This is a letter of mine published in Business Week a few years back. It was about the Founder of Atom Films who went on to become very successful but was rejected by 125 out of 126 companies to whom he applied when out of school.
How To Hire The Candidates Least Likely To Succeed
"Net movie mogul" (Voices of Innovation, Mar. 20) illustrated a disturbing and widespread problem with corporate hiring practices: Mika Salmi possesses proven drive, ambition, persistence, and the ability to recognize opportunity. Yet 125 companies rejected him outright.
Many companies today use software to screen résumés based on keywords and rely mostly on human resources clerks with little or no true business experience to review selected résumés. How can they recognize the traits shown by Mika and people like him? Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Cuban would have been rejected by HR departments at many companies. Career ads for these companies need to carry the disclaimer: "Achievers and mavericks need not apply."
Most managers are assumed to know how to interview and hire, yet I am fairly certain that few of them actually go through any training for that important part of their jobs. Therefore many would fall back on what they went through in their interview process years before. Sure, they might personalize it somewhat with specific questions related to the job at hand. Heard the "Where do you want to be in 5 years lately"? Let me assure you that good interviewing takes knowledge and experience.
So much for "our people are our most important asset" A company that spends $80K a year on a machine or service would make sure that the decision to spend this money had been well researched and that an expert had ensured that this was the right decision. Yet, for its people, who are dealing with your customers, or designing your products, they would rely on an inexperienced clerk to make the decision whether a person is even a contender.
As well, the screening process is reversed from what it should be. Human Resources screens the resumes and decides which ones are to be forwarded on. Most of them don't have any operational experience in the areas with the hiring requisition, be it engineering, operations, sales or marketing. They try to match the resume to the Job Description, often one the Hiring Manager asked them to create as they don't have the time. In reality, it should be the hiring managers who review the resumes, and the HR will process the candidates from this point in HR related issues. Screening hundreds of resumes and applicants is not an easy or glamorous job, so the hiring managers don't want to do this, and the experienced HR personnel don't want to do this as well, so its the Junior HR people that get tasked with this.
HR often also has to justify their role in a company, so they tend to become gatekeepers. Its scary sometimes to see who is making the decisions on which are the right people for X company or organization.
True, generalizations are just that, there are many HR practicioners that are very good at what they do and add value to their organizations. Are they the norm?
HR will hate me for saying this, but as a Job Seeker, try your best to have your application to a company or organization go through someone else, either a Manager or an Executive, so it comes from the top down.
So, despite all of the above, what are interviews and how to handle them? Often people assume that this is an Interrogation, a question and answer session when it should be a conversation, and one that you can direct. This is even more crucial if you are interviewing for a role that requires strong people interaction. I would be reluctant to hire someone who just waited for my questions and responded accordingly, but made no effort to manage the process, or guide the conversation without pissing me off.
Have a conversation with the people in the room.
They are humans just like you. Find points of mutual interest and talk about them. Make sure to include all the people in the room, not just the one who seems to be the leader. This requires confidence in yourself and in your knowledge of your type of role, the company and the industry. General knowledge is also good, as it helps to add to the conversation if need be. In general, I always suggest, read, read and read some more.
There are tons of books out there on the details of interviews (when to bring up compensation and benefits and the like) so I won't get into that.
I am not a big fan of the recommended follow up of send a letter or email thanking the interviewer. HR people read "What color is my parachute too" If however, you send along a reference and include a thank you in that note then that would be better received. It also depends on the type of role, the size of the company etc.
DO NOT CALL THE COMPANY AND ASK IF THEY RECEIVED YOUR RESUME. I recall in the Dot Com days when I would get this kind of call once in a while when I was running both Operations, HR, Purchasing and a multitude of other roles. "Did you get my resume?" which is really asking "Stop what you are doing right now, find my resume and interview me" This is insulting and a sure way to get rejected. Lets face it, how often would you hear about someone who followed up their resume submission or interview with a call and heard "Oh, Jim, Thank God you called us to remind us to hire you, it completely slipped our minds. When can you start?"
Thanks for listening and good luck.
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