| July 30, 2015
It’s a great thing to be able to do, to assist someone in their move forward, and it got me to thinking of others along the way. And pretty soon the others started accumulating and before I knew it, I realized that this new guy is my 50th hire over the course of my working life. 50! Five – Ohhhhhhh! And that’s even better than a great thing. That’s a wonderful thing!
So much gets written about How to Get Hired; How to Give a Great Interview; What to Look for in a Candidate; What Questions to Ask; How to Restructure Your Resumé Uniquely for Each Possible Lead, So That, If You Do Get Called in for the Interview, You’re Not Really Clear on Which YOU You Pitched for the Job. It’s all a crap shoot. There are no guarantees ever and you’ll make yourself crazy trying to be everything for every job opportunity. And no matter which side of the fence you’re on – the interviewer or the interviewee – there’s always that big, unavoidable question mark in the room that asks,”Just what are we doing here?”
Out of the 50 people I’ve hired, I can only think of one that was a dismal failure and four others that didn’t work out. Not bad. With odds like that, I thought, maybe there’s a chance that I know what I’m doing a little bit, when it comes to hiring people anyway, and maybe I could write a little something on the topic that would be a different outlook than the usual fare. Let’s see…
1. All resumés lie. Especially now that all personality has been erased and replaced with search-able, generic words, that are meant to show your unique expertise but instead showcase your interchangeability with just about everyone. We apparently all know the same software, we all have the same honorable goals and we all are strategically integrated, non-linear, synergistic, team players – I think not. So, throw out the resumé and focus on the person in front of you (that goes for both sides of the table, by the way).
2. Many people suck at interviews but unless you’re hiring a full-time interview-taker, you may be overlooking some very good candidates. One of the best hires I ever made was a professional musician and life-long wild card, as a creative studio manager. Not the most directly experienced candidate, completely off-the-mark on the surface, but he could improvise, had great sensitivity, was utterly original and recognized it in others, and could play the server like it was a Gibson. And he was syncopated… everything about him. Brilliant!
3. They’re nowhere near as good as they think… and so much better than they know. And once you’ve figured that out, you can actually get to know something valuable about the person sitting in front of you. Most people, I think, take their biggest talents for granted (usually people skills and time management, if they’ve got them) because they’re good at them and they know how to do them, so they undersell them and they’re probably something you’re really looking for. Conversely, if something was very difficult for the candidate to learn and it feels like torture every time they do it, but they think it makes them special, it comes out as a little arrogant and false and then the beads of sweat start to appear on the forehead and it’s not pretty. If you’re the interviewee, don’t undersell yourself, but don’t get cocky about a marginal skill level in a difficult capability. If you’re the interviewer, read between the lines… and look for the beads of sweat.
4. 8 hours a day is a long, long time. If you recognize a certain watt-age behind the eyes and a genuine interest in wanting to be better, a lot of actual job stuff can be learned on the job, and usually is. So, it’s just as important to pay attention to the non-job specific stuff and see if you could co-habit with this person. You spend more time with your work partners than you do with your life partners, sad but true, so, it helps a lot if you think they’re interesting or funny or kind or all three.
5. Nothing is forever. Yes, you co-habit for a time, but, no, this isn’t adoption going on. And don’t get all weird about that. If you’re a good interviewee you’re looking for the next step, not the last step, and if you’re a good interviewer, you’re looking for someone you can help grow, then, when the time is right, send on their way.
Basically, it’s all like dating. That’s what interviewing is. Both sides of the table have high hopes and low expectations. Both are interested but don’t want to appear to be the most interested. Both have a need to fill and are afraid of having their time wasted and their feelings hurt. Both are wondering if they over-dressed or under-dressed. Both are a little anxious about that first handshake/smile moment. And many don’t get past that first meeting. No chemistry, I guess.
When I first started out after college, I had 43 interviews before I got hired for my first job. My two best friends got hired in something like a heart beat, so that was defeating. But I kept going, because you do, and somewhere around number 38, I had three interviews in one day, each with seriously major people in the graphic design arena – it was easier to get interviews back then, when people answered their own phones and dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Interviewer One told me to dump my average photography and illustration because I was a great designer… Nice! Interviewer Two told me I was a lousy designer and a Ho-Hum illustrator but an amazing photographer… OK then. Interviewer Three told me I was a boring photographer, a fair designer but my illustration work was fantastic… um, huh? So, depending on how you look at it, the cumulative take on the day was that I was either average, lousy and boring or great, amazing and fantastic! And I hadn’t done anything differently. The interviewers were the difference. Which leads us to the last two points:
6. If you’re the interviewee, know who you are. People are very free with their opinions, all of which come through the lens of their own personal experience and need and self-image. Those opinions pass, the good along with the bad, so it’s best to know what you think of yourself and make it the best and most appealing it can be.
7. If you’re the interviewer, it’s not about you. You already have the job, so don’t take up too much time telling your own story and making your candidates uncomfortable by trying to impress them with how wonderful YOU are. If they can’t tell just by looking at you, chances are, you’re not.
Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can!’
Then get busy and find out how to do it.
– Theodore Roosevelt
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