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So What? Mastering your job interviews

So What? Marketing Analytics and Insights Live

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In this week’s episode of So What? we focus on how to master your job interviews. We walk through how to prepare as a candidate and as a hiring manager and the basis of networking. Catch the replay here:

So What? Mastering your job interviews


In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • how to put your best foot forward as a candidate
  • how to navigate interviews as a hiring manager
  • basics of networking

Upcoming Episodes:

  • Personal Brand Strategy – 6/30/2022

Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? Reach out here:

AI-Generated Transcript:

Katie Robbert 0:24
Well, hey, Howdy everyone, Happy Thursday. Welcome to so worth the marketing analytics and insights live show. I’m Katie joined by Chris and John this week, as usual. This week, we are talking about mastering your job interviews, but we’re talking about from both perspectives from the hiring manager, but also from the candidate. And we’ve been focusing on this topic for a couple of weeks, because there’s a crap ton of jobs open, and people are struggling to hire for those positions. And so we wanted to take a minute to give a little bit of practical advice for both candidates and hiring managers, because you can get very caught up in this whole process, trying to have, you know, the most unique interview experience ever. You know, all that good stuff. I mean, you hear about the interviews that Google for example, that are it’s like a whole journey. And quite honestly, nobody has time for that. I’m gonna be honest, we’re all tired. Ain’t nobody got time for that kind of an interview. So as we dive in, Chris, John, I want to hear a little bit. So we were talking before the show. When was the last time you know, John, you were on a job interview? And what was that? Like? Yeah, it’s

John Wall 1:37
been a long time. You know, so many jobs recently have been through network of people I already know. So as I dug back, it’s been 10 years since my last real job interview. And it was still, I got a job at a company where a bunch of previous employees from the place before jumped to the new place, but I didn’t know the manager. So I had to go through the, the interview process. And that’s the best way to go to if you’re kind of going in there. But there’s four or five people saying, oh my god, you gotta hear this guy. Like, those tend to be the easiest ones you can get. And, and yeah, those were fine. I think it’s been even longer. I think maybe three or four jobs back was the last one where I had an interview with a guy who was at Microsoft. So he gave me the full Microsoft set of questions. And so that was, you know, wire mount manholes, round and all that kind of stuff. That was the last real fruit loop interview that I went on.

Christopher Penn 2:27
My last interview of any kind was 2012, when I joined shift communications, but that was, at that point, I was already pretty well known to the stakeholders and stuff, and it was so and I had known Todd deference for like, 6.6 years at that point. So it was not a cold interview. The last cold interview I had where I had submitted a job application and, and showed up and if it was 2003 would have would have been at the student loan network. It’s it’s been that long, because one of the big useful strategies is to the extent you can if you network and and you grow your reputation, your personal brand, which is what we call it, nowadays, you have fewer and fewer cold interviews until you get to a point where you’re not really interviewing, you’re just doing like a culture of check.

Katie Robbert 3:18
When I before I landed sort of two jobs ago at a company called inflection, which has now been bought out a few times, I think I went on at least 25 job interviews trying to find a job. And it was just it was a frustrating, exhausting experience. And this was 2004 2005 You know, and I had job experience, I had work experience, I had my college degree. And it was just, you know, hitting dead end after dead end. And then, you know, I landed the job and inflection and was there for over a decade. And then I got a call from a good friend, a mutual friend of ours, Chris, about the job at shift with you. And so I was brought in, again, not cold because she knew my work from working with me to previous job. And so that was my last job interview, was my interview with Chris for his team at Schiff communications. And, you know, we’ve talked about it on different shows, it was kind of it was a bit of a wild experience. You know, sort of up there with what I would imagine people go through the hoops to jump through at Google.

Christopher Penn 4:33
Although not five rounds, and you know, and 20 it was it was it was one round, and that was that.

Katie Robbert 4:39
That was pretty much it. Well, you know, fast forward to today, looking back like you and I knew pretty quickly that we could work well together. And to your point. It’s more of a culture fit, like can you get along with this person? Can you get things done? Versus can they do the job like my previous experience stated I could do the job. That wasn’t the concern, the what you were looking for with somebody that you can work alongside with and partner with?

Christopher Penn 5:07
Yep. The was interesting, one of the pieces of advice that we were all given as hiring managers back then was, and I think this is terrible advice. Because it, it has a whole other set of implications that are that are challenging. But one of the questions we were taught in our HR training was, as you’re interviewing a person, could you see yourself, you know, spending a night in an airport with this person? Like, could you tolerate being around them that long? And like? I mean, it depends on the airport?

Unknown Speaker 5:40
Or why you’re at the airport?

Katie Robbert 5:42
Well, and I understand, I can understand why that kind of question would be asked, because you want to see, you know, can you travel with this person? Can you get along with this person? What kind of communication? Do you have this person, but, you know, I’ll use example, my mother in law likes to say that me and my husband are some of her favorite of her children, she has six sons to travel with, because I’m putting them all on blast. I know. Because my husband and I don’t feel the need to fill, you know, the empty space with like, nonsense, you know, conversation. We’re not just constantly talking. And, you know, is that what you’re looking for? Like, everybody’s different? And so I agree, it is a terrible culture fit question. And so with that, we can get into a little bit better advice about how to approach a job interview. And so a lot of this advice is for the hiring manager. And so one of the things that I’m seeing, you know, across the board, any industry is that, there’s so many open positions that people are just sort of being asked to step in, as a hiring manager. And it can be overwhelming, you can be confused about if you’re going to make a good decision or not. And so I really tried to think about it in a way that was repeatable in a way that you can approach it, break it down, make it less overwhelming. And at the end of the day, an interview is just data collection. And so with any other task, you know, especially in marketing, you’re probably at probably being asked to collect data, in order to make a decision, this is no different. And so if you approach it that way, becomes a lot less daunting and overwhelming. And so the basic project lifecycle is planning data approach and analysis. And okay, pop quiz, where do we start with any plan? What’s the purpose? What’s the purpose? And the best way to find out the purpose is a user story. A user story is applicable in this situation, believe it or not, because you as the hiring manager, the person who is responsible for making the decision of are we bringing on a new marketing analyst, is it this one, you have a specific agenda. But John, as the sales lead might have a different agenda for wanting a marketing analyst, Chris, as the data scientist, probably has a third agenda for wanting a marketing analyst. And so just like any other project, it’s good to at least do that gut check with all of your stakeholders, the people who would be interacting with this person of what do you need this person to do. And so I put together some samples. As a marketing manager, I want to hire an analyst to take over client reports. As a CMO, I want to hire an analyst so that we can bring on more clients, as an analyst appear, I want to hire an analyst so that I can transfer into institutional knowledge. And then as a marketing manager, I want to hire an analyst so that they stick around longer than six months. And so all thinking about the same person marketing analysts, those are four different objectives and agendas of why you want the marketing analyst. What are some other, you know, user stories that you guys would add into that?

Christopher Penn 9:05
As a VP of marketing, I want to hire a marketing manager, so that I don’t have to manage the team of people who are like herding cats.

Katie Robbert 9:17
That’s a legit user story. You know, SQL? Yeah. I want to delegate everything to it. I want someone who’s going to bring me qualified leads. And so, being super clear and specific about what you need this person to do, understandably is going to help you get to that result faster. When you’re interviewing, understandably, there are two main objectives can they do the job? And are they a culture fit? And I think that the culture fit Chris, you know, we were talking about this earlier, is the harder piece and that’s we go back to that question of, you know, can I be in an airport with them? If they had Two cakes and three people, how many? How much cake? Would each person get? Like? You’re asking these goofy questions to get to the culture piece. And quite honestly, and I know I’ve sort of structured this too much like a webinar, because this is how I keep myself organized. But this is what I think of every time people talk about the office culture.

Christopher Penn 10:25
And that would have been a good office. I mean, at our last job, they got rid of all the walls like this will increase collaboration. No, it just makes things louder. But yeah, every every company is like, we need people to collaborate, you just can’t manage people you can’t see is what it boils down to, if you if you have positions that can work from home, like not like factory floor, but like if you have positions can’t work from home, and you don’t let people work from home. It’s because you’re a crap manager.

Unknown Speaker 10:57
You sell cars, that would be the

Katie Robbert 10:59
and you know, John, it’s funny you say that because there’s so many, quote unquote disruptors in the car selling industry. Now, currently, Chris doesn’t want to do the live stream anymore. There’s so many disruptors that like you can buy a car online, you don’t even need a salesperson anymore. So that’s sort of shifting to that online customer service instead of the street, salesperson.

Unknown Speaker 11:23
And we’re back, we’re back.

Christopher Penn 11:27
I just had to get something a bit a bit of commentary about culture, because it’s one of the things that felt as a data person as a data collection person. And as someone who looks at bias and datasets. One of the biggest challenges with culture is you’re actually code for homogenous take, here’s, here’s a real fun challenge. Look at any company’s website, right? That hat and, you know, look for the things like we have a diversity, equity and inclusion pledge, and then go look at the leadership page of that website and do a quick tally, I looked at our old agencies page, I’m like, Look, it’s the exact same culture, right just looks like this, the entire page. Culture is shorthand for people like us. And unfortunately, that has a tendency to reinforce biases that are already there. Right? So part of the hiring process, you have to be very careful of is and be on the conscious lookout for is, have we introduced bias, have we done enough to prevent bias, especially in the interviewing process, right, where you’re sitting across this person, it is natural, it is natural for you to be have more of an affinity for people who are like you, right? And it is, it is something that you have to be aware of, and be conscious, that, oh, this person is not like me. Do I need to check myself as a hiring manager, that any feelings I have that are steering me away from this person, or not, because I’m uncomfortable with the person based on traits that are irrelevant to the job and having those user stories is a big help, because you can see, okay, maybe I don’t like the way this person’s perfume smells, maybe I don’t like the way they have their hair done. Or maybe, you know, I don’t like their clothing or something. But none of that has to do with, I need someone to manage this team.

Katie Robbert 13:27
Well, and we were talking pre show, a really great example of that is, you know, at the previous agency, we worked at Chris, technically, I check all the boxes for a culture fit, you know, I’m white, I’m local and female, you know, I’m educated, I have certain background. So I fit that box. But I never fit into the culture, I never really felt comfortable with the other employees I, you know, loved our team, I thought we got along great. But in terms of the culture, the culture that they tried to build was everybody is besties. With each other, everybody hangs out, outside of work with each other, we’re gonna have these lifelong friendships. I didn’t fit into that, because I was a newer employee. I was a little bit older. And I just didn’t have the history with a lot of the other employees. And so I never really fit into the culture, in reality, but on paper, I was a perfect fit. Exactly. What about you, John? Do you feel like you fit into the culture of Trust Insights?

John Wall 14:37
Now see, everybody, every additional person adds to the culture. The big thing is, there’s such a mismatch between the characteristics that people hire for which are mostly demographic and personality profile. When the reality is it’s all about the success of the company and its ability to, you know, deliver positive results and be successful. I mean, that’s it Because ultimately people want a culture of success. And it’s amazing. You know, if your company is doing really well, hey, everybody gets along, and they’re all buddies. And we’re having parties and quarterly, you know getaways and all this stuff. And then suddenly, when things are going bad now, you know, people are stabbing their co worker in the back so that they don’t get laid off. I mean, you know, it just gets ugly, rapidly. So yeah, I’ve kind of never bought into any of that, that, you know, you can make the culture by making the right hires, it’s just, you know, you really need to be making your business successful. For anybody that’s interested in that kind of stuff, Simon Sinek is just the master. You know, he does all this start with why stuff. But he began at Ogilvy. And he noticed that certain teams, it didn’t matter, a team could be famously successful on the client and have award winning work, or they could be terrible, and crash and burn, and be a complete failure. And it all came down to how well the client had its position stated, you know, if everything was clear, the team could go in there and crush it, and they were champions. But if everything was kind of murky, and they were rebranding and doing new logos, you know, it could be a complete failure and other firms, you know, you could get fired for that kind of stuff. And the reality is, it’s not about the people, it’s about the vision in the business.

Katie Robbert 16:16
I think that and this, I don’t want to get too far down a rabbit hole, but we could we need to redefine what corporate culture actually means. Because I think when we say corporate culture, we assume oh, it must be like, you know, the drinks with lunch, and the pool table and the free snacks. And you know, those kinds of, you know, fun things that go along with working in an office like that’s the culture. That’s not really, that’s not a culture, that’s just bribing people to stay at the office longer.

Christopher Penn 16:49
One of the things that, because we did a lot of reading on this, when we first started Trust Insights was, one of the things that that tends to happen is that the DNA of a company is usually set by its first five employees. And it’s very difficult to change that absent, completely wiping out management. You look at a company like a PayPal or a Tesla or Google even, it’s very difficult to change its culture. One of the few companies that’s done a decent job is Microsoft, Microsoft had a very, very toxic culture for a number of years. And it’s only been recently under under Satya Nadella that it has changed and as become a very different company. But there’s still a lot of the old guard that is essentially retiring out. With culture. You’re really talking about that people in process part, like you know, the even think about, but like the foosball table and the free snacks, that’s flick platform, right? So we have people process and platform platform, you need that part. But it’s the processes to like, how do you do pay? Is there a commitment to equity and pay that to people who have the same role and the same results get paid the same? Regardless of protected classes? Do you have a system in place to check for biases? Do you have procedures processes to handle disputes internally? Like what happens if one employee lodges a complaint against another, that some companies get swept under the rug? You know, like, okay, that you know, those things don’t happen. You have to deal with it. Think about the Mad Men atmosphere from the seventh, you know, the 1970s? Or do you have a, a set of processes in place where, yeah, this if this happens, these are the things that will happen. And it’s told everybody up front, if you file a sexual harassment complaint, here’s what’s going to happen. This is the process that we’ve outlined. You know, here’s the ombudsman, here’s the third party, here’s the review, etc. So that no one is unclear. So if we think about just like we think about hiring and interviews, as a data collection process, culture itself is people process and platform and you can deconstruct it in on those three axes.

Katie Robbert 18:54
Oh, completely. I mean, it makes me think of the example working at the agency where, you know, our culture is fun and open and collaborative and communicative. But yet getting yelled at by a VP when I sent, you know, an entry level person to go ask a question. And I’m telling me, they don’t talk to people at that level. So how was that collaborative? How was that fun? How was that open? You know, we’re

Christopher Penn 19:18
open culture, but you can’t talk about your pay with somebody else.

Katie Robbert 19:22
And it just completely contradicts like, you know, no amount of you know, forced company parties, and potlucks is going to fix that. And I hated those by the way. And again, why didn’t fit in with culture? I hate those. I hate those forced company parties. And I hate potluck.

Christopher Penn 19:40
Mandatory Fun. Come on. For the shirt.

Unknown Speaker 19:45
Yeah, right. schwag burning cash.

Katie Robbert 19:49
So now that we know all the downsides, how do we fix this? How do we start to fix the problem of bad data collection? Because like everything that we do, Chris and John we’re always striving to do better data collection and a job interview is no different. So if we start with the easy one of your objective is Can Can they do the job? Here’s some examples of bad questions. And these were featured in the newsletter this past week. And these were questions that we collected from our free Slack community analytics for marketers, which, you know, we encourage you to join, we ask questions, we gather your information to use, you know, for our content creation for our education. And so these are some of the bad questions. The point of these questions is to understand how someone does their critical thinking process.

Christopher Penn 20:43
Chris, I will say the to the first one, the reason man holes around us the cover can’t fall through the hole. If it was square, the sides of the square are shorter than the diagonal of a square in the manhole cover can fall in on you. If it’s round, it can’t go and fall in that’s that’s the answer to that question,

Katie Robbert 20:57
which is fine. And all well and good. But how? Exactly how does that tell you that somebody can do the job? So if we’re up go with this example of marketing analyst. Okay. So you know, a fun fact. So, you know, something that would impress people at a party for five minutes. So what? You know, John, I think some of these might have been your questions as well, or I think, like, how many baseball diamonds? Can you fit in a football stadium?

John Wall 21:26
Yeah, yeah. It’s always, you know, people like, well, we just want to see the way you think, you know, well, unless the job is like sitting around answering random questions. I don’t see how any of this stuff is going to have any impact? And plus, what job are people in where you have like, 30 seconds to answer to like, you know, all basically, if you’re like, working the desk at a bus stop, like, yeah, then these are great questions, because you’re gonna see how people can handle what’s

Christopher Penn 21:49
the fastest land animal, the cheetah next?

Katie Robbert 21:53
Well, and you know, I think you bring up a really good point, John, in terms of the how do people think in 30 seconds, you, as a hiring manager, typically only have, you know, 30 to 45 minutes to understand if this candidate can do the job? Why are you wasting your time with these terrible questions that don’t collect the data that you need to make your decision? That’s all you’re doing is you’re just wasting time? How do you move Mount Fuji? How is that going to tell you that the person can put together a Data Studio report for your executive teams that they can make decisions on? It doesn’t. So here’s a better way to approach it. Here’s the other side of it. Show them actual, you know, again, going along the lines of its marketing analysts, show them an actual data studio report that your team has been using and ask them, What is this tell you? How would you improve upon this? How would you put this together, start to really dig into the fundamentals of the job, show them those examples, and know that it’s okay for them to say, I would want to take some time and do some research. Because anyone who has those instantaneous answers, they might be nervous and or they might be bullshitting you. And so again, sort of the just show them what the job entails and ask them, What would you do with this information? What decisions? How would you update this, you know, report to get to the point faster? Our executives care most about, you know, conversion numbers, does this report, tell them that story? What’s a different story that you would try to tell them? You know, our executives care about our SEO numbers, our brand, you know, presence on the Internet? Does this report, tell them what they need to know? Can they make decisions? Those are questions that will tell you if the person can do the job. What would you guys add to that?

Christopher Penn 23:54
It depends on the role. Sure, of course, for example, if you look at this line chart, data analyst, this is a perfectly fine thing to ask as is what can you glean from this for a data scientist? And might start to ask, okay, how would you model or forecasts or what what techniques would you use to forecast this? If you were a salesperson, you know, I’d be asking, Okay, well, you know, how would you would you incorporate this data into your work? Right? So like, John, if you were interviewing, as as for a VP of sales job, how would you integrate this data into your work? Right?

Katie Robbert 24:36
And so, you know, again, in this example, we’re hiring a marketing analyst. And so, theoretically, a marketing analyst should be able to put reports together that help us make decisions with our data.

Christopher Penn 24:50
And how would you improve this record is a great question how

Katie Robbert 24:53
Yeah, because that will help actually help you understand how the person thinks how They approach data storytelling, how they approach analysis, that’s a much better question than what’s the fastest land animal, like asking them random trivia questions, not going to give you a whole lot of information that you can use to make a decision. It’ll be entertaining. And there may be jobs out there that call for that, you know, I, you know, think about the duck tours, if you want to know if somebody has a lot of really good random trivia up their sleeve, and how quickly they can recite it to keep people entertained. That’s an excellent approach. If you’re hiring a marketing analyst, or a data scientist or a salesperson, probably not the best approach. So now we get into the more difficult side of it is the culture fit. So we’ve been talking about culture, and this misunderstanding that culture is ping pong tables, and, you know, a free beer fridge and you know, bagels and snacks, and potlucks and whatnot. And so you can see, and again, these are questions that we collected from our community. These are the questions that companies ask to see. Are you cool with ping pong every Friday for? How is that that’s not a culture? So what other culture questions have you guys run into that are just terrible?

Christopher Penn 26:20
Oh, I mean, there’s the entire list of all the ones that are illegal to ask, like, so do you plan on having a family in the next couple of years?

Katie Robbert 26:27
Well, sure. And this This episode is not about the illegal questions. We’re trying to keep it

Christopher Penn 26:32
up yet. They have surprisingly frequency.

Katie Robbert 26:34
I know. It’s, and I’ve been asked those questions before in job interviews, and it’s very uncomfortable. And you as the candidate have, it’s your responsibility to say, that’s not an appropriate question and should have no bearing on this job.

John Wall 26:54
Yeah, again, and it’s so foolish to because any culture questions, you know, this is like a first date situation like, nobody’s going to admit that. Yeah, you know, I start yelling, usually, at the end of the week, when I get angry about, you know, nobody’s going to divulge that kind of stuff. So it’s yeah, it’s all kind of foolish to, to talk about that.

Katie Robbert 27:15
Well, and that goes along with the, you know, what’s your greatest weakness? Question? You know, the whole point is that you’re trying to make a really good first impression. So, my greatest weakness is that I care too much. My greatest weakness is that I work too hard. My greatest weakness is that, you know, I’m, I stay too late at the office to try to get things done. Like, first of all, those are bullshit answers. But second, you as a candidate, you’re trying to make a really good first impression. So obviously, John, to your point, you’re gonna be like, my greatest weakness is that I have a really short temper with people who, you know, don’t answer my questions. Nobody’s going to answer like, but that may be the truth. That’s, you know, one of my weaknesses. But nobody’s going to present that information because they fear that they’re not going to get the job like, Oh, we don’t need a hothead on our team. But guess what, you may end up with one if you don’t ask about it. So some better culture questions. You can literally ask people, What kind of a culture are you expecting? What kind of culture does not work for you? And you don’t even have to use the word culture, work environment is a much better quant is a much better phrasing. So how do you structure your day? So for me, it’s, you know, I work out every morning, and then I check my email, and so sort of understanding their approach to their, quote unquote, workstyle without saying, What’s your workstyle? Well, I work really hard, and I collaborate with everybody. And you know, rah, rah, rah, you’re not going to get really honest answers. What are some other better questions that you guys would add to this list?

Christopher Penn 28:53
A lot of the ones that I thought were very useful in interviewing back in the day, were behavioral situation questions. So a client asks you to manipulate numbers in the latest report to be something untrue. There is no manager around for you to ask, what do you do? How do you handle that situation? That’s I think that’s a very good, realistic question. And there’s, you know, the generally speaking, there’s just like three, three answers to that question. Like the bad answer is you just do whatever the client tells you to do. I mean, that’s, that’s not really a great answer. For for a data analysis person, right? It’s not that’s not very good. The answer? The mediocre answer is typically is you just tell the client No, I’m ethically prohibited from doing that. And you can’t ask me that again. Because you haven’t thought through the problem. The answer that we typically look for in an interview is, I’d say the client can’t do that. But how about we come up with some options that are still true, that could help you make the point you’re trying to make but using true data, that that so that kind of question. questions on how you, for example, how do you handle specific kinds of conflict within within the office, I think are useful questions to understand, like, Katie, how do you handle a situation when you have two subordinates who are at each other’s throats all the time? Like, how do you handle that situation in a productive way?

Katie Robbert 30:21
Ah, see you, you went in the end, and you added the productive part. Because otherwise, I would say I would take one head, take the other head, just go.

Unknown Speaker 30:30
Okay, that’s

Katie Robbert 30:32
no, but, and I’ve been in that situation before I know, which is I’m guessing while you’re bringing that up. And so, you know, the, the short answer to that is, you know, it’s not the blame game, you really need to hear both sides out, but hear them out together continuing to talk to them one on one is going to continue to pit them against each other. And as the manager as the person who’s trying to resolve the conflict, really understanding the underlying reason. So in the situation that I know that you’re describing Chris, it had nothing to do with the work itself, it was truly just a personality conflict. And so the, the resolution there is to do our best to not put them on the same projects. But at the end of the day, they needed to put their differences aside to learn how to work together. And that’s part of you know, as you’re hiring people, you, companies try to have candidates meet every single person on a team, but you’re only meeting them for 30 seconds. And so you know, John, to your sort of speed dating analogy, you’re only getting a small snippet of who this person is, you don’t really know if the chemistry is going to work.

Christopher Penn 31:42
One of the things I’ve seen be very successful in some organizations is sort of a try before you buy, like extending somebody a 30 day contract to see like, Okay, let’s see, we’re going to pay you we’re going to pay you what you get paid, let’s see if you work out or not, because they’ve acknowledged that, yeah, there’s nothing in the interview process that shows you once that person sits down at their keyboard, whether they can actually do the thing or not, you know, no matter how many certifications they have, and stuff like that, it may actually be BS. And the other thing that allows you to do is see how quickly someone learns over time. Because one of the things that I look for as a hiring manager is someone who can learn very, very quickly. What that enables you to do is hire in non traditional pools, right? You can look at somebody say, okay, you don’t have the qualifications for this position. But you seem to have the general aptitude and you have a strong positive attitude. Let’s give it a try for 30 days, see what you learn. And at the end of 30 days, if you if you’re just crushing it with everything we throw your way, then yeah, we’ll ignore the fact that you have literally nothing on your resume that will qualify you for this job.

Katie Robbert 32:47
I think that that’s a solid approach provided that the company is fully transparent that that’s what’s happening. What about you, John? What are some of the culture questions that you found to be more productive than, you know? If you could be any color of the rainbow?

John Wall 33:08
Yeah, one move that works well, is to always stick with past experience on projects that they’ve worked on, you know, ask them okay, when you’re at this job, you said you did this, tell me about this project? Like how did that go, and you know, what happened when you hit these problems. And if you’re really on top of your game, a thing you can do with that is tie that into the references. So then when you’re checking references later on, if you’re talking to those managers, you can ask them questions without tipping your hand that they’ve told you the stories, but you can see if those things corroborate, you know, so did this person really do X, Y, and Z? You know, were they involved on that project. And if you find that they weren’t involved in the project, you know, they’ve been making stuff up, and it’s not real. But but having them tell you actual stories of what they actually did, because the other one too, you’ll find in marketing a lot is that, you know, upper level or mid level managers, when you scratch beneath the surface, they may or may not actually even be able to run the campaigns at all themselves. Like you may find that they had four or five, you know, if they had 20 employees, then yeah, you don’t expect them to know how to do all this stuff. But if they had three, like, you know, they should at least know how to get into the CRM system and how to manage the email system. So getting real stories of their accomplishments and how things actually went down and came together is really the far better than just making up weird, arbitrary questions.

Katie Robbert 34:29
So you actually bring me to a really good point that I was hoping that we would be able to cover and a lot of times, especially now with all the open positions, people are being asked to step into the hiring manager role they’re being asked to hire for jobs that they themselves don’t necessarily know how to do. And you know, so great example is, you know, I would be the hiring manager for a new data scientist for our team for Trust Insights. Am I a data scientist? Absolutely not. Do I understand enough of it? Yes. And so the question is, well, how do I help? How do I hire for a job that I don’t know how it works. And so part of it, John is asking them about those experiences. The challenge I run into with that, and I ran into this with a client that we were helping to hire was, there’s no they can say all the right words. And that’s, you know, why we were there to help the client, but they could say, I’ve used Tag Manager, I’ve used Google Analytics, I managed $10,000 A day in Facebook campaigns, the way that I’ve found success with that kind of a situation is okay. Let’s say for example, I have to justify to our board, that we need to be running Facebook campaigns, help me understand and communicate on your behalf, why Facebook campaigns would be the right approach, why your approach to Facebook campaigns is the best one, for example. And so really asking the person to explain it to you in a way that you can then advocate on their behalf to someone else, I will say, and I said this in the newsletter, do not approach it if pretend I’m dumb, pretend I know nothing. Because then they’re going to basically say whatever they feel is the right answer, versus actually helping build a business case for why this particular thing needs to happen.

So Chris, I know that obviously, like the technical pieces of a data scientist would be important. But, you know, one of the interviews I ran into the candidate kept saying over and over and over again, regression analysis, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter the question, the answer was always regression analysis. So in that example, I said to him, help me understand why a regression analysis is the most accurate type of analysis if all I care about is, you know, conversions, for example?

Christopher Penn 37:08
And what were the answers you got?

Katie Robbert 37:12
I didn’t get any good qualified answers, what happened was, the candidate started to get tripped up a little bit, because it was the only type of analysis that they were really familiar with. But they didn’t really understand the different applications. And to be fair, I couldn’t list off the different applications. But I know that there’s more than just regression analysis in the world. So if I say to you, all I care about is, you know, conversions from my email newsletter. Explain to me why regression analysis is the right kind of analysis so that I can justify it to my board. And that phrasing started to, for lack of a better term, peel back the onion of did this person actually understand what was happening and what they would need to do?

Christopher Penn 38:00
Right? I mean, you know, the answer you’re looking for there is there’s a lot of factors that can go into whether an email works, there’s how long it is. There’s the copy, there’s a long the subject line is what’s used in the subject line. There’s the topic, what font you use, whether it’s a work email, or a personal email, and you can’t, by eyeball, just look at those things and say, Okay, it’s this in order to understand of all the possible things that could make an email work, what actually does, you need a computer’s help to take any one thing matched up against your result? And see is that thing and then combinations, maybe it’s this and this, maybe it’s, you know, a green font and Comic Sans, you know, who knows? Whatever the case is, you’re gonna line all those things up. Let’s say this is the combination of things that seems to have the strongest relationship to the outcome you care about. And that means that you can build a testing plan. And once you find that out and say, Okay, these are the three things that work. And if you understand that, you can get more conversions. Once you understand that through this technique is called multiple regression analysis, you can get more conversions. And so the So What explanation you’re looking for is understanding that will help you get build a work plan to get more conversions, because it may turn out that that’s just a correlation is not a causative, but you won’t know that until you do the work. But so that’s the kind of answer that you will be looking for. Not just somebody repeating buzzwords over and over again, because something I learned from my martial arts teachers is you only know it when you can teach it only know at once you can teach it to anybody.

Katie Robbert 39:49
And so the point there is that’s absolutely it. So if you’re the hiring manager, and you’re hiring for a role that you’re not super familiar with, the candidate should be able to teach you enough that you can then take what they’ve said, and repeat it back to somebody else who is unfamiliar. So what I’m hearing you say, Chris is, in order to understand how we get more conversions from our email, we have to look at all of the different variables that go into it. And that includes font type. It includes, you know, time of day that we deliver it, it includes, is it to a personal email? Is it to a corporate email, it’s the subject line, it’s the text, it’s the how long it is. And all of those things are data points that we have to look into to start to narrow down, which are the data points that are the most important that would help us understand more conversions. So, so as you’re nodding, if you were the candidate, you’d be like, yes, that is exactly what I’m describing to you. So I, as the hiring manager would be able to say with confidence rate, that’s the information that I’ll be bringing back to my board. And so they can understand how we’re going to start analyzing for email conversions. And so that’s a very productive conversation to have with a candidate where you’re not super familiar with the type of work that they would be doing.

Christopher Penn 41:09
Yep. Now, one of the questions I always used to find mildly irritating, that we felt like we had to ask at the end of an interview was, what questions do you have for me? And? Because on the one hand, yes, a candidate probably should have some questions, something that was not discussed. But on the other hand, it’s kind of open ended. What’s what’s a better way to dig at stuff than just that very blanket question, because they can have asked just about anything?

Katie Robbert 41:42
Well, it really depends on what you care about. So if you could say, Do you have any questions about the responsibilities of this particular position? Do you have any questions about what you would be accountable for in this role? Do you have any questions about what the company does every Friday at four o’clock? It could even be? Do you have any concerns about the conversation that we’ve just had?

Christopher Penn 42:08
I think that’s a good one. Because if you have any concerns about the positions, you have any concerns about the company, those are valid questions, and they can highlight what’s important to the candidate to at one candidate once. God bless them. Yes. So what’s your policy on illegal drug use outside the workplace? I’m like, well, that’s That’s your business. But as long as you hear in operational between eight and five, don’t really care what you do outside of work.

Katie Robbert 42:32
company culture.

Christopher Penn 42:36
Exactly. But that could open up some very interesting questions. So for example, as a candidate, I might say, Hey, I was looking at your leadership page, and I noticed that literally, the entire page looks like this. Can you talk I’m concerned about your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Katie Robbert 42:55
And then, you know, we might give you some sort of BS answer like, well, it’s a work in progress. And you know, we can’t exactly fire all of leadership, but we’re looking at creating new and inconsequential roles so that we can hire a person of color. So we can check the box.

Unknown Speaker 43:11
We have binders full of women.

Christopher Penn 43:17
2012 throwback.

Katie Robbert 43:21
So I mean, yeah, I think that asking candidate, you know, do you have any concerns about the role? Do you have any concerns about the information I’ve shared with you? Is there anything that has been unclear, or anything that I haven’t answered specifically about what you as a marketing analyst would be accountable for in this job?

Christopher Penn 43:40
Now, here’s a really tough one, which is the situation a lot of people find ourselves in right now, boy, you know, that you can’t pay top dollar on the market for a candidate, you know, you’re maybe on like the lower half of the median competitive? How do you persuade somebody to come to work for less than they’re going to make somewhere else?

Katie Robbert 44:06
So we actually had this challenge on our old team, Chris, if you recall, and the reason that our team had some of the lowest turnover numbers, we had almost no turnover. When you and I were managing the team, that everybody quit? Well, yeah, but that’s a whole different thing. The reason why our team was able to stay intact for so long was because of the constant learning and the constant challenge and the feeling like they were being valued as employees, and that their clients were getting really good quality cutting edge work. And so that’s a situation that a lot of companies are going to find themselves in, because it’s a very competitive market right now. It’s basically what do they call it the employee, the employees market versus the employers market? If you cannot financially compete, then you need to figure What else does this person get out of the job besides just a paycheck? You know, and it can’t be ping pong at four o’clock on Friday, it can’t be free beer. I mean, maybe that’s the thing, but maybe you should stop giving away free beer and pay your employees more. Just a suggestion.

Christopher Penn 45:17
You could absolutely. I think the aspects, those are things which are actual cultural things like professional development, training, how much the company invests in its employees, the processes you have for investment apps are part of total compensation. One of the things that we do, half jokingly say is that working on our team was like going to graduate school except we pay you, instead of you being to go to graduate school, you come out with this certification guaranteed, because we’re going to make as part of your annual review, you’re gonna come out with, you know, knowing this, you will come out of the role you’re in with way more skills than anyone else at that same level is going to have anywhere else in the marketplace period. And so when you do leave, and you will leave, eventually, we know that you will immediately be able to command an extra $20,000 on the market, right. So if you stick around, you’ll get, you won’t get paid now, but you’ll get the skills, you need to get paid much more. Wherever, wherever next isn’t, I think, if you’re a hiring manager who’s in that position, where you can’t pay top dollar, maybe you’re a nonprofit, maybe you’re an agency, whatever, and you’re willing to make time and effort investments in your employees, you can create a compensation that is better than in aggregate, what other companies are paying more physical dollars are now obviously, you can’t pay somebody so dramatically under that it would be stupid to work for you. But to your point, K, the paycheck is not just the only thing that matters in a job, you know, like you might have in a workplace be able to say like, yeah, we have a no assholes policy. You know, we, we, if someone behaves in a way that’s racist, or sexist, or whatever, they’re gone. It’s you know, it’s one strike, and they’re gone. So we have no assholes policy. So you may not get paid the most, but you will not leave work every day crying,

Katie Robbert 47:07
right? Which is hugely important. I think the other thing is, you know, we work really hard to make sure that you feel like you’re doing valuable work. And so a lot of jobs, you know, and this is not picking up any one job, a lot of jobs are really just lather, rinse, repeat, you do the same thing over and over again. And because of whatever level you’re at, you’re not asked to contribute ideas, you’re not asked to contribute to the conversation. And so changing that part of your culture by making it truly more collaborative and open, makes people feel like their voices heard. And that goes a long way to keeping people on board versus just paying them more.

Christopher Penn 47:50
Yep, the other thing is like, you can also you can say like you’re more flexible with titles, because we know when you do leave here, you’ll probably want to, to make a lateral jump. And if that’s something that will help you, it doesn’t cost anything to change your title from director to senior director. But it might help a person in their next role. So if you view your shop as maybe a stepping stone for somebody in their career, then you might be able to track ambitious, hungry talent, that are willing to take a chance with you, knowing that they’re getting invested in and that they can overall help them in the long term.

Katie Robbert 48:24
It also comes down to that work life balance. And that is a big part of culture is you know, How flexible are you? Are you scrutinizing every minute that you’re online? Versus Hey, I have to take these two days off. But the other three days of this week, I’m going to get all of my work done. Is that cool? That goes a big way for a lot of people, especially if you can’t pay as much competitively. How much time did they get themselves versus what’s the demand of them being online? You know, the whole Elon Musk debacle a few weeks ago where he said you have to be committed to 40 hours a week in the office, no exceptions, you will be fired otherwise, like I can’t think of a single person who wants that kind of a corporate culture where you’re being scrutinized by the minute to make sure that you are on the clock and productive

Christopher Penn 49:13
right and that’s the thing is okay, I won’t show up for 40 or 40 hours and you know, play Tetris you’re not getting you’re not getting what you’re after what you’re after is the result right so a results focused workplace one of the keys to win because everyone will say you know, we’re a results focused workplace great house, you know what your time off policy. You must be at your desk for yourself when you’re not at work results focused workplace you are a activity focused workplace and the chances are you have bad management. If your policy is if you get your work done. We don’t really care when you work. That’s a results focused workplace.

Katie Robbert 49:52
John, what other culture things do you look for?

John Wall 49:55
You know, one thing you’d mentioned because that’s actually a good interview strategy that Pete But we’ll do is, you know, what questions do you have for me and leaving that very open ended? And you can easily Judo that right back? You can fit that right back and say, what questions do most people not ask that I should know about this company? And you know, or what questions you know, should an applicant be asking. So you can, you know, throw that same hook back at them and make them. Let them walk the tightrope a little bit. But yeah, it’s, you know, again, we, it was mentioned a little bit earlier, Chris, you had thrown out there, there’s just no substitute for setting up something where let’s put you on contract for 30 days and come in and do your thing like that. That’s just that defeats all interview process completely, like, after a month of somebody working with somebody, you’ll know, like, yeah, they can get it done. They can’t or, you know, yeah, they get along with everybody or no, they’re busy beating Jerry, the cleaning person, you know, and they gotta go. So it sounds

Katie Robbert 50:57
like a huge oversight from the hiring manager. That’s the situation you find yourself in,

John Wall 51:03
right? You don’t know these things, right? You hire somebody to tell you, I’m sure they’re fine. And then next thing, you know, Jerry’s like, yeah, they’re always leaving their lunch at their desk. It’s a mess. I hate this guy.

Katie Robbert 51:11
And it’s always microwave fish.

John Wall 51:14
Right. It’s good to leftover three day old salmon that you’re microwaving and torching the whole building, time to go,

Katie Robbert 51:23
time to go time to get out? Well, I feel like we’ve covered quite a lot of ground in terms of the do’s and don’ts. You know, it’s always going to be situational, the biggest variable is the person you have zero control over the candidate coming in to interview, they could be one thing on paper and another thing in person, they could just be having a really bad day. And it’s a really crappy interview. And so those are all the things that you have to take into consideration. You know, as we’re wrapping up any tips for people who are looking for jobs, ways to network, you know, how to get themselves out there.

Christopher Penn 52:02
I mean, that’s a whole other show. personal brand building, we could spend hours on building a personal brand, but personal brand, is really just a complicated way of saying reputation. What is your reputation with your end within your industry? Our friend Mitch Joel says it best. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. That matters, right? So if nobody knows who you are, that’s where you got to start figuring out what it takes to get known. And you don’t have to be like internet famous, right? You just have to be known to the hiring the people that you want to have hire you. That’s what it boils down to.

Katie Robbert 52:42
And I think that was a situation I found myself and I am not. I don’t have a huge internet personal brand at all. But I was known by the hiring manager who was looking to hire someone like me for your team, Chris at that time. And that was, you know, she found me not the other way around. John, what’s with any final takeaways for that? Well, the

John Wall 53:04
most important thing is Chris, that job Mayo is discontinued pre soybean, so I’d like to bid $15 on that if you still have that, because that stuff is very important in my house. And then yeah, no, I got nothing else on the jumping

Katie Robbert 53:20
around. Well, with that, you know, believe it or not, we actually can help companies we can step in as the hiring manager. So if you’re interested in learning more about that you can find us AI, slash contact, happy to talk with you about what kind of hiring you’re looking to do, what kind of support support you’re looking to get. But otherwise, you know, until next week, guys, any final final thoughts final final.

Christopher Penn 53:45
We’ll see you next week. Thanks for tuning in everyone. But thanks for watching today. Be sure to subscribe to our show wherever you’re watching it. For more resources. And to learn more. Check out the Trust Insights podcast at trust AI podcast, and a weekly email newsletter at trust Got questions about what you saw on today’s episode. Join our free analytics for marketers slack group at trust for marketers, see you next time.

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