Two weeks ago my daughter had her first job interview for a local pizza company (she got the job). Similarly I did several hours where I was being intervewed for positions within the valley. One of the companies I interviewed with scheduled 5 1/2 hours of interviews. That’s a lot of answering questions. When I was finished I started thinking about the purpose and process of conducting interviews.
In at least two of my previous positions I’ve conducted hiring boards, written interview questions, and even trained others on a hiring process that’s was scaled by one of my previous organizations. I’ve always believed and taught that interviews should be conducted to ask questions that can’t be answered from the resume or other available material like the cover letter, resume, or LinkedIn.
All of those mediums are designed to be one way. It’s the applicant’s part to communicate about themselves using those mediums. A large part of the way our society structures the labor market process is one way. One of the first things to practice in applying for a job is the personal elevator pitch. Pitch is an interesting word to have in that phrase.
- to erect or set up (a tent, camp, or the like).
- to put, set, or plant in a fixed or definite place or position.
- to throw, fling, hurl, or toss. [emphasis added]
The 3rd choice is most apt when refering to the phrase elevator pitch becuase it’s literally the candidate tossing information forward towards the audience.
The problem is, unlike a pitch at a baseball game, few interviewers bother to give feedback to the person making the pitch. Could you imagine a baseball game where the umpire lets four pitches land in the catcher’s glove before announcing the pitch count? “Two balls, two strikes,” he says. That’s a good status update, but it doesn’t exactly give feedback to the pitcher to allow him to change his behavior.
One of the requirements of learning organization is to absorb and respond to feedback. No feedback = No improvement.
I have amazing friends. We look forward to opportinities to work together. I was elated a couple of weeks ago when Sarah Maycock asked me to help do mock interviews at Columbia High School in Nampa, Idaho.
The setting was the exact one that was missing from my high school experience. A caring teacher helping his students prepare for their future created a fictional company and each of the students were supposed to apply for positions in the company. I was one of several fictional ‘hiring managers’ interviewing 3-5 students in 20 minute increments.
All of the fictional hiring managers were recruiters and others with amazing portfolios of experience. I was impressed to be in the room with them. Sarah has a great way of networking with some of the best talent the Treasurer Valley has to offer.
Teenagers are more expressive. I did my best to maintain a neutral expression and I could see they were frustrated by some of the interview conversation norms. So I started responding to their frustration by providing more immediate feedback–especially the parts they did well. After all, we needed to assess them for a grade, but not at the expense of helping them improve.
When I was designing hiring processes one of the key things I’ve brought to the table was to help those on the panel realize that their questions were actually training someone who would be joining our staff. After all, we’re going to hire someone from the pool and the questions we ask are going to teach them what we care about and what the job requires.
For the high school students I let them answer as themselves, and when there were opportunities to compliment their experience, tone, or overall communication style I did so. Nerves relaxed and their confidence grew.
There are may good reasons why I’m grateful high school is not real life, but the lesson here can be applied beyond high school. It’s ok to interview people and provide them feedback when they’re doing well. A good job, or a kind follow-up question can go a long way to help people improve. Be open to providing feedback and be humble enough to receive it.