Still talking about “we” during an interview?

Well, knock it off.

Commission having a Job interview.Some job candidates don’t think it’s a big deal to say “we” during an interview, when what the interviewers want to know about is what the candidates have accomplished; but hiring authorities are sensitive to the constant use of “we.” If you’ve been saying “we” instead of “I,” you need to knock it off.

Employers want to know what you’ve accomplished, what value you’ll bring to the organization, what roles you played in your teams’ efforts. They could care less about what your past teammates accomplished. You are in consideration for the job, not your former teammates.

I tell my workshop attendees that now is the time to talk about themselves. Some of them struggle with this concept; they they’re so proud of what they and their team members managed to accomplish because of the Herculean efforts to complete the projects or assignment. I couldn’t do it without them, they’d say. To that I say, “Where are your teammates now?”

Not to rain on your parade, but where are your teammates now? Who’s on your team in the job search?

As a former manager or a team leader, the use of “we” is more understandable, as you were the one who oversaw the team; your name is on the projects and assignments. But you should still insert “I” whenever you can; for example,

“Some of my sales people needed some guidance on installing our software at user sights, so I went with them and led them through the process. This cut down installs by at least half the time it would take. In addition, I liked interacting with the customers.”

Job candidates should answer questions by using a story format whenever possible. Given the following question: “Tell us about a time when your manager opposed one of you ideas, but you were able to persuade him/her t to adopt it.” In this case use the C.A.R formula.

Challenge: “I approached the vice president to suggest we implement social media marketing, as there was none at the credit union at that time. He was reluctant to start a social media marketing campaign, especially since this was a small credit union.”

Actions: “Instead of arguing with him about my idea, I decided to persuade him by showing him the benefits. I took a number of actions.

  1. The first of which was to find as many credit unions and banks as possible on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I was somewhat amazed by the number credit unions represented on each platform.
  2. Once I had a sampling of ten institutions, I next began studying how many connections, followers, and friends each one had.
  3. I determined that 8 of the 10 credit unions had a good presence on all three platforms, so I developed a spreadsheet that would show the analytic data of each company.
  4. I felt the best way to really figure out how prominent a role social media played for each company would be to enlist help from my assistant. I asked him to call the companies to ask them if they new the ROI from their social media campaigns.
  5. He was able to determine that six credit unions benefited greatly from all three platforms and came up with some great figures. With his information, I was ready to approach the VP of marketing and make my case.
  6. At first he seemed agitated that I continued to press him on this matter, but I stood my ground. I showed him the research on a detailed PowerPoint presentation my assistant and I created, letting him look at it for half the day.

Result: By the time I approached him to finish the conversation, he asked me how I would have the time to head up this new social media marketing campaign. If you’d like to hear about how I instituted a very successful social media marketing campaign, I’d be happy to tell you the story.

In my Interview Boot Camp workshops I occasionally hear the absence of “I” in my participants’ answers, and I call them on it. What’s more, so do the other participants who are there to critique each others’ answers. When they hear “we” instead of “I,” they realize how important it is to take credit for their work. You have permission to take credit for your work.

Not sure which skills to endorse your LinkedIn connections for; just ask

8019872506_0ab92a04ac_oBy now the raging debate over endorsements and recommendations is subsiding; at least I hope so. I know on which side I stand. To me recommendations have more merit. They require more knowledge of the person being recommended. It also take a bit of courage to ask for them.

Endorsements, on the other hand, can require very little to no knowledge of the recipient; and one doesn’t even need to ask for them. They’re like a gift.

But…say the endorsement proponents…the act of endorsing someone is a compliment, promotes activity and networking, and is quick and easy. (See image to the right: “Introducing One Click Endorsements.”)

Whether you agree that recommendations are more valid than endorsements is irrelevant; they’re here to stay. Think about it. Endorsements have taken recommendations’ spot on the “required in order to achieve 100% or All Star status” list. As well, recommendations are “buried and anchored” at the bottom of your profile, whereas the Skills and Endorsements section can be moved about like a dandelion in the wind.

But this is not a post on the great Endorsement/Recommendation debate. This is a post about how to better endorse someone. This is about truth, not clicking on a skill you’ve never seen someone perform. This is about engaging with your connections. This is the answer to your worries about doing the wrong thing.

How to endorse someone the proper way.

It occurred to me one time when I wanted to endorse one of my valued connections for his skills that I knew nothing about how well he performed them. So I decided to ask him. “Greg,” I wrote, “I want to endorse you for some skills but don’t know which ones.” His reply was to endorse him for his top five (he didn’t want to be greedy). So that’s what I did.

I could have done what every other wrongful endorser does, which is to endorse him for the skills that have the most endorsements, but I wanted to be truthful…to the best of my knowledge.

What is your next move? Whenever you see that blue box that appears at the top of your profile–The one that suggests endorsing your connections–ignore it. In fact, turn off the feature that allows you to see that hideous, shameful box. This box encourages you to do exactly what many complain about, endorse people for skills you may have never witnessed.

Shutting this box off is very easy to do. Go to Skills and Endorsements section of your profile; next click on one of the pencils next to any skill; and finally deselect “Show me suggestions to endorse my connections.” By doing this you won’t be tempted to wrongfully endorse someone.

Instead you’ll have to visit your connections’ profiles to check which skills are listed, and manually write a note to them asking, “I’d like to endorse you for your five (or ten, if you’re generous) best skills. Which are they?”

But, you may contest, what if they’re not really proficient in those skills, that they only want to build up some of their other skills? You’ve got me there. I’m guessing you’ll simply have to trust them. I trusted my friend, Greg, because I’ve built an online relationship with him that has lasted over time. If I were to ask any of my other connections, I’d have to put trust in them, as well. Even if my interactions with them were limited.

How can I assist my connections to endorse me without asking?

This is something I wrote about in March of 2014. I called it 2 important hints about LinkedIn endorsements. In the post I suggest that you arrange your skills in the order in which you want your skills to be endorsed. Not by the default setting, which is the largest number of endorsements in descending order. I’ve noticed that increasingly more of my connections have taken this hint, whether they’ve heard it from me or someone else.

You can help by endorsing your connections’ skills in the way they’re organized in descending order. The way your connections arrange their skills is a refection on their brand and how they want to be known. Unfortunately many LinkedIn connections will hone in on the skills with the largest number of endorsements, which doesn’t help branding the recipients.

By theory, asking your connections how they want to be endorsed should work.

We all know how our best intentions turn out. They can work majestically, gain some traction, or crash and burn. Where one person may appreciate being asked about which skills she’d like to be endorsed for, another may feel self-conscious, maybe a little creeped out. I leave it up to you to do what you feel is best. You can continue to endorsed someone based on his greatest number of endorsements, or you can ask.

I think I’ll ASK.

You’ll receive many opinions of your résumé; rely on 10 sure things

10Whose advice should you follow when you’re writing your résumés? Knowing the answer to this dilemma may require a crystal ball, for without it you won’t be 100% sure of who will provide the right answers.

Do you heed the advice of professional résumé writers, recruiters, HR, or hiring managers? They all offer good advice, but their advice will be different. In fact, you can ask 20 résumé experts their opinions on how you should write your résumés, and you’ll get 20 different answers. So who is correct?

The answer is the person who invites you in for an interview is correct. Résumé reviewers are somewhat subjective when they read résumés, and sometimes there’s no rhyme nor reason.

While one person may like accomplishments listed upfront, another may prefer them listed in your employment section. While one person prefers two-page résumés, another might favor one-pagers. While one person may not be concerned with flowery prose in your professional profile, another may hate it, as I do.

The point being, you’re the one who needs to decide if your résumé is ready to go. Do you want to drive yourself nuts by having a slew of people give you their “expert” advice, revising your résumé twenty times over?

Now, there are certain rules on writing effective résumés that you should heed in no particular order. These are ten sure things that need to be in place to offer you the best chance of success.

  1. Quantified results are a must*. Employers are not interested in a grocery list of duties; they’re drawn to significant accomplishments that are quantified with numbers, dollars, and percentages. Did you simply increase productivity? Or did you increase productivity by 55% percent?
  2. Please no clichés or unsubstantiated adaptive skills. The new rule is to show rather than tell. Yes, you may be innovative; but what makes you innovative? Did you develop a program for inner-city youth that promoted a cooperative environment, reducing violent crime by 50%? If so, state it in your profile as such.
  3. Tailor your résumé to each job, when possible. Employers don’t want a one-fits-all résumé that doesn’t address their needs or follow the job description. It’s insulting. By the way, for all you job board junkies, a résumé using the Target Job Deconstruction method is an adequate alternative to tailoring hundreds of résumés.
  4. Your résumé needs to show relevance. Employers are interested in the past 10 or 15 years of your work history; in some cases less. Anything you did beyond 20 years isn’t relevant; the technology is obsolete. Age discrimination may also be a concern, so don’t show all 25-30 years of your work life.**
  5. Keywords are essential for certain occupations that are technical in nature. They’re the difference between being found by the applicant tracking system (ATS) at the top of the list or not at all. (ATS are said to eliminate 75% of applicants.) Again, job board faithfuls must have their keywords peppered throughout their résumé.
  6. Size matters. Some employers are reading hundreds of résumés for one job, so do them a favor and don’t submit a résumé that doesn’t warrant its length. The general rule is two pages are appropriate providing you have the experience and accomplishments to back it up. More than two pages requires many relevant accomplishments. In some cases a one-page résumé will do the job.
  7. No employer cares what you need. That’s right; employers care about what they need. If you happen to care what they need and can solve their problems and make them look good, they’ll love you. So drop the meaningless objective statement that speaks only about you and not how you can meet the employer’s needs.
  8. Start your résumé with a punch. Below your name and contact information lies your branding headline. Within approximately 90 characters you can capture the employer’s attention with stating what you do and in what capacity. Project Manager doesn’t do it like: Project Manager | Lean Six Sigma | Team Building | Enhanced Product Line.
  9. Make it easy to read. Your résumé should  not only be visually appealing, it should be visually readable. Employers who read hundreds of résumé s will glance at them for as few as 10 seconds before deciding to read them at length. Make your résumé scannable by writing shorter paragraphs, three to four lines at most.
  10. WOW them. Use accomplishments in your Performance Profile. That’s right, grab their attention with quantified accomplishments early on. “Volunteered to assume the duties of website development and design, while also excelling at public relations, resulting in $50,000 savings for the company” will entice the reviewer to continue reading.

At some point you need to go with what works—a résumé that will land you interviews. I don’t care if it’s written on a napkin and delivered in a Starbucks’ cup (it’s been done). If it’s getting you interviews, go with it. If it isn’t getting you interviews, there’s something lacking on your résumé, but carefully chose one or two people who can offer you sound advice. And remember the 10 must have’s on your résumé.

* It is agreed that not every positive result can be quantified with numbers, dollars, or percentages, particularly if you don’t have access to these figures. To simply say you increased…or decreased…can be enough.

** In some cases, executive-level jobseekers, more years of experience may be more helpful. A superintendent of schools with 30 years of experience will probably have more luck than one with only five years of experience.

Photo from Andrea, Flickr

6 tips for getting out of the house during your job search

messy officeOne bit of advice I give my career center orientation attendees is to get out of the house every day. I know that some of them are sitting behind their computers until their eyes ache and the computer is humming at them. I also know it’s not healthy to be alone with one’s despondency. Been there.

When I tell them, “Get out of the house,” some laugh and nod with approval, others look at me with interest, and others with amusement. This advice, I give them, is perhaps the most important message they’ll leave with.

Having been out of work for 10 months more than 14 years ago, I understand how it is important to leave the house to escape the computer, the kids, the television, the cleaning. All of it. You know the saying, “If I knew then what I know now…” So let me offer you some suggestions for getting out of the house.

1. Go where people are. If this means going to your local career center, a library, Penera Bread, Starbucks, a park; then do it. Being around people has a therapeutic effect. Hearing the voice of others provides you with the distractions you need in order to avoid the deep well of despondency. It can reduce the loneliness you may feel from being cooped up at home.

Talk to people, even if you don’t know them. But understand if they’re not amenable to a discussion. Keep it short if you sense they’re busy or focused on something else. When they keep their eyes on the computer screen, this is a hint that they’re not open to a dialog.

2. Go to the gym or take long walks. How you prefer to exercise and let off steam is up to you. I find walking to be a great way to clear my mind, as well as strategize about what I need to do. While I was out of work, I increased my walking regiment from 45 minutes a day to 90 minutes. I walked and walked and walked. Bonus: it’s free.

Keep your routine. You’re no longer waking to go to your former place of employment, but you will continue to rise at the same time to exercise. I always suggest to my career center customers that they increase their exercise or start exercising if they’re not already doing it. Develop a plan that is doable for you, whether it’s everyday, or every other day.

3. Coordinate a small networking meeting, better known as a meetup. This might include gathering with other professionals, such as project managers who have an interest or knowledge in Lean Six Sigma. Although the meetup is for educational purposes, it’s a great place to connect and share employment possibilities. Here is the link for Meet

An alternative to a professional meetup could be gathering for various interests. Perhaps one of your interests is reading, and a group of locals meet to pontificate on science fiction or nonfiction. Use this opportunity to unwind and put the job search behind you for those two hours. You need a break from your search.

4. Attend networking events. For some people networking is a bit intimidating because they feel forced to talk to people they don’t know. Attend a few networking events to get the hang of it. If you need to stay back and listen at first, that’s fine. However, eventually you’ll get the hang of it and feel more comfortable.

Determine some goals before you go to the networking groups. You may decide you only want to talk with a few people at each event. Perhaps you plan to meet someone you know or, better yet, you travel together to an event. Some groups specialize in particular industries, such as IT, medical, finance, legal, etc., so you may want to focus on one where you’ll be with people of the same interests.

5. Volunteer at an organization that needs your talents. You’ve probably heard a great deal about how volunteering is great for your job search. And you probably think, why should I offer my services for free? I get your concern. Who wants to work without getting paid?

Think about it logically. By volunteering you’ll enhance the skills you possess, as well as possibly learning new skills. You’ll not only increase your skill set; you’ll also put yourself in a place to gather labor market information and network. Keep in mind that some say by 27% by volunteering.

6. Ask for networking meetings. I don’t call these informational interviews for a reason. When you ask someone for an informational interview, their reaction won’t be as positive as if you were to ask her for some advice. Tell her you’re interested in gathering some information about a new career or one in her type of company, not her company.

You’re the one asking the questions, so make them intelligent questions. The goal is to impress the person with whom you’re speaking so if there’s a position developing at the company, she might suggest your name to the hiring manager. At the very least, try to leave with other people with whom you can speak.

As simple as it sounds, getting out of your house can greatly help your job search. It helps your fragile state of mind to get away from your computer or, worse yet, the television; and increases your networking opportunities. My strong suggestion is to dress business casual when your out and about, as well as present a positive attitude. You never know when you’ll meet a potential employer.

Also keep in mind that your job search is important and that others’ needs will have to take a backseat to your activities. In other words, be selfish. You can’t watch the kids or grandchildren when you have a workshop or networking event to attend. You have to meet with a networking colleague for coffee, no questions asked. In other words, BE SELFISH.

4 components employers are looking for in job candidates.

A Forbes magazine’s article, Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions,  confirmed what employers are looking for in candidates. This is not new news; employers want people who can 1) do the job, 2) will do the job, and 3) will fit in (or be tolerated).

But there’s a fourth piece to the puzzle Forbes doesn’t mention, which is “can we afford you?” Unfortunately, this seems to be almost as important as the other three requirements, as evidenced by the phone screening, where you’ll most likely get the salary question.

Let’s look at the four components employers look for in a candidate.

1. Can you do the job? Of course interviewers won’t ask the questions phrased as such: Can you do the job? Rather they’ll pose them as: “What skills do you see being necessary to do the job?” “Tell me how you’ll handle problem X.” “What kind of experience do you have in the areas of Y?” And other questions that gauge your technical abilities.

For many employers this is the most important component of the potential employee, but the following three cannot be overlooked. Having the technical know-how is essential to performing the job and advancing in your career, but there are other qualities employers look for in candidates, perhaps qualities on par with the hard skills.

2. Will you do the job? For the motivation part, they’ll want to know if you’ll enjoy the responsibilities and the mission of the organization. Will you work until the job is finished? “Why do you want to work for this company?” may be a question you’ll have to field. Think about it; would you want to hire someone who isn’t totally into working for your company? Probably not.

How can you prove your desire to work for the company? Stories using the Situation-Task-Action-Result (STAR) formula are a great way to demonstrate competencies that talk to your desire to do the job.

3. Will you fit? Showing that you’ll be a good fit is a tough shell to crack and a concern many employers have. It’s about your personality. They don’t want to hire someone they’ll have to let go because he can’t get along with co-workers. In this area you’re likely to get behavioral-based directives, such as: “Tell me about a time when you had to deal with an irate colleague.”

To some employers this is even more important to demonstrate at an interview than the technical piece. Technical, or job-related skills, can be learned. Most personality skills are difficult to learn, if not impossible. Read this article in which the author asks the following questions about employees teaching their employees teaching these skills:

“Can you train someone to become more sensitive? What about teaching a talkative person to become a listener?”

A surprising figure stated in the article claims that: “40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.”

4. Are you affordable? Salary negotiation makes some people’s skin crawl because they see it as a confrontational discussion, when in fact it’s straight forward. Companies don’t want you to resent them by paying you too little. However, a smart company sees this as business, so they’re not going to give away the farm.

“What do you think you’re worth?” might be a question you’ll get. Or, “What did you make at your last company.” Be prepared to answer it so you don’t lose out on the salary you deserve. As well, don’t be surprised if you’re out of their price-range. The final piece.

Being able to address the three most obvious concerns employers have is what gets you to the fourth concern, can they afford you. If you do a great job with the first three, the last one should go smoothly, just as long as you’re reasonable.

Procrastination: the curse of the Perceiver

I’m supposed to be writing a résumé for a customer but instead am sitting at Panera Bread at 8:30 pm checking my e-mail. After I check my e-mail, I’ll go to LinkedIn to see what my connections are up to. Most of my connections are connecting with others, some are posting articles, and others are  joining groups.

So I check if any of the articles are interesting. Cool, one of my connections  posted an article on…procrastination. Gotta check this out for sure. I read it and it’s a great article on how procrastination is not a desirable trait but not the end of the world.

One take-away for me is that one must avoid perfectionism, something I truly detest. I mean, if you can complete a task in one hour rather than three, all the better, even if the quality isn’t the best it possibly can be.

Another statement the author makes is that one’s way of not doing the important thing is to do something else. Like reading instead of completing their expense report before it’s due. In my case it’s perusing my e-mails instead of tending to this darn résumé I’m supposed to be writing.

My daughter recently took the MBTI for a psychology class she’ll be taking. She came out as an ENFP. When she told me, I told her she’s screwed. Why, Perceivers often tend to procrastinate even though they end up getting their work done. My wife and I are still waiting for her to complete a project she could have crossed off the list at the beginning of the summer. She’s a procrastinator for sure.

I often tell my MBTI workshop attendees that two very important dichotomies are Judging and Procrastinating…I mean Perceiving. Although we try to avoid harping on the stereotypes of each dichotomy, it is important to note that those who prefer Perceiving can have the tendency to procrastinate.

What this means in the job search is that Perceivers tend to produce and deliver their résumé, cover letter, and application later than those who prefer Judging. Those Judgers would never be turning to Twitter when they’re supposed to be writing a résumé. In some cases a Perceiver might fail to send in the necessary information and, thus, lose out on a potential interview.

I know for sure that the more demanding and more undesirable the work I have to do, the more I’ll tend to put it off till the 11th hour. I’m not racked with anxiety but, as you can tell, I am a bit uncomfortable having this assignment hanging over my head. So why don’t I just finish writing the résumé now, instead of waiting till the last moment? (Read this article about how difficult it is to “flex” between Perceiving and Judging.”

I’m much better at giving advice than following it. So I tell jobseekers who are having difficulty getting their résumé written to perfection to send in their best work when a deadline is looming. It doesn’t have to be perfect (because perfection doesn’t exist); it’s more important to get it in than miss the deadline.

The Judging types don’t understand this conundrum, as they’re prone to making lists and schedules and following their plans to a T. They wouldn’t be sitting at Panera Bread reading their e-mails and tweets, thinking of ways to avoid writing a darn résumé, wondering if a bagel is in order. No, they would be concerned about getting that résumé done and then ordering a bagel, which they’d eat in good conscience.

For all that’s great about preferring Perceiving, such as spontaneity, adaptability, a laid-back demeanor; it sometimes sucks procrastinating and putting undue anxiety on yourself. Take it from me.

The 6 lessons to learn from the school of the job search…

Find a job

…before you even send out your résumé.

If there’s anyone who’s tired of hearing, “The job search is a full time job,” it’s me. This cliché is as worn out as my favorite pair of jeans. So I’m proposing a different saying: “The job search is like going to school.” Why? Because going to school implies learning something, whereas a full time job can mean a whole slew of things.

Remember school where your intellect was challenged, where you studied hard and debated harder, where you looked forward to your next round table lesson on Jung and King Lear? Or the challenging material you tackled in Embedded Computing in Engineering Design? It was good stuff.

The lessons of the job search are of a different nature but are important in their own regard. The following six lessons I propose you must learn before sending out your résumé.

Lesson One: It sucks losing your job. This is the first lesson you learn from the job search. And how well you handle this it will determine your success. Let me advise you to allow yourself a period of suffering, no less than three days, no more than two weeks*. It’s not clear if everyone goes through the five stages of grief in the same order, or if you’ll even experience all five stages of grief, which are.

  1. Denial and Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

For example, you may skip denial and isolation, bargaining, or depression. I would personally call depression a bit strong; I prefer despondency. My point being is that no two people handle the emotional aspect of the job loss the same.

Lesson Two: Know what you want to do before acting. Picture saying to your kids and wife/husband that the whole family is going on a trip, and they ask, “Where?” Your response is “I don’t know.” Your family members won’t have faith in your planning ability. This lesson is important because without knowing what you want to do–where you’re going on your trip–you’ll be spinning your wheels. You’ll lack direction and be totally ineffective.

So when jobseekers tell me they’re not sure what they want to do, I tell them until they know what they want to do, all the dandy advice they’ve been receiving is a waste of time. There are numerous career tests and personality assessments you can take that gauge your interests, skills, and values, but I’m a firm believer in also searching your soul for what you want to do.

Lesson Three: Let people know you’re looking for work. This seems like the most obvious lesson, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t let their friends, neighbors, convenience store owner, hair stylist, etc., know they’re out of work. How can these people help you if the don’t know.

I remember years ago when one of my customers came to my office just before Christmas. I asked him what his plans were and he told me his family was hosting the dinner. Great I replied. But what he said threw me for a loop. “It’s going to be weird. No one knows I’m out of work,” he replied. Family and friends can be your best allies.

Lesson Four: Futility 101. Anyone who thinks sending out 600 résumés will result in 300 interviews and 30 job offers probably also believes the sun revolves around the earth. Despite the many blog posts, books, and speakers who say using job boards as the primary method of looking for work is a waste of time; many jobseekers still do this.

Six hundred is not a number I drew out of a hat. I recall reading on LinkedIn about a person who was seeking career advice and was bewildered that she hadn’t received one interview. Yes, she had mailed out 600 résumés and waited for the phone to ring.

Lesson Five: Do your research. Remember when you were in school and had to do research to write papers? Now your research is even more important. So instead of “shotgunning” résumés, research the companies for which you’d like to work. Develop a list of 20 or so companies and determine where there’s growth by going to their websites. For companies showing growth, send approach letters asking to meet with someone at the company for an informational meeting.

Key points: Don’t ask for a job during the informational meetings. Instead ask illuminating questions that create a vibrant conversation, a conversation that will secure an important connection. Who knows, maybe there is a job developing at the company. You might be recommended to the hiring manager if you’re able to impress your new connection.

Lesson Six: Connect with others. Whether you want to attend networking events or prefer to focus on connecting in the community, make sure you’re identifying people who can be of assistance. LinkedIn’s Companies feature has proved to be a great tool for this, but simply making inquiries can work as well.

One of my customers came to me one day and said, “Bob, I found a job!” Great I told him. “Yeah, but I didn’t network,” he told me. “No, I handed my résumé to my neighbor; he handed it to the hiring manager in the department I wanted to work; I was called in for an interview; and I got the job. Connecting works in many ways.

Having completed all the lessons above, now it’s time to send your résumé to companies you’ve identified as the ones you’d like to work for. Next we’ll look at the remaining lessons of the job search.