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.
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.
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.
The days of an employee working with the same company for 20 years – or even throughout their full career – are gone.
Members of the Millennial generation currently entering the workforce are expected to change jobs every three to four years, meaning they will have worked for many more companies throughout their career than the Baby Boomers currently exiting the workforce.
Individuals born from 1957 to 1964 (referred to as part of the Baby Boomer generation) held an average of 11.3 jobs from ages 18 to 46 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. The projections are that the Millennial generation will have between 12 and 15 career changes.
The bottom line is that keeping your talented people will become more and more challenging as the more loyal Baby Boomers start leaving the workforce and the more transient Millennial generation takes their place.
Now is the time to start getting your processes in place to retain your talented employees and keep them engaged.
Question: How long should a resume be – one, two or three pages?
Don’t worry about it. I’ve never had a hiring manager or a human resource manager call me saying “Why did you send me this candidate? This person has a two (or three) page resume!
The short answer is that it depends on the length of your experience. It needs to be long enough that the hiring manager can see the necessary skills they are seeking for the position. The biggest mistake a person can make is to cut their resume short to keep it to one page (or possibly two pages) and in the process omit important information that the hiring manager is looking for on the resume.
The resume has one purpose… to get you an interview. If the hiring manager doesn’t see the skills he/she is looking for, you’ll never get the interview.
The consumer products industry is analytically-based and many of the positions are detail-oriented. Therefore, some of that detail needs to be on the resume… they’re hoping they see enough detail to make their decision easy, motivating them to say “I need to talk with this candidate.”
1. What are your responsibilities? (What do you do?)
Consumer products is a fact-based industry and very analytical whether you are in sales, supply chain, marketing or (especially) category management. Therefore, it’s essential to go into detail about what you do: the accounts you manage, the data tools you’ve used, sales volume, number of SKUs etc. Don’t be afraid to give details – the individuals reviewing your resume are hoping you’ll give them enough information to show you are qualified for their opportunity.
2. What are your accomplishments and achievements? (Are you any good at what you do?)
If you are in sales, have you increased sales or the number of items? If you’re in supply chain, have you made processes more efficient, cut costs or fixed recurring problems? In category management, have you helped the category grow in sales, and what strategies did you implement to help grow the category?
The bottom line is that resumes should proactively answer questions, not raise questions.
If you leave pertinent information off your resume and leave basic questions unanswered, your resume is far more likely to be set aside… and forgotten.
More than one third of our workforce will disappear in the next fifteen years as Baby Boomers retire. This was expected sooner, but the so-called Great Recession wiped out many retirement accounts and has delayed their exit.
The job market is quickly changing to a candidate-driven market rather than company-driven. Any hiring manager, HR manager or recruiter who has recently worked to fill a category manager position would attest to this fact.
In The War For Talent by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod, the authors confirm:
“The war for talent is creating a new business reality.”
They also suggest:
Focus the content of your emails.
When sending an email, try to deal with only one topic at a time. If you’ve ever sent an email with several questions that all require responses and received an answer to just one of the topics, you know how typical it is for the individual on the receiving end to think they’ve answered you… and then potentially delete the original email. It’s ok to ask more than one question in one email as long as it all pertains to the same general topic. The problem comes when you are dealing with several different subjects. From the recipient’s standpoint, they may feel overwhelmed by all the topics vying for their attention in that one email. This frustration can lead to putting your email on the back burner or even permanently ignoring it.
Everyone needs an email buddy.
We’ve all experienced emails we wish we could take back…or wish we had never received. From time to time, everyone deals with sensitive subjects that when communicated by email have the potential to absolutely explode if not worded correctly. Identify an email buddy who is willing to review and provide honest evaluation to your sensitive emails before sending. This simple tactic could save you a lot of grief in the long run. Make sure your email buddy is someone you trust and can confide in fully. More importantly, select someone who is going to shoot straight with you and won’t be afraid to tell you when an email could cause problems, and who will openly suggest changes.