At some point in your career, you will likely show up to your first day of work and realize that you made a terrible mistake. And you will likely look back at several points in the process when your gut sent off warning signals. This episode looks into hidden “tells” that you should ignore at your own risk.
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Red Flags To look For When Interviewing For A Job
Avoiding The Mistake Of Joining The Wrong Company
Most everyone has taken a job where on day one, they immediately knew that what they were sold is not the actual reality taking place at the company. They are left wondering, “What did I miss?” This episode is all about red flags that try to keep you from running into this situation. What can you look for? We are not talking about the obvious.
The interviewer has a tattoo of a swastika on his hand. We are talking about a little bit more subtle and nuanced views of red flags that you can see in the interviewing process so that you can keep yourself from making a terrible decision in your career. If you are new to our show, click that subscribe button if you have been around for a while, helped put that Apple five-star review.
I’m glad I drove all the way down to Richmond to hang out with you and record episodes, even though I’m in my office recording this episode now.
Back in Vienna, Ian came down. It had too much me, turned around and left but the good news is Ian has overly fed. He had three breakfasts, skipped his workout. He saw my kids, met my youngest son for the first time.
I’m always getting away with the personal training session that you hired for me. I know you are nudging me into a healthier lifestyle but as soon as that dude showed up, I was like, “I’ve got some stuff to ignore.”
Ian is overly fed. I’m a bit hungry coming into this show. Ian gets frustrated when I eat. I’m going to eat soup with my bare hands while we record, to see how that goes. Hopefully, that produces a good product.
Frank doesn’t edit these. I have to sit and watch these afterward and watch Frank eat salad and shovel it in his mouth while I’m talking on the show.
The reason that this show is taking the internet by storm is that if someone is eating soup with their bare hands in an interview, they are probably not the company you want to work for.
I think that’s pretty fair, and that’s why our show does not have any employees yet. You are scaring them away by chewing all the time on screen or we would have people applying. Although we did have one of our legions of fans and Frank was very excited for me to send him the screenshot. We had a young lady ask us if we were on YouTube and immediately say that she is very thankful for all the things that we are doing for humanity with our show. It feels good to know that we are making humanity better.
The goal of this show being in the first place was to make the world a better one day, episode, fan at a time. We are in the midst of the Great Resignation, more quits this 2021 than in history. Especially in the US, economists to the governments have been taken the data. The quit rate is higher than it has ever been. More people have left their jobs.
2021 has been a pretty crazy year. If you are reading this, you might be interviewing soon, whether you think you will or not. We are going to talk about things that you should pay close attention to and not ignore in the process that might be red flags and lead to you making a crappy decision on joining the wrong company.
I’m going to come right on the shoot and tell a story from when I was in college. Ian and I both have an affinity, even though we quit NVR. We were both there for years, had great careers, both learned a lot of good things. Ian and I are universal. The only thing NVR sucks at is technology but they are a well-run company in many ways and there are a lot of good business lessons to be learned there. I went to a job fair in college, and we had to travel somewhere. It was part of the National Association of Home Builders, and they were attracting college kids. We met all of the major builders, and I had a desire to work for a national builder when I was in college. I’m at Toll Brothers, NVR and Centex.
I’ve got interviews, and every single person I had met with had reached out and NVR hadn’t. They hadn’t set scheduled an interview, and nothing had happened. I remember picking up the phone, and I called Joe Madigan, who ran HR at the time. I said, “I loved you, guys. I thought you were interested in me. What’s going on?” I’m like, “Are you? It’s because I have gotten job offers. I don’t want to accept them if you think I could be a fit there.”
He was like, “We are overwhelmed. We move a little bit slow.” What I would say is this, “NVR was the exception to the rule.” They are an insanely well-run company with a slow-moving HR department. Every other time I have heard that story, the company sucked, too. The funny story about this is Ian worked in NVR. He got further up the chain than I did, and he used a third party for headhunting because HR was so slow. They couldn’t keep up with the operations. Almost every other company, if that type of thing happens, it’s bad news.
It wasn’t a strength of our company. I ended up having to outsource it. I think that could be a red flag number one, is the pre and the post-interview process feels unorganized. There are a lot of different ways where you can feel this. When you were getting hired, the housing market was exploding. Those were signs that the company was a little overwhelmed in a lot of different areas.How a company does one thing is how they do everything. Click To Tweet
They didn’t have enough people. They were always chasing. How do we get enough people trained? They were rushing people out there. That process wasn’t good. NVR was getting saved by the hottest housing market ever. You have talked often about this when that housing bubble burst, they’ve got exposed for having hired a lot of bad people that didn’t fit in the roles. At the time, NVR was a good company, but it doubled in size so fast that the process you felt was how the company was running. Everyone was always chasing, trying to find the next thing, and it didn’t feel organized during the housing bubble.
Let’s talk this through a little bit from the standpoint of what a smaller company feels like. As an owner of a smaller company, I now have a staff. If you have been a reader of this blog, I had twenty-something employees when we started this show, we are over 50. We have grown quickly. Part of the reason for that is we have a dedicated in-house recruiter. They are directly behind me. There are three of them back there now.
We are actively looking for our own personnel. At first, I would run an ad on Indeed and end up figuring it out on the weekends or late at night. I would be doing all my replies because it wasn’t part of my core business to find people. I didn’t prioritize it, and I didn’t have people. The process wasn’t great, we attracted people who weren’t great but what we have done in the last several years is we built a recruiting arm with dedicated staff who run the business from 9:00 to 6:00, who follow up regularly. It feels normal to you on the other end. We are very strict with who we hire. We put you through several tests and hurdles but it feels professional because of that, the talent that we attract now is quite different than the talent we attracted several years ago.
I also think the size of the company matters when you talk about an organization. If you were Frank’s first employee, it felt organized. You are getting right through to the cell phone of the owner. You are probably the first 5 or 6 employees, same thing. Frank knows this, I’m hiring an individual part-time. She and I are talking. There’s no process. I’m not making her fill out an application. It doesn’t feel disorganized because we are texting, talking back and forth or emailing. She’s got me all that she wants but as the company gets bigger, it’s different.
In the beginning, it feels organized because you are talking to one person. What might not feel organized is it might not feel structured. It isn’t structured. They don’t have a good contract in place, HR policies, procedures. They don’t have a lot of the stuff you are used to when you are small. When it gets to 10 to 20 employees, it probably can feel like a disaster because that’s where you are exploding, and the company is completely changed from what it was before that. It starts to get more organized after twenty again, which is what happened with your company, Frank. There was a time where it did not feel like a great process to get hired into CAVA.
1 through 10 probably feels organized, it just feels small. 10 through 25 was a shit show, and then once we’ve got the internal stuff built, it felt a lot better.
Regardless of the size, for me, you are normally going to interview with 2, 3 to 4 people, and it’s a tiny company. The example I gave is an exception to the rule. If every interviewer is fifteen minutes late, something is wrong with the company. If everyone is, “I’m so sorry, it’s crazy around here.” We’ve got like, They are behind, disorganized, probably have way too many meetings in the company. This doesn’t mean that you say this company is out but know that if you start working there, you will quickly start to feel those interviewers who were late to everything. That’s going to be like that inside the company if that many people can’t show up on time to a scheduled interview.
If you go into a company that you interview with 3 or 4 people and you tell the same story. Nobody calls you out of, “I have already heard that you have used that story. Let’s use another story.” Those people aren’t talking and unorganized company. What we do around here is we almost do everything in a panel interview.
Even if there are only 2 candidates and there are 4 interviewers, we talk in between interviews. If we start five minutes late, we are consistently five minutes late because we are moving back and forth. We are having conversations between and what happens is we don’t say, “I like Ian. I want to hire him.”
I say, “I talk to Ian about these five things. I feel good about them. I don’t feel comfortable with this problem analysis or maybe his planning and organizing. He spent a lot of time talking to me about NVR but on his resume, he’s got GE. He has talked to me about none of GE. Maybe go after GE a little bit because I’ve got a ton of NVR.” That is what it feels like on the other end. When he brings up NVR, you are like, “I know you talked to somebody else about NVR, could you talk to me about GE?” That’s a well-organized company.
What you are talking about is coordination. If you go through three interviews and all three interviewers asked the same ten questions as if they have never heard it before. They have the same printed sheet of, “Tell me about a time where you had to overcome adversity.” The next interviewer asked the same question on their 2nd and 3rd.
You could tell that no one was talking. That’s not an organized process. A good organized process is each interviewer is asking a little bit different questions because they are trying to get at different attributes because to do the same interview three times is not helpful. It’s the same three interviews with different bios. That’s all that is.
It’s a waste of the candidate and your time if you are interviewing. What you want to understand in an interview is, are these people prepared. Did they know it was coming? Are they excited to have me? Are they desperate to have me?” That’s not good. Are they excited to potentially have me? Is there a process that I can see? When people talk to me, I talk about the future and to come. When I talk to somebody else on our team, it’s all about fit.
The other couple of people will talk about job-specific stuff. Every interview is going to feel a little bit different. Every interviewer should ask you if you have questions, that’s important. What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about? If you don’t feel prioritized in the interview, there’s no way in hell you are going to be prioritized when you are an employee.
On the organization side, there are a lot of little clues you can see, and you can pick up in there. If you are working with a recruiter and the company uses only recruiters, you can tell when there’s not good communication between the company and the recruiter. The recruiter keeps apologizing, keeps trying to tell you, “I’m trying to get a day. They have moved it.”
If you get that recruiter, you might have a day on the calendar, and they cancel it, reschedule it. You go two weeks without hearing anything then it’s, “Can you be in tomorrow at 9:00 in the morning.” How a company does one thing is how they do everything, and if the process feels chaotic and unorganized, that doesn’t mean that’s going to be a bad company. It is an indicator that it’s going to feel harried and unorganized when you get work in there.
That’s why I led with the NVR thing. It was a great company. 1998, when I started NVR, it wasn’t the go-go days of home building yet. It was busier than it was in 1990, but NVR was always understaffed in HR. One of the reasons that made NVR so special is they spent no money on anything. They had an ability to constantly keep things moving along with a small bit of staff, but that is an anomaly. Most companies feel a lot tighter.
When little kids are on virtual schooling on their Zoom calls, what they do is they try to get their face-off of the camera. What Frank is doing now is he keeps lowering his head. I can’t see his mouth but I can see his face moving. He’s clearly chewing but he doesn’t want me to see that he’s shoveling food into his mouth. What he’s doing is he dip dive in a dock and dodge ball, so I can’t see him. Frankie, I can see you chewing. There are not 30 kids in a fifth-grade class here. It’s just you and me. I could see you chewing. You are not getting away with it.
Number two, red flags. You have a cohost who can’t stop eating what he’s supposed to be running an episode of the show. This one is pretty good. This is Frank. The interviewer seems disinterested and distracted. It could be by food. If you are interviewing with Frank, there’s a good chance he’s distracted by some bowl of grains of salad in front of him.
What I’m talking about here though, is you are interviewing with someone who’s going to be your manager, and they can’t give you 45 minutes of their time direct. They can’t look you in the eyes for 45 minutes and engage with you. They are checking their phone. Every time their phone buzzes, they pick it up and look at it, “Excuse me. For a second.” They can’t put their laptop down, you hear a Microsoft Outlook notification that a new email came in even.
If they are not opening the email, you see their eyes looking at their computer. Like they are antsy, fidgety. They get distracted by every noise, the phone rings, and they have to check to see who’s calling or they pick it up right in front of you. For me, there are probably not many more important things than you are doing than evaluating a new employee to come into your company.
If you can’t give that person all of your time at that moment when you are trying to make a great impression, what is that person going to be like to work for if you are trying to get their attention? Put yourself in that same office as an employee who’s trying to get help on something you are stuck on. They are going to do. If they will do that to someone who hasn’t joined the company, what are they going to do to someone who’s now a captive employee getting paid a salary?
We have gotten to this point in life where everybody is accustomed to distraction. My family was all together. We don’t get to see each other but a handful of times during the year. My son’s got a tablet. My mom was on her phone. My dad was looking at his, my wife was in the other room on her phone. Even if you are trying not to do this in society nowadays, we are all distracted by screens.
If you are in front of an interviewee, and the interviewer, figuring out ways to make sure things don’t interrupt you is very big. What I typically do is I get away from my screens. I leave my watch with my phone, and I bring the actual clock with me. This thing goes off all the time like a buzz. It’s very hard to have a one-on-one conversation, and there’s another side of it.
As an interviewer, you are about to make a very serious decision. You are about to bring this person into your company. You are going to be responsible for paying them. You are going to be responsible for their livelihood and family’s livelihood if they are relying on this job, and you are not giving them your all. You are shortchanging yourself as a company owner or a manager in that person if you are not focusing on them because you may miss something during a distraction. You hired the wrong person. That is a massive pain in the ass for a bunch of reasons.
If you feel this way as a candidate in the interview, the big red flag is that the manager is going to feel like that when you work for them. Number three, if you see a bunch of reviews online, go check their customer reviews, their Yelp and Google reviews as customers. We have talked about this in the show before, and I feel strongly about this. If you show me a customer that’s bad with customers that treat customers poorly that has poor customer service, I will show you a company that doesn’t treat its employee well.
A company that has a team, which has terrible morale is not going to treat customers well. I would start with go look at their Google, Yelp reviews. What do real customers say is to work with the people in that company? If it’s poor, you should probably expect a group of unhappy people when you go work there. I would say start with customer reviews. Glassdoor reviews that’s a different way of looking at it. I’m mixed on Glassdoor.
I would love your take on it. If there are not a lot of reviews with the company and the few that are on there are negative. This could be people who got fired or weren’t doing a good job. They are bitter grapes but if there’s a long line of people writing bad stuff about Glassdoor, I would not ignore it. That’s a pretty powerful indicator.
If you go look at it, and the company had a bunch of negative Glassdoor reviews in 2018 and 2019 and nothing in the last several years, that’s important, too. If it has been a lot lately and there wasn’t a lot leading up to it, that’s probably why they are interviewing you anyway. They are losing people because they are unhappy that they are working there.
Glassdoor is an indicator. There are a lot of other things. Does it come up a website? Do they have a hiring page? The huge companies and publicly-traded companies have hiring pages. You are going to work for someone with 25 employees. Do they have a hiring page? Do they have a presence on the Glassdoor? Are they smart enough to be proactive to make sure they get reviewed there? No reviews are not mean there are good reviews. Do they give you access to staff?Every interviewer should ask you if you have questions. That's really important. Click To Tweet
When you come in an interview with me, if I shuttle you into a back room and I push you out like, “What am I not showing you? Who are you not getting to talk to?” Our company brings you in. We have you sit in the foyer, talk to people, see how we interact. People walk by and say, “Hello.” We will say, “Would you like to ask questions to anybody?”
We want to be an open book. We want to see if you fit. If wherever questioning that or you have a question that’s better suited to be answered by somebody else, we will grab somebody, bring them in and say, “Would you please talk to so-and-so about this because you are doing it.” Those are all little things that you are going to see and feel.
They are there only been a couple of times in twenty years as a manager for big companies. I have even thought about Glassdoor, and that’s because we are getting a bunch of bad reviews. In both cases, it was warranted. Our morale sucked. Our turnover was high. We were asking people to work way too much. We weren’t trying to do it. We couldn’t staff up fast enough, people kept leaving, and the truth was when we were getting crushed by Glassdoor reviews, we were earning it. As managers at the time, we were like, “That’s bullshit. Why would they write that?” If I look back on it, those were crappy times to work for the company. I would say, “Use it as an indicator. Don’t use it as your end-all but don’t blow it off. Pay attention to it.”
Ian and I were talking about how do you market and advertise? There’s no one magic bullet. You’ve got to do a bunch of different things. It’s no different in an interview process. NVR had one broken process when I went there, everything else seemed great. It turned out to be a great decision for me to go there. If Glassdoor looks bad and there are other pieces of the process that are broken, you start getting an indication of, “I’m going to start subtracting a couple of points, and I’m maybe not going to invest my future with this place because they don’t deserve it.”
I’m glad you said that because it’s important if you are reading this, we’ve got eight red flags that you should pay attention to. Any one of them should not make you exclude a company from your search. It’s about layered risk. If there are 5 or 6 of these that you can check off, run. That’s too much. There are 1 or 2, the other 6, they seemed okay. It’s probably a pretty good company. Cut them a little bit of slack. If everything we are saying seems to be ringing a bell, I would be looking at a different place to go work. It’s a layered risk.
What I’m going to say is this, “There are times we get this right, and there are times my company gets it wrong.” We had a woman who we interviewed, who was hot to trot, super excited, that fell through the cracks. She did not get followed up on for two weeks. I called her and begged her to come and work here. She said, “No.” We screwed up. That’s all the risk to it.
She could have been a great hire for us, and we lost her faith. Overall, we have a great process but something fell through the cracks and that does happen from time to time. As an employee, you have to think about these things and say, “It’s a part of our broader work.” As the employer, you have to make sure it’s going to happen but hopefully, you are on the right side of the ledger more times than not.
I’m going to pair two of them for the next one that we are going to talk about. I want to pair these two together. Number four, the interviews and the process were way too easy. I’m going to say the next one we are going to talk to is number five. The interview is overly tough. Those are both could be red flags if they seem obnoxious on either side. Starting with the easy, interviews are fifteen minutes. All they ask are softball questions.
I want to interrupt you, and there’s a reason. Why do you want to link them? Why do you think these two things are linked?
It’s important to pay attention to the process, to how their process works. Both of them are indicators of something different but that both of these are cultural questions. What is the culture in that company? The interview process that’s too easy, to me, they don’t think that employees are a vital part of their strategy.
They are any warm butt in a seat, it’s fine. When it’s overly tough, the cultural challenge there as the managers think they are too important because they want to be known as tough managers instead of getting it right. The reason why I have paired both of these, even though they are on opposite spectrums, is they are both cultural red flags.
They are cultural red flags or you are working with a manager who is deranged, out there, out to prove something, has a big ego or something like that. You might notice this is real. You might have four interviews, you are going to be with somebody, and they are an asshole. You realize, “I might be an ass,” but the other three people were quite good, fair and nice. That happens. You’ve got people who are egomaniacs in companies, you’ve got people that are hard-asses, and that’s part of it.
This is the same thing we were talking about because you get one hard-ass doesn’t necessarily mean you should not go to that company. Ian had somebody that he was very close with at NVR who would probably come across as quite gruff in an interview but it doesn’t mean that that’s a bad place to be. It shouldn’t mean that guy’s persona. I do remember this scene. I interviewed with a company, and they were all arrogant pricks, and I was like, “I don’t want to work there.” I have had one bad interview in three good ones and like that company but I have had several where I was like, “This is cultural. This is not a place I want to be.”
I had experienced like that were the first two people I interviewed with it was for a president job and one would have been my peer, one would have been my direct boss. I loved them both. I was like, “This is great.” This is when I almost moved back to Chicago. I met with the CEO and the CFO, and they were absolute maniacs. They were a-holes.
One of them more than the other but one was an egomaniac that he shit all over the salesforce and ripped on his customers. They don’t know what they are talking about. The CFO was an egomaniac. The interview was nuts. He wrote out this question. I remember on a piece of paper I had to calculate and he’s like, “This is an intelligence test.” Most people fail it.
Before he gave it to me I was like, “I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I did it.” He goes, “You’ve got that right.” It was almost insulting that I’ve got it right. I’m looking at him and I’m like, “This is the stupidest interview ever. I would hate working for you. You are a prick.” I didn’t want to go to that company because those guys wanted me to know how smart and tough they were instead of trying to evaluate whether I could help their company.
This is critical about this entire episode, and it’s this. They are interviewing you but if you are paying attention, you are interviewing them. This is where you are going to work and spend more time at work than you do at home or with your kids. You spend a lot of time at work. To that end, you’ve got to make a very good decision and how people behave is soft tells of how they are going to treat you. That’s a perfect thing like, “This guy is an ass.” I don’t want to move my family, uproot everybody, and be stuck in the womb with this jerk.
I told you I interviewed 4 people there, 2 are I like. Both of the two I like were gone within a year. They were like, “Those guys are assholes. We now know why.” They were bummed that they made me an offer and I said. “No.” I never told them directly. I said, “I don’t think it’s a good cultural fit, the guy who would have been my boss.” He knew what that meant. He knew I was hot to trot until I met the two jerks. I was like, “Out, I’m going to stay where I’m at.” When he left, he was like, “You made the right decision. They were the worst to work for.”
On the other spectrum, too, if it’s too easy to get into, if it’s all softball questions, a fifteen-minute interview, they were probably a desperate company for people. Your ego can feel great like, “I killed it.” No, you didn’t. Everyone killed it. The problem with that is when you go work there, how talented is the group of people you are going to work with? If the criteria are that low to get in, your teammates are not going to be the most talented people.
I was in college, and I took a Physics class. I remember I’ve got an A, and I struggled to get an A in high school Physics. I might have gotten a B plus. I didn’t do great and did okay but I met someone while I was in this Physics class, and they were a Physics major. I was talking about my professor and I was like, “I’m doing well in this class.” He’s like, “It’s the test.” I’m like, “What do you mean?”
He goes, “He’s the nicest man. He gives the easiest tests.” I’m surprised. For a minute, I thought maybe I had gotten smarter. There was a Physics PA who said he makes the test easy because he thinks Physics is hard, and he wants to encourage people to get excited about it. I realized they were like, “I don’t belong in physics.”
You want to work in companies where the bar is relatively high with talent because you want to work for a team that wins that’s out spinning business.
I want to go through this quickly, and I will talk about it but there’s a difference between being a jerk, being too easy, being through hard, and striking the sweet spot. It’s a little bit like the porridge. You’ve got to find the one that’s not too hot, not too cold. This is our process, 0.7% of people who apply get hired. Less than 1 out of 130 who apply will get hired.
Is it too rigorous? Maybe. We have good retention. We have a lot of people we promote from within. We are very specific on what we look for, and the first thing we do with your application, we have you do a psychological profile, which takes five minutes. If you are not one of the right profiles for the job you are applying for, we don’t consider you for the next step. If that works, we are going to send you a second profile.
We have ranges within that profile because we have seen it, and we hire consultants who say, “These are the ranges.” That seems to make sense, and that’s important, too. The next piece that we go through is that if you are going into the sales role, there’s a sales-specific test and yet another test. We do these tests, and we do them feathered in with phone screens. We are not being terribly rigid but we are making sure that you are the right fit because we treat this seriously. People will comment to us that the process is organized and is pretty rigorous but it isn’t unfair.
If anybody ever pushed back, we say, “These are the reasons why, and we talk about if you ask but that is organized.” I feel like where we are as a small business is toggling somewhere between easy and hard but we make you realize we are organized and purposeful. If you get in, you deserve it. People will always say on your first day at work, we will do around the room with the company on a Zoom call. We will be like, “What would you like to say?” I’m just, “The interview process was pretty tough. I’m happy to be here.” That’s how it starts. It’s like, “We are going to treat this process seriously. We are going to treat you seriously but it’s not ridiculous and it’s not easy.
It shouldn’t feel easy because you want to work for a company that hires good talent. You want to go work on a team that has a lot of talented people because that’s a winning team. Winning teams get more sales, customers, make more money, pay you more, and promote you. You want to get to a team that wins.
You mention something in the intro that I wanted to bring up again. There was an article that I read, it was in a journal, and it talked about the Great Resignation. One of the things with the Great Resignation is companies are overlooking a lot. We are in a process now where people are not looking at your criminal records, they are not pulling certain things. They are so desperate for hires.
What I will say is this, “If you can get in now, do it. It’s a great time to get into the door if there’s something on your resume that you are not proud of or it might have been a black mark because companies are desperate for talent. Once you are in, you might be able to stay.” What will happen is this, and I have seen it proved out multiple times. People who make sacrifices during this time because they are desperate will ultimately have problems later, and that’s what’s going to happen. These things don’t age well.
It is good news for all of our followers that are convicted felons. We love you too and all of our followers but if you’ve got some big-time checkmarks, you go ahead and apply now. We love you, guys. Number five, no interviewer can seem to agree on your title, your role or what you are supposed to be doing. This is a big red flag. If your direct manager explains your role in a different way than his manager explained it to you in a previous interview than the HR explained it, it could be that they are not exactly sure what you are going to be doing why they are hiring you.We've gotten to this point in life where everybody is accustomed to distraction. Click To Tweet
They might have no idea how to get results. That doesn’t mean you don’t go there. That might mean that there’s a portion of their business that’s not running well, and they want to fix it. They are not quite sure what the position should be but before you start for that company, you need to understand objectively. We are going to get at the end of this a little bit of great questions to ask but I would ask a company like this, “How will success be measured for my role?” If I’m getting hired now in December of 2021, at the end of 2022, if I had done what you thought I was supposed to do when you created this position, how will you measure what success looked like?
It’s very important that you can quantitatively ask someone to tell you, “How are you going to measure me? If they can’t say that your position will be cut fast in a downturn or if no one ever agreed on what you were doing in the first place, I think having some concrete specificity to your role is incredibly important when you interview.
A company that doesn’t have that well defined is an unorganized company. What we do with our job offers is we put the scope in there, and the interviewers know what that is when you walk in. We know what you are interviewing for, what your strengths are, what you are going to be doing. You can ask that, and we can give you specific examples. In most instances of someone who’s already done that job, and this is what their path has looked like.
Trevor has been here for several months. He started locked in lead gen. He’s moved over to this role. You are going to be doing something similar. What if I like the construction side more than I like the sales side. We have an example of that one, too. I have a friend of mine, his niece is the third hire. The two owners and she was the first permanent hire with a company that’s gone bananas and about to go public. She’s in an incredible spot.
In that company, she thought the people were good. She was temp there. She realized, “I’ve got to hold on hard because this thing is going fast, and there was a lot of uncertainty there but the trajectory was incredible.” That’s one side of it but a company that doesn’t have that type of growth trajectory should be able to give you a pretty good understanding of what it is that you are going to do or have some examples I can draw upon, especially if it’s a publicly-traded company because they have been around for a long time.
The next two that are on our outline are relatively obvious but if you’ve got an interviewer that talks about the people on his or her team like dirt run, this is one where you don’t need a lot of layered risks. Everyone is usually hiring because they want to upgrade their team and do something else. When you get a sense that that person is trashing their team all the time if you are willing to do that to a complete stranger to talk about people that report to you that are busting their asses to help you get results as a leader in the organization, what are you going to do? Around people that you know and trust, that to me, is a very strong indicator of a disloyal leader that doesn’t think of their people as strategic assets. That would almost be a knockout.
We talked a little bit about the jerky interviewer, it’s the same thing to me. You need to pay attention to that. It seems emblematic of, “This is not the place that I want to be.”
I would say open your eyes when you are walking through the office to interview. Normally, you are getting led back to some manager’s office, walking through, walking by the cubes. Look around, is it strangely quiet? Can all you hear is tapping on a keyboard as you walk around and walk through the office? Is it overly half hazard? Is it loud and crazy to people? Are they running around with their hair on fire? Pay attention. Don’t get your tunnel vision on to the person leading you to the interview, pay attention to what the atmosphere feels like in the office. Even in that little ten seconds of walking through the office, you can get a pretty damn good idea of what a day looks like in that office.
Ask to talk to people. This is a serious thing. It’s like, “This is your profession. This is your chosen career.” If you have uncertainty around something, ask, see, feel and touch. This flip-flops it but I will say what we do. We have had three people in the last several months that I wasn’t positive about. I have done two different things. She went interns, and when I started as 1099. One of them was a bartender. He was a friend of someone who worked here. Someone moved here from out of town, and this was his first friend.
I called my employee up and I said, “I’m not positive about him. I’m going to go 1 of 2 paths.” Path one is, I’m going to say no. This person referred him and also worked in our recruiting department. He ended up delivering messages. Path two is this, why doesn’t he take a leave of absence from his current job like asked for two weeks off and come here and try this? We will pay him as 1099. We will give them a fair wage, and if this is the right job for him at the end of two weeks, we will know. If this isn’t the right job for him, we will know that too, and seven days in, we are like, “This isn’t it. We didn’t tell the guy, “Come on board, try it.” We didn’t say no. We gave him a test run.
It’s low-risk for both of you. You didn’t have that young guy quit his job, come work for you, and then you had to get rid of him. You were honest with them that you had your concerns, and here’s why. You let him do a low-risk trial of your company. After a week, he could have said, “This isn’t for me. I don’t like your company.” It would have been fine too because we are not going to do risk on you.
The other thing we did was I had a guy come over to my house one day, and he was from DoorDash. He started asking me a bunch of questions, and I have a nice house. He asked me, he was like, “Tell me about your house.” He asked me a bunch of questions, and I’m sitting here, it was somebody who had bought me a bottle of wine, and he came from DoorDash to deliver it. I talked to him for a few minutes, and I gave him my business card. I said, “If you are interested, reach out to us.” He reached out four hours later when the shift was over. I wasn’t positive if he was a good hire. He went through the whole process. I still didn’t know.
What we came up with was he’s a young kid. I said, “Would you be willing to be an intern for three months? If you were willing to come here and be an intern for three months, I will guarantee you three months but at the end of the internship, we can say no or we could say yes.” An intern is easier because you are not firing. It’s a finite time.
The Kid did an incredible job. The internship was ten weeks in, and we are like, “We are going to offer you a full-time position.” It worked out great but those are things that, as an employer, that work in your favor. That’s when people go to Glassdoor and write down, “This is a fair place to work. They could do well.”
That’s a win-win for both of you. He comes to take an internship. He’s probably paid roughly the same as he was at DoorDash. He could always go back to DoorDash at the end of those three months if he didn’t like working for you. You could always say this hasn’t worked out so well in the three months and not give them a permanent offer.
For both of you, you ended up with a good employee. He ended up with a better job but both of your risks were very low. Your risk was three months of paying someone as an intern who might not have performed well. I don’t even know what his risk was because you could always go back and do DoorDash again. Those win-wins are awesome in business. You can find them and structure them in ways that aren’t bullshit win-wins like, “I’m making the seem like a win but it’s all in my favor as the company.” You truly gave that guy a chance to show you, and he did. Now he’s off on a better career trajectory.
That’s the fun thing about working on a small business. What we are talking about here is you, as the interviewee, you can ask. If there are any reservations about me, do you have an option where I could show you over a small period of time how committed I am, how much I want this, and try it? NVR is not going to do that but a small business like mine could try it.
There are ways with the right company to figure out, “Are you a fit or not?” A good smart business, which we are will provide you with a problem solving of, “Try this. I know it’s a little different than what you came in for but would you be willing?” I have been doing it for several years in different ways like this. Some have worked, and some haven’t but like you said, “It’s a real way to do a test drive to be fair to the person.”
Let’s go through a rapid-fire here to finish this off. What questions can you ask at the end of your interview? It’s very important you ask great questions at the end of an interview because that’s your last chance to leave a great impression on the interviewer. To me, great employees ask great questions. If you are an applicant, you should start asking great questions if you want to impress me because that means that you will ask great questions when you come to work for me.
The first two questions I would ask and are similar but a little different is, “Why is the position open, and why did the last person leave?” The position might be open because we are growing so much. I need more of it. I need more salespeople, customer service reps, managers but it could be open because the last person left.
If the positions open because they are growing, that’s fantastic. You want to go to a growing company. That’s the best answer you could possibly hear is we are growing like a weed because we have something that people want that’s priced appropriately, and they are buying a lot of it. If the person left, that’s when you need to dig a little bit. That manager says, “The last person is no longer with us.” What happened? Did you fire him? Did they leave on their own? Did you do a layoff? Why did that person leave?
If it was, we made the decision, why didn’t it work out? What am I coming into? Who am I replacing? You are trying to find some of the skeletons of what’s going on. I’m trying to find, is that hiring manager honest? Can they look me in the eyes and say, “It didn’t work out, and here’s why it didn’t work out.” That’s the best-case scenario if they didn’t leave. “We had to fire them. They weren’t performing very well.” I can handle that. That’s what I’m walking into.
One of the questions that I like, and we are filming this at the end of 2021, I like to know, “How did the company handle COVID?” The reason I say that is this. If this is a couple of years from now and COVID isn’t a thing anymore, you can say, “How does the company handle adversity? Can you give me an example?” I think well-run had a plan.
We had a COVID plan on the 16th of March, 2020. We made moves on the 20th of March. We have adjusted. We have changed people’s schedules. We have made big changes to our business based upon what life looks like. I can tell you that specifically if you ask. Do you go to appointments? It depends on the person who we are meeting on the appointment. If they don’t want us to, we have the technology. There are all types of stuff.
The restaurant my wife and I went to the night we’ve got engaged still hasn’t opened. Ian and I ate there together in Heritage. That place is incredible. It still hasn’t opened. They haven’t figured it out. Everybody else has figured out how to be open. I’ve got a friend there who owns a restaurant out West, and they haven’t figured out how to open it. That, to me, is bad management. We are far enough in where you shouldn’t see these things. Asking a question like that, how do you deal with adversity?
I love the COVID question. It’s good because it’s like, “Are you decisive and problem-solvers? Do you react? Do you move quickly, wish for the old days or accept reality as it’s changed?” That tells me so much about an organization and its leadership team.
The other one I would ask is in real estate like, “What are you doing for the next downturn?” I will ask, like, “Why do you ask? What do you want to know? Where is this question coming from? Who else are you interviewing with?” A lot of people in our line of work, we will interview with home builders or I’m interviewing someone who works at a home builder.
What I will say is this, “I used to work at a home builder.” When I worked at that home builder, we had 62 divisions. In 36 months, we went from 62 divisions to 27 divisions because all we did was build houses, do mortgages, and that was it but they had tons of money. They were able to do that and get leaner. I can do that.
What we do is we serve as two separate parts of the market. Part of the market that we service with our rentals is our affordable rentals. They are a shelter that we have talked about before, and we do a discretionary move-up property on the other side. What we are doing is we are positioned for both. Now, we are taking advantage of interest rates that have come down, and that’s going to give us a ton of free rent and cash going into a recession.
We are prepped for it. Will it be bumpy? Of course. Will we have to make adjustments? Most likely. Are we ahead of it and thinking about it? Yes. If you hear an answer like that from an owner, and if you ask anybody who works here, I will probably give you the best answer but I’ve got about twenty people who can answer that because they have been taught.A company that has a team which has terrible morale is not going to treat customers well. Click To Tweet
How will the next slowdown impact your business? How was your company set up to succeed in a recession? You get people that are leaving companies to go to realtor offices or loan officers and finance. What happens if, for instance, rates go up 2%, are you based all on a refi, and you are screwed? Are you hoping that keeps going or what’s your process to get purchased?
All of those things are awesome when you get into some of those questions. The last two I always ask is, “Can I talk to someone who’s in this position?” If you are interviewing for a lead gen position, can I talk to someone on the lead gen team, maybe 1 or 2 people? If they are hesitant to put you in front of someone, who’s doing the job, they have something to hide. That’s a problem.
If they say, “No, we don’t do that.” They are afraid that person might say some negative things about the company. I know you have no problem. I never had any problem. “Sure. Sit down. How many do you want to talk to? Let’s take it over now. Let me go see if they’ve got some time. Let’s bring them in here.” If you run a great culture and company, those people doing the job could be your best salespeople, and any leader who does a good job with their team is not worried about you talking to anyone in that role.
What is critical here too, as well if the company is well run, there’s probably someone in your interview panel that does the job or maybe they don’t do it currently but they have done the job.
They are proactively doing this, so you don’t have to even ask the question but if they don’t do that, ask that question. The last one I would say and I love this question. “What doesn’t your company do well?” For me, this is the mirror version of an interviewer asking you a failure question, “Tell me about a time you failed?”
By asking, “What doesn’t your company do well?” You are asking them a failure question. What you are trying to find out is, “What level of self-confidence does this manager have?” If they say nothing, we are amazing at everything. You are full of shit. Every company has got its warts. How confident are you to say, “Here are three things that we don’t do particularly well, which is why we are interviewing for this position, and you can help us with. I would love your thoughts on this. Let me tell you the three things we are not doing well now that as an owner, manager, and executive. I’m disappointed in our results.”
You are also listening, are they trashing their team? Are they saying, “Here’s where I’m not doing a great job of getting results as a leader, and this is why I’m interviewing for this position. I would love your thoughts on how you might be able to help that?” That shows confidence and shows a company that can face reality, that everything is not always peachy keen. I love that question of, “What don’t you do well?”
If you asked me that question, “We do a lot of things pretty well. I would tell you there are a few things we suck at.” I can also say, “Our permit process isn’t great. Not me. That’s partly because they suck.” People can be honest and say, “Work is a four-letter word for a reason. There are problems but we are being proactive. We are rowing in the same direction. We are going to get support.” Those are the things that you want to hear.
If I were to ask that question of Frank as my cohost, he would say, “Sometimes Ian will ask me a question when I have a full mouth of salad, and I have to mumble my way through the answer because I was eating when I should have been listening and jumping in on a dialogue.” It’s a great episode, brother. Great talking to you. I’m glad that we didn’t see any red flags at the time. You missed a lot of red flags.
I didn’t miss that homeless guy in a hoodie. See you.