3 Great Interview Questions That Will Catch the Interviewer Off Guard

When I have interviewed in the past there have been several times where I was caught off guard. There have been questions I was expecting to have to answer and thusly wasn’t prepared to do so. Having done a ton of interviewing myself, someone has to come up with a really off the wall question to catch me by surprise. Basically that means that the person was intentionally trying to catch me off guard. But…why would you want to intentionally catch someone off guard? The reason is simple, when you catch someone off guard, you are increasingly the likelihood that you are going to get a candid response.

When you interview someone, you can pretty much rest assured they have prepared a ton. They have practiced answering questions they think you are going to ask ahead of time so that their answer comes off more polished than it might otherwise. I personally can’t blame anyone for that, I do it myself. There are so many resources available today to help someone prepare for phone interviews as well as in person interviews. For example, this site is a solid resource to learn how to interview. There are eBooks out there to help you prepare like My eBook and my FREE Interview Prep Guide. So to try and get some authentic, not prepackaged answer, sometimes interviews ask unique questions that will catch you off guard. They want to see you think on your feet and get a gauge on how you handle pressure.

However, this goes both ways, as the interviewee you also have the ability to catch the interviewer off guard. Why would you do that you ask? Well you could do it for some of the same reasons. Maybe you want to get an honest answer from them. Personally when I am asked a question, as the interviewer, that really makes me think I appreciate it. It’s not that often that its flipped around and all of a sudden I am the one trying to figure out the best way to response. So in some ways I think it is the sign of a good interviewer. It’s also a good way to perhaps shift the balance of power just a bit. At the very least, you can gather a little more information and it won’t hurt your chances of getting the job. So with that being said let’s take a look at 3 great interview questions that will catch the interviewer off guard.

 

What will be the most challenging aspect of this job for the person who ultimately ends up filling it?

What a great question. Its good because as recruiters you are so used to selling a role. However, you don’t spend a lot of time talking about why the role will at times be challenging. Quite frankly, I don’t care what your job is, there are aspects of it that are less pleasant than others and this gives you a glimpse at what some of those are.

 

What is your biggest reason for staying at this company?

This is one of my personal favorites to ask someone interviewing me. In fact, the last several interviews I have taken I have asked this question. I ask this question for a few reasons. The first being I want to hear the enthusiasm in their voice. If they are unconvincing with their answer that might tell you everything you need to know about securing employment there. Are they having a hard time coming up with a reason to stay? Well that’s not good. Do they seem like they are describing why they continue with the same dentist? “Well it’s close to my house, I have been here for a long time, it’s close to my gym…” While I find it extremely convenient to have my work situated close to the place I go and throw weights around, that isn’t what I want to hear here. I want enthusiasm, passion, I want solid reasons that motivate me to take an offer if presented with one. From what they say, to the way they say it, every bit of information you get from this question is valuable.

 

Do you have any questions or concerns about my ability to do the job?

Game changer…. Read that question again. In my My eBook I have this question as a must ask in the closing section. I had an awesome boss once who told me to prep all my candidates to ask this question at the end of their interviews. Why? For two simple reasons. If they say something like “No, not at all, you are a total fit for this role” you can respond by saying “Great, in that case I want you to know that I am very interested in this role and I look forward to hearing from you further”. However, if the response isn’t as positive and they say something like “well, everyone really liked you but there are concerns about your job stability” than that’s awesome! I mean, it’s not awesome that they have concerns but it’s awesome you get a chance to address them. You almost walked out and you would have never gotten the chance to address their concerns. If they say that then use the next moment to try and answer their concerns. Don’t be pushy but you can confidently explain why their concern shouldn’t disqualify you from coming and working here.

 

Well there you have it, those are 3 great interview questions that will catch the interviewer off guard. Not only that but there will be value in the answers for you as well. Can you think of any other great questions to ask? If so comment below, I always love seeing the great ones you guys come up with. If you liked this post, as always please share it with your networks! Have an awesome day!

Employers, Stop Scaring Away the Best Talent!!!

The amount of exceptional employees capable of making a significant difference is finite. There are only so many people out there who are capable of coming in and single-handedly moving the needle. Or, to put it how Lou Adler might, there is a talent scarcity. If you have ever been responsible for hiring, we can probably agree on this right? Before we really dive into the issue and the solution I want to share with you real example that will ultimately illustrate my point and frame the solution nicely.

Several years back I was working as a corporate recruiter and one of the groups that I supported needed to hire some people… A lot of people actually. If my memory serves me correctly, they wanted to hire 35 engineers over a 6-month time span. These were not easy fills. These were computer science grads with 4 to 7 years’ experience doing something very specific. The point I am getting here is that it was a significant undertaking. However, with my role I had some very key advantages. The company I worked for was a great company. Fortune 500 with competitive salary, benefits and in the area it was a marquee employer.

So it should have been no problem right? I should have been tripping over the candidates with the bottleneck being having too many interviews that my hiring manager’s calendars were overbooked. If that was for the case this wouldn’t have made for a very relevant story. What actually ended up happening is we had a decent amount of candidates. Not as many as we would have liked but realistically I was pretty happy with the volume. Those were tough roles, the fact that I wasn’t having to source everybody was a pretty positive outcome for me.

However, this story doesn’t end there. We were constantly interviewing and while we were making some successful offers, something else happened. We were experiencing turn downs. Candidates who went through our entire process (which for this role was long), receiving an offer and then saying no thanks. Now the fact of the matter is turn downs happen. Candidates get counter offers (for my thoughts on that check out this post, 3 Powerful Reasons to Never Accept a Counter Offer) or they expected more compensation or they simply get cold feet. If you extend offers, at some point you are going to experience a turn down or two. However, this wasn’t one or two. This was more than that and it started to get a little concerning.

At one point my manager and I had our bi-weekly meeting and these searches came up. She asked me how they were coming along and I told her. I let her know that while we were making progress, the fact of the matter was we weren’t making the kind of progress all parties involved found to be acceptable. So we came up with an idea, we decided I was to call every candidate who turned down our offer and talk with them about it. The goal wasn’t to get them to reconsider but rather to find out why? After all, it was a lot of work to get an offer. We are talking two phone interviews, an onsite interview and a technical assessment. So after all that timer, why turn down a competitive offer with an industry leader that just so happens to be headquartered where you live?

The Problem

So I came up with a series of questions and called every single one. On occasion it was a little bit of work to get them to talk with me but I think I ended up talking to all but one. I tend to be a pretty conversational interviewer and that combined with the relationship I had established with the candidates allowed me to get some pretty candid feedback. Throughout all my conversations there was one consistent theme. Our interviews were not pleasant. Not only was out process long but once candidates made it onsite they were subjected to rigorous testing, tough questions and intimidating panel interviews.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know there is a significant negative impact to making bad hire. It is costly and it can carry far reaching implications. So yes, sometimes, the testing and the intense interviews are necessary. However, if you find yourself in the position of interviewing some of the top talent in your industry, you sure as hell better spend some of that time selling them on why this opportunity is a great one. The conclusion was we had intimidating interviews and we weren’t doing the opportunity justice when it came to selling how great it really was.

Along the way another thing happened. We looked at some of the government data we had access to and we found out that we had some stiff competition. For every one of these engineers in our market there were over 6 job openings. When you don’t sell your opportunity, have intimidating interviews and are located in an area where a candidate is able to compare a multitude of opportunities, you are going to run into some heartache, regardless of how great a company you are.

The Solution

So what did we do? Well a few things. We worked to shorten up our process to get from starting line to finish line faster. We also diversified our interview panel. Not just ethnicity and gender but also with tenure. We wanted to give perspective diversity in story told by the people they were meeting. Lastly we highly encouraged the people interviewing candidates to talk about why this opportunity was awesome. After all, it really was. I mean you were working with the newest technology, surrounded by other really smart people and you were making an impact in products that were global industry leaders. While you might be thinking “Well Ben, that should sell itself”. Maybe. But I am of the opinion that you should never stop selling how great your opportunity it is. When you are talking about the type of talent that can make the type of impact your business needs, maybe should not be good enough, not even close.

Selling the candidate becomes even more important when they aren’t someone who applied but rather, someone your recruited pursued and engaged for this one specific role or a “passive candidate”. With passive candidates you have less margin for error when it comes to have an unwelcoming process. Because they aren’t really looking to make a move they are going to be more willing to walk away when they run into something they don’t like. I am acutely aware of this because I work for a company that only works with passive candidates. A few roles ago I was a headhunter for a fortune 500 company and guess what, if you engaged us to work on one of your jobs we posted it. We posted it to a lot of places and sometimes the candidates who got the role applied and then we sent them over. That’s just how most 3rd party agencies work. However, in my current role, even if I wanted to post a role I wouldn’t have the ability. Every single candidate is passive. They wouldn’t apply to your job if you posted it you wouldn’t find their resume online. If that seemed like a small commercial, it was! If you are a company and want help finding the best passive talent at a fraction of the cost of a typical head hunting agency find my email on this page Work with Ben, email me and let’s chat so I can tell you about my organizations unique process.

If you made it this far thank you so much for reading. Remember, your job isn’t done when you find the candidate. Interviews aren’t just figuring out if they are right for you. Candidates are doing the exact same thing, so make sure you help nudge them in the right direction. If you liked this post, please feel free to share with your social networks. Thanks and have an awesome day!

3 Razor Thin Lines You Must Walk to Be a Great Candidate

In some recent posts I have had discussions about the difference between good and great. I have never met someone who wants to be below average however I think there are many people who are satisfied with being good. With the best roles being sought after competitively you have to ask yourself a question, is good going to get it done? Actually, sometimes the answer is yes. If lack of talented candidates in your field has created a significant scarcity then yes, being just good might be more than good enough. For example, there are only 4 universities in the United States that graduate degreed welding engineers. I have actually filled a few welding engineering roles I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are extremely hard to find.

If you want to hire a recruiter perhaps you can look at your three or four finalists and determine who would be the best culture fit. If you are looking for a welding engineer the criteria might look a lot different. “Can she weld? Yes? Hire her!” I’m kidding…a little… However most of us don’t have welding engineering degrees and tend to work in fields that don’t experience that perpetual scarcity that gives welding engineers the type of career control all of us might envy if you take the time to think about it. Most of us, if we want that next role with all the perks and career advancement are going to have to come off great in the interview. Like many things worth doing that is easier said than done.

I have one singular goal for this post. I am going to look at three different things that will help you distinguish yourself as top 25% talent. We are going to operate under the assumption that you are qualified for the role, have done your research and that generally speaking you make sense as a hire for the role you are interviewing for. If all that is true and you can pull of the three things below then you will go a long way towards being considered great. Before you get started, of you haven’t downloaded my FREE Interview Prep Guide what are you waiting for? Its free, click that link and get it!

 

Being perceived as confident, not cocky

I am going to start here just in case you only have time to read one of these. When I have an amazing candidate, who fits all the criteria amazingly and I hear that my client is going to pass, this is often the reason. For a lot of people this can be hard. You are amazing at your job, you have the track record, the attitude and you know you are just what they need. You know that you can do that job today and hey have problems you have fixed in the past and you feel you can fix it here. When all those components are there it can be hard to taper back the enthusiasm about what you bring to the table. But, if you really want to be a great candidate, you have to do it. Don’t get me wrong, feel free to brag about yourself a little bit. People like confidence and they buy passion. But also show some humility and the desire to continuing to develop because let’s face it, you don’t know everything. You can be a great candidate but still have areas you want to develop in, great candidates know this.

 

Come off interested but not desperate

Let’s pretend for a minute that being desperate wont impact your leverage to negotiate if an offer comes. I mean, it totally does, but momentarily let’s just look at how it impacts how you are perceived as a candidate. If you are totally desperate and everything about you screams “I NEED THIS JOB, I MUST GET THIS JOB” how do you think it makes you look? What questions do you think that puts into your interviewer’s head? The fact of the matter is at the end of the day you want every person to who interviews you thinking “we would be lucky to land this candidate”. You want employers thinking that not only would you be a great hire but that it is an opportunity with a limited window. It’s basic psychology that people want what they think they can’t have. Bottom line is that it’s not good for you to come across as desperate. Now, by no means am I advocating playing hard to get. Don’t do that. These are adults and if you play games they will get tired of them. However great candidates can walk this line. They can express interest in what the opportunity could mean for their career but they take a measured, pragmatic approach. That is what the best candidates do and what I would advise you to do.

 

Motivated to leave your current role but not bashing

This is another one that impacts a ton of candidates. However, this one doesn’t just hurt potential great candidates, its literally one that everyone will have to find balance when discussing. A cardinal sin when interviewing is bashing your former employee. I don’t care if you worked at Enron right before the financial crisis, bashing your former employer will never ever be received well. You could be telling the 100% truth, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes things aren’t black and white, there are many shades of gray. This is not one of those times. If you bash your old employers, you are hurting your chances of getting the job. I have never been a meeting following a group of interviews and heard someone say, “You know what really impressed me? I love the way Ben just eviscerated the work habits of his former boss. Epic!” That doesn’t happen. It makes you come off as difficult and people will consequently want to avoid working with you. On the other end, if you work for the greatest employer in the world, why in the hell are you looking? You have to find a balance here. While your current employer is great and you have learned a ton, they have some basic limitations that stand in the way of the lofty goals you have set for yourself in regards to personal and professional development. Find a good way to say that. Find something that is true to you, doesn’t make you look desperate and makes you feel grateful for your time there while still indicating your desire to move for what you would consider the perfect opportunity. That my friends, is the key.

Was that helpful? I hope so. Walking these 3 razor thin lines you must walk to be a perfect candidate may not be easy to accomplish but if you can, you will have gone a long way towards strengthening your candidacy. Any other ones I missed? Feel free to comment below and as I always, please share with your networks on any social media platform you use, I appreciate it. Oh and one last thing, if you have check out my Work with Ben section, give it a look. After some feedback from readers I have created a way for candidates who need assistance to work with me as well as a way for organizations who want to find the best passive talent to engage my company and I. Even if you just want to have a conversation about it check it out. My company saves our clients over 50% on traditional agency recruiters and every single candidate we supply is 100% passive, we never post jobs….period…even if I wanted to do I wouldn’t be able to. Thanks again and have an awesome day!

The Difference Between Great Interviewers and Good Interviewers

There is a huge gap between bad interviewers and good interviewers. As a recruiter, you know pretty much right away if a candidate is a bad interviewer. There is the awkward and unenthusiastic “hello” when they pick up the phone. There is the lack of preparedness that becomes more and more obvious as the conversation goes on. There is the constant noise in the background that indicates “I didn’t plan far enough in advance to get to a quiet spot” and a variety of other cues that are painfully obvious to anyone who has spent a significant amount of time interviewing people. However, there isn’t that big of a gap between good and great interviewers.

In fact, it could take a whole conversation or perhaps more time to be able to distinguish whether you are talking to a great interviewer or just a good one. There are many things that you can do that will put you on one side or the other. Some of them are small things but sometime they can make the difference. I am willing to bet that some of you reading this are good interviewers while others of you are great! (there might even me a correlation between those of you who frequent my blog and are great interviewers perhaps….jk) I am also willing to bet that none of you pick up the phone when you interviewing thinking “I hope that I am good, not great for this phone interview”. While there are many things you can do to become good, I am going to give you one solid thing you can immediately implement to become a great interviewer.

Before we go into that let’s talk about the process of putting together a phone interview. Initially I have a meeting with my hiring manager where I am told what it is they are looking for. I ask a set of questions that will help me determine in greater detail what I need to go out into the market and find. At some point in the conversation certain questions the hiring manager would like asked are discussed. Frequently those questions are something like this “Give me an example of a time you had to deal with competing deadlines? What was the decision you had to make? What did you decide to do? And “What was the outcome?” So your recruiter might ask you those series of questions and often it’s because the hiring manager is looking for something specific in your response.

So back to being good or great. When I as a question like that most candidates will start by saying, “well in my role that happens every day.” In my book, that is a fair start. In many roles they will ask you a question that turns out to be something that you need to deal with frequently. So here is where good and great gets defined when it comes to this questions. Good candidates will say something like “In those case you need to assess the situation, take a look at the manpower you can get to assist or make a judgement call based on priorities etc.” Depending on the recruiter, that is a good answer. But, a great answer is different in a very specific way. A great answer gives you a specific example. It tells of an actual time you, as the candidate, did that exact thing. In great detail it describes your thought process, the action you took, the outcome of that action and how this specific example has contributed to the professional you are today.

You see, saying that happens all the time may be true. And following it with a hypothetical situation may give your interviewer a glimpse into your decision making process in said situation. However, in the truest sense, it isn’t actually answering the question. Your interviewer asked for a specific example. You weren’t asked what you might do, they want to know what you have done. If you answer in hypotheticals, then you are missing the boat on what your interviewer was actually trying to accomplish and you are falling short of great. Give a specific example, tell the interviewer your specific actions, not what the team did, reach a coherent conclusion and do this without the story going on too long. That can be the difference between good and great.

Well there you have it, that is the difference between good interviewers and great interviewers. If you haven’t done so, go get your free copy of my new FREE Interview Prep Guide, it’s absolutely free, get yours now! I hope you find this helpful and actionable. Please feel free to share and as always, have a great day!

1 Question You Need to Ask Every Candidate: My Take On a Lou Adler Tip

Do you guys see that above pic? Yes, that is a real picture and that is a recruiting legend….and Lou Adler. Just kidding that is a picture of me and recruiting legend Lou Adler. I had a full day of training with Lou and then saw him speak at a Titus Talent event thrown in downtown Milwaukee. Over the next few weeks or so I plan on sharing some of the information I learned from Lou with all of you. The following post is for anyone who will at some point in the future need to sell a candidate to a hiring manager. If you don’t feel you ever need to do that, feel free to read on anyway because it’s a good skill to have and you never know when you might benefit from having acquired this skill.

Part 1

Now while this question is directed to the candidate, to properly execute it, it actually starts way before the interview. It starts with your conversation with the hiring manager. In order to do this correctly you need to find the pain point. What is this hiring manager hoping this person will come in to do. There are several ways to get this information. Sometimes it will be blatantly obvious. The hiring manager will state over and over again that they are staying late, working long hours to accomplish a task this person is typically responsible for. If that’s the case, part one has been made easy for you. If not there are questions you can ask to find it out but for this to work, you absolutely must find it out. One of the things you can ask your hiring manager (or client if you are an agency recruiter) is “What project or deliverable will this person have right out of the gate, the first 90 days on the job?”

Typically, if you ask this question the hiring manager will reveal the pain point they are dealing with. So you ask the question and in return they say “well yes, this person is going to involved in an inter-plant relocation. That is going to be a big, high impact project that they will be expected to co tribute to right away.” If they say that well guess what, they have just made your job a lot easier. Ok, so you have that crucial piece of information, let’s move onto part two.

Quick break! Last week I finally published my FREE Interview Prep Guide, go check it out now… or after you are done with the post!

Part 2

Part two is you take that deliverable and you turn that into a question you will ask the candidate. In this specific case you would ask the candidate “Have you ever been a part of inter-plant relocation?” Now an inter-plant relocation is when you move the insides of a facility around in order to create efficiencies. For example, in a manufacturing facility, if there is an area of manufacturing and an area of assembly that are in different areas and you could eliminate waste by moving them closer together, then you might want to move them closer together. Thank you for bearing with me during that explanation, I have a business degree, not an industrial engineering degree. So you ask that question and that candidate says yes. You then follow that up with a bunch of follow yup questions. “What was your contribution to that project?” “You said you managed people on this project, how many people were under your direct management?” “What was the budget for this move?” “Who’s idea was this move?” “What efficiencies were created by implementing this change?”

Basically, you ask as many questions as you need to until you have as full of an understanding as you are capable of having. Now that you have this information, what can you use it for? The answer is simple, you use it to sell the candidate to the hiring manager. I had a boss who once told me that recruiting is all about just creating a conversation between two people. You make those conversations happen and good things will happen. Many times I have submitted a candidate I felt great about just to have the hiring manager look at their resume and say something like “Yea, I am not sure about this candidate, I don’t see enough ABC”. If you are able to arm yourself with the information you can get from asking these questions than you have positioned yourself to be able to sell your candidate on a level you haven’t been able to do before. Not only that but you have positioned yourself to be more consultative. You have unearthed the core reason for the need and then provided candidates who have previous examples of filling these gaps in talent and presented them to your hiring manager. If the manager waffles about having that initial phone screen, as long as the example they provide is impactful and similar to what they will need to do in this new role, then you have armed yourself with the ammunition that in most cases should be more than enough.

So what did you think? Was that helpful? Do you think you will be able to use it? Do you have any other tips that you have used in the past to sell candidates? If so, I would love to hear it below. Also if you liked this post, please share it with your social media networks. Thanks again for reading and have a great day!

3 Powerful Reasons to Never Accept a Counter Offer

If you like your job and you like your boss, giving your notice can be an extremely difficult conversation to have. You might find yourself dreading having the conversation and even experiencing anxiety over the conversation. I have given my notice several times and in my experience it is always a hard conversation to have. In fact, the first time I did it I was nervous the entire week leading up to it. You combine that with the fear of change and comfort of familiarity and sometimes people end up accepting a counter offer. I mean, at first glance it seems like a great idea. You might love your company, enjoy the cafeteria and love your team…but, you don’t think advancement opportunities are there for you. Perhaps everything is great but you feel you are underpaid. Both of those reasons are good reasons to look if you feel so inclined.

But then you go to your boss and tell them you are leaving. They hear your reasons and they say “why didn’t you tell me you felt this way, tell you what, let me see if I can match he salary the new company is offering you. Will you stay then? As a recruiter I have been witness to this plenty of times. And frankly I get it, if everything is great but one thing and then your current employer fixes that one thing, isn’t that best case scenario? The answer is a resounding no! Below I will give you three reasons why you need to stick to your guns and move on.

 

The Math

As a recruiter, when I have a candidate call me and tell me that they think they are going to take a counter offer my advice to them is simple, Google it. They know I have a horse in the race and want them to take my role so anything that I say to them they are going to discard. I get that and it makes sense. SO I tell them look it up themselves, often that’s enough. The data is overwhelming. According to US News, it’s between 70-80% of workers who accept a counter who end not working for their current company within the year. Think about that, if five people accept a counter offer, 4 of them will not belong to that company by the end of the year. Do you like those odds? I wouldn’t. The nice thing about math is it takes the emotion of the decision out of it. If you can look at it and say mathematically this is the decision that’s best for me and my family, it’s a big help in what can be a highly emotional situation.

 

The impact on the relationship

This reason is the interpersonal reason why you never accept a counter offer. Let’s walk through this logically. You tell your boss that you are leaving. The fact of the matter is that even though some days it might not feel like it, what you do for your company is extremely valuable. They pay you a salary because there is some task the organization can’t go without. When you leave, you leave a void productivity. So something important doesn’t get done or they need to shift resources so that the task gets done. Whatever the case you have made life more difficult for many people when you leave and frankly you have made your company less efficient or less productive or both. So as a boss, you think to yourself, “I can’t let this person leave…maybe if I give them more money to change their mind.” Make no mistake, this is a short term fix. You are a leaky pipe and that extra whatever it is they are going to give you is duct tape. Imagine yourself as a manager and imagine someone vital to the success of your organization is leaving. Imagine you’re are able to throw 15k their way in order to keep them from leaving and putting you in a bind. Now you have done that and they are doing the same work for you but making a lot more money. Now imagine six months down the road you have to make a cut. Imagine you have four people to choose from who all do the same thing. They are all equally skilled and there don’t happen to be any differentiators to speak of in terms of making this decision.  Now imagine one of those people makes 15k more than the other three and six months ago was ready to leave. Now not every manager will think this way but you are kidding yourself to think that in no cases will this be a factor.

 

Everything doesn’t improve overnight

The last reason you need to consider is the fact that just because they change one thing, doesn’t mean that everything wrong with the situation has been remedied. Typically, when you have made the decision to move on from a situation, it’s for a multitude of reasons. Its usually the culmination of many disheartening events over the course of your time at the employer. When they give you a bunch of money, hoping that will sway you to stay, they haven’t fixed the host of other things about the company you probably wish you could fix if you were able to. They have fixed just one factor of many. So even if you discount the first two, which I would say you definitely shouldn’t, the fact of the matter is the same reasons you made the decision to look elsewhere in the first place still exist.

 

For these three reasons, my advice is to never take a counter offer. When you walk into your boss’s office, make up your mind that regardless of what they say you are going to stick with the course of action you have decided on. Go in there knowing there is no going back and regardless of what happens in that conversation you have already charted a new course. Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful. If you have any counter offer stories or resignation stories, please share them below! I love hearing them! Also please check out these two exciting new sections of my site! Check out my FREE Interview Prep Guide here and if you want to work with me, either as a candidate or as an HR Professional, check me out here Work with Ben!

3 Things You Can Immediately Change About Your Job Description to Find Transformational Talent

A few weeks back I was at the Indeed Interactive – Transformational Talent conference. It was two full days of information, networking and sneak peeks of things to come. The entire time I was there it was jam packed with content. One of the biggest themes to the event was transformational talent. So what is that? At the event they defined it as the type of talent that can come into your organization and make significant impact. Essentially it’s what every HR Business Partner, Hiring Manager and Recruiter are trying to find. It’s the type of person, who with their presence alone, is able to make contributions so significant that they are able to single-handedly move the needle on an entire departments productivity.

That sounds great right? Of course it does. These A Players are the type of employees who make contributions that will keep companies relevant and allow them to continue to adapt to a world where disruption seems to be the norm. During the conference indeed shared how some of the top companies in the world value these transformational individuals in terms of contribution relative to an average employee. Google, Apple, IBM and Netflix among others weighed in and gave their thoughts. The rated the impact of these individuals compared to an average employees impact and the lowest of the estimations was 4 to 1. Basically saying that one transformation employee was able to make the impact of four standard employees. One of the estimates had them at 300 to 1.

While that is quite the range you have to figure that it really comes down to how you measure average and exceptional. But for the sake of argument lets be cautious and say that the value of one of these A Players can be 10 to 1 (which again, is extremely conservative given the input of these top companies). At 10 to 1, these workers are absolute game changers and every organization should be clamoring to get as many of them as possible. As someone in recruitment, I know just how hard it is to find these candidates. And once you find them it’s not over, its then just as competitive to get them into your process, keep them engaged and then on top of it be the offer they end up selecting. I think it’s safe to assume that candidates like these will have competition offers.

So, with the talent be this rare and the market being this competitive, what are you doing to position yourself to attract, engage and retain this talent? Maybe a better question is what are you currently doing that is moving you further away from your goal of reaching these talented individuals? Well there are probably a myriad of things we could cover here but let’s start with your job description. According to the data Indeed has gathered, not only are these transformational individuals interested in hearing what’s out there, but about 70% of them are checking the job boards at least monthly. So basically, a monthly basis, if you have a poor job description you are squandering the chance to attract this talent. Essentially, a job description might be your one and only chance to engage the type of talent that propels your company into the future. Now that you understand the gravity, lets jump into the three things you can change right now to move yourself from a job description they look at, to a job description they apply to.

Leave out the meaningless clichés

Does your job description say things like “With competitive salary and benefits” or “ABC Company is an Industry Leader in”? My guess it probably does. Now while all of these things may indeed be true of your company, guess what, every job description says that. Go online right now and search for a position that you are currently trying to hire for. Find a competitor and look at their job description. Does it say a lot of the same stuff? How do you differentiate yourself from them? Do you? The fact of the natter is that you have very limited time to really interest a candidate when they are looking at your job description. If its two pages of the same old same of filled with meaningless cliches that mirror every other job description out there do you really feel as if you are best positioning yourself to get them to say “Yes, this role sounds perfect for me”? Look, if you have something special about your culture or mission, put that in here instead. I have looked through hundreds of job descriptions and if they say the same stuff your simply won’t stand out, find a way to be different.

Talk about the impact this person will have

Transformational talent craves the ability to make an impact. The talent you want doesn’t dream of coming in at 8:30 and counting the hours until 5. They don’t want one day to be indistinguishable from the next. If you really want your job description to be engaging, then write it for the people you want to attract. What will their contribution be? How will they be able to make an impact? Now by this I don’t mean cliché statements like “High visibility” and “cutting edge technologies”. That isn’t specific. How are they high visibility? What is your definition of cutting edge? If you have a tech role and the technology really is game changing, for all the love of all that is holy in this world, put it in there! I cannot state this point enough; atypical talent is not satisfied with typical impact. The people capable of changing the course of a company’s future want to know they will be empowered to do so. Let them know how and will what they will be able to do it and you will immediately make your opening significantly more attractive.

 

Talk about what the team has made in the past

Not enough companies do this but think about it from a candidate’s perspective. Here you are surfing the job boards looking for a truly exciting opportunity that motivates you to make a move. Job description after job description is the same. You are having a hard time distinguishing one from the next. Then you happen to find one that tells you about something significant or exciting in your industry. As it turns out the team that accomplished this has an opening. You can join the team that are doing the types of things you crave to be a part of. Well guess what, you can do that with your job description. If your team just built a new, exciting, cutting edge product that has impact the entire company, why in the hell would you not talk about that in a job description? I have done hiring for some really cool companies. Companies that have built things that are scientific marvels and companies that have built giant machines that sheer size is astounding. Things that engineers grow up dreaming about building. No matter what your company does, I bet that you can find things your team has done that job seekers would find exciting. If you aren’t including accomplishments of the team you are hiring for in your job description, then you are missing the boat big time. The type of talent you want to add to your team wants to know how they will be able to make an impact. What better way than to specifically talk about the past accomplishments of the team they would be joining?

There are a ton of things you can do to make a job description better and for that matter, your entire hiring process. We will get into a bunch of those in future blog posts but the take away today should be that there are easy ways to immediately make your job descriptions more competitive. If you are hiring a Mechanical Engineer and instead of creating a job description you simply pull out the one you used the last time your hired one you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Talk to your hiring manager. What has your team accomplished over the last few years? What cool technologies are you using now and what cool technologies are you looking into for the future? Why would someone who is already happily employed leave their job to come do the same thing for us? What is exciting? Ask these questions and find a way to get them into the description. Replace the same old same old with enticing glimpses into the progress and impact a person can make and you will find yourself with a much better chance of attracting the talent that success demands. I hope this post will help you inject some energy into your job descriptions. What did I miss? If you are a hiring manager, HRBP or a Recruiter, what else can you do to make a job description better? If you are an applicant, what is the coolest thing you have seen in a job description? Have a great day, thanks for reading and I look forward to your questions!

PS. If you liked this post, I will always appreciate people sharing it!

9 Impactful Actions Entry Level Candidate Can Take to Jumpstart Their Careers

In my time in recruiting I have hired for a ton of different roles in many industries. I have filled roles doing everything from Paint Coatings Scientist to Production Manager at a Pizza Manufacturer to Crystal Growth Scientist. Each role I have recruiting on presents its own challenges.  However, out of all the role that I have filled, some of the most rewarding are actually entry level roles. For me there is just something exciting about finding a good fit for a company and also helping someone find their first full time gig. Most of the candidates who I end up placing in entry level roles have a level of excitement that you really only find when this type of novelty is involved. For many it is a point of validation for all the hard work they have out in over the years succeeding in schoolwork, networking and planning their future. With that being said, not all of these interviews got smoothly. In fact, I would say that they have a lower success rate than some of the more senior, niche engineering roles I have filled. You can mostly attribute this to lack of experience. A lot of these candidates who don’t have the best phone interviews or onsite interviews are really good candidates, it’s just new to them and they make a few mistakes that end up costing them. So today I am going to provide you with a few quick things you can do to make sure you go into that interview and nail it!

 

Get your LinkedIn profile looking awesome!

The first thing I recommend doing is making sure you have an awesome LinkedIn profile. Hopefully you already have a profile set up but if not do it right now! I am serious, open another tab, set it up and come back and ready this. If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, its social networking for professionals. You are able to add “connections”, follow companies, join groups, message fellow business professionals and potentially land yourself interviews. The fact of the matter is most corporate recruiters and agency recruiters use LinkedIn as one of their top tools for finding candidates. By having a great LinkedIn profile, you are increasing the likelihood that recruiters will reach out to you with potential opportunities. LinkedIn is nice in the sense that they walk you through the set up. They tell you to upload a picture, add experience, add education and add skills etc. Follow their instructions and make sure you are as detailed as possible and odds are you will have set up a solid LinkedIn profile and take a positive step towards employment. Overall setting up a LinkedIn page is pretty simple and most people have no issue doing it themselves but if you want expert assistance getting a fully optimized profile check out my Resource Page for the link on LinkedIn optimization.

 

Join entry level career groups in LinkedIn

Once you join LinkedIn you will see that you are able to follow companies, read cool articles and join groups. I am a big fan of joining groups if you are looking for opportunities. One of the things that makes LinkedIn work is that everyone can’t just message everyone. Now this is good for the most part but if you are looking for a job odds are you want hiring managers and recruiters to be able to reach out to you. In order to message someone on LinkedIn you have to be connected to them, have a special membership that costs money (for everyone else the site is free) or you have to share a group. If you are an Electrical Engineer and you join Entry Level Engineer groups, then odds are you will be giving access to recruiters who are looking for entry level candidates like you. So search LinkedIn, find some great groups and join. If you really want to maximize the benefit, feel free to be an active participant. Post articles, comment on others posts and be. Feel free to Join my LinkedIn Group!

 

Find recruiters who work in your area and connect with them

The next thing I would do is find local recruiters and connect with them. Now that could mean joining a LinkedIn group created for recruiters in your geographic area and sending them connection requests or perhaps you can google local recruiting companies and call in. That might be direct for some of you but as long as you are polite and not overly push you will find that most recruiters will appreciate the effort. The LinkedIn side of this should be easy, find recruiters who work in your geographic area or field and send them the request, that should take care of itself. As far as finding brick and mortar locations, just google them. Find local agencies, make sure they have a solid website and call in to introduce yourself and ask if they work with entry level candidates. You miss every shot you don’t take. And speaking of connecting with recruiters, feel free to Add me on LinkedIn!!

 

Make sure your resume is solid

This should go without saying but if you don’t have a good resume then you are in trouble. If you are an entry level candidate who just graduated, do you remember your classmates? You know the ones that walked across the stage before or after you? Well if they just graduated and you were in similar programs than odds are you are looking at some of the same jobs. Not to make this overly competitive but that is your competition now. You are pursuing the same companies and applying to the same jobs. Let us not forget about all the other schools with graduates who are now eager to join the workforce. The point I am trying to make here is that given there are a finite supply of openings you can ill afford to have a sub-par resume. They may not be fun but resumes are important. Few quick tips, you can google resume templates and find one you like and copy it. Also, go with traditional colors and fonts, we aren’t impressed with the bright colors. Lastly, personal pet peeve, drop the “objective” section of your resume. Why you ask? Because way more people are hurt by applying to a role that doesn’t exactly match their “objective” than people are ever helped by it. I never look at objectives and say “Oh my, they want to do the job I am hiring for, what stupendous luck!” If you are applying to a role, we already know you want it.

 

Upload your resume to Indeed

Once your resume rocks, upload it to Indeed. Indeed.com is a massive job and resume aggregator and its only getting bigger. Put your resume up there and you are again increasing the likelihood you are found. Simple as that.

 

Ask professors if they have industry contacts you can reach out to

DO you have any professors who you really got along with? Any of them have industry experience? If so, ask them if they know anyone who it make sense for you to reach out to regarding opportunities. Now, ideally you will have done great in this professor’s class and you will have cultivated a relationship with them. If not, they probably won’t have a lot of motivation to help you. But if so they can certainly become a resource for you. In my time in talent acquisition I have placed many a phone call to a professor at a school asking how I can share my jobs with the school’s students and alums. At the end of the day, they may not have any way to help you but again, you don’t know unless you try.

 

Network with classmates who have landed jobs already

Do you have any classmates you have already landed jobs? If so don’t just feel jealous, reach out and congratulate them! The fact of the matter is the last four years of your life wasn’t all about fund and learning but it was also about relationship building. You were networking without even knowing it. If you had classes with someone and you see they have landed a job at a company you respect, reach out to them! (By the way this all can be done on LinkedIn) Start up a dialogue with them. As them how they like the company. As the messaging back and forth wraps up let them know that you are still looking for that perfect fit and since they like the company so much and you are looking for similar things that you would appreciate hearing about any openings in the future. Simple as that. That could be the end of the conversation but they could also say, “well actually, we are hiring two more Jr Test Engineers, send me your resume and I will pass it along to my manager”. Now some of you are thinking, “well Ben, why would they do that?” They will do it for two reasons. The first is that generally speaking, people like helping other people. Sometimes it’s because they hope you could help them in a similar situation down the road and sometimes it’s just because they are genuinely nice people. The second reason is referral bonuses. Most companies have a referral program in which you are compensated when they hire someone you referred for an opening they have. This could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. People like money, if they have an opening and a referral bonus and you weren’t a terrible classmate, they will probably help you.

 

Practice interview questions

One of the things I see often is that entry level candidates just aren’t prepared for the interview questions they get during phone interviews and in person interviews. While I know interviews are hard and you are new to them, you really don’t have an excuse. I don’t mean that to sound harsh but you have all the tools you need to not only have successful interviews, but to be great them. You have Google!!! You can google the term interview questions and hundreds of websites just like mine will pop up and help you. You can get a list of questions you will likely be asked, write out your answers on a piece of paper (trust me that will help you remember these answers) and practice answering them in a mirror. Get to a point where you say these answers confidently and enthusiastically and as it makes sense, passionately. Even if you aren’t as confident as you would like to be, fake it. Don’t worry, it will come with time. And while I have your attention, check out this post I did about that very topic 5 Important Interview Questions You Must Be Prepared to Answer.

 

Take the interview

The last piece of advice I have for you is take the interview. Think the company is just ok? Take the interview. They are in an industry you consider boring? Take the interview. You had never heard of them until they called you? Take the interview. I counsel people to interview often and there are two reasons to do this. The first is you never know when you are going to find the right opportunity. I have had conversations I thought would go nowhere turn into awesome opportunities. The fact is you never know until you actually go down that road. Secondly, even if you don’t take the job, the experience of interviewing will help you become a better interviewer. It’s all about repetition. In the same way Steph Curry has launched thousands upon thousands of shots over his lifetime to become arguably the best shooter in NBA history, you too are going to need to practice if you want to be great. And yes, that goes for interviews as well. Now, I am not advocating the wasting of people’s time. Go into every interview with an open mind and if it isn’t a fit, then it isn’t a fit. But trust me, getting those reps help.

 

Well there you have it. I hope you found these useful, actionable and easy. Do some or all of these things and you will have an easier transition into working life. Always remember, preparation is key. You will never leave an interview saying “Well, I blew that because I was too well informed” but most people can look back at interview they probably could have done better in, including myself. Lastly, is there anything I missed? Are there any good, easy and quick things entry level candidates can to do position themselves to land a job quicker? If so comment below, I would love to read them. Thanks for reading, I hope this help and have a great day!

Who is ready to fail? Plus my thoughts on Brene Brown

It is Memorial Day and I am currently sitting on an airplane going from Austin to Atlanta. When I land I will have about half an hour or so to get to my next flight that will bring me from Atlanta, home to Milwaukee. I spent the last several days down here after attending the Indeed Interactive event, Transformational Talent. It was a great event with wonderful speakers and a preview of some really cool technology Indeed is going to be rolling out. Some of it may very well change the landscape of recruiting. While there I attended a talk given by one of the keynote speakers Brene Brown. I had never heard of her before going down there but apparently she is a pretty big deal and has some very highly respected TED talks. She is a PhD who focuses on being vulnerable.

Along with giving extremely interesting speeches on vulnerability, she also consults with companies on how they can shape their culture in a way that empowers their employees to be better. Very cool stuff in my opinion. While I was listening to her I decided I wanted my next post to be on failure. Failure is something that is extremely relevant to job seekers. You might fail to answer an interview question as well as you might like. You might fail at securing an offer after interviewing. Hell, you might get lost on the way to your interview and fail to show up.

However, that is not the failure we will be covering today. I was asked in an interview once, what has been my biggest career failure thus far. It is a great question and it’s a question that at the time caught me off guard. You see, when you are conducting an interview, you are looking for a variety of things when you ask a question. Outside of the answer given by the candidate there are so many relevant things you can look for. How long did the candidate take to answer the question? Did they say it with the command in their voice that demonstrates confidence? Did they answer the question directly or are they doing their best impression of a politician and skirting the question.

This specific question is great because most people won’t have an answer to give right away. You see most candidates have answers prepared for a variety of questions. They have example after example of “Tell me about a time when…” questions. Most have a “weakness: prepared that makes them look like a dedicated worker committed to overcoming obstacles. Most can tell you why they left their prior employers and do so with the type of reasoning that has you thinking, “Well yea, that makes sense to me”. However most won’t be prepared to talk about their greatest failure.

So when you ask this question you get to see how fast they think and you get what you simply don’t get with most questions, some authentic. Because interviews won’t have planned for this question you are getting an authentic response. Those are the best. If you practice a list of questions and then get those questions during an interview, they are easy to nail. It’s like knowing what defense your opponent will run and being able to specifically game plan for that defense.

However since you are reading this post right now that should never be you again. You are aware this question exists and that there is at least some probability that you may be asked it. So, take a minute to think about it. What is your greatest career failure so far? In a way this question is a lot like the, “what is your biggest weakness” question. In fact, because in a sense it’s impossible to surprise someone with the “biggest weakness” question this could be considered the new version of it.

When it comes to answering them you essentially want to do very similar things. You want to be authentic and give an actual example. It’s best to give an example that actually happened if possible because it can be easy to tell if something is made up. Secondly you need it to be an actual failure. If your failure is a thinly veiled success your response comes off as disingenuous as well as ridiculous. We know it’s a hard question if we are asking it but the fact of the matter is that doesn’t give you license to just not answer it. Certainly it is your choice but my advice is to give something that is an actual misstep, everybody makes them. Thirdly you the answer you give needs to be a two part answer. Part one is what you did wrong, part two is how that has positively impacted you and impacted you for the better moving forward in your career. The fourth thing is the example you give shouldn’t be something that is far too off-putting to look past. Ideally this mistake is a misstep and not a symptom of a terrifying character flaw that is going to make it difficult for them to justify hiring you. You want to be real but you don’t want them to walk away from the interview saying this person could pose significant risk to our company if we decide to hire them.

Answering this interview question correctly kind of reminds me of what Brene Brown so excellent covered in the speaking engagement I attended. There is a certain power in vulnerability. Again, this shouldn’t be something that gives them pause about what you might add to the organization but if you are able to give them an example that is authentic and impactful then you might come off looking like someone capable of growth. Recruiters are people too and I have made my fair share of mistakes. We don’t expect our candidates to be infallible.

So think of something you have done, own the failure and don’t distribute the blame to others incapable of defending themselves and explain why in the end it turned out to be positive lesson for you. Candidates usually spend the entirety of an interview trying to showcase why they are the perfect addition to a company and quite frankly, that is a winning approach. However, if you are given the opportunity to appear vulnerable and through story demonstrate your ability to learn, it’s certainly something you should be prepared to take advantage of.




5 Dead Giveaways That a Recruiter Isn’t Worth Your Time

Last week I wrote a piece called 5 Strong Reasons to Answer the Phone When a Recruiter Calls You in which I made a case for talking to recruiters when they call you, regardless of whether or not you are looking for a new role. In the week since it’s been out it’s safe to say that it has been one of my most polarizing posts to date! Now if some of you were expecting the push back I received after the post to be a surprise, well, then I have some bad news for you. As a recruiter, I certainly expected some people to have a strong reaction. Guess what, to all of you who bashed recruiters after you read that article, you weren’t all wrong. Some of the criticisms were very fair and as a representative of the industry, I accept them. However you were only partially right. While there are a lot of bad recruiters out there who unfortunately give us all a bad name, there are also some great recruiters out there as well. Like any professional you will find that the vast majority of people who do this for any length of time will fall somewhere in the middle. However you will also find some people who perform above average consistently. The opposite is true as well, there is certainly a group of recruiters that don’t so the profession justice. However this isn’t an apology post, far from it. As one of the recruiters in the industry who considers himself to be one of the good guys, let me tell you exactly what you need to know to avoid talking with those recruiters who will ultimately leave a bad taste in your mouth. Below are three dead giveaways you can use to determine if this is a recruiter worth engaging. For your convenience I placed them in the order they would happen.

 

They send you a terrible, generic message with a lame subject for a title

 

How many of you have received a message that was you were immediately able to tell was a template that was sent out to 100 other professionals just like you? How many of you have received an email with the subject likes saying “Great Opportunity” or “Job Opening”? Let me save you some time, if you receive an email that says job opening, you can probably delete it and not worry about you missing out on you dream job. Good recruiters don’t use subject lines like this and really good recruiters are going to write you a message indicating they have taken the time to look at your profile. If you want to maximize your time and talk to good recruiters, then this can serve as an easy way to determine if they are worth that time. Now, plenty of good recruiters will utilize templates however a generic subject line or messages that  simply sell a role instead of asking if you have time to talk should give you an idea if that conversation is worth having.

 

They mention a role that is obviously not a fit

 

Another dead giveaway is when you receive an email about a role that would have made sense for you 5-10 years ago but at this point in your career is totally not a fit. What most likely happened is you were one of many people who received that same message and the sender wasn’t particularly choosy on who they messaged. If you get a message like this then having that conversation likely won’t be worth your time. I am sure this one is no surprise to many of you reading, in fact it was one of the comments I received the most of after my last post so I felt I had to include it on the list.

 

They have a very basic, underwhelming LinkedIn Profile*

 

Another tell is the recruiters LinkedIn profile. While not everyone value’s LinkedIn equally, for the most part recruiters understand what a valuable tool it is. I personally have worked very hard to build it out over the years and amass a large LinkedIn network (if we aren’t already connected add me here My LinkedIn Profile). So if you get a message from a recruiter, go check them out on LinkedIn. Once you arrive at their page you will very easily be able to gather a lot of helpful information. How long have they been in their current role? How long have they been recruiting? How many connections do they have (once you reach 500 connections it says 500+, if they have less than 500 they might be an indicator that they aren’t very well networked)? How many recommendations do they have? Do they have several roles on their page? Are those descriptions robust and well written? Do they have endorsements? If so how many? These are all things you can look at that will let you know if the recruiter who contacted you has good experience, attention to detail and is well networked. If they aren’t these things, do you really want this to be the person setting up your phone interviews and prepping you for your onsite interviews? One last thing, I added the asterisks because some of the best recruiters I have ever met had very basic LinkedIn profiles. Now most of them had been recruiter for 30 years and had reached a point where it wasn’t necessary for them to have LinkedIn in order to be successful. They are the exception, but I felt it was necessary to add this in.

 

They aren’t flexible with when they can speak with you

 

The best recruiters know that the best candidates are busy. If you get back in touch with them and they will only talk to you between the hours of 8-12 and 1-4:30 odds are they are not good recruiters. I have fielded many a call during lunch or after work or very early in the morning. If you are a recruiter who wants to succeed it’s the price of poker. A lot of your candidates are working and they don’t want to try and find a conference room at 10am on a Tuesday. They don’t want coworkers and managers wondering why they were gone for 30 minutes. I personally start my day at 6:30am so I am able to talk several calls before the traditional work day and I am always available to talk during the lunch hour. If you talk with a recruiter and they say you are going to have to make the call happen during the typical work hours you probably aren’t talk to an A player. My advice is to move on, you don’t want to work with someone who won’t be flexible for you anyway. If you want more advice on managing the recruiter relationship I have a few chapters on it in My eBook.

 

The conversation is absolutely about them

 

When you talk to a recruiter for the first time, pay close attention to the first couple minutes of the conversation. Who is it about? Is it about you? Are they saying “I” and “me” a lot? The fact of the matter is if the relationship starts being totally about them and a role they have then that’s the way the relationship will remain. A truly good recruiter will always make the conversation about you. What are your goals? What do you see yourself doing? Are you open to discussing new opportunities? What aren’t you being offered in your current role that you would like to find in your next position? What factors about an opportunity are important to you? Does that sound a lot better than, I have a role? My client needs. I am looking for. You get where I am going with this. It’s your career. If you take a new role, that recruiter doesn’t have to hand in his or her two week notice. They won’t have to box up their belongings. They won’t have to memorize a new route to work and traffic patterns. They won’t have a new boss, a new set of places to eat and a new team to assimilate into. This is about you and if the recruiter doesn’t get that, move on and find someone who will make it about you.

 

Well there you have it! Those are my 5 Dead Giveaways That a Recruiter Isn’t Worth Your Time. There are of course more than this but these are five really good indicators early on that will let you know that you can do better. So if you have read this far I have a challenge for you. What is the worst subject line you have ever received on a message you have gotten from a recruiter. These are always fun and since so many of you probably get messages like this all the time, I would love to see some examples below of terrible attempts to grasp your attention. It doesn’t have to be the subject line, any part of the message that was terrible will work too. For those of you who are feeling positive today please feel free to share the best subject lines you have received from a recruiter. Alright everyone, thanks again for reading and have an awesome day!