Ask the Recruiter – November 2017

How much detail should I share about my experience when I’m interviewing?

This is a great question and it’s near the top of the list as to why hiring managers pass on candidates. Candidates don’t get the job because they either talk too much . . . or didn’t give enough detail when asked specific questions and talked too little.

I’ve seen this happen over many different consumer product companies, different hiring managers, over a variety of positions (sales, category management, and supply chain) and different levels (analyst positions up to VP level). No one seems to be immune.

So where is the fine line between sharing enough information, but not sharing too much? Before I answer this, you need to be aware of one very important perspective.

The CPG industry is analytical, and for most everyone, the analytical side of their brain is dominant over the creative side. Analytical people are by nature fact-based, so you want to stick the facts, don’t give them any fluff, and most importantly, don’t ramble. Make your point and move on, but don’t ever shortchange your answer. If you have good information that the hiring manager is asking for, be sure you address all the points of what’s being asked: no more, no less.

So how much do you need to share?

As you’re sharing details your experience, usually you’ll hit a point where you can continue giving more detail, or related information about your experience. If you’re not sure whether you should continue to go into further detail or if you should stop, the best thing you can do is simply ask the hiring manager and let him/her tell you.

“Would you like me to give you further details about ‘X,” or move on to ‘Y’ or ‘Z’?”

It really doesn’t matter what the hiring manager says. The answer they give will tell you exactly what you should do. You’re allowing them to guide you as to how much information you need to be sharing.

By allowing the hiring manager to steer you, you’ll be in sync with the amount of information the hiring manager is seeking. Finally, it will also give you a strong clue as to how much detail to share in the next question as well.

Good luck!

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Happy Holidays

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DNA of a High Performing Team

What does a high performing team look like?  Should I hire a receptionist/front office person?  How do I best mix different generations of employees?  How do I make sure my team members are a good fit for each other?  How should I determine my benefits to attract the best talent?  Below are some ideas that will help guide you:

Should I hire a receptionist/front office person?

Most sales leaders are in charge of growing their sales and taking their business to the next level with Walmart and other key national accounts.  So the question that each individual person has to answer is…how much time are you taking out of your day to do simple tasks that you can pay someone else could do for you?  For instance, if your time is worth $75/hour…should you be doing tasks that someone else can do for $20/hour?  If so, the real question is…can you afford not to hire a receptionist.  If you’re being paid to do high level work, you’re cheating yourself and your investors if you’re not doing the high level work they’re expecting from you.

If you determine you need someone, keep in mind you don’t have to hire a person full time.  There are many very qualified people who would love to work part time.  I’ve had conversations with many female candidates over the years who would love the opportunity to stay engaged in the workforce in a challenging position, work part time and still have time to be a mom.  Unfortunately those positions don’t come around that often.  This could be a win, win.  From your perspective, you can get a really good employee who you don’t have to hire full time.  And you’ll have a very loyal, happy employee who values the opportunity to work and contribute but can also balance other important priorities in their life as well.

How do I best mix different generations of employees?

This is a great question.  For many years I’ve been perplexed by companies who let some of their most tenured employees go.  A mix of Millennials and Baby Boomers allows input into your business from different perspectives.  Chances are good that the Millennial employee is going to bring a technical savvy and awareness of social media that a Baby Boomer won’t.  On the other hand, the Baby Boomer is not afraid to pick the phone and talk, or better yet, meet in person to help build the relationship.  Both perspectives are needed…it’s called diversity.  We hear that term a lot, but don’t necessarily relate that to diversity of ideas and approaches to the business.

How do I make sure my team members are a good fit for each other?

This happens during the interview process.  All the employees who will interact with the prospective new team member need to meet with this person and get everyone’s buy in.  If all the appropriate people are allowed to share their input, they are more apt to try and work things out when things get tough versus not trying as diligently.  Also, by allowing everyone to be part of the interview process, the new employee is getting a real good idea of what he/she is walking into.  The team is also aware of who’s coming on board and feel like they are part of the decision making process and part of the team.

How should I determine my benefits to attract the best talent?

The best approach is to think in terms of a pool of money for your benefits and realize that everyone has different needs and is motivated by different things.  For instance:

One employee may be a single mom and health insurance may be extremely important.

Another may have a spouse who has great benefits and doesn’t need health insurance coverage at all.  Vacation time may be much more important to this person.

The bottom line is, the companies who think outside the box and offer some flexibility on their benefits will be ahead of the pack in attracting and retaining top talent.  Think flexibility and give your employees choices and options and they will be more loyal to you for it.

The Most Important Questions You Need to Answer in an Interview..But Will Never be Asked

Sometimes, some of the most important questions you need to answer in an interview, are the questions you will never be asked. These are questions your potential employer is thinking and wanting to know, but won’t directly pose. Here are a couple of those ‘secret’ questions, and how you need to answer them throughout the interview process.

Question: Do I want this person to represent my company and my products to my buyer at one of my biggest customers?  Can I project/see them doing this role?

Whatever you do in front of your buyer, however you conduct yourself, that’s the way you need to present yourself in an interview. Consider the entire interview as a role-play, with the hiring manager already projecting you in the role.  You need to have the same disposition that you are already would have in the job.  For instance, most buyers have a ‘get to the point’ mindset.  Therefore, don’t ramble on in the interview.  Make your point and move on.

Question: In today’s world, many candidates have been downsized/re-orged at some point in their career.  The hiring manager is not going to ask you directly, but they want to know, Was it you/a performance issue? Or was it the company/were you one of many people laid off?

Most hiring managers will not directly broach this topic. To prove the lay off wasn’t on your shoulders, it’s important to share accomplishments and successes in your previous position. Perhaps you were offered a different position with your previous company as they reorged your current position.  If so, that is important information to share…it shows that your current company wanted to keep you, but in order to do so, they had to change the position, location, etc.

The other important detail to share is how many people within the company got reorged?  Was it only you (which is usually a red flag), or were you one of many people.  The more people that were laid off, the more likely that it wasn’t a performance related issue in the eyes of the hiring manager.

These two details can go a long way in helping put the hiring manager at ease and prove to them it wasn’t a performance issue that forced you into a new career.

Job Seekers Who Have a “Learning Attitude” Are More Likely to Succeed

A new study by researchers from Lehigh University and the University of Missouri found one of the attributes in job seekers most likely to lead to success in their search is an attitude focused on learning.

The study found job seekers who have a “natural disposition to learn from every situation in life” are likely to be more successful in getting their dream job and achieving some of their major career goals.

To conduct the study, the researchers focused in on 120 college seniors who were hunting for jobs. Subjects in the study who were identified as having a strong “learning goal orientation” (LGO) reacted to failures in the job hunt by searching much more intensely, whereas people with low LGO decreased their intensity. Interestingly, the same was true even when the job search was going well.

This indicates that people with high LGO respond and deal with stress better than other people, and are more likely to push forward and learn from their experiences in the job search, both positive and negative.

Fortunately, there are ways job seekers can learn to improve their learning attitude. The researchers behind the study say job seekers should spend some time every day reflecting on their successes and failures and what they have learned from the process rather than getting caught up in the emotional highs and lows.

It’s just one more study that shows that while attitude may not be everything when it comes to the job search, it certainly plays a major role!

The Demands on Suppliers – Q & A with Cameron Smith

cameron-smithWal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, is known for having a lot of clout with its suppliers, whether it’s dictating products or squeezing costs. That’s why an increasing number, from big names like Kellogg to startups, have set up offices over the past two decades in Northwest Arkansas to be near the discounter. That valuable face time offers a competitive advantage over rivals. On the front lines is Cameron Smith, who runs the leading recruiting firm, bearing his name that hires executives for the vendors. Since opening his firm in 1994 in Rogers, Arkansas, near Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Smith has seen the demands for more analytical skills amid the shift to online shopping. The mix of suppliers, who now number more than 1,500, in the area are more varied too.

How has the community of suppliers changed? So many offices are still opening here because nothing beats the synergy that results when an entire satellite team rallies around one common vision or objective – you are constantly problem-solving with your customer. The companies with the largest teams are P&G, Kraft, Unilever, Kimberly-Clark and Kellogg. But it’s no longer just the big guys who drive office space these days. With pushes like the Made in the U.S.A. campaigns alive and well at Wal-Mart, all supplier team sizes mix together now. An entire tech business park has emerged. Major tech organizations like Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM etc. have circled their wagons around Wal-Mart.

How has social media affected the type of jobs you recruit for? In order to reach and influence the customer wherever she may be, companies must make sense of vast amounts of data. Our clients require leaders who can tell a story with data and use those insights to create action plans. We still fill many of the same jobs that we have always recruited for, but those roles have changed. It is now customary for people in sales roles to combine sales skills with a strong analytical background. Category management used to be the most analytically demanding role on supplier teams. Now, shopper-insights managers and market-research managers are the next level of category management. We are seeing more shopper-insights managers, where these roles were few and far between five years ago. There is still a talent shortage for these advanced skills.

How should suppliers cater to millennials? Suppliers need to be well-versed in e-commerce and the digital marketplace. Digital cannot be a tacked on strategy. Supplier teams risk becoming dinosaurs if they lean too heavily on packaging and display ads to deliver their message. They need to become skilled at social listening to learn what’s being said about their brand, their product, and their category


Interviewed by Anne D’Innocenzio.
Answers edited for clarity and length.

Tips for Recruiting Millennials to Your Team

With Millennials beginning to flood the job market, it’s become important for employers to know how to attract them to their teams. Millennials as a generation are characterized as being more tech savvy, optimistic, confident and connected than any previous generation. However, for people of older generations, they can be hard to relate to because they aren’t attracted by the same sorts of perks and they communicate in different ways.

So what exactly is it that Millennials are looking for out of an employer? Here are a few examples:

  • A work/life balance, which allows them to pursue other interests outside of work. Millennials are not nearly as attached to their work or careers as previous generations. Approximately 50 percent of Millennials believe flexibility is more important than pay (at least to an extent).
  • A strong, positive company culture that gives them an opportunity to make a difference with their work. About 88 percent prefer a collaborative workplace culture to a competitive one.
  • A strong career path that allows them to constantly be moving forward rather than staying stagnant.

Therefore, employers need to be able to tap into these characteristics if they’re going to want to hire the best up-and-coming employees. To create a strong impression with Millennials, make sure you have an updated website, maintain an engaging online social presence, stay on top of new technologies and do what you can to provide growth opportunities and flexibility in your workplace.