(Closing) Thoughts on a Job Search

On April 5th, I’ll be starting a new job with a Boston tech company – Placester – that I’m super excited to join. But before turning the page on my search, I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on my experience while it’s still fresh. One of the cool things about being in People Ops and interviewing is you get to see what a range of companies are doing. You can incorporate aspects from the best experiences and use the less pleasant experiences as a cautionary tale and reminder to be vigilant.

The Best of the Best:

  • Were awesome communicators. Hiring involves coordinating a number of schedules and stakeholders. Delays, changes in the role and business needs can impact the process. All the while, you have candidates in the pipeline. The best teams kept me aware of what was going on in the process and where I stood – even when it wasn’t all positive information.
  • Gave lots of exposure. It’s particularly important for me to get a sense of culture and ensure to my philosophy aligns with the leadership team’s. The best candidate experiences for me involved meeting a cross-section of the company. It made me feel a greater sense of understanding what the demands of the role would entail and if I would be a fit for their goals.
  • Were transparent. Several companies were refreshingly open with me about both the appeal of the role and the challenges ahead. Often companies and candidates are reluctant to talk about failures or weaknesses (and what they learned from them); frank conversations are the exception. I find these talks most helpful for both sides, plus it builds a foundation of trust.
  • Were laser-focused. I loved the interviews where it was clear the team had a specific objective. Whether it was to assess competencies, flush out how I dealt with a situation, or get a feel for how I’d fit in the culture … I liked knowing that they were being really deliberate about what they wanted to know about me.

Detracted from the Experience:

  • No news. It’s frustrating to submit an application and never hear back; it’s infinitely worse when you invest real time interacting on the phone or in person, only to be ghosted. When candidates meet with your team, update them on their candidacy. You never know when your paths will cross again. One team went completely dark on me for a month after my final interview before asking me to consider joining. You can be sure my experience as a candidate impacted my decision.
  • Going in blind. There were a number of times where I found myself going into interviews with no idea who I was speaking with, how long I’d be there, or what the purpose of the meeting was. Letting candidates prepare means a more productive session for everyone. You can give an idea of the goals of the meeting without giving away all the questions and risking an over-rehearsed candidate.
  • Waste of time. You wouldn’t invest in marketing your product or service without expecting a specific result, but it still seems to happen when vetting candidates. Light questions to get to know the candidate and ease into the interview are fine, but make sure you maximize the value of the interview by talking about what the candidate has done or can bring to the role. Chances are, they want to talk shop. Let them – it benefits both parties.
  • Bashing employees. Nearly every company has something less-than-positive on Glassdoor. The reactions to semi-negative reviews varied widely amongst teams I interviewed with. A couple teams I spoke with were defensive and arrogant in a way that suggested little respect for employees or a lack of self awareness. I much preferred the discussions with teams that were realistic and expressed humility. It displayed they were open to feedback and interested in improving.

Overall, a lot of companies are doing a terrific job working with their candidates. I was able to meet a number of people I’d love to keep in touch with because of the quality of our conversations. None of the positive things above cost money to do outside of effort, but can really impact how candidates view you in the market. This was an awesome refresher for me but I’m definitely excited it’s over.

 

Hiring an HR Leader

First, let me introduce myself!

I’m in HR. I love people. I’m an introvert. I am an idealist. I like thinking about how things could be done better. I like growth. I believe in people. I believe we can help businesses succeed and redefine the profession and workplace. Good lord, I’m pumped about what I do – even on the nights I can’t sleep because of the tough stuff this job regularly entails.

I’m excited to be a part of the profession now, when we are seen as valued strategic partners instead of strictly risk-mitigation, paper-pushers. It allows for innovation, thinking more holistically about solving problems and becoming a bigger resource for all employees, not just executives. After all, when you strip a business down to what really makes it tick, it’s the people. They service your customers, write your content, build and sell your product … they are the lifeblood of any organization. You need to attract and retain the best of the bunch.

To be competitive in the current climate, a CEO should look for an HR leader who is:

  • Inquisitive and curious. What can they learn from other companies? Other departments? What can be tweaked and improved? Is there anything that should be scrapped and rebuilt? Are they willing to listen and learn from others to find the best solution for your organization? A playbook of best practices is good to know, but it’s not going to help differentiate you in a hyper competitive talent market.
  • Approachable and empathetic. You want people across the organization to trust your HR team. You want employees to feel comfortable coming forward with issues that could leave you exposed or lead to retention issues down the line. You want managers to leverage the team to help them grow and navigate difficult situations. You want your executives to leverage the team in strategic decisions – nobody should know the ins and out of your employees and potential reactions better than your HR arm.
  • Excellent communicators with great EQ. There are a lot of tough messages that go out in an organization, and most filter through HR in some way. You can’t afford to have someone unable to “read the room”. You can’t have someone who delivers ambiguous messages. You need a person able to read the right tone, for the right audience, and communicate it in the most effective way possible.
  • Customer-oriented. Your employees are your customers. Put them in the right hands! Find someone who cares about service levels. You need someone who can listen as someone vents, and knows how to guide them through (even when that’s a tough message and not rainbows and unicorns). You want to be one of those companies where people talk positively about HR. That takes lots of good experiences and trust.
  • Smart. HR can help you run your company more effectively, if you pick the right person. Find someone that can learn and speak the language of your other leaders and have credibility. Confidence and the ability to dig in and believe in their principles are key, but you want someone also able to problem-solve and speak to the concerns of your other leaders.
  • A fit for your team. Get the right person for your leadership team. Look at your demographics. Look at your industry. Look at the personalities they will be dealing with and select accordingly. Fit is absolutely critical, but there’s no quick cheat for who the right person is because only you know what will fly in your organization.

There are so many other qualities to look for, but this where I’d start. Don’t be afraid to start your search over if you aren’t 100% excited about your options. This is a critical position. Make sure you get it right (no pressure!).