From November, 2010

To Beard or not To Beard: Dressing for an interview

Recently I grew a beard. Not so much out of laziness but curiosity as to how I would look wearing one. I work in a casual business environment so sporting facial hair doesn’t raise bearded manmany eyebrows, however in past environments and with different superiors, facial hair was frowned upon. Even now, after posting videos representing our business, our business partners have commented that perhaps their conservative customers may not appreciate such an “un-conservative” appearance. Translation, “Lose the beard, Ryder!”

The question then is, when interviewing for a job, are beards acceptable? How about high heels, colored shirts, short dresses, or piercings for that matter?

My previous boss started out in IBM back in the 50’s. Everyone was required to wear a dark suit, white shirt, and dress shoes. If you showed up to an interview with a beard or loafers you might as well skip to the hand shake at the end and turn right back around. You were wasting your time. Beards and loafers represented laziness.

Today perhaps we aren’t as strict but when attending an interview, dressing your best is probably the safest bet and beards or even goatees might not make the cut. In her post, “Dressing for Success“, Alison Doyle provides tips on how to dress and says it is probably safer to be overdressed than underdressed. Fifty-Five percent of another person’s impression of you is based on your appearance.

So put your best foot forward and dress professionally. No one will ever fault you for that. Once you get the job then maybe you can regrow that beard, or put on your tennis shoes, or plug in your nose ring, or spray on your perfume, or put on your favorite Hawaiian shirt.

As for the fate of my beard, I’m still undecided, but I won’t lose any sleep over losing it.

Practice interviewing online before the big day or see how you look on camera with your beard! This is a complimentary service for job seekers.  You can even share the interview with friends and family or on your social networks!   Hone your skills and nail the interview!

Is Workplace Likeability really that important?

New Flash everyone, evidently being likable can get you hired over someone not so likable and even further your career. Does this sound obvious to you? Well being likable is a trait that escapes many including yours truly. Whether you’re a hiring manager or a job candidate, read on to find out why this trait is so important.

According to “The Likeability Factor” by Tim Sanders, being likable is more important than confidence because people gravitate towards others who create a positive emotional response in them. According to a USA Today article, being disliked can undermine the effectiveness of colleagues working together and alienate customers. In fact likeability is the “tie-breaker” to almost anything, even skills. Managers would rather work with someone less skilled and likeable than someone who is competent but alienates their co-workers. As a result some companies have placed less focus on competencies and more on determining the likeability of their employees. The idea is that if someone is lacking a specific skill set, they can always receive training but the ability to be well-liked is not a talent that can be taught.

One CEO went on to mention he won’t hire anyone perceived to have an attitude and now goes the extra mile to determine the candidate’s personality.

Gauging a job candidate’s likeability by looking at their resume or even simply listening to them on the phone is going to be difficult. Obviously interviewing them face-to-face is the best option, but then hiring managers run the risk of spending a lot of time interviewing candidates they know right away are not likeable. A good method to determine in advance if candidates possess adequate enthusiasm is to use pre-screening tools such as a behavioral assessment or even a video interviewing tool. Both tools will give you greater insight into the candidate’s personality prior to committing valuable time to interviewing them. Behavioral assessments will lend insight into a candidate’s on the job behaviors and a video interviewing tool will allow you to better determine the candidate’s enthusiasm and interest in your opportunity.

This will be the last post this week! Happy Thanksgiving!

Why should candidates video interview themselves? I’ll tell you why.

As a recruiter based in VA, I have received a few calls from people who have taken time out of their day to tell me they don’t understand the value of having a job candidate interview themselves. I’ll give you a good example of why I have used and continue to use tools that allow job candidates to interview themselves online. Each of these scenarios has occurred.

Scenario A: Face-to-face interviewing
I look at 50 resumes, narrow it down to five based on qualifications and set aside my whole day to interview these five candidates. Two of the five I know within the first five minutes aren’t a good fit for the job but I had still scheduled an extra 30 minutes of my day to interviewing them. What a waste of time! The other three candidates were good but the next day I couldn’t remember a lot of what they said. Furthermore I now have to bring them back in so they can meet with my colleague who could not arrange his schedule to meet with them. This will take even more time away from business. Verdict: At least two hours wasted interviewing bad candidates and I can’t remember everything they said.

Scenario B: Using a two-way video conferencing tool like Skype, AIM, MS Messenger.
My client asked me to find sales people specializing in Ecommerce in California. I find five good candidates which we will interview on behalf of our client. We will report our findings back to the client. Problem is none of the candidates, all of whom have jobs, can interview during the day which means I need to interview them after hours. With the time change that means I can’t interview the first one until at least 8:30 p.m. That’s a drag but what can you do? Oh yeah, use a self-interviewing tool but more on that later.

Candidate 1: Not very good but have to interview them anyway
Candidate 2: Good answers! I hope I remember them.
Candidate 3: Shows up late to conference and my internet connection drops twice. Aaarggh!
Candidate 4: Again not very good but I still hang around for my 5th interview. Tick, tick, tick.
Candidate 5: Good, but I’m distracted by the late hour and what my wife is going to say to me.
Note: Most conferencing programs don’t have recording capability so I have to point a videocamera at the screen. Verdict: A scheduling nightmare for everyone and no easy way to share the recorded clips with my client.

Scenario C: The candidate interviews themselves:
I uploaded questions into our portal that the client wanted the candidates to answer. I sent the candidates login instructions then went home to my wife and family. The next morning I logged into my portal and forwarded links to each candidates’ completed and recorded video to my client. Done! Verdict: Easy to schedule and easy to review. Saved everyone time.

How could I do this? Because the candidates interviewed themselves afterhours when it was convenient for them. No scheduling hassles. No inconvenient times of day. All the candidates answered the same questions and better yet, their interviews were recorded by their webcams on the fly and indexed by question.

I don’t suggest this tool should take the place of a face-to-face interview. I use it to screen out candidates who aren’t a good fit for my clients. Hiring managers can quickly screen through six candidates in the time it takes them to interview one bad candidate face-to-face. Plus they can review more than once and share it with colleagues.

Any questions?

Is Video killing the phone screening star?

In August of 1981 MTV launched and the first video played was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. MTV chose the song clearly as a shot at radio believing perhaps that music videos would soon replace radio which of course had no video to accompany the songs.

Dr. John Sullivan’s “Live video interviews are now a best practice” and Madeline Laurano’s recent blog on video-interviewing, tout the positive aspects of video-interviewing and how it is likely to become a mainstream hiring solution.

Obviously the benefits of video interviews are numerous.

  1. Save on travel costs
  2. If they are recorded you can review over and over
  3. If recorded you can share with colleagues
  4. You can compare candidates’ answers to one another
  5. Saves the hiring manager time

Hiring manager’s are constantly burdened with interviewing candidates whom they often decide in the first five minutes don’t cut the mustard. Unfortunately they can’t dismiss the candidate after five minutes. Even if they like the candidate they can’t remember everything the candidate said or adequately relay the information to their colleagues. Recorded video interviews solve this problem by allowing the hiring manager to screen through the candidate’s interview in minutes and email links to the interview to their colleagues. Since they get to see the candidate, the candidate’s energy level and enthusiasm can be properly determined.

So, will video interviewing replace phone screening and even face-to-face interviews? I find it unlikely that face-to-face interviews will become extinct but with the affordability and numerous benefits of video interviewing, I see phone screening becoming as antiquated as rotary telephones. Some products even allow the candidate to interview themselves unlike live two-way interviews where the hiring manager has to be present. Enabling the hiring manager to upload their own questions and allowing the candidate to interview themselves on their own time provides even further convenience for the hiring manager who can then review the video on their time.

So what do you think? Will video kill the phone screening star?

Job interviewing: Relax and be yourself!

When you interview for a job it could be because you are out of work or are trying to secure new employment that will in some fashion improve your life. Either way you may feel a sense of pressure during the interview to behave in a manner you believe your interviewer will find most acceptable. You naturally want to get the job so your answers come across as very stale, or perhaps even uptight. Essentially none of your natural personality is coming through because you’re too concerned the hiring manager won’t like you for you. The problem is, you have no idea what the hiring manager wants to see in their employees. You already have the necessary skills or else you would not have gotten the interview. Your ability to land your job will in part be based on how you behave during the interview especially the first five minutes as mentioned in my past blog. If you are tense, uptight, or provide long winded answers, you are going to bore your interviewer and they will quickly pass judgment on you.

One popular question provided by our behavioral assessment is, “If you were sitting at a red light and it didn’t change to green, how long would you sit there?” Many candidates provide overly conscientious responses to this question about how they would wait a long time, or notify a traffic cop. Here’s a great answer we received one time to this question. “Are you kidding me, I’m a New Yorker, to me a red light is just a suggestion.” That’s a great answer! The question is actually asked to determine how bold someone might be. Many interviewees over analyze the interview and rather than give a real answer, provide a conscientious answer that they think the hiring manager wants to hear. This is a mistake. Answer honestly! Your honest answer might be the answer they’ve been waiting all day to hear.

We once interviewed a candidate in the UK for a sales manager position. When asked this red light question he simply smiled and replied, “Not very long.” That’s all he said and that’s all we wanted to hear. The answer was concise and revealing. We then asked him what was the most foolish mistake he had made in his career. Rather than giving a b.s. answer about possibly not being organized enough, or neglecting his family by working so terribly hard for his past employers, he told a humorous story about how he once shut down a bank’s mainframe computer accidentally. We showed his video to the hiring manager and he not only earned a face-to-face interview but was hired. Why? Because in the interview he behaved just as he would on the job. He was professional but he was also himself and his eventual employer wanted a competent straight shooter with personality and a sense of humor.

So whether you’re taking a behavioral assessment, doing a video interview, or meeting with someone face-to-face, don’t assume you know the type of employee they want. Relax, be yourself, and answer naturally because often times, the real you is who they really want to hire.

Ryder Cullison

How quickly are you eliminated from the hiring process?

According to a running poll on Searchfirm.com, 39% of hiring managers feel they form an accurate opinion of a job candidate in less than five minutes. Thirty-three percent believe they can do it in less than 1 minute. This means 71% of hiring managers believe they form an accurate opinion of you within five minutes of meeting you. Whether they can really do this or not is irrelevant. They believe they can and so it is crucial to make a good impression in the first five minutes of the interview or else you’re not only wasting their time but yours. Who has ever driven fifty miles to a job interview or raced across town over their lunch break to interview for a new job? If you’ve done either of these, its a bit disconcerting to realize you could be out of the running in only five minutes. Naturally the hiring manager will continue to interview you for the next twenty minutes or so, but if you’re out of the running in the first five, than those extra twenty minutes are a waste of your time.

Monster and Careerbuilder, two large job boards, often post helpful articles for job seekers. To avoid five minute elimination you might try a few of these helpful interviewing techniques as listed in this article by Monster.

With every rejection however, have perspective. If you are turned down for a job, that does not mean you are not a good fit for every job, only for that one. Keep hitting the pavement and be yourself. The more interviews you do, the more skilled at interviewing you will become. Always keep in mind though that those first five minutes can be the most crucial.

Ryder Cullison

Conduct A Better Interview – Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing is not new. Since the 70’s managers have heard that behavioral interviewing will change the way they hire. It is somewhat surprising then to find so many people doing it poorly.

One part of behavioral interviewing is asking a candidate how or why they have done something in the past. The assumption is that if a candidate has behaved a certain way in the past he or she will continue to behave that way in the future. Right now some of you are arguing that people change and you can’t always expect for them to behave the way they always have. You are right, people do change as they age and gain experience, and I would never recommend you use a behavioral interview as the sole factor in your decision making. That said, your argument would also indicate that criminal background checks are irrelevant because “people change”.

The second part of behavioral interviewing is asking a candidate what they might do in a certain scenario. The scenario does not necessarily need to be work related. In fact you can sometimes learn more from a real life scenario than a work related scenario since a real life scenario is not seen as having a “right” answer and the candidate is less likely to just say what you want to hear.

So far so good right? Behavioral interviewing makes sense as a part of the interview process. You can get insight into how the candidate has behaved in the past, and into how they tackle problems now. So what is the big problem? The problem is the way companies are implementing behavioral interviews.

If you were to Google “behavioral interview questions” right now, you would find a number of web sites listing commonly asked behavioral questions and how to best answer them. These lists exist because companies often pick 3 or 4 behavioral questions and use them to interview every candidate who comes through the door. One of my favorites is “What is your greatest weakness?”. I’m sure the first time that question was asked in an interview the candidate squirmed in their seat trying to come up with a good answer. But now it has been so often used, so thoroughly analyzed and debated, that everyone comes up with an answer like, “I work too hard” or “I’m loyal to a fault”. A posed, practiced answer gives us little or no insight into the candidate and we are back to square one.

Even if the candidate hasn’t researched and prepared for behavioral questions on the interview, many companies are asking the same questions for every candidate in every department for every job title. This is something I really don’t understand. Does it really make sense to ask a salesperson and an IT manager the same questions? Of course not, if the questions are generic enough to be used for both positions, they are too generic to garner any valuable insight into the candidate. At the very least companies should be using questions specific to the role for which the candidate is applying.

Getting the absolute best results requires a company to go one step farther and use questions tailored specifically to the candidate. This is best accomplished by giving the candidate a behavioral assessment before the interview. A good behavioral assessment will highlight possible areas of concern, and offer targeted questions to explore those areas during the interview. A thorough behavioral interview is especially important for supervisory and customer service positions where the candidate will not only have to manage his or her own behavior, but also the behavior of others around them.

If you are not currently using behavioral interviews as part of your hiring process, give it a try and see how much more you learn about your candidates. If you are using behavioral interviews, make sure you have a program that is targeted enough to provide you the very best results.

How to recruit with Social Media

Recently I attended a very cool webinar and virtual expo held by the American Marketing Association. The agenda of the seminars focused mainly on successful means to market your brand and remain in touch with your customers through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. While I admit to having both a Facebook and Twitter account to stay in contact with friends, I knew little about how to employ these social services for the benefit of our business.

With the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and the more business oriented Linkedin, I began wondering how to harness these social networks and reach out to millions of job candidates.

In her article, “How to use Social Media as a recruiting tool” Tiffany Black lists ways to use Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter to reach potential job candidates.

    • You may post jobs in Facebook’s Marketplace for free however you can’t target it towards a specific group of people

 

    • Create a Corporate FB page and post your jobs in the news feed for your followers to see.

 

    • Similarly, create a Twitter account. Amongst posts for your products you can also “Tweet” about open job positions.

 

  • Linkedin allows you to purchase postings for a small cost, however you can post your job openings in your Network Activity for free. The added benefit is you can check out a candidate’s Linkedin profile if you find a suitable one.

In addition to advertising your open positions, social media is a great way to review your candidates. By reviewing your candidates’ Linkedin and Facebook profile not to mention their Twitter posts, you can get a good sense of the type of candidate you might be hiring.

The real challenge to effectively using Social Media as a recruiting tool is getting your Corporate profile and Tweets in front of those actively seeking work. In other words, your posts and Tweets are no good if no one is reading them. More on that later.

Ryder Cullison

Execuserve Corp.