Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't Hang Up on the Importance of a Phone Interview

A big part of recruiting is finding the candidate. But what happens after they are found?  There is a lot of time also spent with the candidate to qualify them for the potential opportunity as well as gain their interest in said position.  Once both parties are interested in starting the interview process, each step must be taken into serious consideration.  And, that's where I found some real value in the article below.  It was discussing how the first step in the interview process is oftentimes not taken seriously if it's a phone interview rather than a face-to-face meeting.  To the contrary, the phone interview is very vital because it is often used as a screening tool.  How will you ever get to 'wow' the company in person if you don't start your good impression over the phone?
-Sheila Kyser, Director of Staffing

Yesterday I spoke with a job seeker who had an hour and a half telephone interview. It seemed to my job seeker as if it were a preamble to a job offer. Sight unseen, he was invited to visit the company in Alabama all expenses paid.

If you think a telephone interview isn’t a real interview, you’re sadly mistaken. Telephone interviews are generally thought of as a screening device, but they carry a lot of weight and, in some cases, they’re full-fledged interviews. Often times, job seekers don’t take the telephone interview seriously, and this is a huge mistake.

This is the type of response I sometimes get from my workshop attendees when they tell me they have a telephone interview, “It’s just a telephone interview. I hope I get a face-to-face.” I tell them to prepare as hard as they would for a personal interview. Don’t get caught off guard.

Yes, the face-to-face is the next step, but you can’t get there without impressing the interviewer on the other end of the phone, whether she’s a recruiter, hiring manager, HR, or even the owner of a company. Generally, the interviewer is trying to obtain four bits of information from you -- areas to which you can respond well or fail.

1. Do you have the skills and experience to do the job?

The first of the interviewer’s interests is one of the easiest to meet. For example, let's say that you’ve applied for a medical staff credentialing manager position that’s “perfect” for you; you have experience and accomplishments required of a strong medical staff credentialing manager. Your organization and management skills are above reproach, demonstrated by successfully monitoring the verification process for medical staff incumbents. In addition, you completed physician, nurse and other employee verifications and ensured that the organization and staff are in accordance with staff by-laws, industry trends and standard credentialing procedures.

2. Are you motivated and well liked?

Your former colleagues describe you as amiable, extremely goal oriented, and one who exudes enthusiasm. The last quality shows motivation and will carry over nicely to your work for the next employer. You’ve done your research and have decided that this is the organization you want to work for; it’s on your “A” list.

When the interviewer asks why you want to work for the company, you gush with excitement and feel a bit awkward telling her you love the responsibilities set forth in the job description. But your enthusiasm for the job and company is well noted by the employer. Further, through your networking, you’ve learned about the work culture, including the management team. You tell her it sounds a lot like your former employer and will be a great fit.

3. Why did you leave your last company?

This one is tough for you, because even though you were laid off, you feel a bit insecure and wonder if you were to blame. Your company was acquired and there would be duplication within your department that exists for the company that bought yours. You keep this answer brief, 15 seconds and there are no follow-up questions. You’re doing great so far.

4. What is your salary expectation?

“So, what do you want?” The question hits you like a brick. “Excuse me,” you say. “What do you expect for salary? What will it take to get you to the next step?” the interviewer says. Your mind goes blank. You’ve been instructed to handle the question in this order:

• Try to deflect the question.
• If this doesn’t work, ask for their range.
• And if this doesn’t work, give them your range.
• When all else fails, you cite an exact figure based on your online research and networking.

You’ve forgotten everything your job coach told you and blurt out an exact figure. “At my last job I made $72,000.” But this isn’t the question asked. The interviewer wants you to tell her what you expect for salary, not what you made at your last company. “Is this what you had in mind?” you timidly say.

There’s a pause at the other end, and finally the voice thanks you for your time. She tells you if you’re suitable for an interview at the company, you’ll be notified within a week. She says it looks promising for you.

But you know right then that the position hangs in the balance. You’ve spoken first and within 10 seconds said something you can’t take back. You were prepared, but not prepared enough. You didn’t think this interview counted; you’d do better at the face-to-face, if you get there.

Help Me Help You!

Dr. Sullivan’s article below, “News Flash: Recruiting Has the Highest Business Impact of any HR Function” was not necessarily news to me.  Being in the recruiting industry, I see first-hand the importance of recruiting on an organization.  But, I was surprised to read about the lower impact functions.  It makes me frustrated to read things like managing work-life balance, managing flexibility, delivering critical learning programs, managing corporate responsibility, etc. were on the bottom of the impact totem pole.  Half of my job is selling the company to the candidate.  People want to work for certain companies, because they provide a culture of flexibility, diversity, creativity, etc.  If there is no emphasis placed on creating and sustaining a desired culture, then why would someone want to work there?  It’s the whole chicken or the egg debate - if there was no recruiting, then there would be no company.  But if there was no company, then there would be no recruiting. 
I’m sure it sounds odd to hear a recruiter gripe about companies not focusing on the other aspects of HR, but if those functions are not working properly, then I can’t do my job effectively.  It’s a symbiotic relationship – one HR function can’t survive without the other.  All of our business problems can be solved by simply watching Jerry McGuire.  Help Me Help You!
-Ali Kairies, Director of Recruiting

Within most corporate HR functions, the atmosphere is simply too politically charged to even consider raising this powerful question:“Which HR function ranks No. 1 with the highest impact on two critical business success measures — revenue growth and profit margins?” Well, the data is in, and we now definitively know that the answer is … recruiting is the most impactful HR function!
In my many years of working with corporations, I have come across only a handful of HR leaders who have taken the time to quantify the business impacts of recruiting (Google and Apple are the best). But if you shift industries and look at the sports and entertainment industries, you will find that it is well established that recruiting is the most impactful people management function.
In pro basketball for example, you could take an average individual player and attempt to develop them over time into a “LeBron James.” However, if you wanted immediate results with a low risk of failure, you would simply recruit LeBron away from his current team. But fortunately, in the corporate world there has now been a breakthrough global study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group that reveals the relative value produced by each of the different HR functions.

From the Best to the Worst

If you’re curious as to whether a particular HR function produces a high or low business impact, this section will reveal their ranking. In it, you will find a summary of the recently released BCG findings as they relate to the relative business impact of the different HR functions. In the next chart, the top 10 performing HR functions are listed, along with their numerical impact on profit growth and on profit margins. Note that the “x” (times) next to a number in the chart stands for the number of times that the results of a “highly capable” function exceeded the results produced by a “low capability” function. Obviously, the higher the number, the more important it is to have a highly capable function.

Mid-level Rankings of HR Functions

HR functions that were rated in the middle of the pack include:
  1. Providing shared services and outsourcing HR
  2. Managing diversity and inclusion
  3. Managing change and cultural transformation
  4. Actively using Web 2.0 for HR and managing associated risks
  5. Delivering critical learning programs
  6. Managing corporate social responsibility

Bottom-performing HR Functions With the Lowest Business Impacts

The lowest impact functions include:
  1. Transforming HR into a strategic partner
  2. Health and security management
  3. Managing flexibility and labor costs
  4. Restructuring the organization
  5. Managing work-life balance
  6. Managing an aging workforce (this one actually resulted in a reduction in revenue growth)

The Incredible Power of Recruiting

The recruiting function came out on top with 3.5 times the profit growth and 2.0 times the profit margin, totaling a 5.5 performance improvement. However, using those numbers alone would result in an underreporting of the impact of recruiting. That is because the fourth-most impactful item on the list is employer branding. It should not be counted separately, because branding is an integral part of recruiting. If you were to combine the two functions, you could then add the 2.4x profit growth and the 1.8x profit margin numbers from employer branding to the numbers under recruiting and as a result, recruiting would get a total overall improvement score of almost 10 times the performance of a low capability recruiting function.

The Stock Price Impacts of Great HR

In addition to revenue growth and high margins, executives also love to see the firm’s stock price increase. Fortunately, the BCG study also researched the stock price gains produced by highly capable HR departments. In order to select the firms with the very best HR departments, BCG looked at Fortune magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For.”
The list was further narrowed down to the very best firms by only selecting “repeater firms” (i.e. only the few firms that have appeared on the list at least three times during the last 10 years). They then compared the stock price growth in those repeater “best companies” and compared the stock price growth of the companies comprising the S&P 500. The results were phenomenal. The “best companies” with great HR saw their stock price rise an average of 109 percent, while the S&P 500s rose only 10 percent over the last 10 years. That means that the stock price growth of firms with great HR departments was nearly 10 times higher!

Warning — Be Careful About Investing in These Lower-performing HR Functions

You probably already know through experience that many of the highly ranked functions (i.e. retention, onboarding, leadership development, and managing talent) have high business impacts. However, you might have been surprised to learn that many functions that HR frequently “champions” like work/life balance, becoming a strategic business partner, and restructuring the organization all have relatively minor impacts compared to the top ranked functions (note: statistically, correlational studies like this one show a direction but they cannot prove cause and effect). And sadly, the lowest-ranked function of them all, managing an aging workforce, actually had a negative impact on profit growth (meaning that if you invest in it, you will actually hurt your firm). 

More About the Research

Fortunately for those in the recruiting field, the world renowned Boston Consulting Group, in conjunction with the global people management association known as WFPMA, have released their latest correlational study demonstrating the power of individual HR functions. The study (which included 4,288 respondents from 102 countries across a broad range of industries), compared the difference in revenue growth and profit margins at firms with “very high capability” individual HR functions to the business impacts of low capability HR functions. The study, “Realizing the Value of People Management From Capability to Profitability” follows a direction that I have been advocating for years. Which is to always calculate the dollar impact of each one of your talent management activities.
It is important to know that all aspects of business have become more quantitative, and as a result, you have no choice but to use “the language of business” — which is money. HR must finally realize that it must speak this language of money if it is to be respected, well-funded, and listened to. The need to quantify results in dollars is further reinforced wherever I travel around the world. I find that executives everywhere are instantly interested in any idea, function, or program that can demonstrate that it increases revenue, the stock price, profit, or profit margins.

Final Thoughts

I of course recommend that you use the data presented here to influence your executives into investing more resources into recruiting, as well as onboarding, retention, and talent management. However, many executives will not accept external data, even if it comes from someone as credible as BCG. So the next best option is to work closely in a partnership with your CFO’s office to come up with your own internal credible process for periodically calculating the dollar value of the business impacts produced by HR. Once you identify the most impactful functions, it only makes sense that you then prioritize those functions and programs, based on their impact and their ROI relative to other functions.
And one final thought. I don’t recommend that you share this article with any non-data-driven professionals who work in one of the lower-impact HR functions. HR people all too frequently hate to have their personal beliefs challenged. Many would simply rather not know.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Don't Burn Your Bridges!

As recruiters, we have encountered people described in the article below, whether it be by phone or in person.  While we realize that everyone is entitled to a bad day, I have to be honest and say that if you act like this with us, why in the world would we feel comfortable submitting you to a client??  We could write a book that contains things that candidates have said to us, from the profane, to the humorous, to the outlandish, to the strangest.  Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the time, we have the pleasure of dealing with great people who are just looking for their next opportunity and will do whatever it takes (within reason) to help us make that happen. 

In short, don’t burn your bridges people – you never know when you’ll need one to help you get across to your destination!

-Kristi Gregory, Staffing Consultant 

A recent entry, The Angry Young Job Seeker written by Amy Ala, speaks of the ignorance and downright audacity of a talented gentleman this recruiter was trying to place. Demanding, belligerent, arrogant, are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe the subject of Amy's account.

In reading the article, you get a sense that the author was trying to help the jobseeker, while also keeping in mind the needs of her client. She demonstrated patience, diplomacy, and understanding. In the end she couldn't in good conscience recommend the jobseeker for the job. There are those who go to great lengths to help jobseekers find employment.
So when a jobseekers commits follies--like the one Amy was trying to place--it's hard to believe the lack of common sense they display. It makes one scratch her head and wonder, "What makes people behave this way?" Let's go over some basic behavior to avoid when engaging in relationships with recruiters, HR, and hiring managers.
  1. Don't forget your manners. Remember when your parents taught you manners? These manners were meant to be practiced throughout your life. In Amy's article, the jobseeker surely didn't exercise his manners and this did him in. He verbalized his displeasure with having to go through another round of interviews, was inflexible in terms of meeting for an interview, and demanded “relo” fees.
  2. Understand the role of a recruiter, Human Resources, and hiring managers. It is their job to find the right person for a position that needs to be filled. If they recommend or hire the wrong person, it doesn’t bode well. Your job is to make them see you as the answer to their prayers, not expect them to be the answer to your prayers.
  3. You are not the center of attention. You are a means to an end, namely serving the organization that hires and houses you. This is an extension of the previous point. Your objective is to get an interview, land the job, and keep the job. As you rise in the ranks, your leveraging power will increase. Until then, do as you’re told.
  4. When the workday ends, those who can help you realize your goal have other obligations. This is my little rule. When the workday ends, I have my kids’ events to attend, not unlimited time to conduct business. Some recruiters, et al, may be more flexible of their own free will or because their job calls for it. In other words, they don’t work for you.
  5. You are better than a buffoon and a squabbling fool—If you’re a bit irritated but generally  agree with what I’ve written, thank heavens. If by chance, you’re saying who the @#%& is he to be stating these rules, chances are you’ll find it very difficult to land and keep a job. But honestly, you’re better than someone who would break these rules, including the jobseeker mentioned in the article.
Keep your dignity. With all this said, don’t be taken advantage of. Any recruiter, HR professional, or hiring manager who treats you wrong isn’t worth his…or her…weight in salt.  Many jobseekers approach me and ask what they should do if they haven't heard from a recruiter or employer after many attempts of contacting them. I tell them to continue to follow up but don't hound or stalk them. They're sending you a message, albeit a poor one. Your dignity is worth more than hounding fools who don’t know your value.
Read the article, and you’ll wonder how The Angry Young Job Seeker could be so clueless. The landscape of the job search has changed and the rules may not favor the jobseeker; but as I tell my jobseekers, eventually it will be a sellers' market. What a wonderful thing that will be.