In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are focused on helping us all get healthier, wealthier, and happier. And one of the largest parts of that equation starts with where you work. A position with the right company -- or the wrong one -- will deeply affect your mental and physical well-being, and, of course, your salary. So they've recruited Annie Healy and Cheryl Palting, who are in charge of recruiting and hiring at The Motley Fool, to provide some tips to boost the odds that your next job hunt will be successful.
In this segment, they discuss some of the most important things to remember for the interview process, from the moment you walk in the door and forward. They also provide some insights about what those hiring managers might be thinking, and what they'll probably like to see and hear from a candidate. (Of course, not every workplace is The Motley Fool -- your mileage may vary.)
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Jan. 23, 2018.
Alison Southwick: It worked! Yay! You got the job interview! You're sitting there across from Cheryl and Annie in, I don't know, Drucker. Do you have a conference room you prefer? Rowling?
Cheryl Palting: Rowling is a good one.
Southwick: Rowling is a good one. That one is dedicated to JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, so there are...
Robert Brokamp: Wands, hats, and all kinds of stuff in the room.
Southwick: Wands and brooms. It's amazing.
Palting: Chess pieces. The actual books.
Southwick: So, there I am. I'm in Rowling. I'm sitting across from you guys. What can I do to really make this interview awesome? Tuxedo T-shirt? You were going to say tuxedo T-shirt.
Annie Healy: I was, but I was going to say one thing before you even get into the Rowling room. One thing that some people don't realize is the second you walk in the door of the building of the company that you're interviewing at, you are in that interview.
Southwick: Oh, Amy, our front-desk person, she's on it. She's a...
Healy: That is exactly what I was going to say. You need to remember who you're talking to the entire time. Be courteous. Be very friendly to everyone. I mean, we've had some people who just dismiss Amy, and she tells us right afterwards, and we're like, no, we don't want that in our workplace. That's before you even get in that room, remember to be nice and courteous to everyone.
Southwick: Has anyone been particularly mean to Amy?
Healy: There were a couple who have just been like dismissive of her, just because she was at the front desk, and that was a huge red flag to us.
Southwick: OK. So, I've been nice to Amy. I brought her flowers or something. I don't know. I've been super nice to Amy, our front desk woman, and then she takes me to Rowling and there I am looking at your two smiling faces. Are you guys smiling or are you being very stern?
Palting: Good cop, bad cop?
Healy: We're generally very friendly, because I think when you interview you can be so nervous, and even if you've done it a million times, it's just an uncomfortable situation. Everybody knows that, and so Cheryl and I have talked to the candidates from the first phone call. Maybe a second. We've been emailing with them, so we're the person that everybody knows, and we want to make sure that they feel at ease, so they'll put their best foot forward and show themselves the best in the interview. Making sure that they're comfortable as they go in, so we're always friendly.
Southwick: I also imagine at this point you've had to put so much work, energy, and investment into this person. You're kind of rooting for these people, too.
Palting: Oh, yeah.
Southwick: You want them to get the job.
Palting: Yeah. Once we bring you here on-site, at this point we're so interested in you and it's a little bit of both. We want you to see our environment, as well. Our culture. As much as an interview it is for us, it's also an interview and an opportunity for you to see if this is the company that's right for you. And that goes into step one and knowing yourself, and knowing exactly what you want out of your perfect job.
But hopefully, as they're entering into the interview and entering our office, they're dressed to impress. We do have a casual office, here. Right now, I'm in... I don't even know what I'm wearing. It's very comfortable.
Southwick: You look good. You're in a cozy sweater.
Brokamp: It's a lovely sweater!
Palting: Thank you! But I probably wouldn't wear something like this to an interview. Even though it's a casual work environment, I would always want to dress to impress. Dress to show that you respect them and respect their time. Just another tip on when you're actually in the office.
Southwick: So, at this point I've already been to Glassdoor. What other sites have I maybe been to? Aside from researching the company's own sites, what other websites have I gone to, to research the company so I can ask informed questions? Glassdoor? Is that basically it?
Healy: Glassdoor, I think, has the most in terms of employees rating employers. A couple of other sites do it. Indeed offers it, as well. I think Glassdoor has a huge amount of reviews on there.
Palting: We also tell candidates -- and other companies do this as well -- who they'll be meeting with, so it also is very valuable for you to look at who you're meeting with. What do they do at the company? How do they play into the business? And prepare some questions for them when you're interviewing...
Southwick: Aside from their wedding dress and how their honeymoon went and all of that.
Palting: Correct. Oh, absolutely.
Healy: I will say at the Fool that can be a little bit tough, because if you were to do a random selection of like 10 Fools and look at their LinkedIn profiles, you would have no idea what they do. We have like "happy hour commander." That's the title.
Southwick: Grand Poobah of PR. I don't know anything about that.
Brokamp: I list one of my things at The Fool as dancer on my LinkedIn page.
Southwick: It's honest. It's accurate.
Brokamp: It's true. I make money somehow.
Palting: When's your next recital? Do you know where I can buy tickets for that?
Brokamp: Yes, I'll send you an invite.
Healy: Along those lines, too, in terms of you can't always figure out what people at the Fool are doing; in the interview, when Cheryl was saying it's an interview for you, as well, ask people what they are doing and how they plug into the team, and why they're in the room interviewing you and everything. It is an interview for you.
The Fool is not for everyone in terms of their careers. We don't have things that other places offer. We don't do, like, a clear ladder for you to grow. Some people want that, so I think that's important for you to know, and be able to ask that. And even at other companies if you interviewed, if that was what you were looking for, if you don't want that, then ask that in the interview as well.
Southwick: How do you feel about employers asking tricky questions? How many ping pong balls would fill a Boeing 747? Stuff like that. How do you prepare to answer really off-the-wall questions?
Healy: I personally don't like the really, really crazy, like, how many windows there are in New York City, the different ones. I understand that people are doing that because they want to see your thought process and how you would go about solving a problem. I think there are other ways that you can ask things. And you can just ask stuff and see how they're thinking.
We also, some of that, like, seeing how people are thinking, we also test our candidates a lot before they even come on-site. So recently we just did a coding test, we've done, that our planners had to create a financial plan. We do writing samples.
Brokamp: Editing tests.
Healy: Editing tests. That Bro cheated on.
Brokamp: I did not. I got accused of cheating when I took it, but I did not.
Healy: Nineteen years ago.
Palting: I think for that, probably the most important thing is just to stay cool and calm under pressure. It's OK during interviews to be like, "Give me a minute to think about this." I think some recruiters and some interviewers [will be comfortable when they hear] I need to think about this. Take 20 or 30 seconds to come up with an answer, rather than continuously spew on and on about what you think the right answer is, because at that point there is no right answer for how many windows there are in New York.
Palting: It's just how are you thinking about this.
Southwick: Like you said, we really make people run through a gauntlet to get a job, here. How much does just showing up weed out a lot of the people that don't care enough about the job?
Healy: We get that even in the application, because we have people who won't do a cover letter, and we're like, no, because in our application we say, "Give us a cover letter. We want to see and know more about you." If you're not going to take the time to do that, then we generally weed people out for that. We also ask a lot on the applications, we have these questions. Some of them are very fun and Foolish, like we ask people what would be their superpower and why. Sometimes they're fun and they relate to the position that's listed. We were hiring an accountant one time, and we said, "What's your favorite Excel function and why?" People really geek out on Excel.
And then sometimes there's why people prefer a small writing sample, or why they like investing, and when they came to learn about The Motley Fool. That, again, is another time for people to show that they really care about the application. So, answer the application questions and write a cover letter. You should do everything that is listed on an application, at least, because it increases your chances.
Southwick: Closing question. What is your single, best piece of advice for someone who wants to land that perfect job, whether it's at the Fool or elsewhere?
Palting: I think this theme has been reoccurring throughout this entire segment of the show. Really taking the time to personalize and know the company that you're applying to. If this is your perfect job, and it's on the other side of the country and they need X, Y, and Z skills, even if you don't have those skills; going into your cover letter saying, "I know you're looking for this, this, and this. Here's what I'm doing to improve those skills." Just really digging in, there, and telling this company exactly how much you want to be there carries a lot of weight for everyone involved.
Southwick: Outside of being like, "I love that you have a ping pong table and an unlimited vacation policy..."
Southwick: Annie just rolled her eyes, by the way. She must get that a lot.
Healy: Yes. We don't want to hear that you just want to work here for that. We want to hear that...
Palting: You like our mission.
Palting: Like you want to help the world invest better, which is what TMFAnswers does on the Answers podcast.
Southwick: Tell their friends. Tell the world.
Healy: The other thing I would add is I would find a way to stand out from the crowd in a good way. Sometimes the candidates take it a little too far, because we're known to be this fun Fool thing.
Southwick: Save it for the next segment.
Healy: I think that would be one. And standing out from the crowd can mean a lot of things. It's taking the time, again, to do the cover letter in the right way. Setting yourself apart from the hundreds of applications that we're going to be reading. Because, we do. We read them all. We don't use resume scrapers. We don't say you have to meet minimum criteria for the job. We read every, single application. The ones that really stand out to us are the ones that have separated themselves out and really shown who they are in their cover letter and application questions.