October 2015
By: Steve Simmance

Did you know that studies have shown most managers will decide whether they think you're intelligent, ambitious, trustworthy and able to perform the job required within just a few seconds of meeting you? 7 seconds to be precise. Sound Fair? An impression based predominantly on your looks. Do you look competent, honest, likeable, or aggressive, sullen, lazy, etc.? Moreover, this initial impression rarely changes upon longer exposure. Once the mind is made up, you can spend an hour’s interview battling the negative first impression, or sailing through to second interview and job offer on a positive first impression.  This assumes you made it through the door…

You will be even more shocked to hear that many managers will decide whether to even meet you, just based on the wording of your CV. Using personal pre-defined judgments against your written resume. By which I don’t mean the natural curtailing of volume against performance parameters, or against your experience, gained on the professional ladder, but rather preconceptions on details that say very little about your ability to do the job.

I accept that in the current market, the number of applicants needs to be whittled down, but why exclude someone because they have been at their last job for 2 years and you want a minimum of 5? Why put a CV on the reject pile because someone has had 3 jobs in 6 years and you deem it too many – there might be a perfectly good explanation. Candidates cast aside because of a slightly dodgy photo (we’ve all had those) on LinkedIn. In the area of sales I come across clients who insist on employees being office based 5 days a week when their role is largely customer facing and therefore more often field based. In this day of electronic communication why do you need to see the white of someone’s eyes each and every day or is there a lack of trust, perhaps even ‘working from home envy’ which is becoming all too prevalent.

We need to adjust recruitment mentality to ‘what does this person have to offer’ and not ‘what boxes doesn’t this person tick’.  A ‘cup half full’ attitude if you like. With competent interview techniques, managers should easily be able to identify the career resilient worker from the job-hopper, the malleable and trainable quick learner from the intransigent no-hoper, the committed and ambitious from the easily bored fly-by-night.

The shape and content of the Curriculum Vitae has changed and so needs to be viewed with new eyes.15 years ago it was uncommon to see multiple career moves over a 5-7 year period. This went hand in hand with a period of employment stability and a plethora of employers. People had jobs for life and stayed loyal to one employer for many years. However, with the onset of economic instability and industrial consolidation of companies into single larger corporations during the 2000’s and beyond, the stigma around moving jobs has changed, especially in younger employees. They see it as strategic moving, planned defensively at times to avoid redundancy and remain in control and advance up the ladder. Nowadays, the CV is different.  Employers are ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, the world is getting smaller, merging and consolidating and employees are having to make their own decisions about career path - just in case their employer takes that decision out of their hands.  The best usually have a predetermined view of timings and what they want from a move and frankly there’s no stopping them.

Furthermore, we live in a world where access to information about a person has become too easy to get hold of. We are no longer judged after a face-to-face meeting, an opportunity to communicate and sell our virtues. No, we are judged, our characters assessed and scrutinised before a meeting, sometimes from a simple mugshot on LinkedIn, sometimes from a foolish ‘tweet’ or drunken party photo posted on Facebook. And haven’t we all done those at some point? It’s just that ten years ago only those present would have witnessed our private and less business-like persona.

This type of negative and superficial discrimination is becoming all too common – a direct result of our rapidly changing and digitally transient world.

So therefore now, more than ever, in my role as Recruitment advisor, I urge recruiting managers to look beyond the CV and look for the good in the candidate. Moreover I urge you to use the Recruitment Consultant you’re engaging and trust them to have done a good job ‘vetting’ the candidates before putting them on the shortlist and sending them your way. Look for the positives in a CV and interview someone with an open mind. Then make an informed decision.

To take it a stage further, learn the rigours of good interview technique. How to probe for the answers you need in order to qualify a candidate. Interviews are a two way process - why are you so desperate to catch the person out with unreasonable and ill-thought-out questions? I’ve noticed a pattern emerging.  Clients rightly set high standards for their recruitment. Then when it comes to the interview with the candidate they appear to forget to personify the standard they’ve set, and treat the interview like a game, baiting the perplexed candidate by asking inane questions and generally making the experience unpleasant.  Don’t spend the interview confirming initial little doubts you may have had when the interviewee walked in the room. With questions and cues like ‘Can you tell me about yourself?’, or ‘I see you don’t have a degree’ and ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ you are making the whole process one of actually pursuing a confirmation bias.

Would it not make more sense to spend the time validating their suitability and then judging after the conversation (not during the interview) has ended?

Should you not determine if you have the right chemistry and make the interview environment neutral positive and mirror that of your workplace, a place that they will want to work and will flourish for years to come. Give them an opportunity to showcase their skills.

Every recruiting Manager has the responsibility for ensuring a conducive recruitment atmosphere – this is a privileged role in the workplace and a vital one, so make your stance one that encourages the same in those around you. Lead by example, train those who will conduct interviews in the required techniques and to portray a positive culture at all times so as not to ostracize yourself from your competitors in the pursuit of talent. Talent is scarce and will simply choose to work elsewhere.

The Head & Shoulders brand strap line famously proclaimed in the 1980s ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’, the same is true of you the interviewer. You are representing your company and wanting to attract the best possible talent. So make yours a company people want to join. One they would dearly love to work for so that they will use the interview to sell you their positive attributes and skills.

Please Mr or Mrs Client - work with me as your trusted aide and follow this list to make the process one that means it is fair and likely to get you the candidate that you desperately seek.

These are testing times for employers and their recruitment partners in search of the ideal candidate so let’s try another more productive tack and consider these:-

1.     Set the scene on the interview – explain your plan.

2.     Give candidates a chance to warm up.

3.     Avoid second-guessing the answers.

4.     Be open-minded - don’t come with prejudices from a CV and LinkedIn, etc.

5.    Plan the questions relevant to your requirements of the role and culture, etc. before the interview

6.    Always read the CV before the interview – do interrogate the integrity of facts if you can.

7.    Give meaningful and honest and timely feedback.

8.    Leave the meeting in a friendly state – everyone is a potential customer.

9.    Don’t raise expectations with flippant positive messages that you don’t mean.

From a candidate perspective, the lesson here is this: despite what I have written above, you always need to make a killer first impression, smile, a firm handshake, introduce yourself, speak clearly, maintain eye contact and look smart — but it is just as important that you maintain and reinforce it throughout the entire discussion. Use a simple strategy that I call the 5-55 formula. Simply put - use the first 5 minutes to say what you will probably be saying at the 55th minute, as this is what will define you and how well the interview will go.  Here are a few more quick tips:

1.     Predict the interview - most questions are generic, work on them in advance

2.     Attack - Write your answers down, it makes them more automatic and to the point when replying. You answers will drive impressions.

3.     Use stories to exemplify your method, approach and results to situations that are relevant to the role at hand.

4.     Control the Interview – or at least influence the direction.  

5.    Create a mind map of your interview journey so you can visibly read what you’re going to say leaving no stone unturned.

6.    Close!  Tell the interviewer you want the job. Appear positive and be given a second chance even if you’re not yet 100% sure you want it.

(7. And remember the world is watching before they meet you!)

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