Running the Gauntlet, Surviving the Round Robin Interview

You just received the itinerary for your upcoming interview and as you gaze over the list…one, two, three, four people.  If you are lucky, it could be more.  I have scheduled candidates with as many as six and on top of that you always have to be prepared for substitutes or an add-in.   The first thing is…don’t panic, you can do this, one step at a time.   Secondly, pat yourself on the back; a company has taken this much time out of this many employees’ schedules to talk to you!   So now it is time to throw down your gauntlet and run their gauntlet.   Almost doesn’t make sense (the latter is actually gantlet) such is the complexity of the English language and the importance of context…context is key.   But first you have to prepare, so let’s get started.

  1. Clean up your web presence.  If you have a Social Networking page be sure it has a professional picture (no Keg stands or beach pics).  You may want to consider going deeper untagging/deleting questionable pics or dialing up the privacy settings.  Another way is to simply drop your last name from your profile and use your first & middle as identifiers.  If you have a Linkedin profile, update with your current experience, professional picture, and profile that 100% matches your resume.  Also check the Linkedin company links so they match the correct company and division in which you worked (example a company search for Johnson & Johnson turned up 2846 results).  This is all very important.  Chances are HR did a quick search when they received your resume but now the odds of your Social Network investigation are multiplied by the number of people interviewing you.
  2. Study, study, and study!  First study the company.  Hit the company website and read their mission statement, about us, leadership (this might help your last step) and also press releases.  For extra credit research their financial performance (easier if they are public), external stories (i.e. not company press releases), and employee opinions on websites like Glassdoor. Next research the job description, how it relates to your resume and your experience.  Highlight pertinent experience on your resume and make note of requirements on Job Description that you have met.  Now look over your itinerary, which hopefully includes the names and titles of the interviewers and not just times.   Study up on the interviewers on Linkedin, Facebook, or Google.  But be careful! You don’t want to come off like a stalker…keep your interview conversation to what you see on Linkedin…college, job history, etc..just their professional experience.
  3. Prepare your questions and your conversation with individual interviewers.  Do you know the names and titles of your interviewers?  If so use this knowledge to prepare questions and set the context for your conversation with them.  If you don’t know, you are going to have to adjust on the fly.
    • A superior? If you are talking to a potential superior show your desire to succeed and excitement about the role and company.  Ask questions around responsibility, what it takes to succeed, and challenges for the role.
    • Same level as the role you are interviewing? Show you are a team player, adaptable, and responsible.  People also like co-workers they can relate to so try to find some common ground.  Ask questions about the day to day of the role.
    • Different department? If you are interviewing for a sales role and you are talking to someone in Finance speak the language they want to hear.  Review your successes if you have relevant material to discuss be sure to mention your attention to the numbers.  Such as saving x amount of $$ with a new strategy or achieved your sales quota without additional promotional spending.   Overall you want to show some cross functionality or understanding of how their department influences this role.
  4. Comfortable and confident.  It may be time to do some shopping for an interview outfit.   You want to feel comfortable and choose an outfit that makes you feel confident.   You want clothes that are not too tight, over accessorized, or flashy.  Also, you are going to be there for a few hours and you don’t want to look uncomfortable.  The time you are with each interviewer is limited so you might not have the time for your personality to show through.  You want to ensure you make a great first impression when you walk through their office door and not squirm in the chair while the interviewing because your pants are digging into your side.
  5. What to bring.  How many people are interviewing you?  This is, at least, how many clean copies of your resume you should have printed.   It is a laptop world and they might not have it up on their screen when you walk in the door.  Also have the same number of cards available.   If you are not comfortable giving out your business card have personal cards printed with your name, contact info, Linkedin Profile address, and most recent title.  The easiest way to get their card to present yours…most of the time business people reciprocate.  Walking away with their card is important.  Now you have the correct address to send a follow up (very important) and get in touch with them if needed.  Also bring a notepad and a few pens for notes during the conversations.
  6. The day arrives.   You are ready!  You have done your homework and mentally prepared for the conversations.   Map out your route and pad arrival time but don’t walk in too early.    You may be spending some time in the break room in between interviews.  Stay away from coffee or too much water.  You don’t want to be jittery, risk a coffee stain, or have the urge to go to the bathroom in the middle of your third conversation.   Look for opportunities to compliment everyone you meet on their successes, contribution, and company.

By taking the time to research, think out your conversations, and compliment your interviewers you will have set yourself above the rest and leave a memorable impression   The next step is follow up with everyone who interviewed you!  Do the work and the next conversation could be an offer.

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Nail Your Next Phone Interview

Phone interviews are extremely common in today’s hiring processes.  It is a way for an HR manager or Hiring manager to get a quick gauge of skill set and presence to ensure that bringing you in for the face to face will not be a waste of time.   The first thing to remember is the goal of the phone interview is to move to the next step, the personal interview, and you need to be a closer and ask for the order.   But first you have to build value in yourself and also show interest in the company.   If you get the call for a phone interview here are a few tips to get you to the point you can close for the next step.

  1. Schedule a time.  You answer the phone and it is a representative from the company you applied for a job opening with weeks ago.  You are in traffic, dropping your kids off at school, or at work.  Hopefully they are just scheduling a time to talk but it they want to talk now be careful…this is an interview.   Danger zone…don’t try to wing it on a first round interview…schedule time in which you know you will have a good hour of uninterrupted talk time.   If the hiring manager asks “Can we talk now?” respond “Now is not a good time is there a time tomorrow?”  Work through it, you will never know unless you ask.  Set up your rules of engagement.  Will you call them or vice versa?  If they are calling you be sure to get the number in case you miss each other (it should come up on your caller id…you may not have to ask be sure to make note of it!)
  2. Study, study, study.  Luck favors the prepared.  Now that you have scheduled a time, do your homework.  Study the company…news releases, company website, other job openings on job boards, and Linkedin company page.  Study the job…print out your resume and the job description set them side by side and look for the match.   Get ready to sell yourself for the job.  Now study the managers…Linkedin again is a great resource but you also have the hiring managers name (from the phone call).  Again look for press releases, awards, or trade show attendance.  Have quick questions prepared about responsibilities beyond the job description, the career path, or the company.
  3. Now is the time.  If they don’t call on time don’t panic.  Wait 10-20 minutes (depending on your window of availability) and reach out to them if they were supposed to call you.  If you were supposed to call them (you better not be late!) and you don’t connect leave a message.  In both situations stay upbeat, brief, and leave how long you will be available.  If by some circumstance you are late, call as soon as possible, apologize, give your reason, and move into the phone interview.
  4. Stay positive!  Every bump in the road was a learning experience; every downsizing was a chance to move on to new things.  Don’t talk in a negative tone about your current or past companies.  If they ask why you are looking…respond “I have heard great things about your company & the role looks very interesting” (you studied right?).  Smile, stand up, and pause after every answer to give them a chance to talk.   Flow is very important in a phone interview; let them talk…if there is a pause go ahead and ask your questions about the company, role, or responsibilities.  Wrap up your answers; don’t just talk to fill space.  If they ask about something you have not experienced, try not to pass, fall back on a hypothetical.  “I have not experienced that but worked closely with someone who did, here is how I would handle it. “
  5. Ask for the order!  Show gratitude, compliment, and close for the next step. “It has been great talking.  Thank you for taking the time. You work for a great organization. I look forward to meeting you face to face to discuss the role and my qualifications in more detail.  Is there a time we can schedule now?” If you get delayed with the “we will call you when we are ready”.  Don’t worry, get the hiring managers email address (you may have this if you Googled them) and send a follow up thanking them for their time and confirming your interest.  Always send a follow up unless the recruiter you are working through has stated otherwise.  Keep it brief but show gratitude and confirm interest.

Of course you need to know your audience and situation well.   If you are in tech, the next step may be a test.  If you are relocating, you may have a few more phone interviews with more members of the team.  You still need to close for that next step.  If you make the time, do your homework, stay positive, thank them for their time, compliment them on their organization, and close for the next step you could move up to the short list for the next round.

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Quick Tips to be a Resume Rockstar

Everyone should have an updated copy of their resume on hand at all times.  Not only for the “just in case” Merger, Restructure, or great new job opportunity but also for the inevitable salary review, promotion opportunity, etc at your current company.  When/if asked the hard questions on what value you provide to the company you will be able to quickly note past & current responsibilities, accomplishments, and accolades because you have assembled them in a simple structured format ie your resume!  So here are some quick tips to draft or improve your resume.

  1. Do it yourself!  Do not rely on a resume service to draft your resume.   You are the best advocate of your background.  Get excited about it!  If you are having trouble there is a wealth of knowledge on the internet, library, or bookstore on resume writing.  It is a great skill to have not only for you but so that you can be a resource for your peers & family.
  2. Name the document with your name last_first or first_last.  When a hiring manager goes to access your resume they won’t have to sort through dozens of docs named Resume2011 (probably including their own resume).
  3. Include your name, address, phone, email and links to public profiles (ie Linkedin..especially if you have a lot of recommendations).  If you are worried about identity theft, purchase identity theft protection/insurance.  A hiring manager shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get in touch with you.  Also be sure you have a business email (ie no and professional phone message.  Also don’t include your work phone if you work in a cube or home phone if your 3 year old answers the phone.
  4. If you haven’t put together/upgraded a resume in a while and are intimidated by a blank Word Doc make a freehand outline on a legal pad first.   A simple way to start is just company, job title, dates held, responsibilities, accomplishments, and include keywords/acronyms/accounts.   Think back to the places, projects, accounts, and people so you are sure not to miss anything important.
  5. Use a resume template in Word or PDF.  No reason to reinvent the wheel.  Bold the company, job title, and dates held.  Bullet out the responsibilities, accomplishments, and accolades.   Quantify when possible. Quick examples: 50% increase in sales, completed project 20% under budget, or landed 3 new accounts.  Also bold your education, degrees, and dates completed.
  6. Stay positive.  Every restructure was a time to embrace change, every new role had new challenges and provided a chance to grow.  If you don’t have a lot of experience look for the positive in any role.  Cashier=Customer Service, Worked the floor at a store=Sales, Laborer=Strong work ethic.   I had a candidate that worked at a mental institution between BA & MBA school= dealing with difficult people and conflict resolution.  He had story after raising, life & death stories.  After being there a corporate boardroom will be a piece of cake.
  7. Take an arm’s length view or your resume..Does it flow?  Do the companies, roles, accomplishments or results jump out at you?  A hiring manager may only take a minute or two (sometimes even less) to review your resume.   Don’t be afraid to use bold or italics but be prudent.  Try to stay away from big paragraphs and objectives especially if you are submitting through job boards.
  8. Have someone else review it and proofread.  Someone you trust, that has a grasp of the English language, and your work experience.
  9. Be flexible. Have a one page for job boards and a more detailed copy for when you know you will one of a few.  Review every job description before sending out a resume.  Be sure the key words match.   Some companies rely on ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) to screen for key words, your resume may not even get to a person if the words don’t match.  Every company has their own lingo for the same tasks, don’t assume someone else (or software) will understand.
  10. Know it like an actor knows a script.  Be prepared to talk about what you did 10 years ago or why you chose your degree.   Also have your elevator speech prepared; a short speech on your background and why you will be an asset to the company.

Once completed a resume is valuable tool for your career advancement.  So the next time you have a great opportunity presented or if your CEO pops in to discuss your contribution to the company you will be prepared.  And luck favors the prepared!

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Definition: “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

In our personal and business lives our integrity is tested again and again.  Whether it be something as simple as finding a product in your cart after you have checked out, the cashier gives you $5 more in change, or as horrific as what was witnessed in the locker room at Penn State (a college but essentially a business).  And it can be very difficult to “do the right thing” especially when there is significant follow through required to ensure justice is done.  That is why it important for us all to exercise our integrity.  How?  Pay attention to the small things and if you or someone close to you is at the crossroads it will be less difficult and more of an impulse to take the right path.   Your actions can also be an example for coworkers, friends, and family and also ensure that you yourself are not an example of unethical acts.

Child abuse is a horrible thing to witness and may God save us from ever having to encounter it.  But if you do, here is an excerpt from a recent article by Michael Reagan on steps to take.   To sum it up…Secure the child and CALL THE POLICE.

“1. If you see an act of child abuse in progress, step in and STOP IT. I have to wonder why the grad assistant who witnessed the rape felt he only had to report it to someone. Why didn’t he jump in, knock Sandusky on his butt, and protect the child? If you see a child being raped by an adult, please have the guts and good sense to intervene.

2. If a child tells you he or she is being abused, don’t panic, don’t act shocked. Make sure the child feels supported and protected. Say, “You did the right thing in telling me.”

3. Believe the child. Even if the offender is “good old Uncle Charlie,” tell the child, “I believe you.” It takes a courage for kids to speak up because they fear they won’t be believed. Kids need to know you’re on their side, and they almost never imagine sex acts unless they’ve experienced them.

4. Tell the child that he or she is not bad. Say, “He knew better; you didn’t know. We’ll make sure he can’t touch you again.”

5. Focus on the child’s needs. Don’t think about the reputation of any individual or organization. The moment you shift your focus off of what’s best for the child, you’re on the wrong side of the issue.

6. Don’t confront the offender in front of the child. Keep adult discussions away from the child. Kids need to feel protected. They don’t need to be upset, disturbed, and frightened.

7. Report the crime to the police. Law enforcement agencies in your area have trained investigators who will talk with you and the child, and who know exactly how best to handle the situation.

And don’t you dare tell me that you don’t have the heart to have “good old Uncle Charlie” arrested. If Uncle Charlie is molesting a child, protect that child!

I’ve heard too many horror stories of people who protected “good old Uncle Charlie” or “good old Coach Sandusky” instead of protecting children. You must have absolute moral clarity: Child molesters belong in jail where they can’t hurt children. If you don’t call the police, then you are an accomplice and no better than a molester yourself.

8. If the molester is a member of the clergy, DO NOT report the abuse to church officials. If the molester is a coach or teacher, DO NOT report the abuse to the school authorities. Some churches and organizations worry more about lawsuits and bad publicity than about kids. Just call the police.

9. Don’t call Child Protective Services—investigating crimes is not the function of CPS. If the police determine that CPS should be involved, they will make that decision.
Don’t let the predator talk you out calling the police. Most predators are amazingly persuasive—that’s how they entice their victims, and that’s how they get people to cover for them instead of reporting them. Don’t be taken in by a charming predator.

10. After you call the police, call the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4ACHILD (1-800-422-4453). The ChildHelp counselor will listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and direct you to local support services for the child.”



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The Headhunter Calls

So as you settle in to your routine at work, the phone rings, you answer and it is a recruiter.  Should I take the time? Is there anyone around? Can the boss hear?  What’s the point, I’m happy!  Or some other quick thought of the risk, the value, your impending deadline or conference call, or completing your Zappos purchase runs through your head.  Take the time, set up a more convenient time, or let the call go to vm but take down the info.  Why?  Not only for you, because in today’s corporate environment a restructure or M&A could be around the corner, but also for your peers.  A job is a great thing to have but a career has even more value.   Manage that career by knowing your value, industry trends, other opportunities, and networking.  By networking with a recruiter for you or for your peers you can build that career.  So if some day you are feeling the pain of a restructure, merger, buyout, lack of promotion, or no raise you will have someone to call.  Or at the least have a name and number to pass on to someone else who is feeling that pain.

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Jump the tracks, Change your career direction

Feeling trapped in your current career path?  Candidates frequently call recruiters seeking a role outside their experience and current career.   Maybe they are frustrated in their current path or are seeking a corporate role after spending years on the road in a sales role.   It can be difficult depending on what your desire is but nothing is impossible if you have the willpower.    A recruiter may be able to help you or you can help yurself if you have taken one or all of the following steps:

Is there a degree or certification that is required or preferred for the new path?  Attaining a degree or certification make you more qualified and it will also show a hiring manager commitment.  Also a little exercise for the brain will help in the interview process because continuing education keeps you nimble and fresh.  In working towards the degree or certification you will also find out if you really want to take that new job.    You may find the grass really isn’t greener.   If you are committed and know what you want to do, it is time to dig in and be a student.  Once accomplished it will show committment and build your resume and qualifications.

Location. location, location.  Not just yours, but of the company and its competition.  Let’s start with your current company.  If your current company is not hiring or expanding in your new career path you may want to start looking elsewhere.  Look locally and nationally depending on what you want to do and how that pertains to your desire.   Examples are pharma in the New Jersey market or tech in the Silicon Valley.  Both having a large number of companies in the same niche in a close proximity.  The proximity fuels more opportunity and the companies are competing for talent, so there may be more flexibility around qualifications.  And on the opposite side of the spectrum is third tier markets.  Companies based in remote or unpreferred locations may have a difficult time finding staff.  Therefore, they are likely to be a bit more flexible in terms of requirements and qualifications.

Build your network.  One of the greatest benefits of resources like Linkedin is that you can connect with people in your desired niche.  Join groups aligned to your new career path and network with hiring managers in the field.  This is probably the easiest step but be sure you are leveraging your connections.  Send a congrats note when someone is promoted, compliment an article someone has written, and repond to threads or tweets.   The whole idea is that you want to be known.  If you take the time to build your name, you can take the next step and send a personal note indicating that you would like to get into their field.  If you find someone who is receptive you can even ask them what steps you need to take.  An easy way to get someone to open up is by complimenting them on their career progression or company.

Another opportunity that offers inroads into your desired field is tradeshows or seminars.  They offer a blend of education and networking in a short span.  This might be an option for you depending on the cost and travel required .  Also if there is a certification you are working towards there may be credits offered.  Another benefit is that tradeshows and seminars are usually held in vacation destinations so you can get some enjoyment out of the trip.  Start searching online for schedules, locations, and costs.

Take one or all of the above steps and you will find yourself closer to your desired careerpath.  You have to show the commitment, do the work and don’t expect a job to land in your lap.  Everyone has heard a story of how a dream job landed in someones lap.  It happens, people get lucky but luck also favors the prepared!

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Building AWESOME References

So the inevitable statement at the end of the interview..Please provide your references.   Hopefully, you do not find yourself scrambling to track down contacts from years past.  Be prepared!  Do an inventory a few times a year.  You never know when the phone may ring with a great opportunity or you get caught up in a restructure.   Great references can get you the job.   Here are a few tips to help cultivate your reference list.

Do the work!  When backfilling a role in which a candidate has left, hiring managers will frequently say “I knew they were leaving they checked out months ago”.  Don’t go there.  Do the job you were paid to do.  Fill out the TPS reports, focus on getting as close as you can to the unattainable goals set for you, and complete all the crazy tasks that have nothing to do with your job but were dropped on your desk.  Not only for your job security but for your co-workers and for your reputation.  It is a small world and a hiring manager may know someone at your old company that is NOT on your reference list and call them.  What will they say?  If they say “hard worker” guess what you may have just got the job.

Build great networks.  An outstanding read for everyone is “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie.  Timeless book, quick read,  and why reinvent the wheel.  Follow Carnegie’s plan and focus even more attention to people of influence in your company.   And this is important, on all departments of your company.   If you are in a large organization, focus on the ones you interact with frequently.  Again it is a small world and you never know who may be able to pull the strings to get you promoted, that new job, or keep the role you have in restructure.   Pay attention to the people of influence at your current company, past, and your clients/accounts.   Build that network and you can have along list to choose from for your references.

And finally, cultivate that list.  Just like a farmer that pays attention to their crops.  Keep track of birthdays, kids graduations, and send a Christmas card.  Send an email checking in every once in a while.  Keep up with them on Linkedin and send a congratulations note when someone gets promoted or takes a new role.  Write a great reference on them on Linkedin.  So much you can do, just make the effort.  Plant those seeds that will grow into great references.  You reap what you sow!



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Wall Street and Jobs…Steve Jobs

So as the world mourns over the passing of a legend..Steve Jobs..others scream, hold signs, and protest capitalism.   Steve provides a tremendous example of how with work and focus they, the protestors, can be the masters of their own destiny.   Steve was the adopted son of blue collar parents.  He went to college but didn’t graduate.  He was a drop out then as he termed a drop in..someone who stuck around campus.  But he had a thirst for knowledge and a strong desire to succeed.   Which led him to start a computer company in his parent’s garage.  During a time when he could have been protesting all that was “wrong” in the world at that time.

And then the next page in his life, pretty soon that small company grew to a multimillion dollar enterprise.  New leadership in the organization had him fired.  Image that day for him…fired.  All that hard work..then to be cast out by your own creation.  Did he stand out on the sidewalk in front of Apple with a sign?  Show up a investors meetings screaming at the new management?   No, he went on to create two other innovative companies.  Soon through a purchase of one he found himself back at the helm of his creation.  A place which he until only months from his death.  I’m sure under much duress.  Cancer sucks..the treatment is almost as bad as the disease.  He was a fighter.    He fought the good fight…for creation, innovation, success, and for life.  As we all should.


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First_Last, Make It Count!


Your name…most likely the first thing that was given to you.   Even before you were granted your social security number you were given your name.   The first thing you put on every homework page, test, report card, and then on your diploma (s).   And now it is the first thing on top of your resume before you fill in your experience, education, and even email address (which ironically is your “virtual” name).
Do your best to build your name, promote your name, and grow your name.  So it is something you are proud of having.  Just like when you get that great feeling when you treat your body well by eating right and working out.   Now go out and get the same good feeling when you see your name on a recommendation, accolade, or charity contribution.  You will find you get the same feeling when you look in the mirror and say  “wow I look good!” after completing a boot camp or P90x.   And just the same it is hard work but work worth doing…and passing down to the next generation.

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Loyalty Cards and Food Safety

Reading the recent news on the Colorado Cantaloupe listeria deaths I thought back to a phone call and letter I received on a separate food
recall.  The fact that stands out is that the food chain today is long and difficult to track.   Once the farm was identified as the source the government had to sort through a web of distributers, processers, and retailers that had sold the Cantaloupes.   But who purchased the product? How do reach out to the customers besides the newspapers &TV?

The loyalty card can be a link to notify customers before they have had a chance to consumer the recalled product.   A number of years ago I received a phone call from one of my favorite Grocery Retailers.  An item I had purchased had been recalled.   I had filled out my Loyalty
Card and had included my phone number.  I had noticed the headlines in the news but did not read the story so I had no idea I had purchased a suspect item.  News of food recalls are frequent and can be overlooked for news of popular trials, politics, or sports.  The loyalty card can be a valuable tool to notify the public of a recalls.

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