Unless You’re Hiring “We” – Don’t Let Candidates Hide Under the “We” Umbrella

I was recently interviewing a candidate with the CEO of the UK based umbrella company I'm doing a search for. As the candidate is answering a question the CEO stops him and says, “I hate it when people use the words we and they in their answers. I'm hiring you, not we or they, so I want to know what you did. I would prefer it if you used ‘I' instead.” I thought WOW that is a pretty strong statement and it clearly signaled to the candidate how to better answer his questions.  So what do you think was the next word out of the candidate's mouth? If you answered “I” you would be wrong. It was “we.”

It wasn't that the candidate didn't want to answer the question. It wasn't that he didn't want to follow the CEO's suggestion. He was in the habit of saying “we.”  Like most candidates, he has been trained to respond this way. Every book, coach, recruiter and outplacement firm seems to stress the need to use the word “we.” The fact is, there is a need to use the word “we” during an interview, but not all the time. As the interviewer you should help the candidate navigate these waters.

It isn't the candidate's fault for using “we and they.” I believe managers have to take some of the blame for this. For example, if a candidate uses “I” too often the interviewer often thinks, not a team player, they have a big ego, this person is arrogant, it's all about them, they couldn't possibly do all of this, or they like to take all the credit. Have you ever had these thoughts? What honest manager hasn't? As a result candidates have been trained to to respond with “we” so as to eliminate those thoughts. For the most part, managers are getting the monster they created.

A good interview is a blend of “I” and “we.” Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung too far in one direction and interviewers need to help tame the monster.  Just as the CEO did in his interview, consider working with the candidates. They are in an environment where they are not comfortable. It is not the same as when they are working and in their comfort zone. This is a common mistake made by interviewers. Cut the candidates some slack. It's an interview. Give them the same consideration you would want if you were a candidate out interviewing for a job.

Instead of eliminating the candidate, try coaching the candidate much like the CEO did. Let them know they have your permission to use the word “I.” Reassure them that you will not think they aren't a team player or have a big ego. It will take some coaching and patience so the candidate gets comfortable using “I” instead of “we.” If you help them just a little you may not lose a good candidate for the wrong reasons.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

Can Your Candidates Demonstrate Initiative Before You Hire Them?

Q. What questions do you find are helpful for getting to the candidate's motivation and cultural fit?

 One question that I believe addresses these issues is centered around understanding the candidate's drive or initiative. Granted there are others, but I think this particular one deals with both.

Just about all jobs require some level of initiative. Most managers want a person that is willing to take initiative in their job. It is a lot easier to hold someone back than it is to try and push them forward. We believe all top talent is self-motivated and will take initiative.

The question I like to ask candidates is, “Can you give me an example in your current or last position where you demonstrated high initiative?” or “Can you give me an example in your current or last position where you did something you weren't required or asked to do, but you did it because you believed it needed to be done?”  These are excellent phone interviewing questions.

Depending on the level of the person the answer will vary. I wouldn't expect that same initiative from a truck driver as I would a VP level person. It also deals with the speed of one's culture.  After hearing the answer you might think this is high initiative or you might think, “If that is high initiative in their organization, in ours that would be considered standing still.”  Regardless of the answer, you'll know whether or not they demonstrate this trait at the right level for your position and your organization.

Finally, I find this to be one of the best phone interviewing questions. If the candidate can't provide an example of initiative or doesn't meet the standard you are seeking, do you really need to bring them in for an interview?

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.” Just CLICK HERE and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

Interviewing Only The Employed. Is It The Way To Hire?

Q. My boss thinks we should only interview and hire people that are working.  What are your thoughts on this?

 I think you and your boss should only interview and hire qualified candidates that will be top performers. Why would your boss want to exclude a potential top performer because they are not working?

I get this question all the time. The fact is bad things happen to good people. I facilitate a group of VP and C level executives for the American Association of Senior Executives (www.AASE.us) many of these execs are in-transition and are top performers. It is inconceivable why any company would not consider them when hiring just because they are unemployed.

The goal when hiring should always be first and foremost, hire the person that will perform the best. There are many reasons in this economy unrelated to performance why a person may be unemployed. To paint everyone with such a broad brush is short sighted.  Ask your boss if they have ever hired someone working and that person failed? If the response is “Yes” then that demonstrates that just because someone is working doesn't mean they are the best person.

What if your boss becomes unemployed? Would he/she agree that they are not a high performer and shouldn't be hired?

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.” Just CLICK HERE and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

One Simple Thing CEOs Can Do To Improve Interviewing

Q. Are there any tricks to improving the interviewing in our company?

 I wouldn't call it a trick, but there is one thing that impacts interviewing more than anything else and when properly handled can literally change interviewing overnight. The power of  first impressions.  Few things impact the interview more than the interviewer’s first impression of the candidate.

Often the first impression will drive the interview. It can set the tone for the interview before the interview even begins.  A strong first impression can result in an easy interview with soft ball questions. A negative first impression may result in a difficult interview or very short interview since the interviewer has already decided that this is not the right person and they haven't even left the lobby.

I suggest training yourself and your managers to be aware of the power of the first impression. Everybody has first impressions. I have had over 10,000 interviews in my life and I still have first impressions. Only a robot wouldn't have them. The issue is how do we deal with them? I have learned that regardless of a positive or negative first impression I set that aside and still conduct a probing in-depth interview. At the end of that interview I will revisit my first impression to determine if it is still valid. Over half the time I discover that the first impression is not valid and the person can not only do the job, but has such great strengths that they are able to overcome any negative first impression. You could lose a great candidate for the wrong reason.

It all goes back to getting your managers properly trained. Teach them to set aside their first impressions, conduct thorough in-depth probing interviews, and then decide if the first impression is still valid. This trick, as you call it, will dramatically impact your hiring.

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.”  Just CLICK HERE  and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE  Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often

Do you have other people in your organization interview candidates that will end up working directly for you? Just about everyone answers “Yes” to this question. The follow up question to that is, “Have you ever sat in the interviews with these co-workers and assessed whether or not they are competent interviewers?” I don't mean co-interviewed with them. I mean assessed their interviewing abilities. Most answer “No” to this question.

You are relying on their opinion for someone that will play a role in your success, and many don't even know if they conducted  a competent interview.

Two reasons interviewing fails:

1) Incompetent people interviewing. This is by no means a knock on those people. The fact is, some people are naturally good interviewers, just like some people are a natural at music, sports, or math. However, most are not good interviewers, just like most are not good at music, sports, or math.

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed. Since very few people ever actually receive any training on how to properly interview, most just aren't good at it. We do a lot of interviewing training and most taking the course have either had no training or it was one short class years ago.  How can anyone expect these people to be competent at interviewing? Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up to date to be effective.

The one major flaw we have discovered that most poor interviewers make is not probing deeply into what the candidates tell them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, etc. They may ask one or two follow up questions, but most of the time these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge we face in our workshops. Not that the person doesn't want to probe, they just don't know how or they are uncomfortable asking these level of questions.

2) Vague questions equal vague hires. This is often because those in the second or third round of interviews really don't understand the position. They interview every candidate much the same way regardless of position. It is the one size fits all interview syndrome.

Since most don't know the job, they ask vague, generic questions. The problem with this is that once the person comes on board the job expectations by the hiring authority are rarely vague and generic. At least in the hiring manager's mind, which often is completely different than the candidate's mind.

I have asked hundreds of hiring managers if they review in detail the job spec with the co-workers interviewing the candidates. Less than 10% say yes. So that means the other people interviewing just assume what is important, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for a job, they themselves don't even understand. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?

Interviewing doesn't have to be all that complicated. It doesn't have to be so sophisticated that a person needs to go through extensive training every time they need to interview. In fact, interviewing should be simple, thorough, and easy for everyone to understand.

If we told you that you and everyone else in your company that interviews could conduct simple, thorough, and probing interviews with just five core questions and six simple follow up words would you believe us? Well, it is true. Good interviewers can get about 80% of the information they need to decide whether or not the person can do the job with just these. If they can't pass these  five core questions, then all of the other questions may be irrelevant, so why ask them? For the five core questions CLICK HERE.

Once the interviewer has asked these five questions, then probing is required to fully understand the candidate's specific role. You can do a very deep probe with just six simple words. That is it, six words. For details of these CLICK HERE.

We preach, teach, and train in our workshops to make interviewing simpler and have competent people doing the interviewing. Incompetent interviewers asking a bunch of different questions, with no real objective, or worse yet, the interviewers having different objectives leads to a bad hires.

When this happens the company ends up hiring the good or great interviewee, rather than a good or great employee.

For more information on conducting in-depth, probing interviews using the five core questions, see our book “You're NOT The Person I Hired.” CLICK HERE to learn more.

Consider joining our How to Hire and Retain Top Talent LinkedIn group. It is free and provides a lot of resources for  hiring managers and companies. CLICK HERE to join.

Finally, our audio library is available for free downloads. This library contains over 20 audio recordings to help you attract,  hire and retain top talent. All these audio files are free. CLICK HERE to review the library.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard