Tag Archives: interviewing

5 tips on how to combat ageism in an interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to do well in the interview

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

You are actively looking for work

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

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

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

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

You are “damaged goods

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

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

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

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

You expect too much money

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

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

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

You’re overqualified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Photo by Marcus Aurelius on Pexels.com

6 important tips on a successful job search

And what Dad said about baseball

When it came to baseball, my dad used to say, “You won’t get a hit if you leave your bat on your shoulder.” This was his way of saying to try. He also said a big league ball player who bats .333 was considered a very good hitter. “That’s 3 hits out of 10, Bob,” he said.

Here’s the thing, you sure as hell won’t get even close to batting .333 in the job search if you don’t try. Here’s the other thing about the job search; you probably won’t nail every land the jobs for which you apply, but that’s okay. If you interview with 9 companies and get 3 job offers, Dad would say that’s a great batting average.

Try

Dad’s advice on trying wasn’t just about baseball. He was a brilliant man and offered advice on academics, but I didn’t heed what he said as much as I should have. That’s neither here nor there. In the job search you need to try, but more importantly you need to be smart in your search.

Research

The best big league hitters know who they’re batting against. They’ve either faced them many times or they watch film. The ones who’ve faced the pitchers before are more likely to succeed because they know when and how well their opponent can throw a curveball; slider; change-up; or worst yet, a knuckle.

Or they could strike out every time because some pitchers own opposing batters.

Researching a position, company, competition, and even the interviewers is the most underutilized method in the job search. Why? Because it takes grit and the rewards aren’t immediate. Many job seekers don’t see the value in it. But if you don’t do your research, it comes back to bite you in the ass.

You know it and the interviewer/s know it come interview time that you haven’t done your researched. You’re asked simple questions like, “What can you tell me about this position,” or “Why do you want to work for out company.”

You struggle to recite even the simplest requirements of the job or the products and services the company offers. It’s embarrassing for you and the interviewer. It’s like when a ball player swings at a pitch in the dirt and walks back to the dugout with his head hung low.

Apply online

Dad was an excellent baseball coach; my coach, in fact. What made him so great was his strategic mind. Applying online takes a strategic mind. One thing recruiters would say is don’t apply for jobs for which you’re not qualified. It’s a waste of your and their time. This is my first piece of advice.

Not to belabor the point, but if you’re applying for jobs through job boards and company websites, make sure you’ve done your research (first point) and that your resume is tailored to each job and speaks to the employer’s needs.

Additionally, when you tailor your resume, recruiters find it easier in their applicant tracking system (ATS) by entering a Boolean search. Therefore, it’s among the first read. A resume with the proper keywords and density of keywords gets more attention.

Perhaps most important is that a tailored resume will show the employer you understand their needs whether it’s reducing costs, improving processes, or other ways your can help the company. You also should prioritize statements by listing the most relevant experience and accomplishments closer to the top of the resume.

Network

When I ask my clients if they enjoy networking, the majority of them are either uncomfortable doing it or downright hate it. Dad’s other advice about baseball is that the season is long. A great hitter might start the season with a .235 average but by the end of the season is hitting .333.

The thing about networking is that it takes time. There’s an amount of relationship building that needs to take place. For example, here’s the way it might go:

First: ask one of your first-degree LinkedIn connections to introduce you to introduce you to one his first-degree connections. If you’re more of the in-person networker, pick up the phone and ask one of your closest contacts to facilitate a phone call with your target contact.

Second: when an introduction is made, begin a light conversation with said person, while also fitting into your experience and the value you bring to companies. Ask the person if they’d like to have a follow-up correspondence and when you should call them.

Third: after a certain number of conversations, ask if your contact would like to meet for coffee providing they feel safe in this current environment. If they don’t, video conferencing is always an option.

Fourth: by this time you and your new contact are on the same page in terms of the mutual value you and they can provide. It’s time to make “the ask” for an informational meeting where you can discuss their company and the role you’re seeking.

Or you might want to indicate through your research that you see the possibility of making a contribution to their company. If the former isn’t possible, always try to leave the conversation with another person with whom you can speak.

Outcome: after developing a network of decision makers or strong allies, when jobs are developing in companies, you’ll be one of the first to know. Or if a job is advertised, you could have your resume delivered to the hiring manager of the department for which you want to work.

Note: it might take more conversations before you’re comfortable making the ask. Some believe it takes 7 points of contact before a relationship is truly established.

Or, networking can be as simple as handing your resume to your neighbor, who hands it to the hiring manager of the department for which you want to work, many talks ensue, you’re interviewed for the job, and you’re hired.

This happened to a customer of mine who told me he hadn’t networked to get the job. I didn’t want to bust his bubble and tell him he had. Networking comes in many shapes and forms.

Prepare for the interview

This leads us back to research and a bit of networking if you can. My dad got me good one time. It was when the Russian national hockey team came to play our hockey teams. Dad bet me five dollars that the Russians would beat the New York Rangers–the first team they met.

When I watched the game and saw the massacre, Dad laughed at me saying he had heard about the victory on the radio before the game was televised. He had done his research…in a way. But this is how you will have a leg up on the competition who, for the most part, won’t do their research.

You can research the position by reading the job ad. You can research the company by going to their website. And you can research the competition by going to their website and Glassdoor. But a far better way to research the aforementioned is by talking with someone who works for the company. Leading us back to networking.

Practice hard. Great baseball players will practice with the team, of course, but they’ll also practice on their own, taking hundreds of additional at-bats and fielding ground balls. Along with researching the position and company, practice answering the questions you think interviewers will ask.

Another area you’ll need to prep for is your background and other important factors when being interviewed via video. What is an appropriate background, you might wonder? Anything that doesn’t distract the interviewer. A bookshelf or wall with tasteful paintings are fine. Also make sure the lighting is right.

Land the job; do well in the interview

“Teams win when batting, fielding, and most importantly pitching are doing well,” Dad would say. “Teams must have all three.” Dad also said errors will be the downfall of a team. “Mental errors are a killer.”

Try hard to get all in place and don’t make mental errors. This can sum it up when it comes to interviews. This means your interview road started with research. Smart job seekers will do anywhere between four to 10 hours of research.

Let’s touch lightly on first impression. As interviews are being held in person and via video platforms, eye contact is essential. Look at the camera, not the interviewers’ eyes. Smile as much as you can without overdoing it. In other words, don’t come across as fake.

You’ll be asked three types of questions, traditional, and behavioral-based. Technical questions follow under traditional types. A question like, “Why did you leave your last job?” Is also traditional.

Note: most traditional questions are predictable; you should know the answers for them before arriving at the interview.

Situational questions are a little more difficult, as they make you think of how you would solve a particular situation, such as, “What would you do if two of your employees were having a dispute?” You should answer this one successfully if you’ve read the job ad and know questions about leadership will be asked.

Behavioral-based questions are asked because interviewers believe how you behaved in the past is a true predictor of how you’ll behave in the future. They’re also asked to measure your emotional intelligence.

An example of a behavioral-based question is, “Tell me about a time when you came across two of your employees having a dispute.” See the difference between this and the situational question? To answer this question successfully you must have experienced this situation.

You also have to have your S.T.A.R story ready. Explain the situation, your task in the situation, the actions you took to solve the situation, and the final result/s.


Don’t settle

Know the kind of company for which you want to work

Earlier I said batting .330 in the job search and landing only 3 out of 10 jobs for which you apply is pretty damn good. Well, it’s only good if you land the ones you desire.

Go after companies that support your values. Don’t simply apply for jobs that are advertised–that’s reacting. Reach out to the ones for which you want to work, which brings us back to research and networking. Identify those companies and network your way into talking with people in those companies.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

Shorter is better when it comes to your elevator pitch: the people have spoken

Has it always been the case that shorter is better? I’m sure there was a time when verbosity was appreciated; when long-winded stories captivated the listeners. Even elevator pitches—statements that answer, “Tell me about yourself”—were longer. I remember a workshop I led where I encouraged two-minute elevator pitches.

But times have changed. I’ve changed. An elevator pitch that’s anywhere between 30-45 seconds is more digestible. One that’s 90-120 seconds is a tad long. Two minutes is way long. This is my opinion. The trick job candidates need to learn is mastering a short, yet value-packed delivery. Again, my opinion.

It matters where you deliver your pitch. At a networking event, your elevator pitch can be 15-30 seconds. Any longer is considered obtrusive. In an interview keeping it under 45 seconds is advised.

But wait? you ask. To answer the directive, “Tell me about yourself” requires a longer explanation in an interview; certainly more than 45 seconds. Here’s my question for you? How long is the average attention span of a human being? I’ll tell you. Eight seconds.

This isn’t to say that after eight seconds we zone out and stop hearing what others are saying. No, we zone out and zone in. Here’s another fact, the attention our attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 present day. Says Time magazine, the Telegraph, the Guardian, USA Today, the New York Times or the National Post.

Dr. Gemma Brigg from the BBC disputes this: “It’s very much task-dependent. How much attention we apply to a task will vary depending on what the task demand is.”

This article is not about the average attention span of a human, though. It’s about the proper length of an elevator pitch. According to a LinkedIn poll, which has garnered more than 7,000 votes, 16% say the pitch should be approximately 15 seconds, 46% 30 seconds, 31% 45 seconds, and 8% more than 45 seconds.

Here’s are the outlines some interview-prep pros and I offer to structure your elevator pitch. Notice, like snowflakes, that no two are exactly alike, save for the fact that expressing your value is a key element of all elevator pitches. These outlines are laid out in the discussion of the poll.

Sarah Johnston
✔ The hook
✔ 2 Strengths that relate to the job
✔ And WIFM (Which stands for “what’s in it for me?)

Rachel Montañez
✔ Story
✔ Story climax/intrinsic motivation
✔ Evidence of your capabilities and not just your skills
✔ Current goal – Tie it to the corporate values

Me
✔ Ask yourself, “What are the companies pain points?”
✔ Demonstrate your value in form of your passion for the job.
✔ Next talk about your relevant accomplishments.
✔ Why you’re a fit.

KRISTIN A. SHERRY
✔ Three strengths you bring to the job
✔ Plus, the value results
✔ Plus, a story to back it up

ALEX FREUND
✔ Provide some concrete facts the of work you performed.
✔ Give an example of a professional success story.
✔ To follow up immediately on that, ask the interviewer a question about the job’s responsibilities.

Go to Sarah Johnston’s article that describes the following outlines in greater detail.

This still leaves us with the question of how long the elevator pitch should be. Here are the stats again: 16% of voters say the pitch should be approximately 15 seconds, 46% 30 seconds, 31% 45 seconds, and 8% more than 45 seconds.

Let’s hear it from some career-search strategists

Of the 7.065 who voted, some had opinions on the length of the elevator pitch. Most agreed that it depends on the situation, but given the nature of LinkedIn’s polls, listing all the variables is not an option.

Hannah Morgan—Context matters A LOT. Is this pitch being delivered during a job interview? Is it a first interview? Who is asking the question (HR, recruiter, hiring manager).

All these things matter and that’s why one answer won’t work all the time. Attention spans are short. But if you are interviewing for a job, you have up to 1 minute to convey why you are interested and a fit for the role.

Austin Belcak—I’d encourage people to time themselves before answering Bob! I’m a BIG fan of being direct and concise but it’s pretty darn hard to get everything across without leaving out value in <30 seconds even if you have it down pat.

Jim Peacock—I voted longer than 60 seconds because I often think it is more like a conversation about value you bring to the company…specifically that company. If it is in an interview situation then less than 2 minutes for sure.

KRISTIN A. SHERRY—Being able to share your pitch in 60 seconds or less demonstrates confidence and clarity about the value you bring. People can ask for more detail if they want it, so it’s best to be concise. Thank you for the mention!

Angela Watts—As we know, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach to these kinds of things. I think it’s always a good idea to err on the side of speaking briefly and allowing the other person to hone in on what interests them most.

Ideally, you would give the pitch and they would be so intrigued by something you said that they will ask for more. When this happens, you’ve got their full attention and intrigue.

Jayne Mattson—If you are referring to being asked “tell me about yourself” as the first interview question, your answer needs to apply to the position. Your examples ideally should be related to what you will do in this role. Have it be 2 minutes and well prepared, so you don’t ramble.

I work with clients on answering with their head and their heart. I always encourage someone to share something about their human side too. After all they are hiring a human being and you can use something that relates to the culture or mission

LoRen 🚀 gReiFf —I advise for 60 seconds; right not rushed. Which means no fat. And the other key to getting it right is lots of practice. “I fear* not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times” – Bruce Lee *Of course the goal isn’t to generate fear, but the take away still applies!

Wendy Schoen—This is a question that is asked in EVERY interview. And a canned answer isn’t going to do it. I am a believer in the 60 second answer. It needs to be tailored to the specific job/company you are interviewing for/with.

It needs to cover who you are, WHAT you have accomplished and WHAT/WHY you are sitting in that chair today! IF you are able to craft the answer in a story, all the better for you. Engage the interviewer with your answer!

Ed Lawrence—In my MCOA sessions, I advocate a concise answer for networking situations. I follow Stephen Melanson’s approach—aim for 15 seconds: continuing if there is clear interest or a question from the other party.

I direct people to work on their 30 second elevator speech, if they want to. I then say it can be the basis for their interview answer to “tell me about yourself.” I think the goal there is one minute. Two at the absolute max and only then if you have led a fascinating life.

Becca Carnahan—I go with three relevant strengths, brief examples/stories, why you’re looking to make a change (in brief- one major reason related to growth/investment in industry/function/role, and why this company is the ideal fit. I recommend 60-90 seconds because the extra length helps answer the interviewer’s next question and ties the interviewee’s experience directly to the role.

Paula Christensen—The pitch length depends on the audience. I recommend between 30-90 seconds. Job seekers need to use their intuition here. The elevator pitch will be longer for someone in your industry who is engaged, like an interview with a hiring manager. Use a shorter version for networking.

Sweta Regmi—It depends on the role, industry and job description. I have coached up to 2 minutes. Use the tactics of commercials we see on TV. If you could pick one pain point on tell me about yourself and say “why you can solve their ongoing problem.” it hits the hiring manager’s head.

Have them at hello. “I understand that your customer satisfaction survey was only 60% last year. I have a formula on how to get that higher. I have saved xxx for my previous company” Dare to show numbers on tell me about yourself.

Rebecca Oppenheim—This is a really important topic – but I strongly disagree with a “one size fits all’ approach. It’s like telling people their resume needs to be X amount of pages. Too many variables. Unfortunately, many interviewers start out with “so tell me about yourself.” And if you go on for a long time, monopolizing the conversation, you’ll lose the interest of the interviewer before you even get started.

Ana Lokotkova—The way I see it, anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds works well. You want to be concise, but at the same time give enough “flavor” to leave the other person curious for more.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

32 days in the life of a job seeker

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

Stressed young businessman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The weekend came and went. Still nothing.

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

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

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

The present

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

 

4 important principles of your job-search stories

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

father lessson

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

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

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

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

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

Meaning

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

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

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

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

Form

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

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

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

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

Create a connection

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

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

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

Preparation is paramount to success

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

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


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

40 interview articles to help you land a job

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

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

4 things to consider when answering personality interview questions

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

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

5 tips on how to combat ageism in an interview

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

Shorter is better when it comes to your elevator pitch: the people have spoken

Has it always been the case that shorter is better? I’m sure there was a time when verbosity was appreciated; when long-winded stories captivated the listeners. Even elevator pitches—statements that answer, “Tell me about yourself”—were longer. I remember a workshop I led where I encouraged two-minute elevator pitches….

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

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

10 false stereotypes interviewers have of older workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are recruiters to blame? 4 tips for working with recruiters

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

7 tools employers are using to hire candidates

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

4 qualifications job candidates must demonstrate during the interview

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

4 important principles of your job-search stories

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

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

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

5 elements necessary to answer in an interview the Failure question

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

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

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

How to answer “Tell me about a time you made a mistake” in 4 easy steps

No one likes to talk about the mistakes they’ve made. However, interviewers want to know about more than just your successes. They want to hear it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. This includes your mistakes.

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.

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.”

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

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.

The interview is going so well that you’re wondering when the hammer will fall. When will the killer question be asked? That question would be, “Tell us about a time when you had to deal with pressure.”

To answer a behavioral-based question, keep the S.T.A.R. acronym in mind

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.

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.

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

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

5 pre-interview tools employers use to screen candidates

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

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

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

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

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

5 phases of the extravert’s journey to an interview

We rarely see articles on how extraverts* can succeed at getting to interviews, but we often see articles directed toward introverts on this matter. In fact, I can’t recall self-help articles, let alone books, for extraverts (Es). This said, Es need to focus on their strengths and challenges that get them to interviews.

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.

5 keys to a successful mock interview

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

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

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

woman on phone

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

Personal branding

Erin K

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

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

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

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

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


Networking

Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


LinkedIn engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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


The interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Follow up

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Goes in Your Note?

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

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

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


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

9 essential components of your job-search marketing campaign: Part 1

Every successful business requires a marketing campaign to promote its products or services. Businesses utilize a variety of delivery methods—social media, websites, television, radio, and other methods—to deliver their message to their consumers. Their campaign must be convincing, impactful, and informational, or it will fail.

social media phone

Like any company, a successful job search requires a marketing campaign to deliver a strong message. Obvious methods to deliver your message are the résumé and interview. But your job-search marketing campaign must consist of more than these two elements.

Part 1 of this article focuses on your written communications, as well as what comes before. Part 2 addresses engaging with your LinkedIn network and your oral communications. I’ve asked nine career-development pundits to contribute to this article. Read both parts of this series to learn about your job-search marketing campaign.

Labor market research

Before you write your résumé, it might make sense to know which skills, qualifications, and experience employers seek, wouldn’t it? This general information can be ascertained by researching the labor market. This should be your first task in you job-search marketing campaign.

Ask yourself these questions: What kind of work do I want to perform? What is my ideal salary? Is my occupation growing or declining? Take it further and ask yourself which types of companies I want to work for? Do I have a list of 15 companies for which I’d like to work?

Sarah J

Sarah Johnston, is an Executive Coach and Résumé and LinkedIn Profile Writer who understands the importance of researching the labor market. She writes:

There is a famous French quote that says, ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish.’ I’d like to go down in history for saying, ‘a job search without research and a strategy is like a trip with no destination.’

After getting crystal clear on your own personal strengths and career needs, one of the best places to start a job search is identifying a target list of companies that you’d be interested in working for or learning more information about.”

Any strong company will conduct consumer market research to determine if its products or services will be successful in a given geographic location. If they fail in this component of their market research, they will go under.


Résumé

One thing most job-search pundits and hiring authorities will tell you is that your résumé is a key component of your job-search marketing campaign. It is your ticket to interviews. However, few job seekers understand what employers are looking for in a résumé. Adrienne Tom, Executive Résumé Writer, knows what employers are looking for.

Adrienne T

To make your résumé stand out, Adrienne recommends two important strategies: making your résumé relevant and including powerful accomplishment statements. In terms of relevance, she advises:

Focus on creating good quality content. Align every point with the reader’s needs. For every point you write down in your résumé ask, ‘So what?’ and ‘Will this matter to this reader?'”

And when it comes to creating impactful accomplishment statements, she recommends listing the most important information at the beginning, which she calls “frontloading.”

Lead bullet points with results. Make it easy for hiring personnel to spot important details, fast; don’t make them hunt for it. Walk the reader through your career story, start to finish, by sharing relevant, measurable details that matter.

ashley

Ashley Watkins, Executive Résumé Writer, spent 15 years as a corporate recruiter, so she understands what employers are looking for in a résumé. She echos what Adrienne says about accomplishment statements:

Hiring managers want to know what you can do to positively impact the company’s bottom line. Use every opportunity to include numbers, dollar amounts, and percentages to validate your results. It’s crucial that job seekers bring their achievements to life and convince employers that hiring them will solve their immediate problem.

Ashley warns against writing generic, one-fits-all résumés.

Although having a clearly defined career target is the most effective way to land a job, many job seekers use a very generic résumé strategy when applying for positions online and when networking with their referral contacts. When you do not have a keyword-rich, targeted résumé focus, you are leaving it up to the reader of your résumé to figure out what you do. Therefore, increasing your chances of winding up in the ‘no pile.

Both résumé writers stress the importance of crafting a résumé that will pass the applicant tracking system. You will only accomplish this if, like Ashley advises, your résumé is key-word rich.

Successful businesses deliver a strong message that encourages consumers to buy. Your goal is to encourage employers to invite you to interviews.


LinkedIn profile

Ana L

Does your LinkedIn profile resemble your résumé? If it does, you’re hurting your chances of impressing people who read your profile.

Ana Lokotkova is a Personal Branding & Career Search Advisor, who specializing in writing résumés and LinkedIn profiles, as well as coaching interviewing. She sees the LinkedIn profile as a digital handshake.

The days of using your LinkedIn profile as a copy-pasted version of your résumé are long gone. Today, you can drop the résumé lingo and humanize every section of your profile. Your headline is the first thing people see when they come across your profile. Forget your most recent job title, and turn your headline into a slogan-like value proposition.

“Include relevant keywords that will help others find you on LinkedIn more easily. Write your summary section in 1st person. Help others learn about your WHY and what sets you apart from other professionals in your industry.

Vriginia

Another authority on LinkedIn is Virginia Franco, Executive Career Storyteller. According to her, the headline and new About section are critical to your LinkedIn profile’s success:

Storytelling as a concept is prevalent across our media today from newspapers to magazines. This is important to recognize because, in reality, readers skim LinkedIn profiles in THE EXACT SAME WAY they digest the news.

At first glance or when in a rush, readers skim the headline and the first section of the article tell them 1) what the story is going to be about and 2) help determine if the story is worth a deeper read when there is more time. Applying this methodology to LinkedIn, it is essential that a profile contains a headline and About section tells the reader what your story is about, and intrigues them to want to read more when they have time!”

Successful businesses recognize that their audiences vary. Whereas a document as factual as a résumé is appropriate for one audience, a document like the LinkedIn profile might be more appealing to another audience.

Approach letter

A little known tool for your written communications is a networking document referred to as the approach letter. In the days of digital communications, this is usually sent as an email or even a LinkedIn message.

The idea is to send this to companies for which you’d like to work but haven’t yet advertised a position. You want to penetrate the Hidden Job Market by being known by companies before they advertise a position.

In your approach letter you can ask for a networking meeting where you will ask questions about the company, a position you’re interested in, and the individual who has granted you the informational meeting.

Your questions must be illuminating, not a waste of time for the individual. Ask about potential problems the company might be facing. What are the major requirements for the position. How the individual came to working in their role and at the company. What they see the role or industry evolving in the future.

If your timing is right, the company might be trying to fill a position it hasn’t yet advertised. You could impress the person granting the meeting so much that they might suggest you to the hiring manager. At the very least ask if you can speak to two other sources.


In this article I’ve covered the written communications of your job-search marketing campaign. In part 2 we’ll look at the verbal side, which will include personal branding, networking, the interview, and following up.

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