5 possible reasons why you didn’t get the job

The process of getting a job at a company for which you’d like to work can be grueling, cruel, and full of questions and uncertainties; but I don’t need to tell you this if you’ve been conducting a rigorous job search.

A jobseeker who attended a number of my workshops and sat with me for a mock interview and a résumé critique recently got a job. I was extremely happy to hear of his success, but it wasn’t an easy process for him. He worked diligently to land his job, while suffering through multiple rejections.

He and I knew he was qualified for the positions for which he applied. He made it to many last-round interviews only to find out he wasn’t selected. Recruiters continued to knock on his door to set him up for more interviews; at least one a week. He was becoming despondent, and I was trying to be supportive. His story ended positively.

Sandra McCartt writes in her article, It’s Not Your Fault—It’s a Negative Flawed Process. Deal with It Positively, jobseekers who enlist the help of recruiters often don’t understand what goes on behind the scenes during the hiring process; what goes terribly wrong when jobseekers think they have the job wrapped up.

You may have not considered or want to accept this, but there are various reasons why employers erroneously hire who they do. “First, this process does not always result in the best candidate being selected. There are a whole host of good reasons for this to occur,” writes Ms. McCartt. There are also as many poor reasons for why candidates aren’t hired.

  1. Legitimate reasons. Ms. McCartt mentions legitimate reasons such as relocation, compensation, or other financial issues. Hiring a candidate is a business transaction, so if you’re going to put too much of a dent into the company’s pocketbook, there’s only one solution—the company ends the business transaction. Or you just don’t make the grade, whether it’s because you lack the technical skills or you don’t have the personality for the work environment–no fault of yours.
  2. They went with someone inside. It’s not uncommon for a company to advertise a position even when they have an internal hire in mind. But the company wants to make certain that they hire the best possible person, so they test the water and conduct a traditional search. You’re better qualified but not as well known as their internal candidate. As well, the company is fostering good will among its employees.
  3. You’re too good. Many jobseekers have told me that the hiring manager who interviewed them was less knowledgeable; that they could do the HM’s job. Understandably the HM felt insecure, harboring “you’ll-take-my-job” feelings and decided to go with a safer, less qualified candidate. Perhaps one of the other candidates the recruiter sent to them for consideration.
  4. Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers. Many HMs aren’t trained to conduct interviews to capture the most complete candidate. Their priority is usually hiring someone who has the best technical qualifications. In finding someone who can handle the responsibilities in their sleep, HMs neglect another important aspect of the job—the personal fit. Great interviewers realize an interview that involves a combination of traditional and behavioral-based questions is the most effect way to find the best overall candidate, you.
  5. Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases. Nepotism is one blatant reason why people are hired for a position. One of my customers was told she was being let go so the owner could hire his cousin. He actually admitted it to her. And there’s always a candidate’s appearance, attractive or not, that may come in play. “Am I going to tell a less than attractive candidate that they didn’t get the job because the hiring manager thought they were butt ugly?” writes Ms. McCartt. “Of course not, they can’t do anything about it. The next hiring manager may be double dog ugly and think that candidate is a doll.”

What we’re left with after a candidate isn’t hired for one, or many, of these reasons mentioned above is a disheartened jobseeker; a recruiter who won’t receive her bonus; and an HM who hopes he has hired the ideal person for the job. There’s only one winner out of the possible hundreds of candidates in the process. I’m not stupid enough to believe telling you the reasons why you didn’t get the job will provide you any solace, but hopefully you’ll understand that you’re not to blame.

Unfair as this seems, it’s a fact of life that the hiring process is flawed. What should you do in the face of such adversity? “Accept the rejection as just that, the result of a flawed process with vague outcomes,” Ms. McCartt advises. And never take it personally.

So you didn’t get the job; ask yourself 3 questions

So you didn’t get the job you wanted. You nailed the interview, had rapport with the interviewers, they loved you and said you’re in consideration for the job. But your recruiter said they went with someone who was a better fit. Does this sound familiar?

In my Interview workshops I ask people if they’ve been on interviews lately. Some raise their hand, so I ask them how the interviews went. Their typical response, “Not so well. I didn’t get the job.”

To assuage their disappointment by explaining they may have done perfectly well at the interview but didn’t have one of the three components employers’ look for—they didn’t meet the technical requirements for the job. Having the other two components, willing to do the job and being a good fit, just didn’t cut it. Too bad.

Let’s face it, recruiters, HR, and hiring managers are foremost concerned about your ability to handle the task assigned to you. The other two components are important, but the first priority is meeting the job specifics. This may be wrong according to Mike Michalowicz ‘s article in WSJ.com called The Best Recruits May Not Be Who You Think, but many employers don’t realize the value of the variable. He writes:

“When hiring new employees, most recruiters consider qualifications first – and last. They’re looking for someone with the best education, the most experience and the most impressive skills. This is a mistake because you can teach employees what you want them to know, you can give them the experience you want them to have, but you can’t change who they are on a fundamental level. Their attitude, values, willingness and work ethic are all ingrained in them.”

Let’s take a marketing specialist position that lists the following requirements:

  1. Familiarity with data storage software.
  2. Write copy for direct mail and electronic distribution, including web content.
  3. Manage relations with appropriate departments.
  4. Coordinate projects with outside vendors.
  5. Speaking with media, partners, and customers.
  6. Research competitors’ websites and reporting activity.
  7. Coordinate trade shows.
  8. Photo shoots/animation development, webinars, product launch planning.
  9. Willingness to travel 25%.
  10. Plus a Master’s Degree in Marketing preferred.

Now, if the other candidates have all the technical ingredients for the job, and you’re lacking webinar production experience and coordinating projects with outside vendors, have limited experience speaking with the media; the decision of whether you advance to the next round may be based on your lack of experience.

You may be perceived as someone who is motivated to work at the company, because you express enthusiasm for the duties and challenges presented; and come across as a great personality fit, because you demonstrate adaptability to any environment and management style. But these components usually aren’t weighed as heavily by the interviewers.

The fact is that most hiring authorities must be assured that you can hit the ground running. They want to hire someone who has 80%-100% of the requirements under their belt. You can’t beat yourself up for not getting the job, despite shining in every other way.

CareerCenterToolBox.com published an article called 5 Things You Need to do After the Interview, in which one of the things suggested was to evaluate your performance. It says: “Right after the interview, recall what happened. You need to start by asking yourself these three vital questions:

  1. What went wrong?
  2. What went right?
  3. What can be improved?

As I tell my workshop attendees, “What went wrong?” was probably the fact that another candidate presented him/herself as more qualified for the position based on his/her experience. Or there are other reasons that were out of your control. Here are five possible reasons:

  1. Legitimate reasons like costs to the company.
  2. They went with someone inside.
  3. You’re too good.
  4. Hiring managers are sometimes incompetent interviewers.
  5. Unfortunately hiring managers make decisions based on personal biases.

What went right? You stood up to the pressure of an interview and presented an articulate, thoughtful, and personable candidate. You answered all their questions with confidence and poise, maintained eye contact. When asked about direct experience, you highlighted transferable skills that would make the transition seamless. You learned more about what is expected at an interview.

What can improve? Ideally you’ll apply for jobs where you have 80%-100% of the job-related requirements; but don’t shy away from jobs where you only meet 75% of the requirements, because occasionally employers see other qualities in you other than the alphabet soup. Please don’t throw in the towel yet. Keep fighting the good fight!

Prepare for behavioral interviews

One workshop I designed almost four years ago was on behavioral interviewing. At that time most of my customers told me they’d never heard of behavioral-based interviews. Even now many are in the dark about these interviews.

Those who have experienced behavioral interviews admit they’ve had difficulty answering questions that begin with, “Tell me about a time when….” Which is not hard for me to believe given the fact that this type of interview is new to many of them (many haven’t interviewed in 10 or more years).

On the other side of the desk, many interviewers are not trained to ask behavioral questions. Instead they fall back on traditional questions that lack creativity and can be answered with rehearsed replies. “Tell me about yourself?” or “What are your two greatest weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” are all predictable questions. Traditional interviews are easy for applicant to prepare for.

In addition, traditional questions are theoretical—in other words, the interviewee might not have performed, or failed to perform, the desired competencies. The candidate can essentially tell the interviewer whatever he/she wants to hear. This is not to say all traditional  questions don’t have value. They are necessary in determining the applicant’s technical abilities, and some questions, such as, “Why did you leave your last company?” are necessary to ask. But to get to the heart of the candidate, behavioral questions are the best way to accomplish this.

How do you prepare for behavioral interviews? Is it possible?

Preparing for a behavioral interview is possible, albeit more difficult than preparing for a traditional interview.  In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, it requires acute knowledge of the position’s requirements.

If you are able to identify eight or more competencies required for the position, you can predict, within reason, the types of questions that will be asked. For example, if the job ad calls for someone who is organized, demonstrates excellent verbal and written communications, is dead-line driven, is a leader, etc., you can expect questions such as:

“Tell us about a time when your organization skills resulted in a smooth delivery of services.”

“Give me an example of when your verbal communications skills made it possible for you to solve a conflict between colleagues.”

“Tell me about a time when your leadership faltered and resulted in a conflict between a subordinate and you. What did you learn from your error?”

Questions like these will require you to tell a compelling story for each of these skills. How you tell your stories is important. They will consist of a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is the situation and task, the middle is the action taken to meet the situation, and the end is the positive, or negative, result. STAR is the acronym you’ll want to keep in mind.

What I tell my customers to keep in mind is that not all questions will call for a positive result; some will ask about a time when you failed to deliver a product or perform a task successfully, for example. Obviously you don’t want to elaborate on these situations. Can you prepare for behavioral questions? Sure.

10 common interview questions; the good, bad, and the ugly

After reading yet another article–written by an executive–on the “toughest interview question ever,” I decided to pull this post from the archives, because the question he writes about is one I consider to be not so tough. What is the question you’re wondering? I mention it among the 10 good, bad, and ugly interview question. Read further.

What makes a question great? It challenges the applicant but doesn’t cross the illegal-question boundary or insult the candidate’s intelligence. What makes an interview question stupid? It’s one to which you can rehearse the answer and arrive at the interview ready to shoot it off like cannon.

Further, it shows the inexperience of the interviewer. Here’s one, “What is your greatest weakness?” Ironically this is one that jobseekers struggle with, but they really shouldn’t. More on this later on.

Here are 10 typical questions which I rank them from 1-10, 1 being idiotic and 10 being great.

  1. Tell me about yourself. This is more of a directive and is one you should expect at least at 7 out of 10 interviews. I give this an 8 because it challenges your nerve and sets the tone for the interview. You’re being tested on summarizing your strengths and accomplishments, as well as how you deliver your answer. Know your personal commercial (or elevator speech) and know how to adapt it to the job and company to which you’re applying.
  2. What is your greatest strength. This question earns a 5. Why? Because you can practice answering this in many different variations. It’s easy to adapt to the situation. The company needs a great leader, well there you go. Communication skills, bingo. Technical knowledge, you get the point. You should have not problem with this question, unless the interviewer has one in mind and posses it as a behavioral question, “Give me an example of when your leadership skills helped a team reach its goal.”
  3. What would your former boss say about you? This question actually isn’t that bad. I give it a for the stress factor. You can think about your strengths and accomplishments till the sun sets, but the interviewer makes you think about what someone else thinks of you—not what you think of you. And there’s a chance your former boss might be contacted. Dorothy Tannahill-Moran writes an article in a series of how to answer this question and other questions.
  4. Why should we hire you? I like this question because it makes you address three major components employers look for in a candidate—your ability to do the job, your willingness to do the job, and your ability to fit in. This question is the most important one an interviewer will ask. It deserves a 9. Here’s a pretty decent article on this difficult question. Essentially if you can’t answer this question, you don’t deserve to be applying for the job. Expect it to be asked in different ways, e.g., “What makes you unique?” “Why should I hire you over 15 other candidates?”
  5. What is your greatest weakness? Here’s the thing, no one is going to admit to their greatest weakness, and everyone is so nontransparent that this question should be barred from all interviews. Because 1 is the lowest number, that’s what it gets. A word of advice, never tell the interviewer you’re a perfectionist. First of all, they’ve all heard it before. And second, it has too many negative connotations. A perfectionist is someone who expects things to be perfect and, therefore, doesn’t complete projects on time. As well, words like OCD, depression, and anxiety have been associated with it. Tell them for a non-writing job that your spelling could use work.
  6. What sort of pay do you expect to receive? If you haven’t gotten this one during a phone interview, you’ll certainly get it at a face-to-face. It’s a necessary question, as the employer has to know how much you’ll cost them, and you’re not going to work for peanuts.This is the biggest stressor to many people. They feel they’ll be raked over the coals, which is a possibility. This question earns a 9, but only because it has to be asked and answered.
  7. How does your previous experience relate to the jobs we have here? Really dumb question. Know the job requirements and how you qualify for every one of them. This question deserves a 3, only because it requires you to read the job description and connect the dots.
  8. What are your plans for the future? Better than, “Where do you expect to be five years from now?” because it’s testing your career orientation and ambition, as well as what you know about the position. For example, if the position on the table is a dead-end one, don’t talk about rising to management. This is particularly true with grant-funded positions that will end in a year or two. I think this question is worth a 6.
  9. Why are you looking for this sort of position and why here? This two-part question is another way of testing your enthusiasm for the job and company. Be careful about revealing too much information, such as how you left your last company. Stick to the two parts of this question, which is pretty decent, an 8.
  10. Do you have any questions for me? I give this one a perfect 10. Why, you may wonder. It’s quite obvious that the interviewer wants to hear what you learned from the interview. What questions you have about the job, company, company’s competitors, and even the industry? She wants to hear intelligent, thought-provoking questions you’ve formulated during your meeting and ones you’ve brought with you. Go to the interview with 10-15 questions written down on note cards or a piece of paper. Ask if you can refer to your questions; this shows preparedness and interest in the position and company.

These questions have popped up in article after article. There are others employers will ask, but some of these are bound to pop up at your interview. Traditional questions are the easiest to answer; now read about behavioral-based interviews.

3 ways introverts need to promote themselves in the job search

I’m cleaning the house, going room to room, and come across a test sheet attached to the refrigerator with a magnet that says Welcome to Massachusetts. The test is one of my daughter’s and it says in large red ink, “100%!” Upon close inspection, I notice the test was taken in September of last year. I throw away the test.

I go to the living room and start watching the Celtics/Heat game and suddenly jump out of the seat. I stride to the trash. There I retrieve my daughter’s test sheet and put it back on the refrigerator.

I don’t do this because the test covers a stain on our refrigerator—I do this for a different reason. When my daughter attached her test to the fridge, she did it because she wanted to promote her achievement. I want her to know that self-promotion is acceptable.

My colleague, Wendy Gelberg, is a champion of introverts. I believe she would call my daughter’s act of tacking her test on the refrigerator a healthy way for a teenager to promote herself to her parents; and in fact we were very pleased when we first saw her grade…almost eight months ago.

Introverts who have a hard time promoting themselves must learn how to do it correctly. Especially when it comes to jobseekers who are trying to make a great impression in the job search. In her article, Alternatives to Self-Promotion, Wendy suggests three ways for introverts to promote themselves without looking boastful:

  1. Let others speak for you
  2. Bring a portfolio
  3. Report the facts.

Of the three ways mentioned in Wendy’s article, my daughter illustrates “bring a portfolio.” She is providing a visual aid for us when she attached it to the refrigerator. She can tell us every time she does well, but she feels that showing proof of her success would deliver the message more effectively.

“We all know that sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words–and sometimes having some visual aids can help you promote yourself,” Wendy states.

The portfolio jobseekers show potential employers acts as a picture. Wendy gives “work samples, news articles, certificates/licenses, letters of praise, or other documents” as examples of bringing a portfolio. Bringing a  portfolio to the interview also helps introverts get over the fear of “boasting,” as it confirms to introverts of their accomplishments; it is concrete. Furthermore, employers are convinced of said accomplishments.

The third way to promote yourself in the job search, Report the Facts, is also imperative to doing well at the interview. This means you must back up what you claim. Wendy suggests answering question with the Problem-Action-Result (PAR) formula, and I agree. The PARs explain the skills you’ve demonstrated in the past and also uncover other valuable skills, skills the employers might not ask for but will be happy to hear.

The Celtics are down by nine points, the bathroom still needs to be cleaned, and I have to make dinner; but I’m feeling a sense of pride for what my daughter has accomplished, even if it was eight months ago. More to the point, I’m proud of her for realizing that self-promotion is necessary, even if it’s only for her parents. Self-promotion will be more important in her future job search. This is something I’m going to tell her when I have the chance, even though she’s only 16 years-old.

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7 ways to overcome the interview nerves

NervousHave you been so nervous at an interview that you’ve forgotten your name or what your previous title was? It happens. Have you been so nervous that the cup of water you’re holding is shaking beyond control? Sure, it happens. But it’s avoidable if you go into the interview with the right frame of mind.

Nervousness can overcome anyone, especially those who are being interviewed for the job of their dreams. All the anticipation comes to a head just before the daunting meeting, and then it’s time to perform. Unfortunately some interviewers see the meeting as a performance and not so much as selecting the right person for the job.

Not the best interviewers think this way, mind you. They want to get the best out of you because they want to hire the right person because hiring someone who is unqualified has consequences. It’s estimated that 68% of employers have hired the wrong candidate at least once at the tune of $25K-$50K to make the situation right.

An interesting article, 3 Reasons to Hire Nervous Candidates, implies that introverts (referred to as “neurotics”) tend to be the most nervous job candidates, but that they can make the best employees in the long run—as producers, team members, and salespeople—and backs it up with studies. The message of the article is that interviewers should look past the nervousness of the job candidate because, in the long run, she might turn out to be the best hire.

It would be a great thing if employers understood that nervous interviewees will demonstrate their brilliance upon being hired, whether she be an introvert, extravert, or ambivert; but don’t rely on the employer to operate this way. Some interviewers will base their decision to hire someone or not based on your first impression, which includes whether you appear nervous or composed.

A nervous job candidate, the best you can do is accept your nerves and try to manage them. To do this, it’s important to do a number things before and during the interview.

  1. Be as prepared as you can. You’ve heard this many times; and if you’re smart you’ve done something about it. You’ve researched the job so you can recite the responsibilities. The same goes for the company. You must go beyond the cursory reading of the job description and company website. Also take time to research the competition and industry.
  2. Practice. Professional athletes don’t go on the baseball field or soccer pitch without practicing in between games. My valued LinkedIn connection and executive coach, Greg Johnson, reminds us that mock interviews or even practicing answering questions in front of the mirror can help reduce the nerves, as it prepares you for the real thing.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep. As basic as this seems, being well rested is essential to doing well. Remember the days when you crammed for high school or college exams, trying to mash all that information into one night? Didn’t work too well, did it? Same goes for the interview–do your research over two, three, for days; as it’s easier to remember the information.

At the interview

  1. Admit that you’re nervous. That’s correct. Make a brief statement about how you haven’t interviewed  in a while and “might have some jitters, but I am very interested in the position.” This will explain a slow start until you warm up and get into high gear. This doesn’t give you the right to completely lose your nerves; eventually you’ll settle down.
  2. Don’t let the questions that are very difficult get to you. There are bound to be some questions that stump you, but don’t lose your head if no answer comes to mind. Instead ask if you can think about the questions a bit longer by saying, “That’s a very good question and one I’d like to answer. Can I think about this a bit longer?” Don’t take too long, however.
  3. Use your research to your advantage. Whereas some candidates may seem naturally composed and confident, your knowledge of the job and company will be impressive and negate any nervousness you have. Your advanced research will show your interest in the position and the company, something any good interviewer will appreciate.
  4. Remember you’re not the only one who’s nervous. Come on. Do you think you’re the only one in the room who’s nervous? Many interviewers will admit that they’re also nervous during the interview; there’s a lot at stake for them. They have to hire the right person, lest they cost the company someone who’s a bad fit or not capable of doing the job.

Anyone who tells you interviews are not nerve-racking think you were born yesterday. I’ve had exactly two people in eight years tell me they enjoy interviews. Those are people who must either be ultra confident or out of their mind. Even job candidates who do well at an interview, experience some jitters and recall times when they could have done better, including keeping their hand from shaking while holding a cup of water.

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3 things to keep in mind when delivering your elevator pitch

elevatorThe directive from the interviewer, “Tell me about yourself,” strikes fear in the hearts of even the most confident job candidates. That’s because they haven’t given serious consideration to how they’ll answer this directive.

It’s also because they haven’t given thought to how to construct a persuasive elevator pitch. Have you? One of the most important tools in your job search toolbox is an elevator pitch. It can be used in a number of ways: as part of your networking repertoire and certainly at an interview.

Here are three tidbits of advice delivering a powerful elevator pitch.

1. Keep it relevant. You must be aware of what the employer wants from her employees, which requires from you not only researching the job but also the company.

Let’s say, as a trainer, you’re aware of the employer’s need for satisfying people of cultural differences. You’ll begin your elevator speech by addressing this need.

You’ll begin your elevator pitch with something on the lines of, Along with my highly rated presentation skills, I’ve had particular success with designing presentations that meet the needs of a diverse population. Then you’ll follow it with an accomplishment, as accomplishments are memorable.

For example, the company for which I last worked employed Khmer- and Spanish-speaking people. I translated our presentations into both languages so that my colleagues could deliver their presentations with ease and effectiveness. This was work I did on my own time, but I realized how important it was to the company. I received accolades from the CEO of the company; and I enjoyed the process very much.

Finally, you’ll close your elevator pitch with some of the strong personality skills for which you’ve been acknowledge. In this case, your innovation, assertiveness, and commitment to the company would be appropriate to mention.

2. Be on your toes. Being prepared is essential to jobseekers who need to say the right thing at the right time to a prospective employer. This is where your research on the company comes into play—the more you know about said company, the better you can recite your elevator pitch.

One way to answer, “Why should we hire you?” is by using your elevator pitch. Throughout the interview, you’ve paid careful attention to what the employer has been saying regarding the challenges the company is facing. They need a manager who can develop excellent rapport with a younger staff, while also enforcing rules that have been broken. Based on your new-found knowledge, you realize you’ll have to answer this question with a variation on your rehearsed pitch. You’ll open instead with:

I am a manager who understands the need to maintain an easy-going, professional approach as well as to discipline my employees when necessary. As this is one of your concerns, I can assure you that I will deliver on my promise, as well as exceed other expectations you have for this position. Then you’ll follow with an example of what you asserted.

If I may give you a specific example of my claim, on many occasions I had to apply the right amount of discipline in various ways. There was one employee who was always late for work and would often return from break or lunch late, as well.

I realized that she required a gentler touch than the others, so I called her to my office and explained the effect she had on the rest of the team when she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. I then explained to her the consequences her tardiness would have on her. (Slight smile.) I don’t think she had been spoken to in such a straightforward manner by her other managers. I treated her with respect.

From that day forward, she was never late. In fact, she earned a dependability award. There are other examples. Would you like to hear them?

Again, end your elevator pitch with some of the skills that make you special. It isn’t enough to claim you possess them; tell about what your former employers have said about you.

3. The purpose of your elevator speech. When employers listen to your elevator pitch, they should recognize skills and accomplishments that set you apart from the rest of the candidates. Tell your elevator pitch in a concise manner that illustrates these skills; don’t simply provide a list of skills you think are required for the position. Remember that accomplishments are memorable and show your value added, especially if they’re relevant to your audience, e.g., an employer.

Whether you use your elevator pitch to answer the directive, “Tell me about yourself,” or the question, “Why should I hire you?” there are enough reasons to develop one that is relevant and shows you can think on your feet.

Checklist for 26 job-search topics for the New Year

For Christmas my wife sent me to the grocery store for various ingredients for our holiday dinner. I knew trying to remember all the ingredients was going to challenge my waning memory, so I asked her to write a list of said ingredients.

She rolled her eyes but understood how important it was for me to return with the proper ingredients–so important that her list numbered in the area of 25.

The lesson I learned from my shopping spree–by the way, I got all ingredients–was that it was akin to the list of must do’s in the job search.

In reading the list of must do’s below, ask yourself if you’re doing each one in your job search. For example, do you have an elevator speech? Have you attended informational meetings? Consider this the checklist below a partial list of your “ingredients” for the job search.

  1. Understand your workplace values.
  2. Determine what you want to do…what you really want to do. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a great tool.
  3. Hannah Morgan, Career Sherpa, suggests, “a personal marketing plan. It ensures better information gathering during networking meetings and more proactive rather than reactive job search actions.”
  4. Ask for an informational meeting to talk to someone to make sure you’re on the right track, or to introduce yourself to a company.
  5. Assess your skills and accomplishments. Make a list for both.
  6. Learn how to write your résumé. Attend workshops offered by your college or local career center.
  7. Write a targeted résumé with highlighted experience and accomplishments.
  8. Write a cover letter template, which will later be targeted for particular positions.
  9. Create a personal commercial or elevator speech which explains your value to the employer.
  10. Determine how you’ll approach the job search, making networking your primary method.
  11. Join LinkedIn with full intention of engaging, not using it as a place mat on the Internet.
  12. Copy and paste the contents of your new résumé to your LinkedIn profile, which you’ll modify to be a better networking tool.
  13. Develop a networking list that includes past colleagues and managers, as well as others who we’ll call your superficial connections.
  14. Formally let people know you’re out of work. How can they help you if they don’t know you’re looking?
  15. Develop business cards for your business—the product you’re selling is you.
  16. Attend networking events. Make sure you bring your business cards.
  17. Follow up with everyone with whom you’ve conversed and exchanged business cards.
  18. Send approach letters/e-mails to companies for which you’d like to work.
  19. Organize your job search by keeping track of your inquiries, contacts, résumés sent out, etc.
  20. Prepare for telephone interviews. Make sure all of the above written communications are in place.
  21. Ask for mock interviews which should be recorded and critiqued by a professional career consultant.
  22. Do your research on the jobs and the companies to which you apply.
  23. Double check your first impression, including attire, body language, small talk, and portfolio.
  24. Be prepared to answer the difficult questions concerning job-related, transferable, and personality skills.
  25. Have your stories ready using the STAR formula.
  26. Write thank you notes via e-mail or hard copy.

Have you been doing everything on this list, or the majority of them? If you are missing any of the above, make sure to nail them this year. Let me know of others I’m missing. Perhaps we can double this list. And yes, the meal was excellent.

Just answer the questions: 6 ways to do it properly

My kids have a knack for answering my questions with concise, factual answers like “I don’t know” or “I guess so” or “nothing happened.” They’re young people, so I don’t expect enlightening answers that open doors to stimulating conversations.

On the other hand, I need more. I would like to know what happened at school, if they had a good time at the mall, how they feel about their teachers, etc.

The thing about recruiters and employers is that they want direct, factual  answers to their questions, not a long-winded response that has very little to do with the question at hand. In order to make the interview go smoothly, adhere to the following 6 requirements:

1. Listen to the questions: Some people have the tendency to formulate what they’re going to say before the interviewer finishes with his question.  This causes you to take off in a direction that is heading the wrong way and is hard to correct. If you need clarification, ask what the interviewer meant by his question…just don’t do this too often, lest you come across as daft.

2. Think before speaking: All too often we want to answer a question as soon as it’s left the employer’s lips. This is a mistake, as you want to deliver of the best possible answer before you blurt out an inadequate one. The interview is not a game where the fastest job candidate to respond wins. Occasionally taking time to reflect shows thoughtfulness on your part. It also speaks to requirement number one: listen.

3. Don’t talk too much: When you’re talking with a recruiter, over elaborating on an answer may be more harmful than helpful. Recruiter Mark Bregman says in his article Don’t be De-Selected this about being loquacious:

“You risk boring the screener, or worse, they don’t ask all their questions, because you wasted too much time on early questions.  Then, the screener might not have an opportunity to really get the key info they need to screen you in.”

When you go into too much detail, you come off as someone who talks too much. For me, and I imagine others, this is a great irritant and makes me want to end an interview.

 4. Make your answers relevant: Everything you say must be relevant to the interviewer’s direct question.  “If the question is ‘How did you improve processes?’, don’t start describing in detail the products you were making; just answer the question,” advises Mark. This is also a sign that you have no idea how to answer the question. In this case, ask for more time saying, “This is a very important question, one that I’d like to answer. Could we return to it?” Or admit that you can’t answer it.

5. Don’t ask too many questions: Career advisors encourage interviewees to ask questions during the interview to make it seem more like a discussion, as long as you have enough questions to ask at the end. Mark says this can backfire if you ask too many questions. I see his point. Interviewers are busy people and don’t want you to take over the interview.

6. Say enough: Finally it’s essential that you effectively answer the interviewers questions with enough detail and plenty of examples of your successes. Many times a job candidate won’t provide enough information for the interviewer to make a decision on whether to hire that person. You don’t want to let opportunities to pass you by. Many jobseekers I talk with regret having not sold themselves at the interview, which was due, in part, to not elaborating on an answer they knew they could have nailed.

Effective communications at an interview requires the ability to listen and then answer the questions with transparency and accuracy. Take your time, respond with accomplishments, and most importantly just answer the questions. On the other hand, don’t give answers like my children do.

Job-search advice for extraverts in 2 areas


With the plethora of job-search advice for introverts and approximately zero for extraverts, it must make the E’s feel…unloved. I’d like to give some love to the extraverts, because that’s the kind of nice guy I am. In this post I’ll advise the E’s on mistakes they can avoid.

There are two components of a jobseeker’s marketing campaign, written and verbal communications, where extraverts can use some help. We’ll look at the résumé, networking, and the interview.

1. Written communications. For most, the job search begins with submitting a résumé and possibly a cover letter to the employer. The act of writing a résumé can sometimes be problematic for extraverts, who prefer speaking than writing.

Introverts, on the other hand, prefer writing than conversing and as a rule excel in this area. The I’s are more reflective and take their time to write a résumé. They prepare by researching the position and company–almost to a fault.

Extraverts must resist the urge to hastily write a résumé that fails to accomplish: addressing the job requirements in order of priority, highlighting relevant accomplishments, and promoting branding. One excuse I hear from my extraverted customers for faltering in this area is that they’ll nail the interview. At this point I tell them they ain’t getting to the interview without a résumé to get them there.

Where the E’s can shine in this area of the job search is the distribution of their written material. They are natural networkers who understand the importance of getting the résumé into the hands of decision makers, and as such should resist simply posting their résumé to every job board out there. This is where the I’s can take a lesson from their counterpart, the ability to network with ease.

2.Verbal communications. Speaking of networking; extraverts are generally more comfortable than introverts when it comes to attending formal networking events. But not all E’s are master networkers. The main faux pas for poor networkers is loquaciousness, which is a fancy word for talking too much. While I’s are often accused of not talking enough, the E’s have to know when to shut the motor–a tall order for some E’s.

stop talkingNetworking isn’t about who can say the most in a three-hour time period. Take a lesson from the I’s who listen to what others have to say. People appreciate being listened to.

Many of my extraverted customers tell me they talk too much, and some have admitted they botch interviews because they–you got it–talk too much. Some of them say they can’t help it. E’s are known to be very confident at interviews, which is a good thing. But they can also be over confident which leads them to ignore the tenets of good interviewing. That’s a bad thing.

At interviews extraverts must keep in mind that it’s not a time to control the conversation. The interviewer/s have a certain number of questions they want to ask the candidates, so it’s best to answer them succinctly while also supplying the proper amount of information.

Lou Adler writes in a recent article this about answers that are too long: “The best answers are 1-2 minutes long….Interviewees who talk too much are considered self-absorbed, boring and imprecise. Worse, after two minutes the interviewer tunes you out and doesn’t hear a thing you’ve said.”

There has to be a middle ground, referred to by folks like Daniel Pink as ambiverts, when it comes to reaching the right amount of talking and listening at networking events and interviews. Accordingly, extraverts who “score” slight in clarity on the continuum (11-13) are more likely to be better listeners, as well as comfortable with small talk. This is likely true for introverts who also score in the slight range.

When it comes to written and verbal communications in the job search, extraverts have to be cognizant of taking their time constructing their résumés and knowing when it’s time to listen as opposed to talking too much. Without understanding the importance of effective written and verbal communications, the job search for the E’s can be a long haul.


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