10 first impressions for job-search success

Game of thronesWhen I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones, I was not impressed. I’d heard it was a great show, but the gratuitous violence did more to turn me off than draw me into the most important episode of the series. I haven’t returned to the show since.

I know you’re thinking this is a post about first impressions jobseekers make at interviews, but it’s not. It’s about how important it is to make great first impressions in every aspect of your job search, not just how you shake the interviewer/s hands, maintain eye contact, etc.

Making a positive first impression can come into play before the interview phase, perhaps when you least expect it. I’m imaging a scenario where you’re at your local Starbucks, scoping out a comfortable chair to sit in for a couple of hours, and see the only one available among eight.

As you approach coveted chair, a woman dressed in a tee-shirt, yoga pants, and Asics also has her eyes on the prize. You have two choices; you can beat her to it, or you can offer her the chair, knowing there are plenty of stools at the table along the window, albeit uncomfortable ones. You take the high road and offer her the chair and retreat to one of the stools.

A week later you’re at an interview for a job that’s perfect for you. As you’re making the rounds shaking hands with the interviewers, you notice the woman to whom you offered the chair when you were at Starbucks; and she notices you as the kind woman who gave up that chair.

She’s the VP of marketing and a key decision maker in the hiring process. A couple of traits she desires in the next hire is integrity and selflessness. The interview is off to a great start because you made a great first impression by relinquishing that chair. Little did you know that that act of kindness would pay off in a big way, an act of kindness that had nothing to do with the interview process.

You may be thinking to yourself, “But that’s my nature.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t let my job search dictate how I act every minute of the day.” The point is when you’re in the job search, you’re constantly on. Let’s look at other ways you make a first impression before the interview begins.

  1. The way you dress. When you leave the house during the warm seasons, are you wearing your Red Sox Tee-shirt, baggie shorts, and sneakers without socks? You might want to ditch the Tee-shirt…and everything else. Work casual dress shows you’re serious about your job search. Trust me on this: I know which one of my customers’ job-search stint will be short based on how they dress.
  2. Body language. I tell jobseekers that people–not just employers–can read your body language like a neon sign and will make judgments. People can tell if you’re tense and therefore unapproachable. Alternatively, people sense you’re open and welcome them if you have an open stance and pleasant smile.
  3. Possitive attitude. I see plenty of people who are understandably angry, and they’re not afraid to show it. There are other people who are angry because of their unemployment but don’t display their attitude. Think whether you’re more likely to help others who show a negative attitude or those who come across as friendly. I would never insist that you must feel positive; I’m just saying fake it till you make it.
  4. Effective communications. At a networking event or during a phone conversation, are you demonstrating proper communication skills? Are you listening or just doing all the talking? If you’re doing the latter, it could be a turnoff for those with whom you’re speaking…a possible employer or valuable networking contact. I’m highly sensitive to people who do most of the talking.
  5. Activity. One of the best ways to present a great first impression is by being active in your job search. I’m not talking about being overbearing or obnoxious–I’m talking about due diligence, including sending appropriate e-mails, making telephone calls, attending networking events, calling on recruiters, engaging in daily networking, and whatever you’re capable of doing in a professional manner.
  6. Personal business cards. Nothing says professional and serious about the job search than personal business cards. They’re perfect to bring to networking events, job fairs, informational meetings, or just when you’re out and about. My close LinkedIn connection and branding master explains how business cards brand you.
  7. Your online presence. While it’s a well-known fact that employers are using social media to hire talent–approximately 96% use LinkedIn–it’s also known that they are using social media to “dig up dirt.” So make sure your online presence is clean, that there are no photos of you sloppy drunk in Cancun, that you haven’t used Twitter to blast your previous boss. (If you type “Bob McIntosh” on Twitter, you’ll find my tweets, and I guarantee they are professional in nature.)
  8. Chillax. In the job search you’re so focused on getting your next job that you may come across as too focused and determined. Give yourself a break every once in a while. People can sense those who are desperate.
  9. Follow up. This can’t be stressed enough. When you say you’ll call or email someone or meet that person for coffee, make sure you follow through with your commitment. And be sure you’re on time by the minute. Being late leaves a negative first impression.
  10. Pay it forward. In the above scenario you demonstrate selflessness by offering the other person the chair. It so happened the recipient of the chair was someone on the interview team. Your act of paying it forward worked out nicely, as she appreciated your act of kindness.

The story of you meeting the VP of marketing at Starbucks and offering her the coveted seat ends well; she casts a heavy vote to hire you for the job of your dreams. You still don’t know what you did to earn her vote, but does it really matter as long as you consider being the say you are. The power of first impressions.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with others.

 

6 reasons why introverts prefer to write

writing

Lately I’ve been receiving voice-mails from one of my customers asking me to call him back to answer his questions. Not to ignore him, I have primarily responded to his calls with e-mails. This is preferable to getting caught in lengthy phone conversations during a busy time of the day.

Trying to make the best use of my time at work makes me think of six reasons why introverts–I’m included among them, in case you’re wondering–sometimes prefer to write rather than converse over the phone or in person.

  1. Conversations can have no limit. Have you been involved in one-sided conversations, where you’re the one doing most of the listening? Although introverts are said to be good listeners, being treated as a sounding board is not their idea of fun. When communication is conducted with the buffer of e-mail, it is two-way and the introvert feels engaged in the conversation.
  2. Self-promotion is easier in writing. Some people call self-promotion bragging because it means speaking highly of themselves, but I tell them it’s not bragging if 1) it’s true and 2) you’re asked about your accomplishments. Nonetheless, self-promotion can be uncomfortable for introverts, particularly if they have to deliver it verbally. When I want to make my manager aware of an accomplishment, I shoot her an e-mail.
  3. Writing is less exhausting. An introvert feels like he’s on stage when he has to talk at extended lengths of time. An extravert doesn’t want to leave the stage. The act of speaking is not problematic for the introvert, it’s sustaining the conversations over a long period of time that drains their batteries. Writing gives introverts a welcome break from hours of speaking.
  4. Writing gives introverts time to think. Introverts prefer to think before speaking, while extraverts sometimes speak before thinking. We don’t blame the chatty extraverts–it’s their nature. But an introvert doesn’t want to be misunderstood and writing prevents this. One strength I admire about the extravert is her propensity for small talk, because I struggle with it. But when it comes to writing, I can write my thoughts in my own sweet time.
  5. Writing is required to conduct a successful job search and succeed in business. That’s only part of it, though. Great verbal communication skills are necessary in networking, telephone communications, and of course the interview. But when it comes to writing a résumé , cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other correspondences, an introvert is at his best. At work the introvert feels most creative when he writes. He’d rather have time to reflect; leave the brainstorming to the extravert.
  6. Writing is fun. I know I don’t speak for all introverts, but some consider writing as a release of creativity and a way to express their thoughts to a larger audience. Because you blog, write novels or poems, or simply keep a diary; does that mean you’re an introvert? Of course not. There are plenty of extraverts who love to write. I just happen to be one who enjoys writing every day. Call me nuts.

I remember a time in college when a schoolmate asked me what I thought was more important, verbal or written communications. I immediately said “written communications,” and he argued for verbal communications. His argument was sound and he spoke compassionately about being able to address audiences real-time. As I was leaving the room, he seemed to be talking unaware of my absence.

BRAVE: 5 letters to remember for the interview

Today in my Interview workshop I went off on a rant about the importance of being a fit in the workplace. It’s not enough to have the job-related skills that allow you to hit the ground running, I told them.

Most of my participants nodded with agreement, while others had to process this point–maybe it never occurred to them, or maybe they were convinced that being able to create code is all they need to do.

Further I told them there’s been a lot of talk from recruiters and hiring managers who reinforce this point. “Really,” the naysayers eyes said. Really.

In an article entitled BRAVE Cultural Framework by George Bradt, the author talks about how employers are looking for job candidates who understand and can demonstrate they’ll fit in with the company.

Employers are looking at: the way people Behave, Relate to others, display their Attitude, express their Values, and the work Environment they create.

As jobseekers, you should keep this framework in mind by remembering the five letters and what they stand for. This is imperative to successfully landing a job where employers are astute enough to realize that overall fit is essential  to a productive workplace.

Remember these five components when you prepare for interviews, as you’ll most likely have to field questions based on the B.R.A.V.E framework.

Behave: This is how you make decisions and/or behave under leadership. Are your decisions the right ones that contribute to a better run business? As individual contributors, do you toe the line, contribute ideas that are implemented, deal well with autonomy or deal equally well with reward and discipline? These are all considerations, and more, that might arise at an interview.

Relate: This is the way you interact with others and create a team environment. You relate to difficult support staff and take appropriate measures to keep everyone on the same page. You understand differences of opinions and methods and work toward a team environment, even with those with whom you disagree.

Attitude: “A big part of this comes through in individual and organizations’ sense of commitment to what they are doing,” the article says. Does the manager promote the proper attitude, make her support staff see the mission of the company or organization? Do the support staff embrace the mission and goals of the organization? This is where someone might be said to have a “bad attitude,” and this could be the mark of death.

Values: As a manager, you must instill values that foster learning, advancement, creativity, autonomy, etc. Staff must hold the same values as the company, or there could be conflict. To understand the values of the company, you must ask the appropriate questions at the interview to uncover them. For example, “How important is creativity to ABC Company?” If you get a blank look, chances are you’re at the wrong interview.

Environment: The article talks about the way people approach the workplace in terms of “formality/informality, preferred office layout, etc,” but it’s really an accumulation of all the aforementioned components, in my opinion. Environment is created by upper and mid management and sustained by the support staff. How one behaves, relates to others, her attitude, and values, are what creates a healthy and efficient work environment, not dress and working hours.

It’s a well-known fact that employers look for three qualities in potential employees. Can they do the job? Will they do the job? And will they fit in? B.R.A.V.E answers the third component, the fit. You must prove that you can work with your support staff, inspire and motivate them to work toward the company’s goals. Likewise, you must show that you are adaptable and can work with any management style. Will you follow the B.R.A.V.E framework? Employers are banking on it.


10 reasons why your informational meetings aren’t working in your job search

meetingLet’s set one thing straight: it’s not an informational interview—although that’s how most people refer to it. It’s an informational or networking meeting. But regardless of its name, there are 10 reasons why your informational meeting will fail, if you approach it the ways listed below.

I’ve granted informational meetings, and in many cases they were uneventful. Uneventful because they were more like a question and answer session than a conversation. Dull. Furthermore, the questions were not well thought out.

I’ve asked for informational meetings and in most cases I was prepared for them. Often they went to the point where we could have talked longer. I gathered great information, whether it was encouraging or set my expectations straight.

The purpose of an informational meeting

Let’s be clear, no job has been advertised, so they’re not actual interviews. That’s why the terms “informational meetings” or “networking meetings” are more fitting.

You’re requesting an informational meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the questions, intelligent questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice; and no pressure on you.

Your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

Some reason why your informational meetings aren’t working in your job search

1. The questions you ask are weak. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because is lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I  have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem.

2. Your enthusiasm level is low. Chances are the person granting you the informational meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met, or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about. Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone–it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. You arrive or call late. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting. Set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. You’ll impress the person by being early.

4. You don’t have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda doesn’t provide direction. You come across as wimpy and disorganized. Your adviser is unsure of how this meeting will go.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition–if the person can speak to that point. While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. You don’t have data to back you up. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interest are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $30,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $15,000.

6 You don’t make the person feel like he’s doing you a favor. You make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the informational meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions,” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation. If you don’t do this, you’ll come across as a taker.

7. You ask for a job. Hold on. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. There’s no call for action. You don’t ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often jobseekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. You don’t reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website–this will fit nicely on your resume.

10. You don’t send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or thank you card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A network shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the informational meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation–perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company–going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.


 

Informational meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant informational meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

 

An introvert’s idea of a great vacation

beach

This summer I was fortunate to vacation with my family on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In my mind, this was a great vacation because it afforded me the time to reflect, draw my energy inward, and not concern myself with too much external stimuli. In three words: an introvert’s paradise.

Obviously my family and I spent most of the time at the beaches. The Cape Cod Bay was within walking distance to our north and the slamming waves of the Atlantic Ocean were to our south.

One day we would walk less than a quarter of a mile to the Bay, another we would drive to the Atlantic Ocean. In both cases, there was nothing more to do than sit in a beach chair, bake in the sun, and take a dip in the icy water.

Foolishly I tried my hand at body surfing. I caught a great wave and was carried ten or so feet until I hit the sand and tumbled end over end. My kids and wife laughed at me as I was pulling sand out of my hair and swim trunks and spitting more of it from my mouth. A week later my shoulders and stomach are still red from the sandpaper I slid across.

The best part of the vacation was the time I spent reading alongside my daughter, who was engaged in Gone Girl.The rest of the family was down by the ocean body surfing or floating on the surface. Occasionally they’d beckon us to join them, but we’d wave our hands at them indicating we were happy where we were. 

My daughter and I nary spoke a word to each other, save for asking the other to hand over a water and PB&J. We didn’t speak often because we didn’t have to. Delving into our books was our way of relaxing and reflecting. Our energy was directed inward and we were unaware of our surrounding. Total bliss.

TurtleOther moments I enjoyed were my 45-minute, morning walks. Our rental house was at the end of a dirt road on which our van would bottom out no matter how slow we drove. I saw small animals, like rabbits, turtles, and even one snake on this road.

I also collected branches and twigs for our nighttime fire. More than anything, these walks gave me time to think and enjoy the lack of “noise” I hear on a daily basis at home and work. 

On Friday we went into Provincetown to buy Tee-shirts, sweat shirts, and eat Portuguese fried dough. It was Carnival week, so the people were free of inhibitions and walking around in interesting outfits. This was truly a great time to people watch; direct my energy inward.

I couldn’t help but notice that many people were acting in an extraverted way; I was content simply walking with my family. I answered innocent questions from my son like, “Why is that man dressed like a woman?” with the only answer I could muster, “Because he can.”

Every night we built a fire in a small, rusted fire bowl. We talked about the day, laughing at silly moments like my daughter locking the keys in our van–the second time it’s happened to us during out two vacations on the Cape. We enjoyed reflecting on the week and making plans for the remaining days of the vacation. At a determined time I would leave the group and settle down to read in the comfort of the bed, with the fan blowing cool August air on me.

At one point of this glorious vacation my wife told me she received a text from one of our friends who was wondering if we wanted to join them for a get-together with other friends the day we returned from our vacation. The prospect of attending a party that would last long through the night was far from appealing. Maybe and extravert would jump at this opportunity, but the idea alone exhausted me. 

Some might consider my family’s vacation boring. That’s fine. I think it was the greatest vacation ever because it gave me time to relax and prepare for the day I would return to work and engage with people in my workshops.  

2 differences between the Résumé and LinkedIn Profile–Part 1

resume linkedinI tell attendees of my Advanced LinkedIn workshop, “Your LinkedIn profile is not your résumé.” It’s important for me to say this, as some of their LinkedIn profiles resemble their résumé. I can spot a copy-and-paste a mile away.

A LinkedIn “résumé” gives off a generic look rather than a unique document that makes LinkedIn a powerful tool for the job search. Potential employers are not looking for a rehash of your résumé; they’re looking for more, another look.

Let’s examine two differences between the résumé and profile.

The most obvious difference between the résumé and LinkedIn profile is the Photo. Because LinkedIn is a networking application and the résumé is a job search document, here is one major difference. A photo on your LinkedIn profile is necessary, as it enhances your brand. It may tell visitor you’re creative, sincere and compassionate, a leader, ambitious, serious, etc.

As well, a profile with a photo is more trustworthy and memorable. A recent statistic states that a profile with a photo is seven times more likely to be opened.  I for one will not open a profile if it lacks a photo, unless it’s someone I know.

I tell my attendees that despite their fear of age discrimination, a photo is necessary to network. Imagine attending a networking event where people walk around with a paper bag on their head. Not very personal.

The headline is second on the list of differences between the résumé and LinkedIn profile. An Advanced résumé must have a branding headline that immediately tells potential employers that you are the right person for the job. The headline is a simple line or two of what you do and some of your areas of strength. Here’s an example of a position-specific branding title:

Marketing Specialist 

Public Relations ~ Vendor Relations ~ Staff Supervision ~ Web Design ~ Event Coordination

Look at another branding headline that is written for a similar job:

Marketing Coordinator

Social Media | Trade Shows | International Travel | Increased Production | Graphic Design

Your LinkedIn profile has a branding headline that is similar to your résumé’s headline, save for the fact the profile isn’t written for a specific job. It needs to include more general skills/keywords. You may choose to use a branding statement instead. The same position may resemble this:

Marketing Specialist with expertise in Public Relations, Trade Shows, Vendor Relations, Web Content,
Event Coordination;
leading to increased visibility and profitability for your company.

Furthermore, the branding headline adds to the keyword count for those whose résumé will be sent through an applicant tracking system (ATS). As well it makes being found on LinkedIn more possible with key skills of your occupation and industry/ies.

In the next post, we’ll look at the differences between the résumé’s Core Competencies and the LinkedIn Skills and Expertise sections.

 

9 features of a professional résumé…and thoughts on Italian food


My wife and I recently ate at an Italian restaurant in the North End of Boston, where I had Linguine Alla Pescatore and Caprese Salad (with fried tomato). To say the food was out of this world would be an understatement. The atmosphere was authentic and boisterous, the waiter attentive.

What does fine Italian food have to do with a professional résumé? It’s akin to a WOW moment you want the employer to experience when she reads your professional résumé. So what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary? There are nine distinct features of a professional résumé. Read more of this post

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