9 Nov 2017

Interview Demands

Couple of points to touch on in this month's blog.  I've had a candidate interviewing with a particular client and it has been a long and drawn out process.  This is a demanding client and it has been a very 'robust' process. I'm hoping that we'll have a decision shortly, and whichever way it goes, I'm sure everyone involved will be glad to achieve closure.

The subject of the blog is really that whilst often employers have very speedy recruitment processes with just one interview, there are an equal and opposite number of employers who like the long and drawn out process.  After a fair number of years in recruitment, I'd like to say that there are definitive stats that prove one way is more successful than the other....but there are not!  So many different factors and variables are at play that it's impossible really to draw many conclusions. 

Ultimately though, it's the client/potential employers 'right' to have a recruitment process appropriate to them and their business.  Usually that means a 2 interview process but occasionally can extend to 4.  Typically though, you'll have a first interview which is a chemistry test and then the second interview is a response to a brief or a presentation set by the client.  If there are extended meetings, it tends to be 'meet the team' or 'meet the client'. 

I would say that employers know within the first 5 minutes of meeting candidates, if they like that person, whether that person will 'fit'.  With clients who do speed one interview processes, they rely on gut instinct and whilst they will look at how long someone has been in their past jobs and check out references, they don't see the need in going through umpteen steps to confirm what they already know.

However, if there are a couple of good candidates at the first stage, a second interview is often employed as a test for who is the best.  This can also be construed as 'who wants the job the most'.  Sometime, I can think that a candidate is a 'dead cert' to be offered the job, but client feedback can be that 'they were a bit cocky',  'they hadn't done their homework' or just simply that their 'presentation was weak'.  So, a note of caution that you should always, do your absolute best when it comes to preparation for a second stage that involves a response to a brief or presentation.   These days, the quality of the presentation is as important as the content - as is the delivery. It's not enough to stick a few bullet points onto slides. 

In my current example, the candidate had a good first chemistry test with the client, they both liked each other. This was then followed up with a tough brief which the candidate responded well to. The client enjoyed the presentation, thought the candidate would be liked by the team, thought he could 'technically' do the job.  But still had a couple of reservations... The candidate was very good natured, happy to go with the flow, wanted the job and was putting a lot of effort in - both to find the time to attend multiple interviews and also to put the necessary effort into the preparation - not easy when you've already got a demanding job with a VERY demanding boss and also a busy home life with children too. The client asked the candidate to come back for a 'meet the team' and to complete another brief.  This is quite unusual to have a second brief but equally, the client wasn't prepared to make an offer where there were still unanswered reservations and the candidate took that as a positive.  They too wanted to see really what the agency was like, what it was like 'in situ' rather than with everyone in interview mode.     I spoke to the candidate after the third meeting and interestingly, it served to really cement their interest in the role.  I do say to clients sometimes that it can go the other way. Often, when the recruitment going gets tough, candidates will withdraw from the process because they don't have the time or resources to commit to getting the job - they are aware they haven't got the time to deliver a strong brief....so they pull out.   Whilst I understand that - and sympathise.....clients, generally, don't!  They would simply take that as proof that the candidate didn't want or wasn't up to the job.

Creative candidates often find the interview process the most frustrating.  When they are asked to respond to a brief, it generally involves coming up with a concept and then following it through - designing, writing, artworking etc - it's very hands on. It takes time and effort.  Clients (justifiably) want to see what you are capable of and they also want to see that you want the job.  More senior Creatives, can get frustrated that clients just want their ideas...(I've seen some real fights over this)....but ultimately, if you want the job, you'll do it. If you don't do it, someone else will.  Sorry to be blunt, but that's how it is. 

So again, I am digressing. With the ongoing example, the candidate was late for the second interview.  Just 5 minutes.   Arrived late, apologised, said it was his lunch hour, the delay had been getting into the building, getting a pass organised and getting up to the office. To give credit, the lateness didn't put him off his stride and the interview went well.

But this client is formidable. Zero tolerance really when it comes to lateness.  The candidate didn't call (candidate says....I was in the building, it would have taken me longer to call than just get up there, it is my lunch-hour, it's a rush, I was in the middle of an important briefing....).  Not my problem says the client. It's the candidate's responsibility to get to the interview, on time, well presented and in the right frame of mind to get the job.

That's pretty hard-line. Most clients fortunately are not quite so firm in their views. And in fact, the client here was happy to extend to the third interview, but that 'lateness' is still there in the 'cons' box.  Don't forget that for some people/employers it's the most basic personal skills/habits that they'll rate someone on.  Timeliness, your hand-shake, can you make small-talk, are you smartly dressed, do you exhibit good personal hygeine.  In these examples, they are often deal breakers....so don't let the seemingly 'small stuff' let you down.

In summary, if you are facing an extended interview process, question how much you want the job. If you really want the job, you have to give it 100%.  If you do want the job but you are struggling with time for interviews, time to prepare a brief etc, do talk to the employer or your recruiter. It's not enough to sit in the final interview and say 'I know it's not great but I didn't have time'.  Employers all want to employ people who really want to work for them, they want proof of that.  If you don't want the job, then you shouldn't really be at interview.

Fingers crossed for a positive outcome for my candidate today!

Tips for getting the most out of interviews:

Be punctual!
Give yourself time to prepare for the interview.
Ask the client or the recruiter if they have any reservations from the first interview which you can address head on at second stage.
If you don't get the job offer, ask for feedback. If it's constructive, use it in your next interviews!
Read all the PMP blogs - EVERYTHING has been covered in the past few years!