Archive for November, 2010

Why Good Candidates Bomb

November 24, 2010

If I ruled the world, I would have full authority to place fully qualified and scrutinized candidates into their new roles, bypassing the pomp and circumstance of the interview dance.  Why?  Because all too many hiring executives seem to be hiring people who can get the job instead of those who can do the job.  Similarly, multitudes of strong, ideally suited candidates seem to fall flat on their faces when given the chance to present themselves in an interview setting.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the value of the interview process and I’m certainly not above those who know their own company better than anyone else.  They are simply seeking to build out their teams with the most appropriate individuals to help attain their business objectives.  However, there are so many situations where it’s abundantly clear that a given candidate would make an ideal fit in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as culture.  They would very likely thrive in the setting, gel with their prospective colleagues, and positively impact the company’s need to take its business to the next level.  Yet, invariably, something goes haywire when the candidate rubber meets the interview road.

First, there’s the issue of the resume.  A poorly crafted resume is like showing up for the interview with torn jeans, a food stained T-shirt, bed hair, and paint-peeling body odor from not having showered the last 5 days.  This is one’s career we’re talking about, not a trip to the local dump.  Yes, a resume is technically a formality, but in that same light, so is a Purchase and Sales Agreement for buying a house.  You better have it right.

As a viable candidate, you won’t even have a chance to bomb the interview if you can’t even make it through the first step.  The resume is a documented manifestation of all you’ve accomplished, all you bring to the table, and how you are differentiated from the rest of the candidate noise out there.  If you don’t see the value in investing in a top tier resume, then you either suffer from delusions of grandeur, in which hiring companies are lucky just to have the chance to beg you to join their firm, or your priorities are way out of whack…or both!

Assuming you have a well-crafted resume and have been invited to the dance, you better get prepared.  Just because you’ve been hired in the past and have since progressed nicely in your career, doesn’t mean you can bank on your stellar reputation and ability to speak extemporaneously to simply wing it.  You need to do your homework.  That means ask the recruiter or networking contact who got you in the door any and all questions about the company – its people, culture, financials, product, history, vision, competitive landscape, customers, accomplishments, and challenges.  You must research the company, not only scouring every square inch of their website, but reading articles and leveraging your network for any inside information.

Upon researching the company, take time to reflect on how your background, skill set, and accomplishments map to the specific stated needs the company has, both for the position as well as their overarching business objectives.  Be prepared to give specific examples from your past on how your experience is ideally suited for their needs.  Yes, as great a candidate as you are, and as lucky as the hiring company would be to have you on board, you still must sell yourself.

Granted, the hiring company needs to sell you on the opportunity as well.  And that’s where thoughtful, provocative questions prepared in advance come in handy for a candidate.  It demonstrates preparedness, interest, enthusiasm, and inquisitiveness – all positive attributes.  And at the end of an interview, there is no need to shy away from trying to close them on a next step.  Ultimately, if you’re a Sales candidate, do you prepare for and conduct yourself in interviews at the same level that you prepare for and conduct a major client meeting?  For all others not in Sales, please pretend that you’re a Sales candidate.

From the other side of the table, all too many times a hiring executive will disqualify a candidate because they didn’t happen to do one or two specific things that were expected of them, such as parrot back the company’s mission statement from their website verbatim, answer the question on why they’re looking to leave their current employer without saying anything even remotely inflammatory, or state the value prop and key differentiators while jumping off the desk and doing a 2 ½ twist in a pike position.  Once again, there is not a direct correlation between perceived interviewing prowess (based on the hiring manager’s specific criteria) and the ability to do the job well.

At the end of the day, candidates bomb mainly because they are their own worst enemy.  Sure, hiring managers are not without fault as previously stated.  Yet, candidates by and large, are doing themselves a disservice by selling themselves short.  They profess attention to detail, only to have egregious typos and formatting inconsistencies in their resume.  They believe an opportunity is perfect for them, but don’t put in the time and effort needed to fully prepare and effectively articulate how they understand the entirety of the opportunity not to mention how they can fit in and succeed.

If only candidates had high priced sports agents, like Scott Boras, doing all the heavy lifting – researching, preparing, presenting.  He could take care of extolling the candidate’s virtues, mapping the candidate’s abilities to the hiring company’s expressed needs, and brokering the deal.  Granted, recruiters do play a significant role along these lines.  However, the reality is once the door closes to the interview room, it’s time for candidates to be their own Scott Boras.

Action Items:

1.  Your mastery of prior positions, impressive mountain of credentials, and sparkling personality are not enough to get in the door.  You better have a masterful, impressive, and sparkling resume to back it up.

2.  For candidates, prepare, prepare, prepare.  Be ready like it’s a final exam.  Because, guess what?  You will be tested.

3.  For hiring executives, focus on envisioning the candidate fitting in and doing well in the role.  Once again, hire people who can do the job, not just those who can get the job.

4.  All points made in this article may appear to be common sense.  But take a minute, get introspective and be honest with yourself.  You’d be surprised at how elusive common sense can be…for us all.