Tag Archives: interviewing

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.

reflection

Before you even start the interview process, I’d like you to do a very simple exercise. Take it seriously, as it will give you a better sense of yourself and how you need to approach the interview process.

Some of you have done SWOT analysis at work, so you’re familiar with the concept. The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Below is a brief explanation of how a SWOT analysis is used in the work setting.

“SWOT analyses can serve as a precursor to any sort of company action, such as exploring new initiatives, making decisions about new policies, identifying possible areas for change, or refining and redirecting efforts midplan.” BusinessNewsDaily.com

SWOT

From the diagram above, you can see how to handle the four components of a SWOT analysis. Let’s go through all four components.

Strengths

When you analyze your strengths, think about the those that will help you for the position for which you’re applying. Try to address as many of them in the job posting you can. Further, think about how you can achieve at each one.

Here is a list of skills for a specific marketing specialist position:

1. Innovation. You have demonstrated innovative approaches to create marketing campaigns. You introduced one company for which you worked to paperless marketing, social media to another, and virtual tradeshows to your previous company.

2. Business to business marketing. You’ve done this successfully for many years. Included among many of your business partner are seven blue-chip companies.

3. Strategic Thinking. You’ve demonstrated the “ability to think strategically and analytically to ensure successful marketing campaign execution” and can come up with numerous times you’ve done this.

4. Cross-Functional Work. You’ve worked across multiple organizations, including engineering, sales, fiance, webdesign. You’ve demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills.

5. Understanding Customer Behavior. At your previous position, this was a large part of what you did. You worked with business development to determine the best way to target marketing efforts.

6. Strong written and verbal communication skills. You can prove this with the experience you’ve had communicating through written and verbal communications with the press, trade magazines, partners, and customers.

7. The Required Soft Skills. “Solid organizational and project management skills” and “attention to detail and demonstrated ability to multi-task.”

Try to think of at least 10 strengths that you can apply to this position and others.

Weaknesses

Be honest about listing your weaknesses. Determine how you can overcome these weaknesses, as it is important to demonstrate in an interview not only that you have weaknesses but also how you can overcome them.

1. Business to Customer. You have limited experience to this type of marketing, but you’ve shown the ability to interact well with consumers as a retail associate and, therefore understand their needs.

2. Working with Certain Departments. You have limited experience working closely with internal marketing analytics teams to define requirements for product test plans and campaign analysis.

Be honest with yourself and try to think of three or more weaknesses. 

Opportunities 

Opportunities can be anything that makes a job appealing, such as work-life balance, commute, increased income, opportunity for advancement, landing a job quickly.

Great Working Environment. From talking with people you know at the company, you know the company offers team unity, opportunity for advancement.

Work with Previous Colleague. Your previous boss and you got on very well when you were at Company X. You look forward to working with her again.

Your network is strong. This will provide you with many opportunities for a position like this one. You know people in management, as well as others who work there. Companies prefer to hire those they known, e.g., referrals.

The more examples of opportunities you can think of, the more positive you’ll feel about any jobs for which you apply.

Threats

Threats are factors that are difficult, if not possible, to overcome. These can be sticking points during an interview.

Education Requirement. You lack a Bachelor’s degree in what the company desires (Business, Economics, Marketing, Mathematics) and have no resources to acquire one. There is a loophole that says “or a related one.” Your degree in English has served you well in the past.

Experience. “Previous marketing internship experience” is a red flag. It appears that the company is looking for younger, less expensive candidates. Perhaps the company will consider a more experienced employee for the position, or they might develop a position more senior for you.

Some threats can be overcome with a little imagination. 


In the next post we look at the importance of research, research, research before the interview.

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Torkel Pettersson

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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.

Despondent

To lose a job for any reason can be a blow to your self-esteem. Even if you were let go simply because the company had to cut costs, you may feel like you’ve failed. Some of my clients feel responsible for being laid off, even though it wasn’t their fault.

It can be particularly devastating if you’re let go because of performance issues or because you didn’t see eye-to-eye with your manager. You may feel that you’re incapable of becoming again the productive employee you once were.

The same applies to having to quit under pressure. Your boss was constantly harping on you for small mistakes or accused you of missteps that you know were the correct actions. Because they’re the boss, though, they hold the power.

Many unemployed can’t let go of what went wrong. They lose sight of what they did well at work. Negative thoughts swim through their minds. What can a person do to get back on track?

1. Don’t deny your despondency

You may be experiencing feelings you’ve never had before: bouts of crying for no apparent reason, a short temper with family members and friends, a lack of motivation. These feelings are symptoms of unemployment. You’re not going crazy.

When I was out of work, I tried to recognize the feelings I was experiencing. It wasn’t always easy, but I realized my unemployment was temporary. You should also realize your situation is temporary.

2. Take a hiatus

You’ve heard the saying, “Get back on the horse.” This is always a good idea, but you don’t have to do it immediately. I’ve known job seekers who have taken a week off to regroup and get their bearings again. While some might believe that you should begin your job search the day after you lose your job, it would be better to clear your mind first.

This said, don’t take a full-on vacation, as many job seekers do. Even during the seemingly slow summer months, employers are hiring. Take a hiatus, but don’t waste long periods of time.

3. Evaluate the situation; be able to explain why you’re out of work

Given three reasons why you are unemployed – you were laid off, let go, or quit – determine which applies in your situation. To be able to explain to others why you lost your job, particularly in an interview, you must be able to explain it to yourself.

If you were at fault, own up to it. Then, determine how you will act differently next time so as not to repeat the same mistake. Most likely you’ll have to explain, albeit briefly, your situation in an interview. Show self-awareness. This is a big step that you’ll need to make.

4. Tell people you’re out of work

walkingThere’s no shame in being out of work. Whenever I say this, I’m sure many job seekers mutter under their breath, “What would you know?”

Plenty. When I was unemployed, it wasn’t easy for me to tell others I had been laid off, even though it wasn’t my fault.

In order for others to help you, they need to know you’re looking for work. The people you tell shouldn’t be limited to your former colleagues and supervisors. They should include family, friends, and acquaintances. Even your brother who lives thousands of miles away might hear or read of an opportunity local to you.

5. Be willing to ask for and accept help

I find this to be one of the most challenging roadblocks for many people; they just can’t bring themselves to ask for help.

There are two things to remember here: One, your job search will be shorter if you have help; two, most people like to help those in need.

Helping others gives people a feeling of achievement. As someone out of work, you will experience the same, so pay it forward.

This isn’t to say you should approach everyone in you community and ask, “Do you know of any jobs for me?” To tell people you’re out of work and explain the kind of job you’re seeking should be enough.

For safe measure, you may want to ping people to stay top of mind. An occasional request like “Please keep your ear to the pavement for me” should suffice.

6. Don’t sleep the day away

As difficult it may be, you need to develop a routine. You don’t have to rise at 5 a.m. so you can go to the gym before work, but getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to take a walk, eat breakfast, and get out of the house would be much more productive than sleeping until 10 every morning.

You’ll feel much better if you are productive than you would if you rose late and watched television all day. I honestly believe that developing a routine is essential to your mental health – and to finding a job.

7. Seek professional help if necessary

You’ll probably experience many feelings, such as anger, fear, and self-doubt. If you become consumed with these feelings, it might be best to seek the help of a therapist. This is not unusual – trust me. I went through a plethora of feelings and, yes, I did talk with a professional. It allowed me to clear my mind.

If it gets to the point where you can’t see the future – where all you can think about are the past and present – this may indicate you’re experiencing depression. It’s worth talking to a therapist when you reach this stage.


It’s hard for some people to understand how difficult unemployment can be. It hurts your self-esteem, destroys your familiar routine, and can even cause embarrassment. Following the above steps can help you mitigate this negative experience.

Look for part 2, Know Thyself, next week.

Photo: Flickr, Silja
Photo: Flickr, David

This post originally appeared in Recruiter.com

7 ways managers can improve the hiring process

For you hiring managers, you might have taken notice upon seeing the title of this post. While it’s true that job seekers can benefit from advice on their job-search techniques, there’s something to be said about how you can improve the process.

hiring-manager2

You can make the hiring process a better experience for job candidates. This is within your power, as you are usually the one making the hiring decision. Your goals is to hire the best possible candidates; it’s to your company’s benefit.

Read this article by FastCompany.com about some mistakes hiring managers have made.

Are there hiring managers who interview well? Absolutely. They have mastered the process and hire great candidates. But for those who don’t, here are seven things to consider.

1. Get trained on how to interview properly. Smart companies send their hiring managers to training on how to interview properly. Hiring managers are taught about which questions to ask and how to conduct an interview that draws the best attributes out of job candidates.

“I’ve been managing people for years, and I was never trained how to interview candidates,” one of my workshop attendees said after I made the bold statement that some hiring managers are not the best interviewers.

The statement from my workshop attendee did not surprise me; training can be expensive and time intensive. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) provides training for hiring managers. Among the various techniques SHRM teaches is which questions to stay away from, namely illegal ones.

2. Don’t ask illegal questions. One of my clients told me he went to an interview and the second question the hiring manager asked was, “How old are you?” I asked him to repeat his statement. I was so shocked by this blatantly illegal question.

Although it’s hard to prove, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 candidates 40-years and older are protected by age discrimination. But age is not the only topic hiring managers should stay away from. Questions about nationality, marital status, gender identity, race, disability, political preference, and religion are taboo.

3. Don’t discount the value of the mature worker. Related to the previous reason, some hiring managers—young and older alike—discriminate against age. They are subtle about it, or quite obvious. Many of my clients, who average 53-years of age, tell me about times when they could see this on the hiring manager’s face.

This is not only illegal, it’s bad practice. Mature workers add value, through their job experience, maturity, great problem-solving skills, dependability, and more. Am I saying that mature workers don’t lack some skills younger workers do? No. Every age group has strengths and weaknesses.

4. Hiring the best candidate is a priority. Probably the last thing hiring managers want to do is interview someone for—as an example—an office manager, when she has multiple projects to oversee. Here’s the thing, the hiring manager needs someone who can run the office and make her life easier. She needs a problem solver.

Yes, overseeing the projects is important, but finding the right administrative assistant should take priority. Rushing through the process could lead to a wrong hire which doesn’t relieve the problem and can be expensive (approximately 30% of the candidates first annual salary).

5. Be willing to interview strangers. The preferred method of hiring a candidate is through a referral because candidates come with a mark of approval. But sometimes the best candidate is not known someone who works in the company or someone who knows someone who works in the company.

Herein lies the rub: hiring managers need to go through the process of reading résumés from strangers and interviewing them. As unpleasant as it may be, if they want the true problem solver they seek, the right person might not be a referral.

6. Work with your recruiters and HR. A complaint I often hear from recruiters and HR is that they need to play a bigger role in the process. They want to do more than conduct phone interviews to determine a candidate’s salary  and experience.

Recruiters and HR want to be business partners and know hiring managers’ thoughts before approaching potential applicants. They should not go into screening candidates without a full understanding of what hiring managers are looking for in terms of: “the must haves vs. the nice to haves,” the interview layout, etc. Read this article from the Muse.

7. Stop looking for the purple squirrel. This is a common term meaning the candidates must be perfect. Candidates must be able to hit the ground running, a fit for the work environment, and liked by the hiring manager.

A candidate who has the required experience and  is compatible with his colleagues and the hiring manager is essential; but some hiring managers want a clone of themselves and someone they would want to go out for drinks with. What’s most important is that the candidates possesses high EQ.


This last point is why many of my clients are frustrated by the time it takes employers to hire them. Three, four, five rounds of interviews. According to SHRM, the average time it takes employers to hire job seekers is 26 days. This figure seems low to me, as I’ve seen some of my clients wait two or three months for employers to pull the trigger.

Coupled with poor hiring methods and a long process, job seekers are frustrated. Do you blame them? I don’t.

Photo: Flickr, Kristof Ramon 

 

6 reasons why you landed your job

Searching for a job was scary and one of the most difficult times in your life. But you made it. You landed the job you wanted. Your job search took longer than you would have liked, but you persevered for six months.

Success

When you think about what led you through your journey and to this new opportunity, you can pinpoint 6 distinct reasons:

1. You demonstrated emotional intelligence (EQ).There were times when you felt like throwing in the towel. You felt like staying in bed dreading the days ahead. Your feelings of despondency were unseen by others, save for loved ones and your closest friends.

When you were networking in your community, attending networking groups three times a week, and taking workshops at the local career center, you showed a confident demeanor. You were positive and demonstrated a willingness to help others. Despite negative thoughts, you did your best to help yourself and others.

Read 12 ways to show emotional intelligence.

2. You developed a target company list. Taking the advice of your career advisor, you made a list of companies for which you wanted to work. She told you to spend time researching your target companies and contacting people for networking meetings before jobs were advertised.

You left each networking meeting with different people to contact. You had the sense that one person, a VP of Marketing and Sales, had an interest in you. He led you to the door saying, “We might be in touch with you real soon.” But you didn’t rely on this one occurrence.

You continued to build your target company list and ask for networking meetings. You were spending less time applying for jobs online and more time meeting with quality connections. You were optimistic. You felt productive.

Read 4 components of job-search networking emails.

3. You networked the proper way. At networking events you were attentive to others, while also willing to ask for help. Many people think only of their situation, not of helping others. Not you. You kept your eyes open for opportunities for your networking companions.

When people ask you for leads at companies of interest, you gave them the names of hiring managers in various departments. You became known as the “Connector.” Weeks later, you were happy to learn of one of your networking companions landing a position at a company, based on one of your leads.

You also networked in your community. Told everyone you knew that you were looking for a job and asked them to keep their ears to the pavement. Who would have known that your neighbor across the street would be the reason you landed your job?

He worked at one of your target companies and knew the VP of marketing and would deliver your résumé to him. Put in a good word. You were asked to come in to have a few discussions.

Read 10 ways to make a better impression while networking

4. You wrote killer résumés. Yes, plural. Because you tailored as many of your résumés as possible to each job, knowing that every employer has different needs. A one-fits-all résumé doesn’t work. In addition, you eliminated fluff from your Performance Profile. It’s better to show, rather than tell.

Most importantly, you packed a punch in your Experience section by listing accomplishment statements with quantified results. Results like, “Increased productivity by 80%” sounds better than simply, “Increased productivity.”

Using your network was key in getting your résumé into the hands of the hiring managers, such as the time your neighbor delivered your value-packed résumé to that hiring manager.

Read 8 reasons why hiring authorities will read your résumé.

5. You nailed the interviews at one of your target companies. There were five interviews for the job your neighbor led you to; two telephone, two group, and a one-on-one. You were prepared for each interview, having researched the company, the position, their competition, even the interviewers.

You used LinkedIn to discover who the interviewers were. One was a youth soccer coach, like you. Another had gone to your alma mater. And another was a veteran, so you were sure to thank her for her service. That went over very well.

After each interview you sent unique follow-up notes to every interviewer, ensuring that you mentioned a specific point of interest made by each one. You even sent a thank-you note to the receptionist. Smart move.

After 6 months, you received an email from the VP of marketing telling you they were offering you the position of marketing manager and were also exceeding your salary requirement.

Read 6 ways to interact with one of the most important people in the interview process 

6. Your work was not complete. You didn’t forget the people who helped you along the way, such as the person who helped you revise your résumé, the people with whom you formally networked, and certainly your neighbor who led you to your new job. They deserved thanks.

In the true spirit of networking, there were people who you could help in a more meaningful way, such as Sydney from your networking group who was looking for an engineering position.

There was a mechanical engineer position opening in your new company. You mentioned the position to Sydney and gave her a good word. Wouldn’t you know; you changed Sydney’s life for the better.

Read 6 topics to include in your thank-you notes.

I’ve heard many stories from my clients who have similar plots to this one. Their job search wasn’t easy. Their landing was well deserved. But they had to display EQ, do their research, help others, and be willing to help themselves. If you are dedicated to do the same, your job search will be shorter.

A portion of this post appeared in Recruiter.com

Photo: Flickr Marc Accetta

 

3 things to consider when an interviewer asks, “Why should we hire you?”

For many job seekers, “Why should we hire you?” is one of the most difficult interview questions to answer. Don’t take it from me – take it from my clients, who list this as one of the hardest questions presented by interviewers.

group-interview-2

I understand their concerns. To answer this question, you have to articulate what the interviewer is trying to ascertain. In addition, you have to make your answer relevant to the job at hand and demonstrate the value you’ll bring to the company.

In other words, you can’t use a canned answer for every employer with whom you interview.

The secret to answering this question is that you must address the three things employers look for in their employees. The first is that you can do the job, the second is that you will do the job, and the third is that you will fit in.

1. You Can Do the Job

Having the technical know-how is essential to performing the job and advancing in your career. That includes software and hardware proficiency, specialized knowledge, etc. However, transferable skills can be just as important, if not more important.

It’s imperative that you understand the job extremely well and can address the technical and transferable skills. You do not have to address every single skill in your answer, as that will take too long. Begin your answer with something similar to the following:

“I have a thorough understanding of the role and am confident I can meet the challenges it presents. For example, you require excellent leadership abilities, which I’ve demonstrated in every position I’ve had. You also need someone who can improve the visibility of your organization …”

You can cite additional examples. Just don’t belabor the point.

2. You Will Do the Job

The interview will also want to know if you’re in love with the responsibilities of the role and the mission of the organization. Will you work until the job is finished? Will you overcome obstacles?

Why you want to work for the company is another concern they’ll have. I tell my clients that no company wants someone who’s just looking for any job they can get.

Here’s an example of how you might address your motivation to do the job:

“This position presents an exciting opportunity to take on new challenges that I will embrace. I’ve always stood up to obstacles and worked to overcome them. In addition, I’ve researched this organization and am truly impressed with the product you produce and your mission of helping special groups.”

3. You Will Fit In

Whether or not you’ll be a good fit is a major concern many employers have, and it’s also a tough thing for you to prove. It’s all about your personality. A company doesn’t want to hire someone it will have to let go because the hire couldn’t get along with their coworkers.

Of the three components employers look for in their employees, this might be the most important. There are plenty of talented people out there who can hit the ground running, but not everyone can play well with their colleagues.

Your fit is difficult to prove without data or good recommendations from your references, but try to provide as much hard proof as possible:

“In my performance reviews, I’ve always scored high on interpersonal skills. I know the clients you serve; it will require excellent teamwork in order to serve them effectively. If you ask my former colleagues and supervisors, I’m sure they’ll tell you how I’ve pitched in when needed and without being asked.”


Tying It All Together

Explain how you’ll exceed the employer’s needs based not only on being able to meet the three major components, but also by emphasizing how you will be integral to the success of the company. Going into the interview, know how important your role to the organization is:

“The next marketing specialist you hire will be crucial in creating a strong presence in the direct community and beyond. I can assure you, based on my experience with doing this, I am your person. This is ultimately why you should hire me.”

Learn how to answer other tough questions like:

“What is your greatest weakness?”
“Tell me about yourself.”

This post originally appeared in recruiter.com.

Photo: Flickr, Enri Endrian

7 steps to successful salary negotiations

The interview went extremely well. So well, in fact, that the hiring manager has offered you the position and then says, “What I need to know now is what is your salary requirement?”

negotiating-salary

Wow, you think. You were fairly sure you’d be offered the job, and that’s a good thing. However, you aren’t ready to have the salary conversation just yet. But the interviewer is looking at you with expectation. Surely you have a salary in mind.

All too often, people freeze when asked about salary expectations, or they quickly throw out a figure. This can lead to candidates asking for too much and pricing themselves out of consideration or asking for too little and settling for an unsatisfactory salarie.

If you want to ensure you get a fair salary and benefits package, follow these steps:

1. Start off on the right note

You probably think your résumé is the first contact you have with an employer, and that is usually the case. You submit a strong résumé that shows the value you’ll bring to the employer. It is loaded with relevant accomplish statements and tailored to that particular job.

But here’s a better first-contact scenario: You find a contact within the company who can lead you to a decision-maker. You and the decision-maker have a few very productive conversations during which you’re able to sell yourself face to face. Eventually, a position becomes available. By then, you are already considered a shoo-in for the role.

2. Do your homework

First, you must determine the salary you’re able to live on. Next, you determine what you’d consider your “dream salary.” For example, maybe you can live on $80,000, but you’d be ecstatic with $90,000.

It is important to be realistic about your value in the labor market. There are tools out there that can help you with this, such as Salary.com.

The second piece of your homework requires determining the employer’s budget, or what it can pay. Networking with people within the company will play a huge part in understanding what the employer can pay. However, if you can’t do this, Glassdoor can be of some assistance.

3. Sell yourself during the interview

So you’ve set the stage by networking and having a series of meetings with the hiring decision-maker, or you’ve submitted a strong, tailored resume. Congratulations – you landed an interview! It doesn’t end here, though.

You will continue to sell your value throughout the interview process. Your job of selling yourself will be easier if you understand the employer’s pain points. Are there lagging sales? Inefficient processes? Poor communication within departments? Enormous waste? Hint: during the first stage of the process, you should ask the right questions to determine their pain point.

Loaded with this information, address these pain points whenever you can during the interview, thereby showing you understand the needs of the employer and that you can meet them.

 4. Ask for the employer’s range

Now that you’ve determined your needs and the employer’s budget, you are at a stronger vantage point for the salary negotiation. But before you engage in a negotiation, it’s important to realize two things: one, employers expect you to negotiate; and two, you are the one they want – and for this reason, you have more leverage.

The first step in responding to the employer’s query regarding your salary expectations is to ask for the employer’s range. Employers will generally disclose their ranges, but keep in mind that the numbers they offer are usually within their first or second quartiles.

For example, if the employer provides a range of $80,000 to $90,000, chances are the real range is $80,000 to $100,000. Based on your research of the company, the employer’s range should be approximately the range you expected.

Your next step is to offer a range of your own. Your range should exceed the range given by the employer. You might give $92,500 to $94,500, for example. The lower figure would be your anchor. An anchor is a number that focuses the other negotiator’s attention and expectations, so make sure it’s a salary you’d be happy with.

Note: Some active job seekers might feel uncomfortable going beyond the employer’s high end, for fear of not getting the job. I still advise stating a range beginning within their range and ending beyond their highest figure. An example might be $88,000 to $92,000.

5. Back up your expectations

You aren’t justified in asking for a salary higher than the employer’s offer unless you back your request up with facts and figures. Focus on the pain points and illustrate how you can alleviate them.

You may reply with, “First, I’d like to tell you that this job interests me very much. I will be committed to it and the company, if we can be closer to the $92,500 to $94,500 range. I know your sales department needs someone to infuse motivation into it. I want to remind you that I was able to increase sales by at least 85 percent at my last three companies. Further, I will bring in four times the salary you’re offering. I’ve also contributed to my previous positions by presenting at the AA-ISP’s Inside Sales conference. I can bring more visibility to the company. Are we on the same page?”

6. Remember the Benefits Package

You may come to a standstill during salary negotiations. When this happens, the best recourse is to divert to benefits. Many people don’t realize that benefits, such as vacation, flex time, and stock options, can be negotiated. Remember, it’s not all about salary.

For example, “I understand there are budget constraints, so I’d like to talk about vacation time. Where I last worked, I accumulated five weeks of vacation. You’re offering two weeks. If we could agree on four and a half weeks of vacation, I’d be happy accepting your offer.”

7. Ask for time to consider the offer

Congratulations, you negotiated the salary you wanted, but they weren’t as generous with the vacation you wanted. Tell the employer you’re happy that you’ve come to a satisfactory figure, but would like some time to think or talk with your spouse about the whole package. Assure them that you’ll call them within 24 hours.

Perhaps the employer wouldn’t budge on the salary but can offer you the additional two and a half weeks of vacation you asked for. Again, ask for time to think about the whole package.

This is normal procedure with most job offers. Employers want you to be certain that you’ll take the job. But there are two reasons why you ask for time. First, this is a huge step; you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. Second, this will give the employer time to reconsider (it worked for me).

When you call the employer take the time to ask them how they came to their decision and ask if you can revisit the salary or benefits. Hopefully they’ll be amenable to your request, but if not, give them your answer.


Negotiating salary can be stressful. It’s important that you view it as a business transaction, not a confrontation. Always keep a level head and try to smile during the process. And if one company can’t meet you where you want to be, remember that there will be other offers from employers who will be able to accommodate your needs.

Photo, Flickr, bm_adverts

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.

man-on-phone

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