What Most Companies Mess Up About The Interview Process

When I receive an email from a candidate following an interview when I wasn’t expecting an email, I don’t even need to open it. I already know what it says. Well I mean, I don’t know every word but I know what the main takeaway is going to be. My candidate it regretfully informing me that they are dropping out of the process or that they have accepted another offer. You see, when things are going great, people usually aren’t calling me. If the interview went amazing, I am going to have to make the calls if I want to get that information. As someone who has been recruiting non-stop for the last seven years I have received a ton of those emails.

Usually they are pretty much the same. They are polite, they are thoughtful and there is a visible effort to try and let me down easy. Do you want to know a secret? I’m rarely ever upset at the candidate. The only way I am ever upset at the candidate is if they misrepresented something along the way or the timing is painfully bad. But, if they realized the opportunity wasn’t a great fit for them or they had a bad experience interviewing, what reasonable person could be mad about that. Not me.

In fact, I am more likely to be irritated with the people who had been doing the interviewing. When a candidate tells me that they had a bad experience interviewing or that perhaps that didn’t quite get the “vibe” they were hoping for, I am disappointed for all involved. Because usually that means the hiring company didn’t make the interview enough about the candidate. It usually means they were so laser focused on figuring out if this was the right person or not that they didn’t take the time to show the candidate why the company was right for them.

People who are involved in hiring typically operate under the belief that there are two types of candidate markets. They think that when there aren’t a lot of jobs and perhaps the economy isn’t doing so hot, it’s a company driven market. Meaning that there are many people looking for jobs and few jobs available. Or the other end of that, when the economy is doing great and there are a lot of available jobs, it is a candidate driven market. Now for many years I also believed that but I was wrong. The fact of the matter is, a scarcity will always exist when it comes to the talent that is capable of making an impact that is extraordinary. No matter what is going on in the market, the top 25% of the talent in the workforce will be gainfully employed as long as it is their desire to do so.

So what does that mean for those of us who are trying to find and hire these transformative individuals? It means if you ever stop selling the opportunity, you are failing to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed as an organization. So, to answer the question I posed in the title, most companies misdiagnose the dynamic created when you are trying to make a hire. They are under the impression that the only party that needs to be sold is them. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If you really want to be able to hire the type of people who will transform your fortunes as an organization, you need to interview with the mindset that selling what you have to offer is absolutely as critical as making sure they are the right person.

Now, I will get into that in a minute, I am going to take you on a small diversion to give you a little bit of information on my personal recruitment. If you haven’t been to the About Me section of my page, I work for a company called Titus Talent. I could go on and on about how we are not your typical recruitment firm. For our clients, what really matters is we are much more so partners than you typical staffing firm and that we save them 70% on traditional recruiting firms. In fact, recently I filled a Project Leader role for a client and when it was all said and done it cost them less than five thousand dollars. If they had worked with me while I was at Manpower it would have cost them just under twenty-eight thousand dollars. So besides the fact that we provide comprehensive activity reports, massive amount of savings and a database of all the candidates we reached out to that they can pull from in the future, every single candidate we submit is a passive candidate (by the way, if you have ever worked with a third party recruiter before, the past couple of sentences should be earth shattering. If you want to learn more about our process and how we might help your company find the best talent at a fraction of the cost, email me at ben.white@titustalent.com and I will be happy to tell you all about it and answer your questions).

So, when I say that every candidate is passive, this is what I mean. Every single candidate we submit is someone we reached out to, virtually none of our candidates every apply to a posting of ours. That is of course because these postings don’t exist. My company never posts a job. When I was at Manpower, a client would give us a role and I would then post it online to a plethora of job boards and sometimes, one of those candidates would be the ones who got the job. So my client would pay us 20% of the candidates first year salary for a candidate who applied to a posting. Not here, every candidate we present is someone who we went out and found. Truly passive, transformational talent.

Now let’s circle back. Imagine you did all the work to engage top 15% in the market talent and even though they were happy with their current role and not looking to interview, you got them interested and they decided to interview for an opportunity. Now imagine the client is super interested as well, they decide to have this person onsite for an interview. Now finally imagine the candidate says she found the interview process to be intimidating and isn’t interested and wants to stay where she is because after all, she wasn’t looking and is happy where she is at. Now also imagine the client calls you and says, “Ben, that candidate is Great! She has all the technical skills and would fit in great here!” It is now your job to tell them the candidate has removed herself from the process and has no interest in moving forward.

Guess what, that can happen if companies fail to do their part in selling the opportunity. Last week I wrote a post on panel interviews, The Truth About Panel Interviews – And how you can beat them! Intimidating panel interviews are a component of why a candidate might get pushed away but they are by no means the only reason. My advice to companies is make sure you remember that selling the opportunity is just as important as figuring out if the candidate is the right one. The fact of the matter is you will be able to determine if the candidate is the right one or not when you interview them whether or not you sell the opportunity or not. If you believe that, then why wouldn’t you sell what you have to offer. Tell them why people like working here, show them around and remember that they are people too who like to be treated kindly. If you can find a way to turn your interview experience into an experience where you are truly able to sell this opportunity you will be putting yourself at a significant competitive advantage. Remember, there will always be a shortage of the best people, regardless of the market.

Well there you have it! What most companies mess up about the interview process is they remember to find out if you are right for them but they forget to demonstrate why they are right for you. If you liked this post, share it! I love seeing when people share my posts in their LinkedIn groups or on Facebook. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts below, I always try and comment back. What I would love to hear is examples of when companies did an awesome job of selling you on their opportunity. You can also share horror stories of interviews you have been on; those could be really fun to share as well. Thanks for reading and remember, there is never a bad time to hear about an amazing opportunity!

Telling the Right Story with Your Resume

Recently I was talking with a candidate who was concerned about how taking his next job might impact the way his resume is perceived by potential future employers. I thought to myself, what a great thought to have. Fortunately for this candidate, I don’t think the move does anything to adversely impact his resume. However it does beg the questions, is taking this job allowing me to tell the right story of my career on my resume? It’s a question I don’t think people ask themselves enough and it’s a question I believe you need to ask yourself before you ever accept a new role.

Whether you like it or not, when you accept a new role it becomes part of what future employers will look at for the rest of your life. It becomes an indelible mark on your life’s work and in virtually every interview moving forward you are going to have to answer questions about it. Why did you leave ABC company to go to XYZ company? I see you used to be a (insert role) but then you took a job as a (insert newer role), why did you do that. Questions like these and more are standard components to early phone screens with the people who decide whether or not you get further in the process and therefor you have to be able to answer these questions.

Whenever I consider a role I think to myself, how can I paint this move in a positive light to future employers? If the answer doesn’t sound right, you really have to consider the ripples it will have moving forward. For example if you are in a senior role or a people manager role  currently and you take a role that is neither senior nor managing people, you better believe every recruiter in the world who sees your resume is going to wonder why you did that. Were you laid off? Could you not handle the responsibility and therefor decided to take a step back? These are all logical questions really, if you think about it. What is unfortunate is that not only can it be hard to explain and answer these questions, but for certain roles it will also keep you from getting that first interview. Recruiters and hiring managers alike will look at your resume and make their own assumptions and perhaps pass on you as a candidate.

The takeaway here is to think about the story you tell with your resume. Too often people consider the company, the salary or the benefits but don’t realize the other impacts their decisions may have. There are indeed times when this makes sense, perhaps it’s a great company or it’s working for a manager you are dying to work with. In those cases maybe you make the move anyway but make sure you consider the consequences. Another thing to consider is that perhaps the company would be willing to offer you the title that makes more sense for you. Maybe you apply for a Mechanical Engineer role but the title you really want is Senior Mechanical Engineer because you already hold the title Mechanical Engineer at your current company. This is something you might be able to negotiate. Perhaps you let them know that while you are very interested and feel like you would be able to make a measurable impact right away, you have decided that in order to move you would need for the role to be in a Senior or Lead capacity.  Have any of you ever been in this position or took a role that you later regretted because it was hard to explain your rational?

5 Steps to Succeeding in Phone Interviews

This post is about the five things you have to do before every phone interview. Now don’t get me wrong, there are more than five things that you should do. But this post is about the five things you absolutely have to do in order to succeed (in my opinion). So lets take a look!

  1. Research the Company

It is vitally important that you know a lot about the company. I have worked with recruiters who start the interview by saying “So, tell me what you know about ABC Company?” Now if you can’t answer that question reasonably well, how do you think the rest of the interview is going to go? If that happens and you can’t speak to what a company does intelligently you might as well hang up the phone and save you both some time. In addition to that it will save you the embarrassment of asking things like “so what does your company do?” You would be surprised how many times I have been asked that question and every single time I am absolutely shocked. So spend some time on the website, browsing products and recent news articles. Maybe go to YouTube, most companies have an account there and they have a lot of neat videos. Sometimes those videos even tour the facilities you might end up interviewing at in the future. At a bare minimum you should be prepared to answer that question. If they ask you what you know about the company and you don’t feel confident saying a few lines about their business then it is back to the drawing board.

  1. Chronicle your accomplishments

I trick I like to employ is I like to look at each of my last three jobs and write down one or two examples of things I did there that went above and beyond. What you will find is that when you do this you will easily be able to answer the questions where they ask for different examples and scenarios because these examples will be applicable. During most interviews they will ask you to walk them through your experience and it’s great to be able to give an example or two of how you made an impact.

  1. Prepare questions

At some point most recruiters will ask you if you have any questions.  This might be at the beginning or it might be at the end of the interview. Either way, you want to make sure that you have a few to ask. This should be easy because frankly, you should have questions. Accepting a job is a big decision, you would be crazy not to wonder about why the job is open or what you will be doing. But let’s say, for the arguments sake you didn’t have any questions. You still need to prepare questions to ask because it’s not all about you. Having questions prepared shows the person interviewing you that not only did you prepare but you are a thoughtful person who is calculated in their approach to big decisions. A few examples are; Why is the role open? What characteristics or traits have made people in this role successful in the past? What is the biggest challenge you foresee the person who comes into this role will have? Etc.

  1. Research Interviewer

If nothing else it is important to do this just so you don’t say something stupid. For example let’s say this person worked at a ABC Company. Knowing that will keep you from saying something like I wanted to interview at ABC Company but I heard that the people who work there aren’t very motivated (really you should avoid saying anything negative in your interview). Or perhaps they graduated from a university and you say you opted to attend the university you attended because the other local universities programs weren’t strong enough. In addition maybe they have something in common with you that you can bring up in the interview, perhaps you both have a similar background. The fact of the matter is the more information you have the better. So do a little bit of research here.

  1. Review your resume

This is kind of a small point but I do think its overlooked. You want to be able to speak to what you have done in your career. You also want to be prepared to walk them through your resume, in most interviews you will have to do something like that. You don’t want to have a whole bunch of ums and pauses as you do this. So take a few minutes and read through your resume aloud and reflect on these roles. You also should be prepared to discuss any gaps in employment and why you left certain roles. It helps to print out your resume and write notes. That way when they ask for that information you have it available to you.

So that’s it. There is my list of the five things you have to do. Did I leave any out? Perhaps you disagree with a point. I welcome any discussion. Thanks!

Interview with Epic CV

Recently I did a Q&A session with Epiccv.com , a website that focuses on resumes. The questions were asked by Epic CV and the answers were my responses. Please feel free to review and let me know your thoughts on my answers. If you have any questions or follow ups please feel free to let me know as well!

Q: What are the three most common mistakes applicants make in their resumes? 

A: For me some of the things I see frequently are poor formatting, having an objective (often different from the job they applied to) and spelling errors. For me all three of these can potentially be deal breakers. Poorly formatted resumes and resumes that contain grammatical errors show a lack of attention to detail, which is never a good thing when you are looking to make a hire. The objective to me is a big error I see frequently and I always advise people to get rid of it. The reason I say get rid of it is that you stand to gain nothing from having it but it can derail your chances to land the job. If I have a posting for a Mechanical Engineer for example and your objective says mechanical engineer as well, it really does nothing for your chances of getting an interview. However if it says design engineer and isn’t a match I might be inclined to pass.

Q:  How much time do you spend on one resume at first glance after you receive it? 

A: The first glance is about ten seconds. In that time I determine if they are someone I am passing on or if they are worth further consideration. If in that ten seconds I see things that lead me to believe they could be a potential fit then I invest more time looking at their resume.

Q: What is the first thing you look for in a resume?

A: The first thing I usually look for is that if it is well put together. Is this resume aesthetically pleasing and does it demonstrates a professional put time into making this look presentable.  The next thing I look at is their most recent job title, that is usually a good indicator of whether or not I should be reader further.

Q : What are the three main eliminating factors of a resumes you review?

A: Spelling errors, long gaps in employment without explanation and lack of detail from previous jobs.

Q: What are the three main attributes in a resume of a candidate that will be called for an interview?

A: I look for experience that matches the role I am currently recruiting for, solid work history  and the technical expertise that match requirements.

Q: What do you think of graphic and video resumes?

A: I think while it could be a way to stand out, most of the time you are better suited to have a well put together standard resume that highlights you as a professional and is submittal to the average ATS.

Q: What do you think of a functional resume format?

A: I prefer candidates to have a functional section as opposed to doing the formatting as entirely functional. When that is the case I find myself looking for employment history and not giving full attention the functional portion.

Q:  Can you share up to five quick tips for applicants in order to pass ATS screening?

A: Make sure you match keywords from the job description in your resume, use standard colors and fonts, make sure you spell check, explain gaps in employment and if you are going to have an objective on your resume make sure it matches the job you are applying for.

Q:  What is your position on photos on resumes?

A: perhaps I am boring but I am against it. I have seen many resumes with pictures on them and never once have I thought to myself, “oh good, this person put their picture on their resume”. Frankly if it doesn’t help  you get an interview then it doesn’t belong on your resume.

Q:  Why is professional resume writing service worth a couple of hundreds of dollars? 

A: To answer that question I think all you have to do is ask yourself a question back, “what is the value you place on getting the job you want?” For me that is certainly worth an investment of a few hundred dollars. The market is so competitive these days that if you don’t put yourself in the best possible situation to be successful, you won’t be.

Q:  What is your opinion regarding resume length?

A: 1 to 2 pages. I wouldn’t advocate it be any longer than that. I have been recruiting for 6 years and my resume is one page in length.

Q: What are the three main points, undergraduates or fresh graduates, need to present in their resume?

A: They need to do a really good job of highlighting the skills they have built up from school and perhaps from internships. Coming into the workforce you wont have years and years to draw upon but you can most likely find value in the courses you took. For example if you are trying to get a job as a software engineer and you got a computer engineering degree, you want to make sure you find a way to incorporate the projects you worked on during your schooling as well as the languages you have built up experience with.

Q:  What do you advice to your clients regarding references?

A: Your career is just as much about building relationships as it is about accumulating skills, make sure you don’t burn bridges so that you have contacts down the road. As far as your resume is concern, leave any mention of references. I think outing references available upon request is pointless. If the company requires references they are going to ask for them regardless of what you put on your resume.

Q:  And what about cover letters?

A: I may be in the minority here but unless a job specifically asks for a cover letter I skip it. As a recruiter I hardly ever look at them. Besides if the employer asks for them the one other exception I would say is that if you have a long period of unemployment, or something else that merits explanation it might be a good idea to include a cover letter. You can use the cover letter to explain the gap, why it happened, why it isn’t a concern for your future employer and why you are a good fit for the role etc.

Q: What is your advice on making employment gaps less prominent on a resume?

A: The one thing I look for is an explanation as to what you did with your time. I always tell people if they are laid off, take courses or volunteer, do something with that time along with looking for a new role. Then when it’s time to explain that gap you have something that adds value.

Q:  What would you like to see in resumes more often?

A: I would say I would like to see more keywords. I work on a lot of technical roles and I love it when a programmer lists all of the languages they have used. It really makes my job easier on the front end.

Q: What are the most irrelevant parts of a resume for you?

A: This would be a tie between the objective portion and any resume that has “references available upon request” on it.


Q: Do you check online presence of a candidate exclusively through links provided on a resume or you dig deeper?

A: I always go to LinkedIn but that is as far as I go.

Q:  In the end, please add a couple of sentences about resumes for our readers.

A: One of the things that can get you noticed is quantifiable results. A bullet that says “saved my company 100k by reducing downtime 15% over a 1 year period by implementing a new lean procedure during a Kiazan event” lets the prospective employer see that you have accomplished things and it gives them an idea about what you can do for them.

About this site

I would like to thank you for visiting my website and I would like to strongly encourage you to ask questions and comment on any post you take the time to read. The purpose of this site is to provide useful information for anyone looking for a new job or is considering making a career change. I am hoping to provide content that will empower my readers and help them be successful in their careers. With six years of hands on experience in interviewing and hiring for a multitude of organizations I have been able to learn the hiring process from the inside. I hope to not only answer the questions or my readers but also provide the answers to the questions they don’t know that they should be asking.

As a head hunter I gained valuable experience with many different clients in many different industries and as a corporate recruiter I learned what it is a company is looking for and what the process consist of from the inside. This experience has given me a very unique perspective to understand the hiring process from multiple perspectives. My hope is to pass some of that knowledge to those who can benefit from it most. I welcome all questions, inquiries and feedback.