Tag Archives: Career Search

3 steps 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.

The Future

By conducting multiple interviews—including phone, one-on-one, group, Skype, you name it—employers are trying to determine how you can save them money, improve quality, increase revenue, improve productivity, and help the company in other ways.

Employers believe that if you’ve achieved multiple accomplishments relative to the position, you will repeat similar accomplishments. On the other hand, if your accomplishments are not relevant, you’re applying for the wrong position.

But it’s not only about the relevant accomplishments you’ve achieved. There are other factors that come into play when convincing employers that you’ll be valuable in the future. So what will you have to do in order to convince employers of your value?

1. Have the proper mindset

The first step in convincing employers that you’ll perform for them in the future is having the proper mindset. People who lack this mindset are like former jocks who talk about his glory days in high school. They are stuck in the past.

More importantly, people who lack this mindset can’t envision what they can do for companies in the future. They can’t see the big picture.

I recently gave a group of job seekers the challenge to tell me what their legacy will be from now until 2027; in other words, what will they have accomplished after 10 years. I asked them to think big picture.

A member in the group said one thing he will do is increase revenue by developing relationships with value added resellers (VARs).

I naturally asked him how he knows this. He told the group that he did it twice in the recent past and there’s no question that he’ll do it in the future. He spoke with confidence, knowing what he accomplished in the past can be repeated in the future.

Another member said she will improve communications for nonprofit organizations. She’ll coordinate events, manage social media, create content for the website. How, some of the group members asked. She’s done it in the past and is confident she’ll do it in the future.

2. Write about your future greatness on your résumé and LinkedIn profile

The language you use in your Performance Profile of your résumé is written in present tense because this is the section that initially states what you will bring to the employer.

Writing, “Consistently increase productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” tells employers you’ll do this at their company. Whereas, “Increased productivity more than 70% by implementing Agile methodology,” doesn’t allude to the future.

You must also prioritize your statements by listing your outstanding accomplishments closest to the top of the résumé. The more relevant accomplishments you have on the first page is an indication of the value you’ll bring to the employer.

Notice the word “relevant?” Accomplishments that are relevant and include quantified results are an indication of future greatness.

Your LinkedIn profile Summary should tell a story of the passion you have for your occupation, as well as your value add. Because the profile is more generic and broader in scope than your résumé, you will include more recent accomplishments in the Summary. This is the first section employers will read, so make it pack a punch.

Heres a hint: the first line or two of your LinkedIn profile Summary should be a value statement, as the Summary of the new profile is truncated. You need to make the reader of your Summary want to read the rest of it.

3. Talk about your future greatness in interviews

Many interviewers are focused on the past; therefore, they don’t ask questions that ask about future success. It is up to you to provide answers that illustrate what you will do in the future. You must demonstrate that you are capable of future greatness.

You’re given the popular question, “Why should we hire you?” You must set the tone by delivering an opening statement that talks to the future.

Right: “I am a sales manager who consistently exceeds sales projections. I know you’re looking for the same performance, and I will deliver the performance you require.

Wrong: “I’ve been in sales for 20 years. My most recent job was as a manager.” The beginning of your answer doesn’t convey the fact that you are a sales manager and that you will exceed sales projections.

Many interviewers believe the best type of question is the behavioral-based, which gives you the opportunity to explain your past experience and how it will be repeated in the future. This is the premise behind this type of question.

What’s important in answering this type of question is assuring that your past behavior will be repeated in the future. Begin with a statement similar to, “Most recently, I performed (the following skill)…..” Then ending your answer with, “I will achieve the same accomplishments for you.”

Answer questions using behavioral-based ones whenever possible. Proof is what interviewers want to hear. Take the following traditional question.

“How do you define leadership?” Your reply is to say, “This is an excellent question. Can I give you an example or two how I’ve recently demonstrated leadership?” End your answer with, “Leadership comes easy to me, and I look forward to leading your finance team going forward.”


Using the what-I’ll-do-for-you-in-the-future approach in the job search can be particularly helpful for older job seekers who may falsely be judged as being past their prime.

From the conversation our job club had it is obvious that older workers can and will repeat what they’ve accomplished in the past, and perhaps more. Another member who said she’ll create transparency in the sales reporting process using CRM was convincing because she’s done it successfully in the past. As well, she spoke with confidence.

Photo: Flickr, Evelyne Erni

4 steps necessary to prepare for behavioral-based questions

During our career center orientation, I ask the participants if they’ve been asked behavioral-based questions. Then I say, “If you find this type of question difficult to answer, keep your hands up.” Almost all hands are still raised.

Future2

I’m not surprised when job seekers in my orientation admit that behavioral-based questions are difficult to answer, given the fact that this type of question is meant to get to the core of the applicant.

Surprisingly, not enough interviewers ask behavioral-based questions. Instead they fall back on traditional questions that lack creativity and can be answered with rehearsed replies. “What are your two greatest weaknesses?” or “Why should I hire you?” are two examples of predictable traditional questions that are easy to prepare for.

In addition, traditional questions  can be answered theoretically—in other words, the candidate hasn’t performed, or failed to perform, the desired competencies successfully. The candidate can essentially tell the interviewer whatever he/she wants to hear.

What is difficult about answering behavioral-based questions is that they demand the candidates to address specific times when they’ve performed certain skills and then tell stories about those times. To be successful, candidates need to do the following:

1. Understand the requirements of the job

In order to prepare for a behavioral interview, it requires acute knowledge of the position’s requirements. If you are able to identify eight or more competencies required for the position, you can predict, within reason, the types of questions that will be asked.

For example, if the job ad calls for someone who is organized, demonstrates excellent verbal and written communications, is a leader, etc., you can expect questions such as:

“Tell us about a time when your organization skills resulted in a smooth delivery of services.”

“Give me an example of when your verbal communications skills made it possible for you to solve a conflict between colleagues.”

“Tell me about a time when your leadership faltered and resulted in a conflict between a subordinate and you. What did you learn from your error?”

2. Write the stories for each question

Questions like these will require you to tell a compelling story for each of these skills. How you tell your stories is important. They will consist of a beginning, middle, and end. You should write your stories because you will remember what we’ve written better than by simply trying to remember them.

When you write the stories, use the S.T.A.R. formula. The beginning is the Situation and (your) Task, the middle consist the Actions taken to meet the situation, and the end is the positive, or negative, Result.

Following is an example of an answer for a behavioral-based question. The question is, “Tell me about a time when you collaborated on a successful project.”


Situation: As part of a three-member team, we were charged with writing a report necessary to continue operating an outside program funded by the Department of Labor.

Task: I was given the task writing a detailed report of our participants’ training experience and the jobs they secured with the assistance of a dedicated job placement specialist.

Actions: I started with noting how I recruited 80 participants for the training program, a number I’m happy to say exceeded previous expectations of 50 participants. This required outreach to junior colleges, vocational schools, and career centers.

Step two involved writing detailed descriptions of their training, which included Lean Six Sigma, Project Management, and Agile. Then explaining how this training would help the participants secure employment in their targeted careers.

Next, I interviewed each participant to determine their learning level and satisfaction with the program. All but one was extremely satisfied. The person who was not satisfied felt the training was too difficult but wanted to repeat the training.

As well, I tracked each participant over a period of four months to determine their job placement. Jobs were hard to come by, so at times I took it upon myself to approach various manufacturing companies in the area in order to place 40 of our participants.

Finally I took the lead on writing a five-page report on what the members of the team and I had accomplished in the course of  three months. Other members of the team were of great help in editing the report and making sure it was delivered on time to Boston.

The result: The result was that we delivered the report with time to spare and were able to keep funding for the project for three more years. In addition, the DoL told our director that our report was the best one they’ve received.


3. Rehearse your stories

The story above, as written, takes approximately two minutes to read. This is stretching it in terms of time, so you’ll want to rehearse your stories to the point where they’re more concise, yet maintain their value.

You can talk about them in front of a mirror or deliver them to a live audience, like your friend, neighbor, or family member. The latter is probably the best method to use, as you will not only speak them aloud; you’ll speak them aloud to someone who may make you a tad bit nervous.

Do not try to memorize every little detail of each story. You may fumble with your stories during an interview. Also, you will forget some of the smaller details, but don’t get down on yourself when this happens. Just make sure you hit the major points.

4. Be prepared for zingers

In the interview, you may face questions that take you off guard. Perhaps the stories for which you prepared and rehearsed only end with positive results.

Keep in mind that not all questions will call for a positive results; some interviewers will ask about a time when you failed. Obviously you don’t want to elaborate on these situations.

And don’t answer negative questions with stories that describe the downfall of your company. Therefore, it’s important to write brief stories that end with negative results. A popular question is: “Tell us about a mistake you made and how you rebounded from the mistake.

Interviewers who ask negative questions are smart. Would it make sense to you to learn only about the positive side of the candidates? No. Smart interviewers need to know the good, bad, and  ugly.


How many stories are necessary?

One wonderful thing about stories is that they often reveal more skills than the interviewer originally asked for. For example, the story I provided above reveals the following skills: coordination, outreach, interviewing, interpersonal, initiative, writing, and more.

Photo: Flickr, cthoma27

The most important trait for a successful job search

And 6 reasons why it’s the most important.

I recently received an email from a former job seeker who said she landed a job after three years. I’ve also heard from other job seekers who landed jobs after more than a year after beginning their search. What was the secret to their success? In one word, persistence.

Biking

One definition of persistence is a, “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” A simple definition would be, “not giving up.”

What we know about the job search is that there are new obstacles that make it difficult. I say this based on my experience in the job search when certain requirements were not expected of job seekers.

Having witnessed many job seekers struggle with their job search, I can say the job search is harder now than when I was unemployed. Here are six reasons why:

1. The applicant tracking system (ATS) is more prevalent. One source says 127 people apply for entry-level positions and 89 apply for professional level positions. What this means is employers would have to read many résumés without the aid of an ATS. Instead, they rely on a “robot” that reads resumes and chooses the ones that are, theoretically, the best ones.

The ATS relieves employers from reading more than 75% of résumés for a position. That’s the good news. The bad news is that job candidates must write keyword-rich résumés that get them past the ATS. And many qualified job seekers are unaware of this requirement.

Writing tailored résumés for each job requires persistence. It’s easy to put together a generic résumé and send it to every position for which you apply. To modify your Summary, or re-write it entirely, and prioritize relevant accomplishments is entirely different. Only by doing this will you get past the ATS.

Read 10 tips for writing a professional resume.

2. Employers rely heavily on social media. Two years after I had to look for work LinkedIn came on the scene, and a year later Facebook arrived. I didn’t have to contend with either. LinkedIn, originally developed for business but largely used by job seekers for their search, takes diligence, knowledge of the platform, and realizing its significance.

Jobvite.com recently revealed that 87 percent of hiring authorities use LinkedIn to cull talent, so it makes common sense to be on LinkedIn. Job seekers are using LI to find people at companies they’re targeting, networking with people who might provide opportunities, and using the Jobs feature. To be effective, job seekers must use LinkedIn daily. This takes persistence.

Read If you join LinkedIn be prepared to work hard.

Although not used as much as LinkedIn, Facebook has a job-search purpose. Recruiters are on Facebook, and they’re reaching out to job seekers. Jobvite.com also revealed that more job seekers are using Facebook (67 percent) in their search than they’re using LinkedIn.

A serious consideration is keeping your Facebook account professional, because hiring authorities are looking on Facebook to see if you’re behaving. I was asked by one of my managers to look at job candidates on Facebook. One particular candidate didn’t come across as a girl scout. Enough said.

3. Employers are pickier. The average time to find employment is approximately 26 weeks, based on a position paying $60,000. In addition, many employers have extended the number of interviews from two to four, or even five. And given that they’re busy, the time between interviews can be as long as two weeks.

Why are employers pickier than they were when I was looking for work? The simple answer is to reduce mistakes. Besides getting egg on their face, hiring the wrong person can be extremely expensive. (A Forbes.com article states a “bad” hire can cost more than 30 percent of a person’s first year salary.)

You must be persistent when the job search is taking so long. Don’t give up on employers who are taking their time. Understand that they want to avoid mistakes. Stay in contact with your recruiters to see how the process is going (believe me, they’re just as anxious).

Read 7 thoughts on the mind of a recruiter.

4. Ageism is a reality. Unfortunately, employers discriminate against age. I tell my workshop attendees that a few employers, not all, will practice ageism. Nonetheless, it’s wrong and can’t be defeated easily.

Older workers must be especially persistent and think about ways to get to the interview, one of which is writing résumés that don’t reveal their age. Then during the interview sell themselves as a benefit to the employer, not a disadvantage.

Smart employers will see that older workers want to work as much, or more, than people younger than them. Employers will realize that older workers are more mature and dependable, have extensive job experience, as well as life experience.

Your job is to dispell the stereotypes that exist for older workers, such as they expect too much money, are not as quick to learn, are set in their ways, will be sick more often, and will leave sooner than younger workers. These are all untrue.

Read 5 strength of the older worker.

5. Networking is necessarily more than ever. Regardless of age, networking will be the key to your success. The old saying, “It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you”; is truer than ever.

One of my favorite job seekers wrote to me about another job seeker’s Happy Landing. She wrote: “[Landing her job] was completely through networking; she has not even met her hiring manager yet. One person’s word and recommendation was enough!

Of course networking involves more than relying on your reputation to land a job. You need to be more persistent than I was during my unemployment. To say networking is the name of the game is an understatement.

It’s believed that your chances of landing a job are 60%-80% by employing networking. Of course other methods of job seeking must be used to supplement your networking. And networking doesn’t have to be confined to networking events; you must persistently network on a daily basis, throughout the community.

Read 5 steps to uncovering career opportunities.

6. Don’t forget to following up. Perhaps the biggest failure in the job search is not following up with potential valuable contacts. I hear it all the time; someone meets a potential contact at a networking event, or in the community, and doesn’t follow-up; thereby loosing out on a huge opportunity.

You must be persistent in following up. I say to my workshop attendees, “Why put all the hard work you do while networking, submitting your written communications, and networking by not following up?” It doesn’t make sense.

Remember that your job isn’t done after the first or even second contact. It’s done when you get a yes. Yes, the person you met at a networking event will meet you for coffee. Yes, after coffee they will agree to deliver your résumé to the hiring manager. Yes, it leads to an interview. And yes, you’ve been accepted for the position after five interviews.

If this isn’t persistence, what is?


The saying that anything worth having takes hard work is about being persistent. It’s about not giving up. It’s about getting to yes. I can think of other words which begin with “P” that are important to the job search, but persistence always comes to mind.

6 job-search methods to use to stay sane

insanity

I think Albert Einstein said it best:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Yet, as career advisors, we see this practice all the time. And usually it’s the people who are struggling to land their next job that are doing exactly this. They tell me they’ve been using Indeed.com and sometimes Monster.com or LinkedIn…exclusively.

Have you been networking? I ask them. No, that doesn’t work for me, they say. And so they continue using the job boards to distribute their resume, and they wait. Weeks pass and when I see them next, I ask how their search is going. Not so good they tell me.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that my clients abandon the job boards. Plenty of people land interviews and eventually a position. It just takes them longer. What I am suggesting is that my clients use other means of looking for work.

Use Different Methods to Look for Work 

But before we go further with my suggestions for looking for work, you must know what you want to do, as well as where you’d like to work. I find this to be a challenge for some job seekers, who give me a blank stare when I ask them these questions.

Most know what they want to do but aren’t quite sure where they’d like to work. They don’t have a target company list of even 15 companies, let alone 10. Without this list, networking will be extremely difficult, as you won’t know exactly who to approach.

1. Networking has always proved to be the best way to look for work. Spreading the word in your community and asking your friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. to keep their ears open is a start.

Attend networking groups a couple of times a week. Search on Meetup.com to see if there are smaller events might be more to your liking, particularly if you’re more introverted and prefer the intimacy smaller groups provide.

Supplement your in-person networking with LinkedIn. Make initial contact online and then follow up with a phone call. Ask to meet your LinkedIn connections for coffee, or talking on the phone and Skype-ing may be the way your connections want to go.

2. Reach out to recruiters or staffing agencies. Recruiters have a pipeline of their own of employers that are looking to fill positions. They may work directly with employers or assist internal recruiters at large corporations.

Their job is to present the best candidates to extremely busy hiring managers. They are loyal to said hiring managers because the employer pays their salaries. Make no mistake; recruiters work for the employers, not you.

Therefore, it’s important that your marketing campaign is strong. Your resume and LinkedIn profile must be powerful. As well, you must sell yourself in phone interviews conducted by recruiters. If you can impress the recruiters, you’re one step closer to the face-to-face interview.

3. Leverage your alumni association. Your college, and perhaps your high school, has a vast network of alumni who are more than willing to help you. Why? Because you share something very important in common; you went to the same school.

In addition to a vast network, there are a number of services your alumni association offers: networking events, career advice, mentoring opportunities, informational meetings, and possibly job fairs.

Not all college alumni associations offer these services, but for those that do you should take advantage of as many of them as possible.

4. Knock on companies’ doors, if possible. Some of my clients who are in the trades benefit more from simply going to work-sites and talking with foremen to see if they need any help. Resumes are rarely needed, but confidence matters a great deal.

This doesn’t mean others can’t “knock on companies’ doors.” What I mean by this is sending an introduction of yourself to the companies for which you’d like to work. (Remember that company list?) These are called networking emails and can be very useful in asking for informational meetings.

Some believe these can be more valuable than cover letters, and I’m inclined to agree. This is a great step for those who like to write, as opposed to speaking on the phone. In other words, introverts. The goal is to penetrate the Hidden Job Market.

5. Volunteer in your area of expertise. Volunteering is a good idea for a number of reasons. One, you put yourself in a position to network with people who are currently working and may have ideas or contacts who can be of use.

Two, it keeps you active; you’re not spending all your time sitting at home behind your computer. There’s something about getting out of the house and getting into a routine that’s very cathartic. It gives you a sense of achievement.

Finally, you can enhance the skills you have or develop new ones. For example, you’re a web developer that needs more experience in PHP language. So you volunteer to develop a non-profit’s website. This is also great fodder for your resume.

6. Applying online. With all the negative talk about job boards, there has to be something said about doing it effectively. One way to do it wrong is to simply leave your resume on Monster, Dice, Simply Hired, etc., and wait for the calls to come rolling in.

Similarly, to apply for advertised positions on the company’s website—which is purported to produce better results—will not be enough. The fact is that the majority of job seekers are applying online for the 30% of jobs out there; so there’s a lot of competition.

Now, to do it correctly requires 1) a resume that is optimized for the advertised positions, 2) applying for positions you’re qualified for, and 3) following up on the jobs for which you applied.

There are some barriers, though. For instance, you would have to tailor each resume to the particular jobs. And often you cannot reach the decision maker at the companies. This said, people have told me they’ve landed interviews by applying online.


To use only one method of looking for work would not be productive. If, for instance, you were to network alone—which garners a 70% success rate by some people’s measures—it would not be as successful as if you were to combine that with using job boards and contacting recruiters.

And if networking is not your forte, you may find the going slow. So use the methods of looking for work that you feel are most productive. Just don’t limit it to one method, particularly applying online.

Photo: Flickr, marccm

 

 

5 services your alumni association offers, as well as best practices

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As a volunteer for my alma mater’s alumni association, I have witnessed some savvy networking from students, recent, and not-so recent alumni. I’ve been impressed with the level of professionalism they’ve demonstrated and their focus on gaining employment.

At one event held in Boston, alumni and current students (as young as sophomores) showed up dressed to impress, took advantage of a free photo shoot, and lined up for the duration of the event for resume and LinkedIn profile critiques I was giving.

My alma mater’s alumni association has held other events in the past that were geared toward helping our alums in their job search. They were well coordinated and of great benefit to the attendees.

Not all alumni services are equal, but generally they offer the services explained below. To take advantage of there services, you must adhere to best practices which are also explained below.

Services

Career advice

Established alumni from your college can provide you with a plethora of career advice, most of which is valuable because your alums have been in their industry, in some cases, for many years. Some have read tons of resumes, cover letters, and interviewed candidates.

Call on alumni for practical advice. Look for people at your level or, better yet, managed employees who work in your occupation and industry. Ask them what they expect from resumes and job candidates in interviews. Pick their brains for this important information.

At my alma mater, there is a list of alumni who can help grads with their resumes, networking and interview techniques, LinkedIn profile, job-search etiquette, and other job-search topics. I have been contacted by recent and not-so-recent grads seeking my services.

A vast network

If you’re fortunate, you have access to vast database of people in the space you want to enter. This database provides you with email addresses, telephone numbers, and LinkedIn profile URLs. If you don’t have access to this information, use LinkedIn’s Find Alumni feature.

Your potent network can span the world, but you might want to focus on your local area. If I want to access my local network, I’ll contact the president of the alumni association. However, if I am interested in seeking employment in North Carolina, I’ll contact the president of that charter.

Once you have located alumni who can help you in your job search, you’ll approach them as you would any potential connection. You can call them, send email, or send Inmail through LinkedIn.

Informational interviews

One of the best ways to pick your alumni’s brains is asking for an informational interview, which I prefer to call a networking meeting, because that’s what you’re doing; you’re networking. But more to the point, you’re gathering important information and advice.

You’re the one who’s asking the questions, so they need to be intelligent ones. Little do you know, but there may be a position developing at your alum’s company. If you impress your alum with the dialog you generate, you may be referred to the hiring authority.

But that’s when the stars are aligned. Along with gaining valuable information, you need to leave the networking meeting with additional contacts with whom you can speak. You are building your network. You’re always building your network.

Alumni and other events

The event I mentioned above was organized to perfection. It was held in Boston at my alma mater’s club, a stunning building with a great view of the city. The event was designed to introduce people to those who could help them in their job search.

At the event, I critiqued resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Other pundits spoke about networking, job-search etiquette, and other job-search topics. And the students and recent grads came to soak up information.

Job fairs are also a great event that are held, for the most part, by career services. However, some alumni associations also conduct job fairs or smaller networking opportunities, such as sports gatherings, social events, etc.

If your alumni association puts on job fairs, check out the companies that are attending and go to the job fairs to make connections. Again, you’re in control of your destiny. Impress some of the reps, and you might create opportunities.

Mentor opportunities

Alumni associations encourage alumni to reach out to professionals in their industry who can mentor them in the job search. The mentors are not career counselors, but they can provide great insight into their industry.

Mentors give valuable time out of their day to gain an understanding of what you’re looking for in employment, how you should approach your search with the correct attitude, suggest people with whom you can speak, and give you the motivation you need.

Mentors will guide you from the start of your job search to the end. They are dedicated to the success of their mentees. They are a special group.

Best practices

To utilize the services explained above requires appropriate behavior, especially since the alumni volunteers are acting out of the goodness of their heart. Here are some best practices:

Be polite is rule number one. Do what you were taught as a child and carried throughout your life. The words, “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Represent your alma mater the proper way.

Be assertive but in a respectful way. Not all volunteers will follow through in a timely manner. Some may simply forget to return your calls. In this case, leave a polite message reminding them of your meeting.

Be accommodating to your alumni volunteer. One of my alumni clients said he’d feel more comfortable meeting face-to-face, but because we live 50 miles apart and I have a busy personal life, he agreed to communicate via phone. Alumni volunteers will also accommodate their alumni clients when possible.

Be knowledgeable when you attend a networking meeting. Don’t arrive without intelligent questions. Contribute to the conversation with appropriate comments. Show yourself as someone who could work at that company if a position exists.

Be focused on your job search. Nothing is more frustrating than talking with someone who is vague about their career goals. However, if you are unsure about what you want to do, you should be able to describe your transferable skills and experience required for a career change.

Be on LinkedIn is a no-brainer these days. Nothing impresses me more these days than a student or someone fresh out of school who has a strong profile and engages with their connections on a regular basis. You should be one of the 450 million LinkedIn users.

Following up is essential to your relationship with your alumni volunteer. After you’ve spoken with them or met them in person, send a thank you via email or card. Ping them every once in awhile so they know how your search is going. Stay top of mind.


It’s been a pleasure volunteering for my alma mater’s alumni association. I’ve had the opportunity to educate alumni of various ages on LinkedIn and resumes and the job search. Be assured that there are alumni volunteers who would like to help you.

If you appreciate your alumni association, I’d love to hear why.

Photo: UMass Alumni Association

 

 

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

 

Recently a former customer of mine told me he was offered an engineering position. He was extremely happy about getting the job and thought he’d enjoy working for the company. I noticed some hesitation in his voice.

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It took five interviews before he was offered the job. These interviews were all conducted over the phone—he never had a face-to-face. This is why he seemed ambivalent about his new position.

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.

This is the type of response I sometimes get from my workshop attendees when they tell me they have a telephone interview, “It’s just a telephone interview. I hope I get a face-to-face.” I tell them to prepare as hard as they would for a personal interview. Don’t get caught off guard.

Yes, the face-to-face is the next step, but you can’t get there without impressing the interviewer on the other end of the phone, whether she’s a recruiter, hiring manager, HR, or even the owner of a company.

Generally the interviewer is trying to obtain four bits of information from you, areas to which you can respond well or fail.

1. Do you have the skills and experience to do the job? The first of the interviewer’s interests is one of the easiest to meet. You’ve applied for a public relations manager position that’s “perfect” for you.

You have experience and accomplishments required of a strong public relations manager. Your communications skills are above reproach, demonstrated by excellent rapport with the media, business partners, and customers.

In addition, you’ve written press releases, customer success stories, and assisted with white papers. You’ve added content to the company’s website that even project managers couldn’t supply. One of your greatest accomplishments was placing more than 50 articles in leading trade magazines.

2. Are you motivated and well liked? Your former colleagues describe you as amiable, extremely goal oriented, and one who exudes enthusiasm. The last quality shows motivation and will carry over nicely to your work for the next company. You’ve done your research and have decided that this is the company you want to work for; it’s on your “A” list.

When the interviewer asks why you want to work for the company, you gush with excitement and feel a bit awkward telling her you love the responsibilities set forth in the job description.

Further, through your networking you’ve learned about the corporate culture, including the management team. You tell her it sounds a lot like your former company and will be a great fit.

3. Why did you leave your last company? This one is tough for you, because even though you were laid off, you feel a bit insecure and wonder if you were to blame. But of the three reasons; you were laid off, you were let go, or you quit; this is the easiest to explain.

Your company was acquired and there would be duplication with the marketing department that exists for the company that bought yours. You keep this answer brief, 15 seconds and there are no follow-up questions. You’re doing great so far.

4. What is your salary expectation? “So Bill, what are your needs?” The question hits you like a brick. “Excuse me,” you say. “What do you expect for salary? What will it take to get you to the next step?” the interviewer says. Your mind goes blank. You’ve been instructed to handle the question in this order:

  1. Try to deflect the question.
  2. If this doesn’t work, ask for their range.
  3. And if this doesn’t work, give them your range.
  4. When all else fails, you cite an exact figure based on your online research and networking.

You’ve forgotten everything your job coach told you and blurt out, “At my last job I made $72,000.” But this isn’t the question asked. The interviewer wants you to tell her what you expect for salary, not what you made at your last company. “Is this what you had in mind?” you timidly say.

There’s a pause at the other end, and finally the voice thanks you for your time. She tells you if you’re suitable for an interview at the company, you’ll be notified within a week. She says it looks promising for you….

But you know right then that the position hangs in the balance. You’ve spoken first and within 10 seconds said something you can’t take back. You were prepared, but not prepared enough. You didn’t think this interview counted; you’d do better at the face-to-face, if you get there.

Photo: Flickr, Dwight Anthony

Job seekers, surround yourselves with these 5 people

positive-woman

Increasingly more job seekers are opening up to me saying the hardest part of being unemployed is the emotional drain they feel. Some will tell me they’ve never felt worse in their life.

Sure, money is an issue, but it’s the fear, uncertainty, anger, despair, the whole bundle that affects them the most. There’s also the feeling alienation, a need for support.

I was out of work 12 years ago and found there were people with whom I should have surrounded myself. The people I found helpful made my job search bearable. They helped me deal with the highs and lows of the job search.

Here are five people you should have on your side.

Positive people

You know the type I’m referring to. They wear a smile on their face most of the time, and they speak positively about people and situations. They’re not downers, and they won’t let you dwell on your problems.

People like this exude positivism that’s contagious. They make it possible for you to forget your negative thoughts for a moment. That moment can be enough for you to realize that your unemployment will be temporary.

Unemployment can wear on relationships, particularly between your spouse. It is natural for your spouse to also feel the effects of your unemployment. So you will want to seek people who can provide you with the positivism you need.

People who give great advice

For free professional career advice your best bet is your nearest One-Stop career center or your alumni career center; although not all universities provide this service. There are public career centers throughout the US, and they are free.

Workshop facilitators and career advisors can provide the most up to date job-search advice. They are empathetic to your needs. However, they will not let you dwell on your situation.

Another option is networking groups in your area. The area in which I live offers networking groups that meet every day of the week. It’s important that you find people who are knowledgeable about the job search.

People who believe in you

giving-advice

At this point, you might feel that no one believes in you. This isn’t the case. You can’t discount family members, friends, neighbors, former colleagues, past bosses, etc.

These are people who will assure you with words as simple as, “You can do it, Bob.” or “I have faith in you.” or “You’ll turn the corner.” And you can tell by their tone if they’re sincere. I, for one, can’t lie to save my life; so when I say these words, I mean them.

The ultimate sign of people believing in you is when they are willing to deliver your résumé to someone in a company, or agreeing to be a reference, or going to a hiring manager and recommending you for a job.

 Non-judgmental people

Non-judgmental people will not put you down because of your situation. If you were laid off due to your previous company’s poor performance, they will not insinuate that you could have prevented being laid off.

If you were let go, they won’t blame you when it was a conflict of personality between you and your manager. I tell my job seekers that there are bad bosses who have an agenda, and no matter how hard my job seekers try, they can’t make it right.

Non-judgmental people don’t throw stones in glass houses, as the saying goes. They are empathetic because they’ve made mistakes of their own. To me, they demonstrate emotional intelligence and can be a great source of comfort.

People who want to have fun

picnicOne way to take your mind off your problems is by enjoying a laugh or two with friends or relatives. I’m sure you’ve been among friends who were recalling hilarious memories that had you in stitches.

When the laughter ceased and you were brought back to the fact you were unemployed they took notice and gave you a punch in the arm. They told you to snap out of it, so you did. Your friends wouldn’t allow you to dwell on what you couldn’t change at that moment.

You must remember that there are people like your friends or family who are counting on you to be the same ole Bob. Don’t drag them down with you. Sure they will offer a shoulder to cry on, but only for so long. They believe in you, are confident that you’ll bounce back, and instill positivism in you.


If you’re lucky in the bad times unemployment, you’ll have a few people who have one or more traits explained above. They’ll keep you positive, give you sound advice, believe in you, won’t judge you, and will keep moments light.

But most importantly, they’ll be confident that you’ll land your next job. I am confident that if you conduct a proper job search, you’ll land quickly. I tell my job seekers this and far more times I am right than wrong.

Photo: Flickr, Chris “Paco” Camino