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Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Interview - New Grad Recruiter for a global telecommunications company

As I have pointed out in previous articles, it is OK to ask for help.  I am no exception and have unashamedly taken advantage of the good nature and generosity of my friends for insights into new grad hiring and raising awesome (marketable) kids.

The transcript below is from an interview I had with Janet (name changed to protect her innocence) who has worked on new graduate recruiting for a large telecommunications company.  She asked that her name and the name of her company be withheld as the information below could be used by applicants to cheat the system.

Headhunter Dad: Janet, thanks for coming in. I am going to jump right into the questions if it is OK with you? How long were you involved with new grad recruiting?

Janet: I worked on recruiting for several years but was particularly focused on new graduates for about 1 year.

Headhunter Dad: Were you recruiting for specific entry level positions?

Janet: Not really, we were looking for 12 to 15 hires and started with about 140 applicants. The departments were all expected to take a couple of them. It was not pre-decided which departments would get a grad. There was a plan for rotation so to some extent it did not matter where they started. We did not know how they would turn out so it was better to keep an open mind about it. The only real distinction was whether to point them towards front or back office.

Headhunter Dad: Did you screen the candidates differently depending on the position?

Janet: Yes, but only for front vs back office.

Headhunter Dad: What were the criteria?  Did the school or grades matter?

Janet: Yes, grades did matter.  We asked for a transcript at the time of application, and then again upon graduation. Generally we were not necessarily looking for straight As but not much less than B-. If things got really tight between a couple candidates from the same school, we may compare grades. The school does matter. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the academic system does do an initial filter of intelligence/ability to compete.

Headhunter Dad: What other criteria were there?

Janet: We used a personality test to filter in the beginning. The test screened for competitive drive. Candidates were declined if they scored as too accepting or shy or had no analytical skill. Too conforming was a negative as well. Although, it is important to distinguish between conforming and teaming. Teamwork was definitely a positive. We assigned candidates to the front or back based on their perceived personality.  Typically introverts for the back office and extroverts for the front. Extroverts should be inquisitive and good at building relationships. Back office people should have good analytical skills. Good teamwork was important for both.  Candidates needed to be able to show that they were tolerant, worked well with others and have clear opinions. After the personality test the candidates who passed went to the English test. This was outsourced and mainly focused on speaking. The last step was face to face with the executives. Usually 2 executives would meet one candidate and afterwards the candidate would move to another room to meet 2 more. Each candidate would meet a total of about 6 executives for 20 minutes each. The final decision was based on a vote. Executives were supposed to consider what the company needs to grow in the future and look for a match in the candidates. We wanted generalists, people with basic skills we could train. If one executive REALLY did not like a candidate he was declined, even if the others liked him. This was because of the rotation system. That candidate would have eventually rotated into that executive’s group.

At one point, we put all of the candidates that would receive an offer in a room to mingle and interact with each other and a few of the executives. This helped to identify where they should start.  Candidates who initiated conversations were more likely to be assigned the front office for example.

Headhunter Dad: What did you look for in the resume?

Janet: To be honest, they all looked the same. Although there was a preference for anyone with an engineering background. Hobbies were something that helped to set them apart if the hobby was interesting.

Headhunter Dad: What did you look for in a face to face interview?

Janet: Kids are all too nervous so we spend a lot of time calming them down before we can really get to know them. Even if the English was bad, it was positive to see someone try hard and keep at it throughout the interview.  Smiles were great, if not faked. Too confident, "Nothing to learn" is not good.  It is OK to make mistakes, learn from them. Self-awareness is also important. Finding a good fit helps them to grow. Being able to answer questions like the ones below show self-awareness:
·      What am I good at?
·      What am I bad at?
·      What interests me?

Headhunter Dad: What questions do you ask in an interview?

Janet: We asked:
·      What is the toughest thing you ever had to do?
·      When have you shown leadership?
·      What do you think of China (for example)? This one to check or tolerance.
·      Why are you interested in us?
·      We talked about the business to see how well they can follow along and make connections to check their analytical skill.
·      What are you looking for?
·      What is the biggest problem you faced and how did you solve it?
·      What drives you? - Bad answers would be money or travel, good answers might talk about family or things the candidate was proud of. A part time job is always nice to hear about.

Headhunter Dad: Do you have kids?

Janet: Yes, one boy in grade 6

Headhunter Dad: What are you doing now to help him prepare for that resume or interview?

Janet: He is signed up for karate and has been doing it with his father since 1st grade. This has really helped to build his self confidence. Candidates need to be able to sit in the interview and explain themselves without help. This is hard to do if they are not grounded well. The karate helps to give him something. No matter how hard the interview is, he is still going to be good at Karate.

A job is not the end all of life it is just one thing, important but only one part of life.

Headhunter Dad: Appearance is obviously important but what do you look for? What turns you off?

Janet: Appearance is more important for front office. Candidates should carry whatever they look like with confidence. You cannot change your height, even though tall is generally better. It would be refreshing to have a candidate confident enough to acknowledge their height/weight. "Am I the biggest candidate you are interviewing?" might be an amusing comment coming from a heavy kid and would show some comfort with their appearance and confidence.

Headhunter Dad: Which job should a young person choose?

Janet: The one where they will learn the most.

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