Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The #1 Reason Candidates Fail Interviews

For over 20 years I have sat in on thousands of interviews; in person, over the phone, via video and whatever other scenario is available. Some of these numerous interviews have been impromptu, others well planned, some with just 1 interviewer and others with a panel of interviewers.  In almost every interview that has gone off the rails, the people being interviewed have failed for the same reason, they are not succinct in their answers.

Open ended questions – the questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” answer, tend to send candidates off on rabbit trails, which will derail an interview in a matter of minutes.  Short and concise answers are ideal, but even the most polished professionals can get lost in their responses.

Here is a prime example of a popular open ended interview question:  “Tell us about yourself” – I’ve heard people go off on tangents about their hobbies, their pets, their middle school heartbreak, college sports achievements, health issues, prior employment issues, and other even less appropriate topics.  Consider the industry you’re in and think about how you’d answer that question in an interview…..(I’ll wait)…..  Are you at a loss, or do you feel you know exactly what to say?  Here are a few things to consider prior to answering:

1.       What do you know about the company you are interviewing for?  (Culture, Philosophies, Environment etc.)

2.       What do you know about the people that are interviewing you? (Background, Education, Personality etc.)

3.       What do you know about the position you are interviewing for? (Management, Responsibilities, Why the position is open, Who was in the position before etc.)

Now let’s dive into those 3 areas a bit:  (1) Prior to your interview you should have researched the company’s web site to review their mission statement, their vision statement and learn anything else you can about the company history – where they started, WHY they started and where they’re going. Armed with that information you can align your answers to their company objectives.

 (2) Your second internet search should be to Google the person or people interviewing you – what is their title at the company, where did they come from and where did they go to school, have they done anything interesting (charity work, etc).  If Google doesn’t turn up anything, search LinkedIn. Once you’ve gained some insight into their backgrounds you can potentially touch on things you might have in common, like graduating from the same college or volunteering for the same charities.

(3) And finally, do you have a complete job description of the position you are interviewing for?  If not that is absolutely something you should request prior to interviewing.  Will you be required to travel, to manage people, to work late, to work weekends?  With this information you will be able to express your past experience in other roles and give the interviewers spot on information on why you are a fit for the role. 

Once you’ve completed your research, you can prep for the interview by jotting down questions you have about the company and the position, along with some guidelines on how to answer anticipated questions like the one I mentioned above. 

Below is an example of how interviewers want the “tell us about yourself” question answered:

Interviewer: “Now that we’ve discussed our needs, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” –

The interviewers want RELEVANT information, not what is relevant to you, but what is relevant to the job you’re applying for.  They also want the abbreviated version. Let’s pretend you are applying for a Healthcare IT position (since that is the industry I’ve recruited in for the majority of my career). 

You: “I began my career about 20 years ago in nursing, a few years after I began my nursing career the hospital I was working in upgraded to a new EMR system and I was able to assist with the end-user training process.  This really piqued my interest in technology and after the implementation was completed I started my transition into the IT dept.  Over the last 15 years I’ve gained substantial EMR application build experience in both Inpatient and Ambulatory settings (naming the applications you specialize in).  I’ve also gone back to college and obtained my MBA in Informatics Management and have lead multiple upgrade projects.”  “What else would you like to know?”

By providing a targeted description of your career in bullet points, you’ve used the time you have wisely and reopened the floor to the interviewer to ask more decisive questions about your experience. 

Personality plays an important part in whether a person is offered a position or not.  Not all people will be inclined to take the time to do the pre-interview research or stay focused during the interview, however the people that do are most likely to land the job.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

There is a Time and a Place

I have always been outspoken, even as a child.  However, my Mother taught me early on that there is a time and a place for discussions about certain topics.  As I grew older, more mature and started to wear a professional "hat", I learned that depending on your profession, the workplace is generally NOT a good venue for political discussions, religious discussions, and of course - sexual discussions, and any other potentially polarizing topics.  You never know who will over-hear you, what their personal beliefs are, if they might be offended and how they might react.

In our current political environment, the need for decorum is becoming more and more evident, and fortunately, the lack of tolerance for inappropriate words and actions is becoming less and less standard.

My professional responsibilities include interviewing and hiring many people every year.  Even though my sensibilities are certainly not delicate, I am often astounded at what people will say during an interview process.  While I have not walked a mile in their shoes, I am still of the school of thought that if you are trying to obtain a job, that you would be on your best behavior during the interview process.  Bringing up your opinions on various political topics, politicians, racial topics, gun rights, women's rights, religious beliefs and of course, the never appropriate sexual innuendos is not a step in the right direction toward securing that job.

Many will say "What about the right to freedom of speech"?  "I have a right to have my own beliefs".  All that is true, there is freedom of speech in this country and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  At the same time, there is a level of decorum that should be adhered to.  Take into account that the job you are interviewing for and the folks you are interviewing with also have a right to their own beliefs which might differ greatly from your own.  In turn, they have a right not to hire you due to something you said during the interview process.

Always keep in mind that it is also your right to work in an environment where you are not discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable.  Everyone you work with has that right as well.  This is why keeping your political beliefs, religious beliefs etc. off the table at the workplace and definitely during the interview process, is important.  I shouldn't even have to mention sexual advances and innuendos, but with the recent headlines, it seems it needs to be included.

Comedians have a term "learn your audience" because not every audience is going to get your jokes, understand your humor or think specific content is funny.  The same goes for the workplace.  Get to know the people you work with before you say something that might put your job on the line.

As a rule of thumb, while interviewing for a job it is never a good idea to express your religious or political points of view during the interview process if the job is not in either of those arenas.  Should a person interviewing you ask you specifically about your religious or political views and those views do not pertain to the job at hand, be polite but clear and state that those topics are not of any relevance to the position.    It is actually your right to not have to discuss those topics to avoid any type of discrimination.

There is a time and a place to present your opinions on every topic imaginable, just know your audience and remember that everyone is entitled to their opinions, they might just not be the same as your own.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Identify Yourself

When contacting a Recruiter or potential employer it is important to identify yourself.  Whether you are submitting a resume for the first time, or checking in via voicemail or text about the status of your resume, it is crucial to let the other party know who you are!

A typical recruiter or hiring manager will have multiple people in the interview process at once.  Many recruiters and hiring managers are trying to fill numerous jobs at once.  By identifying who you are when you reach out, it will save you and your point of contact precious time.

Here are just a few example scenarios:

Phone Call / Answered:  "Hi, we've spoken in the past and I saw you had an Ambulatory role posted online, I'm really interested"  - typically this dialog goes on for a few more minutes, but I'm unable to look the person up in the database to see if they're qualified for the role until they take a breath and I can ask them who they are. 
Solution:  "Hi There, this is James, we spoke back in May.  I'm an Ambulatory Certified Analyst and saw you have posted a role that fits my qualifications do you have time to discuss"?

Voice Mail:  "Hi, I'm calling to find out if you have gotten any feedback from the client about my resume, let me know".  - the recruiter / hiring manager will have to try to run your phone number through the database to see if your information comes up, or try to call you back and ask who you are. 
Solution:  "Hello, this is Mark, I'm calling to see if XYZ Hospital has responded to my resume"?

Text Message - "Hi!  Did you get any feedback from the client yet"? - I have to text back "who is this"?.  It would be impossible for every recruiter/hiring manager to have the phone numbers of everyone they have in the submittal/interview process in their phones.
Solution:  "Hi!  This is Trina.  Did XYZ Hospital respond to my resume yet?"

Email: - Hi, I'm interested in hearing more about your go-live projects" - often there is no resume attached, no name and no other contact info.  Typically these emails do not get responded to.
Solution:  "Hi, my name is Adeola, my resume is attached for your review, I'm very interested in your upcoming Epic go-lives".

Taking a few extra seconds to identify yourself will help assure you get a timely response!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Nail a Telephone Interview

How to Nail a Telephone Interview
I’ve posted blogs with interview tips before, but this topic is always relevant.  More and more interviews are being done over the phone, particularly in the Tech industry. 
If you’re going to be sitting in on a video/skype/facetime interview – see other important tips here:  http://engagemehit.blogspot.com/2011/10/tips-for-video-skype-interviewing.html

The Dreaded Telephone Interview 201
Ø  If you’re using your cell phone, make darn sure you’re in a place with great reception.
Ø  Take the interview call in a place where you won’t be interrupted by people, dogs, noises etc.
Ø  Try to build rapport early in the conversation.  If you can, start the call out with a bit of friendly banter with the potential employer – even if it’s just a comment about their weather.  Show interest in them, how their day is going etc.  The employer wants to hire someone they like, someone that they’ll enjoy working with.  It isn’t all about experience and qualifications.
Ø  Always keep your answers to the point, you will likely have only 30 minutes to impress your potential employer:  When answering questions about your experience, follow this rule of thumb:
1.       Answer the question positively – “Yes, I do have experience with XYZ”
2.       Explain where you have had the experience – “I worked on XYZ at my previous 2 employers, so I have almost 10 years of experience with it”
3.       Explain your experience with enough detail to make sense but not so much detail that you’re running on and on and on – “I started building XYZ about 9 years ago, XYZ has changed some since then, with my last employer I was not only responsible for the build, but I trained new employees on how to build and I served as Lead Analyst throughout the implementation.”  If the potential employer wants more specifics, they’ll ask.
Ø  Don’t start talking until you’re sure they’ve finished talking.  Many conference lines have a bit of a delay.  I’ve sat in on more interviews than I care to count where the candidate and the potential employer spent most of their time talking over each other because both were jumping in before the other had finished talking.  Its ok to have a brief pause before you start answering a question.
Ø  Never, Never, Never, downplay your qualifications!  Talk about what you do know and discuss your qualifications confidently.  Don’t elaborate on what you don’t know!  If a client asks you about a qualification that you don’t have, just say “I haven’t had any experience with that yet” or “I have a working knowledge of that from my experience at my last client but it wasn’t my focus” etc.
Ø  Don’t try to oversell yourself.  People that say things like “I’m the best in the business with XYZ” or “you won’t find someone more qualified” and similar statements typically get overlooked for job openings.  It’s a rare candidate that can pull off that level of narcissism and get away with it.  Confidence is good, an over-active ego is not.
Ø  Don’t get defensive, ever – for any reason.  I’ve had candidates flat out yell at me when I’ve told them I don’t think they’re right for the position.  If you feel the person interviewing you is mistaken about your qualifications, politely explain where you feel they’ve missed the mark, never yell, never become rude.  Typically, the person interviewing you knows what they’re talking about, but if they don’t, consider it an opportunity to educate them.  Turning them off by yelling or being rude isn’t going to get you the position.
Ø  Always have a copy of your resume in front of you so you can refer to it if necessary.  If a recruiter submitted your resume, ask them for a copy of what they sent prior to the interview.
Ø   Wrap Up:  Typically the potential employer will ask if you have any questions.  During the interview you should have been jotting down any points you want to cover.  At this time try to ask a few questions, not just to show interest but to show you’re paying attention.  Also, take this time to bring up any points about your qualifications you feel you might have missed earlier in the interview.
Ø  Thank them – before hanging up cheerfully thank them for their time and express your continued interest in the position (if you are still interested) and ask when you might expect to hear back.

After your interview has concluded, take a few minutes to review any notes you’ve taken and go over the call in your mind, then write a thank you note via email to express your continued interest, reiterate how your experience lends itself to their needs and your excitement in hearing back from them.  No matter how good you are, you can’t win the job 100% of the time, but by following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to nailing telephone interviews!




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Communication Highway

Technology is advancing so fast most of us cannot keep up with the new trends and software and gadgets.  Over the years I've found that many people that have a career in Technology, don't always embrace it after-hours.  My brother has been a programmer within Healthcare IT for over 20 years.  He didn't get his first Smart Phone until 2015.

With all this new technology there are now multiple ways to communicate with others through social media (Facebook, LinkedIn etc), email, telephone, text, Skype and the list goes on.  How is one to know the best way or fastest method to reach their recruiter?  Ask! That's how!  Always inquire with your recruiter what method of communication they prefer.

A few things to keep in mind when contacting your recruiter:

  • Recruiters at any given time could have up to a hundred candidates submitted to various job opportunities AND on top of those folks, they are also responsible to communicate with and care for everyone they have placed on projects.  This means that recruiters are typically open to answering communication 24/7 if the need is urgent.
  • ALWAYS include your first & late name when contacting your recruiter.  Recruiters receive 100s of emails, phone calls, texts etc. a week.  If you do not include your name in the text, email, voice mail, how are they to know who they're to respond to?  (I regularly get emails saying "do you have any upcoming go lives?" with nothing else, no phone, no name, no resume.  If your email address doesn't have your name it in, how am I to know who I'm communicating with?  I also will receive random texts that go something like this:  "Hi!  Any word from the client yet?".... What client?  Who are you?  There is unfortunately no way for me to memorize every phone number of every person I've submitted to a client.)
  • Don't be offended if the Recruiter responds asking "who is this?".  Recruiters typically keep good track of who they've submitted and who they have working on projects, but we don't always remember everyone's phone number or email address. 
  • All recruiters utilize a database to keep track of candidates, consultants, activity and so-forth.  Anytime you update your phone number or email, it is best to notify the recruiters you work with.  With this being said - most data bases will allow Recruiters to search for someone via email or phone - but providing your name in your communications will net you a much faster response.
  • Social Media - for me Facebook is a professional no-no.  I strongly believe that Facebook (Instagram, Snap Chat etc) is for friends and family and not for work related communication.  LinkedIn is for business!  Save your professional communications for professional web sites.  If a recruiter contacts you via Facebook, ask for their email/phone and reach out to them that way.  Facebook can be professional suicide.  If a potential employer is scrolling through your Facebook feed - you never know what they might be turned off by - political posts, cat videos, family conversations.
  • Message Alerts - we all get message alerts on our phone.  Personally I receive text messages, Skype messages, LinkedIn, Pinterest messages, Snap Chat Messages, Facebook messages, email messages from both personal and business accounts and phone calls.  To cut down on the noise & insanity I've turned off every alert except for email and text.  Typically the best method to reach your recruiter will be phone or email, followed by text and LinkedIn and so on. 
  • Which brings us back to - Ask... Each recruiter will have their preferred method of communication and they'll be happy to let you know the best way to reach them and at what times, just remember to include your name when you reach out :) 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Challenges of Working From Home

There are PLENTY of up-sides to working from home;  not having to deal with morning or afternoon commute traffic, not having to "dress up", not dealing with the constant office interruptions, being more available for your family and many more.  I've worked from home for over 16 years and the #1 question I get asked is:  "I want to do what you do! How you I find a job where I can work from home?"  There is no easy answer to that question and not everyone is wired to be able to work from home and by "wired" I mean mentally, not technologically.  Working from home takes patience.  With that being said, there are a few drawbacks to working from home like; neighborhood noise (no matter where you try to hide in your home to take a business call you can still hear your neighbor's dog barking or that chainsaw running etc), Delivery Personnel knocking on your door, electricity or internet outages, your own animals or children making noise and other unexpected interruptions.  I've dealt with all of those issues over the years but by-far the most challenging has been the assumption of others that because one works from home that means they are available at anytime.
Most people that do not work from home seem to believe that everyone that does work from home is therefore available at the drop of a hat for an impromptu visit, a lunch break, to do them a favor like picking their kids up from school or letting their dog out or any number of other things.  I have often thought, if I was working in an office would people assume it was ok to call me as ask me to leave my office to go pick up their children?  Probably not.  This is not to say that I mind doing favors for my neighbors/friends/relatives whenever possible, but I do work 8 - 10 hrs a day and cannot always flex my schedule to meet their needs.  Its surprising how often people will get upset when you are unavailable for lunch or when they randomly stop by and you meet them at the door, phone to your ear - muted - on a conference call, letting them know you don't have time to hang out with them at the moment.  I'm absolutely convinced they wouldn't just stop by my business office if I worked downtown and expect me to drop everything and have a cup of tea and a chat with them.  Regardless of my efforts over the years to help people to understand that I actually am busy during normal business hours and often well beyond them, the concept of the belief that since I'm home I can't be that busy has not changed.
Working from home is a luxury that I have never taken for granted, it has allowed me to be very active in the raising of my children, to have animals that get a fair amount of attention and to excel in an industry that I love, but it certainly hasn't come without it's challenges.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Candidate Fraud - Just When You Thought You'd Seen It All

I've been in the Healthcare Technology Staffing Industry for almost 10 years, and the Recruitment/Staffing industry for almost 20....  I honestly thought I'd seen it all, from the lamest to the most elaborate excuses for not showing up to work or to an interview - to the most outrageous reasons for being fired, but recently I learned there was a level of unprofessionalism I had yet to uncover.

Not long ago while pre-screening candidates for an upcoming training related project I communicated via email and spoke with a very friendly woman with an unusual name.  She was polite, well spoken and knowledgeable.  Later a technical subject matter expert also spoke with the woman and was impressed with her technical knowledge and communication skills so it was recommended that the candidate be hired for the project.

The next step was for the candidate to speak with a travel agent and schedule travel... however at that time it was discovered that the candidate booking the travel was a man... he provided ID, Credit Card and other information with the same name as the person that had screened for the job.  When called to inquire if he was the same person that was screened, he had difficulty communicating, spoke very little English and made excuses to get off the phone, eventually he admitted to having someone else screen for him because "he just didn't have time". 

In the past almost 20 years I have never experienced anything like this.  Maybe I'm naïve in thinking that people would never go to this length and assume they wouldn't be caught. Not only did the candidate make a huge mistake by having someone else screen for him, but the woman that accepted the call and took the interviews for him is just as fraudulent.  Even more concerning is the fact that they must've gotten away with this in the past. 

Had the candidate managed to get to the client site without the deception being discovered, it wouldn't have taken the client long to determine he was not a fit for the job.  The repercussions could've been deep and long lasting for everyone involved. 

From a candidate/job-seeker standpoint it is NEVER advisable to falsify information or allow someone else to represent you in the interview process. 
From an employer standpoint, it is increasingly more important to fact check and back check each candidate prior to placing them on a project.