Confessions of an Entry Level Hiring Manager - Part Two
The company site interview. Very few college students will make it this far with our company. Only 10-20%. Most students are weeded out during on-campus interviews. They receive their "Dear John/Jane" letter in the mail. The lucky few are given the opportunity to enter the inner sanctum of hiring holiness. No bowing or kneeling, please. Just know that you've done well to get this far, but you still have further to journey to reach a successful conclusion.
The company site interview is a half-day of final management interviews and an aptitude battery test. Unfortunately, some of the best and brightest will fail that aptitude test. Great attitude, poor aptitude. They could have found that out back in their Freshman or Sophomore year by visiting their Career Center on campus. Kind of late now to be switching majors and/or career. But I hope some of them do. Or they'll end up in jobs either struggling to keep up or hating their work. Remember this--big bucks are not where it's at; enjoying what you do for a living is the key to career happiness. That happiness always goes a lot further than a couple of extra dollars in the paycheck. Seek out work that you enjoy from the start. If you love what you do, the money will be enough.
The company site interviews are going to focus primarily on evaluating your background through behavioral questions about your past experiences. We may be asking the "What do you know" and "What have you done" questions, but we're most interested in how you respond and examples you can provide from your past. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. So the "I can do that" response doesn't win any great honors with us unless you can tie it in with specific examples of doing that. We'll also typically ask a series of "scenario" questions to see how you would react. And we might ask how you've reacted in the past in similar situations. We'll even test your personal ethics with a series of scenario questions designed to show whether you would compromise our professional standards. Yes, they are trick questions. No, we don't want unethical people in our company. We want to know if you have a backbone of your own or if you would do anything to "impress" us. Guess what? Unethical responses don't impress us.
At lunch, we'll not only be talking, but watching. Yes, the table manners your parents taught you are very important. You're wise to order light--something easy to handle, like a cream soup. It's always more favorable to converse with a candidate who does not have lettuce peeking from between the teeth.
At the end of the day, we'll send you on your way back to your car or plane. Even if we're interested, we won't make you the offer that day. All of the managers will meet to discuss you collectively after you leave. If anyone feels strongly against you, they can and will "blackball" you. In spite of all your wonderful interviews with everyone else. But most of the time the collective whole either endorses or rejects you. It's seldom that one awkward interview will sink a candidate. In the aggregate, we attempt to make our final hiring decision based upon attitude. If you have an overall positive attitude toward your school, your classes, your work, and your future career, you are the person we will choose, even over the "superstar" performers.
The final task will be to check your references. They should be rock solid and verified in advance. It's amazing how many students provide references who speak poorly of them. Make sure your professor really did like you. Make sure your last boss truly believed you were talented. Don't ever assume a reference will be a good one. It's not enough to ask "Would you be willing to provide a reference for me?" You should always ask if they are willing to be a positive reference for you. Assuming all references speak well of you, we will prepare the job offer. The dollars are usually pretty consistent, although we're not afraid to kick in a few extra bucks when necessary. I'll make you the offer over the phone, then send out the packet by overnight mail. I will ask you to respond within three business days to our offer. Frankly, if you're good enough for us to make the offer, we don't want to sit back and wait while you interview with everyone else. We want to lock down your commitment now and don't want to risk losing you to a competitor.
When your start date arrives, we will begin our formal investment in you and your career. We will put you through six weeks of intensive training at our corporate office. We will cover an additional $4000 per year for you to pursue advanced degree studies. And we will give you the opportunity to mentor under some of the very best talent in our industry. We know our side of the investment is not fully recouped for at least two years. Up to that point, we are running a negative balance. So please remember to put forth your very best effort. We will reward (and compensate) you according to the effort you put forth. Always remember that it is a dual investment.
Our company is not for everyone. We look to hire the best, but the best for us is not necessarily you. That doesn't mean you're not the best in your chosen career. You may be (and probably are) the best for someone else. The trick is to find that someone else.
I am a firm believer that there is a job and career out there waiting for everyone who puts forth the effort to find it. Your job is to find that job. This column will help you in that pursuit.
Stay tuned. I'll help you get through all the aforementioned hurdles and more. Preparing you to find and secure the job of your dreams.