Tag Archives: interviewing

4 important principles of your job-search stories

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

father lessson

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

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

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

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

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

Meaning

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

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

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

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

Form

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

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

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

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

Create a connection

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

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

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

Preparation is paramount to success

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

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


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

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22 interview articles to help you land a job

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

why-fired

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

4 important principles of your job-search stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One very important component of your behavioral-based interview answer

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

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

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

Keep 8 rules in mind when answering why you were fired

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

3 major Skype major interview tips job seekers must heed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

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

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

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

Nailing the interview process, Part 1: Be Mentally prepared

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

Nailing the Interview Process, Know Thyself: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nailing the interview process; part 5. First impressions matter

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

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

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

Nailing the interview process, part 7: following up

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

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

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

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


Photo: Flickr, Patricia Adam

 

 

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

If every successful business requires a marketing campaign to promote its products or services, 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 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

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

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.

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.

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.

5 phases of the introvert’s journey to landing interviews

Ask anyone. They’ll tell that interviews are tough. Some will say they’re tougher for introverts than extraverts. Introverts, they argue, don’t make small talk as well as extraverts. They don’t come across as outgoing or friendly. They’re not as likeable. They get easily flustered. This is bunk.

Man interview

Here’s a fact; interviews are tough for both of those who prefer introversion or extraversion. Are they equally tough for both dichotomies? This is hard to say. Another fact is that introverts can shine in interviews, but they must be successful completing all phases that lead to and include the interview.

For the sake of this article, I’ll assert that interviews demand characteristics that introverts might find more difficult to master than their counterpart. Introverts might have to focus or concentrate more during certain phases of the interview process.

It all begins with research

Introverts are strong researchers. And this carries them through the process of landing interviews. The steps that lead to interviews require them to be prepared. They can’t cheat on any of the phases that follow.

Researching the job description and contacting people in the company can help them with writing their résumés, as they should be tailored to each job. Understanding the required skills and responsibilities is essential.

Similarly, researching the job description will help them answer the tough interview questions. They must go further and study the company’s website, use Google, perhaps Glassdoor.com, and read press releases to gain a full understanding of the company. Researching  the company will help them answer question about the company.

To take it a step further, it would behoove them to use labor market websites so they can answer questions about their industry and the company’s competition. Interviewers will be extremely impressed if job candidates can speak to their competition.


Writing compelling job-search marketing literature

This is a phase of the interview process where introverts can really succeed. They enjoy writing and are reluctant to pick up the phone. As I was explaining to my clients, the nice thing about writing their job-search documents is that have time to collect their thoughts.

Introverts will spend more time constructing their marketing literature, e.g., résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. There can be a risk in spending too much time during the writing phase of the job search, so introverts need to be able to say “done” and not obsess over getting it perfect.

This speaks to the ability to process information. Introverts prefer writing because they can take their time formulating their thoughts. Generally, they spend more time writing than speaking to communicate.

Introverts need to take it a step further and disseminate their résumé in a more effective way. Pundits believe that the success rate of sending one’s résumé to employer via job boards is 4%-10%. Further, there’s the applicant tracking system (ATS) to contend with.

Therefore, it’s important that introverts deliver their résumé/cover letter directly to hiring decision makers, as well as through the job boards. This is a tall order for some introverts, because it requires…you guessed it, networking.

Read: 10 reasons why recruiters and hiring managers dread reading your resume.


Now it’s time to network

Networking can be intimidating for anyone. The word connotes gathering in a large group of people you don’t know and being forced to make conversation. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Networking should be looked at as “connecting with others.”

Generally speaking, introverts are excellent listeners who come across as truly interested in what others have to say. This can be a benefit while networking. Along with being great listeners, introverts tend to ask questions, which their networking cohorts appreciate.

Keep in mind that one’s preference for introversion or extraversion is about energy level. It’s not about one’s ability to speak. Introverts generally don’t have the energy level and/or the inclination to be with people after a hard day of job hunting.

Because introverts are thoughtful thinkers and excellent listeners, connecting with others can be a strength, not a weakness. They need to keep the following in mind:

  • Establish a doable goal. Introverts don’t have to “work the room”; they can talk with two or three people and call it a successful day.
  • Networking is a two-way street. Don’t go to an event expecting only to receive. Go to give as well.
  • Approach people with the appearance of confidence, even if they’re shaking in their boots. Once conversations begin, the confidence will come.
  • Ask questions. People like to be asked questions about themselves.
  • Always bring personal business cards. This very popular article explains why they’re needed and what to include on them:
  • Finally, don’t assume networking can only occur in a formal setting. Other great ways of connecting with others is by creating buddy groups, which are smaller and more intimate; connect in the community; and schedule coffee dates.

The ever-important interview

What happens before the interview? The correct answer is preparation.

What too many people fail to realize is that preparation is key. With preparation comes confidence, with confidence comes better performance. Introverts are masters at research.

Introverts learn best by studying and researching information and then reflecting upon that information. They internalize what they learn and often put it to writing. In some of my workshops I ask the attendees to write 10 STAR accomplishments on index cards. This helps them remember their accomplishments better.

It’s great that introverts prepare for interviews by studying the job description, the companies website, and labor market information; however, they need to network in large groups or meet-ups, where they can gather important information.

Real-time labor market research, e.g., networking, is sometimes the best way to gather important information.

Listening is an introverts’ strength

Being a great listener can also be beneficial in an interview, where it’s important to hear the questions being asked and not trying to answer the questions without hearing them through. The ability to listen also comes across as being interested in the conversation.

What’s the flip-side of talking too much? That’s right, not talking enough. Here’s where introverts need to be mindful and demonstrate their value through answers that aren’t too short, nor aren’t to long. It’s a tough balancing act.

Be ready to answer tough interview questions

This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say.

With their inclination to research the position, company, and the competition, introverts should be prepared to answer tough interview question, such as behavioral-based ones. They should have their stories ready structured in the STAR format. For those unfamiliar:

S is the situation

T is the task in the situation

A is the action taken to solve the situation

R is the result of their actions.

Read this article to get a better idea of behavioral-based questions.

Whereas introverts might not talk enough, extraverts tend to talk too much. We’ve heard people bemoan, “He must be an extrovert. He talks way too much.” This is believed be true because extraverts aren’t as comfortable with silence as introverts are.


Finally, follow-up

Here’s where introverts can really shine. Given their preference to write, thank you notes should be no problem for them. There are well-stated rules for writing follow-up notes, though.

  • The thank you notes must arrive 12-24 hours after the interview.
  • Every thank you note needs to be tailored to each interviewer. No formatted notes allowed.
  • Do more than thank each individual for their time. Put more effort into it, such as bringing up a point of interest that was mentioned during the interview.
  • Also send a thank you note to the recruiter. They greatly appreciate them, and it keeps the recruiters in your network.

Failing to send a thank you note is failing to conclude the interview. I’ve been told by recruiters, HR, and hiring managers that they appreciate thank you notes. They really do. A few of them have said that not sending one can disqualify job candidates.

 

 

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

And a sample story.

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.

Motivation

Employers are also sensitive to this conundrum because projects finished late cost money

Further, someone who consistently fails to do their part of a project is a major problem who will most likely have to be let go; and this is a huge cost the employer must undertake. Estimates put the cost of a bad hire at 30 percent of the person’s first annual salary.

Therefore, you should expect to be asked this question during an interview: “Tell us about a time when you had to motivate someone.”  This is a common behavioral-based question.

Four thoughts to keep in mind when answering this question

Although this is a tough question to answer, there are four thoughts to keep in mind that will help you answer this question:

  1. Interviewers want to see how you’re going to respond to difficult questions.
  2. Understand why the interviewers are asking the question.
  3. Have your (short) story ready.

For details about how to successfully answer behavioral interview questions, read—Tell Me About a Time When You Failed and Smart Strategies to Answer Behavioral Interview Questions.

How to answer a behavioral-based question

The last thought–have your story ready–is what I’ll address in this article.

A vague answer is not going to impress interviewers. In fact, it might eliminate you from consideration. Remember, this is a problem employers struggle with, so interviewers want a specific answer.

What’s important in answering this question is to go into the interview with a specific situation in mind. This is the beginning of your story. The remaining parts of your story are: your task in the situation, the actions you took to solve the situation, and the result.

The acronym is STAR. Keep in mind to guide you through your answer. Let’s look at a STAR story to answer: “Tell me about a time when you had to motivate someone.”

Situation

Our company was going to participate in an annual trade show at the Javits Center in New York City. The date was approaching in two months.

Task

As the manager of marketing, it was my responsibility to coordinate the trade show. There were several details I had to handle, including making hotel arrangements for sales and the VP, coordinating transportation for our booth, writing content for social media and the website, and additional duties.

It was up to the sales manager to notify our partners, OEMs, and VARs that we were attending.

Actions

Three months before the show, I sent an email to the manager of the sales department asking him to begin the process of sending out the emails. I received no reply at that time.

A week later I called to remind him that the emails had to be sent out in order to give our partners enough time to schedule the event into their calendars. He said he would get on it immediately.

A week after that I ran into him in the lunch room, where I asked him how the emails were going. Sheepishly he told me he hadn’t gotten to sending them. This was making me nervous, and I think he realized it.

Later that day, I went to his office and told him that other trade shows were happening around that time and we had to get confirmation from our partners that they were going to attend ours. I hoped he would understand the gravity of the situation.

By Friday of that week, the emails still hadn’t been sent out, so I decided that he needed some motivation. It’s not like me to go over people’s heads when I can handle the situation myself.

On Monday I crafted an email to VP of sales and marketing telling her that all the task for the trade show were handled, save for the emails that our sales manager had to send out. Then I asked the sales manager to come to my office to review it. I told him that the email was going to be sent out by the end of the day.

Result

This was all the motivation he needed. By the end of the day, he sent out the emails to our OEMs, VARs, and partners. There were a handful of our partners who said they couldn’t make it because they weren’t given enough notice, but most of them were looking forward to it.

The sales manager came to me a week later to apologize for not sending out the emails in a timely manner and appreciated me not going to my VP about the matter. I told him I could help him with his time management skills, and he thanked me for the offer.

Bonus

What I Learned

I learned that I should have been more persuasive earlier in the process. I acted too slowly. I also learned that I can motivate my colleagues without having to get upper management involved.

Read One very important component of your behavioral-based interview answer.

The bottom line

Anticipate that you will be asked behavioral questions in interviews. As usual, the best defense is a good offense—have examples of how you have handled this situation, structured as STARs (plus Learning) so you can clearly present both the situation and the positive result from your action, demonstrating your ability to successfully motivate others to support your employer’s goals.

This article originally appeared on www.job-hunt.org.

Photo: Flickr, Jesper Sehested

 

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

And a sample answer.

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

Persuasion

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

The four thoughts candidates need to take into consideration are:

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

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

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

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

Situation

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

Task

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

Actions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Result

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

Bonus: lesson learned

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

This article originally appeared on Job-Hunt.org.

Photo: Flickr, Henrik Therkildsen

 

20 steps to take during your job search

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

job seeker balck and white

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

1. Forgive yourself

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

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

2. Take a short break

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

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

3. Dive into your job search with gusto

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

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

4. Let others know you’re out of work

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

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

5. Be good to yourself

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

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

6. Don’t play the numbers game

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

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

7Know thyself

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Conduct some labor market research (LMR)

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

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

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

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

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

11. Write your résumé and LinkedIn profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Research, research, research

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. Pre-employment aptitude and personality tests

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

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

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

16. Telephone Interviews

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

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

17. Skype interviews

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

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

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

18. Video interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. It’s not over until you follow up

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

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


One more: it’s never too late to volunteer

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

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

Photo: Flickr, worldentertainments center