Interview

The Perils of Falling in Love.

As someone who has observed hundreds of hiring processes over the years, I’ve seen my share of missteps. I’ve witnessed hiring managers spend entire interviews talking about themselves, only thinking to ask a few questions of the candidate at the very end. I’ve watched interviewers robotically read one question after the other from a prepared list, never really listening to the candidate’s answers.Perils of Falling in Love And I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen unprofessional, disorganized, and just generally ineffective techniques derail interviews.

But the one mistake that leaves me shaking my head every time I see it is unique. It’s all too common, and hiring managers often don’t realize they’ve done it until it’s too late. What’s the sin? Falling in love with a candidate.

No, I don’t mean “romantic” love, although that probably happens every once in a while. What I’m referring to is when interviewers lose their objectivity and good judgment because they connect strongly with the person sitting across the table.   This usually occurs because the two people have some thing or things in common, and the more they talk and share stories, the more they “click.” Before you know it , the hiring manager starts thinking, “Hey, I really like this person.” There’s a shift from wanting to make sure the candidate and job are a great fit to thinking about how nice it would be to have this individual on the team.

What causes interviewers to fall in love? There are lots of reasons, but the most frequent situations I see are the result of the hiring manager and the candidate having one or more of the following in common:

  • Similar backgrounds (grew up in the same area, went to the same schools)
  • Shared interests (sports, hobbies, volunteer work)
  • Past experiences (first jobs, previous employers)
  • Similar personal situations (single or married, with or without kids, empty nester)
  • Shared relationships (professional or personal)
  • Mutual goals (career advancement objectives, professional accomplishments)
  • Shared geography (live in the same area, frequent the same places)

Interviewers also fall in love with candidates because of their personalities. If the last three people you’ve interviewed have been nervous, boring or unable hold up their end of the conversation, it’s likely you’ll be drawn to the next individual who’s polished, confident, funny or well-spoken. And don’t underestimate the power of a candidate who is well-mannered, charming, energetic or a good listener.

So why is falling in love such a mistake? Because most of the time when it happens, the interviewer stops being neutral about the candidate. I’ve seen hiring managers ignore red flags or danger signs when they’re in love. I’ve noticed them only hearing what they want to hear. On a few occasions I’ve watched them unconsciously feed candidates the “right” answers so it appears the job is a great fit. I’ve also seen them skip steps or shortcut their hiring process because someone seems “perfect” for the job. But the biggest problem is that they can’t accept anyone else’s negative feedback. They are quick to dismiss references or other interviewers who voice concerns or point out flaws in the candidate.

Once managers understand this phenomenon and resolve to avoid it in future hiring situations, they often ask me how to prevent it from happening again. Interestingly, I’ve found that simply being aware of a tendency to fall in love with candidates is key.   When managers find the conversation turning to shared interests or commonalities, they can recognize the situation and stay on their toes. The discussion should be long enough to build rapport but not so extensive they spend half the allotted interview time sharing war stories with the candidate.

Another key element to maintaining objectivity is having a written Hiring Profile in front of you during each interview. Your Hiring Profile should outline the 8-10 most important tasks the job you are hiring for entails. It should also list the experience and education levels you want as well as the technical skills you need. Finally, it should list the core behavioral traits (assertive, social, detail-oriented, flexible, etc.) you need to get in the person you hire.   Use this Hiring Profile throughout your interviews to help you focus your questions on determining if the candidate has what it takes to do the job. And it can serve as a checklist post-interview to figure out where the individual fits or doesn’t fit with what you need. Hopefully it will shine a bright light on situations where you really like the person but recognize they lack the most important things needed to succeed in the job.

Maintaining your objectivity is easier when you have something concrete to keep you on track. And a good dose of awareness doesn’t hurt, either.

About the Author: 

Janna is Vice President of Client Services for The Berke Group, where she leads their education initiatives and serves as their key client advocate.  Berke provides powerful assessment software that measures personality, talent, and intelligence and helps companies hire the best people.  Janna develops Berke’s  learning programs and provides both on-site and web-based management training for companies and individuals. She also writes about people management strategies, trends and best practices.

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Hiring Manager
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75 reasons you didn’t get the job

Your Optimism
Cartoon by Hugh

Wondering why you didn’t get the job? It was probably because:

  1. You’re not qualified.
  2. You’re over qualified.
  3. You’re qualified but someone else was more qualified or a better fit.
  4. You wore too much cologne / perfume.
  5. You smelled bad.
  6. You wore too much makeup.
  7. You were overdressed.
  8. You were underdressed.
  9. The job was filled internally.
  10. The job was put on hold.
  11. The CEO’s daughter got the job.
  12. You’re too old.
  13. You’re too young.
  14. You look older than you are.
  15. You look younger than you are.
  16. You’re too good-looking.
  17. You’re not attractive enough.
  18. You acted too desperate.
  19. You acted uninterested.
  20. You didn’t sell yourself.
  21. You oversold yourself.
  22. You didn’t give enough detail in your answers to their questions.
  23. You answered questions in too much detail.
  24. Your answers were wrong or just plain stupid
  25. You seemed overly prepared.
  26. You didn’t seem prepared.
  27. You were too chatty.
  28. You weren’t talkative enough.
  29. You were overly friendly.
  30. You weren’t friendly enough.
  31. You laughed too much.
  32. You didn’t show a sense of humor.
  33. You talked too loud.
  34. You talked too softly.
  35. You seemed arrogant.
  36. You didn’t show enough confidence.
  37. You were late.
  38. You arrived *way* too early.
  39. Your resume is too long.
  40. Your resume is too short.
  41. Your hair is too long.
  42. Your hair is too short.
  43. Your skirt was too tight.
  44. Your pants were too baggy.
  45. You were rude to the receptionist.
  46. You were rude to everyone.
  47. You appeared to be bored.
  48. You were overly eager.
  49. You lied.
  50. You asked for too much money.
  51. You were willing to take the job for much less than it pays.
  52. You have drunk, naked, or otherwise scary pictures on Facebook.
  53. They Googled you and found your blog about how much you hate your boss / your job / their product.
  54. You said you hate your mother / father / sister / brother.
  55. You didn’t go to the right college.
  56. They have a diversity initiative and you’re a white male.
  57. You answered your cell phone during the interview.
  58. You were nervous / sweaty / jittery.
  59. You live too far away.
  60. You didn’t return their calls quickly enough.
  61. You stalked the hiring manager.
  62. You seemed stuffy.
  63. You were too relaxed.
  64. Your piercing(s).
  65. Your tattoo(s).
  66. They didn’t think you would fit in.
  67. They’re skeptical of your willingness / ability to travel or to work the hours that the job requires.
  68. You made weird facial expressions when you spoke.
  69. You appeared aloof.
  70. You used poor grammar.
  71. You crushed fingers to the bone with your handshake.
  72. Your handshake was too limp.
  73. You didn’t make good eye contact.
  74. You didn’t send thank you notes.
  75. You brought your dog / boyfriend / girlfriend / mother to the interview.

The point of this list is not to overwhelm you with all of the things you might have done / will do “wrong.” It is to demonstrate that interviewing is extremely subjective, and if you apply to jobs that you meet the qualifications for, are prepared for the interview, and use common sense, there is no reason to beat yourself up if you did not get the job. Rather than second-guessing yourself or feeling defeated, after each interview take a few moments to do a self-assessment – and write the answers down so you can use them to prepare for your next interview.

  1. What did I do well?
  2. What could I have done better?
  3. What was I lacking in preparation that I’ll be sure to do next time?

This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes and it will help not only your confidence but your chances of success next time.

Now, go delete those blog posts [you know which ones I'm talking about] and take down those pictures from your bachelor party on Facebook.

About the Author: 

Stephanie A. Lloyd is Strategist-in-Chief, Calibre Search Group, located in Atlanta, Georgia at the intersection of Talent Strategies + Social Media. With more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and executive search, Stephanie works with hiring managers, HR executives, business owners, and recruiting firms on recruitment and retention strategy including how to better utilize social media for talent acquisition and employee communication. Stephanie is a regular contributor to Talent Net Live and The Matrix Wall, and she partners with Todd Schnick to produce the video blogging series He Said, She Said.

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Job Seeker
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"You can find that on our website. Please stop wasting my time."

Everyone knows they’ll be expected to answer a series of questions in a job interview.

It is equally important to be prepared to ask good questions. The interviewer will expect it, and I recommend having them outlined in advance so that nothing is forgotten or overlooked. And, it never hurts to show that you spent time thinking through this important meeting!

The interviewee is typically invited to ask questions near the end of the discussion. Following are some questions you may want to ask during your interview:

  • Why is this position open? (Due to growth? Or was the position vacated, and if so, why?)
  • What is your highest priority in the next six months, and how could I help?
  • Are there any challenges in particular awaiting the person who takes on this role?
  • What are the characteristics of your top people?
  • What are your personal satisfactions and disappointments since you have been with the company?

Notice that I said be prepared to ask good questions. With the amount of information now available at our fingertips, candidates are expected to do a certain amount of research before the interview. Asking questions that could easily be answered by visiting the company’s website or with a simple Google search can make you appear uninspired and unprepared.

Know before you go, and don’t ask:

  • What the company does.
  • The history of growth of the company.
  • Number of employees and locations, annual revenue, and whether they’re publicly or privately held.
  • If the company is public, you might want to know its current stock price, bond rating, and overall financial health.
  • If the company is private, check your local paper or Google for articles reporting impending layoffs, new product launches, or other potential signs of financial health.
  • The company’s top competitors and how they stack up in terms of product, market share, and strengths and weaknesses.

These are all things you should research in advance and incorporate your findings as appropriate in the interview to demonstrate your initiative and readiness.

Whatever you do, don’t be this person:

Adria Alpert Romm, a Human Resources executive for Discovery Communications, is quoted in the May 2009 edition of Real Simple Magazine in an article about how to find (and keep) a job.  “I interviewed someone recently and he boasted how much he loved one of our shows. The problem was that the show was on a competing network! It was clear to me that he knew nothing about Discovery.

About the Author: 

Stephanie A. Lloyd is Strategist-in-Chief, Calibre Search Group, located in Atlanta, Georgia at the intersection of Talent Strategies + Social Media. With more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and executive search, Stephanie works with hiring managers, HR executives, business owners, and recruiting firms on recruitment and retention strategy including how to better utilize social media for talent acquisition and employee communication. Stephanie is a regular contributor to Talent Net Live and The Matrix Wall, and she partners with Todd Schnick to produce the video blogging series He Said, She Said.

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Job Seeker
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Packing for a warm, sunny . . . Interview?

 

In four weeks, my hubby and I are traveling to Italy to celebrate our three-year wedding anniversary! The trip is jam-packed with activity as we spend over 10 days traveling from Rome, to Tuscany, then finally to Venice.

First things first though, "what am I going to wear?"

Packing for a TripLike most females, this is my main priority.  We’ll be in Italy 10 days and I won’t have a lot of room in my luggage to pack everything I’d like to wear, so I have to pick and choose wisely.  I researched the weather for Italy in May and typically it’s in the upper 60s to low 70s (perfect weather!), so I’m going to wear layers.  I know we’ll be walking around A LOT so instead of packing my cute heels, I’m sticking with flats and running shoes. It might not be the latest fashion trend, but I have learned from previous trips that heels are a bad idea.

Once I have my wardrobe figured out, the next item on my list is researching the places we’ll be visiting.  It’s very important to do your ‘homework’ before you go on a trip.  I bought an amazing book titled Rick Steves’ Italy 2010. This book is perfect for anyone traveling to Italy.  It tells you the in’s and out’s of the cities and where to eat and what to do.  It also tells you cool paths to take while walking the streets in Rome at night. Very romantic!

In addition, we also researched Trip Advisor on which hotels are best. We’re staying at nice hotels in both Rome and Venice, but I’m most excited about our hotel in Tuscany. It’s called Relais Viganle located in Radda in the Chianti region.  It looks beautiful!

Just like me, you might be planning for a fun get-away this summer, but did you know that these same principles can also be used when preparing for a job interview?

The same way you research and prepare for your trip, is the same way you prepare for an interview.

For example, again first things first, you need to find the right outfit’ or attire for your interview. It’s always better to be a little overdressed than underdressed. For men, a nice suit is always a good choice, and for women, a business suit is professional yet can be trendy with a cute pair of heels.

You should also research the company you’re interviewing with.  Do your homework! The same way you surf the web for local attractions or reviews of a vacation spot,  research the company online. Know their website inside and out. Are there press releases, or reviews of the company on the web? Also, are they active on social media sites? If so, see what they're saying to their customers.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a list of questions for the interviewer.  These questions will show them you have done your homework.  Make sure the questions pertain to the roles/responsibilities of the job you are interviewing for.  Some great interview questions can be found in this article.

I hope some of this information has been helpful whether you’re planning for a trip-of-a-lifetime or preparing for a job interview. I know our trip will be one we will never forget.

Ciao! 

About the Author: 

Kelly Thielemann is a technical sourcer for MATRIX Resources. Kelly has over 7 years of recruiting experience specializing in Sharepoint, Data Warehouse, Business Intelligence and Web Development including Java and .NET. You can follow Kelly on Twitter at KellyITJobs.

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Hiring Great Agile Teams (Part 3)

In my previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2) we explored some of the technical differences between Developers, Testers, and Business Analysts when they move from more traditional to agile teams. Here I’ll continue the discussion focusing on more of the soft skills that are relevant, not required, when you move to agile self-directed development teams.

Believe it or not, I think the soft skills are more important than the technical ones when trying to form high-performance agile teams. Lets dig in and see how we can assess them…

A Focus on Soft Skill & Behavioral Interviewing!

First, if you’re not doing behavioral or situational interviewing, then you need to as you move towards agile.  What do I mean by that? Well, instead of asking questions that are based on generic background experiences, place the questions within the context of looking for how the candidate handled a very specific situation in a specific job or role.

For example, here’s a non-situational question: Tell me how you generally handle conflict in teams?

In response to this, you might get a crisp answer with an example, or you might get a more rambling response. The quality of the answer is actually mostly based on how you phrased the question, and not the candidates’ fault if you don’t hear what you wanted to hear.

Here’s a more situational question:  

You mentioned that you left XYZ Company because your boss overworked you and you felt that your interests were not supported. Can you give me a specific project example of where your boss didn’t support you?

After the candidate gives you an answer, the following follow-up question opportunities might expose themselves:

What part did you play in the lack of support? Did you suggest improvement ideas to your team? Project Manager?  Or to your boss? Did you ever “confront” your boss about your frustrations and explore “options”?

As you can clearly see, these sorts of questions start drilling into the specific behaviors that the candidate exhibited in very specific situations. I also like to drill in with follow-up questions. Sometimes, I’ll say something or interpret and answer quite extremely—just to see how they react to the question.

It sounds like you really didn’t make much of an effort to challenge the status quo in that example. Instead you sort of acquiesced into complaining. Why was that?

One important note in this style is the effective use of silence. You have to realize that these questions are hard, and that candidates need to “search their database” for a context-based answer. So patience is required. As is silence, as the candidate thinks of an answer. Don’t try and fill the void of silence. Instead simply wait for the candidate to formulate and deliver their answers.

Given the focus of this blog series, you’ll want to explore their views towards agile methods and some of the discreet areas that are important therein. Just to get you thinking of examples, I like to explore some of the following topic areas in our agile interviews—

  • Teamwork:  How do they feel sitting closely together—in co-located spaces? Or about working in pairs? Do they see themselves as good teammates and what are the attributes of a good teammate? Explore their feelings around servant leadership, the golden rule, etc.; Are they good followers and leaders—why?
  • Ideation:  Do they exhibit high initiative and high creativity? How do they engage the team in exploring their own ideas? In listening to others? Have them give an example of when they followed a direction that wasn’t theirs—how did that work for them?
  • Courage:  Explore their ability and willingness to challenge team members on their approaches? About how they’ve kept the bar high within their teams? Explore their willingness to engage me and other leaders—to tell me when they think I’m wrong? Do they accept responsibility for their own mistakes? Have they ever “apologized” to their team for something?
  • Work Ethic:  Do they work hard (not in hours only) but in effort/focus? Do they expect the same from their teammates? What do they do if they don’t get it? What if one of their teammates needs help and they’re behind schedule on their own deliverables—do they help out?
  • Quality:  Do they actively engage in quality and testing? Do they serve as a model or champion within their team? Have a whole-team view to quality? Explore how many bugs are acceptable in a project and/or release?  How many sprint escapes are ok? Finally, have them explain agile done-ness and what it means to them?
  • Business:  Do they partner with the business in driving a focus on high-value features first? Do they actively engage the business? Do they listen to the business priority and make value based trade-offs? Do they know how to write good User Stories—and have they? Get a few examples. How have they made the “business case” for a story they wanted to get done?
  • Personal:  Are they pragmatic or a purist? How do they handle conflict? Do they gold-plate their work? And do they understand the notions of good enough and just-in-time? Do they have a sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously? Would they be fun to work with?

So in this post, I emphasized the situational side of interviewing. Please don’t think this is simply FLUFF. As I said in the beginning, I truly believe this is the most important part of your selecting and building high performance agile teams. Do not short shrift or underestimate the value of your conversations with potential team members. It makes all the difference!

In my next post, we’ll explore an interviewing technique called Auditioning that extends much of what I’ve said here…

About the Author: 

Bob Galen is the Director, Agile Practices at iContact and founder of RGCG, LLC a technical consulting company focused towards increasing agility and pragmatism within software projects and teams. He has over 25 years of experience as a software developer, tester, project manager and leader. Bob regularly consults, writes and is a popular speaker on a wide variety of software topics. He is also the author of the book Scrum Product Ownership – Balancing Value from the Inside Out. He can be reached at bob@rgalen.com

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PM-Agile
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