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/

“Interview the Experts” Series – Greg Chenevert

7_minute_CDNext week I will be interviewing Greg Chenevert, 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!

Greg has authored many books on various personal improvement strategies. His latest, 7 Minute Interview is written on the premise that  employers make hire/no hire decisions within the first 7 minutes of the interview. I wholeheartedly agree with Greg’s hypothesis. Most savvy hiring managers can make this assessment very quickly based on just a couple responses from the candidate, usually from seemingly innocuous questions.

Like Greg says:  “Interviewing is your one chance to become an employee”, so be the best you can and check out the interview and then buy the audiobook!

Good article on Twitter Applications for Job Searching

I came across this article, and thought it was relevant to the discussion of using Twitter for job searches. This showcases some Twitter 3rd party apps that help in using the service for job hunting. I have heard a lot of good things about Twellow.

Keep your suggestions coming!

What about Twitter?…and free coffee!

twitterpostSome people have noticed that when I was blogging about social networking and job searches, I conspicuously left out the 3000lb elephant in the room (3000lb bird?), Twitter. Well it actually was a conscious decision (as opposed to most of the decisions I make when I am unconscious) due to the fact I am a Twitter neophyte. I really don’t know the full power of Twitter and how to fully realize its benefits.

I have an account and do tweet, but my purpose is for candidate marketing and searches, plus promotion of my blog. I know many people do use Twitter for getting the word out they are looking for jobs so I know there are many aspects of how I use it that could apply to the job search side, I just don’t know quite how yet. So I am going to put the burden of proof on you –  my network savvy readers, to tell me if you have experience in this arena and share those ideas with the community.

So click here to send me your entry. I will post the 5 top and let the community decide on who is best. The best entry will win a $5 Starbucks card. Hey, it’s better than nothing!

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

madLast time we spoke about identifying the true hiring decision maker (HDM). We will go on the assumption that has happened.

We will also assume that you have been in front of the interview panel and your keen intuition says you did well in the your interviews and made a connection with at least the vast majority of the folks you met with, including the HDM. If you feel your intuition is not working, then go ahead and flat out ask, and observe the answers. Here’s how to start things off when you are given the opportunity to ask questions:

“I really felt this conversation was positive and my interest in this role is very high. If I may ask based on what you heard from me, do you feel I am a strong candidate for this job?” “And is there anything you didn’t hear from me that you would like to know?”

Observe how they react to these questions. What you want to hear is a definitive response from them that you are a good fit. It should come without any major hesitation or thinking about what they are going to say. If they do mention things they would have liked to hear, address them with honesty and see if they seemed satisfied with your answer.  You want to see them tell you this while looking you in the eye and not squirming in their seat or fidgeting with a pen. You want to also hear them give something slightly more than a “yes” response. Maybe a reason or two why they think you are a good fit.

When they finish up with you, see how they frame the future: “We are interviewing more folks and will let you know the next steps by___ ” (neutral) or “We will probably want to bring you back in to meet with Sr Management” (good) or only “really nice meeting you, thanks for coming in” (not so good). If they haven’t said it, ask the recruiter when approximately you should be hearing from them. Also ask if you will hear from them either way. Most will say yes.

When you get home that evening and are writing out thank you notes/emails to the interviewers, stop and have an honest conversation with yourself that you truly got the impression you are a strong candidate for this job. No wishful thinking or rationalizing “that although they didn’t say it, what they meant was…..”, etc. Be honest and don’t force the issue if in your heart of hearts you know it did not go well.

Either way, write out those thank yous and briefly recap the points why you feel you would be great for the job. Touch on things they mentioned as positive attributes as to underscore and validate their observations.

Here is a good insider tip to know if you truly did well with the team. Are you ready?? If you email the thank yous (perfectly acceptable) and they respond with anything more substantial than “yes, nice meeting you too, good luck”, that’s a good sign. Any language about “talking to you soon” or  looking forward to____” are good signs. It usually means they have switched in to selling mode to bring you aboard.

So fast forward to the time frame the recruiter said they would be getting back to you (either way). Add a couple days to make sure you aren’t being too pushy. If you have other opportunities and are interested in seeing this one through before acting on the others, certainly let that be known and call them. If they don’t get back to you in 24-48 hours, call ONE MORE TIME. If still there is no response after 24-48 hours and you feel this is not consistent with your performance with the hiring team and especially the HDM, contact the HDM. Be very tactful and non threatening in your tone:

“It has been quite a while since I interviewed there  and I still have not heard from (recruiter). I called on (date) and then followed up on (date) and have not gotten any response. I’m sure they are very busy. When you and I met, I felt our conversation was quite positive, and from your responses I believe that I was considered a strong contender for this position. If that is not the case, the position is not going to be filled, or you have identified another candidate that is more suited, I perfectly understand and do not wish to take up any more of your time. If you would get back to me with the status of my candidacy I would appreciate that greatly.

What you did there was contact them in a way that will hopefully cause them to act on this, one way or another. You were respectful in giving the recruiter the benefit of the doubt at the same time calling the HDM into action to find out why you have not been contacted. This still may cause some friction with the recruiter, but at the end of the day it is your career and livelihood on the line and you don’t want to miss a good opportunity due to an unresponsive and adversarial recruiter.

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.

Why is this corporate recruiter “just not that into me”?

perplexedLast time we spoke about some reasons why corporate recruiters don’t always seems to be on your side. We discussed how these reasons could be mistakes made on both sides.

From some feedback I got (mostly from the recruiter world), there is sometimes a misconception of impropriety by the recruiter because candidates try to “shoe horn” themselves into being the right fit for a position even though it is painfully obvious to everyone within the company they are not. This is a very valid point. Candidate applies for a position. Does not hear from anyone and starts calling incessantly to sell themselves. Now, as much as we as job seekers would like to get a personal response for every job application, there is simply too much volume.  Companies are moving away from the cost of the depressing postcard (…thanks for applying…you don’t meet the qualifications…we’ll keep your resume on file…very impressive …blah blah blah), so get used to the reality that for the vast majority of jobs you apply for, you aren’t going to get ANY response.

What you need to know is that many times there has been work done on your behalf behind the scenes although you may never hear from anyone. As recruiters, we always like to give the benefit of the doubt to the candidate and if we cannot tell clearly that this person is not right, we usually kick it up to the hiring manager to give the final decision. If they come back with the thumbs down, we consider it done and you probably won’t hear anything from us and you will need to live with that decision.

Where it falls more to the recruiter not doing their job is when they have an actual discussion with you. There is usually one of two outcomes from that discussion:

  1. I’m sorry, for these X reasons I do not believe that you are qualified for this position. Thanks for your time. And you should thank them and hang up.
  2. I think you are a potential fit for this role and I am going to review your resume with the hiring manager and see if an interview (phone or F2F) is warranted. The recruiter may say they have a couple of concerns so it won’t be a shocker if you are ultimately rejected.

If it is outcome #2, the recruiter has the absolute responsibility to get back to you about what the decision is. They should give you a general timetable and you should cut them some slack if it pushes a couple days, they don’t always have control of feedback from the HM. If it is a no, a detailed email or phone call is appropriate. If they do this then don’t push the issue or keep calling. Accept the verdict and move on.

So the takeaway from this is for the recruiter not to judge a candidate for repeated contact if they haven’t properly closed the loop on their candidacy. The whole “if you don’t hear from me, assume it’s a no” is WRONG and impolite. It  also casts your company in a bad light for future hiring.

Oh well, this was not the intended theme but I think responding to the feedback was important. So next time we will speak about dealing with the recruiter who is not on your side when you have been deep in the interview process with a company.

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.