Kim’s leadership at Great Rated! is evident in her desire to help job seekers and organizations to be better candidates and better employers.  Using proprietary survey and evaluation tools, Great Rated! can help employers identify strengths, thus reinforcing or forging the employer brand. For job seekers, Great Rated! helps them to compare and contrast the work cultures of different employers with the use of a “company compare” assessment tool. There’s also a short questionnaire that helps job seekers better identify what company culture is right for them by targeting the attributes that matter most to them individually and that are a good culture match based on their preferences.

Q1 – Cyndy: What types of attributes are job candidates and employees looking for when they say, “I want to work for a company that has a transparent culture?”

Kim: I think that they mean they want a workplace where there’s a free and open exchange of information. That starts with leadership—so there would be especially good communication and discussion about strategy, goals, financials, ideally at all levels—company-wide, departmental and for individuals—and it resonates—so things ring true and make sense.  In my opinion, in a transparent culture, the majority of people know what’s going on and how they fit into it.

Cyndy: Agree Kim. When too many conversations are taking place behind closed doors, transparency goes out the window.

Q2 – Cyndy: Great Rated! has a wealth of information from some of the best companies in existence. What are a few of the more common attributes that make a Great Rated! company stand out as an employer of choice?

Kim: There are great things about all workplaces. And any company can be Great Rated! There’s no threshold, or anything. The company just has to be willing to survey their employees using our Great Place to Work® Trust Index© employee survey so we can understand what they like about their workplace, and provide some information about their business including their programs and practices. Then our experts analyze the results and write a workplace review, highlighting the best practices and cultural strengths identified by the employees. Having a Great Rated! Review shows people that the organization is serious about creating a great workplace, comfortable with transparency, and that its employees treasure the unique aspects of their culture.

Because we include Reviews of our Great Place to Work Best Companies List winners—the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® and the Best Small & Medium Workplaces—we do many companies who score very high in ALL categories. But not all great workplaces appeal to everyone. Some people like small companies, some large, some thrive in an exuberant culture like Zappos, some want to be in a much quieter culture. Great Rated! reviews offer insight into what workplace cultures are all about, so that the job seeker can better understand if that culture is a fit for them.

Cyndy: Well said. Company culture is very important to candidates and employers, alike, and both want a good match so the fit feels right.

Q3 – Cyndy: Kim, why do some companies struggle with providing a great job candidate experience and where does transparency and employer branding come into play here?

Kim: Top talent has lots of choices, and they want a workplace where they’ll be comfortable. It’s the company’s willingness to be open about their workplace that lets people understand if they’ll be a fit, and ultimately decide to join the company. We all know people who thought they’d found the right fit, and then discovered the experience wasn’t what they thought.  Social media and the internet has given people the ability to research and find out before they buy…. and so they search to better understand the company’s workplace reputation and employee experience—and that is the employer brand.

Cyndy: Wonderful information Kim. Thank you for sharing your keen insight and experience with us.

Kim Peters-223 midsize (1)(About Kim Peters: Kim Peters is CEO of Great Rated!™, at Great Place to Work®, where she is focused on helping job seekers understand companies’ workplace cultures and find their best fit. Kim has over 15 years’ leadership experience in the online recruitment industry, and has launched and led a number of successful businesses including, Canada’s leading job board, where she was founder and President,  and Canwest Mediaworks where she served as Vice President Online Classifieds. Kim most recently was CEO of, a Canadian job search engine combining reviews and job listings.)

(About Cynthia TrivellaCyndy began her career in advertising and Human Resource Marketing Communications on Madison Avenue in New York City over 15 years ago. Prior to that, she worked in corporate human resources as a recruiter and as a training and development coordinator. In addition, Cyndy has multiple years of media planning, employment branding and human resource communications strategy experience at a management level from both the media and agency sides.

Cyndy maintains a strong presence in the digital space and has been awarded the distinction of being named to the lists: “Top 25 Online Influencers in Recruiting” and “HR Marketer Top 25 Digital Media Influencers.” In addition, she volunteers as co-host and moderator of the Twitter chat #OMCchat for assisting job hunters, and serves as #TChat events director for TalentCulture World of Work. 


The Great Rated! Interview: Andy Khawaja On Creating A Workplace For Millennials

Andy Khawaja is young at heart. That may be the simplest way to explain how the card payment company he founded and leads, Allied Wallet, recently ranked as one of the 10 Great Workplaces for Millennials according to a Great Rated! study. Khawaja, 39, started his Los Angeles-based credit card processing company in 2002 after a decade in retail on glamorous Rodeo Drive. As formative to him was a childhood growing up in war-torn Lebanon, which gave him a carpe-diem yet compassionate mindset. He now leads a team of about 1,000 employees, the vast majority of whom are under 35. And while he agrees with Great Rated! research that fair pay, a say in decisions and competent leaders matter to Gen Y, Khawaja says his secret to success with the younger set boils down to giving them a thrill ride at work. “I like to take risks,” says Khawaja, who expects to take his company public someday. “If you don’t take risks, you never get anywhere in life.” Great Rated! Editor Ed Frauenheim recently spoke with Khawaja about Millennials, the Allied Wallet workplace, and his own youthful heart.

Ed: Most of your employees are under 35. Why is that?

Andy: Age isn’t a factor for me. You can be a grandpa here, if you can deliver. A lot of the people skilled in the business of e-commerce are at a young age.

Ed: One of your strengths at Allied Wallet is your bosses—96 percent of employees give leaders at your firm a positive rating. What are you like as a boss to Millennials?

Andy: They’re my teammates. They’re my partners. Without them, I’m nothing. I hate it when they call me ‘boss.’ I like it when they call me ‘buddy.’ Everyone in the company calls me buddy.

I grew up in Beirut until the age of seven. I got a taste of civil war, and realized you can’t count on living tomorrow because you never know when your time is up. So I live a life where you have to be really nice, very kind, and take care of your people—especially the people that work for you. We’re probably the highest paying company in our industry in the world. The same position in another company will get paid three times less.

Ed: That fits with part of our research on Millennials. We found that they really care about fair pay, a say in decisions and competent leaders. Do you see those other factors at play among Allied Wallet’s young employees?

Andy: You have to listen. You have to give them a chance to speak. I visit other companies, and it’s only the decision-makers deciding. You as an employee execute their decisions. It’s only about one-way communication.

Let them share ideas. We listen to them, and we understand what they want. Sometimes their idea is better. That creates more of a dream-come-true environment. And if someone comes up with a brilliant idea, they get rewarded. They can get $2,000-$3,000 checks. Some of them get nice vacation packages. Some of them get gift cards.

Ed: Work-life balance is another factor Millennials are said to prize. But at Allied Wallet, you seem to want an intense commitment from your folks, and to offer them a quest to conquer the global payments industry. True?

Andy: Absolutely. I give them dreams. And then we accomplish those dreams and they’re so proud of it. They feel like they’re part of something big.

Ed: As you expand globally you’re taking significant risks along the way. Does this way of doing business appeal to young people?

Andy: Are you kidding me? It’s like a motivational film. All young people love risk. It encourages them. They want to taste it. It makes them feel good. It’s like a business drug.

[divider] [/divider]

(About Andy Khawaja: Andy Khawaja is CEO and Founder of Allied Wallet, a global payment processing company that connects merchants and consumers in over 190 countries, processing 164 currencies and nearly every payment method. With the securest PCI Level 1 technology and a proprietary black list and fraud scrub method, Allied Wallet has established itself as a brand of excellence in the world of online payment services. Prior to Allied Wallet, Khawaja reached several milestones in the retail industry working with the Bernini brand. Khawaja was able to grow Bernini from two stores to sixty stores in nine years, taking it from a million dollar business to a 100 million dollar business.)

(About the Author: Ed Frauenheim is editor at workplace research site Great Rated!™, where he produces content and reviews companies.)

Interviewing Best Practices & Problem Solvers

Would it be surprising to know that in many cases the determination to hire someone happens within five minutes of meeting them? What happens when a charming applicant gives all the right answers? Many times, applicants are hired for their charm instead of their job related knowledge, skills, and abilities. This also happens when the applicant’s personality is similar to that of the interviewer. It is not uncommon that a few months after hiring someone they are left wondering what went wrong. The new hire was not what they expected and didn’t have the skills necessary for the position.

The foremost reason to invest the proper amount of time in hiring the right person – from the start – is simply: cost. Turnover can be expensive. Some report that the cost of hiring a replacement is equal to 500 times the employee’s hourly rate of pay. Numerous studies also suggest that most employee relation problems are a consequence of hiring the wrong person for the job, which can result in poor productivity.

The interviewer should be prepared before the applicant is offered an interview. Was the application/resume reviewed? Are there gaps in employment?  Was the entire application completed? What were the reasons given for leaving prior employers?  It is not recommended to hire an applicant that does not provide phone numbers and contact names for reference checking purposes.

One of the most fruitful suggestions that can be offered is the telephone interview. Once a pool of potential applicants has been selected, a quick telephone interview should be conducted before anyone is brought in house for an interview. This step can help narrow the pool considerably and presents the opportunity to address any resume/application items that may be unclear, such as gaps in employment and duties and responsibilities of their previous positions. The same questions should be asked of all applicants during the telephone interview process.

Steps to a successful interview

  • Be prepared. Review the job description for accuracy.
  • Prepare interview questions in advance and anticipate probable responses to the questions.
  • Provide a comfortable environment for the applicant.
  • Explain the hiring procedure at the start of the interview.
  • Encourage the applicant to open up and talk.
  • Ask the right questions and let the applicant do most of the talking. The applicant should talk 80% of the time and the interviewer only 20% of the time.
  • Close the interview by asking if there are any questions, and thank the applicant for their time.

Common interview mistakes

  • Explaining the job before completing the interview. This gives smart applicants answers to all of the questions and makes it easy for them to match their answers to the job description.
  • Taking notes during the interview can cause the applicant to “freeze up”.
  • Always ask open-ended questions to ensure that the applicant does most of the talking.

How to get applicants to talk

  • Avoid interrupting the candidate.
  • Paraphrase and reflect upon the candidate’s comments.
  • Use silence. It is especially useful for the evasive candidate or one that is holding back information.
  • Communicate on the level of each applicant. Language & terminology used should match the job being filled.

Handling problem applicants

  • The Professional Interviewer is an experienced interviewer who knows all of the “right” answers to most interview questions. Pin the individual down to determine their true qualifications. Ask specific and probing questions about what this applicant has done. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords.
  • The Motor Mouth continually wanders off on different tangents and needs to be led back on track to avoid wasting time. Interrupt this person with key questions.
  • The Perfect Candidate believes they are perfect and will make that belief known, continually emphasizing how they are the right person. This is an applicant that you want to avoid.
  • The Politician never gives a straight answer and will evade an issue and bring up another topic.  They must be forced to be specific by using clear and probing questions.
  • The Questioner will try to turn the tables and ask his or her own questions. The interviewer must assert control over the questioning.

Behavioral Interviewing is another technique which can be very helpful for gauging the candidate’s response to stress in certain situations. Here are some sample questions:

  1. Tell me about a time that you missed an important deadline.
  2. How did you handle missing the deadline?
  3. What steps did you take to inform all interested parties that the deadline would not be met?
  4. What were the consequences of missing the deadline?
  5. Did you receive disciplinary action for missing the deadline?
  6. If yes to the last question, did you agree with the disciplinary action?

Additionally, you may want to schedule interviews during the work shift of the position being filled; this will allow a first hand glimpse of how the applicant will function when they are in their “zone”.  Also, group interviews are a great way to get others’ perspective on a candidate and they may notice things you missed, such as body language or a change in the applicant’s tone of voice.

It is very important to remember that there are federal and state restrictions on what a potential employer is allowed to ask an applicant during an interview. These prohibited questions are designed to protect applicants from potential illegal discrimination. To protect yourself from facing charges of discrimination in the workplace, you need to focus the job interview on job related areas. Ignore references to race, sex, age, religion or national origin. Any question during the interview that could relate to any of the areas mentioned is seen by the courts as “extremely unfavorable.”

(About the Author: Michele O’Donnell joined the team in January 2007 and currently leads MMC’s elite team of HR Consultants. Ms. O’Donnell has been involved in the Human Resources industry for more than 14 years, bringing vast training and management experience to the MMC leadership ranks. Her experience spans the broad scope of labor law, regulatory compliance and HR Best Practices, drawn from her rich experience as Director of HR for several firms throughout her career. She currently works to ensure that MMC’s consultants forge long lasting relationships with our clients, fostered in exceptional service and unsurpassed HR expertise. Ms. O’Donnell earned her baccalaureate degree in Business Administration from Auburn University before receiving her Masters degree in Human Resource Management from Troy State University.)

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The Intersection Of Video Technology And Talent Acquisition

An Interview with David Wieland, CEO, RIVS

By Cyndy Trivella, Account & Event Director – TalentCulture

I sat down recently with David Wieland, CEO of RIVS, a web-based software for digital voice and video interviews.

David was bitten by the entrepreneur bug, when interning with Dan Hesse (current CEO of Sprint) at a start-up organization in Seattle. Working in a creative, engaging and fast-paced environment helped spark David’s interest in considering an entrepreneurial opportunity for himself.

David is passionate about his interest with today’s talent acquisition tactics and takes great pride in helping his clients to better understand where opportunities can be created to improve and streamline processes which were once costly and complex.

In my interview with David, we discussed talent acquisition, the candidate experience and how technology plays a role in this.

Cyndy: David, why is the topic of talent acquisition so popular today with loads of information on best practices, yet there are still so many companies struggling to get it right?

David: I think the biggest challenge with talent acquisition is defining what success actually means.  Talent Acquisition is arguably the most important function of any organization, yet probably the most difficult to measure in terms of success.  In my experience, there are few commonly adopted metrics that most companies can benchmark against.  I also think technology helps tremendously, but there is a LOT of HR Tech available today and separating the noise from the signal can be a challenge.

Cyndy: Agreed. HR technology is something that is not lacking in the world-of-work and with that the confusion around which is the correct solution for someone’s organization has only increased with the multitude of options.

Cyndy: What are some disconnects between companies and job seekers that technology can resolve to make a better experience for both parties?

David: Accomplishing a positive candidate experience is neither difficult in concept nor execution: be responsive, courteous, and respectful.  The biggest disconnect I see is that many companies don’t value their non-hired candidates.  Speaking to employers, I say that every candidate who has taken the time to show interest in your company is a potential advocate for you; don’t miss out on an opportunity to create a legion of fans.  It sounds cliché, but think about how you’d want to be treated, and then treat your candidates even better.  Look to technology to provide tools for easy communication and better ways for candidates to tell their story beyond the resume and cover letter.

Cyndy: Spot on! Those silver and bronze medalist candidates can become ambassadors, but so many companies miss the mark on this point, in addition to the potential of maintaining engagement with these individuals to build out a talent pipeline.

Cyndy: Tell us about the state of video interviewing and how you envision it for the future.

David: While video interviewing adoption has sky-rocketed due to much improved reliability of technology and the emergence of the front facing phone camera, we’re really just scratching the surface.  As an industry, we have work to do educating people about the sometimes astonishing benefits of adopting video interviews.  Most professionals we speak with still think of video interviewing as one-on-one Skype interviews, when really the universe of recruiting-specific video interviewing tools extends well past that, ranging in complexity from one-way interviews to multi-way live interviews with unlimited observers across all web and mobile platforms.  Unlike Skype, most professional video interviews can be easily recorded by the provider for easy sharing and later review by the team.  (We’re rolling out a really interesting bookmarking feature this fall which will make reviewing even more streamlined, FYI).  But the video interviewing industry gets significantly better every day.

Because we are able to witness first-hand the dramatic measurable effects video interviewing can produce for organizations, there’s no question that video interviewing will be a staple in every modern recruiting process within a few years.

As we look to predict the future, I draw inspiration from some of our very creative clients who took one look at our platform and decided that while it was interesting for recruiting, they had other plans for it.  One of our esteemed clients assesses their salespeople before and after training.  Another uses the RIVS platform to create more interactive folios for their students, which can be shared with employers.  Another uses our platform to audit the working environment of their remote workers.

Cyndy: Very interesting how your clients have found various applications for your platform. I think that speaks well to the ingenuity and pliability of how a video solution can be tailored to fit specific needs.

Cyndy: As an entrepreneur, you’ve had to build a company from the ground up. How has this influenced you when hiring for and growing talent within your organization?

David: I’ve launched both bootstrapped and investor-funded startups and while the profile of candidates attracted to each type is different, the critical need for amazing people is persistent in both.   In my opinion, smaller companies are impacted by unsuccessful hires more than larger companies who often have the internal resources to at least cover responsibilities, etc.  For startups, every day is a life and death battle; one wrong move can sink the ship.

There are a few startup hiring schools of thought revolving around some variation of Hire fast, Fire fast or hire slow, fire fast.  I don’t subscribe to either exclusively.  I’d say we hire deliberately.  We primarily hire for fit over experience because at the end of the day, a) life’s too short not to be around people you love and, b) the long-term culture of our company is forged in its early days by its early people…RIVS is comprised of a wonderful group of people doing amazing things, so we want to hire those who both support our existing culture and also add to it in a meaningful way.

Cyndy: You’re so right about how small or start-up companies don’t have the bandwidth to sustain a culture of not having everyone on the same page, whereas large companies have more of a built-in buffer to sustain the disengaged employee.

Cyndy: This has been great conversation, David. Thank you for your perspective on the intersection of technology, candidates, employers, culture and the state of video interviewing. I look forward to our next conversation.

(About David Wieland: David is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. He has exited two companies (Innflux and Powersurge) and currently serves as CEO of RIVS and owner of iEstates.

As an active angel investor, David co-founded the Notre Dame-affiliated, Irish Angels, and has personal investments in 40+ startups including, NoRedInk,, Ginkgotree, and Chime. He also serves as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the University of Notre Dame, consulting ND entrepreneurs.

Through the Amelia Claire Foundation, in memory of their daughter, David and his wife, along with their two sons, assist families who have lost children. David enjoys fishing, skiing, traveling, and philanthropy. David received his BA from Notre Dame and MBA from Kellogg.)

(About Cynthia TrivellaCyndy began her career in advertising and Human Resource Marketing Communications on Madison Avenue in New York City over 15 years ago. Prior to that, she worked in corporate human resources as a recruiter and as a training and development coordinator. In addition, Cyndy has multiple years of media planning, employment branding and human resource communications strategy experience at a management level from both the media and agency sides.

Cyndy maintains a strong presence in the digital space and has been awarded the distinction of being named to the lists: “Top 25 Online Influencers in Recruiting” and “HR Marketer Top 25 Digital Media Influencers.” In addition, she volunteers as co-host and moderator of the Twitter chat #OMCchat for assisting job hunters, and serves as #TChat events director for TalentCulture World of Work. Cyndy holds a BA in psychology and mass communications from Westfield State College in Massachusetts and currently resides in the Greater Cincinnati Area.)


An Open Letter to Someone Taking an Employment Assessment

Written by Daniel Crosby

Dear Job Seeker,

Hi there, it’s me, the organizational psychologist with whom you’ll be spending the next few hours. I know that you’re nervous and that I’m all that stands between you and this next gig, but I’d like to give you a few pointers to help make this process less painful for both of us. A few things to consider:

Don’t Make Shrink Jokes – I get it, my job is goofy. I also get that the stereotypes about beards and tweed are there for a reason. But, making a shrink joke with a psychologist is about as original as making a Men in Black joke to a guy named Will Smith. I promise you’re not as clever as you think.

Try to Relax – You’re understandably nervous and I’m going to do everything in my power to be disarming so that you can be your best. Nervous people tend to clam up and over manage impressions (cough, Mitt Romney, cough), which makes them hard to connect with. I promise we’ll develop better rapport if you chill out a little.

Be Honest – It’s natural for you to want to put your best foot forward, but it’s going to be harder to snow me than it was that 22 year-old generalist that first interviewed you. There is a real human tendency to want a complete picture of those with whom we interact. If you withhold information, I’m going to fill in the blanks myself and the inferences I draw may not be accurate or positive. Save us both the guesswork and be yourself – you’re your most likable when you’re your most forthright.

Don’t Game the Assessments – Odds are, I’ll be asking you to complete some personality profiles as well as some cognitive testing. The cog tests are hard to game and pretty much impossible to study for – take a deep breath, work quickly and do your best. The personality profiles on the other hand are a little easier to game. Please know that these assessments come with “social desirability scales” and that if you try and make yourself look like a superhuman, I’m likely to dig a little deeper in the interview. What’s more, you really don’t know what we’re looking for. Every personality trait has strengths and weaknesses, so please don’t try and manufacture someone that you’re not. After all, the real you may be just who we’re looking for – warts and all.

I’m really looking forward to meeting you and I’ll enjoy the next few hours we’ll have to talk about your personal and professional preferences. Your would-be employer would not have gone to the time and expense to arrange this meeting for us if they were not serious about you. Knowing that, be your funny, quirky, talented self and come get this job.



Dr. Daniel Crosby

BIO: Educated at Brigham Young and Emory Universities, Dr. Daniel Crosby is President of IncBlot Organizational Psychology, a consultancy whose vision is to “flood the Earth skills for living and leading.” IncBlot’s clients include NASA, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, RS Funds, Guardian Life Insurance, and Grant Thornton.

Dr. Crosby has been featured in the Huffington Post, Registered Rep, Risk Management Magazine and regularly contributes thought leadership for Monster, CareerBuilder and Glassdoor. You can follow Daniel on Twitter @incblot, like the IncBlot FB page here ( or visit their website at

Why You're Always the Interviewee and Never Hired

I just finished interviewing potential hires for two open positions at my company, and I was reminded why I founded Come Recommended in the first place.

Back in 2009 when Come Recommended launched, it was a professional networking site for internship and entry-level job candidates and employers. But in order to gain access to the community, all members (including employers) had to “come recommended.”

Our technology allowed potential members to send recommendation invites, which brought recommenders to a page that first asked for their relationship to the candidate or employer and then provided a specific set of questions depending on that relationship. Unlike LinkedIn, Come Recommended members couldn’t choose whether or not to show these recommendations…they immediately appeared on the member’s profile after the recommender hit Submit. Once a member had three recommendations (good or bad), they were granted full access to Come Recommended’s online community.

Why all the trouble just to get into a networking site? Because I was fed up with the exact reason I’m writing this post today: Candidates often look great on paper, only to disappoint majorly at some point during the hiring process. Even though Come Recommended is now a content marketing and digital PR consultancy (I know, complete change of direction), I still find myself butting heads with this issue.

I am convinced — as I have been for a long time — that many more people would be employed if they just took a closer look at what they might be doing “wrong” during their job search.

Instead, they get angry and blame employers and hiring managers for their troubles. Don’t get me wrong, there are way too many companies out there looking for the “perfect” candidate they will never find. But you need to take control of your job search — your career — if you ever hope to be happily employed. And that might even mean paying someone (oh, the horror!) to help you perfect your application materials and hone your job searching skills. Believe it or not, career coaches and resume writers exist to help you — and have valuable skills worth paying for.

I wish I was wrong, I really do. I wish candidates that truly weren’t a good fit for my position looked just as bad on paper as they do during the interview process. Trust me, it would save me a lot of valuable time. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And that’s not to say these folks aren’t a great fit for some other position out there — they very likely are — but not mine, which is my primary concern.

For one of the two positions I had open, I interviewed approximately 25 people — and had zero problem narrowing the list down to three after interviewing everyone. By their experience on paper (or in this case, their LinkedIn profiles), all 25 should have made excellent hires for this particular position. Why didn’t they? Here are just a few examples:

  • Nervous laughing: I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and call it nervous laughing, although one candidate was laughing so hard during the entire interview that I thought I was being punked on a radio show.
  • Going for a world “you know” record: How many times can someone say “you know” in the same sentence? Six, apparently. In. The. Same. Sentence!
  • Disliking a virtual working environment: One of the questions I ask candidates is what they liked most and what they liked least about their previous positions. One candidate told me she disliked working in a virtual (sometimes called remote or telecommute) environment…which Come Recommended happens to be. (This is made clear in all our job ads.)
  • Calling from a rave: Not one, but two candidates I interviewed had loud music and conversations going on in the background of their interviews. While I can’t confirm they were clubbing, it sure sounded like it.
  • Putting me on hold: Yes, that’s right, one candidate put me on hold for a while to confer with someone else in the room before answering a question.
  • Telling me your life story: The first question I ask candidates is the ol’ “tell me about yourself.” Your answer to this question should be anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Two candidates took 30 minutes (yes, minutes) to respond.
  • Never leaving your script: I have a feeling one candidate got a hold of my full list of interview questions from another candidate…because she stopped me at one point and told me I “missed one” that she really wanted to answer. She proceeded to tell me what the question was and clearly read her answer to it from a piece of paper.
  • Not truly wanting to work for my company: Nothing gets my attention more than a candidate who tells me she’d rather be in grad school or working at a law firm than my company. (Sarcasm.)

Unfortunately, this list could go on…and on. Some of you reading this might not even believe these stories because they seem too (trying not to write “stupid”)…unbelievable. I would never do something like that, you’re thinking. Really, are you sure? What I find unbelievable is that people would purposely tank job interviews. Perhaps it’s time you evaluate what you could be doing wrong in the eyes of hiring managers and recruiters…and do something about it.

3 Job Search Tips You've Probably Never Heard

Today, job search advice is available everywhere online. You’ve probably read the obvious tips: prepare for your interview, tailor your resume and cover letter, network with industry professionals, etc. But, what are some of the tips that aren’t as readily available online? Here are some job search tips you’ve probably never heard:

Don’t job search, company search

  • Don’t focus on the quantity of job openings you’re applying for, strive for quality instead. By narrowing your search to ideal organizations, you can build relationships within those companies and have a better chance at landing a job interview. After all, networking is one of the top ways to land a new job—but you knew that, right?

Spend more time following-up than applying

  • Sure, you need to spend a great deal of time tailoring your resume, writing your cover letter and filling out additional information requested by a potential employer. But you also need to be proactive in your job search by keeping track of your applications and following-up to show you’re passionate about the position. You can easily be lost in the “black hole” of job boards and applicant tracking systems. Sometimes, this means the hiring manager never actually sees your resume. Follow-up can be the key to standing out from the crowd (not everyone does it) and gaining an employer’s attention.
  • I recommend stating that you will follow-up within one week in your cover letter. If you don’t hear back beforehand, shoot the hiring manager an email to inquire about the position. Don’t follow-up too often – as that can often irritate a busy hiring manager – once per week for 3-4 weeks is plenty.

Focus on building and maintaining your personal brand

  • With loads of resumes, cover letters and online applications for each open position, you can understand how a hiring manager has difficulty deciding which candidate would be best for the position. They obviously don’t have time to interview everyone to determine fit, so they probably rely on employee referrals, computer applications that sort applicants based on keywords, and standout candidates who know their strengths.
  • Be a standout job applicant by clearly conveying your personal brand in your job search documents – and identifying how your skills and qualifications can benefit the organization. Although this takes time and effort, it can pay off tremendously in your job search. It might just be the edge you need to land your dream opportunity.

What unique job search tips have worked in your career? Anything job seekers should absolutely avoid doing in their search?

Photo: Christina @

8 Secrets to Getting Informational Interviews

Informational interviews have a number of things going against them. They sound boring, ineffective and most importantly are hard to get. However, in reality, they aren’t hard to get at all and, if leveraged effectively, will increase your chances of finding and being considered for jobs, especially the “hidden” ones.

Unfortunately, many job seekers fail to request the interviews properly and as a result, actually turn off or lose the “interviewee” altogether. Here are eight secrets for effectively requesting and successfully getting informational interviews:

1. Email, don’t call. Emailing or sending a message via LinkedIn allows the recipient to choose to respond at their own leisure and doesn’t interrupt their schedule.

2. Make GRAMMAR your new best friend. I know we all use spell-check nowadays, but honestly, proofread anything and everything you write to any professional. It doesn’t matter how well they write, they have a job and you don’t yet, so make sure everything from punctuation to capitalization is perfect. If possible, ask someone else you trust to read your outgoing messages to these professionals just for outside perspective. This is especially important if English is not your first language.

3. Hook them with your subject line. No matter how you know the person you want to contact, the subject of your message has to be personal and direct to catch their attention and move them to read it. If you don’t know the person, consider using “John – Question from a Student” or “John – Request for Informational Interview.” If you do know them, I recommend “John – Request from Chris Perry” or if you don’t know them personally, but went to the same college or have something in common, I recommend something along the lines of “John – Request from a W&M Student.”

4. Briefly introduce yourself. In a short first paragraph, state your name, who you are and what you are doing. Remember, busy people don’t have time to read long messages. Keep it short, sweet and to the point.

5. Command the common ground. If someone who knows them has referred you or you have something significant in common with the person (i.e. college, professional organization), make sure to include this at the end of your first paragraph or at the beginning of your second. A stronger connection or link between you both can only help you get the interview.

6. They know you want a job, so don’t ask for one! In your next paragraph, this is where you make the direct request for the informational interview; however, DON’T ask them upfront for help to get you a job in their company, as they already know you’re interested in opportunities in their company or you wouldn’t be contacting them. I recommend you make it more about them and ask them for the opportunity to speak about THEIR career, how THEY got involved in it, THEIR company and/or its culture.

7. NEVER send your resume to them with your initial request. This looks presumptuous and inconsiderate and your resume just implies that you expect them to take time to look at it and more time to send it to the right person BEFORE they have even had a chance to “yes” or “no” to your request. If you are emailing them, include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your signature, and if you are sending a message via LinkedIn, there is no need, as you are already on that network. Let them be the one that request more information from you.

8. Don’t Forget Your Contact Info. Make sure to have a professional email/message signature with all possible methods of contact listed. This way, you look good, but they can also get in touch with you in whatever way they prefer. You might even tastefully include a link to your LinkedIn profile, personal website or other supporting media online. This is more appropriate than a resume, because it offers them the option of seeking more info about you.

Chris Perry, MBA is a Gen Y brand and marketing generator, a career search and personal branding expert and the founder of Career Rocketeer, Launchpad, Blogaristo and more.

Delve Into Phil Simon's "The New Small"

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with TalentCulture’s good friend, Phil Simon about his new book “The New Small”. Phil has written two other books: Why New Systems Fail and The Next Wave of Technologies. A recognized technology expert, he consults with companies on how to optimize technology use. His contributions have been featured in The Globe and MailComputerWorld, ZDNet, New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites. Phil is also a popular speaker about emerging trends and technologies.

Why did you write this book?

  • As I mention in the Preface of the book, I saw a need. Many small business owners are awash in a sea of technological choices. They are too busy to research all of these technologies themselves. While my book is certainly no reference manual, it lays out options and provides advice that would take a long time—and a great deal of money—to learn on their own. There are many opportunities out there; many small business owners simply aren’t aware of them.

What’s the difference between how small businesses approach technology (especially collaboration tools) and the traditional enterprise approach?

  • In a nutshell, small businesses (SBs) tend to experiment more. They’ll try out a tool like Yammer, for example, on an individual basis. If it catches on, it will be adopted throughout the company. It’s less “top-down” than the traditional enterprise approach. What’s more, if something else comes along that offers superior functionality, SBs will experiment with that tool as well, utilizing what’s best from each. There’s no corporate edict that “all people must use X” even though X doesn’t have key functionality.

How can managers start with their own teams on the cheap/free to handle their communication needs?

  • I interviewed a lot of business owners and managers for The New Small. It’s given me great insight into what managers do—and how they do it. These managers aren’t sure about what’s best, so they don’t pretend to have all of the answers. They encourage employees to find the right tools. Once something reaches critical mass, they’ll give it a shot.  Today, so many products are based on the “freemium” model; it’s rare now that you have to sign a traditional contract with a vendor before you can kick the tires on collaborative tools. These companies embrace IM tools such as Meebo, calling tools like Skypeand GoogleVoice, and simple hardware like webcams, Smartphones, and digital cameras.

It reads on your website that you’re an independent technology consultant. There are lots of people out there that would love to get into consulting, but aren’t sure about the first steps. What are some essentials for anyone who wants to get into consulting?

  • As I write in The New Small, many people begin contracting almost involuntarily. They’d like a full-time job but can’t find one in this economy. As for requirements, I can tell you about the essentials: a website, errors and omissions insurance, financial and accounting software, a healthy network of recruiters and friends keeping an eye out for you, potential incorporation, and the like. More than that, however, one needs to know appropriate rates. It’s hard to know what your worth and, admittedly, it’s more art than science. Sometimes you take less than you can get. Most important, you need to have a personality that accepts high highs and low lows. You won’t get a steady paycheck. Be prepared for the feast or famine world of independent life.

Historically, big technology had the advantage because it was safe and reliable. “Nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM” is the old saying. But now, it seems like small tech has the edge. How can that be? What changed?

  • Many things changed:
  • Broadband exploded.
  • Storage costs plummeted.
  • Freemium took off as a business model.
  • A massive wave of innovation occurred.
  • Other tech events and trends made the New Small possible.
  • Factor in a drop in job security and a desire for people to do their own thing and suddenly it’s hip to start your own company.

How realistic is it to want to start your own business in today’s world? What are some things to consider before starting your own business?
  • It’s very realistic. It happens every day. As I point out in the book, technology has drastically changed in the last five years. There are viable ways to minimize up-front costs, always a good idea when you’re hanging your own shingle. What’s more, social media allows companies to reduce often ineffective marketing expenditures.
Are there certain things in today’s world that make starting you own business a good idea?

  • Sure. The founders of the companies profiled in the book all were searching for something different—an alternative to traditional corporate life. There’s more flexibility being your own boss. You get a fundamental sense of satisfaction from working for yourself, and you can pursue ventures that you find worthwhile. There’s always been a sense in this country that you can succeed on your own terms. Technology today has made that easier, although the challenges of the current economy cannot be understated.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who have just started or planning to start their own business?

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment or fail. Einsten said something along the lines of, “If you want to increase your success rate, fail more often.” This couldn’t be more true today–particularly with respect to small businesses.  Also, get away from technologies that no longer meet your needs. Whether it’s ERP, CRM, a content management system (CMS), or whatever, see if there’s something better out there. Then try it out!
Do you have any tips for managing projects in the New Small?

  • Yes. Go agile. These companies do not use Waterfall-based methods. They can’t wait a year to see if something is conceptually sound. Throw something against the wall and see what you like and what you don’t.  Also, don’t reinvent the wheel. See what open source and off-the-shelf tools exist. Use existing APIs and modules to extend functionalty.
Could you please tell us, what businesses have inspired you? Also, what’s exactly this “new breed”?

  • In short, the owners of these companies inspired me a great deal. They weren’t afraid to break away from old tools and techniques that have worked for them and taken them to a certain point.  This new breed is open, experimental, and curious. They are constantly pushing the envelope and refuse to manage by routine. You’ll never hear “that’s not the way we do things here.” They’re a dynamic bunch of companies that, as you see in the book, is doing some amazing things.
In the first chapter of the book, which is available for free preview at your Web site, you call the present situation “the era of constant technological change.” In your opinion is there a difference between the way large enterprises and smaller companies respond to it? If so, what are the main challenges that small businesses face?
  • For political, legal, and financial reasons, big companies often cannot get away from technologies that no longer work for them. Small companies don’t have that problem. The world is their oyster. Yet, that very freedom can easily become chaos. Fortunately, the New Small is able to strike a balance, getting the benefits of amazing new technologies in the process.
Why do you think the emerging technologies, such as social media or cloud computing, are a perfect match for the needs of small businesses?

  • Many reasons. For one, they scale quite easily. No longer does a business need to predict “just how much” technology it will need. Second, success begets success. You can dip your toe in the pool before you jump in. Finally, with the Freemium model, you can test-drive technologies before making the jump.
What do you hope to impart on the world with The New Small?

  • In short, that it’s better to be small. Progressive small businesses are doing some amazing things. The book tells their stories; it’s not a theoretical or abstract text by any stretch. Once you see what these companies are doing, you’ll want to experiment with some of the same methods and technologies.

What? No Skype Interviews? #TChat Recap

That was most surprising to me in last night’s #TChat on interviewing.  The fact that most of the participants didn’t think live webcam interviewing was viable.

Here’s a quote: “Skype interviewing is like buying a car on EBay. Saves a trip, but not always worth the hassle.”

Why is it such a hassle?  I understand the U.S. still falls behind other nations in big Internet bandwidth and solid connectivity, but between basic Internet connections, webcams and Skype to Cisco’s TelePresence Meeting Solutions, we can connect so easily these days live and in person without really being “in person”.

Even smaller firms are hiring remote, virtual teams around the world, and it’s just not fiscally feasible to fly folks in for face-to-face interviews.

Phone screening works well for early-on interviews, but a lot of non-verbal queues are missed when you can’t see the person — and that goes for interviewer and interviewee.  Sure you can “sense” verbal queues via tone and responses, but there’s still interpretation lost without “seeing”.

I thank Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter for having my back:  “I think Skyping will become a ‘norm’ for interviewing; is fairly comfy, easy venue, in my experience. Just go to quiet room, dial up.”

Right on.

Otherwise most participants last night agreed that better interview preparation for employer and applicant are necessary to improve the potential hiring exchange rate.

I agree with one of Meghan’s final points:  “Key take away = Questions should be open — ended; avoid questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”

That’s the basic premise to behavioral interviewing — probing past performance with scenario-based questions will predict future performance.  You’re not going to get much insight when you ask an applicant “tell what your strengths and weaknesses are.”  But you will when you discover how the applicant acted in specific employment-related situations.

One other point I liked from last night was the fact that interviewing, at least early-stage interviewing, is more about screening out those who don’t make the cut versus identifying hiring potential of those who do.

Here were the questions we asked last night:

  • Q1: Why are interviews so important in the screening and hiring process?
  • Q2: Why are so many employers and applicants “bad” at interviews?
  • Q3: What are the advantages and disadvantages to phone screening?
  • Q4: How much are employers using live video calls for virtual team interviews (Skype)?
  • Q5: Why are behavioral interviews better than traditional interviews?
  • Q6: It’s been said that even the best applicants can train to even best a behavioral interview.  What to do?
  • Q7: How can emotional intelligence be assessed in behavioral interviews?  And can it be?
  • Q8: Any interviews gone bad stories?  Do spill.  I will repeat them in the recap.

I’m going to probe question 7 more in another post, but in the meantime, here’s a Monster article on the subject of interviewing and emotional intelligence.  And it’s hard to tell stories in Twitter because it takes a lot more space that 140 characters, so if any of you want to send me your “interviews gone bad” stories for future fun recapping, please send to me at kgrossman (at) marcomhrsay (dot) com.

The stats from last night were again fantastic.  Who says you can’t engage on Twitter?  We had well over 100 people participating in the actual #TChat hour contributing over 1,200 tweets.


Meghan and her savvy TalentCulture team, the TC community and little ol’ me, are again very grateful for you all and for your participation.  You gave us some great ideas for future topics and we look forward to next week already!

Here are some insightful #TChat tweets from last night:

Interviewing: #TChat Preview

Our last #TChat before Thanksgiving was all about assessments.

What was resoundingly clear was the fact that face-to-face interviews were preferred when making hiring decisions, as opposed to using assessments from last week’s chatters. We are still weighing the verdict and will simply keep exploring this.

So Meghan and I decided that the in’s and out’s of interviewing would be the topic for the next #TChat tomorrow, 11/30/10, from 8-9 p.m. ET & 7-8 p.m. CT & 6-7 p.m MT & 5-6 p.m. PT. Remember we welcome global input! Join in from wherever you might be

We’ve got a great group of savvy recruiters, careerists, human resource folk, fascinating leaders, media mavens and hiring managers in our greater TalentCulture community, so we look forward to a festively raucous Twitter discussion on the subject.

Because most “hiring” professionals don’t know know how to objectively interview very well at all.  I would argue that some of the worst hiring decisions are made via interviews.  Yep, I said it.  So bring it.  Plus, most job applicants don’t prepare, at all, for their interviews.

Just ask a few of our resident career experts, Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter and Chris Perry and others….We love this stuff.

We’ll also throw in a shout or two for emotional intelligence (our first #TChat topic) and how that plays a role in interviewing today.

Wherever you stand on interviews and interviewing, there are best practices to follow and we hope to unravel those mysteries in our next #TChat.

Use your favorite Twitter client of choice to follow the lively #TChat hashtag or use to TweetChat and log in with your Twitter handle.

We’ll see you there!  Come subjectively unprepared.  You know, like for an interview.