After interview thank you note advice:

Recently I called on some of my pals to help me navigate a question… What makes a thank you note from a candidate stand out after an interview. Check out what some of the best business professionals had to say below and let us know if you would add anything else!

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What can I do for #GivingTuesday?

Giving Tuesday is here friends! Giving Tuesday happens the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving (and ya know, Black Friday & Cyber Monday), it’s an international day of charitable giving.

Who am I giving to on this #GivingTuesday? I’m so glad you asked! The answer is CodeCrew! CodeCrew mentors underrepresented youth to be tech innovators and leaders through practical, hands-on computer science education programs throughout Memphis. Learn everything there is to know about CodeCrew here and follow them on Facebook.

Giving Tuesday CodeCrew

As a Technical Recruiter an organization like CodeCrew is clearly of interest to me & this place is even more special to me because it’s in Memphis. Not that I’m from Memphis, but I’m from close to Memphis and spent a lot of time there when I was growing up. I also had the opportunity to spend a day with some of the CodeCrew team earlier this year and I cannot say enough good things about them.

I constantly find myself in the middle of conversations with other recruiters and hiring managers about supposed “skill gaps” and I always ask the same thing to people discussing this challenge: “What are you doing to train future talent?” Basically, lets find a way to solve the problem. If you think the talent pool is lacking something, invest in it. Find ways to get the talent pool interested in what your organization does early on and support it.

If you or your organization is struggling with a “skills gap” then I want to challenge you to give to CodeCrew (or find a similar type organization to support) TODAY. You don’t have to be in Memphis to benefit from supporting CodeCrew, future tech leaders are going to come from everywhere so please don’t let that stop you. CodeCrew’s programs are having a huge impact on our future talent and you have an opportunity to be a part of that by supporting them through a donation that can make Computer Science education available to more students and schools.

You can donate directly to CodeCrew here! Now go to tell your friends about #GivingTuesday and CodeCrew.

I’ll staple those applications

This is a story about a time I when I had a great idea.

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The year was two thousand and seven. I was all of 21 years old and very ambitious. I had been working my first “grown up” job for a year now and had been exceeding all expectations. I had learned so much in that time, but I knew I needed to find ways to manage my time better and increase efficiency.

I was the youngest person working in the office at the time with three other ladies. Two of which were older than my parents, but not quite old enough to be my grandparents and one was probably close to my parents age. The two older ladies worked upstairs while me and the younger of the other three worked downstairs. Her and I saw a lot of people every day coming in to fill out these lengthy paper applications. Her and I were the first round of interviews, screening them to see if they were good enough candidates to send upstairs (as I type this, I realize that process was also ridiculous). We handled the drug screens, scheduling, applicant flow, filing, answering phones, etc. The other two ladies handled payroll, delivering checks, extra screening, meetings and one of them did sales. All of that to explain that they weren’t always up close witnesses to the dated process of the paper applications and how long it took.

Process at the time: take paper application, interview candidate, send candidate upstairs for further interview, make candidate an offer, drug screen candidate, on-board candidate, enter new hire information into our system. YEAH, we took their info from their application and entered it into the system so we could pay them. They wrote out all of their info and then someone would take that info and manually key it into the system. Manually. key. it. in.

YALL… one day I was playing around and found out that the software we used to enter applicant data in and administer payroll was in fact a fairly sophisticated ATS! IT COULD TAKE ONLINE APPLICATIONS… We had this product we were paying for that could take applications and here we were handing out all these dadgum paper applications like it was 1982. YALL… I started crunching some numbers, because even in my early days I knew data was the way to make your case. How much were we spending ordering these paper applications, shipping the paper applications to our office, and then stapling all of the separate sheets together? How much time did it take an applicant on average to fill this massive thing out, how much time did it take to file it, how much time did it take to enter it in once we hired them, etc.? How much would it cost to set up 4-6 computers in the office for applicants to use to fill out the online version of this application? THE. NUMBERS. SPOKE. FOR. THEMSELVES.

As you can tell from this typed out blog post about a story from over 10 years ago, I was EXCITED! I had everything I needed to make a case for why we needed to change our process immediately and I couldn’t wait to tell somebody. I remember telling the ladies who worked upstairs about this idea and how simple it would be for me to set it up for us. I talked about streamlining the process, saving time, $$, I hit all the key factors BUT those two ladies only heard “you’re inefficient, I can do it better, I’m replacing you.”

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This is my “really, that’s all you heard?” face…

I didn’t know what to do with that. I was floored because that’s not what I was saying at all. I wasn’t sure where that was coming from and I didn’t know how to dispute it. I let it go. When given the chance to run another office for the same company I eventually implemented all the upgrades I wanted to do in my office. When my office became the biggest billing office in the company, other offices were instructed to do what I was doing. It wasn’t about replacing anyone, it was about improving our efficiency and service. I didn’t know how to refine my message back then or have a conversation with peers who were afraid I viewed them as a non-factor and replaceable. I could have done a much better job of pitching my idea, my mistake was not taking the time to understand that I might need to.

Learn how to talk to people of all levels. Approach issues with the other persons perspective in mind. When all else fails, shut up and listen.

Leading the witness

Often times we are eager to interview candidates to join our organization and some times we get so excited or have so much information to cover that we make this common interview mistake – we lead the witness.

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With an estimated 5-6 million jobs open in the U.S. right now it makes sense that we would get eager to fill our jobs and excited to sell the candidate on our work, before letting the candidate do some talking. I’ve seen interviewers make this mistake so many times, and I always cringe when they do because it will directly impact the outcome of the interview/hiring decision.

I recently conducted a recruiting training with an HR team and I spent a lot of time on leading the witness, so much so that I had the team role play some cold calls and interviews to show them when they do this. Leading the witness can start as early as the first call (which I think is a result of so many people beating into the heads of recruiters that candidates don’t really want to talk to us – so in turn they blab everything about the job in 35 seconds because they are afraid they will never get that person on the phone again). Their HR director spoke up at one point in the training and said “If you ever get to sit in on an interview with Kristina, watch her…she does very little talking.” This is mostly because I want to hear what the candidate has to say (listen to learn), but it’s partially so I don’t do any leading. Of course to do this, you must be able to power through awkward silence. A lot of interviewers will jump to fill the silence when things get awkward and then babble down a path of telling the candidate exactly what the organization is looking for.

Now don’t get me wrong, the candidate should know what your organization is looking for and your culture shouldn’t be a secret. When you’ve done all the talking upfront and over shared what your company is looking for, you’re setting the candidate up to form their answers around what you want to hear. This makes it harder to screen for a culture fit since you’ve given away all of your culture buzzwords before you’ve heard what the candidate has in mind for their next position.

Here’s an example:

Interviewer: Here at XYZ company we are looking for candidates who believe in bringing their A game every day, we have no “off days” here. Employees give 110%. We believe in working late hours when we have a project deadline approaching, and expect project deadlines to be more important than anything else. We want some one who likes to play hard when it’s time to celebrate… etc. What are you looking for in your next job?

Interviewee: (thinking to themselves: an 8-5 where I can get my job done and go home and spend time with my kids every night, but gee, right now I really need a job) Well, I’m looking for a group of people who believe in hard work and put project deadlines above everything else.

Kind of a crummy example, but as I thought up example after example they all were descriptive of either my current or former employers and I don’t want to show all of their cards or call anyone out. The mistake here is telling them so much about your environment and THEN asking them what they want. In some cases the candidate is going to be perfectly honest with you and then you can have an honest discussion whether this is the right fit for them and the organization. In other cases people are going to say whatever you want to hear to get hired-at least until they can find the right job for themselves. In some cases people aren’t setting out to lie to you, they just haven’t put any thought into that question so they parrot back everything they just heard you say.

This mistake is most important to avoid in a company where you are screening for culture fit. If you believe culture is driving the success of your business, why widen the risk of bringing in someone who is just trying to fake it? Before you say it, remember we’ve talked about “there’s a place for everyone” i.e. “there’s a culture for everyone.”Also, this isn’t permission to disqualify people for the wrong reason. You CAN define culture so don’t rely on a vague “not a culture fit” reason for not extending an offer.

A quick search for some stats estimate that 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions and one of the reasons this happens is the candidate isn’t really a culture fit and it wasn’t discovered in the interview process (even though it can be). There’s all kinds of stats that pop up when looking to identify how much a bad hire costs our organizations – one source said 1/3 of the employee pay, one source says 50-60% of the pay, and another says 2.5 times their salary. There are a lot of variables to consider when calculating this number, but know this: you can actually identify how much it costs your organization. So, calculate it for your organization and use that number. Data outside of your organization should mostly be taken with a grain of salt in my opinion. Especially considering there is no one size fits all solution to any of our issues, right?

Super easy solutions to this “leading the witness” mistake in general. Ask your questions first. Then expand on the job and organization after your questions have been answered and give the interviewee a chance to ask you questions. Too much to remember? Try this, if Jack McCoy would get scolded for it in the courtroom, steer clear in the interview. Awkward silence is okay, let the interviewee think and you listen.

Three Interview Rule

I’ve always suffered a bit of a professional identity crisis. Am I recruiting or am I HR? Am I both? Are they one in the same? I’ve gone back and forth, but one thing I can say without a doubt that fits with both HR and Recruiting is solid relationships with your hiring managers. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn how to manage this relationship and the most challenging was when recruiting for a highly technical engineering company. One thing that drove me crazy was the constant need for “more candidates” for one position. If you’re experiencing the same challenge, let me share my three interview rule with you (it’s really simple).

Me to hiring manager: Here are three candidates that fit what you are looking for based on the extensive discussions we’ve had around your current hiring need.

Hiring manager to me: Great, let’s interview all three of them.

*Interviews all of them*

Hiring manager to me: I want to interview more candidates.

Me to hiring manager: What did you not like about these three?

Hiring manager to me: I don’t know.

Me to hiring manager: Then we are starting over.

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Why would I tell them we are starting over? Because if you have found three candidates that fit the criteria you’ve discussed with the hiring manager and they still can’t make a decision, then they do not know what they are looking for. When I talk to a hiring manager we discuss every aspect of the position I can with them- minimum skills required, type of work, who the customer is, who they will report to, personalities of the team members they need to work with, day to day environment, education requirements, length of contract, hours of the schedule, peak seasons, when they might be required to work extra, what materials will they be working with…you get the picture. ANYTHING that is relevant that can help me find the perfect candidate for my customer, the hiring manager.

The three interview rule won’t work when you’ve given them candidates who do not match the job req so you should only pull this out when you’re candidates are a match for what you and the hiring manager discussed. This rule can be applied to any position, not just technical ones. Having the discussion about no more than three interviews the right way will help you build credibility with your hiring managers. Approach it as a way to revisit the job you are working on and what might need to be revisited as a requirement, not as a power move. Use it as a way to show you support the hiring manager and respect their time so you want to make sure you have the right information to get it right and help them make an informed decision. Continuing to give them candidates when they cannot tell you what they didn’t like about the qualified candidates already submitted will only drag out the hiring process.

Give it a shot and let me know how it works! As always, if you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

Education as a Benefit at #SHRM17

This morning I had the pleasure of taking a few minutes to sit down with Rachel Carlson, CEO and Co-Founder of Guild Education and one of her colleagues Zach Rowe. I was interested in knowing more about what Guild Education has going on and what the Guild sponsored session Beyond Starbucks/ASU: The Future of Education Benefits  has in store for us Tuesday morning at 7am!

Education as a benefit could be very valuable in a hiring environment that screams skills gap and talent shortage every day. Without getting into the numbers we can reflect on our own experiences at work and looking for/keeping talent & the challenges our own organizations are facing. Education as a benefit could be an effective strategic move for your organization, but I’ll let you hear it from Rachel and the panel yourself.

In talking with Rachel we covered a lot of thoughts on education as a benefit, so I’m going to do my best to sum them all up. So here’s the break down- Guild Education’s approach is about meeting the employees where they are. I personally think that is vital in considering any benefit for your organization, but I’m thrilled to know that’s Rachel’s approach for education. They are working with some big name companies implementing options from GED through Masters program- options and flexibility go a long way for today’s consumers!

A lot of times there is educational assistance for corporate office employees or executive employees, but RARELY for the front line workers. Hearing that companies like Chipotle (as in hourly food service workers) is using this as a benefit to recruit AND RETAIN employees intrigued me. I mean, this benefit is really doubling the retention of their front line workers? I get how this could help with recruiting right? Pretty obvious without even digging in to the strategy, but retention? Wouldn’t these line workers leave after they finish earning more education? Chipotle has a wonderful program for promoting from within, but there’s only so many promotion spots. Turns out employers will generally see a 3-8% enrollment in the program. Think of it this way, your top talent is taking advantage of this and that means your top talent is staying with you instead of quitting and going to work for a competitor. They’ve also done research that says 20-30% wont use it, but will value it as a benefit. Maybe those 20-30% have plans to use it later or maybe that just means encouraging continued education is a personal value that they appreciate the organization providing.

As for the employer side of this benefit, Rachel and her team sit down with potential clients and work through the numbers. That’s right, they can sit down and see if the ROI is going to be a profit center or just another benefit cost. I understand that cutting benefits when your organization is looking to save money quickly is an easy go to for the purse holders in your organization, but when there is a possibility of a benefit being a profit center you should at least stop and listen.  While I was tossing my skeptical questions to Rachel to see if this was a sound argument and how this might play out in some companies back home she made it real simple for me: “It needs to cost less than turnover.” In this case, it sounds like the Guild Education team is going to equip you with the knowledge and numbers you need to make a credible pitch.

I believe education is so important and I could go on and on about my conversation with Rachel and Zach this morning, but I want you to go to their session Tuesday morning at 7am and find out the details for yourself! Feel free to reach out to Guild directly at partnerships@guildeducation.com

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Do you mind if I pray?

No, I don’t mind if you pray.

What I do mind is that you asked me that question while I was in the middle of an interview process with your company. I do mind that you were the HR manager of a large organization and still risked asking that question during an interview. I said I didn’t mind, but I wonder if I would’ve got the job if I said I did mind.

What I do mind is that I never called you out on putting me on the spot like that or making hiring decisions based on who people pray to.