Tuesday, January 31, 2012

He that can have patience can have what he will. ~ Benjamin Franklin

One of my candidates recently took a new job. When I first met him, he said he wanted more in a job. He wanted to learn more, be challenged more. He had been in his current job for years and felt that, although he liked his employer and his work, that he wasn't growing or moving forward.

I introduced him via email to a manager, who interviewed him. That manager introduced him to a client. The client met with him and then, over the course of several months, scheduled a series of interviews. Everyone seemed to like each other and through many interviews, he moved with glacial speed through the organization's hierarchy, meeting people and telling his story to someone new each time.

At each step of the way, I talked to him about the most recent interview and his impressions of his progress. He was confident about his skills and patient about the process. These characteristics speak well for the candidate during the interview process, coming across as respect for the organization's need to move slowly, process information and possibly the need to include a large number of people in the interview process.

Finally, a last meeting was scheduled and the offer was presented in person. The candidate countered for more money and the manager couldn't respond immediately. Waiting a little longer, the response was positive! He was given the salary he wanted, but maybe more importantly, he gets a return on his investment from knowing the organization better than many candidates who are hired after only one or two interviews.

I'm not suggesting that everyone should go through such a lengthy process, nor am I saying this is the only way to get to know a candidate or a company. Unfortunately, I've had candidates go through several interviews only to be turned down.

The takeaway is this: Taking your time, remaining confident and patient and showing respect for the organization's needs are great characteristics to develop regardless of how long it takes to get the job.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we'd all have frozen to death ~Mark Twain

An interview tip I recommend is to be prepared to open the conversation with something neutral and easy going...like the weather. I had a candidate in my office and by way of chit chat, he was asked how long he had been in Iowa. 

"Five months," was the reply. The person asking the question, a native, asked how the candidate liked it so far. "I hate it," was the reply. He went on to say that the winter was awful. He was serious and I was taken aback by the bitterness in his voice. He genuinely dislikes Iowa and now he wants me to find him a job? In Iowa?  

We who live in Iowa know that the winter we've had this year so far has been a cake walk, but when he said he hated it, we laughed politely and said that anyone's first winter here could be enough to drive them away. 

My first winter here almost did. The July day I arrived in town, it was 100 degrees and we couldn't unload the moving van until almost midnight due to the heat. Then winter started in September and two months later, I experienced my first blizzard. I had lived in Chicago and Central Kansas, so I thought I knew about cold and snow. When clients would ask me why I moved to Iowa, I would joke, "For the weather." 

In fact, one reason why companies in my neck of the woods will balk at relocating someone, particularly a contractor, is because they get here and don't stay. The winters are cold and the summers are hot. People say they understand, but often when reality hits them, they complain and then they leave. There are jobs in locations with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, squalls, humidity and what might seem like non-stop rain. 

Even with all the curve balls Mother Nature throws at us, weather should be a simple, safe, straightforward, uncomplicated topic. But maybe it does not go without saying, so I'm saying it now: It should be a positive topic as well. 

When the topic of weather comes up in an interview, say something positive about it or make an easygoing joke about it. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How you just lost my interest in your job search

There are some things candidates do that make recruiters crazy. I recently spoke to a man about a position I believed he might be qualified for, but his resume listed no technologies.

He is a desktop technician, a support analyst, a help desk, configuration, deskside, tech support sort of guy: Let's call him Guy. The job description called out a few technologies such as Windows operating systems, Active Directory and working on PCs in a networked environment. Judging from the companies he has listed, I think he's a likely candidate.

Also, I believe that a bad resume doesn't mean someone isn't qualified, so I called him about the job. I kicked off the conversation with Guy, whom I have met in person once before, by explaining that I needed to verify some technology and oh, by the way, why isn't there any technology on your resume?

He wants to keep his resume to one page. One page! His resume goes back to 1998 and he has had five decent, technology-industry jobs, so that means he has to leave something out. He chooses to leave out technology.

Lesson 1: Don't get so caught up in the "rules" you've heard in the past that you get left behind. 

I explained how resumes are read by databases and when a resume like his is searched for keywords that are basic to his experience, his resume will never show up as a search result. To his credit, he seemed concerned about that and I am hoping to get a more appropriate resume from him soon.

I still think he is qualified, so I dive into the job description to cover certain aspects of the job because it is possible he is missing one or two key elements. I'll recap the most baffling parts of the conversation:

Me: Do you have experience with Windows XP and Windows 7?
Guy: I have very little experience with 7. Only three or four of my clients used it.
Me: Do you have experience working on PCs in a networked environment?
Guy: Well, I can't patch networks or configure routers. They need a network administrator.
Me: This is not a network administrator job. They want a first level PC tech.
Guy: I did help convert XYZ Company from token ring to Ethernet.
Me: This job simply calls for someone with experience on PCs that are connected to a LAN.
Guy: I always assume they want someone with middleware experience.

Lesson 2: I can't make you want the job. 

I'm not sure if Guy is simply confused or if he doesn't want the job, but at this point, I'm not questioning his skills, I'm questioning how he will do in an interview. Maybe I haven't completely lost interest, but for a level 1 help desk job candidate, I now see that he is going to take a great deal of time and effort on my part and he could still shoot himself in the foot in an interview.

There are many ways you could lose a recruiter and then wonder why they never get in touch with you again. Many recruiters will stop after a contact like the one I'm describing. Carefully consider if you've ever been in Guy's position before.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brace yourself: Listen to those questions carefully

Today I want to ask you to listen to a question carefully before responding. Some questions are answered quickly because the answer is clear and well-known to us. Some questions need thoughtful responses. It's perfectly ok and even wise to give yourself the time to craft your response. Listening carefully to the questions means quieting your mind and tracking what the person is really asking.

I am in a position of having job candidates in my office while several people interview them. So one job candidate may get the same question 3-4 times by different people. I'm always interested in how the responses change as the interviewers change. One person comes off in an aggressive way and most people don't respond well. They answer quickly and give half-replies. Another one of my account managers takes his time asking the same question in a more relaxed manner and he gets more thoughtful and informative answers.

Different, better answers to the same question.

The job candidate is the common denominator. Right before my eyes, I see the person being affected by the person in front of them. Learn to control yourself so you aren't buffeted by the force of the interviewer's personality or their nerves or their style.

Your goal is to give the thoughtful and informative answers no matter what sort of person sits before you.

That is probably the best interview advice I have have ever received!!! ~Neal C.

I wanted to talk to you again before this interview because you really geek interview tips. ~Chad T.

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