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Via Fortune : How to Make Your Next Job Interview Count

As Fortune reports in a new feature story this week, employers are increasingly looking beyond traditional credentials to find job candidates whose life experiences show their “grit,” the persistence, resilience and creativity under pressure that can be a better proxy for success than any posh internship or Ivy League degree.

The growing importance of grit is changing the dynamics of the typical job interview. If you’re a job candidate, every conversation you have with a recruiter, a sponsor, or an interviewer is an opportunity to frame your story and telegraph your strengths through this new lens. And if you are the interviewer, you face the challenge of looking past preconceptions and connecting with unconventional candidates in order to find the talent your company needs.

Here are tips for navigating the interview, for people on either side of the desk.

3 Tips for Job Candidates

➜ Let your own light shine. Potential employers may not feel comfortable asking or talking about family struggles or difficult experiences like foster care. But if such experiences helped you develop and display strength, resilience, or ingenuity, bring them up. “We encourage young men to look at their story through the asset prism, not the deficit prism,” says Blair Taylor, former CEO of My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving the odds for men of color. (It’s now being folded into the Obama Foundation.)

Ask for help. When preparing for a hiring or advancement conversation, find a mentor to help you craft your talking points. “I’m always amazed at how few young employees of color seek out mentors or advice,” says Zackarie Lemelle, former CIO of Johnson & Johnson and current executive coach. The same can be said of folks of all ages and backgrounds who haven’t spent time at the most sought-after schools and workplaces. Many people in positions of authority “would gladly take the time to give you this type of feedback,” says Lemelle. “And they know how things work.”

Craft a story that people can share. It helps to shape your talking points into a narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end that an interviewer can remember and repeat. “Some of the most important conversations happen when the candidate is not in the room,” says Kailei Carr, director of the Emerge Academy, a women’s leadership-development program. “It’s critical that people with political clout and influence understand you well enough to be able to advocate on your behalf.”

3 Tips for Interviewers

➜ Stay open and curious. Hiring managers and interviewers can be prone to fixating on familiar keywords (schools, job titles, references) on résumés, overreacting to their presence or absence. “Remember that the person sitting in front of you is a stranger, no matter what their résumé does or doesn’t say,” says Carla J. Ogunrinde, chair of the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, an organization dedicated to advancing black professionals in tech. “You don’t know them. If you begin at that entry point, then curiosity is the only natural next step.”

➜ Let them try you on for size. Many companies give life-complexity candidates room to prove themselves by letting them audition for jobs, rather than just applying. “We let people come and sit side by side with us while we work on a real challenge,” says Briana van Strijp, head of people and culture for Anthemis, an investment and advisory fund focusing on digital financial services. Since collaboration is a key value, “it leads to richer interactions and actual conversations.”

➜ Share your own story. For applicants without elite educational backgrounds, interviews can be daunting. Opening up about your own life story can put an interviewee at ease, establishing rapport and trust. “Everyone has a story, everyone has stumbled, and everyone has succeeded,” says Salesforce’s Tony Prophet. Strategic disclosure can be disarming and lead to better conversations—giving the candidates a chance to describe the strengths they’re bringing to you. “It’s part of being an authentic leader,” he notes.

Via Madison.com : 4 Tips for Conducting Your First Interview

It’s natural for job candidates to be nervous going into the interview process. But if it’s your first time conducting an interview, you might experience your fair share of jitters as well. The truth is that while leading an interview isn’t rocket science, there are things you can do to make it run smoothly for everyone involved. If you feel like you’re going in blind, here are a few steps you can take to prepare.

1. Know the job inside and out

As an interviewer, it’s not just your job to vet candidates, but also make sure you’re providing the information they need to make informed decisions about the role that’s up for grabs. Before you kick off the interview process, make sure you really understand what the job in question entails. How will the person who gets hired end up spending his or her days? What expectations will there be for the role? And what sort of growth opportunities will the position allow for? These are the sort of details you’ll want to hammer out before you sit down and meet with candidates.

2. Study each candidate’s resume beforehand

You probably went through your share of resumes before landing on the right people to interview. But how much do you really remember about each individual candidate’s specific experience? Before you meet with each person you’ve called in, review his or her resume thoroughly, and pay attention to the parts you want to discuss face to face. You might even take the old school approach by printing each resume and highlighting the sections you want to bring up.

Along these lines, figure out what precise information you want clarity on before kicking off your interviews, and jot down notes so that you remember to follow up accordingly. For example, if you’re iffy about someone’s project management ability based on how that candidate’s resume reads, ask about a specific task he or she led and its outcome.

3. Have a list of key questions ready

Just as you should expect your prospective hires to come in for their interviews prepared, so too should you, as the interviewer, be ready with a list of essential questions you want to cover. Those might run the gamut from general job skill inquiries to specifics about a particular software or task. If you’re not quite sure where to begin, you can consult this list of essential interview questions, and tweak it to meet your needs.

4. Do a trial run

Whether you’re nervous about running an upcoming interview or want to polish your technique, it often pays to conduct a trial run before you find yourself sitting down with actual candidates. Enlist the help of a colleague or friend, and go through the motions to get a sense of which areas, if any, need improvement on your part.

For example, if you find that you’re being way too formal, you can work on relaxing and adjusting your tone and line of questioning. Or, if you find that you’re struggling to answer key questions about the role you’re looking to fill, you’ll have an opportunity to perfect your responses. Doing a trial run might also help you go into the live process with more confidence, so that’s reason enough to carve out some time to practice.

If you’re new to the world of conducting interviews, rest assured that as with any skill or task, you’re apt to get better at it over time. Until then, make a point of going in prepared so that you and your candidates have the best possible experience.

Via Tech Republic : How to find and interview nontraditional tech job candidates: Tips for managers

The tech talent shortage may require your company to find job candidates who lack a traditional computer science degree. Here’s how to overcome that barrier and find your next top performer.

The tech talent shortage is requiring many companies to think outside the box when it comes to finding employees to fill tech roles. This means looking beyond standard computer science graduates and expanding your search pool to include some nontraditional candidates, including those for whom tech is a second career, those with disabilities, and those from a variety of unrelated backgrounds.

“There are more positions open seeking computer science degrees than there are computer science degree graduates right now,” said Blake Angove, director of technology services at LaSalle Network. “So if you want to get your position filled in a timely manner and get the work done, you have to look at more nontraditional degrees.”

Often, other degrees include skills that can relate to IT roles, Angove said. For example, LaSalle Network recently placed an IT project manager with a history degree at a company. “They had strong writing skills, they had analytical skills, so those relate well to a project management position,” he said. “So even though it’s a technical role, the person is doing well on the job.”

Here are some tips for finding and interviewing candidates who could make a difference at your company.

Revamping job postings

Finding a candidate who can do the job often means rewriting job descriptions, said Mel Hennigan, talent expertise panelist for the Society for Human Resource Management.

“When you start to reverse engineer the position and you can base the requirements on what outcomes you need to achieve, you start to realize you can broaden your pool,” Hennigan said. “You no longer have to say, ‘You must have this degree to qualify for this position.’ Instead, it’s ‘You must meet these objectives,’ and that opens the spectrum up a lot.”

Many companies require a bachelor’s degree for every position, even administrative ones, Hennigan said. “You should really break it down into what tasks have to be performed in order to achieve success, and then let the best candidate win based on their skills and abilities rather than on their credentials,” she added.

For positions such as programmers, it’s easy to set up an online test that allows you to objectively judge whether or not they have the abilities to complete the job. “A recruiter no longer has to pick up the phone for the initial screen, when a recruiting tool can provide the candidate with a set of questions that will help qualify them or disqualify them, and it can do so based on their actual abilities rather than their credentials,” Hennigan said.

Budgeting for training to catch nontraditional employees up to speed will also allow you to make faster hires, and eventually make your company more competitive, Angove said. “We’re finding companies that are fortunate enough to have that budget to provide training or certification are loosening up some of the specific technical requirements and ramping the people up,” he added. Building a mentor program is also a successful and cost-effective way to help new employees learn more tech skills, Angove said.

Identifying skills, not degrees

Candidates build skills in many ways, all of which should be taken into consideration, said Kelli Jordan, IBM’s talent leader for New Collar Initiatives. “They can build it in a four-year degree program. They can build it in a computer science program at a community college, or in a boot camp,” she said. “What we like to focus on is that application of the skill, and a lot of that does come out in the interview process.”

IBM performs skills assessments for job candidates, regardless of their background. For example, when interviewing for a software development role, interviewers give candidates a coding exercise, examine their GitHub repository, and talk to them about the code they wrote.

The interview process for all job candidates includes behavioral questions about what a candidate has done previously, such as “Tell me about a situation where you had to evaluate competing priorities.” It also includes situational questions, which tend to work well for candidates with minimal experience, Jordan said. These are questions such as, “Walk me through how you might handle an upset client.”

“That’s going to help you to understand that candidate’s thought process and their potential future behaviors, and together, they help you build a really good picture,” Jordan said.

It’s key to listen for a nontraditional candidate’s intent, Jordan said. This person may have some great examples of how they have handled a situation in the past, but they may have applied that knowledge in a different way or setting. “Focus on the skill and the application of what they’ve done versus where they did it,” she added.

Making interview accommodations

To attract more diverse candidates, Microsoft undertook a number of inclusivity measures in recent years, including reworking job descriptions and training managers on interviewing nontraditional candidates, according to Neil Barnett, the company’s director of inclusive hiring.

About two and a half years ago, Microsoft created an autism hiring program. Of those hired, about half had applied to jobs at Microsoft previously.

But now, “we train managers and teams ahead of time on neurodiversity and disability etiquette,” Barnett said. “We believe that by demystifying and breaking down the stereotypes of disabilities, we can help eliminate any unconscious biases that recruiters, hiring managers and teams might have before they interview a candidate.”

Microsoft also trains hiring managers to offer job candidates the opportunity to ask and receive customizations for the interview. This might include performing a technical interview on their own familiar device, spacing more time between multiple interviews, or lengthening the time of each interview—which might allow someone with ADHD or a cognitive disability adequate time to think and respond to questions.

“Managers found that offering customizations have made all interviews more successful,” Barnett said. “Asking candidates what they need to have the most inclusive interview experience will pay off in finding untapped talent.”

Via Herald Tribune : Conducting exit interviews that are worth doing

My last column was about onboarding for new employees. So it is only fitting that I cover the opposite end of this spectrum: conducting exit interviews for the recently departed.

One important consideration is whether the employee has resigned or been involuntarily terminated. Exit answers may be very different — and perhaps unreliable — for terminated employees.

These are some comments on the subject I gleaned from a question I posted at helpareporter.com. They make it apparent that getting good information from an exit interview can be difficult but is invaluable.

Employees who leave on their terms

“In cases where people are leaving on positive terms, you often get throwaway reasons such as compensation, or gentle rationales like, ‘It’s a great place and I wasn’t actively looking, but the opportunity is just amazing.’ This is understandable because people want to preserve relationships,” said Tim Toterhi, an Internatinoal Coach Federation-certified executive coach and founder of Plotline Leadership (www.plotlineleadership.com),

Employees who are terminated

Toterhi continues, “When people are let go or leave under a negative cloud, the response is often raw, exaggerated and hyper-focused on recent activity. You may learn something about the conditions that led to the event but you rarely get to the root cause.”

Other issues

“Few people are properly trained on how to conduct an exit interview, and fewer have a strategy for what they hope to achieve,” Toterhi said.

“Do they hope to find the root cause, uncover patterns in talent loss, win back key employees via a “stay interview” or preserve the brand through a positive final interaction? Teaching managers to have productive conversations with employees while they are still employed is much better.”

Kevin Huhn, chief inspirational officer at the motivational company Be Your Best Today, said that, “Exit interview answers often come out of desperation, not inspiration. I recall a situation where a female manager changed her story with HR and it resulted in a crying session.”

“I believe that people will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. They’ll comply with exit interview questions if they feel safe. Most of the time, the answers are what they think the company wants to hear, or they use the opportunity as a chance to blow off steam. A life lesson I learned is that hurt people, hurt people.”

Jamie Press, senior vice president of PrimePay, a nationwide payroll provider, says, “The problem with conducting exit interviews is that employees are often reluctant to be transparent about the issues they are having with their employer.

“Exit interviews are important because a person has little to lose when they are no longer employed. Information collected in these interviews can be used to find patterns and trends to help shape decision-making in the future. For example, we can examine what most people think about our benefits compared to other companies. For us, it helps to understand the company’s strengths and weaknesses.

“We can help determine areas for management training or if there are areas of the business with on-going problems that need to be addressed. If there are specific employee-related issues, those can be examined as well.”

Start, stop or continue?

Lisa Barrington, a certified coach who is working on a doctoral dissertation on employee engagement, said “Ideally, exit interviews should be used to identify the reason the employee is leaving. Once identified, further query into the employee’s experience will be helpful for leadership, in particular if it is rolled up with other data (exit interviews, engagement surveys).

“Ideally, a firm wants to collect information from a “start, stop, continue” approach. What is it that the company needs to start doing that would have kept you? What do they need to stop doing that would have kept you? What did they do that kept you here up to this point? Demographic data should be tracked to identify if there are issues with a particular leader; or with a particular group leaving at a faster pace than others.”

Deanna Arnold, president and owner of Employers Advantage LLC, suggests, “If a company chooses to do exit interviews, they need to make sure they do something with the information provided by the employees.

“They should only be done with employees who voluntarily resign and not with employees who are fired or involuntarily terminated. Not only will the information from them probably be skewed, it isn’t a good idea to let someone go and then ask them to do the company a favor by completing an exit interview.”

“The expectation from conducting an exit interview,” Arnold said, “is that the employer will be able to get insight and information about the company, benefits, management, etc., to help them create a better work environment.

“Don’t wait until the employees are leaving to ask them those questions,” she said. “Conduct stay interviews instead.”

In summary, know what you want to get out of the interview and listen carefully. Your goals should include improving retention and minimizing risk and employee turnover by discovering why good employees leave. Ask open-ended questions about how to improve communications and processes and about how to work better together.

Then change what is needed to keep the good ones from leaving. Exit interviews should be part of your employee-engagement program.

Via Forbes : 14 Bad Hiring Practices And What You Can Do To Improve

The hiring process is long, involved and expensive. There are a lot of different hoops to jump through, including creating an ad that draws in the right candidates, sorting through a horde of resumes — not all of which will be worth your time — and then running through the interview process, with its myriad of quirks and pitfalls.

Given all the different people and aspects involved in the process, it’s remarkably easy for things to go off the rails, or for bad practices to slip into the system. A good interviewer knows that having a clean application system, one that won’t drive away candidates, is crucial. Job postings not only need to include a pay range, but should clearly specify what tasks and duties you’re looking for someone to perform.

That clarity has to continue after the interviews are complete, as well: Candidates who know what steps are coming next, and what information they’re likely to get — and when — are more likely to sign on when an offer arrives. After all, interviewees are reviewing a company as much as the company is reviewing them, and the most skilled and talented candidates are perfectly aware they have other options if things don’t look right.

So where can your hiring process improve, and how can you get the most out of your interviews? Members from Forbes Coaches Council have the following advice:

1. Upgrade Your Applicant Tracking System

The first impression a job candidate has of a company is how difficult it might be to apply for a job. Good companies with antiquated applicant-tracking system computers can frustrate the job candidate to no end. Instead, companies should go through their application process to see if it is easy or difficult, in order to evaluate if an upgrade might be needed. – Rebecca Bosl, Dream Life Team

2. Don’t Be Corpo-Robotic

Companies must stop viewing the interview process as a necessary evil. It’s a great chance to be human, relatable and caring to every candidate, instead of being perceived like every other robotic corporation with people who don’t prepare, ask the same useless questions and end up hiring based on the same biases as usual, leading to disastrous hires and turnover rates. – Yuri Kruman, Master The Talk Consulting

3. Include Pay Range On Your Job Posting

Set fair and equitable compensation structures for your company, and then make these standards clear on the application or in the initial phone screens. This will save time for you and the candidate if the range is no longer a good fit. It will also improve overall culture by reducing salary resentment between coworkers. – Lindsey Day, Magnetic Career Consulting

4. Be Clear On Key Aspects Of The Role

When managers use interview intuition and resume roulette to make hiring decisions they make big mistakes. Hire people who will be motivated and inspired by the accountabilities of the role. Ensure from the questions asked during the interview that this is the right person to do the work. Not being clear on the key accountabilities for the role is a bad practice, one that can easily be solved. – Shawn Kent Hayashi, The Professional Development Group LLC

5. Don’t Use A Recruiter Who Isn’t Familiar With The Position

Repeatedly, I’ve seen and heard of companies using a recruiter (even internally) to screen potential employees without knowing much about the position or role. This is a mistake. The potential candidate is interested in knowing the details to see if it’s a good fit, but also to offer value to the position. This can’t be done with little or incorrect knowledge of what the position entails. – Kelly Meerbott, You: Loud & Clear

6. Be Prepared For The Interview

The interviewer must be just as prepared for the interview as the potential job candidate. An interviewer who is distracted, underprepared or indifferent to the interview process sends a clear signal that the candidate has little value to the organization. It is unlikely that the most qualified candidates will accept a job offer! – Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC

7. Don’t Create Too Many Hoops

Avoid having candidates go through a never ending gauntlet of interviews. Meeting with 10, 15 or 20 people will not ensure that you are hiring the best person for the job. As a matter of fact, it may sabotage the process because you can never get that many people to agree. Determine what your criteria are, who can help make the decision about the candidate and who adds value to the process. – Edith Onderick-Harvey, NextBridge Consulting, LLC

8. Don’t Make People Wait During Scheduled Appointments

I have found making people wait when they have a scheduled appointment with you, interviews included, leaves a person feeling devalued and disrespected. Keep this in mind and honor your appointment times. This will demonstrate respect those who are there to meet with you. Their time is as valuable as yours. – Michelle Braden, MSBCoach, LLC

9. Don’t Dominate The Conversation

Avoid dominating the interview by speaking the whole time. It’s often said in journalism that the person who gets the other person to talk more wins the interview. Ask thoughtful behavioral questions to assess “fit.” See what the candidate knows about the group. Have they done their research or conducted informational interviews or looked at the web site? Resist babbling about the company. – Joanne Markow, GreenMason

10. Don’t Seek Free Consultancy Work From Interviewees

It’s important that employers understand how a candidate approaches challenges through their thought process. However, many employers cross the line by asking for free work, lists of potential clients or consultant type solutions with no real intention to onboard. If the interviewing process is extended, do not rob candidates of their intellect in an effort to impress. – LaKisha Greenwade, Lucki Fit LLC

11. Resist The Temptation To Dig for Dirt

News flash for employers: Candidates are human, too. It’s likely they’ve taken at least one job in the past that wasn’t a good fit or struggled early in their careers (perhaps you’ve done the same?). Instead of interrogating interviewees about negative items, encourage open communication about what interests them and what they could do for you. You might find your ideal candidate a little faster. – Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume

12. Your ‘Gut’ Is Not A Recruiter

“I know it when I see it.” “I kinda go with my gut.” This approach is the biggest issue that companies have when it comes to recruiting and interviewing. While your “gut” may react to a candidate, it is not your best gauge of the candidate’s abilities. Instead, interview against a set of competencies that support the job description, with behavioral-based questions addressing each competency. – Kathleen Taylor-Gadsby, KTG Leadership Solutions

13. Don’t Ask About Previous Pay

When salary history questions are asked in the beginning of an interview, like, “What is your previous salary or what is your current salary?” there is an expectation that a candidate will disclose their personal information. Often salary questions are asked before qualifications have been discussed. This practice leaves candidates wary of the corporate brand, culture, pay equity and the hiring process. – Elva Bankins Baxter, Bankins Consulting, Inc.

14. Don’t Neglect To Share Next Steps

Often, job candidates leave the interview with no clue about what happens next. I believe the candidate should be aware of expected communication, whether or not the candidate receives a job offer. The interviewee is also interested in other details, such as how long the resume will be on-file and active, time frame for the hire decision and whether more interviews may be required. – Deborah Hightower, Deborah Hightower, Inc.