Interviews – How to deal with rejection

We’ve recently started to measure the candidate experience in our interview process. We’re early on in this process, but it’s proving interesting reading so far (see below). This survey is sent out to everybody that has an on-site interview at Lost My Name. It’s purpose to is to provide a platform to share feedback once the dust has settled post-interviews. As you’ll see from the graph below, we’re scoring OK, not great but not bad. There are certainly numerous ways that we can and will improve:

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I don’t ever expect to achieve full marks on these scores because a lot of people haven’t proceeded to the next interview stage either as a result of our decision making process or their own. However, it does give us an indication of how and where we can improve.

Looking at the results and comments, it really hit home to me the range of emotions that a candidate goes through.

Firstly, rejection is not a nice feeling. When you’ve had your heart set on a job, told family and friends and built up the excitement, it makes it all the more difficult to take. So what is the best way to respond and turn that rejection into a positive learning experience?

  1. Let it out – I’m not advocating a public display of outrage, but you need to release the anger/disappointment/frustration of missing out on that job that you really wanted. How?
    • Write it down – how you’re feeling. How did you find the experience of interviewing? What you liked and didn’t like? Why you think you missed out on the role after all? How did it make you feel to be told that isn’t right for you?
    • Talk to people – no doubt in the coming hours, days or even weeks you’ll speak to those close to you, recruiters, acquaintances and the topic will come up. You’re likely to receive the standard ‘it’s their loss’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ or even ‘you should be proud for getting so far’….let’s face it, none of this really makes you feel any better does it? Find those that you trust and are willing to listen and talk through it, I promise you’ll feel better about it.
  2. Give it time – I’ve been rejected for roles in the past, ones that I’d invested significant time in preparing for…it didn’t work out and that sucks. The initial feelings of being gutted, then annoyed, then slightly bitter are all part of the process. However, like with any feeling, they pass. My biggest advice is to not jump straight to the next thing, take some time to consider options and let the dust settle.
  3. What did you learn? This is where you can turn a negative into a positive, share this experience with the company that you interviewed with. How you felt you were treated, what you enjoyed about the process. At Lost My Name, candidates can do this with the above mentioned method. Any company that is vested in improving its interview process and delivering a great candidate experience will be glad of the feedback.
  4. Future interviews – consider the feedback you received from the company. What did you do well, where did you fall short? Leverage this and take it forward to your next interview. You’ll be more confident in yourself. If there is one thing that I value extremely highly from an interviewee, it’s someone who can talk through a difficult time/situation and show key learnings from it. Successes tell you so much about a person, failures give a real insight into character, resilience and courage. Some of the qualities that we value so dearly in our teams.

You may or may not agree with the advice given above and that’s fine. Everyone is different and will deal with awkward and difficult situations differently. What I hope you will agree on is that a negative can be turned into a positive and the initial pain and frustration can quickly transform into a feeling of personal growth and maturity.
I’d love to hear other people’s views and comments on this subject as it’s one often ignored when we thinking about hiring and interviewing.

Are we becoming a bunch of recruitment robots?

2015. Recruitment tools – we have plenty. Too many? Maybe.

There was a time (before my era, mind) when recruitment was about a few simple things… people, getting to know these people, building a network and connecting this network with opportunities at your company (clients if on the agency side). Over simplified? Yes. Is this simplistic view compatible with modern recruitment?

Today’s market, particularly in the world of technology, sees the candidate in the driving seat. As recruiters, our task of finding and attracting some of the best talent that our employers demand is harder than ever. This has of course led to the rise of what I call ‘The (Recruitment) Tool Army’!

‘Recruitment is broken’ they say? Fear not; let’s build a host of products that will solve everything! Buy this and your life will change forever.

I’d like to think that as recruiters, we’re not all so gullible, or are we?

I’m not going to waffle on about what tools are good and what aren’t. There’s too much debate on that subject already and there are too many tools to cover. My gripe is with some of my fellow recruiters. As part of my job I speak to a lot of candidates, I also speak to a fair few recruiters. Some truly excellent ones. These are the ones who really get what is required and actually execute on it by trying things that others can’t or won’t.

There are unfortunately others who have forgotten what this job is actually all about. Recruiters use tools and moan when they don’t instantly solve their problems. Why would you rely on it to take your place in recruitment?

Have we lost sight of what’s really important?

I think we have to an extent. Professional and successful people want to surround themselves with smart people, they form communities of like minded people. Why? Because they continually want to learn. We, as recruiters, need to follow suit. Developers have communities, so do doctors, mathematicians, marketers. There’s no excuse not to.

So what should we do about it?

Go back to basics and have a desire to learn. When I think about recruitment and what it should involve there are certain things that come to mind:

  • Relationship-building
  • Hard work
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Respect
  • Good Timing

Think about how you would want to be approached and consider the mindset of a candidate. In the context of someone’s career they only interact with recruiters for a very small portion of that. Go to great lengths to ensure that it’s a good experience. Through showing somebody respect and that you’ve bothered to try and understand what they do you’re far more likely to get their trust. If you show you care and want what’s best for them how could somebody not appreciate it?

Learning – build a community with fellow recruiters. Some have really great advice and experience that they are only too happy to share. The London startup community is one place where this is happening. A group of recruiters are doing more to learn from each other and more importantly give honest feedback (through events).

The ‘War on Talent’ is not just one of skills shortages and competition. For recruiters, it’s also about reclaiming ground. Tools are there to complement us, not do our jobs for us. Be prepared, transparent, go to events (if you’re brave enough, speak at them – it’s worth it!) meet your candidates and get to know them.

Show understanding and a willingness to learn and people will respect you. Use this as a base and build from there. Utilise the tools you have to make things a little easier. Don’t become the ‘tool’ who blames everything else when they don’t succeed.

Company Culture – All or Nothing

Culture is how organisations ‘do things’ ” – Robert Katanga. Today it’s used to attract candidates and build an employer brand.

We place huge weight behind our career moves based on things like work environment, the people as well as career development and salary.

Companies strive to get this right – some throw huge resources behind it, you may even see a ‘Chief Culture Officer’ in place (usually a sign that the culture is so bad they’ve had to employ someone to try to sort it out).

So what is Company Culture?

I recently attended an event on this very subject – Culturevist. People there from a wide range of professions – Lawyers, Recruiters, Customer Success, Marketing, Communications etc. All gathered together discussing culture in the workplace– success stories, failures, people seeking help. People there because they care about the environment they work in.

This, for me, shows that culture represents the values and behaviours of employees that make up a company. As an employer can you really answer questions like – Are you an employer/part of a company that really does care about employees? Do you just want them to perform well at work or go that step further and really get behind a positive ‘work-life’ balance?

All or Nothing?

What did Culturevist teach me about Company Culture?

  • It’s a collective effort– a movement driven from the top downwards. Driving culture from the bottom up is admirable but the will of employees can count for little if those at the top don’t truly believe in it.
  • You can’t just create a culture– you have to show a process towards making it work.
  • How? –Being transparent, listening and then acting on what you’ve heard. Having an identity, values and living and breathing them!
  • Develop it – Through listening to your employees you identify issues earlier and take necessary action

We want to believe in a company, its products and its people. Essentially we want to be part of a story where we can make a difference.

Working in an environment that allows you to do this is the first step. Great benefits may help in attracting you but they won’t buy long-term loyalty. It’s the sense of control and community that we all crave. Make someone feel part of a team and in control of their own destiny and you’ll find that you’ll have an engaged, inspired and happy workforce.

….but before you get too comfortable. This is an ‘All or Nothing’ game and one that needs to be continually worked at. Companies evolve and so will your culture.

Referrals – leveraging your team’s network

Hiring is tough.

Your company wants the best available talent, you want to deliver it but so does everyone else. I was recently listening to a podcast on Startup Recruiting involving Qubit’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Matthew Bradburn. Matt went into detail to discuss one key part of a talent acquisition strategy – utilising employee referrals. People want to work with the best so they will be forthcoming in highlighting people they believe to be great. Sound obvious?

Obtaining referrals from employees

Whilst employee referrals should not be relied upon as the primary source of candidates, they can provide quality, passive candidates that can bring skills and experience not available on the market.

The key question here is ‘how to obtain referrals from employees?’ This can be particularly difficult to get right, as any recruitment function will be met with a number of issues from employees reluctant to refer skilled professionals. Reasons can include:

  • Fear a poor referral reflecting badly on their judgment
  • Lack of an incentivised referral program
  • Unwillingness to refer passive candidates
  • Trust in their recruitment department offering a good candidate experience

Poor referral?

Employees should not be fearful of referring candidates. The majority of referrals are for people who pretty much have the required skills to do the job at hand. From experience, contacts are also referred as the employee sees that person as a good ‘team fit’ and would add to the current team moral and working style.

So, in the event that a candidate is referred and does not quite make the cut, it should not be viewed negatively. A rejection does not mean that the candidate was a bad one; it simply means that they may not be quite right for that role in the organisation at that time.

Lack of an incentivised referral program

I’d like to explore this in more detail in future blogs so I won’t elaborate too much at this stage. Safe to say that there are arguments for and against an incentivised referral program. An incentivised scheme could yield a greater number of referrals. But could it also lead to a decrease in quality?

Unwillingness to refer passive candidates

This is an interesting one. I asked one of my colleagues the other day if they knew of suitable candidates that they could recommend/refer. The response from one was ‘yes, but they aren’t looking’. I found this slightly puzzling.

Of course employees should not pass on referrals without thought or consideration for that person. On the other hand, it’s the role of the recruiter to seek out passive candidates and introduce opportunities to them. Suppose I was to find the said candidate during a search. Am I not to contact as one of our employees knew that they weren’t looking? Absolutely not. In this case, why would an employee not disclose the name of a potential candidate so that dialogue can be opened, even if for future reference?

An employee should not feel burdened as to whether their referral is looking for a new role or not. Chances are that if they’re suitable the recruiter will identify them anyway so why not pair up? Have a joint business approach in referring passive people so the recruiter is aware of whom they are and the internal relationship before reaching out to them.

Trust in recruiter giving a good candidate experience

Ever referred someone and recruitment never contacted them? Or they did but then they heard nothing back for weeks? Having to take that awkward phone call from your referral, chasing up their application has no doubt happened to employees previously and it puts them off referring people they know again. Understanding and listening to employee’s experiences and explaining the referrals process will help you to build their trust and put their mind at ease that you will offer a prompt candidate experience for anyone they refer.

How to obtain referrals

We’ve looked at the reasons why referrals are great and why employees may be apprehensive about supposedly putting their ‘neck on the line’ by recommending a candidate.

From a recruiter’s perspective, we should try to make this process as simple and as transparent as possible. Remove the formality of a recommendation. Pose questions like ‘who are the best people you have worked with’ rather than ‘are you able to recommend somebody for this role?’ Follow up with questions like ‘what made that person a great colleague?’ and ‘how did they approach their work’. This opens up the conversation and encourages employees to discuss what they feel makes a great candidate.

As mentioned in previous blogs, empowering employees to play a part in the hiring process is something that any rapidly growing company should adopt. Why can’t referrals play as key a part as interviewing in this?

If done right, referrals can provide a great additional source of quality candidates. The key is striking that balance with current employees and creating an enthusiasm around hiring. Every employee wants to feel that his or her voice and opinion is being heard. This is a great way to get them involved and play an active part in growing your company!

Sales Candidates – What are you missing?

Sell me this pen? Really?!

How many times have you been asked that question in an interview? Too many would be my guess. It’s awkward, outdated and pretty useless.

Sales as a profession is constantly evolving, companies are embracing new methods and techniques to structure their sales process and bring out the best in their teams…even adopting agile methodologies like Scrum, commonly used in software development.

In the field of sales recruitment, competition is fierce. In a buoyant market companies will rapidly scale teams. Some candidates will thrive where as others will be left behind. So what can you do to boost your profile and take the next step in your career?

The key is in the preparation, which I have noted below:

The CV

Like it or not, your CV plays a part in getting you that initial interview. According to some research, recruiters spend on average between 5-7 seconds scanning a CV. So why not make your CV as clear and concise as possible? Showcase your skills and experience in a few direct points:

  • Role and product/service sold
  • Revenue generated – per annum, quarter, month (how ever your sales cycle works)
  • Average deal size
  • Average deal length
  • Major achievements

The amount of CVs I see without even half of these points is quite remarkable. This is your career; you’ve worked hard for these achievements so why not highlight them? Even if you have had a tough year you can articulate the challenges and successes briefly and clearly.

Build your network

Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Build your brand, reach out to potential employers and start developing relationships. The best opportunities will come from your network so start reaching out now!

Do your research

When preparing for an interview, go into detail. Are you fully confident that you can answer questions posed and explain the product that you could be selling? Break it down into a few key areas:

  • Sales Cycle – Do you currently manage all of the sales cycle? How do you generate leads? How many deals have you closed? How do develop and manage your sales pipeline?
  • Revenue – Know your figures, the total and breakdown
  • Product knowledge – Be confident that you know the companies products and are able to explain their offering. Why not go a step further and consider these products/services and their place in the market – Who are the main competitors? What are the USP’s of that product/service?
  • Failures –everyone  Why not embrace it? Detail accounts or sales you’ve lost. Don’t be afraid; rather take the opportunity to show what you have learnt from it. Demonstrating that level of self-awareness will help you throughout your career!

This isn’t the complete list of how to secure that next step in your sales career. However from my experience of interviewing and hiring these candidates this will give you a solid foundation. Too much time is wasted in the waffle of explaining your role, be concise, highlight your skills and achievements and be prepared to explain the methods you chose to reach the end result. Explaining the method is just as important as detailing your achievements!

Finally, show that you are passionate about your career in sales…oh and don’t forget to close, it’s an interview and you’re a sales person after all!

The role every employee can play in hiring

So….this is the second blog I have written today. The first, which was my first ever independent blog post and unfortunately suffered at the hands of a disagreement between it’s author (me) and application being used.

Here we go, attempt number two. I was going to re-type the original version but that moment has now passed and I feel that fate played a bit in the content disappearing. What I would like to discuss today is part of what is being called ‘Talent Hacking’, namely empowering employees to make decisions during the hiring process and the role the in-house recruiter plays in this. We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here but we can and must adjust our approach to the changes in the industry.

In today’s recruitment climate factors like employee branding have really risen to the fore in attracting top level candidates and proactive sourcing has become an essential feature of the modern recruiter. No longer in the interview process are decisions left solely to the senior management. Employees at all levels are utilised to provide a comprehensive assessment of all candidates. This is something that I have seen done well but requires a certain level of coaching. This is where the role of the in-house recruiter comes into play…

For smaller companies, every hire is absolutely crucial. Candidates must be assessed for technical skill set, soft skills and team fit. This is absolutely crucial as one bad hire can have a far more detrimental effect to a company that in a large, multinational corporate. To make sure that you are covering all bases you need to include current employees at all levels (with the one stipulation being that the employees involved in interviews have been at the company a sufficiently amount of time to fully understand the standard required and culture).

Not everybody is experienced in interviewing and from my own experience confidence takes a while to build up. The in-house recruiter can play a key role in ensuring that the interviewers are qualified to make an objective judgement on that candidate. This can be broken down into a number of areas:

  • What skills are the interviewers assessing at each stage of the process – Team fit? Technical skills? Set competencies? This is vital because unless guided the interviewer can easily get lost and go off track.
  • Interview etiquette – this is an interview after all so both parties are being judged, not just the candidate.
  • How they should structure their interview?
  • Time Management? 
  • What they can/can’t say – the legal part…
I think if you can cover these main points that you will end up with a fair and consistent interview process. Employees will feel empowered that they are playing a key part in growing the company and more importantly their opinion is valued. 
This is a great method to identify and make quality hires, make no mistake about it. The interview process has evolved and with this so has the role of the in-house recruiter. We have a big part to play in nurturing not only the growth of teams but the growth of employees as decision makers. Everyone in your company will have an opinion on that to hire great people, remember that as the recruiter you are the expert and this a great way to showcase your expertise to the business and win their respect.