Category Archives: Interviewing

Your elevator pitch: why years of experience don’t matter as much as what you’ve accomplished

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.

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 to this, by stating your years of experience, you risk being exposed to ageism.

Besides, your most recent 10-15 years of experience is stated on your resume. There’s no need to bring it up in your elevator pitch.

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

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.

Telling your life story in your written and oral communications is not what employers want to read and hear.

(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.

6 soft skills of most importance to hiring managers and how you can demonstrate in an interview that you have them

There are plenty of articles floating out there declaring questions for which job seekers should be prepared. “What is your greatest weakness?” is a popular one. “What would your former boss say about you?” is also common. “Why were you let go from your last job?” scares the bejesus out of job seekers.

businessman man person bar

But the questions above are ones that job candidates can predict will be asked. That’s why I tell my clients that they should have an answer in mind before even getting to the interview. The same goes for every other traditional question.

LinkedIn published in LinkedIn Talent Solutions a guide that it calls Guide to Screening Candidates: 30 Essential Interview Questions. This guide tells readers the questions hiring managers (HMs) should be asking job candidates.

To create this guide, LinkedIn polled 1,297 HMs to determine which “soft skills” the HMs feel are important for a candidate to demonstrate. LinkedIn then came up with five questions for each skill, totaling 30, that the HMs should ask. The majority of the questions are behavioral-based ones.

So, what are the skills of most interest to the HMs who were polled? Here they are in order of importance:

  1. Adaptability
  2. Cultural Fit
  3. Collaboration
  4. Leadership
  5. Growth Mindset
  6. Prioritization.

What’s so special about behavioral-based questions?

If you think behavioral-based questions are not important, think again. Behavioral-based questions are being asked in interviews because employers see value in them. Behavioral-based questions are an accurate predictor of job candidates’ behavior in the future.

“The good news is that behavioral interview questions are a proven way to reveal a person’s ability to collaborate, adapt, and more. By looking at their past behavior, you can more easily determine what someone will be like to work with,” says LinkedIn

Most job seekers have difficulty answering behavioral-based questions. Why? These questions demand a great deal of preparation and the ability to answer them with a compelling story. But with preparation comes success. Go into an interview without preparing your stories can lead to disaster.

Some things to consider when answering behavioral-based questions. First, know that they’re used to discover strengths and weaknesses in a candidate. Second, answering them requires telling a brief story. Third, they reveal requirements for the job.


How to answer behavioral-based questions

The best way to answer behavioral-based questions is by telling a story using the S.T.A.R formula, where:

S stands for the situation you faced at work;

T is your task in that situation;

A the actions you took to solve the situation; and

R the positive result/s.

You’ll want to keep the situation and tasks brief, perhaps 20% of your story. The actions should be the main part of your story, let’s say 60%. And the result/s is also brief, the other 20%. Does it always work out this way? No. Can you start with the result first? Sure.


The soft skills employers feels are important

Adaptability

Says LinkedIn: 69% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important skill.

The most popular question: “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you had never done before. How did you react? What did you learn?”

This question makes me think of a colleague in the next cube saying loudly, “I wasn’t hired to do this work.” A person with this mindset won’t answer this question well–they’ll crash and burn. Companies don’t operate on still mode; there’s constant flow. A successful answer would sound something like:

The webmaster of our company left abruptly. At the time I was the public relations manager. The CFO asked me to take over maintaining the website.

My first step in the process was to learn how to use Dreamweaver quickly, plus brush up on some HTML I’d learned in college.

I also had to gather information that the company wanted posted on the site. This required interfacing with Engineering, Marketing, Finance, Sales, and the VP. Often times I would have to write original content and get it approved by each department.

One department that was especially difficult from which to gather information was Engineering. I had to explain to them that their information was vital to the success of the website. In addition, their names would be mentioned. That did the trick.

There were moments of frustration but I grew to like this task, and the VP commented that I was doing a great job. I would say I saved the company close to $50,000 over a six-month period.

Cultural fit

Says LinkedIn: 89% of hiring managers say adaptability is the most important skill.

The most popular question: “What are the three things that are most important to you in a job?”

Although not a behavioral-based question, this requires knowledge of the company’s work environment, including the position and culture, before going to the interview. If the three aspects of the position and culture align well with your values, this will not be a difficult question to answer. With this knowledge your answer would be:

The most important aspects of a job would be in this order: a variety of tasks, leading in a team environment, and achieving the results to get the job done. I am excited to work oversee a team in the inventory room, purchase the exact amount of products for distribution.

There’s nothing like leading a team that practices lean methods to get the job done. I’ll be clear in my expectations like I have been in the past, leaving no room for doubt. I’ve been told by my boss that I’m a natural leader.

The third aspect of this job I’m looking forward to is the autonomy that it will offer. My team and I will be held accountable for the meeting company goals which is something I’ve always achieved in the past.

Collaboration

Says LinkedIn: 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of team alignment directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.

The most popular question: “Give an example of when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with that person?”

Answering this question will take diplomacy and tact. You don’t want to come across as difficult to get along with while at the same time you don’t want to cast aspersions on the colleague with whom you had a conflict. You might answer this question like this:

I’m generally a very organized person. I was working with another software engineer who was very talented but didn’t always get the assignments he was given completed on time. This was frustrating, as it effected the team and landed us in trouble with some of our clients.

After some heated discussions, held privately, I offered to help him with his organizational skills and he accepted my help, knowing his performance was hurting not only him, but the team only. Reluctantly he accepted my help, but in the end he became more organized.

Leadership

Says LinkedIn: High-quality leadership 13X more likely to outperform the competition.

The most popular question: “Tell me about the last time something significant didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your role? What was the outcome?”

This is a tough question because it calls for an instance when you didn’t come through with a positive result. You have to be prepared to answer questions that ask for negative results. Keep your answer brief and don’t bash any of your colleagues. Interviewers want to hear self-awareness.

Our company was launching a social media campaign. As the marketing manager, my role was to over see this project. I was given two months to complete the project. One piece was to develop a LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn group. I didn’t stay on top of this. As a result, we were two weeks late in completing the project. The outcome was a brief reprimand from my boss.

Growth potential

Says LinkedIn: When an employee leaves, it costs your company 1.5X the employee’s salary to replace them.

The most popular question: “Recall a time when your manager was unavailable when a problem arose. How did you handle the situation? With whom did you consult?”

To answer this question you need to demonstrate your problem-solving and leadership abilities. State the problem briefly and then describe the actions you took. Finally explain the positive result.

One of our clients was upset because our CRM software wasn’t as user friendly as they had expected. As the systems engineer who was responsible for the integration of our software, I felt I was also responsible for servicing our customer.

Since my boss was on vacation, I had to make a decision as to how to proceed with the issue. I decide that bothering him wasn’t the best route to go. Normally he would prefer that I have his approval to go onsite to our clients, especially if I was working on another project.

I made an appointment to see our client the day after I heard about their disapproval. When I arrived, the CEO met me, and I could tell she wasn’t happy. She took me to the sales department, where I spent an hour going over all the features of our software.

In the end, they were ecstatic with our product. They didn’t realize the capability of it. Furthermore, the CEO sent a glowing email to my boss describing her pleasure of having me making a special visit to her company.

Prioritization

Says LinkedIn: Being unable to prioritize means that key assignments fall through the cracks.

The most popular question: “Tell me about a time when you had to juggle several projects at the same time. How did you organize your time? What was the result?”

This question gives you the structure needed to answer it successfully. It provides the situation and task, the skill the interviewer wants to hear about (organization), and the result. With this guidance, your answer might go like this:

Two years ago I had three projects that landed on my plate. I was asked to present at our company’s largest trade show, we had a new build that had to be released around the same time, and I had to prepare performance reviews of my staff. I definitely had to organize my time for all three to go as planned.

I discussed this with the VP and told him that doing all three were near impossible. He agreed. If I had help with one of the projects, I could complete the other two. I decided that the release of our new build was most important, considering three of our clients were dying to purchase it.

The presentation was the second priority. I had to prepare speaking notes and have my marketing specialist create a PowerPoint presentation. She was fully capable and took the ball and ran with it.

For the performance reviews, my VP and I decided that we would have a working lunch or two, if needed, and I would provide him with all the reports on my staff. The reports were mostly positive, save for one of my staff who needed to pick up his game.

By the time of the deadline, we shipped the build two weeks ahead of projection, I was confident the speaking engagement would go very well, and my VP had all the information he needed to conduct the performance reviews.


LinkedIn also provides questions for you to ask HMs

Your job is not only to answer the questions HMs throw at you; it’s also to have questions to ask them. If anyone tells you it’s alright to say you don’t have questions to ask, they’re out of their mind. I tell my clients to have 10-15 questions to ask at the end. In case you’re at a lost, here are seven to start you off.

  • Why did you join this company, and what keeps you here?
  • What does success look like in this position?
  • What was the biggest challenge affecting the last person in this job?
  • Why do people say __________ about your company?
  • How does the company measure success?
  • What would you expect from me when I start, after three months, and after a year?
  • Can you describe what my career path could look like?

Hot Job Interview Trends for 2020: What the Experts Say

It is 2020 and you are in the job hunt, either because you are unemployed or looking for a better gig. While the hiring process might be painfully slow, you still must shine in the interview, and this means every stage of the process.

Interview Prep

This is why you need to need to understand the interviewing trends for 2020 if you want to be successful in landing your next position.

Advice from 5 Job Interview Experts

Here’s some good news: I asked 5 interview authorities to weigh in on what to expect in 2020. They tell you what to do before the interview, what to do during the interview, and what to do after the interview.

Do not rely on traditional methods to get the interview. Show your value.  

Austin Belcak has a unique view on how to get to interviews with blue-chip companies. He has helped hundreds of people, whether they have worked with him directly or gleaned vital information by following him on LinkedIn.

These are Austin’s thoughts:

Do not let unemployment numbers fool you. We are currently experiencing one of the most competitive job markets in history.

Relying on resumes, cover letters, and online applications is not going to be enough in 2020.

If you want to land interviews at high caliber companies, you need to focus on three things:

1. Build relationships with the people who can influence the hiring decision

After you press submit on your application, fire up LinkedIn and use it to find your potential hiring manager or colleagues on the hiring team. Reach out to them, show them you understand their needs/goals, and find ways to illustrate your value in relation to those things.

2. Find ways to illustrate your value on your terms

How many times have you said, “I know I can do this job, but nobody will give me a chance!”

If people are not recognizing your value, you need to find ways to clarify it for them. One of my favorite strategies for this is putting together a Value Validation Project (VVP).

3. Develop a Value Validation Project (VVP)

Value Validation Projects are deliverables that illustrate your ability to do the job by providing suggestions, ideas, or feedback to the team’s biggest needs or goals.

For example:

  • If you are targeting a marketing role, you could do a quick competitive analysis, and then package that data with 3 suggestions to help the company get more visibility.
  • If you are aiming for a data analyst role, you could work to find a source of publicly available data that you can use to parse and tell a story. Check out this example of an analyst who used Twitter data to capture consumer sentiment about different airlines.

VVPs are highly effective because they give you the opportunity to say, “I have done my research, and I know what your goals are. Here is exactly what I bring to the table.”

You are also doing that in your own words, via a medium you are comfortable with, that offers a lot more flexibility in terms of visuals, data, and content.

That is going to set you apart!

More about Austin: Austin’s LinkedIn Profile, Austin’s website.


In 2020, research will be even more important.  

Sarah Johnston, a career coach and former recruiter, is a strong believer in doing research before going to the interview. All too often job seekers fail to research the position, company, and even the individuals conducting the interview.

According to Sarah, you must know the employer’s pain points. Here is what she has to say:

The average corporate role gets 250 online applications (Source). And that is rising at a staggering rate thanks to automation and the Internet. Of those candidates, only 5 to 6 will get called in to interview.

The best way to beat the competition is through preparation before you interview; have a good understanding of your target audience, what they care about, and their pain points.

When you are researching your target audience (the company and the individuals who interview you), it is smart to look at the corporate website for press releases, mission, and diversity statements.

As companies are becoming more mission-centric, I am seeing an uptick in interview questions focused around values and the importance of inclusive cultures.

It is also important to interview the people who are going to interview you. Take the time to look at their LinkedIn pages to read more about their training, experience, and for common ground.

If you have time, do a search on your favorite search engine for podcasts they’ve been on or news articles that reference their work. I suggest identifying 3 to 5 connection points that you can use to make small talk during the informal part of the interview.

Finally, one of the best — and surprisingly most overlooked — ways to research and prepare for the interview is to look for pain points or “clues” in the job description.

Read between the lines to better understand the culture, reporting structure, and the actual job requirements. Consider that every bullet point in the job requirement section could be turned into an interview question.

For example, let’s say that the job description reads:

“Identify, initiate, and drive process improvement solutions that will ultimately provide operating efficiencies and synergies within the supply chain, resulting in cost reduction and increasing service level to customers.”

This could be turned into a behavioral question in the interview:

“Tell me about a time that you identified and drove a large process improvement solution in a previous role that led to increased operating efficiency. Tell me about the solution and the results of the implementation.”

Be prepared with your answer to this question.

More about Sarah: Sarah’s LinkedIn Profile. Sarah’s website.


It is not only about job-related skills. It is also about personality.  

Biron Clark is a former technical recruiter and is now a career coach and trainer. He foresees more emphasis being placed on hiring for motivation and fit in 2020. Expect more questions that will get to the heart of your drive and personality fit.

Biron says:

I expect that employers will be interested in learning about your personality and motivation just as much as your technical background in 2020.

The average person is spending less time in each role when compared to past decades, so employers are conscious of hiring people who are not only qualified but also excited about the day-to-day work and the general work that the company is doing.

This helps them reduce turnover and find long-term matches for their company.

To prepare for this, make sure you’re ready to answer questions like, “What about this role caught your interest?” or, “Why did you apply for this position?”

They may also ask, “What do you know about us?”

These questions are a chance to show you’ve done more research than other candidates. A bad answer here can derail your interview, but a great, detailed answer can set you apart and help you win the job… even if someone else was better-qualified.

Other questions to be ready for:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What motivates you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 2-3 years?
  • What are your long-term career goals?
  • What would you be doing if money weren’t a concern?

The bottom line is employers do not want to just hire someone who is only capable of the work. They want to hire someone who is also motivated and excited to do the work.

My prediction for 2020 is that you are going to see more employers trying to learn about you as a person and asking about what motivates you, what interests you, what you actually want to be doing in your life and career. And if you cannot explain this, you may miss some great job opportunities.

One more area to be ready for: Behavioral questions. Employers want to know how you think and how you’ll react to situations. Be ready to answer questions like:

More about Biron: Biron’s LinkedIn Profile. Biron’s website.


Do I want to work here?  

Susan P. Joyce, publisher of JobHunt.Org and career strategist, shares her concern about finding the right work environment. And how do you do this? By asking questions during the interview. Our 4th interview expert feels this is an important piece of the puzzle.

Here’s what Susan has to say:

A job interview is frequently viewed as your opportunity to “close the sale” – convince the employer to make you a job offer. And it is. But, the job interview is also your opportunity to learn if the job is a good fit for you.

I made a big mistake early in my career by not paying attention in the job interview. I was more interested in leaving my old job and not paying sufficient attention to where I was going next.

So, until my first day of work, I did not notice that only male employees had window offices while the women all worked in cubicles. OOPS! I stayed less than a year.

When you interview at the employer’s location, observe the whole environment and the employees there.

  • Do people look happy or stressed?
  • Is the location noisy or quiet?
  • Do you see others of your gender and/or race there, and do they seem comfortable?
  • Does this place look and feel comfortable to you?

You will be asked if you have any questions for the interviewers. Leverage this golden opportunity to learn more about whether you would be happy working there. Ask questions like these:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What is the best part of working there?
  • Why is this job open?
  • Did the previous employee leave or get promoted? If the job is new, what brought about the need to create the position?

Be cautious if everyone has worked there less than a year, this job is filled frequently, or they struggle to say something nice about the organization.

Note: If you feel the opportunity is right, ask if you can take a tour of the company. This is when you can observe the employees to get a picture of their mood. Any good employer will gladly give you a tour of their company.

More about Susan: Susan’s LinkedIn Profile. Susan’s website.


It isn’t over until it’s over.  

Ashley Watkins is an executive resume writer. As a former recruiter, she has a unique view from the other side of the table.

Ashley offers sage advice on what to do after the interview, which can be as important as before and during the process.

She advises:

Follow instructions.

At the close of the interview, most recruiters and hiring managers will give detailed instructions about the next steps. But if the timeline isn’t offered, ask the interviewer when and how you should follow up (email, phone, or not at all).

If you are scheduled to hear back in a week but get crickets, wait until that time has come and passed before you reach out to check your status.

Do not stop at the timeline.

Take it a step further, and use this as an opportunity to refresh the interviewer’s memory about why you are such a great catch. Share a few short success bullets that align with the goals of your target role.

Also, do not be afraid to reattach your resume or LinkedIn URL. Make it easy for your interviewer to review your work history and accomplishments again versus sending them on a wild goose chase in the company’s database.

Always ask for feedback.

Although many companies have strict policies about what information interviewers can release, you may encounter a recruiter who is willing to share some tips — or you may discover an upcoming role that is a better fit. Then, you can quickly express your interest in the opportunity.

Build a relationship.

Another way to further your interaction with your target company and build a mutually beneficial relationship with a recruiter is to make a referral.

If you know a friend or colleague who would be a great fit for a different job, offer to make the introduction. Now, you have established yourself as a resource.

Breathe.

Not knowing where you stand after an interview can be frustrating. Understanding the hiring process for your desired position can relieve some pressure.

Take the time after an interview to reflect on things you learned, areas for improvement, and any red flags.

Sometimes rejection can be a blessing in disguise. Keep pushing until you land that right-fit role.

More about Ashley: Ashley’s LinkedIn profile. Ashley’s website.


Wrapping it up  

As you can see, the interview doesn’t only consist of the meeting between interviewers and you. There is a before, middle, and end. Make sure you have all the bases covered. If you accomplish this, you will be successful in 2020.

Take it from the experts:

  1. The interview process is longer these days and involves more work to prove you are the one to earn an interview.
  2. Research, research, and conduct more research.
  3. Interviewers want to know more about you than just your job-related skills.
  4. Try to learn about the company during the interview.
  5. There’s still work to do after the interview ends and can be as important as the actual interview.

More Expert Advice and Hot Trends for 2020:

This article previously appeared in Job-Hunt.org.

New LinkedIn feature provides advice on how to answer 26 general interview questions

As well as questions specific to two industries.

LinkedIn has launched a new interview-practice feature which leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. On one hand, I think it’s a great attempt to educate job seekers on how to interview for a position. On the other hand, there are limitations to this new feature.

Interview women

What should we expect with any feature that tries to be all things to all people? Where you might love the new information presented, I might see it as slightly contrived and overdone. LinkedIn has done its best, and I give credit where credit is due.

Let’s first look at where to find this new feature. Many people are unaware of it, let alone where it resides.

How to find Prepare for an interview

Click the Jobs icon, select More Resources, and choose from the dropdown Prepare for an interview.

Prepare for an interview

LinkedIn shows you a list of what it considers to be the most common interview questions, as well as questions specific to two industries (Categories). At this point there are 26 common questions and questions for only finance and sales.

Common Questions

You can first watch “expert” advice on how to answer a question, then watch an example of how someone would answer the questions. You can also record answers to questions and submit them for feedback from your connections by selecting Practice and get feedback.

What’s nice about this feature

The new interview-practice feature gives job seekers some guidance on how to answer what LinkedIn deems are important questions. I’m encouraged that LinkedIn is taking the job search more seriously. As well, LinkedIn is sending the message that practicing answering questions is smart.

Another plus is the number of behavioral-based questions listed under Common Questions. This type of question is most difficult to answer. The advice on how to answer them is sound. Career strategists and coaches suggest using the well-known S.T.A.R. format when answering behavioral-based questions.

The quality of the videos is top-notch. LinkedIn’s career strategists and hiring managers are well-spoken in both framing how to answer the questions and delivering sample answers. (Ironically career strategists are matched with each other, and the same goes with hiring managers.)

The videos are a good length overall. Most of them don’t exceed 1:50 minutes, which is nice if you’re interested in seeing most of the videos.

LinkedIn offers tips on how to answer questions. For example, to answer “Tell me about yourself” LI suggests:

  • Prepare for this question in advance and have a compelling story about your past experiences.
  • Pull prominent skills from the job description.
  • Be “SHE” (succinct, honest and engaging).

To answer, “Tell me about a time when you were successful on a team”:

  • Describe a problem that arose with a team.
  • Outline your key actions with the team.
  • Explain the positive result based on the work you did.
  • Give credit to your teamwork skills.

Probably most valuable is the ability to record answers to questions with which you need the most practice. And then send your recording to a connection for critique. This could be a gamechanger for someone who sees the need to practice answering questions and has someone who is willing to provide feedback.

Practice answering questions

Where this feature drops the ball

The most obvious fault of this feature is that LinkedIn has more work to do in order to complete it. I’m speaking about how only two industries are represented, finance and sales. It would be nice to have a wider range of industries, such as marketing, engineering, medical devices, nursing, etc.

This might be a reflection on the questions interviewers are still asking, but many of them are ones I’ve seen since being in career development, 15 years (gulp). Such as, “What is your greatest weakness?” Could LinkedIn have been more creative when it comes to the Common Questions?

Not all the questions have video. This speaks to the fact that LinkedIn has miles to travel before it sleeps. Where there are no videos, LinkedIn provides articles that don’t have the same appeal. I would rather see fewer questions than incomplete samples.

Related to one of the strengths I mentioned above: the quality of the videos is top-notch, the answers come across as contrived. Some of the career strategists and hiring managers think that acting is a better approach than speaking naturally. Also, please do not start with, “That’s a great question.”

Do they think interviewers want candidates to walk into the room and schmooze them with canned answers? I suppose the speakers shouldn’t come across as deadpan but come on, let’s not talk too unnaturally.

Conclusion

Overall, I think this feature has some merit. It can benefit job candidates who are nervous going into their rounds of interviews. There are more pluses than negatives. Now the big question is will LinkedIn require its users to upgrade to premium to use this feature?

10 ways to make your job-search networking meetings shine

The day a woman called me to ask for an “informational interview” I had a feeling it wouldn’t go well. The tone of her voice was monotone, unenthusiastic. She was smacking gum in my ear. Regardless, I said yes and then there was silence. “Hello,” I said.

networking-meeting

“Oh, I was just looking through my calendar to see when I’m free,” she replied.

As I suspected, the conversation didn’t go well. The woman was probably told by a well-meaning career advisor to ask for an informational interview. But she wasn’t told the questions to ask or why she was asking for a networking meeting. She wasn’t clear on the purpose of our meeting.

The purpose of a networking meeting

First of all, no job has been advertised, so these meetings are not actual interviews. That’s why the term “networking meeting” is more fitting.

Second, you’re requesting a networking meeting to gather advice for a particular position and the company. So you’re the one asking the intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Therefore there is no pressure on the person offering information and advice, and no pressure on you.

Third, your goal is to present yourself as a potential solution to problems the company may have. There might be a position developing at the company, unbeknownst to you; and you might be recommended to the hiring manager for the position. At the very least, you could be sent away with three other people with whom to speak.

10 ways to make sure your networking meetings go smoothly.

1. Ask strong questions. Poor questions show a lack of preparation and are disrespectful. A question like, “What does your company do?” is weak because it lacks creativity and thought. Besides, you should already know what the company does before talking with the person granting you the meeting. I hate this question.

Another question I hate being asked is, “What do you do?” Can you be a little more specific? “How do you prepare for creating your workshops?” is a question I can talk to at length because it gives me direction. Begin the discussion with, “I know a little about what you do, but I have some questions to ask….”

Note: If there’s one question you should ask, it’s, “Are there any issues or problems that exist in your department or the company?” This gives you the opportunity to talk about how you’d solve the problem/s.

2. Your enthusiasm level is high. Chances are the person granting you the networking meeting is not looking forward to spending his valuable time answering questions from a person he’s never met or met once at a conference. So coming across as bored or hesitant, will not bode well.

Instead begin the conversation by introducing yourself and explaining why you are excited about talking with said person. Why you’re interested in the position up for discussion, as well as the types of companies you’re interested in learning about.

Don’t forget to smile while you’re talking in person or on the phone—it can be heard through the phone connection.

3. Arrive or call on time. This is a no brainer. If you are late for the meeting, you might as well kiss it goodbye. This is common sense; people hate it when others are late, me included.

Make arrangements for this special day so that there’s no way you’ll be late. In fact, arrive early if you’re meeting for coffee with the person granting you the meeting. If you’re calling, set your watch alarm or e-mail alert 10 minutes before making the call. Don’t call late or early; call at the exact time.

4. Have a clear agenda. Similar to point #1, your agenda must provide direction. Don’t come across as wimpy and disorganized.

State at the beginning of the meeting that your goal is to learn more about the position, the company, and competition—if the person can speak to that point.

While you want the meeting to be more like a conversation, it doesn’t hurt to provide structure. Write down all your questions in groupings of the job, company, and competition. This way you won’t forget to ask them.

5. Provide data to back up your accomplishments. You’re not being interviewed for a job, but the person granting you the meeting will want to know something about you, what you’re made of. To break the ice, she might ask what you currently do and what your interests are.

So you’re interested in event planning, but most of your experience as been through extensive volunteerism (you stayed home 10 years to raise a family). Most recently, you were tasked with planning the PTO’s bake sale which raised $3,000; whereas the year before the school raised only $150. Tell her you “love” event planning.

This is great information and should be shared with the person granting you the networking meeting, if asked.

6 Show your gratitude. Don’t make the person feel as though you’re the one who’s inconvenienced by having to ask questions and giving structure to the meeting. You come across as someone who is all about yourself, not about giving back.

As I’ve said before, the person granting you the networking meeting is taking time out of her busy schedule. Say, “Thank you for taking this time to answer my questions” at the outset and repeat your words of gratitude at the end of the conversation.

7. Don’t ask for a job. There’s no job available; at least to the person granting you the meeting, so don’t be presumptuous. Besides, the mere fact that you’re before this person or talking on the phone implies you’re looking for a job, especially at this company.

Now if it’s a known fact between you and the person with whom you’re speaking that a position exists at the company, by all means discuss the possibility of your fit, both job-related and personality wise. Perhaps you were given a soft lead from a connection of yours.

8. A call for action. Always ask if there’s anyone else you can speak with to gather more information and advice. If no position exist or is being developed at the moment, the least you should come away with are additional people with whom to talk. Often job seekers will neglect this part of the networking process.

Your goal is to gather as many quality people to join your networking campaign as possible. Politely ask at the end of the informational meeting, “Can you think of anyone I can speak with regarding a nursing position?” Don’t expect the person to come up with three people immediately; she may have to send you the contact information.

9. Reciprocate. Failure to give back demonstrates your lack of networking etiquette. You can’t expect to receive and not give. I come across many people who think their job search is the center of everyone’s lives and don’t think of offering help to those who help them.

Reciprocity can come in many forms. After discussing some issues that existed at the company, you came up with a better procedure for the company’s supply chain operation. Or the small company needs some graphic art for their website—this will fit nicely on your résumé.

10. Always send a thank-you note and follow-up. This is a golden rule at any point in your job search. Failing to send a thank-you note, via e-mail or a card is insulting and a sure way to lose that person as part of your network. A nicely written thank you shows your gratitude and professionalism.

Gently remind the person who granted you the network meeting of the additional people you should contact. Keep a lively conversation—perhaps one that involved an existing problem at the company—going, and offer a solution to that problem. By all means don’t drop this person as a potential networking connection.


Networking meetings can be a gem. I tell my workshop attendees that they’re not easy to come by, as people are extremely busy. Most people who grant networking meetings do so because they want to help you in your job search. Don’t waste their time. They can be an asset to your networking endeavor.

And please don’t act like the woman who called me for our “informational interview.”

Photo: Flickr, Pulpolux !!!

32 days in the life of a job seeker

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

Stressed young businessman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weekend came and went. Still nothing.

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

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

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

The present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

 

4 important principles of your job-search stories

In a recent networking event, I started facilitating it by having the members introduce themselves with their elevator pitch. All of them talked about their professional experience. Most of them were well-rehearsed in delivering their value statement.

father lessson

When it was my time to deliver my pitch, instead I began by saying, “When I was a child….” This immediately grabbed their attention. I proceeded to tell the networkers a two-minute story about a hard lesson I learned from my dad.

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

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

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

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

Meaning

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

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

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

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

Form

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

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

In workshop I lead called Mastering the Interview, I have my participants construct a story using the following form: Problem or Situation, approximately 20% of the story; the Actions taken to meet the situation, 60% of the story; and the Result of the action taken, the remaining 20%.

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

Create a connection

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

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

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

Preparation is paramount to success

There is really only one way to prepare for telling your stories. You have to completely understand what’s required of the position. Know what competencies the employer is looking for, e.g. time management, leadership, problem solving, problem assessment, and customer service skills.

Based on this knowledge, you will construct five stories in anticipation of directives like, “Tell me about a time when you felt your leadership skills had a positive impact on your team…and a time when it had a negative impact.”


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

34 interview articles to help you land a job

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

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

Your elevator pitch: why years of experience don’t matter as much as what you’ve accomplished

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.

10 false stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

I have the privilege of working at an urban career center where the average age of our clients is 53. For older workers, the job search can come with challenges—one of which is facing stereotypes, due to their age, from employers. This article examines 10 false stereotypes older workers face.

6 soft skills of most importance to hiring managers and how you can demonstrate in an interview that you have them

Going into an interview is nerve wracking, especially when you’re not sure which questions will be asked. Questions like, “What is your greatest weakness” is predictable but what about behavioral-based questions. Read this article to learn which skill employers are looking for and the types of questions they’ll ask.

10 ways to make sure your job-search networking meetings shine

Networking meetings–often called informational interviews–are a gem for job seekers who are serious about their job search. One, two, three networking meetings are not enough; you have to be committed to asking for them and presenting great questions. The account I give at the beginning of this article is not the the to ask for a networking meeting.

Answering, “Why do you want this job?” 3 times when it’s a tough sell

This is one question you must be prepared to answer in an interview. You might think it’s airtime filler for interviewers—a question to check off their list. Not so fast, there are times when interviewers are concerned. Very concerned. Here are three major concerns interviewers might have.

Hot job-interview trends for 2020: what the experts say

It is 2020 and you are in the job hunt, either because you are unemployed or looking for a better gig. While the hiring process might be painfully slow, you still must shine in the interview, and this means every stage of the process.

Here’s some good news: I asked 5 interview authorities to weigh in on what to expect in 2020. They tell you what to do before the interview, what to do during the interview, and what to do after the interview.

New LinkedIn feature provides advice on how to answer 26 general interview questions

LinkedIn has launched a new interview-practice feature which leaves me with a sense of ambiguity. On one hand, I think it’s a great attempt to educate job seekers on how to interview for a position. On the other hand, there are limitations to this new feature.

What should we expect with any feature that tries to be all things to all people? Where you might love the new information presented, I might see it as slightly contrived and overdone. LinkedIn has done its best, and I give credit where credit is due.

Are recruiters to blame? 4 tips for working with recruiters

Recruiters are often the front line of the hiring process; they advertise an open position, read more résumés than they’d like, interview and screen multiple candidates, and finally present the best of the best to the hiring manager (HM). And all of this leads to the interview.

7 tools employers are using to hire candidates

Even if it’s been five years since you’ve had to look for work, you might not be aware of all the tools employers are using to find the best candidates. Employers are being more creative with their hiring efforts while making it more difficult for job seekers to land a job. Let’s begin with the first and most well-known tool.

4 qualifications job candidates must demonstrate during the interview

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

4 important principles of your job-search stories

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

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

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

5 elements necessary to answer in an interview the Failure question

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

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

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

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

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

One very important component of your behavioral-based interview answer

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

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

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

Keep 8 rules in mind when answering why you were fired

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

3 major Skype major interview tips job seekers must heed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

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

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

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

3 things to keep in mind when answering, “Tell me about yourself”

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

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

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

Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

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

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

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

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo: Flickr, Patricia Adam

4 Experts weigh in on the daunting, “What is Your Greatest Weakness?” question

Job candidates, does the, “What is your greatest weakness?” interview question give you pause? Are you strapped with fear, afraid you’ll answer this question incorrectly? Do you try to avoid answering it with a cute answer like, “Chocolate”? Is there a right answer?

The girl is stressing on interview

I’ve often told my clients that they shouldn’t worry about this question. That the answer is in their pocket; they should know what to say before getting to the interview. No big deal. I tell them interviewers want self-awareness, but to not reveal a weakness that will kill their chances.

Further, interviewers want to know how they’re correcting their weakness. This is important. To simply state a weakness and not say they’re doing something about it, is to shoot themselves in the foot.

I asked four career development pundits their take on this daunting question, and how they feel it should be answered. These are people who are recruiters or have been recruiters in the past, so they’re the real deal.

Jamie Fischer, CPRW

jamie

The “what’s your greatest weakness?” question, is an important one. I ask this question often, but not to hear cookie cutter answers, or to learn how someone turns a weakness into a strength, because those two response types tell me very little about a person.

I ask this question to see if this person has actively listened to me after I explained details about a specific position and our company, and mostly to see if they are self-aware.

Here’s an example. If I tell a candidate that our plant is largely multi-lingual and they were actively listening, they could use the fact that they may not be multi-lingual as a “weakness.”

An answer to my question could look like this:

“I heard you when you said the majority of the plant is multi-lingual. A weakness in that case is that I am not multi-lingual.

“However, to address your concerns in that regard, I have worked in multi-lingual environments and have been able to relate effectively to my coworkers even without this component.”

When we ask this question, we are hoping candidates will address a concern that we might have regarding job fit. When a candidate does this, the simple act of having listened and showcasing awareness of relevant skills or lack thereof, will help us feel better about that person’s fit.

Who wouldn’t want to work with an active listener who is self-aware? It’s a rarity – maybe one of every twenty-five people I talk to possesses these qualities.

The worst way a candidate can answer this question, in my opinion, is to tell me they do not possess any weaknesses. Unfortunately, this answer is very common. When asked this question, just remember– having a weakness is normal. Being a great listener who knows oneself and can communicate that effectively – that’s the true test.

Brett Lampe

brett

I don’t like this question at all! Instead of asking what someone’s greatest weakness is, I like to focus on what areas of their professional life they’re working to improve currently. I want learn how someone is evolving as a professional and the steps they’re taking to grow.

For example, if I want to know what measures candidates are taking to improve their writing skills, I’ll ask them how they’re going about doing this?

For me the answer would be participating as a writer in articles such as this; creating original written content on LinkedIn or for other social media sites; and, of course, being extra attentive in my day to day e-mail communications with colleagues.

When I ask this question, what I’m hoping to hear is what the individual is specifically doing to improve. If you can’t tell me what you’re doing to improve, then in my mind you’re not doing anything at all!

In my experience the best candidates I’ve worked with are those that are naturally curious and continuously looking for learning opportunities to improve their skills.

So if you’re asked this question or something similar, be mindful of areas you’re making improvements (not necessarily weaknesses) and what you’re doing to make progress!

Sarah Johnston: (BriefCaseCoach.com)

sarah

First: It’s important to know why a hiring manager asks this question in the first place. They are looking for red flags, opportunities where you might need some additional help or coaching, or to test your compatibility with the team.

Talent acquisition has evolved over the last decade. Recruiters are not only responsible for candidate attraction but also assessment.

In fact, I had a boss once who told me (as a recruiter) that if I couldn’t identify at least 3 candidate red flags during an interview, that I wasn’t doing my job.

Don’t give the overused response, “I am a perfectionist and can be too detail oriented and have a hard time doing work less than 100%.” If I was the hiring manager interviewing you for a job and you gave me that response, I would ask you for another weakness.

Also, don’t share anything as a weakness that relates to how you work with others or how you get along with management.

DO: I suggest giving a “real” weakness in a straightforward way. Your weakness should also be non-essential to the job.

For example, if you are interviewing for a position as a major gifts fundraiser, don’t tell the hiring manager that you get intimidated talking to new people. That’s a big part of the job!

Instead, focus on a tool or skill you haven’t used. Using the example of the major gift officer, if you noticed in the job description that they use Boomerang donor management software but you’ve only used Raiser’s Edge then your response to the question could be:

“I noticed you’re company is using Boomerang for donor management. In this role I may have a small learning curve, as I’ve only used Raiser’s Edge. When working for XX I got proficient with Raiser’s Edge and was frequently running reports and search queries. I am optimistic with a little training I should be doing the same with Boomerang.”

Ashley Watkins: (WriteStepResumes.com)

ashley

Among tough interview questions, “What is your greatest weakness?” will never go down without a fight. This question leaves even the best interviewees grasping for straws to find the perfect response.

Tip number one, this is not a trick question. It was never designed to zone in on your shortcomings — but your interviewer’s strategy for uncovering how you acknowledge your areas for improvements and develop corrective actions.

Avoid responding with “I have no weaknesses.” The fear and shame of being judged for saying something wrong are very common, but you don’t have to walk away with your tail between your legs. Instead of claiming perfection, focus on something you’ve struggled with in the past but turned it around for added value.

For example, “Early in my career, I had trouble reaching a stopping point with a task. I would get so committed to completing an assignment that I worked for more hours than necessary to be productive.

“I recognized this behavior and began breaking tasks into digestible parts and allotting a certain amount of time to work on each piece. I still received the satisfaction in knowing I was checking items off my list. Even if I left the remaining components for the next day, my work output/quality was far better than before.”

Discussing weaknesses becomes easier with practice. Start by making a list of things you want to improve and then develop a solution to fix that problem. If your idea saves money, time, and resources, it will be the icing on the cake.


Given the reasons why interviewers ask this question and the kinds of answers they want to hear, our four experts agree on two major points: they want to hear self-awareness and they want to know how candidates are working on correcting their weakness.

If you are preparing for an interview, keep this in mind. Interviewers aren’t out to hurt your chances of getting the position. On the contrary, they want to see you succeed. As Ashley Watkins writes, “Tip number one, this is not a trick question. It was never designed to zone in on your shortcomings.” I know you can trust her on this.

Photo: Flickr, eva sharma

9 essential components of your job-search marketing campaign: Part 2

Every successful business requires a marketing campaign to promote its products or services, so it figures that your job search requires the same. In part one of this two-part series, we looked at the written communications of a job-search marketing campaign. Four career-development pundits weighed in on research, the résumé and LinkedIn profile, and the approach letter.

woman on phone

Part two features five pundits, who address the verbal side of your job-search marketing campaign. To kick off this article, we’re going to address a very important part of you campaign, personal branding.

Personal branding

Erin K

Erin Kennedy specializes in personal branding for executive-level job seekers. She talks about the importance of creating a clear, strong brand for your verbal communications.

People sometimes get confused about what their personal brand is. What is it? How do I figure it out? But the fact is, we all have a personal brand already. It is entwined in everything we do i.e. what we are good at, what we are known for, what others come to us for, what we specialize in.

“Once job seekers look at it that way, it’s much easier to break it down and define what our “personal brand” is. One way to strengthen your brand is through your verbal communications. It is easy to confuse people about who you are if you are not crystal clear about your brand.

Job seekers need to realize that not properly communicating their brand in their job search can be a huge obstacle in finding the job they are qualified for…and are hoping for. Take the time to ensure you have a strong brand statement that shows your expertise and the value you can offer a prospective employer.

Every successful business requires a strong brand which is unique to its products or services. Taglines like, “Just Do It,” “Think Different,” and “I’m Lovin’ It” stand on their own because of the strength of Nike, Apple, and McDonald’s.


Networking

Austin

Nothing can be more effective to land an interview than networking. Many will agree that your résumé and LinkedIn profile are all important, but they would also agree that how you distribute them largely depends on networking.

Austin Belcak’s LinkedIn profile tagline is: I Help People Land Amazing Jobs Without Applying Online // Need Help With Your Job Search? Let’s Talk. Austin is definitely a proponent of networking.

When it comes to expanding your network, there are two rules I like to follow: first quality always beats quantity. People get scared of networking because they think they need to blast out a million connection requests or go to these meetups. That stuff doesn’t work.

Real relationships are usually built in a small setting and they require a lot of work. Instead of spraying and praying, pick a handful of people you really want to connect with and focus in on them.

Second, be relentless about adding value Don’t start the relationship with your palm out. Instead, research the person and work to find ways to add value. Send them a resource, offer some feedback, introduce them to someone, tell them how you took their advice and benefited from it.

If you approach each relationship with a value-add mindset and consistently show up in a positive light, the reciprocation will be there. It takes time and it takes practice but it’s the best way to build strong relationships that pay dividends down the road.

Whether you decide to go to large or small events or simply networking in your community, make sure you are equipped with personal business cards. Learn 7 reasons why personal business cards are important and what information to include on them.

Without networking, many companies would fail. Smaller companies often survive on word of mouth. Similarly, large companies need to create trust to close a deal. Your marketing campaign is similar. As Austin says, be selective in who you approach in your marketing campaign.


LinkedIn engagement

Although your LinkedIn engagement is accomplished through writing, I feel it’s important to note in this part of the article as a form of networking.

I tell my clients that their profile is important, but it’s also important to develop a focused, like-minded network and engage with those connections. Engaging with your network can be difficult if you don’t have the confidence and you don’t know how to communicate with them.

First of all, you have expertise in your field and, therefore, shouldn’t question your right to engage with your connections. Second, don’t start the relationship with “the ask.” I’ve been approached by LinkedIn users who want to connect, but instead of taking the time to communicate with me and build a relationship; they ask if I’ll review their profile. This is in the initial invite.

My clients often ask me how they can engage with their connections. The first and most obvious way to engage is through personal messages. You won’t reach as many people this way, but you can develop and nurture relationships.

Other ways to engage with your connections include: sharing and commenting on articles that will add value to them (just be sure to tag the writer of said articles); writing long posts in which you express your thoughts and expertise; contribute to other’s long posts; share photos and thoughtful captions; and ask questions. These are a few ways to engage with your connections.

Many successful businesses are using B2B networking, as they can reach more potential partners. The idea of using LinkedIn is similar; you, as a business are reaching out to potential employers and quality networkers.


The interview

It’s time for the interview. Are you ready? Sarah Johnston feels not only strongly about the importance of doing your labor market research (as she explains in part one of this article), she also feels strongly about assessing the big opportunity.

When you are interviewing, make sure that you evaluate the company, your future boss, and the actual opportunity carefully to make sure that it’s a good fit for you. In researching a company, some of my favorite tools include:

LinkedIn to review the credentials of the people that you are interviewing with. By looking at their profile, you can often gather where they’ve worked, how long they’ve been in a role, groups that they are apart of and where they went to school or received training.

If you are interviewing with a publicly traded company, it’s a good idea to review their annual report to learn more about their profitability, biggest challenges, and their corporate responsibility. To access free reports, visit: http://www.prars.com/about.php.

Along with assessing the company and people who will be interviewing you, it’s important to be prepared to answer tough interview questions. There are interview questions you know you will be asked. And you should have answers in mind.

Maureen McCann is a job search strategist and executive résumé writer. Who believes that first impressions are the first part of the puzzle. She relates her story to demonstrate the importance of first impressions.

One of my first jobs was as executive assistant to a general manager of a pharmaceutical company. Anytime he interviewed new members of our growing sales team, he’d immediately close the door after the candidate left and ask me what I thought of the candidate.

You see, all of the candidates would be selling products to medical professionals (think: plastic surgeons, dermatologists). To get the attention of the doctors, the salesperson would have to first connect with the person at the front desk (the gatekeeper) before scheduling an appointment with a busy doctor.

The GM of my company knew this and so he paid close attention to my first impressions of candidates. Those that did not strike up a conversation and simply waited to talk to the GM missed an opportunity to sell me on their candidacy and have me advocate for them following their interview with the GM.

If you don’t believe first impressions matter, you’re mistaken. Maureen clearly illustrates that first impression are lasting impressions. Yet all of us who’ve interviewed candidates witness the failure of making a great first impression.

Madeline Mann is the founder of the YouTube channel, Self Made Millennial, which delivers outstanding job-search tips. When asked what her number one tip for interviews is, she says, “Know your stories.”

My top interview tip–the one that clients have most tightly correlated to getting a job offer–is what I call a “Story Toolbox.” It allows you to answer any behavioral question, and many of the other questions typically asked in an interview.

What most people do when asked questions like, ‘What’s your greatest strength?’ or ‘What’s your leadership style?’ is they describe themselves. They say, ‘I am hard worker, team player, highly skilled…blah, blah, blah.’ But none of this gets down to: So what did you do?

According to American psychologist Jerome Bruner: ‘stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts alone.‘ Therefore, telling stories will help you to be memorable and are a great way to show your character through describing situations you’ve been in, rather than simply stating characteristics.

So what I recommend is to make your own story tool box. You go into every interview with a set of planned stories and you frame it in a way that answers whatever question they are asking. Trust me, your stories will be effective for a wide variety of questions.

Closing the sale is how I look at the interview. Here’s where your ability to speak of your value comes into play. For established companies it’s similar to attending conferences, trade shows, meetings, and other opportunities where they can deliver their value face-to-face.


Follow up

The final element of your job-search marketing campaign is one that people feel to complete. One of my valued LinkedIn connections said it best, “When you don’t follow up, you were never there.”

Some job seekers believe the interview is over once they’ve shaken the interviewer’s hand and left the room. “That went well,” they think. “Now, it’s time to wait for the decision.”

Perhaps it went well, but perhaps one or two other candidates also had stellar interviews. Perhaps those other candidates followed up on their interviews with thoughtful thank-you notes.

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

If you don’t believe sending a follow-up note is important, one source claimed:

  • 86 percent of employers will take your lack of a note to mean you don’t follow through on things;
  • 56 percent of employers will assume you aren’t that serious about the job; and
  • 22 percent of employers are less likely to hire you if you don’t send a follow-up note.

What Goes in Your Note?

  1. Show Your Gratitude
  2. Reiterate You’re the Right Person for the Job
  3. Cite Some Interesting Points Made During the Interview
  4. Do Some Damage Control
  5. Suggest a Solution to a Problem
  6. Assert You Want the Job

Lastly, follow up a week after the interview for no more than three consecutive weeks.

A company that fails to follow up will lose the sale or fail in attaining the bid. This reminds me of a plumber who doesn’t return my call. I’m on to the next person.


If you haven’t read part one of this series, I encourage you to.