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Great Hires Are Better Than Frequent Fires: How Smart Recruiting Helps

Sponsored by: RocketReach

Hiring teams know just how hard it is to find candidates who hit the mark with both soft skills and technical skills.  Ideally, a new hire brings the majority of the hard skills required to do the job well. But soft skills are equally important, if not more important, depending on your company’s philosophy. In combination, hard and soft skills allow for a highly productive team and culturally rich environment.  So, how do you identify these powerhouse candidates? This is when smart recruiting tactics can make a strategic impact.

Why? Finding and placing high-performing candidates should be every HR professional’s primary goal. But if recruiting focuses more on an individual’s experience than their ability to enhance your culture or have the right attitude to learn, that hire could likely be a mismatch long term. How can you avoid this? To illustrate, let’s look closer at how we approach hiring at RocketReach

Smart Recruiting: Why Prioritize Soft Skills?

Of course, every job depends on a core technical or business skill set. However, we over-index on culture and behavioral skills because a candidate’s character matters, here. Well, not just here, but in all successful, people-first organizations.

A candidate with great skills requires less on-the-job training. But someone who’s a great cultural fit often possesses untrainable qualities that embody an organization’s values and vision. So it’s wise to get a read on each candidate’s potential to adapt to your culture and perform well with the team. 

What exactly is at stake? Well, according to a new SHRM report, over the past five years, 20% of Americans left a job because the company culture was bad. In fact, the cost of this turnover is estimated at more than $223 billion.

Here are several more findings to consider: 56% of Americans now say they feel less-than-fulfilled at work, while 26% say they dread going to work each day. In today’s talent market, finding an ideal candidate may not be easy. But hiring a strong candidate who also fits your company culture is arguably just as important (if not more so!) as hiring someone just because they have the desired level of experience.

How Smart Recruiting Leads to a Stronger Culture

Clearly, it’s important to build and sustain a people-first company culture. But how can smart recruiting help determine if a candidate is (or isn’t) a good “fit”?

1. Understand Your Work Culture

When considering your company’s culture, don’t just analyze intangible items like general employee vibes. Also include your leadership structure, core mission and vision, office environment, feedback and performance review processes, as well as overall interpersonal communication styles. These and other factors contribute to the relationships within your team and how the company is investing in its people. They also influence employee retention and how others perceive your organization.

Harvard Business Review agrees that a carefully crafted positive company culture helps develop workforce well-being. At this point, we all know how important culture is for working professionals. Every employee touchpoint, from onboarding to offboarding, influences how your organization’s culture affects your employees. As a result, people rank workplace well-being higher in importance than monetary compensation or material benefits. So, culture deserves to be top-of-mind with each new hire. 

2. Identify Characteristics That Map to Your Culture

Once you’ve clarified your company culture, let’s assume you want to sustain it. Using your analysis, you can identify the characteristics of current employees who are thriving. You can also compare and contrast those characteristics with previous employees who are better suited to a different culture. 

On the other hand, if you’d like to improve your culture, you can start identifying candidates whose soft skills align with your desired organizational direction.

For example, say your workforce is fully remote. This means collaboration is probably more challenging than in a traditional office environment. You may want to focus on candidates who demonstrate that they’re self-starters with a strong sense of resourcefulness, self-efficacy, and proactive ownership

Or, if your company’s mission and values emphasize diversity and inclusion, you may want to focus on candidates who are open-minded, adaptable, and have a curious approach to problem-solving. Try targeting candidates who seem resistant to change and more accepting of those with different backgrounds and ideas.

Of course, the idea of cultural alignment isn’t new. For example, a popular 2005 personnel study that is still cited today concluded that when employee characteristics align with company culture, their job satisfaction and performance are also stronger.

3. Interview With Alignment In Mind

After you understand the qualities a candidate needs to be successful in a given role, it’s time for interviews. Along with questions that evaluate hard skills, what are some questions you should ask to determine a candidate’s soft skills?

  1. What about our organization made you want to apply for this position?
    Pay attention to the enthusiasm and focus of each candidate’s answers. Did your benefits seem particularly attractive? Was it your company brand or careers page? Or was it the job description, itself? Do the candidate’s personal values align with your company’s? Each answer is a clue about the individual’s perspective, motivations and interests. This can determine how closely a candidate’s values align with your team’s and how you can sell them on these things down the line if they are a great fit
  2. What does your ideal next role look like?
    This can tell a recruiter tons about the type of environment in which a candidate will thrive. Do they envision working independently or in a group? What main responsibilities does this person want to own and enjoy most? Are they hoping to grow in mentorship or people management?? This can show you if your current team and environment fit the candidate’s needs.
  3. If one of your colleagues disagreed with you in front of a group during a board meeting or a meeting with leadership, how would you handle this?
    Sharing a hypothetical question about a challenging situation and asking for a suggested solution can reveal someone’s ability to listen and collaborate, think critically, and have the right attitude under pressure.
  4. Tell me about a time when you felt an employer’s culture didn’t suit your needs. Why do you believe it wasn’t the right fit for you?
    Sometimes a direct approach is the best approach. Pay careful attention to see what the answer reveals about the potential fit with your current culture (or the culture you’re working to achieve).

There are a million ways to ask interview questions that focus on soft skills and culture. But whatever questions you choose, make sure you tailor each to your company values and needs.

Hiring managers will understand the characteristics that align with an open position and the overall company culture. This frees you to get creative and keep interviews candid and human. The less “cookie cutter” your questions, the better they will serve your talent strategy in the long run. More importantly, ensure that your interview teams are trained to over-index on culture and company values – that way everyone is looking through a people-first lens. So whether you’re conducting a pre-screening interview, or you’re in a final-round group interview, put your culture front-and-center. 

3 Principles for Hiring in The Great Resignation Era

These past 20 months have seen a monumental shift within the hiring market. The balance of power is now tipped away from employers and  now leans toward candidates. In The Great Resignation era, employees are willfully resigning their jobs by the millions. Given the greater risk of turnover, it is now more imperative than ever that employers understand how to hire the right candidates for the right roles — a goal they can better achieve by focusing on three key principles for hiring in The Great Resignation era: pre-interview preparation, interviewer question technique, and the interviewer’s listening skills.  

Hiring Mistakes Aren’t Cheap

Even before The Great Resignation began, research indicated that a single hiring mistake at the management level could cost a company $1.5 million or more, annually — an average of 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Poor hiring decisions also decrease organizational productivity and workforce morale.

In their New York Times Bestselling book, Who: The A Method for Hiring, authors Geoff Smart and Randy Street share a number of best practices for avoiding common hiring mistakes during the interview process. As a Certified Forensic Interviewer, I see the three principles within this book as especially applicable for hiring during The Great Resignation — starting with pre-interview preparation.  

1. Pre-Interview Preparation: The Ideal Candidate Profile

Companies must ensure their interview process is designed to bring the best candidates to the fore. That process begins with what the “Who” authors call, “the scorecard”: a document which describes the organization’s hiring goals. Put another way, your company needs to ask the question, “What does our ideal candidate profile look like?” 

Answering this question can help the interviewer establish consistent guidelines for evaluating each candidate. The company should not build its candidate profile around the tasks that they want the candidate to execute. Instead, they should build it around the outcomes that the organization wants them to achieve. Once the outcomes are established, the interviewer can then identify the skills and attributes the candidate must possess to achieve those outcomes. 

Without a clearly established profile, interviewers may over-prioritize factors such as years of industry-specific experience and education or end up comparing candidates to one another instead of measuring how well each candidate’s skills and attributes match with the ideal candidate profile. 

2. Interview Questions & Technique

The kinds of questions an interviewer asks during hiring play an outsized role in the responses they receive–and, therefore, hiring outcomes. Several commonly used techniques can muddy the interviewer’s understanding of the candidate’s skills:

Behavioral Questions 

This type of question often starts with the phrase, “tell me about a time.” However, this opener gives the candidate leeway to take poetic license with their answer or to provide a canned response. 

To avoid this issue, an interviewer should rephrase questions to ask about specific times, events, or people.  Key phrases like, “when was the first time,” “when was the last time,” or “what was the most difficult time?” help prompt less generalized responses. The interviewer will also gain a clearer behavioral read as the candidate answers the question. 

Compound Questions

One of the other big mistakes interviewers make is asking the candidate long, compound questions a series of questions instead of one. A compound question looks something like this: “Please tell me about a time you experienced conflict with one of your supervisors and what the conflict was about and how it started and how it made you feel?”  

An interviewer should ask one question at a time. This helps ensure the candidate answers the question and that the interviewer remains fully attentive throughout their answer. Once the candidate finishes their reply, the interviewer can ask any necessary follow up questions.

Questions With Implied Answers

Questions with a clearly implied “correct” answer are among the least useful. Examples include asking a candidate if they are able to perform a particular job function — asking an accounting candidate, for instance, if they know how to use Quickbooks. The candidate knows the answer the interviewer wants to hear, and will, in all likelihood, give that response.

Rather than asking about abilities, an interviewer should consider adding experiential elements to the interview process. For example,  if a job requires experience with a certain software, an interviewer might ask candidates to perform a task using that software. They can ask the candidate for a demonstration during the interview, or as a follow up.

3. Interviewer Listening Skills: Creating a Focused Environment

Interviewers often make up their minds about candidates’ strengths or weaknesses based solely on reviewing their resumes. These expectations create biases during the interview process. An interviewer might forgive poor answers if they believe they are speaking with a strong candidate. Vice versa, they may over-index on poor answers if they think they’re speaking with a weaker candidate. 

As an interviewer listens to each candidate they should pay close attention to specific word choices and apparent comfort-levels. They should take note of the way candidates describe their ideas and experiences. Does the candidate sound confident? Do they use appropriate, industry-specific terminology? Do they appear more comfortable answering some questions than others?

Ideally, an interviewer will not just listen attentively, but take a disciplined listening approach. Disciplined listening requires the interviewer to remain focused on their prime objective: finding the candidate most likely to help the company achieve its long-term objectives. It calls for interviewers to limit their internal monologues and to unearth the true value each candidate has to offer.

The Importance of Strategic Interviewing

As companies navigate the dynamics of the The Great Resignation, it’s important for interviewers to implement a solid pre-interview strategy for hiring the ideal candidate. Interviewers must refine their questioning technique and create an environment in which to focus and listen to each candidate. With these three considerations in mind, organizations can hire the right candidate for the right role, even in these difficult times.

What Generation Z Expects from the Candidate Experience

Generation Z is moving into the workforce, causing more disruption in the job market. They’ve arrived during record-low unemployment and when the search for talent at all levels is extremely competitive.

These workers, the oldest of whom were born in the mid-1990s, may be the first digital natives your company hires, and the role of technology during their candidate experience will be crucial. It’s also something that many employers get wrong.

“When thinking about what Gen Z expects from the candidate experience, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘not much,’ ” says Kendall Hill, co-founder of Job Society. “I know that sounds kind of odd because we’re told that they hope for a lot and expect a lot. But what they’ve experienced so far is telling them to set their bar very low.”

The impersonal reality that these candidates are facing is the opposite of what they’re asking for when it comes to applying for open positions.

Struggling with Application Tech

One chief concern is the overabundance of automation in the application process. A reliance on keyword filters, extensive lists of requirements and other elements that treat applicants like a checklist are making the process feel unwelcoming.

“We see this across generations, from boomers to Gen Z candidates,” says Stephanie Ranno, director of enterprise business development at TorchLight Hire. “When you’re applying online using an applicant tracking system or going through an aggregator, it’s easy to apply to massive amounts of jobs and even easier to hear nothing back.”

Unfortunately, some of Generation Z’s tech expectations can compound this concern. This generation mostly grew up with a smartphone or tablet in their hands, so they expect the application process and the candidate experience will be mobile-friendly.

Looking for Connection and Confirmation

As with applicants from previous generations, members of Generation Z are hoping to hear from a live human within the first few steps of an application. As the process drags on to multiple rounds of emails — or recent trends like having candidates record a video of themselves answering interview questions — Gen Z candidates can get frustrated and drop out of the running for that position.

“I’ve talked with candidates who have applied to more than 100 jobs in a few weeks, but they only hear back from two. The fact that they’re excited just to get an auto-response is telling of how employers are treating job seekers,” Hill says.

This desire for personal interaction speaks to the values that members of Gen Z hold and of what they want from an employer.

“They want to believe in your company’s mission and find the work meaningful,” Ranno says. “More than catered lunches and more than foosball tables, Gen Z is asking ‘What do I get as a person and how will I receive it from my employer?’ ”

Interviewing You Too

In past tight job markets, recruiters and staffing agencies were often able to place candidates sight-unseen. Companies needed help and candidates were just happy to have found work. While the market is hot today, Gen Z candidates are pushing back against this trend.

“They’re not willing to take just any position, even temporary assignments, without having a vote and evaluating the company just as much as the company is evaluating them,” Hill says. “They don’t want to be treated like a commodity.”

That shift is found across demographics and is viewed as a reaction to the employer-driven candidate experience of the past recession. However, for many members of Generation Z, it’s the only job environment they’ve known.

“Gen Z is used to Yelping everything. Do their friends like something? Do strangers like it? What do past employees say? They’re reference-checking you during the job hunt,” Ranno says.

Learning About Paying Their Dues

According to Pew research, Generation Z is on a path to being the most diverse and best-educated generation ever. That’s already bleeding into the workplace in a way that can frustrate both job seekers and employers.

“This might be limited to Washington, D.C., and other major markets, but we see many in Gen Z move here with unrealistic expectations about what roles their education can allow them to take right away,” Hill says. “Education isn’t a golden ticket to the best job a company has, and we need to teach Gen Z that it’s OK to walk in and secure a more entry-level position.”

These perspectives build interestingly on Glassdoor’s list of the jobs that Gen Z is applying to most:
1. Software engineer
2. Software developer
3. Sales associate
4. Mechanical engineer
5. Data analyst
6. Business analyst
7. Engineer
8. Receptionist
9. Investment banking analyst
10. Financial analyst

The majority of these positions require significant education qualifications, even in entry-level positions. Employers may need to work with job seekers and justify the reason for intense requirements in job descriptions or during the interview process. However, that type of discussion and reasoning could be a positive way for a company to create the personal connection applicants desire.

Finding Respect Together

The underlying theme of Generation Z’s expectations for the candidate experience is also something that hiring managers seek out during the hiring process: respect.

“Gen Z candidates want a little more, and look for a mutual relationship,” Ranno says. “Social media defines the way they interact, and companies need to recognize this. The customer-facing work they do also shows what kind of employees they want and sets how these employees expect to be treated.”

One of the most significant hurdles facing both employer and applicant is learning how to be respectful in a changing business setting, Hill says. “Many Gen Z workers are still learning professionalism, office etiquette and what makes a professional email different than a text message. Employers need to be willing to help educate and support them as they get over these hurdles,” he says.

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.

photo credit: Phone Talkin via photopin (license)

5 Tells Your Candidate Might Be Lying

Liar liar, pants on fire? Not always. In interviews, it can be hard to know if a candidate is outright lying or merely stretching the truth. Do they really mean what they say? Luckily, you don’t have to be the Mentalist to figure out if what a candidate is saying is true.

New research indicates most people have good instincts when it comes to spotting a lie. But even if you don’t, these body language secrets can help you tell:

1. Their voice changes.

When someone is lying, their voice adjusts. Start the interview by asking the candidate basic questions like their name, where they’re from and how they heard about the position.

Pay attention to how the candidate responds, because this can help you determine if their voice changes later on. Of course, this can be affected by nerves. But if their voice dramatically changes, it could be a sign they’re not telling the truth.

2. They look away.

Candidates who are lying may feel uncomfortable looking their interviewer in the eye. While answering the question, they may look down at their hands or across the room. During a video interview, they may look away from the camera.

 Or vice versa, the candidate may go overboard with eye contact in an attempt to seem genuine. If during the interview the candidate leans into the camera and seems a little too genuine, it could be fake.

3. Their breathing changes.

Lying causes a physiological change in a person’s body. Their heart rate and blood flow literally change. This can cause a change in breathing, as well as the feelings of being tense or uncomfortable. Additionally, your mouth literally dries up when you’re uncomfortable. If a candidate starts breathing shallowly or swallowing a lot during the interview, they could be lying.

4. Their posture changes.

People who are lying may shift abruptly, lean back or stiffen up. In a video interview, posture is harder to determine, so keep an eye on the candidate’s hands. If they are using their hands to cover their mouth or throat, it means the candidate is literally closing themselves off from the truth.

Look too at how they hold themselves. Do they seem relaxed and comfortable? Or are they stiff and uptight?

5. They overshare.

People who are lying often fabricate more details than necessary in order to make their story seem more truthful. They may think the more information they give, the more likely you are to believe it.

If what a candidate is saying doesn’t match what their body is doing, they may not be telling the truth. Pay attention during the interview to make sure you find a candidate who is the perfect fit for the position.

Also, try to use unique, out-of-the-box questions that will throw a candidate off their carefully-planned game and get at the truth of their passion and cultural fit. Everyone comes to an interview prepared to discuss their past experiences and what they can bring to an organization, so think of some questions specific to your organization that will have a candidate thinking on their feet.

What are other ways to tell if someone is lying or stretching the truth?

About the Author: Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. You can connect with Josh on Twitter.

photo credit: The Wolf via photopin cc

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 

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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 Recruiter.com. 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.

photo credit: Brevort via photopin cc

Harsh Truths To Become A Better Recruiter

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies” – Larry Bossidy

The phrase you are what you eat translates nicely to recruitment. Companies are built on great employees – hiring is therefore the most important thing we do. There are so many recruitment channels in today’s digital society that it’s increasingly difficult to stop some stuff slipping through the cracks.

This is by no means an indictment on the state of recruitment, but there is always room for change, room for innovation — if a shark stops swimming it will die; constant improvement is the only way to become a better recruiter.

Your job adverts aren’t helping

Automation is great, right? With just one click your job ad can be in front of thousands of eager candidates. The problem? The rules are different now. There is no horde of active candidates waiting to find your jobs and apply. Adverts tend to be presented in employer-centric terms; there’s little focus on genuine engagement.

Do away with costly advertising and focus less on products that let you post your job to hundreds of boards with one click — less than half of recruiters think the current system works well anyway.

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There is a clear information assymetry here. Recruiters are struggling to connect with the best candidates — neither party is satisfied.

Better LinkedIn research means better results

We all know how useful LinkedIn is to approach talent, but how often do you research the end user before you send that in-mail message? Carelessness at this stage can easily put candidates off.

Taking just five minutes to check if a candidate is the right fit for your organisation is all it takes.

– Do they have similar past employment — if you’re looking for a enterprise sales rep, do they have experience in the role?

– Do they have the right skills?

– Where are they based? We often overestimate a candidate’s willingness to take on a horrific commute or relocate. This alone doesn’t necessary rule a candidate out, but it should play a role in our decision.

There can be exceptions here, but candidates for whom you tick all the boxes here will be far more receptive to your approaches.

Your applications are too long

Would you want to apply for your job? It’s easy to hide behind the rhetoric that “the more you know about a candidate, the better placed we are to judge them.” Do we really need to know how many A’s they got at GCSE, though?

This is driving the increase in gamification — recent research suggests that by the end of 2014 more than 70% of the world’s largest companies will have at least one gamified application. L’Oreal saw significant success with its “Reveal” campaign. Allowing candidates to participate in the launch of a mock product, the game attracted more than 15,000 players — many of whom would never have considered applying.

Communicate better

Great hiring is so much more than just matching candidates with job descriptions. The best recruiters take time to get to know their candidates — find out what makes them tick, learn what they’re actually looking for. The problem? Currently most companies lack the framework to roll out this kind of continuous engagement process. Candidates slip through the cracks and are abandoned if they don’t meet company requirements.

Instead, by redirecting these candidates to a talent community we can continue to evaluate them and provide them with carefully curated content. Maybe there’s a different role that they would be better suited for? Maybe in six months time you will have more openings? A pool of engaged talent lets you develop an internal referral system. You already know whom you can hire before roles become available.

Interview like a pro

Behavioural competency interviews are not the gold standard. Following a strict playbook of questions that are designed to determine candidate suitability often leads to a leaden, unflexible process.

It’s still essential to determine that a candidate has the core skills that will allow them to succeed in your company. When you’ve established this, you should consider the idea of “hiring for cultural fit.” How will the applicant fit in with your team? Do you want to sit next to him/her for eight hours every day? Will he/she be invested in the business, or are you just a stepping stone? Finding answers to these questions lets you work out what kind of colleague he/she will be. Is he/she worth it?

Start following up. Now.

The treatment of candidates you don’t hire has never been more important. Hard-won recruiting reputations can be quickly damaged by disgruntled applicants on social media and review websites like Glassdoor.

At this stage a shocking 73.8% of the feedback candidates receive is little more than a standard template — hardly conducive to a great candidate experience. Taking a little time to correct this will help stem negative reviews and may even lead to unsuccessful applicants referring their friends.

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Hire Expectations: Finding the Right Person for the Right Job

Finding the right employee and retaining a successful team starts with a successful hiring process. How can you avoid common hiring problems and mistakes?

First steps

Effective hiring is the foundation for a thriving business. Turnover is expensive, so it’s essential to invest the proper amount of time needed to hire the right person. Many employee relations problems result from hiring the wrong person for the job, which can have a negative effect on both the morale and productivity of the entire team. Many times, employers are left wondering what went wrong when a new hire is not what they expected and lacked the necessary skills for the position.

Would it surprise you to learn that, in many cases, the decision to hire someone happens within the first five minutes of meeting him or her? Oftentimes, applicants are hired for their charm instead of their job-related knowledge, skills, and abilities. This kind of snap decision also happens when the applicant’s personality is similar to that of the interviewer.

There are even times (and they happen more frequently than you might assume) when the need for additional help is so dire that a practice will practically take the first candidate who can form a complete sentence. I refer to this as the “warm body” syndrome; that is, the thought of “a body” is better than having “no body.” It is exactly this type of hiring mistake that can lead to problems in the workplace.

The first step in making a successful hiring decision is to truly understand what is needed to perform the job. Refer to the position’s job description to ensure that you understand the position’s requirements. If no job description is available, discuss the open position with the staff member who knows the most about the position’s duties or with someone who holds a similar position at a colleague’s practice. After your discussion, create a written description.

Call for applications

Once you know what you need, it’s time to publicize the position. Applicants should be asked to submit an employment application with their résumé. The employment application will give you a snapshot of the applicant’s experience, previous earnings, and length of employment at previous jobs.

  • When reviewing employment applications, pay special attention to the following:
  • Omission of important items, such as experience.
  • Missing information or gaps in employment history.
  • Apparent inability to stick with a job for a reasonable time period.
  •  An 800 number listed as a personal phone number.
  • No contact information provided for previous employers.
  • Only friends and family listed as references.
  • “Victim-like” responses to questions on the employment application about why he or she left prior jobs, such as management complaints.
  • Questions about criminal convictions left blank.
  • Answers entered on the employment application that are inconsistent with the candidate’s résumé.
  • Failure to sign the application.

View such applications, as well as those that are incomplete, as potential “red flags.” It would be wise to pursue other applicants.

Pick up the phone

Once you have selected a pool of applicants, conduct a quick telephone interview before anyone is brought into the office. This step can help you to narrow the pool considerably and presents an opportunity to address any questions you have about the application or résumé, such as the applicant’s duties and responsibilities with a previous employer. The same questions should be asked of all applicants during the telephone interview; failure to do so can open the door to claims of discrimination.

Meet in-person

Preparation is key to avoiding mistakes during the interview. Before the candidate even arrives, prepare yourself for the interview by reviewing the job description. Develop interview questions in advance. Make sure that the room in which the interview will be conducted offers comfortable lighting and temperature.

Begin the interview by explaining the hiring procedure. This explanation will give the candidate a chance to become acclimated to his or her surroundings.

Once you begin the interview, ask pointed questions and let the applicant do most of the talking. As a rule of thumb, the applicant should talk 80 percent of the time. There are several ways to encourage applicants to talk:

  •  Avoid interrupting the candidate.
  • Paraphrase and reflect on the candidate’s comments, then ask follow-up questions.
  • Use silence. Silence is especially useful for the evasive candidate or one that is holding back information.
  • Communicate on the level of each applicant. Language and terminology used should match the job you are attempting to fill. For example, if you have an entry-level administrative position available, the interview questions should not be as technical as if you were interviewing for a dentist partner or associate position.

No matter how well you screen the candidates, be aware that you may be faced with someone who is completely unsuitable for the job. Some of these candidates may present specific challenges during the interview.

When the interview is complete, thank the applicant and ask whether he or she has any questions. Depending on your office policy, you should also indicate whether or when the applicant can expect a follow-up call or letter.

Check and recheck

After finding your dream employee, slow down and take the time to perform background and reference checks. Remember, you are bringing someone new into the inner sanctum of your practice.

One way to assess an applicant is to conduct reference checks. The upside of reference checks is that they give you a feel for how well the applicant performed at his or her previous jobs. However, due to increasing litigious concerns, many previous employers will provide only basic information, such as dates of employment, title, and rate of pay. As the information that you obtain may be limited, you should not base your final hiring decision solely on reference checks.

Most states require that a legitimate job offer be made prior to conducting a background check. However, not all states allow public access to statewide records information. Because of this variation, you should consult with a lawyer to determine what is required in your state before digging into an applicant’s background and personal life. During a background check, civil, criminal, and credit history information is researched. All job offers should be contingent on positive results of the background check. Please note that if the applicant has worked or lived in multiple states, background checks will take longer to complete. If this is the case, you should have the results from at least one state before the applicant is allowed to start working. The applicant should be made aware that background checks for the other states are pending and that he or she will be notified should any questions arise.

Effective hiring is much more important than many professionals realize. Those who recognize the importance of this process will minimize employee turnover, which can dramatically impact an office’s bottom line. A thorough review of candidates ensures that you’ll find the right person for the job.

Common Interviewer Mistakes

Don’t start by explaining all the job details, expectations, and qualifications. This makes it easy for smart applicants to tailor their answers to the job description.

Focus on the candidate. Copious note-taking on your part can cause applicants to lose focus and freeze up.

Don’t ask closed-ended questions. The majority of your questions should be open-ended so the applicant doesn’t simply respond with “yes” or “no” answers.

Nightmare Interview Candidates

The Professional Interviewer. This candidate knows all of the right answers to your interview questions. Pin this individual down to determine his or her true qualifications. Ask specific and probing questions about what he or she has done and request examples. Don’t be fooled by buzzwords.

The Motor Mouth. This candidate 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. This candidate believes that he or she is perfect and makes that belief known by continually emphasizing how right he or she is for the position. These candidates, however, may not be open to learning new and innovative ways of working or even different ways to do the same task. The interviewer should ask the candidate about a situation in which he or she had to adapt to a new manager or procedure and how he or she reacted to that situation.

The Politician. This candidate never gives a straight answer and may evade an issue by bringing up another topic. Force these candidates to be specific by using clear and probing questions.

The Questioner. This candidate tries to turn the tables and conduct the interview by asking too many questions. Maintain control over the interview by redirecting the candidate back to the questions that need to be answered to assess if the candidate is a right fit for the position.

Apply Now

(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.)

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.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 7-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!

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Hiring: A Winner Every Time #TChat Recap

(Editor’s Note: Want details from the week’s #TChat Events? See the Storify slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em,
K
now when to walk away,
And know when to run…”
–Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

I knew something was wrong the moment the two men sat in front us on the bus. I was only a freshman in college, but I knew that feeling in my gut — the pinch of danger.

One asked, “You want to play a game? You’re a winner every time.” The other acted like he didn’t know the guy, but I had seen them laughing together at the bus stop before they got on.

I didn’t respond, but my friend did. “Sure, I’ll play,” he said.

“Eric,” I muttered, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

The instigator persisted, “C’mon man, he’ll be a winner for sure. I promise.”

The other man chimed in. “Oh, I’ve played this before. You can win. I’ll help you,” he said.

Eric ignored me and unsuspectingly dove into a round of three-card Monte, a classic street con in which victims think they’re teaming-up with a stranger to cheat the dealer — when the stranger is actually conspiring with the dealer to cheat the victim.

In less than 15 minutes, Eric lost $80. I kept telling him to stop, but between his own belief that he could win, and the dealer’s encouragement, he kept right on losing.

Hiring Decision or Jedi Mind Trick?

Time and time again throughout life, we all learn that our gut isn’t a very accurate decision maker. Yet we tend to think we can beat the odds — even when it comes to hiring the best candidate for a job. Of course, applicants don’t think of their job search as three-card Monte, but many hiring managers and recruiters assume we can pick the best candidate in a heartbeat.

In reality, recruiting and hiring data reveal a different story — the gut actually steers us wrong most of the time. Maybe empathic, balanced decision makers have a better track record (when guided by reliable data), but recruiters really can’t predict the future.

Trusting More Than Your Gut

There are better bets than soothsayers. For example, consider the Challenger sales model, from a powerful new book by CEB. Based on a survey of more than 6,000 individuals, The Challenger Sale explains how sales professionals tend to fit one of five profiles:

Hard Worker
Problem Solver
Challenger
Relationship Builder
Lone Wolf

If you’ve been responsible for sales or marketing, you know that most of us focus on building customer relationships. It makes sense to assume that the best salespeople are relationship builders, right?

The CEB study suggests otherwise. In fact, “Challengers” are sales rock stars — they’re the only ones who consistently outperform in complex selling environments. They push customer thinking, they introduce new solutions, and they illuminate problems customers overlook.

Lessons From #TChat: Hiring Guts and Glory

This insight supports what we learned this week at #TChat events with our guests, Chris Mursau VP at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care. Recruiting success depends on both:

1) Guts: We all bring intuition to the hiring table. But the real guts of recruiting comes from valid, reliable data and methods that inform our human nature. The more we know about the skills, competencies and characteristics that lead to stellar job performance, the better our decisions will be — for recruiting, hiring and retention.

2) And Glory: Hiring top performers is a process. It demands continuous review and adjustment, based on performance and retention data. It takes rigor to understand who to hire next — whether candidates are external or internal. Ultimately, that’s the critical challenge: the more you know about employees who “go all in” — those who consistently elevate their performance for your organization — the better prepared you’ll be to find a winner in your next hire.

Want to know what the TalentCulture community recommends about how to improve hiring decisions? Check the #TChat Storify highlights and resource links below. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas — let’s keep the conversation going on Twitter and Google+.

#TChat Week-In-Review: How to Make Better Hiring Decisions

Capture

Watch the #TChat sneak peek hangout now

SAT 2/15:
#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post featuring a brief G+ hangout, where he and Chris Mursau discussed why it’s so tough for companies to choose talent. See the #TChat Preview: “Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide?

SUN 2/16:
Forbes.com Post:
In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, discussed why and how recruitment should rely on more than instinct: “Hiring Success: Beyond the Gut Check.”

RELATED POSTS:
“Applicant Assessments: Testing the Waters” — by Dr. Nancy Rubin
“Job Auditions: Secret to Successful Hires?” — by Matt Mullenweg

WED 2/19:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talked with Chris Mursau, and Jean Lynn, about effective job candidate evaluation methods. Listen to the #TChat Radio replay now…

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin, Chris and Jean moved over to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin lead our entire TalentCulture community in a dynamic open discussion focused on 5 key questions about candidate evaluation practices in today’s workplace.

See highlights from the Twitter stream the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide?

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/hiring-great-talent-how-do-you-decide.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Chris Mursau VP at Topgrading, and Jean Lynn, VP of HR at Home Instead Senior Care for sharing your perspectives on improving hiring quality. Your expertise and guidance brought depth and dimension to the #TChat discussion!

#TCHAT TOPGRADING DISCOUNT: Interested in trying Topgrading? #TChat participants receive a discount of 10%, on a 2-day Topgrading Workshop. Just use Code TC213 on checkout by 2/28/2014.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about candidate selection methods? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat Events, we’ll take a very special look at 2014 “The Year of the Employee” with Josh Bersin, Founder and Principal of Bersin by Deloitte. See more information at #TChat Radio, and save the date: Wednesday, February 26!

Meanwhile, the TalentCulture conversation continues daily on #TChat Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our NEW Google+ community. So join us anytime on your favorite social channels.

We’ll see you on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: CONGRATS to Paul Thoresen — winner of the recent Pebble smartwatch giveaway from Dice! And thanks to all the #TChat contributors who shared tech recruiting ideas and questions with Dice and #FutureofTech.)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Applicant Assessments: Testing The Waters

(Editor’s Note: We invite you to discuss candidate screening techniques in more detail with the entire TalentCulture community, this week at #TChat Events on Wednesday, February 19th. For details, see the #TChat Preview post: Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide?)

Can you tell from a resume if an applicant has the skills needed to succeed in a job? How do you know if someone is really the right fit for your company?

If you’re unsure, perhaps pre-employment tests should be part of your evaluation process. Knowledge is power — and assessments can be a powerful addition to any hiring toolkit.

Evaluating Job Candidates: A Smart Strategy

Increasingly, organizations are relying on screening tests to improve their hiring and workforce development decisions. In fact, in a recent survey by Aberdeen Group, 49% of companies said they have an assessment strategy in place — up from only 40% in 2011.

Infographic - How to select assessments for employee screening

See Details: How To Choose Job Candidate Testing Tools

Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton Staffing, explains that, with the correct type of test, employers can evaluate candidates effectively across multiple dimensions, including job skills, professional  knowledge and cultural fit. It’s even possible to make behavioral predictions and gain insight into core values.

“Properly constructed assessments look below the surface information presented by applicants to systematically predict which one will be the best hire for a position,” explains Dr. Charles Hanler, president of Rocket-Hire, a consultancy that helps improve organizational hiring practices. He compares the resume review and interview process to the tip of an iceberg. The bulk of an iceberg is what remains below the surface — what you can’t see and touch.

Choosing Applicant Assessments

It’s essential to choose the right type of assessment for your goals. Tests can produce a mind-numbing array of candidate metrics — personality, cognitive abilities, professional knowledge, work skills, physical and motor abilities, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, drug use and even values like integrity. Yet, when evaluations are properly applied, employers can more quickly and confidently identify candidates who are best qualified for open positions and most likely to succeed in the organization.

As the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology explains, there are pros and cons to each of the many types of employment assessments. But before deciding how you’ll test candidates, it’s important to determine what kind of information matters most to you. Tests vary according to their mode of administration (web-based tools vs. paper and pencil), content focus (interpersonal skills, mathematical ability), level of standardization or structure, costs, administrative ease, and other factors.

Although there can be significant benefits from using tests in the employee selection process, there are also multiple issues to consider. In particular:

• Validity  Does the test actually measure the characteristic it is designed to measure? For example, does it actually predict future job performance or success?

• Reliability How consistently does a test measure the target characteristic? If an assessment tool isn’t highly reliable, it will be of little value in predicting a candidate’s future job performance. As with validity, a test’s reliability should be verified before it is administered.

• Legality Because employment tests are periodically challenged in court, employers must make sure assessments do not violate federal, state, or local EEO laws, including Title VII.

TYPES OF CANDIDATE TESTS

Assessment Centers Often used to assess interpersonal skills, communication skills, planning/organizing and analytical skills. Typically involves exercises that reflect job content and types of problems faced on the job.
Biographical Data Uses questions about education, training, work experience and interests to predict success on the job. 
Cognitive Ability Tests Assesses aptitude or potential to solve job-related problems by focusing on mental abilities such as verbal or mathematical reasoning, or perceptual abilities like speed in recognizing letters of the alphabet.  
Integrity Tests Assesses attitudes and experiences related to honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and pro-social behavior. 
Interviews The most common type of employment test. Typically assesses interpersonal skills, communication skills and teamwork skills, and can be used to assess job knowledge.
Job Knowledge Tests Typically uses multiple choice questions or essays to evaluate technical or professional expertise and knowledge required on the job.
Personality Tests Measures traits related to behavior at work, interpersonal interactions, and satisfaction with different aspects of work. 
Physical Ability Tests Uses tasks or exercises that determine ability to perform. Measures physical attributes and capabilities, such as strength, balance and speed.
Work Samples and Simulations Measures specific job skills or job knowledge, but can also assess general skills such as organizational, analytic and interpersonal skills.

How Do You Evaluate Job Applicants?

Do you use pre-employment tests to screen applicants before they’re hired? Has this been effective for your organization? How does this help or hinder your company’s candidate experience? Share your experience in the comment area.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

How Social Sleuthing Can Land You A Dream Job

Written by Paul Bailey

Is your job hunt stalled because employers don’t respond to your inquiries? It’s time to rethink your communications strategy. Are you sending generic letters and resumes? Do you emphasize your skills and achievements? There’s a better way to gain an employer’s attention — and it’s easier than you may think.

Consider this — most recruiters rely on social media to check candidate profiles. Why not take a page from their playbook, and leverage social surveillance in your job search? It’s only fair. And it’s entirely free. All it takes is a little bit of digging.

Here’s how you can find helpful information and use it to ace every step of the job application process:

Start By Looking And Listening On Social Channels

Let’s say you find an ad for an attractive job. Your first step is to look at the company’s digital footprint — its primary website, as well as its blog, and presence on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook. At each location search for the following:

•  Hiring manager or recruiter name. Review their Linkedin profiles. Do you have anything in common, professionally? Be sure to check their interests and interview pet peeves on Facebook or Twitter.
•  Company background. Familiarize yourself with the organization’s target demographics, recent news, and products/services.
•  Someone who’s working in the position for which you’re applying. That person has the job you’re targeting for a good reason, so check what you have in common. If they have qualifications or technical knowledge you don’t, and those are related to the job, that’s a clue. Study those differences.
•  Challenges the company and its industry are facing. Prepare two or three suggestions on how you could help address those issues.
•  Company values, vision and mission. This is required baseline knowledge for anyone who wants to be considered a serious job contender in the social era.

Next Steps: Put Information To Use 3 Ways

1) On Your Resume

Take time to customize your resume. Align your skills and credentials with the job you’re pursuing. Highlight related achievements, too.

Remember your research on the person who already has the job you’re seeking? Look at how that person describes the job, and think about how you could insert skills or tasks on your resume that fit with that description. (Of course, don’t list these skills unless you really have them. Authenticity trumps all.)

2) On Your Cover Letter

Don’t start your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Address the the recruiter or hiring manager directly.

Include key phrases from the job ad, and pair them with some phrases from the company’s mission/vision/values. For example, instead of writing “analyst with five years’ experience in banking,” say “analyst with a get-it-done attitude and five years’ experience in banking” (where “get-it-done attitude” is part of the company’s values).

You might think this is cheesy, but it gives the recruiter a subliminal signal that says, “Hey, this candidate will do well in our culture.” It’s also much better than using generic cliché phrases, such as “hardworking,” “honest” or “quick learner.”

3) In Interviews

Use your knowledge of the interviewer’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to break the ice. If you don’t have anything in common, try talking about their interests.

Don’t say something like, “I saw you worked at Chase Bank for two years. I worked there as an intern!” This ruins the ice-breaker because the recruiter will sense you’re trying too hard to establish rapport, and it reveals that you’ve been snooping on social sites.

Mention whatever it is you have in common, but don’t drag the recruiter into it. Say, “I was an intern at Chase Bank.” It’s likely that the recruiter will respond by acknowledging his history there.

Assuming you can establish rapport, the next step is to reinforce why you’re the best candidate for the job by eliminating the competition. This is where most of your research will pay off.

Asking questions makes you stand out from the hundreds who simply shake hands and say, “Thank you for your time.” Ask about the challenges new hires encounter, then tell a story about how you successfully handled similar challenges. Your awareness of current employees’ skills will be helpful, as you highlight your job-specific knowledge and competence with necessary tools. If you can confidently use the jargon or lingo associated with the job, use it.

Ask about the challenges faced by the company or industry, then share suggestions you’ve prepared in advance. However, don’t overdo it. Your task is to portray yourself as a problem-solver, not a know-it-all.

The next time you want to apply for a job, do research before you send an application. Customize your resume and cover letter for every job application you send. And use the intelligence to prepare yourself to stand out from the crowd.

Have you tried these techniques in a job search? How did they work for you? What other ideas do you recommend? Share you comments below.

168e7dae52120ad8976f5b.L._V388018754_(About the author:
Paul Bailey is a certified professional coach and business improvement consultant with more than 12 years of experience. He specializes in helping people realize their potential and unleash their inner confidence, so they can find meaningful work that matches their skills and values. Learn more about Paul and his coaching services at Impact Coaching & Mentoring.
Or connect with Paul on Twitter or Google+.

(Editor’s note: This post is republished from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome for events, or to join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

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Just Say No! 6 Recruiting Practices To Avoid

By Raj Sheth, Co-Founder, Recruiterbox

Recruiting has never been more exciting or more complex. Innovation continues to redefine recruitment, as new technology emerges and larger, deeper pools of candidates become available.

SoMoClo” (or Social/Mobile/Cloud), a term heard often at the recent Wisdom Conference, is enabling business to automate many processes, while simultaneously adding value to a job that is, and always has been, all about people.

Think These “People” Practices Make Sense? Think Again

However, as recruiting evolves, we need to recognize that some “best practices” are just plain hogwash. Recruiters don’t like them, hiring managers don’t have time for them, and candidates actually hate them. If you’re like many companies, nixing these six “worst practices” can actually accelerate your hiring cycle AND your candidate experience.

1) Hire Slow, Fire Fast
While there is something to be said for this particular platitude, I think many have taken it out of context. Perhaps a better phrase would be “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” The goal is for hiring teams to think through decisions, not to put applicants on some eternal carousel of meetings, assessments and group interviews. If you’re hiring for anything other than an executive position, and you cannot make a decision on a candidate in within three interviews, you’re probably guilty of this worst practice.

2) Candidate Pause Patrol
Did someone make it to the final round, but you want everything “just so” before extending the final offer? Big mistake to wait. Waiting discourages candidates, as well as the team that’s anxious for their arrival. It also leaves a bad impression in a job seeker’s mind about how agile your company may really be. What’s more, if they recognize that they’re attractive to you, but you don’t seal the deal, they’re likely to pursue greener pastures while you’re passing around paperwork.

3) Miss America Syndrome
Trying to find the perfect candidate who will blend seamlessly into your organization is like an average-looking guy on Match.com who is holding out for Miss America to appear. It’s not going to happen. (And by the way, your organization isn’t perfect, either!) Instead, consider candidates who have potential to grow into the role. By demanding a 100% fit, you might bypass many 80-90% candidates who could be ideal with the right team and some training. Even worse, if you wait around to find your unicorn, desperation may eventually force you to hire an even less desirable candidate.

4) Lowballing
This practice doesn’t make you look smart. It makes you look cheap. The logic is plain and simple. When you consistently offer low salaries and haggle with new employees to the lowest common denominator, they will resent you, and your employer brand will suffer. No one needs statistics or industry surveys to understand this point. The miniscule amount of money you may save through killer negotiations will be overridden by the fact that you’ve destroyed priceless goodwill — even before a new hire steps foot in the office.

5) Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease
This one confounds me. It seems that we all like to post articles on Facebook that remind us, “If you have to tell people you’re powerful, you’re really not.” However, all too often, we choose to hire the first candidate that walks through our door singing his or her own praises. What could that mean in the future? The braggart, the credit stealer, the one-upper, the complainer. No one wants to work with these personalities, yet many hiring managers and HR pros react positively to this kind of behavior in interviews. Stop. Check yourself. You can do better. Unless you’re hiring for sales positions, consider the unassuming, the humble, the team player who easily shares credit with others.

6) Show Me, Don’t Tell Me
Well…sort of. This practice is hard to follow. It’s about showing up in the right place with a compelling value proposition. If you can’t make the job attractive to the right kind of candidates on their preferred channels (blog, job ad, video, in person), you’ll find yourself considering only applicants who are desperate for anything. While letting candidates opt themselves out of the selection process is a smart way to whittle the pool to a manageable size, don’t forget to emphasize reasons why qualified individuals should WANT to take on this position at your company.

What Hiring Practices Make Sense?

In nearly every facet of business, crowdsourcing, collaboration and best practices are a good thing — until they’re not. Innovation is rare to come by, so it’s a better bet to formulate your own candidate profile by studying successful workers within your organization. Create a hiring plan with a reasonable timeline. Then build appropriate candidate evaluation criteria, and share that information with the rest of the hiring team. This approach will allow you to let go of the nefarious 6 “worst practices” and it will create a solid blueprint for managing candidate expectations. Boom! Done.

Do you agree with these recommendations? Share your opinions and ideas in the comments below.

raj(Editor’s Note:  Raj Sheth is the Co-Founder of Recruiterbox, an online recruitment software & applicant tracking system designed especially for small businesses. Prior to Recruiterbox, Raj founded two other web startups, namely a classifieds portal and an e-commerce site. He is a graduate of Babson College, MA and spent the first three years of his career as a financial analyst with EMC Corporation (NYSE: EMC) in Boston. Raj is a Red Sox fan who also enjoys sharing his experiences through writing. You can find some of his brief rants on the Recruiterbox blog. Because Raj is passionate about growing small businesses, everything he writes is based on what he has experienced in his ventures.)

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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.

Dang.

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.

Closing the Deal: Interviews as Influential Sales Conversations

It is no secret managers, human resource professionals and recruiters often receive stacks and stacks of resumes for each available position and that their main objective is to slash those to a manageable pile for interviews. In other words, disqualifying candidates is their first objective, in order to manage the overwhelming number of resume submissions.

What I want to encourage job seekers to realize is that once your resume HAS reached the short-stack, your opportunity for further qualifying yourself and closing the job deal skyrockets. So rather than feeling at the mercy of what sometimes feels like a merciless job interview process, once you have inched your way past the excruciating screening, exploit the opportunity!

In the worst-case scenario, an interview is a stress environment where the interviewer assumes and maintains charge, relentlessly hammering the candidate with questions with nary an opportunity for the interviewing job seeker to interject his value. However, in many cases, a consultative sales environment ensues, and the job seeker who is prepared for a more proactive, collaborative conversation gains an advantage.

Preparing oneself for this conversational process is necessary to ensure you are equipped with the right words to influence, connect, cajole and even disarm the hiring decision-maker and influence them that YOU are the best-fit candidate.

In a recent exchange on Twitter, Mike Haberman (@MikeHaberman) said,

“The consultative sales call approach works for both parties in the interview, but may be interchangeable based on interest.”

As such, when you are afforded the opportunity to perform in this consultative role, be prepared to maximize every word, every communication nuance.  Moreover, in some instances, with an unprepared or inexperienced interviewer, you may even be in the driver’s seat, steering the conversation. In any of these instances, you must be equipped with an arsenal of easily retrievable, memorable scripts and talk points.

A few tips to prepare for and act upon this opportunity:

1. First, realize that being consultative means that before proffering your solution to what ails your client (the hiring manager, the human resource pro, the recruiter), you must be equipped with ample research and a few smart questions.

2. Though sometimes a job interview situation may arise without much advance notice, performing a laser-strike study of the target company and/or target hiring manager for which you will be working is needed to position yourself apart from the pack of interviewees. Even with a fairly short preparation window, you can, and must, investigate.

3. Dip your research ladle into the endless well of Internet resources:

  • Hoovers.com: to search people and companies (limited “free” information); e.g., for company information, you’ll find address, phone numbers, rankings in FT Global, Fortune 500 and S&P 500.
  • ZoomInfo.com: a business information search engine that provides company search, people search and job search. It constructs profiles on people and companies.
  • Manta.com: the largest free source of information on small companies. This is a very cool site that has key information on over 60M companies, allowing you to drill down by industry, by location, by size, etc., and then find a profile (address, phone, website, company contacts) as well as reports; map; and web results (i.e., they do a Google search for you, providing a quick snapshot of search results!).
  • Forbes.com: home page for information on the world’s business leaders and includes nine editorial channels on business, technology, markets, personal finance, entrepreneurs, leadership, ForbesLife, opinions and lists.
  • Business articles at Bizjournals.com or Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com).
  • LinkedIn: Follow companies and read their profiles and goings-on.

4. Prepare your challenge-action-results (CAR) stories that align with the target company’s pain points. Consider how you have solved problems related to the types of problems this company is and will be facing.  Write those stories out (note: if you’ve already navigated the introspective resume writing process, which involves ferreting out the most critical stories and areas of value you offer your target audience, then use your resume as a launch-pad.

  • Beyond the challenge, action and result, describe the strategic impact of the initiative. Outside feathering your career cap, how did the result reverberate into the company’s greater goals? Some call this answering the “So what?” by adding relevance to your achievement.
  • Consider what leadership or other problem-solving and solution-building talent you leveraged to move through this C-A-R. Write those out. For example, negotiation and influence, analysis, forecasting future market needs, etc.

5. Prepare responses to some of the most typical interview questions. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What is the greatest value you can bring to us?
  • How long do you intend to stay?
  • Why do you want to leave your present position?
  • What is the most stressful situation you have experienced at work within the past year, and how did you handle it?
  • What would your current (or past) employer say about your work?

6. And here’s where the consultative process really takes flight: YOU get to ask THEM questions, not only to display your interest in the company, but also to garner information by which you can further wrap your value proposition around their needs. Further, as your mind intuitively weaves your story to align with their responses, you are drawing upon the research notes you discovered during the company research prep phase (step 3) and weaving that information into the interview fabric. And as they respond to your questions, you also have a chance to knit in your C-A-R stories (step 4) to fortify that you can meet their impending needs. A sampling of questions YOU may ask THEM:

  • What are the greatest challenges you’re facing in your industry?
  • Is your industry/business growing?
  • What main factors do you attribute to your growth?
  • What do you attribute to the success of your company?
  • What makes you better than your nearest competitor?
  • Can you tell my why this position is open?

7. AFTER the interview is an opportunity to mine for gold. Think: What went well at the interview, what didn’t go so well, and what areas were left untapped? Address those in a sales letter that not only expresses appreciation for the interview (the “thank-you”), but also squarely addresses and overcomes potential weaknesses that were spotted and/or bridges gaps in presenting your value that you simply did not have time to address during the interview.

8. Moreover, after you have undergone a second (and perhaps, third, fourth) interview, with key influencers in senior management, executives or board members, consider writing a powerful influence letter. In this sales market document, headline your message with, “Why I should by Hired by ABC Company” and then assertively, confidently and passionately sell your VALUE to them. At this point, your humility should be set aside, and you should be laser focused on closing the deal.

Bottom Line: Interviewing is a consultative sales call and sometimes requires multiple contacts and conversations to “close” the sale. As humans, though we don’t always want to be “sold,” per se, we want to be convinced that we are making the right buying decision. It is YOUR job as the job candidate to influence the hiring management that THEY would be making the BEST decision for them, for their department and for their company by investing in YOUR talent.