Women & Interviews

The Recruiter's Point of View
By Marilyn Zatkin

Women & Interviews
Chat Transcript
Beyond The Trick Question
A Lawyer's Adventures
Career Basics For Women
Career Matchmaking
Ms. Xecutive Holds Forth
Ain't No Personnel Jockey
Recruiter's Point of View
Brassy, Foolish Dames
Ask The Headhunter

[Marilyn Zatkin, like Cecilia Brennan, provides the point of view of an "internal" contract recruiter -- these are the independent recruiters that companies hire, usually on a temporary basis, to augment the efforts of their own Human Resources departments. Partly independent, partly tied to the specific employer, they play an important role in many companies. These articles are included here because I believe there are some HR-type people out there who "get it" more than others -- and I hope we see more of them. It's important to understand their point of view. Marilyn explains what you'll encounter when you interview with her... ]

The subject of interviewing is as broad and nebulous as they come. Though I do agree with Nick on a lot of what he presents in his book, there are no recipe cards for the perfect interview. You can have the "most perfect" (qualified?) candidate talk with two different interviewers -- and the interviewers might not agree on the candidate. What follows are some thoughts about resumes, interview preparation, and the interview itself.

The Resume
Usually, if the candidate is local, the first interview round is with the hiring manager and someone from HR. If the candidate is from out of the area, a more extensive first-round interview usually takes place. A resume designed to "get your foot in the door" is okay for the initial visit (that is, a resume that describes your skills generically, rather than specifically, to address the limited job criteria you know about). After the first round, once you're a real candidate, you should adapt your resume to the specifications of the job you are interviewing for. Your resume should clearly describe what you would do to enhance the position. In other words, provide the employer with a second, more closely-defined resume.

In most companies, HR plays an active role in the selection process (contrary to what Nick would like to see). However, as Nick points out, HR representatives do not always understand the ramifications of a position, and in lots of cases they take a narrow approach to sorting through resumes. This is why it is important to get as much information as you can about the position, so that you can tailor you resume to fit the needs of that particular job. You should send your resume to manager of the department you want to work for, besides HR.

It is imperative that the candidate knows the company. That she has done her homework on things such as the size of the company, its products, its track record, its financial situation, etc..

When a candidate comes into an interview and asks questions that reflect the homework she has done, she impresses the interviewer. As taxing as interviews are, remember that you are interviewing the company as well as being interviewed by them. Questions about the company itself are important: "Why did the company have a downturn last year? Why has there been a shift in management?" Questions about the job itself are just as important: "What is the % of turnover? Why is this position open? What happened to the predecessor and how was the predecessor successful?"

Most of the time, if you ask around among your friends, you'll find that someone you know knows someone who works for the company. They can help you amass the information you will need.

Remember that part of preparation is preparing and controlling your attitude. If you are desperate and "willing to take anything", this will come through in the interview and it won't help. When everything seems to depend on your getting the job, it can be difficult indeed to mind your "desperation". All the more reason to think about this ahead of time.

The Meeting
When I am talking to a candidate (notice I did not use the work "interviewing"), what I want to know is how they will enhance the job and be successful in meeting the goals and objectives. I am also concerned about fit within the organization. Are they a team player? Do they like to work by themselves? Are they willing to share in the successes and the failures of the team? What have they accomplished in their previous jobs and how did they go about it?

I do not look at gender as it relates to success but I do look at attitude: the attitude that the person has toward themselves and toward their fellow co-workers. Are they a victim of circumstance or are they the ruler of their universe?

Another thing I look for is competitiveness, but not in the traditional sense. The women I know who are successful compete with themselves as they continue to strive for excellence. These women usually have a mentor, and this often comes up in the interview: someone who early in the woman's career helped her recognize and deal with the political "land mines" we all encounter in our professions.

It is important to keep in mind that the interview itself is another way to network. Many times I have interviewed a candidate who was not right for a particular job. However, I was so impressed that I passed her name on to another recruiter. Don't ignore the importance of this "networking" opportunity, even when it seems the interview is "not going in your direction".

The interview that I truly enjoy is one that is an exchange of ideas and vision. The best way to learn to interview like that is to regard your next interview not necessarily as your last, but as one that you will learn from, one that will bring you closer to your ultimate goal.

In Human Resources for over 20 years, Marilyn Zatkin has run her own consulting business for more than 10 years. Her clients include companies in the bio-medical, bio-technology and pharmaceutical industries.

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