Monday, July 22, 2013

In the Spotlight: Going in for an Interview

Congratulations!  You are looking for a new job and already have an interview lined up.  Has it been a long time since you’ve interviewed for a new position?  Or is this a job you are really excited and enthusiastic about?  How can you prepare and make the most of this opportunity?

Consider the interview process a game… your job is to play by the rules and try to win.  Here are a few suggestions to help you along the way:

•  Make sure to do the simple things, like thanking the people for their time and showing them you are interested in learning more about the company and the employees.

•  Be creative and imaginative in your answers.  While highlighting your past achievements make sure that you show interest in what you do and that you believe in what you are saying.

•  Desperation isn’t an attractive quality.  Try to look for a new job before you desperately need one -– approaching a job search from a position of strength generally yields better results.  If you have no choice and really need that job, have a back-up plan (even if it’s only temporary work) to lessen the stress and think of each interview as free, helpful training for the next one.  When you feel relaxed you are more likely to succeed.

•  Make sure the interview is a dialogue, not a monologue where you are doing all of the talking.  Check periodically to see if the interviewer is interested in more details or would like to move on to another topic.  Be an active listener and don’t interrupt -- this not only buys you some time, but also lets them see you are a good listener and lessens the chance that you will say the wrong thing or make a mistake.

•  Rehearse beforehand to make sure you can clearly describe your past projects, highlighting interesting facts and focusing on your achievements.  Try to show the value that you will add to the company.

•  To make a lasting, visual impression, be ready to draw a diagram or a drawing to illustrate the main bullet points on your resume.   If you can’t remember a project you have listed, or cannot make some sort of diagram to explain it, take it off your resume. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Flip Side – Is it Time to Move Away from Brain-Teasers and Odd Interview Questions?

 Our last blog entry was all about the odd brain-teasers and confusing questions that interviewers have been asking lately, and why.   These confounding questions tend to catch job candidates off guard and some HR professionals and executives believe that they are crucial to showing how a person thinks as well as breaking through a person’s “interview” fa├žade.  However, there are some companies that are beginning to conclude that those oddball questions are not the perfect solution to finding the right people to join their team…

At the top of this list, surprisingly, is the head of Human Resources at Google, who stated in an interview with the New York Times that he believes that brainteasers are a complete waste of time.  This came as a shock to some, as Google has been a strong proponent of asking tricky questions.  As a data-driven company, Google also admitted that after much research they could find no actual correlation between candidates’ interview scores and later assessments on their job performance.

For a smaller company, such as the small to mid-sized start-ups that are clients of Elti Solutions, using the right method to screen candidates is even more critical.  In the current job market, these companies can’t afford to quickly pass on 30% of “good candidates,” as Google now admits to have done on a routine basis. 

So what is the best approach to take when interviewing new candidates?  While there seems to be no current consensus on what to ask, some suggestions we propose for a successful hiring strategy are:

•  First, agree on well-defined “hard criteria” for the position.   Ask a few technical questions to eliminate the non-tech-savvy candidates, but don’t require that they be able to code on the spot.  This can quickly be done by a recruiter or by a first-level screener.

• Ask questions about past projects and how the candidate found a solution, had to negotiate with others, etc.  Is the candidate able to answer this clearly and tell a coherent story?  Was he/she excited and genuinely interested in the project?

•  Meet directly with the candidates face-to-face and you may discover that an important skill for your company is not featured prominently on a resume, even though the candidate may have experience in that area.

•  Ask about past problems, discuss tools the candidate uses to succeed, and check for “cultural fit.”  Some examples of this “fit” can be energy level, speed of talking, whether they work better in a noisy or a quiet environment, etc.  The best candidates will most likely meet both the hard and soft criteria of the company.

•   Note that the Google data also shows that often a candidate’s GPA does not really matter – companies are finding little to no correlation between grades and the ability to perform well in a job, especially after a year at a company.   A person’s attitude, motivation, and ability to think creatively matter more in job performance.

•  After meeting with the candidate in person, ask the candidate to work on a small project, one that should take less than a day to complete.  This can highlight a candidate’s creativity and problem-solving methods, as well as show the company if the applicant is truly interested in the position.   

So what does all this mean for current job candidates? Will you be asked a question such as “How many golf balls can you fit into an SUV?” or more predictable questions about your past work experiences?  There is no one method of interviewing that is currently used at all companies, so it’s best to prepare for either style of interview, while showing that you are interested and curious about the company, the products, and the people. 

And as for companies looking to hire great employees, where does this information lead and which interview style would work best for your company?   In the current job market, it’s important to find an interview style that is pleasant for both the company and the candidate while also streamlining the process.  Perhaps a mix of the more serious screening questions outlined above, coupled with one “oddball” question would be both efficient as well as illuminating.

And for both sides – don’t make any assumptions before you actually meet!

Please let us know what you think about which interview style works best!