How to get your next job through your network!


Knowing what kind of opportunity you would like to pursue next, you can wait for the perfect role to show up online or… you could actively work through your network to get further!

Think about this:

  • The high level of competition for the role if you apply for a role online! Your experience and education and the design of your CV/Resume would have to be better than all other applicants to get through to the end of the recruitment process!
  • They estimate that 70% of roles are not advertised, but instead are sourced through networks! This means you could be invited for a discussion or interview just based on the fact that someone recommended you or introduced you to a decision-maker!
  • Every person you know from past roles, from school or college days, people you met and talked to at conferences, family, friends – could possibly know someone who is connected to a role that would be great for you!

Getting more contacts and making a positive impression on those you meet is important. It is not about pretending or lying, it is more about showing respect and genuine interest in those you meet. When people like the encounters they have with you, they want good things to happen for you and they might be keen to ask people they know to meet you or have a discussion with you. And this is all you need in many cases to get to the next step – a consulting project or a new job!

What does your network look like?

If you take a blank sheet of paper and you try to draw out this graphic below, perhaps you will be able to jot down people’s names for each of the circles and be able to create your starter list. This means the list of people whom you will start with – making contact with them.

The groups of people you know the best are most likely:

Friends, Family members, Classmates (now or from years before), ex-colleagues or trusted current colleagues, neighbors (now or from an earlier address where you lived at one point).

The next level of people you may want to contact include:

People you have met or interacted with on a sports team, or a social organization you joined, or a hobby class you took at some point, people you met and spoke to at a conference.

Priorities:

Looking through the names of people you listed in the worksheet (download available below), who might know people at the companies you are hoping to work for? Who knows about the kind of work you are good at and want to do? Who has the knowledge or experience to help you in your search? Who am I most comfortable talking to? (start there!)

How can your network help you?

What do you tell them ?

  1. When you talk to someone who already knows you, you do not need to introduce yourself. When talking to a contact of someone you know, introduce yourself.
  2. Make sure your message is complete: why are you talking to him/her? What exactly do you hope to get out of the conversation?
  3. Be specific about what you are looking for – i.e. role in sales, working on electric installation projects, etc.
  4. What are your training, certifications, experience, and skills to explain how you plan to successfully deliver in the role mentioned above? (the short version – only mention the most important ones!)
  5. Have your questions ready and be ready to rephrase any questions that are not easily understood by the person you are talking to.
  6. Give the other person time to think about their answers by being quiet after you asked.
  7. Show genuine interest in their advice or suggestions.

Questions to ask

The questions below can be used as a guide as you create your own list of questions to ask your contacts. Do consider how strong your history and relationship is with each person you talk to before you ask any of the questions. Rephrase any questions to allow for cultural differences and preferences and also to match the formality required for your conversation.

Depending on the role of the person or his or her expertise/experience, you may choose different questions for each conversation. Note the specific questions you want to ask each person before you contact him/her. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of questions – something you can fit into a 30-minute call would be best when you talk to someone whom you have not met yet and who is giving you some of his/her precious time for this conversation.

  • Are you aware of any job vacancies which would fit my skills/experience?
  • Would you help me by looking out for opportunities you might become aware of and which might be useful to me?
  • Do you know anyone who might be planning to change jobs where I might be a possible role replacement candidate?
  • Do you know any companies where my skills and experience may be sought-after?
  • Are you aware of any new companies moving into the area and/or whom I might be able to contact about a role there?
  • Would you be willing to help me get an appointment for a discussion with a recruiter at your company?
  • May I ask for your help in preparing for an interview (given your contacts/knowledge etc)?
  • Would you be able to help me with more information about a company I would like to target for an unsolicited application?
  • How would you advise me to proceed with my interest in THIS role or getting a role at Company X?
  • Would you be willing to be a reference for me?
  • Would you be willing to review my resume/CV and give me any tips or improvement suggestions?

How do you plan your approach?

Using the attached workbook below, start filling in the names on a sheet

Note contact details you might have or if you are connected with any of them through social media

Start with the people you know the best and explain what kind of opportunity you are looking for and listen to their advice or ideas of who they might know and would connect you with.

After the discussion, capture their suggestions in the worksheet in the “Advice/Next step?” column.

Follow-up on these, contact the person they suggested or introduced you to and ask for a meeting to discuss your interest in the company, work they do, etc.

DOWNLOAD file for this exercise:

Each of the tabs in this worksheet (see file above) contains a table for you to capture the names of people you thought of while looking at the groups of people you are connected to. Complete the table for each of the groups you have considered as far as you can. (see example below for someone who identified 3 friends, but has not yet contacted them).

Follow-up

To keep your momentum, monitor your follow-up actions which could range from contacting a suggested person or calling someone another time as agreed during the previous conversation you had with him or her. Set targets for yourself per day and per week to avoid procrastination or letting a contact “go cold”. This could happen if you call too long after the initial call and the person you are contacting may have forgotten that your mutual contact had introduced you to each other.!

Tips:

Networks of contacts and human connections can be a fragile environment and it is important that though your need for them to act on your behalf is high, you need to also maintain a good relationship throughout and continue to be someone whom they would like to help. Very few people HAVE to help you, they will because they want to. Your attitude and way of talking to them will determine how much they will be willing to help you.

  • Be firm and confident, but not pushy. Sometimes there is a very thin line between those two. And the difference is often the strength of the history of your relationship with that person. If you know him or her for a long time and you have spent a lot of time together, you may be able to be a little pushier to get him or her to introduce you to someone else. When you have had only one or two conversations with someone at a conference, you would not likely have a strong enough relationship to be overly familiar or strong in your approach.
  • Always be thankful. Even if you have known someone for a long time, if they introduce you to someone or give you a handy tip that leads to a conversation, do let them know how thankful you are for their help.. Also thank people for taking the time to talk to you regardless of the outcome.
  • Only contact people from a conference or a class you took in the past if you actually spoke to them. It would be quite unusual to simply use a conference or class attendance list and email or contact each person on it regardless of whether you actually spoke to them at the time. Most people might disregard requests for calls or discussions in such cases.
  • Do not expect your contacts to call you back when they have more information for you. Ask if it would be alright for you to call back within a week or two.
  • When you had a great conversation with someone, why not add him or her to your list of future contacts? You never know when you may be able to introduce them to a new client or opportunity that fits into their business model!

Guide for Structured Job Interviews


Ever left a job interview frustrated? Because the interviewer seemed unprepared and asked seemingly random questions making it hard to discuss your achievements, interest in the role and how you planned to contribute to the success of the company. Or maybe you have been the recruiter who could not get ratings or post-interview notes from a manager because they did not jot anything down and could not give you any feedback after an interview they had conducted?

Getting the most out of the time you have to interview a candidate takes a lot of planning, focus and clarity on what exactly you want to establish. And yes, it also takes time management. An hour can fly past so fast without a plan!

To make interviews work well, the recruiter needs to do 3 things diligently:
  • Prepare an interview guide for each interviewer and provide them with that and any additional items such as the CV/Resume of the candidate, completed application forms and any other documents which have been provided by the candidate before the interview. Also include relevant notes from a screening call.
  • Prepare all interviewers with interview training so they can use the interview guide correctly and understand how to phrase questions and follow-up questions. Include the use of behavioral questions in the training, which are powerful in establishing what a candidate had done in previous situations given key competencies required for the role. [Providing interviewers with training on natural biases, will improve fairness of interview outcomes]
  • Follow up after the interview to collect notes and scores from interviewers. It is your summary of results that helps those making decisions about next steps in the recruitment process.

The Interview Guide

  1. Helping the interviewers plan to succeed

It is tough for interviewers to follow someone else’s plan verbatim and such an interview can come across as forced or staged. The preparation gives the interviewer a chance to consider rewording questions and possibly add their own questions. They may also want to change the sequence of questions. All of this will lead to a better and more natural interview experience for the job candidate.

2. Starting in a structured way

Setting expectations and clarity about the structure of the interview upfront is helpful for a candidate to understand the approach you plan to follow. Most candidates feel more relaxed understanding the structure that you will follow.

3. Behavioral QuestionsSTAR style

Note that it is not advised to ask more than 3 behavioral questions during a 60 minute interview. To explore answers and ask follow-up questions can take time and you do want to leave time to answer the candidate’s questions too. If doing a panel interview, divide the 3 behavioral questions among members of the interview panel.

4. Candidate questions and closing the interview

Give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions to help him or her have a clear understanding of the role and how things work at your company. Then it is time to either ask any follow-up questions you may have left to the end (checking if you have enough time left to do so). One approach that is often used to give you time to check your notes is to ask the candidate a question and giving him or her some time to think about their answer (while you check your notes).

Remember to share the next steps with the candidate i.e. when the interview phase will end and decisions will be made for the next phase in the recruitment process. Or if you do not know, let the candidate know that the recruiter will be able to answer next step answers.

Next steps

Follow through with interviewers to ensure results and scores are collected in a timely fashion to support data-based decision-making regarding next steps.

Make sure you provide interviewers with a summary scoring sheet in the Interview Guide to select scores for answers obtained based on a pre-determined rating scale. This will avoid the need to go back and forth to interviewers while trying to understand their own way of scoring candidates.

Comments

Not everyone enjoys a highly structured interview and in some company cultures or for roles in creative functions, this may be seen as an unproductive way to test the creativity of candidates or showcase the unpredictable nature of the industry or the environment. Let common sense prevail to ensure you have an interview protocol that meets the need to fairly evaluate all job candidates in a consistent manner.

When your interview guides are online and so are your scoring sheets – this greatly improves your ability to quickly access post-interview notes and scores after interviews are completed.

Do not under-estimate the training needed for interviewers to understand the recruitment process or the importance of being able to demonstrate that a fair and consistent approach was used to evaluate candidates before selecting the final candidate.

Link to another post on this blog about using a Score Sheet for scoring job candidates after interviews

Link to a post on this blog about creating a Job Candidate Summary using all scores obtained after interviews

Designing an Interview Training Workshop


(For Interviewers and Managers)

Need to provide a training workshop for managers on how to conduct job interviews? The slides I am sharing today can help you with that. You can turn it into an interactive online event or you can use it to create a face-to-face workshop. You could even turn it into a standalone training video if you provide your own voice-over to explain the various points further.

Remember, it is not a good idea to start with the slides and then just blindly using them for a workshop or other learning solutions without first considering the needs of your own intended training participants, interview process, etc.

Here are the slides:

The structure

After an initial explanation of what behavioral interviewing is and how it works, the slides focus on 5 steps that can help explain how to implement this approach as an interviewer.

Designing an Interview Training Workshop, use these steps as a guide:

  1. Define the group of people who are the intended participants in your training workshop – what do they know, what do they need to know, (if they have done interviews already) what goes wrong, what goes right when they have done interviews in the past? What does all of that mean for what you need to accomplish with this workshop?
  2. Define an overview of what you intend them to know and be able to do after the workshop. (You can only do so much during a workshop so be realistic on what the outcomes might be).
  3. Define what will be included in further detail and exercises during the workshop (bullet points should help you further) in order to meet the goal(s) you have set in point 2 for the group you have defined in point 1.
  4. Set a date when the workshop will be made available so you can remain focused on deadlines that help to meet that date.
  5. Start working on the next level of detail – Consider that you may want to do a combination of training solutions like assigning some online training before they come to the workshop to cover some knowledge you want them all to have at the start of the workshop. Also, work out your bullet points into a “storyline” that logically structures the sequence of topics to be covered and exercises you will use to help build competency in using specific tools or approaches.
  6. Use the slides I have attached for download (above). Using your answers to the points above – maybe you need ideas about how information can be sequenced? See if any of the sections in the slide deck help you fill in some of your planned learning areas. Maybe some of the exercises could be useful for your workshop?

A friend of mine always says (in Dutch) – you can better creatively borrow ideas from others than come up with something yourself, which is lesser. So use this slide deck, and borrow ideas from it to get your budding Interview Training Workshop to the next level!

Reference checks


After interviews have taken place you will want to take a few more steps before you decide whether to make an offer to one of the job candidates you have for a vacancy. You may want to ask candidates to complete assessments or you may want to get the perspectives of their former colleagues before you make a decision.

Additional steps after initial interviews or between rounds of interviews could include:

  • Tests or assessments.
  • Practical exercises like a business case or even a presentation to be made to some senior leaders or experts at your company.
  • Reference checking with former colleagues, former direct reports or former supervisors of the candidate(s).

Checking References

The (download) template I am sharing below contains a few questions to help you understand whether one candidate may be preferred compared to another given their experiences and approaches.

Background checks are used in some countries but can be harder to obtain in countries or regions where data and privacy protection laws exist. In most cases, criminal background and/or financial history information can only be obtained if the prospective employer can show a direct link between the requirements of the role and the information it wishes to obtain. Reference checks are typically easier to conduct in most countries, but be mindful of the kinds of information that you would be reasonably able to obtain given local laws.

Be mindful to:

  • Ensure that you notify any impacted job candidates (i.e. in areas such as Europe) about the data you wish to obtain and how you would process this data to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Job candidates need to know this at the start of the process and they must (actively) agree with your proposal for collecting data before you are able to proceed.
  • Ensure that all data obtained during the recruitment process is archived or destroyed after the process has been completed for a specific vacancy. All HR personnel who deal with such data would need to understand that this also includes any data that have been saved to their individual computers during the process.
  • Make sure the data you wish to obtain is relevant to the hiring decisions you wish to make. And make sure that those who would speak with candidates or possible referees can explain the connection.

Assuming that you have taken all precautions to ensure you are not incurring any risks with your planned reference checking approach, use the questions you have selected (the download template above can help) when you contact the list of referees provided by the job candidate.

You can use the template in a few ways:

  • Set up a time to talk to each referee via phone or Skype and go through the questions, capturing his or her responses.
  • Send each referee a form and ask him/her to complete it and return it to you – typically via email. Be aware that this approach does not offer you much opportunity to ask further questions to clarify without creating a few extra emails to the original string.
  • Set up the questions as an online survey (for example using www.surveymonkey.com) and share the link with referees. Note that data interpretation may be an issue here – not knowing what a referee meant by a specific score or comment. This also means you would have to contact referees again to clarify feedback. One way to improve data interpretation is to build in comment fields to explain scores.

Finally, it is important to understand that a reference check is just one of the data points that could support decision-making related to hiring the best candidate for the vacancy.

Feedback may be incomplete for a number of reasons:

  1. The referee wishes to avoid any unpleasant situation with the former employee and wishes to be cautious in his/her responses.
  2. There may be laws in the country which specifies what referees can or should say and what they cannot comment on.
  3. The previous company may have clear policies about what can be shared by referees, which may be limited to job title and years of employment at the company.

Getting feedback from those who previously worked with a job candidate can still be valuable – understanding how the candidate’s knowledge or work methods would fit in with the job requirements or the company culture. For this reason, it can be good to get more perspectives. Just be aware of possible risks given the changing legal environment as you obtain feedback from referees.

Job Candidate Summary template


After interviewing some candidates for a vacancy it is easy to start getting confused about how the candidates compare to each other. If you have used the template for capturing information during interviews Job Applicant Interview Record then you will have a stack of records from those who have interviewed the candidates you are currently considering. How to bring it all together?

The template I am sharing here will help you with that:

Interviewers can also use this sheet to score each candidate they interview for a vacancy and then provided completed sheets back to the recruiter who consolidates all input received into one summary for final discussion and decision-making.

Change column headings in this template to match the key criteria that you have used in your Interview Records for this vacancy and use the average scores that each of the candidates have obtained from interviewers when you create this summary. The Totals column adds up the overall score for each candidate so you can see how the scores compare and which candidates have scored better than others. This template is useful to the recruiter in advising the Hiring Manager on the outcomes of interviews in order to plan the next steps for that vacancy.

Variation option:

You can add a row for weighting specific criteria in the spreadsheet. For example if you believe that one of the items is much more important than the others – could be language skills, or supervisory experience – you can decide to give it a higher importance by adding a higher “weighting” to it. (All of the weights for each of the rated categories together should add up to 100)

The overall scores are now created by multiplying the score for each category with the weighting that you have assigned – based on the higher importance of some items.

The Job Candidate Summary template can help you create one simple document which contains all of the feedback received about a candidate during the interview phase. And this greatly benefits a focused discussion about next steps with the Hiring Manager.

Employee On-boarding Checklist


A successful on-boarding process ensures that a new employee is able to deliver top performance (creating value) at your company as fast as possible.

People centered HR Processes MODEL

A successful new employee on-boarding process starts before the new employee is due to arrive and it is a structured process vs an afterthought. Some HR platforms include an on-boarding module which supports communication with the expected new employee and key stakeholders at the company who play a role in the on-boarding process. On-boarding activities can include training to be completed, forms that need to be finalized and submitted etc. Coordinating all of these activities and documenting the on-boarding plan is often the responsibility of HR.

This template is a basic version and you should add your own additional items to help new employees understand your industry, office building and business better. If the new employee will be in a customer-facing role you may need to include introductions to customers too.

I would say the signing off by the manager and new employee is optional – depends on your company culture and how you would prefer to run things at your office. The important part is THAT you have a structured process to bring someone new into the company and that this process is run in a consistent manner. That way you can be sure that each new employee has received all of the support needed to as quickly as possible understand the way things are done at your company and who to talk to about specific topics and ideas. This is a vital part of ensuring the newly hired employee gets to the top of their performance potential in the shortest possible time period and feel welcome – engaged – from day 1.

How to record Job Applicant Interview results


Comparing multiple job applicants after the interviews are complete can be tough to do if you did not capture your impressions in a structured way. Without a structured process to capture impressions various forms of bias can creep into your decision-making. For example… most people tend to prefer people who are more like they are and therefore tend to hire people who are most like themselves. And it is also true that we often have a “feeling” of whether we like someone or not within the first 5 minutes of the interview. Trying to ignore these unconscious biases is hard to do without a structured process to capture your interview results.

The template (download button is below) is a way for you to be more diligent in capturing specific feedback from the candidate as it relates to the job description and requirements for the vacancy. Avoid making decisions about whether or not to hire a person during the interview. Instead focus on the gathering the relevant data needed for making those decisions. A structured interview record can go a long way towards helping you do just that.

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