The Many Pitfalls of Interviewing via Cell Phone

I get it. More and more Americans are removing traditional land-line telephone service from their homes. I did it more than four years ago and have never looked back. Our home phone rarely rang anyway, and if it did, it was a phone solicitor trying to sell something or a computer-generated survey call to gather information so they could auto-dial me later to sell me something! In a USA Today story last spring a reported 25% of all US households have ditched their phone service and only use cell phones, for a variety of reasons.

What I don’t get is why a candidate would to use their cell phone to interview for their next position, knowing any number of issues could (and probably will) turn up. It’s a horrible idea. Here are a few common cell-phone/interview incompatibility scenarios that I seem to encounter time and time again:

  • You have bad cell coverage. Everyone’s cell phone has a bar indicator informing us about the strength of an area’s coverage at any given time. Knowing cell coverage is spotty at best and still choosing to do an interview on your mobile phone is just a bad idea. Multiple dropped calls get very old, very fast for the person conducting the interview, and it demonstrates some seriously poor judgment on your part.
  • You are driving. It’s a proven fact that humans are unable to process more than one piece of data at a time, so why you would elect to have a critical phone interview while driving at speeds of 70 MPH or in a rain storm with rain pelting down on your windshield?! This poor judgment call leads to multiple interview gaffes, as you are forced to ask the interviewer to speak up so you can hear them, or you ask them to hold while you attempt to navigate and impress your audience at the same time. Bad call. Pull over on the side of the road if you find yourself in your car when talking to a potential new employer.
  • Low Battery. This one is really inexcusable, but, believe it or not, has been behind many prematurely terminated interviews, just because the candidate had not thought though the consequences of running out of battery life (i.e. having to reschedule the call because of poor planning). Not a good plan. Nope!
  • Sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant. So you slipped away from the office to hole up in your favorite cafe or coffee shop, and while it may work for you, the background noise is a total distraction for the person conducting the interview. God forbid you actually order something while the person on the other end of the phone patiently waits for you to complete your request! This has actually happened!!!

It’s always best to use a landline, but if you have to use your cell, make sure to charge your phone, and avoid bad coverage areas, driving, and crowds. These risks may put you in a position where you hear the sound of dial tone on the other end of the phone because the call, the interview, and the opportunity is over!

Being Left “High and Dry”

Not to send a message of sour grapes with a recent candidate experience I had, but… why not? When I bring a candidate to the table, prep him for an interview, negotiate an offer, and then he decides to no-show for a position he’d accepted, it sends me a loud message to me and the countless others who’ve put their time into the search – we’ve been left “high and dry'”. It’s surreal to step back and think that all the effort that went into this search was wasted.

It’s human to make mistakes and to sometimes change our minds on important issues. I get that. What I don’t get is when someone doesn’t have the decency or strength of character to pick up the phone (or even return a phone call after pulling out) to explain what’s happened and why the candidate decided at the very last minute not to show up. It’s called business etiquette (or proper protocol, or whatever you want to call it) and in this case, it did not happen. Receiving that call from a client trying to find out why their new recruit has failed to show up on Monday morning is completely embarrassing. This is after they’ve invested time and resources to prepare for the new employee’s arrival, of course, including:
Setting up voicemail
Establishing an e-mail account
Ordering credit cards for travel-related expenses
Ordering and paying for a new cell phone
Ordering and paying for a new laptop
Booking airfare for an upcoming trade show
Scheduling a complete training and on-boarding plan
Announcing the “New Employee” to the entire employee population

So by now I think you get my point. Backing out of an offer – after telling everyone involved how excited you are about joining the organization, signing and accepting the job offer while continuing to look for a better deal like some NFL or NBA free agent – is just plain wrong. You’ve destroyed your brand equity and your reputation in the market and risk having this story told to others who may know lots of influential people in this space.

If you do find yourself struggling with a decision to accept an offer, then by all means, listen to the little voice inside your head and opt out early. Do it out of respect for the very people who’ve invested time, energy and money in vetting you as a candidate. Leaving them high and dry has real consequences downstream, not just for the organization and recruiter, but also for you and your brand.

Being Left “High and Dry”

Not to send a message of sour grapes with a recent candidate experience I had, but… why not? When I bring a candidate to the table, prep him for an interview, negotiate an offer, and then he decides to no-show for a position he’d accepted, it sends me a loud message to me and the countless others who’ve put their time into the search – we’ve been left “high and dry'”. It’s surreal to step back and think that all the effort that went into this search was wasted.

It’s human to make mistakes and to sometimes change our minds on important issues. I get that. What I don’t get is when someone doesn’t have the decency or strength of character to pick up the phone (or even return a phone call after pulling out) to explain what’s happened and why the candidate decided at the very last minute not to show up. It’s called business etiquette (or proper protocol, or whatever you want to call it) and in this case, it did not happen. Receiving that call from a client trying to find out why their new recruit has failed to show up on Monday morning is completely embarrassing. This is after they’ve invested time and resources to prepare for the new employee’s arrival, of course, including:
Setting up voicemail
Establishing an e-mail account
Ordering credit cards for travel-related expenses
Ordering and paying for a new cell phone
Ordering and paying for a new laptop
Booking airfare for an upcoming trade show
Scheduling a complete training and on-boarding plan
Announcing the “New Employee” to the entire employee population

So by now I think you get my point. Backing out of an offer – after telling everyone involved how excited you are about joining the organization, signing and accepting the job offer while continuing to look for a better deal like some NFL or NBA free agent – is just plain wrong. You’ve destroyed your brand equity and your reputation in the market and risk having this story told to others who may know lots of influential people in this space.

If you do find yourself struggling with a decision to accept an offer, then by all means, listen to the little voice inside your head and opt out early. Do it out of respect for the very people who’ve invested time, energy and money in vetting you as a candidate. Leaving them high and dry has real consequences downstream, not just for the organization and recruiter, but also for you and your brand.

PIMPING for the Big Interview

OK, before you draw any conclusions, I’m taking the high road as far as the use of the term “pimp” goes. Although most of us prepare by reading material on the person we will be interviewing with, we’re probably not fully (mentally) prepared before we “go live” as an active participant in an interview.

PIMP = Pre-Interview-Mental-Preparation (in this case). It’s sort of like when athletes use visualization techniques before swinging a bat, kicking a field goal, throwing a touchdown or putting a golf ball into the cup. It is absolutely essential to be mentally prepared and not distracted before you engage in a phone or face-to-face interview. If you’re not, the interviewer may interpret your behavior as being less-than-fully engaged, and could even send the wrong message about your interest level. While knowledge of the audience, questions and company details are critically important, it is equally important to plan for a great outcome in advance. One of my all-time favorite quotes on this subject comes from Dr Denis Waitley who said: “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.” I believe he’s right.

William Cole actually suggests his 29 strategies to mentally warm up for your interview. Whether you use his techniques or ones you develop on your own, you should be sure your head is in the game just before your interview gets started. At minimum you should clear your plate and focus on the questions you will be asked (and how you will answer them) well before the interview takes place. Make sure you spend time with the search consultant to get a few pointers on your audience, and ask questions to help you become better prepared. Take a few deep breaths to relax your nerves and clear your mind, and for God’s sake, TURN OFF your cell phone or any other electronic devices that may distract you from achieving the outcome you desire. Most of us have never thought about the mental preparation when we’re getting ready for an interview – but we should.

Now that you have been PIMPed, get ready, prepare your mind, relax your nerves and have a great interview. Plan in advance the outcome you want, and go make it happen!

Language, Liquor, and Lies

People are simply amazing, wonderful creatures to watch, especially in an interview setting. Some candidates prepare for days while others rely on their people skills to get them through without any preparation whatsoever. Bad move. To totally rely on your gift of the gab is risky, especially when the interviewer begins to ask questions – or peels back the layers of the onion. Without some advance prep, most candidates just can’t keep it up – a few softballs – and then, game over.

Even if you are incredibly prepared, you should always stay focused on the mission – why you are there. Letting down your guard makes you vulnerable and gives the interviewer more information than they probably want to hear. In my business, I’ve seen it all. Here are a few of my favorites:

Language– I’ve written about this phenomenon before. It goes both ways – at some point in the interview process, a candidate or client suddenly feels comfortable and that they’re really (no, not really) connecting with their audience by dropping inappropriate language. They feel like they’re building rapport – forging a solid relationship – by sharing their ‘human side’ with other person. Dropping ‘F-Bombs’ is NEVER appropriate during an interview. Just last month one of our candidates decided to use inappropriate language in their very first interview with the client, and it went over like… well, it didn’t. And it never will.

Liquor – I’m not a fan of boozing it up during a dinner interview (and please, never at lunch), but some people feel compelled to order a drink if the person conducting the interview decides to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine. This can feel like a way to connect with the person you are with – especially is they could become your future boss. I always suggest abstinence when you can, and if you can’t, just one, please (and nurse it for a very long time). I’ve seen cases of over-consumption of alcohol during a dinner interview (loose lips prevailed), and it’s always downhill from there. When it doubt – club soda with a twist of lime always works, and sounds cool too!

Lies– People in HCIT leadership positions most likely know someone who knows someone who knows you. Name-dropping is never a good idea- especially if the interviewer knows that person well. This, of course, becomes very problematic when a candidate embellishes the truth about a career milestone or tries to take credit for something they never did on their own. Remember the onion analogy above? Be careful! A safe answer that is always acceptable is “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember”. I have story after story of how stretching the truth came back to bite the candidate in more ways than one. Go ahead and tell it like it was!

My final tip is regardless of how comfortable you are with the audience (on the telephone or in person), remember to NEVER let your guard down!

Top 5 Things to Remember When it’s Time to Resign

Sooner or later that dreadful day will come when it’s time to call it quits. My best advice is to follow these five easy steps when you’re finally ready to cut bait:

1. Make sure your decision is final, and that even with a counter offer, you are done! If there’s even the slightest bit of hesitation on your part, it will stick out like a sore thumb and could potentially leave the door open for a counter-offer (which may require a roll of TUMS).

2. Keep your decision to yourself. Never discuss leaving with a coworker – regardless of how long you’ve known them. People love to talk, and most couldn’t keep a secret if they tried. Someone letting your news out of the bag could be a real problem. Trust no one!

3. Make sure you have a written offer in your hands. Accept no substitutions – verbal offers don’t carry any weight when making an important decision like a resignation. Negotiate all of the fine points, have your offer in final form and make sure it’s on the new employers letterhead, dated and signed.

4. Keep your message – both written and verbal – brief and to the point. Less filling is better – it doesn’t usually do any good to discuss where you’re going. Don’t arm your audience with ammo they can use to make a counter-offer or make you second-guess your decision. Leave no wiggle room!

5. Maintain a professional approach to the resignation, because your brand will live on in that organization – for better or worse. Give the proper notice (or honor your notice period if you have an employment agreement). If they ask you to leave before your notice, often you can receive compensation from your employer. Also make sure you take the high road and never badmouth the employer to the employees still on the island. Nothing good can come from that.

Now that you have what you need to resign, all that’s left is the guts to pull the trigger!

RELO on the Cheap?

Earlier this year we were engaged to find a senior executive for a leading healthcare organization which would likely involve relocation. Relos have somewhat declined in our practice post-economic meltdown, largely due to the upside-down equity that many Americans have in their home values. That, in turn, forces a very geocentric talent search – starting out in the area the client is based and usually expanding state-wide, then regionally and eventually nationally. We’ve certainly done a number of relos in the past few years and employers, while interested in having a broad slate of candidates to choose from, still seem to be stuck in the fall of 2008 – afraid to make the relocation investment to find the perfect candidate.

I was asked earlier in the year to conduct a national search, but to make sure the candidate understood that the client was offering a relocation-lite. Less filling – got it! So exactly what does that mean? To some it’s a U-Haul and a Chick-Filet sandwich, while others put a cap on actual expenses incurred for moving expenses only. Both send a very clear message to the new recruit about the value they’re place on them – leaving the new hire to deal with the massive losses they’ll likely incur trying to unload the old address while hoping they’ll see upside on their new home. It’s a very delicate issue, but one that needs some careful thought and consideration to keep from sending out the wrong message.

One way to accomplish this is take a broader look at the hiring process of someone who will require relocation.

This includes:
A salary adjustment (if the cost of living is higher in the new location).
At least two trips to the new location so the family can visit the area and select the right neighborhood, find a home, schools, and make sure everyone (really) loves the new town.
Hiring and paying for a professional relocation to manage the many details of the new employee’s relocation on behalf of the company.
Reimbursement expenses like packing, materials, insurance and transportation to the new location.
Temporary housing, if required (I’ve commonly seen 3-6 months).
Some financial off-set to aid the employee in selling their old home. This may include making a fixed number of mortgage payments or paying a relocation flat bonus amount in an effort to help the new employee. Most organizations no longer buy homes as the risk to far too great in this (still) declining real estate market.
Some organizations offer low interest (recoverable) loans to help with down payments or if the new employee has to show up at the closing table with a check in order to sell their underwater home.

It’s still a bit dicey out there, and employers have to be creative and compassionate when it comes to dealing with relocation issues. While the offer of the U-Haul and Chick-Filet are appreciated – Relo-lite tastes bad in so many other ways.

Check your EGO at the Door, Please

I hear it from clients all the time – candidates who apparently do no wrong, can part the Red Sea and can literally (if needed) ‘walk on water’. Why? I’ll never know. When dealing with candidates’ large egos, I lose interest quickly. Life’s too short.

And guess what?

I’m not the only one who’s turned off by this sort of behavior.

Organizations need team players to fall in line, embrace it’s strategy, and deliver services and technology – and do it with a high degree of quality. Organizations also need leaders to lead by setting a good example and by driving the strategy in a professional and positive manner. What is NOT needed is a bunch of EGOMANIACS either on the team or leading it. These individuals have an inflated sense of self-worth and know no other way to behave. If there is an organizational morale issue – it’s clearly never their fault.

Without trying to be cruel (ok, maybe I am), I just have low (zero) tolerance for people with big EGOs. They are destructive to building high-performance teams, and a big reason why great talent goes looking elsewhere for employment. It’s ‘their way or the highway’ as they rarely contemplate making a mistake or – heaven forbid – admitting to such an atrocity. C’mon people! Who wants to work for (or with) someone like that? I once had the unpleasant experience of working for an egomaniac, and it absolutely killed the entire team’s morale. I spent more time looking for a job than focusing on the trivial tasks this knucklehead doled out.

During the hiring process, employers and recruiters should evaluate and assess candidates in the pre-screening process to determine how inflated an individual’s head really is. If they can’t check their ego at the door, it’s best to shove them out the door early-on. Hiring BIG EGO employees has a very predictable outcome. And it’s never good. Trust me!

Moonlighting

So you find out one of your lieutenants has a part-time gig and is moonlighting after-hours. Hmmm. What is a hiring manager to do? In today’s economic climate it’s certainly NOT unusual for employees to do whatever it takes to weather the storm.

For some, it’s teaching a yoga class three nights a week to break up the monotony of their everyday life (working for you), while others are just attempting to make ends meet – trying to generate additional cash flow to make up for a spouse’s lost income so they can make their mortgage payment.

Perhaps buried in their employee paperwork is a clause similar to this:

Outside Employment
Staff members interested in pursuing approval to engage in outside employment should notify the Department of Human Resources and request an “Application for Permission to Engage in Outside Employment or Practice of Profession.” This form requires approval in advance of engaging in such activities. A copy of the completed form will be kept on file in the Department of Human Resources. In addition, employees will not engage in an outside business or profession that would in any manner compete with a similar business or profession over which he or she would have direct supervision, inspection, or purchasing authority within the University, such being a conflict of interest. Under no circumstances can university property be used for the outside employment. The “Application for Permission to Engage in Outside Employment or Practice of Profession” must be completed or updated at the end of each fiscal year or each time the outside employment changes. Applications must be completed even if no payment is being received.

Putting the kibosh on any outside activity that requires an employee to perform work during the hours they are on your payroll – I get that. However, if this activity is for weekend work or at night after an employee has finished their day-to-day responsibilities, I’m not so sure I agree that employers should enforce a policy of discouragement.

Engaging in activities that allow an employee to participate in something they are passionate about can be a very good thing. Conversely, having restrictive covenants that DO NOT allow an employee to engage in any outside activities may create bad blood with someone who is either following their dream/passion or trying to make ends meet.

Just my humble opinion…

Listen for the Train

Last week I received one of those oh-so-familiar calls from a very strong HCIT leader who I’ve never spoken to before. He reached out (I’m guessing) to throw out a safety net as his organization is beginning the integration process of merging with another health system. We exchanged pleasantries, and he quickly got to the heart of the matter. He said “I think I’m OK for now and that my position should be secure. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.” I, unfortunately have heard that story/seen that movie time and time again and can almost predict the ending.

Wisdom prevailed, however, when he suggested it may be time to forge a relationship with a search firm because of his father’s decades-old advice to “Listen For the Train.” That immediately resonated with me. So many great and talented people never listen for the train – they see the signs of what could be coming but continue to go about their merry way thinking it’ll all play out fine. And it may. But my advice is to keep your network alive and active because, in the end, you just never know. In life’s highways and byways, if you’re a rider on someone else’s bus you are at the mercy of every twist and turn they choose to make – all because they’re driving and you are not. A good way to be ready for all possibilities – good and bad – is to make sure your options are open by maintaining your network, so when that train does come, you’ll be ready for it.

Keeping your network active is not that difficult, either. A simple phone call, e-mail or LinkedIn message to your colleagues on a regular basis will keep you “top of mind” if they start to see or hear the warning signs. Schedule regular monthly (or at least quarterly) touch-points to reach out to your contacts, and keep your network active and informed about what you are up to these days. I have a former co-worker (from many years ago) who ONLY calls me when he knows it’s time for him to move on and find a new gig. That’s not the way to keep an active network. Not at all.

So as we begin a new summer season and wrap up the first half of 2012, make it your plan to pick up the phone and contact the people you know can help you, or who you can help. It matters. Whether you reach out by phone, e-mail, social media or in-person over a cup of coffee, don’t wait until the house is on fire!

And do yourself a favor – always… and I mean always …Listen For the Train.