3 Ways to Prevent Interview Jitters…Interview Nerves

3 Ways to Prevent Interview Jitters…Interview Nerves

Job-Interview-Nervousness“Jitters” is defined as “feelings of extreme nervousness”.

Interview jitters… or nerves… come about because you are going through a process which is new to you (interviewing) and it is really important to do well …so you are worried that you won’t do well. Not too dissimilar from worrying about what will happen when you go to the dentist to have some dental work done. You anticipate what can go wrong (or in the case of the dentist – about the pain)!

There is a way to overcome those interview jitters:

1. First….be prepared. There are three things you need to pay attention here:

a. Anticipate every possible question you might be asked (you can use the extensive list in my book – shameless promotional plug!!). Write them down. Then draft a response. Rehearse it. A short-cut in this process may well doom you to a less-than-strong interview! This includes knowing cold your self-introduction “elevator speech”.

b. Know where you are going – how to get there – how long it takes to get there – where to park, etc. Being late to the interview is guaranteed to result in shot nerves…AND a poor first impression! Scope it out in advance…make a trial run if in doubt about the details.

c. Dress for success…you are headed into a business meeting. Appropriate business attire and demeanor is a must!

2. Think “Inner Interviewing”! As discussed  years ago by “The Inner Game” guru Tim Gallway:

Tim Gallway

Tim Gallway


“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How you play this game usually makes the difference between success and failure. The inner game is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus and limiting concepts or assumptions.”

For your interviews that means start your “inner interviewing” well before an interview. Visualize yourself as self-assured, answering each question with great answers and charming the interviewer with your poise and personality. Focus on that image…lock it into your mind.

3. Put your voice and eyes to work for you. When you are nervous you might have a tendency to speak too softly or for your voice to crack. When you are nervous you might have a tendency to have your eyes wander over the landscape. Controlling both will give you confidence. Use a normal speaking voice – if you tend to be a soft speaker – kick it up. If you drown our co-workers with volume – turn it down. Keep your eyes on the interviewer and your notes.

Interview jitters …interview nerves …CAN be avoided…or at least minimized… provided you have a strategy and are thoroughly prepared. Good luck…and go for it!!

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Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

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#5 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “How have you resolved an interpersonal conflict in the workplace?”

#5 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “How have you resolved an interpersonal conflict in the workplace?”

A five-part series of really tough interview questions… and how to respond!!

5 tough eThus far we have addressed these questions:

#1 – “Why have you changed jobs so many times?”

#2 – “Why should we hire you?”

#3 – “Tell me about yourself.”

Last week’s essay covered question #4 “What salary are you looking for?”.

You need to know and understand that interviewing for a new job is a “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it’s then time to start over elsewhere.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at the fifth and final of the five toughest interview questions:

“How have you resolved an interpersonal conflict in the workplace?”

Why is this a tough question? Because you need to first tell the story as to why you had such a conflict….and then tell the story of how your arrived at a winning solution.

As you prepare your answer, keep in mind the objectives of the interviewer; it is to learn from your answers:

  1. How well do you get along with people such as co-workers, a difficult customer or vendor, your boss?
  2. How well do you handle stress?
  3. Are you able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective?

The conflict may have come about because a co-worker wasn’t doing their fair share …and it reflected poorly on you and the department.

The conflict may have come about when you were hired and one of your reports felt they should have promoted to your job.

It may have been because of conflicting priorities between you and a co-worker.

However it came about there are some important rules to follow when answering this kind of question.

  1. Describe – briefly – the situation: “We were developing a new website for one of our divisions and I was in charge of the project. I assigned different graphic and writing pieces to others along with deadlines when I needed first drafts.”
  2. Describe what the conflict was: “The person responsible to get the graphic layout options ready to present missed the deadline by a full day. Furthermore when I asked about it, this person came unglued – almost yelling at me in the open office layout we have that I had no idea how hard the task was and how busy he was with other responsibilities.
  3. Discuss what you did: “I said hold on Barry… let’s not let this become a fistfight.”  I said this with a big smile to disarm his temper. I then said “Let’s go offline on this so we let others get back to work.” We went to a more private location – one of our conference rooms. I then said, “Barry – why didn’t you come to me and let me know you were up against a wall of conflicting priorities? A day or two isn’t a deal breaker, especially when I know about it ahead of time. When do you think you will have it ready for review?” He responded , “Sorry I got a little reactive there – I can have it by tomorrow afternoon.” I said, “Great – and in the future be sure to let me know in advance if you are running out of time so I can either adjust or change the priority of things”.

Then comment to the interviewer, “I understand that conflict is part of life and the workplace. The key thing is don’t let it become personal and don’t let it get out of hand.”

If the follow-up question is “How do you handle stress?” a good response might be:

“I try to think ahead and plan ahead so that there are no surprises… it is often the surprises that lead to stress. Surprises are for birthdays not the workplace! But still stress can sometimes occur. I take a deep breath… maybe standup for a minute… and then put the situation into perspective:

  • How serious is the issue; does it require an immediate resolution or not.
  • What was the triggering action or event that brought it on?…and how do I turn it off?”

If you are a supervisor and two or more of your reports are in conflict  and you need to resolve it, then a different course of action is called for…and you may use an example of this type of conflict resolution to answer the question.

Let’s go back to the three step process:

  1. Describe – briefly – the situation: “One of my departments consists of a sales team and also people internally that ship out product based on what the sales team generates.”
  2. Describe what the conflict was: “Two of my reports were having an ongoing feud. One was in sales and the other fulfillment. The sales person – Susan – wanted to know why the orders they got weren’t taken care of quicker; they had a complaint of sorts from a customer. Meanwhile the fulfillment person – Bill – was also handling a big influx or orders from another department. It was getting nasty.”
  3. Discuss what you did: I called them together in a neutral location – one of our conference rooms. I said, “Susan – Bill – you are both very valuable to achieving our mission and we need to find a resolution to  your differences. Susan – please tell me what you think Bill is upset about and what his concerns are. Put yourself in Bill’s shoes. Bill – we will both just listen – no comments.” After Susan was done I said, “Bill – your turn. Tell me what you think Susan’s concerns are and why she is upset. Susan – same rules – we just listen.” This almost always defuses the situation and each party begins to understand the other’s issues.

We took it from there and developed a course of communications that enables Susan to ask about an order without being critical of Bill and letting him know of high priority orders….and Bill letting Susan know in advance that a shipment might be delayed a day or two.

In summary, as you prepare to interview and prepare your responses to questions think through from your experience what conflict you can talk about in a manner that illustrates your skills in this area.

OK… you now know how to answer “How have you resolved an interpersonal conflict in the workplace?”

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For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area – visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

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Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

#4 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “What salary are you looking for?”

#4 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “What salary are you looking for?”

A five-part series of really tough interview questions… and how to respond!!

5 tough eLast week’s essay covered the question “Tell me about yourself”.

You need to know and understand that interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it’s then time to start over elsewhere.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at the fourth of the five toughest interview questions:

“What salary are you looking for?”

Why is this a tough question? Because you feel uncertain answering it.

Give a number that is too high and you feel you may disqualify yourself right off the bat.

Give a number that is too low…and you feel you will leave money on the table.

One great way to respond is to not really give a number…but rather paint the picture of a scenario:

“I look at the issue of salary this way. If I am the right person for the job – the person you and your organization wants to bring on board… and the job seems to be a good fit and opportunity for me… then I am sure the offer will be both fair and competitive.”

If the interviewer says “all well and good.. .but give me a number… I want to make sure we are in the same ballpark”, you need to respond.

Here your answer will depend on whether you know the salary range – either from an ad, posting or another source.

If you do know the range –  you answer: “I know the salary range is $X – $Y. My last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I feel my experience qualifies me to be at the high end of your range, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”.

If you don’t know the range, then you answer: “well, my last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I would prefer to make some upward strides, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”.

Never inflate your current or past compensation. It is not uncommon for an employer to ask to see a W-2…and you are sunk if it doesn’t match what you have said.

By these responses, you have put a salary number on the table.

I have read of some career advisors telling  job seekers to not give a dollar figure when pressed by the interviewer. I think this is ridiculous….the interviewer is in charge of this dialogue. What can be gained by refusing to answer the question “tell me about your current compensations package… what is your salary?”  Refusing to give an answer is a sure way to end your chances for a job offer!

Another factor is that you must be competitive. If you have been in your current job for a lengthy period of time – say 10 years or more, you might have benefited from compensation “creep”….getting a 3 or 4% raise every year just because you were there. Less likely in a large organization…but very common in small ones. This conflict will occur most often when making a lateral move.

An example is in order. You are a staff accountant in a small organization (a total of less than 100 employees). The most recent salary survey conducted by NRI Accounting Resources indicate the base salary range for this position in that sized organization is $38 – $57,000. You have been on board for 14 years… getting raises every year and nice ones when business was good. You are now at $64,000. Your firm has been acquired and the accounting department is being folded into HQ in Dallas and you don’t want to relocate. You like being a staff accountant (and not managing people). You are looking for another staff accountant position. Fact – you are overpriced in the market at $64,000.

Supply and demand play a large role in compensation. There are other qualified candidates also interviewing whose compensation is well within the $38 –  $57,000 range.

So how do you navigate this salary question? A variation of an earlier answer:

“Well, my last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. I believe this is above market – I was at the firm for a long time and  the compensation management process was pretty loose. While I would prefer not to take a pay cut, I am realistic and I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”.

Finally – you need to know what the competitive numbers are! Look into the job boards, classified ads – especially in The Wall Street Journal for higher-level jobs – and what you absorb from newspapers and magazines. You need to be informed to navigate the salary issue when interviewing.

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“What salary are you looking for?”

Next week we will wrap up this 5-part series and answer question # 5  – how to answer “How have you resolved an interpersonal conflict in the workplace?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area – visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

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Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

#3 of 5 Tough Interview Questions – “Tell me about yourself”

A five-part series of really tough interview questions… and how to respond!!

5 tough eLast week’s essay covered the question “Why should we hire you?”

You need to know and understand that interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it’s then time to start over elsewhere.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at the third of the five toughest interview questions:

“Tell me about yourself”

This a question full of opportunities for you to screw up. Why? Because there can be a tendency to give a really bad answer!! Really bad approaches and answers include:

Touchy-feely. Baring your soul about personal information – your children, your spouse, that you moved from Texas because of a divorce, how much you enjoy being a cub scout den leader, yada – yada – yada. An answer along these lines doesn’t tell the interviewer a thing about why you are a good candidate for the job. I can’t begin to count how many times over the years I have interviewed people and been subjected to what my children refer to as “TMI”… Too Much Information… of a “who cares”, unpleasant or even embarrassing nature.

I gotta get outa there. If your motivation to be on the job market is to get away from an unfavorable situation (bad boss or bad organization), this not the place to bring it up at all. Never, never, never badmouth a former boss or employer. If indeed you are leaving a job for reasons of incompatibility or a boss that you want to throttle, explain your decision in terms of seeking new challenges – that you are no longer learning – seeking an industry that is growing, and so on.

I think this is what you want to hear. Of course you pay attention to this –  you are only going to say good things about yourself – but an experienced interviewer can easily spot a candidate that is trying to leave no possible good trait unmentioned.

What an interviewer wants to know in response to this question is:

What is it about you that makes you a strong candidate for the job? What do you “bring to the table” that will make hiring you a good decision?

The secret to answering this wide open-ended question is to hone in with laser sharpness on what you want to say and how to say it… then script it and rehearse it in the form of an opening statement.

The Opening Statement

It will consist of “talking points” – concise statements of capability and achievement. Use them to answer this question,  and if this question isn’t asked, find a way to work in your opening statement in the first few minutes of the interview. If the first question is “why do you want to work here?”… say “well, first let me tell you a little about myself”… and go into your opening statement. Then answer the question that was asked.

Sample opening statement:

“I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how my background and achievements might be a good fit for the position of (position title) here at (name of organization).

I am a graduate of (college or university) with a (degree granted) and have had an exciting and rewarding career in (field) thus far (only if your degree was granted less than 10 years ago – skip this if it was more than 10 years ago).

I believe my record will indicate that I have strong people skills, an analytical approach to problem solving, and am both a team player as well as team builder. For example, the department I supervise recently moved into office space adjacent to another department in the company and there was a real problem getting good inter-department cooperation. My team was frustrated by it and making nice was not solving the problem. So I went to the other department head, who was also frustrated, and suggested that we institute two things:

First – a weekly pizza lunch meeting with both departments attending – a mandatory lunch meeting.

Secondly – at those meetings, each person had to address the group. One time it was to tell what they did and with whom they interacted. Another time, it was to tell the group something about them that the other group members would not know if they hadn’t been told. For example, I told them that I played the trombone in my high school band.

Within a month, we had peace and harmony between the two departments. I am really proud of that accomplishment.

I have been fortunate to have had a chance to make presentations on behalf of my current employer, be on the new client orientation team and otherwise contribute to the growth of the firm.

I am easily adaptable to change and eager to make a real contribution wherever I end up.

Does that sort of paint the picture for you?”

Total time to recite this – about 2 minutes. Draft your one or two concrete examples of what you accomplished – ”what happened  because you were there and made it happen”. They become the specific selling points for your candidacy when answering this question. You want to indicate the kind of value contribution you will bring to your new position if hired.

NOTE – you will need in many cases to modify your opening statement depending on the job you are interviewing for – just as you modified your resume for each specific position.

Another idea for the beginning of your opening statement might be:

“Those who know me in the workplace would say that I am driven to succeed, that I am bright, that I see the big picture very quickly and am very conscious that success often lies in the details… that I sweat the small stuff.”

Then take it from there.

Keep in mind you must know it cold… and that calls for rehearsal. If you are conducting a job search but haven’t but haven’t interviewed for a week or 10 days… go back and rehearse it again.

It is important to note that the interviewer will be also very interested in how you present yourself – you need to exude confidence, a sense of “knowing thine own self” and poise.

Finally, about your opening statement:  Be brief, be specific, be focused, and don’t ramble (but why would you – you rehearsed it – right??!!).

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“Tell me about yourself”

Next week – how to answer “What salary are you looking for?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

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Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

5 Tough Interview Questions…and How to Answer Them

5 Tough Interview Questions…and How to Answer Them

5 tough eA five-part series of really tough interview questions….  and how to respond!!

Interviewing for a new job is “single-elimination” process! Get it right and you usually move on to the next step in the job-seeking process with that organization. If you don’t do well…it is then time to start over elsewhere. You really want to avoid the knock-out interview factors….such as bad answers to an interviewer’s questions.

The job-seeking process requires the need to prepare for interviewing – you really do need to be ready to answer all the questions that will come your way…. especially the tough ones… the ones where a bad answer will end your opportunities with that potential employer.

Let’s look at one of the five toughest interview questions:

“Why have you changed jobs so many times?”

Note the wording is inflammatory… the reference to “so many times”. The interviewer is saying that for one of two reasons: a. they believe it is a lot of times; or b. they are challenging you… testing you… to see how you answer. The question could also be asked, “Your resume indicates a lot of jobs; why do you seem to change jobs frequently?”

Suppose you have had five jobs in the last 8 years. Your answer needs to demonstrate that each move was to a better situation; more opportunity; more responsibility; a bigger or better territory; a better organization. After all – you did change for a series of reasons – right? So package the most recent reason or two into a short and concise answer. No need to explain all five unless you are asked. Just paint the picture of someone seeking upward mobility.

You might respond:

“Yes – it really seems like a lot when listed on paper. For each of them, it made sense to me to make the change. For example my job at (next-to-last-job) was in a location without public transportation, often required an hour or more drive twice a day in terrible traffic and was located in a pretty sketchy area that lacked the access for a place to eat lunch, take laundry in on my way to or from work and so forth. I compare that to where I would be if I worked for your organization – a world of difference – as it is for my current work location. I don’t mind a reasonable commute… but I could never predict if it would be 45 minutes or an hour and 45 minutes.”

Or:

“My last two jobs were ones where it seemed I had a new boss every 3 or 4 months; I never could settle into a routine where I know what was expected of me and how to communicate with my boss.”

Of course if the reason was that your employer went out of business or was acquired and you had to relocate across the county to keep your job – these are easy to explain.

Analyze what were your reasons at the time – why did you make the change – and create/draft an explanation for each of them that is credible. If one or more of the moves was a “mistake” on your part be prepared to say so:

“Accepting the position at XYZ was a mistake. I didn’t do a very good job analyzing the match before I accepted their offer. I have learned since then and haven’t made that mistake again… and won’t.”

IMPORTANT – you also MUST include a statement to the effect “In spite of those five jobs over the past 8 years, I am really seeking stability. I don’t like changing jobs; I want to find a place where I can establish myself and make a continuing contribution.”

Demonstrate that you understand the interview’s concern and that you are looking for a break in the pattern!

OK… you now know how to answer the question:

“Why have you changed jobs so many times?”

Next week – how to answer “Why should we hire you?”

Follow me on Twitter for notices of these posts.

For jobs and career opportunities in the Washington, DC metro area –  visit the NRI website. Many jobs are listed there …..and NRI Recruiters can find others for you!

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Copyright © Robert Mulberger All Rights Reserved

A Proven Plan to Uncover the Hidden and Unpublished Job Market! Part 1 of 2

Job-Seeking Strategy – Uncovering the Hidden and Unpublished Job Market….another way to find a job!

What is the “Hidden and Unpublished Job Market”?

hidden-job-market-970x451The term “Hidden Job Market” refers to job openings that exist or will in the very near future, but that are not available to the general job-seeking public; they are not being advertised, are not on the internet job boards and are not listed with staffing services. They may or may not be listed on the employer’s website.

This is a lengthy post so I will divide it into two sections. This post will discuss:

How do you get your foot in the door for these “hidden” jobs?

  • Timing – Due to the nature of most of the hidden jobs… timing is critical. Which means you need to be ready at a moment’s notice to respond. LinkedIn and Facebook profiles have to be current and in good shape. Resume and cover letter both need to be up to date as well as ready to send. Interview question responses need to be completed and ready to be reviewed in the event that a telephone interview is in the cards very quickly after initiating action.
  •  Check your sources frequently – perhaps every day – job boards, websites of targeted employers with available job listings, classified ads, etc. When a hidden job becomes “unhidden” you want to know about it and be ready to act that day – not a week later. Ben Franklin had it right when he talked of early birds and worms!
  • Networking – As noted in the title of the great networking book by Harvey Mackay Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – you build your network before you need it. If your network is skimpy, however, use what you have and get to work to build it to a far more robust level. We will cover how to put your existing network to work for you to unearth the hidden job market, but you should make building your network a priority. My advice to you is to buy – and read – Harvey’s book!
  • Have and execute a self-marketing plan – The most pro-active way to unearth those hidden jobs… as well as those that are not hidden, but you have just not found them yet.

Self-Marketing Plan:

This self-marketing plan involves you making lots of phone calls and following a carefully worded script (see notes accompanying each aspect of the call):

“Bill – Harry Smith here. How have you been??…it has been a while since we talked.”

Hopefully it will not have been so long that Bill hasn’t a clue who you are!! Networks and contacts are like tuna salad – the fresher the better. If it has been awhile… or the person is just a business card you collected at a meeting a year ago, you should add:

“Bill – you may not remember, but we met at the XYZ meeting/conference/reception/whatever last year in (city). I enjoyed our brief conversation then…and I was impressed. I kept your business card knowing that I would want to touch base with you in the future… like now when I need some advice!”

“Say Bill – I have a favor to ask… nothing heavy mind you.. but important to me. I am in the process of changing jobs and I really need a critical eye to take a look at my resume. I respect your judgment and know I can count on you to tell me like it is.”

Note what you have done: (a.) you have paid Bill a compliment. We all like getting a compliment, and (b.) you did not ask Bill for a job or if he had an opening. You never want to ask that question… it puts people on the spot, makes them uncomfortable and puts them in a position to usually say “no”… and people don’t like to do that, especially to a friend or acquaintance.

“May I email my resume to you and then get some feedback in a few days?”

You asked Bill to do something that is both very easy and will take very little time….so virtually all asked will say “yes”.

“Great!!”

“I will also include my target list of possible employers…and it would be most helpful if you knew anyone at those firms…getting my resume in front of a decision maker is my objective… I can get that feedback at the same time I get your read on my resume.”

Bill has already said “yes” once… he is not going to say no to this add-on request, although it is a bit more time-consuming. The target list has been compiled through your knowledge of the area’s finest employers, newspaper articles regard those firms that are expanding, those firms posting jobs that are of interest. Limit listings to 15-20; one page only.

“Bill… I can’t thank you enough. I really appreciate your input. I am working on my schedule… and I need to be near your office in the next few days. Can I swing by your office and take a few minutes of your time to get your feedback?? What day and time will work for you… I am at your disposal.”

How well Bill knows you will determine how successful you are in getting a personal meeting. If you can hit 50% on these, you are doing great. Why do you want a personal meeting rather than a telephone conversation? You will have Bill’s full and uninterrupted attention and an opportunity to impress Bill with your demeanor and personality. Refresh Bill’s memory of how sharp and personable you are. All harder to do over the phone.

(If Bill can’t grant a personal meeting)

“Hey …no problem… I will give you a call in a few days or so to get your feedback. Thanks again… you will have my resume and target list within the hour… let me confirm your email address.”

You want an agreement that Bill will take your call and give you the input you want on your resume as well as the details regarding who Bill knows on your target list. You have also confirmed Bill’s email address. Send him your resume and your target list as email attachments (done in MSWord of course) along with the following email:

Bill – thanks so much for taking my call today. I am excited about the challenges of a new position and I really appreciate your candid review of my resume – does it flow?? – is it clear as to my achievements?? Any and all comments will be appreciated. I have also attached a target list of employers I am interested in…. and it would be most helpful if you have any contacts at any of them that can get me past the gatekeepers in HR. And of course… let me know who else you think I should be talking to.

Thanks again… and I will give you a call in a few days.

Regards,

Harry Smith

The operative words in this email are resume review and who do you know.  In order to review your resume, Bill has to read it. First mission accomplished – you have a potential employer (depending on where Bill is located and what his business is) reading your resume… and you have a “sphere of influence” reading your resume.

What is a “sphere of influence”? It is a person whose position and achievements make them a valuable contact in and of themselves… AND… because of who they know and who is in their network.

People talk with people of all walks of life, but particularly with peers… spheres of influence talk to other spheres of influence. You make this kind of call to enough spheres of influence… and sooner or later you are going to hit one who either has a job opening – hidden or not… and/or knows someone who is in a hiring mode.

But – Bill’s job is not to find you a job. Bill is busy (or else he wouldn’t be a good sphere of influence!!) You need to follow up! If you can get the personal face time with Bill – great. If not, make this call 3 – 4 days after you emailed your info to Bill:

“Bill – Harry Smith here… is this a good time to talk?

Just following up on our recent conversation and the email I sent you. What are your thoughts on my resume?”

At this point – don’t talk any more. You want – gently – to make Bill talk to you about your resume. Depending on how certain you are regarding the content of your resume, you really want Bill’s comments. Listen intently… make notes… and recognize that he may have some good input to fine tune your resume. If you get a blanket “looks good”, ask a few questions such as:

“Bill – if you were to make one recommendation to improve my resume, what would it be?”

“Does it flow smoothly, or are there are areas that are confusing?”

DO NOT be defensive or argumentative about any comments Bill makes!!

“Thanks… that was really helpful.”

“As to my target list.. let’s see … there are about 20 firms listed on it… do you have any contacts at any of those I can leverage to see if they have an opportunity where I can make a contribution?”

Make sure your list is no longer than 15 – 20 firms…any more than one sheet of paper becomes an imposition. If Bill says “Yes, I do… at XYZ”, ask for the info.

OK… back to your request of Bill. If Bill offers to make a call on your behalf, you have a decision to make.

If Bill is not a close friend, decline his offer by saying:

“Bill – I appreciate the offer… but let me make the call, mentioning that you referred me. It will help me get a feel for the organization. I will let you know how the call goes, and I may ask you to make a follow up call or email.”

Why don’t you want Bill to make the call? Because you can never be sure that he did make the call!!…it is not a priority for Bill… it can fall by the wayside…and you sure can’t call him back to ask him if he made the call!!

On the other hand if you and he are very, very close… and you have no doubt he will make the call, then you will say:

“Great.. who will you be calling so I can follow-up a few days after your call? How about if I make the follow-up call in a week?”

“One last question Bill. Can you think of any other people or organizations I need to contact… is there someplace I have overlooked that comes to mind?”

This is one last effort to get any additional leads from Bill.

OK… Bill, I really appreciate your help.. .it has been most valuable. Thanks again…and I will keep you posted as to my progress. If something comes to mind… just give me a shout or send me an email. It would be greatly appreciated.

#####

In OK…now you know a proven process to unearth hidden and unpublished jobs. In part 2 of this topic next week, I will discuss to whom you make these calls and some modifications depending on who you are calling.

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How to Best Follow-Up After an Interview!

How to Best Follow-Up After an Interview!

OK….the interview seemed to go well… you are now on your way to your next destination and you are thinking to yourself “wonder when I will hear from them?”

You have already made a serious interviewing error!

follow upPart of your responsibility during the interview comes near the end when you say, “I have really enjoyed talking with you….and it would seem that my credentials and experience are a good match for your open position. If that is the case from your perspective, what is the next step?”

 

Listen carefully and ask questions to flesh out the details.

What you want to know is:

  • How many follow-up interviews with other people is part of the process?
  • What else is involved (reference checks, etc.)?
  • When might those take place?

Without being overly assertive, you want to end this line of dialogue with a statement such as, “so what I hear you saying is that all things being equal, I should hear from you – one way or the other – by next week?”

In other words, you close out the interview so that as you head to your next destination you KNOW when you will hear back!

But you aren’t done yet… there are several other things you can do to promote your candidacy:

Send a one-page (only!) follow-up letter via U.S. Mail. Not email… U.S. Mail gets opened and read. Mail it the same day or the next day at the latest… you want it to arrive very quickly so it can have an impact on the deliberations regarding the different people interviewed for the open slot.

In that letter you of course thank the interviewer for their time, state that you are very interested in taking the next step…AND you mention one of key factors of the job as one of your assets…what you bring to the table. …such as “I think my recent experience installing a new accounting system at XYZ Corp will enable me to hit the ground running on day one!” If at all possible “mirror” the job listing with words and phrases that will have the interviewer saying “wow – this seems like a very good fit!”.

I wrote before about creating a “brag book” (Moving Up the Career Ladder; How to Get that Next Job – March 24, 2014). A “brag book” is a collection of positive things about you written by others… testimonials if you  will. If you have done this, dig out a short one and include it in your follow-up letter. Such as:

“A year or so ago, I received a note from my CFO that read in part – “Bill – thanks for the great job on the transition team. Your contributions were critical to success”.

Third-party testimonials can help further confirm that you are the hire to make!

Now what to do when the employer doesn’t get back to you as discussed? Stay cool…no need to get upset about it. Stuff happens. Shoot an email to your contact or make a tele call. “I am sure you are busy, but I wanted to follow-up on our interview last week. I recall understanding that I would hear back by now. Can you give me a status report? By the way, I am still very interested.”

Closing out the interview will let you know when to expect to hear back as well as give you a chance to further sell yourself!

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Top 10 Soft Skills You Need to Have to Get Hired!

Top 10 Soft Skills You Need to Have to Get Hired!

top 10How Are Your Soft Skills?

Most Hiring Managers Say Soft Skills Just as Important (as hard skills) *

A majority of employers believe that soft skills (less tangible traits associated with one’s personality, such as a positive attitude) are just as important as hard skills (abilities that are learned to perform a specific job function and can be measured, such as operating a computer program).

Career Builder’s survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals found the 10 most popular soft skills that companies say they look for when hiring:

1. Strong Work Ethic – 73%

2. Dependability – 73%

3. Positive Attitude – 72%

4. Self-motivated – 66%

5, Team-oriented – 60%

6. Organization (can manage multiple priorities) – 57%

7. Works well under pressure – 57%

8. Effective Communications – 56%

9. Flexibility – 51%

10. Confidence – 36%

OK…time for some self-analysis…. How do you stack up against these 10 factors? Some will take more time than others to improve…your objective is that a reference check of your current and past  employers will grade you favorably in these ten areas. It also seems to me that these are 10 factors to achieve success in life as well as on the job. Take the time to rate yourself on a 1-10 scale and then get started on getting all of the ratings in order.

If you are on the job market, print this and put in your job-hunting portfolio  so as to keep  in the forefront as you go through the process, especially interviewing!

* Adapted from “Most Hiring Managers Say Soft Skills Just as Important” from Staffing Success – the publication of the American Staffing Association.

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How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

This question is a standard interview question…and like every interview question… you need to be prepared to answer it.

Interviewing cWhile not a trick question ….it does give you a chance to torpedo what has otherwise been a good interview.

First – let’s examine what the interviewer is looking for. He or she knows no one is perfect and they are looking for someone who can admit that that they have made mistakes or are not without flaws. The interviewer is looking to see if you “know thine own self”…if you truthfully know those areas where special effort  is called for to address your weaknesses.

If you give an answer like “I really don’t have any I can think of” you come across as either conceited or naïve.

You have them… we all do. Think them through and what you do to address them or compensate for them.

Keep your answers in the professional realm; personal issues should not be raised. The fact that your home is messy or that you hate the traffic you endure to get to work has no place in a job interview discussion about weaknesses. Remember – the interviewer is trying to find out during the interview what they will know for sure about you after ninety days on the job!

Be sure the weakness you identify is one that has been resolved or where you have put into place mechanisms to address it and keep it in the background.

For example – “I used to be too much of a perfectionist – both in my own written work and of those that reported to me. I realized that the important thing is to get the work done error-free and on time or earlier. You can write and re-write until the cows come home – but the important thing is to proof once or twice and if it says what it is supposed to say – great.. shut it down and move on.”

Or – “I used to get upset about co-worker being five minutes late coming to work…after all – I am on time! Then it dawned on me that my co-workers were doing great work…the work got done ….and they weren’t coming in thirty minutes late…just five or ten and they made it up time-wise by often working through lunch. I was taking it personally that they came in late…and in retrospect – that is silly.”

Be sure the “weakness” you are going to disclose is not one that is injurious to the kind of job you are applying for. An accountant who says a weakness is “their obsession with detail” is not helping their cause – accountants need to be very concerned about detail! Rather state the weakness as “I used to check my work over and over to be sure it was perfect. I found out that once I double-checked the foot and cross-foot and carefully scanned the final work product I never made any changes. So I just check carefully and then move on to the next task at hand.”

A side advantage to preparing for this question is that it does give you a chance to examine yourself and re-examine what you have done in the past to address the issue and whether it is truly working or not. If not – here is a chance to further refine what you can do to address the shortcoming or weakness!

Remember – the job interview is “The Bridge Between You and Your Next Job”… you need to be prepared to answer every possible question – it is a critical step to getting a job offer! Some of the questions are easy – this one isn’t – prepare for it!!

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Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Interviewing can be stressful, especially if you have just started a round of it. Much hinges on how well you do… each interview is usually a “single elimination process” (do poorly and you are eliminated from consideration).

Some interviewers are better than others making you feel welcome…and some are downright brusque!

Hellmans Mayo LidFollow what I call “The Hellman’s Principle” when Interviewing! Mirror what used to be printed on the jar lid of Hellman’s Mayonnaise – “Keep Cool But Do Not Freeze”! (Today it says “Refrigerate After Opening Do Not Freeze” on the label – not the lid).

Follow the following 4 tips to minimize or eliminate the interview jitters:

Tip #1 – Preparation – The first “must” to staying cool and calm during an interview is Preparation. No substitute for it. Anticipate every question you will be asked, draft and re-draft until you have a perfect answer committed to paper…and then repeat it in rehearsal until you can just let it roll off your tongue. If possible, have someone ask the questions and you answer them, referring to your notes if needed – this kind of practice will result you in being able to do so without those notes.

Tip #2 – Be on time… and be at the right place – Nothing can cause you to be more frazzled  than running late stuck in traffic unless you are  late AND you can’t find the address of where you are supposed to be. Many office locations are hard to find: suburban office parks with building numbers you can’t easily see;  confusing street signs; GPS mapping software out of date, etc. If ANY doubt as to where to go and how long it will take to get thee (in traffic!) – do a dry run. And have you POC’s tele number in the phone with you to use to call if in fact you are running late (but don’t be!). Remember – on time is 10 minutes (or more!)  early!

Tip #3 – Dress and groom for success – Your discomfort level will be greatly increased  if you are significantly “under-dressed”. You don’t want to be “a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos”!. You can’t go wrong with dressing like you are headed to church or to a funeral. Subdued and business-like (not the latest fashions for sure!) is the byword.

Tip #4 – Get your mental game together. Think “I am well rested, I know where I am going and I will be there at least 10 minutes early. I have prepared to answer questions – I have rehearsed them and know them cold. I am dressed for success. There is no reason I won’t do well. I  may not get the job, but I will be a viable candidate for the job. This is not my only opportunity. I am gonna knock ‘em dead.”

Getting job offers entails interviewing… and you gotta be good at it to make the cut. Being your natural self and self-confident will help you master the interview process!

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