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Wanted: job interview magic.

Job interviews have changed. I didn’t realise this until recently when I had to recruit for the first time in years and found myself doing some surprising things. When I worked in magazines, I disliked hiring even more than firing. And this was problematic because when you spend a decade managing women in their twenties and thirties who frequently hop around between jobs, countries and babies, you want to be friends with recruitment.

Resumes? I’ve seen a few. Hundred.

(tangent: this is why I think job seekers should include a headshot with their resume, not because looks matter but because it personalises a highly impersonal process. All CVs tend to look identical and you’re not hiring a piece of A4 paper, you’re hiring a person.)

Very occasionally in a job interview, magic happens. I’ve experienced it three times in my career and each time, not only did the job work out spendidly but the person on the other side of the desk became a close friend.

Me & Lisa at a dinner to celebrate the release of my book

My first taste of magic happened in my first proper job interview when I was 19 and went to see Cleo editor Lisa Wilkinson about a work experience placement. Well, it was certainly magic for me. I was star-struck almost to the point of muteness to be in such close proximity to my idol and almost 20 years later, I still remember every detail of that 20 minute meeting.  She had me at hello and it only took me six months of persistent nagging to secure an actual job.

Years later when I was an editor myself, interviewing new staff quickly shot to the top of my Things I Loathe list. I don’t know many employers who enjoy recruitment. It’s a hideous combination of time consuming, awkward, tedious and risky. The cost of making the wrong decision is high, particularly since it can lead to yet more recruitment. But you persevere in the hope of magic. Or at least competence.

One dull day, while interviewing for a new PA, a tall, smart girl bounded into my office and it was love at first sight. Magic. Her name was Bronwyn McCahon and ten years later,  that office is now hers. After throwing her a lifeline from sales to editorial as my PA, she eventually landed my job just as I’d always known she would. A few years after hiring Bron, I was looking to fill another empty junior chair. Drowning in a boring sea of CVs, demoralised by their mind-numbing same-ness suddenly, like a shining beacon, I glimpsed the name “Rupert Murdoch” and a signature.

Bron, me & Zoe at Cosmo’s Fun Fearless Female awards

When you’re hiring from a pool of 22 year olds, that’s unusual. On closer inspection it was a written reference from Mr Murdoch, raving about the talent and brilliance of a certain witty young writer. Except it wasn’t from Rupert, it was by the writer herself and for the first time ever while reading a CV, I laughed out loud. I knew I had to meet this girl and again, there was magic. Hello Zoe Foster.  I hired her immediately, she impressed me every day and I’ve watched Zoe’s stellar rise as a journalist and author like a proud mother.

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One of the best things about leaving management and starting my own small business has been no more recruitment.  But as mamamia.com.au continues to grow, and after three years of doing everything myself, I recently waved the white flag and admitted it was time to hire a PA/site co-ordinator. (Of course I have MM’s awesome site manager Lana but we sort of fell into that situation via friendship without any formal recruitment process. Thank God.)

I didn’t have time to trawl through a thousand resumes and nor did I have the stomach to disappoint 999 hopefuls. So I asked around my media contacts and edited it down to five good prospects.

That’s when it became interesting. Have I mentioned I find CVs useless? Mostly because they’re the work equivalent of the profiles on dating sites. Utter spin.

Without even consciously thinking about it, the first thing I did before meeting each candidate was to look them up on Facebook and Twitter. Interesting…..

And then there were two.

I didn’t even need to glance at a single CV to eliminate three girls based on their social media profiles alone. One had a constant stream of Facebook updates bitching indiscreetly about her current job. Another evidently spent much of her time getting drunk and a third had some very strident views I disagreed with. Stridently.

Is this fair? Sensible? Justified? Who knows but I did it. Yes, I made judgements on the character of job applicants based on social media profiles. And why wouldn’t I? It’s absurd to believe that how you behave on social media sites can be quarantined from you ‘proper’ work life. It can’t. What you say online and what you choose to post on Twitter or Facebook (whatever happened to Myspace? Anyone?) is like your shop window. It’s not your bedroom. It’s not private. And it’s a better indication of character than any written reference.

So anyway. One of the girls I trialled was great. Until we got to the end of her trial when she announced she was ‘confused’ and didn’t know what she wanted to do. So, in essence, she sacked me before she got the job. Which was good really because it made me realise I needed different things from the person who was going to also be MM’s site co-ordinator. Namely, good technical knowledge of blogging, social networking etc. Now I’m working for a few weeks with someone in this role who I think/hope/pray is going to be great.

Anything to spare me more job interviews.

What’s been your job interview experiences? Do you think social media should play a part in assessing someone for a job?