Interviewing? It’s puzzling…

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jigsaw-305576_1280Over Christmas my beloved grandmother sent us a 750 piece puzzle with a picture of puppies with different color bows and colorful wrapped presents in the background. Randy, Katy and I gathered around the coffee table and seriously didn’t get up for 3 straight days. We began with the outline of the puzzle, filled in the colorful gifts, the bows, and finally the puppies who were all tan. It was so satisfying when we were finished with it!

Completing a puzzle is like completing the interview process. You begin with an outline of what you are looking for, and as you interview more and more people the picture of your very best fit begins to fill in the middle. There are times that you get frustrated. There are times that you get a string of pieces that all fit in at once, and you are so proud! There are times that you look at the same piece a 1000 times before you actually are able to put it where it belongs. Overall, at the end of the interview process, you should feel like you won the lottery, not like you finished the puzzle but piece number 750 is missing.

The journey of putting your puzzle together is fraught with detours, bumps and bruises and in the end, it is so completely satisfying when it all comes together. This feeling is precisely why I do every day what I do. I LOVE it!!!

What’s “Like” got to do with it?

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thumb-422147_1280Last week while working with an interview team of 6 people, I asked them what they thought about a particular candidate, and 1 by 1 they all said “I like him, but…”  So, I asked them, “What’s Like got to do with it?” We all laughed. Remember, my theory is to go with your “but” not your gut.

When you hire someone to work for you, you really don’t have to like them. You have to trust that the work will get done. You have to have faith that your clients will be well cared for and that their needs will be met. You have to be able to walk out the door and know that your new hire will have your back. But like them? That is just a bonus.

So why is it that when we interview someone we begin with like? Because we don’t know how else to evaluate someone. When we meet someone for the first time in our personal lives, we look for similarities and common ground. We look for people like us with the same interests. When we hire someone, we look for someone who can and will do the job that we need for them to do. These are two very different mind sets.

So, next time you interview someone, don’t ask yourself if you like them. Ask yourself if the work will get done effectively and efficiently. Ask yourself if your clients will be happy with them. Ask yourself if you can leave your company and they have your back.

If you have resounding yeses on all three questions, then hire them, whether you like them or not.

Don’t Lie To Your Wife

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cultureI was recently flying back from Kansas City and was seated behind three gentlemen on a business trip. One of the men was the boss and the other 2 worked for him. I always like to listen in on conversations between employers and employees as I learn a tremendous amount through their interactions with one another, particularly when it comes to company culture. Here is a recounting of the conversation I overheard:

Boss on the phone: “I’ll call you when I get there. Bye honey!”

Employee #1: “You didn’t tell your wife what we were doing, did you?”

Boss: “Of course! I don’t lie to my wife.”

Employee #2 (laughing): “You just color the truth, right?”

Boss: “Nah. She sees through that crap. One of the things that I like about her. Now, about those reports…”

After that, the 3 men continued to laugh, joke around and talk about business, but the tone of the conversation had shifted. The boss had declared the values of his interaction with his wife and set the tone for the interaction with his employees. This short, simple conversation with the man’s wife had shifted the company culture. There is no longer the expectation that you lie to your wife (or to your employer for that matter). The boss declared that lying was unacceptable, and the employees paid attention.

I have lots of people ask me how to interview more effectively because they want a different company culture. My answer to them is always the same: shifting the culture is a simple conversation about values. Once you know your company values and can articulate them quickly, you have changed your company culture.

At A-list Interviews, our values are spelled out through an acronym of “A-list”: Authentic, Leadership, Integrity, Satisfaction and Teamwork. Where that culture really plays out is when we make a mistake, we take full responsibility for it. And we certainly don’t lie to our spouses (or employees) about it. If you want better culture, set the tone and your people will follow.

World Series of Poker and Interviewing

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Poker Hand RankingLast year during the World Series of Poker, there was a gentleman who made it to the final table and was the first person to lose. He came in 9th place. This year the same gentleman made it to the final table where he tweeted to his network “Not going to get 9th place again.” Guess what happened? He got 9th place again. By the way, the chances of a person getting 9th 2 years in a row at the World Series of Poker is 1 in 42 million.

Many of my clients will call me and say that they aren’t getting the right candidates to the table. I ask them to tell me what their job ad says. I am always a little taken aback by the negative language that people use, like “If you can’t be on time, don’t apply.” I guarantee that when candidates read that line, they see “if you can’t be on time, APPLY.” And they do!

If you truly want to transform the candidate pool, change your language, starting with the job ad. Begin by asking for what you want, not what you don’t. Then share your mission statement and talk about WHY you are in the business you are in. Simon Sinek wrote a book and shared a TED talk called Start With Why that describes fierce loyalty and invested interest when people understand why you do business. Write about the people that you help and how the position will impact them. Describe the position and how it will contribute to the organization, your staff and your clients. If you want to win the game of staffing, then ask for the A-list candidates that you desire and leave 9th place in the dust! I’m ALL IN! Are you?

People on Paper Are Not People in Person

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The single most beautiful resume I have ever seen was written by a woman who stood up at the end of the interview and screamed at my 7 person interview team while banging her fist on the table “I AM NOT FINISHED TELLING YOU ABOUT MYSELF!!!” We had her escorted off the property by security.

People on PaperThe system of screening candidates is backwards…we spend time within the application process by meticulously reviewing resumes when we are really better off spending our time in the interviewing process. Why don’t we? Our culture has told us we can effectively screen people by reading resumes. You cannot. A resume is simply a marketing piece for the candidate. If a sales person brought you a brochure, you would read the fine print. You would ask yourself “What is the catch?” If interested, you would call the salesperson and ask questions, but you wouldn’t take the marketing piece at face value. So why do we in screening resumes?

People on paper aren’t the same as people in person. Randy Smith, A-list Interviews Resume Reviewer Extraordinaire and head to our XLR8 Application Services, says that the better someone looks on paper, the worse they are in person. And you know what? He’s right.

If you have ever worked with me in finding your next A-list employee, you went in blind to an interview without looking at resumes of the candidates you are interviewing. My clients have said that not looking at resumes before an interview actually let them focus on the person in front of them. They listen to the candidate, and the candidate gets a more genuine experience with the company.

My best advice is to spend your time interviewing, not reviewing resumes in order to find your next best employee. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in finding the ideal person for the job.

Rebuttal – How to Spot a Resume of a Psychopath

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strategist-clipart-icon_resumeI am sometimes astounded by the amount of misinformation available about how to conduct a good interview and spot an ideal candidate. As I was reading an article by Kathryn Tuggle on “How to Spot a resume of a Psychopath Applying to Work with You”, I was stunned by the outdated ideas were presented as benchmarks when determining your next employee. Many of her ideas could actually cause you to miss out on a great candidate with the first problem beginning with the title of the article.

First of all, NO ONE can spot a psychopath be reading their resume. As a matter of fact, you can’t find a great candidate at all by reading their resume. People on paper are not the same as they are in person. A complete measure of an individual candidate can only occur when you meet face to face.

Second of all, the article continues to pose that a candidate that you are hiring with work “with” you; you are hiring a person to work “for” you. There is an enormous difference in looking for a partner to work “with” and an employee who will work “for” you.

Then, there is the myth of job hopping. The idea that job hopping is a negative is one that we should stop measuring our candidates by. The concept should have gone out with the 50’s notion that we should work for one company until you retire. We have discovered having the same position for decades that lingers on and on (like a bad hangover) actually reduces our productivity. Research shows that people who job hop every 2-3 years are actually more successful. Ms. Tuggle quoted a psychologist who says that psychopaths will job hop. Well so do people in their 20’s who haven’t settled down yet. As well as those that realize opportunities may exist more quickly with other companies than a current position may hold.  It doesn’t mean that they are a bad hire. In addition, I greatly appreciate a person who leaves a job because they know it isn’t a good fit versus one who will stay just to be able to put 2 years on a resume. Neither of these situations is a win-win for the employee and the employer. Also, Dr. Greenberg makes the assumption that someone who leaves before a year “can’t hold down a job.” What if they had to move home to take care of an aging parent? What if their military spouse got transferred to another state? You NEVER know why someone left a job and to assume that they left because they are a psychopath is dangerous and judgmental.

Dr. Greenberg continues to express a concern and assumption that clear sign of a psychopath is that they are unable to be quiet in an interview. Being a talker doesn’t mean your candidate is a psychopath. In a well run interview, the candidate should be talking most of the time and about themselves. They should be letting you know how they can help you, which is not the same as them “blowing their horn for an hour” as referred to in the article.

One point that was brought up that I may agree with a bit is when you hear a candidate blaming their boss for not getting promoted. This could be a clear sign that the candidate isn’t taking ownership for their part in the last position not working out. But again, that doesn’t make the candidate a psychopath. It could just mean that the candidate hasn’t worked out their issues with the last position. An experienced interviewer will be able to glean enough information from that person to decide if the issues are big enough to warrant not making a job offer.

The last point that Dr. Greenberg makes is that a candidate who compliments you on your office décor is a manipulator. Not necessarily true. They may be trying to break the ice. The discomfort of the interview process, especially for the candidate, is like no other we experience. If the compliment feels insincere or “slimy” certainly pay attention. However not all people who compliment the interviewer are manipulators.

Articles like these are dangerous. They make broad, sweeping arguments that a particular behavior is bad and that the person exhibiting the behavior is bad. I have successful exceptions to every one of these so called “psychopathic behaviors”. Dr. Greenberg needs to stick to therapy and stay out of interviewing or our work force will be completed misplaced.

Flip Flops and Hiring

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flipsLast summer when we were at the beach, my daughter left our condo and forgot her key. My husband threw on some flip flops, and ran out the door to catch up to her in order to give her the key. He got on the elevator, looked down and realized that he had one black flip flop on and one blue flip flop on… it was so funny!

What isn’t funny is when you rush through the hiring process, and you get a person who just doesn’t match your company’s culture. What is painful is when you know on someone’s first day that they just aren’t going to work out to your satisfaction. What doesn’t sit well is when you need one type of shoe, but you put on another.

There is a saying out there “Hire slow and Fire fast”, but nobody does that. We are in too much of a hurry to put a butt in a seat. We think the world will end if we don’t hire someone by the end week. Really though, what counts is making sure that your flip flops match and that you don’t put someone in a position for which they aren’t trained, aren’t passionate about, or don’t like.

Next time you hire someone, check in the mirror one last time and ensure that your flip flops match. You won’t be sorry that you took your time.

The Nose Knows

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snoutAs animal fosters, our job is to bring dogs into our home and get them ready for their new forever home by loving them, feeding them, and playing with them. It is such a fulfilling and satisfying way that our family gives back. Other people view fostering differently. There was one woman who wanted to volunteer. She stated up front that she would “only foster dogs with a certain snout”, and currently she has never fostered a dog.

I have some people that want to discuss their hiring with me, who present similar requests. They will only work with people who attended a certain university. They will only hire people with a certain GPA. They will only have staff members who are members of certain organizations. And to what avail?

The organization that we foster through has a policy that they do not discriminate against people who want a dog. You don’t have to have a white picket fence and a doggy door to adopt a dog; you just have to provide a loving home. At A-list, we also do not discriminate against candidates – you just have to want to hire the best fit possible or you have to BE the best fit for the job.

The ultimate irony is that I have hired people from 16-85 years of age, each different types of people from varying backgrounds, because we focus on 3 things: working well with others, ability to do the job and passion for the job. Nothing else matters.

And the volunteer who wants only dogs with certain snouts? She probably won’t foster. The employers who wanted certain GPA’s? Statistically, they won’t be happy with their hire. And, I don’t work with people who want certain noses. I work with clients who want to have the best person on their staff and are willing to look past noses in order to find them, because it works.

Making Margaritas

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margsWhen I owned my restaurant, we would have really busy times, and in those busy times, I would jump behind the counter and help my staff serve our customers. I was notorious for making margaritas by the bucket. I would go into the basement, get out the tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and apple juice (our secret ingredient) and literally create buckets of margaritas to serve with our amazing enchiladas and nachos.

While my staff was thrilled to have me help them get our customers served as quickly as possible, it was a short term fix to a much larger issue. When we would get hit with a rush of people, as the owner of the company, my time was NOT best served by helping out my staff in the moment… my time was best served by getting more staff on the floor in order to help the customers get their orders. In other words, I needed to focus on the bigger picture… why we were short staffed at all in that moment.

Three years into owning the restaurant, I quit making margaritas. I refused to step back behind the bar to help, but instead I would begin calling to get more people on the floor. When I hired a general manager, it became his job to make those calls, and my job was to make sure that we had enough staff trained and ready to go for the busy times.

I see this all the time with my clients. They spend their time doing the extra work when they should be spending time looking at the business as a whole. In other words, make your margaritas on Saturday, and focus on your whole business during the week.


A “Normal” Interview at Starbuck’s

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imagesI love it when an opportunity presents itself to listen in on a “normal” interview. Arriving early for an appointment at a Starbuck’s in the Denver area, I was enjoying an amazing cup of black tea as the store manager began interviewing for a potential staff member. As effective interviewing is my passion, I was fascinated by the exchange I observed.

First, the candidate entered the Starbucks as I did at 12:45. She sat nervously waiting for 15 minutes to begin the interview for her next potential position. While the manager did begin the interview at exactly 1:00 (kudos to her) a huge opportunity to set up the candidate for immediate success was missed. An A-list candidate will ALWAYS be 15 minutes early for an interview, especially for a position they are really interested in. If the interviewer actually leaves them waiting for 15 minutes, the candidate only becomes more nervous, thus increasing the chances to blow the interview.

Second, the manager talked for the entire interview, occasionally glancing at the resume of the candidate. The candidate very dutifully nodded her head (she will need a massage after this!) and laughed at all the manager’s jokes. In a truly effective interview, the hiring manager should be engaging in active listening, rather than explaining the position and requirements. If the manager is talking rather than asking questions, the candidate does not have the chance to share skills, abilities, and personality with the manager. By not listening, the manager really has very little knowledge about the applicant or how they can truly contribute to the team.

Third, the manager got up and left the table twice to handle other issues and the candidate was left sitting by herself. Now I realize life can be full of interruptions. However, during an interview, the only focus should be around the task at hand: assessing the skill set and cultural fit of the potential new employee. Continuous interruptions reduce the hiring manager’s ability to determine fit and the candidate’s confidence about the job environment.

Fourth, the manager interviewed this woman in front of an audience of roughly 10 people waiting for their coffee drinks. The interview lasted 42 minutes. So for 42 minutes this candidate was not only vulnerable and exposed to a hiring manager, but to an entire audience of people. Don’t hold interviews in public, high traffic areas. Respect is a cornerstone for any great relationship and public interviews are very disrespectful.

Last, but certainly not least, the manager discussed the highpoints of the candidate with another worker behind the counter, again in front of an audience. Do I really need to point out how disrespectful this is?

After my observances, I realized that this is a perfect example of a “normal” interview, meaning that most people conduct interviews just like this and wonder why they can’t hire good people. I honestly do not believe this hiring manager was even aware of her interviewing style and its ineffectiveness towards hiring a great employee. My big question is this: Was this manager really ever taught how to conduct an interview? Did she feel supported through the process, so that she could be successful in her hiring decisions? Did she really have the tools and environment needed to be successful in her decision making process?

Employers who truly desire amazing staff need to support their hiring managers by teaching them how to interview. Give them the proper tools to find the next generation of A-list employees needed to grow the business.  This is the gift that keeps on giving.

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