Category Archives: interview preparation

Get your job search tools sharpened!

So, you have your workspace and basic job setup well in place. Now you have to start sharpening the tools at your disposal and create some structure:


  • If you have not updated your resume and have done a good once over to make sure it is relevant, articulate and compelling… do so now!
  • Have someone you feel would be an impartial judge critique
  • Proofread it again… and again!!
  • If you are looking for positions that have distinctly different “flavors” (e.g. Manager vs. Individual Contributor) make sure you have a resume that is laser-focused on each area instead of one that shows you as more of a generalist unless it makes sense to do so (you may be targeting smaller, start-ups where a jack or jill-of-all-trades may be more desirable)
  • Same as above for cover letters, have one for each instance ready. Your process will become much more streamlined and efficient  if you can keep the “customization” of covers to a minimum

Job Boards:

  • Make sure your new resume and covers are synced up to your job board profiles
  • Create job agents. These are automated searches the job boards will do for you based on your desired jobs and keywords and email you on a daily or weekly basis
  • Dead horse beating time: LinkedIN is a JOB BOARD too! Get an account if you haven’t yet. If you do, get your profile updated and start connecting. I should be on their payroll!

Goal Setting:

  • Figure a reasonable amount of jobs you want to apply for per day. Don’t fire off resumes willy nilly to every job that remotely looks like a fit. Then again, make sure you are applying enough to make it a numbers game – odds go up the more places that see your resume. If you are doing 6-8 hours a day, I would set a reasonable goal of 5-6 applications a day. This will give you the proper time to research the company and role to see if it is something you truly would like to do. It also lets you craft a well thought out, brief cover letter since you already have the templates
  • Network, Network, Network! Sort of like the equivalent of Location, Location, Location in real estate. Folks, this is your quickest path to your next job. Job boards serve a purpose but they are a supplement to networking. One of the most effective tools in your “swiss army knife” is the people you know. They will know someone or someone who knows someone who needs you!
  • Follow the 50-25-1 rule. What does this cryptic sequence of digits mean? This is a good networking rule of thumb for job seekers (active or passive.) On a weekly basis, you need to do:
    • 50 Networking emails
    • 25 Network phone calls
    • 1 Face to face networking meeting (one-on-one or group), this can be an office meeting, a lunch, a dinner or quick cup of coffee at your place of choice…they all count!

I know these sound like rigorous goals. However, the more process-oriented, organized and disciplined in your job search you are, the quicker you can quit.

There is one other side benefit of all this work. Can you guess?

OK, I won’t keep you waiting. Don’t think of yourself as unemployed, think more like you are an athlete who is doing off-season training. The job seeker who maintains a work-like schedule and mindset will interview better and have a much easier transition back into the workforce. Make sense? Good!


The dilemma for daddies to be (and some mommies too), part 2

momdadbabyI guess I should have called the first post, “The dilemma for daddies to be, (and some mommies too), so I corrected my error. In the last post we talked about how impending fatherhood can be as much of a tricky dilemma as  for expectant mothers. Obviously it is easier for dads to delay the discussion a little longer than moms and not be subjected to any possible discrimination in that regard. The exception of course are moms to be who are adopting, and hopefully they can get some useful information out of this too.

Let’s break down some scenarios and talk about what may be some solutions:

You are expecting a child fairly soon and are interviewing for a position. When do I tell the prospective employer?

If you are having the initial discussions with people (recruiters, hiring managers, etc) and have not gotten into serious interviewing and they tick off some standard questions, one of them is usually “if you were to be offered a position here and you decided to accept it, when could you be available to start?” Things are in the early stages here and I see no reason to show your hand about anything yet. I would respond with what you would normally respond with, depending on your current work circumstance. If you are working, you must say you can’t start for at least 2 weeks after you accept and give notice. If you say anything less, it is a red flag for future employers about your professionalism and loyalty, but that’s a different discussion.

If through further discussions, you find that there is a very good chance the timing will coincide, you will need to evaluate telling versus the opportunity and how you feel they may react.

When I do think it is appropriate to bring it up is when you have completed first, second or more rounds of interviews as dictated by their process and the feedback is all pointing to you getting an offer. They will usually start talking about more specific start dates.

How do I bring it up?

You want to make it seem like an easy issue to resolve, first and foremost. I would say “since we started speaking about the job, some timetables have come into play with regard to my (partner/wife/birth mother) giving birth. As we all know the due date is not always accurate but I will need x time off prior to the baby arriving and x time off after the baby arrives. I am very interested in the position and believe I am a great candidate. I also will do as much self-learning about my duties while I am out as I can (don’t commit if you don’t think you can do that!) as to minimize my ramp up time. I hope this does not affect my candidacy for this position”

It would be best if you could also get this statement and their response in an email. Although it would be hard to prove that they passed on you because of this, it’s harder to do so if they emailed you their commitment to be OK with your situation.

Shouldn’t I just wait for when I get the official offer, that way it would be harder for them to pull it back?

Yes, it would be harder and they could open themselves up for discriminatory practices claims if they did, but is this the way you want to start things off with them? They will feel slightly deceived but will still commit to the offer and that perception may not go away ever. Will this affect future opportunities from within the company? Once there is a little distance from you getting back to work, will they start the search again because they have trust issues with you? Just some food for thought.

OK, next post will be the dilemma about accepting a less than desirable role because you feel you need to be working at all costs!

The dilemma for daddys to be, part 1

newdadMuch has been written about the complexities and legalities for expectant moms and interviewing. The laws are pretty clear about discrimination and allowing time off without fear of recrimination (losing your job.)

It seems to be much less clear for the dads. When our parents were having kids, things were more defined. Mom’s job most of the time was being a mom (the most important job in the world), and dad was in the workforce. When it was time for the new baby, mom being self-employed as it were, didn’t have to ask for any time off or worry her job wouldn’t be eliminated (although she may wished as much!) Dad drove mom to the hospital and paced around the waiting room smoking and commiserating with the other expectant dads. The baby would come and dad would proudly announce it to everyone and dole out cigars. The extended family would engage to support the new mom’s chores and help with other children, etc. Dad would be back to work the next day.

As we all know now, modern day parenting has changed that paradigm significantly. Dads are more involved with the pregnancy and birth. With the great new advances in pre-natal medicine, there are more appointments and involvement along the way from pregnancy to post birth. As they should, the dad is going to Dr. appts, tests, ultrasounds, procedures, etc. He needs to be a more involved and informed partner. A lot of people these days don’t have the extended and immediate family around them so the many tasks around having a newborn falls on the parent’s shoulders.

Dad’s are taking paternity leaves now to spend as much time with the new baby as they can and help out or go to followup appointments, etc., and some progressive companies are even including that into their benefits package. Some are taking up to 3 weeks off using leave and vacation, some are invoking FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which I believe is up to 12 weeks unpaid but will preserve job security with some caveats. These events usually are well planned out with employers and cause no major headaches or ill will between employee and employer.

That’s all great if you have a job but what if you are an expectant dad in job search mode? As a fairly recent new dad, I know there is a another whole set of stress factors in play besides the normal ones that come with pregnancy. Not long after you hear the wonderful news you can’t help but start to think about the financial ramifications of a new baby to the point of ridiculousness (how am I going to pay for their college expenses?? If I have a girl, how will I pay for her wedding??) Couple that with looking for a job. Especially if you don’t have one and it gets all the more fun.

You will start to worry about when and if you should tell prospective employers you have a baby on the way or accept a position you probably A. don’t really like or B. pays much less than you deserve because you feel you need to be a provider at all costs.

Well, sit back and relax and let’s talk about and get through this…next post! (Deep Breath! Deep Breath!)

5 Networking Sites to See!

siteseeMost of you know the major social networking sites (Facebook®, LinkedIN®.) Well, there are a few out there you may not know about that are starting to emerge as viable networking places (membership, hits, growth, etc.) even though they may not be what you would think as a social network. If you aren’t on or visiting these, you should check them out and get on at least a couple. By the way, I am not compensated in any way by listing these sites, these are unbiased opinions I am rendering. I have put a short description and rated them on certain criteria important to me on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the worst, 5 being the best.) These are in no particular order.

  1. Plaxo. Has been around a while. Started out as a web based contact management site but has morphed into more of a true networking one.
    Value of “free feature” vs. having to pay for account upgrades: 4
    Ease of setting up a an account: 4
    Ease of Navigation/accuracy of searches: 4
    Depth of contacts: 4
    Value Groups feature on site: 3
    Spam factor (do you get a lot of spam from company to upgrade, etc.): 5
    Overall Job Seeker value:
  2. Spoke. They market more to the B2B crowd, but for the job seeker truly using networking, it is a powerful resource to get directly to your potential boss.
    Value of “free feature” vs. having to pay for account upgrades: 3
    Ease of setting up a an account: 4
    Ease of Navigation/accuracy of searches:4
    Depth of contacts: 4
    Value Groups feature on site: 3
    Spam factor (do you get a lot of spam from company to upgrade, etc.): 5
    Overall Job Seeker value:3
  3. Jigsaw OK, so Jigsaw doesn’t fit in the classical definition of social networking site (if there is such a thing), but it meets my criteria in that you put your info up there and find info on others. It is a definite business lead generation site more than a job seeker one, but like Spoke, it has its value to savvy job seeking networkers. It’s like an old fashioned business card swap. You actually earn points (and thus access) to other peoples’ direct contact info (phone number email, etc.) if you contribute to the site’s database of contacts. The bad news is that the “free” component is pretty limiting, which isn’t great for people out of work.
    Value of “free feature” vs. having to pay for account upgrades: 1
    Ease of setting up a an account: 4
    Ease of Navigation/accuracy of searches:4
    Depth of contacts: 5
    Value Groups feature on site: 1
    Spam factor (do you get a lot of spam from company to upgrade, etc.): 3
    Overall Job Seeker value:3
  4. GoBig Network I personally love GoBig. Again, not a classic social networking site. They were built with the start-up entrepreneur in mind and that’s what the site is geared to (start-ups seeking funding and funders seeking investments), but they list jobs with these companies that pay in money and promises (equity). If you like the start-up environment and are not risk averse, this could be a treasure trove.
    Value of “free feature” vs. having to pay for account upgrades: 5
    Ease of setting up a an account: 5
    Ease of Navigation/accuracy of searches:5
    Depth of contacts: 4
    Value Groups feature on site: 3
    Spam factor (do you get a lot of spam from company to upgrade, etc.): 5
    Overall Job Seeker value: 4
  5. You tell me! Is there one that you feel is great from a job seeking, networking perspective that you want to share?I know there are ones I don’t know about, maybe they are for a certain industry and that’s OK. Send me the website and I will review. I will post the ones I like in the near future.

Bill Meirs is the Managing Principal with the Church & Palfrey Group, a search firm specializing in Technology and Sales Searches. Bill has 11+ years experience in corporate and agency environments. He frequently consults companies and individuals in the areas of talent acquisition, recruitment process improvement, recruitment advertising and branding, resume writing, and salary negotiation.

Interview Day – It’s go time!

So the blessed day has come, you have your interview. We have already talked about how to prep before your interview day – now some last minute fine tuning and then what to do when you are in the midst of your discussions.

Ramping up or down:
Ramp up: If it is a morning interview, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. If you are currently not employed, ramp up with some last minute study or review of notes/job/resume, read the Wall Street journal or an appropriate publication at breakfast while you are dressed for the interview. Get your “Business Head” on. If you are a “caffeinated” person, make sure you have the right amount, but not too amped up.

Ramp down: If you are working and coming from your job – if it is possible, put some space between any stressful work situations and the interview. Maybe grab a quick snack or lunch and do some prep, take a walk, light workout, yoga. No phone calls or constantly checking your PDA.

Just before you get there:

  • Look in the mirror to make sure you look sharp.
  • If you ate, brush your teeth or breath mints, etc.
  • Use a restroom if available or ask the receptionist at the interview to use BEFORE the interview starts. It’s OK to ask between interviews for a bathroom break, but you always want to be comfortable during.

Greet each person you meet cordially (especially the receptionist, they have more influence than CEO’s in some companies’ hiring!) – try not to be over zealous and match the energy of the person you are speaking with. Always stand to greet someone and wait for them to extend their hand to shake. Sometimes women will not do a handshake or there is something that prevents people from shaking with their right hand, so follow their lead.
If offered something to drink, it is perfectly OK to accept something simple like coffee, tea, water. Don’t ask for soda or a half caff latte w/whipped cream and a cherry on top!
If there is food offered (don’t ask for food) and you are hungry, take a small portion of something not messy and eat only before or between interviews.
During the interview, obviously sit in a seat that you are instructed to sit in. If you have any choice, try not to sit across a desk or table from interviewer, but at a 45 degree angle. This creates a more even “playing field” between you and the interviewer, that it is an information exchange vs. an interrogation. See the diagram:

When having conversations with various interviewers, make sure you are cognizant of their role and speak in a manner that they can relate to. Don’t get in the weeds with tech speak to HR or project managers.
Make your answers concise and to the point. Don’t say one more word than necessary, read the body language of the interviewer to gauge when they feel they have gotten their answer and gracefully end it there. If they start nodding their head and seem like they want to speak, that is a cue that you should stop.
Keep your answers positive and moving toward the goal of winning them over. Don’t get into the business of knocking past employers, companies, etc. Maintain eye contact as much as possible during your interview especially when the interviewer is speaking to show that you are engaged. Take copious notes so you can follow up on something instead of messing with the conversation’s flow. Like I said before, Always ask questions.
Maintain a feeling of relaxed confidence. Whether you have a job or not, interview like you have one and that this would be a new opportunity rather than a desperate lifeline. Don’t ever be nonchalant or arrogant about the opportunity – show genuine enthusiasm, but make them feel they need to sell you on the opportunity as much as you need to sell them.
If you are in an interview that seems not to be going well due to the interviewer being adversarial or just in a plain bad mood, my friend “M” brought up a great idea. If this happens, he always tries to ask them about themselves and how long they they have been there, why they like the company, etc. Let them reveal any personal details or interests. This can be quite disarming and can go a long way to turning around this dynamic. People love to talk about themselves and most times can’t do it in a grouchy manner.
When it is over, if you are staying put, stand and thank them for their time. Get a business card or their email address at a minimum.
Usually when all interviews are over – the HR person will come in to wrap up. Cite some instances that you had written down about what you liked about the job/company in your conversations. Ask what the next steps would be: How many people are interviewing? When do you expect to make a decision? When is it OK to follow up with you about status if I haven’t heard from you yet? It is OK to ask if they have any feeling on the general feedback from your interviews. Most times they won’t have any yet or won’t divulge, so don’t press the issue, just keep it in terms of “was it generally positive?” Collect any interviewer contact info from HR/Recruiter that you neglected to get.
When you leave, ALWAYS thank the receptionist for their assistance or at least say goodbye.
Send thank you notes within 48 hours of your interview. An email is perfectly acceptable. Again cite some key points of your specific conversation with each interviewer to use as evidence that you would be a great fit. Like the cover letter, make it brief with just a couple bullet points.
I know we have just skimmed the surface of interviewing, but I think this will provide a good general structure. If you have more specific questions, please contact me.
Next, we will discuss reference check and who to provide for them. Not your Mom! 🙂

YAY, You got the interview! Now what?

prepTo hear that you have been invited in for an interview is always an exciting time. It gives you a renewed optimism, like when spring blooms in New England. Whenever the hell that will happen. It also can wreak havoc on even the most seasoned job seeker’s innards because you feel so much is riding on your performance.
While I can’t come with you, lean over and whisper in your ear the answers to the interviewer’s question like a lawyer does for his client at a congressional hearing – I can be like your mom on your first day of school, making sure you are prepared in all respects.
You are so elated to get the interview, you basically just find out when and where to show up and then hang up and do a little dance of quasi-victory, but this call is really where the proper interview prep starts.

So the questions you want to ask upon hearing of your interview (over above when and where):

  1. Parking? If you are driving, make sure there is parking available or a nearby garage. If not and you are able to access public transportation, find out what the closest public transportation is to their office.
  2. Who will I be meeting with? Find out who will be interviewing you, their role in the company and what the focus of each interview will be (technical, behavioral/attributes, informational). Sometimes you won’t be able to get all this information until a later call or email if at all, but any info you can get will make more prepared than other candidates.
  3. Is there anything special you would like me to bring to the interview (paperwork to fill out, letters of reference, etc.)

Don’t Ask:

  1. Dress code. You should go to every interview with the assumption that it is a business formal environment, so dress that way! Men, suit or at least a jacket, tie, dress pants and decent shoes. Women, business suits and no flip- flop type of shoes. Even if it is a casual environment, unless you wore a top hat and tails, I don’t know anyone who would be rejected for dressing too nicely.
  2. Resumes. Don’t ask if you should bring resumes, PLEASE! That is an automatic and the reason why you ask who you are meeting with.

So now you have some good information, so start getting yourself prepared to dazzle them. Do as much research via the web on the company as you can. Not just reading the propaganda they put on their site, but what others are saying about them, any news they have made.  Also try to collect sales figures, company history, number of employees, different business units, product lines – become a real student of the company so you can show you do what it takes to accomplish what you have been tasked with. If you can talk to current or former employees, that is a great tool to have.

Once you have gathered this data, jot down some questions related to what you have gathered. Make up a page on a  ruled pad of paper for each interviewer and put the questions on the page of the interviewer where it seems like their domain. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have at least 1 or 2 questions for every interviewer, whether you know the answer or not, or even care about the answer –  ask a question. If you are really stumped, it’s even OK to ask the interviewer how long they have been there and what they like most about working there. It shows interest and an inquisitive mind, which people want.

If you can, try to run some simulated interviews and some possible questions they will ask you. If you can have someone play the interviewer role, great. If you can’t, it’s OK. You can do this yourself. If it is technical in nature, you will know by doing your homework what to expect. If it is more an attributes interview, try to think of things like:

  • What was the most satisfying accomplishment you had and why
  • Think of an experience in dealing with a difficult peer, manager or someone under you and how you dealt with them
  • Think of a situation where you messed up and how you remedied the situation and what lesson you learned from it

So you have your reconnaissance data and have prepared for the interview accordingly. You have good questions to ask and are ready to speak eloquently about your company knowledge and how you fit in that paradigm.

You’ve done the hardest part, now do the basics that will complete the positive experience.

At least the day before the interview:

  • Have your wardrobe finalized and make sure it is ready (not at dry cleaners or in a ball in the corner of your room)
  • Print out 2 resumes more than the number of people you are meeting with (including HR/recruiting.) There’s always the chance of an unexpected person they want you to talk to, and this will make you look so awesome. That’s usually a good sign if they throw an another person in. Make sure your resumes are clean and up to date
  • Make sure you pack any paperwork they ask you to bring
  • Go on Google and map out your route. Find out how long it will take to get there. If it is tricky parking or a route that is known to have traffic problems, or are relying on public transportation, add 45 minutes to an hour on to what it says it will take. I’m not kidding. If you get there really early, walk around or hang in a coffee place for a while and do some more prep. DON’T BE LATE!
  • Set your alarm if you need to
  • Bring something to write on (remember the pad of paper with separate sheets for each interviewer?) and plenty of pens. Don’t go in empty handed and not take notes, or ask them for paper and pen. It looks so unprofessional. Put everything in a briefcase of some sort or portfolio
  • Make sure you print out the the address, and contact phone number or load it into your cell phone. Oh, and bring your phone. You shouldn’t be late but if you can’t avoid it, you need to call as far in advance of your interview time that you can. And please don’t call your contact person and ask them to get you there while you are driving because you are lost – you are wasting their time!
  • Fill the tank in your car the night before
  • Make sure you are not hungry or haven’t had your coffee before you go in
  • Bring some mints or breath fresheners

I know some of this sounds a little basic, but as a recruiter I can’t tell you how many people I have seen come to an interview so woefully unprepared for a high six figure job.

OK, we’ve gone over the before. Next we will go over the things to do upon arrival, during, and at the end of the interview.

Wow, you are going to be an interviewing machine!