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08/29/10
Describing Yourself In An Interview
Filed under: Networking, Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:47 am

In both interviews and one-on-one networking meetings, you want to have a good answer to “Tell Me About Yourself.” 

Even if you are never asked the question, you want to find a way to work this into your presentation.  This is how you draw
for the other person the picture you want of what you bring to the table. 
Instead of the other person focusing a lot of their attention on trying to
draw their own picture, you’ve put your own stake in the ground first.


One way to present it that I have found to be quite successful is the “HERO Story” approach.  Here is my template for crafting a powerful HERO Story:
http://www.JHACareers.com/HEROStory.htm

Just don’t make the mistake of memorizing a story that
comes out exactly the same every time you tell it. As soon as ANY answer is
the “Best” answer, it ceases to even be a “good” answer, because it starts
to sound rehearsed and phony.


I often advise people to come up with the
best answer they can, and then to tear up the script. Having your story (or
any answer) come out a little bit different every time you tell it keeps it
fresh and real.

comments (0)
05/23/10
Flaws In Your Résumé or Background
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 7:48 pm

I was reading Abby Kohut’s excellent book, Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets, and came across this statement:

“Prepare a good reason for any gaps on your resume in addition to an explanation of what activities you were involved in that may have enhanced your career, including personal activities.  Gaps are typically not the reason why candidates are rejected.  It’s the inability to explain them sufficiently, and or a lack of confidence about them that is likely to be a concern for recruiters.”

I concur 100%.

Candidates are always worried about their flaws.  This is natural.  However, it’s generally not the flaws themselves that hold them back, it’s how they deal with them.

If you present with confidence, and have a good response to questions about your flaw, that will go a long way to minimizing the impact of that flaw.

For example, consider this most difficult situation - where a candidate was actually fired (unfairly) from their last job - this post walks through how to deal with that simply and with confidence:

http://johnhadley.jhacareers.com/?p=45

The key in these cases is to not dwell on the flaw, and to focus on the future - what you can do, what you hope to do, what you have learned from the problem that will ensure it will never happen again - whatever answer best fits your situation.  Make it simple, and then shift attention to what you can confidently do.

One other point:  Any time there is a gap or other flaw in your background, you are going to be much easier to screen out when you are trying to come through the front door, competing head to head with every other candidate who knows about an opening.  The busy HR screener or recruiter who is thumbing quickly through 100’s of
résumés to find the handful to present to a hiring manager is that much more likely to take a pass on yours.

This cries out for even more emphasis on networking.  When you talk to someone outside of the “is he / she qualified for this job” evaluation mode, you have a chance to get that person engaged.  You can talk about your package.  You can explain (briefly) the flaw in context.  And you can get then thinking about why you would be a great candidate, so that you can come into being evaluated for a position with a supporter.

For more on how to make this networking happen, see these articles:

http://www.JHACareers.com/ArticlesNetworkingBL.htm

comments (0)
01/01/10
Phrases to Kill Your Search, #3
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Search Killer Phrases
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:07 am

“I’m a results-oriented professional…”

or this variation:

“Proven results in…”

These are used all the time in résumés and cover letters, or even in oral 30 second pitches…and they do absolutely nothing for you. 

Remember the adult voices on all the Charlie Brown specials, how they were purposely designed not to be understood?  That’s basically what empty phrases like these sound like; all the other party reads or hears is “blah, blah, blah.”

The problem is that these are just statements that you produce results, instead of demonstrations.  It’s easy to simply say you produce results or are results-oriented, and saying it doesn’t make it true, or make me any more likely to believe it.

Instead, give concrete examples of the results you produce.  Let the readers and listeners conclude from your examples that you are ‘results-oriented’, instead of trying to hit them over the head with it.

For example, if I was trying to show someone that I was “results-oriented,” instead of:

“I have proven results in helping my clients with their job searches.”

This would be much more powerful:

“Kevin had been out of work for 2 years, and within a few months of working together was back at the job and pay he deserved.  And a simple technique I showed him earned him an additional $10,000 of base salary.”

or

“Tom had 15 months of interviews without a single offer.  Within 1 week of attending my Winning Interviews course, he was weighing 2 competitive job offers.”

So strike empty statements that say you have results from your repertoire, and instead show the proof of the results.

And have a Happy New Year!

9 comments
12/17/09
Phrases To Kill Your Search
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Career, Search Killer Phrases
Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:13 pm

In my travels, I get to hear and see a lot of elevator pitches, marketing messages, sales pieces, cover letters, résumés, engagement bios, etc.  Most of these include phrases that range from meaningless to unhelpful to seriously detrimental to any attempt to market yourself or your practice. 

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to publish my thoughts on many of these.  I invite your comments, and suggestions as to other phrases that frustrate you.  Drop me an email at John@JHACareers.com, or simply insert your phrase in a comment here, and I’ll promote it to a new topic.

OK, here’s the first:

“I have transferrable skills.”

Ask yourself what the potential hiring manager or networking contact is hearing.

“I hope someone will consider me for something that my skills might apply to.”

or

“I don’t have confidence to present myself directly for a role I might want, so I’ll simply say my skills are transferable.”

or

“I’m not willing to commit to any one thing.”

Not exactly awe-inspiring messages, are they?

Instead of saying this, come up with a description of the type of problem you can solve with those ‘transferrable skills’, as relevantly as you can make it to your ideal target area, and then talk about that!

 

14 comments
11/01/09
Uncovering Company Culture
Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:34 pm

This is the question that was posed:

“The more you know about a company’s culture, the easier it can be to tell what what you can offer to them if there is a match. I wanted to know how you would go about finding which company is the right fit in an industry:

My response

Face to face networking doesn’t require attending expensive events. It would be a good idea to get involved with a professional association or other networking group focused on your industry / job target, but that is only a piece of networking. True networking is 1-on-1 meetings with people outside of events, where you have their undivided attention for 30 minutes or more to equip them to understand your target, and why you would make an outstanding contribution there.

Attending selected events where you will meet the right sorts of people is a great way to make initial connections to some of the right people, so that you can then follow up and schedule those 1-on-1 meetings. You can also make connections through:

You can reach out through LinkedIn and other social / business media to find people of interest, and try reaching out to them to get a chance to chat and build them into your network. You can write directly to senior people at companies of interest expressing what you might bring to the table for their operations and asking to meet with them. You can read the trade press, and search for press releases and other stories on the industry and target companies.

And, of course, you can go on interviews and ask probing questions about the way the company operates to establish what sort of culture they have.

1 comment
09/24/09
Quick Tip for Phone Interviews
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:24 am

I’ve had a lot going on lately, so I haven’t been as diligent about posting.  I welcome your comments on any issues frustrating you about your career or career search, and then I’ll address those issues here.

In the meanwhile, you can listen to this quick tip on effective phone interviewing (from the candidate’s point of view):

Quick Tips for Phone Interviews
 
 
Subscribe to my RSS feed of this Career Accelerator Blog at:
http://johnhadley.jhacareers.com/?feed=rss2

comments (0)
08/26/09
Think Outside The Box
Filed under: Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:41 pm

In my August issue of Career Tips, I wrote about the benefits of volunteering to make yourself more marketable, and some potential traps to avoid.  (If you would like a copy, just drop me a note at John@JHACareers.com)

Another form of ‘volunteering’ is the unpaid internship or ’sample’ consulting project.  Basically, you are giving a prospective employer something for free to demonstrate the value you can add.  Be sure to make this a quid pro quo - where you are getting something substantive in return.  Your received value could be a reference / recommendation, the chance to build up your skills and accomplishments in a new venue, or even just a commitment to consider you for a future paid opportunity. 

I’d suggest making the value you are going to receive explicit. 

For example, if it’s the ‘consider for the future’ option, then get agreement in advace to a point in time when that consideration will take place.  This could be a time line, like 2 months after you start, or when a deliverable takes place, such as when you complete the project.  By making this tradeoff explicit in advance, you present yourself as a more confident professional, and someone with negotiation skills.  You also avoid the awkwardness of wondering when to ask, having the project just continue dragging on, etc.

Another technique is to simply ask a lot of questions and offer concrete suggestions, demonstrating your insight and the value you can add.  This can get people in a frame of mind where they are interested in helping you, or in getting more of your insight for themselves.  One great example was just sent me by someone who had been struggling with her search for some time:

“Here’s how I landed my job:  I was reading the classifieds, and noticed an attorney’s ad which had incorrectly stated an area of law.  I thought to myself, “does she know her ad is incorrect or does she not know what she’s doing relative to this area of law”.  I decided to call, introduce myself and ask her about the ad. 

She thanked me for bringing it to her attention, and asked me to tell her more about myself.  She asked my availability to come in for an interview, and fewer than 72 hours later we met, and I’ve been there since that day!!”

comments (0)
06/13/09
Don’t Overlook Fit To Job
Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Career
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:20 pm

I was struck by a phrase in a posting about a job as follows:

“Cultural fit will be very important…looking for an all-around athlete that is easy to get along with”

This is a point that many candidates overlook - they are so worried about ’selling themselves’ that they forget to take a really close look at the opportunity, and particularly the culture, to see if it’s a fit to what THEY want.

This is a recipe for disaster.  I can cite 2 specific examples:

1. Many years ago, someone I know was very distracted by family issues that were leading him to make a transition to be nearer family.  He accepted a job, only to realize immediately upon arriving that he really didn’t want that specific job.  He turned in his resignation after only a few weeks.  (The good news for me was that I ended up landing the job immediately after, and it was my Dream Job!)

2. Not too far back, someone I knew was in a panic about landing a job, found a job title that sounded good and sold himself for it through a networking contact.  He neglected to dig into the specifics of how the job was done, landed it, and then called me his 2nd day on the job to tell me how miserable he was.  He quit within a week.  (The good news is that shortly thereafter he landed a totally different job that suited his talents and style very well, and has had great success with it.)

On the other hand, operating from a psychology where you have the confidence to project that you are there to evaluate them as much as for them to evaluate you is a powerful position that produces a much stronger result for you in the interview.

Here’s an article for anyone interested in more on this:

http://www.JHACareers.com/WinningMindset.htm

comments (0)
05/10/09
Negotiating A Higher Starting Salary
Filed under: Interview, Salary, Negotiation
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:28 pm
“The last company I worked for was small and didn’t pay very well. I gained a lot of experience but my pay doesn’t match my last position. I am attempting to get interviewed/hired into a position that is a step up from my last position and a large jump in pay but I am having trouble overcoming the “what was your last pay rate” question. One person who called me actually laughed at me. How can I handle this situation?”

You need to focus on what you bring to the table:

  • Research what the market pays for the job you want.
  • Match up your experience and skills to the position description for that job.
  • Put together your compelling accomplishment stories that back up the results you will bring to that position and demonstrate that you are worth the market pay.

    Now present yourself relative to the market, not relative to what you happened to be making before.When the question comes up, don’t play their game:

  • Start with an answer about the market value of the position, and why you are worth that level.
  • Focus on the value you bring to the table for that role, rather than attempting to explain why you are making less than market value.
  • If/when what you were making before becomes an issue, make your answer very simple, along the lines of the following:
  • “As a small company, XXX didn’t have the budget to pay market value, but I saw this as a chance to gain valuable job experience. I am confident I will be able to do x, y, z for the right company, and from my market research understand that this is worth “$XXX,XXX”
  • comments (0)
    05/02/09
    “Old Hand” Needs New Tricks
    Filed under: Networking, Interview, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:00 pm

    “John, I took your “5 Secrets” seminar in 2005, when the software company I worked for essentially collapsed. I then went with another small software start-up, which was acquired last year “at below market rates” and was immediately laid off by the acquiring company.

    Since then I have pursued two directions:

    1. My passion, returning to my “roots” — a history in and marketing to the energy industry, and
    2. Small software companies where my senior marketing could help a company grow.
    Both industries are hurting, in spite of all the hoopla about energy, so the going has been tough. I’ve been networking extensively in energy and high tech arenas, but am not seeing opportunities. The market is such that companies are picking only “perfect” matches to their requirements, while I have a quite diverse set of leadership capabilities.

    I’d really like to get back into energy, but there seems to be a presumption on many people’s part that an “old energy hand” can’t learn new tricks, even though I was creating the new tricks up to 2002, and have stayed in touch with developments all along.

    Do you have any suggestions?”

  • What can you do to actively present your diverse set of experiences as an advantage, instead of allowing others to assume it’s a negative (lack of focused, current experience)?
  • Are you clearly expressing powerful results, rather than ‘experience’?
  • What are you doing to show you aren’t an “old” energy hand - to counter the typical concerns someone might have about that - not being up to speed on current developments, not being that good at current technology, being stuck in your ways, not having the level of energy & passion someone younger might, talking about ‘how we used to do things’, etc.?
  • Are you making sure you have an up-to-date appearance and style of dress?
  • It is my belief that there are jobs out there, if you develop a strong, focused marketing message and present it well. Just a few weeks ago, USA Today had a front page article about the boom in jobs in 3 sectors - Health Care, Government and Energy. In fact, I have an older client who is carving out a consulting business in the energy field, and expects to be in 6 figures by year end. He came into it from an IT infrastructure perspective, with no particular background in energy, and has quickly become a sought after expert in his particular niche.

    Good luck!

    2 comments
    04/19/09
    Tricky Interview Questions
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:54 pm

    “In one of my interviews, I was asked the following questions:

  • What are the qualities that “you think” your collegues like in you?
  • What are the traits that “you think” are disliked?

  • I just wanted to know how should we answer such a question and what is the purpose of such a questions?”

    These are just a variation on the standard “Strengths and Weaknesses” question, couched in terms of traits, and given some appearance of objectivity by framing it around what others would say. You need to have given a lot of thought in advance as to what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you would answer questions about them.

    The purpose is to get you to share things that you might not have been inclined to share otherwise, and perhaps to trip you up around the ‘dislikes’ question. You might share some serious weaknesses that will make my hiring decision easier.

    And you might reveal any of these:

  • That you aren’t very self-aware; you don’t know what others think about you.
  • That you are arrogant, and believe everyone thinks extremely highly of you, and that you like to brag about that.
  • That you don’t have good answers to questions, and can’t think on your feet well.
  • That you get uncomfortable when asked about certain things, or when discussing certain types of things, which tells me that’s an area I should probe more in the interview or with your references.

  • The best way to answer these is to have a clear picture in your own mind of your strengths and weaknesses, and then to:

  • Be very matter of fact about the former, giving key examples / results to back them up, and
  • Minimize the latter, avoiding a discussion of a laundry list of negatives, and showing for any you do reveal: (1) what you have done to work on them, and (2) what you will continue to do, so that (3) they are presented as something I shouldn’t be worried about in hiring you.
  • By the way, never reveal a weakness that is core to a critical job function, as that will likely get you ruled out, unless you can very clearly demonstrate that it is no longer a weakness.

    3 comments
    Interview Tips for Academics
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 8:38 am

    Here’s an insightful article on interviewing for academic jobs, particularly for higher education:

    http://chronicle.com/jobs/news/2008/12/2008121801c.htm?pg=dji

    And for more help in overcoming common issues in interviewing, see these blog entries:

    http://johnhadley.jhacareers.com/?cat=4

     

    comments (0)
    04/06/09
    Explaining Why You’re Looking
    Filed under: General, Networking, Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 4:20 pm

    “How should I handle a question as to why I would consider leaving an employer that I have been with for a relatively short time? I have been employed with my current employer for 7 months, the previous employer was for 8 years.”

    You need to keep your answer short and simple…the longer the answer, the more apologetic it will sound, and the more you will be emphasizing the past instead of the future. Think very carefully about why you left, and how you can put that in a way that doesn’t critcize your employer. Then give a short (1 or 2 sentence) explanation, followed by either what you’ve learned from that (if it was an involuntary resignation, or performance-related in any way), or what you are seeking now.

    For example:
    “I was hired by XYZ to become a project manager in the IT area. Shortly after I joined them, there was a restructuring, so that the position no longer fit my long term goals. What I’m looking for now is …”

    And it will be strongest if the “looking for now” expresses a result you expect to be able to bring to that role, or a challenge you can help your target employer overcome.

    comments (0)
    03/07/09
    Responsibilities
    Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:49 pm

    Candidates so often focus on their responsibilities, duties and experience in their résumé, cover letter, elevator pitch, etc.

    This is an interest killer. Talking about things you were responsible for doesn’t say anything about the quality of your work or the results you can produce.  The only reason I would hire you is because I believe you will produce results that I am interested in, so go directly to those.

    So what if you were “responsible for managing a unit of 10 engineers”? What about that says you were any good at managing them? And it’s a very passive statement to boot!

    “Responsible for” is so easily eliminated - instead of the above, just say “Managed a unit of 10 engineers” - now it’s an active statement. And then add a result, like “Managed a unit of 10 engineers that generated 3 new revenue-genering products within only 1 year.”

    So, please, avoid my pet peeve of focusing your message on what you were responsible for, what duties you performed, and your years of experience in a certain area!

    Here are some other simple tips for creating a powerful résumé:

    http://www.JHACareers.com/Vol1Resume.htm

    comments (0)
    02/28/09
    Former Boss Sabotages Reference Checks
    Filed under: Networking, Interview, Performance
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 1:45 pm

    “I have one documented reference check on my most recent former boss, which shows that she talked in detail responding to questions about items in my resume with the caller.  This is totally against company policy, which I drafted while I worked there and implemented with our department, which is to only verify dates of employment and titles on telephone requests for information on former employees, and not provide any other information on an employee without a written authorization from the employee to do so. She said things like this: 

    - when asked if I provided full scope recruiting assistance as stated in my resume, she “clarified” that I did not recruit employees, just did recruiting coordination. 

    This is false, because I had full involvement in recruiting from administering the employee requisition system through placing employment ads to drug screening and employment reference checking to interviewing to preparing job offers to performing new hire orientations. 

    Why my former boss is doing this is a mystery to me.  We did not part on bad terms, and I was specifically told that I was not being cut due to any performance or personal issues.  I had seven years of good to excellent performance evaluations and various recognition awards on a regular basis.

    Whatever the reason, it really worries and bothers me.  It is more and more apparent that I am losing financially by losing opportunities because of what someone is saying about me.  I know it is defamation and I know I could go to a lawyer but I’m much more interested in other more creative, positive ways to gain a new career opportunity beyond the reach of this person’s bad intentions. 

    I don’t know if being proactive and saying that my most recent boss is not giving me a truthful reference and I don’t know why and I don’t want employers contacting her would be something that will cripple my job prospects as much as letting them call and talk to her.

    It is looking like the best thing to do at this point is to contact her and ask her not to give any information about me other than verifying my employment, per company policy, possibly through my lawyer.  I think it will be better not to have a real reference from her than to have her giving out false information that is costing me job offers.  Someone suggested I ask her for a written reference to give employers instead of a call, and I guess I could try that, but I’m afraid she’ll say no because I got a (weak) letter of reference with my severance agreement. I have been more focused on finding ways to tell prospective employers verbally that they do not have my permission to talk to her and explain it in a positive way.  I do have plenty of other references from people who know my skills, experience, abilities, interests, character and work ethics, but she is a key, being my most recent direct supervisor for the last seven years.”

    That’s a very frustrating position to be in!

    First thought - what evidence do you have that it is your former boss’s bad reference that is the problem?  Have you been told that by the company after their reference check?  Are you certain there isn’t more to it than that, and whatever feedback from the boss is just the easy excuse they use for turning you down?

    Assuming it truly is the boss, examine carefully what the boss would be saying about you and why.  What, if anything, did you contribute to the situation that might lead him / her to give negative feedback?

    Next, think about what you have done or can do to ensure that whatever led to the negative feedback will never happen again.  Construct your confident story about the situation, what you learned from it, and how you will deal with these situations in the future.  No one expects perfection, and everyone has made mistakes in the past.  The key is to show that you’ve learned from it and won’t make the same mistake in the future.

    Finally, at the point where you need to share info about past bosses, and there is a possibility of a reference check, share the bad news yourself.  If the hiring manager finds this out first from your past boss, he/she is going to feel you were hiding something, and your credibility is shot.  Be very up front.  Tell them that you didn’t separate from your past employer on the best of terms, and this is why.  And most importantly, this is what you’ve learned from it. Convince me that this is a problem in the past that won’t be a problem in the future.

    You might also try reaching out to your past boss, very professionally, requesting that he/she not comment on your work (either positively or negatively) to prospective employers.  And seek positive references you can get from others that can counterbalance whatever the employer might say.

    4 comments
    02/22/09
    Dealing With An Unfair Termination
    Filed under: General, Networking, Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:55 pm

    “I was recently terminated from my employer of twelve years due to a company infraction of which I am innocent. I was fired for allegedly taking some training notes from a co-worker, which had no value to me. I am innocent but now I find myself in a situation where I have no idea how to approach a perspective employer.”

    You should think about this as two separate (but linked) issues:
    1. What to do about the bad mark on my employment record.
    2. How to answer “Why did you leave your last employer?”

    Difficult as this can be emotionally, you need to work at putting your natural anger at the unfair treatment behind you before you can really deal with #2 effectively. If networking contacts and potential hiring managers see the anger, it will interfere with making strong connections to them, and greatly diminish their interest in connecting you to possible opportunities or influential referrals. You need to come across as the consummate professional, who can talk about unfortunate occurrences without badmouthing past employers. When you are successful in doing this, people will be very impressed. You are defined much more by how you deal with your challenges than by the challenges themselves.

    Regarding #1, you should see what you can do to get your record cleared. It might be worthwhile to have a consultation with an attorney well-versed in employment issues. I wouldn’t recommend suing your past employer, except as a last resort, but it may be that a letter or other contact from an attorney can result in a change in the official record to show that you left due to, say, a staff redundancy instead of “for cause.”

    You will also want to spend a little time thinking about the personal issues you had with your supervisor. Be brutally honest with yourself in exploring what piece, however small, you might have contributed to those issues, and how you might have reacted differently to create a more positive response. You may want to talk through this with a trusted advisor to help you see it from a third party perspective. The key is to uncover any blind spot that could haunt you in the future, and to make sure that you are better prepared to deal with any future situation that touches on this. This could also be the making of a great story to tell in an interview about a past weakness and what you have done to work on it.

    Now, let’s move on to the 2nd issue, “Why did you leave your last employer?”

    Whatever the result is of attempts to clear your record, you need to be as honest as you can be without openly badmouthing your past employer. Think carefully about your answer and practice it with others, asking them to be brutally honest in their feedback. Work on it until you can deliver your message professionally and without negative emotions.

    Obviously, this will be much easier for you to do if you have managed to clear your record. If you haven’t, think about answering the question in stages, depending on how deeply the other person insists on probing, and what stage in the hiring process you are in. For example, here’s one possible scenario for addressing this.

    At the earliest stage, your answer could be as simple as:
    “There was a misunderstanding that led to a parting of the ways.”

    If the person inquires further, then you might share:
    “My supervisor mistakenly thought I had taken some training notes from a co-worker, and let me go.”

    If pressed further, you might say:
    “Frankly, I’m disappointed that I was not afforded the opportunity to defend myself, but I’ve moved on. If you don’t mind, I would prefer to focus on why I would be an outstanding candidate for this opportunity.”

    Keep in mind that if you don’t get through at least the first two stages (above) with your interviewer by the end of the conversation and it looks like they might do some fact or reference checking, you would be better off revealing the situation before they find out on their own. You don’t want them to think you were dishonest with them because you didn’t share it. To avoid that, you could volunteer the second stage yourself, and be prepared to answer any questions that arise as a result.

    Finally, you should think about who you could come up with as a reference to your character and honesty, and make sure to include that person in every reference list you give out. You could even work that into your answer above, adding something like, “I pride myself on my honesty, and would encourage you to address that with any of my references.”

    1 comment
    12/29/08
    The Power Of Thank You Notes
    Filed under: General, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Career
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:12 pm

    My son ran into his High School AP Biology teacher at the grocery store yesterday.  George was thrilled to see him, and told him how much he appreciated the thank you card Michael sent him for writing a recommendation letter in support of Michael’s scholarship application.  George went on to say, “Out of the hundreds of AP students I’ve written recommendations for, how many thank you notes do you think I’ve received?”

    His answer:  “Zero.”

    Just think about what a difference it makes to someone to be appreciated!  Michael literally made his mentor’s day with that card.  How much influence and (positive) visibility will you create for yourself just by simple steps like this, where all you are doing is the right thing - something our parents and grandparents taught us?

    And with the low percentage of people who take the time to take the extra step to thank people in writing (even if it’s by email), you have a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd!

    By the way, George also commented on how professional the card was that Michael sent him.  If you’re interested in a simple system that will make it extremely easy (and inexpensive) to send very professional, personalized cards, here’s what Michael used, and what I use in my own business, as well as for all my personal birthday, anniversary, holiday, etc. cards:

    http://www.SendOutCards.com/24906

     

    2 comments
    12/27/08
    How To Kill Every Interview
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 2:14 pm

    (Re-Printed by popular request, from my Career Tips newsletter)

    Don’t you just hate getting invited in for too many interviews? Especially those where you might end up forced to expend precious mental energy evaluating a lucrative offer for your dream job? To save a lot of time and energy, here are some tried and true methods to ensure you kill off those interviews as quickly as possible.

    1. Don’t Bother With Research

    This is a big time-waster. After all, if there’s something important you need to know about the job, the company, its goals, etc., the interviewer will tell you. That’s their job.

    Why should you spend any time in advance of the interview poring over job descriptions, reviewing key information on the company website, reading the company’s annual report and press releases, and reaching out to your network to see who can give you insights into the company’s challenges, key players in the department, etc. Who’s going to be impressed by your efforts, anyway? It’s not like they are paying you to do any of that.

    And why bother to ask for the departmental organization chart, or an interview schedule with names & titles of the interviewers? You’re not going to Google them or look them up on LinkedIn or ZoomInfo ahead of time, are you? You’ll be introduced to them as you go along, so why rush it?

    2. Don’t Worry About Your Psychology

    Hey, you’re SUPPOSED to be nervous in interviews. People expect that. Why disappoint them? Why bother with any of those calming techniques to build your confidence walking into the interview?

    And you SHOULD walk in with an a psychology of scarcity - there are probably thousands of people interviewing for the job, and you’re no better than any of them, and probably a lot less qualified than many. So just accept that and get on with it.

    3. Why Develop Rapport?

    After all, the hiring manager is going to be your BOSS, not your FRIEND! Why would you want to develop rapport with him or her? It’s not like they are going to be more likely to hire you just because they like you, is it? Those stories about supposedly less-qualified people getting jobs because someone liked them are just fairy tales.

    4. Focus on Your Years of Experience, and Duties You’ve Performed

    Don’t you just jump up and get all excited when someone tells you they’ve been doing a particular job for 15 years? Isn’t it really interesting when they talk about all of their duties? Of course it is! Dive deep down into all of the details you can remember, taking as much time as you like for every story.

    Don’t worry about expressing the results you’ve achieved. Those take too much mental energy to draw out of your past accomplishments in the first place, and besides, it’s so hard to quantify them. And I’m sure busy executives are going to be very sympathetic, and won’t draw any conclusions about your work ethic or leadership potential just because you have trouble doing that.

    5. Save Your Questions For The End Of The Interview

    If you actually take the time to develop some insightful questions of your own ahead of the interview, don’t make the mistake of wasting them early on. Always save them for the right time, like when the interviewer asks “Do you have any other questions?” Otherwise, you’re going to look like a real loser when you can’t think of anything else to say - since there probably won’t be anything shared during the interview that would make sense to follow up on.

    Besides, if you ask questions early on, you risk turning the interview into a CONVERSATION! Heaven forbid! You might actually have to interact with the interviewer, building unnecessary rapport and showing that you are more than someone who can answer questions when asked.

    I’m sure employers will be very impressed that you saved the most insightful questions you could think of for the very end of your discussion! And they’re probably hoping that they won’t have to spend much time exploring such big questions, so if you time it right, they won’t have to!

    6. Why Waste Time On Challenges?

    You’ll find out about their challenges soon enough once you’re hired, so why waste energy exploring them during the interview? Focus instead on everything about you - your experience, the job titles you’ve held, and the objectives you have for your own career. It’s not like having a deep discussion about the company’s, department’s or boss’s issues is going to have any influence. That’s not why they hire someone, to solve their challenges, is it?

    7. Don’t Bother With Thank You Notes

    No one reads these, right? Thank you’s are just an outdated concept that only our grandmothers expected of us. Sure, you could go to the effort of trying to write a marketing document that describes why you would be a great addition to their team, based on everything you learned in the interview, but isn’t it THEIR job to take good notes and figure that out for themselves?

    Even if you are going to bother with a thank you, at least don’t waste time writing to everyone you met with - just go straight to the top. No one else has any influence, and you don’t really care what they think about you. It’s not like the hiring manager might compare notes with them before making a decision!

    Just follow this prescription, and I personally guarantee you won’t be wasting your precious time weighing any annoying job offers!

    And if you are really ready to work on doing the RIGHT things to give yourself the best chance to turn interviews into offers, check out my Interview Boot Camp at:

    http://www.JHACareers.com/InterviewBootCamp.htm

    comments (0)
    11/28/08
    Recontacting Recruiter
    Filed under: Interview, Recruiters
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:06 pm

    Posting to a networking group I belong to

    I applied for a job in July and recieved an interview but did not get the position. The recruiter gave me her business card and told me if I ever have any questions to contact her.  Recently I found a new post on a new position at the same company.  Is it OK for me to contact the same recruiter I had an interview with and tell her I am interested in the new position that has just been posted.  Or would it hurt me to contact her and she remembers that I did not get the last position I applied for at the company?

    My response

    There’s nothing wrong with contacting the recruiter again - she did say to do so if you ever have any questions. Even if she hadn’t, there would be nothing wrong with reaching out.

    The key is to examine why you didn’t get the job offer the last time:

    Did you seek feedback last time as to why you didn’t get the job? You want to make a habit of doing this, so that you can be more successful on future interviews. You may not get feedback in a lot of cases, but if you ask the question in a very professional manner, it can do no harm, and may actually result in converting some of the people you’ve met into potential networking contacts.

     

    And for more on how to make the most effective use of recruiters, see this article:

    http://www.JHACareers.com/ArticlesRecruiters.htm

    comments (0)
    11/15/08
    Interview or Free Consulting?
    Filed under: Interview
    Posted by: John Hadley @ 5:44 pm

    This question was posted to an on-line group

    “Last year I was asked by four companies to give them article ideas and suggestions for improving their products. After spending considerable time on these requests, I still got turned down.  I was told it wasn’t the quality of my work, rather, the other candidate just had a little more experience in the subject area. At this point, I no longer want to do this anymore. I mentioned this situation in a Resume Critique session and someone there said, “Oh yes, free consulting!” He said that he had also been asked for free advice and he politely turns those requests down now. My question is, how can I politely turn down a request like this? No matter what I come up with, it sounds like I’m just not interested in the company. That’s not necessarily true; I just don’t want to spend more time giving a company something for nothing. Can anyone share their experience with this and how they handle it?”

    Here was my response

    In large measure, this boils down to your psychology, and having confidence that you offer incredible value to a potential employer / client that they should be willing to pay for.

    When you give too much concrete information, so that they feel they have the information they need to solve their problems, they are out of ‘pain’, and may feel they don’t really need you anymore. I’ve seen this happen many times, where the prospective employer / client says (usually just in their head), “Very interesting, let me run with this and I’ll come back to John once I’ve tried this.”

    Or a less honest approach, “Let me see what my internal candidate / resource can do with this proposal John’s given me …”

    There are 2 things you should do:

    1. When you decide to respond to such a request, make sure to focus on surfacing the issues / questions rather than simply answering them. Give some ideas, and give a clear picture of HOW you will solve the issues (perhaps with specific examples of similar problems you have solved in the past), but without providing the actual solution. Your goal is to have the solution be to hire you, not to implement the concrete suggestions you have already provided them.
    2. Have the confidence to push back when needed. If it’s clear that someone is simply looking for free consulting, don’t play the game. Show them the evidence of how you will be able to solve the problems, and tell them that if they hire you, you will be happy to implement the solutions. Be prepared to walk away.

    Just coming in with this level of confidence will change the aura you exude, and will greatly increase your level of success.

    A highly successful sales trainer I know told me about a recent situation where he walked into an appointment with a prospective client with whom he had already reached an agreement on working together. The meeting was pre-arranged to simply walk through and sign the contract.

    The prospective client proceeded to ask new questions and take the conversation in entirely different directions, and Andy closed up his briefcase and stood up. He told the client that he had been asked here under false pretenses and was leaving. The client actually followed him to the elevator to convince him to come back and sign the contract, and they continued to work together for a long time. The key was that Andy was completely prepared to walk away.

    comments (0)