NewCrew sat down with the hiring manager of Atlanta-based Juneau Construction Company, Hannah Uhlig, to discuss everything candidates should know before stepping foot into an interview. From tips on improving your resume, to questions to ask in an interview, Hannah gives a holistic run-down on how to be a stand-out candidate.
You have a ton of hiring experience starting at CHOA in the healthcare field, then moving over to Brasfield and Gorrie, and now Juneau. Can you talk to me a little bit about two general qualities that make up a good candidate?
A good quality in a candidate is a steady work history. That's a biggie that we always look for, we want someone who has a stable work path; whether they've been at one company for years, or they have worked for numerous companies, that's fine, too…. So, a stable work history is really important. And I think just coming in with a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic, are the other two big ones that we look for. We want someone who is excited about the opportunities, who wants to be there. And who is going to come in with the open mind of: this might be a new company, a new opportunity for me, and …. I'm willing to do what it takes to get the job done.
Can you elaborate a little bit on how candidates are able to convey in an interview that they have a positive attitude?
It's good to take ownership in your responsibilities. So whenever we're asking them ‘Tell me a little bit about what you're responsible for right now. What does your day-to-day look like?’ It's always good to hear them take ownership in that and to not point fingers. Always look for them to take ownership in what they do on a day-to-day basis.
Let’s talk about the flip side of things. What are some qualities that you tend to see in unqualified candidates?
I hate to go back to something that I've already mentioned, but I do think it's common in construction to job hop. It isn't uncommon to see someone work on a job for 6 months or 12 months and then move on to the next. Something that we really look for is someone who is loyal to a company and who moves with them to different projects with them and does not job hop. So that would probably be my biggest one.
Then another one is when someone doesn't sound very upbeat about the opportunity or excited about it, I think that's pretty easy to catch on. When you’re phone-screening a candidate, you can quickly tell if they’re someone that's going to be reliable, if they’re someone who's upbeat, and if they're excited about your company and about the opportunities…. It's either they have what you're looking for or they don't –just kind of based on the way that your conversations are going.
Going off of that, what are just some general tips for candidates going into an interview– some do's and don'ts?
I think it depends on the interview and if it's a virtual interview over video or if it's a face-to face-interview, there's different things that we would look for.
Could you touch on virtual and then in-person and distinguish between the two?
For virtual, I think it's important that you have your video on to show that you want to participate. We're showing up to the interview ready to physically see you, so definitely respect what we’re suggesting and turn on your video to be a little more engaged. And be timely. I know that that's always a very simple one. But it is important that you're on time to the interview, whether it's in person or virtual, since everyone's time is very precious… I think body language is another big one, in-person, but also over video. The way that you present yourself definitely matters. So be mindful of how you're sitting, if you're making good eye contact, if you're being charismatic when you talk.
Another thing is, when you're interviewing, typically you do get asked the question, ‘Why are you looking for new opportunities?’ Sometimes it can be easy to complain about your current position, or to say something negative about your current boss, or the company you work for, or the projects that you're on. But it is easy to also spin that and to not be super negative…. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look for a new opportunity– that's why we're talking to you. But it is noticeable when someone does a finger-point and just complains about their situation. You can still shoot it straight; tell us what's going on, but you don't have to talk badly about your current company.
One other thing is definitely come with questions. I know that sounds silly and like a no-brainer, but questions are definitely something that we look forward to hearing from candidates. And that's something that we typically wrap up every interview with is, ‘What questions do you have for us? Or what can we answer for you that maybe you didn't get from us today?’ So come with at least one to three questions and really put some thought behind those questions; don't make them surface-level. Try to be thoughtful in your questions and really put some thought behind them.
What does a well-thought-out question from a candidate communicate to you? How does it impact your analysis of the candidate?
When they ask good questions, it makes you feel like they're really interested in what you're saying. They actually took to the conversation that you're having. They're actually thinking about how they would fit in this organization. It just shows that you're really engaged and you actually care about the opportunity– you're not just there to check it off your list.
Are there any super memorable or insightful questions that candidates have asked during an interview?
Here are a few:
- What does Juneau’s growth look like over the next 5-10 years?
- How does your company decide what projects to take on?
- If I was to be hired into the role, what would you expect from me in the first 90 days?
As you know, not many employees in the industry are actively looking for a job. Most are content staying where they are, and many don't really know about better opportunities that are out there. What are some reasons that a candidate should think to move on to a new organization, or begin to look for a better opportunity elsewhere?
That's probably the biggest hurdle that everyone is facing right now. People who are really good at their job are generally taken care of in their current position. They enjoy what they're doing, they're paid well, they're on awesome jobs that they're excited about, and they're typically pretty happy in their position because they're a top performer and they do their job well. So it's really challenging to find those people because they're few and far between. Then when you find those people, it's really difficult to entice them to want to leave their current opportunity, and then be open minded to hearing about what you've got going on. So our biggest struggle is just getting people to have the conversation with you. Because once we have that conversation, I feel like we can sell them on what we need to sell them on and get them a little bit interested.
So if you’re able to get candidates to have that conversation with you, what are you seeing, in terms of trend, in why candidates are leaving their companies and interviewing elsewhere?
I actually just looked at stats the other day for people who have left their previous companies, and then come over to Juneau, like, what was their reasoning for that? A lot of what I saw is, it varies depending upon if it's a corporate position, or an operations role. So there are different motivators for different people, depending upon what type of work that you do. I would say generally, people want better compensation, that's a no-brainer. You don't make a move for something that is a lateral position or even a downgrade, you typically want a new position that's going to better you financially. And I think people also really want to work on high profile jobs and jobs that are exciting, and not cookie-cutter projects. Making sure that we have fun and exciting projects that get everyone excited about that opportunity– that's a big one. Different market sectors are more appealing to certain people, but sometimes people get burned out from working in the same market for decades, and they want to see something different…. So I think having a diverse portfolio is important for different types of projects that are going to excite your employee base.
And the last one, which is really important, is the work-life balance, which I know working in construction is a very difficult field and it's definitely got a lot of challenges …But people do want to make a change right now because of work-life balance, and I think that's a trend that we're seeing as a nation. People would rather make less money right now and have a better work-life balance and be at home with their families every night and not work 12-hour days. What's more important to people right now is having a better balance between their personal lives and their work life.
[So overall,] it's compensation, and benefits, and extra perks. It's having exciting projects and diverse markets and portfolios that you work on that get people excited to build these projects. And then a better work life balance. People want to feel valued and not just like another number.
How can you tell the difference between just a company that truly values their employees, and a company that doesn't?
I think you just practice what you preach. It's so easy for companies to say that they are family focused, that they offer career growth and opportunities and upward mobility, but everyone says that.
It's really important that you see your company actually act on those words, and they're not just empty promises… Do they actually care about everyone here? You aren’t gonna figure that out on day one, it definitely takes time, but it just solely comes down to how they treat their people. From the very top down, do you feel like you actually matter? Do you feel like you can make a difference? It just takes time; you just have to be willing to stick with a company long enough to really make an accurate assessment on that. You just want to make sure that they actually practice what they preach.
Here are hiring manager at Juneau Construction, Hannah Uhlig’s, main pointers:
- When explaining why you're seeking a new job, frame it in a positive light. Instead of dwelling on the negatives of your current situation, focus on what you're hoping to gain from a new opportunity.
- Employers appreciate workers who stick with a company for a reasonable amount of time. Show you're a committed employee by maintaining a solid work history.
- A positive attitude can go a long way. Show enthusiasm for the position and demonstrate that you care about the company and its mission.
- Come to an interview prepared with thoughtful questions. This will show that you're genuinely interested in the position and that you've done your homework.
- If you feel like your current employer isn't valuing your contributions, don't be afraid to seek out other opportunities. There are plenty of companies out there that will appreciate what you have to offer.