I have been in talent recruiting for the last twelve years at companies large and small. In that time, I have been in thousands of interviewers with candidates of mixed gender, mixed race, all professional and educational levels and socio-economic backgrounds. I am always astounded, during the interview process, when candidates have a chance to talk with HR and don’t seek to gain any information beyond the basic questions, many of which can be gained on the company website or job description. As I have progressed in my own career and reached executive levels of human resource leadership, the fact that I continue to be astounded at candidates who miss the opportunity hasn’t changed much. It happens every time I ask, “So, you’re with the HR leader – what questions do you have for me” and the answer is, “Nothing, really. I’m good.” Really?
An interview process is designed to do two things - help the hiring manager decide if the candidate is the best one to make a difference and help the candidate determine if the role and the company is the best place to make a difference. Both parties have decisions to make – and isn’t it always better to make an informed decision? From the candidate perspective, much goes into the decision to join a firm. Not the least of which are the “softer” things that are necessary to know about a company that aren’t glaringly apparent from their website or job description. How does one find those things out? They ask. They ask things like:
“How do the results this role produces help drive the company’s strategic goals? How does it all fit together?” This is a particularly powerful question as it tells a lot about the way information flows through the organization and how aligned everyone is toward the same goals. If there is a common thread with how the hiring manager answers and how HR answers, there is a lot of connection happening in the company. It also indicates how much thought the company has given to each role as it relates to the vision of the company. If the HR leader can talk about how the role fits into the ecosystem of the company and its strategic goals, it signals that even at that cost-center level, the leadership is very business driven and aligned.
“You’ve seen a lot of candidates who become employees. Beyond what is expected in the job description, tell me what makes a good candidate a great employee?” As an HR practitioner, I love this question. The candidate is demonstrating a real interest in understanding the soft skills required to be successful as well as what is valued at the company. For candidates, there is a WEALTH of information in the answer to this question – from how the company thinks about performance and success to how the cultural attributes are built into performance expectations. I’ve often said it’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it. Having information to round out these dimensions of performance can help one differentiate what they need to do, if in fact, they are offered and accept the role. It can also help the candidate position themselves throughout the process.
“Tell me how the company, and perhaps how you’ve seen the hiring manager, deal with successful projects and ones that don’t go so well. How does it/they respond?” It is important for a candidate to know that there is a supportive, progressive culture that values innovation and learning from attempts. If it is a blaming culture that finger-points and penalizes those who try and perhaps don’t succeed, it would be better to know before the decision is made to join. Candidates should seek to understand how open the company is to evolution and growth, new ideas and courageous attempts – and how easy they make it to be innovative. Do things get celebrated regularly? And if they aren’t successful, is learning captured and shared in a respectful, inclusive way? How is that information used by each employee to learn and grow?
“I’ve seen your reviews on Glassdoor and other sites. Would you be open to sharing information with me about employee satisfaction – how you measure it, how you respond to it, and giving me, with the appropriate releases, access to it? Would it be possible, too, should we get further down the path, for me to speak to individuals on the team that are doing the same role as I am?” I never get this question (or set of questions) and often wish I would. I tell clients I counsel, ad nauseum, to “triangulate their data,” so that they are getting various perspectives on a single subject to inform their decisions. This is no different than advice I give to candidates. If you see something that is causing you concern about a company’s culture or social media rating, ask for some validation. Social media, including Glassdoor, is only ONE set of listening systems. Most HR teams use other listening systems to understand how employees are feeling. Seeing that for oneself can be powerful to a candidate in deciding whether this company and this role are the right ones. It is also effective to know what they do with that information – does it inform the programs that the company drives? How so? Asking to talk to team mates that may have not been on the interview loop is a fantastic way to understand the team dynamics and see if there is consistency between what is heard from the interview team and the front-line employees. It can also confirm that the hiring manager has a good pulse on the employees in the team as well as if the role is being explained in a transparent fashion – good and bad.
“You’ve been with company x for a while, now. Why did you make this the next step in your career?” (Or, if the HR leader is new, it could be phrased, “You’re new here. Why did you choose this role, this company over others you had a choice to go to?”) This answer is invaluable, especially if asked of everyone on the interview loop. One should look for consistency and common threads in everyone’s answer. The answers will likely have some blend of personal reasons, but they should signal things that make this company, this role, or the timing special and can help with visibility “behind” the curtain into what motivations people had to select this firm. It may broaden the candidate perspective about this opportunity in ways they weren’t thinking. It can also shed light on the broader cultural aspects of a company.
Interviews are an opportunity for the candidate to differentiate themselves from others, absolutely. They are also meant to help one get the information needed to make a great decision about next professional steps. Information is power, so don’t miss the opportunity to get that information and use it to help lead to a great, informed decision. If you are finding that your interview experience isn't getting you the insights you need to make a good decision, give us a call. We're always happy to help!
EQ. Emotional quotient. Emotional intelligence. Call it what you like. Everyone says it like the new “phrase du jour” but how many people have it? How many people talk about it but don’t really practice it? How many of us, especially those who are stewards of our company’s biggest asset - people (aka managers) - actually know what it is and how to get it?
Emotional intelligence is not just the phrase that pays. It is, in my humble opinion, essential to being the best version of a people manager you can be. You can look up the definition of EQ and slice it every way to Sunday, but for me, it is all about connection. The way a manager connects to an employee and uncovers how they communicate, how they learn, what motivates them, why one thing is more important over something else. It is the way we create trust through authenticity and transparency. It is a trusted connection that is not to be eschewed and it isn’t a buzzword that will drift away as soon as the next new, shiny concept comes along.
Several studies have supported what we have all heard - that people leave managers, not companies. Yet so many managers that I have worked with spend very little time on building their EQ skills and finding ways to connect to employees beyond the projects, tasks, goals, results and to-do’s that drive the day-to-day operations in a business. Driving results is job #1, right? Results don’t happen unless people make them happen. You can have the best strategies and tactics in the world, but if you don’t spend the requisite time engaging and inspiring your employees in ways that are meaningful to them and drive real connection to the impact their having – well, strategies mean nothing.
I believe in coaching – helping people discern the issues at hand; leading them to discover the right answer, and guiding them toward visioning a solution. It’s an inclusive, empathetic way to manage – focused more on reflection rather than direction. Embracing a coaching mentality – pick whatever model you like – (I like the STRIDE model, personally – Strengths, Target, Reality, Ideas, Decision, Evaluation) – can help any manager become more inclusive, build more empathy, unlock motivations and build the critical social skills (think: influence, communication, leadership, change agency, conflict resolution, partnership, contracting) necessary to be not only a well-liked manager, but an effective one, too.
There was an article on Psychcentral.com about EQ. It cited that success is based in small part on your IQ and in larger amounts on your emotional capabilities. With those kinds of numbers, what do we have to lose in building a little emotional muscle? We have everything to gain – and so do your employees.
If you're curious about how to build EQ within your leaders and their teams, reach out. We have learning programs specifically designed toward EQ and trust.
Passive search? Actively looking? Who cares. I want the curious candidate.
There is a lot of talk going on out in the talent attraction world about what is better: the passive candidate who isn’t looking or the active candidate who is on the hunt. Frankly, I don’t care. I don't believe that the sense of urgency defines whether a candidate is good or bad; it just gives insight into additional motivations the person may have and may lend some view into the level of openness someone has about the type of role that they are going after. You can find someone who hasn’t thought about leaving their company and hasn’t taken an interest in looking elsewhere – and that same person could also be someone you don’t exactly want in your culture. I am more interested in finding out whether the person seeks things out – and that may or may not be seeking the next job. Dollars over donuts, time and time again, I’ll take the curious candidate over the complacent one.
What then, exactly, is the “curious” candidate? I think about it as the never-ending thirst. I want to find the person who has a history of asking questions; questions of themselves, their colleagues, and their company. It is the person that seeks to understand the “what for;” the “why” behind the what, and more importantly, the “how” behind it all. This is the person who has tried new things and sometimes won; more importantly, they have tried and then taken the time to consider what happened and what could have been done differently. They are also likely the person who wonders what their role was and what they could have done differently. These are the people that learn and grow and cause others, through their curiosity, to find new things and evolve.
These are the candidates who, when I ask if they have questions, have some to ask. They don’t just have the basic questions – you know – the ones about benefits, culture and work/life balance. They ask how decisions get made in the company. They ask what the team dynamic is like and who the influencers are on the team; they ask about what makes them so. They ask how employees get involved in driving strategy and getting things done. They ask what the non-negotiables are in the culture and why those are so important. They ask how open to change the company is and what is expected of employees in driving change. They seek to understand the underpinnings of the company – not just what we do, but why we do it and how it gets done.
Having the hunger for making things better through understanding spurs creativity and energy that moves things. This is the positive conflict that drives innovation and we need more curiosity out there. When I coach hiring managers, I tell them that these are the people they want to hire. When I mentor individuals, I tell them that these are the people they want to be. They are the curious ones – and those are the ones I want to talk to. And eventually, hire.
f you want a different way to discover, engage and empower those curious candidates who will seek to better your organization, give Verte Square a call. We'd be happy to help.
I was recently asked to submit thoughts for an article about candidate experience and what gives it the "wow" factor. I have lots of thoughts on that specifically (another post) but believe that candidate experience doesn't just end with the "hire." What you build in terms of candidate value proposition should link seamlessly with the employee value proposition and the experience should blend from candidate to employee, without edges. What took you to get that candidate to your company should be what keeps them there as an employee - and what you do in those first days can make all the difference.
Every business is different, to be sure. What it takes and how long it takes for a new employee to be fully functioning differs immensely, so it’s important to get alignment on what success looks like for the landing period. On-boarding should not be designed to overwhelm the employee and bring them to optimum or high-performance; ideally they will build that ability the longer that they are in role flexing the muscles you build during on-boarding. It should include what is needed to make them functional in role and be the missing link that helps to bring things together and paint the picture of success. It should give them what they need to start that journey of success.
How they get there is where the planning comes in so that every employee receives the same, high-quality exposure that gives them what they need to be successful. This can be done through a set of experiences that ready the new employee to spend the first few weeks or months getting the hang of how things get done. Important to root it in the values of the company - and help them get the connections, learning and skills that will make them successful in the long run.
If you're on-boarding program doesn't fit in the puzzle of business success, give us a call at Verte Square. We have partnered with clients to teach them how re-frame candidate experience to bring the results they and their candidates deserve.
I was delivering a program on Trust and Team Engagement recently - as part of a Leadership Development program for a client. The topic was Trust and building - why trust is important, how to build trust and using trust to engage teams. In any relationship, the foundation components are trust, respect and shared purpose. Trust, at its most basic, is about credibility, reliability and intimacy (aka EQ or emotional quotient.) It is the connective bond created by two or more people that lives in both logical construct and powerful emotions. Having someone that you rely on, someone that is credible and that someone that has your back - can change the way you experience the world. In a professional sense, it is critical to how you experience what you do every day and can make or break whether you stay or go at your company.
Trust in a personal relationship and a professional one is different. Or is it? In the personal relationship, trust is built over time via dependability which comes with transparency, consistency and integrity. The more the other person brings you in, the more often they do what they say they will do - the connection builds and you become comfortable and safe. You become more invested in the other person because you believe, from your experience, that you can rely on them. Just because you walk into a corporate environment, does this change? In the professional realm, the results of that comfort becomes a wider investment - you not only invest more in the job itself, but you often become more invested in the team and the company. For many companies, trust is an important value but an elusive attribute within their culture. It can be built or nurtured and either way you need to go, it takes effort and consistent focus.
Trust also comes with the connection - helping the other person discover things in their journey, not taking the journey for them. We travel paths with people, and often times, we help them make choices about their steps. Sometimes, we can even help get them there, but in the healthy relationships, we don't tell them where to go. Managers who can help their teams to discover things on their own, consistently, will build trust both individually and collectively. Each person has their own way, and because we are all individuals, when things come from within us, they are uniquely ours. We own them. Coaching someone to think about situations and think through solutions can help them lead themselves to the right path. Doing this consistently - all in the spirit of helping them find the best version of themselves - builds trust. Staying in relationship with them isn't about being right or telling them what the right path is. Building trust, respect and shared purpose helps them find it, own it and take it.
I, along with millions of others, have watched in disgust as daily reports of sexual harassment explode out of entertainment, government, corporate America, and technology like an angry, fiery volcano that has been building steam for centuries. It is sickening that in this day of supposed enlightenment, progress and equality – people are still abusing their actual or perceived power over others.
As a woman, I applaud my sisters who had the courage to come forward and end their silence, taken for so many reasons I am not even going to try to understand. As a human, I applaud my brothers who found the strength to share their stories despite fear of ridicule, judgment or worse. As an HR professional, I ask myself…how can this have been prevented?
Our society needs to heal itself toward creating inclusion and equality for everyone, for sure. However, much of this abuse occurred within formal or informal organizational structures where there is an expectation that those in leadership positions would and should know better. Should we all just assume that because society needs healing, the microcosm of organizational structures is just doomed to stay in this abusive, disrespectful state? I think that there is another way for leaders to partner with HR to help the right outcomes happen.
This current climate won’t change overnight. It is complex, and will need to be addressed at multiple angles from numerous vantage points. It must happen in homes, schools, communities and workplaces. At the professional level, this is a space HR plays in every day – driving and guiding change management. We must all be active participants to be the change we want to see.
Ever had this happen to someone you know? Maybe your last employee who just left for greener pastures less than a year after they came? Read this in a review on Glassdoor?
“I found the perfect job, had an incredible interview experience, received an offer and delightedly accepted. I hemmed and hawed in the days before I started, imagining how fantastic my first day would be. I bubbled with anticipation of all of the great people I would meet and interesting things I was going to learn. I could hardly wait to start and almost lost a night’s sleep the night before my first day. I arrived early, clutching my notebook and eagerly awaited all the amazing experiences yet to come. And then it happened. They took me in, sat me down, gave me some passwords and told me to have a good day.”
That’s not how you planned it in HR, is it? There is nary a bigger waste than landing a brand new employee poorly. Good on-boarding is one of the most important things you can do to ensure success of your people and your company. It can make or break the employer brand you’ve worked so hard to build. In a tight labor market, good experiences can be the difference between getting that awesome candidate to accept or not. Bad on-boarding poorly can cost you a lot of money. Not just in searching and finding that “A” player, but in training them, orienting them and investing in them. When they walk away, so does your money, institutional knowledge and efficiency gains from continuity that could have been.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Driving the right connections, experiences and knowledge gains from the get go can make all the difference for a new hire to land well and feel welcome. Drawing a line between their role and the greater purpose of the company connects their mind and heart and brings resonance to the job. Ensuring that they have the right support along the way can make a lasting impact.