Monday, June 29, 2009

Eating and Interviewing

As a recruiter, I often meet candidates at coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Having done this for years, it comes as second nature for me to eat, talk and interview. But recently I was recruiting for a scientific position, and realized that interviewing and dining is a learned skill.

With home offices and telecommuting becoming the norm, more people are getting together over food to conduct business. Thinking back, when I first did this it seemed very awkward. How can you look intelligent while you have a mouth full of food. What if spinach gets caught between your teeth. And what if, horror of horrors, you spill your pasta all over your lap. Well here are some tips to make it a little less intimidating
  • Be on time: This goes without saying for any interview. By being on time you can meet your host in the lobby of the restaurant, allowing you both to be seated at the same time. If you are early, you may even be able to scan the menu and know what you are having, giving you more time to interact with your interviewer.
  • Let people know you are there: If you arrive before your host, let the staff know you are waiting for someone, and give them your name. This way when the other person gets there they may be introduced to you by the restaurant staff.
  • Follow the other person's lead: Once you meet your contact, defer to them about where they would like to sit, and what type of food they are having. When the waiter asks what you would like to have, you can always let your host go first. This gives you some time to plan your meal, and make sure you are ordering a similar or smaller size meal. You don't want to order a five course dinner if your interviewer was just having an appetizer.
  • Hold off on the liquor: Yes, we are wine industry professionals, but many companies frown on their staff drinking during business meetings. While your interviewer may order a drink, it is safest to stick with a nonalcoholic one. Evening meals are a bit different, as are meetings in bars. Err on the side of caution, but if the interviewer orders a bottle of wine and offers you a glass, it may make more sense to have a drink. Just watch yourself and don't overdo.
  • Think logistically: In recruiting we are always meeting people for lunch and dinner interviews. A former competitor of mine would require their staff to only order food they could eat with utensils--no burgers, no sandwiches, etc. This is a good idea, but can limit your food choices at a diner. And even though clam linguini requires a fork and knife, dealing with those clam shells can be quite a feat. Think about what's involved with the food you are ordering, and go on the safe side. This isn't your chance to try oysters on the half shell, it is an opportunity to spend time with a potential employer.
  • Don't be a glutton: Think back to any and all manner instruction you have had in your life. Listen to what your mother said and don't slurp your soup. If you realize you haven't heard a thing the interviewer has said, maybe it's because you are so focused on the food that you aren't paying attention. Again, this isn't about the food, it is about the meeting. Do eat the meal in front of you, just pace yourself and stay professional.
  • Eat: I know I say that the interview is more important, but this meeting may be held during a mealtime because it was the only time your host could carve out time to eat and meet with you. No one likes to eat alone, and if you are not even touching your food, it could be awkward. Take the plunge and eat.
  • Don't talk with your mouth full: Again, listen to your mother. If the interviewer asks you a question just as you have taken a bite of food, they will understand if you need to take a minute to respond. Planning can limit this. Take a bite of food after you have completed a comment, and eat while the other person is describing the job or outlining the company's policies.
  • Don't clean your plate: While your mother may have forced you to clean your plate growing up, don't worry about it here. If you have been eating throughout the interview, it won't seem odd if you don't eat everything. I also recommend not taking your leftovers home. While you may always do that when you dine out, this is a business meeting. It is somewhat awkward to have to get your food boxed up, and can be even more unweildy to have a to-go box in your hand while you are trying to shake the person's hand at the end.
  • Who pays: While I would recommend bringing along enough money to pay your way, if you were invited to the meal by your host, it is customary for that person to pay. Do not worry about this. As I tell my interviewees, the restaurant is my other office, and I am happy to pay.
  • Thank your host: At this point hopefully your interviewer has picked up the check. Once they have paid, thank them. It is always polite to do this, and is something that the person will expect. The worst thing would be to forget to thank them.
  • Thank your waiter: Be gracious with the wait staff. By showing good manners and being appreciative to them you will show your good manners for future coworkers and colleagues. A thank you when you get your water filled can show that you appreciate everyone who is part of the team. This graciousness will be very important when you work at the company you just interviewed with.
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beware the True Black Hole, the Spam Folder

I am getting to the end of a recruitment, and luckily I searched through my spam folder to make sure nothing got caught in there. To my surprise, there were several resumes of highly qualified candidates in there. After reclassifying them as "not spam" I have been talking to several of them, with promising interest by my winery client.

Job seekers always complain about not getting any feedback after submitting a resume to a general delivery mailbox. While contacting people directly is often recommended, even if you email it directly to the hiring manager it can be received as a suspicious email. Hiring managers are busy, and most likely don't check their spam folder unless specifically searching for a missing email.

So how can you prevent the blackhole of the spam folder? It can be tough. Some companies have pretty stringent filters on their email accounts. Also, if you are sending your email from another country, the country code in the email can signal spam filters. I know this because often non-US emails get caught in mine. I am sure I too have sent plenty of brilliant communiques to clients who would have used my services in a heartbeat--but my solicitation was caught in the filter.

My recommendation is the same as for any serious job search. First, find out who is hiring for a position. Then send your resume directly to that person. Then follow-up with them to make sure they received your email. I frequently get these calls, and do check to make sure the message came through. It doesn't always, and that call allows the message to be resent and successfully received by me. I don't mind calls--I do have trouble getting back to all calls during a busy recruitment, but strive to as best I can.

I know that it isn't always possible to find out who is the hiring manager on a position. If you can't get that information, follow up after you send your resume to a general delivery mailbox with another email in 1-2 weeks. Persistance has a way of paying off. Be courteous and professional.

Good Luck

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where do I Find Candidates

I have worked in recruiting for 15 years now, and have always told every candidate who submits their resume or contacts me that I will keep them in mind for current and future positions. I think this is easy to say, good to hear, but not always believable. Having amassed a lot of resumes, referrals and contacts over the last five years for WineTalent, I was recently thinking about how I have found my recent hires. Here's what I have found.

In the last two years, about half of the candidates that I present to my clients come from ads I run and the other half are from a variety of sources. These sources include my professional networks, referrals from colleagues, job fairs and my database.

The candidates who ended up being hired were sourced many different ways. Several were from contacts I made over the years and finally the right position came up for them. Others were people I had talked to over many months or years, and then they saw an ad for a position I was recruiting on that they wanted to be considered for. Some hires were people who have submitted their resume in the past from an ad I posted, continued to check in with me over the years and ended up getting a different job through WineTalent. Additionally I have hired people that were referred to me by other qualified applicants. I have also placed people who years ago I met at a job fair.

As a recruiter I know that everyday I need to talk to people and find out who is looking for what position. I also continuously talk to my clients to find out what openings are coming down the line. I am checking in with people at various levels and keeping my ear out for any changes that may affect my clients or job seekers. By doing this, my database of great candidates has become a great tool for placing employees. It also allows me to say with certainty that I do keep all resumes under consideration, and perhaps one day the resume that came in my inbox will end up being the resume of the candidate who gets the job.

As a job hunter I think this is great information for your job hunt. While people always think that it is who you know, it is also what you do with what you have. If you are looking for a job, keep the hunt alive. If you are working with a recruiter, let them know you are still interested in being considered for other openings. Check in with your contacts from time to time to let them know you want to hear about any openings that might be out there. And look at all opportunities to meet recruiters and hiring managers--whether it be by responding to an ad, meeting at a job fair or doing an informational interview with a company. These options could lead to the job you get.