interviews

BEHIND THE SCENES: WHAT CANDIDATES ARE REALLY BEING JUDGED ON

BEHIND THE SCENES: WHAT CANDIDATES ARE REALLY BEING JUDGED ON

candidate experience

So you were confident that you nailed the final interview and all the buying signs were there, but you didn’t get the job offer – what went wrong?

Possible answer: the recruiter vetoed the hiring decision because of how you behaved (not how you performed) during the interview process. Looking back on my career, I can recount numerous times when I’ve voted against offering a candidate the job or have rescinded a job offer due to poor Candidate Behaviour.

What is Candidate Behaviour?

Candidate Behavior is the way a candidate behaves throughout every touch point of the interview process. For example, the way you answer your phone, the ‘voice’ you use in your emails, your flexibility when scheduling interviews, your consistency of communication, how quickly you return calls and emails, how you behave at the offer stage, and your general attitude during interactions. Think of Candidate Behaviour as the inverse of Candidate Experience: it’s the overall experience that an organization will have with you as a candidate.

Why is it important?

Your overall behaviour as a candidate has a significant impact on how far you progress through the interview process. Regardless of conscious intention, the entire interview process (not just the interview stages) is really seen as a ‘test run’ for how you’ll interact with the company as an employee. If the recruiter feels that you are a difficult candidate to work with, then it’s assumed that you’ll also be a difficult employee to work with and may vote against progressing your application to the next step.

Why talk about it now?

With all the buzz and focus in our industry on the topic of Candidate Experience, we’ve overlooked how important Candidate Behaviour is. Because of the major talent shortage in most industries today, candidates don’t need to work as hard to get multiple job offers which has lead to complacency in interview behaviour. As a recruiter I’ve noticed that candidates are becoming lazier in their job search and Candidate Behaviour is trending down.

Key Considerations

Recruiter relationship: Even though they’re not the hiring manager, don’t underestimate the importance of building a good relationship with the recruiter because they have a lot more influence in decision making than you may think.

Engagement: do all that you can to ensure that you are viewed as a highly engaged and interested candidate. Remember to be consistently responsive because ‘radio silence’ from a candidate is interpreted as a red flag which creates an almost irreversible negative ‘gut feeling’ to a recruiter

Communication: All forms of your communication will be judged throughout every interaction of the interview process including all emails, texts, phone conversations, and interviews. Proofread, be polite, professional and don’t use slang or emoticons.

Timeliness: Turning up to the interview on time isn’t the only important ‘deadline’ that a candidate needs to meet. Make sure you interact quickly and consistently with your recruiter at every touch point as this plays a major factor in how your level of engagement is perceived.

Consistency: inconsistent interaction is a major red flag for a candidate, especially to the seasoned recruiters who are particularly sensitive to this. During the interview process make sure that you check your email, texts, messages and phone regularly so that you don’t miss responding to important messages from the recruiter.

Thank you letters: Some hiring managers expect a post-interview thank you letter so play it safe and send one after every interview. Check out my blog post here on the do’s and don’ts of a post-interview thank you letter.

Attention to detail: Most job postings will advertise ‘attention to detail’ as a must-have. Make sure you read and listen to all the recruiter’s instructions carefully, and cross your t’s and dot your i’s before sending any written communication.

Negotiation: How you behave during the negotiation process is viewed as a huge indicator on how you’ll behave as an employee. Be realistic, be responsive, show respect, be timely, and show gratitude even if the offer is lower than you expected. Although it hasn’t happened often, I’ve rescinded a number of job offers because of the way a candidate behaved at the offer stage.

Summary:

Be aware that you’re being judged on a lot more than how you perform during the interviews. A candidate who behaves responsively, respectfully professionally, punctually, politely, and (last but not least) consistently throughout every touch point of the interview process will significantly increase their chance of being successful.

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DO’S & DON’TS OF A POST-INTERVIEW THANK YOU LETTER

DO’S & DON’TS OF A POST-INTERVIEW THANK YOU LETTER

interview tips

Before I launch into this one I’m going to answer an initial FAQ on this topic: “Should I send a thank you letter after my interview?”

Answer: Yes. Every Time you interview with everyone you meet.

Although not every interviewer expects a thank you letter, many of them do (trust me!). And most of those that do feel strongly about it, and will consider it a ‘black mark’ on a candidate if they don’t send one. Therefore I recommend that you play it safe and always send a thank you letter every time you interview with everyone you meet.

So how do you ensure that your thank you letter will leave a great impression?

A quick google on this topic will likely confuse you because there are so many differing and contradictory views, blogs, and resources online about thank you letters. Alas, it seems that there is no agreed ‘best practise’ on this topic but luckily, with 10+ years of recruiting ‘wisdom’ behind me, I have listed my top ‘Do’s and ‘Don’ts’ that will ensure that your thank you letter will leave a great impression:

Do’s:

Keep it short.
People are generally busy and don’t have a lot of spare time to read a lengthy email so make sure your message is concise and to the point – 200 words max!

Show authentic gratitude.
The purpose of a thank you letter is to show gratitude to the interviewer for their time and effort, not to further sell yourself. You had your chance to sell yourself during the interview and the reality is that the interviewer has already made up their mind.

Inject some personality.
People with personality are generally more interesting and more likable. Of course keep it professional, but don’t be afraid to show your personality in the message.

Cite a specific conversation.
While keeping tip #1 in mind, cite a specific conversation you had with the interviewer. This will show that you put genuine thought into the letter, and (if the interviewer has had multiple interviews that day) it will help them remember which candidate you are.

Reiterate your interest in the company.
Briefly mention a specific positive experience you had during your visit, and reiterate why you are attracted to the company and it’s culture.

Send it within 12 hours (and at a reasonable time).
A quick and timely follow-up will help to prove that you’re genuinely interested in the role. Don’t send it at a ridiculously late hour or during the workday (if you’re currently employed and supposed to be working!). A good time is between 6pm and 8pm on the same day of the interview.

Don’ts

Don’t Ramble.
No one likes a rambler, and no one has time to read a rambling note. Keep tip #1 in mind and keep the message concise and to the point.

Don’t use a template.
There are 100’s of thank you templates available on the internet. Don’t use one! They’re ‘cookie cutter’, impersonal, and easy to detect. If an interviewer receives 2 highly similar thank you notes from 2 different candidates then you’ll both likely be rejected.

Don’t over-sell yourself.
Remember that the intention of the letter is to thank and show gratitude. Remember, the interviewer has already made up their mind so further selling yourself can be interpreted as ‘over-selling’ which could quickly put your application in the ‘no’ pile.

Don’t forget to spellcheck.
Of course, make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors in the letter. Take it one step further than a basic MS word spellcheck: www.grammarly.com is a great free tool that will check for 250 types of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.

Don’t use emoticons.
Keep the message professional. Even if you had a great rapport with the interviewer, smiley faces and winks won’t reflect well on you ;P.

Don’t send it from an unprofessional email address.
Don’t use the personal Gmail address that you created when you were 16 years old with a ‘69’ in it – you won’t get the job!

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CHEAT SHEET: 10 SMART QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES TO ASK IN AN INTERVIEW

CHEAT SHEET: 10 SMART QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES TO ASK IN AN INTERVIEW

interview tips

In a typical interview scenario, the last 10 – 15 minutes will be (or should be!) reserved for candidates to ‘turn the tables’ and put the interviewers in the ‘hot seat’.

As a candidate, one of the most critical questions you’ll be asked during an interview is “Do you have any questions for us?”. It gives you the chance to impress the interviewer with thoughtful and intelligent questions while clarifying and filling in gaps in your understanding of the role. Your response to this important question can make-or-break your success in an interview so I’ve prepared a cheat sheet to help you land your dreamjob.

In no particular order, here are 10 questions that candidates should be asking in an interview.

Note: you won’t have time to ask every question in this list, so choose the ones that are most relevant and haven’t already been covered during the interview

  1. What is not in the job posting that I should know about this role?

Career site  job postings are often short, incomplete, outdated or don’t tell the full story so this question can fill in the gaps and/or correct any inaccuracies.

  1. What do you love about working in this team, and why do you choose to work here?

This questions gives you authentic insight into the dynamics of the team and the broader company culture.

  1. If applicable: How has the new CFO/CEO/CIO/Leadership change impacted the team and how has the transition been?

This powerful question shows that you’ve done your research and may uncover some important factors to consider when assessing the opportunity.

  1. What are the some of the key short and long-term goals of the organization and how does this role impact them?

It’s good to know where the company is aiming to go, and what your impact (if any) will be to helping them get there.

  1. What are some of the key short-term and long-term challenges that I’ll face in this role?

People are generally motivated by challenge and, if answered authentically, the question will reveal a lot about the role and what you’ll need to do to be successful in it.

  1. What excites you about the future of this organisation?

An open-ended positive question that I love to answer. You’ll learn a lot about what your interviewer values and you’ll gain personal insight into the future of the organization.

  1. What does success look like in this role, and how will I be measured against it?

This question will help you to understand some of the key deliverables of the role and give you insight into how the interviewer defines success.

  1. How would you describe your management style?

As well as evaluating the position and company, it’s equally critical that you are also assessing whether you’ll work well with your boss.

  1. I read about (x) when researching your company, what is your take/opinion on it?

If you’ve uncovered something particularly interesting during your research on the company then this question will give you some good ‘insider’ and potentially revealing insight into the company’s current events.

  1. What does a typical day in this role look like?

This question will help you understand the day-to-day dynamics of the role so that you visualise what it will really be like if you get the job.

Conclusion

Don’t waste the opportunity to make and impression and gain a better understanding of the role by being unprepared when it’s your turn to ask the questions. Pick and choose relevant questions from my cheat sheet to help you land your dreamjob.

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TO COVER LETTER OR NOT TO COVER LETTER?

TO COVER LETTER OR NOT TO COVER LETTER?

interview tips

That is the question that more candidates are asking today when they apply for jobs. The relevance of cover letters in today’s job market is a hot topic and from a recruiter’s perspective there is (and always will be) much debate around this question as every recruiter will have a different answer based on personal preference. Some recruiters expect a cover letter with every job application, while other recruiters don’t even bother reading them!

What side of the fence do I sit on? Here are my thoughts on this debate plus a few helpful tips to help make your job application stand out:

My Side: YES! Include a cover letter (with a big BUT)

*Caveat: that’s a ‘BUT’ with 1 ‘t’, not 2 – we don’t  need a picture of your heiny!

Yes I read cover letters. For me, a well-written and customized cover letter can really add value to your application by making it stand out. BUT: a badly written and generic cover letter will quickly put your application in the ‘no’ pile! Therefore I’ve included some helpful tips to help your application get into my ‘yes’ pile:

Tip # 1 CUSTOMIZE, CUSTOMIZE, CUSTOMIZE

The most important tip! Sadly, I estimate that only 10% of cover letters that I read are customized. It is critical that you customize each and every cover letter to the ROLE, the INDUSTRY, and the COMPANY. Study the job posting to identify the key experience requirements of the role and research the company to gain insight into its culture. Use this information to highlight why you are a good match for the role, and why you are a great fit with the industry and company. This is also a great exercise to evaluate whether you really are a good fit, and will also form a platform of discussion points on which to base your upcoming interview conversations.

Tip # 2: Keep it concise and to the point

Make it easy for a recruiter to quickly agree that you are a good fit. By necessity we recruiters are notorious skim readers and the reality is that we don’t read every sentence you write. In my opinion, a cover letter should not be longer than 1 page (with lots of white space) and I’m a big fan of bullet points. Take 1 sentence to explain why you applied to the job, 2 sentences to explain why you are a good match with the company and industry, and 5 – 7 bullet points to detail why you are a good functional and technical fit for the role. End it with some professional pleasantries and you’re done!

Tip # 3: Start off with important information

For example, if you are immediately available, hold a valid visa/work permit, or are already planning to relocate to the location of the role, then include this information at the beginning of the letter (remembering to keep it concise). I also recommend including this at the top of your resume in case your cover letter is not read.

Tip # 4: Inject some personality

While remembering to keep Tip # 2 top of mind, don’t be afraid to show some personality and make your cover letter interesting! Recruiters want to learn about you as a whole person, not just how much of a functional and technical fit you are. If you come across as a fun and interesting person, then a recruiter is more likely to want to start a conversation with you.

Tip # 5: Assume it will be read

Don’t include a cover letter for the sake of it. If you’re going to write a cover letter and believe the quality doesn’t matter because no one reads them anymore, then think again! There have been many times that I’ve moved a candidate with a good resume from the ‘yes’ pile to the ‘no’ pile based solely on the quality of their cover letter.

Tip # 6: Proof read!

Simple spelling and grammar mistakes will quickly and easily ruin a cover letter ultimately putting your application in the ‘no’ pile. A quick way to proof read and catch any mistakes is to read it to yourself out loud, and then have a friend review it.

Conclusion:

Cover letters can be a great way to make your application stand out, but only if they’re done right. If you are going to write a cover letter then make sure you follow my tips and, above all, don’t forget to CUSTOMIZE!

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CANDIDATE UX: THE FOUNDATION TO DESIGNING A GREAT HIRING PROCESS

CANDIDATE UX: THE FOUNDATION TO DESIGNING A GREAT HIRING PROCESS

candidate experience

How do you design a great hiring process? Think Candidate UX!

What is Candidate UX?

In order to understand Candidate UX, you must first understand what ‘User Experience’ (UX) is. The discipline of UX is dynamic and always changing and growing, but in a nutshell, it’s an umbrella term used to describe all the factors that contribute to a user’s overall perception and feeling about a system or product.

UX Design is the process of enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty by improving the usability, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the customer and the product[1] This is done by asking questions such as: Is it easy to use? Is it attractive and appropriate? Does it meet user’s needs? It’s important to note that the core of UX Design focuses on having a deep understanding of the users — what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.[2]

Candidate UX takes the best practises and fundamentals from the discipline of UX Design to provide frameworks and guidelines to the design of the hiring process.

By applying what we’ve learned from the field of UX, we can use these frameworks and guidelines to design a positive, high quality, and user-friendly hiring process which will ultimately improve the overall candidate experience.

What are the UX Design best practises?

A quick google on this topic will give you ample information about the fundamentals of UX Design from which you can work from. My favourite list is by Peter Morville[3]a respected UX expert, who identifies these core best practises of UX design which I’ve adapted to relate to the job application process:

Useful: Your content such as job descriptions, information packs, feedback etc should be original and fulfill a need
Usable: The entire job application process should be easy to use
Desirable: Image, culture identity, employment brand, and other design elements conveyed on careers sites, job specs, social sites etc are used to evoke emotion and appreciation
Findable: Job opportunities and relevant information needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite – nowadays this includes mobile platforms.
Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to candidates with disabilities
Credible: Candidates must trust and believe what you tell them

Candidate Personas – The Foundation of Candidate UX

The foundation of a great UX Design is having a strong understanding of your user’s behaviours, attitudes and motivations (a.ka. personas). Personas concentrate on what a user does, what frustrates the user, and what gives the user satisfaction[4]. For Candidate UX this means gaining a deep understanding of your target candidate’s preferences, needs and expectations as it relates to the hiring process.

For example, after 9 years of tech recruiting I have formed a good idea of a candidate persona for a Software Developer:

  • I know they are typically well educated, smart and are passionate about problem solving, building things and technology so this needs to be evident in all job descriptions to catch their attention.
  • They are technical by nature so all job descriptions and relevant useful information such as company profile and products must be easily searchable and available online and on mobile devices.
  • They tend to be more introverted and analytical and are impressed and motivated by technical challenge so a combination of behavioural and technical interviews are required to get an accurate candidate assessment.
  • They like team collaboration with other smart people so including peer level developers (not just hiring managers) in the interviews can be beneficial to both parties.
  • Software Developers like a degree of freedom to play with and test new new tools and emerging technology so these topics should be discussed during the interview process.
  • They aren’t always the best verbal communicators and often prefer to demonstrate their technical ability as opposed to just talking about it, so including technical coding assignments into the process is valuable for both parties.
  • They are detail orientated by nature and like to analyse data instead of taking things at face value so make sure you have good data available to back up any claims you’re making about the job and company etc.
  • They are motivated by learning new technologies and there’s a typical dichotomy where some prefer to remain 100% technical ‘hands on’ throughout their career, while the others tend to move towards architecture or people management so its important to uncover this during the process and educate the candidate about typical career paths available to them at the organisation.

The Universal Candidate Persona:

At the end of the day, all candidates are human, and regardless of what job or industry we work in, there are some common denominations in behaviour, attitudes and motivations that we all share. Whether you’re hiring a CEO, a software developer, or a truck driver, there are certain elements that all candidates need and expect throughout the hiring process. I have identified the following universal factors that must be applied to all job application processes:

User friendly: Whether its submitting a resume, finding information, or interviewing, the entire job application must be easy to ‘use’ for the candidate.
Feedback: At minimum, confirmation that a job application has been received is critical. Better yet, feedback about the status and timing of the application should be communicated to all candidates regardless of the strength of their application.
Communication: honest and clear communication throughout the process is vital. The more personal the communication is, the better.
Information: Accurate, consistent and quality information must be available to all candidates (and easy to find!) throughout the entire process.
Respect: All candidates deserve respect for their effort and time regardless of their fit for the role.
Closure: All candidates, whether successful or not, need closure on their application.

Who’s doing it right?

I love finding out about companies that are going the extra mile for their candidate experience. LinkedIn Talent Blog recently profiled 3 companies that I believe are setting new standards in candidate experience:
Rapid7: http://goo.gl/UzdwR8
LinkedIn: http://goo.gl/fS7Zhr
Airbnb: http://goo.gl/bTCVs3

Conclusion:

In today’s competitive job market, the organisations that offer the best candidate experience are having the most success in reaching their hiring goals. By applying the principles derived from UX to recruitment, organisations can design better hiring processes that will have significant positive impact to the overall candidate experience.

Citations:

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_experience_design
2http://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-experience.html
3www.semanticstudios.com.
4 http://www.measuringusability.com
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