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15 Ways to Improve the Candidate Experience

Recently, our Talent Acquisition team (Anastasia Bartolucci & Alex Putman) were honored to with an award for candidate experience, Candidate Experience (CandE) Award with Distinction at the 15th Annual Human Resources Technology Conference & Exposition in Chicago. When you hear about awards like this you think of large companies with deep pockets and tons of resources. This does not describe us!

Our company is an entrepreneurial, highly creative design organization that is 6 years young. The formal talent acquisition department was established in November 2011 and from January-September of 2012, we hired 108 total people globally.

So how did we build a department from the ground up, hire so many people and achieve an honored distinction with limited resources and a workload 3x most departments assumed capabilities? We used the oldest model in the book: “Treat others as you want to be treated!”

Everyone has a personal job search horror story; receiving a “no thanks” for a job you have long forgotten. Bashing the company and the brand for their snail-like responses (or many cases, no responses). These actions speak volumes for the potential employer, and do not engage people to the company or the company’s brand.

So in 2012, we had our work cut out for us! Here are a few points on how we built positive candidate experience into our hiring model.

  1. Designed an application process that takes less than 1 minute to complete.
  2. Ensure job postings are active, not in a sourcing stage (if in this stage, we are clear in the job description).
  3. Provide all candidates with a  message regarding candidate status during hiring stage, offer stage and when the role is filled.
  4. Transparency regarding our start-up environment with video. We showcase our environment and provide a realistic look of each department (no actors or staging).
  5. Videos of our actual hiring  managers (2 minutes or less) discussing what they look for in talent.
  6. We provide quick (48 hours when possible) feedback on candidates interview.
  7. Shorten the hiring process; two interviews max; then we make a decision.
  8. No waiting around for the next interviewees or for someone to greet you.
  9. All employees are ambassadors of the organization and encouraged to write reviews (positive and improvement areas) in social forums to paint the true picture of the organization!
  10. At the 30-60-90 day mark, all new hires complete a confidential survey of the hiring process and provide the positives and improvement suggestions of their experience — then we act immediately to  fix issues!
  11. Report quarterly to the executive team all survey findings and improvement plan!
  12. During on boarding, all new hires receive a huge jar of candy at their desk, and if you want a piece, current employees must ask them a question (get to know the new hires).
  13. All new hires pictures are displayed—on our product–in the front entrance of the office.
  14. Keep it real! Talent Acquisition team uses personal twitter accounts to communicate with people.
  15. Assist people to connect with other jobs outside of the company’s needs by networking with them via social media outlets.

The biggest complement we receive is when candidates we are unable to move in the interview or hiring process refer their friends and colleagues for future jobs (this happens a ton)!

None of this is earth shattering. We simply communicate with candidates on a consistent basis, believe in showcasing a transparent organization and attempt to help everyone we can in one of their biggest life decisions; career.

We already have several new improvement actions to implement in Q4 2012 and 2013. This list contains more candidate engagement including; surveys of people that we decide not to hire or interview and additional communication resources for job seekers. Our goal is to always be better and provide an excellent experience all candidates!

Does being recognized as a company providing positive candidate experience feel great “YES”, doe we plan to rest on this distinction “NO”! Every day, every candidate we remind ourselves; “if this were me, how would I want to be treated?”

Check out the press release here!

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5 Traits of Success


I have spent many years interviewing candidates, teaching interview techniques and picking apart interviews.  Over the past few months, I really started breaking down the basics of what I look for when hiring someone.  Most jobs require a tangible skill set as it relates to a specific field (i.e. a C# software developer, will of course require knowledge of C#).

But what intangible traits make successful employees?  What is the DNA code that successful people possess?  Whatever the code, these are the skills most employers are looking for, they separate the “Your Hired” from the “Thanks, best of luck in your search.”

  1. Determination
    Here is the short of it, you got to make things happen!  No excuses….how many times do I listen to a candidate discuss reason they “did not achieve” goals i.e “blame others”.  I recently landed my dream job and on day 1 was provided a clear instruction; “hire the best”.  No careers page, no huge budget, no desk with everything laid out….just make it happen!  At age 17, I learned this lesson when I was literally dropped off at college and told “good luck”.  No car, no scholarship, no trust fund…..  My options were …succeed or fail – I chose to succeed!
  2. Ambition
    What are your goals in life?  Where do you want to be in 3 years?  All common questions, so why are people so scared to answer them truthfully and directly?  Most are afraid if they answer and it does not match the employers “desired answer” they will not get the job.  When I was 15 years old I worked in a peach orchard, during the hot Alabama summers.  I loved the people and the job, but was determined to find a job “indoors with cool/refreshing air conditioning.  The next summer I landed a job in a local grocery story after  a long search and very few options (my hometown has 1200 people, kinda limits the options).  Over the years my goals and ambitions have grown past A/C, but those lessons have stuck with me for a lifetime.
  3. Passion
    I often say, ” I can teach a person to recruit/sale/whatever” but I can not teach you passion!  If you dread Mondays then you are not pursuing your passion!  I have not dreaded a single Monday since November 2011…guess what, I love what I am doing….if I dread Mondays then that is a huge problem!  Passions will grow and new ones will reveal themselves, but only if you are seeking to understand them,  Know what you are passionate about and pursue with your full heart or be satisfied with staying awake on Sundays dreading the inevitable “case of the Mondays”
  4. Delivery
    If you can not provide clear examples of delivering on objectives and goals and how they tie back to the company’s vision and goals, you most likely will not work for many desired employers.  Do you execute on goals and deliver work product?  My career goals have always been simple, “hire the best”, these were the goals in my first professional job in 1996 and ring true today.  Of course I have done more than just hire people, as my roles grew and career advanced….but every new venture required delivering my best!
  5. Smart
    Employers want smart people, that make things happen and can figure out problems.  As a child I remember speaking to a relative that did not hold a college education.  He sold honey and needed a way to quickly extract honey from beehives….he built a machine out of a few bicycles and other parts that could extract the honey quickly and easily…this was prior to Pinterest of Google!  He was smart and determined, tried many times, finally got it right and had success!  Ask yourself, what is the most innovative thing you have done in your career?

I could list 10+ traits but these sum it up.  Don’t just think about these from the perspective of “my next interview”  Are these life traits that you possess and embrace?  Can you honestly convey these 5 things about yourself to others?  I will end with two of my favorite quotes that should sum it up:

“Do or Do Not, there is NO try”!  Yoda

“Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit”…Paul “Bear” Bryant

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QR Code Marketing: “It’s Alive”

In my recent post about QR codes, I asked the question if it was a new wave or passing fad.  There is a terrific conversation regarding this topic on the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association LinkedIn page.  One of the most creative uses of QR codes was used by a college student seeking an internship.  He literally makes his paper resume, speak!  You have GOT to check it out

The codes themselves are easy to set up, but it seems adoption is a key issue.  Most people have seen QR codes without realizing it.  Go to Best Buy and look at a laptop. there you will find a handy QR code ready to scan and direct to the on-line store (I actually used this one).

Marketers:   Adoption issue = must provide direction.  For now, marketing must provide quick set of direction “scan this with a QR reader on your mobile phone” is a good start. I never look at the retail ads, however my wife does…guess what, she did not know what to do with the QR bar prior to my posting over 1 month ago.  I am certain she is not alone.

But why would someone use a QR code versus just typing in an URL?  Laziness!  It is easier to snap a picture than type in an URL on a small screen!

Is laziness the only marketing reason to utilize QR codes?  NO!  There is tons of data you can capture about consumers and who doesn’t like consumer data?  Check out some sample back end data from  Matt Reichart in this post.

The more I read about this tool, the more I love it.  Personally, I believe the not so old saying “if a picture is worth 1,000 words, video is worth 1,000,000!”  Link that pretty mug to a video and begin engaging people those 1,000,000 people!  The video above was worth the 40+ seconds of viewing and said more to me as a hiring manager than any paper or electronic resume!

Kick some butt and make a great 1st impression!  Break out the QR scanner on your device, scan the code in the drive in picture and learn how to make an impression on a potential employer!

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Inside the Mind of the Employer

Interviews! Stressful, uncertainty, informational….what words come to your mind! I want to give you a glimpse into the mind of the employer. Typically you have a few people/layers to make it through when interviewing. Did you know they have an impression of you within 7 seconds? Want to know what they think? Check out this presentation and hopefully it will give you a peak into the mind of the employer.

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How to Leave a Great Impression

Leaving an impression that packs impact and is long lasting is critical to many aspects of your life.  Whether it is for an interview, a new job, a date or any new relationship you are often judged and socially ranked on your first impression.  So why not have an impression strategy checklist.  Here are my 6 T’s to leaving a great impression.

1.  Tude:  (attitude)

  • Be Confident:  this is displayed many ways, however posture, firm handshake, eye contact  and your body movements are among the top ones noticed immediately.
  • Relax:  Don’t twirl your hair, rub your hands together, slouch or appear uncomfortable, being relaxed equates to a certain coolness factor.
  • Use your manners;  hopefully you learned them as a small child (unfortunately each generation appears to lose them more and more).  Having them will set you apart.
  • Humility:  it is not a sign of weakness, so don’t be afraid to show your humble side.
  • Know who you are and be comfortable with yourself, never, ever wish you were someone/something else.

2.  Threads

  • You are what you wear!  Dress for the occasion!
  • Appearance should always be clean and groomed, no matter what the Hollywood jokers are dressing like!
  • Professional functions:  have a good dry cleaner and wear pressed/ironed shirts.
  • Social gatherings:  dress for the occasion, but always be neat and appropriate (better to overdress than under dress).
  • Polish your shoes, match your socks and be sure your belt matches your shoes….simple, easy and yet often overlooked.

3.  Timing

  • If you are early you are on time, if you are on-time you are late and if you are late — just don’t be!
  • Also, don’t be a clock watcher…. nothing expresses a lack of interest like constantly looking at the clock.
  • Transition conversations;  don’t just awkwardly blurt out a new subject or interrupt a good conversation flow, you will get your turn!

4.  Turn it on

  • Be charming; simple gestures such as getting someone a drink refill can go a long way.
  • Be witty;  make thoughtful references to the conversation.  The best way to do this is be a reader and retainer of information.
  • Have something that distinguishes you from everyone else (NOTE:  not cheesy, just unique); i.e.  carrying your grandpa’s old watch is seen as charming, wearing your lucky skull & crossbones belt buckle is not (unless you are a biker)!
  • Do have a great smelling cologne, Don’t smell like you were on a 12 hour Old Spice commercial shoot!

5.  Tune In

  • Always maintain eye contact with people.  Looking off /away gives the impression that you are uninterested, which equals arrogance.
  • Don’t interrupt.  This is really hard when you are excited or an extrovert.
  • Listen!
  • Learn!
  • Love something!  showing passion will define you and leave an impact!

6.  Talking

  • Use people’s names often in conversation.
  • In group settings, include other people in the conversation and try not to be the extreme center of attention.
  • Be interested in what other people have to say.  If your not really interested, then make your exit causally and after listening for 10 minutes.
  • Jokes:  if you have one that is funny, that is fine, but be sure it is funny (and clean)!
  • Jokes in poor taste are the quickest way to be labeled a complete moron, avoid them at all cost even if the door is opened by someone else!

I am sure there are many, many more thoughts on this.  Please comment on things that have others have done to leave a lasting impression!

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12 Questions to Ask Yourself After the Interview


You have spent the last year or so looking for a job.  After all the resume revisions, the multiple hours spent searching and the 1000’s of emails, the market has changed and you are getting multiple interviews.

Now you need to gauge how well the interview went and if this is the position for you?  Ask yourself these 12 questions to evaluate.

  1. Who did you speak with and how much time did you spend with each person? Longer is better, hopefully your interviews went the full schedule or longer, this is a strong indicator of company interest.
  2. How did you get along with each interviewer?  This is your potential boss and/or peers.  Your first impression may be your best impression of them.
  3. What questions did they ask and did you have any problems answering them?  Evaluate the type of questions and your level of comfort with the questions and interview styles.  This could be your home for awhile, be sure you are comfortable with the expectations.
  4. Were you able to give full details regarding your experience?  How well did you communicate your thoughts?  If a question threw you off and you now have an answer, add it to your follow up!
  5. What information did you learn about the company that you did not already know?  The internet and static web pages are great, but did you learn something about the culture or environment that you could not find on-line?  Was the information positive or negative?
  6. What did you like most about the company?  Position?  People?  Evaluate this closely; this may be the most important question you ask yourself.
  7. What are the negatives in your mind about the company?  Position?  People?  This is a lot like dating; can you live with the negatives of the company?  Yes, they do have them, so if none were identified then you should have more questions.
  8. What did you think about the location?  Consider the commute or geography of the company.  Be realistic and consider the impact to your personal life.
  9. Based on what you know now, if an offer was extended, would you accept it?  (If yes, what is the bottom line base salary)  You may even want to take out the dollar figure and decide if this is somewhere you would work regardless of compensation….higher salary will only make a place bearable for so long.
  10. (If no) What questions do you need to have answered to accept the position?  Create a list and get them answered, you may be surprised at the clarification too many of them.
  11. Are you willing to walk away from all current and pending interviews to accept this position?  Why?  Why not?  The real key is why or why not!
  12. Do you want the job?

The next step is to follow up with expression of interest.  This should be a handwritten “thank you” note and/or a phone call to reiterate interest.  You would be surprised how many candidates forget this step and how many companies still put stock into this practice!

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My Top 10 “Most Viewed” Blog Posts


Out of curiosity I decided to review my Top 10 “most viewed” posts of all time (all 14 months of blogging, 45 total posts).  I believe these posts received this distinction due to their useful content and appeal to the jobseeking audience.  The common traits of the Top 10 include:

1.  Seven of the top read blog posts were part of a series.

2.  Eight of the posts provided information on how to improves ones interviewing skills or ability to brand oneself in job interview situations.

3.  All were completed later in my 14 month blogging career, thus the writing style improved and the audience grew.

So if you are in the market to sharpen the skills listed above, then check out the resource below!  These have all received great reviews.  If you are attempting to gain insight into interviewing techniques, improving your marketability in this job market or just want to shake your head at two “crazy” but true stories, this is the place.

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts (in order of views)

Do’s and Don’ts of an Interview | Part 1 – Personality

Do’s and Don’ts of an Interview | Part 2 – Experience

Phone Interviews: How to NAIL IT!

General Interview Questions Employers Ask

Do’s and Don’ts of an Interview | Part 3- Relationships

Crazy HR Stories: “I Probably Shouldn’t Tell You This”

Do’s and Don’ts of an Interview | Part 5-Long Term Outlook

Do’s and Don’ts of an Interview | Part 4-Communication

Crazy HR Stories: “Very Hungry For A Job”

Best Sites For Job Seekers

In an effort of full disclosure, the most viewed page was the home page and the 8th most viewed section was “Meet Alex”.  Since these were not blog posts, I omitted!

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