The current "job market recession" you may be wondering how you evaluate someone who's been unemployed or underemployed for the past few years. How do you evaluate their outdated histories, likelihood to succeed and overall cultural fit?
Keep in mind that the same basic principles used in evaluating candidates five years ago will remain fairly similar to those that should be used in today’s job market. Employers should focus on four main factors when evaluating candidates: longevity, career progression, technical skills/education, and personality match/employer compatibility. Candidates should be asked questions in the following categories to evaluate the individual’s ability to match the four key criteria.
Tell me about the reasons for leaving your current and past employers.
Attempt to differentiate between layoffs and times when the candidate made their own moves. In cases of layoffs, ask: How many people were laid off at the same time? How many people survived the cut, and how were they selected? How many waves of layoffs did you survive before you were let go?
Walk me through your progression with your current company, leading me up to what you do now on a day-to-day basis (if they are unemployed use the past employer as an example).
How have you had to reinvent your job in light of your company's changing needs? What makes you stand out among your peers?
From a technical standpoint, on a scale of 1 to 10, how close a fit are you for this particular position based on your understanding of the skills and responsibilities involved?
Why are you an ___? What would make you a 10?
At what pace do you work?
How many hours a week do you find it necessary to work to get your job done? When it comes to giving constructive criticism, should your supervisor be sensitive in delivering bad news, or do you pride yourself on your thick skin? These questions can also be asked in a behavior-based format by following the question with the phrase, "Give me an example of a time when..." This will allow your candidates the opportunity to explain their initial answers in a real-life setting.
Questions for The 'Underemployed'
As high as the unemployment rate has been over the past few years, many companies still feel that it is a challenge to find strong candidates. The common belief is that "All the good ones are already working," inferring that the unemployed or underemployed were somehow not first in class.
One option when interviewing someone who is underemployed is to play “career counselor” role during the interview. This strategy gives you an opportunity to see show how creative and persistent they can be when faced with adversity. For example, ask recent MBA graduates, two years out of school and working only in temporary roles, "What has been your job search strategy since graduation and how many interviews have you landed? What kinds of corporations have you been focusing on, and how have you developed your leads?"
A less aggressive applicant might respond: "I’ve been searching the classifieds. At this point, I’m really just looking for a job.”
A strategic thinker who is motivated, might respond: "I've reached out to Grad school’s alumni group and introduced myself to100 alumni for networking. I then made a list of the top 25 corporations I would like to work for and I then sent my resume to the managers in all of those companies. Since then, I've generated more than 15 exploratory interviews over the past year, but unfortunately none has panned out." An answer like this indicates the candidate is interested in your “type” of organization and isn’t afraid to network. Both may be key items for the opening at your company! Next it's time to focus on why they’re not getting the jobs applied for: "You seem to know what you want. Why haven't you landed a full-time position yet?"
The following responses will probably make or break the interview:
"I don't know. (Not a strong answer)
The companies seem interested, in a few of cases, the funding never came through for the position. It's not that they didn't hire me; they couldn't hire anyone." (Good)