As the Hiring Manager for numerous roles reporting directly to me at several leading organizations, I have been very involved in the Talent Acquisition (TA) process. As such, I am quite familiar with what is required regarding time allocation, additional resources to interview, preparation, documentation, follow-through, decision making, and the management of simultaneous regular/irregular priorities and responsibilities. I’ve partnered with many TA professionals and have developed an enormous amount of respect and admiration for their role and responsibilities.
At the start of the year, I was placed into the role on the opposite side of the table – the interviewee, or candidate, instead of the interviewer, or Hiring Manager. The entire year has been a huge eye opener on what is required for Job Acquisition, compared to Talent Acquisition. There is a saying, “it’s a full-time job to find a full-time job!”, a statement that couldn’t be more realistic, now that I’ve experienced it. Another statement, “I wish I knew then what I know now” is even more accurate regarding the job-seeking process. Upon a successful placement into my next role, I will be much more empathetic, compassionate, and respectful of the candidates seeking their next job.
Navigating the Unknown
I began the candidate journey in January of 2020 with what I found to be the most valuable step – secure an executive coach, or mentor, or trusted advisor, to keep you focused, organized, committed, and positive through what can be a very disappointing and traumatic period. My coach provided preparation guidance on resume power, advanced networking, communication tools, peer forums, executive recruiting, social media, job boards, and most importantly, encouragement and motivation to keep going. This preparation required countless hours, days, and weeks to strengthen, and this guidance continues today, almost one year later.
I quickly learned that there are 3 key priorities that every candidate must do to get started:
- Perfect the resume/CV,
- Increase the networking, and
- Strengthen the LinkedIn profile
My resume was created, after so many years of not needing one, then edited, re-drafted, branded, re-edited, re-branded, and proofed as an effective marketing tool.
My network has always been strong, both internally to the organization, and externally, yet having a network is NOT the same as networkING.
LinkedIn is a well-known community, yet the power of your profile became most important, as many resources constantly referred to this source. As you can see on LinkedIn, my primary focus was to land a role as a Chief Learning Officer, or Director of Talent/Learning/Leadership Development, or a variation of similar titles, to give you an idea of my hiring focus.
Completing this initial preparation, February started off with great momentum and energy, until, as we all know, COVID disrupted all activity with hiring “pauses” and “freezes”. While some interviews continued at a slower pace, some went into an indefinite mode – clearly out of everyone’s control. This time provided my deeper dive into the other areas I still needed to focus on: advanced networking, communication tools, peer forums, executive recruiting, social media, job boards, and self-development.
Another learning and recommendation from several trusted sources, is that having 3-5 personal connections with Executive Recruiters is insufficient, and that a minimum of 10 should be obtained. These connections must be ‘relationship’ connections versus ‘transactional’, in order to be productive. This required the research, the planning, the preparation, and the follow-up for the initial 30-minute to 1-hour Executive Recruiter orientations. The recruiters for this orientation were all energetic, engaged, and seemingly genuine with their interest to support. Today I am personally connected to 20 Executive Recruiters that cover the top ranked to middle ranked recruitment firms. Of these 20, there are 5 that are consistent in communication, follow-through, and sustained the genuine relationship; however, the others will respond after several prompts.
As virtual working became more of the norm for everyone, connections began to increase, along with the number of interviews, and the statement used above became more real – a full-time job, and then some. As it’s been almost a year, a bit of data from ‘the other side of the table’ could be insightful:
Putting it into Perspective
Already mentally prepared that this process would take time; days became weeks; which became months; which resulted in either indefinite pause or the receipt of the standard impersonal rejection.
To date I hold the following data regarding applications:
Average Hours: for each application submitted, there is the requirement to detail the job profile, research the company and requirements, customize a cover letter, and submit through the provided system/tool. So, each application averages 1 hour of work. Important: even though many companies use the same system (e.g., WorkDay), the uploading of the resume is rarely sufficient to complete the required fields, so manual editing is always required.
To date I hold the following data regarding interviews:
*Contact hours include the actual conversation time with the interviewer(s), plus the actual time required to complete the required assessments. The assessments included those that were timed, un-timed, proctored, and self-guided. All contact hours varied between telephone calls and/or video calls through various tools (eg. Zoom, Teams, Skype)
**Preparation often requires as much time as the actual interview, as there is a great deal of research to be completed (company, interviewer profiles, potential network connections, culture, organizational structure, questions, examples, materials), along with follow-up required from the conversation. Some preparation can be duplicated, so it’s not exactly 1:1.
A Typical Scenario
A Director of Learning role with a major organization was posted in LinkedIn, so I applied. I was contacted by the Executive Recruiter of the company, which followed with an hour interview. Several weeks later, I was set up to interview with the Hiring Manager, along with a follow-up “prep call” with the Recruiter beforehand. A few weeks after that, I was reconnected for another “prep call” with the Recruiter for upcoming interviews. Three weeks later I was set up with another interview. Two weeks later there were 2 more interviews. Two weeks passed and I received notification to complete mandatory assessments, which could not be prepared for, nor studied in advance. The first assessment took 3 hours to complete and the second assessment took 2 hours to complete. I was then scheduled for 2 more interviews.
Total hours committed:
Three more weeks passed, and I received a brief email stating the ‘standard’ phrase, “We appreciate your interest and time invested in this position, and while there were many candidates and strong competition, we will not be proceeding with your application. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.”
The best part of this scenario is that it only took 3+ months to get through, in comparison to some roles. This scenario represents only 1 position.
Important: I learned early on that if feedback is requested upon receipt of a rejection from the interview process, it is never provided, even from those I got to know quite well. It was suggested, from many sources, to stop asking.
What I’ve Learned
Talent Acquisition and Job Acquisition is a human experience, requiring many human factors, including emotional strength and endurance.
As a Hiring Manager, I know that there is a great deal of effort required to follow the process, including resume reviews, preparation for the interview, documentation, follow-up from the interview, collaboration with colleagues, decision making, notifications, etc.
What I’ve learned is to fully comprehend what the ‘other side of the table’ is experiencing. I’ve always “known” the candidate puts in quite the effort to prepare for the interview and follow-through. It’s more than preparing what to say and what to wear for the interview itself. It’s everything else the candidate goes through, as described in this document.
As a job candidate, the 2 most frustrating and disappointing elements are:
- Lack of communication. No news is NOT good news. It’s clear to the candidate that the Hiring Manager/Recruiter has competing priorities, as well as other candidates to consider, yet an email, text, or phone call with one sentence of current status is a reminder that the candidate is human, is important, and not forgotten.
- Standard ‘empty’ rejection. Consider these 2 options:
- Personalized email: For someone that has put in so much time in interviews/assessments, review the email response to determine how you would feel upon receipt, and how a few general, personalized words could improve the transaction (see below 1.-4.)
- Phone call: There are 5 short-listed candidates – all have been interviewed. One is selected, so the other 4 must be notified. A fifteen-minute phone call would require one hour of engagement. That (:15) minutes could cover:
- Greetings + genuine appreciation for interest, time, energy. (:03)
- While not selected, provide 2-3 things that went very well. (:05)
- *Provide general feedback/coaching. (:05)
- Genuine motivation for success. (:02)
Imagine how 1 hour (4 x :15minutes), or a personalized (versus standard) email can create a powerful, positive message and reputation for you and your organization!
Talent Acquisition…Job Acquisition – there are two sides to the table, and while both are demanding and time consuming, there is a vested interest from both parties, the interviewer and the candidate. It may have been a long time since someone in TA was in the role of JA, and someone in JA may have never experienced the role of TA. I’ve now been deeply embedded in both and found that maintaining sincere appreciation for both sides of the table can be a great Learning opportunity combined with a wonderful human experience.
*Obviously there are some employment/labor laws that provide restrictions on the amount of information that is provided. Feedback here could be general versus specific (e.g., “chose a candidate with closer experience”; “relocation/travel is important”)