Thursday, March 31, 2011

Some questions to ask in the interview

  1. What happened to the person who previously did this job? (if a new position: How has this job been performed in the past?
  2. Why did you choose to work here? What keeps you here?
  3. What is the first problem the person you hire must attend to?
  4. What can you tell me about the individual to whom I would report?
  5. What kinds of processes are in place to help me work collaboratively?
  6. What's the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?
  7. What are the expectations and how will you measure success?
  8. Now that we've talked about my qualifications and the job, do you have any concerns about my being successful in this position. Great, what's our next step?
I got these from Monster but the link was not working when I tried to access it for this post.

Not all these questions apply to every position. Some of the important aspects are to understand: goings on of the organization, how you or your position fit in the organization, what the expectations are and if they can be realistically met.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview tip: Don't Lock Yourself into Anything!

I heard an interview horror story. A friend was in an interview and the interviewer asked, why he wanted to be in their organization. He said, there were 3 reasons. Numbers 1 and 2 went great but then he absolutely forgot what number 3 was.

Moral of the story: When you're in an interview do NOT trap yourself by enumerating what you're about to say. A better approach is to say

"I'm passionate about being a part of your organization and I'll tell you why."

Now you can say whatever you want without fudging the interview. Be your friend in an interview not your own worst enemy. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don't just answer questions in the interview; ask questions.

I was reading an article by Dr H. Christian Gunderson about using keywords in your job interviewThe article itself was good, but one paragraph specifically jumped out at me:

What if an interviewer says, "We want somebody who is responsible, willing to grow, and is a team player." If you ask, "Specifically, what do you mean by willing to grow?" you are reinforcing rapport and zeroing in on the most important qualities the interviewer is looking for in a candidate.

This is a great insight that not many people use. I don't think that I have asked probing questions like this too often in the interview process. The few times I can recall asking such questions it was because I was deeply involved in providing a sincere answer and admittedly I was stalling a bit to find what to say. Haha.

When you ask people what they mean about a question they posed it really does show that you care about their question and in some cases you can connect with them on a personal level - depending on the questions, ambient, relationship, etc.

You may not want to ask that for every question. That could be annoying. But if you are sincere in seeking to understand why they are asking the question you will give a better answer. Maybe it's because of a bad  experience with a past employee or it could just be a generic question and the interviewer is just trying to get through the day. Regardless, asking these kind of probing questions will help you to identify what they are looking for as a best answer. Once you've found that use your power statements as mentioned in my "Cool Hand Luke" post.

In summary, when you're asked questions in the interview seek to sincerely understand the why behind the question. You will have a better interview.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Informational Interviews Can Improve Your Job Search

I was just discussing some job search techniques with my brother and wanted to post it. Informational interviews can improve your job search.

So what is an informational interview. Simple. It's an interview to gather information, right?

Let's say for example that you just graduated with a Marketing degree and you're looking to land your first job. When the economy goes bad, companies look to minimize marketing budgets because they seem the easiest to scrutinize given that results to the bottom line can be hard to track. So in an economy such as the present informational interviews might help get your foot in the door because you're just out there talking to folks in the industry and not soliciting them for work.

Here's how to best apply it in this situation. Track down some marketing agencies, find out contact information and start calling. Spend some time before you make the calls to develop some good questions, such as how would a young kid like me with a marketing degree fit into your organization? I have some great skills in x and y, where do you think that would help your company the most? what type of internship or entry level opportunities do companies in your industry have?

As long as you keep the questions witty, pertinent and non threatening they are most likely willing to help. Try the hiring managers or HR first. If that doesn't work, call and ask for sales. Sales guys love to talk and usually are more than willing to throw up on you (verbally) all the information that they know.

Once you've done this 2 things happen. One you now know a lot more about the industry you're trying to break into. Two it's quite possible they will allow you to keep in touch with them (trust me they will not keep in touch with you - the squeeky wheel gets the grease here). They might even say "check back in x months" or 1 in 20 might say "you know why don't you send me your resume" or "come on down, we might have something for you." One in 20 is just me throwing out a number. But you'll never know what the numbers are if you don't get out there.

An Even better application would be to start this process with family, friends, and people in your neighborhood, church, etc. that are in your industry or position of choice.

Oh and P.S. make sure you take notes. Good luck.

Try googling Informational interview questions. I've attached the link below. Make sure you pick the more intelligent and applicable questions.,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=6b08790fb43c8af4

Friday, March 18, 2011

Create a "Perfect Match" Resume

The reason I started this post was because I see so many resumes that have an "objective" section. What most people put in that section is not very compelling. So I asked myself, should anyone ever have an "objective" section?

The short answer NO. I've never seen any value in putting what your objective is.

Reality check: NOBODY CARES what YOUR objective is! Most companies only care what THEIR objective is when they look at your resume. Translation: when they read your resume they want to see what you are going to do for them. So how do you acheive that?

Only include information on your resume if it adds value! The only way to know if it adds value is to know what their looking for. I've gone over this in former posts. Basically, just do some research online, over the phone, etc.

One simple way to add value at the beginning of your resume is to replace your "objective" section with what I call the position specific section. Here's what it looks like.

Technical Support Specialist

  • Customer service focus - 4 years experience 90% positive reviews from end user
  • Network Administration - 5 years experience handling up to 30 servers at a time
  • Sales background - 2 years experience building client base by 20% for local IT company

Now let's look at the job description:

Company X is looking for a Technical Support Specialist. Qualified candidates must have performed network administration with multiple client servers. The successful candidate will also have knowledge of hardware and the ability to troubleshoot hardware and network problems. Most importantly the successful candidate will be able to complete the required tasks with a customer service focus. Some "soft" sales background is a plus with the idea that as you service the end client you will be able to bring in more business through referrals.

Wow! Do you think this guy will get the job? Put aside the fact that this guy seems to be a perfect fit. The question is why does he appear to be a perfect fit. It's becuase instead of letting the employer sift through the overload of information on his/her resume, this person simply looked at what the employer posted in the job description. First the resume has the job title next it has the bullet points that outline the person's experience that matches with the job description.. It's that simple: if you leave it up to someone else to determine if your a match it won't happen more often than not. Take the reigns and show them that you are a perfect match.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What we have here is a failure to communicate (in the interview). How to be Cool Hand Luke in the interview (Updated Post).

There are 3 tips I usually give my clients to help them remain calm in their interviews so they don’t have a “failure to communicate.”

  1. Power statements

  2. Practice questions

  3. Shop around

It’s tough to be prepared for every scenario in an interview, but these are 3 tips that usually help to ease your sweaty palms.

1. Power statements were designed by a board of business men for a non-profit organization’s efforts to help their members find employment. A power statement is a poignant expression of your past work.

e.g. I am a hard worker. For example, when I worked at X Company I headed up a project focused on transitioning our companies operations. I was able to finish the project 6 months ahead of schedule and as a result I saved the company over $250,000.

The main components are as follows:

  • to think of your quality, such as hard worker

  • give an example of a time when you proved that quality

  • Finally, tell the results, such as saving money (IMPORTANT NOTE: quantify your results (e.g. 6 mos ahead of schedule, saved $250,000)

Review all your past experiences and write down several of these statements so that you can practice them before hand.

2. Practice answering several of the standard questions that are asked in an interview. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve interviewed, anyone can get a little rusty.

3. Shopping around will keep you cool. Just like dating, you will never sweat when the worst thing that could happen is that you get the girl. The only way to be in that situation is to have more than one option that you are seriously interested in and vice versa.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stop Sending Out Generic Resumes!

Update: I've decided to repost this article. When a candidate loses out on a position because they submitted a generic resume and chose not to customize it specifically geared toward the position I feel bad but at the end of the day it could have been prevented. Put your ego aside and do what a consultant does: appease the client by talking their language. That does not mean you are being fake or being someone you're not. When I lived in Brazil I spoke Portuguese, my true personality still came through. If it can be done across languages it can be done across company or personality languages.

Customize your resume for each position:

When you have a skill set that you have developed over 10, 20, 30 years the opportunities tend to be limited. The more niche your skill set, the more limited the opportunities are in most cases. Therefore, you must take the time to review the job description and tailor your resume, accordingly. No matter how much experience you have, I guarantee you will increase the response rate on your resume by customizing it.

Here are a few suggestions:

Have a "relevant experience" section. In this section you will DETAIL your ACCOMPLISHMENTS for each position that you've held which relates specifically to the job for which you're applying. Get specific here. Think of your past relevant experiences and extract your accomplishments and duties for each position to match the requirements and job duties from the job description. Get specific and quantify your achievements.

Another useful section is a general work timeline section, which has only the company name, your title at that company and dates (specify years only). This section allows you to list your experience chronologically in case there are gaps in the “relevant experience” section.

Take it a step further. Go on their website, call their sales guys, and interview their receptionist so that you can learn the terminology and culture of the company. Many companies use spyder tools that scan your resume and the more your resume matches their language the more likely it will be found by the “spyder” or by a recruiter for that matter.

This extra step will take you out of your comfort zone and will set you apart from the competition. You will already talk their language, so when you arrive for the interview it will feel like a match for you and for them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do you get enough calls on your resume?

Recently, a relative of a friend contacted me to review his resume. He said he wasn’t getting the type of response that he wanted.

First problem – he wanted to be a Software Engineer yet all the project titles he worked on lead recruiters to believe he was a QA Engineer. You can guess that he got a lot of calls for QA work but nothing for software engineer work. He was in fact a software engineer, he just happened to work on some projects to help develop QA software. Moral of the story: Not knowing what recruiters are looking for or just flat out mislabeling your experiences will cause the wrong kind of calls to come in.

Second problem – he wasn’t getting enough calls. He was not leaving anything to the imagination on his resume; he just through all the details at them. In sales we call that throwing up on the client. Yes you have to be noticed and you do that by giving the crowd what they want to hear. So put that you know C# and JAVA languages on your resume. If you want to be nice to the recruiters you can spell it out, but then again if you’re a marginal candidate (meaning you’re close to the qualification minimums) then your resume might be discarded without you knowing.

If it were me, I’d want a phone call. Especially if you have been job hunting for a while, you’ll appreciate a conversation. So tell a good story that is captivating and makes them want to know more, instead of a boring detailed account.