Instant Technology began as a one-woman show run out of founder Rona Borre’s condo. Twelve years later, squeezing Instant Technology’s 50-plus Chicago recruiters, account managers and other employees into Borre’s second bedroom has proven to be a tight fit, so the company now operates out of an office on the corner of Adams and Wells. Instant Technology employees about 300 nationwide.
Borre, who’s now the CEO, is working with COO Mirjana Schultz to move Instant Technology from a firm that’s focused largely on talent management to a full-service tech consulting model.
With those changes afoot, Borre and Schultz anticipate 20 percent growth in the next year. That means Instant Technology is in the midst a hiring boom — a careful hiring boom.
“In the business of finding talent, there’s nothing more important than finding our own,” says Schultz. “Top talent tends to be employed and doing very well at their current position. [As a result], we don’t really advertise. We look for the folks who aren’t looking.”
Here are Borre and Schultz’s five ways to how to ace an interview.
1. Find common ground
Borre:Right off the bat, if you come into the interview and don’t have knowledge about the firm, I’m checked out.
We tend to deal with a crowd that is on the younger side, and I would say less than half of people come in prepared. They’ll do the minimal amount. Yes, they’ll know your services, but I feel like there’s so much information there, most everybody has a LinkedIn profile.
If you’re meeting with the CEO, try to find a commonality. Maybe where you went to college, where your parents went to college. “I understand you used to work at this printing company, and I used to read articles about that industry in college.”
I had a girl who came in today and I said, why don’t you tell me a little about what we do? She spewed off my entire background, where I went to college, congratulations on your awards, knew exactly what we’d won. I was so impressed with her preparation that her interview was literally 5 minutes. I said I’d hire her in two seconds. She was clearly someone who had that attention to detail, learning about what we did, showing the enthusiasm about us.
2. Don’t stalk, swear or gossip
Borre:I interviewed someone whose boss didn’t treat people with respect in the office. He was a bad guy, made them stand up in meetings if they didn’t make their quota. That’s okay, that idea that something or someone degrades you, that concept is okay.
But by talking really negatively about him with specific details, it did more harm than good. I want people who are running toward something, not away from something.
Schultz: If they continuously follow up and follow up daily, it’s a red flag. Yeah, hand-written notes really play well into anyone who has taken their time and I don’t mind a follow-up call to see the status of their employment. But I’ve received numerous calls both on my work phone, and they somehow found my cell. And they’ll do that with everyone else they’ve interviewed with. We once got ten follow-up calls in three days.
Borre: Swearing in an interview? I’m done at that point. People don’t do it intentionally, but it’s something off the cuff. Doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. As well as the interview has gone, I’ve never hired someone who swore. Really unfortunate, but I’ve had several really good interviews where that’s the way it ended.
3. Give examples
Borre: I always ask, “What would your best friends or relatives say about you?”
What I’m looking for isn’t really what others see in them, but what personality traits they see in themselves. I want them to give me examples of why they’d think of themselves as having that particular quality.
There are no points for originality. Really important traits, a lot of people can have those traits. I’m more concerned about the story behind it. It doesn’t have to be work-related. It could be a family story that shows loyalty or dedication. Honest and hard-working? Okay, tell me why you’d think that. Give me specific examples of why you chose those qualities about yourself. I like examples of things, stories of why people say the things they do.
One story that comes to mind is, I interviewed someone whose father had been very sick. She had to take off six months of work to be with their father during this time. A lot of employers might be concerned that they took the time off. But I took that as an example of very good credibility. She was loyal.
4. If you’re an athlete or a musician, say so
Borre: A lot of times, we hire people who have just graduated college, which means they don’t have much work experience. So we’re really looking for people who have gone the extra mile.
Anyone who’s been involved with sports or music, where you’ve had to work with others for a common goal, I always look for people who have done team activities throughout their college career. People who have accomplished something at the end of the day and can talk about it articulately.
Schultz: Favorites that I look for — athletes, if they played any type of high school or college sports. That competitive edge really serves them well in a sales environment, which requires that you be on ten hours a day.
5. Arrive in your Sunday best
Borre: I’ve never faulted someone for really looking good or really professional. On the other hand, I had someone come in whose skills looked superior, truly excellent, on paper. Then they were wearing Goth clothing, ripped jeans and a hoodie. It was a very quick interview.
Today, it’s more common to be casual. But when you’re interviewing, you want to look the part and have respect commanded to you. Simple black suit, not a ton of color, something that’d be appropriate no matter what age level.
You see how they’re dressed, there’s already made a thought in your head about what that person is like. If they are young and then they dress casually, how can I put them in front of a client? How would they come to represent our firm? It triggers preconceived notions going on in my brain.
Schultz: I don’t discriminate — whether they work in the mailroom or it’s someone that deals with client delivery, everyone needs to come in in their Sunday best. Interviews need to be a time that you impress your future employer. That first impression is often the last impression. I’m old-fashioned.
ABOVE: Rona Borre, left, and Mirjana Schultz