Category Archives: Interviewing

Sage Interviewing Advice from 5 Recruiters

Congratulations! You made it to the interview. Through your hard work—researching the position and company; networking with recruiters; writing a resume for human consumption, not purely focused on the ATS; and practicing answering the questions you predict will be asked—you’re ready.

There are some things you still need to consider, such as:

  • Preparing for video interviews
  • Understanding how to answer the questions that will be asked
  • Thinking of intelligent questions to ask the interviewers
  • Knowing how to answer the salary questions
  • Following up with your recruiter

All of this will be covered here. My suggestion to you is don’t skip a word. The recruiters who offer their advice are the real deal. They’ve taken time out of their busy schedule to offer you their advice and, most importantly, they want to help you succeed. One of them writes:

“As a recruiter, my success depends on my candidates succeeding. I provide advice on LinkedIn and other platforms for not just my candidates whom I work with personally, but candidates everywhere.” Tejal Wagadia, Sourcing Recruiter, Amazon

Preparing for video interviews

Ed Han Talent Acquisition Geek | Job-Hunt.org Contributor | JobSeeker Ally | I’m not active on LinkedIn: I’m hyperactive! | Wordsmith | Recruiter at Cenlar FSB | Ask me about IT opportunities in the 19067 and 08618 ZIP codes!

The key to performing well in practically everything is good preparation. Professional athletes practice for hours daily. Professional actors do exercises and rehearse lines for hours daily. So it is with interviews–but particularly with video interviews. And it begins from the moment you attempt to schedule your interview, and all the way through the process.

Some of what follows is just interview preparation best practices, but the items that are unique to video interviews will be called out in italics.

Scheduling

When the person with whom you are scheduling confirms your interview:

  • Do so in writing (email. SMS, etc.)
  • Always ask
  • How long should I budget?
  • With whom will I be speaking?
  • What technology will be used?
  • If they send a calendar invitation, scan the attendees, see if the interviewer(s) are also on the invitation list

Before the interview

These steps are essential in maximizing the likelihood of performing well in your interviews:

  • From the Scheduling step above, research your interviewer(s) online on LinkedIn and other forms of social media
  • Get plenty of rest the night before to the extent possible
  • Have a beverage handy for your interview: you will probably do a fair bit of talking in the interview, and pausing to take a sip can be a good way to stall for a few seconds and gather your thoughts when uncertain how to frame your response to an interviewer’s question
  • Again from the Scheduling step above, do a test call or two using the technology for your interview because unfamiliar technologies might behave unexpectedly, and throw you off during the interview
  • Most videoconferencing technologies have a chat feature: identify that feature and learn it, it is useful for troubleshooting any audio/video issues you may be experiencing
  • GoToMeeting when installed on a computing device periodically needs to update, so allow time for this to take place before your interview
  • Set the stage: identify where you will take the interview, and make sure the lighting is good, that you are not backlit or in shadow, that you have privacy and quiet, and make sure nothing problematic is visible in the background behind you–this is another good reason to do a test call before your video interview
  • Attire: select clothing that is not jarring against the background the interviewer(s) may see
  • Where possible use a Chromebook/laptop with an Ethernet cable: WiFi often offers lower bandwidth than an Ethernet cable connection, and using your phone could lead to your hand getting tired from being in the same position for an extended period of time

During the interview

Bear these things in mind during your interview:

  • In a panel interview, ensure that you are addressing each person, although the bulk of your attention should be on whoever is speaking
  • In the event of a technical issue, use the chat feature to help troubleshoot
  • Look at the camera, it is your interviewer(s): the reason for a video interview is to get a feel for the person behind the resume, and there is a great deal of non-verbal communication in any human interaction. It is easy to make the mistake of looking at the screen instead of the camera, but make a conscious effort to do better in this, it will help differentiate you from your competition

After the interview

It is generally considered good etiquette to send a thank you. Schools of thought differ on “the ideal medium” to do so: I have witnessed suggestions of a formal business letter, email, or text. What makes sense will be driven by the dynamic between you and the person who scheduled the interview. If in doubt, always favor the more formal over the less formal medium, whatever that is.

Summary

Above all, remember that a job interview is a business meeting between parties wanting to determine if they want to do business, and if so, how. The fact that this conversation is taking place over video is irrelevant.

It just means that there are logistical considerations that you should recognize and address to ensure optimal performance.

Understanding how to answer the questions that will be asked

Dan Roth Recruit for Amazon | Work for my Candidates | Professional Speaker

As recruiters a recruiter, I get asked all the time, “What is the hardest interview question you have ever heard?” I always pause, knowing I am not going to give them the answer they are expecting to hear.

Instead of a specific question, my response is always, “It’s not the question that is hard. The hard part is making sure you are answering the question how the interviewer wants you to.” Roughly 90% of the time I get a quizzical look so I explain.

Amazon and many other companies want applicants to use the STAR method.

Situation

Task

Actions

Result/s

This format allows applicants to have a clear structure. First you explain the situation, providing whatever background information is needed that gives context. Next what was the task? The task could conceivably be the problem you are looking to solve.

Actions are the next component. Within the actions, what measures did you take to resolve the situation? How did you arrive at this decision? Did you research prior? Did you seek out varying opinions? Did you have to pick between multiple options? We really want to know in the actions not only what you did, but the why behind it.

Finally, the result/s. Was it a positive outcome? Were there data points showing the improvement you were able to make? Was the client happy? Were your actions ones that you could replicate in the future with similar results?

This may sound standard, even simple.

The trouble for most comes in two parts.

The first is that while the structure is easy to follow, many job seekers do not consider the context of the question. Amazon has 16 leadership principles. The interviewer may be hinting to you that they want to hear an example of customer obsession.

But due to nerves or any number of factors, the answer provided is either based on prepared answers that have been practiced time and time again and is not catered to the question being asked.

Or so much time is spent on one area of STAR that it comes across as overly verbose and potentially gives the wrong impression of how the candidate communicates on the job.

The other big miss can be data points. Many high-tech companies want you to back up your claims with some sort of tangible evidence. If you created an application that raised sales for your company 30% we want to know that.

But, data points are often seen as numeric. If your customer obsession led your client to award your company more business, that is another metric that can be used. It is all relative on the job and what you are doing.

So how do tough interview questions become easy? Well, they don’t…but they can become easier. Make sure you are actively listening to the interviewer, research the company beforehand and look at the job description and job tasks as a guide you can base your answers off of.

The thing is, we can’t suddenly become telepathic and know what every interviewer is looking for. What we can do is do everything in our power to make sure that you are giving yourself the best chance to succeed.

Thinking of intelligent questions to ask the interviewers

Kelli Hrivnak Recruiter partnering with companies to hire Digital Marketing & Technology Talent | Dream Team Builder 🏆 Career Growth Catalyst

“Do you have any questions for me?”

You reached the end of the interview–Don’t blow it now. Your answer should never be “No, I’m good on my end.”

I’ll relate it to a first date. If your date wasn’t reciprocating questions back to you, what would your impression be of his/her interest level? Here’s what I would think: They just aren’t that into you.  

Even if the interviewer did a bang-up job of providing an overview of the job and company, they are testing to see if you did your research and prepared for the interview. 

This process is mutual–employer and candidate should be qualifying each other to vet the fit. The goal of all interview processes is to gather and learn as much information as you can to assess if you will succeed in the company.

If you’re still trying to figure out the culture, you have to go deeper and ask more specific questions than the blanket “Tell me about your company culture?” Here is a sampling of what you can ask instead to reveal the ethos of the organization.

History:

Is this a replacement or growth hire?  

What challenges have prior hires had in this position?

What traits and behaviors made hires in this position successful?

Management style:

What happens when an employee fails?

How do you address under-performance issues with employees?

How do you set and track goals for the team AND individuals? Is goal-setting a collaborative effort?

Leadership:

How are leadership decisions made and communicated?

What is your or company’s approach to performance reviews?

Is there anything you can disclose regarding company growth plans for this year (product roll-outs, acquisitions, 

Communication:

How often do you hold stand-ups or meetings to communicate news/information with the entire team? How often for one-on-ones?  

How often and how do you provide feedback? Or are you generally “hands-off”?

How do employees give and receive feedback?

How do you stay in contact with the team?

How are you keeping employees connected during these times?

How (or when) do the other departments collaborate?

DEI

What are you doing to promote a diverse/inclusive workforce?

What has been the most difficult part of implementing a DEI program?

Does the company encourage and support employee resource groups?

What has the company implemented to eliminate bias in the hiring process?

Learning and Development

Are there opportunities for upskilling and personal development?

What does the onboarding process look like? Are there mentors or “buddies” on staff available after onboarding? 

Would I have a chance to represent the company at trade conferences?

Where have successful prior hires in this position been promoted to?

Work/Life Balance:

What are leadership’s expectations for work hours?

Should I be expected to be available for emails on nights/weekends?

Before you wrap-up,

  1.  “Given what you have learned so far, do you have any concerns about my skills or experience that would be problematic for success in this position?”

Yes, the candidate does take the risk of having the interviewer call out a real issue. However, the candidate is taking a proactive approach and allowing the opportunity for the interviewer to bring up any reservations about the fit–given the interviewer takes this chance to be honest too. It’s your final chance to prove you are the best candidate.

  1. What are the next steps in the hiring process? When would it be appropriate for me to follow-up?

You are setting the stage for managing expectations of the hiring process.

Knowing how to answer the salary questions

Teegan Bartos, CCMC, CCM Helping Ambitious Professionals Gain Career Clarity, Get Hired Quickly & Have Their Income Match Their Impact ✷ Career Coach & Resume Writer ➟ 𝘋𝘔 𝘮𝘦 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘳𝘧𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘍𝘐𝘛 𝘈𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘰𝘳

The most important thing I can share with you about salary negotiations is it starts before you ever speak to someone. A company is going to have a pay range in mind and have preconceived notions about your worth based on your location, education, previous titles, and market conditions – none of which is within your control.

That’s probably why Glassdoor found that 59% of American employees accepted their offer without ever negotiating. And what’s worse, is only 1 in 10 of U.S. employees reported earning more than their former job.

But the great news is, companies also take into consideration how you articulate your value across your LinkedIn profile, resume, and throughout the interview process – all of which is within your control.

Let’s dive right in starting with my top three mistakes to avoid:

1.      Discuss salary BEFORE a formal offer is given – know your worth and preferences.

2.      Don’t accept an offer ON THE SPOT – ask for 24-48 hours to review.

3.      DON’T accept the first offer without countering.

Where to research your market value:

Salary.com, Payscale.com, ONetOnline.org, job postings in states that require pay range transparency like Colorado and Connecticut, and talking to people with access to that information via informational interviews.

How to begin salary talks during the interview process:

In most states, it is illegal to ask what your current salary is, so more often than not, you will be asked what your compensation expectations are. Here are four different approaches to answer this:

  1. Based on my understanding of the role, I would expect to be near $X.
  2. I want to learn more about this role to give an exact figure, but I need to be within X to Y range.
  3. All in I would want to be near X and Y with my guaranteed cash near Z. How does the company factor equity and bonus?
  4. Before I can answer that I would need to learn more about the position. What is the salary range for this role?

If you are an executive or your role requires you to negotiate, I would avoid option number 4. My go-to answer during early stages is a well-researched option number 2 for mid-level professionals and option number 3 for executives.

5 steps to negotiating your offer via email after reviewing for 24-48 hours:

  1. Gratitude: Thank you.
  2. Optimism: I am excited to join the team!
  3. Evidence & Range: The offer is below what I was expecting. I believe this position should be between X and Y.
  4. Value Proof: I’ve been able to A (lead a global IT transformation resulting in $52.3M in cost avoidance and 237% in increased productivity through automation initiatives) and B (another relevant value add example) and know I would be an asset to the organization. 
  5. Ask: Is there flexibility here?

Negotiating is a complicated process to cover in 500 words, but you’ve now got a starting point that you can customize to fit your needs.

Following up with your recruiter

Tejal Wagadia Demystifying recruiting/hiring one post at a time | Nerd at heart | Samwise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins in recruiting | Views are my own| Maxed out on my connections, please hit follow!

Recruiters and Talent Acquisition folks shouldn’t be unapproachable either before or after or anytime during the process!

We are neither Ents or Golum from LOTR, but I do understand why that’s the perception. 

Working with a recruiter should be easy and it’s as much on you as a job seeker as it’s on the recruiter!

Questions that I often get as a recruiter from job seekers are about how often and what to say. 

Let’s start with How Often:

Recruiters are just like you and can forget sometimes. It’s okay to reach out to us and come back up in our headspace. 

The cadence should be every 3-5 days depending on your bandwidth. 

Your recruiter should have told you a timeline that you should hear back by! If they don’t, you can absolutely ask during the first call about it. 

Script:

“Thank you for all this information. Could you go over the interview timeline and when I should expect to hear back?” 

If this wasn’t communicated with you during your first call and you’ve already interviewed with an organization and haven’t heard back, you want to start 3 business days post your last interview or communication! 

If you have the phone number, you should definitely call. If you only have an email, that works too. Here are the scripts you can use

Phone voicemail:

“Hi (Recruiter Name), This is (Your Name). I interviewed with (Team or Person) on (date). I am following up to see if you had any updates for me. Please give me a call back when you get a moment, my phone number is (xxx-xxx-xxxx).”

If they pick up, you can use the first part of the voicemail message to begin the conversation.

Email script:

“Hi (Recruiter Name),

I hope you’re doing well. I interviewed with (Team or Person) on (date). I am following up to see if you had any updates for me. I enjoyed my conversation with (Team or Person) and would love to move forward in the process. 

Please let me know if you have heard anything back yet or when I should expect to hear back.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME.”

I promise you as a recruiter, you aren’t bothering us. Sometimes I have someone on my to-do list to get back to but before I know it it’s past 6 and I have to end my work day! It happens! I always push the candidate over to the next day’s to-do list but it’s not a fool proof system. 

Remember this is your job search! You have control, take ownership of this control.

________________________________________________

Want to know how to prepare for interviews, read prequel to this article.

The Thoughts of 7 Recruiters on How to Get To an Interview

The life of a recruiter is not an easy one. It requires a lot of digging and scrapping for talent to fill positions for their clients, the employers. It’s not unheard of for a recruiter to have as many as 30 plus requisitions at a time to fill. For the mammoth companies, hundreds of requisitions (as one recruiter says) are possible.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the job for recruiters is trying to satisfy the ultimate hiring authority who is looking for the ideal candidates. As hard as they try, some recruiters fall short of meeting the expectations of the hiring authority, while others succeed. Those who succeed more often are the ones who stay in the game.

From my observation of the life of a recruiter–talking with them, seeing their posts on LinkedIn, and reading their brutally honest banter on Facebook–their most pressing struggle is bridging the gap of communication between job seekers and their employers.

The communication gap can’t be understated; it’s real. Who gets more frustrated, recruiters or job seekers? I would wager the frustration is weighed differently. Recruiters are trying to maintain their employment, and job seekers are trying to…get employed.

If you’re a job seeker who is having trouble finding the right way to communicate with recruiters, this article is for you. You see, there’s an art to communicating with recruiters. It’s not a subtle art; it’s a common-sense type of art.

Are you wondering what an application tracking system is? You’re not alone. In this article a recruiter will break it down for you. What about ghosting? You might have experienced a time when a recruiter didn’t get back to you upon sending them your resume or after an interview.

These are just a couple of topics this article will address from the point of view of recruiters. There are seven topics in all, so take some time to absorb what the recruiters in this article have to say. Here they are in order:

  1. How to connect with a recruiter
  2. What to write when connecting with a recruiter
  3. Ghosting and whether you’re being ghosted
  4. Writing resumes that appeal to recruiters
  5. That dang ATS and why not to fear it
  6. The steps to writing a compelling LinkedIn profile
  7. Preparing for an interview with a recruiter

Before I go any further with this article, I have to make one thing clear; the recruiters/former recruiters who contributed to this article are people who want you, as job seekers, to succeed.

How to connect with a recruiter

Ed Han Talent Acquisition Geek | Job-Hunt.org Contributor | JobSeeker Ally | I’m not active on LinkedIn: I’m hyperactive! | Wordsmith | Recruiter at Cenlar FSB | Ask me about IT opportunities in the 19067 and 08618 ZIP codes!

Everywhere you go, people are talking about the importance of networking in a job search. And people talk about the importance of talking with recruiters because we’re the ones with the jobs.

But how?

As a recruiter and avid networker, here is what I would recommend you do to network with us.

Before we get into that, it would be a good idea to understand the two major kinds of recruiters, in order to help you tailor your approach and strategy.

  • Agency/external recruiters. Employees of a recruiting firm, agency recruiters work on job requirements assigned by their clients. When they are able to place one of their candidates with the client, an external recruiter earns a commission.
  • Internal/corporate recruiters. Often part of HR, internal recruiters are employees of the hiring organization and work on job requirements from within that entity. When they are able to get one of their candidates hired with the hiring manager, a corporate recruiter still gets paid a flat salary.

Whether agency or internal, recruiters tend to have areas of specialization. It could be industry-driven for external recruiters (obviously not relevant for internal recruiters), but quite often is oriented by skillset: creatives, IT, finance, etc. In some large organizations, they might specialize even further, such as within IT, software engineers vs infrastructure.

And you know what? We tell you on our LinkedIn profiles! There just aren’t a whole lot of recruiters who do not have a LinkedIn profile–which is great, because the odds are that is where you will find us most readily.

Sending someone a LinkedIn invitation to connect is good–but recruiters get tons of invitations to connect, and you want to stand out from the others.

Do that with a note sent along with the invitation. And here is where a lot of people take a sub-optimal path.

Do you possess a skill set that the recruiter specializes in? 

Hint: look at the profile and scope out their employer. A quick look at the company page will tell you.

Strike up a conversation with the note you send to connect. “Hey, I’m a [profession] professional. Your profile suggests that you work with my skill set. Can we have a conversation?”

See? That’s all it takes: starting a conversation. 

Networking isn’t a transactional exchange. It’s a relationship in which the parties both get something out of it.

What to write when connecting with a recruiter

Kelli Hrivnak Recruiter partnering with companies to hire Digital Marketing & Technology Talent | Dream Team Builder Career Growth Catalyst

Contrary to what you may have heard, recruiters can be a valuable resource in your job search. But do remember this: A recruiter’s objective is to find people for their jobs. Not to find jobs for people.  

Ed Han explained the two types of recruiters and their roles in the recruiting process. Now that you have narrowed in on recruiters aligned with your area of expertise, it’s time to craft your message.

Here’s what you should not do:

Hi ________, I am starting to explore job opportunities. Do you have any jobs that would be appropriate?

Why this isn’t efficient:

Unless we have communicated recently, I don’t know what your strengths or career objectives are.

You are putting a lot of trust in the recruiter to guide your career path.  

Recruiters are slammed right now. Succinct details will help a recruiter customize what clients and searches would be the best match for your career growth.

Some call it your elevator pitch or value prop. I need the hook–What information do we need from you instead? 

What are your skills/strengths? 

Positions/titles

Target salary range/benefits/comp

Remote/in-office presence

Industries/target companies

Here’s how to fine-tune your messaging :

Hi ___________, 

I am starting to explore job opportunities. I’d prefer to work for a mature, structured company with over 500+ employees (non-consulting), with a company that respects work/life balance. I am open to hybrid/remote, within a 30-mile radius of Baltimore City. Compensation 120k+. 

I’ve been doing UI design but also managing design operations, and I’d like to leverage that experience to shape the operations of a future UX department. My base resume is attached.

****************************************

Do your research. Do you have any shared connections? If you were referred, name-drop.

Keep it short. Don’t ask for a coffee chat as your call-to-action. Trust me–the recruiter will reciprocate communication if they are interested.  

If there is a specific job posting you are interested in, include the URL. Some recruiters are working with companies that have 200+ job openings. 

Are you making a career transition or believe you can choose a variety of career paths? It’s okay if you don’t have 100% clarity of your next steps, but do spend time identifying your options and transferable skills. Career coaches can help with this process and planning if you are having a difficult time determining focus.

Recruiters want to find the right talent for their open jobs, but they don’t have time to uncover your interests and wants. Help us help you and make this a win-win situation by communicating what you bring to the table. 

Ghosting and whether you’re being ghosted

Dan Roth Technical Recruiter at Amazon

Before getting into whether or not you are being ghosted, I want to highlight two things. The first is that while I am a recruiter, I spent the first 17 months of the pandemic as an unemployed job seeker navigating the market like so many of you. I have seen what you have seen and felt what you have felt…I get it.

The second thing I want to highlight is: Is Ghosting a real thing? The obvious answer is yes. However, in my experience, there are a few different kinds of ghosts. Below I will break them into what I have found to be the 3 most common types of ghosts to help you understand.

The mass reach-out ghost: This type of ghost is the one that sends you a template e-mail saying something along the lines of, ‘based on your experience we feel you could be a good fit for X (company). You get this e-mail; your hopes are high…but then nothing.

This type of ghost has probably sent out thousands of emails prior to looking at any one resume. Once you respond, it either gets put in a massive pile of other responses only to be forgotten in time or after looking at your resume, they realize you are not the right fit…and don’t let you know because ‘it’s awkward.’

The Recruitment Influencer Ghosts: Let’s be real, because of the pandemic and the reliance on social media and specifically social audio, many recruiters, myself included, have become somewhat of micro-influencers.

This group gets hundreds of inbound messages per day and while it is a nice theory to say this type of influencer can get back to everyone, it gets incredibly overwhelming and even the most diligent recruiter may miss their fair share.

The Ignorant Ghost: These are the worst kinds of ghosts. These are the people you have had multiple communications with…you may have had multiple interviews and then nothing. I could give you potential reasoning for why this may happen, but there is no excuse for this. It is just absolutely horrible and these kinds of ghosts should not be recruiting.

Regardless of the type of ghost, it makes for a horrible experience. As a job seeker the natural instinct is to wonder what it was that you did wrong. It is in those moments that I will ask you to pause, take a breath and realize that getting ghosted by a recruiter is not a reflection on you, it is a reflection on them. You are better off at a company that values you and your time.

Keep your head up, your spirit high…your time is coming.

Writing resumes that appeal to recruiters

Matt Warzel, CPRW, CIR Helping Job Seekers Find Their Next Career Move 20% Faster With A Pay Increase of $15K on Average Award Winner Jobstickers.com Blog WriterSpread Joy, Be Empathetic, Make a Change, Then Make Your Impact

The resume needs to be logical first and foremost. If the reader is wrinkling their forehead, you’ve lost the initial battle.

With this said, have a target in mind and build your messaging around this target. Have a vision of your dream job. Think of your job drivers. What’s important to you? Time, money, benefits, 401(k)s, location, product offerings, company image, culture, values, progressive versus traditional setting, remote versus on-location, passionate project opportunities, etc.

Each is different for each person. What motivates you? What’s your passion? What can you do that will make you happy in 2 weeks, 3 months, a year? The candidate should research his or her new career field/job target! You need to do your research. You need to get a feel for the way the industry and respective companies function in the world, the services they provide to others, and the types of jobs out there in that industry that could pose as a potential new career.

I love using Google News, Google alerts, Salary.com, Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn to uncover industry and job research. Using this research can be a good way to spot industry and job keywords (for the core competencies and summary sections), role responsibilities (for the experience section), and important transferable contributions (for the accomplishments section) for inclusion on your resume. Read trade journals of major industry players to stay on top of insights in your space.

Be realistic in what you can achieve. While taking chances and risks are a good thing, do not over-stretch yourself into a role you simply are not a fit for (yet). What industry do you want to live in, and in what role? Be specific in what you want, clarify it, write it down, consume knowledge of it, live it.

Recruiters cannot help you if you nor they know what you want to do. Most people have skills and experience that can transfer nicely to another industry or job. The key is knowing how those skills reasonably transfer, and what sort of value they bring to the prospective employer. The challenge is that most are unsure of how their skills are exchangeable to other duties.

If you’re an accomplished professional, it’s best to use actual methodologies, processes, skills, or technologies relating directly to the open job description and your experience. These are good ideas for those greener candidates. Also, opt for free experiential learning like internships. Work freelance projects for friends, neighbors, etc., and continuously build your portfolio, skills, and competencies.

Back to the resume – next, make sure it has optimized keywords, quantifiable content (even if there are no metrics, but metrics are preferred), and a format/layout that adheres to applicant tracking system mandates. Think quantifiable content and write it pragmatically. Also, stick to brevity while making those bottom-line accomplishments shine. Again, as long as you aren’t wrinkling the readers’ foreheads (I love this visual, LOL) when they’re reviewing your resume, you’ve done your job…now if you match the qualifications, it’s interview time!

That dang ATS and why to not fear it

Amy Miller Sr. Recruiter – I build the teams that build the satellites. Recruiting Truth Teller & Mythbuster. Somehow, LinkedIn Top Voice 2022

A quick Google search of “How To Beat The ATS” yields over 6 million results. SIX. MILLION. RESULTS.

All about how to “beat” something that usually amounts to a digital filing cabinet.

Job seekers are frustrated. Recruiters are confused. How did we get to this point, where alleged best practices around job search have created a mythical bot standing between you and your dream job?

First of all, let’s understand how most companies utilize their ATS – our first clue is in the name. ATS stands for

Applicant

Tracking

System

Essentially, most ATSs are simply large (albeit complex) databases that track a candidate’s journey from application to onboarding. It is literally a System that Tracks Applicants – and considering many recruiters are juggling hundreds of applicants at a time, you WANT us to have some mechanism to keep it all straight!

Many job seekers fear the ATS as something to be “beat” or even want to find a way to get AROUND an ATS – which is unfortunate, considering the ATS is a critical tool that helps recruiters keep all this activity straight.

Let’s start by walking through the candidate journey in the typical ATS.

APPLICATION

This is where it begins, and often the only part a job seeker will see. Candidate information is stored in a profile – searchable by name, email, or candidate ID (random personalized number generated for each new profile).

Candidates can apply directly to roles they choose, current employees can refer candidates, and recruiters can sometimes “tag” a candidate to an open role. (Open roles are ALSO created in the ATS, generating their own “profile” and job ID).

ACTIVITY

Once a qualified candidate has been identified, there is typically a process flow. Resumes/profiles are sent to hiring managers. In some cases, assessments are requested or calendar invites sent. These invitations can be for initial recruiter calls, technical screens, even interviews.

MOST ATSs aren’t even that complex, and scheduling can be done the old-fashioned way (typically via email). However, NOTES about all that activity should be recorded in the ATS note fields, so other recruiters or hiring managers with access can see at a glance the status of roles and applicants.

There is a LOT that happens in the “activity” portion of the ATS – we could write a novella about all that! Documentation is CRITICAL. Required documents, interview notes, feedback and next steps – ALL TRACKED IN THE ATS.

OFFER

Congrats! An application was successfully reviewed, interviews scheduled and documented, and a hire decision has been captured in the ATS. Now we can make an offer!

Many ATSs can create offer letters that allows for the requisition to be closed, and the candidate record updated/sent to the appropriate HRIS database once it’s accepted. In the event of a decline, we can still see that candidate history, in case we want to try recruiting you again!

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOTS?

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of misinformation out there about “bots,” auto screeners, or rejection emails. I have yet to work with ANY system that does any kind of filtering without human intervention.

What further complicates this, is the sheer number of ATSs on the market. There are literally hundreds of ATSs and a near-infinite number of configurations. I’ve used Taleo at 3 different companies – the experience was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT each time.

WHAT IS A JOB SEEKER TO DO?

The best way to “beat” the ATS? Pay it no mind. Seriously. Forget about the tool being used, and worry more about where you are spending your time. Write a targeted resume written for a human audience (recruiter AND hiring manager).

Network with people who hire (or do) the kind of work you want to do. Understand how companies hire. If you’re a new college grad trying to break into FAANG – applying to senior roles and hitting up SWE Managers is hardly going to get you the results you want – those companies generally hire new grads through very specific University Recruiting programs (and they use the same ATS!).

Other recruiters might choose to use Boolean strings, or trust a ranking system to identify the top applicants (I don’t, but others may). Talking to recruiters at your target companies can help demystify how THEY use their ATS – so you can focus on more important things.

I WAS REJECTED. NOW WHAT?

The good news? Your information stays in the ATS. Smart recruiters will actually START their search when recruiting for a new role – IN THE ATS. We can conduct searches, review “silver medalists” on previous roles, even read other recruiters’ notes and feedback. Not to mention we have your contact info and can quickly get in touch!

There are certainly land mines to avoid when job searching – the ATS just isn’t one of them.

The steps to writing a compelling LinkedIn profile

LIAM DARMODY Growth Operations | Talent Attraction | Employer Branding // Husband+Dad | Hot Sauce Aficionado | Blockchain Bull | LinkedIn Branding & Content Strategist

Your resume gives recruiters a glimpse into what you’ve done and when you’ve done it,

but recruiters want to know “WHAT(ever) ELSE” they can about you when considering

whether to reach out or move on to the next profile. Be sure you’re making it easy for us

to get an authentic glimpse into:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Why you do it
  • How you do it
  • How you think & communicate
  • What it might be like to have you on the team

Be authentically, genuinely, unabashedly yourself, because there’s no reason not to be. Those recruiters who like what they see will reach out with opportunities they think are a good match. Those who don’t like what they see, won’t, but as far as you’re concerned, you don’t want to be considered for jobs that your personality doesn’t fit into anyways.

Use all the LinkedIn profile real estate you need to tell your story the way you want to. As a recruiter, there is nothing quite as satisfying as reading a well-written profile, which means:

  • Create a banner that reflects you & your personal brand (Canva is great for this)
  • Turn on Creator Mode and record a 30-second cover story in your headshot that shows your personality & value add. Bonus points if you can make me laugh.
  • Use your headline summary as more than just your title & company. Tell us more about what you are and what you care about. I like to think of mine as a representation of the things that fascinate me.
  • Use the featured section to populate examples of your work or things you’re proudest of. Could be anything – a LinkedIn post, a PowerPoint, a video clip, a PDF certification of a course you took. Just don’t NOT use that prominent real estate – it would be like choosing not to run free billboard ads.
  • Create a compelling About section that elaborates on the whole “fascination” theme and makes it easy for recruiters to get a sense of how you communicate, think, and dare I say… live! Yes, that’s okay to share too!
  • Be sure to provide any additional context in your experience section that you don’t feel was fully captured in your resume bullet points.
  • Solicit skills endorsements & recommendations from others in your network. This is especially helpful in technical fields where keywords play such a critical role in the success of your visibility and consideration on LinkedIn. Bonus points if you complete skills assessments and feature those there as well.

Last but not least, don’t ignore the obvious fact that LinkedIn is fast becoming a social network as much as it is a professional network. Posting your thoughts on business, life, family, and whatever else you’d ever care to talk about with colleagues in a professional setting is not only okay, it’s encouraged.

Preparing for an interview with a recruiter

Teegan Bartos, CCMC, CCM Mid-to-Senior Level Leaders Accelerate Your Career Land Your Perfect FIT Job Quickly Making More Money Than Ever Before Career Coach, Job Search Strategist, Resume Writer

Congratulations! Your referred resume, LinkedIn profile, or application just captured the attention of a recruiter and you’ve been extended an interview. Now, you may be thinking the recruiter is only a box-checking gatekeeper, but wowing the recruiter is imperative if you want the hiring manager to select you for the next round.

So, how do you prepare for this interview? By understanding what the recruiter’s role is and what the recruiter is looking for so you can strategize accordingly.

The Recruiter’s Role: Recruiters are compensated and evaluated on their ability to place people in open positions, often being judged on retention, quality placement, and speed to fill. That said, they are looking to create win-win situations for not only the hiring manager but also the candidate.

Box Checking: More often than not, a recruiter is not going to be asking the “tough” technical questions, so for this round, know yourself, research the company, and study the job description to prepare tailored interview answers to prove you understand and can meet the companies needs.

Know Yourself: Truly know why you’d be open to new opportunities and what it would take for you to leave your current organization. Here are some examples because this can be challenging:

“My company’s direction recently shifted and when I saw {Company Name} was embarking on {fact from your research}, I had to explore it further.”

“I currently make $225K with 20% bonus being paid out in March and was awarded $50K in equity two years ago that vests over 5 years. With a company as good as yours, I trust that the offer would be competitive.”

Tailored Interview Answers: Nail your opening “tell me about yourself” answer by incorporating details you learned are important to this role. Be prepared to give examples of times you’ve done what is in the job description with SOAR (explain the situation, reference obstacles to success, state what action you took, and most importantly finish it off ideally with quantifiable results.) And lastly, be prepared to ask questions that you couldn’t find via a google search. 

_____________________________________

Here you have the thoughts of seven recruiters on how to get to an interview. It begins with How to connect with a recruiter, what to write when connecting with a recruiter, understanding that ghosting is something to expect, writing resumes that appeal to recruiters, that dang ATS and why not to fear it, writing a compelling LinkedIn profile, and preparing for an interview.

Starting with years of experience in your elevator pitch and on resume could hurt you

It’s inevitable. When an older job seeker delivers their elevator pitch to me, they lead with something like “I have 20 years of experience in project management.” My reaction to this auspicious beginning is that it’s not…auspicious. In other words, the person’s years of experience doesn’t impress.

The same principle applies to a resume; touting years of experience in the Summary doesn’t impress a reader. It certainly doesn’t impress me. And I imagine it doesn’t impress hiring authorities, as evident by a raging poll that is only two-days old on LinkedIn.

What impresses me AND employers is what you’ve accomplished most recently, say in the last five to seven years, and that your accomplishments are relevant to the employer’s needs. In addition, because you have 20 plus years of experience doesn’t prove you’ve been productive.

Angela Watts is a former recruiter turned recruiter has this to say about showing value over years of experience:

“Years of experience in and of itself means nothing… you may have been doing a job very poorly for 20+ years. Show me the accomplishments… the pattern of success across roles and companies… your compelling value proposition for THIS open position.”

Hannah Morgan is a career coach and speaker who advises candidates to talk about relevant value and using a hook to begin the elevator pitch and the resume Summary:

This has been a pet peeve of mine since I started! It’s always about what you know how to do (problems you solve). The number of years is irrelevant. Explain the level at which you perform your job! And yes, always get them with a hook. Make it relatable!

If you ask 10 people how someone should deliver their elevator pitch or begin their resume Summary (more about the Summary below), you’ll get 10 different answers. This doesn’t mean the answers will be wrong; it simply means the components of each will vary slightly or be arranged in a different manner.

Your elevator pitch

Following is my opinion on how to deliver the elevator pitch without stating years of experience.

Start strong

Instead of beginning your elevator pitch with the number of years you’ve been in occupation and industry, explain why you enjoy what you’re doing. That’s right, tell the interviewers or fellow networkers what drives you in your work. I’m tempted to say what you’re passionate about, but why not?

People like to hear and see enthusiasm. Especially employers who are hiring people for motivation and fit. Sure, technical skills matter. Employers need to know you can do the job, but your years of experience doesn’t prove you can do the job. “I have 20 years of experience” is a “So what?” statement.

Let’s look at a sample answer to “Tell me about yourself.” The following statement shows enthusiasm and draws the listener’s attention, especially with inflection in your voice:

I knew marketing communications was the route I wanted to take as soon as I realized what an impact it has stakeholders. Playing an integral role in getting the company’s message out to the public is one of my greatest pleasures, (slight rise in voice) especially when it increases awareness of our products or services.

Back it up with relevant accomplishments

This part of your elevator pitch is the most important, as you will speak to the employer’s needs. Two or three relevant accomplishments of what you’ve achieved most recently is best. But keep in mind they don’t want to hear your life story. Keep it brief, yet impactful.

(Big smile) One of my greatest accomplishments is having recently led a social media team of five who were able to increase traffic to my previous company’s website 250% since I took over. I was hired for the role because of my (slight rise in voice) leadership abilities and intimate knowledge of the platforms we used, such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

(Slight pause)

One of my favorite aspects of communications is writing content for press releases, whitepapers, customer success stories, newsletters, and product releases. My former boss said I was the most prolific writer he’s seen. More importantly, (slight rise in voice) I increased our organization’s visibility by 40%.

(Another slight pause)

I know you’re looking for someone who can create and conduct webinars. I have extensive experience over the past five years delivering three webinars a week on a consistent basis. These were well received by our (spread arms wide) 10s of thousands of viewers. One of my favorites was interviewing the VP once a month.

Wrap it up with energy

You’ve made it to the concluding statement. Maintain the energy that makes you the go-getter all employers want. Make them look past your age and focus on what you’ve achieved. A strong ending will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Use the word “energy.” If you say it, they’re more likely to believe it.

I’d like to end by saying that I’ve received multiple awards of recognition from my colleagues for not only the expertise I demonstrated (slight rise in voice) but also the energy I exuded. In addition, I was often told by my boss that if she could clone me she would. I will bring to your company the experience required and the energy needed to get things done.

You might be an older candidate, but by not letting interviewers to focus on your 20-years of experience and more on what you’ve accomplished, your chances of wowing them will be greater. They would if I were interviewing you.

What about the resume Summary or Value Proposition?

I propose that your Summary shows personality as well as value you’ll deliver to the employer. You might consider it a miniature elevator pitch. The example below is written in first person point of view, which gives the Value Proposition more personality.

I Identify and minimize risk by predicting the demand for products and adopting new technology with no interruption to the process.

One of my fortes is implementing strategies to speed up the processes of packing, loading and delivering products, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

“Shannon has brought innovative supply chain strategies to (company) which made us more efficient and save cost. Our customers were extremely pleased with Shannon’s attention to their needs.” Bob Jones, VP Operations, ABC Company

The quote is not a mistake. Quotes can be very impactful because what others say about you weighs heavier that what you say about yourself, especially if it’s coming from someone as high as the VP of operations.


Selected quotes from the poll

Kevin D. Turner: Experience naturally is both Quality & Quantity but I recommend not leading with Quantity. XX Years of Experience was once a perceived value and now can be a limiter to a sizable % of those decision makers who are doing the hiring.

To many, XX years of experience, could bring up thoughts like; ‘they are set in their ways and won’t do it our way,’ ‘they have so many years of experience, we just can’t afford them,’ or ‘How will Bob with XX years of experience relate to 95% of our staff that are Millennials and Gen Z’s?” Put Quality first and let them figure out quantity.

Karen Tisdell: In Australia starting a profile with “I have 20 years experience in…” is standard. It’s also counter to our culture of mateship. 20 years implies that you are better than someone with only 2 or 5 years, and yet we all know that people don’t always have to have years of experience to be brilliant at their job.

Only recently a client of mine won an industry award and he has only been in the industry 5 years, and two of those were part-time. I dislike the ‘where’s my crown?’ implication in the 20 years rhetoric, as you say Bob McIntosh – it’s far from auspicious. It’s snooty, top-down, hierarchical.

Rich Ormond: I think that years of experience are very relevant, although certainly not the totality. If what you say is the default way of thinking, then people like me are in trouble. I’ve essentially had three careers so far — renewable energy, international aid, and now career services.

What’s more, I’ve gone back and forth between them (especially the first two). If I can only count what I’ve done in the last five to seven years, then I can never transition back to a former career.

No, if I ever decide to do so, you can be sure that I will be relying heavily on my years of experience in those fields, citing my recent years only as building complimentary skills. For those like me who do not have linear careers, listing your years of experience in a field is a must, I think.

Virginia Franco: I agree completely — your years of experience isn’t nearly as important as what you’ve done during that time. That being said, it’s confusing for job seekers because job posting usually list desired years of experience!

Meg Applegate: I wholeheartedly agree, Bob! Lead with your unique value not length of tenure. Answer the “why does this matter?” question and the WIIFM questions that hiring managers are asking when reading your resume.

LAURA SMITH-PROULX:I cannot stand to hear elevator pitches (or read resume / LinkedIn summaries) that tout XX years of experience, Bob McIntosh, because there are SO many better ways to describe oneself!

I have the unfortunate lens of having worked at an organization with longtime employees who’d simply clung to their jobs, with no real innovation or achievements to claim. Mere survival in one’s industry is of little value.

The other problem with this statement is that you could be up against candidates with a similarly lengthy career – and THEN what will you use for differentiation? Employers can quickly read or interpret your age and length of experience. Your career branding approach (throughout your elevator pitch and documents) must take care of the rest

Debra Feldman: ⚠ Years of experience can set off an alarm for older candidates. Rather emphasize accomplishments that are relevant to the needs of the employer. What’s that saying about it’s not the years in your life but the life in your years!

It’s Official: “What Is Your Greatest Weakness?” Is the Most Difficult Question among 4

It’s almost inconceivable that “What is your greatest weakness?” is a question still asked in interviews, but many job seekers I’ve asked say they’re getting the weakness question in one form or another, which means that hiring authorities see some value in it. Mind boggling.

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

Branding Pro Kevin Turner has interviewed thousands of people during his career in marketing and sales, and he shares the same thought:

“Its uncomfortable to answer because who really wants to admit that they have a real weakness. I hope someday this question goes away but I don’t think it will anytime soon. So we have to be ready to ask it and digest the answers.

I polled LinkedIn members, of which 11,079 have voted at this writing, asking which four questions they think is most difficult. “What is your greatest weakness?” was one of them, and it received the highest number of votes. Here’s the result of the numbers each question has received:

  • What is your greatest weakness? 4,005
  • Tell me about yourself. 2,442
  • Why should we hire you. 2,508
  • Tell us about a time you made a mistake. 2,124

What is your greatest weakness?

Executive Resume Writer Laura Smith-Proulx further bemoans the “weakness question.” As a former recruiter, she writes:

Asking about a candidate’s weakness has always struck me as useless. After all, they’re interviewing to tell you why they’re the RIGHT person for the job and now you’re asking a question to seemingly stop the flow of positive information. (I never asked this of a candidate!) It also forces the job seeker to come up with a positive spin on the question.

Agreed 100%. And what candidate in their right mind would disclose their greatest weakness? Going into the interview they should have determined which weakness is relevant but not too relevant. In other words, it won’t kill their chances of getting the job.

On the other hand, a valid reason for asking this question is to see how candidates react. Will they answer the question calmly, or will they slide under the table? Self-awareness is one key element of emotional intelligence. A candidate who answers honestly will earn points from interviewers.

Tell me about yourself

This question (really a directive) came in as the third most difficult question according to the poll. The problem with this question is how candidates should answer it. Should they talk about their high school years, or how their kids are doing, or list off a ton of platitudes of themselves? No to all.

Recruiter and Job-Search Ally Ed Han finds this question troubling:

As a recruiter and job seeker ally, it often seems to me that while most people say they hate greatest weakness, in actual practice I find “tell me about yourself” generates by far the worst responses.

“Tell me about yourself” is often the trigger for a five-ten minute soliloquy. The interviewer doesn’t want your life story: they want to know your unique value proposition, why are you highly qualified for the position, or at least well positioned to perform the job at a high level.

The directive, “Tell me about yourself” has its merits because it requires the candidate to have their elevator pitch prepared. As well, they need to tailor it to the position’s requirements. Executive Career Coach Sarah Johnston concurs:

The most common question that I see job seekers struggle with is “tell me about yourself” because it can feel very open ended. The trick here though is to selectively tell them a 90-second version of your story as it relates to the pain points of the opportunity.

Ninety seconds is all it should take to tell employers about yourself. Any longer you’ll run the risk of boring the interviewers. I know my capacity for maintaining attention to an interview question is about a minute. As Ed says, don’t deliver a soliloquy.

Why should we hire you?

The question “Why should we hire you?” is a little better in terms of questions. But like the weakness question, it’s a bit of a cliche and one that candidates can formulate their answers going into the interview. Like the tell-me-about-yourself question, there’s a formula. One that Hannah Morgan spells out:

These are all questions job seekers struggle with and for different reasons. But I chose “why should we hire you” because while this seems pretty obvious, job seekers have difficulty connecting the dots in their answer.

You are looking for X and this is what I’ve done and the results
You are looking for Y and this is how I’ve done that and outcomes
Most importantly, based on these things I’ve learned in the interview, this is why I would like to work here.
Not exactly those words, but the idea!

This is all find and good if you know about the company, but what if you haven’t prepared for the interview, you haven’t researched the position and company. Recruiter Raegan Hill writes:

The reason is, this question often asked during the beginning phase of an interview – when the professional still needs more information about the role and company before they are able to thoughtfully and intentionally answer the question in the context in which it is asked.

This sounds like a trap to me. Shame on candidates who don’t know the position and company by heart.

Tell me about a time when you made a mistake

To me, the directive, “Tell me about a time when you made a mistake” is the most challenging of the four questions, as it requires candidates to tell a story and tests their sell-awareness…to a point. Based on the poll, the voters don’t agree.

In my experience, candidates tend to swallow the honest pill when asked about a failure. Why’s this? It might have something to do with be unprepared; they go into an interview thinking that interviewers won’t ask them about times they failed. Good interviewers will.

I chose this question as the most difficult one. Here’s why. Behavioral-based questions throw people for a loop. They’re not familiar with telling a story using the S.T.A.R (situation, task, actions, result) formula. Rather, candidates are used to traditional questions, such as the other three in the poll.

What interviewers hear, even from the higher-level job seekers, are speculative answers and not specifics. This is because candidates haven’t prepared for behavioral-based questions. They haven’t dissected the job ad to determine which are the most important requirements of the position.

Go to the poll to read some other great comments.

One of the Toughest Interview Questions: “Why Did You Leave Your Previous Job?”

And how to answer it.

This is an interview question that can be a cinch or difficult for job candidates to answer, depending on the reason for leaving their position. Always expect this question in an interview. It only makes sense that the interviewer would like to know why you left your previous job.

interview with woman

How you answer this question—most likely the first one asked—will set the tone for the rest of the interview. Many people interviewing for the first time are surprised when they get this question. It’s as though they don’t expect it.

Not only should you expect this question; you should have the answer to it already formulated. It should not take you by surprise. Expect it. Be prepared. If you get it wrong, shame on you.

Also, be aware of a zinger like, “Steve, tell us why you want to leave (company X) and come to work with us?” To answer this two-part question successfully requires an in depth knowledge of the company and position. Both of which are topics for another article.

What are employers looking for?

Is there a wrong answer? Not really. It’s how you answer it, for the most part. There’s no way to change the past, so your calm response is the best policy. They want transparency, not lies. They also don’t want a drawn-out story; your answer should be brief.

If you become emotional, it will send a negative message to interviewers. If you hesitate, they may distrust you or question your resolve.

Three possible scenarios

Let’s look at the reasons why people lose their job and how to address them.

1. You were laid off

This is easiest way to answer the question, “Why did you leave your last position?” As mentioned above, your answer should be short and sweet. You may say, “The company had to cut cost and restructure after a poor second quarter.

To beat them to the punch, you might add, “I was among 15 people in my group who were laid off. I was told by my manager that she was sad to see me go.” The reason for doing this is because you might get a follow-up question about how many people were laid off.

Caveat: some people think being laid off is the same as being let go or fired. It is not. Being laid off is do to company failure.

2. You were let go

This is harder to explain, but not impossible to come up with a viable resonse. This especially needs a short answer. It’s important that you are transparent and self-aware with your answer. In other words, if you were at fault, be honest about it.

You must also explain what you learned from the experience and state that it will not be repeated. Perhaps it was a conflict of personality between you and your manager, poor performance, or a “mutual departure.”

Conflict of personality. “A new manager took over our department. I was used to the way the previous person managed us. The new manager had a different style, which I didn’t adapt to quick enough. I now understand I need to be more adaptable to other types of management.

Poor or inadequate performance. “As the project manager of my department, I was responsible for delivering a release of a new data storage software. We failed to meet the deadline by a week. My VP saw this as unforgivable.  I see where I could have done a better job of managing the team.

You were not a fit for the role. Yes, this is a not a cliche in this case. “When I was hired for the role, complete knowledge of Excel wasn’t a requirement, but as the job evolved it became apparent that my Excel skills were not strong. As this position doesn’t require expert knowledge, I am confident I’ll do a stellar job.”

Caveat: the interviewer might want to dig deeper into the situation. Be prepared to answer the questions directly with little emotion. Always keep a cool head. Resist the temptation to speak negatively about your previous boss.

3. You quit or resigned

To quit a position—especially without a job in hand—means there was an existing problem. One common reason I hear for quitting is a conflict of personality with the employee’s supervisor. Another one is a toxic work environment. And a lame reason I hear is because advancement was not possible.

Regardless, a red flag will go up with interviewers if you quit your position. What some people don’t realize is that you give up your right to collect unemployment, if you quit; another reason why this is not a great scenario.

Conflict of personality. “While my previous boss and I got along well, we didn’t see things eye-to-eye on certain decisions he made, and tension was high, so I decided the best move for me was to resign.” To show you have nothing to hide, you can add: “I would be happy to discuss further if you’d like.”

Unsafe environment.I felt the work environment was not as safe as I was comfortable with. For example, there were many fire hazards in the warehouse. Additionally, the air quality was tested, and it failed. I feel fortunate that my wife brings in a substantial income; otherwise I might have stuck it out longer. My only regret is that I miss the people with whom I worked.”

Work-life balance was in jeopardy. “My job required me to drive into and out of (city), which was at times an hour and a half each way. I was missing a great deal of my son’s activities, and my health was suffering. Although commute isn’t a reason for taking this job, it will be a relief.”

Caveat: again, it is important to be transparent and honest when answering this question. To simply say you quit or resigned is not good enough. Do not be bitter when you answer this question; just state facts.


Always expect the question, “Why did you leave your last job.” Any interviewer who doesn’t ask this question isn’t doing his job. The reason for departure is essential information. I find this traditional question to be one of the most important ones for job candidates to able to answer.

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.

anxious

But what if you are unable to get past the nerves because of anxiety? What can you do that will prevent you from losing the opportunity for the job? How can you stop your hands from shaking, your voice cracking, or even breaking into tears. In this post I’ll talk about what to do if it’s more than having the “nerves” in an interview.

Admit to yourself that you’re anxious

You’re not alone in feeling anxious. Knowing this should give you solace. Many job seekers have told me that they felt so anxious that they couldn’t think straight and answer the questions entirely. A few have even told me they had to remove themselves from the situation. While this is not “normal behavior,” it does happen.

Telling others, job counselors, a therapist, or even friends, could be helpful. Talking about how you feel can relieve some of your anxiety. Hearing from those you talk with that being anxious is understandable will be of comfort. Further, talking with someone who felt anxious in interviews, but landed a job regardless will give you a better sense of hope.

Know that the interview/s are barriers to getting a job, and once you’ve overcome the barrier, you will be able to do the work required to succeed. Remember that you want the job for which you’re applying; it’s the end game. This will take preparation, though.

Do your research before an Interview

I tell my clients that being prepared for an interview will give them confidence. This means thoroughly researching the position and company. If you’re really good, you’ll research the competition. People who interview without preparing—winging it—generally perform poorly in an interview.

While it’s important to research the position and company, you will benefit also from preparing mentally for the interview. This will include getting a good night’s sleep the day before. The day of the interview, you should take a leisurely walk and rehears answering the questions you predict will be asked. Or you might prefer answering the questions while looking into a mirror.

You might benefit from participating in a taped mock interview which will show you how you respond to questions, as well as your body language. I conducted a mock interview with someone who my colleague believed to be anxious. The client’s answers were fine; however she appeared tense and fidgeted with her fingers. My suggestion to her was that she keep her hands in her lap.

Admit to the interviewers that you’re anxious

Chances are that at least one of the interviewers—if it’s a group interview—suffers from anxiety and can relate to your condition. Perhaps one or more of the interviewers know others who suffer from anxiety. They should be empathetic if they know your condition.

You can simply say before the interview begins, “I’m a bit anxious at the moment. Interviews are stressful for me. I hope you understand.” Chances are that they’ll understand your feelings.

In fact, anxiety is more prevalent than you might suspect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19 percent of adults suffered from anxiety.

An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.

Past year prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).

An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives.

It is possible that you aren’t clinically anxious, but interviews and other social situation cause symptoms of anxiety. The most important thing is the message you deliver. Focus on expressing the value you will bring to the table. If you have to pause at times, that’s fine.

When your anxiety is debilitating

You may suffer from clinical anxiety, in which case you’re probably taking medication or attending therapy to keep it at bay. Healthy Info Daily describes the biological reasons for anxiety:

For a person with severe anxiety, their neurotransmitters are not working properly, and important messages can’t get through properly, which in turn causes the brain to work improperly, leading to anxiety, depression and other stress-induced disorders.

There are obvious signs of anxiety. Some symptoms of anxiety are excessive worrying, sleeplessness, panic attacks, fear/discomfort around crowds, and fear of speaking in public. Compound your anxiety with the pressures of an interview, it’s no wonder being interviewed is difficult. However, knowing you’re suffering from anxiety will explain the fear you experience in an interview.

In some cases, job candidates may need intervention or help from a vocational professional. This is in severe cases and usually for candidates who won’t be serving customers. Jobs that are individualistic would be best for them. If you fall under this category, it’s important that you apply for jobs appropriate for you.

Disclose your disability at some point during the interview, perhaps at the beginning. You have the ability to handle the responsibilities of the job; however you will require accommodations. It’s best to let employers know this before they hire you, as if you’re hired and then disclose your disability, your supervisor will most likely distrust you and might find reasons to let you go.


Interviews can cause mild to server anxiety for many people. If you happen to be one who gets anxious in an interview, reflect on why you are, ask for help from others, and if your anxiety is severe consider medication as a means to keep your anxiety at bay.


If you’d like to know more about interview anxiety, visit Choosing Therapy to read their article 17 Tips for Overcoming Interview Anxiety.

This post originally appeared on recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Eduardo

6 Tips for a Successful (Video) Interview

While some employers are conducting in-person interviews, many of them are still using video interviews—Zoom, Skype, WebEx, MS Teams, Facetime, etc.—to fill positions. Video interviews have become more of the norm because they’re more convenient for employers and job candidates.

Job candidates might prefer in-person interviews over video because they’re more personal—they can see where they’ll be working, might be introduced to their potential colleagues, and they can gauge the commute. There are many benefits to in-person interviews, but video is here to stay, at least for awhile.

Loren Greiff (rhymes with “Life”) and I had a conversation about six tips we’d give job candidates about video interviews. Loren is more than qualified to talk on this topic; she’s been in the position of hiring candidates as a director of marketing and a recruiter, among other roles, and now runs a coaching business focusing primarily on marketing executives.

We talked about three phases of the interview: before, in-the-moment, and after the event.

1. Research for the interview (Loren)

If ever there was a time to turn into a stalker it would be when researching prior to your interview. Like a bloodhound, you want to stay on scent, following the clues that lead to information that goes beyond the surface. Set up Google Alerts to open up the flow of real time data.

Nothing says you’re on top of it more than when you offer congratulations for a recent win, recognition for a new product launch, or acknowledge a corporate announcement during your interview.

Scour online resources like LinkedIn, the company’s blog, press releases, and corporate About Section. But also dig further. Owler.com is great for grabbing the size & revenue of the organization & it’s competitors. Check out Crunchbase.com for more entrepreneurial companies. Theorg.com, depending on the company, gives you org charts. Don’t forget YouTube to find out if the CEO or other leaders have videos or have been a past podcast guest.

Keeping track and using verbiage relevant to your role and experience are great winning strategies. If it’s a public company review their filings at sec.gov. And absolutely work your magic to get on some calls with your connections so you’re not wholly reliant on Glassdoor or Fishbowl.

2. Get mentally prepared (Loren)

When it comes to being mentally prepared, there are 5 key things to keep in mind during your interview.

1. Remember you’ve already done the heavy lifting (practicing and researching). Show up strong and end strong. That’s what people remember—the beginning and at the end and it’s called the recency effect, easy to visualize as the upwards arc of a smile.

2. Clean Space = Clear Mind. Setting up a clean and clutter free space and background helps eases the noise within. If you want to go for a virtual background, opt for something professional vs. a beach setting or outer space. You want the focus to be on you and what you’re sharing.

3. Pace your pace. You don’t want to put anyone to sleep or rattle on, so getting it just right matters. The ideal speed is about 115 words per min. (to find out what your pace is you can use a speech-to-text converter like IBM’s Watson). A steady pace allows you to connect with your interviewer and oozes confidence despite the butterflies inside.

4. Eye contact & body language. No matter what comes out of your mouth your eye contact and body language will be doing most of the talking. Look at the camera not yourself on your screen.

Eye contact builds trust and nearly 80% of all candidates don’t do this. You can turn off the video mirroring feature too and remove temptations. When you want to bring something big to life, don’t shy away from hand gestures especially those that draw closer to the heart when speaking about yourself more personally.

5. Review the job description, have it handy with your notes & PAR’s (problem, action, results) well rehearsed.

3. Mind your first impressions (Bob)

In a webinar I lead, I talk about the importance of enthusiasm, confidence, and preparedness. These are three characteristics interviewers are looking for in your answers and body language.

We normally think of the content of our answers as the most important component of the interview, and it is. But we can’t disregard body language because it plays such a huge role in communicating with others.

Consider enthusiasm, for example. Your facial expressions and body language tell the interviewer that you’re excited about the role at hand and working for the company. Loren makes an excellent point about hand gestures; don’t be afraid to emphasize your points.

Lack of enthusiasm gives the opposite message; you’re a little bit excited about the opportunity but not ecstatic. This is akin to asking someone over for dinner and the person saying, “Yeah, I guess so.” You wouldn’t take this as a good sign, would you.

Expressing confidence is also important, as it tells the interviewer that you’ll be confident in the role. The employer want assurance that you’ll do a standup job for their customers and employees.

Regardless of your mental state, you’ll feel more confident during the interview because you’ve prepared by researching the role, company, and the interviewer/s (familiarity breeds confidence).

4. Answer the tough interview questions with the PAR formula (Bob)

The questions I see people struggle with the most are behavioral-based ones. They’re more like directives that begin with, “Tell me about a time….” or “Give me an example of when….” Even the higher-level job seekers struggle with these type of questions because they’re not prepared for them.

The clients who are unprepared for these questions when I mock interview them tend to avoid the specifics of the problem they faced at work, their actions to solve the problem, and the result or results from their actions.

Instead, they start by saying, “This is what I’d do,” answering the question in a theatrical manner. I put on the brakes and say, “Stop! I want a specific example.” Let’s say the questions is “Tell me about a time when you trained your colleagues.” I expect to hear something like:

Problem: The company wanted to move from our antiquated CRM system to Salesforce.

Actions: I volunteered to train my colleagues in sales on how to use Salesforce.

After the software was implemented, I researched how to use it. I spent many hours watching training programs like Udemy for new users.

The company also sent me to hands on training.

I began to conduct group training sessions which were helpful, but I also found that some of my colleagues needed more individual training.

Result: With group and individual training my colleagues learned Salesforce to the point where they occasionally asked me questions. I estimate that I saved the company thousands of dollars.

5. Ask the interviewers questions at the end of the interview (Loren)

We both agree that the questions job candidates ask can be as important as the ones they give during the interview. Loren sees the questions candidates ask in three categories, Impact, Relevancy, and Culture.

For Impact the candidates can ask, “A year from now we’re celebrating. What will that be for and how will this impact you, the team and the company?” Or “How will you know you’ve made the right hiring decision 60 days from now?”

For relevancy, “With social distancing and remote work, what tools or practices has the company implemented to continue communication, collaboration, and support employees?”

For culture, “What do you like most about working at XYZ, and if you had one thing that had to change you wish it was?”

There are other questions candidates can ask, but these are some of my favorites, and you only have so much time at the end of the interview. Come prepared with other questions written down just in case the interviewers want to hear more (a good sign).

6. It’s not over until you follow up (Loren)

No matter what, don’t approach your thank-you note as if it’s an afterthought or another to-do item to check off the list. Thank-you notes (and yes it’s perfectly fine to send an email) are one of the best times to rack up extra points.

I remind clients that just because the interview is over, it doesn’t mean the decision has been made. I am a huge fan of including an embedded video (using either Loom or Dubb) as a way to set yourself apart to personalize your appreciation, express your interest, and reiterate why you’re the one.

But whether it’s an email, with or without video, keep it impactful and short. If they had let you know in the interview when they would get back to you—let them know you’ll reach out to them around that time. You want to be proactive but never a pest. Your best bet is to wait 5 days in between follow ups.

And, when you do follow up, don’t just make it about you and what you want. Add in a PS. something that’s about them. This is a surprisingly effective—in fact 90% of readers read the PS before the letter


Video interviews will most likely be around for a while. They’ve proven to be convenient and, in some employers minds, safer than in-person interviews. However, they present a challenge for many job candidates in the way they present themselves, as well as the way they answers the interviewers’ questions.

If you follow the tips Loren and I provide, you will do fine. Remember: research before the interview; get mentally prepared; research the position, company, and interviewers; answer the tough questions; ask intelligent questions when asked; and follow up in a timely and impactful manner.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

5 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

mock interview2

I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.

1. Keep the interview itself short

The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time to play back the recorded interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.

The goal of a mock interview is not to make it the length of a real interview. Where the real interview might be a marathon, the mock interview is akin to a sprint. It is intense and just long enough for the client to get the idea of how she performed. Additionally, the interview part itself can be exhausting if it is 90 minutes long.

2. The mock interview should be filmed and played back

If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.

Your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”

Seeing her body language can be even more important to your client than hearing her answers, particularly if her body language is extremely poor. One of my clients came across so stiff that he didn’t move his hands the whole time. His eye contact was extremely poor, as well. He recognized this because of seeing the recording and vowed to correct his body language and eye contact.

Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.

3. Clients must take the mock interview seriously

Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.

This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.

The participant must also have done his research. For example, if you ask, “What can you tell me about this company, and why do you want to work here?” it is unacceptable for him to tell you he will know the answers in the “real interview.” No, he must see the mock interview as a “real interview.”

Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.

4. You must also take the mock interview seriously

This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.

Before conducting a mock interview, ask your client to provide two documents, her résumé and a recent job description. From these you’ll write the questions for the interview. You don’t necessary have to stay on script; you might fall into a more conversational mode if the spirit drives you.

The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.

At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.

5. Ask challenging question

As mentioned above, when conducting a mock interview, make the questions challenging. Ask questions that 1) determine the interviewee’s self-awareness, 2) her understanding of the position, 3) her knowledge of the company, 4) and even her take on the competition.

My preference is to ask more behavioral-based questions than the typical no-brainers. The “What is your greatest weakness,” “Why should we hire you,” and even “Why did you leave your last company” questions are ones the interviewee’s can rehearse.

Focus on the job description she’s provided and ask questions like, “Tell me about a time when you managed a team of more than 5 people. How did that work out.” This will require her to come up with a thoughtful story using the Situation-Task-Actions-Result formula.

Even though behavioral-based questions take longer to answer, they reveal many more skills than you ask about. To determine if the interviewee demonstrates self-awareness, ask questions that require a negative result, such as, “Tell me about a time when you led a project that didn’t go well.” Will she blame others or take ownership of her faults?


Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.

4 things to consider when answering personality interview questions

The majority of people I interview aren’t transparent when I asked the questions that require them to reveal something about their personality. The question could be what they enjoy doing outside of work or even something as simple as the genre of literature they prefer.

This is natural; who wants to talk about their personality with a complete stranger? In an interview their focus is on answering questions that are relevant to the job at hand. This is what they’ve prepared for.

However, avoiding answering personality interview questions is an irritant with interviewers and can hurt your chances of landing a job. Interviewers want—even need—to know who they’ll be hiring as a person.

Sure, your engineering, marketing, finance, operations, or management experience is necessary for the role to which you’re applying. But there’s more to you as a person than just this requirement.

Do you recall when you were a child and your parents told you they wanted you to be honest? Do you have a relationship with someone that’s based on trust? Interviewing is the same; the person or people interviewing you want to hear and see self-awareness.

I find myself getting irritated when job candidates danced around questions asking for them to reveal something about themselves because I honestly wanted to know their answers to my appropriate questions. But for those who obliged me, I am impressed and their answer prompted me to ask follow-up questions.

There are four reasons why job candidates are hesitant to answer this question.

  1. They don’t understand why it’s being asked.
  2. They overthink how to answer it.
  3. They don’t want to answer wrong.
  4. They think it’s irrelevant

Why interviewers ask the questions they do

Here’s the thing, you’re more than your title and responsibilities; you’re someone your colleagues and superiors will be working with at least eight hours a day. They’ll want to know you as a person and have conversations with you that doesn’t have to revolve around work.

When I go on a walk with a colleague or am eating lunch with them (pre-pandemic), the last thing I want to do is talk about work. It’s a time, albeit short because I don’t take a long lunch, when I don’t have to think about work. Talking about work during these times makes me irritable.

Instead, I like to talk about what they did over the weekend or what they plan to do for the upcoming weekend. I’ll give you an example. One of my colleagues is an avid cyclist. I admire this, as he sometimes goes on 30-mile journeys or more. He’ll talk about how he cycled the back roads of Massachusetts.

As an interviewer, I want to know what makes a person tick outside of work. I want to know that they have interests. They don’t have to reveal their whole life, but if there’s a commonality, that’s even better. If there isn’t, that’s cool. I don’t cycle, nor do I want to; but to hear my colleague talk about it with such excitement is enjoyable.

Don’t overthink it

As I interview some candidates’ via Zoom, I can see some of them thinking way too hard about how to answer the question, “What do you like to do outside of work?” It’s like their minds are doing somersaults trying to come up with the perfect answer. I want them to chill; just answer the question.

In some ways I blame people like myself and other job coaches for teaching our clients to carefully weigh answering questions in a manner that won’t hurt their chances of landing the job. Maybe too carefully. But this innocent question isn’t one of them.

During a Job Club meeting, I asked the participants an ice-breaker question that was simple in nature. Because it was only a Job Club meeting, most participants were animated in answering, “What do you do outside of work?” But a few of them asked, “What does this have to do with work?”

Admittedly this irritated me. It was a simple exercise and something to get the hour-and-a-half kicked off. Regardless, the few participants immediately went into interview mode. They were overthinking the simple question. They didn’t want to get the answer wrong.

There’s no wrong answer…usually

Well, usually you can’t answer this question wrong, unless what you like doing outside of work is pulling wings off of flies. This image is too morose, but you get the idea. When I ask about candidate’s outside interests, I don’t care if they’re similar to mine or if they’re totally different.

For example, if someone loves the theater, that’s perfectly fine. If they enjoy yoga or meditation, great. I even like to hear about activities they enjoy doing with their family. And, no, I don’t hold this against them.

We’ve told our clients to stay away from talking about their children. Why? I have children, albeit older in age, so I love family people. I also assume they’ll dedicate the required time to the job and not spend an unnecessary amount of time with their family.

By the point I ask this question in an interview, I should have a good sense that a candidate is a good fit for the job—able to excel in the technical aspect of it, are motivated to take on the challenges, and will be a good fit for the role.

The caveat of answering this question is to steer clear of political or religious activities. This is something I will stick by as a career coach. There are just some things that are out of bounds. I used to say anything to do with hunting was taboo, but I’ve since changed my mind on that.

Good interviewers ask relevant questions

I like to think that if I ask a question about what a candidate likes to do outside of work there is a good reason for doing so. Throughout this article I’ve talked about reasons for asking this question. I like to know the person as a person. I want to see how they answer; do they show self-awareness or are they guarded. Another reason would simply to put the candidate at ease.

Prior questions or ones to follow the personality questions are about the position and, to some extent, the company. These are all legit with no malice intended. This can’t be said about poor interviewers, of whom try to trap candidates into saying the wrong things.

Here’s the thing, every question an interviewer asks should be relevant. I for one am not a big fan of the generic questions, such as “What is your greatest weakness,” “Why should we hire you,” and “What do you plan to do in five years.” To me, they’re throw away questions.

What’s telling is a poll that I’m conducting at the moment where I ask, “Why do some candidates have a difficult answering questions about their private life?” Of close to 10,000 respondents, only 18 percent of have answered that they think questions like the one I write about today are irrelevant.

Following are some responses to the poll I conducted.


Tara Orchard: Some people prefer to keep their personal life private and focus on their skills and experience. Perception of the question is important. For some personal means too personal, including relationships, family, religion, personal beliefs, obstacles in their past and other private factors.

I remind clients it is useful to have some personal information to talk about but it need not be very personal. They can talk about why they selected the school they attended, an interesting adventure they had, sports, arts, hobbies and so on that are relatable, general or interesting.

The employer is likely either trying to build rapport or see if the person is well rounded, not digging for private information. As usual, perception and preparation are key.

MARY FAIN BRANDT: I think job candidates are simply afraid to “answer it wrong”, which is silly! Perhaps they are worried how they will be viewed if they say are a huge STAR WARS fan or if they love Comic Con, or if they spend all their personal time shuffling their kids around to soccer games and cheer practice. Or the big one – I am active in my Church.

I think people are afraid to say the wrong thing.

I say share something light, but don’t hide who you are. After all, if you do get the job, conversations will come up about what you did over the weekend.

Austin Belcak (He/Him): As I’m writing this “Don’t want to answer wrong” is leading the pack. It’s a bummer that companies have made candidates feel that a simple question could be a trap. Says a lot about the interview and hiring practices right now.

Anastasia Magnitskaia: That is a great question Bob! Part of it, sometimes we are so prepared to answer questions that we have researched and practiced that this question can come as a surprise. Think about answering the question with substance- we all have things we do outside of work that will inspire others. Don’t sell yourself short and answer “I watch tv”. I also want to add that if a company is asking that question, it shows that they actually do care about work life balance!

Erin Kennedy: Oooh, that is a great reminder, Bob McIntosh. It IS a question they may get asked. It’s good to be prepared with those types of questions as well. Keep your answers prepared and skim them lightly (no need to delve into your personal life).

Erica Reckamp: You can usually navigate this by picking out a couple of benign hobbies. Avoid anything dangerous (insurance liability) or elitist (yachting anyone?)

Most often, it’s an opportunity to open a broader conversation with the interviewer. If you’ve done your research in advance, this is a great opportunity to mention shared interests!

LAURA SMITH-PROULX: This is a great point, Bob McIntosh. I really think people are caught off guard and hesitant to get too personal in the interview. It’s good to prepare for some version of this question and give a brief description that doesn’t stray too far from the subject. “I’m a voracious reader” or “I enjoy the local outdoors” might help combat nervousness.

Lotte Struwing: I think many may want to keep their personal lives to themselves. Without understanding the question, they may think it’s not a legal question and are uncomfortable responding to it.

Paul Upton: Hiring manager perspective:
I love this question as well as “tell me about yourself”. As a hiring manager I’d love to hear when candidates tell me about who they are personally and professionally… we tend to spend more time with people that we work with than many other folks in our lives, so it’s so important to be personable and show your human side.

I’d always get a bit discouraged when candidates just jump into stuff they think I wanted to hear and focus strictly about the job.

These types of questions are such a great opportunity to really stand out and show who you really are and why you’d be someone folks would love to work with!

Paula Christensen: loved your poll Bob McIntosh and this follow up. I’ll continue to be optimistic and view this question as a chance to build a connection and create engagement. I do agree that keeping polarizing subjects out of the response makes sense. Don’t over think it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

5 tips on how to combat ageism in an interview

Three career strategists recently weighed in on ageism in this post. All three couldn’t deny that ageism exists, but the question is when does this deterrent to employment effect older job seekers? The most obvious of stage in the job search is the interview. This is why older job seekers need ways to combat ageism.

Unlike other career coaches, all my clients are active job seekers, not ones who are gainfully employed and looking to pivot to a new opportunity. It’s a well known fact that some employers erroneously prefer to hire passive job seekers. Ding one against my clients.

Job seekers are seen by some employers as “damaged goods.” Coupled with being an older job seeker, the label “damaged goods” takes on new meaning. It means that their ability to grasp technology isn’t as great, they are slower to perform, they are inflexible, and they get sick more often; all of which isn’t necessarily true. Ding number two.

The average age of my clients is 55. The age disparity isn’t great, probably between 45 and 65. Anyone who’s over 40 is considered an older worker, according to the Department of Labor (DOL), which means their tax bracket is a deterrent for employers. In other words, you expect too much money. Ding number three.

One complaint my clients express is they’re being told that they’re overqualified for the job at hand. While this might be true, some of them are willing to take on jobs that require them to utilize skills they’ve used in the past. They’re also looking to step down and be an individual contributor. Ding number four.

The final hurdle they have to face is the economy which has contributed to their long-term unemployment, being jobless for more than six months. As we all know, the chances of getting a job at this point is very difficult. In the Job Club I run, many attendees have been out of work for longer than a year. Ding number five.

Does this mean my clients don’t have a chance of landing a job? Of course not. Many of them are securing employment, albeit slower than they’d like. They have acknowledged the challenges with which they’re presented and see it “as the way it is.” However—a big however—this doesn’t make their job search easier.

How to do well in the interview

These are four stereotypes employers have of older job seekers. To succeed in the interview, you’ll need to dispel them with the correct verbiage and attitude. You’re skilled and have rich experience. It’s your presentation that matters.

You are actively looking for work

This means you’re hungry for work. No, you’re starving for work. And the good thing about you is that you’re not running from a current employer; you’re running toward this potential employer. You and I know employers should hire you for a number of reasons. Nonetheless, the question will be, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Regardless of the situation, you learned a great deal from your past experience and want to pass it on to this new employer. You acquired skills that will make you the obvious choice for this role, as they closely match the ones required by this employer.

Break it down during the course of the interview addressing the must-haves as well as the skills and experience that can be a bonus to the employer. Most importantly, demonstrate the value you’ll bring to the table by telling your S.T.A.R. stories to answer behavioral-based stories.

But don’t wait to be asked. Open with, “I’m truly excited about this role, not only from what I’ve gleaned through my research, but also because my experience closely matches your requirements. For example, you need someone who can manage projects that are completed on time and under budget. I’ve done this at my previous two companies….”

You are “damaged goods

This is ding number two and, quite honestly, offensive to my senses. This is the running belief and needs to be put to rest. In the interview is the ideal time for you to prove they’re capable of getting back in the saddle, that you’re vibrant and as capable, if not more, than younger workers.

Cut the interviewer/s off at the pass. You’re hungry for work and have most of the required skills, so you need to express this with your first impressions and an answer to questions like, “Why did you leave your last position?” You’ll be asked this question to slip you up. Don’t let the interviewer/s do this.

Tell them that you enjoyed your last position and the people with whom you worked but, unfortunately, you were laid off among other people in your department or company. To the best of your knowledge, your boss thought you did a great job, and that you expect your performance to stay on par.

It might be that you were let go for poor performance, conflict with your boss, or some other reason. Own this and say that you learned a great deal from the situation. You’ve had time to reflect and are ready to return to the great employee you were prior to your unfortunate departure. Make this answer short and sweet.

You expect too much money

First of all, you better be or else you’re in the wrong room. There’s no faking this. Be real with yourself and don’t expect to take a job that pays half of what you made in the past. When my clients tell me they’ll settle for 80% of what they made in the past, I tell them they might have a case for accepting the position.

If you’re willing to take less than what you made in your previous role, it’s because you can swing the cut in pay with little or no impact on your life style. Most of the major bills have been paid, such as tuition, mortgage, car payments, etc. You’ll actually be better off by accepting this role because you’re in a better space.

Beat them to the punch by telling them that you are aware from speaking with the recruiter that you’ll be taking a cut from your previous job which is fine because of the aforementioned reasons. Explain this with conviction. Don’t leave doubt in their minds because if there is doubt, you won’t be able to make the sale.

You’re overqualified

This is one of the toughest objections to beat. When you’re literally told, “You are overqualified for this job,” it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if this is true. You’ve probably been told to say, “I’m not overqualified, I’m fully-qualified,” which is all good and true.

But here’s the thing: employers are afraid you’ll be bored and be looking for more money, so you’re going to look for the next best thing. We have to admit this is a valid concern.

Here’s your rebuttal: you are fine with taking on responsibilities you’ve performed in the past. Why? Because you want to take a step back. You’re tired of the stress that comes with being a VP, manager, or supervisor. This is understandable and needs to be expressed during the interview in a diplomatic and compelling way.

Another tactic you might take is by saying, “I understand your concerns. I would have the same ones. However, I will add more value to the organization with my skills and experience, and I’ll be a mentor to the other purchasers. Would you rather hire a Ford Focus or a Mercedes?” You might want to leave this last part out.

You’ve been out of work for more than six months

Long-term unemployment is a beast. You’re among the age group that is hit hardest by it. According to TradinghEconomics.com, the U.S. unemployment rate is 6% which only counts those who are filing for unemployment. Finding a job not an easy task but not impossible. Ask many of my clients who’ve landed jobs.

When it comes to first impressions, first and foremost enter the room like you own it. Enthusiasm is key here. And you need to maintain it throughout the interview/s. I can tell which ones of my clients get this when I advise them on interviewing and conduct a mock interview with them.

It’s the vibe they give off. They smile, their eyes light up, and their handshake is firm, yet gentle. There’s no hint in their tone that they’ve been out of work for too long than they want. Conversely, I can read the ones who can’t pull off the act like a book. They just haven’t mastered the attitude yet. And for some of them, it takes a while to master and ultimately land.

In the interview you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to perform the job, despite being out of work for more than six months, by answering the job-related questions. This speaks to your knowledge of the position, so make sure you’ve done your research.

You’ll most likely be asked why you’ve been out of work for X number of months. COVID-19 is a good cover, but be able to explain how you’ve been improving your skills by taking training, attending networking events (particularly valuable for salespeople), volunteering, or working on a contract basis. Being able to address this question will do you well in the job search.


In order to succeed in an interview, you’ll need to be prepared to address these stereotypes employers hold against older job seekers. They aren’t insurmountable and have to be handled with the right attitude. My last bit of advice is to not enter the interview thinking you’re going to face ageism. If you do this, the battle is already lost.

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