Category Archives: Selection

Truth in Recruiting

9269948_sWhat exactly is truth in recruiting? It’s a phrase I have heard no less than 6 times in the last two weeks. And, I’ve heard it from both recruiters and candidates.

Recruiters want candidates to be honest with them about their skills and backgrounds. Frankly, I think this is obvious, and doesn’t need a blog post.

Candidates want recruiters to be honest with them about why they’re not getting jobs. Also fairly obvious…

I’m not here to argue whether or not it’s OK for a recruiter to tell a job seeker why they aren’t a fit. That’s up to the recruiter. It’s a personal (or professional) choice. I understand completely that candidates want to be the right fit, and when they’re not, they want to know why. If there is something they can fix, change, or learn, often I choose to tell them, and give them that opportunity. But that’s me.

The fact is that recruiters work for companies, not job seekers. Companies pay us. They pay us to keep their reputations intact as we search to find them that purple squirrel or flying unicorn. So, if you’re a purple unicorn… sorry… you’re not a fit unless you can fly. I just might not be “allowed” to tell you that.

But I think truth in recruiting is more than that. Candidates want recruiters to tell them the truth about the companies and the jobs in the first place. The real truth, not some sales pitch being used to pique their interest.

Candidates have a right to know details about the actual corporate culture, not just the aspirational one. They have a right to understand the real responsibilities of the role, not just the ones in the well-crafted job ad.

Perhaps the flying purple unicorn lives on both sides of the fence. Recruiters want companies to tell us the truth, too. Without it we add substantially less value. We want to find you your perfect candidate. And, we want to find you one who will be just as happy that they’re working for you as you are.

So, what exactly is truth in recruiting? Perhaps it’s as simple as transparency. Insight. Honesty. Access to hiring managers and their teams.

Real stories by real people doing real jobs for real companies.

Every job may not be the right fit for every person… but there is a person who is the right fit for every job.

So I ask you – all of you – on both sides of the fence – Help us help you find your fit. That’s why we’re here.

5 Changes to Make to your Hiring Process

Hiring the right person into the right role at the right time for the right price… It seems to be the million dollar mystery.  We’re flooded with blog posts and articles on the importance of hiring for culture fit, but few actually offer practical, cost effective advice. So the question I get asked at least once a week is, “How can I, a small business owner who doesn’t have Google’s deep pockets or Southwest Air’s recruiting team, complete for talent?”

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing you’ve always done the way you’ve always done it and expecting different results. It’s time to stop the insanity. Losing candidates who may be the perfect fit because they dropped out of your recruiting process is pure madness. And, the madness ends here.

Time for Action

Matt Charney published an excellent post today about the role of the Candidate Experience in the recruiting process. It’s here in case you missed it…

It got me thinking. Again.

I firmly believe that the small business, the entrepreneurial organization that is still founder-led, the nimble, risk-taking, willing to change business has a significant advantage over the large corporations when it comes to hiring the right people. Yes. You read that correctly.

Fixing your recruiting process doesn’t mean you need to spend large amounts of cash. In fact, it may mean quite the opposite.

Here are five changes you can make today to help ensure you’re not losing people to an ill-conceived recruiting process. And there’s no cost involved!

  1. Stop posting job descriptions. No, not in a Zappos Insider way, although I think that’s super cool! You don’t have to stop advertising your openings… But try posting Culture Statements instead of just job requirements. It has been said that there is no such thing as a bad culture, just a bad cultural fit, so promote the culture that you have. Start by asking your current employees how they would describe what it’s like to work for you. Discover the words they use to label the general atmosphere of your organization and to describe their workplace environment. Then incorporate that into your ads.
  1. Give up the sales pitch. Sure, you need a well-crafted and targeted message, but not a one-size-fits-all line that sounds like it could come out of any generic playbook. Compose a message that explains the value your employees perceive in working with you. And don’t be afraid to vary them team by team or department by department. While you’re giving up the pitch, it’s still necessary to market, so, put that message everywhere. Include it on your career page, in your job ads, on Facebook and on LinkedIn. Talk about it in your initial phone calls with potential candidates and demonstrate it during your interviews.
  1. Lose the application. Or, at least move it. With resumes and LinkedIn profiles, do you really need to capture work history and contact information again? I know the legal needs for a legitimate application, but it does not need to be completed before you even the meet the person.* Respect your prospects. Candidates are people, too. They may already be working, or have other commitments that would prevent them from spending 5 hours applying to your open job. And, while I understand the desire to make candidates jump through hoops to prove themselves to you, their very first interaction with your company is NOT the time for that. (By the way, I’d argue that there is never a time for that… there are other ways, my friend.) Follow the golden rule – treat your applicants the way that you would want to be treated. *If you need to meet OFCCP or similar guidelines, please consult an attorney!
  1. Include your employees in the interview process. A-players love to work with other A-players. They’re inspired by greatness and want to surround themselves with it. So, ask you’re A-players to participate in your selection process.  Give your candidates an opportunity to ask real questions of the people they will be working with every day. Give your employees the freedom and security to answer those questions truthfully. Better to find out someone will hate their job BEFORE you hire them.
  1. Provide feedback. Timely. At every step in the process. Candidates’ number one complaint about the job search process is that they never hear back from prospective employers. Even if someone is not a fit, you don’t know who they know… and negative news travels fast. Every single applicant should have such a great experience with your company that they should tell everyone they know to apply, even if they themselves didn’t get the job.

What other recruiting tips do you have for the SMB marketplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Image Credit: Copyright: imagevectors / 123RF Stock Photo

The Reason for the Phone Interview

Image Copyright: korionov / 123RF Stock Photo

Image Copyright: korionov / 123RF Stock Photo

When discussing selection strategy with my clients, I often get asked why I include a phone interview at the beginning of the process. My answer is fairly simple.

It’s courteous. For both sides of the phone line.

Resumes and LinkedIn profiles can only tell you so much about a person.

Yes, you learn where and for how long a person has worked. You get an idea of a person’s previous responsibilities. And, if you’re lucky, you get some idea of their accomplishments. (Note to job seekers – please include accomplishments in your marketing material. Inquiring recruiter minds want to know!)

Yet, again, applicants’ marketing material is just that. Marketing.

It may do the job well, and inspire you to move to the next level. But, it may not… and if all you have to go on are previous companies and job titles, is it really best to assume that the applicant is not the right fit? On the contrary, if someone paid a professional to draft marketing material that speaks volumes, is it really best to assume that the applicant *is* the right fit?

Enter… the phone interview.

Conducting a brief, yet thorough phone interview saves time, effort, and money for both the potential employer… and the applicant.

A few simple questions can help both parties determine if they want to move to the next step in the process.

When conducting phone interviews I like to verify that all basic requirements are met and that commute/relocation (and maybe even salary) expectations are in line with what we are prepared to offer.

I use this time to ask some “knock-out” questions. You know, the questions that if the answer is “no” to, we simply can’t move on. These may include willingness to travel, previous experience negotiating contracts… whatever requirements for the job we can’t train for, or change to accommodate an otherwise great candidate.

I also use the time to ask my first culture-fit questions such as asking about preferred work environment, and whether or not the applicant prefers to work autonomously or as part of a team.

And a nasty truth – I measure the person’s energy level, ability to articulate thoughts and answer questions directly, and demonstrate desire for the position. Also, because I typically schedule phone interviews ahead of time vs. just calling someone out of the blue, I use this as a tool to measure punctuality and preparedness.

My ultimate goal is to be sure that we are not wasting anybody’s time by moving on to the next step in the selection process. And, while many job boards and applicant tracking systems allow employers to ask questions in written form, I feel like nothing beats the connection of a two-way conversation.

Do you have thoughts on phone interviews? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Hiring for Culture Fit – My 3 Favorite Interview Questions

I often get asked how to determine cultural fit during an interview. My answer partially depends on how you define culture. If you want to determine if a candidate will be successful in your physical work environment you can ask them to describe the work environment or culture in which they believe they are most productive, or like the best. If you want to determine if they will fit in with a particular team, or work well with a certain manager, you can ask them about the teams they’ve worked with and to describe the best boss they ever had.

But if you define culture by “the way things are around here” or the company’s standards of behavior and the attitudes about what is really important inside, then you really need to dig into the things your candidates internalized long before they hit the traditional workforce.

While doing so may not be an exact science, I thought I’d share my top three favorite interview questions (and the thought process behind them) to get at that culture fit.

Copyright: sarahdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

1. Tell me about the very first thing you did that you ever got paid for (your very first job.) Babysitting?  A paper route? Walking dogs? Think back – what did you learn from that experience?

Do I really care what their first job was? No. What I want to learn about are the values they adopted as a result of their experience. I’ll give you an example from my own past. The very first job I ever had was babysitting when I was 12. I worked one evening a week for a single mom of 2 who taught swimming exercises to a group of mastectomy patients. They needed her for so many reasons. And she needed me. I was never late. I never called out sick. I was reliable and dependable at 12, because that’s what I had to be. Was every other sitter she ever hired the same way? Heck no. But those were the values I took away from that role. You know what? 30 some-odd years later I am 100% positive that any of my clients will say that I am reliable and dependable, and I always get the job done.

I had a candidate recently tell me that as his very first job, he house sat when his neighbors went on vacation.  He would get the mail, feed the animals, water the plants, and clear the answering machine. I asked him what he learned from that. His answer was not at all what I expected to hear. I would have guessed at reliability/dependability, just based on my own experience. But, no. He told me that he learned he could keep getting hired by not giving the homeowners messages from the other neighbor boys who wanted his job. He chuckled to himself as some memory fled though his mind. He went on to say that he guessed he was still pretty competitive.


2. I’m going to give you a list of five things. While they’re all important, tell me the one thing that is most important to you in making your next career move. Is it money, recognition, stability, challenge, or environment?

While any answer may be acceptable, understanding your company’s culture enough to know if that answer will work for you is critical. If the candidate says “recognition” and your company has a recognition culture, you’re off to a great start. If the person says “money” is the most important, and you know your organization traditionally pays at the lower end of the competitive scale, you know you have an issue to address.

Another critical component to consider is how the answer fits in with what you already know about the candidate. If the person has been laid off repeatedly throughout his or her career, perhaps due to company closures or lack of work, it makes perfect sense for “stability” to be the response. If the person says “challenge”, but has held the same level of responsibility for the last 10 years, you need to explore.


3. Describe your ideal company culture. What five characteristics does it have?

To really understand if your candidate is a match for your internal culture using this question, you first need to know what five words actually describe your internal culture. Then you need to see how closely your candidate’s answers are to your company’s reality. How to best accomplish this, my friends, is a whole new blog post.


What are your top favorite questions that help you get at culture fit? Let us know in the comments.