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Authenticity and interviews: why it’s important

Anyone who really knows me will tell you that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. (This saddens many who come to my house for dinner only to find I forgot to make dessert.)

So I was surprised today when I was buying a bottle of water at the airport and found myself suddenly craving a Snickers.

As I was considering this purchase, I noted that there was a candy bar much like a Snickers but was all-natural, organic, etc. My ego and id had a quick summit meeting and decided that if I was to give into this temptation, I would get the more expensive but potentially healthier choice.

I just broke into it, and–it’s fine. But it’s not the thing it’s pretending it is: a Snickers. It isn’t authentic.

Authenticity is often easy to achieve in our personal lives. With work, it can be a bit more difficult. I know many people that assume a slightly different persona, a different way of communicating, when they are in a work context.

This extends to interviews as well. Interviews are not scenarios in which we often find ourselves. The interviewer is frequently not trained in how to effectively interview and evaluate talent. The interviewee often feels anxious, nervous, uncertain. In many cases, there is a lot on the line for them if they don’t nail this interview.

This sets the stage for a very inauthentic interaction–especially on the part of the interviewee, who probably doesn’t have as much experience in interviewing as the interviewer.

Unfortunately, perceptive interviewers pick up on the fact that they aren’t seeing the ‘real you’. There is a lot riding on making this hire for them; they need someone they know they and their team can effectively work with. If they can’t see that through the interview, they will hesitate to make an offer.

How can a candidate address this? Practice. Ensure that you work with an interview coach and do mock interviews that are videoed. Watch the video–do you see the real you? Ask for feedback from the mock interviewer; did they feel like you were your genuine self, or did they sense a shift as soon as you moved from breaking the ice to the formal interview questions?

This can be a tough process, but it’s immensely valuable in preparing to be your most authentic self in the interview for your dream job.

Voluntary resignations are on the rise—and that’s good news.

This is the week of employment stats.

Balancing out the not terribly positive news I posted on Monday: Millions of people are quitting their jobs every month. Nearly 2.4 Million people resigned their jobs in November 2013—over a Million more than at the height of the recession. 

At face value, this might not be viewed as positive. Here’s why it is: The number of people voluntarily resigning their positions is a positively correlated sign of consumer confidence. People resigning their jobs signals they have confidence in the economy (they have found another job or are confident they will quickly) and in their own financial situation that they are willing to take a risk on moving to a new role.

People are being more proactive rather than reactive with their career decisions—and that’s a very good thing.

Recruiters don’t always shrug off a breakup.

At one point in my career, I was working on a high-criticality recruiting initiative. One position for this team in particular was pivotal. The opportunity was compelling; however the location was a bit challenging for some.

I had sourced a candidate for the position who the team thought was very strong. Everyone was very excited to have this person join the team. We negotiated–hard–to get them. After a couple weeks’ negotiation, the candidate made the choice to pursue a different opportunity.

You might think that a professional recruiter isn’t bothered when a candidate turns them down. Recruiting is a numbers game, after all, and when you’re in a highly competitive market for talent it is a given you will get declines. While the latter is true, allow me to disabuse you of the former.

A good recruiter assesses a candidate’s engagement level and evaluates the likelihood they will accept an offer. There are times when our instincts tell us ‘this candidate isn’t into us’, and in some cases we can raise a candidate’s level of engagement through qualifying and overcoming concerns/anxieties, having key leaders provide information to the candidate about the future vision for the product, etc. Then there are times when something outside our control impacts a decision to accept (family, spouse’s employment).

Having a great candidate decline a critical position is a huge bummer, especially for what we call ‘purple squirrels’–candidates that have such a unique skillset that finding another, similar person will involve a long search.

If you ever find yourself needing to decline a position, consider reading my earlier post on how to gracefully turn down a job offer before making that call or sending that email. And know that if the recruiter sounds disappointed, it’s likely quite genuine.

Professional Certifications: How valuable are they in your career?

In 2009, I studied for and passed the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. This is a widely recognized professional HR certification for mid-career HR and recruiting professionals.

I don’t have this pin. I’d never wear it if I did.

In the prior year I had moved out of recruiting into a talent program manager role. I was overseeing the entire employment lifecycle for 28 program associates, from recruiting/hiring/onboarding to performance management, salary planning, progressive discipline and employment law issues, etc. Suddenly I was well outside my scope of expertise in a number of core HR functions.

The SPHR certification afforded me an opportunity to quickly learn about these other key HR areas. I also realized that there was likely some market value to the certification itself.

But how much value is there?  Being certified in certain IT technologies can potentially add 8-13% to your base pay. And a PayScale study released this June shows that HR certifications can add significant amounts to base pay (up to $20,000) as well as accelerating career advancement. There’s good news for people pursuing their CPA or CFA, too: recent studies show that professionals holding these certifications saw an average base salary increase of 22%.

Does this mean I think everyone should run out and get a professional certification? Absolutely not. It greatly depends on your industry and whether it is certification-centric; and whether the certification will offer you strong value density in terms of the learning you achieve in addition to the brand recognition that comes with those additional letters after your name.

Many of the study programs–and the certification exams themselves–aren’t cheap, so you’ll have to weigh the cost against the potential ROI. How many job postings do you find that list the certification(s) you are considering as a required or preferred qualification? Search on LinkedIn–how many people list that certification? Are they in jobs you want? Talk with people in your field–ideally people who are in positions to which you aspire–who have achieved the certification. How has it benefited them? Do they recommend the program through which they achieved their certification?

“Why does the recruiter want to know my salary?”

I just had this question posed to me by a blog reader. It’s one I hear often. In an initial phone screen, the recruiter asks about your current salary. We are taught to never discuss that with anyone–and what are they asking for? Is it just to knock you out of consideration immediately?

In the corporate recruiting space, each job we open has:

  • A specific job title
  • A job level that corresponds to that job title (there will be many job titles within the company that correspond with that job level)
  • An internal pay range for that job title (the average low and high rate of pay for employees in that job title)
  • An external pay range (what market survey data states this job title is paying in our region).

From this the position is assigned a low–>high range in which the recruiter is approved to make an offer.

This is a nightmare scenario for a recruiter:  You source a great candidate, present them to the hiring team, have the candidate go through multiple interview rounds and be pronounced a ‘hire’–then learn that their compensation expectations are hovering in the stratosphere well above the high end of approved pay range. How does the recruiter go back to the hiring manager at that point and say, “Whoops–looks like this candidate, who you are now fully invested in hiring, won’t work because I didn’t do my job”?

Hence any good recruiter is going to ask this question up front so they know the candidate’s expectations, how that compares to the approved offerable range, and whether they might need to make a case for an exception. It does not necessarily mean you will automatically be eliminated from consideration. If we think you are an exceptional candidate and not too far outside the approved offerable range? We’ll move you forward but advise the hiring manager of your comp expectations. It’s their budget; they get to make the call.

Are there times we won’t? Yes. If there is a vast delta between the approved compensation range and what we know is budgeted for the position, it means a few things. One, you are likely very overqualified for the role. We often advise against overhiring. A new hire that is vastly overqualified for a position won’t have much (if anything) significant to learn, will grow bored with the position quickly, and if there isn’t another, larger role available they become a significant flight risk. Two, in almost all cases we aren’t going to be able to put together an offer within striking distance of the candidate’s desired comp; a lot of investment with no outcome. This role is likely not the right fit–but the recruiter might know of another, more senior role that is in the pipeline (but not yet posted) that could be.

In closing: Be transparent with the recruiter on the topic of compensation. It’s an important dialogue to have, and isn’t used only to eliminate you from consideration.

July 2017
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