When the interviewer is doing 100% of the talking

Have you experienced a situation like this at an early-stage interview–you’re excited to be there, a bit nervous expecting the difficult questions to be fired at you, but the interviewer is doing 100% the talking?

Then toward the end of the interview, you ask if he wants to ask you any questions, to which he replies, “No, I read your résumé. We’re good to go.” You’re wondering what the hell happened. You didn’t have the opportunity to sell your skills, experience, and accomplishments.

Some of my customers complain to me about similar scenarios, while others tell me they felt relieved and grateful for not having to talk. Those who felt relieved erroneously believe the interviewers were doing them a huge favor.

Interviewers who do all the talking are not doing you a favor; they’re hogging your precious time. And although you’re nervous at the time, it’s essential that you achieve what you went there for–to sell yourself.

You never want to come across as controlling the interview, but sometimes you have to break in so you can inform the interviewer why you are the right person for the job.

So how do you break into the conversation?

First of all, don’t make assumptions. One assumption might be that it’s an inside hire and the interviewer is just trying to take up time. Another might be that the company is required by law or according to their policy to interview a few candidates. There are a number of reasons why the interviewer is blabbing like a fool, but chances are he’s simply self-absorbed and unaware of his duty.

Know when enough is enough. After the interviewer has rattled on for a number of minutes, it’s time to put a halt to the monolog. There’s a chance the interviewer might get on a roll and sabotage the whole process.

Don’t get belligerent. Saying, “Aren’t you going to ask me questions?” won’t leave a good impression. You’ll come across as rude and trying to control the interview.

Break into the conversation in a seamless manner. “The management around here leaves a lot to be desired,” he is saying. This is your cue to answer one of the most popular questions; what kind of manager do you prefer?

“Where I last worked, management was very good,” you break in. “They were fair, communicative, and had their priorities in order. I’ve worked under many different management styles from hands-off to hands-on. I’ve thrived wherever I’ve worked because I can adapt to all types of styles.”

Later he says, “Our customers are very needy. They require a lot of hand-holding–a real bunch of idiots.”

You counter, “Interacting with difficult customers is one of my fortes. In fact, many of the difficult customers were routed my way because I had a very patient attitude which the customers could sense. I managed to revive many failed customer relations.”

This may put a halt to the interviewer’s loquaciousness, or he may continue to drone on and on. But you can’t give up your efforts of getting yourself heard. The next time you hear a break in his monolog, engage him again by summarizing your job-related skills and accomplishments, declaring you’re the person for the job.

At the end of the interview inform him that you’ll send along an e-mail outlining how you can address many of the problems he was so kind to elaborate on. You may want to ask him if you should forward it to his manager and HR.

The curse of tattoos at interviews

An article by Jeff Haden got me thinking about my daughter’s latest request; a tattoo. Jeff’s article is about a man with a tattoo so intricate and enormous that Jeff could only stare at it, making the man uncomfortable.

Although my daughter’s only 16 and she doesn’t want to cover her whole arm with a tattoo, her request makes me think about the ramifications a tat will have on her career future. Will it be detrimental to her job search? I’m sure it will. She’s waiting for my reply.

Where will she put the tattoo, I ask her. I dunno, she tells me. Great. I don’t normally have to deny her requests, but I feel conflicted. I try to picture a tattoo on her.

Will it be private or public? Will it be tasteful or obnoxious? And how many is she planning to get? If it’s private, tasteful, and only one; I guess I could accept her getting a tat. However, if they’re numerous and on her neck, wrist, and anywhere they’d be seen during an interview or at work; I will definitely have an issue with that.

TattooOne of my customers who formally worked at an upscale salon has tattoos that cover her hands, forearms, and neck. They’re magnificent tattoos like the one Jeff mentions in his article, but the assortment of them makes me wonder how employers would view them, if she were to apply for, say, an office position.

This customer’s tats are so visible and magnificent that they distracted me during my workshops. Particularly during my Interview Techniques workshop when I want to have her stand up so I can tell the group that tattoos like these might not be the right image you want to present at an interview.

And then I want to add in a Sam Kenison rant, “They’re forever. Ah, Ah, Ahhhhh.” But I neither make her stand or express my disapproval of her tats. It’s her life, even if they are forever. I can only wonder why she decorated her body like a Harlem wall covered with graffiti. Maybe if she had a parent who urged her not to get the tattoos, she wouldn’t have marred her body with them.

Among the many aspects of our first impressions, tattoos are one of them. Employers are more forgiven than they were in the past. We know this because many of the people who serve us at restaurants and coffee houses, work with us in offices and outdoors, are displaying them freely and with impunity.

But it makes me wonder if the tattoo-baring employees displayed them so freely when they were interviewed, or did they hide them with long sleeves, turtle neck shirts, and pants that covered their ankles…in the dead of summer? If these folks with tats had the foresight to hide them, they may have dodged a bullet.

What if, for example, a college grad is applying for an accountant position, in the last stages of the interview process, and talking with the VP of say PricewaterhouseCoopers. She’s feeling so confident because she’s been told this interview is a formality, a sign off. It’s in the bag. So she lets her guard down and wears a sleeveless dress, revealing a small, tasteful butterfly tattoo on her shoulder.

Harmless, right?

This is my fear; my daughter will be that young woman at the interview of her life, only to blow it because of a simple tattoo. Only because some conservative guy might be the decision maker and think that this woman is too compulsive; not right for the company image.

All because of a tattoo my daughter got while her friends were encouraging her to “go for it” in New Hampshire at some seedy tattoo parlor. The image of her walking out of the parlor sporting a tat on her wrist, looking at her friends for approval, showing some doubt on her face; is enough for me to make a decision.

I tell her no to the tats, and she shrugs her shoulders and says fine. I get the feeling she never wanted one and all my worrying was for naught, until she asks for is a nose stud.

 

 

I’m not the enemy–8 myths and facts about what I do

myths

I recall a conversation I had with a recruiter who told me I’m the enemy. The reason she told me this is because my job as a career strategist and workshop facilitator is to prepare jobseekers for their search. And I imagine this recruiter believes I instruct my customers to do anything to pull one over on recruiters.

While it’s true my goal is to help my customers get jobs, I will not go to any measure to help them land in a position, especially when they’re not qualified.

The fact that this recruiter called me the enemy got me to thinking about how misunderstood I am when it comes to preparing jobseekers for their search. Here are 8 myths and facts about what I do.

1. Myth: I tell my customers that all recruiters are scum. That they only care about themselves and their client, the company.

Fact: I tell my customers a recruiter’s paycheck comes from the company. However, the recruiters’ goal is to create a match between employer and candidate. Many recruiters want to build healthy relationships with jobseekers–it only makes good business sense.

2. Myth: I encourage my customers to lie on their résumés or, at the very least, embellish their accomplishments to trick recruiters into calling them.

Fact: My mantra is, “Never lie on your résumé.” People who lie on their résumé are found out for the frauds they are. So don’t make it worse by claiming you’ve accomplished more than you have, I advise.

I’ll admit that I tell my customers to conceal their age by only listing 10-15 years of work history. 

3. Myth: I tell my customers that the recruiter’s purpose is to screen them out of consideration because of their their salary requirement, so they should agree to a lower salary. Then they can battle it out with the hiring manager.

Fact: Yes, recruiters need to know if the opportunity is at all plausible, so I tell my jobseekers it’s best to know earlier than later if they and the employer are even close. Why waste everyone’s time?

4. Myth: Similar to myth # 3, I tell my customers that the telephone interview with the recruiter is only a screening to verify they have the technical requirements for the job and has nothing to do with determining personality fit.

Fact: Recruiters need to verify if my customers can do the job, have the required software/hardware/procedural skills required by the employer; but good recruiters also determine if applicants are a personality fit. I tell my customers to be prepared for more difficult questions, including behavioral-based ones.

5. Myth: I tell my customers that recruiters have no say in the hiring process.

Fact. Recruiters don’t make the ultimate decision, but their opinion is valued by the hiring manager, so the interviews will be challenging and reveal the strengths, as well as the weaknesses, of the applicants.

6. Myth: I tell my customers to go around the recruiters and speak directly with the hiring managers.

Fact. Going around the recruiters will not only fray relationships with recruiters, it will demonstrate a lack of integrity and will turn the hiring managers off. However, if my customers are not getting the love from a recruiter, they should take measures into their own hands.

7. Myth. I tell my customers to contact as many recruiters as possible to increase their chances of getting a job.

Fact. My father told me as a teenager to play the field; this always backfired. The recruiter can be your best friend, so don’t dis him by not showing the love. My customers need to build the trust with the recruiter and not insult him by being a player. Some recruiters are putzes, so move on until you find one or two that deserve your love.

 8. Myth. I tell my customers that all recruiters read cover letters.

Fact. From the words of a recruiter who doesn’t read cover letters, “I read 200 résumés for one position. No, I don’t have time to read cover letters.” Some recruiters (the smart ones) read cover letters, but no all.

As you can see, I’m not fighting against recruiters; I’m merely trying to prepare my jobseekers in a realistic manner. I don’t believe all things come up smelling like roses. There are jobseekers who will pull dumb moves, and there are recruiters who will treat my customers with disrespect. The goal is to develop a partnership between jobseekers and recruiters.

 

 

 

4 ways to take control of your job search

Some jobseekers tell me they turn on their computer every day to log on to Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and other job boards. They spend many hours a day applying for posted jobs, sending as many as 20 cookie-cutter resumes out a week, anticipating a call from a recruiter or Human Resources. They wait and wait and wait.

To these jobseekers I point out the futility of a job search like this, explaining that if they want faster results, they have to be more proactive. I tell them this in my Career Networking workshop.

First I talk about the “Hidden Job Market” which is a concept they understand, but I’m not sure they accept. When I tell them them connecting with others is the best approach to penetrating the HJM, I can hear them thinking how difficult it will be to get outside their comfort zone, to get away from their computer.

The message I try to deliver is that they have to be proactive, not reactive. They have to take control of their job search, not let it control them. Here are some ways you can be proactive in your job search:

Approach letters. Not oft used, these documents are ideal if you prefer writing more than using the phone, so you might be somewhat introverted. No job has been advertised. (Advertised jobs represent 20% of the labor market.) You’re not reacting to an advertisement.

The goal is to get an informational meeting or better yet, chance upon a possible opening that hasn’t been advertised (80% of the labor market). You must describe your job-related skills and experience and show the employer that you’ve done research on the company to boost the employer’s ego. Read Teena Rose’s article on approach letters.

Good ole’ fashion networking. Normally we think of networking as strictly attending organized meetings where other jobseekers go, doing their best not to seem desperate. (I’ll admit that this type of networking is unsettling, although necessary.) The kind of networking I’m referring to is the kind that involves reaching out to anyone who knows a hiring manager.

Most of the people who contact me after they’ve secured a job tell me that their success was due to knowing someone at the company or organization. You must network wherever you go. Network at your kid’s or grandchildren’s basketball games, at the salon, while taking workshops, at family gatherings (see Any Time is Time to Network)—basically everywhere.

LinkedIn and other social media outlets. I recently received an in-mail from someone who is currently working but is not enjoying her experience. I’ll keep my ears open for the type of position she’s looking for because she asked me to. LinkedIn members who know the potential of this  professional online networking tool are reaching out to other LI members for information and contact leads.

Another one of my jobseekers is doing everything possible to conduct a proper proactive job search. He updates me on his job search and sends me job leads for me to post on our career center’s LinkedIn group. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. He’s being very proactive by using LinkedIn and his vast personal network of professionals.

Follow Up. Allow me to suggest a must-read book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I think this guy gets more publicity from me than any author I’ve read. The reason I recommend this book is because none of these three proactive approaches are useful unless you follow up on your efforts.

Never Eat Alone teaches you how to network in every situation and then how to keep your network alive by following up with everyone. I mean everyone. Send an approach letter, then follow up with the people to whom you’ve sent it. Network face-to-face, then follow up. Connect with someone on LinkedIn…you guessed it, then follow up.

Being proactive sure beats the hell out of only reacting to jobs that have been advertised and visible to hundreds, if not thousands of other jobseekers. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and yields more results than exclusively participating in the visible job market. Being proactive makes you believe that the job search will finally come to a halt, that the job search is in your hands.

4 important principles of your job-search stories

Chinese Food2I remember being in a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver, Canada, where my four brothers, mother, father, and I were waiting for our food to come. My father was telling us a story about our favorite topic—how our parents met—and even though the food was late in coming, we were all enthralled.

I think we’d heard this story a bazillion times, but we couldn’t get enough of it. My father’s story began like it always did, after one of us gave him the directive, “tell us about how you and Mom met.”

In a way my father’s storytelling was similar to what job candidates must do at an interview when asked to tell a story. Often at behavioral interviews the employer will ask for specific events meant to extract particular skills from a job candidate.

A successful story includes the following principles:

Meaning. What meaning does your story have? Here’s a big hint: it must be applicable to the job for which you’re applying. Asked how your strong verbal communication skills made a difference at a specific moment or period of time, but instead you talk about a time you demonstrated strong written communication skills does not have meaning.

You’re a skilled writer who has been published in countless trade magazines. You go into great detail about this in your story. But you fail to realize that the employer seeks someone who can verbally communicate with the media, partners, OEMs, and customers. Your story lacks meaning. There was meaning behind Dad’s story for us; so much so that we didn’t mind the food coming late.

Form. In a Complete Interview Process workshop I lead, my participants construct a story using the following form: the problem or situation, approximately 20% of the story; the actions taken to meet the situation, 60% of the story; and the result of the action taken, the remaining 20%.

Some of my workshop attendees have difficulty keeping the situation brief. They feel the need to provide background information, which in effect distracts the listener from what’s most important—the actions taken to meet the situation. The result is also important, whether it’s a positive or negative resolution. Twenty-sixty-twenty is a good formula to keep in mind.

Achieving success. When the candidate has achieved success, a couple of things can happen. First, the employer may smile and indicate approval by saying, “Thank you. That was a great answer.” This likely means that your story addressed the meaning behind the question and adhered to proper form.

Or the employer may come back with follow-up questions, such as, “How do you know you saved the company money by volunteering to take over the webmaster responsibilities?” Bingo. You’ve gained the interest of the employer who follows up with additional questions.

Dad’s story about meeting mom was always met with follow-up questions from all five of us. Mom always blushed.

Preparation is paramount to success. There is really only one way to prepare for telling your stories. You have to completely understand what’s required of the position. Know what competencies the employer is looking for, e.g. time management, leadership, problem solving, problem assessment, and customer service skills. Based on this knowledge, you will construct five stories in anticipation of directives like, “Tell me about a time when you felt your leadership skills had a positive impact on your team…and a time when it had a negative impact.”

With all the practice Dad had telling his story about how he and my mother met, the stories got better and better as time went on. That was a great time in the Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Not because the food was great—I don’t remember eating any—but because the story was what we all wanted to hear.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Honey Bunny.

Perseverance and 7 other P’s in the job search

PerserveranceA customer of mine recently got a job at a company where she’ll be making 15% more than she made at her previous company, not 15% less. Who says all employers are paying jobseekers less than they were previously making?

Her story begins when she made contact with one of her alumnus via LinkedIn. As I was told, this alumnus alerted her to an opening at the company for which she works.

So my customer jumped on the opportunity and went through the arduous process of landing her job.

She was finally awarded the positions after 12 face-to-face interviews. That’s right, 12 interviews. Now don’t ask me why the company couldn’t make a decision within the first three or four or even five interviews. Also don’t ask me why the company had her fly to the west coast twice in one week. Couldn’t they have knocked off some interviews during one visit?

The company’s prolonged search flies in the face of the typical hiring process, where three-five interviews are more the norm than 12.

To land this job my customer demonstrated one of the 12 P’s of the job search for sure, Perseverance. There are seven other P’s, I can think of, that are required for a successful job search.

  1. Positivism: How can this not be included as required for the job search? When all seems to be hopeless, positivism is what will keep you alive. The opposite is negativism which is a killer that can paralyze you and cause you to give up, if not severely weaken your efforts. If you don’t feel positive, fake it till you make it, as they say.
  2. Professionalism: Had my customer not maintained a professional attitude, she may have not succeeded as each interview approached. She may have caused her new company to doubt their decisions to continue the process.
  3. Preparedness: In the job search you must prepare a résumé that will land you the interview. You must also be prepared for the interview by researching the position and company. Without being prepared, you will lack the confidence required to do well at the interview.
  4. Persistence: I marvel at my customer’s endurance throughout the whole process, not to mention not giving into the temptation to throw in the towel. Was this a test on the employer’s part? Were they seeing who would give up first?
  5. Promotion: Many a jobseeker have told me they can’t promote themselves. Guess what: you have no choice because no one will do it for you. Self-promotion becomes more difficult as the job search extends past three, six, nine months.
  6. Progress: Take every little victory as progress toward the goal of landing a job. My customer’s steps toward success were numerous, beginning with connecting with her alumnus, submitting a résumé that landed her the first of many interviews, sending various follow-up notes….The list goes on.
  7. Productivity: The result of all these P words. You must be productive in your job search, or, for lack of better words, it ain’t worth it. This means different things to people. Being productive might be getting outside your comfort zone to attend networking events, following up on connections you’ve established, creating a kick-ass LinkedIn profile, and so on.

Certainly no one would want to go through 12 interviews, wondering if there is even a chance they will land the job. My customers was driven to succeed, and succeed she did. 

Photo courtesy of Kenny Zeo, Flickr.

6 topics to include in your follow-up note

thankyounote

Some job candidates believe the interview is over after they’ve shaken hands with the interviewers and have left the room. Well, that went well, they think, and now it’s time to wait for the decision.

And perhaps it went well. But perhaps one or two other candidates had stellar interviews and followed up their interviews with notes sent via e-mail or a thank you card.

So here’s the question: when is the interview really over?

The answer: after you’ve sent the follow-up note.

If you don’t believe that a follow-up note is important, read the article, Write a Post-Interview Thank You that Actually Boosts Your Chances to Get the Job, and note that by not sending a follow-up note (according to CareerBuilder):

  • Employers are less likely to hire a candidate–22%.
  • Employers say it shows a lack of follow-through–86%
  • Employers say the candidate isn’t really serious about the job–56%.

If these figures aren’t enough to convince you to send a follow-up, then don’t hold out much hope of getting a job, especially when smart jobseekers are sending them. I hope this gets your attention.

So if you’re wondering how to go about sending a follow-up, consider to whom you’ll send it and how you’ll send it.

Who do you send it to? If you’re interviewed by five people, how many unique follow-up notes should you send? That’s correct, five. Take the time to write a unique follow-up to everyone who interviewed you.

How do you send it? You can send your follow-up note via e-mail or hard copy. This depends on your preference and/or the industry, e.g., someone in the humanities might prefer a thank you card, whereas someone in high tech might appreciate an e-mail. Here’s an idea: send both, an e-mail immediately after the interview and a professional card a week later.

What do you say in your follow-up note?

1. Show your gratitude. Obviously you’re going to thank the interviewers for the time they took to interview you; after all, they’re busy folks and probably don’t enjoy interviewing people.

2. Reiterate you’re the right person for the job. This is the second most obvious statement you’ll make in your follow-up  notes. Mention how you have the required skills and experience and, very importantly, you have the relevant accomplishments.

3. Interesting points made at the interview. Show you were paying attention at the interview. Each person with whom you spoke mentioned something of interest, or asked a pertinent question. Impress them with your listening skills by revisiting those interesting points.

4. Do some damage control: How many candidates wish they could have elaborated on a question, or totally blew it with a weak answer? Now’s your chance to correct your answer. This may be of little consequence, but what do you have to lose? Besides, interviewers know you were under a great deal of pressure–it’s hard to think of everything.

5. Suggest a solution to a problem: Prior to the interview you were unaware of a problem the company is facing. Now you know about the problem. If you have a solution to this problem, mention it in your follow-up or a more extensive proposal.

6. You want the job: You told the interview committee at the end of the interview that you want the job. Reiterate this sentiment by stating it in you follow-up note, which can be as simple as asking what the next steps will entail. This shows your enthusiasm and sincere interest in the position.

After you’ve made it this far in the process–networking, writing a tailored resume and cover letter, and multiple interviews–it would be a shame to blow it by not sending a follow-up note. Take the time to send a unique follow-up note (within 24-48 hours). When you get the job offer, you’ll be happy you did.

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