Is this a good place to work?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 - Article, Job Interview, Job Interview, Job Interview Techniques

Job Interview

Creative Commons License photo credit: J-Duʙ

As a recruiter, the one thing that is always a bit stressful in this job is when your candidates meet your client. It’s always stressful because I take pride in my work, but I know from the statistics that at best I will only get it right between 50% and 65% of the time – yep, that’s a hit ratio of two in three clients (candidates if you prefer) at best getting on with one client (employer, if you prefer).

Confused here, are we? Why do I refer to them both as “clients?”

By the the time they meet, whether they be candidates or employers in someone else’s view, they are all clients to me. Yes, only one pays me money, but they both pay me back in feed back. Which translates into whether they will come back, or recommend other people to have a conversation.

But, please understand, that’s only what goes on in my business and in most head hunting and executive placement organisations. The High Street and mass recruitment is normally a different story.

There, process drive over comes people, and systems such as keyword vetting occur to narrow down the mass of employees to the few (can often be in the 100’s) to be met, psych tested, and feed with an occasional vending machine coffee. If you pass the two plus stages of the vetting procedure – often outsourced to a third party company, so that claims of age/sex/race discrimination are shared and nullified – you then get to the interview.

At this point, the average candidates goes to the internet, and searches for the 100/1000/10,000 (insert a larger number if you want/need…..) most common answers to interview questions book. I will just here pay a quick homage to Nick Corcodilos over at Ask The Headhunter, who has a wonderful “ultimate” scenario for this “standard interview answers” situation. Nick suggests that eventually candidates who are faced with such an approach will ask for the questions in writing before the interview, and simply mail back their answers rather than appear in person. The HR professional then simply marks it like an exam paper, pass or fail.

Oh I wholly agree, what an awful Orwellian like future if all you had to do was come out with the “right” answer.

As a recruiter, I train good clients (candidates) to be prepared, and also socially position them for the interview – and I do the same with all clients (employers). What goes on next can appropriately be compared to a first date scenario: is there a spark, can they work together, is there a match? Hence why two conclusions can be drawn from the outcome:

  • I only have a hit ratio of between 50% and 65%. And in part that’s because…
  • If they agree to work together, the job that I was recruiting for is not the job scope eventually agreed on through negotiation by the two clients

The reason for this is simple. Good candidates ask as many questions of good employers, as the employers do of the candidate. They hence sell themselves, become part of the team, and it proven by them negotiating their own job brief.

But in the mass High Street market that’s not possible – or is it? Until you have got past two or three stages of vetting process, you probably will not have met the representative from the HR department, let alone (if ever before day one of employment), meet the person you will be working for. So when you are offered an interview, and you buy the 1000+ ultimate interview questions book, you must think you stand a fair chance of a job?

One thing none of the “ultimate answers to interviews” style books answer is – what questions as a candidate should you be asking? If you don’t have at least five questions prepared, and ask at least three good ones, then the vetting process will exclude you. They didn’t tell you that one in the ultimate interview answers book, did they!

One of the questions you should ask of an actual employee of the company, is:

Is this a good place to work?

In fact, I often suggest that you go one stage further, and ask:

Why did you decide to work here in the first place,

and what aside form the pay makes you stay?

You see, people hire people, and much as though a system has vetted you as having the right skills and an “appropriate” fit into their culture, to land the job offer you have to stand out from the crowd and grab the right job. If they can’t sell you their company now, why should you want to buy?

A fair question in this present economic environment would be to ask: is it right to ask this question now? Surely, any job will do? Believe you me, there are enough quality candidates out there at present, if your don’t engage on a human level and stand out from the crowd, or just aim to grab the first job you see – you will be unemployed for a long, long, time.

Do yourself a favour, and in your next interview, act as a buyer as much as a seller.

Good Luck!


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