Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hiring: Scheduling Interviews

Interviewing candidates is never easy. There's a lot at stake. Many notable managers and companies will bloviate about their hiring processes; often in self aggrandizement but occasionally to share tidbits of wisdom.

A successful hiring process requires that a lot of pieces be firmly in place. Corporate messaging. Job descriptions. Salary ranges. Benefits packages. Application process. Referral programs. The list goes on...

One very important yet often overlooked item is scheduling, and that is the focus of this post.

While interviewing a candidate recently, I was doing my routine pre-interview preparation and reviewed with whom and when the candidate had already spoken. To my confused dismay, I learned that the candidate had spoken to 5 people already on three separate days. I was to be the 6th interviewer (on day #4), and there was still one more interviewer scheduled for later that week. That's 5 distinct interview periods!!!

After conducting the interview, I immediately reached out to our head of HR and voiced my concerns. Fortunately, he was very receptive and our conversation was productive.

I realize that it can be difficult sometimes to coordinate schedules of multiple interviewers. This can be compounded when there are micro-managers involved who insist on interviewing every candidate even though they are 2-3 levels removed (tip: if this is you, then it means you don't trust your managers, which is a big problem both for you and your managers).

Respect the candidate's time

It is entirely reasonable to have a multi-stage interview process. However, those stages should be few (no more than 3) and be explained to the candidate at the start of the process. Just because the candidate applied for your position doesn't mean they are some kind of desperate hack who is at your scheduling mercy. A candidate deserves respect, and that respect carries through respect for their time and energy. The candidate likely has to take time away from work, family, or other obligations to meet with you.

Be efficient

Don't drag out the process longer than it needs to be. Determine go/no-go breakpoints and follow-up quickly. If a candidate is a no-go, flag that quickly so that you and your team (and the candidate) can move on. If the candidate is a go, get the secondary/final round together ASAP so that you can maintain momentum and not lose the candidate to another company. The longer you drag out the process, the more likely the candidate will find another job or lose interest in your company.

Have a structure

Different roles call for different interview processes. If you're hiring for an SVP of sales at a Fortune 500 company, that process is likely to be different than if you're hiring for a junior developer at a company with 60 employees. Regardless, you should have a process in place for most positions that hiring managers follow. For example:

  • Interview 1: Phone Screen with HR/Recruiter
  • Interview 2 (within the following week of Interview 1): Phone/video interviews with hiring manager & 1-2 other team members
  • Interview 3: (within the following week of Interview 2): In-person final round with remaining interviewers

In less than 3 weeks, you've reached a decision. If you're a startup, this may be even more compressed. Either way, you don't want to drag it out. Also, you want to set expectations with the candidate about the process; this speaks volumes to their perception of you as an organization (remember: the interview goes both ways!).

Be courteous

If you decide not to move forward with a candidate, tell them. Many companies and hiring managers neglect this and just assume that no response is a fair response. Wrong. As a hiring manager or in-house recruiter, you represent your organization. What kind of message does that send to a candidate when you don't even bother to follow-up? Perhaps you don't care about such things. Well there are companies and people that do; they have voices, and those voices matter.

Take it seriously

Do I really need to say this? A quality hire is worth so much more than your schedule for the week. If you're hiring to fill a position, the hiring for that role has to be prioritized by both you and your team of interviewers. If the interviewers aren't willing or able to make time for the interview, then they shouldn't be part of the process. If you aren't willing to orchestrate a timely and efficient process for hiring, then perhaps you should ask yourself: "Do I really need to fill this role?"

After all, if you don't take the process seriously, why should a candidate take you or your organization seriously?

Back to work!

Wow, it's literally been YEARS since I've posted something on this blog. I'd like to blame the fact that I've been too busy at work, or that I've been spending too much time on Twitter...but blaming anyone or anything but myself would be disingenuous.

So with that, let's get back to posting!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Improving Win Rates

Still here at the Gartner Local Briefing. In a session with Richard Fouts about customer win rates.

Sharing Win/Loss Data

Sales teams tend to advertise their wins, yet contain their losses. Why is this so?

Q: How many global IT companies conduct win/loss on an enterprise scale? Less than 5%? About 10%? About 20%?
A: Less than 5%

  • CEOs and Sales people say "I know why we win/lose". 
  • Some politics are touchy; people don't want you to expose what they did well/not (especially in competitive environments). 
  • "I clicked the won/loss checkbox in"
One company evaluated their win/loss data. They looked at 140 wins, and 55 losses. Looking at this data, they noticed a correlation between the wins and the fact that they beat their competition to market with compelling announcements in over a third of the scenarios.

An IT services firm attempted to sell a more sophisticated solution. Upon evaluation of the win/loss data, they found that more deals were being lost. That data point led the company to discover that their sales force wasn't prepared to sell the more complex solution and thus they were unable to close those deals. The company had two choices: revert to less-complex deals, or retool their sales team. They opted for the latter.

Getting Buyer Feedback

True/False: Buyers are more willing to share why they bought from us...then why they didn't. (Trick Question!)
  • Buyers don't want to tell you why they did select you because they don't want you to become complacent with them as a customer. They want to keep you on your toes!
  • Buyers don't want to tell you why they didn't want to buy from you because they don't want you to come back and try to re-pitch them and create an uncomfortable scenario.
  • Third party interviews, however, enjoy the benefits of being a "safe" resource.

One interesting tactic is to ask a Buyer to spend 20 minutes to answer 5 questions. This is a disarming quantity of time that people are willing to afford you. What questions should you ask?
  • Competitors: Which vendors were considered?
  • Evaluation: What were top priorities?
  • Sales Cycle: How did requirements change?
  • Lessons: Anything you would have done differently?
  • Conclude: What did I forget to ask you?
Avoid closed-ended questions (yes/no).
Think about the follow-up question you'll ask if you get a certain response.
Know when to let the interview go off-script (let the buyer take you somewhere interesting).

Some other good questions:
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • Would you buy again?
  • If asked about us, would you recommend buying from us?


If you don't know why you're winning (or losing), you are ill-equipped to to sustain your success or correct your approach. If you don't have the human resources to invest in win/loss, you can retain third-parties to do this for you. Most companies that contract win-loss work spend $50-$75K/year on it. If this swings one to two deals in your favor, it pays for itself.

Once you have the data, present the big picture and spotlight on key wins/losses from which valuable advice/lessons can be derived and shared.

All of the People, None of the Time

Sitting here in a local Gartner briefing in San Francisco, where they're describing the Marketing Investment Model. As usual, a lot of sensible information presented that is unfortunately not always followed.

One of the interesting aspects that was discussed was the typical marketing message style employed throughout the tech industry. "At [company name], we..." "We work the way you work..." "We're platform agnostic..." "Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce..." OK, I inserted that last one...but you get the point.

Many companies employ a very passive message in an attempt to put prospective buyers at ease with the promise of flexibility. This boils down to: "Don't scare away any prospective buyers; let's appeal to them all!"

What often transpires, however, is that companies fail to sufficiently entice a buyer with a clear, firm, confident, focused position bolstered with a sound approach and success stories.

When you try to be everything to everybody, you fail to be anything to anybody.

Monday, April 9, 2012

OSX & Mac Office Team: Please Be Kind

Recently I opened a Word document from Outlook. I worked in it for a while, tracking changes, etc. Then I did a "Save As...". The prevous three Word documents I had saved automatically went to my Desktop. However, because this one originated in Outlook, I didn't notice that the destination folder was set to "Outlook Temp".

Needless to say, I went looking for it. Lo and behold, Word didn't have any recollection of this being a recently-opened document. So I couldn't open it from Word.

Very lame Word. Very lame.

Suspecting something was amiss, I opened another document from Outlook and did a "Save As..." and then noticed that the save folder was set to "Outlook Temp".

No problem, I thought. I'll just go to that folder and fetch my file. Actually, this turned out to be a problem.

I searched in vain for "Outlook Temp" via Spotlight to no avail. I searched for the file name in Spotlight. Nothing. I then went back to the Save As... window to see if Finder would behave nicely like its Windows counterpart and let me copy/drag files out of that interface. Nope. I could see my file; grayed-out and seemingly inaccessible.

Finally, I searched Google for information about this. Fortunately, I found some help in the Apple forums (no help from Apple, mind you because they don't care about support or documentation):

If you have upgraded to Lion, the Library is no longer viewable. Here's how to access it:

  1. Open finder
  2. Go to the "GO" drop down menu and hold down the option key. (next to the command or apple key)
  3. The "Library" option will appear between the "Home" and "Computer" options in the same "GO" drop down menu
  4. Click on "Library" and you are in..then you will find "Cache" and then "temporaryitems" and Eureeka!!!  The outlook temp folder is in there and your troubles are over!!!

Very lame OSX. Very lame.

Oh, and if you've already closed Outlook, you're screwed because that folder will automatically be purged on application quit.

It's the little things that make or break the UX.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Change In Perspective on Mobile Content Creation

Over the past few years, I've championed the idea that smartphones are by-and-large consumption devices; not creation devices.

Someone asked me recently: Do you send email from your smartphone? Isn't that creation?

I suppose that it is. But I typically send bite-sized emails, SMS, and Tweets; not long-form content. But when you also share photos and videos and links and likes and plus-1s, smartphones are clearly creation devices.

This reflection challenged my previous perspective from thinking of content exclusively as robust documents to include rapid-fire info-blurbs. Where now is the dividing line between smartphone content creation expectations and those of laptops and desktops?

This question prompted me to try the previously unthinkable; to write a blog post on my mobile phone. This is clearly long-form, but still distinct from the rich authoring experience I enjoy on my full-fledged computers.

Perhaps then the discussion ought not be about content creation, but rather rich document authoring; the kind that often requires templates, detailed tables, complex layouts or animations, etc.

I managed to survive this little experiment (although I would have rather written this on a proper keyboard and had full formatting options available) and complete thus post on my smartphone while sitting on a bench in a museum. Perspective adjusted.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 Gartner PCC

Heading out of the 2012 Gartner Portals, Content, and Collaboration conference in Orlando in about an hour. Over-all, a good experience as this was my first Analyst-led conference.

Had face time (actual, not the Apple variant) with several leading analysts in my space, including Nikos Drakos, Susan Landry, Jeffrey Mann, Carol Rozwell, and Tom Austin; which proved collectively useful in some unexpected ways.

Some sessions were good, especially The Social Workplace: Rethinking Communication and Collaboration in the Age of Social Networks. Others, however were simply too rudimentary. This seems to be the common trend with conferences that cater to both customers and vendors alike; the majority of sessions cater to the neophyte customer who knows very little about the space.

It would be helpful if conferences had multiple tracks; "I'm New", "I'm Buying", "I'm Selling", and "I Want the Bleeding Edge". They should also include dedicated events that encourage vendor & customer interaction other than the showroom (which is the province of sales).

Regardless, I found the PCC to be useful and informative. I was able to validate some business assumptions and delve into some corner topics with analysts for which there is very little public information on the web. I also learned a lot about the way Gartner works as a company, and have a much better idea on how to leverage their services going forward.