Monday, July 9, 2012

Hiring Wisely

I've been career coach to many job seekers. Ironically, that has made me a bit sympathetic to the employer, who has the difficult task of trying to differentiate the best candidate from the most primped one.

And the two may be inversely correlated: To land a job, weak candidates may feel they have to gorgeously gift-wrap their package. In contrast, strong candidates may feel that they can land a good job just with a good resume, cover letter, and interview.

Especially in this job market, many job seekers are pulling out all the stops: They submit White Papers, proposals, sales prospect lists, etc. They hire interview coaches who literally put words into their mouths--for example, a wordsmithed explanation of  their "lay off" or employment gap. And interview coaching often includes video: microanalyzing everything from the person's posture to tone of voice to how well he hides his terror when asked a probing question.

And those are the relatively honest job seekers. Studies find that almost half of resumes contain "creative writing," often crafted by a resume writer who not just embellishes credentials but makes the candidate look like she writes, thinks, and organizes better than she really does, attributes that are important on so many jobs.

So what's an employer to do? Hiring is among the most important decisions: It affects the quality of products and services as well as the coworkers' lives. And God forbid things if don't work out: It's often harder to get rid of an employee without incurring an expensive, stressful legal claim than to rid a fleabag hotel of fleas.

So as a token of penance for all the job seekers I've helped to seem better than a more worthy applicant, HERE is how I recommend employers select their employees.


Grace said...

I just left the employment industry and took a job in social services. When I joined my new team, I saw the name of a former job seeking client of mine on a staffing list. I asked about him and was told that he had only lasted for 2 months on the job. My new boss said, "He was awful! I don't know what happened. His resume was excellent and his interview was amazing!" I then apologized to her as I had crafted his resume (I never lied but I surely was selective in the words I used) and I coached him for hours on his interview.

Do I really feel bad though? No. You simply never know what a person will be like on the job until they are on it. That's why employers use probationary periods. Where I live, an employer can fire an employee within the first three months of employment for no reason. On the flip side, an employee can quit within the first three months without giving notice. Sometimes even the best candidates are not the right fit.

Maria Lopez said...

As a former bad employee, I've often wondered what my boss did wrong. He picked me for my technical skills and intelligence. Unfortunately, due, at least in part, to an unrecognized medical condition I lacked the energy to do the job and spent too much time surfing the web.

Now, my boss gave hard three hour interviews. Couching would not have helped anyone as he used Google style puzzle questions. Despite the effort he put in he had to let me and another underperformer go.

What could he have done differently?

First I'm not sure that intelligence, while important, was as relevant as he thought. Software QA does involve learning multiple aspects of the system under test, but the learning is relatively shallow.

I believe that he should have included a simulation involving boring tasks to get a better outcome. I once had a programming interview that included a test of the candidates ability to act as a computer.

While I thought the content of this particular test
silly, the fact it required some use of short term memory and was extremely boring might actually make it a good test for software qa engineers and low level developers.

By the way, take a look at the "Death by Degrees" article in N plus 1 magazine. The author might be a leftist but you will find the artilce agreeable.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think I'd like the process you've discussed better, because people tell me that I'm better at things like tests than "glad-handling."

Although this post focuses on employers, there are important implications for employees to "cover all bases" in job searching.

#1. Referrals are powerful. Even if you're answering ads, a referral is a real boost. IMPORTANT CAUTION! But many referrals often are motivated more by "getting a cut of the swag" than seeing you succeed at your new job; after all, they often get paid whether or not you succeed.

#2. You're always "on stage" when you're interviewing, from the time you walk in the door until you drive away.

#3. Have a lot of references lined up and ask them BEFORE you use them if they want to be a good reference, and if they feel comfortable giving you a good reference. Cut out anyone who isn't willing to do so.

#4. Be ready to explain any shortfalls on your part. If you made past mistakes, admit and own up to them.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, but I'd lose item #2a. Regardless of effectiveness, administering an IQ test or demanding standardized test scores could be considered discriminatory and a violation of federal law.

This has been the case for 40 years, ever since the Supreme Court ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power, which rewrote discrimination law and has often been pointed to as a cause of degree requirements and credentialism in the workplace.

Marty Nemko said...

You're absolutely right. Thank you. I've now posted an update next to that item that reflects what you wrote.


blogger templates | Make Money Online