Dear Liz,

I’m in trouble with my boss “Reggie,” the VP of Sales in my company.

Reggie and I have a good relationship, but he has high standards. Right now we are trying to fill a sales management role. I posted a job ad, screened resumes and talked to six candidates on the phone. Those were brief calls of about 12-15 minutes each.

I invited three candidates to interview with us in person. Two of them are local candidates and the third one, “Michael,” is from out of town.

We paid for Michael to fly into town to meet us and we paid for his lodging and other expenses.

What got me in trouble with Mark is that we scheduled a full day of interviews for Michael, since he flew 1000 miles to be here.

Michael sounded fine on the phone but his face-to-face interview was a disaster. First, I sat down with Michael and one of our top salespeople, Grace.

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Grace and I tried to start a friendly conversation with Michael but he kept interrupting us to talk about his accomplishments. He went off on tangents and was extremely rude.

Grace and I didn’t know what to do after we finished talking with Michael.

I brought Michael to Reggie’s office and I ducked inside to tip Reggie off to our dilemma. He said “I’ll talk to Michael since he’s here, but if he pulls that [nonsense] with me it’ll be a short interview.”

I hung around outside Reggie’s office just in case, and sure enough, after 22 minutes Reggie called me and said he had a pressing matter to deal with. I knew what he meant. He wanted me to get Michael out of his office.

I took Michael to lunch just to kill time. He went right back into his spiel about how smart he is and how he’s revolutionized his last three companies. He didn’t ask any questions or even pause for a breath.

When Michael got up to use the rest room I texted my co-workers and got them to reorganize the rest of Michael’s interview schedule. I owe them for that!

They gathered together four of our employees and had them meet with Michael as a group.

Somehow we made it through that awful day. Michael left us with a nasty comment about how he would never have flown into town to meet with just one decision-maker and a bunch of low-level people.

Reggie is frustrated with me.

He says I need to improve my screening process. Michael’s resume on paper was by far the most impressive of all the candidates, but in person he was by far the worst.

What am I doing wrong?

Thanks Liz!

Yours,

Parker


Dear Parker,

That’s powerful learning! Here are some ideas.

A resume tells you much more about a candidate than just where they’ve worked and for how long. When you read a resume, pay attention to the voice in it.

My guess is that Michael, being an insecure person who needs to trumpet his accomplishments, filled up his resume with lists of his trophies and accolades. That’s a red flag!

Good sales managers become known in their industries. They don’t need to stoop to praise themselves. Their LinkedIn recommendations will tell you how good they are — they don’t have to do it themselves.

Read a candidate’s LinkedIn profile before you contact them. Pay attention to the things the candidate highlights in their profile.

Between the candidate’s LinkedIn profile and their resume, you will learn volumes about someone if you pay close attention.

There’s no point in calling a candidate on the phone to talk with them for 12 to 15 minutes. That’s borderline insulting.

Imagine how the non-selected candidates felt after chatting with you for a very short time and then receiving a “no thanks” message

Unless your salary range did not work for them, they would have to conclude that you screened them out in a 12-minute call! That’s harsh.

You can use email to contact someone initially and to ask them what questions they have about the opportunity. That is much more polite than reaching out to start vetting them right away.

In HR we are always selling candidates — at least as much as we are vetting them.

Over time you will learn how to vet and woo candidates simultaneously.

Good salespeople do it naturally. They vet prospective clients all the time. They call it “qualifying.”

They woo prospective clients naturally, too — because if a client fails the qualification process this time, that may pass it in the future!

By the time you get on the phone with a candidate — a critical step before you bring someone in from out of town, as you have experienced — you should be ready to have a substantive conversation.

Now you know that poor Michael cannot stop himself from shoving his accomplishments in the face of any interviewer he meets. He would have done it on the phone if the call had been longer and more open-ended.

The more comfortable you can make a job candidate, the better! That’s why so-called “stress interviews” are foolish as well as rude and unprofessional.

Skype is a great alternative to a hasty invitation to fly someone in from another city.

As Reggie reminded you, the problem was not so much the cost of Michael’s travel as it was the waste of Michael’s, your own and your co-workers’ time.

Lots of people look impressive on paper but are not impressive in person.

Don’t get mad at Michael for being who he is.

Any anger directed at him would be a waste of your precious mojo and a missed opportunity to learn from this stumble.

Here’s the good news: your spidey sense is getting stronger all the time! Now you know that a resume is just a piece of paper.

Design a new screening process and sit down with Reggie to walk through it. Let Reggie know that you’ve learned from the harsh experience with Michael.

If you haven’t done so already, call Michael and thank him for making the trip and let him know that it doesn’t feel like a great fit at this juncture but that you and Reggie wish him all the best.

Calling Michael personally will undoubtedly get you another earful of nasty comments but it will close the book on this lesson. As long as you learn the lesson, you win!

Yours,

Liz

Liz Ryan is CEO/founder of Human Workplace and author of Reinvention Roadmap.