Category Archives: interview preparation

Job Search Central, Day 2

controlThe first thing that you want to make sure of is your pay situation in your new job. Of course, in this case that means unemployment insurance. If you qualify for UI make sure you know the process and contact info in your area. It varies state to state, and with the economy as it is the Unemployment offices are overwhelmed by claims. Make sure you have a couple hours dedicated to opening your claim on the phone, and a half a day + if you go to an office.

OK, now to set up Job Search Central:

Workspace:

Unless you live alone or nobody else is home during the day, try to establish a workspace that is private and quiet. Have your desktop organized and if this is a place you also do other work (paperwork, bill paying, etc.), make sure that is put away when you are in job search mode. Only paperwork relevant to job searching should be around, everything else is just going to be a distraction. If you prefer to print things out instead of keeping folders on your laptop, make sure you have some color coded manila folders for things like: job descriptions (one for ones you have applied to, ones for consideration), resumes, cover letters, references, etc.

Work Day

Figure out how many hours you are going to dedicate toward job searching and stick to that. Where it is taking a little longer to find jobs these days, I suggest a minimum of 4-6 hours. I also suggest that you do no more than 8 hours either. It will become too much of a drain and you may start to lose steam. While you are unemployed, take advantage of having a couple hours to catch up on reading or doing something fun during the day.

You also want to try to do your hourly work all at one time and minimize interruptions and breaks except for lunch. Set a firm start time and COMMIT to it! If you set 9 am, then you have until then to check email, Facebook, ESPN, etc. but after 9 those pages should leave your browser and not come back until your work day is done. (OK, you can look on you lunch break, but no more than 1 hour!)

Work Attire

OK, think me crazy but I believe if you take job searching seriously you need to feel like it is a regular job. Don’t work in what you rolled out of bed in. You dont need to put on a suit (unless that’s comfortable for you), and even jeans are OK. Just think if you were going to be going out in public and what you would wear that day.

Atmosphere

If you want to put on some soft music in the background, that’s cool. No headphones though, because you WILL need to be working the phones and headphones hamper phone activity. And absolutely NO television or computer games. If you IM with people a lot, try to minimize that activity unless necessary. You can put a status: “job searching from 9-12, available 12-1”

Next time, we will get into getting the tools you need for the job in shape, daily metrics, and making job boards and networking sites work for you!

Advertisements

Setting up “Job Search Central”

searchcentralYes folks, job searching is serious business and needs to be treated as a job itself. Today, I am going to talk about the basics to start setting up your “job search office.”

First you need to start with some administrative tasks and then move to the more specific searching tactics. When you first find out you have this new “job”, some of the actions you need to take:

  • Make sure you have agreed on severance and your pay/severance has been properly settled (commissions and some bonuses may be not be settled at time of separation)
  • Make sure you have the proper paperwork to go on COBRA if you choose to do so (it is cheaper than it used to be)
  • Analyze your 401(k) if you have one. Make sure you have the proper information to log on to access your account. See how it is performing and understand how long you can leave it in the employer’s account if it is performing well. If you want to remove it from you ex-company’s plan, Fidelity offers rollover IRA’s for 401(k)s so that you are not penalized for withdrawal
  • Notify any personal contacts who used your company email that you have left and not to send email to you there  because it will dump into a catch-all account and you don’t know who will view it
  • Contact your network (LinkedIN, etc.) to let them know you are no longer working there and to please keep their eyes open for positions that may suit you. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, you are a little behind the game but you can catch up and obviously didn’t listen to my earlier post of social networking!
  • Review your resume and get it updated, spend some quality time on it so it reflects what you really want in your next job, I have many tips on this blog
  • Upload your updated resume to job boards. I recommend you should be on at least Monster and CareerBuilder. Technical folks need to be on Dice. Make sure all your contact information is current and your “years of experience” in your key areas of expertise are updated.

I know these things seem obvious but sometimes the stress and shock of being out of a job  can hinder your path to moving on to the job search.

Congratulations, you have got a lot done on your first day and that much closer to leaving this job! 🙂

OK, next post we will start to talk about the “game plan”.

Interview with Greg Chenevert, Author of “7 Minute Interview”

Greg Chenevert is one of the most effective Career and Business coaches around. Greg approaches his craft from a very different angle than most coaches which gives his clients a unique advantage in job interviewing, selling or in business dealings in general.

If you don’t believe me that Greg is any different than any career coach, all I can say is “numbers don’t lie”:

Greg has been engaged to teach Career development at a company. His first class of 23, all got placed in 4 weeks. And oh by the way…his second class of 26 all have gotten placed too!

I had a chance to speak with Greg recently about some key aspects of interviewing to get the job you want. His recent Audiobook, 7 Minute Interview provides some indispensable information on how to make yourself the top candidate in the first 7 minutes of the interview, when the hiring manager actually makes their yes or no decision on you.

BillTheRecruiter: What is the most common mistake a job seeker makes that knocks them out within the first 7 minutes?

Greg Chenevert: Bill, job seekers who don’t know or appreciate their audience believe they need to convince managers to hire them and pursue this based solely on technical or intellectual logic. This concept generates a false comfort zone for a candidate, which cascades into series of self-defeating behaviors.  One example is the job seeker who explains a technical reason for employment and doesn’t receive the expected feedback will then repeat their statement with greater vigor. Detailed technical descriptions appeal to only a limited group, often not including the HR manager, marketing or other non-technical personnel. Job seekers fail to understand that when they push information they conversely diminish the rapport. They lose the connection with the other person in the room, who is a decision maker for hiring. Without the rapport that is maintained through specific behaviors, everything the candidate says becomes unimportant because the interviewer is no longer listening.

The most effective interviewing method is to maintain and balance rapport while weaving your information into the listener’s context. The combination makes both the job seeker and their information readily understood.

BTR: Are most mistakes ones that the majority of people interviewing for a job would never even realize they are making?

GC: Yes, most people have trained themselves to follow behaviors without conscious examination. They don’t realize or recognize habitual mistakes. For example, everyone goes to an interview wants to be ‘the best person’ for the job, which is the perfect approach. However, upon arrival they discard this motivation and attempt to be the best: medical device domestic distribution manager, the best Java developer, or the best defense software project manager. They should stick to the first statement and be the best person, the individual who listens, engages listeners and is also a competent manager or developer. Job seekers who behave in this fashion are often the hired candidates.

BTR: How important is the non-verbal part of interviewing to the hiring manager’s decision making process?

GC: The past sixty years of research in human communication can be distilled to the following information that every job seeker can use. The words that you speak during an interview comprise 10% of your message, your tone, cadence, and inflections comprise 40% of your message. 50% of the interview communication is body language, including facial responses and projecting emotions through facial movement. Hiring managers use these channels and weightings to take in the candidate’s information and develop a decision.

Job seekers who rely on logic, rhetoric and words alone are at a severe disadvantage. Consider Ben Stein, the man who does the Visine commercials. His television delivery is possibly the baseline of interviewing. Readers might recall listening to his flat delivery, lacking inflection, connection and body language. Imagine listening to his Visine commercials for a half hour, but instead have it as an interview. Is this an effective approach and behavior to assisting a manager to form a positive decision?

BTR: If you realize things are starting off badly, what things does the book tell you that can turn the ship around quickly?

GC: If job candidates follow the steps in the audio book, they will more likely never encounter this problem, because the dialogue shows how interviews should proceed. However, there is a chapter that demonstrates to listeners how to recognize these situations while they are still manageable. They next hear how, through specific steps, to resolve the tensions or misdirection and re-establish the rapport and information flow of the interview.

BTR: Is there such thing as over preparing for an interview? For example too much role-playing, practicing, etc. that may seem like you are just being an “actor”?

GC: We can train easily ourselves; this is part of being human.   Everybody can over prepare by adopting a delivery, and effectively training themselves to properly respond in a training situation. The interview is a different emotional context because you’re dealing with strangers and have no control over the direct or follow up questions.  Under this stress the job seeker will engage their rehearsed answers as a reaction to the stress, making them sound all the more canned or artificial. Your readers may recall hearing an elevator pitch from a networking meeting that had all the right words, yet was devoid of personal connections. These are similar to the political ads and sound bytes that bombard us during elections.  We forget these within seconds of hearing them, because listeners instinctively tune out ‘canned’ messages within seconds. Hiring managers and HR people hear over-prepared statements so frequently that they tune out faster than most. They have trained themselves to recognize and avoid the rehearsed response.

BTR: Is it better to try and answer the interviewer’s questions with a response you think they want to hear, or just go with your “heart”?

GC: This question drives right to the heart of successful interviewing. Interviewing is a process meant to arrive at a mutual fit for the job seeker and the company. Job seekers need to discover two pieces of information: Does the hiring manager believe that I fit this job, and does the job and company fit with me. Responding the way that you think the interviewer wants to hear may answer your first need, but it subverts the second. This is how people end up in their job-from-hell. Employment is a long-term commitment, requiring mutual acceptance. If you answer from ‘the heart’ you will be certain to find what fits and more importantly benefits both you and your potential employer for a long-term engagement.

BTR: I noticed in the sample chapter the second example of responses there was a probing question posed in response to a question from the interviewer, why is that so important?

GC: The open-ended, probing question is another critical element for any successful interview because it allows the candidate to lead the conversation and demonstrate interest. Without these questions to engage the other person during your interview, every job seeker is structuring an interrogation, something that neither of you really wants. The second part of asking the question is to condense your answer, limit your speaking time, and provide a conversational shift to the interviewer. This prevents any confusion and awkward silences between the two of you. When done effectively open-ended questions are a mechanism to bond the two of you into a conversation that builds for a purpose, getting hired.

BTR: After listening to 7 Minute Interview, how easy is it to change your interviewing habits to be more successful in getting that job offer?

GC: Bill, it’s surprisingly easy for job seekers to achieve and retain constructive changes in interviewing behaviors and stand out from the hundreds of candidates vying for the same position. The book shows how to eliminate the emotional and behavioral habits that have destroyed past attempts, while also hearing how to establish winning habits. As a matter of fact, I include an entire chapter that shows some direct, simple exercises. When job seekers that I’ve trained practiced these exercises for a week and used them at the next interview, they changed from also-ran to hired.

BTR: What in general do you want people to take away from 7 Minute Interview?

GC: There are many things in this book that I that can make the difference for people. I want each to get a few tools to fulfill their needs. Interviewing well isn’t mysterious; it is direct and straightforward. That’s important knowledge for readers to understand, and this fact comes out many times through dialogue and examples. Another beneficial take-away is that there are only a few steps that separate success from failure, and these too are readily learned and adopted. Most importantly I want your readers to appreciate the fact that what they learn from this audio book isn’t how to interview well, it is how to converse well with everybody. When they take these conversational and communication skills to an interview, they work. When employees use them at work, they succeed, and when job seekers use them to network, they get results, because these skills motivate people to listen to you.

Again, if you would like to listen to a free sample chapter of  Greg’s Audiobook and buy the entire book, it is a great investment to improving your chances of getting the job you want go to: http://www.self-help-books.biz/

Hey Recruiter, I thought you were on my side! Part II of III

perplexed2We have spoken about the circumstances around recruiters being less than cooperative with candidates and the many reasons. Yes, sometimes it is just perception on the candidate’s part that a recruiter is not acting in good faith as I outlined in the last couple posts, but  sometimes there is shared culpability.

Today let’s talk about the candidate taking preventative steps to insure themselves against an unresponsive or adversarial recruiter.

The first step is pretty basic but not always easy. When you have initial recruiter conversations, try your best to identify from the recruiter who will make the ultimate hiring decision. This is not someone in HR (unless you are going for a job in HR or a dept. that is overseen by HR) who may approve the amount of the job offer, but the person who truly has the power to say “let’s hire her/him!”

Recruiters will sometimes keep this info close to the vest for a couple reasons: A. They are doing their job in protecting the hiring manager from being harassed by candidates too early in the game when they haven’t yet been identified as viable or B. They have the fear of being circumvented and risk their performance being called into question.

So either way it’s not easy to get if you are only at the phone interview stage. It gets easier if you move into the in-person interview stage where you will usually get a lineup of who you will be meeting with and if you don’t get a direct answer you can usually figure it out from titles (whomever the senior most manager is usually the ultimate decision maker.) If this doesn’t work, the next way is ask who you phone interview with from the hiring team, they will be more apt to be forthcoming about the info. Maybe not the actual name but title. If you don’t have a phone interview and go straight to in-person, identify someone on the interview team who you seem to have a good rapport with to ask.

OK, I am going to leave it there. My wife has correctly observed I have the tendency to go long so I will finish this up tomorrow. I’ll talk about what to do with the information you obtained (the real decision maker), and also having an honest conversation with yourself to see if it warrants trying to go above the recruiter.

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.
  • SHUT OFF YOUR CELL!!
  • 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! 🙂