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Hi all,
I am still trying to wrap my head around this Podcast as it seems to be only halfway helpful.
Halfway helpful is not what we usually get from the M-T folks. I love you guys !
Perhaps this is one of the 90% of the time for 90% of the people situations - I may be situationally blind to.
Mark and Wendi in the beginning of the podcast do, very briefly, admit that there is a functional part of the interview that the candidate is using as a way to determine if they like the company. Then they quickly move away from the idea.
Mark issues this podcast as a caution against the attitude of the two-way-street interview.
I definitely agree that extreme caution needs to be maintained against any behavior that shows that attitude.
And I definitely agree that the sit down Q & A time is not an appropriate time to "grill" the interviewer.
Those are my two helpful take-aways.

They continue their advice by suggesting that the time to find out more information is after an offer is made.
This seems to me to be very unrealistic. It would be very difficult to get a hold of people and get answers to the soft questions over the telephone after the interview time.

My experience has always been that the questions from the candidate about work environment etc. need to be more subtle, casual and asked at the right time to the right person.
Interviews that I have been on for my professional career jobs have always included: tours of the facility, small panel interviews with potential peers, Q & A with the potential supervisor, short Q & A with the Director, lunch with select members of the committee, and brief introductions to the staff of potential directs.
Is this unusual?

It is during the in-between times that we can make subtle inquiries about staff morale, parking, traffic, and hours comp time, etc.
Potential peers and directs are seldom experienced at interviewing. They will often tell you truly whatever is on their minds. Even when they don't say things out loud their body language can speak volumes.
The decor on the walls and desks can also be indicators of the working environment.
Here is how it might sound:
· "John here will be giving you a tour of the facility"
-- "OK, great, thank you John, Will I be able to see the desk that this position sits at?”

· "I'd like to introduce you to the direct reports in the department "
-- "Great... oh hello, Sam and Sue and Paul - what are your responsibilities here? How long have you been with the university? - Wow, I'm sure that you have seen a lot of changes here over that time."
-- (then wait - and - watch - and - listen to their responses)

· "So, did you have any trouble finding our office?”
-- "No, not much. Thanks. Is that where most of the staff parks in the morning? I hit a little traffic on the way. Is that common? "

· "Hi, I'm Sally Smith, I'm looking forward to your presentation. I'm sorry I missed your morning panel. I had to stop by my child's school"
-- " Hi, Sally, pleased to meet you. I hope that you get something out of my presentation. And it is nice to hear that folks around here have the flexibility to take care of their family matters like that."
-- (then wait - and - watch - and - listen - to her response) you may learn something from what she says, or doesn't say, or her body language.

Again, I am not suggesting that these kinds of questions should be asked during the formal part of the Q&A, but that they are asked while getting coffee, while being shown around and meeting potential peers and directs, and during lunch.

These times will never come again. They cannot be re-created after the interview or after an offer is made.
The M-T guidance in the Podcast was a bit uncharacteristically a big "don't” instead of the usually wise guidance of "how to".

I just don't think that the recommendation to wait until after the offer is very reasonable or helpful.

I do have a few examples of how my two-way street approach has saved me from some terrible job positions. Had I took the approach recommended in this podcast, I would have ended up in an unhappy situation.

I am curious.
Am I off-base here ?
Or am I in the 10% exceptional situation ?
Respectfully,
TJPuccio

cynaus's picture

Hi TJ - I think you've kind of answered your own question as you've illustrated an opportunity here that wasn't actually addressed in the podcast. That is, you've described a part of the interview where there are quite cleary some opportunties to be asking those kinds of questions in an indirect and subtle way.

I interpreted the podcast as an interviewee in a situation that was during a one on one, face to face or panel interview.  One meet and greet; one opportunity and THAT opportunity is NOT the time or place to be asking those questions - as you have already mentioned that the "formal part of the Q&A" one wouldn't address those items. As a recruiter, I agree with MT on this one. And, if those things are important (leaving at 5pm on the dot is a good example), then perhaps the candidate needs to be looking for a job that finishes at 4.30pm, giving them the flexibility to manoeuvre around a strict 5pm deadline for child pick-up or whatever the case may be.

Yet, in the situation you have described - which I'm assuming is a description of the final stages of a first interview - there are some brilliant opportunities to ask some well-crafted questions. I think all of the examples you gave above are great openers and not so direct that anyone would raise an eyebrow; except for the first one.  In that example, you are still blatantly asking to see where the desk is located, sending a little red flag to the person you are talking to and they may report that back to the recruiter/ manager.

Overall though, I think if the question is posed well enough to be an observation rather than a direct enquiry about what could be seen as a touchy subject in the situation of a tour or meet and greet with potential peers, then go for it.

Cheers, 

Cyndy

 

pucciot's picture

Cyndy,

BTW - Yes - In academic Libraries, once a candidate is applying for a professional librarian job (Masters Degree) the interviews are expected to last at least 1/2 a day or 3/4 of a day.

They include two or thee Q&A sessions with either 1, or 2 or up to 5 people.  A meeting with the Executive director, the supervisor, and peers.  And they usually include a tour of the University (or at least the library facility).

And Lunch with the boss and peers.

And they usually also include the candidate doing some kind of instructional presentation on a current topic in librarianship.

This is usually the one and only interview.  Although recently, we have been doing phone interviews first - to weed the field.

That's the process as I've experienced it for the past 20 years.

TJPuccio

cynaus's picture

That's very cool - I wish I could convince our senior team to do similar.

pucciot's picture

Hi Cyndy. 

And yes my comments are less of a question and more of a comment / critique.

I appreciate your response.

I think that it is interesting that the question "Where is the desk ?" should raise any red flags.

 

Just last week one of the MT Emails addressed the idea of bad hiring.

The Question posed was that of retention, where recent hires were leaving.

The question and suggestion was asking us, as hiring managers, if we are preparing our candidates enough during the interview with an adequate description of the mundane day-to-day work.  They need to have their expectations managed well.

 

What is more mundane than "Where is the desk ?"  ??

When I participate in interviews, I make sure that I send a good staff member to accompany every candidate on a tour of the office and highlight where they will be sitting.

( BTW all of our offices are shared.  In some cases, by 4 people. )

These are natural and important questions.  I'd be more concerned if a candidate wasn't curious about such things.

Why ? Because I want the candidate to get a better idea of what it might be like working here - day by day - before they go any further in the process.

Thanks again and I hope some other folks might chime in.

 

TJPuccio

cynaus's picture

Your comments are totally valid and if interviewers actually appreciated that these *are* important factors for candidates, they would do as you do and offer the tour and point out where the new hire would be sitting.  This is then again, a subtle way of giving the new hire information to use to make their decision. This would be an ideal situation and win/ win.

Unfortunatley when the tour or that specific information isn't offered and the interview misses this stuff, then when the candidate asks it - it is incongruent to what the usual interviewer is looking for - ie What can you offer us? 

I agree that if the interview covered off these types of questions, as a background/ culture info session, it would be beneficial to all and potentially reduce turnover also reducing the likelihood of a candidate having to ask the question and then get dinged for it.

cynaus's picture

Your comments are totally valid and if interviewers actually appreciated that these *are* important factors for candidates, they would do as you do and offer the tour and point out where the new hire would be sitting.  This is then again, a subtle way of giving the new hire information to use to make their decision. This would be an ideal situation and win/ win.

Unfortunatley when the tour or that specific information isn't offered and the interview misses this stuff, then when the candidate asks it - it is incongruent to what the usual interviewer is looking for - ie What can you offer us? 

I agree that if the interview covered off these types of questions, as a background/ culture info session, it would be beneficial to all and potentially reduce turnover also reducing the likelihood of a candidate having to ask the question and then get dinged for it.