Friday, August 17, 2018

What would you say... that you do?



I leave it off my LinkedIn profile because of how long ago it was, but I started my professional life as a corporate recruiter in New York City. It was a tough, high volume recruiting role sourcing and screening telephone operators, office assistants, and office managers for a commercial real estate company that managed temporary offices, a sort of WeWork before WeWork. These were the pre-historic days of recruiting involving local newspaper ads, fax machines and phone interviews. In an average week, I would interview 30 – 50 candidates. I was a recruiter for about a year before being promoted to an HR Generalist, and later continued my progression through HR Manager and Director, Corporate HR, but interviewing remained a key part of my work.

Flash forward to the last, well let’s just say decade, in software-as-a-service and Customer Success. Recruiting and interviewing continues to be a cornerstone of my role building, growing, and leading post-sale Client Experience teams. This year alone we have added more than 20 extremely talented individuals to our CX organization and I am proud to say I interviewed every single one of them as well as many of the other talented individuals who applied.

Over the course of my career, and the many thousands of interviews, my interviewing style has definitely evolved. I learned early and continue to believe strongly in the behavioral based interview style. My favorite questions in my HR roles were always, “Tell me about a time when …” Over the last couple of years, I have started to rotate through some new favorite interview questions that focus more on my role as an executive conducting near final interviews with candidates. Here are my current favorites and what I am looking for. 

What is your marquee moment?

The question is, “If you think back over your professional life, what is the one moment or accomplishment that you are most proud of, your marquee moment, and what were the challenges that you had to overcome?”

I like this interview question because it gives the candidate an opportunity to highlight the story they are most proud of that may not have come up in the prior discussions. This is a question candidates are often well prepared to answer. What I am most looking for is candidates that highlight a customer story, showing a focus on the client while discussing how they coordinated, partnered and/or rallied internal resources to help overcome the business challenges. In software as a service it is rarely the work of one person that delivers a customer’s success, so I look for those candidates who talk about how the team delivered results and highlight the specific role they played on that team. Classic “we” versus “I” answers go a long way. 

What would you use a do-over on?

The next question is, “If you think back over your professional life and you could get one do-over, maybe a project, initiative or decision that didn’t go well, what would you use your do-over on and what have you learned, either because of the failure or since, that you would do differently?”

This might be my favorite question of all. Candidates are well prepared to talk about their success but often take a long pause to think about where they would use their do-over. The lack of prep and pre-polished interview answers often results in candor that I might not otherwise see in an interview. I look for candidates that demonstrate honesty and humility in their responses but put a heavy emphasis on the learning coming out of failure. I admire the candidates that offer up a very genuine failure and talk not only about what they learned but how they applied that learning to better handle a similar situation later in their career. Again, I look for candidates that talk about customer stories, customer impact and talk in terms of customer satisfaction and success.

Have you started using Degreed?

This is not intended to be a gotcha question but, unfortunately, it is about half the time. Degreed is both an enterprise and consumer application, meaning consumers (in this case, applicants) can create a Degreed profile for free to experience the product and start tracking their lifelong learning. About half the time candidates have created a profile and offer some immediate feedback on the experience. I love the opportunity to hear this feedback and candidates who have taken the time to explore the product are often excited to share their insights. The follow up question I ask is, “Did you use Degreed today to track your learning?” This question serves to identify the candidates that are truly passionate about learning and Degreed versus those going through the motions. Candidates will tell me they are passionate about lifelong learning, love Degreed’s mission and the product but… did little more than look around after creating a profile. This explanation often includes a long awkward pause. While not a deal breaker, taking the opportunity to use Degreed to start tracking their lifelong learning is an easy differentiator in a very talented pool of applicants. 

Degreed is a lifelong learning platform, so my interviews today focus on that: what people learn from success, what people learn from failure, and how people adopt Degreed. Over the last few years I have continued to rotate the specific questions I ask to keep the interviews interesting and challenging (and fuel my own learning). So the next time you’re across the table from the Bobs, more than just answering, “What would you say… that you do here?”, be prepared to tell them what you’ve learned.

About David Verhaag 

David is the Vice President, Client Experience at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, David established and scaled the Customer Success function at Kahuna and HireVue and spent eight+ years with SuccessFactors where he led the development of the global Customer Value team. David lives in Park City, Utah.
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Friday, August 3, 2018

View from the Other Side



I spend a lot of time on webcam working from my home office in Park City, UT, my sailboat in Half Moon Bay, CA or wherever else I am calling home. It is not always fun appearing on video but it is a small price to pay for the flexibility of working remotely. Over the years, I have actively encouraged my teams to turn on video for every meeting. It is not a popular request and it isn’t quite the same as meeting in person but video helps to bridge the distance and establish and maintain remote relationships.

One of the benefits of meeting via video is that you can put reminders just out of view of the camera. I have found this to be a great trick to remind myself of where to focus and what to pay specific attention to. When presenting remotely to large groups this has proven to be a very effective way to remind myself to smile (not one of my habits), or to project energy and excitement and to have fun. I may feel those things organically but projecting them over video requires a little bit of extra effort and a short reminder goes a long way.

The picture above shows my default reminders - smile, be calm, be the leader you would follow, be the inspiration you want to feel and perhaps most importantly, have fun and look at the camera. It may seem intuitive but looking at the reminder during a long video meeting has helped me correct bad posture, reduce nose picking and demonstrate to my teams, the company and our customers, the passion, energy and excitement I truly feel about our work. 



About David Verhaag 

David is the Vice President, Client Experience at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, David established and scaled the Customer Success function at Kahuna and HireVue and spent eight+ years with SuccessFactors where he led the development of the global Customer Value team. David lives in Park City, Utah.

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