Conversational Interviews

Recently, I commented on a post about making interviews a conversation rather than an interrogation and it got me thinking about this blog that I do. I am one of those strange people that love to interview when I am looking for a job. I do not like looking for a job, mind you. I would rather have one however, I love when the interviewer asks questions that I have not had before, and I really get to dig deep into my past and talk about the fun that I have had in my past career as an HR professional. Yes, I have had fun!

If you are an HR person like me, you are truly passionate about the subject of HR. Employee relations, training, and yes, even the icky stuff like FMLA, ADA, and worker’s compensation. Of course, we prefer things that make us happier like the employee relations stuff and training, but it all balances out if we have a good team and a great boss.

Let us get back to the interview process though. In the beginning when we are hiring for a position and we have the luxury of conducting a phone interview with the candidate, I personally like to ask two types of questions. The first few are housekeeping questions. Why are you looking? What kind of notice are you giving? How did you hear about us? What kind of salary are you looking for? This last one is tricky because people get shy about this one. I personally like to give a range so that there are clear expectations of where the salary is compared to where their budget lies. If they know what the range is, they can see if it fits within their needs. If not, then the interview can end right then and there. We do not waste each other’s time. The next set of questions pertain to the job itself and I always begin by saying the following sentence: “I have a bunch of questions and I hope to have a fun conversation with you. During the course of our conversation, you might answer questions I have not asked you yet, so bear with me while I take notes, lets have some fun!” Then we begin. This is when you start the conversation. The interview may start out slow but if you engage in something they say, the candidate may start to relax and show you bits and pieces of their personality or the true passion they have for the position they are applying for.

One of my favorite conversations was with a man that loved to garden. We were hiring for a groundskeeping role, and he was talking about how much he loved to garden. He went on about the tools he liked to use to edge the lawn and how he took pride in making the edge straight up the walkway to the front door. It was moving. I know that sounds silly, but he was so passionate about what he did for a living that I moved him on to the next round and he got the job. He has been with the company for 12 years now. He does not need to be promoted; he is not looking for a management position. He is content and happy living his best life making the garden, lawn, and grounds beautiful and being happy in the process. A true work/life balance.

I know that sometimes we focus on the gaps in employment. I even have some gaps. Life happens. Sometimes we take time to have kids, we get laid off and have a hard time finding a new job due to the economy, we have ill family members that need care. As an HR professional, I tend not to focus on these too hard. I will ask about them, I want someone that is serious about staying in a position because as we all know, turnover is expensive. We do not want to have to rehire someone over and over again.

It is time to have those fun conversations with your candidates, see what you can find out. Listen to the other jobs that they have worked and the other skills they gave obtained for the current position you are offering. Education in a field is great, but you cannot beat real-world work experience. When a candidate is comfortable, they will reveal more of themselves to you.

Sneaky….not so much!

I have been in the applicant pool for a few months now and you can’t fool me when you have this fancy HRIS system that sets up a “profile” for me to check my applications and I am required to put my birthday in it. Why do you need this information? You are not supposed to discriminate against me or anyone else on the basis of age among a long list of other items.

You Can’t Fool Me

As an HR professional in the market place, you can’t fool me with this tactic. I guess you feel like people are so desperate that they will give you the information so they have a chance to get in to your company.

When an applicant is applying to multiple organizations, the thought of having to first fill out a profile and then an application is daunting. In my opinion, you should be making the application process much simpler for people. They should have the ability to send you their resume, answer a few pertinent questions for your team and be able to receive text messages for the status of the application.

Remember to K.I.S.S.

Continue reading “Sneaky….not so much!”

Why Does it Take So Long to Hire?

The time it is taking employers to make decisions on hiring is excruciating. I am all for finding the right person for the job and the right fit, but if after multiple phone screens and in-person interviews you can’t decide, then you don’t have the right person or you are being way too picky. Employers should be hiring with diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their thinking as well. But if you wait too long, you will lose the candidate that could take your organization to the next level.

Please Consider the Candidates Timeline

You as the employer, have no idea of the circumstances of your candidates and why they are looking for new employment. Unemployment only lasts six months and there are no extensions in Washington State. So, this could mean that your candidate is on the brink of homelessness or bankruptcy at no fault of their own. I’m not saying that all candidates are in this dilemma but there are many people that I have spoken to that have been looking for a position for up to and more than a year. They report that unemployment is low and companies are having a hard time finding people, (so they say) I just don’t buy it.

Speed Up or Fine Tune Your Processes

You can find good people quickly. That same first impression or chemistry test you all use when meeting a new friend or potential mate can also be used to find a new employee. Do you like their knowledge, skills, and abilities? Are they answering the questions correctly? Do they have a nice demeanor? Then give them a shot! You may be saving a life in the process or the life of an entire family.

What Can HR Leaders Do?

Work with your executive teams and hiring managers to set compensation ranges, job descriptions, and hiring timeline expectations. When you are organized in the beginning and you have a generous advertising budget you will gather the resumes you need to start the phone screening process and get people in the door to begin interviewing. There will always be those exceptions in the process, but ultimately you can speed this up by planning ahead and being organized.

It’s Time for the In-house Interview

So you have phone-screened your candidates and you pick a lot to come in and meet the team. Today is the day. What will happen?

You decide that you can spread out the three candidates in one day. Make sure you and your team are fresh all day. Each candidate deserves your complete attention without distractions or fatigue

Types of Interviewee’s

All of these candidates are coming in hopeful, energetic, and a bit nervous at the same time. Let’s take a look at what could happen and what you can do to counteract it.

  1. The “One word answer” candidate. What should you do? Well, obviously the interview will be shorter but let’s see if you can get the person to open up a little. If you have asked all of the pertinent questions for the job, ask the person what they are passionate about. The person may surprise you and start blabbing about their passions. This is when you can see the real deal. The person behind the fear.
  2. The “Can’t stop talking to save my soul” candidate. These ones are hard for me because I want to keep on schedule and when someone just keeps rambling on, it is really hard to concentrate. This person is usually this way all the time. It’s not nerves. Let’s be real. You may love it or not, but it is hard to listen to. Of course we don’t let that get in the way of seeing if the person is qualified for the job, but it does go to “fit” within the organization.
  3. The “Confident Interviewer” candidate. I feel a kinship to these types of candidates. I have been in my field long enough that I am confident in my skills and abilities and at a certain level, the employer should be understanding that the position they are hiring for the person they speak to has the education and skill level they are looking for. Sometimes we are wrong. I know this. However, the majority of the time it is true. So this interview goes by smoothly and someone on team feels that the candidate is cocky or conceited. Is this really true? Or…is it the fact that confidence can make others uncomfortable if they are not as confident in their own roles.

I know I sound like a head shrinker in this case but be aware that this may happen. We don’t want to lose a good candidate because someone on the team is threatened. We also want to make sure that we are not basing this decision on gender too. If a man is confident, they are seen as go-getters. If a woman is the same, she is seen as a bitch or conceited. Let’s make sure we are providing equity in the workplace and not allowing this to happen.

Pick the Final Two

Of these three, who would you pick to come back? Only you and your team can decide. You know your culture, what the job entails, who they have to work with, etc. Make sure you decide on the person based on their skills and abilities and then fit for the organization. Don’t just pick someone because everyone liked them. Make sure they can do the job.

Also, a person may surprise you when they get hired and they have the pressure of being “on”. They might relax and show you their personality a bit easier. Yes, this can backfire. Let’s concentrate on the good for a while and play that this has a great outcome, shall we?

The Last One Standing

Here is your winner. You have had all of the interviews, you have asked all the questions and answered some too. Congratulations on picking your new team member. There is nothing in HR as satisfying as giving someone a new job. I love the feeling of it and I love seeing their face on the first day!

Interview Questions that Suck…

What is your greatest weakness?

Why would you ever in 2019 want to ask a candidate what their weaknesses are? This is a punitive and antiquated question. I feel like this question needs to go hide in the closet and never come out again.

The answer you are most likely going to get from people so they don’t have to speak badly about themselves, is “If anything, I am a perfectionist”. Is that really a weakness? Candidates spin this so it looks like they’ve answered your question. I don’t see how wanting to do things extremely well in our work is a bad thing. If we were to really just lay it out there, a good answer to this question could be; “Sometimes I just hate dealing with stupid people and want them to leave me alone so I can get my job done”. Is that a weakness? I know we all have thought this same sentiment at one time or another.

Where do you see yourself in Five Years?

Wow. As an HR professional that has been in this business for a long time, I know that either people stay in their positions for ten or more years, or they leave within two or three. With the surge of millennial’s in the workplace, asking them what they think they might be doing five years from now is daunting to them. I once read an article that said instead of trying to retain millennial’s, we should invite them to come and work for us and if they decide to leave, invite them to come back when they have tested out other organizations. Guess what you’ll get back? A more experienced employee with ideas that might help you move your business two or three steps further based off the knowledge that they have gained elsewhere. On top of that, you will have shown this employee that you cared enough to let them fly free and come back to the nest when they were ready.

Tell me about yourself…

Yikes. I have been guilty of asking this question in the past. This is a very difficult question to ask candidates and even more difficult for them to answer. Most people don’t want to talk about themselves. It is awkward and at times you may be getting answers to questions that fall on the line of being illegal. Does this question affect the candidate’s ability to do the job? Will the answers they give you contribute to their ability to do the job? Most likely, not. So don’t ask this. Let’s stick to questions that are job related. Especially if these are initial screening questions. As HR professionals we want to verify that they have the necessary skills and abilities to do the job, not if they were to be any tree in the world, they’d be an Oak.