Interviewing is a skill. Unfortunately a lot of candidates don’t get enough practice and are nervous and out of sync when they walk into an interview for the job of a lifetime. Don’t be that candidate! Get some interview experience. Role play with a friend or industry peer. A lot of MBA programs have interview “speed dating” where you interview with a number of prospective companies. You can also interview for a job you don’t want and use it as an experience. Great experience and you might be surprised at the result…either you may want the job after all or you may find more joy and be more engaged at your current job when you go back into work.
1. Map it out! Don’t be late! Be sure you leave enough time for traffic jam or other delay.
2. Be about 15 minutes early. If it is a first round interview you may have an application to fill out or other paperwork.
3. Think back to a successful meeting or event from your past. Research has found that if you get in the mood of success you will be more successful in the interview. Think of a day when you hit it out of the park and you increase your chances of doing it again.
4. Stand up or Sit up! Candidates that had proper posture where viewed more favorably by hiring managers. Also, keep a calm demeanor when sitting or standing…don’t fidget.
5. Shut off the phone. Don’t even pull it out to glance at it to pass the time. If you think you are going to have some down time in the interview and you want to seem busy review your resume, a copy of the job description, or company material (portfolio/flyer, products, or print outs you made while doing homework on the company… news, website, etc).
6. Stand up to introduce yourself or when someone new enters the room.
7. Ask questions! Have quick questions on hand. “If someone is successful in this role what are the top areas do they need to excel?, “What are the main obstacles to success in this role” etc… Think quick questions that don’t have a simple “Yes or no” answer.
8. Wrap it up! When answering and interview question. Follow the simple format…tell them what are say, tell them, and then wrap it up. Be sure you have a tone and demeanor of conclusion….you eliminate that uncomfortable moment of “Are they finished can I talk?” for the hiring manager.
9. Take notes right after the interview so your follow ups have the correct spelling of every interviewers name and have impact.
10. Follow up! And do it within 24 hours. Email is required. In addition a handwritten or short letter is an extra bonus.
Your dream job may be out there! Be sure you have the interview experience to really show up on that day. I wish you success!
A recent Gallup survey found 70% of American workers are disconnected and are not working to their full potential. The article by Gallup on the survey stated this resulted in $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year and gave a number of suggestions for companies and managers to tackle the problem. But what about the employee? How much in lost bonuses, promotions, and success leading to new opportunities did they lose?
The majority of white collar employees are, in reality, in business for themselves. Increased output not only results in monetary gains through raises, promotions, or bonuses but also through new opportunity. The reward may not be as great as the entrepreneur but neither is the risk. Companies want to hire top performers and opportunity finds top performers. So although it is in part the responsibility of the company and management to motivate employees, from a career and monetary perspective, the truly successful are able to motivate themselves. Simple right? The problem is the gap in most US education has and will continue to be…Positive Thinking. Unless you played a sport and maybe were probably exposed to some locker room halftime speeches. To salespeople it is a necessity but to most other professions Positive Thinking education comes off as hokey and trendy. If you have not embraced it and are falling into the 70% of disconnected workers it is time to dig in…for your, your career’s/resume’s,your family’s, and your bank account.
Here is a quick Positive thought for the workday and it comes from a painter. We were having a house staged for sale and needed to freshen up the place. A friend recommended Jody but he had a regular 9-5 job and just painted on the side so he could only paint in the evenings. It was a big job and I was concerned he couldn’t get it done in the few hours he had every evening. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about…this guy was fast and did awesome work. I was amazed at how he could get done in a few hours what would have taken me days. After he finished and I was paying him I asked “this work is amazing, how did you get this done so fast?” His answer ” I just go, I don’t pause look back and survey my accomplishments and I don’t get aggravated by setbacks and spills…I just go” I know I’m amazed at how much I get done before I go on vacation or when I have a deadline. But it is not difficult to carry on that same attitude and dedication in the workday and “Just go” or in Nike’s famous ad “Just do it”.
Here’s a quick list my favorite authors and works:
Life & Work: Anthony Robbins, Larry Winget, Jim Rohn, Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, & Brian Tracy
Christian: John Acuff, John Maxwell, Norman Vincent Peale, & Joel Osteen
Classic: Earl Nightingale, James Allen, Napoleon Hill, and Dale Carnegie
Finance: Dave Ramsey or the books “Millionaire Next Door”, “The Wealthy Barber” or “The Richest Man in Babylon”
Sales: Zig Ziglar, Harvey McKay, and Jeffery Gitomer
How long does it take to get a new job?
A frequent question by new job seekers is the length of the process. The average time from when you send out your resume till when you start the new role is about 8-12 weeks. This is an average. I have roles filled in as little as 3 days and as long as six months. Every situation is different but here is the run down on estimated times that add up to the 8-12 week average.
1. 1 week to a month for sorting resumes. The job is posted and you apply but companies will wait until they have a few candidates lined up before starting the process.
2. 1 week to a month for setting up first round interviews. A phone interview can speed up this process because they are easier to schedule than a face to face interview.
3. 1 week to a month for second round interview. Almost always a face to face interview with a number of interviewers.
4. 1 week to a month for referencing, constructing the offer (which usually has to be approved by a number of different departments), presenting the offer, acceptance, resignation, two weeks of work, and start date.
There are a lot of variables that can lengthen the process such as additional rounds (I have companies go to six rounds), scheduling difficulties, and negotiations. This is all best case of a real job that a company is motivated to fill. With the state of the economy companies have been using people in cross functional roles covering vacancies are not as motivated to fill roles.
How can you speed up the process? Be available. Scheduling is big factor in the length of the process. Also follow up after every conversation. It keeps you in the front of their minds and shows interest. If you haven’t heard anything after an interview and have sent a follow up send a quick note every week for 3 weeks (Enjoyed the conversation & just want to show my continued interest in the company). News grabs are also great for the “continued interest” follow up such as a press release on strong quarterly numbers (great news! I admire your organization). You can also try to network with contacts you have at the company. Be patient but engaged in the process. If you are truly interested in the company readily jump through any hoop they present and you will increase your odds of landing the role.
As we all watch the news out of Boston instead of focusing on the act focus on the good. In the victim’s time of need literally hundreds of Police, Fireman, EMTs, Race Volunteers & Participants, Bystanders, Doctors, and Nurses rushed into the fray to help. They are Heros who walk amongst us everyday and we are blessed to have them. In the weeks ahead we will hear stories of hope and healing from the survivors. Doctors, Nurses, Therapists, and Clergy will be there to comfort the grieving and help to heal the victims. As with previous acts of cowardice in our great country everyday citizens will open their hearts and wallets to aid those effected. Police and the FBI will work tirelessly to turn over every rock to bring the cowardly insects to justice. And they will be brought to justice.
It is up to the rest of us to keep moving forward and keep running our race. It is the ultimate revenge against their cowardly acts. To enjoy this great country and live our lives. God Bless America.
Old fables are still applicable to today’s hectic lifestyle. The Flight of Icarus has three great lessons to consider. Icarus had to leave the island of Crete knowing there was not a future for him there.
To grow sometimes you have to go. As we all reach those times with our job, it is time to go if we are going to grow. But it is difficult, you stand on the precipice wanting to fly but old habits and comforts of a place we have called home hold you back. Fly, it is a great feeling. I can recall walking out of one my old companies after turning in my resignation literally feeling like a weight was lifted off my shoulders…floating. Don’t be afraid to fly. One lesson.
Have great mentors. Icarus had his Father, Daedalus. Daedalus was a remarkable craftsman and wise man. He was a great Father also, he wanted something better for his son and knew that Crete could not provide that future. He helped him prepare for his journey and gave him great advice including “don’t fly to close to the sun”. But he didn’t listen and ended up in the sea which now carries his name, the Icarian Sea. Keep a core group of mentors, positive people who want you to be the best you can be so you know your path is the correct one. As a Recruiter I try to be that mentor, lifting people up to a new future. Lesson two.
Don’t fly to close to the sun. We all want to strive to be the best at what we do but don’t lose focus of what is important in life. If you are pushing to hard and it is costing you your health or your family it is time to level off. Don’t worry you are still flying, moving forward, but know your limits and take the time to catch your breath and enjoy to view. Don’t push to hard and enjoy the view. Lesson Three.
Let’s make today count!
What is your biggest weakness? Oh snap…didn’t think that one through! Countless improvements you want to make to yourself pop in your head “I like to sleep in” “I haven’t been to the gym in weeks” or “I’m a danger to others on the golf course”. Of course, the answer has to be relevant to the job. Here are a few different ways to answer that question that you may have never considered.
A weakness that is actually a strength. Great candidates don’t take the easy route but a layup could still get you the job but if you are competing with a few others for the role you don’t want to make layups…you want to nail the 3 pointer with a great answer. What is the layup/easy route? Answers like “I care too much!” “I’m a perfectionist!” or the classic “I’m a workaholic!” Don’t get me wrong…answers like this may get you the job…as a cashier or barista. You have to know your audience which I will get into in more detail later in the article. Examples of interviews you can take the layup weakness answer are interviews with managers that are not hiring for a challenging/entry level role or are not the direct report for the role. As always, candidates that take the time and do their homework in the process will know their audience.
Now for the great answers…you must, as mentioned above, study up on the role, the company, and the hiring manager. You can shoot from the hip on these questions but luck favors the prepared. And don’t just state a weakness and leave it hanging out there…close on it with your ability to adapt, learn, or grow.
Your weakness is actually one of the reasons you are successful at your job. A couple great examples are “I don’t like being in the office” while interviewing for a Sales Role that takes a lot of travel OR “I don’t like work travel” for an Analyst role that is in the office 100% of the time. Just think of 180 degrees from your strengths. Most likely your guidance counselor did the same review when you were both meeting on your career…someone with SAT scores with high math (strength) & low verbal (weakness) in Engineering or high verbal & low math in Communications. Always close on the answer though… on why it is not going to be a problem and NEVER make a big deal about it “I CAN’T STAND doing paperwork” or say “I hate” instead…”I don’t like” or “I don’t enjoy”. Every Sales person has to spend some time in the office and every analyst has to travel for training a hiring manager will immediately screen someone who is a going to be a pain.
A weakness that is trainable. This is also a great opportunity for the “Compliment Close”. Examples are “I have heard great things about you and your ability to train & lead” or “I have great respect for your company’s expertise in this field”. Review the job description and your resume to look for clues. If there is a huge curve on the training you may want to avoid this route. This needs to be something you can quickly learn or learn in the natural progression of your career. An example is “Managing People” if you are interviewing for a role with no direct reports.
Call out the elephant in the room. This falls under trainable but it is a big issue or a long training curve. Under the requirements on the job description it lists “Must have experience with XYZ Account” for a Sales role or “Must have experience with XYZ software” for an Analyst role. You don’t have it but here you sit in the interview. If you applied through a posting it is probably for one or both of these reasons… either the candidate supply (either the market or candidates that applied for the job) is low or candidates that have the experience are too expensive (outside the salary parameters…ie you’re a bargain) so that company has to be flexible. If you are going to call out the elephant you have to able to tackle it and close on it. Examples of closes are; you supported the team/group that did, worked closely with someone who did, or worked on something similar. “I supported the team that called on the XYZ account when I was in my Sales Communications role”, “I was aligned with team that handled that account and gathered lot of information about the account from my peers” or “I have dealt with ABC software which has a lot of similarities to XYZ software and could quickly learn”
Overall the key to great interview answers is knowledge of your audience. This is attained by studying up in the role, the company, and the interviewers. Strengths and weaknesses are basic interview questions and you better be able to list both and why. Do the work and you can get the job!
Whether you are nervous about an interview or you just want to be sure you are on top of you game here are few tips to help you through. First off, just about everyone gets a little nervous before a big interview so you are not alone. Secondly, pat yourself on the back! Your resume was picked out of many and important people are going to take precious time out of their day to talk to you. Find confidence in your performance in the process so far. So now let’s get started on some steps to get you prepped for the big day.
- This is always the most important step of an interview. Study, study, study! Study up on the company by reviewing press releases, industry news, and their finances. Study up on the role by comparing the job description to your resume and researching on Linkedin the backgrounds of people who are in or have been the same role. Next study up on the people you will be talking with on the interview. Linkedin again is a great resource but you can also Google them.
- Assume rapport. Think back to every cocktail party or other social event you have attended. Remember a time when you ran into someone in your field? Remember how easy it was to talk with them? We spend the majority of our day at work so it is a big part of the lives of everyone in the workforce. The Interviewers are in your field and probably have started out at similar training companies and/or had a similar college major. You will have more in common with the people you will be talking to that day than 90% of the people you run into on the street or at a non-business social event.
- Pump yourself up. If you have positive thinking material or music that gets your spirits up listen to it beforehand. If you are a religious person pray for strength and know that God built you to succeed. Self-talk is another great tool. You can fall back on your knowledge of the company, role, and people (you did step 1 right). A quick example would be “I have done this and I can be a great asset to this company and the Hiring Manager’s team”. If you are self-conscious, don’t be, look at Olympic athletes lips moving before a big competition…self-talk is a proven tool.
- Breath. Take a few deep breaths before you walk in the door. Focus on breathing with your diaphragm (your belly expanding instead of your chest). If you are able to close your eyes and clear your mind.
- Joke about it. If you are still feeling nervous, smile and joke about it and compliment them about their company in the process. Example “I apologize I’m a little nervous I have heard great things about your company and I am excited about the prospect of working here” Again everyone has been there…yes there are a few rock stars out there that haven’t but the majority of us have been through similar trials. You can also try this with the person at the front desk. Sometimes they are one of the decision makers. After you are through that day and the hiring manager walks you do the door they will turn around and ask “what do you think about him/her?”
These tips should help you through your big interview day. Overall stay positive throughout the conversations…don’t ever talk negatively about a role, company, or boss, every set back was a learning experience, and every obstacle was a challenge you overcame. Now do your homework! Luck favors the prepared.