First impressions Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

Have you been conned? 5 ways to avoid a bad hire!

By | Recruitment

How many times have you hired a dud? How many times have you kicked yourself for not following your gut and made a poor recruitment decision? Was it that they were 5 minutes late for their interview, did they have a sweaty handshake, were they reluctant to provide relevant referees or was it that unexplained gap in their CV when they were taking a ‘career break’?

After a recent conversation with an employer, they told me about a senior executive they had to let go after they failed to deliver the agreed outcomes and how their dictatorial leadership style nearly destroyed the organisation’s culture.  I was curious – how did you hire this candidate in the first place? Where did the recruitment process go wrong? It seems it was just one mistake after another.

Here are my 5 key tips to avoid making a decision you may regret:

1.     First impressions

There’s a lot to be said about first impressions.  Tell me, was the cover letter a generic template? Did they address your name and title correctly? Did you receive their application within 5 minutes of you posting the vacancy online? What about their LinkedIn profile? Don’t ignore first impressions – no matter how great their experience and skills appear on paper.  Sure, sometimes the right candidate might be late for your interview for a genuine reason and they may apply immediately on-line due to being in the right place at the right time. However and this is a big however, when things don’t start adding up or you have a ‘feeling’ – stop, take a look back and you may see a pattern of question marks or incidents that might make you reconsider the consistency and quality of the applicant.

2.     Interview attire

I’ve written previously is the business suit dead? In my experience, candidates who are making the effort and really going all out to impress – which often include wearing a suit, do tend to be the ones who make it to a shortlist. Recently, I was recruiting a Business Development Manager and every male applicant I interviewed wore a full matching suit and tie. In the past, when I have had candidates come to interview for executive roles in more informal attire and I have ignored this or given them a ‘pass’, it seems that they then slip up later in the process. Don’t ignore first impressions – they count.

3.     Gut feeling

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is screaming something is not quite right here? Don’t ignore it. Don’t bury it, flush it out.  If you can’t identify exactly what it is, my advice is having another meeting in a more casual environment when someone is more likely to relax and be themselves. You can take someone else with you from the organisation for a second opinion or you may wish to ask them some scenario questions such as what would you do in the first 30 days if you win this job? Finally, you can conduct reference checking.  End of the day, if you can’t qualify what you feel in your gut, my advice is don’t hire because when something eventually doesn’t go to plan or pan out, you will kick yourself for not listening to your intuition.

4.     Referees

This is where a lot of recruitment processes fail.  You only have to look at serial applicants or non-performers who are continually re-hired – how did that happen? They weren’t reference checked at all or they were referenced with the wrong people.  Speaking to the right referee is a skill and then asking the right questions to get the answers you are after can be the difference between hiring a star vs. hiring a dud.  Are you accepting mobile phone numbers? Are you qualifying the person is who they say they are? Or are you just asking closed questions and fact checking? Don’t delegate this task as an administrative process as even the best con man, who can blitz an interview, can be “found out” at this stage.

5.     Theory vs. examples

Throughout the interview, make sure you are listening for real examples.  These are situations and examples the candidate has been in where they can easily describe the situation, what they did and what the outcome was.  If they are regurgitating theory or telling you what they would do vs what they have actually done – you should immediately visualise a neon warning sign flashing above their head.  When someone is out of their depth and hasn’t performed the tasks or been in the situations before, they won’t be able to be specific. If you can’t visualise the example – keep probing and get very specific.

Hiring a dud is an expensive, painful and emotional mistake. Getting the recruitment decision wrong can impact culture, destroy morale and consume your time, thoughts and energy.  The devils in the detail! Don’t short-cut processes just because you know someone who would be perfect or they have worked for some high profile brands, so they must be good. Rubbish. Running a thorough, consistent and vigorous process where you listen to facts, intuition and behaviours could save you a lot of time, heartache and pain.  Don’t ignore the warning signs…..there are red flags, there always are, you just need to know where to look.

Is the business suit dead?……what to wear to a job interview

By | Recruitment

Since when is it okay to wear blue jeans to a job interview?

This was the question posed by a client this week as he shook his head in disbelief that a candidate could think that this was in some way acceptable attire for a first job interview. Especially for a senior role paying in the vicinity of $150K….I had to agree.

I’ve come a long way from working at Recruitment Solutions in the late 90’s when women were “not allowed” to wear pants, only skirts and my Nazi dress code of years gone by, where my female staff had to wear pantyhose with skirts…BUT blue jeans? Really? At what point, when you are standing in front of your wardrobe did you think, “wow these are my going out jeans and they are sure to win the client over”?

Now – don’t be fooled into thinking that clients aren’t assessing your dress choices.  Don’t think that it’s only your skills and experience that will speak for themselves and win you the job.  It’s the whole package – were you on time, did you have a firm handshake, was your body language confident and did you smile? Trust me when I say these are all things that are discussed with a client after you leave your interview and sometimes in great detail!

Nearly 15 years ago when I started in the recruitment industry, it was part of our standard spiel that all candidates were asked to wear a matching suit to a client interview – both females and males. Regardless of what type of role, level or industry it was just standard procedure to tell candidates this was our expectation.  It was remarkable the lengths some candidates went to, in order to meet this brief and create a great first impression.

Other standard protocols include not putting your wallet, keys, mobile phone etc on the table in front of the interviewer, always shake the interviewers hand, sit up straight in your chair, turn your phone off, maintain eye contact etc …..it’s all just common sense isn’t it?

Well, sadly, no it isn’t.

It seems that today is no different than 15 years ago …… dress to impress people! When I said this to a candidate last month after she came to my interview more casually dressed in a flowing top and tight pants – I thought she would understand.  My assumption that she earns close to $200K and works in a corporate environment, she would interpret “dress to impress” the way I would. It turns out a new Sass & Bide trendy top and blue jeans were her interpretation of impressive. So, it begs the question, is wearing a matching business suit to a job interview dead?

I took a quick survey of the last 20 candidates I have interviewed and only 1 male wore a full matching suit and tie and no females at all wore a matching suit.

So it seems, wearing a full matching business suit is a dying trend. It’s not a pre-requisite for a job interview regardless of industry, position or level.  BUT – and this is a big BUT, you still need to be presentable, neat, tidy, professional and take care in your presentation choices.  The evidence suggests that men are choosing suit pants and open neck shirts and women are wearing tailored dresses or corporate outfits with a modern edge rather than a conservative black matching suit.

Bottom line – first impressions count and what you wear is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

I’m curious….what would you wear to a job interview? Or what are some of the worst outfit choices you have seen?