Author Archives: Things Career Related

About Things Career Related

Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 17 job search workshops at an urban career center, as well as critiques LinkedIn profiles and conducts mock interviews. Job seekers and staff look to him for advice on the job search. In addition, Bob has gained a reputation as a LinkedIn authority in the community. He started the first LinkedIn program at the Career Center of Lowell and created workshops to support the program. People from across the state attend his LinkedIn workshops. Bob’s greatest pleasure is helping people find rewarding careers in a competitive job market. For enjoyment, he blogs at Things Career Related and Recruiter.com. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you persuaded your boss.”

And a sample answer.

Rarely will anyone say behavioral-based questions are easy to answer. They require a job candidate to recall a time when they performed a skill successfully, or unsuccessfully, and then tell a story about performing the particular skill.

Persuasion

The story must be specific and succinct, which are two challenges some job candidates struggle with. To this point, many people I’ve interviewed try to deliver a general, long-winded answer that doesn’t hit the mark. This is not what interviewers are looking for.

The four thoughts candidates need to take into consideration are:

  1. Interviewers want to see how you’re going to respond to this difficult question.
  2. They want to see self-awareness/honesty.
  3. Understand why they’re asking the question.
  4. Have your story (short) ready.

I go into detail in a previous article on these considerations in a previous post.

Let’s look at a behavioral-based question whose purpose it is to determine a candidate’s ability persuade her boss: “Tell us about a time when you convinced your boss to adopt an idea that he disagreed with.”

Using the S.T.A.R formula you begin your story.

Situation

Our company was using Microsoft Excel to keep track of our customers’ orders and appointments, but the process proved to be inefficient. It was becoming laborious to enter customer information, and the sales department complained that accessing it was too difficult.

Task

As the sales operations manager, it was my responsibility to find a solution for this antiquated process.

Actions

I knew we needed a better process, so I approached my boss to explain that we needed a true CRM software. His reply was that we didn’t have the money, nor the need for CRM software. I wasn’t going to argue with him. I needed to prove my point.

First I called our main competitors to see what they were using to organize their customer transactions and appointments. At least nine out of ten were using CRM software. And most were willing to tell me the brand they were using.

Salesforce was being used by the five of our competitors. Hubspot was was second with two, and Zoho and Agile were the others.

I knew my boss wouldn’t go with Salesforce just because it  was the leader of the pack. He would want to know why it would be the best fit for our sales and marketing department.

I conducted thorough research on the four products, including one called Kintone, which was in the top ten for security. The others didn’t list that information. I knew we needed a product that would store customer data, track customer interaction, track leads, and most importantly be user friendly for the sales team.

After two weeks of researching products and talking with salespeople, I narrowed the list to three software, based on reputation; overall customer interaction; ease of use; and, of course, price.

I asked my boss if I could have half an hour of his time to discuss my CRM proposal. He reluctantly agreed. When he entered the conference room, he was surprised to see a PowerPoint presentation I created shining on the screen.

At the conclusion of m presentation, he paused for what seem like hours and finally asked me which software I would suggest. I said Salesforce, but he liked Zoho better.

Result

We implemented Zoho CRM, which over two years improved efficiency by 50%. I know this because I tracked the hours the staff had used with Excel and later used with Zoho.

Bonus: lesson learned

I learned that the way to persuade my boss was to show him what I proposed, rather than get into a heated debate. This is how I have and will continue persuading my bosses to agree with my suggestions.

This article originally appeared on Job-Hunt.org.

Photo: Flickr, Henrik Therkildsen

 

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20 steps to take during your job search

How should the job search be conducted? Everyone has their own idea. In this article, I present my idea of the steps job seekers should take to secure a rewarding job. Hint, I don’t feel that writing/updating your résumé is the first step. I think there are variables to consider. 

job seeker balck and white

One thing for sure is that no two job seekers are alike; thus, no two job searches are alike. How you conduct your search is going to be different than the next person, so you might skip some of these steps or embrace all of them.

1. Forgive yourself

If you haven’t already forgiven yourself for being laid off, let go, or forced to quit, it’s not too late. You may be experiencing guilt, self-doubt, anger, and despondency to name a few. When I was laid off from marketing, I remember going through all of the aforementioned feelings. Now I think it was all wasted energy.

If you are having a difficult time forgiving yourself, considering seeing a therapist, especially if these destructive feelings are hindering your job search. Most health insurance policies cover mental health. Look into the health insurance you or your spouse is purchasing.

2. Take a short break

I advise a few days off after you’ve lost your job. You need time to get your head straight. Your emotions will be frazzled. There’s also taking care of your finances, e.g., applying for unemployment. You may want to catch up on medical appointments that you’ve put off because your were too busy while working.

However, if you’re newly unemployed, now is not the time to take a three-month vacation with severance your company gave you or vacation time you’ve accumulated. This will put you behind the eight-ball in terms of getting into the job search and showing a gap on your résumé.

3. Dive into your job search with gusto

Now that your break is over, it’s time to put a concerted effort into your job search. Determine how you’re going to conduct your job search. Make a plan or have someone help you create a sound plan for your search. Many job seekers make the mistake of searching for work online as their only means.

I advise my clients that the methods of searching for work that are most successful from best to worst are: face-to-face networking, attending professional affiliations, utilizing a recruiter or staffing agency, combining LinkedIn with face-to-face networking, and using job boards. You don’t have to use all of these methods, as you don’t want to spread yourself thin.

4. Let others know you’re out of work

As simple as this sounds, plenty of job seekers are reluctant to tell their friends, neighbors, relative, former colleagues, etc., that they’re out of work. Not only should you not feel embarrassed, you are missing opportunities to network.

Most people understand that people sometimes lose their job. It’s likely they have also lost their job. It’s a known fact that people want to help you, so let them. Give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves for helping you. Look at it this way.

5. Be good to yourself

You’ve heard of work/life balance. I believe there’s also job-search/life balance. In other words, don’t burn out during your job search. In a recent job club meeting, I asked the members what they did during the Christmas holiday. Many of them talked about making connections with valuable recruiters.

But the ones who also impressed me were the ones who said they took some time off to decompress, sprinkled in with some job searching activities. You must remember that there are other important aspects of your life, such as family, friends, and events that you otherwise would have put off.

6. Don’t play the numbers game

At times I have to remind job seekers of this destructive practice, where they will say, “In a month I’ll have been out of work for more than a year.” Obsessing over the time you’ve been out of work will hurt your morale and, therefore, your job search.

Everyone’s situation is different. Your friend who is searching for an entry-level position will most likely land a job faster than you, if you’re looking for executive-level roles. In general, the average time it takes to find a job is 26 days, but again this depends on level of position and demand for your position.

7Know thyself

It’s important to possess self-awareness, if you want to conduct your job search effectively. This means thinking about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What does this spell? SWOT. That’s right, do a SWOT analysis on yourself.

I have my attendees do a partial SWOT analysis in some of my workshops. I tell them to do a complete one on their own. You should write down 10 or more strengths, five weaknesses, three opportunities, and three threats. This will give you a better sense of what you can capitalize on and areas you need to overcome.

8. Take time to think about what you really want to do

All too often job seekers will settle for the next job that comes along. Sometimes it works out, other times it doesn’t. This stage in your life is a great time to reflect on what will make you happy.

If it’s a career change, think about how your transferable skills can make the transition easier, despite not having all the job-related skills. One woman I worked with had previously worked for Hewlett Packard in marketing. She joined our career center as a grant writer. Eventually she became the director of our Workforce Investment Board.

This article points out various self-assessments you can take to determine your interest.

9. Conduct some labor market research (LMR)

Now, you need to gather LMI on job availability, determining which skills are in high demand, and what salaries employers are offering.  One site that gives you a broad sense of your value in the labor market is Salary.com.

But the best way to gather LMI is by speaking with people in the know, who might include other job seekers or people who will grant you networking meetings, better known as informational interviews.

10. Create a list of companies for which you’d like to work

This is difficult for many people. The sharp job seekers understand the value of keeping a going list of 10 to 15 companies they research. This is also part of your LMR. Your research can tell you which companies are in growth or decline.

You also should identify important players in the companies, hiring managers, directors, VP, CEOs, etc. LinkedIn is ideal for identifying key players in your target companies. Networking is even better, providing you have the right connections.

11. Write your résumé and LinkedIn profile

Now it’s time to write your résumé. When others jump immediately to their résumé and LinkedIn profile, they’re flying blindly. They haven’t self-reflected, thought about what they want to do, and conducted their LMR.

To write your résumé right, you’ll write a tailored résumé for each job you can. A one-fits-all résumé won’t do it; it certainly won’t pass the applicant tracking system (ATS). Employers don’t want to see a grocery list of duties; they want to see relevant, quantified accomplishments.

Read this article to learn more about how to write your LinkedIn profile.

12. Networking is still your best method of looking for work

Approach connections who work for your target companies or people who know people who work for your target companies. Many job seekers have great success using LinkedIn to make connections at desired companies.

I strongly encourage my clients to attend professional association events, where they can network with people who are currently working. Those who are working might know of opportunities for you, or at the very least provide you with some sage advice. To find an association, Google your industry/occupation and your location. Here’s one I found for marketing.

15. Research, research, research

This part of your job search can’t be emphasized enough. One complaint I hear from hiring authorities is the lack of research candidates do. One hiring manager told me a person came to an interview and told the group that he was happy to be invited to (Company X), but he mistakenly called their company by the wrong name. Oops.

Be sure to research the position, company, industry, and even the people conducting the interview. Going to the company’s website is fine, but dig a little deeper. Read press releases and talk with people who work for the company at hand. One figure said 40% of candidates do one to five minutes of research before the interview.

14. Be prepared for tools employers are using, such as Applicant tracking systems (ATS)

The ATS eliminates approximately 75 percent of the applicants for a single job. It is a godsend for recruiters and HR, who are overburdened with résumés to read. However, for job seekers, it’s an impediment.

To be among the 25 percent that pass the ATS, you’ll have to write a résumé that is keyword rich. Unfortunately many candidates don’t know about the ATS and don’t optimize their résumés. Your best bet is to write keyword-rich résumés that are tailored to each job.

Jon Shields of www.jobscan.co explains the ATS in great detail in this post.

15. Pre-employment aptitude and personality tests

Employers have come to rely on aptitude and personality tests that can determine the candidates who’ll advance in the hiring process. Some employers will swear by them, believing that the software can do a better job of screening individuals than their own HR and recruiter.

Employers use pre-employment tests because they are objective and fair across the board—each candidate answers the same questions—and they’re a good indicator of job-related skills. These tests also measure character traits like integrity, cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, etc.

This article talks about the most common types of pre-employment tests.

16. Telephone Interviews

Hardly new, the telephone interview is typically the first type of interview you will encounter to get to the face-to-face interview. The interviewer has two main objectives: getting your salary requirement and determining if you have the job-related skills to do the job.

However, you need to expect not only the aforementioned questions, but more difficult questions, such as situational and behavioral-based. Telephone interviews have also become more numerous. It’s not uncommon for someone to participate in three or more telephone interviews before getting to an in-person interview.

17. Skype interviews

Skype interviews are common these days. Employers use them to save time and, ultimately, money. As well, interviewers get to see your facial expressions and body language. They are akin to in-person interviews, save for the fact that candidates aren’t invited to the company. This means candidates must nail the following areas:

  1. Stellar content and demonstrated enthusiasm through your answers and body language.
  2. Professional attire. Dress as though you’re going to a face-to-face interview.
  3. All the mechanics are in check, such as lighting, sound, and background.
  4. Look at the webcam, not at the interviewer/s. Looking at them will make it seem like you’re not making eye contact.

Skype interviews may, in fact, be the final interview, which makes it even more dire for job candidates to be prepared for them. This is particularly true if interviewers are situated all over the world.

18. Video interviews

Job candidates are given a number of questions to answer and are timed during the session. At no point do they see the interviewer/s, unlike a Skype interview. My clients who have participated in video interviews say it’s like talking to a wall.

This might be a bit unnerving, but don’t let it rattle you. Have you ever answered interview questions while looking in the mirror? Think of it this way and you’ll be fine. One more thing, look at your computer’s webcam while answering the questions, just as you would for a Skype interview.

Matthew Kosinski from www.recruiter.com. rates the top five video interview platforms in this post.

19. Finally you make it to the big ball, the interview

Chances are you will have to interview in person with companies multiple times. Employers are being very selective because hiring the wrong person can lead to loss in money, time, and possibly customers. For this reason, you need to present your best self. First impressions do matter.

More to the point, the content of your answers need to answer one question, “What value can you bring to the employer?” Your experience and accomplishments have been stated in your written communications and during pre-interviews, but all needs to be reiterated while talking with interviewers.

Read this seven-part series on Nailing the interview process.

20. It’s not over until you follow up

All your good work goes to waste if you don’t follow up after a networking event; informational meeting; being invited to join someone’s LinkedIn network; and, of course an interview.

A thank you note is required after an interview. Not just a form note, but a unique note for each person with whom you interviewed. You had a group interview with four people, you send four separate notes. Try to make each special by mentioning a point of interest discussed during the interview. Yes, email is preferred.


One more: it’s never too late to volunteer

Look, I’m not trying to sell you out. It’s a proven fact that volunteering is an effective way to land a job. Consider these four reasons:

  1. You improve your skills or gain new ones. For example, you’re a webmaster and volunteer to revamp an organization’s website to learn ColdFusion.
  2. It is a great way to network. If you volunteer in the proper organization, you can make connections with vendors, partners, customers, and others in your industry.
  3. You’ll feel more productive. It’s far better than sitting at your computer for six hours a day applying online. As I tell my clients, get out of your house!
  4. It’s a great way to pad your résumé. Volunteerism is work, so why not include it in your Experience section.

Photo: Flickr, worldentertainments center

Keep 8 rules in mind when answering why you were fired

And five possible reasons why you were fired, plus how to explain why.

Interviews are not something most people relish, especially if they have to address the fact that they were fired. (I prefer the term, let go.) The fact is that people are let go, good people. So the revelation will come when an interviewer asks, “Why did you leave your last job?”

why fired

The reason interviewers ask this question is obvious; they want to know what caused you to leave your previous position. It’s only natural that they’re curious. Wouldn’t you be curious if you were trying to decide whether to hire someone?

Of the three possible scenarios for leaving your previous company, the toughest one to explain, by far, is why you were let go. But you can answer this with more success if you keep eight important rules in mind.

Eight rules to follow when answering this question

Rule 1: Know your story. Because this question will be asked every time, you shouldn’t be caught off guard when it is. My experience interviewing people has shown me that many people haven’t thought of how to answer it.

Rule 2: Keep it short. Whereas a typical question can be answered within 90 seconds, this question should be brief. Think 20-30 seconds at most; hopefully shorter.

Rule 3: Be calm when delivering your answer. Don’t show emotion and body language that shows you’re uncomfortable. The old saying, “Don’t let them see you sweat” applies here.

Rule 4: Don’t bash your former employer. The reason for this is simple; most likely you’re talking with a potential manager who is trying to see if you’re going to be a fit.

Rule 5: Show self-awareness. Interviewers find it refreshing when candidates tell the truth, rather then lying about why they left their last position. For example, “I was looking for a better opportunity” doesn’t make sense if you have no job in hand.

Rule 6: Own it. Don’t place blame on others. Some of my clients tell stories about how the team failed to complete a project on time, but don’t explain their fault in the process.

Rule 7: Prove what you’ve learned from the situation. If the reason why you had to leave was due to your downfall, be honest about it while also demonstrating remorse without being emotional.

Rule 8: Have an ally on your side. If possible, let someone in the company speak to your excellence. My esteemed colleagues, Virginia Franco and Sarah Johnston, advise that you don’t go it alone.

Five common reasons why you were let go

There are various reasons why you may have been fired, but here are five common reasons why people must leave their previous company against their free will. Keep in mind that the following reasons will not keep you from getting hired.

You were not qualified for the job

In this case, it’s not your fault you were let go, unless you lied about your abilities. Assuming you were completely truthful, the fault lies on the employer. The interviewers didn’t do their homework or didn’t know what projects were coming down the road.

“When I was hired for the position, my employer realized six months later they needed someone who knows Pivot Tables in Excel and could use them without any training. To my manager’s credit, she apologized for not knowing this. There were no hard feelings. From now on, I’ll make sure I’m not getting into a similar situation.”

You under-performed

You may have been given goals that were unrealistic, goals most people couldn’t meet. In some cases upper management doesn’t understand what happens on the front lines. Here’s where you need to refrain from bashing your past employer.

On the other hand, the goals set forth may have been doable, but you “fell down on the job.” Here is an example of this scenario:

“I had to sell a product that was struggling against another top paint brand. For three years, I was doing well, but sales began to slip from seven percent growth year after year to slightly under zero percent growth. My VP told me I was no longer meeting expectations. We left on good terms, and he’ll be happy to be a reference for me.”

You made a mistake

Mistakes happen. Some environments are prone to mistakes; they’re part of occupation. However, some mistakes are more detrimental than others, and an employer may not see them as forgivable. Here’s were self-awareness (rule 5) is important to demonstrate. As well, explain what you’ve learned from your mistake. Here’s an example of an assignment completed late:

“As the senior software engineer in the team, I failed to realize how long this one would take and didn’t put enough time into it. This was a high exposure product, so the VP wanted this data storage software shipped on time. Unfortunately, it shipped two weeks late and wasn’t featured in a top trade magazine. I learned a valuable lesson from this: not to take deadlines lightly. In fact deadlines are 10 yards beyond the finish line, not the finish line.

Your boss was a tyrant

This is a very hard one to explain. You don’t want to bash your prior boss (rule 4), but you also don’t want to take full responsibility for this terrible situation. I can’t tell you how many people have confided in me about their difficult bosses; their stories so vivid that I believed them.

How do you explain this without going into vivid detail? How do you refrain from getting emotional (rule 3)? It’s a tough one I have a hard time explaining to my clients. I’ve had one terrible boss in my career, yet he wasn’t bad enough that I was let go or wanted to quit. Without going into too much detail, you could explain this reason like this:

“Prior to my most recent boss joining the company, I had a boss who I worked well with. My new boss had a different style of leadership (meaning he was a bastard), which I was unaccustomed to. Suffice to say I learned a great deal from both managers and am prepared to work with bosses of various styles.”


When answering this question, remember to keep the eight rules in mind:

  • Rule 1: Know your story.
  • Rule 2: Keep it short.
  • Rule 3: Be calm when delivering your answer.
  • Rule 4: Don’t bash your former employer.
  • Rule 5: Show self-awareness.
  • Rule 6: Own it.
  • Rule 7: Prove what you’ve learned from the situation.
  • Rule 8. Have an ally on your side.

The reason you were let go may be one of the five I mentioned above. Keep in mind that many people get let go from their job; you’re not unique. So don’t lose confidence in yourself.

Photo: Flickr, Patricia Adam

Be ready to prove that you can do what you’ve written on your résumé

Even though I had delivered hundreds of workshops, where I currently work, I still had to deliver one when applying for the workshop facilitator position. Sound confusing? You see, prior to applying for the role, I was delivering workshops as a disability navigator.

Teaching

I was in essence grooming myself for the role I now hold. Strike that. Now I also meet one-on-one with clients, as well as conduct workshops. I love the diversity, so the extra work is no problem.

In my interview workshop one attendee asked if having to perform a skill, such as what I described, for an interview is normal. I told her that it might not be commonplace, but it’s a great way to find the right candidate, along with asking behavioral-based questions and tough technical questions.

Situational interviews are smart

When you think about it, would a company hiring a truck driver without making a candidate actually drive a truck? Of course not. Why would it be any different for a software engineer to program in Java Script in an interview? Or a teacher lead a lesson on earth science to high school students?

Many articles have been written on how to answer tough interview questions. But let’s consider putting a day of questions away and instead having candidates perform in certain situations. There is more value in this for the mere fact that candidates must prove they can do what they’ve written on their résumé.

For a lack of a better cliche, “The proof is in the pudding.” The candidate delivers on his promise. He wrote on his resume that he can write compelling copy. A situational interview makes him prove it. A product or service is described; now he needs to write compelling copy for the website. This can be done at home or on the spot.

More than a few employers have discovered days after hiring an administrative assistant that he can’t, in fact, perform a task like creating pivot tables in Excel. Had the employer conduced a situational interview, they wouldn’t have come across this problem.

The circumstance would be more dire if a company hired a project manager without having said person present a 30, 60, 90 day plan of how she would oversee the implementation and follow-through of a testing software and hardware product.

Preparing for a situational interview

I’m sure you’ve heard about preparing for an interview—I mean really preparing—a bazillion times. You’ve been told you need to research the position, company, and industry. And if you’re really on top of it, you’ll research the people whom are interviewing you.

I asked one of my former clients how he would prepare for a situational interview. The surprise on his face was evident. Would he actually have to do that? He might. As a social media manager, he might have to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on how he would develop a social media campaign.

The best case scenario and fairest of all is being told before an interview of the project a person has to complete, but this isn’t always the case. Like a truck driver who has to drive a dump truck, you might have to deliver a technical training class.

Ideally you know someone who works in the company for which you’re interviewing. You could ask that person if he knows how the interview process will  go. Your mole tells you the last person had to write a 30, 60, 90 day plan on the spot. Having a mole in the company who can provide you with this information is ideal, but often not possible.

You might reach out to the hiring team and ask if you’ll be participating in a situational interview, stating that you want to be as prepared as possible. Sound desperate? Perhaps. Maybe they’ll tell you; maybe they’ll leave you in the dark.

If you have no inside information, carefully comb through the job description to determine which of the requirements are most important. For example: top of the list is, “Analyze and track operational and financial metrics.” You might predict that you’ll have to perform part of this task, either before, during, or after the interview.

Preparation might not be an option

At the very least, you need to know that these types of interviews exist. They’ve been around forever, it seems. I had to create a flyer for a workshop program when I applied for a job in career development. Of course I busted my ass doing it. In the end, I didn’t get the job, and the organization had the results of my hard work. Hmm.

One of my clients was told specifically by HR that he wouldn’t have to solve a software problem in an interview. However, the hiring manager had different ideas. In the interview, he was told to go to the whiteboard and solve a problem.


One of the secrets of doing well in an interview, any type of interview, is expecting anything. Don’t be surprised by the types of questions asked, and don’t be surprised if you have to prove what you assert on your résumé.

Photo: Flickr, Marilyn Kaggen

 

5 times when TMI hurts your job search

When my wife and daughters talk about bras and other female accessories in my presence, that’s too much information (TMI) for me. Or when they reveal certain information on the relationship of one of my girl’s boyfriend, that’s also TMI.

tmiWhen my older customers introduce themselves during our networking events, they may reveal TMI. Such as how they were let go from their previous employer or how they have been out of work for a certain number of months.

What these folks fail to realize is that there are situations when disclosing your deepest and darkest secrets is not a wise move. And a networking event is one of them. So when is it harmful to your job search to disclose TMI?

The answer I’d like to give is always, but that’s unrealistic and a very cold statement. There should be times when you can voice your frustrations, such as with close friends, job-search buddy groups, etc. There should be times when you can let your guard down.

But let’s look at times when you shouldn’t.

Networking Events

I’ve already mentioned networking events. But this deserves more discussion because this is a time when you have a large number of people listening to you deliver your elevator pitch, or simply talking with you one-on-one.

This is a time when most people are listening for confidence, not defeatism; when they want to hear a positive tone, despite your feeling of despondency. After all, the purpose of networking is to create relationships that are beneficial to you and your networking partners.

Community Networking

Many people don’t realize that whenever they talk with someone in their community, there’s a chance, slight as it might be, that they might know of someone with whom you can speak, heard about a job opening, or even know the hiring manager of the department in which you’d like to work.

Therefore, it’s wise to not disclose TMI to anyone with whom you speak outside the home. Sometimes in my workshops I’ll listen to people as they talk about how they were unjustly let go. Workshops are part of your community and not where you should share this information unless asked.

I reiterate, if you want assistance from people, you need to come across as calm, friendly, and even confident. If you appear confident, others will be confident in your abilities.

Online Networking

Often I’ll see TMI shared on LinkedIn. What people need to realize is that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR are trolling LinkedIn for talent and that they read what people write. So if you come across as angry or you share inappropriate posts, you’re hurting your cause.

The same applies to Facebook and Twitter. I am acutely aware of the content people share on Facebook, content that would severely hurt people’s chances of getting a job. (Have you seen the F bomb thrown around on Facebook? I have.)

Many people reason that because they’re working, they don’t need to be concerned about sharing TMI. To them I say, “Nothing lasts forever, including your job.”

Family gatherings

Family member would love to help you find your next job and get out of unemployment. They really would. However, many of them are not in a position to help you. Sure, they may hear about an opportunity that seems right for you…85 miles from your home.

Am I saying you shouldn’t let family know you’re out of work? No, not at all. Just be selective as to which family members you share a great deal of information with. Cousin John, for example, is in your industry and understands the job of an accountant. Therefore, he is an ideal person to talk to at length.

The others. They’re the ones who you mention in passing that you are in transition. Explain what type of job you’re looking for and some of your best strengths. Going into a long drawn-out story about your unfortunate situation will probably garner some sympathy, but will not instill confidence in you.

Interviews

There are questions that are meant to determine if you raise any read flags. The most obvious are the weakness question, why you left your last job, and even tell me about yourself. Be aware of questions like this. Don’t disclose too much information that can hurt you.

Rather share information that shows the value you bring to an organization. Your answers to questions that ask for a negative result should be brief; no longer than 30 seconds. And they should always circle back to what you’ve learned from the experience.

Ironically my clients tend to describe every nuance of their weakness. At times I need to put up my hand and loudly say, “Stop.” Then they ask me if they’ve gone too far. TMI. Interviewers do want to hear self-awareness, but enough is enough. TMI.


As career consultants, we always stress telling the truth. But there is such thing as too much information (TMI). Know when you need to speak in a positive manner, as when you’re out and about; and know when you should avoid disclosing TIM at interviews.

5 elements necessary to answer in an interview the Failure question

Tough interview questions can raise the hair on the back of your neck, and behavioral-based job questions usually fall into that category. One behavioral-based question my clients say catches them off guard is, “Tell me about a time when you failed in your job.”

Failure

This question is general, and a good interviewer will give the candidate some guidance by adding, “What did you learn from it? How did you make a change/changes to correct your mistake.”

The employer’s goal with behavioral interview questions is to understand how you have responded to certain situations in the past to predict how you would act in similar situation if you worked for them.

How to answer the failed-in-your-job question

There are four thoughts you need to keep in mind when answering this question and questions like it:

  1. Interviewers want to see how you’re going to respond to this difficult question.
  2. They want to see self-awareness/honesty.
  3. Understand why they’re asking the question.
  4. Have your story (short) ready.

 Stay calm

You must understand a good interviewer will not ask you questions that only call for a positive result. She will also want to hear answers where you talk about possible failures.

  • Don’t be offended.
  • Don’t show discomfort.
  • Don’t squirm in your seat.

Most importantly, don’t avoid answering the question.

Show self-awareness and honesty

If you believe you’ve never failed, you lack self-awareness. Everyone has failed at least once — albeit some failures are less detrimental than others.

Don’t talk about a time your failure was so drastic that it cost the organization tens of thousands of dollars or was the cause of your dismissal (some of my clients admit to this). But do be honest.

Understand their reason for the question

There may be a number of reasons why interviewers ask this particular question.

One reason they ask may be that they are looking for someone who can bounce back from failure. Your predecessor may have failed and was unable to handle his failure. Failure is part of life and can be a learning experience. Smart interviewers realize this.

Have your example ready

The story told well is essential to answering the question. Often the interviewer hears other skills in your story than the one he inquired about.

The story is the most important part of answering this question. It should be shorter than 90 seconds, but more importantly it should give the interviewer a sense of the situation (S), the task (T), the actions you took (A), and the final result (R). The acronym is STAR.

Sample answer

The situation: 

We had a new client, a start-up that wanted us to create, launch, and manage their website for them. I spent a solid week working on the plan for the content and the design of the web pages, presented it with confidence to the client, and was told by them it needed significant work.

 The task

Although I was initially very disappointed, I knew I had to please the client by coming up with a new website.

 The actions 

When I shared the news with my manager, I could tell she was unhappy. I told her I would see the project through to the end and not disappoint her or the client.

So, I asked the client if I could meet with them a second time to get a better idea of what exactly what they were looking for. This meeting required me to drive 75 miles to the company and back.

In the meeting they told me that they wanted to emphasize the story of their company more than the services they were offering. In addition, they weren’t happy with the color scheme; they wanted more pastels. Finally, they wanted graphics that were more colorful.

I set to work on the website the following day. I wrote content that was more aligned with their mission and services offered. I adjusted the color scheme as they suggested. The only thing I was unsure of was how to create the graphics they wanted. But, I knew who could.

Once again I approached my boss. This time I had to persuade her to hire a graphic designer who could produce the graphics our client demanded. I told her that my friend’s son had graduated from a local college with a degree in graphic design. He was having a tough time finding work. She said she’d rather hire someone reputable.

I wasn’t going to argue the case with her. Instead, I asked my friend’s son to point me to his online portfolio, and I showed it to my boss. She was convinced, and agreed to hire him for this one project.

My friend’s son and I spent many hours together coming up with the graphics. He was phenomenal and took my instructions extremely well. With the graphics designed, I put the finishing touches on the website.

 The result

Originally, the client gave me two weeks to develop a new plan for the website. But within a week I completed the plan with the new design and graphics. The client liked the plan which we implemented quickly, and the client was completely satisfied with the website. In fact, they remain a client of the company to this day. I’d also like to add that my son’s friend landed a permanent job shortly after the work he did with me.

 Bonus – the learning 

I learned that I should have gotten a full understanding of what my client needed before jumping into the project. Listening is extremely important, so I always make it a habit to listen carefully to what my clients need.

Note that after the STAR was shared, the candidate shared what he learned from the experience, a very positive way to end his answer..

The bottom line

Anticipate that you will be asked behavioral questions in interviews. As usual, the best defense is a good offense — have examples of how you have handled difficult situations, structured as STARs so you clearly present both the situation and the positive result.

This post originally appeared in www.job-hunt.org

Photo: Flickr, Mike Cohen

One area on your LinkedIn profile you may not be not aware of

And probably should.

While doing a LinkedIn critique with a client, I asked him if he’s taking advantage of his See contact info area. His reaction was typical. He didn’t know it existed. Sadly, he’s not atypical of most LinkedIn users.

Hiding Place

My reason for this assertion is because when I ask my workshop attendees if they know about their See contact info area is, their reaction is the same as my client’s. They have no clue.

If you aren’t aware of See contact info, you’re missing out on information you can provide for your visitors.

Where is See contact info?

Herein lies the problem; many LinkedIn users don’t know where this area on the LinkedIn profile is. Perhaps this is because of the location, where it’s mixed in with current employment, most recent education, and number of connections. (See below for where it’s located in the Snapshot area.)

See contact info

It’s unfortunate that many LinkedIn users don’t know where See contact info is located, as there is important information that can be discovered in this area, not least of which is a user’s email address. To add value to this area on your profile, read below.

Information you can provide in See contact info?

LinkedIn profile URL

At the bare minimum your LinkedIn public profile URL is revealed. Here’s where visitors can see if your URL has been customized (there are no numbers or letters after your name). Make sure it’s customized by going to Edit public profile & URL (top right-hand corner of your profile) select Public URL and type only your name into the field.

When I see a public profile URL that is customized, I know the LinkedIn user understands it makes them look more savvy with LinkedIn. Only when it’s customized should it be included on your resume, personal business cards, professional networking profile, and other job-search documents.

Email address

You have the option of allowing all LinkedIn users to see your email address, first degree connections, first and second degree connections, or only you. If you want recruiters and other hiring authorities to contact you, allow everyone to see your email address.

To set your email view, go to Settings & Privacy and select Who can see your email address.

Websites (three)

I provide websites for my blog; book; and since there’s no designated space for Facebook, my Facebook page. If you have a company website, a website for your job search, or want to draw visitors to a page on your former/ current employer’s site, this is a great place to do it.

Links to websites can go a long way toward branding you, especially if you’re in an artistic industry and want recruiters to see your online portfolio. You can also provide links in your rich media areas, but why not cover all your bases?

See contact info Bob

Phone

Not many job seekers list their telephone number, but the smart ones do because it’s easier for recruiters to call or text them. I tell my clients it’s their prerogative, and secretly think I wouldn’t do it. However, if I were job searching, I’d follow my own advice.

If you own a business or have a side hustle, you should list your phone number. Some people prefer immediate satisfaction. You don’t want to miss that phone call that could be a potential client.

Address

Do not. I repeat, do not list your home address. I don’t know what LinkedIn was thinking when it created this field. I, for one, don’t want people to know where I live, but that’s just me.

This is where you should list a second email address. Perhaps you want only your first degree connections to be privy to your primary email address, but will allow everyone to see a different email address. It could be a business email address, separating pleasure from business.

Twitter

Some of my connections have a larger presence on Twitter. It’s their platform of choice. While others are more present on Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you’re on Twitter, you should include your handle. I’m on Twitter but don’t use it as effectively as I do LinkedIn. I guess I could say, “I don’t get it.”

An important reason for including your Twitter handle would be if you want what you post on LinkedIn to also be tweeted on Twitter. Another reason for including your handle is so visitors to your profile can follow you on Twitter.

You have the ability to include more than one Twitter handle. To set your Twitter accounts, you’ll need to do this in Privacy & Settings.

Not enough

As I say, many LinkedIn members are not aware of the See contact info area. How then do you make sure they see your contact information, or at least some of it? One of my valued colleagues and executive resume writer, Laura Smith-Proulx, says it nicely:

“The See contact Info area does seem neglected by many people who might otherwise welcome a recruiter’s call. I hope your post convinces them to include more information. I also advocate putting at least an email address in the Summary at the end, which is designed to make the recruiter’s job easier and build more Connections.”

Yes, include your call to action in your Summary. I often see my clients fail to do this. Often many of them didn’t think of it, or in some rare instances they don’t want to reveal this personal information. This, according to Laura, makes it more difficult for recruiters to find you. Perhaps they’ll simply give up.


As you can see, there’s a great deal of information in See contact info. At the very least LinkedIn users should include a customized LinkedIn public profile URL and an email address visible to everyone. Going beyond this with websites and a Twitter handle helps in your branding.

Two sources of information I didn’t mention above are Instant messenger (three) and Birthday. The reason for this is IM is not used often, and I’m not a fan of giving out my birthday.

Photo: Flickr, irving robledo