Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider Man

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cobweb-123079_1280Imagine being in an interview for a job that you really want. The interview team is a panel of people not talking, asking you pretty hard questions, and you are concentrating solely on impressing them. All of the sudden, one of those people points out that you have a spider crawling on your shirt. What would you do? Would you scream? Jump up and run? Brush that spider off and then kill it DEAD?

This actually happened to a poor candidate that we interviewed this past week, and he calmly brushed the spider off his shirt and continued his interview gracefully. Then, he joked about being Peter Parker.

We all laughed uproariously. He followed up later that day with a thank you email for the opportunity to interview, expressed his desire to come back for the final round as he really wanted this job, and he signed his email: “Your friendly neighborhood spider man. “

I have spent hours talking to my clients about what to look for in candidates, and the ability to handle difficult situations is invariably one of the top qualities that my clients want. An employee who can laugh at themselves and the situation, handle it gracefully and leave you impressed in an awkward set of circumstances is someone you have to hire.

And as for Spiderman? He comes in this week for his final interview for… you guessed it, a web developer.

My Car Won’t Start!

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I recently got a new/used car, and at the end of a long day of interviewing, I got in it to go home. It has one of those keyless buttons that you press to make it start (this is new technology to me). I pushed the button and… nothing. I began to try everything I could think of to get the vehicle to start. I discovered the “key” in the key fob where I turned the car off, then on again. I opened and shut all the doors. Nothing happened.

One of the employees who was leaving at the same time offered, “Beth, do you need some jumper cables? I don’t have any, but I could call somebody!” I gracefully declined. Even if she had jumper cables, I would not have known what to do with them; regardless, I was pretty sure the issue with the car was user error, not engine failure.

As I continued my discovery process (which really involved me sitting in the front seat staring out the window in amazement, hoping a solution would just present itself), my client walked by and said “Is the car in park?” The car was in reverse. I put the car in park and it started right up at the push of the button. Boy, did I feel like an idiot, and I can guarantee you that I have not heard the end of this from my client, beloved husband and friends (nor will I EVER)! It was such a simple fix!

“What is the point?” you may be asking yourself. Last week, an article came out about a tech company failing to attract female candidates. After some conversations, they realized that the job title they’d used for years (“hacker”) was not perceived as inclusive by potential candidates. Once they changed their verbiage from “hacker” to “developer”, they began to attract many more female candidates. Sometimes a very simple change (in this case, of one word) can make all the difference in the world. Read the article here.

The next time you find yourself not attracting the types of candidates that you want (or when your new/used car will not start), take a second look. Put your process (and car) in park. Take a second to review your job ad to ensure that the language you are using directly reflects the message you want to portray. Then, press the button and GO!

Meanwhile, I will be reading the manual for my car…

 

A Trip To The Salad Bar!

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salad-686468_1280I love the salad bar at Whole Foods! I mean, I LOVE it! It is a luxury that I rarely allow myself, but I will eat vegetables there that I would NEVER eat at home. I love having the ability to choose which high quality ingredients go into my salad, and my mouth just waters. I get excited just by thinking about it, because I know that it will be the BEST salad I have had in a long time.

What would it be like if you could choose your next employee that way? What if you could hand pick the qualities of your potential candidate like you can the vegetables at a salad bar? What if you walked around the bar and were able to choose the qualities in a great employee that got you excited? For example, pick up the tongs over the “Loves Coming to Work” container, or pass over the “Can’t See The Big Picture” container. After all, if you don’t like mushrooms, don’t put them in your salad! It will just ruin your experience.

In essence, it really is that easy if you have a strategic interviewing process in place. You begin with the Ideal Candidate List (step one in the A-list Interview process). Make a list of all the qualities that make up your Ideal Candidate and post that list on your wall. Look at it every day, and continue interviewing until you find that person. Then your new employee experience will be just like going to Whole Foods and walking around the salad bar: exciting, full of anticipation and a wholly satisfying, memorable experience.

How to lose weight while interviewing

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tape-403592_1280We all know what we need to do to lose weight. Eat less, work out more. Eat more vegetables and less sugar. Cut out the sodas and too much salt. Cross train in your workouts so that your body is constantly doing different activities. Eat out less and at home more. There are no short cuts. No pills to swallow that lead to long term weight loss, and no quick fixes. No one can do it for you. You have to do it yourself.

The same could be said for hiring. There are no short cuts or quick fixes. You have to run a strategic process which means you will interview a lot of people, not just a few. You have to know what you want, and you can never second guess yourself. And, NO ONE can do it for you… not even me.

While I am considered an expert on the interview process with an average 30-50 people interviewed each week and over 13,000 people in my career, I still cannot interview FOR you. I can only interview with you. I can show you how to prepare, conduct and perform an interview to find the very best people for your team. I can share my expertise with you, but I cannot do it for you. The minute you step away from the process, the effectiveness of your hiring process goes down.

So, how do you lose weight while interviewing? You eat a spinach salad at lunch and take a quick walk around to building on your break. You leave the cookies in the break room for others to eat, and you do not go into the break room until they are all gone. You drink a ton of water, and you keep your eye on the prize… a fantastic new candidate and new dress in a smaller size.

Patsy Cline and the Deserted island

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palm-40293_1280At the end of an interview, a candidate asked me, “Can I ask you a fun question?” I responded with, “Sure!” The candidate then went on to ask me, “If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only have 1 c.d. for your c.d. player, which one would it be?“ I said “Patsy Cline’s greatest hits.” “Awesome,” he sighed.

I began to ask myself about the point of his question. Through his question, what did he discover about the company culture? Nothing. What does he now know about the job? Nothing. What information does he now have that he didn’t before? None. So, why ask the question?

People are constantly asking me what questions I ask a candidate in an interview so I tell them. It is no secret.  I want to know about your relationship with your past managers and co-workers, how you handle being overwhelmed, and how much research was done on the company for which they are interviewing. These questions all apply to the job.  I do not ask about deserted islands, how many golf balls fill an airplane, or if you were a cheese, which one would it be, because those questions cannot be evaluated. Whether you consider yourself as blue cheese or swiss cheese does not help me determine if you can do the job that I am asking you to do and if you want to do the job that I am asking you to do. Questions related to Patsy Cline can come later after they have been hired.

And truth be told, I would actually not be listening to Patsy on that island. I would use the c.d. to reflect the sun to a passing airplane so that I could be rescued.

Just Joking in an Interview

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groucho-marx-309396_1280In a recent interview, we asked candidates some questions about project management. One candidate was talking about how their part of a project was completed when their bosses’ portion had not been finished. I said to the potential employee, “What would you do should this happen again?” and without missing a beat, he said “I’d chew her out. Just joking!”

After the interview was over, I said to my client “You know that we cannot hire that candidate based on that statement.”

The client responded, “But he was just joking, Beth.”

I replied, “Maybe so, but chewing out your boss? That’s not funny.”

In an interview, our job as hiring managers is to listen actively to the exact words of the candidate’s response. Remember, a job seeker will attempt to put their very best foot forward to impress a potential employer. If you listen to the actual language they are using within their finely tuned responses, you can identify personality traits and core values around work. Through this knowledge, you can identify how a person will fit into your culture, what type of management style they will thrive under and more. Therefore, if you are going to listen to the candidate’s “just joking” comment, then you also have to pay attention to the “chewing out” part.

When we are conducting interviews, we tend to listen to what we want to hear because we want to hire someone. We want the candidates to succeed and become our next new employee! And we are often willing to do whatever it takes to make the candidate ideal, including dismissing a comment like “just joking.”

We do not know what the candidate meant when he said that he was just joking. Maybe he was. But maybe he was not. Can you take that chance with a critical function like a new hire? If you do take that chance and he was not joking, do you want to work with an employee who will “chew you out?” While it may appear the language being used was positioned as a joke, hiring is no laughing matter.

Let’s eat some sushi!

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I used to think I hated sushi. I thought “Who on earth would willingly put raw fish in their mouth, swallow and LIKE it?!?” I held strong to this belief until 1996, when a guy named Randy Smith asked me out on a date and took me to my first sushi restaurant. I had no idea how to order, what to do, how to eat and how to use chopsticks, so Randy showed me how. He ordered very mild fish, because he did not want to turn me off of sushi. He wrapped a rubber band around my chop sticks so that I could learn how to hold them, and he showed me how to mix the wasabi in with the soy sauce so that I didn’t destroy my nostrils.

That night changed my life. Not only did I begin a lifelong relationship with Randy Smith, but also with my love of sushi.

During this amazing night, I also realized I learned an important life lesson as well. The fact is, I could have learned about sushi on my own. I could have struggled with my chopsticks and put WAY too much wasabi in my soy, but I had a guide… someone to show me the ropes, so that my experience was so much more enhanced and the likelihood that I would actually like sushi was increased.

Now how does this apply to business? I realized early in my professional career that I could teach myself certain skills and muddle through all of the mistakes that come from learning a new ability. But I also realized that there are times when it is better to have a guide, a professional who can lead me through learning a new skill set, increasing the likelihood I would both like the activity and my effectiveness when executing it. At A-list Interviews, I am your guide in interviewing for new employees. Can you do it yourself? Yes. Should you? Sometimes. But having someone in your corner with an objective opinion acting on your behalf and showing you the way will definitely enhance your experience. Hire all you want, when you want, but hire an expert to help. You deserve it!

 

Relax? Who, Me?

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I have not truly relaxed since 1978. In fact, I hate that word! The word “relax” in the same sentence with my name seems like an oxymoron. I am wrapped tight and proud of it! So imagine my dismay when my swim coach says to me “Beth, you are going to have to relax in the water.”

What?

This makes no sense to me. How do you go fast in the water and relax at the same time? When I asked my swim coach this question, he responded, “You let the water move you. Feel it supporting you.”

Wait…what?

After some consideration and time trying to reconcile this with my logical brain, I just surrendered to the concept and we began working on relaxing in the water. Much to my surprise, my coach was right! Once I began to relax into my swimming instead of pushing my performance, I actually moved more efficiently in the water with less effort, cutting 15 seconds off my 100 yard freestyle, and 11 seconds off my 100 yard backstroke.

As this lesson in life was presented to me, it also occurred to me that if I could encourage my clients to relax during the interview process, we might have similar results. I said to one of my clients the other day that he might think about relaxing while we are in the interview process. He looked at me like I had grown a third eye but agreed to try. The result I observed was that the interview process began to truly work for us and allowed the next amazing hire to come to the table faster, just like my swimming. And when they appeared, it was much easier to identify them!

I will keep working on relaxing in the water to improve my swimming. I encourage you to relax during the interview process to increase the likelihood of finding the right people for your team.  In the end, I guess Yo-Yo Ma was right. “With every year of playing, you want to relax one more muscle. Why? Because the more tense you are, the less you can hear.

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.

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