Final Round Interviews

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As this quarter starts coming to a close, I have a handful of candidates entering final stage interviews.  They will meet the CEO, and we will either pull the trigger and make them an offer… or they will be left by the wayside.  With that in mind, I thought I’d take the time to shed some light on these nerve-wracking final interviews and give you some insight from the “inside” (generally speaking).

So, you applied for Position ABC at Company XYZ.  You’ve been through a phone screen, a 1st round interview, a 2nd round interview, perhaps a 3rd round interview, and you’ve been invited back for a final round!  Congratulations!

If we take a look at this logically, you would not have made it as far as you have if a) they didn’t like your resume b) you weren’t able to showcase your expertise, or c) they didn’t like you.  I bet that’s some weight off your shoulders, huh?

“But my final interview is with the {enter fancy title here}!!!”  How is this any different from the former interviews you have encountered?  This {enter fancy title here} is just another human being, just like you are.  And, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know my favorite saying… it’s just a conversation!

What can you expect in a final interview?  Great question.  If you’ve made it this far, the team is confident in your ability to deliver what is needed in the role.  They know what they want, and you have it!  Below are some general things final interviews are looking to cover (not an exclusive list):

  • How much do you want to work here?  Very important information.  There are the people who are running away from their current jobs, and then there are the people who are running towards this new opportunity in front of them.  Most companies want the people who are running towards them versus the other option.  Running away is never a good sign.  Why are you running?  What will happen here if you find yourself hating your job?  Will you run?  Tell them – better yet, show them! – how much you want to work there.  Show your excitement for the role, the company, and express your genuine interest in the industry.
  • Career path.  What’s the end goal for you?  We have to make sure our expectations align.  If you are coming in today as an Account Executive, and want to be CEO in the next 2 years… I’m not sure this is the place for you.  If you are coming in today as a Financial Analyst, and 3 years down the line you want to be a Finance Manager… let’s keep talking!  Make sure you know where you are, and where you are going.  Make sure the company lines up with what you want for yourself.
  • Culture fit.  What does this even mean?!  A company’s culture defines them.  It is the characteristics, values, and beliefs that make them who they are.  It is the “personality” of the company, if you will.  Do you fit into that personality?  Does it fit you?

As with any interview, come prepared with questions.  Show your interest in the company, and show you’ve done your research.  Interviews are two-way conversations.  As much as we are interviewing you, you are also interviewing us.  Take your time to get your questions answered, and we will do the same.

As always… head up, chin down!  Good luck!

I never heard back. Why?

There comes a time when everyone thinks, “I thought I interviewed well.  What happened?  Why didn’t I get through to the next round?”  I think it’s human nature to always be asking “why”.  Let’s split this into a few scenarios:

You submitted your resume, but never heard back.  Why?

  • Before I make the decision to email/call you back, I look at your Facebook page, your Twitter profile, your blog posts, your Google+ page.  I Google you.  I have seen the rants about your job, how much you hate your boss, how you can’t wait for the day to be over.  I have seen the, sometimes, “unclassy” pictures of your drunken stupor from last weekend.  Would you hire you after seeing these things?
  • Your grammar.  Did you pass 2nd grade?  If so, I expect you to know the difference between “their”, “there”, and “they’re”.  Not only is this a poor reflection on you, but I risk my reputation as a recruiter as well.
  • Your resume is hard to read.  Why is it not in chronological order?  How long did you work at XYZ Corp?  When did you leave XYZ Corp?  Why is the font so small???  
  • Your resume is lackluster.  I can tell when you just copy a job description into your resume.  That’s great.  But tell me what YOU did in that role.
  • Your resume lacks information I want/need to see.  You’re in sales, and you don’t tell me how AWESOME you are at closing deals?  Why not?  Are you not proud of your accomplishments?  Things that make me go “hmm” will quickly put you in the reject pile.  

I had a phone interview with the recruiter, but never heard back.  Why?

  • You didn’t do your research.  Tsk tsk.  Always – ALWAYS – do a little reading on the company you’re interviewing with beforehand.  Know what their offerings are, know who their target clients are, know what questions you want to ask.  What else can you research?  The recruiter.  Find out where they went to school, their career history… use it to your advantage.  Build rapport with them off of any commonalities you might have.
  • You talk too much.  Long-winded answers rarely get you anywhere.  Why aren’t you listening to questions I’m asking?  Why aren’t you answering my question directly?  What are you dancing around?  Nerves are hard to overcome in interviews, I get it.  But you have to listen for cues.  What is the recruiter asking of you?  What kind of information does the recruiter need to evaluation your background? 
  • Your answers sound rehearsed and redundant.  Are you telling me the same thing using different words?  Have you said these sentences/phrases over and over in front of a mirror, and in every interview?  We can hear these nuances.
  • You don’t follow directions.  I found you on LinkedIn, I already have access to your profile.  When I ask for a resume, please send it to me.  Don’t direct me back to your LinkedIn page.  Not following an “ask” is a tell-tale sign of how much you want something.  
  • You interview poorly.  I have said it a million times, “interviews are just conversations”.  We are here to learn about each other.  I talk to some candidates where I feel like I’m trying to pull teeth.  Brag about yourself!  Be confident in your abilities.  Ask questions right back at the recruiter.  Just as we’re interviewing you, interview us!

I had an interview with the hiring manager, but never heard back.  Why?

  • Lack of detail.  By the time you’ve gotten to the hiring manager, they are looking for details on why you’d be great at a job.  If you can’t back up statements like “I’m a successful sales rep” with things like “I achieved 200% of my quota YOY by continuously prospecting my territory, fearlessly hunting and cold calling, and continuously analyzing my plan of attack”, the hiring manager isn’t going to be able to assess how well you’d do here.   
  • You didn’t send a “thank you”.  Call it what you will.  Some hiring managers don’t care.  Some do.  Some make it a “mandatory”, while others are just a “nice to have”.  But, why not increase your chances by taking 2 minutes out of your day to email them?  Show them you want it!

Job searches are hard.  Some would say, interviews are harder.  They’re stressful, they put you in a position of vulnerability.  Approach your job search like you would any other tough situation in life — head on!   

Remember… head down, chin up!  

 

This is why I love what I do.

Let’s start off with this.  For those who haven’t read my blog on the importance of candidate experience, click here to read why I think this is so important.

I’ll give you a minute to read.

Today, I received an email from a candidate I’ve been working with for months.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Candidate experience is my #1 priority.  I would rather hire less people and give them 100% of my efforts, than to hire a ton and to give them 50%.

Emails like the one below make me happy.  They let me know I have done right by (one of) my client.

 

To all the candidates out there, don’t hesitate to show your recruiter some love.  They really do appreciate the kind words, and it makes our day!

Interview Question: What was the worst career move you have made?

I have gotten this interview question a few times in my career, and every time I thought to myself, “Well, that’s negative, isn’t it?”  But, as you take a step back and think about why the interviewer is asking it, you begin to realize exactly what they are trying to figure out.

If you ask me what my biggest career move, this is how I’d answer:

Out of college, I entered the world of sales.  I was good at it and made a lot of money.  I made a natural progression into Recruiting.  But, there came a point where I wanted to see what else I could do.  So, I left sales/recruiting and was hired as the Executive Assistant to the CEO of a biotech company.  It was a role completely foreign to me, but one that I wanted to explore.  I wanted to see what else I was capable of.

Within a few months, I knew that I had made a huge mistake.  I was miserable, and immediately started my job search.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the company or the people I worked with.  It was me.

I quickly learned that I was a proactive employee.  I like being responsible for my day.  I like knowing that I will “fail” if I don’t continue to put in work.  I like knowing that the work I put in today, pays off tomorrow.  I learned that some people are reactive employees, and like being given projects to be done on a deadline.  I was not that person.

Being proactive is like a game to me.  I’m competitive by nature and can’t just stand by and watch things happen.  And, that’s how I landed back in Recruiting.  My work is measurable and defines my success.

So, my “mistake”?  Going outside of my comfort zone.

The real question behind the real question?… What lessons have you learned along the way?

As always… head up, chin down!  GOOD LUCK!

What did I do wrong??

Have you ever:

  • Sent an email to a recruiter… and never heard back?
  • Applied for a job… and never heard back?
  • Interviewed… and never heard back?

Let’s face it, the answer is a resounding “YES” to all of the above.  Don’t be shy.  We have all been there.  Even the best of us have struggled in our job searches.  And that’s ok!  So many times, I get asked “What did I do wrong?”

I can sum it up into one word: PRESENTATION.  This applies to anything and everything involved in an interview process.

Imagine the following scenario.  You email a recruiter, “Hi there, I’m intrested in the sales postion your posted on LinkedIn.  Selling SaaS software is my life, and I can’t wait to here from you!”  What’s wrong with this?  You want me to believe you’re great at what you do if you can’t use spell check?  Your crazy. (See what I did there? :))

Let’s try another scenario. You sent your resume into the “resume black hole”.  Why didn’t you get a call back?  I can go on and on and on about reasons why you didn’t.  But, let me list the most common.  1)  You weren’t a fit for the role.  Did you read the job description?  Do you have the required hard skills?  2) Your resume says another company’s name in the Objective.  “I want to help build NOT-YOUR-COMPANY’S brand to it’s potential.”  Great, good luck with that!  3) No contact information.  Surprised?  Don’t be.  A lot of times, candidates do not provide a good phone number or email address for us to reach them.  If we can’t reach you, how can you be considered for the role?

Ok, one more.  You got the call back!  Congrats!  You interviewed with the team, thought it went well, and… nothing.  I will say that it is NEVER ok for a recruiter/company to not provide you with an update to your candidacy.  But what could have possibly gone wrong?  You thought you had it in the bag!  Again, PRESENTATION.  Did you research the company?  Were you an off-the-wall bundle of energy interviewing at an old-school, play-by-the-rules corporation?  Did you wear jeans and a t-shirt to a super formal workplace?  Perhaps your thoughts were all over the place, or maybe you were a nervous wreck.

The moral of the story is: presentation.  Be diligent with you who present to your potential future employer.  How do you want them to see you?  What kind of person do you want them to view you as?  What is it they will gain by hiring you?

As always… head up, chin down!  Good luck!

What I Would Tell My 20-Year-Old Self…

I often think back to my college days and whether my choices may, or may not, have directed me to where I am today.  And the answer is a resounding YES.

The beginning of my college career was interesting.  I started off as pre-med / pre-pharmacy, and I KNEW I didn’t want to pursue a career in healthcare.  Why I did it, you ask?  Because my parents wanted me to.  Not that they wouldn’t have been happy with me having a career in business, but because in their generation, a career in healthcare meant stability and job security.  I struggled for nearly two years to tell them I didn’t want to pursue their dream.  All the while, I was still taking courses I had absolutely no interest in.

Once I broke the news to my parents, I realized I was on my own now.  They knew nothing about any industry outside of healthcare.  I was left to navigate the rest of my adult life… by myself.  Scary!  

Over the second half of my college years, I found a major that was broad and useful in many aspects of “business”.  I had two minors where I explored interests I had – like real estate, property management, and language skills.  In that time, I took internships in the hours I wasn’t working or in school.  Some of those internships were absolute disasters; I’d go home hating my life and dreading the next 2 hour day I had to work.  Some of those internships really piqued my interest, and I continued searching for positions in the same category.

In the end, my decisions absolutely led me to where I am today.  What I didn’t realize when I was 20, I realize now.  They say “hindsight is 20/20”, and that couldn’t be closer to the truth.

  • Things are going to be hard.  Sometimes, very very hard… and both physically and emotionally draining.  And when you think you’re going to give up.  Don’t.  You have the capability to push through any tough phase because that’s all it is – a phase.
  • Don’t study/pursue something just because someone else “wants” you to, or tells you to.  Your interests are your own.  You are a unique individual, and no one can tell you what you’d be good at.  Figure that out on your own.
  • Take a personal finance course.  Once you realize you don’t have the financial support of anyone else but yourself, you have to know how to best utilize your assets.
  • Take a social etiquette course, where ever you can find one.  You may think it’s ridiculous to learn how to fold your napkin when you walk away from a table, but you will likely have many business dinners in your future where this will come in handy.  
  • Take a course in interviewing / resume writing.  Believe it or not, interviewing is a skill that can be taught.  And just as you learned how to write essays in middle-school, it’s time you learn how to draw up a great resume.
  • Start networking.  And never stop networking.  You never know when the person you are talking to in your 20s, will be the next-big-thing’s CEO.  
  • If there is only one thing you take away, make it this.  This is a marathon, and not a sprint.  You are not going to accomplish what you want without a few bumps along the way.  But each speed bump is just a reminder to keep yourself motivated, and to keep pushing forward.

The Importance of Candidate Experience

Lately, there has been a lot of focus on the importance of candidate experience.  The value that candidate experience brings to a company is extremely powerful.  A poor candidate experience can ruin an otherwise great company and employment opportunity.  On the other hand, a great candidate experience has the power to give a company that competitive advantage in the hiring market place.
I have come to realize that there are just not enough “positive” candidate experiences out there.  In my own past job searches, I can’t even begin to count the lack of communication, lack of answers, and lack of genuine “care” for my candidacy.  Any offers I received, my preference almost always went to the company that provided me with the best overall interview experience – the one where the recruiter was responsive and kept me informed, where the managers were very informative and interactive, and where I felt I was being treated like a human being rather than a “just another resume”.
When I began my own interview process at SuccessFactors, I was overjoyed to find that my recruiter cared and made my interview experience fantastic.  I could not have asked for more.  As a company, SuccessFactors has always preached that we should “drink our own champagne”.  And, so here I am, as a SuccessFactors Recruiter, sharing how I hope to provide you with a great candidate experience.
SuccessFactors strives to keep as connected as possible with candidates through TwitterFacebookLinkedIn andGoogle+!
To me, the definition of candidate experience is how a company (and its recruiters) approach the recruiting process – how they interact with the candidate, how the candidate feels throughout the process, and ultimately how that all affects the candidate’s decision making process.  I firmly believe that recruiters have the power to influence an applicant’s attitude towards the company.  They are, after all, the first “face” of the company an applicant comes in contact with.
1)     Be warm and knowledgeable.  Answering all candidate questions with warmth and enthusiasm seems to matter heavily in the eyes of the applicant.
2)     You can never over-communicate.  “No news is good news” does not apply in recruiting.  As a recruiter, I try to let my candidates know of their application status weekly and will send them an email even if just to say “I don’t have an update for you yet”.  This goes a long way.  Be honest and keep the candidate as informed as possible – even if they are no longer being considered for the position.
3)     Offer feedback.  The interviewing candidate thought he was a good fit for the role, which is why he got to interview with the manager.  Offer to provide any feedback on why they did not get the job, where their weaknesses were, and/or how they can do better next time.  This falls under the “communication” category (see #2).
4)     Be reachable.  Whether it is by phone, email, or text messages, I try to make myself available to my candidates at all times.  I will answer promptly when they have questions about the interview process, interview preparation, or candidacy updates.  How many times have you felt your recruiter fell off the face of the earth?  Not with me.  I’m at your disposal for any question, big or small. On Twitter or LinkedIn.
In the end, when a candidate has a positive experience, whether they were offered the position or not, they are more likely to recommend the company to a colleague or another candidate, or return again in the future for a new opportunity.
That said, we promise to try to provide you with a great candidate experience.  And, if we’re not, please let us know so we can fix it!  We appreciate your interest and look forward to working with you.


** This blog appeared here on the SuccessFactors Blog