Things I learned from my office (qualities, degree importance, salary)

Friday was my last day of full time work at Pacnet. The company had a hiring frenzy during the past few weeks. As the director of human resources, my boss was quite busy calling and interviewing various candidates. But on the last day, I had an opportunity to sit down with my boss and ask her a few questions about the hiring process and the qualities in candidates that she looks for. I figured I’d put some down here on my blog to help you and so that I would not forget (If you don’t write it down, it never happened). I know some of you business majors will definitely benefit from some of this. I can’t remember exactly word for word, but I can relay the general idea of it.

Matt: When you were going through the hiring process, what qualities do you look for in a person?

HR: Seeing as our environment is extremely interactive, I pay a lot of attention to a person’s social ability. I want to see if a candidate will fit in well with our team. To determine that, I’ll ask them a few hypothetical scenario questions. I’m not interested in the answer they provide. I’m interested in how they answer it. Hiring people is an instinctual thing for me since I’ve done it for so long. So if a person dodges or deflects the question, chances are they will not get the second call back. They may take a moment or two to reflect on it (ie, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your last job? If your friends could describe you in 3 words, what would it be?). That’s perfectly alright so long as they answer it.

For example, I know many human resource managers, and 4 out of 5 of them are not suited for the job. Human resources is a field where success depends on your social skills and soft skills. You need to know how to deal with people.

Technical skills are also especially important. In the world of business, you need to have a certain degree of mathematical competency. You need to know how to use a calculator (adding machine). There’s a minimum keystrokes per hour that needs to be maintained. This is tested on after the 2nd interview. English is also a must. Our office is very diverse with employees from multiple cultures. It doesn’t matter what their level of education is, if they’re not able to understand what I’m asking them, then it will be difficult in their working environment.

Show interest in the position you’re applying for but do not appear desperate. Do not beg or plead for the job. Show a strong healthy interest. How would I determine that? Simple really. I ask if they’ve been to our website and if they can tell me what our company does. I don’t expect them to be able to tell me from start to finish how our company operates. What I do expect from them is an answer along the lines of this: “I understand your company processes various foreign currencies from cheques, cash and credit cards for different clients around the world.” An answer that simple tells me that they have visited our website and is familiar with our services. Again, interest must be shown.

Matt: Do you place much emphasis on educational degrees?

HR: Actually, I don’t. Remember that the academic world and the business world are different from one another. Because one candidate has a degree in finance management and another one doesn’t would not rank one higher then the other. I look at the experience they bring to the position as well as other potential assets. But, it also depends on the position they apply for. Something like cheque processing does not require a certificate or a piece of paper that says “I’m qualified for processing cheques”. But a position in our marketing department faces slightly higher demands. While you may not need a degree in marketing, you must show some sort of interest. A certificate would help. But even saying that you’re still studying marketing would be a boon. Marketing is a field where you need to have the experience and the interest in order to be successful.

Matt: One more question, and it’s something that’s stumped me for a while. When do you discuss salary?

HR: Don’t ever discuss salary on the first interview. Allow salary to be brought up by the interviewer. Young people often go into interviews without any idea of what their salary should be. Don’t make that mistake. Do some research. There are lots of websites on the internet with what the average person doing this job makes. So you should have two figures in mind when you’re going in: The absolute minimum salary you’re willing to work for, and your ideal or dream salary. Then you pick two figures in between that. For example, you want to make $60000 a year, but you’re also willing to work for $30000 a year. If the interviewer asks you how much you’re willing to work for, be flexible and give them a range between $32000 – $35000. This way, you don’t overprice yourself out of their reach and you still get a decent wage. You do not ever reveal to them your minimum. Don’t tell them you’re willing to work for $30000.

One more thing, when I placed ads out for our position, I added a note that applicants should specify their salary. Many of them do not. My belief is that I don’t want to waste their time, and they should not waste my time. If a job placement asks you to specify what your salary is, put it down. Surprisingly, many applicants fail to do it. Many times when I phone them, I inform them that they did not place a salary expectancy down.

That’s as much information I was able to glean from my boss, but all of it was useful. Hope it helps!

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