Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

To many job candidates, the all important hiring decision is a mystery. More often than not hiring managers don’t say much about the factors they considered. In January 2010, I wrote this post to lift the veil a bit, clear the air, and add some motivation.

Myth: The job candidate who flat out “nails” the interview gets the job.

Truth: The decision about who gets the job is, well, complicated. 

For all the years that I was a senior manager at a Fortune 500, every time I didn’t select internal candidates who thought they had the “right stuff,” I was questioned. Actually grilled!

Filling job vacancies from an internal or external candidate pool isn’t as simple as having an opening, interviewing candidates, and picking one. It would be nice if all business decision-making were linear, but it’s not.

It’s not always about you!

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the hiring process and it’s different in every organization.  (I’m not here to judge either the ethics or the efficacy of those processes.)

It’s just important that, as candidates, we understand that these are business decisions, not personal ones.

Typical reasons why candidates aren’t selected

The hiring manager knew the person s/he wanted from the outset. 

Many companies have a mandated hiring process whenever there’s a vacancy. The preferred candidate participates in the process along with others, although his/her selection may be a foregone conclusion.

That may sound unfair, but if you are a competing candidate, it still gives you a platform for showing your stuff. How you perform in the interview will be remembered and can one day work in your favor.

The company wants to develop a high potential employee or add diversity. 

All companies need to build a bench so they can fill sensitive positions down the road. They look for candidates who have the potential to take on increasing responsibilities or need to broaden their company knowledge.

For those companies that have been slow to incorporate diversity into their workforce and their management ranks, vacancies are an opportunity to remedy that. In both cases, these are business best practices that can add needed capabilities.

Once again, simply by being a participant in the candidate pool, you gain important visibility.

You don’t complement the “chemistry” of the hiring manager’s work group.

The ability of people to work effectively together is important to every hiring manager. Any time a new person is added to the mix, the “chemistry” of the group changes. You may have great capabilities, but if your work style and personality don’t “fit” well within the team, then you will likely not get selected.

The hiring manager doesn’t feel comfortable about supervising you. 

This is a very personal thing. Hiring managers don’t get many perks. The one they do get is to hire people who will make their work life more pleasant and easier. So if there are two equally qualified candidates, they will likely say to themselves, “When I come to work on a bad day, which one of these two people do I want to deal with?” That will be the tie-breaker.

Why this is so hard to swallow. 

If these realities are frustrating to you, I understand. Remember, for you the hiring process is solely about you getting the job. For the business the decision is multifaceted. The best hiring decisions weigh the potential for the candidate to take on increasingly more complex work and then to be ready for advancement in a reasonable period of time.

The only piece of the hiring process that you control is yourself. 

Because there are so many variables contributing to the hiring decision, your best course of action is to simply do your best. Pay attention to the way the process is conducted, the questions you are asked, the responses and feedback you receive. Build on those insights.

Remember: Hiring decisions are business decisions. So don’t take them personally.Your best approach while job hunting is to:

  • Be prepared
  • Present yourself well
  • Have confidence
  • Keep at it

In time the right position under the right company circumstances will present itself, and you will be well-positioned to accept it. In the meantime, throw off your frustration and concentrate on becoming a candidate to be reckoned with!

Photo from Giulia Torra via Flickr

Do Job Interviews Get You Frazzled? Exhale!

It pains me when I see job seekers get stressed out at interview time. One way to ease the anxiety is to understand the pressures on the interviewer. This post that I wrote in 2010 does just that.  

Amazing, how a job interview can make our blood run cold.

Our ego, sense of self, and value get all tied up in being picked. Our brains gear up wildly to compete, to be the winner!

I spent a lot of years as a functional hiring manager for a Fortune 500 energy company. The people I hired either worked for me or for departmental colleagues. As a consultant, I still help clients screen resumes and interview.

Over the years, I’ve hired over 100 candidates myself or as part of selection teams. I thought you should know that, so you’ll believe this:

More often than not, the person interviewing you is in a major squeeze and feelin’ it! 

Yes, the interviewer, not just you, is feeling the pressure. S/he has a position to fill and chances are it’s been open for longer than anyone would like. That means work isn’t getting done, other staff are picking up the slack, and the manager is feeling the pinch. Someone is undoubtedly squawking. This reality works in your favor, so relax.

4 Things to Remember When You Sit Down for the Interview 

Curb your nerves by focusing on the needs of the interviewer and not yourself. Here’s why and how:

1. The interviewer is desperately hoping that you are the right person for the job.

That means the interviewer is rooting for you. They want you to do well. They are hoping beyond hope that you will mean the end of their search. They really want you to be the candidate they’ve been looking for, so you will make them a winner.

2. Your interviewer wants you to relax, so s/he can relax. 

Interviewing isn’t easy. It means asking the right questions, gathering the right information, assessing you correctly, and representing the company positively so you’ll want to work there if chosen. If you’re a visible wreck, you will be a distraction and will take the fun out of the process for the interviewer and yourself.

3. The interviewer will be grateful for anything you do to make the process go smoothly.

If you approach the interview generously and focus on meeting the needs of the interviewer for crisp and clear answers, you’ll showcase your skills as a communicator and team player. This means being prepared and asking the interviewer if s/he has gotten the needed information.

4. The interviewer wants the conversation with you to be enjoyable. 

Interviewing is tedious unless the candidate takes the monotony out of it. A candidate with an appropriate sense of humor, a relaxed but alert demeanor, and the ability to use the questions as a way to engage in dialogue about the job is a godsend. That will be you!

You can’t be more than you are. 

You can’t hire yourself for the job. But you can showcase your business fitness by explaining what you know, the skills you have, and the experiences you’ve banked. Trying to oversell yourself or to compete with candidates you don’t even know is the death knell.

When you get hired for a job, you’re committing to a relationship with the hiring manager and the company. It’s the job of the interviewer to decide whether or not you and the company are a good fit.

So be patient and be yourself.

Candidate selection isn’t just about the interview. 

A lot goes into final hiring decisions and it’s not always about you and your interview. That’s another reason to leave your nerves at home.

Photo from Michelle Ranson via Flickr

Job Quest Underway? Discover Your Buried Treasure | Transferable Skills As Career Doubloons

It’s unnerving to be out of work. Starting the job hunt can be gut-wrenching. We can even get confused about how to answer these simple questions:

  • What do know how to do?
  • What jobs should I apply for?
  • How do I get started? 

The temptation is to slap together a resume with a chronology of past jobs, titles, and duties. Then, with guns blazing, fire them out to every job board, classified ad, or on-line posting. Ugh!

And the hunt goes on!  

Interesting, isn’t it? Companies are hunting for a great candidate while you’re hunting for a job. So you’re both in the same boat, looking for treasure.

Here’s the problem: You’re focused on all the tasks you did in the past and the company is looking for skilled candidates for the future. Their quest is for the skills you can transport to their open job.

The solution is to figure out and give names to the skills you have in your wheelhouse. Although it’s not that difficult, why don’t most job seekers do this? It’s because:

  • They don’t have the insight.
  • They don’t know the terms.
  • They resist acknowledging their own value. 

Amazing, isn’t it? We have skills that we’ve been successful using. But when we have to assign “important sounding” words to describe them, we start to feel like an imposter.

My advice: “Get over it!” We need to prepare and accept a solid inventory of our transferable skills to get the best job. Those skills are the treasure we own and the treasure a company wants. So don’t keep it buried!

Make your resume your treasure chest. 

If you don’t market your transferable skills, it’s as though they don’t exist. Your resume is where all your skill doubloons are stored. 

Start by answering this question: What do you know how to do and how have you put your skills to work to make an impact? Your past behavior predicts your future behavior.

You can find out which transferable skills companies are looking by reading job postings and job descriptions closely. Go on-line and find out what different types of jobs require.

Look within yourself and inventory your transferable skills. Write them down and then highlight the ones that are your strongest suit.  Those are the ones you want to showcase in your resume.

Here’s a categorized starter list of transferable skills that should help:

Communication: persuasiveness, negotiating, speaking, writing, training, influencing

Interpersonal: teamwork, coaching, customer service, conflict management, employee development/engagement

Leadership: managing, supervising, motivating, decisiveness, problem-solving, delegating, integrity, innovation

Technical: analysis, data management, accounting, planning and organizing

Professional: ethics, integrity, adaptability, tolerance for stress, ability to learn, dependability, attention to detail, initiative

The transferable skills in your resume show the recruiter where the treasure is—in you! When you define yourself and your work using these words, you will see yourself in a brighter light. That’s how a hiring manager will see you too!

Keep digging.

Our transferable skills keep growing. So we need to keep our skills inventory updated. Each new job enriches our skills stash, making us more enticing candidates for bigger and better opportunities.

Acknowledging our transferable skills is immensely liberating and confidence building. Our business fitness is measured by how prepared and ready we are to make our next move.  When it comes to our transferable skills, we don’t have to be the best ever with any of them. We just need to be the best a company can find for what they are willing to pay. After all, treasure chests come in all sizes!

What transferable skills have been your greatest asset? Where did they get you? Thanks for sharing!

Been Burnt by a Bad Hire? |10 Red Flags for Interviewers

Trying to hire the right person can keep you up at night. Why? A bad hire can quickly turn employee harmony into raucous noise and tank  confidence in you.  

If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find it. If you don’t, oh well! 

The biggest mistake hiring managers make is not paying attention during the interview. Sounds incredible, right? 

Too often, interviewers are focused on themselves, specifically their: 

  • greeting, hand-shake, and small talk
  • style of questioning
  • pitch about the job and the company 

In other cases, they become so absorbed in the content of the candidate’s answers, they forget to: 

  • Ask good follow-up questions that probe for richer detail
  • Notice what isn’t being said—the information left out
  • Watch the non-verbal communication 

When you don’t pay attention, you miss important stuff—like the “red flags.” 

Here are my top ten “red flags” when you’re face-to-face with a candidate: 

  1. Too much “we”: You need to know what results the candidate achieved in prior jobs, not about the mysterious “we.”  Ask the candidate specifically, “What did you do?” and expect an “I” answer. 
  2. Rambling: Candidates that can’t grasp the point of your question and answer it concisely are probably unprepared, poorly qualified, or in a knot. This is telling, right? Your questions, after all, are about them not nuclear physics. 
  3. Pitching: Inflated egos generally don’t integrate well. You need an individual who explains factually their measurable and observable achievements. Results make the grade, not puffery. 
  4. Vagueness: Generalizations don’t cut it. Keep probing until you get the information you want. Tell the candidate that you want them to answer your questions this way:  briefly explain the situation s/he faced, describe sequentially the steps taken, and state the outcome achieved.
  5. Overly casual or tense posture: An interview is an important business meeting. To treat it too casually is either a cover or a show of disregard. Being too tense often indicates lack of preparation, self-confidence, or experience. Amp! 
  6. Negativity: A candidate who is negative or critical about a former company, boss, or colleague still has resentments that may carry over to a new position. Negative comments show poor judgment. 
  7. Focus on salary and benefits: Interviews are about the work. Employment offers are about the goodies. Candidates with pressing questions about salary, time off, benefits, and working conditions reveal much about their priorities.  
  8. Short-sightedness: Candidates that over-explain the details of their work without mentioning the implications lack the big picture view that makes them a good prospect for future growth. 
  9. Poor questions: A candidate that asks insightful questions at the end of the interview shows you his/her understanding of the job, the company, and the protocol going forward. That’s what you’ll want day to day. 
  10.  Lacks fit: If the candidate doesn’t connect with you, chances are s/he won’t fit with your work group. S/he doesn’t have to be like your other employees but should have a compatible style and collaborative nature. 

Your final decision has big implications. No one wants to repeat the hiring process any time soon if they don’t have to. There is no fool-proof system, but it’s a fool who doesn’t take time to read between the lines and stop when the “red flags” go up. You’re good to go! 

Do you have a “good hire” or “bad hire” story to share? Lessons learned are always welcomed!   

 

Stumped About Why You Didn’t Get Hired? | Here’s the Back Story

Myth: The job candidate who flat out “nails” the interview gets the job.

Truth: The decision about who gets the job is, well, complicated. 

For all the years that I was a senior manager at a Fortune 500, every time I didn’t select a candidate who thought they had the “right stuff,” I was questioned. Actually grilled! 

Filling job vacancies isn’t as simple as having an opening, interviewing candidates, and picking one. It would be nice if all business decision-making was linear, but it’s not.

It’s not always about you!        

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the hiring process and it’s different in every organization. It’s not for me to judge the ethics or the efficacy of those processes.

It’s just important that, as candidates, we understand that these are business decisions, not personal ones. 

Typical reasons why candidates aren’t selected 

The hiring manager knew the person s/he wanted from the outset. 

Many companies have a mandated hiring process whenever there’s a vacancy. The preferred candidate participates in the process along with others, although his/her selection may be a foregone conclusion. 

That may sound unfair, but if you are a competing candidate, it still gives you a platform for showing your stuff. How you perform will be remembered and can one day work in your favor. 

The company wants to develop a high potential employee or expand diversity. 

All companies need to build a bench so they can fill sensitive positions down the road. They look for candidates who have the potential to take on increasing responsibilities or need to broaden their company knowledge. 

For those companies that have been slow to add diversity to their workforce and to their management ranks, vacancies are an opportunity to remedy that. In both cases, these are business best practice decisions. 

Once again, by being in the candidate pool, you gain important visibility. 

You don’t complement the “chemistry” of the hiring manager’s work group. 

The ability of people to work effectively together is important to every hiring manager. Any time a new person is added to the mix, the “chemistry” of the group changes. You may have great capabilities, but if your work style and personality don’t “fit” well with that bunch, then you will likely not get selected.   

The hiring manager doesn’t feel comfortable about supervising you. 

This is a very personal thing. Hiring managers don’t get many perks. The one they do get is to hire people who will make their work life more pleasant and easier. So if there are two equally qualified candidates, they will likely say to themselves, “When I come to work on a bad day, which one of these two people do I want to deal with?” That will be the tie breaker. 

Why this is so hard to swallow. 

If these realities are frustrating to you, I understand. Remember, for you the hiring process is linear. For the business the process may be linear, but the decision isn’t. 

The only piece of the hiring process that you control is yourself. 

Because there are so many variables contributing to the choice, why over-stress yourself in the process? It’s business. So, don’t take it personally. Your best approach while job hunting is to: 

  • Be prepared
  • Present yourself well
  • Have confidence
  • Keep at it

 In time the right position under the right company circumstances will present itself, and you will be well-positioned to accept it. In the meantime, throw off your frustration and concentrate on becoming a candidate to be reckoned with! 

Any questions or experiences to share about the hiring process? I’ll be happy to weigh in.