Friday, April 25, 2008

Work related

In recent months, I've been asked by certain local organizations' human resources departments to serve on a panel to narrow down the list of candidates for jobs in my field.

I've had an interesting career trajectory through the specialized industry I work in, from blue collar to management, from small-time to brushes with big time, from gritty to hi-tone, from cutting edge to quite boringly staid.

I'm flattered to be asked to serve on these panels, but still surprised. Little ole me? The other panelists are so respected that I'm a bit awed to be included in their company.

Today we interviewed candidates for a demanding, challenging job that requires a high level of skill, current technical knowledge, and expertise. As an independent panel, we were to rate the applicants, and narrow it down to a short list.

We had some great applicants. The HR department did a good job of screening it down. Still, it's always interesting what comes out in the interview process. It makes me want to write a "how to" article about job interviews.

First of all - If you're applying for a job, research it. Google is your friend!! There's nothing that impresses a panel more than a candidate who actually knows something about the job itself and the employer. If the employer sells widgets and you spend your interview talking about your expertise in gidgets, you've wasted your time.

Second - if you're applying for a job where the phrase "state of the art technology" appears in the description, don't emphasize the work you did in the 70's. Seriously.

Third - Don't keep talking. Answer the question and shut up. This is a hard one, because it's easy to get nervous and keep babbling. Often you get a copy of the questions ahead of time. Read them and stick to the topic. If you don't get them in writing, then LISTEN.

Fourth - don't condescend to me. I know that I look like the 53 year old lady I am, but I'm on your ratings panel because someone thinks I know something about the work you might be hired to do. Don't explain an elementary principle of our trade to me as if I didn't know it. And the last thing that will impress me is if you name-drop someone who happens to be my best friend.

Fifth - don't try to shock me. For some reason, amateurs in my specialized field seem to enjoy trumpeting examples of failure and dysfunction as though they were good things. In many an interview, I'll hear a candidate say in a kind of hearty, "ho-ho I've seen it all" tone something like, "Oh, well, every once in a while a [occurance that is a dangerous accident] will happen." chuckle chuckle.

Actually, they don't. Not where I've worked. It's not funny, and it's not tolerated. We don't hire people who find dangerous accidents amusing. Trust me.

Sixth - don't tell me what I don't want to know. If you're looking for a job because you hate your current one, don't tell me that.

Some of you might disagree on this, because honesty is important. But I think what a person reveals exhibits his judgement and diplomacy. If you type "chose to pursue new opportunities" in the box that says "Reason for leaving" I already know that you probably didn't get on well in your previous job. But if you type "left because compensation was not commensurate with the amount of time and effort required to perform duties" - well, you've just told me a whole lot more about yourself than you should have. Like you resent the shit out of those people you used to work for, you hold a grudge, and if you get pissed off at us, we're going to regret hiring you.

It doesn't matter if you used to work for the Boss From Hell. In fact, since my industry is a specialized one, I already know by reading your resume that you worked for the Boss From Hell - and I would admire you so much more if you presented yourself positively instead of making that little knowing smirk at me and say that their safety record was "er... actually, not quite up to par."

Case in point - today our panel interviewed 8 people, and one stood out as being positive, knowledgeable, exciting, someone who would bring needed leadership, expertise, and energy to the position. We were all excited. We rated this person very highly, and I truly hope that they will hire him.

I went home and told [The man I love] about my experience. Turns out he knows about this person through various networks - have I said it's a small world? And this person has been passed over for a promotion in his current position and feels a little unappreciated. It makes perfect sense that he's out looking. But he brought such a positive attitude to the interview that you couldn't have known it.

In the end, we left the search committe with 4 promising candidates, and I know one will work out. I'm glad we did it, and I'm really glad to have an inside look into the process.


JCK said...

Great interview tips! And neat that your husband knows of the guy who impressed you. Small world!

KathyR said...

Now, listen here little lady. Sometimes, haw-haw, thing blow up, you know? Why, back at my old job in 1978...


Yes. Honesty is important. But not to the point of indiscretion.

Great post/tips! Now, if only someone wanted to hire a 47-year-old suburban princess who's been out of a job for nearly 15 years...

g said...

You laugh, kathy, but I swear, what you wrote is almost a direct quote from one of these guys...!