So, what did you do to prepare for this interview?

Business writer and commentator, Suzy Welch, has a go-to question she always asks candidates; “What did you do to prepare for this interview?“.  While this question may seem a little unusual and not the typical question relating to candidate qualifications, it really zeros in on the candidate’s motivation and degree of dedication; not only for succeeding in the interview, but more importantly, for success in the job itself.

Anyone can show up at a designated time and place for a job interview.  What employers are looking for is a candidate that is willing to go the extra distance and put in the extra effort to get the job.  In a previous post, I addressed being prepared for the interview by doing “intel”, but that’s only half the solution.  Not only must you do your research before the interview, but you must be ready to tell the interviewer what you did and how you did it if you want to make the ultimate positive impression!

If I were interviewing a candidate and they could repeat back to me the qualifications for the position, I wouldn’t be too impressed.  If, on the other hand, they could articulate how their skill set would fit into the company’s upcoming new strategic direction and product line that they’d read about in an obscure trade journal – I’d definitely give them an up-check!

Employers are looking for candidates that are:

  • intellectually curious
  • willing to roll up their sleeves and do research
  • committed to seeking out a deep understanding of the job and the organization
  • able to recount their efforts during the interview, indicating their commitment to the job

So……..be ready to tell the interviewer how you got ready for the interview and you will move to the top of the hiring list!

 

photo: pixabay.com

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Where am I going?

Arriving at the correct location at the correct time for your interview is a critical step in the job acquisition process. Scrambling around trying to find your way in an unfamiliar part of town or strange city is not what you want to be doing just before an important job interview.

 

 

Here are some pointers that will help you arrive on time and eliminate stress:

• Make sure you understand the time and location of the interview.  Have a point of contact, with phone number, at the interview location,  in case you get lost or delayed

• Make sure you have reliable transportation to the interview

• Review your route of travel 

• If you will be using public transportation, make sure you have adequate fare and know which route you will use

• If you will be driving, plan out your route and do a practice run a day or two before the interview, if you can

• Identify where you will park and have funds available for the meter

• Identify an alternate route to the interview in the event there is an unexpected detour

• Have backup transportation available (friend or family) in the event your primary mode is unavailable. A dead battery or flat tire can really mess things up.

• If you will be flying in for an interview, be sure you have enough time after the interview to get to the airport and catch your flight home. Be sure and give yourself plenty of time at the end of the interview to negotiate the job offer so as not to feel rushed – and accepting a lesser salary!

• Make sure your phone or GPS device are charged and ready to go

• Make sure your vehicle is clean and presentable. You never know when an interviewer may see what you are driving

So, plan ahead and make allowances for contingencies and you will arrive at the interview cool, calm and collected and ready to ace your next job interview!

 

photo: pixabay

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What’s Your Plan?

We’ve probably all heard the old saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  This old adage is especially true as it relates to the job interview.  Without a plan, you are putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to navigating the interview process and landing your next job.  Planning for a successful interview is much like developing a business plan.  You want to cover all the bases and be confident that you are ready when the time comes to present yourself to a future employer.

Interview planning doesn’t have to be tedious or overly complicated but it does need to be undertaken if you hope to have a successful interview.  Opportunities can present themselves at unexpected times and in unexpected ways – often when we are not even looking for a new job!  That is why the best time to start your interview planning is right now.

As we discussed in the recent article “Are you Interview Ready?” there are several important activities you need to undertake to be ready for the next interview (yes, there will be a next interview; unless you work in a family business or are self-employed).  Whether you are going after your very first job, transitioning from the military, or seeking to improve your overall work position or income, you can put together a plan and timeline to help motivate and encourage you.

Your interview plan should contain these basic pre-interview elements:

  • When do I want to begin my job search?
  • What type of work do I want to do?
  • Where do I want to work (geographically)?
  • What type of organization do I want to work for?
  • What are my long-term goals?
  • Do I have a resume?
  • Do I have references that will endorse me?

From there, you can add additional specifics that relate directly to the interview, such as:

  • What are my strengths?
  • Which of my past experiences make me a valuable asset for an employer?
  • What future value do I bring to an organization?

Next, identify specific accomplishments such as:

  • Examples of where I saved money or improved a process for an organization
  • Specific education and training I’ve had that relates to my desired job
  • My outside activities and connections that relate favorably to my desired job

Also, include the following:

  • What am I doing now to prepare for additional responsibilities?
  • What I am reading and studying?
  • Who do I want to contact to gain additional insight into a specific industry or field?
  • Who can I add to my network?
  • What will I wear to the interview (do I need to upgrade my wardrobe)?
  • Am I practicing for the actual interview?

This plan is just for you to help keep you on track and help you reach important milestones along the way. Modify it and keep it updated as necessary.  By adding dates to the specific items you can develop a specific timeline for accomplishing your plan.

Once you have developed your plan, you can use it to prepare for your next successful interview. 

 

photo: pixabay

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What time would you like?

It’s not often that we get to have an input into the parameters surrounding our job interview.  Usually, we are told when and where to show up.  On occasion, however, we may be given the option of when we would like to be interviewed.  This presents the candidate with an opportunity to put themselves in a favorable position but it requires some analysis.

Let’s look at the options.  First, let’s look at a typical day of the week from the interviewer’s perspective.  

  • Mondays are usually spent preparing for the upcoming week and possibly, finishing up tasks left over from the previous week.  Given the choice, I would steer clear of Mondays.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a better choice since the challenges of Monday have passed and the interviewer can focus more directly on the interview.  Also, if adjunct personnel will be participating in the interview, it’s more likely they will be available Tuesday and Wednesday!
  • Thursdays and Fridays are a tossup and can either work in the candidate’s favor or be very detrimental.  After “hump day” both the candidate and the interviewer may be a little burned out and looking toward the weekend.  
  • While Friday can put the interviewer in a “happy” mood since the week is drawing to a close, which could influence the overall good will in the interview, it could also irritate the interviewer who had hoped to leave early on Friday but has to do an interview instead!  If you are offered a Friday interview slot, never pick one after lunch.

What time of day is best?  Here again, there is no perfect answer, but think of your own experience.  Are you more “with it” in the morning, after lunch or at the end of the day?  All things being equal, I would shoot for a mid-morning slot when both you and the interviewer have had a cup of coffee, recovered from the commute, but are still fresh and alert.  

Try to avoid the time slot right after lunch for several reasons (post-meal drowsiness, spills during lunch, salad caught in your teeth, indigestion, etc).

Late in the day is much like late in the week – try to avoid it if possible.

So………………….. based on my analysis, I would go for an interview slot at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday or Wednesday!

What has your experience shown you?

   

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Looking through the Glass Door

As a follow-up to a recent post on conducting intel in preparation for your interview, I want to focus more directly on a very powerful tool that will help you gain valuable insight into the company with which you will be interviewing.  The tool is a website called Glassdoor.  

Here you will find a treasure trove of personal accounts relating directly to the interview experience people have had with thousands of companies.  Not only are candidates able to recount and share actual interview questions asked, but they are also able to “grade” their experience and list what they liked (or didn’t like) about the interview and the company.  Just remember, all the information posted is non-validated, but it should give you a pretty good sense of what the pros and cons are for a particular company, it’s salaries, benefits and overall appeal.

Glassdoor focuses on 4 primary areas:

  • Job listings
  • Company Reviews 
  • Salaries
  • Interviews

Each of these areas will be of vital interest to the candidate preparing for their interview.  For example, the last company I worked for is prominently featured with over:

1.3k company reviews

3.ok salary reviews

257 interview reviews

422 benefit reviews

and 7 photos!  

After wading through these entries you will have a very good sense of what others have experienced, and are currently experiencing at this company.  Comments will vary according to location, position, and when the person worked there, but you will find some very interesting (and sometimes humorous) inputs.

If you look nowhere else when conducting your pre-interview intel, be sure and look through the glass door, at Glassdoor.com…………..you’ll be glad you did!

 

 

photo: pixabay

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Clean it up


Although not specifically part of the interview process, your social media presence has a direct bearing on how you will be perceived in the interview. It may also determine whether or not you are ever invited to interview in the first place!

Are you wondering why you haven’t been receiving interview requests? Maybe your social media presence is sabotaging your efforts.

If you haven’t yet gone out to all your social media sites and cleaned them up, now is the time to do it. Your friends and family are not the only ones “following you” online these days – employers are also checking you out as part of their initial candidate screening process. They are looking for how a candidate will fit in with the company culture, whether or not the candidate has any troubling character attributes, and whether or not the candidate is being totally honest regarding qualifications, education and experience, on their resume.

Savvy employers seek to weed out any candidates that present even a hint of questionable or anti-social character. They may also refer to your social media content to verify things that you say during the interview.

It’s a good idea to eliminate, or a least, restrict any content that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. You may even want to consider establishing completely separate personal and professional sites.

Here’s a great info-graphic from the folks at Career Savvy in the UK. It covers the basics of evaluating and cleaning up your  social media presence.

So…..get out there and clean up your social media presence!

photo: pixabay

 

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Sweaty Palms

Haven’t we all gotten sweaty palms from time to time when we are under stress? Nervousness and sweaty palms go hand-in-hand (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

Over the years, my go to book on interview prep has been Sweaty Palms the Neglected Art of Being Interviewed,  by H. Anthony Medley. This great book, first published in 1978, was very helpful when I retired from the Navy back in the ’90s. I read this book cover-to-cover and employed many of the author’s recommendations in my initial interviewing journey.

Since that time, I have referred to my well worn copy many times, and even loaned it to family and friends over the years. It’s one of the books in my library that I will probably never get rid of, simply because it is so useful. Now that I am blogging I will also refer to this book, from time to time, to share its insightful tips and advice with others.

Mr. Medley’s book has been revised and updated over the years and is still available! If you only want to get one book on interviewing, get this one!

Sweaty Palms is currently available from Amazon – here’s the link

photo: amazon.com

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Conducting Interview Intel

So, you got the interview…congratulations! Now the real work begins.

It’s time to dig in and conduct some intelligence operations.  By the time you are done, you will have put yourself in the best position possible to ace the interview and get the job you have been working so hard to land.

It’s no surprise that military organizations, governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations all conduct intelligence operations.  They all seek to know as much as they can about their competition and to stack the deck in their favor; whether it’s in a military conflict, criminal investigation or business development, knowing everything possible about the key actors you will operate against (or with) is vital to success.

The interview is just such a situation, where you want to discover everything there is to know about the organization you are seeking to join, as well as about the person, or people who will be interviewing you.  Does this sound a bit shady or devious?  Don’t worry, it’s all above board if you use publicly available information and don’t engage in stalking or other nefarious activities!  Besides, the organization you will be interviewing with has already done their intelligence operations on you!

Where do you start?  The key things you will want to know going into the interview are significant facts and figures relating to the organization such as:

  • company mission/values/history
  • products or services they make/sell
  • who are their customers
  • who are their competitors
  • sales figures/stock valuation and trends
  • recent news stories
  • upcoming acquisitions/mergers/plans for expansion or consolidation
  • who’s who in the company
  • what are the company’s “pain points”

Once you have researched and answered all these issues you are ready to move on to the next area of your intelligence operations…….the interviewer.  As you already know, if you’ve been reading this blog, much of the interview involves personality, chemistry, and whether or not you are a “fit” for the position and the organization.  Presenting yourself as a person who is engaged, knowledgeable, and connected will give you a head start in the interview and show the interviewer that you are someone they want on their team.

The interviewer has a huge advantage over you in that they already know quite a bit about you from your resume; but it doesn’t stop there.  You must assume that the interviewer has done a search for you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and other social media sites.

Hint – if you haven’t already cleaned up your social media, do it now.  We’ll talk more about this in a future post. 

The first step is to find out who will be interviewing you.  This is not always possible as the information may be guarded by the company or may not be known ahead of the interview.  Often, however, the person that arranged your interview will know who will conduct the interview and will be willing to give you their name(s).  Once you have this information it’s time to find out as much as you can about the individual to help level the playing field and leverage your position.

Things you will want to know are:

  • how old is the person?
  • where are they from (region/state)?
  • where did they go to school?
  • what hobbies or interests do they have?
  • where have they worked before?
  • how long they have been at the company?
  • do you have any mutual friends?
  • what organizations are they a member of?
  • have they been in the news?
  • have they recently achieved something (degree/certification/promotion)?
  • have they recently suffered a loss?

Once you have answers to the above questions you will be in a very favorable position to engage the interviewer on a personal basis and connect in ways which will leave other candidates in the dust!

What sources do I like to use for conducting intel?  

 

For company background:

 

For interviewer background:

  • various social media sites (check them all), especially LinkedIn and Facebook (do you have any mutual friends?)
  • once you have some info on the person’s favorite hobbies  /activities/charities/schools/organizations, do a search on these linked to the person’s name
  • search linking both the company and the person
  • contact anyone you already know at the organization, or who once worked there, and enlist them as a “secret agent”
  • visit local establishments near the company and meet people that may be willing to discuss the company with you (restaurants/bars/shops); try hanging out at lunchtime or after work to meet employees who will be willing to talk 
  • ask the person setting up your interview for some “background” on the person who will be interviewing you (you’d be surprised what people are willing to share – just keep it confidential)

Bottom line………………you don’t have to be a huge three-letter government agency to conduct some very good intelligence operations and dramatically increase your odds of acing your next interview; so get out there and start digging!

 

photo: pixabay

 

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What’s that on your tie?

Not too long ago, I had a dental appointment early in the morning, before I went to work.  The procedure was minor and fairly unremarkable but the aftermath brought about a situation that could directly affect someone going to an interview!

After I left the dental office I drank some coffee as I was driving to work, not thinking anything of it.  What happened next turned out to be a disaster.  Since my mouth and lips were still quite numb from the dental procedure, I dribbled coffee all down the front of my shirt and necktie.  By the time I arrived at work I was a mess and had to endure the embarrassment and comments of my coworkers for the rest of the day.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a spare shirt and tie at the office and I didn’t have time to go home and change.  

Looking back on this incident, brings me to the point of this post – if you are going to an interview and you will be eating or drinking before you get to the interview, it’s a good idea to take along a spare shirt/blouse and tie and have them in your car; just in case an accident happens along the way.  Taking along a spare shirt is a small inconvenience for your peace of mind and will eliminate a great deal of stress if you end up spilling something on your way to the interview. 

As a side benefit, you may be able to work this event (bringing a spare shirt) into the discussion at the interview, to show how you like to prepare for contingencies.  This should impress the interviewer, or at least give them a chuckle.

 

photo: pixabay

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The Business Card

One of the traditional networking tools that we all used in times past has somewhat faded from the scene. In these days of social media and instant messaging, the value and importance of the humble business card is often overlooked.   It’s so last century – or is it?

When you meet someone on the street or during an impromptu meeting, it isn’t always easy or convenient to share your contact information electronically.  This is where the business card really works to your advantage.

When I was between jobs a few years ago, I was busy interviewing and networking and needed a simple business card to help others remember me and to give them the means by which to contact me when job opportunities came along.  The card was also an essential component of my interview action plan (more on that later).

So, what if you are just out of school, transitioning out of the military, or reentering the workforce after a period absence and don’t have a business card?  I recommend putting together a simple contact card stating:

  • your name
  • what it is you do (or hope to do)
  • phone number
  • email address

That’s it!   Here’s what it looks like

If you are in the arts, or some other creative industry, you may want to add some color or a graphic, but for most of us, the basic card is all that’s needed to convey our essential contact information.

Getting back to the interview………..this is how I recommend using your card.  As you are being introduced to the interviewer(s), hand each one a card.  This serves two purposes; it ensures that each person can get back to you, or refer you on to someone else they know, and it prompts them to give you one of their cards.  This will help you when you write your thank you notes after the interview, and give you a means by which to follow up on your interview. I also like to give a card to the receptionist and anyone else I meet during the course of the interview.

There is also a psychological aspect to handing someone your card.  Everyone likes to receive something for free and it will immediately put you in a favorable light for the interview.  It will also show that you are a serious candidate and someone who is organized and efficient!

Cards are not very expensive and if you go to an online provider you can make up your card and have it shipped to your door within a couple of weeks.  I currently use vistaprint for my business cards, as they are very affordable and offer a number of design options.

So, get your cards made and start using them as a powerful tool in your networking and interviewing arsenal!

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t take a pen to the interview

As you prepare for your interview you will, no doubt, be thinking of answers to all the typical questions you will face.  You will also be thinking of all the things you want to take to the interview with you.

Of all the things you definitely want to take with you, a pen will be at the top of the list.  But don’t just take one; take two!  Pens are notorious for running out of ink or clogging up at the most inopportune time and you don’t want a malfunctioning pen to hamper your stellar performance at the interview.  You’ll need a fully functioning pen to take down the names of all the interviewers as well as to record pertinent issues that come up during the interview.    You may also need to do some quick calculations or sketch out some things to highlight a point.

So don’t take a pen to the interview – take two!

 

 

photo: pixabay

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You’re looking a little pale

Some of us may be looking a little pale this time of year (February). The hours of daylight have been fewer and the cold temperatures have kept many of us indoors for the last couple of months.  

If you are preparing for an interview, you will want to look your best; and that includes having a healthy glow to your complexion.  We can often get so focused on our clothes, shoes, hairstyle and other elements of our appearance that we totally forget about our face!

Ladies will have a slight advantage in this area as they can compensate for the lack of sunshine on their faces by adding a little more makeup, but we guys probably want to take a different approach.  Even on the coldest of days, a few minutes spent out in the sunshine will give you a healthy and vibrant glow that will come across well in the interview.  You will also be increasing your vitamin D intake.

Be careful, however, with sunlamps and tanning booths, as these can overdo the effect and can even be dangerous.  After all, you don’t want to be remembered after the interview as “that lobster guy”!

So, get outside and get a little sunshine before the next winter interview, and it may pay big dividends.

 

 

photo: pixabay 

 

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Are you a fit?

I know a woman who had a beautiful pair of shoes that she loved.  She prized this pair of shoes above many other pair she owned but there was only one problem…………….they didn’t fit.  The shoes did fit when she bought them (or she thought they did) but as time went on the shoes became more and more uncomfortable to the point that she could no longer wear them.

When you are interviewing for a position at a company or government organization, fit is critical.  No matter how much you want the job, or how perfect you think you’d be in the position, if the fit isn’t right it will not work out well in the end.

Before you get too far along in the job hunting and interview process, be sure you are really seeking the right type of position based on what you want to do and what your skills and passions will lend themselves to.  

When you go for an interview there are two dimensions to your job fit; how the job fits with you, and how you fit with the organization.  If only one of the two fits is right, there will be rough times ahead.  But if both fits are right, you are on your way to a rewarding and fulfilling job.

By asking specific and penetrating questions of the recruiter or HR professional prior to the interview, you may be able to determine if the job will be a fit for you.  Factors such as:

  • work location,
  • hours,
  • responsibilities,
  • scope of work,
  • travel requirements,
  • overtime or shift requirements,
  • length of contract or whether or not the position is contingent on winning a contract,

should all be considered.  If the answers to these questions about the position don’t fit with what you are looking for, it is unlikely the position will be a fit for you.

Knowing in advance that you wouldn’t be a good fit will allow you to focus your efforts on other opportunities and not waste your (or the hiring manager’s) time on something that is not right for you.

I had to decline an interview opportunity just last week because the position wasn’t a good fit for what I would like to pursue.  No hard feelings on either side, and we both went our separate ways.

So, don’t be like the woman who bought a pair of shoes that she thought would fit but turned out to be a painful experience!

 

photo: pixabay

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Where have you been?

Many members of the Baby Boom Generation are in a unique stage of life where they may be caring for aging parents while still raising their own children.  Others have taken time off from a career to pursue studies or develop a business.  Still others have spent time away in the military.  All these situations pose a particular challenge during the interview when seeking to reenter the commercial workforce.

Inevitably, the interviewer will want to know why you were out of the traditional workforce and what you’ve been up to during that time.  Be sure and cover this in your resume and don’t be intimidated or discouraged – address the question head on and with confidence.  It’s fairly safe to say that most, if not all managers and HR professionals have had either direct experience with these issues or know someone who has.

A recent boss of mine is currently on an extended sabbatical from the company to care for, not one, but two family members in two different states!  Was this a difficult decision? You bet it was.  Was it the right thing to do?  Absolutely!

As you prepare to reenter the workforce there are some things you can do to give yourself a boost and build your confidence.  

Be a voracious reader –  Study current events and news relating to your chosen field and read journals and professional studies and anything else you can get your hands on to show that you are up on the latest trends and happenings in your field.

Get social –  If you haven’t built a social and business network now is the time to do so.  Use LinkedIn and Facebook to your advantage.

Get involved – Get active in local organizations such as church, civic league, neighborhood watch and any other organization where you can contribute and meet people (this will also help you build your network).

Start a blog – If you like to write and assist others a blog may be just the thing for you.  It will help you become known and will be something you can leverage during your interview.

Practice – If your interviewing skills are a bit rusty ask friends or family members who have recently interviewed for a job for advice.  Ask them to share their experiences and some of the questions they were asked.

If you’ve recently reentered the workforce or are considering it, please join the conversation and add a comment to this post………….you may help motivate someone who just needs a little boost!

 

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What language do you speak?

While many of us in America only speak the English language, we all have a second language that we speak continuously; our body language!

It can be easy to overlook the fact that during the interview we are always speaking two languages.  How we answer questions with our words is important, but the manner in which we project our physical image is equally important.  

Being fluent in positive body language will give you a real boost during the interview and leave a lasting favorable impression on the interviewer.  This aspect of the interview can make or break an interview often without either party knowing why.  

Take a look at this young trooper.  

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He is confident, well groomed (although he could use a shave) and dressed appropriately; but look at what his body language is saying.  He’s giving off a message of defensiveness and resistance with his crossed arms and lack of smile.  His demeanor can also be interpreted as uncooperative and uninterested in what’s going on around him.  This is often referred to as “closed” body language.  This is definitely not the body language you want to display during the interview.

If you want to have a “secret” advantage during the interview, project a positive, friendly and open body language.  This may take some practice and cause you to modify your current body language, but the dividends will be well worth the effort.  Being perceived as open, honest, engaged and willing to participate are all very important qualities that a future employer will be looking for in your interview.  While your words can communicate some of these qualities, your body language can be a force multiplier you will want to employ to your advantage.

Simple gestures such as smiling, using open and uplifted palms while you speak, leaning toward the interviewer, making eye contact and nodding in response to what the interviewer is saying are all open or positive forms of body language.

Crossing your arms, scowling, touching your nose, covering your mouth and clenching your fists are all closed or negative forms of body language and must be avoided at all cost! 

As I told one of my coaching clients not too long ago, who was trying to maximize his positive body language, “if you forget everything else about body language during the interview just be sure you smile

Want some additional info on body language?  GOOGLE kinesics (pronounced ‘kineesicks’), which is the study of body language,  or check out this article at businessballs.com.   Dr. Albert Meharabian, a psychology professor at UCLA, has also done some relevant and interesting work on the subject.

And above all else, don’t forget to smile!

 

 

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