Category Archives: Career Search

9 false stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

I have the privilege of working at an urban career center where the average age of our clients is 53. For older workers, the job search can come with challenges—one of which being stereotypes, due to their age, they face from employers.
talk

This is unfortunate, as it leads to many qualified older workers being passed over simply due to their age. Here are nine common stereotypes older workers face when searching for work:

1. Older workers are overqualified

Sometimes, this may be true – often, however, it isn’t. Furthermore, when interviewers assume an older worker is overqualified, they may be ignoring the worker’s desire for their own career.

Some of my clients tell me they’d be bored if they took a job for which they were overqualified. I tell them not to apply for such jobs.

On the other hand, there are some older workers who simply want to move into lower-stress roles. One of my clients told me he no longer wanted to deal with the day-to-day tension he faced during his 20 years as an executive program manager. Now, he works happily as a business developer for a local plumbing business.

2. Older workers expect higher salaries

Many older workers have reached the pinnacles of their careers and, thus, they tend to earn high salaries. However, many older workers also face different financial situations at this stage in their lives. They no longer have mortgage payments, college tuition is paid off, and their children have flown the coop.

As a result, many older workers have little problem adapting to lower salaries. Perhaps they’ll have to downgrade from a Lexus to a Honda Accord, or forego their third vacation in the Alps. For many older workers, this isn’t a big deal.

3. Older workers won’t work as quickly as younger workers

Sure, older workers might not be able to finish an assignment as quickly as their younger colleagues. They probably won’t spend weeks putting in 12-hour days, nor will they gather around the ping pong table to boast with coworkers about staying later than the “old fogeys.”

But do you know what they will do? They’ll work meticulously to complete a project right the first time. Older workers will work smarter, not harder. They won’t make as many mistakes, because they won’t rush.

4. Older workers are trying to steal the interviewer’s job

A common complaint of my older clients is the lack of knowledge many hiring managers demonstrate. These older workers might have 20 or 30 more years of work experience than their younger hiring managers, so it makes sense that they would know more than the person interviewing them does.

However, my older clients also say they simply want to be hired for the job for which they’re applying. They’re not interested in taking the hiring manager’s position. Some of them simply want to step back and rid themselves of management responsibilities altogether, or they want to mentor younger workers.

5. Older workers aren’t dependable

You’re mistaken if you think older workers will miss work more often due to illness, child care, and any other reason. Older workers have strong work ethics and senses of professional dedication, both ingrained in them throughout the courses of their careers.

My father worked six days a week, and I try to emulate his work ethic. I arrive early, even though I don’t have to, and am willing to stay late if necessary. Enough said.

6. Older workers can’t solve problems

Many older workers have experienced loss. In some cases, they’ve lost loved ones or jobs. They’ve had to adapt to adverse situations in real time. They know how to put out fires.

The ability to adapt to adverse situations makes older workers natural problem solvers. They think calmly under pressure because they’ve seen these problems before. They have learned from their mistakes and are less likely to make mistakes at work.

7. Older workers are lazy

A common misconception younger interviewers hold is that older workers are just biding their time until retirement comes. The fact is that if the work is stimulating, older workers will work for years beyond retirement age.

One of my colleagues is beyond retirement age, yet she says she’ll work as long as she can because she enjoys the responsibilities and the people with whom she works. Trust the older candidate when they say they have no plans to retire soon.

8. Older workers aren’t team players

Older workers have more job experience than younger workers, which tends to mean they also have more developed emotional intelligence (EQ). They understand their own limitations and the limitations of their teammates. They know when to pitch in, when to take direction, and even when to act as a mentor.

9. Older workers don’t understand technology

Don’t take it from me, as a mature worker; ask my 78-year-old mom who delves into technology whenever she can. More to the point, many of my clients are software and hardware engineers. They learned their trade through school or on their own, and now they’re at the top of their game.

What is comes down to is having the desire to learn technology. Am I interested in Pinterest or Instagram? No. Can I learn C++ or Python? Not because I’m 56 years old, but because I don’t have the aptitude for it. (My father, who was an electrical engineer recognized this fact when I was a young adult.

Thanks, Colleen DelVecchio for the reminder.


Younger interviewers, when you’re interviewing an older worker, don’t judge them before getting to know them. Keep in mind the misconceptions I’ve explained above. Prove to be the better person.

Am I saying you should hire an older worker simply because of their age? Of course not. Just give them a chance, as you would for any other worker of any other age.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

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8 ways to take a break during your job search

If you’re searching for articles that tell you how to write a better résumé or LinkedIn profile, network more effectively, provide answers to the most difficult interview questions; you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, this article is going to take an about face and strongly suggest you take a break once in awhile.

Relax

You read it right. Take. A. Break. Once. In. Awhile.

Today, I’m interested in what’s going on in your mind. Concerned might be a better word. I’ve been out of work, so I get how emotionally demanding the job search can be. I’ve heard the stress and anxiety in the voice of my clients, seen the unhappiness in their eyes.

Taking a much needed break on occasion can also prevent burnout. Here are 8  suggestions for taking that much needed break.

Don’t neglect your family or significant others

Here’s a great place to start. As consumed by your job search as you are, these important people matter. Their lives are affected by your unemployment; they’re worried about you, rely on you for security and love, might be dealing with their own issues, or might think it’s their fault.

Keep an open dialog with your young children. Plan family outings, even if you’re not up to them. You might find that a long drive, apple picking, going to the beach, picnicking, or other activities will take your mind off being unemployed.

Call on available friends or family members if your children are grown. Meet them for coffee. Keep the conversation light, as tempting as it might be to talk about your situation. No friends or family available. Join a support group. They exist.

Take care of some business

Do you remember that dentist appointment you put off for five years? When was the last time you had a physical? Does your car need an oil change you couldn’t get around to getting it done? You have some time to do this now. Take the whole day off to take care of business.

Here’s another consideration; don’t go without health insurance. It’s expensive, but it allows you to take care of some of the aforementioned. In Massachusetts you can shop around for less expensive health insurance through http://www.masshealthconnector.org. See if you have a similar service in your state.

Become comfortable being alone

Rule one of the job search: you will be alone. So embrace your alone time. Take some time off from the job search by taking a walk, gardening, fixing things that are broken in your home, going to your favorite coffee shop, or even going on a retreat.

One of my good friends, Jim Peacock, takes a day off without devices in order to reflect. He goes to a room where there are no distractions and writes. Yes, he writes with pen and paper. Am I suggesting to go to this extreme? No. I am suggesting that however you choose to be alone is fine.

When I was out of work, I would tell my wife I was going to take a walk, a very long walk. I had time to clear my head from the anxiety I was feeling. I valued this alone time and felt no guilt spending two hours walking around the city.

Allow yourself to enjoy the activities you do

If anyone in your life criticizes you for taking a break, don’t let it get to you. You don’t need to defend yourself. Some people who are gainfully employed don’t understand that job seekers need to take short breaks for their own well being.

When I ask my clients what they did the past week for their job search, some of them sheepishly say they took some time off to be with family, vacationed at the beach, or simply took a break at home. They probably expect me to criticize them for taking a well-deserved break.

“Excellent,” I tell them. “How do you feel now?” Usually my clients are ready to attack their search with vigor. Don’t look at your job search as an all-out sprint; rather treat it as a marathon, which requires pacing yourself.

Invite people over for dinner

Holding your own dinner parties is a great way to take a break. To be clear, the purpose of these parties is not to network. These are times when the job search takes a back seat. If people ask you how your search is going, politely tell them your focus is on them and making sure they enjoy the night.

A former client of mine invited me over for a holiday dinner. Neither she or I had an interest in talking about her unemployment. I’m sure she needed a break from the job search and wanted to enjoy the company of others. Shortly after the dinner she landed a job.

Take a trip with family or friends

One of my biggest regrets when I was unemployed was calling off a camping trip my wife and I had planned before I was laid off. I argued it would have accrued unpredictable costs. This was wrong for me to punish myfamily and wallow in my grief. I’ll never get that trip back, but I can advise people to TAKE TRIPS.

A close LinkedIn connection, Austin Belcak, advocates, in a recent LinkedIn post, for taking time off to attend to one’s mental health. Austin is successfully employed but says he needs to take a break every once in awhile, just as job seekers have to do.

Have a pity party

“What?” you say. “Sit around and complain about my unemployment?” Exactly. Not too frequently, though. I firmly believe that you shouldn’t keep your emotions bottled up, as the saying goes. Everyone needs an outlet, including you.

How does a pity party go? Invite other people to your home (perhaps they’re in your buddy group), dressed in pajamas or whatever is comfortable, and let your emotions loose over a glass of wine.

I heard about this at a conference for career coaches, and at first I thought the idea was crazy. Now I see the value in it. It’s therapy in a different way. I repeat, this is not a frequent activity. When it becomes frequent, it is self-destructive.

Seek professional health

Are you unable to get out of bed or spending too much time on the couch? This might be a sign that you should seek therapy. Job coaches, friends, close neighbors, and family can only offer so much health. Take the day off for a therapy session.

Many of my clients say they are talking with a therapist. How do I know? I ask them. You might think I’m overstepping the boundaries, but I’m beyond caring about offending them. I’ve persuaded many people to seek therapy, while offending one person I can think of.


If you’ve read this far, I assume you see the value in taking a break in your job search or suggesting you clients take a break in their job search. If you want to read articles on how to properly conduct the job search, visit my blog: www.thingscareerrelated.com.

Photo: Flickr, Osane Hernández

32 days in the life of a job seeker

The waiting is killing you. It’s been 29 days since you sent your résumé to Mack, the recruiter, for a job that’s perfect for you. You are finally going to have your interview with the VP of Engineering. But not before a lot of time and anguish. Welcome to the world of a job seeker.

Stressed young businessman

On the 4th of the month, Mack called asking what your salary requirement is, to which you said $85,000. Fine, Mack said. Wait, you thought, that was too easy. Mack asked you questions about your ability to perform the tasks of a Project Manager. He seemed convinced you can do the job.

He set you up to have a telephone interview with the Manager of Project Managers the following week on the 11th. You hit it off great. She said you could be a very strong fit, but other members of the team (Accounting, Sales, and Marketing) will have to talk with you via Zoom. It’s scheduled for the 16th.

In the meantime, you’d have to take a personality assessment that would take half an hour, an hour at most. It took you 45 minutes. Your were questioned on integrity, honesty, dealing with conflict and other traits you can’t remember.

On the 14th, Mack called to tell you that one of the team members is out of the office on “emergency” business. The Zoom interview will have to be pushed to the 16th at 10:00 am, the day you were supposed to attend your kid’s pre-school pageant. It killed you to miss it.

The Zoom interview went extremely well. You were definitely in the running. There were three other candidates they had to interview via Zoom. Once they conducted those interviews, you would be brought in for a face-to-face. They all waved bye as they ended the session.

You called Mack on 18th to ask if he heard anything. No, he hadn’t, but he said he’d call you as soon as he does.

You started thinking about looking for other jobs, as your networking buddies had suggested since the outset. There were a ton of Project Management positions, but they all seemed wrong for one reason or another. You didn’t apply to any.

The weekend came and went. Still nothing.

You called Mack on the  21st. He didn’t answer. You sent him an email on the 23rd.

He called the next day, on the 24th. They love you, he said. It’s down to you and another person. Internal, you asked. He wasn’t sure. That’s above his pay grade.

On the 25th, Mack called to say you would be contacted by the Manager of Project Managers to schedule an interview. It should be the following Monday. They want you to meet with her boss, the VP of engineering.

The present

It’s Monday the 28th. You wait with your phone on all day and throughout dinner.

Finally the phone call comes on the 30th from the Manager of Project Managers. She apologizes for not getting back to you. They were waiting for the VP to return from Europe, who was vacationing in Italy.

They want you to come in tomorrow, the 31st, at 2:00 pm. You’re supposed to pick up your daughter at the bus stop, but you’ll make it work. Your retired neighbor gladly agrees to pick her up.

It’s been 29 days after the recruiter has received your résumé.

You’ve had a phone interview with Mack; another phone interview with the Manager of Project Management; and a Zoom interview with her, Accounting, Sales, and Marketing. Hopefully this will be the last one.

The interview goes well with the VP; you address the pain points that were previously discussed with the team in great detail. You talk about how both of you traveled to Europe. You hit it off.

The VP offers you the job, much to your excitement. There are some hoops you’ll have to jump through, though. They’ll have to do a background check and contact your former bosses. Other than that, you should start in a week’s time. He hopes you understand. They want to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts.

On the 5th of the following month Mack notifies you that all is clear. Your former  supervisors gave you glowing recommendations and your background check came back fine. You can start in two days after they’ve set up your computer. You are amenable to that.


Your situation, although grueling, was not  uncommon. You were extremely lucky in that you didn’t look for other work and put all your energy and faith in one company…and got away with it. Smarter job seekers would have continued looking for other jobs.


According to a study by Jobvite (2019 Recruiting Benchmark Report) this example is not extreme. Their most recent statistics cover 2016-2018. The average time to hire was 38 days in 2018, depending on variables, such as logistics, level of occupation, and geographic location, etc.

What have you learned through this whole process? You’ve learned that it takes time to land a job. You thought it would be quick. You were always good at what you did. But the landscape of the job search has changed. Employers are moving slower for a number of reasons like above.

 

Think like employers: 5 ways they fill positions

And what to do about it.

When I talk to my clients about the hiring process, I’m greeted with mixed reactions. Some of my clients know the drill; perhaps they’ve been through the process, even from the hiring end. Others listen wide-eyed; they’re not happy knowing their way of looking for work is the least effective.

CEO

Consider this scenario

On Friday the position of Sr. Software Engineer is announced internally. All employees who want to apply need to submit a résumé detailing their qualifications by close of business (COB) on Monday.

Three people feel they are qualified and hurry to update their résumé over the weekend. One of the candidates doesn’t have a résumé, has never written one. He’ll have to learn how to write one quickly.

On COB of Monday, when résumés are due, the VP of Engineering résumés from the internal candidates on her desk. She has a pretty good idea of who she will name Sr. Software Engineer. But there’s another résumé from someone who was referred by an employee for the position.

HR needs to announce the opening on Indeed, accept résumés, and interview external candidates. Then employees from various departments will interview the new candidates, internal included. The process could take up to a month.

This scenario is not uncommon. Is it fair? this depends on who you ask. Generally speaking, there are five ways employers prefer to fill a position.

1. Fill positions from within

The scenario above depicts the most preferred way employers fill a position; from within the company. Ideally they have someone who can fill it quickly and with little fuss. Is it fair to the unemployed candidates? Again, it depends on who you ask.

Unfair to the unemployed, but companies have one thing in mind, filling the position with a safe bet; and who’s safer than someone they know? This makes good business sense.

The hiring manager is familiar with the abilities, and inabilities, of the company’s employees. As well, promoting from within builds good will in the company. An employer that promotes from within is a good employer. So this is a win-win situation.

2. Referrals from employees

The second way employers prefer to fill a position is by taking referrals from their own employees. In some cases the employer will reward the employees with a monetary bonus for referring a person who sticks for, say, three months.

When I was in marketing, I referred my cousin to an IT position in a company for which I worked. I recalled years before how he spread the word of his unemployment at a family gathering, so I brought this up to the powers that be. The CIO read my cousin’s résumé, invited him in for an interview the next day, and offered him a job that day.

I was rewarded one thousand dollars, minus four hundred for taxes. I’ve heard of people who received as much as ten thousand dollars for making a referral. Of course the level of the position to be filled matters.

I never would have referred my cousin unless I was confident of his abilities, which is the case with most employees making a referral. People like me don’t want egg on their face if the person doesn’t work out, even if said person is family. By the way, my cousin worked out extremely well.

3. Referrals from trusted people outside the company

At this point the employer has tried their best to find an internal candidate or someone recommended by their employees. Nothing has worked out and the position has to be filled yesterday.

Their next move is reaching out to people they trusts outside the company. The employer may reach out to former colleagues, partners, vendors, even people who’ve left the company for greener pastures.

The employer trusts these people because they know what the employer’s looking for in job-related and soft skills. They’re the best bet at this point. Besides, the referrers don’t want to steer their buddies wrong.

In an Undercover Recruiter article, it states, “Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7% apply but this accounts for 40% of all hires.”

Further, it claims, “Applicants hired from a referral begin their position quicker than applicants found via job boards and career sites (after 29 days compared with 39 days via job boards and 55 via career sites).”

4. Hire recruiters

When requesting referrals doesn’t work, the employer’s next step is hiring a recruiter. This is less desirable than seeking referrals because recruiters are expensive but palatable because recruiters are more knowledgeable of the industry.

There are two types of recruiters, retained and contingency. While retained recruiters work strictly for the employer and are more knowledgeable of the industry, the contingency recruiters only get paid when they find the best candidates.

The employer’s cost for hiring a recruiter can range from 15-30% of the applicant’s first year salary. A hefty chunk of change.

Either way, the employer is paying for a few candidates to be delivered to the table. It’s still a risky proposition. Referrals are still the desired source of candidates for the reasons stated above.

5. Advertise positions

Now it’s desperation time, because this is when employers advertise their positions. There are two major problems with advertising a position, cost and uncertainty of hiring the right candidate.

You may think that it’s the cost of advertising online is the major concern, but it isn’t; the cost employers feel the most is the time spent reading résumés and interviewing unknown people. When I ask hiring managers (HM) if they like reading those résumé, approximately 98% of them say they don’t.

With applicant tracking systems in place, you’d think the process would be more manageable and pleasant, but this isn’t the case. For some, reading 25 résumés is reading 25 resumes too many.

Even with the advancement of the ATS, poor candidates get past it and make it to the interview. What many recruiters and HMs are experiencing are candidates who are not qualified and, in many cases, have embellished their accomplishments.

What do you do as a job seeker?

The obvious answer is to become a referral by reaching out to those you know in desired companies. This sounds easier said than done, but the steps you take begin first with determining which companies you’d like to work for. Create a list of at least 15 target companies.

Reach out to your former supervisors and colleagues. If they’ve moved on to another company, they might know of possible openings there or at other companies. The problem with relying solely on former colleagues, is that well will run dry; they will run out of time and ideas.

Attend industry groups where people who are currently employed are networking for business. You are there to offer your expertise either on a paid basis or as a volunteer. You are prepared with personal business cards and your personal commercial. It’s my opinion is that the best people to be with are those who are employed.

One of the best places to network is in your community. You never know when you could run into someone who knows someone who works at one of your target companies. Most important is that people know about your situation and that you’ve clearly explained what you’re looking for.

LinkedIn is ideal for identifying people in companies, as most hiring authorities are on LinkedIn. Make use of your online time by using the Companies feature and do advance searches. Work your way up by connecting to people on your level. Also, connect with people who used to work at the company; they can give you some insight.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on applying online and waiting to be brought in for an interview. You must become a referral.

Photo: Flickr, Roger Braunstein

The LinkedIn quiz: 50 questions

In a recent post, I asked my LinkedIn community to take a quiz consisting of 15 questions. Those who took it were honest about their LinkedIn prowess, or lack thereof. I promised in this post that I would reveal the entire quiz I give my clients.

Jigsaw-Phishing-Quiz_sm

The quiz I give my clients consist of 50 questions. If you decide to take it and don’t score 100%, don’t worry. There is always room for improvement. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have a perfect score.

Some of my failures have to do with my inability to perform the “tasks,” some of them are due to caring not to perform the tasks.

We’ll start with the LinkedIn profile. I tell my clients that while it’s important to have a value-based, optimized profile, this is only one-third of the equation. Here we go.

Your Profile

Determined how you want to brand yourself, or deliver your message. Express this on your profile through the following. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following:

  1. My profile is optimized with keywords. ___
  2. I have a background image that is relevant or reflects my personality. ___
  3. My photo is professionally done, or a buddy with a good camera shot it. (No selfies) ___
  4. I have a headline that brands me with keywords or a tagline or both. ___
  5. When you look at my Articles & Activity section, you’ll see I engage on LinkedIn. ___
  6. My Summary, now called About, tells a compelling story that shows value. ___
  7. My Experience section consists of accomplishments, not simply duties. ___
  8. I utilize my Education section to the fullest. For example, I tell readers some of my accomplishments at University. ___
  9. I show my Volunteer experience because employers like people who contribute to the community. ___
  10. I list at least 30 Skills which are endorsed. (Job seekers, you’re given a break on the number of endorsements, but the employed should have at least 50 endorsements per skill.) ___
  11. In my Recommendations section, I have at least 1 recommendation from a supervisor/manager for each position. ___
  12. I’ve written recommendations for my employees, colleagues, vendors, etc. ___
  13. My Accomplishments section has at least one of these: project, publication, patent, language, grades, courses. ___
  14. I have at least media, e.g., audio, video, documents, Slideshare, in either About, Experience, or Education. ___
  15. I post videos on a consistent basis. ___

Total number of yeses ___


Another important part of your LinkedIn campaign is developing your network, which should be large, yet focused. The more homogeneous your network, the more value you’ll add to your connections.

Your network

  1. My goal is to build relationships to land a job or increase sales. ___
  2. I believe that building relationships is about giving. ___
  3. I have 500+ connections. ___
  4. At least 80% of my connections are in my industry. ___
  5. I use All Filters to search for potential connections. ___
  6. I search and connect with people using the Companies feature. ___
  7. I search for people using See Alumni. ___
  8. I know how to use Boolean Search to narrow my search. ___
  9. Before connecting with potential connections, I read their profile in full. Well, mostly. ___
  10. I send cold invites and include a personalized message. ___
  11. I send invites with a personalized message using references. ___
  12. I ask for an introduction from someone in my network to someone with whom I’d like to connect. ___
  13. I thank people for joining my network. ___
  14. I follow up with a message to new connections. ___
  15. I make an effort to call or Zoom/Skype with my new connections. ___

Total number of yeses ___

Your engagement

Here’s where the rubber meets the road; thus, more questions. You’ve created a stellar profile, connected with people in your industry and some verticals; now it’s time to engage with your network and stay top of mind.

  1. I spend at least 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week on LinkedIn. ___
  2. I message my connections on a regular basis. ___
  3. I occasionally use group messaging. ___
  4. My comments are respectful, or I don’t comment at all. ___
  5. I react (Like, Celebrate, Love, Insightful, Curious) to other’s posts. ___
  6. I react (Like, Celebrate, Love, Insightful, Curious)  to other’s posts and write a comment for each one. ___
  7. I write my own long posts. ___
  8. I react and/or share articles written by my connnections’ or online publications, for example, The Muse. ___
  9. I react and/or share and comment on articles written by my connnections’ or online publications. ___
  10. I react to people’s videos. ___
  11. I react and comment on other’s videos. ___
  12. I produce my own videos. ___
  13. I use LinkedIn’s Publisher to write articles. ___
  14. When I share someone’s communications, I @ tag them. ___
  15. I use the appropriate number of  # hashtags. ___
  16. I endorse my connections. ___
  17. I ask for and write recommendations for my connections. ___
  18. I share my connections’ profiles with other LinkedIn members. ___
  19. I give Kudos to my connections. ___
  20. I use the LinkedIn mobile app. ___

OVERALL number of yeses ___


Legend

  • 45 out of 50 correct: Grand Master
  • 40 out of 50 correct: Very Good
  • 35 out of 50 correct: Good
  • 30 out of 50 correct: Fair
  • 25 out of 50 correct: Needs work

 


Thank you for taking this quiz. If you are new to LinkedIn, don’t worry about your score; it will increase the more you use LinkedIn. If you are a veteran of LinkedIn, your score should be high. Maybe not perfect, but high.

As always, I’m interested in hearing about other questions I should add to this quiz. I’d like to increase the overall number of questions to at least 60.

 

 

4 important principles of your job-search stories

In a recent networking event, I started facilitating it by having the members introduce themselves with their elevator pitch. When it was my time to deliver my pitch, instead I began by saying, “When I was a child….” This immediately grabbed their attention.

father lessson

I proceeded to tell the networkers a two-minute story about a hard lesson I learned from my dad.

Then I broke them up into groups of four and had them each tell two stories. (Because it was an odd number, I participated…again.) They could select from telling a story about a:

  1. tough life lesson they learned;
  2. rewarding life experience;
  3. failure experienced in work; and
  4. success they achieved in work.

After each networker told their group two stories, I asked for volunteers to tell the whole group their favorite story. As it turned out, the members had told their individual group a story that addressed each topic. I must say all the stories were extremely good.

Finally I asked the members if their stories were related to networking. Yes. I followed by explaining how stories, no matter what the topic, have to be relevant to their audience. They must include the following principles:

Meaning

What meaning does your story have? The exercise I had my networkers perform required them to address the aforementioned topics. I gave them specific instructions, which they adhered to.

The purpose of the exercise was not only to teach them the importance of storytelling; it was also to illustrate that networking is more than delivering your elevator pitch. For example, you might have the opportunity at a networking event to tell a brief story about your vacation in northern Italy.

The same principle applies to interviews. When an interviewer asks you to tell them about a specific time when you demonstrated excellent conflict resolution skill, they don’t want theoretical answers.

Don’t start with, “Conflict resolution requires a level head….” No, begin with, “There was a situation where I last worked….” Interviewers want to hear stories that have meaning to them. You also have to use proper form.

Form

A story you tell to answer a behavioral-based question will be less open-ended than a story you tell in a social gathering or for an activity I gave my networkers. It has to have form, should not exceed two minutes, and be specific to a situation or problem.

Remember what I mentioned above; don’t start with a theoretical answer to describe a specific time when you dealt with a conflict, or any other specific situation.

In workshop I lead called Mastering the Interview, I have my participants construct a story using the following form: 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 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.

Create a connection

When the candidate creates a connection in an interview, a couple of things can happen. First, the interviewer may smile and indicate approval by saying, “Thank you. That was a great answer.” This likely means that your story addressed the 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. You’ve created a connection.

My networkers achieved success by eliciting some emotional response from the group. One story a man delivered was about how he was tasked with telling his aunt that her father had passed away. No one in the family could bring themselves to do it. So, he did the tough act. His was an emotional story.

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.”


My networkers didn’t have time to prepare for this exercise; they had to think on their feet. But all of them did extremely well. The stories they told might not have been geared toward the job search, but it showed them the importance of making a connection through storytelling.

23 interview articles to help you land a job

The interview is the most important component of the job search; it’s the End Game. For the job candidate, there’s no room for error. For the interviewers, they can’t make the costly mistake of hiring the wrong candidate. Is the process perfect? No, it’s far from perfect, but it’s what employers have.

why-fired

Some job candidates find being interviewed exciting, others get anxious being in the “hot seat,” and a few are utterly terrified of interviews. Whichever you are, these articles can help you in the interview process, or at the very least make it easier. Read some of them, or read all. They are still relevant.

4 qualifications job candidates must demonstrate during the interview

There are three obvious qualifications job candidates must demonstrate in the interview—read this article to learn about them. But there’s one qualification you might not have considered. It is revealed in this article.

4 important principles of your job-search stories

Although this article is not specifically about interviewing, knowing your job-search stories is important. They’re important to networking, your LinkedIn profile summary, and interviewing.

4 experts weigh in on the daunting, “What is your greatest weakness question?”

The first article in this compilation begins with what interviewers are looking for in a candidate’s answer; showing self-awareness and demonstrating how candidates are correcting their weakness. Jamie Fischer, CPRW, Brett Lampe, Sarah Johnston: (BriefCaseCoach.com), and Ashley Watkins: (WriteStepResumes.com) are the experts.

How to answer, “Tell us about a time when you were successful at work”

“Tell us about a time when you were successful at work” is a behavioral-based question you might face in an interview. This is a common question which can be challenging if you’re not prepared for it.

Don’t take the telephone interview lightly; be prepared for 4 or more potential problem areas.

If you think a telephone interview isn’t a real interview, you’re sadly mistaken. Telephone interviews are generally thought of as a screening device, but they carry a lot of weight and, in some cases, they’re full-fledged interviews. Often times job seekers don’t take the telephone interview seriously, and this is a huge mistake.

How to answer, “Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone at work”

You might have had to motivate someone to do their work, whether it was a coworker or subordinate. They might have been the bottleneck that was holding up a major project. This is frustrating, especially if you like to finish projects before the deadline, nonetheless on time.

One very important component of your behavioral-based interview answer

Interviewers want proof of what you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplishment. You can achieve can prove your assertions by delivering a well crafted stories. You’ve probably heard of the STAR formula. You’ll use this formula to guide yourself through telling your story.

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

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.”

Keep 8 rules in mind when answering why you were fired

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?”

3 major Skype major interview tips job seekers must heed

One of my clients was supposed to have a face-to-face interview, but it was scheduled for a day of a Nor Easter. With the interview an impossibility, what would be a plausible alternative? The answer is simple: the company could conduct a Skype interview. And that is what happened.

The future of job interviewing may include increasingly more Skype interviews. If you’re a job seeker and haven’t had a Skype interview yet, chances are you’ll have one soon.

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

In my interview workshop one attendee asked if having to perform a skill 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.

5 steps to answer, “Tell us about a time when you had to deal with pressure”

You’re in a group interview and it’s been going smoothly. You’ve answered the questions you prepared for. To your credit, you read the job description and identified the most important requirements for the job, Marketing Manager.

Beyond the “Nerves” in an Interview: 4 ways to deal with it

Most people get nervous when they’re being interviewed for a job. They are peppered with questions that are meant to get to the core of their technical abilities, motivation, and fit. It’s a stressful situation. This is called “getting the nerves,” and it’s natural. Most likely you feel the same way about interviews.

5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

You’re probably aware of the order in which employers attempt to fill a position. First, they consider their own employees; second, ask for referrals from their employees; third, seek referrals from trusted people outside the company; fourth, hire recruiters; and lastly, advertising the position. Or they use a combination of all of these.

3 ways to show employers what you CAN do in the future

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Employers don’t care about what you’ve done; they care about what you will do.” If you haven’t heard this, rest assured it’s the truth. By conducting multiple interviews, employers are trying to determine how you can save them money, improve quality, increase revenue, improve productivity, and help the company in other ways.

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

Succeeding at the interview begins before you sit in the hot seat. The first step is being mentally prepared. This means overcoming the negative feelings that came with losing your previous job. To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem.

Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

Interviewing for a job is tough, whether you’re actively or passively seeking. If it were so easy, people like me wouldn’t have to provide advice on how to interview. One of the challenges of the interview process is knowing yourself, really knowing yourself.

Nailing the interview process, part 3: research, research, research

You’ve heard it over and over again: you need to do your research before an interview. Why? Because:

  • When you do your research, you’re more prepared.
  • When you’re more prepared, you’ll be more confident.
  • When you’re more confident, you’ll do better.

The last thing you want to do is wing it in an interview. You’ll fail, especially if the interviewer is good at their job.

Nailing the interview process, part 4: practice, practice, practice

To be an excellent baseball player or pianist, you need to practice, practice, and practice. You wouldn’t expect to hit home runs effortlessly or play at Carnegie Hall with no practice. The same principle applies to interview success.

Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

Guess what; all of the lessons you were taught as a child apply today. Now that you’re an adult, you still need to maintain consistent eye contact, deliver a great handshake, smile, and more. And if you’re interviewing, your first impressions count more than ever.

Nailing the interview process, part 6: answering tough interview questions

You’ve been invited in for a face-to-face interview. You feel this job is great for you. You like the variety of responsibilities and have heard great things about the company. You’ve done everything right so far – and now it’s time to answer some tough interview questions.

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. Perhaps it did go well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

So when is the interview really over? Not until you’ve sent a follow-up note.

6 reasons why older job candidates shouldn’t discriminate against younger interviewers

As a career strategist, I often come to the defense of older workers who experience ageism, but I don’t talk enough about reverse ageism. In other words, how older job seekers treat younger interviewers during the process.


Photo: Flickr, Patricia Adam