#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?”

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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

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?”

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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 Barriers to Getting That Job Offer!

The Shocking Truth About Your Image

Four bizarre reasons customers may not like you (or people may not hire you!)

By Jeff Mowatt

I came across an interesting article that address some of the issues that get in the way of interviewing well and ultimately getting a job offer. The four principles Jeff mentions:

  1. You look different than expected (dress for success when interviewing)
  2. You’re hard to understand (verbal skills aren’t good)
  3. You exaggerate (don’t puff your experience or fib on your resume)
  4. You’re indiscreet (don’t ever bad mouth a past boss or employer)

….all apply to the job seeking process. I found the article a refreshing reminder of the barriers to success and getting job offers. With that said… read on! I have added a comment or two and put them in italics to distinguish them from Jeff’s original article. Many thanks to Jeff for letting me share this with you!

Jeff Mowatt

Jeff Mowatt

Whether it’s fair or not, we are often judged on first impressions. This harsh reality is nowhere better seen than in today’s ultra-fast business world where customers size-you-up in a nano-second based on your personal image. Since their impression of you will determine whether or not they want to do business with you (or interview you… or hire you), the impact on your career and on your organization’s bottom line can be staggering.

Ironically, when corporations bring me in to speak at conventions on how to boost customer retention, I often find that there’s been little or no professional training for employees about personal image. Since it’s often awkward to confront employees on these sensitive issues, you need some ammunition to make the task easier. Here are 4 image-related reasons that customers may not like you or your employees. Incidentally, customers will never tell you these reasons to your face — they’ll simply do business elsewhere.

1. You look different than expected.

Customers prefer conducting business with individuals who meet their visual expectations. So if you want to keep customers, dress in a manner that customers expect. A plumber dressed in an Armani suite makes the client uncomfortable. An alderman in khaki shorts would shock the council members of City Hall. A waitress with too much makeup, sporting tattoos and body piercing would likely put off a patron in an upscale restaurant. On the other hand, a bar tender in a conservative suit and tie may appall a customer in an alternative nightclub.

“But that’s not fair!” decry so many employees at the thought of being told what to wear. Again, first impressions may not be fair, but they are the realities of the business world. You hire employees to take care of customers — not for the sake of expressing their sartorial individuality. They can do that on their own time. Your job as a business owner or manager is to create an environment, including staff wardrobe, where your customers feel comfortable.

The most effective way to convey this message to employees is to have a written dress code. When writing your code, it’s best to check with an attorney for the laws that apply in your jurisdiction. The great thing about a dress code is it often weeds out would-be applicants who wouldn’t feel comfortable in that environment. That’s better for everone.

2. You’re hard to understand.

Customers don’t want to strain themselves to understand front line staff. If you or other employees don’t speak the local language clearly, then customers will generally go to your competitors where they won’t have to work so hard to communicate — or to spend their money. This is doubly important when speaking on the telephone, where customers don’t have the benefit of non-verbal communication to help them interpret what’s being said.

This concept has nothing to do with discrimination based on ethnic differences or nationality. It has to do with basic communication skills that are essential to do the job. If it’s a question of improving your knowledge of the local language, then take courses until you’re fluent and easy to understand- not just enough to get by. (If English is not your first language – enunciate very carefully and practice your verbal skills.)

3. You exaggerate.

Don’t exaggerate to tell customers what they want to hear. If a task will take 15 minutes to complete, don’t say, “It’ll only be 5 or ten minutes.” This is called lying. Customers hate that. Organizations that stay in business over the long term, adhere to the age-old adage, under promise and over deliver. ‘Nuff said.

4. You’re indiscreet.

‘Indiscreet’ describes the cashier at a self-serve gas station who chatted with his friends while I entered to pay. He barely stopped his conversation with his buddies to take my money. I felt like I was crashing a private party. I never went back.

While this obvious display of rudeness is relatively rare, a much more common example is when employees converse amongst themselves in front of the customer. Numerous times I’ve been on airplanes when the flight attendants, while rolling food carts down the aisles, are so engaged in their personal conversations that they barely stop long enough to take the dinner orders. Meanwhile every passenger has to listen to their private conversations, whether they want to or not.

To top-off the indiscretion list, far too many employees inadvertently tell customers more than they want to hear. For example, when a customer asks a front line employee, “How are you?”, they really don’t want to hear complaints. It’s just a greeting. Yet some employees take this as an excuse to complain with, “Oh, I’m 60-40″, or as a security guard once told me, “I’m vertical.” (Yikes)! Some employees respond with, “I’ll be great when my break starts.” In other words, the employee will be happy as soon as he or she can get away from their job and us — the customers. All of these indiscretions make customers wish they were dealing with professionals. (By careful of what you say and where you say it. I have heard far too many things I should have NEVER heard in elevators and from the next table over at lunch!)

There is hope.

Awareness of these problems is half the battle. A lot of employees simply don’t realize they’re committing these offenses. Another part of the solution is training. Bringing in a professional trainer to address the employees as a group provides the advantage of third party objectivity, in a fun non-threatening manner. One thing is clear though, if you do nothing about these issues, your business will continue to suffer without anyone else telling you why.

Jeff Mowatt is a customer service strategist, award-winning speaker, and bestselling author. For more tips, training tools or to inquire about engaging Jeff for your team visit www.JeffMowatt.com.

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

Job-Seeking Strategy – Uncovering the Hidden and Unpublished Job Market… another way to find a job!…..Part 2

hidden-job-market-970x451What is the “Hidden and Unpublished Job Market”?

The 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.

Last week we discussed in detail how do you get your foot in the door for these “hidden” jobs.

You do so by executing a self-marketing plan. It is 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. 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). To refresh your mind go to last week’s post.

In part 2 of this topic this week, I will discuss to whom you make these calls and some modifications depending on who you are calling.

OK… to whom do you make these calls?

Everyone! Yes – everyone you can think of!

You are going to make calls to your network of contacts…. with some modifications depending on who you are calling.

When calling business associates… follow the menu detailed last week 100%.

How about others to call other than business associates? Think of it this way… the person that sat in your dentist’s chair before you may well have bemoaned to your dentist the fact that he or she is having a tough time finding someone for a critical job…same for your doctor and same for your priest, minister, rabbi, etc.

You want to modify the opening resume request slightly to:

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

Depending on the frequency of contact with each person, you may need to remind them of who you are and how you and they are connected. If necessary, do so as was covered before with the “Bill” example.

“Say Frank – I have a favor to ask. Nothing heavy mind you, but important to me. I am in the process of changing jobs and trying to make sure I leave no stone unturned looking for opportunities.”

 “I would really appreciate it if I could email you my resume so you can see my work history and then give some thought as to who I should be talking to. I will also send you my target list of firms I am most interested in, and it would be great if you knew someone at any of them. Will you do that for me?”

“What is your email address?”

And… take it from there!

There might be some contacts where it is better to email your request with your resume and target list as attachments. For those that do not work with a telephone at hand – such as your doctor and dentist – this is a better approach. When you call and want to talk to those type of professionals, you are taking them away from their primary work. Better to let them hear your request on their “down time”.

OK… you now know how to tap into the “hidden job market”. Is this whole process a bit assertive? Yes, it is – and it is understandable that you might not be comfortable making these calls at first. Keep in mind two things – first, virtually all of the people you will call won’t think poorly of you for doing so. Second – it works and is a viable strategy for you to find a job. So – gut up and make the calls!!

I cover this topic in greater detail in The Ultimate Job-Seeker’s Guide in Chapter 9 … get your own copy for only $14.95 (or less at Amazon).

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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Strengthen Your Network…To Get That Job Offer!

Strengthen Your Network…to Get That Job Offer!

Often it will be via your network that your next job offer will materialize. You use your network to make connections that lead to job leads. Don’t overlook the “six degrees of separation” theory * ….where a friend of a friend, etc. can lead to you talking to the right person at the right time!

Building your network never ends and requires diligence to follow through on every-day events. Yet it is a most worthwhile endeavor. Leveraging your career is aided greatly by the breadth and quality of your network!

The following is adapted from an article by Lauren Thaler as appeared in the newsletter of BizConnect – a Washington, DC networking organization (http://www.bizconnectonline.com/).  Many thanks to Lauren and BizConnect for letting me share it with you! BizConnect is an organization worth looking into to expand your networking contacts!

networkingEffective networks can make a huge difference in your personal growth and success.  To say nothing of getting Final Four tickets, a physician referral while on vacation and a host of other very useful and practical end-results!

Lauren has some great thoughts how to improve and grow yours!! Read on…..

Strengthen Your Network by Lauren Thaler

As a motivated networker, you have likely given a lot of thought to how you network. Which networking groups and events should you join? How do you introduce yourself to a new contact? What is your approach to following up with potential clients or referral sources?

There is a lot of strategy behind networking—that’s for sure. And if you are like other network-minded people, you probably give more time and attention to these types of thoughts than the average working professional. In fact, it may sometimes feel like you already know everything there is to know about networking! Well – here are two ways to strengthen your network that you may not have thought of yet.

Consider building your network on personal interests and passions you enjoy instead of professional similarities like industry, organization, or job level. As Patricia Fletcher of Inc. Magazine astutely points out, “Our long-term constants provide the base from which we can grow into successful entrepreneurs and contributors to society.” Therefore, building your network on these constants may offer a better foundation than building your network on variables; your job and your industry of focus may very well change in the years to come.

You may have heard the next piece of networking advice, but we’re going to really dig into it and provide a new angle that you may not have thought of before. Traditional networking guidance suggests that we should try to meet new contacts based on what we would like to receive from them in the form of sales and referrals. However, have you considered a slightly different approach—Instead of using a method of what can be gained from others, consider an approach that puts you in charge of delivering the value. By helping or bringing value to others first, you are boosting your social capital and making a strong first impression. Being known as a giver instead of a taker often means that you will get more in return in the form of referrals, introductions and ultimately sales opportunities.

Have you tried these strategies before? If so, was there a noticeable improvement to your networking experiences? If you haven’t thought of growing your network in these ways, give them a try.     ########

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* Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.

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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The absolute worst – and dumbest – question to ask in an interview!

The absolute worst – and dumbest – question to ask in an interview!

I recently was at a dinner function talking to a senior HR manager at one of the Fortune 100 companies. She was in the process of hiring a new administrative assistant that would report to her.

As is usually the case in most interviews she asked “do you have any questions?” after she had completed asking her battery of questions to best understand the candidate,

You can't be serious!!

You can’t be serious!!

To which the person replied – here it comes – “Yes, I’d like to know how soon I can have a one-on-one lunch with the CEO?”

My dinner companion was stunned!! Had the candidate lost all perspective of what I call “the world of work”?? An AA working for a multi-national multi-billion dollar firm can count on NEVER having a one-on-one lunch with the CEO even if he or she is the AA to a senior corporate manager.

I have heard of many inappropriate questions candidate ask while interviewing… but this one “takes the cake”!!

Other equally WRONG questions you should never ask include:

“When can I count on getting a raise”? The correct question is “what is the performance and salary review process”?

“Does the company have any resort facilities for staff to use”? Dumb question – has no basis on the job-seeking process. You will find out soon enough is such a thing exists …and if you are far enough up the food chain to enjoy it!

“How big of an expense allowance do I get”? The issue of expense allowances only arise in two situations:

You will be traveling on company business …or you are interviewing for a sales position where you will incur everyday expenses (parking, tolls, etc.). The correct question in those circumstances is “How are travel/everyday expenses handled”?

“What kind of charitable work does the company support”? If this is important to you – discover the answer via research rather than taking time in an interview to ask it. Asking the question begs the response – “why – is it important to you”? Which in turn triggers in the interviewer’s mind that you might be more of a social activist than they want to bring on board.

In summary – there are right questions to ask … and there are wrong questions to ask. Be sure you know the difference!! Getting a job offer may depend on it.

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