Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Toughest Part of Recruiting

When I first started as a recruiter, my original premise  to clients (companies) was that I was only going to send one candidate – the right person for the job.  Within a few weeks I discovered that while it was a great sales tool and appealed to companies, it was totally impractical for me.  Candidates changed their minds, companies changed their specs, or companies neglected to tell me key aspects of their jobs which precluded my candidate from the opportunity.  Sometimes, really great candidates say or do stupid things on an interview.  So I had to abandon that practice.  However, to this day, I still send very few candidates to any given opportunity.

Because I send so few people, there is a very good chance that one of the people I send will get a job.  But that means that if I send two, I will have to tell one that he or she didn’t make it.

Like lawyers, there is an old axiom in recruiting that a headhunter should not get too close to his candidates.  But the fun and wonderful part of recruiting is getting to know people as I work with them.  So it becomes especially difficult to say no to someone I have grown fond of.

I have learned that the best way to do it is not to beat around the bush, to give bad news simply and directly.  It doesn’t make it any easier, but it insures that I give the right headline as quickly as possible.

Much of recruiting is about chemistry.  Candidates develop backgrounds which are easily discernible on their résumés.  They may be clearly qualified and interested in a job, but the key element is always going to be personality and "fit". Most people who interview and decide that they want the job believe themselves to be qualified.  Sometimes they really believe that they connected with the people that they met during interviews, so telling them no is difficult.

Saying no to people I have gotten to know well and worked with over an extended period of time is doubly difficult.  Over the years, I have had candidates who have had all kinds or reactions, including candidates who were actually angry with me when I told them they did not get the job. But, as they say, don’t shoot the messenger.  I can find the opportunity and send candidates on an interview, but I cannot get them the job.  They have to do that themselves.

So to all those people I had to say no to this year (and every year), I sincerely hope we can work together in 2012 and make something positive happen.  I would much rather say yes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten Steps to Insure that the Job You Interview for is Right For You

Last week’s post was entitled, “Hot to make sure the person you hired was the person you interviewed.”  It was about hiring procedures.  I received an email in response which said: “Now you should write one from the candidates perceptive. We've all taken jobs we shouldn't have.)”.  So here it is.

If you are like most candidates, when you go for an interview, even one you are not sure about, you try to impress your interviewer.  Everyone wants to be liked.  But all too often, candidates forget to interview the interviewer.  When this happens the result is not enough information.  Here are a few simple rules to answer during the interview process. 

It is important to understand that the sole purpose of an interview is to gather information about a potential job or company. The purpose of the entire process is to determine if the job is appropriate. Before you say yes or not, you should always meet the most senior person possible.

Here are the things you need to find out and do.  Candidates should not skip these steps.

1)  Why is the Job Open
If this is a replacement, find out where the previous person is going and why.  If they were promoted and you will be reporting to them, make sure there is enough “space” between you and them.  If this is an expansion, determine what was done before, who did it and how it was done.

2)  What are the Job Responsibilities
Ask to see the written job specs.  Determine how much time will be spent on each of the things listed. 

3)  What are the Expectations
How will success be measured?  What problems need to be resolved both internally and with clients? How will you be evaluated? How long will you be given to achieve your goals?

4)  Will you be Given The Appropriate Tools to Achieve the Company’s Goals?
Responsibility is one thing.  But Authority is quite another.  Make sure that the company gives you the ability to achieve your goals.  If you are not given the authority to make and carry out tough decisions, it may be impossible to carry out your mission.

5)  What is the Management Style of your immediate Supervisor?
My observation is that the answer to this question is most critical.  More people leave jobs because they do not like or respect their boss than any other reason.  You must determine the pluses and minuses.  This question should be asked with everyone you interview, including the supervisor, who can be gently reminded of his or her responses once you have taken the job.

6)  Who Will You Be Working With?
I have written about this before.  You have every right to meet the people you will be working with, even subordinates.  They can give you great perspective on the job, your client and your boss.

7)  What is the History of the Position?
What has happened to the prior holders of this position? Have they been promoted?  Rotated?  How long did it take?

8)  What is the Client like?
Determining who the client is and whether the client will become a partner or not is really important.  I have heard too many cases of clients who only want to deal with a specific person and shut out all others.  If the client is abusive find out why.  You can ask to meet the client.
It is also critical to determine the health of the relationship.  If you don’t ask, you won’t necessarily find out.  If there is contemplation of budget cuts, you need to know.

9)  Make Sure You Like the People
Will you be comfortable traveling with them, eating with them, working late with them?  Do they like you?  Are you treated with respect during the interview process? Did they willingly give you all the time you needed during the interviewing and offer process?

10)  Ask the Same Questions of Everyone You Meet
Very important.  Listen carefully to the answers you get and don’t get.  Nuance may be critical.  If there are significant differences in the responses, determine where the truth lies.

Monday, December 12, 2011

How to Make Sure the Person You Hire is the Person You Interviewed

I have wanted to write this for a long time.  Everyone hires someone at one point or another.  How many of you have made bad hires?  The answer should be that we have all done it.  We have all hired someone and once they started work, we discovered all the flaws in their abilities and personality. And then we second guessed ourselves on how it could have happened.

One reason this happens because jobs are not specified correctly.  Most job specs I receive are pap. They are a wish list of personality attributes which have very little to do with the actual job that needs to be accomplished.  Job specs must spell out the truth about the job, pluses and minuses, the personality of the person you want to hire and it must detail the issues to be handled and resolved.  This is true of very senior people as well as account executives.

But that aside, there are things which can be done during the interview process to insure the success of candidates once they are hired.  Most interviews last between half an hour and an hour.  That is obviously not enough time to determine all you need to know about the person you are seeing.  It is probably enough time to determine if someone’s personality is a fit, but not necessarily their skill set.  However, assuming that they will meet with three or four other people, that works out to be three to four or five hours of total interviewing time. If played right, that should be enough time to make a proper determination of their fit and qualifications. 

Each person in the process should have a specific function. The hiring manager, who is generally the first person to interview, should do general screening – interests, experiences, preliminary abilities to do the job.  Subsequent people should be a double-check.

Most interviews take the résumé for granted.  If someone is looking for a package goods account director and you are interviewing someone who was trained at a major agency, worked on J&J, P&G and Lever, it is very easy to accept that their skills are appropriate.  But are they?  It is critical to determine what their roles were vs. what their supervisors (and even subordinates) did.  It is important to explore candidate's motivations, interests, ambitions and management styles.

Everyone in the interviewing process should have agreed to the job specs and be totally familiar with them. Assuming that multiple people will meet this candidate, with each successive interview, it is essential for the group to sit together and actually discuss the candidate.  This is rarely done.  What I know happens, is that the first interviewer says to HR or the second person to be scheduled, “I saw someone I liked who you should meet”.  That is often the end of the discussion. A meeting among those in the interview cycle is an important component so that the pros and cons of the candidate can be discussed and an agenda for the next interview agreed upon to determine things that need to be covered or double checked. If this is followed, many flaws will be uncovered.  And if a candidate is “iffy”, both positives and negatives will emerge.

All too often, after the first interview, which is generally with the hiring manager, the subsequent interviews become merely a personality check.  This leads to poor hires.

It is essential to determine if the candidate has the actual skill set that is necessary (that is where job specs come in) for success.  In one famous case, a potential head of an agency was interviewed by a number of senior holding company executives, but they failed to determine if the candidate was capable of solving the agency’s issues (maybe they didn’t know, but if so, shame on them). 

All too often the hiring manager finds a candidate he or she likes and the subsequent interviews are simply a rubber stamp, but the other people in the process know that the hiring manger has a specific management style which needs to be screened for.  If a supervisor is difficult or needs a person who is a counter-balance, those attributes need to be spelled out in the job specs.  I can think of another case where a newly-wed who loved to travel was hired.  She was not told the account was in production virtually all month, every month.  After six weeks on the road she resigned because she had only been home three nights.

If someone leaves a job quickly, the original job specs have to be reexamined. An honest exit interview is essential to determine if there were issues which need to be covered in a revised job specification.   All too many executives don’t know how to write an actionable and realistic job specification.  I always say that if a candidate is rejected (or accepted ) for a reason that is not in the job spec, the job spec is incomplete and must be rewritten.

Too often I hear of someone failing in a job because neither the candidate nor the company defined the expectations clearly.

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