One of the biggest mistakes I see job seekers make is pushing the hiring process faster than the company wants. Most hiring managers and companies have a process they follow. The process is designed to meet their needs, not the job seeker’s.
For a company, the hiring process is have four primary steps. The process starts with identifying qualified candidates and selecting the best to interview. In the second step, the company assesses the job seekers in a series of interviews. In the third step, the company makes an offer to a candidate and tries to reach an agreement to hire. Finally, the process concludes with on-boarding, where the candidate completes their relocation, orientation and initial training.
From the candidate’s perspective, there are a few key questions that need to be answered. Candidate’s want details of the position and want to meet the people they will work with. They also have questions about the compensation package, relocation and the on-boarding process. These are all important questions to ask in the hiring process. The key is knowing when to ask them.
Step 1: Candidate Identification
In this step, the company assesses resumes. Candidate’s have little opportunity to ask questions. The step may include a phone screen, but this is typically a short fact-finding call. Few candidates expect to learn a lot in this call.
Step 2: Assessment
Once the interviews start, candidates often interpret the actions of hiring managers incorrectly. Hiring managers will not make a hiring decision until they have thoroughly assessed a number of candidates. Despite this, many candidates interpret the actions and statements of interviewers to indicate the company is completely sold and ready to make an offer. In reality, the interviewers are usually just being polite and complimentary. It is this misunderstanding that causes candidates to jump to the next step before the company has completed its assessment.
Step 3: The Offer
In the third step, the company will begin serious discussions about pay, benefits, relocation benefits, and other details of the offer. Prior to this, most hiring managers will avoid anything other than a brief overview of these details. Companies do not want start working on an offer package until they know which candidate they want to hire.
Step 4: On-Boarding
The on-boarding process varies greatly from company to company. Some companies have very lengthy training programs, in rare cases, in excess of a year. Others provide a brief orientation and expect the new hire to start working almost immediately.
As a candidate, you need to understand that specifics of the offer should not be discussed until the company is ready to make an offer. Stay away from asking very detailed questions about benefits early in the interview process. I have known candidates to ask about specific deductibles and coverage of health benefits in a first interview. This makes a terrible impression. It clearly shows the candidate is focus on what’s in it for them. Another problem with this is the interviewer probably doesn’t have all the answers. Few interviewers are experts on the company’s benefit plan. They know the benefits they have, but may not know the details of each health coverage variation.
Another topic to avoid is relocation. If you are not a local candidate, it is understood that you will need to relocate. You can ask if they offer paid relocation and may even ask a broad question like, “What does the relo policy cover?” The likely answer will be something like this, “We have a relocation program and will cover some of the costs of your move.” This answer is vague but is probably the best you can expect early in the process. What you should avoid is asking about specifics, for example, “I have pool table, does your relo policy cover moving it?” This may be important to you, but should wait until you are approaching an offer.
Once you reach the offer stage and the company indicates they want to hire you, you can start negotiating your package. Most companies will thoroughly review the benefits and other details with you at this point. Often a benefits expert in HR will conduct this review. This is where you can ask as many detailed questions as you want.
As long as the company is still conducting interviews, stay focused on selling your background, experience and potential. Focus on the elements the company wants – not what you are looking for, and you will make a better impression.