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4 Ways to Make Interviewing a 2-Way Street

by May 7, 2014, 12:06 am ET

So much information is thrown at job seekers on how to interview: here is how to dress; here is what to say; this is the answer to the million-dollar salary question; be sure to send a thank-you letter, etc.  Then there are the horrid interview stories that everyone consistently shares with one another and laughs at: the girl who brought her cat into an interview, the recent college graduate who mid-way through the interview takes a call on his cell phone, the gentleman who shows up dressed in shorts — just to name a few recruiting water cooler stories.

Yet, hardly if ever does anyone, especially recruiters, HR professionals or hiring managers stop to look at themselves and analyze their own behavior.

In fact, the majority of hiring professionals act as if they are riding on a high horse, and job seekers should be at their mercy.  Ironically, today as I am writing this blog — in my email box appeared an article written by Jerome Ternynck, CEO of SmartRecruiters, on the topic of Crafting a High-Performance Culture. Ternynck talks about hiring the best, and that “A” players hire “A” players and that “B” players hire “C” and “D” players.

Whether you are a recruiter, an HR professional, or a hiring manager — you should know that an interview is a two way street. It is a middle meeting where you as the hiring professional have the opportunity to meet a potential employee and find out who they are and what they have experienced and accomplished. But it is not only about you, as this is also the time for a prospective employee to find out about you and what you are about, what challenges you are facing in the company or in your department, and also, very importantly … if they like you. In your capacity as a hiring/interviewing authority, you too have to be prepared, on time, articulate, and professional. So just as we advise job seekers with do and do not tips, here are some great tips for all recruiters, HR pros, and hiring managers alike:

  1. Be on time  yes, I already know you are busy and short staffed and everything else that everyone else is as well. Regardless, this is the first impression of you and perhaps how working with you will be. More than likely the interview has been on your calendar for a few days already, so ensure you are on time and not rushing around like a mad person.
  2. Be prepared – be sure to have reviewed the candidate’s resume prior to the meeting.  Perhaps you can connect with them via LinkedIn, and even better, perhaps you can have some probing and intelligent questions prepared to ask. Questions that are strategic and can give you a good idea on this person’s skill set and experience. Please don’t shoot from the hip and ask random questions that are rudimentary and tell the interviewee that you are unprepared.
  3. Pay attention – the emphasis of good eye contact is not only for the interviewee. If you are consistently gazing out the window or watching people pass by outside in the hall or checking your phone … then more than likely you are not paying attention. Moreover, that story that keeps making the rounds about the new college grad answering his cell phone in the middle of an interview? Well hiring managers do it to; it has happened to me and it has happened to others. No kidding: right in the middle of an interview the lady says, “Hold on” and takes a cell phone call of non-importance. Guess who she was: the head of talent acquisition. I knew I would have no further interest in the role nor even think about accepting a position from her and the company she works for.
  4. Be courteous  communication is a two-way street. Interviewees are advised to send thank-you letters post interview, and whether you receive a thank-you letter via email or via snail mail — an acknowledgement of receipt should be provided. If one says thank you, the reply should be that you are welcome. It takes two seconds to respond to an email.

I cannot stress enough how important the candidate experience piece is. Some organizations will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on career sites, consultants, technology, and employment branding all in the name of building this super “candidate experience.” Yet, the majority of companies fail to ensure proper candidate communications, hiring manager training, and proper face-to-face interaction. It’s not hard to do, nor is it rocket science. It is a simple recipe of common sense, courtesy, and relationship building.

If I was given a quarter from every hiring manager, recruiter, or HR pro who says they can’t find good talent,  but then who behaves outside of the four points I described above ,I wouldn’t be writing this article. I would be retired in some tropical island. So heed my advice and if you are riding a high horse, step down and remember than an interview is a two-way street and that just as you are making a decision on whether to hire an individual, they too are making a decision as to whether you are one they will ultimately want to work with.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  • Richard Araujo

    Good, to the point, and unfortunately necessary article, Hogan. Everyone assumes that they themselves are an “A Player,” however far from the truth this is. Unfortunately, few people if any will let such people know how ridiculously out of alignment their self assessments are, because usually they’re the boss, and in the culture of America the boss gets to ignore reality despite the consequences.

    That’s what they call having “vision” in the US, or any number of other euphemisms meant to excuse incompetent or bad behavior on the part of people from whom many other want something.

  • PAUL FOREL

    Interviewing 101…

    Be on time…

    Be prepared…

    Pay attention…

    Be courteous…

    People pay you for this?

  • Richard Araujo

    @ Paul,

    Most people don’t know it, and don’t abide by it. Working on the corporate side you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to apologize for people not showing up to interviews they confirmed. Usually it was because the owner of the company decided they had to get something done right then and there, screw everything else, and he would then scream at the manager and me for not getting the interview done. Upper management would routinely pull out their cell phones and take calls and texts, etc. It was truly ridiculous. I got most up to a better standard before I left. However, it all came down to senior management and ownership. If they called and you didn’t answer, you were immediately on the verge of being fired. So, what choice did the managers have? Doing their job could mean losing their job.

    I recall one particular incident where one of the owners called in for someone who wasn’t even in the building and then tried all morning to get this poor woman fired for not being at her desk a full hour before she was even scheduled to come to work. This was one of their top performers in that department, and this guy was screaming at her at the top of his lungs and demanding she be fired all morning before the HR manager finally got someone to step in and explain to this idiot that if she wasn’t there, she couldn’t have answered. To this day he harbors animosity toward this woman, and has stymied her career, because he felt he was being disrespected by not being catered to the instant he wanted something. and the job market sucks so if she goes anywhere else it comes with a pay cut, and probably no more likely promotion or raises, so why leave?

    These circumstances are not unusual, and even when it’s simply the result of paring down the staff for budget reasons such that there’s nothing but a series of single points of failure, what are these managers to do? They’re in an interview yes, but the business is so poorly run and so pathetically understaffed that not taking a call for 30 minutes may in fact lead to serious consequences. It won’t in almost all cases, but if they ignore that one case out of a thousand where it does lead to issues, they’re screwed.

    And it won’t matter if their boss said to make the interview/hiring a priority, because it’s the presumed job of upper management and owners to put people in impossible situations with competing priorities that can’t be handled concurrently, and then demand they handle them concurrently, and then lay the blame on them when the predictable screw ups and dropped balls happen. In the US these are called “demanding managers” instead of what they actually are: morons.

    Sometimes the cell phone, or being late, or not even showing up, are unavoidable for these managers, because their bosses are idiots who don’t care about the process. So, why should they? Once more, the root of the issue is not so easily addressed by saying simply Don’t Do This or That… There is often a reason they are doing This or That, and it’s not always because of their own incompetence. Often, it’s imposed upon them.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Richard. Well-put.
    As has been said:
    “Some are born incompetent, some achieve incompetence, and some have incompetence thrust upon them.”

    -kh

  • PAUL FOREL

    Hello, Richard…

    Thanks for taking the time…

    And Todd Raphael is unhappy with me again- he has just sent me another request to avoid ‘personal attacks’.

    He seems to think my suggesting Mr. Hoogvelt’s blog of poor quality content is a “personal attack”…

    The ‘attack’ -as you choose to characterize it, Todd- was directed to the lack of quality in the content of Mr. Hoogvelt’s blog, Todd.

    We live in an over-populated blogosphere where, for example, people post blogs at LinkedIn, asking for feedback about people who walk into an interview chewing gum…

    Seriously? A blog about candidates who chew gum in an interview? And then, to my amazement, over two hundred business people reply…

    I think that is an example of Mass Hypnosis.

    Blogs are constantly being posted with the same basic conversations about the same basic issues.

    And today Mr. Hoogvelt brings us:

    Be on time…

    Be prepared…

    Pay attention…

    Be courteous…

    Seriously? (with apologies to all the valley girls out there)

    Keith’s comment, (with apologies to Keith)

    “Some are born incompetent, some achieve incompetence, and some have incompetence thrust upon them.”

    [Which is true but I don't have to spend my time reading about this]

    …is a summation of my comment to Mr. Hoogvelt-

    To come to ERE and read about people who cannot execute their jobs because they are not competent is not only ‘nothing new’ but is a waste of my time.

    Of everything Mr. Hoogvelt could have talked about, he chose to discuss breakdowns in basic professionalism.

    Consequently, it took me three clicks and ten minutes of my time to read about people who are sloppy.

    Dang. That’s like paying to eat a bad taco.

    This is ERE. Serious issues are addressed here. Many are not relevant to me/my practice, some are.

    So when I see ERE has published a ‘primer’ about Interviewing, written by a firm that is ‘world class’, I just have to wonder if the concept of Quality Control ought to be considered here at ERE.

    Richard, you describe people who scream at their subordinates.

    Mr. Hoogvelt talks about people who are not rigorous in the execution of interviewing, a critical point in the process of Talent Acquisition.

    So, Todd, what exactly is it that I’m supposed to be learning here today?

    Let me make a suggestion that would positively affect many readers here, especially those who do not need to read beginner-level blogs:

    ERE ought to consider classifying blogs into A Level (for recruiters who are Masters), B Level (for recruiters who are considered Proficient) and C Level (for recruiters who are Beginners).

    Then, next time I see in my email ERE has a B or C grade blog to be read, I can Trust that you and the ERE staff has screened these blogs so I am saved the time and trouble of reading a blog about the Basics.

    Todd, may I suggest you stop getting your back up when you see my ‘comments’ and instead consider how you can increase the quality of the ERE platform.

  • PAUL FOREL

    Todd,

    I got your second note…

    Let me repeat myself when I suggest that a ‘world class’ management firm can do better than offer beginner’s advice to sloppy people.

    You can take this forum downward as far as is possible but I think it speaks better for this platform to raise our consciousness vs. talking about the lower percentile of HR staff out there.

    This was a low quality post by Mr. Hoogvelt and I’m sure he could have done better for those of us who are judged by our peers as exceptional.

    As long as he is giving away his time, let us ask that he give us his best, instead.

    Thanks,

    Paul

  • PAUL FOREL

    Todd,

    In other words, feed us brain food.

    Reading advice to under-performers does not much benefit me and I bet there are others who operate at the top of their game who could benefit from the best Mr. Hoogvelt has to offer vs reading about his putting bandaids on those who operate without rigor.

    Every one of the points he brings forth, above, are predicated either by individual or, as Richard described, group breakdown.

    In either case, resolution comes from peeling apart the layers of disconnect until an etiology is discovered and pointedly addressed.

    The sloppy habits of individuals and/or a group are not resolved by addressing their actions, they are resolved by addressing the cause.

    If anything, it could loosely be said Richard’s colorful portrayal of company operations more closely addresses areas for improvement better than simply saying-

    Be on time…

    Be prepared…

    Pay attention…

    Be courteous…

    Thanks,

    Paul

  • Don Hull

    Yes, in the real world there are some very bad recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers. Let me give you my perspective from a job seeker.

    For last month’s interview, I met with the company big wig for the final interview. She was my third interview and I had already met with four people prior to her. When I arrived at the office – 10 minutes early – I was told she wasn’t in the building yet. She arrived at the interview 20 minutes late, seemed unprepared (needed to glance at my resume for every other word), and was extremely rude and combative. (Her reputation hit the nail on the head.) I didn’t take the bait. I arrived at the interview happy to work at the company. During the interview, I went from being excited to work at the company to wondering if I would be offered the position to considering whether I would take the job if offered. Since the bigwig basically declined to answer my questions, the actual interview portion only lasted about 10 minutes. When I left the building, I answered my own question: I knew I would not accept the position.

    So, she basically violated all four of Morgan’s tips. I’m sure when she looks in the mirror, she sees light shining out of her … I totally agree with Richard Araujo’s comment that Morgan’s post was good, to the point, and an unfortunately necessary article.

  • Richard Araujo

    @ Don,

    Unfortunately, many people depend on her for a paycheck, so she will not be told to check her behavior. There’s more money to be made by telling her how great she is at what she does.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Richard;: well-said.
    Rule 33 of the Recruiters Code of Ethics:
    “It never hurts to suck up to the boss.”

    @Morgan: Unfortunately, those that read this good article probably don’t need it, and and those that need it probably won’t read it (and if they do, won’t follow it).

    -Keith

  • http://www.morganhcm.com Morgan Hoogvelt

    Thanks for the comments and feedback all.

    @Paul – I am sorry you saw no value in my article and that there is no quality in it. Last I checked, all points I made are part of presenting a quality experience on behalf of an organization. Moreover, I am quite surprised how you rant about the article wasting your time, yet you return once, twice and three times to write long comments.

    Since you are so smart and world class, go and find a place where you and all the other world class management consulting firms can exchange words you don’t even know the meaning of.

    Facts are that this is a quality post and ALL people, including myself and YOU too, need to be reminded of basic principles. But since you are perfect, perhaps these don’t apply to you. If you are not too mighty to watch pro sports like the rest of us peasants, you will know that prior to each season, professional athletes go back to camps and perform rudimentary drills to refresh themselves on the basics. No one is above basics, other than you and Allen Iverson it seems.

    @Don – thanks for sharing that experience. Perfect example of someone who has forgotten the basics of human interaction. Perhaps it was Paul with wig.

    @Richard – great points and thanks for the feedback.

    @Keith – well said, it is unfortunate, those who need it will most likely pass it over. But like I have always said – I am happy when companies mess it up or pass people over; means more recruiting pools and candidates for me!