Interviewing the interviewer

Interviewing the interviewer

Amanda Horswill

Employers are finding the power in the candidate selection process no longer is theirs, writes Amanda Horswill.

Job seekers have a far greater upper hand than they have ever before. Interviews once were a nerve-racking experience where the employer grilled jittery job seekers about their achievements and skills. How the tables have turned.

Employers say candidates now are more likely to interview them. Job seekers are attending interviews with wads of research on the employer, asking probing questions to see if the organization fits their employment wish list.

If they do not measure up, candidates know there are other companies begging for their skills as the unemployment rate plummets while vacancies skyrocket.
Australian Human Resources Institute chief executive officer Serge Sardo says employers should change their recruitment practices.

He says that, while candidates interviewing employers is more prevalent in some professions and job types than others, expect it to soon be “the norm”.

“In particular types of jobs where they need talented, specialised people, there is obviously greater opportunity to be discerning with an employer,” Sardo says.

“The younger generations – Generation Y and the younger end of Generation X – tend to be forthright and upfront about what are their needs and are inquiring about what challenges there are in the roles, what training the company provides, what career opportunities.

“We are finding that there are a lot of employers who are not ready for that; to answer those types of questions.

“Typically, those employers are the older baby boomer generation, who are still quite traditional in their job selection approach.

“Due to the changing landscape of employment in Australia, where we are moving towards zero unemployment, this practice might not be everywhere yet but it will be in three or four years’ time.

“Job seekers have a far greater upper hand than they have ever before,” he
says.

Banking company St George learning and performance general manager Colin Pitt says there is no question that “the shift is on” when it comes to interviewing the interviewer.

“Candidates are researching companies in great detail and not just for senior executive positions but right through most occupations,” Pitt says.

“They are coming to interviews with very specific questions about company offers, not just salary and wages but community involvement, benefit packages, how we treat families and what sort of leave provisions we have.

“We make sure that managers and recruiting people are aware of what the organisation offers and introduce those concepts within the conversations they have with candidates and we also have brochures about it so they can be handed to people,” he says.

Employer marketing agency The Face managing director Adam Shay says candidates are using various sources to find out about employers.

“It’s a good idea that recruiters trawl the internet to find all the information they can about themselves and their own business so they can be fully prepared to answer any hairy questions,” Shay says.

“As well as word-of-mouth from current and past employers, the company website still ranks highly as a valued information source but, again, candidates want an impartial, truthful view so they will regularly search blogs, social networking sites and general news sites to find out about a company,” Shay says.

“They are searching for stories about people and, more often than not, they’re searching for anything they can find on an interviewer.

“I recently interviewed an overseas candidate who was able to provide a potted history of my career, including events I’d attended, comments I’d made to the press and presentations I’d given.

“At first I was taken aback by it all but then I realised that this preparation and research capability bodes very well for a career in my business,” he says.

CareerOne.com.au editor Kate Southam says the demand for information on employers is so widespread that the national jobs and training websites update included a special employer marketing section.

She says companies looking for staff can lodge videos, reports and other information on the site to allow job seekers to find out more about their working culture.

“Less than a decade ago, there were many more candidates than there were jobs. Now it is the other way around for many roles,” Southam says.

“Candidates can visit CareerOne.com.au company profile area to see if a potential employer has posted a profile or even a video selling themselves as a great employer.

“Where possible, candidates should test these claims with extra research. The business pages of The Courier-Mail are a good place to monitor what is going on with Queensland employers and candidates can use the online archive service to check for old articles.

“Also, the State Library of Queensland is a fantastic research resource.

“Ideally, finding someone who has worked in an organisation is a good idea. Remember though, one person’s experience – good or bad – is just another piece of research.”

Sardo says candidates still have to be careful about when to use this new brashness in the job placement process.

He says there is no point pushing for information from an external recruiter as they might not be the best source of information.

“Recruiters are the gatekeepers so candidates should do more selling of themselves at that point,” Sardo says.

“Recruiters generally won’t sell an organisation as well as an employer would so candidates need to get through that first gate and impress the recruiter (so they can get to a face-to-face meeting with an employer).

“When you get through that first gate and get to the employer, ask your questions because they are in a better position to answer them,” he says.

The Courier-Mail, Saturday 13 October 2007

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