I coached soccer in my early 20s. To say I was a good coach would be inaccurate. Looking back at those years, I cringe at some of my acts of behavior. I was a hothead. I knew how to teach the fundamentals and knew strategy, but I didn’t know how to act on the sidelines.
The games were all about me. Winning was paramount, and I took it out on my players if they didn’t play as well as I thought they should. I shouted at them when they didn’t make accurate passes, failed to score, played sloppy defense, and didn’t perform other skills that were fundamental to me.
Later in life, when I was in my 40s I coached my own children from their early stages through travel soccer. I can honestly say I rarely raised my voice during practice and games. Instead, I would shout words of encouragement. I realized then that criticizing my players didn’t motivate them; it demotivated them.
I think back to when my father coached me in baseball and how he rarely raised his voice, yet we won most of our games and some championships. He was a great coach because he outwitted other coaches who had more talented players. To him, the games were about his players, not him.
I’m telling you this because as I advanced in age, I matured. I’m also telling you this because one of the older worker’s traits is their maturity. Or you could call it diminished ego. You might mistake this for apathy; it’s the exact opposite. The older worker realizes that it’s not about them.
Are all older workers mature? No. There are some who never get to this point. I see it in the workplace, and I see it on the sidelines during a soccer game. But for the most part, the older worker strives for harmony.
Realize your value
If you think all companies are fast paced and strive for a young workplace, you’re mistaken. There are companies that value the maturity that workers who are 50 and older.
I hear from many employers who are struggling with young employees showing up late or calling in sick multiple times. This is a sign of immaturity. Are all young workers immature? No. The mature younger worker is the exception rather than the rule according to the norm.
The older worker was younger once and burned the candle at both ends. They took work for granted; I know I did. I didn’t understand the importance of dependability and possessing a strong work ethic, all traits the older worker demonstrates. And I learned eventually how to work more effectively.
Maturity comes from seeing the organization from the the owner’s point of view. This is similar to when I coached my own kids in soccer; I realized that yelling wasn’t going to motivate them. Later in life, I saw it when my father coached me. He and I let our egos wan.
Another reason why the older worker demonstrates maturity is that they have lost in the past. Loss of friends and family members have been traumatic, but it has made them stronger and taught them not to sweat the small stuff. Further, it has made them better problem solvers.
In the interview
This is where the older worker struggles the most in their job search. They don’t struggle because they are unprepared or lack knowledge; they struggle because of ageism and their attitude. One of these barriers can’t be overcome but one of them can.
The one barrier that can be overcome is not seeing a younger interviewer as someone who sees you as ancient. If you go to the interview with this mentality, the battle is lost. You must enter the interview with the attitude that you will provide maturity to the workplace and, therefore, value.
Mention your maturity in the course of the interviews. Tell the interviewers that you’re going to deliver dependability along with the vast relevant work experience you possess.
Empathize with the interviewer, acknowledging how you’ve seen how a lack of dependability can hurt a team’s performance. If you were the silent leader of a team, make this clear. With maturity comes the realization that you don’t have to be the proclaimed leader, as a title means less to you than the need to provide leadership.
Also make it abundantly clear that you’re not there to run the show. Younger interviewers often fear that older workers won’t follow their instructions. Instead of acting as though you are more knowledgeable than the interviewers, demonstrate how you will work in unison with the team.
Come across as a problem solver. As mentioned earlier, it is one of the older worker’s skills. Life is similar to work in that you have to handle what comes your way. Do you crumple when a project goes wrong? No, you tell those around you that you need to get back to work and correct the situation.
Finally, show self-awareness in your answers. All too often I hear and see people dance around difficult questions instead of taking them head on. The older worker understands that mistakes are made and is accountable for them. You must be accountable for your mistakes, showing what you’ve learned from them.
Older workers have a challenge to overcome in their job search. They face ageism at certain times. There are stereotypes employers have of them, one of which is the belief that older workers can’t work with younger ones. Being mature doesn’t mean you can’t work with younger workers; it means you understand the importance of working together.
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You were let go from your job because of lack of performance. Your boss said you were uninspired, and she was correct. It was time to go. Now you’re wondering what the hell you’ll do. You had 15 years of productive program management, until you lost the fire in your gut three years ago.
You ran into stagnation. There was nowhere to go in the organization. You wanted a change. No, you needed a change.
Technical training was a component of your job, and you loved and did it well. You were a natural. You made technical content easy for a layman understand. You loved seeing the Ah Ha moment register on the faces of the people you trained, your colleagues and the company’s clients.
That was then, now it’s time to look for a new position.
The problem for you is that the training positions you see online are entry level. As well, they’re low-paying. If you want to focus purely on training and get paid well for it, you’ll have to pursue jobs for training coordinators and managers. This is a leap that makes you nervous but also excited.
Out of curiosity, you look up on LinkedIn the description of a technical training coordinator. The requirements are daunting at first but you know you can do it. One job description reads in part:
“Participates in, and conducts technical training programs,” it begins. “Determines training objectives. Writes training programs, including outline, text, handouts, and tests, and designs laboratory exercises…” Sounds like a lot of work.
“...Administers written and practical exams and writes performance reports to evaluate trainees’ performance. Requires a bachelor’s degree in a related area…” Bachelor’s degree. This could be a problem; you don’t have one. You rose to the top of your field through job experience.
In your heart, you know this is what you want to do.
Here’s the good news: challenges are a good thing
Employees excel when they’re mentally stimulated. When they encounter new, interesting tasks, they rise to the occasion. Conversely, when employees are unchallenged and bored, they don’t perform well. Stagnation sets in when they’ve been at their job too long.
How many years is too long? This depends on an employee’s unvaried responsibilities, or if they no longer enjoy what they’re doing. Among your various tasks, you enjoyed training your colleagues and the company’s clients more than your other tasks and now realize training is what you want to pursue.
Although you have no experience in writing online manuals, administering practical exams, and the other administrative tasks, as the job ad describes, you have extensive experience training your colleagues and the company’s clients and were told you write well.
The biggest challenge is looking for work after eighteen years of working for the same company. Making a career change adds to the challenge. You’ll have to learn how to search for work the proper way.
Ask for Network Meetings
You must go into your career change with your eyes wide open. To do this you should talk with people in the training occupation. What are the major tasks you’ll perform? What do the people with whom you talk enjoy most about their job? What do they find to be a drag? These are all questions you must ask.
How will you find said people? The largest Rolodex in the world is LinkedIn. You can find technical trainers by simply typing “Technical Trainer” in the search field, but that won’t be very productive. Instead, determine which companies for which you want to work, and DM them with your InMails.
Note: your requests will most likely be granted if you include a reference in it.
When you ask for 15 minutes of their time, be sure to keep track of the time and tell them when it’s been 15 minutes. They’ll probably answer more of your questions as long as they are illuminating ones.
After talking with each person, you ask them if there are other people with whom you can talk. Some of the people who grant you networking meetings mention one or two other people with whom you can talk, others mention three people, others four. And so it goes.
These meetings are considered a success because the networking chain keeps growing and if there aren’t immediate results, don’t worry; eventually leads will turn into opportunities. This is action that happens behind the scenes. You’ll apply for positions online.
Write your job-search documentation
You begin writing your resume and LinkedIn profile highlighting the training experience you had as a program manager. Training was a portion of your duties but don’t disregard other elements in your position that were key, such as leadership, management, organization.
More specifically, you’ll make note of all the skills and experience you notice in the job ads. Put together a spreadsheet with the skills you pull from six or so job adds and write from top to bottom the skills that most prevalent. It’s not what you’ve done that counts; it’s what you can do.
Some of the skills you notice are: Learning Management Systems, Instructional Design, Curriculum Development, Technical Training, Learning Development, Workflow Management. There are more skills you notice, but make sure to include the most prevalent ones.
Your resume is matching about job ads at 50%, but don’t worry too much about this. The feeling of excitement is great, and although you don’t come in as strong as you’d like based on your keyword matches, you have spoken with many people who have heard your desire to switch careers.
Make sure your accomplishments are at the top of your resume, beginning in the Summary, the Skills area, and most importantly the Experience section. It’s no stretch, for example, to write about delivering technical material to a diverse audience:
“Delivered highly technical information to hundreds of sales and marketing staff of varied abilities, providing a clear understanding of the material.”
Be prepared to answer interview questions
The interview question you’ll get 100% of the time is, “Why did you leave your last job?” Be ready with your answer, but don’t make it sound canned. Also, don’t begin your answer with, “That’s a great questions.” Interviewers hate this opener.
Simply state, “My position at ABC corporation was running its course. I was losing interest and it showed in my work. My boss and I agreed that it was time for a change. With the responsibility of this position, I’m sure I will excel.”
“How will you make the transition from program manager to training coordinator?” is another question you’ll get. Be sure to have an answer for this one and try to deliver a STAR story. Interviewers love stories because more skills come from them.
“I’ve given this much thought,” you begin. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could handle this opportunity. May I tell you a story about how I’ve coordinated multiple trainings that required not only delivering them, but pulling together the content?” The interviewers welcome your story.
“There was a period of three weeks when we were rolling out multiple products and our clients needed training to understand the products. My task was to train our staff. Train the trainer if you will.
“I had never written training manuals but knew if I didn’t, the other trainers would be lost, so that’s where I began.
“It was challenging at first, but I enjoyed the act of researching our products and how to best describe them.
“I led many sessions with our staff in which I encouraged them to present the material I created in front of each other.
In the end, they did very well. I saw excitement on their faces and heard enthusiasm in their voices.”
Now it’s time for you to ask questions. Don’t use canned questions you gleaned by reading articles on the Internet; rather ask questions about the position and the company. Make them thought-provoking. Show that you listened during the interview and ask question based on discussions.
After three rounds of talking with various employees at the company, including the VP of operations, you are asked to perform a 15-minute training on one of their products. You nail it and are offered the job. The salary is lower than you’d like, but this is work you will enjoy. Begone stagnation.
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The other day I was searching in our local grocery store for Sriracha Chili Sauce which my wife needed to make Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce. She had told me it was in the third aisle with the other sauces, but I couldn’t find it.
So, I asked the nearest associate where this elusive ingredient was. To my surprise, the associate told me it was in the third isle with the other sauces. I swear I looked everywhere. When I looked at him puzzled, he said, “Come on, I’ll take you to it.”
And sure enough it was in the third aisle where the other sauces were. Did I leave the store thinking, “Bob was being Bob,” that the Sriracha Chili Sauce was hiding from me? No. I left the grocery store thinking how the store associate had demonstrated great customer awareness.
Like the store associate, job seekers must demonstrate great customer awareness in their search. In the previous article, I pointed out how employers should show customer awareness. Now I’m going to address four areas where job seekers must show customer awareness:
Research the position and company
Write a resume that speaks to the employer, not the ATS
Perform well in the interview
Follow up respectfully
Research the position and company, at least
How does this demonstrate great customer awareness? First of all, the employer is a customer. And not doing your research is akin to the store associate not knowing where the Sriracha Chili Sauce was. You will not only hurt your chances of landing the job, you will also offend the employer.
Have you ever interviewed someone, and has that someone shown up without being prepared? I bet it was embarrassing for the job candidate. And I bet you were squirming in your seat. So don’t be that person who arrives unprepared and makes interviewers squirm in their seat.
Start researching the position by carefully dissecting the job ad. List all the important requirements in a column and next to them write how you can meet the requirements. Hint: the important requirements are listed in the job ad under Basic Qualifications or Major Qualifications. Also take note of the Preferred Qualifications.
“Read between the lines to better understand the culture, reporting structure, and the actual job requirements. Consider that every bullet point in the job requirement section could be turned into an interview question.”
Go one step further and try to ask people who work for the company if they can give you more info. Knowing someone in the company will be of great help in gathering information about the position—some of the hidden requirements—and the company culture and some issues it might be facing.
Write a resume that speaks to the employer, not the ATS
There’s been a lot of scuttlebutt as to what the applicant tracking system (ATS) is. Some claim it’s a system that selects resumes for hiring authorities to read based on keywords and, therefore, you must write resumes to “beat” the ATS.
Others claim it’s merely a system that stores resumes like a file cabinet where hiring authorities can pluck them based on keywords they enter for particular jobs. For the sake of argument, let’s agree that both scenarios are possible. Let’s also say for the sake of argument that your resume must be read by human eyes.
Teegan Bartos, a career coach and former recruiter, sums it up nicely:
“At the end of the day a human codes an ATS, a human enablesvarious features of anATS, a human sets up the knock-out questions the ATS asks, a human being chooses to read or not read each application, a human is conducting the keyword boolean search in their ATS database, and it’s the human being that clicks the button to send the rejection notices out.”
Among the many attributes of a winning resume are strong relevant accomplishment statements. The keyword here is “relevant.” When you can show accomplishments that mean something to the employer, you’re speaking their language and indicating that you can repeat them in the future.
Perform well in the interview
The ultimate sign of strong customer awareness is pulling it all together in the interview. You’ve conducted research and submitted a resume that speaks to the employer’s needs. Now you must speak to the traits that make you the best candidate.
These are traits that not only show them you can do the job—those listed on your resume—but also speak to your outstanding character. Remember to speak to some pain points you noticed in the job ad. One of them might allude to being resilient.
Lisa Rangel, an executive resume writer and former recruiter sums it up nicely:
“One trait is to be prepared to demonstrate is resiliency. Have stories prepared on how you pivoted to succeed in an unexpected situation or business change. Use mishaps that could naturally occur in the interview as an opportunity to show how resilient and inventive on your feet you are. I firmly believe how someone handles a mishap on an interview tells me more about their resiliency than anything they could prepare for.”
Let’s get back to research. Sarah Johnston states above that being able to read between the lines is a key component of predicting which types of questions might be asked. She gives this example:
“Let’s say that the job description reads: ‘Identify, initiate, and drive process improvement solutions that will ultimately provide operating efficiencies and synergies within the supply chain, resulting in cost reduction and increasing service level to customers.’
“This could be turned into a behavioral question in the interview: ‘Tell me about a time that you identified and drove a large process improvement solution in a previous role that led to increased operating efficiency. Tell me about the solution and the results of the implementation.'”
Lastly, keep in mind that first impressions do matter. I mention this because all too often I hear from my clients that they felt they did poorly because they talked too much, or they failed to make eye contact, or they weren’t dressed appropriately. Details like these matter; they demonstrate poor customer awareness.
Because interviews are often conducted via Zoom and other video platforms, you need to take into account the following details: proper lighting, what’s in your background, reducing noise and distractions, and how you’re dressed. All of these details are part of demonstrating excellent customer awareness.
Follow up respectfully
Following up with the interviewers completes the interview process and demonstrates excellent customer awareness. If you think this part of the journey doesn’t matter, you’re mistaken. As many as 75% of employers take note of candidates who don’t follow up, and as many as 20% base their hiring decision based on follow up messages.
There are two ways you can follow up, with email or via snail mail. The former is preferred more by employers and job candidates. It’s immediate and allows you to include more in your note. One might argue that thank-you notes show your age.
When you follow up is key. Generally speaking, you don’t want to wait longer than 24 hours. If an interview takes place on a Friday, following up on Monday is acceptable.
The third consideration is with whom to follow up. The answer is simple; everyone who interviewed you receives a thank-you note. And each note is personalized. Don’t send the same email to each interviewer and don’t send one note to the lead interviewer, asking her to thank the other interviewers.
Lastly are the elements of your thank-you note:
1. Show your gratitude. Obviously you’re going to thank the interviewers for the time they took to interview you; after all, they’re busy folks and probably don’t enjoy interviewing people.
2. Reiterate you’re the right person for the job. This is the second most obvious statement you’ll make in your follow-up notes. Mention how you have the required skills and experience and, very importantly, you have the relevant accomplishments.
3. Interesting points made at the interview. Show you were paying attention at the interview. Each person with whom you spoke mentioned something of interest, or asked a pertinent question. Impress them with your listening skills by revisiting those interesting points.
4. Do some damage control: How many candidates wish they could have elaborated on a question, or totally blew it with a weak answer? Now’s your chance to correct your answer.
5. Suggest a solution to a problem: Prior to the interview you were unaware of a problem the company is facing. Now you know about the problem. If you have a solution to this problem, mention it in your follow-up or a more extensive proposal.
6. You want the job: You told the interview committee at the end of the interview that you want the job. Reiterate this sentiment by stating it in you follow-up note, which can be as simple as asking what the next steps will entail. This shows your enthusiasm and sincere interest in the position.
Demonstrating excellent customer awareness in the job-search process is key to your success in getting that desired job. Remember to conduct thorough research, write a resume that is written based on your research, perform stellar in the interview, and complete the process by following up.
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Where I buy my coffee there are certain employees who know how I like it made and, just as important, the lid I prefer. I hate straws because of the mess they make in my car and how they’re destructive to the environment. So, I ask for the lid from which you sip.
One employee, in particular, will rush over to correct my coffee order, made by another employee, and change it from a lid which requires a straw to a sippy one. She is aware of my preference. She possesses strong customer awareness.
Customer awareness isn’t only present in food retail; it’s present in every aspect of our lives. The workplace is another example. We interact with our internal customers, our colleagues and supervisors. If our team is inharmonious, there is a chance that the project will fail.
In the community we are aware of the people around us; they are also our customers. I had a neighbor who would trim our hedges, and I would cut his lawn. He was better at trimming than I was; I was able to push a lawn mower while he wasn’t. We practiced customer awareness.
Of the two entities, the employer and the job seeker, none is more important than the other. In this article of two, we’ll look at how the employer can demonstrate customer awareness in the hiring process.
The hiring process will operate seamlessly if customer awareness is practiced effectively by the employer:
Writing an accurate job ad
Practice fair and effective recruitment
Conducting interviews that garner the most qualified candidate
Following up with the candidates no matter what the decision
The job ad
Do you think employers sit around the table and say, “Let’s write a job ad that is vague so we’ll attract the worst candidates”? You probably don’t. But in some cases, employers subconsciously produce an ad that is exactly that, vague. Job candidates read the ad and wonder, “What do they want here?”
They go into the interview where they’re confronted with questions that don’t address the requirements of the position they need to fill. If you’re a job seeker, you’ve probably experienced this scenario at one point during the hiring process. A total lack of customer awareness.
The end result of a job ad that shows customer awareness is one that results in interviewers and candidates entering a business agreement with their eyes wide open, not one that confuses both parties. Employers who know what they need will better serve themselves and job candidates.
Not all job seekers will encounter a recruiter. Some will meet with HR and hiring managers. For sake of argument, let’s use the word “recruiter” as one of the hiring authorities. Let’s also agree that recruiters are the front-line of the hiring process. Therefore, they must also be a brand ambassador.
Too often we hear about recruiters who mistreat job candidates. They schedule, reschedule, and cancel interviews. Stressful would be a kind word to describe what the candidates experience. In addition to mistreating the candidates, this behavior hurts the company’s brand.
Customer awareness is better demonstrated when recruiters treat their clients and candidates fairly. Yes recruiters are paid by the employer, but their behavior is well noted by candidates who can be a source of referrals down the road. Many of my clients speak fondly of recruiters they’ve worked with, and some don’t.
This is where the hiring process often fails. There are a number of reasons, the first of which is mentioned above, but a poorly written job ad is only the beginning. The number of interviews is another example of poor customer relations. The final example of poor customer awareness is the way they’re conducted.
The record of interviews one of my customers endured was nine or ten; I don’t remember. I think we can all agree that any number of interviews beyond four is too many. It makes one wonder…why? Why can’t employers make a determination by the third or fourth interview?
I think we can also agree that making a determination after the first interview is also ludicrous. It’s like bringing a girl or boy home after a week of knowing them and telling your parents that you’re getting married.
I’ve heard my share of piss poor interviews my clients have endured. One that comes to mind is a phone interview that consisted of a list of inane questions such as, “What is your greatest weakness,” “Where do you want to be in five years,” and, believe it or not, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you want to be?”
Behavioral-based questions are the best questions. They are the ones that show customer awareness. Sure, hard technical questions are also necessary to determine who is the most qualified, but they alone aren’t enough. Do the candidates a solid and make them dig deep into their story bag to prove their worth.
I say that the interview is a deal breaker when it comes to customer awareness. A close second is follow through, or there lack of. This phase of the process is not the sole responsibility of the recruiter; much of it relies on hiring managers who must communicate to the go-between. They must play a larger part in the process.
All too often hiring managers feel that filling a role that will make their lives easier, don’t invest enough in the process. Recruiters pull their hair out trying to get a pulse from the hiring manager. Candidates sit by the phone waiting to hear from the recruiter. No, the real problem is the hiring manager.
Much mudslinging and some strong suggestions have been made. To do the employer a service, the next article will focus on what job candidates must do to demonstrate excellent customer awareness. Namely, they must:
Research the position and company
Write a resume that speaks to the employer, not the ATS
Perform well in the interview
Follow up respectfully.
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Experiences can be positive or negative teaching moments based how you look at them. A vivid experience in my life that stays with me to this day was when my father told me on one occasion not to brag. From then on I stopped bragging; this experience taught me humility.
Another experience in my life was when I didn’t make it to the “Big Ball” as a high school teacher. Back then if you successfully survived your third year, you earned tenure. I gave up on teaching and often wish I hadn’t. This was a negative teaching moment.
Case in point was a job seeker who I met at one networking event I led. He looked discouraged as he was putting on his jacket on the way out.
I asked him how the event had gone. He told me that it hadn’t gone well; didn’t get anything out of it he told me. I should have done him a solid by telling him that one unsuccessful networking event shouldn’t deter him.
Come back again and again and again. You shouldn’t expect immediate gratification. Alas, I let him walk away to never return for another networking event. He saw this as an unsatisfying experience, a negative teaching moment.
It’s where you network that forms your experiences
Where job seekers network can form their positive and negative experiences. Many are under the impression that networking only consists of attending formal events where large groups of other job seekers gather to share advice and seek opportunities.
The atmosphere of large networking events caters more toward extravated types who thrive on the excitement of entering a church hall or library and seeing 50 or more people. This represents more opportunities for them.
Another benefit of larger networking groups is that guest speakers motivate the attendees by talking about various aspects of the job search. Once a month at the job club I conduct I’ll have guest speakers share their knowledgeable of topics like interviewing, networking, resume writing, LinkedIn, etc.
Small networking groups like Meet-Ups, dinner parties, buddy groups, etc. are more intimate and slower in pace. This allows members to talk at greater length and develop deeper relationships.
Buddy groups, in particular, can be positive experiences because members keep each other accountable for their search. Leaders of the groups will issue assignments such as updating their resumes, creating networking documents, practicing answering tough interview questions, etc.
Regardless of the size or purpose of the networking group, job seekers shouldn’t unsuccessful event prevent you from attending other events. Their preference might be large, formal events, or it might be smaller ones.
Networking is ongoing
What many job seekers fail to realize is that the networking process continues after they’ve applied for a position via the traditional process. They send their resume to a company and wait by the phone (not literally) for employers to call.
Employers don’t call. Yet, job seekers continue on the same path and suffer the same negative experiences. These are teaching moments that discourages them.
Here’s a scenario of a positive teaching moment. After applying online for a position, a job seeker contacts people with whom she’s worked in some capacity and tells them that she’s applied for a position. Do any of her networking contacts know someone in the department to which she’s applied?
One person does and provides valuable contact information, which is not privy to other candidates. Wisely she asks if she can mention her networking contact as a reference in the email she sends to the contact.
Job seekers might be successful, or not, at a networking event. If they’re not successful, they shouldn’t let one experience be a negative teaching moment. Rather, they should continue to network or find a networking style that works for them.
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.
You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.
1. Keep the interview itself short
The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time to play back the recorded interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.
2. The mock interview should be filmed and played back
If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.
Your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”
Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.
3. Clients must take the mock interview seriously
Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.
This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.
Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.
4. You must also take the mock interview seriously
This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.
The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.
At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.
5. Ask challenging question
As mentioned above, when conducting a mock interview, make the questions challenging. Ask questions that 1) determine the interviewee’s self-awareness, 2) her understanding of the position, 3) her knowledge of the company, 4) and even her take on the competition.
Focus on the job description she’s provided and ask questions like, “Tell me about a time when you managed a team of more than 5 people. How did that work out.” This will require her to come up with a thoughtful story using the Situation-Task-Actions-Result formula.
Even though behavioral-based questions take longer to answer, they reveal many more skills than you ask about. To determine if the interviewee demonstrates self-awareness, ask questions that require a negative result, such as, “Tell me about a time when you led a project that didn’t go well.” Will she blame others or take ownership of her faults?
Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I won’t deny that ageism exists. I’ve heard of hiring managers who’ve told their recruiters that they don’t want older candidates. Some recruiters demand to see every job you’ve held since 1984. You might have been asked on an application when you graduated from high school.
One of my clients told me as the second question in an interview he was blatantly asked about his age. He shook his head in bewilderment as he told me about this.
Another one of my clients was told in an interview, “We don’t typically hire people your age.” Who the hell is stupid enough to say this as an interviewer? These are two poignant examples of ageism.
There are other examples of ageism that 50+ job seekers experience, which makes me wonder if I were to lose my job, would I experience ageism. After all, I am in the 50+ category. I’m an older worker, but I could become an older job seeker.
While age is just a number — not an indicator of performance, education, productivity or skill — ageism is still widespread in the workplace. It can be experienced by both younger and older workers, but most frequently to those who are 45 and over.
This is the grim reality, especially when we consider that older job seekers comprise the largest population of long-term unemployed, defined as those unemployed for 6 months and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the LTU rate for December 2021 reached a record 45.5%.
But all is not lost. As the pandemic is waning and employers are hiring at a greater rate, the older job seekers are increasingly seeing more opportunities. I see this effect in the Job Club I run at MassHire Lowell Career Center. People who’ve been out of work for more than six months have had multiple interviews and they’re landing.
I asked three of the most revered LinkedIn voices—Marc Miller, Susan Joyce, and Hannah Morgan— their thoughts on older job seekers who are looking for work. They answered five questions that address the struggles and strengths older job seekers possess. (Learn more about these thought leaders at the end of the article.)
Does ageism exist, and if so, where is it most obvious in the job search?
MM: Ageism has existed for a long time. In fact, many older workers practice ageism towards younger workers. This is a problem that goes both ways.
I think the most obvious example of ageism is asking for a range of year of experience, like 5-8 years of experience in digital marketing. Knowing how many years of experience one has is not a qualifier or dis-qualifier for a position.
This is a simple way to filter out older job seekers who have more experience but isn’t relevant on whether they are qualified.
What employers should be looking for is relevant experience and not trying to quantify this by length of time someone has worked in any single discipline.
Another example of ageism is when recessions occur this is the time that employers have to cull out who they think, notice I say think, will not be as valuable in the future. This is why older job seekers traditionally make up the bulk of the Long Term Unemployed (LTU). Employers have determined they will be less valuable in the future and therefore, will not hire them back first when the recession ends.
SJ: Unfortunately, there is no question that ageism exists. Numerous studies have documented and quantified it, noting that discrimination begins when people hit their 40’s.
It is most obvious in a job search after the interview when the job offer is not made to the 40+ job candidate, even after a great job interview.
HM: Yes. Job seekers convey their age and mindset in how they write their resume and LinkedIn profile. From using outdated resume formats to including References Available Upon Request to including all dates of employment to dates on education older than 5 years.
They may not have the most current skills or demonstrate an understanding of current methodologies or trends. During job interviews, older job seekers may come across as arrogant, inflexible or condescending, or unable to relate to younger interviewers.
What is the most obvious stereotype employers have of older job seekers, and why do you think this is?
MM: Employers look at many older job seekers as not up to date with technology and slow to change. Some might say that older seekers can be stuck in their ways.
Is this universally true? Of course not!
I worked for IBM for 22 years through some very exciting innovative times. After I left I worked for 2 extremely innovated and successful tech startups. I am not a model baby boomer but I am no unicorn.
I will readily admit I hate getting on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and regularly engaging to promote my “personal brand.” I was raised to work hard, keep my nose to the grind stone, do what is right and I will be rewarded. The world today is counter intuitive to the way I was raised. It is in this way that I am not terribly unusual.
All of this frames how employers see older job seekers on a macro scale. Unfortunately, hiring is very personal and if an employer believes an older job seeker is A, B or C then they will filter out some of the best candidates.
SJ: The most obvious stereotype I encounter is that older job seekers are less up-to-date with technology. Employers probably make these assumptions based on the behavior of an older relative or an older colleague or manager who was not up-to-date.
The best way to overcome this assumption is to have a complete and robust LinkedIn profile plus relevant professional activity on LinkedIn (posts, comments, and articles) that display both current knowledge and communications skills. This visibility and activity will demonstrate their understanding of how important LinkedIn is and how to use LinkedIn effectively (up-to-date!).
If possible, take a LinkedIn Skill Quiz for one or more of the skills in the Skills & Endorsements section of the profile (perhaps the Skills with the fewest endorsements). Or take some of classes that result in professional certifications relevant to the job seeker’s target job.
HM: That their skills and knowledge are not up-to-date and they will be slow or hesitant to adapt or change. Older job seekers may not address the changes they’ve recently had to adapt to or may not have needed to use new technology or update skills in their last roles.
This doesn’t mean they can’t adapt or aren’t interested in learning. Stereotypes exist because of someone’s previous interactions. So if an interviewer or hiring manager has spoken to or worked with an older job seeker who lacked current skills or was hesitant to change, that cements the stereotype.
What is one major strength older job seekers demonstrate, and why do you think this is?
MM: The one thing that an older job seeker has is years and years of experience. I like to think of this as 30-40 years of big data.
We have seen a lot of problems, and solved a lot of problems.
Years ago I developed and taught a problem determination workshop for IBM’s support staff. The more problems you experienced in any given domain enhanced your ability to solve the next problem in the same or adjacent domain. My job was to help them experience and solve as many problems as possible AND understand how they did it.
The issue is our ability to use that database of knowledge called experience and then being able to communicate in a coherent, easy to understand way so that employers see the value.
Remember it was not that long ago that CEO of Facebook said “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.”
What they do not have is that database of big data that comes from experience.
SJ: Contrary to the “set-in-their-ways” assumption, I think that older job seekers have more options available based on having more experience. Because of their age and experience, they have a bigger “window on the world” and can see more alternatives than someone with less experience.
For example: If you need someone to drive you to the airport in a busy city at a busy time with the flight leaving soon, would you prefer a young driver who followed the route given him by his boss or an older experienced driver who knew all of the short cuts and alternate ways to get to the airport even if a traffic jam on the primary route stopped other traffic? Not hard to conclude the older driver would be a better choice!
HM: Older job seekers tend to be more loyal, possess a stronger work ethic, and have stronger leadership and decision-making skills from experience and training. Their work ethic was formed early in their career when hard work and dedication was rewarded. And their life experience and access to training over their career have given them tools and experience to draw upon.
How can older job seekers improve their written and verbal communications in order to land a job?
MM: This is all about doing new things before you are ready.
To quote one of my favorite and irreverent journalist Hunter S. Thompson,
“Anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.
When you do something for the first time you will rarely do it right!
I have helped many start blogs and podcasts. I always tell them that what they produce may suck at the beginning. You will have to exercise the communications muscle to find your voice. That may mean producing material that is not very good.
Early blog posts on the Career Pivot blog were pretty bad. That is why I hired people to help me in areas where I was not very good. I am not a good writer but I have learned how to leverage people, like a virtual assistant, who edits my material, and technology like Grammarly.
Over time the communications muscle has gotten stronger through repetitive action. However, this requires taking chances, taking some criticism and admitting that you do not know how to do everything.
You have to move forward and do new things before you are ready.
SJ: Observe what people are writing and saying in social media and elsewhere. Focus on those people who are the most successful (in a positive way). Then, practice, VERY carefully by asking and answering questions on sites like Quora, Reddit, Digg, etc. When ready, start a blog or write articles on LinkedIn (relevant and professionally), Medium, or a personal/professional blog.
For verbal communications, join Toastmasters. The meetings may be virtual now, but the training, experience, and network are invaluable.
Possibly, take some classes in writing and speaking. Free classes are frequently available online. Or read some good books about those topics.
The act of being active on social media also shows a willingness to embrace new technology.
What advice would you give an older job seeker who’s hunting for a job?
MM: In post-pandemic recovery, every older job seeker needs to reassess what he or she really wants to do. This is not about what you used to do because what you used to do may be gone or changed significantly.
Did you actually enjoy doing what you used to do?
If you did, what was enjoyable?
If not why were you doing it?
You really need to look at the disruption that COVID-19 pandemic has created. There will be a lot of good that will come out of this black elephant event called the COVID-19 pandemic. Where do you want to fit in?
What problems do you want to solve? Who has those problems?
If you are going to continue to work because you either have to or want to, you will have to reassess where you fit in this new world and what will energize you to keep moving forward at the same time.
To quote the famous executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here, won’t get you there”.
Your first choice, are you willing to evolve and grow in the 2nd half of life.
Then it is your choice how to evolve and grow.
SJ: I have 2 pieces of advice for older job seekers who are job hunting now.
Know the job wanted next and, preferably, at least 10 or 20 target employers. Being an either-this-or-that does not work today when LinkedIn profiles are so visible! Recruiters avoid someone who doesn’t seem to be really interested in the job they are trying to fill. And an either-or candidate looks undecided.
In addition, the undecided job seeker does not usually effectively demonstrate their professional expertise in both kinds of jobs. Their LinkedIn profiles are “watered down” because they cover multiple topics superficially—not very convincing and not including a sufficient quantity of the right keywords to be found easily by recruiters.
Reaching out and reconnecting to people from the past using Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to find current location and contact information is a great start.
My favorite tools are LinkedIn Company pages for the target employers and the School pages for the colleges, universities, and other schools the job seeker attended. To find them, just click on the logos beside the employer and school names in the LinkedIn profile.
■ Company pages for target employers provide excellent information about employees. What they do, where they work, where they went to school, and how the job seeker may be connected to them. Click on the “See all people highlights” to find those details.
■ School pages for colleges and schools the job seeker attended provide information about where alumni work, where they live, what they do, and how the job seeker may be connected to them. Again, click on the “See all people highlights” to find those details.
The biggest benefit of being an older job seeker is that great network that provides an inside track to a new job.
HM: Before launching a job search, evaluate the marketplace to understand the skills required at the level you are interested in as well as understand pay ranges for those types of job. You should review lots of job postings to look for technology and skills frequently mentioned. Also ask for honest feedback from people you talk with about what you may be lacking or how you communicate. Finally, maintain a life-long-learner mindset.
Marc Milleris a champion of older job seekers. He writes of his award winning podcast: “Repurpose Your Career, brought to you by Career Pivot, is a podcast for those of us in the 2nd half of life to come together to discuss how to repurpose our careers for the 21st century.” Marc has dedicated his life’s work to helping Baby boomers.
Susan Joyce’s well-known Job-Hunt.org blog has millions of views and is considered one of the most popular sites for the job search. Since 1993, Job-Hunt.org’s genuine experts have shared advice that helps job seekers shorten their job search, including advice on resumes, job interviews, LinkedIn, Working from Home, and much more.
Hannah Morgan’s blog, CareerSherpa.net has gained great acclaim as one of the best job-search blogs out there. Hannah has written for major online publications like BusinessInsider.com, USAToday.com, Money.com, Forbes.com, HuffingtonPost.com, and others. Hannah is truly considered an influencer on LinkedIn.
Most job-search articles, posts, videos, and podcasts offer tips on how to succeed in various components of the job search. This article is different. Different because it’s based on the failures of my job search. I’m writing it because I believe one can learn from the successes, as well as the failures of others.
Since my failure of a job search in 2003, I’ve coached thousands on how to do it properly. In a few situations, I was successful in hunting for other jobs because I practiced what I preach. This article’s purpose is to tell readers not to do what I did.
My story begins when I was laid off from marketing, where I was unhappy. My unhappiness wasn’t due to the people with whom I worked; it was due to a lack of purpose. I was peddling software I didn’t believe in.
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, claims that purpose is a key motivator. He’s correct. I saw my purpose as helping people land jobs, not marketing document storage media.
After being laid off, it took me seven months to land a job which was a gap filler at best. Looking back on it, I can see clearly what I could have done to make the journey shorter for me and my family. Here are my failures.
The beginning of unemployment wasn’t too bad, but it became worse
When I was laid off, I wasn’t devastated; it was more like I was relieved. I was called into a conference room where my boss and our “HR” person was sitting with papers spread out on the table. “This isn’t good,” I thought. Sure enough, I was getting laid off.
My boss, who happened to also own the company, was weepy-eyed, a little upset, and constantly apologizing for having to lay me off. During the meeting I was the one who was consoling him, not the other way around. “George,” I said, “It’s business, nothing personal. I’ll be alright.” He seemed relieved to hear me say this.
I found comfort in getting together with a former colleague, who had been laid off with me, by drinking beer at a pub down the road from where I live. Our times of commiserating became increasingly more frequent; so frequent that I had to call a halt to it. I realized that it was destructive behavior.
Two months after I was laid off it became apparent to us that we needed more than what Unemployment Assistance was providing, $565 which included allowance for three dependents, and that using credit cards was not the best option
My wife had to return to work full-time at a nearby town. Now raising the kids became my full-time responsibility. This wasn’t a bad thing necessarily; it was unfamiliar territory for me. I now had to tend to their every needs. Our oldest daughter was 7, followed by our 4-year-old daughter, and the baby boy was 1.
Looking back on it, I was grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with our kids.
Quality time included bringing the two youngest to play group while the oldest was at grade school. I was also responsible for driving the kids to their locations and grocery shopping. In all instances I was the only male present, which was embarrassing. I once witnessed a woman at playgroup breastfeeding two children at once.
I felt trapped at home while my wife was doing what I wanted to; she insisted she didn’t want to work full-time, but she was growing happier with “real” responsibilities as I was growing miserable with unfamiliar responsibilities. Was I jealous of my wife? Yes.
My temper grew increasingly moodier and at times angry. I lashed out at my wife who was only doing what had to be done. There came a time when she demanded that I see a therapist. I agreed and met once a week with a kind gentleman with whom I couldn’t relate.
If there was one thing I could have done better, it was not turning into an asshole.
My time management skills sucked
To say raising the kids impeded my job search would be an excuse. The second failure that comes to mind was the inability to schedule job-search activities around caring for the kids. I could have risen early in the morning to job search and continue the process when my wife got home from work.
When I had some free time away from the kids, I could have done some administrative work, e.g., written resumes and cover letters. But my mind was consumed with making sure the kids were fed and entertained.
Instead of using the evenings to call people who I could have met while networking I walked the streets of my city for hours. I had to clear my head of the frustration that was building inside me. I often tell my clients that walking is good medicine, but in my case it was a way to escape the family.
One of the good things that came from being home with the kids was creating a website and maintaining it for my oldest daughter’s school. I asked the director if she would allow my child to attend school free of charge in exchange for the website. Apparently she didn’t know how easy it would be, because she happily agreed.
I didn’t network
I said I should have contacted people I met while networking, but the sad fact is that I didn’t network as much as I should have. The extent of my networking was sending a group email to everyone I knew, letting them know I was out of work and attaching my resume to the emails.
This method was ineffective, as I hadn’t clearly indicate what kind of work I was looking for. My resume was sound but not targeted to the career I was pursuing, career development. This explains why group emails are not the best way to network.
What I should have done was reach out to people individually and asked to meet for coffee or simply have a phone conversation. I should have asked for advice on where I could pursue positions in career development. I should have gathered information on the labor market by talking with said people.
Who did they know that I didn’t? Who would they suggest I talk with? One of my contacts might know people in the nonprofit world, perhaps in a municipality. That could have led to connecting with people in social services. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to ask for information.
Networking groups? I had no idea what they were and that they even existed. I hadn’t visited my university’s career services, where they would have told me about job seeker networking groups. Perhaps they would have mentioned professional associations. When it came to networking, I was totally in the dark.
The bottom line: I should have been more proactive
To preface, the first job I landed in marketing was through a referral from my university professor. The second position was an interesting story. Briefly, I was laid off from my first job in marketing. The same day my president introduced me to the marketing manager of the second company for which I started that day.
These jobs were essentially handed to me. This time around I didn’t have help like this.
I sent close to 40 resumes and cover letters for jobs which resulted in two interviews. Even in 2003, the way to land interviews for rewarding jobs was not to send a generic resume and a tailored cover letter to employers, especially if you weren’t qualified for said jobs.
The shotgun approach wasn’t working. I became increasingly more discouraged. The one thing I had going for me was knowing what I wanted to do, as well as what I didn’t want to do. (To the chagrin of my wife, I wasn’t applying for marketing positions.)
This must have made employers wonder why a marketing guy wanted to work in career development. Had I asked for informational meetings I would have built a more focused network. My one attempt at asking for an informational meeting was a complete failure.
I only landed two interviews and one job
The first interview after my marketing career ended was as painful as it could get. It was for a Development position at my alma mater. I was ill prepared and insulted one of the interviewers by asking her why she was on the interview panel. To my defense, I phrased my question wrong, but the damage was done.
My second interview was the winner…in a way. I landed a job that was a two-year gap filler as a program manager for technical training for people with disabilities. There were enjoyable aspects of the position, but I was yearning to get more entrenched in career development.
The most important skill I developed in this program manager position was the ability to speak in front of groups of people, explaining the purpose of the program. It was during one of the speaking engagements that I employed my networking skills. I presented to my current employer directing my attention to my future manager.
Whether directing my attention to my future manager was the reason I landed the job is debatable, but it certainly was intentional. The interview had with her was a formality because it lasted 15 minutes. Half an hour after the interview she called to tell me she was forwarding my name to the city manager.
My suggestion to people who’ve lost their job for any reason is first, think about the others around you who are probably struggling as well. I should have been more cognizant of my wife’s feelings; rather than thinking only of mine.
Second, don’t let caring for children or elderly adults be an excuse for not getting things done. I had a client who said he would rise at 5:00 am to conduct his job search until his children would rise at 7:00 am. He would grab any moment he could during the day, including attending my Job Club in the afternoon.
Third, be more proactive in your job search. Simply sending out resumes won’t do it. Implement networking into your routine and follow up with those you network with. Again, the resume shotgun approach will not yield great results.
Lastly, anyone you run into can be a potential boss. Do your best to impress people who have the authority to hire you, like the person who became my boss after my presentation.
One more: don’t be an asshole during your job search.
As someone who’s on the front-line of helping job seekers gain employment, I see the frustration on their faces. Most are stoic and not outwardly emotional, but I know they’re struggling with a very difficult situation. Some are beyond frustrated; they’re bordering on hopelessness, wondering how they’ll land their next job.
I’ve learned throughout the years that there’s a mindset job seekers need to adopt. They need to believe that, through their mental preparation and subsequent actions, they can positively affect their job search. A critical aspect of their success is practicing the art of persuasion.
Persuasion is often used in the sales arena, but it also applies to folks who are looking for work. Brian Ahearn, one of only 20 Cialdini* certified trainers in the word, often tells audiences, “Getting people to say YES to you is critical to your professional success.”
I agree with Brian’s philosophy and have read many of his articles as well as his book, so I elicited his help to write this article. What’s good for salespeople is good for job seekers, I reason. Today, we’ll take a look at each in the context of your job search.
Consistency and Commitment
It’s easier for people to say Yes to those they know and like. That means you need to be likable. Liking starts with presenting a positive demeanor, even if you’re struggling with your job search. But there’s more.
We like people we see as similar to ourselves and those who pay genuine compliments. If you know some of the people you’ll meet during your interviews then do a little research using LinkedIn or Google beforehand. Find out what you have in common and how you might pay them a sincere compliment.
If you can’t do the research before the interview, then be very observant during your interviews so you can connect and compliment. You might not land a job just because someone likes you…but I guarantee you’ll never get a job if they don’t like you.
Reciprocity is that feeling of obligation to give back to someone who’s first given to you. When someone has done something for you, make sure you reciprocate in some way. It might be as simple as a sincere “thank you.”
Not reciprocating will put you in a bad light because it offends the sensibilities when people don’t give back in some way.
As was the case with liking, to be most effective you want to be proactive. Be the giver and the chances of getting what you want—that next job—will go up. This begs the question; how do you give?
Do what you can to help your fellow job seeker with their search. In other words, practice the six tenets of giving, some of which includes sharing information, mentioning a possible lead, providing moral support, among others. This will yield positive results because those people are likely to help you when you need it.
Social proof is key to creating a strong personal online brand, which can be seen by thousands of people. Some job seekers have the misconception that posting updates 10 times a day on LinkedIn is effective social proof. It’s not. Posting fewer quality updates is the ticket.
The person you interview with will also be impressed if they see you have lots of recommendations. Here’s where your prior influence is so important when asking for recommendations. The more they like you (Liking) and the more you’ve done to help them (Reciprocity) the more likely they are to give you a recommendation on LinkedIn.
Social proof is becoming increasingly more important for job seekers, as employers are primarily looking for talent on LinkedIn, Facebook and even Twitter. When I tell job seekers this in my webinars, some of them express looks of concern on their face because they have no social proof.
Consistency and Commitment
Consistency and Commitment is all about the person you’re trying to influence. In your case, it would be the person who is interviewing you and the organization they work for. This principle says people feel better about themselves when your words and deeds match theirs.
Gandhi put it this way, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”
The more you understand the person and organization you’re interviewing with the easier it will be to engage this principle. For example, if a core tenant of the organization is learning, your ability to show you’re a life-long learner will make it easier for the interviewer to see you as a cultural fit.
Do some homework so you know the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Next, give thought to how you align with each. Finally, be ready to demonstrate how you’re the right person for the job because your beliefs and experience are in line with all that you’ve discovered.
It’s easier for people to say YES to individuals they see as wise or having expertise. That’s the principle of Authority. This means you have to be viewed as an expert.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile highlights your expertise then be ready to back it up with stories and insights. For example; the best writers, speakers, and curators know what’s trending, and they report on it in a timely manner.
People are more likely to follow the advice of experts when what they’re writing, speaking, or curating is relevant to them. Once again homework is key because it’s essential that you know your audience well. Once you, as a job seeker, become known as an expert or “authority,” what you share will carry more weight.
The less there is of something, the more desirable the object is. This doesn’t only apply to iPhone upgrades when they first hit the market. If you possess a talent, or a skill set, that employers find hard to come by, you will persuade them because you’re a scarce resource. You need to help them realize if they don’t hire you, they’re missing out and might be worse off for the decision.
Don’t worry; this doesn’t mean you have to be a rocket scientist. When it comes to people it’s rare that there’s only one person for the job. There might be combination of things you bring to the table are what make you the most unique candidate. Once you understand that, you need to be ready to talk about your uniqueness in a way that an employer feels they’ll make a big mistake by not hiring you.
I think of job seekers who have the sought after job-related skills, as well as emotional intelligence, as an example of scarcity. If you can persuade employers that you are the full package, your chances of landing a desired job are greater.
Persuasion is not a one-off thing; it involves all six principles. When job seekers visualize each principle, they will be able to master them. One who wants to master Authority, for instance, must put effort into demonstrating through social media their expertise in a topic like digital marketing.
When job seekers use persuasion, they control their destiny. Their situation may seem dire, but it can be turned around. If you’re struggling with unemployment, look at the six principles and see which ones you must improve.
This article was a collaborative effort with a valued LinkedIn connection and friend, Brian Ahearn. Brian teaches Dr. Cialdini’s methodology to salespeople nationally and internationally.
In addition to his writing, Brian has recorded the following LinkedIn Learning courses: Persuasive Selling, Advanced Selling: Persuading Different Personality Styles, Persuasive Coaching, Building a Culture of Coaching Though Timely Feedback.
*Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., is the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of influence and persuasion. In his New York Times bestseller, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he lays out six principles of persuasion which are scientifically proven ways to hear YES more often.