In IYFQ’s: Why you can’t get hired or hire good people, I asked readers to post In Your Face Questions about job hunting and hiring for which there seem to be no good answers. You came through in spades — I cringed often enough while reading them that I know you know what I mean by IYFQ’s.
The responses, advice, and comments from readers are what I was really looking for — good ideas! My favorite astutely-cynical posting is Groucho’s answer to a question with another question: “Do you really think the people you’re interveiwing can’t make up stories?”
My job is to answer IYFQ’s, and while I didn’t want to dominate the thread, I’m going to attempt a marathon Q&A session. If you find one useful idea below, I’m happy. If my suggestions arouse your ire, well, there’s a Reply button down there, too…
Here are excerpts from the IYFQ’s and my answers:
Jim Schaffner: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” That’s my favorite interview question. I’d love to field that one and respond, “Well, if you bothered to read my resume, you’d see I’ve never spent 5 years at any one company. So my answer would have to be, NOT HERE!”
My two bits: “Is your company going to be around in 5 years?”
Maybe managers ask the 5-year question to explore the candidate’s career plans. That’s very nice, but not relevant until we establish that the person can do the job profitably.
Every interview question is an opportunity for the candidate to steer the manager towards the finish line. A good rule of thumb to guide us is, What does the company’s board of directors want? The bottom line is profit. Companies don’t hire people to fill positions or even to get work done. When the board looks at things, it wants to know, How is each dime spent (on salary, tools, employees) going to produce more profit? That’s where the answer to any interview question must start. Be ready to show a company how you will add to the bottom line, even if your explanation is simple. What matters most is that you try to show them. What you say is up to you. I don’t like canned answers, and I don’t care where you want to be in 5 years until we first establish that you can do this work today and the work that is likely to evolve from it.
Lucille: “I’d like some specific ideas about asking the manager and the co-workers how they get along.”
You can’t ask how people get along. You have to see for yourself, because as you point out, people are on their best behavior in interviews. So, try this, with as disarming a smile as you can muster: “I’d like to sit in on one or two of your work meetings, to see how I fit in. That would give you a chance to see me in a work setting, too.” You will see everything you need to see. This is most easily done after the company has indicated it is serious about you — that’s when they’re likely to comply with your request and show you what you need to see.
Mark: As a job seeker I would like to ask, “How dysfunctional is the relationship between management and staff at your company?” As a hiring manager I want to know, “How well do you get along with other people?”
Try what I suggested to Lucille. As a manager, you could invite a candidate to a work meeting and give them permission to participate as much as they’d like. Take them to lunch with a few of your staff members. (My favorite eatery for this purpose is the company cafeteria.) Sit at the other end of the table from the candidate. Talk little. Let your staffers and the candidate do the talking. Observe. You’ll learn a lot in a natural setting.
Charles: How may companies audit their hiring practices and policies? Why don’t companies bother to respond to applicants anymore? Nothing is more infuriating than completing a lengthy application process and hearing NOTHING back from the employer. Why would I want to work for a company that cannot afford the common courtesy of acknowledging my efforts?
Good questions. Ask the next company that interviews you how often it audits its hiring process. When they give you a quizzical (or dirty) look, say, “I’m just curious, because I think hiring is as important as actually producing the product a company sells.”
Companies don’t respond to applicants because they try to deal with too many applicants. When Monster.com provides 5,000 resumes for $200, and an HR department swallows the lot of ’em into its screening process, it just doesn’t have time to respond to everyone. So, the failure to be polite and respectful to its applicants reveals that the company’s process (a) wastes money and resources, and (b) is a sucky substitute for brains. Check this article, Respecting The Candidate: Instructions for employers.
If you wouldn’t work for a company that isn’t courteous to applicants, then why interview there? I’d like to see a member of the board of directors show up incognito for a job interview, and report back to the board about the experience. In some companies, the resulting savings could be tremendous. Sucky recruiting practices cost a company its credibility — and good candidates.