State of the Unemployed Union

The Best Interview

May 4, 2010
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Last week I had what was the best interviewing experience I have ever had.

I was interviewing for a Receptionist/Financial Associate position with a local brokerage firm. The position had all the components I was looking for – client service, database administration, and serving multiple Financial Advisors. This position even required the occasional travel to other branches, which would have been a first for me, but I really liked the idea of working with multiple branches.

The itinerary for the interview followed the typical formula: meet with the HR Specialist first, then a panel interview with the Branch Manager and Branch Administrator. The HR Specialist, Mandy, was probably the best Human Resources person I have ever met. She was warm, personable, and displayed a great sense of humor. She was comfortable to talk to. I have had the unfortunate experience in the past to meet with Human Resources personnel who did nothing to assuage my nerves and seemed only to want to intimidate the candidate (me). Mandy did none of that – her interview provided a comprehensive view of the company and gave me an insight into its corporate culture. It felt more like an invitation to the company.

After speaking with Mandy, I met with the Branch Manager and the Branch Administrator. These two people, Malcolm (Branch Manager) and Dianne (Branch Administrator), seemed to be an extension of Mandy herself, which in turn was an extension of the company. Both were very personable, comfortable to talk to, and also displayed a great sense of humor. (Note: humor is very important to me as it is how I get through the stress of a workday) We talked about the responsibilities of the Receptionist/Financial Associate position, my past experiences, and my future goals. We talked in-depth about the company, its culture, and how it had managed during the recession. This position also had a great future outlay – the possibility of managing my own small book of business. It would be a challenge, but I love a challenge and haven’t met one yet in the workplace that I couldn’t best. Our meeting lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes with no awkward pauses or discomfort of any sort.

Mandy had said that they had wanted to move very quickly to fill this position as the incumbent was moving out of state and that the second round of interviews with the brokers would be conducted the following week. It was a comfort to me that the position was open only because of the previous Financial Associate’s personal needs and not due to any economic or office/political issues. In fact, this company had managed very well through the recession in comparison to other local companies. That, too, impressed upon me that this was the company I had been looking for all along.

The next Monday came and I had heard nothing from Mandy so I placed a follow-up call. She was out of the office for personal reasons and referred callers to another Human Resources staff member. I left a message with the Director of Human Resources. She said she would email Mandy and that I would hear from her the next day when she returned to the office. And then something happened that I completely did not expect – Mandy called me from home that evening. I was surprised, to say the least. What kind of person would take time out of their personal day to return the call of a candidate? A professional who is dedicated to her company and who fosters positive relationships with her candidates, that’s who.

Mandy began this conversation by explaining their method for narrowing down the candidates for the second interviews. She said that they had chosen three candidates to meet with the brokers. One was an internal candidate and the other two had more years of experience than I had. I did not make it to the second round. I was disappointed and I am sure Mandy could sense it. She emphasized that everything about me was great and that their decision was not an easy one to make. They took it down to the number of years of experience and the other candidates simply had more years of experience than I’d had. I have to respect the company for their decision – they allowed the numbers to be their decision point and not any personal factors. And that makes me feel good.

Mandy ended the conversation by stating that if anything changes with the original three candidates in the second round she would recommend that the brokers meet with me. She also said she would think of me for future positions and she wished me luck in future endeavors. I thanked her for having had the opportunity to meet with them in the first place. But I felt like I hadn’t fully conveyed to Mandy how grateful I was to have had this very positive interviewing experience.

All in all, despite that I wasn’t granted a second interview, this was the best interviewing experience I have ever had. Mandy, Malcolm, and Dianne represented their company very well and each made me feel very comfortable during our meetings. And if this company ever does come calling again, you can bet I will answer.


On Hold

January 10, 2010
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Before Thanksgiving I interviewed with a company for the Perfect Position. This position encompassed the best parts of my last two jobs plus the opportunity for advancement. And the money is exactly at the level that I need to be earning. Perfect! The interviewer had said that they were looking to fill the position within three weeks and that I should follow up with her two weeks after this meeting. I left feeling invigorated. This interview had gone incredibly well.

So, I made the requested follow up call exactly two weeks after the interview only to find out that the Perfect Position had been placed on hold. The company had decided to hire a Chief Operating Officer first and then the Perfect Position second. I was surprised because this company had originally wanted to fill this position very quickly but their priorities changed. It was not a “no”. It was a “not now”. I was told to follow up at the end of the month of January, when the company anticipates filling the COO position.

While I did not enjoy this development it did not send me into a depressive spiral. I had begun a temporary assignment and at least have occupation during the waiting period. At the end of this month I will place another follow up call with an optimistic attitude. I know that I am the right candidate to fill this Perfect Position. I have the skill necessary to not only meet the expectations of the position but to exceed them. My personality and level of professionalism are the right fit for the company. I know these things with absolute conviction.

But I have to wonder how often position delays are happening under the current job market conditions. Is my experience unique? Or are thousands of other job applicants hearing the same thing – “not now”? Certainly employers have to watch the bottom line and many are streamlining their processes in order to strengthen their ability to weather this economy. But getting people back to work could only help the economy, so aren’t these employers who advertise open positions and then place those positions on hold only maintaining this awful status quo?

I know that there are many factors involved when a company considers hiring and any reason could cause a company to freeze hiring. It is just frustrating to have been interviewed, given a brief timeframe for the filling of the position, and then being placed on hold. How long should a candidate wait for a company to make a decision, especially when they are working a temporary job that could end any day and no one else is calling?