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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tips for Job Seekers - Job Interviewing

To at least some degree, I think everyone at a job interview is a bit of an actor. No employer likes to admit in the interview that he yells at his crew or expects them to work late to satisfy a customer. And job seekers aren't likely to mention the shortcuts they've taken to save time, or maybe the long lunch they take on Fridays. 

For the most part, the interviewer/interviewee relationship tends to accentuate the positives that each party has to offer. That aspect of the interview is as it should be as long as it doesn’t evolve into a bragfest.

The information each party shares in the interview should give the other party an accurate image of the qualifications, experience and general work ethic or attitude he or she brings to the negotiating table. As well, each party must be thorough and clear in sharing his or her expectations of the other party. But after that information is exchanged and everybody likes what they’ve heard, is that the end of the interview? “You’re hired. When can you start?” and that’s it?

Usually, that’s the way it happens. I was offered a job one time in as little as 10 minutes by someone who had never met me or heard of me before. But is it really a good idea to enter a business relationship with someone after only talking to him or her for a few minutes? That seems like a bit of a gamble to me.

After a 10-minute conversation, you don’t know that technician from Adam, and a week or 10 days later, you have three or four butchered messes to clean up and you’re short of help again because you fired the guy.
Invest the Time
I’ve seen a growing number of tire dealers and store managers reduce the likelihood of a situation like that happening by investing more time in the interview process. Some interviewees are following suit, as well. The bottom line is that it’s important to both parties entering an employer/employee business relationship to take enough time to learn as much as possible about the other person.

If you interview a potential employee and you like his or her qualifications and experience, show the applicant around your shop. Discuss your compensation package. Keep the conversation strictly business. Don’t make a decision to hire – urge the applicant to think things over thoroughly. An interview in which qualifications, experience, various expectations, etc., are revealed, negotiated and agreed upon would make a good initial interview, but leave it at that for now. If both parties are impressed, schedule another meeting.

While multiple meetings are time consuming, they can save both the employer and the employee a lot of lost time in the long run. After all, how many dealers have wasted months on the tech or the service writer who interviewed well but turned out to be far more troublesome than he or she was worth? And how many employees have left jobs after just a few months simply because the initial impression didn’t match the reality? Many people can “talk the talk” for 15 to 20 minutes, but it takes time to figure out who walks the walk.

If you schedule a second meeting, both parties should agree to a meeting time of an hour or more. The second meeting works best after hours when interruptions are less frequent. You might want to walk through the dealership again and discuss more details about day-to-day procedures and how things are generally done in the shop.

If the interview is for a potential office position, give careful consideration to that work environment, as well. Is your office a comfortable place for your staff to be when they’re helping your customers? Is there a specific dress code in your office? Again, both parties should discuss as many details as possible to help determine long-term compatibility. Ask plenty of questions, but pay close attention to the answers. Ask for clarification of any gray areas.

Referrals from other employees can be a double-edged sword. A good employee might recommend a good fishing/drinking buddy and next thing you know, you’ve got a mediocre employee who was referred to you based on his personality instead of his skill level. Likewise, I’ve known techs that recommended dealers that you quickly learn you don’t want to work for. It’s definitely a two-way street.

A second meeting is also a good time to discuss whatever type of employee handbook the shop has. If you own or operate a business and don’t have a printed list of rules, requirements, expectations, benefits, holidays, etc., you’re probably overdue to write one. And it may be in the best interest of any applicant to request the handbook and postpone their acceptance of the job until they read it. If the general details that apply to all employees are in print, there’s less room for errors in policy. Plus, the potential employee can better determine whether the atmosphere is one in which he or she can work in for the long-term.

Put It in Writing
If you decide to offer the position to an applicant, it would be in the best interest of both parties to put details of the offer in writing. A written employment agreement protects both parties by reducing or eliminating misunderstandings that may arise later. The more detailed an initial employment agreement is, the more protection it can offer against future misunderstandings.

More than just a wage offer in writing, an initial employment agreement should cover some of the issues outlined in the employee handbook. Certain expectations of both parties should be outlined in the initial agreement, thus clarifying what each party can expect to give to as well as receive from the proposed business relationship.
Tips for Job Seekers
How many people in this industry go job hunting with printed copies of a current resume in hand? Like the employee handbook or initial employment agreement mentioned earlier, a well-written resume can outline your experience, skills and previous employment history. And if you fill out an application, don’t leave any spaces blank unless they don’t apply to you. A completely filled out application and/or a thorough and detailed resume can paint a written portrait of a potential employee that an employer can refer to later.

Remember that a dealer or manager who meets five job seekers this week may not remember everything about each of those people. Leave as much information about yourself as you can with that person for his or her future reference.

In about four to six business days, it’s not a bad idea for a potential employee to follow up and touch base with a dealer or manager, which demonstrates a serious interest in the position he or she is seeking with the company. Likewise, it’s a good idea for business owners to follow up, even if just to inform the applicant of the receipt of the application and/or resume. You may be out of the office when the applicant comes by, in which case he or she may leave an application and/or resume with your receptionist.

Even if you aren’t interested in hiring someone, a policy of notifying the folks you reject is an all-too-uncommon courtesy and a strong display of professionalism. If your business was my first choice in the job hunt, please don’t leave me hanging, especially when I may keep another shop hanging until I hear from you. And the same goes for employees. Notify the other businesses you applied to when you accept a job. They might leave somebody else jobless a little while longer because you didn’t communicate.

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