Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Blame It On The Recruiter

As most of you know, recruiters are asked to guarantee candidates they place.  If a person does not perform well, we are asked to either replace them or return the fee paid – even if the poor performance is due to bad management or bad clients or not telling the candidate the truth during the hiring process. So be it.

Good recruiters attempt to place the right people in the right companies.  If it doesn't work out, it is often because either the company did not do its homework on the candidate (after all, it is the company's hire) or the candidate did not do his or her homework on the company.

The irony is that the hiring company rarely does its job properly, either in terms of writing job specs, interviewing or reference and/or background checks.  To put it a different way, companies conduct multiple interviews, but the people involved rarely commiserate compare with each other.  And most reference checks (which in many states are actually illegal) are rarely thorough.  It is the company's responsibility to truly vet the candidate during its multiple interviews (my record for a candidate is 19!).

Every recruiter tries to do his or her best knowing that if they send three or four candidates who are rejected by the company, they will not be used again by that company.  Even if those candidates are sent based on spurious specs. It is easy to blame it on the recruiter.
But it also works in the reverse.  Candidates blame a recruiter for placing them in a job they don’t like.  The reasons don’t matter.  The truth is that most candidates are so anxious to get an offer that they neglect to ask tough questions   The failure to ask tough questions is generally because the candidate is afraid to put the company on the spot, despite the necessity of doing so.  Any company or manager who balks at being asked a difficult question is not someone I would want to work for. (I even recently received a private email telling me that the person was afraid to ask difficult questions for fear of being rejected).
Every recruiter has learned, generally after the fact, about difficult managers, poor business practices, unfair clients or otherwise bad behavior.  If a recruiter knows of these problems in advance, the candidate can and should be warned and perceptions managed.  I learned years ago to tell candidates of difficult situations because what one person dislikes, another may love.  The choice is then the candidate’s.  In all my years of recruiting there have only been a handful of companies I would not recruit for because of ethical or other problems.

I have also had candidates blame me for things which have nothing to do with recruiting or the hiring process.  I wrote in January of 2018 about the bad seed who blamed me for something I didn’t do. I have had candidates who became angry at me for not sending them out on jobs, even though I knew they were not right for the position or did not match the job specs.  I once had a candidate who was a New Yorker with a heavy regional accent get angry at me for not sending him on a job where the specs were very specific in only sending a mid-westerner since the client was specific about not wanting a New Yorker. Otherwise this executive's credentials, at least on paper, were excellent for the job.  The candidate had heard about the job from an associate (who did not know the specs) and told all his friends that I was a terrible recruiter because he was obviously a perfect candidate for this job and I had not sent him.   He somehow got the interview and, of course, didn’t get the job.  I had another candidate who got a tentative offer dependent on a background criminal check; he signed the approval papers.  When his background showed that he had been charged with spousal abuse – twice with different wives – he blamed me for being rejected.  (However, he might have gotten the job if he had managed the process, both with me and with the company, prior to the results of his background check.)

It is easy to blame a third party for one's own mistakes.  All recruiters should be used to these kinds of things.  They just come with the job.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

30 Questions Every Person Must Ask When Job Interviewing

Since many of my readers will plan to start looking for a new job in the new year, which is fast approaching, I thought this post would be appropriate.  I recently wrote that some candidates are so anxious to get a new job and an offer that  they neglect to ask tough questions of the companies and people they are meeting.  The result is that they end up making poor decisions.  

This list is made from comments made to me as to the reasons why candidates are leaving jobs.  All too often I hear candidates say that, “If I had only known…” The truth is that they failed to ask important questions about the company and its people before accepting a job.

When I was first recruiting I met a really good account manager who had been working on a gigantic account at one of the top five agencies.  He was an account director, with about ten years’ experience.  He told me that he was looking (after only six months on the job) because the account was so large that the senior management of his agency attended every single meeting, often leaving him out.  He was looking because he was made to feel like an assistant account executive.  While interviewing he had neglected to ask about his responsibilities and involvement on the account.  I thought of his experience while writing this post.

Following is a list of critical issues and the questions that must be asked (this list is pointed towards advertising, but is valid for every profession).  Obviously, many questions should not be asked on the first interview.  Ultimately, getting a complete picture of the job, its opportunities and possibly its drawbacks, will enable a candidate to make a good decision.

Some of these questions should be asked multiple times with different people in order to determine the consistency of the responses; this is particularly important when finding out about the person who would be your direct manager.  While interviewing, listen carefully to the responses that people give you.  Sometimes what is not said may be more important than what is said.  But if you have suspicions about information being withheld or the answers are evasive, ask the question directly.

1.    Why is this job open?
2.    May I meet the previous person who had the job?
3.    If they have left the company, may I contact them?
4.    What business issues exist with the client?
5.    How is the client’s relationship with the agency?
6.    How often will I be with the client?
7.    What level(s) of client will I be dealing with?
8.    If you have been dealing with the client for a long time, will I be able to establish a good working relationship with them?
9.    What problem(s) will I be responsible for resolving?
10. What will I be responsible for doing vs what my manager will be doing?
11. Who will I be reporting to?
12. How long has that person been in his/her job?
13. What is the likelihood and timetable for their promotion?
14. How often do people at my level receive rotations?
15. What business issues are this company facing?
16. How often can I expect a raise (not for a first interview)?
17. To be asked of a manager – when was your last real vacation?
18. How does the company feel about employees taking their allotted vacation time?
19. Does the company give bonuses at my level?
20. What will my exposure to management be?
21. How involved is senior management with this business?
22. Will there be occasions when I am asked to do things on other accounts or on new business?
23. How integrated is the agency?  Who is responsible for all of the disparate elements?  What will my involvement be?
24. What will be the limits of my authority (especially important for senior executives)?
25. What will I be responsible for?
26. What will my typical day and week be like?
27. What is the real culture of the agency like?
28. Will there be travel?  If so, how much?
29. Who will report to me and what is their background?
30. If I were to get this job, what distinguishes me from other candidates you have met and interviewed?

Most of these questions can be answered during the course of chatting with people in the interview chain.  They can be handled in a way so as not to put the company interviewer on the spot.  However, they are all relevant to getting a complete understanding of the job.

Fully understanding the job is the entire purpose of interviewing.

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