Thursday, January 08, 2009

Interview Tips

I flew out to LA this week to help do interviews for several higher management positions in my company. We wanted to see what we got off the street for the position and see how that worked out in today’s market.

I’ve never seen so many out of work mortgage people. I should point out I never shook any of them and asked “What were you THINKING?!?” I get points for that.

OK. The tips.

You’re interviewing for a position at a retail store. If I ask you “Have you ever been to one of our stores before?” Don’t say “Nope. But I’m a fast learner.” We set up the interview a week ago. You had plenty of time to find out who we were, we sent you links to our site, and addresses of the stores you’d be over. Why didn’t you go. You got no second interview.

When I ask you the names of three of your most key people at your last position where you had 17 employees. If you can’t name ANY of them, make something up. There’s no way I’ll know you’re lying. If you can’t think of two I won’t hire you.

Don’t say “synergy” or claim that you’re “good with people,” or say that you “believe in good customer service.” I’m sorry. Do you also believe in Santa Claus? It’s not a belief bucko… it’s a passion. Synergy was not a word that was used correctly by any of the six people (of the 24 I interviewed over 3 days) who used it. I kept a count.

Trash talking your entire crew when you were their manager at your previous job will not inspire me to believe you won’t turn this crew sour. Sorry, no chance for you to wreck our folks. Thanks for playing though. Oh, and when you said “I get that sometimes I”ll have to do minion work until I get another one hired.” You pretty much turned my boss off completely, and he was across the room. Minions? Who are you? Dr. Moderately-bad?

My most fun question to ask was, “You’ve been in the position where hiring and firing were part of your job responsibilities before. Which did you find most difficult?” I got a huge range of answers. My least favorite? “Oh, neither’s hard. I’m good with people.”

My favorite was, “Hiring is the most difficult. Even Charles Manson could interview well, long term is hard to tell at an interview. Firing though… By the time I’m to the point where it’s time to fire an employee I’ve given them all the coaching and training and chances I can. I’ve given them every opportunity to succeed and they just don’t want to at that point so firing is a decision they make for me by their actions. Hiring is much more difficult. I probably shouldn’t have said ‘Manson,’ should I?”

Fun fact: When I asked what one of them did to unwind, decompress after a hard week with long hours, outside hobbies, etc, she said “you’ll not know what it is or think I’m a dork but there’s this thing called ‘geocaching’.” I let her keep talking as I reached down and grabbed my backpack and pulled out my GPS and showed her. We talked caching for a bit and I suggested she listen to Sonny and Sandy’s podcacher podcast. I was amazed she didn’t know about them already. They’re practically local.

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