interview tips

Your Career: Five Common Job Search Mistakes

By Kristen Harris

Looking for work might seem like a fairly straightforward process but, in fact, it’s quite complex.

There are several steps, a series of interactions, and multiple people involved in your search. Each stage of the process is filled with nuance and details. One false move can take you out of the running, and you may not even know it. The job search process is challenging and stressful enough without putting barriers in your own way.

Check yourself...are you making any of these five common job search mistakes? Be honest, or ask someone you trust for feedback. Sometimes we’re so close to a problem that it’s hard to have perspective. Once you’re aware of an issue, it’s much easier to correct and avoid that mistake in the future.

  1. A mismatch between your skills and the role. It’s important to really know yourself. What are your strengths? Skills? Experience level? Interests? What stage are you at in your career? What you do you want from your next role? Once you’re clear on these things for yourself, then compare your answers to every role in which you’re interested. Do your strengths and skills align with what the company needs? Are you at the right career stage for the role? Does it align with what you want, personally and professionally? Do you like the company? Are you interested in what they do? No job is perfect, but if there is a significant mismatch in several areas, move on to the next opportunity. This is not “the one”.

  2. Cookie-cutter communications. We live in a customized world; don’t send the same message to every contact or in response to every job opportunity. Customize your resume to highlight the exact skills and experiences the company is looking for. Highlight how you’re a great fit for that specific role and company in your cover letter or introductory email. Technology means every communication can be specialized to the recipient, yet people rarely receive truly personalized messages. Make the person on the other end feel as though you’re speaking directly to them and their needs.

  3. Typos in your resume. Typos and bad grammar reflect poorly on you and your work. Resume reviewers will immediately make judgments, and often it’s a shortcut to the trash bin. Not everyone is a great writer or speller, I get it. But, even if you are, find someone to proofread everything for you–your brain often fills in the gaps, it’s easier for someone else to find your mistakes.

  4. Not being prepared for the interview. As an interviewer, there are few things more painful than trying to connect with someone who is clearly not prepared for your conversation. Research the company before your interview (actually, before you apply, otherwise, how do you know you want to work there?). You’ll know what to wear (if you’re still not sure, ask the person scheduling the interview), and you can ask about something they’re working on or a project that was recently announced. Have questions prepared; this is a two-way conversation, and you need to know if it’s a good fit for you too. Be interested and engaged, do your part to make it a good conversation.

  5. Not using your network. Go beyond searching job boards, it’s important to utilize your network. Start with people you already know, personally and professionally, in your community or school, through alumni associations or industry groups. Connect with people online through platforms like LinkedIn. Attend events where people in your industry would be, catch up with people you know and ask them to introduce you to someone new. Then follow the cardinal rule of giving before asking. Even though you want someone’s help, first ask what you can do to help them. By giving first, you’ll establish trust and truly build a relationship; people are much more likely to help or recommend people they know and trust.

Whether looking for your first job, next job, or dream job, eliminating these five mistakes will help you get out of the way of your own success.

 

60 Seconds and You’re Hired: Interview Tips that Work

By Kristen Harris

This is it! Showtime. Your interview is scheduled, you’ve taken the time to prepare, and are confidently walking in the door, ready to go. Now it’s time to show them what you’ve got.

If you haven’t quite prepared for the interview yet, check out part one of this series— You’re Hired: Five Tips to Prepare for a Great Interview.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. For one reason or another, there’s an open role on their team. They have a problem, and think you might be the solution. Actually they hope you are, because they need to get on to the work, not just keep interviewing candidates. When you walk in the door or pick up the phone, that other person wants it to go just as well as you do.

By focusing on key parts of a successful interview, you’ll give yourself a better chance of being “the one.”

First Impressions.

You’ve planned ahead and arrived on time. Take a deep breath, smile, and enter the building with confidence. Greet the person at the front desk and politely ask for the contact you’re meeting. When your interviewer comes to greet you, exude confidence – stand up, make eye contact, smile, and offer a handshake.

Make it a Conversation.

Once the interview starts, think of it as a conversation, not an interrogation. Speak clearly and confidently. Don’t blurt things out; take a few seconds to consider your answer. Explain yourself, but don’t talk too much, ramble, or go on tangents. Answer their questions, focusing on the areas you think are important to the hiring manager. If you’re not sure what’s most important, ask–it’s a conversation.

Talk Less, Listen More.

Answer questions and participate in the conversation, but also listen to what they are saying. The interviewer will give you hints as to what they want, or come right out and tell you. They came in hoping you’re a good fit, listen to what they’re saying so you can show them that you are.

Watch Your Body Language.

Sit up straight, make eye contact, don’t fidget. Don’t fold your arms, it can come across as defensive or insecure; take up space and show confidence. Pay attention to what they’re doing and follow suit. Mirroring is a psychological technique to help connect with others.

Participate and Gauge Their Interest.

Make eye contact, nod your head, take a few notes–do the normal things that demonstrate you’re listening and participating in the conversation. Watch for signs they’re engaged, like leaning in or taking notes. If you see signs they’re losing interest, like fidgeting or checking the clock, ask a question or let them ask more questions to get the conversation back on track.

Turn Off Your Phone.

This gets it’s own section because it is SO important. Having your phone ring during an interview is distracting, interruptive, and just plain rude. If you forget and it rings, don’t answer! Apologize, silence the call, and turn off the ringer. Everything else can wait, there is nothing more important right now than this interview.

Wrap It Up.

Near the end of the interview they’ll probably ask if you have any questions. If they don’t ask, about ten minutes before the scheduled conclusion let them know that you have a few questions. Prioritize in case you run short of time, the interviewer will indicate when the interview is over. Thank them for their time and consideration. If they haven’t already told you, ask when they’ll be making a decision or what the next steps will be. Part with a good handshake, a friendly smile, and “I look forward to hearing from you”.

Walk out confidently, knowing that you’ve presented your best self. Now it’s time to send a thoughtful thank you note, and wait patiently for more information or the next step.

You’re Hired: Five Tips to Prepare for a Great Interview

By Kristen Harris

You have an interview! Maybe you’re a little nervous. It probably feels like there are a thousand things to remember. Whether it’s your first interview, or you haven’t interviewed in twenty years, being prepared can help tilt the outcome in your favor.

There are two sides to every interview, the person interviewing you and YOU. While it may seem like the interviewer holds all the cards, you have total control over one half of that equation.

Keep in mind that you both want the same thing— for this to be a good fit so you can move forward in the hiring process. No hiring manager wants to suffer through a bad interview or waste time talking to a string of people that are not a good fit. And you don’t want that either. Be prepared so you can be “the one”.

  1. Clothing and Grooming. Studies show you have between 7 and 30 seconds to make a first impression, and it’s often based on subtle cues we’re not even aware of. Never give someone a reason to not like you. I’m all for creative expression, but keep it appropriate for the situation. Find out the dress code at the company, and dress one step above that. Make sure everything is fresh, clean, in good condition, fits well, and smells good. That includes your clothing, body and hair (head and facial). Keep jewelry, makeup and scents to a minimum.
  2. Resume and Work Samples. Make any last-minute updates to your resume, and bring several copies in case you meet with more than one person. If work samples are expected for your role, have those ready to present as well. If everything is online, confirm they have the appropriate technology available or bring your own. If possible, bring a few printed samples in the event of a total technology fail. For more on this topic, read our blog on creative portfolio tips.
  3. Know the Location. There is no good reason to arrive late; you are being judged from the moment you arrive, so be on time. Plan ahead, map the address, calculate travel time, and do a trial run of the route. Identify parking, or ask your contact where to park. Arrive a few minutes early, relax, take a deep breath, and walk in about 10 minutes before your interview time. Calm, cool, collected.
  4. Know Your Contact. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people show up for an interview and can’t remember the name of the person they’re meeting. You’ll need the company name, address including floor or suite number, and name of the person you’re meeting. If someone else set up the interview, bring their information too. Write all of this down, put it in your phone, or be extra-safe and do both. A day or two before your interview, use LinkedIn to check out the person you’re meeting so you know what they look like, their background, experience, and anything you may have in common or want to ask about.
  5. Prepare Questions. Before you’re ready to walk in the door, practice the interview. Plan what you want to do and say, and think about questions they might ask. Walk through your resume and portfolio on your own, or with a trusted friend or colleague. What do you want to emphasize or highlight? Find a nice notebook to bring on the interview, and write down a few questions of your own. What do you want to know about the company, role, manager, team, or culture? What do you need to know to decide if this is a good fit for you?

Remember there are two sides to every interview. You’re in control of, and responsible for your part, so take the time to be prepared. Then relax and get ready to shine!

Product: Presenting the Best You

The 4 P's of Marketing Yourself: Product, Part 1

By Catherine Lang-Cline

There are millions of products on the market today. Yet somehow you are able to make choices as to what your favorite products are without spending much time comparing your options. What makes them stand out? What makes you choose them? It is the exact same process when it comes to companies making selections with vendors and their next employee. It is the one that stands out that gets chosen. With the competition being what it is, the question is, will it be you that they select?

Creating your strategy can be as easy as the 4 P’s; Product, Place, Promotion, and Price. Here we are going to talk about Product and the product is YOU. Here are some things to think about to get yourself ready— what we refer to as your “brand” or “image”.

Dress the Part

One of the first things I had to do before going out and shaking hands was to decide if I looked like the president of a company. I will admit that with some help, I did get there. So, go to a mirror and see how you look. Are you dressed in a confident and professional manner? You need to be dressed in a way that makes you look and feel confident because in essence, you are asking for someone to trust you and if you don’t look and feel confident, why would they work with you? You need to look like you can handle the job and that you can solve their problems. Nowadays, everything is pretty casual. Take that up a notch and stand out from the crowd. You know that you can look both cool AND casual. It is worth finding that balance because you’ll get an advantage if you give who you are meeting the respect they deserve. Find something that is flattering and comfortable and keep it simple. Create a “look” for yourself. Steve Jobs had a look. Jack Hanna has a look. Their look is a part of their personal “brand”. Pay attention to all of the details, they will want to work with someone that does.

Confident > Cocky

When you feel confident about a product you use, you talk very highly of it. How great it works, how it makes you feel. How do you talk about yourself? Come in with an attitude that is helpful and understanding. Introduce yourself with the confidence you have for your favorite laundry detergent. Talk about your strengths, your skills, your past work and how you can apply all of this to where they need help. Keep it confident, not cocky. Take on a tone that would make that other person want to hang out with you. Because if this all goes well, you will be hanging out a lot.

Research Your Audience

And before you get into selling you, get educated about the company you are visiting and the person that you are meeting with. If you can, do a little research on the web. If you can’t, look around at the environment and ask a few questions. People love it when you come prepared and flattered if you want to talk about them. You are selling you, but you also want to talk a lot about them. It demonstrates that you want to make this a relationship, you are not just selling something which makes people push back.

Attitude of Gratitude

Finally, your “product” should provide a friendly feeling, so smile and make eye contact. Think about how great this could be if this all works out. And always, always, always, thank them for the time that they spent with you. An attitude of gratitude goes a long way.

After all of this, what have we ended up with? We have someone walking in the room carrying their brand. They are confident, together, and have all of the skills that is needed to get the job done. Looking at a full shelf of products, you'll make their choice an easy one.

Read Part 2: Place from our 4 P's of Marketing series. 

What to Do (and Not Do) in an Interview

Steiner Skipness wanted to know what people say and do during job interviews that make them successful. Or not. To find out he set up a fake company, reviewed resumes and interviewed people. The fact that these people were wasting their time interviewing for a job that was not real may make you a little squeamish, but there is no doubt that the info he found out is incredibly interesting and useful. 28 interviews later he put together 22 tips on How to Nail an Interview. There are certainly some things that I would say are totally obvious...except for that fact that people really did them. Like listing all of the things he stole from previous employers, or saying she'd do "anything" for a male supervisor. Sad but true. 28 interviews later, and what did I learn? 22 tips

Resource Minute--Quick Job Hunting Tips

Sharon DeLay of Permanent Ink has added Resource Minute, short videos of human resources, hiring and recruiting experts providing tips related to job hunting. Yours truly will be found there, along with several other people. Check it out, they give some really good advice. New interviews are always being added so check back periodically for new tips and ideas.

Preparing for the Interview

Preparing for the Interview
Acing the Interview - a book about how to make a great impression at interviews. Author - Tony Beshara has been in the placement and recruiting business for 35 years. Here's what I liked:
  • Keeping records of when you talked to people and when they said you should hear back by, that way if they don't call you by the date specified you can call them.
  • Beshara gives you scripts - what to say to family, friends, and peers who might be hiring. He also gives a script for Voice mails. Voice Mails should be specific and succinct. You should say your phone number at least twice and slowly the second time. Repeat your name at least once.
  • Tell stories but don't go overboard.
  • List your Features, Advantages, and Benefits specific to you that make you unique.
  • Prepare for the interview by researching the company and the open position. Prepare questions for the interviewer.
  • Take notes - believe it or not, this makes you appear more intelligent and will help you later to think of questions! It also provides you with "ammunition" for the follow up.
  • Beshara provides you with a list of illegal questions, good to know before an interview. You don't have to answer illegal questions, but find a tactful way of declining to answer.
Beshara suggests questions to ask yourself before you go searching for a job. We don't always think of this, but in a way they prepare you to answer difficult questions that may come up in the interview. For example, if you ask yourself what disappointments you faced in a previous job, you will have a better answer when asked Why did you leave your previous job? or Why are seeking a new position? What is it that you need in a job? How do you handle disappointment or stress on the job? Asking yourself questions like this might also be able to help you uncover feelings that might have prevented you from successfully interviewing. What I didn't like:
  • Too much scripting.
  • Beshara suggests listing 10 or 12 descriptives to explain your work ethic right off the bat. I think this is too much. A list is just a list, it is better to state a few descriptives and explain what they mean to you and how you exemplify them
In Acing the Interview, Beshara ends with questions to ask once an offer is made.

The You Show

The You Show. Really, I can't say it any better than Seth Godin did in this post...an interview is a show that's all about you. Are you planning and putting on a show, or waiting for the audience to direct you? The risk is being so over-planned that you can't answer questions or react to your audience. But if you go in with a general idea of what you'll say and do, it can make the process less stressful and more enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable.

3 Things You MUST Do to Ace the Job Interview

Sharon DeLay is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. She wrote this article for our newsletter recently, we thought it was definitely worth a second read. Congratulations! You landed the job interview. What now? Many job candidates assume that their résumés will speak for them and that all they need to do is show up for the interview. This assumption is doubly dangerous if the candidates are working through a staffing or search firm, because they assume the intermediary (the staffing or search firm representative) has already sold them to the employer. As a matter of fact, the interview is where the candidate needs to really start working! To improve your interview experience and increase your chances of becoming the preferred candidate: Research. The number one deal breaker recruiters and hiring managers have identified is whether the candidate has taken the time to learn about the hiring company. With the abundance of information on the Internet today, employers believe candidates should be able to develop a basic understanding about the company, the market, and the company’s values and cultures before ever walking into the interview. Using the excuse that you’re “just” an accountant, graphic designer, janitor, etc. doesn’t work. To learn more about a company, do an Internet search and review the news coverage, as well as the company’s public Web site (including annual reports and the About Us section, as applicable). You can also ask your friends and colleagues what they know about the company. Adjust your attitude. A very close second is having a good attitude. Some employers have even said this is more important to them than the skill level of the individual. They are willing to invest in training if the candidate’s attitude is stellar and a good fit for the company. To demonstrate a good attitude, always smile. Practice answering your interview questions in front of a mirror and check to see if you have a relaxed, approachable (and smiling) visage. Also, avoid using the interview as a platform for voicing your displeasure over your last job or boss. No matter what the truth is, always formulate your answers to be positive and forward-looking. The past is just that. Learn from it and move on. Create value. Of course, employers want to know you have the basic required skill set to do the job. However, all that gets you is consideration as a candidate along with several others. To separate yourself from the pack, you need to demonstrate how you can help the company do the same. When you talk about your skills and experience, do it in the manner that demonstrates how what you have done has added value to your past employer. Use quantifiable information, discuss efficiencies you’ve introduced and revenue or savings you’ve generated. Simply reiterating your job description only proves you met the basic job requirements.

Interview Etiquette--Take Two

Shud U B Concerned? R U at Fault? The first part of this survey report showed some areas where what the interviewer expected was different from the behavior of some candidates. (Answering your cell phone in an interview? Seriously people.) This second part shows some interesting insight into expectations job seekers have that interviewers may not live up to as well.