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Go; No Go

December 20, 2011 1 comment

Go; No Go

this is the basic quality check process. you run the finished or intermediate product through a series of filters or checks. If the product goes through, it is passed; if not, it is a reject.

The recruiting approach commonly being adopted by organisations across the globe are uncannily similar. The filters & tests change depending on what the company does and what they are hiring for, but the concept is same.  If the candidates pass through all the checks, they are selected, if they falter at any stage, they are out.

Human beings, unlike products, react differently to different situations and with different people. The filters themselves ( the people who evaluate or interview) are influenced by their perceptions & their own knowledge. Very often you find a candidate being screened by an HR person who has no clue about the role requirements at the ground level. The wsj article on why HR makes hiring mistakes touches on this. Two line managers may evaluate the same candidate differently.  The funny thing is that the fitment process does not stop at hiring but continues through-out the employee life cycle. Rarely is any attempt made at employee valuation.

In effect, the whole exercise is one of trying to fit the candidate to parameters that are , rightly or wrongly, pre-defined.

Imagine, you have a position to fill, you have a bunch of resumes ( most often already screened by someone else based on preset parameters) to look at.  How do you filter out the ones whom you want to meet ? Do you keep only the position in mind when filtering or do you keep an open mind to look for good talent ?

Let’s say you have shortlisted some candidates based on their resumes ( Go; No Go) and are now ready to meet them face to face. What are the thoughts in your mind when you sit down for the discussion ? are you looking for a candidates who fits in to your job description or do you propose to evaluate the candidate & see how they can deliver value to you ?

Do you start with a cost band in mind or look for the right talent pay for what it deserves ?

Do companies hire to stick to the budgeted numbers or are open to induct a talent even though the budget does not provide for it ?

These and many other questions at every stage in the process provide you a choice between fitment and genuine evaluation.

when we work with  fitment as the goal, we start with a few assumptions such as –

1. we have the exact and correct description of the role

2. we are absolutely certain of  the qualities/skills needed to execute that role ?

3. we are looking to fill a current position

4. the salary band we have in mind is reasonable cut-off

5. the qualifications ( not skills) we have decided for the role, are appropriate ones & anyone without those qualifications is not a good fit.

6. we look to hire the functional person within the candidate & not really worry about the person’s strengths/abilities in other areas.

What if we

1. start with the assumption that we know the JD but the boundary conditions are fluid

2. are looking to see as to what the candidate brings in, to play his role in this position

3. are looking ahead ( as to how a candidate may enlarge the role or add more value than envisaged)

4. focus on the skills & not qualifications

5. look at hiring the person as a whole, not just the sales or operations person within the candidate.

No doubt there has to be some process for filtration. No hiring manager has the time to go through every profile & to meet every candidate that applies for a job.

A good first step would be to keep an open mind while meeting the few screened & shortlisted candidates. To look at a candidate as they are & what value they can deliver as against trying to pass them through some filters.

Minimizing Interview No Shows

July 17, 2011 Comments off

“Interview No Shows” by candidates is a frustrating experience recruiters go through and often leaves them red faced. Not only the time and effort put in goes for a toss but what is more painful for the recruiter is his competency/credibility gets under the scanner. In case of agency recruiters this could mean even losing the client if this happens more than once.

Although it is not possible to totally eliminate no shows, taking a look at the process and messaging might help in reducing this by a fair bit. Its better to be safe than sorry 🙂

1. Assess candidate interest in the job
It is easy to get excited when you see candidate with right qualifications but if the candidate does not show enough enthusiasm about the opportunity then it is better to move to the next candidate than trying to persuade him. They are potential no shows.

Solution: Have a detailed phone discussion and do not hesitate to deep probe the candidate until you are fairly convinced he understands the role well and is interested in it.

Tip 1: Try to understand the candidates career aspirations, reason for change, salary expectations and any other such pertinent points first and check for the interest quotient.

Tip 2: Explain about the role in detail and ask if the role sounds like a good fit and if there are any gaps. Give a chance to decline to participate in the interview process at the beginning itself.

Tip 3 : Once you share the job details ask either to reply back to your email or call you back with a confirmation (or updated profile). If there is no prompt/sufficient response drop the candidate.

Tip 4 : “Wow” the candidate and see if candidate “wows” you back- Share things that might excite such as career prospects, work culture, projects that they would work on, people they would work with, pay potential, onsite opportunities, working with top clients etc. And see if they try to sell themselves too as a perfect match to your job.

Tip 5: Make a follow up call with in 48hrs to check that the interest levels are intact. At times candidates show interest during initial call but subsequently might have change of heart due to various reasons ( additional research about the company, discussion with friends etc) and decide not to proceed further.

2. Communication is the Key
Often recruiters think that with one phone call and one follow up email/call (with details of interview) their job is done and the candidate will turn up for the interview. Chances are they might not. Candidates might feel lack of interest, lack of knowledge, lack of process clarity and this means they are less engaged in the process.

Solution: All this can be avoided by having a continuous and meaningful communication post the initial call. The goal is to remove as much uncertainty as possible in the interview process.

Tip 1: Provide all necessary details ( job description, company details, growth prospects, interview process etc) in the initial call and again immediately through a follow up email.

Tip 2: Follow up communication is necessary especially if interview is scheduled too soon or too long after the initial interaction.

Tip 3: Interview confirmation should be emailed to the candidate so they have the venue address and time stamp and there are no confusions.

Tip 4: Call or send text messages as reminder a day before and the day of the interview.

Tip 5 : Make it easy for them to call and cancel (or reschedule) in advance of the interview time.

3. Avoid hasty processing
Often either due to eagerness to submit the candidates in a shorter turn around time or anxiety of submitting enough candidates as expected by client, recruiters tend to submit candidates with only surface screening. But when the profiles get shortlisted and interview slots are given they scramble to fetch the availability of the candidates. Such hasty processing will get the recruiters into trouble.

Solution: Start early , screen thoroughly and stay in touch.

Tip 1: Start the sourcing process early so that the candidate has enough time to prepare for the interview and also adjust his calendar or apply leave to make himself available for the interview.
Tip 2: Sourcing the candidates well in time also helps the recruiter to spend more time on screening them thoroughly and drop candidates who do not show enough enthusiasm.

Tip 2: Do not push the candidates for interview: If you know that the candidate prefers a non work day/ work hours interview slot then schedule him during that time only. If the client/hiring manager cannot accommodate such slots then communicate the same to the candidate and drop him. Instead of requesting him to be flexible, let him volunteer to change his schedule and accommodate himself if he is really serious about the job.

Tip 3: Do not commit to interview slots with the client before getting confirmation from the candidate.

4. Interview Prepping
Fear of getting rejected is one of the reasons of no show. Candidates develop got cold feet especially when attending interviews with big companies or interviewing after a long time.

Solution: Let them know why they stand a good chance of getting hired and what you liked about their profile. Give them that confidence. Provide them with tips and suggestions on what to and how to prepare for the interview.

Tip 1: Share with them the market/competitor knowledge, previous interview questions and any information that helps them prepare well for the interview.

Tip 2: Share with them the interviewer details ( role, designation, expectations)

Tip 3: Suggest them the tweaking they need to do in their answers and resume to sound more effective and efficient.

5. Logistics Issues
Often both the candidate and recruiter overlook the logistics issues involved. In such cases although the candidate intended to attend the interview originally he ends up as a no show.

Common logistic issues
• Interview location too far off and the realization dawns on the date of interview
• Unable to locate the interview venue
• Not getting leave since the interview was scheduled at a short notice
• Interview scheduled during work hours and their inability to get off work

Solution: Discuss the logistics issues in detail so that proper planning can be done.

Tip 1: Give as much as possible advance notice about the interview schedule. Do not push for interviews with short notice.

Tip 2: Provide venue address, landmarks, route map and contact persons details. Inform them of possible traffic and parking issues.

Tip 3: Offer them help in terms of locating the venue or information on appropriate commuting means.

Tip 4: Caution them of the danger of getting lost in work and getting delayed for interview in case of attending during work hours.

6. Whats the Big deal about no show?
Candidates do not know the probability of their hiring. So for them it is missing the interview and not missing the job. Hence they see no immediate consequences for being a no show especially when the job market is active.

Solution: Tell them up front about how a “no show” impacts the firm and tell them also the consequences. In many cases talking it out openly helps.

Tip 1: Tell them clearly that if they are a ‘no-show’ interview will not get rescheduled.

Tip2 : Tell them that the interview slots are limited some one else equally deserving looses the opportunity.

Tip 3: Tell them that you would not process them for any other opportunity ever again ( and stick to it)

7. Establish a bond
The recruiter should try to establish a ‘bond’ with the candidate to create a sense of trust and commitment. If the candidate experience is managed well, chances are that the candidate is more likely to attend the interview as scheduled. Stop formal interviewing. Have an informal conversation about them and their ideas. Add them to your LinkedIn profile.

Make them feel that it is not a transaction based interaction but you are more like a career consultant for them and this would be a mutually beneficial long term relation. Move from being a stranger to a friend.

5 point checklist for SME hiring

July 3, 2011 1 comment

This is my 5 point checklist for hiring for a small business. Essential points you should keep in mind if you own an SME/ Start-up and are looking to hire initial few employees and the next few. This list should complement your functional screening.

  • Hire people who want to work with you – Look for people who want to work with you, who feel confident about your abilities and who share your dream.  Avoid people who want to work because you have a premium address, or because they feel they can learn by working with you (look for self-learners)  or because you have got funded etc. These people will be there to share the pleasures but ditch at the first sign of pain.
  • Look for people whose aspirations match yours. Aspirations are like shoes. Too big a shoe is loose and uncomfortable, too small, it pinches and is unwearable.
  • People who can pull your venture & team forward rather than those who will drag you back. Avoid those, who need to be motivated to deliver. You don’t need people who will themselves become problems rather than solutions. Do they have the drive like you to make things work or will they get bogged down by the seemingly insurmountable everyday problems ?
  • Experience  or Attitude ?- Go for attitude. You can always teach skills as long as you have the right attitude and basic capabilities. Experience is a double-edged sword. Experienced professionals can get you off the block faster. At the same time, too much experience may block new ideas. They may end up doing the same things which they did in their previous jobs.
  • Culture fit – what sort of organisation do you want to build ? free-flowing & fun-loving, highly disciplined professional, fast moving & flexible, process driven & strict. If you are clear on this, make sure you evaluate every prospective employee for this.  A culture misfit can give you more headaches than anything else and can be disruptive.
What are the things you keep in mind when hiring for a small business ?

What do recruiters look for in your resume?

June 23, 2011 Comments off

You have less than half a minute to catch the attention of recruiter going through your resume. I am not exaggerating, that’s how busy the recruiters are and that’s what they (think) can afford on scanning through each of those dozens of resumes on a typical day.

And if you fail to get them interested in you through your resume you just end up missing many good career opportunities.  It does not matter how capable, committed and accomplished professional you are.. what matters is how well you are able to put across those very qualities clearly and confidently on your resume to get the recruiters hooked.

It certainly helps to understand what recruiters look for in resumes so that powered with that specific knowledge you can build a resume that will improve your odds of getting that phone call to your dream job.

Resume Title:

Resume titles should reflect your area of expertise rather than your current designation. You could be called a software developer or software engineer or IT analyst or Associate consultant at different companies but doing the same basic role of coding applications in Java. Hence recognizable titles help recruiters understand your job function and the field you work in easily. And when they see that the role your are in (or is interested in) is one that they are recruiting for your battle is half won.

Professional Summary:

A simple and short but engaging professional summary which highlights your areas expertise, your accomplishments and provides an insight into what value you can bring in and how you are different and better than other candidates helps in creating both credibility and instant respect. Remember first impression is the best impression.

Stability:

Recruiters would prefer that the candidates have an average tenure of 2 yrs and ideally 3 yrs with their employers. Hiring Managers have become very particular about this aspect and hence recruiters prefer not to submit candidates who are job hoppers. So it helps to mention the reason for change in case the change had valid reasons. In case there are career gaps, better call out the reasons rather skipping to mention the dates of employment to cover the gaps.

Experience & Skills:

Be more specific when it comes to the skills. The length and breadth of your experience can be clearly seen in the skills you have acquired and utilized in your jobs.

Its important to call out depth of the experience using  appropriate words such as expertise, exposure, knowledge, understanding, hands on etc. These qualifiers help the recruiter understand your comfort level and competency in a particular skill.

Also if your experience is predominantly in a particular domain such as healthcare or IT or Finance and you intend to continue in the same domain do high light your expertise and preference for that domain. Also use liberally industry specific keywords and business language to drive home the point that you belong in there.

Conversely if you are willing and adaptable to change domains focus more on the core skills and evidence your flexibility to work adeptly in other domains too so that you profile is not rejected for lack of industry specific expertise.

Achievements & Recognition

Key achievements and recognitions for contributions of significance go a long way in establishing your credibility as an accomplished performer. They can set you apart from other applicants and can give you instant head start. They can be provided either as a separate section in the resume or mentioned alongside the roles and responsibilities with various employers.

Achievements not only should be quantifiable and measurable but also the context in which they have been achieved need to be mentioned. For instance improved the sales by 80% or reduced the operating costs by 20% in a product category which is sluggish or has been severely impacted by market movements is a better way to quantify and qualify the achievement. Even still better would be writing a line or two about what specific actions you have taken to get those stupendous results.

Awards and promotions show that you have positively impacted the company’s cause and hence were recognized for your contributions or entrusted you with more responsibility as mark of trust in your abilities.

Employers:

Unless the employers are well established brands the recruiters may not recognize them. Hence it would be good for you to give a brief introduction of your employers and bring out positive elements about the company that can catch the attention of the recruiter. For instance CMMi level kind of certifications in case of technology company or growth rate in case of startup company, or industry recognition in case of operating in a niche area can show your current/previous employers in a positive light. Remember the recruiter consciously or unconsciously values your competency based on what kind of employers you worked/working at.

Education/Qualifications: 

Often hiring managers set minimum parameters around education. They could be either mandatory or preferred parameters. It could be around the qualification or the percentage or perception of the college or universities general standards.

So if you feel that your academic accomplishments are noteworthy make an effort to elaborate them. For instance studying at a premier institute or receiving a scholarship or medal or mentioning any distinction or above average percentages etc. Anything that will put your academics in good light will help create an impression that you have always been an achiever.

If the academic qualifications have not been great then one way to offset that is by mentioning certifications and special trainings you have received, especially when they are industry specific or job specific. They can really create a positive impact. Any articles, case studies you have published can create an impression of subject matter expert. Same holds true if you are member/associate of any groups, forums, associations which are relevant to the area of your interest.

Roles & Responsibilities

This should be more of key performance areas and deliverables and not just a list of duties. A clear and planned career movement that needs to be depicted which reflects the growth and increased potential in your abilities as the years passed by. Most often as the person gains experience and expertise the role becomes more strategic and decision making compared to operational and transactional in nature. This needs to be evidenced in the resume. Roles and responsibilities should reflect your ability and willingness to stretch, go that extra mile and do things beyond what is expected in the job to differentiate you from other candidates.

Personality: 

The tone and language in your resume should be positive, vibrant and confident. A resume which sounds like a laundry list of items will get a recruiter bored and frustrated. Creating a resume that gets read from start to finish is a difficult task, but it is possible if you inject your personality into the same. Then it becomes more like getting to know a person and not just reading some ones career history. Words and language that shows energy, excitement, enthusiasm, confidence, love for accomplishments, sense of responsibility will make the recruiter take a special interest.

Note: A resume will not get you a job that you don’t not have experience or expertise in. It can give you an opportunity to participate in an interview process for a job that you are qualified for

Categories: Careers, Recruitment, Resume Tags: ,

10 warning signals to drop a candidate

May 28, 2011 1 comment

Your most promising candidate drops out at the last moment. The short-listed candidate refuses to go for an interview. you are frustrated that your candidate just does not talk to you.

These and many other such instances are commonplace in the life of a recruiter. Every candidate gives you enough signs to tell you when he has lost interest in the opportunity that you are discussing with him. (male pronoun is being used throughout this post to represent both male as well as female candidates).  It is vital to read such signs as early as possible to avoid a heart-break at a later/final stage.

Here is  a list of 10 such signals based on my experience.

Signal #1 –  the candidate listens to you every-time you call ( and this has happened 3-4 times already) & asks you to call back after a day. Either the candidate is too slow to grasp or too indecisive or a procrastinator, all of which you may want to avoid in a candidate.

Signal #2 –  After repeated discussions, the candidate does not remember which profile you had discussed with him and wants you to go through the details again. A common explanation is that he has been talking to many consultants for a number of positions and does not remember which position he discussed with you. What ?

Signal #3 – Does not take your call & does not respond to your emails & text messages. Wake up my friend, the candidate is seriously not interested or is just sick of your calls. Of course, if the candidate had mentioned this in the first call, you would not have pestered him so much.

Signal #4 –  is busy every time you call him, does not give any specific time for you to call,  promises to call back all the time & never calls back. Do you really think this person will have time to attend the interview if shortlisted? Forget it.

Signal #5 – does not send his profile after promising to send ” within next 30 minutes” half a dozen times. He is probably not looking for a change . Most certainly he is not interested in the change that you are proposing.

Signal #6 –  is interested in that sales profile but wants it to be near his house ( or gives such similar contradictory reasons for other roles). Self-explanatory. Isn’t it ?

Signal #7 –  is interested in a profile but can’t travel too far ( within same city) to attend the interview, a variant of this is the candidate who keeps asking you to reschedule the interview for one reason or other and is too casual about the whole process. You can either keep such candidates or keep your client.

Signal #8 –  is unduly rude and impolite and treats you badly. If a candidate cannot reciprocate respect, he does not deserve you (unless of course money comes above self-respect on your list.

Signal #9 – claims to be the top performer, the do-all, highly decorated employee and yet is unable to justify the low remuneration level or the reason for change or the multiple gaps in the profile. Even more inexplicable cases are of such 5-star performers who leave jobs before you can say – candidate.

One of my conversation with a candidate went like this

iHR – why did you leave when you were doing so well ?

Star candidate (SC)  – I wanted 2 weeks leave. they did not allow me, so I left them

iHR – Why would a company do like to this to a star performer? You mentioned that you beat all your targets, you must be a valuable employee.

SC – They gave a better bonus to my colleague who is doing less than me. and when i asked for leave, they told me i had not done enough.

iHR – That should not be a problem, i am sure such a big organisation will have a good MIS & performance appraisal system. You can always prove what you have done.

SC – Nah, the MIS is all wrong and  had a fight with my boss about this as it is showing me at the bottom…

You know where it is leading to. Thank you so much.

Signal #10 – This is a serious one. Drop any candidate who does not seem alright in terms of integrity. There will be candidate who be willing to walk out on their existing employer, candidates who would request you not to mention certain details ( that they discussed with you about their job)  in your note to the client, candidates who cannot give convincing answers to glaring inconsistencies in their profile etc. There will be many such signs which a recruiter picks more by instinct. Recruiting is like match-making. It is not a transaction. would you ever want to suggest a candidate who would be a bad match ?

Are there any other signs that have made you decide to drop a candidate.  Feel free to share.

Why manage Candidate Experience?

March 22, 2011 Comments off

For the good recruiters handling candidate experience is a natural talent. Some thing they do as part of the recruitment process with or without being conscious of it. A great candidate experience helps the recruiter in more than one way.

Better Screening
First of all, the candidate opens up more than he/she would usually do. So recruiter gets to know more about the candidate, his needs and aspirations, strengths & limitations, hot buttons or even red flags and this gives a better insight of the candidate. This helps the recruiter know whether the candidate suits the role or not.

Better Offer Negotiation
Powered with this information recruiter can better engage the candidate. This would be of tremendous help during process delays or offer negotiations or notice buy out or competing offers etc.

Employment Branding
Another advantage is that the candidates who had pleasant experience are more prone to spread the word around about the recruiter, the opportunity and the company even if they don’t get selected. The employment branding piece remains intact or perhaps even gets added mileage due to the positive image being spread around.

Networking
Happy candidates will give recruiters more referrals and get you introduced their peers. This way every new candidate recruiter gets in to touch with and creates a positive vibes can expect to have his network increase by many fold.

Teaching Vs Learning

October 27, 2010 1 comment

In last 2 days I had two instances when I remembered the now-famous movie 3 idiots ( a Hindi movie talking about/ questioning the current methods of education & teaching).

The first one was when i was interviewing a candidate for the position of research analyst-trainee. The candidate , an MBA in finance with statistics & economics as electives, from a reputed college, talked about economy & showcased his vocabulary full of Jargon. It was quite impressive.

Midway through, I asked him what he knew about inflation ?  He gave me a long explanation and finally concluded that higher inflation meant higher prices while lower inflation meant lower prices. He was absolutely sure that a lower inflation meant prices were going down. After a discussion that was going nowhere, i gave up. I tried again and asked him what was meant by real interest rate. I just wanted to understand if he was able to relate our earlier discussion with this. He took me on a tangent & talked about how compounding worked and how the real interest rate was nothing buy the effective yield. The candidate was extremely confident & probably was under the impression that confidence & common sense were interchangeable.

The second instance was an interview with a Economics graduate (pursuing Master’s in Economics). Excellent communication, great confidence  but almost nil practical knowledge. One of the panel members asked her why prices go up in general. she was shocked and mumbled that she had not brushed up her concepts before coming to the interview. My friend was gentle & tried to help her by suggesting if there was any relationship between demand, supply & prices. ” Of course there was. Prices went up when demand increases. err… i think it is the other way. oh i can’t remember. we studied this in our first year ” . I asked her to give up the remembering part & to just try to think logically. She said her macro-economics was weak . I finally had to ask her as to why she chose Economics as a stream. She said she could not get admitted in science stream and she was told that economics was next best.

These are not two isolated instances where such situations present themselves. This is not even related to career counselling or choice of subjects., it is more to do with ability to enquire and about logical thinking processes.

I wonder if we are growing a crop of graduates & post-graduates who study to pass exams only? They are not encouraged to ask or to think while studying. By the time they want to choose a career, their thinking capacity is dead.

Many of them end up in routine jobs where they are encouraged NOT to think & to just follow instructions.  Their colleges are happy that their placement season was successful. What will these people grow up to be ? what sort of children will they bring up ?

Am I trying to exaggerate and hype up the issue ? You just need to look around & see that the issue is much deep-rooted than what we imagine it to be.  We are becoming slaves to degrees.

Of course there are brilliant minds & there are excellent institutions but then, they are very few compared to the numerous others who churn out degree holders.

The big question then is,  Are our institutions & teachers focusing so much on teaching that they become a barrier to learning ?

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