Interviewing Stress

Why do you hate to interview? Some people are so terrified at the thought of going to an interview, it literally makes them freeze with fear. Others forget the answers to their questions and the rare ones are calm as cucumbers. How do we prepare for the face-to-face meeting and make it fun?

First off, wear your most comfortable professional outfit. If you are comfortable, you won’t be fidgeting in your seat. Please make sure it is clean for goodness sake!

2nd, no extra jewelry, crazy colored nail polish, or wild eye shadows. Simple and professional. This speaks to all genders.

3rd, practice answering interviewing questions with a friend. Take it seriously. Try not to say “like” or “um”. When you get to the interview and you are answering the question, if you need more time, simply say something like, “that’s a great question, let me think of answer that will be relevant for you”.

Before you go to the interview, be sure to thoroughly check out the company’s website and social media presence. There you will be able to formulate questions when the interviewer asks you if you have any. It is always good to have one or two.

At the end, stand up and thank them. If protocol allows for a handshake, give a firm one. You can ask for a business card from them at this time if they have not provided one to you so you can send a thank you email.

Sending a thank you email. I like to remember a part of the interview that was funny or personal or meant something, and use that in my greeting such as, “I really like the way you spoke about how this role works hands on with the marketing team, I had some experience at my last position in marketing. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain that to me today. I look forward to our next meeting.” This makes the greeting more personal and shows you were engaged in the interview.

I hope these tips helped! Make it a great day!

Networking

Networking is about the other person first. Remember that. Its not about what you can get from them. Its about what you can do for them.

Why? When we network, we are creating professional relationships that teach us information about that persons job title, company, and company culture. We learn if they would be a future client or vendor of ours. We cultivate that relationship over time to make sure we have all the information we need to make informed decisions down the road.

When the time comes for help, we can then ask for help with a project, sale, or a job referral.

If you have worked with the individual before, never burn bridges. You never know when a situation will arise that this contact may help you. It could be a job interview. It could be a sale that will help you reach to your goal.

When reaching out to a new person that you don’t know. Make your you introduce yourself. Explain why you would like to connect with them. Don’t just use the canned text introduction. Make it personal. You just might be glad you did! Make it a great day!

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 Do I Love HR?

HR can be a thankless job, but I love it. So many people will tell me, “Oh, I could never do what you do!” I’d like to say, they’re right. Not because they don’t have the patience or character, but because they have no idea what I really do.

HR Gets a Bad Rap

These same people think that I just fire employees all day. I’m the “hatchet lady.” If I fired people all day, the office would be empty.

So what is it that I do differently? Maybe it is not different, but it is me. I like to keep it real.

I work very hard to establish relationships with all of my employees. Yes, I call them mine. I want to know about them. I want to hear what their dreams are, career goals, and of course, what they need from me.

Never Promise What You Can’t Deliver

I try to follow through on my promises to them. I never promise something that I can’t deliver. You don’t build trust that way.

If they come and knock on my door, I know they want to talk. Before I let them start, I make sure they know that how I react is dependent on what they say to me. I always let them know that I have three virtual filing cabinets in my brain. The first one is for verbal vomiting that is mainly a place I put the information that they are giving me and it doesn’t need further inquiry. I may offer tools and suggestions to help them through their crisis, but it is usually a safe place for them to come and let off some steam. The second virtual filing cabinet is for those issues that involve a co-worker or supervisor that need coaching or mediation. I make sure that I tell the employee that I will help them as much as possible. Most of the time they don’t want me to do anything. The third and final virtual filing cabinet is reserved for when the employee says keywords or phrases that would lead me to open an investigation. Things like feeling as though they are in a hostile work environment, or they are being bullied, or that person sexually assaulted me. These issues are immediately dealt with. This is the hard part. The employee usually tells me they don’t want to get anyone fired. I have to explain that I would start an investigation before that happened. I also remind them that we have policies and procedures that we need to abide by. I remind them that at this point, I don’t have a choice and I must move forward. In the end, they are appreciative that I have done my job to protect them.

Yes, I Have to Discipline Sometimes

I do have to follow the disciplinary action processes that are set up in each organization. I prefer to train employees on what they should and shouldn’t be doing and monitor their progress. You also have to train the managers and supervisors to document. We try to live in a world where there are fewer disciplinary actions and more education, but there are times when we have to drop the hammer. I want all employees to be set up for success. Have we given them the tools to do their jobs correctly in the first place? Have we explained the behaviors and norms we expect to see at your offices? If, not then we haven’t done our jobs yet.

Benefits and PTO and 401(k)’s Oh My!

Yes, an HR team is responsible for making sure that each employee is also enrolled in all of the eligible benefits. If you are in an organization that has high turnover, this can be challenging for the HR team. Give them a break. Timing on benefits is everything. Making sure people are signed up and/or removed from coverage based on their start/stop dates is not always easy. We have to make sure the invoices from these vendors are correct at all times on top of taking care of the employee’s needs.

Sounds Like a Lot, Right?

I haven’t really scratched the surface of what an HR team really does, but you can catch a glimpse of the complexity. Give your HR Director the budget to staff the team they need so you don’t lose them from being overworked. Make sure you pay them what they are worth too. Don’t always look at the industry you are in, look at their skills, abilities, and experience. Ask them what they believe they should be making and negotiate. All in all, I love my job. I enjoy the people and I enjoy the challenge.

Are You Ghosting Your Applicants?

Ghosting in HR

I’m finding that job candidates are getting ghosted by employers. To me this is unacceptable. At the minimum employers should send the standard email explaining that due to the high volume of applicants not all candidates will be contacted. We thank you for your interest in our company.

This is an appropriate email after someone has chosen to work for you.

Phone Interview Etiquette

If you have done a phone screen on the applicant and you know from their responses, they won’t be moving on to the next round of interviews. At the minimum, human resources should send a rejection email thanking them for their time. You don’t want to explain in too much detail why a candidate didn’t make it to the next round but you should give them the courtesy of a response.

In-Person Interview Etiquette

If you have performed a phone screen and brought the candidate in for an interview with the team, and you aren’t going to be moving the applicant further, call them and let them know in person. If they don’t answer the phone leave a voice mail and be sure to thank them for applying and wish them luck in their search.

The most important thing to contact them. We, as employers, should not be so arrogant to think that this employee is desperate to work for us but they have a choice. We should be grateful they wanted to apply. Ultimately without applicants and candidates who want to work at our organizations, we would be out of business.

Reference Checks

Do me a favor and don’t check references until you have your final two candidates. It is disrespectful to the candidate and to their friends, colleagues, and former supervisors taking the time to perform said references for your organization on behalf of your candidate.

Please don’t waste their precious time doing references on everyone. Save it for the two finalists.

Final Thoughts

Please be respectful of job seekers. They have looked at your posted job description and feel they qualify for it.

They have looked at your company website and feel your organization would be a good fit for them.

They have possibly received a referral from a current employee. Show them why this person would say it’s a good place to work.

Give them the respect they deserve and show them their first great impression of your company.

On-boarding; Make it the Best First Day of their lives.

An employees first day is one of the most important days of their tenure at your company. Better yet, the first two hours are. Those two hours are highly critical for their decision making process. The decision on whether or not they are going stay with your organization.

We could back up a bit to the recruiting process and the interactions and interviews you had with them because we know that these events are also ones that shape their decisions too. We must always be on our best behavior. Let’s just assume for the sake of this article that we already are doing this.

Day One…

My philosophy is to start the new employee later than their normal schedule will be and let them go home early the first day with a full days’ pay. You have already emailed the pertinent on-boarding paperwork to them so when they show up at 9:00 am on their first day they have all that paperwork with them filled out for you to simply double check. They should have their proper identification out and ready to present to you. Why do they have it ready? Because you emailed them a list of everything they need to bring with them on that first day. Is that snickering I hear from you? All of this preparation does come with the knowledge that sometime the new hire will not have read the email and come empty-handed. Remind them that they must bring in the proper identification to you within the three days or we are not in compliance. Don’t let this ruin the employees first day experience. We all know that we are responsible for getting that information.

Tips and Tricks

If you can have a card signed by the team and some executives ready for them that be a great welcome for them. Have their desk set up with all the basic supplies they need for their jobs and the card presented on the desk. If the position does not have a desk set up then presenting it at the end of the HR portion of their first day is fine.

The next step should be with a team leader or supervisor to give the new hire a tour of your facility. Take the time to show them the restrooms, lunch area, lockers if applicable, etc. After the tour have a special meeting to introduce them to the team with pastries and juice. A meet and greet if you will. Show the employee their desk and let them take a bio-break.

Mealtime

Lunch on the first day for the new hire should never be spent alone. We are not, or should not be too busy to schedule a special lunchtime meeting between the new employee and their manager. This is a nice way to answer get to know them personally, answer any questions they might have, and give them the rest of the days’ itinerary. A written agenda shows you took the time to prepare the days’ events and sets aside time for other for any other introductions with department heads this role with will be working with.

The End of the Day is Near

At the end of this first day, remember to give your new team member, if you can, a daily operation manual for them to go through or take home to read at their leisure. Right before they go home for the day the manager and the employee can work out the regular schedule for the rest of this first week and going forward depending on your needs at the organization. Having clear communication of expectations is the best way to start out this relationship.

This first day the new employee has met many people, learned many new things, and most likely is exhausted. Leaving early is a chance for them to regroup for the next day. (As well as knowing we have to get caught up on all the things we didn’t get to do today, its a never ending cycle).

First Impressions are Lasting

I hope this glimpse of a first day has helped you out. First impressions are lasting. Please comment with ideas you have used for on-boarding your new employees!

The Art of Resume’ Reading

Looking at resume’s seems to be a lost art form these days. The more technology we use to parse out words and phrases, takes away the humanity of the resume itself. After all, this is about the human. The people we want to bring in to our organizations.

I’m a bit old school and like to look at every resume. I look at details like length of service at each job, duties they performed, skills they may have, people they managed, and what their education is. I’m sure you all check out these details too.

Technology

Resume readers, and I mean the robot kind, are programmed to look for key words and phrases that match up with the job description. That’s fine but what a robot doesn’t do is see experiences that may not match exactly to the current job applied to, but have related experience that transfers to the posted job requirements.

I like to look for these types of details because it shows flexibility and their potential range. Now some might say that looking at each resume might be deemed as discriminatory because of the title names sounding “ethnic” and that would cause me to not pick them for interviewing. Well that would be true if I was a BAD HR Director. But since I’m NOT, I don’t worry about it. I always start with the job description and match skills and experience. If you take a chance on someone that is really close to your requirements as well, it may surprise you.

So now you have a pool of candidates…

Let’s do a phone screen interview. I have used a specific phone screen template for many years now and I always start with the “housekeeping” questions. What are they you ask?

  1. How did you hear about this opening? *This allows you to track and report where people are finding your ads to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.
  2. If chosen, what is your availability for an in-house interview? *This give you a firm grasp of when is best to schedule with this candidate. It is very helpful especially if you are planning for multiple interviews in one day.
  3. Do you have a wage in mind for this position? *I know in some states it is illegal to ask what someone is currently making per hour so I don’t ask that question. Asking the candidate what they are looking for is perfectly legal. It gives you a chance to see if their expectations are within the pay grade range you have set up for this position. If it is too high you can tell them what the range is and ask if it fits within their budget. If yes, great! Continue the interview. If its not, then politely say that we didn’t want to waste their time and they didn’t want t o waste ours. End the interview at this point.
  4. If you were to be hired for the position, when would you be able to start? *The answer to this question can give us many clues. If they say “I need to give 2 weeks” that is a standard time frame that most companies ask employees to respect. If they say “anytime” they are most likely not currently working (so check their resume to see if it jives). Now, some positions may require longer notice periods but for the most part the answer to this question helps you and the hiring manager.
  5. Why are you leaving your current position? *If in #4 they answer “anytime” , you can assume they aren’t currently working but I have heard many reasons for this question. I personally don’t take offense or read much into it, I just like to know why if they are willing to tell me. It can be for reasons like lay-offs, personal growth, “I always wanted to work here”, or just moved to the area. Remember from my first article, sometimes people leave their bosses. That is a big reason.
  6. Are you available to work at our xxx location? *You want to be sure to tell them where they will be working in case you have multiple locations and you know where this particular position will work.

Meat and Potatoes

Now that the housekeeping questions are complete, you can get into the “meat and potatoes” of the job to see if the candidate really knows their stuff. I like to put together questions pertaining to the job title and then work with the hiring manager to come up with a few questions that they want to know up front before face-to-face interviews. I suggest about ten questions. It shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes of interview time. The last three questions are usually the same for me.

What kind of manager to you like to have? *Most people will say that want communication with their manager and no micro-managing.

Why are you the person for the position? *I like to hear people respond with confidence here such as, I “know” I’m the right person because…. If they use, “I think I’m the right person…” then it shows less confidence in themselves and possibly their ability to do the job.

What questions do you have for me? *This is a good tool for getting more information about where the candidate is coming from. What they are really interested in. I find too, if as the HR person I don’t know the answer, it is an opportunity for me to ask the hiring manager so I have a better understanding of the role and the department. You learn something new everyday.

Now that the phone screen is over…

After each interview, I like to type up the responses and send them along with the resume to the hiring manager. From there, the manager can see we have asked each candidate the same questions and they can pick from the group who they want to bring in for the next round. I usually step back in when the manager has made a decision and wants to make an offer. Of course different companies have different recruiting and hiring processes but this gives you some ideas to use.

Recruiting, Ugh, right?!?

I know what you’re thinking, “I’m doing everything I can think of!” Well, let’s put those ideas aside for now and see what else is out there. Now I already know that some of you have budget constraints, technological barriers, or you are an HR team of one. Let’s see what we can do to help you all. If we keep listing ideas, there might be something new that will work for you and your organization.

The Basics

  • Recruiting Software
  • Job sourcing websites
  • Job Fairs (internal and external)
  • Company websites
  • Company social media sites
  • LinkedIn sites professional and personal

Let’s start with Job Fairs. Are you doing them? I am sure it depends on the industry you are in. What are you doing at them? Are we sitting behind a six foot table not engaging with the candidates or are we on our feet out in front of the table greeting and talking with potential hires?

Are you passing out any information? Swag? I found a great tool in a small logo’d zipper pouch that my business card fits into along with a piece of candy of course! It is a bright color, simple, small, and something that reminds them of me when they get home. Of course I pass out other pertinent materials and encourage them to write their contact information down so I can thank them for stopping by.

What does your table look like?

Is your table covered with a plain white table cloth and white paper to put names and numbers on? Is the table covered with a cloth at all?

Please make sure that you use either your company colors or a bright tablecloth to stand out from the competition. You can also purchase a relatively inexpensive smaller banner cloth with your company logo or name on it. Purchase some display cases with and 8 x 10 flyer listing your open positions or current hiring bonuses. Candy is always a nice give-away as well as some type of branded gift.

Elevator Speech

Definition: A slang term used to describe a brief speech that outlines an idea for a product, service, or project. Usually 20-60 seconds in length. Do you have one?

Here is how to create one:

  • List what you do for the company and who you are
  • List what service or jobs you can offer them
  • What are the advantages of working for your company
  • Why do you differ from other companies
  • Fine tune your speech
  • Make sure the sentences flow
  • Memorize it
  • Practice, Practice, Practice!

Example: Hi! My name is Lisa Gallucci and I am the HR Director here at James Company. I have sixteen openings right now in several departments including facilities, accounting, customer service, and environmental services. We offer 100% employer paid medical, dental, and vision for our employees. Please feel free to write down your contact information here and we can set up a tour!

Now you have given them a bunch of information about what you are offering, what you can offer them and you have received their contact information to follow up with them. Great job! Stay tuned for discussions on other recruiting ideas. Ciao for now!