Posts tagged ‘Interviewing’
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
Imagine that you are asked to interview with an architectural or engineering firm. The corporate recruiter tells you “The interview will last 45 minutes. There are 5 candidates coming in to interview for 1 opening. You have 45 minutes to talk to the hiring authority. We will let you know in a couple of weeks who our chosen candidate is.” Anywhere in that conversation did you hear “We are excited that you are coming to meet with us. Hopefully we have a good fit with our opportunity and your talents.” ??? If this were a date, I would not have even shown up for coffee!
Even though there can be hundreds of applicants for one job, there are no excuses for recruiters AND hiring managers to forget that they need to sell their firms. Over the past couple of years, employers have realized that they are in the driver’s seat for many open jobs. Outstanding talent find themselves in a situation of competing for jobs with other really outstanding talent. Many firms, corporate recruiters and hiring managers have become arrogant and lazy. This behavior will lead to future recruiting and retention issues.
Several years ago one of my highly sought after senior candidates interviewed with my client. He was also interviewing with one of their competitors. While my client was very interested to have him join their firm, their competitor pulled out all the stops throughout the interview process. The competitor’s CEO and a variety of other key company leaders called the candidate at various times over a week to tell him how thrilled they were to have the opportunity to meet him and that they were excited to have the potential to work with him. They did everything but send a new sports car to his house! He was direct in telling me that while he had established a great relationship with me and the executive he would report to at my client, the competitor just simply “out courted my client.” The competitor made him “feel” that they were excited “as a company” to have him on board. He was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm from his prospective colleagues. My client and I were crushed. Tough to hear.
The job market is increasing and firms that don’t step up their dating habits will find themselves with mediocre talent and an increase in open jobs as employees run to firms that know how to win them over! What are your thoughts? Have you seen this with your own firm or with your own interviews?
If You Have a Minute-and-a-Half…
What you just witnessed was Scrat, from Ice Age 2, working his tail off to get his prized acorn…he came SO close, but in the end he failed.
How many times have you come SO close to hiring the right candidate, but in the end you were not able to “seal the deal” ? In breaking down this video we can dissect how his mission is very similar to yours as a hiring manager, human resources professional, or recruiter in the civil engineering industry attempting to seek out the perfect candidate and what can occur if the proper steps are not taken.
The same way Scrat has pulled out all the stops in reaching his goal, you have exhausted your candidate database, your batteries in your electronic Rolodex have gone dead, you’ve dangled a boat load of “benjamins” in front of your employees encouraging referrals, you have scoured the job boards and resume databases, you have mined your way through the Internet, you have blasted through your contacts on LinkedIn to no avail…in one last ditch effort you have even discovered how to “tweet”, and as a result, you have found your acorn…errrrr, your perfect candidate!
Visible and within reach, you loosen up the candidate with an introductory phone call that progresses nicely. At the end of the conversation you invite the candidate in for an interview…SWEET! The candidate goes through a multi-interview process and the outlook is positive, from where you are standing anyway. You feel awesome, you reeled ‘em in hook, line and sinker, he’s yours, sign him up.
The Fall Off
Wait, you told everyone in the office, you had the announcement ready for your next company newsletter, you had the press release prepared…what happened? You had your candidate right at your doorstep but he never stepped over the threshhold. Now you’ve lost the candidate and you have fallen back into the depths of the same search where you found yourself not so long ago. How could this possibly happen?
Failure To Plug The Holes
You had your candidate the same way Scrat had his acorn. The pipes began to burst, you duct taped the holes temporarily and juggled the candidate as long as you could. But in the end, he accepted a position with your nemesis two exits down off the expressway.
Unfortunately I have witnessed this scenario all too often in my career as a search consultant. The goal of course is not to learn how to plug the holes (because you saw what happened to Scrat when he tried to do so), but rather how to prevent those unexpected bursts from happening altogether.
- Be On Time. The same way you expect a candidate to arrive on time for their interview, make sure you are on time as well. Prior to the interview make sure you exchange cell phone numbers in the event that something arises that is going to cause you to run late or have to reschedule. Last week on our LinkedIn discussion board we learned of a candidate that arrived to his interview on time, but was made to wait thirty minutes before the hiring executive was able to invite him back for the interview. Once the interview begins the candidate may be pre-occupied with the fact that he had to wait thirty minutes. And even if he does get over it and the interview goes well, that thirty minutes of unjustified monotony sitting in the lobby has created a seed of doubt in that candidate’s head as to how you or the company may operate…as if they do not care about people.
- Don’t Skimp. If the interview was scheduled before lunch or before dinner, and it is going well and you see it carrying over for some time, take the candidate out for a meal. Not only is this a memorable gesture, but as always it gives you the opportunity to evaluate their demeanor in a public setting. And if the IHOP is the closest restaurant to your office…you might want to try the NEXT closest restaurant.
- Get Off The Fence. Make a decision. Once the interview(s) are complete, your ability to get off the fence and make a decision is crucial. Don’t let the engineer in you be the cause of losing the candidate. The longer you sit in a deep contemplative state analyzing the potential hire the less interested the candidate becomes and the more likely he is to be scooped up by another firm. Even if it’s a no-go, communicate this to the candidate. Your failure to communicate even the decision not to hire the candidate will be remembered, and you never know when you may need to call upon that candidate down the road.
- Avoid The Low Ball. Evaluate your current salary structure and make nearly the best, if not the best offer you can, right off the bat. This shows you are serious. If the candidate is considering other offers on the table, even though you make it known you are open to negotiation, the first impression of you attempting to short change them more-often-than-not leaves a sour taste in the candidates mouth.
- Remember Magnum, P.I. Make sure you, your human resources staff or your recruiter conducts a full and comprehensive investigation. By understanding all the details of the candidates compensation (and I mean ALL the details) and benefits you will limit the sneak attack the can often occur at the end of the process. You know, the sneak attack when the candidate has all but officially accepted and then he drops the bomb that he is declining your offer to accept another? Make sure your understand their current and desired title and responsibilities. You could make a fantastic offer, but “if the shoe don’t fit” then you have wasted your time. Uncover their hot issues. Why are they looking to leave? What was the initial appeal to your firm? Speak to references to get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses so you can be prepare to offer an opportunity that will improve their weak points and tone up their strengths. And finally, know what they are up to. This may be a little tricky without utilizing a seasoned search consultant, but you need to find out what other firms they are meeting with and what the details are of any other offers they may be considering.
- Make Sure The Fat Lady Sings. The old saying holds true during the hiring process. You must continue to close the deal with the candidate until the day they walk through your door. There are a number of things that you can do to minimize the chances of them accepting another offer from another firm, or a counter offer from their existing employer.
- Require them to provide their current employer with no longer than a three week notice, though a two week notice is even better; any longer and that leaves a large window of opportunity for them to change their mind.
- Have them sign an offer letter. The psychology behind having a candidate sign and return an offer letter to you is huge. It shows another level of commitment beyond the verbal acceptance and holds them more accountable.
- Meet with them once a week for lunch until they start in order to discuss their office set up, their technology requirements (blackberry, lap top, etc) and to prepare them for the projects that they will be working on. This mentally pulls them in closer to you and further away from their current employer or any other firms that may be dangling a last minute carrot.
- And finally, have Human Resources invite them into the office to fill out the hiring documents so they can hit the ground running on their start date.
By following some of these simple steps you will find that your ability to bring on top talent will be sure to improve, and you will be able to have your acorn…and eat it too.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Shifter. I know, I know, who the heck is Shifter? Well, Shifter is a member of the forum on the CivilEngineeringCentral.com website and he recently posed some comments and questions that I felt I might know a little bit about.
Take a look at what Shifter had to say:
What should be the logic and strategy when interviewing for a position and revealing your current compensation?
I do not think that it would be proper to refuse to reveal your current salary and compensation to prospective employers; but I think that the offer I will receive will be ‘just a bit better’ than my current situation and not a fair market offer.
I equate this with the general noting of salary “commensurate with experience” on most corporate postings.
I want to put myself in the position for a premium offer without either offending the prospective company or having to specifically reveal that my job search has multiple options.
Having placed hundreds of civil engineering professionals throughout my career, and of course having negotiated most of their offers, I do have a few suggestions (in fact, most engineers that I work with build a spreadsheet according to these suggestions…go figure?!?!?!):
What revenues have been generated as a direct result of your marketing efforts?
What clients can you bring with you?
What percentage of your hours worked are billable? What percentage is overhead?
How many people have you successfully supervised, motivated and mentored?
How much time do you put in to your job above and beyond the typical 40-hour work week?
What is your complete compensation plan (salary, overtime, bonus, profit sharing, 401K matching, PTO, out of pocket insurance costs, cell phone, laptop, car allowance, etc)?
Know Your Peers
What are your peers making? Find out what they are really making, not what they tell you they are making.
How does your current level of responsibility match up to your peers’ responsibility?
What technology are your peers using?
Know The Position
Do you thoroughly understand the role that is being offered to you? Do not assume anything based merely upon the title. I know “Project Managers” that would be Project Engineers, I know “Directors of Transportation” that would be Project Managers, and I know “Designers” that would be Cadd Drafters at any other firm in town. So make you sure you fully understand the responsibilities and expectations.
Have you been presented, and do you have a full understanding of, the company’s benefits?
Do you have a firm understanding of the average work hours…really?
If it is a newly created position, how committed is the company…really? What is their time frame for getting the ship up and running…really?
Of course there are other factors to consider as well, but the above should give you a good baseline to start with. If you can lay all of this out to your potential employer as you present what you have to offer, and if you are confident as to what you can bring to the table and can subsequently back that up, and if you are already being compensated “fair market value,” than you will not, or shall I say, should not, receive an offer that is “just a little bit better.” If you work for a miserable company that pays inflated salaries because they know they are miserable to work for, your offer may only be a “little bit better,” but your quality of life, work environment, etc may drastically improve. Sometimes we see people that are underpaid-not because they underperform (though this is many times the case), but because the employer is out of touch with market salary conditions, so you would need to justify your request for a large increase in pay (know yourself, know your peers). In the end, if you are not satisfied with the offer then you have to be prepared to walk away.
To get the premium offer you are looking for, you must have a full understanding of all of the above, and in turn be able to effectively communicate it. Keep in mind though that a premium offer often lies in the eyes of the beholder.