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Two Deep

23 Mar
Most of the blog posts I have written lately are roaming around in my head and are not making it here.  This blog thing gets away from you especially when you are trying to find good people, connect them and make sure everyone has a good time at hiring parties across the country.  Hard to find time when you are trying to find good people that are STILL hard to find.  That is my attempt somewhere between a reason and an excuse for not writing more. I feel better now.

Too Deep or Two Deep?

Too Deep is the pile of resumes you are competing with wrought with wannabes – many, unqualified competition who serve as a hiring manager’s desk clutter as YOU hope yours doesn’t succumb to those who fail to lick their fingers when thumbing through the stack.  We aren’t talking about that “too deep” today though – we are talking about a tactic to use when answering questions during the interview process.

I have often shared with candidates that when answering the hiring manager questions you need to be able to go – Two Deep.  Let me explain.  One deep is the bullet point answer.  We all have the bullet points, the talking points – the I need to make sure I make this point points.  Two Deep requires you prepare to address the follow-up questions when they come – because they will.

“Why?” – “What do you mean by that?”- “Tell me more about that experience.”  Two deep gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart.  You can’t hide when the follow-up question is asked – you either uh..uh..uh…flinch or you can show your work, reveal your belief, or disclose your philosophy.

Let me give you some behind the scenes evidence.  Debriefing a client recently, I asked how things went during the interview.  The client says, “You know she was very sharp and I liked her alot.  I especially liked a couple of her answers.”  The client went on with the specific answers that resonated.  The point – original content plays – the substance of these two answers created the defining moment and the decision to hire this candidate was made.  Quality answers, unique answers, real answers – YOUR answers.

Companies have invested millions to develop questions to extract great answers from you. Several of my clients utilize Behavioral Based Interviewing questions (this is a marginal video but you get the point and have something to click on).  Behavior as in – how did you perform, why did you do that, what was the result, tell me, prove it – show me.  They even ask candidates to take a pre-interview assessment that prepares the interview questions for that specific candidate.  Sophisticated and personal, eh?  You might even conclude (AND SHOULD!) they want to know what you think, what you have done and what you accomplished and dare I say, your impact on the organization.

Am I suggesting you go out and attend a webinar on Behavioral Based interviewing?  Not a bad idea.  What I am suggesting is that you have to provide the hiring manager with some value when you talk.  Bullet point based interviewing this is not.  We need substance.  We need great answers.

As an industry trainier, Ryan Estis has shared with the jobseeker marketplace – you need to –  outprepare and outpresent – your competition.  Take the time to THINK and properly prepare so you can present YOUR answers and show YOUR work.  This is telling your story and we all like a real, good story and a good, REAL story for that matter.

Have you noticed the top business book section at your local bookstore lately?  That is the story.  Stories.  The value of storytelling and the outcome of this interview hinges on your ability to tells yours – the story that best articulates your skill set and gives them reasons to hire you.  As the author of your career manifesto, you should be able to effectively prepared to communicate it.

Employers are begging you to set yourself apart and weave your story into theirs.  So, whether they ask you handcrafted, custom made questions or not – Go Two Deep.

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Resolution Add-on

27 Dec

Time to make your list of resolutions.  Oh, yes it is.  The obvious are there AGAIN – eliminate your debt, lose a few LBs, plan your day better, implement your plan efficiently.  Then there is always the second tier of should dos and nice to-dos.  I wanted to go ahead and point out another realm of resolution – the advanced realm of – NOT EVEN AWARE OF THESE SOFT SKILLS I POSSESS THAT I WILL CHANGE in 2011.

This is the type of year-end post that spews the leftover crumbs of the oft asked, if not daily, question, “Andy, what do you think about this?”

Although my wife and kids never recognize me for this attribute, I listen too well.  I hear the subtleties in your presentation.  In the spirit of the holiday season, sorry but I must ask – Do You Hear What I Hear?

I love the discussions with job seekers that are all about what they said, what the interviewer said, and so on.  As much as I enjoy this back and forth with a job seeker, they mostly dislike the exercise.  BUT – the point here is to examine what you are saying, what you are projecting and what they are inferring. Controlling the interviewer’s inference is critical and you are responsible for their interpretation.

Let’s talk the obvious ones first.  My personal general favorite – flinching.  Next, the word – “probably.”  The phrases – “pretty much” and “I think so.”  I think subtleties cost you.  If you aren’t getting the offers to jobs you want where the chemistry is good, you are projecting tentativeness.  Tentativeness does not begat reassurance.  Reassurance is what you are closing the I want to work here deal with – we need the resolute “I can do it, I know I can because I have done it before, I own my desk” mentality.  They brought you in so your skills are a given, chemistry gets you to the next round, reassurance solidifies employment.

What prompted this post was my recent exchange with a candidate and some things I look forward to pointing out to him.  I had trouble reaching this candidate and he had trouble reaching me.  It was frustrating for both of us.  Believe me it pisses me off when I can’t reach people but I don’t project it (I bitch before the beep and after the hangup.)  It clearly annoyed this guy.  Did he say the words?  No.  He never said, “Andy, I am trying to reach you and it pisses me off I can’t.”  It was the lack of self-control subtlety in his voice.  Do you realize what you sound like?  Do you?   Think it but don’t say it.  Think it but don’t show it.

As much as I appreciated his urgency in reaching me (refreshing), I didn’t appreciate the tone  and actually considered not calling him back because of it.  I write this because his entitlement refrain in the form of terse voicemail tidbits was not some calculated tactic nor was it compelling.  Seething with entitlement, flailing job search guy lacks self-awareness.  Seething with entitlement, flailing job search guy is not owning his search – not practicing a self-control he must possess.  No wonder HR doesn’t call you back.  They may be scared seething with entitlement, flailing job search guy will become angry, workplace violence guy.

Do You Hear What I Hear?  Start listening to yourself.  THINK.  Check your subtleties at the interviewer’s door – in fact, just leave them in 2010.  You may be entitled to unemployment compensation but you are not entitled to say anything like THAT.  Hear what I hear.

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Your Sixth Sense

19 Mar

I was asked to write a foreword for a friend’s e-book recently.  I won’t share the exact title since it is not out yet but the book deals with secrets that recruiters won’t tell you.  The time he took to put this resource together is testimony to his professional credibility – the only thing a recruiter really has to offer you.  The only thing a recruiter has is credibility.

While writing the piece it dawned on me – sharing the secrets of the game with candidates is really what has differentiated my recruiting practice.  That is exactly what has allowed me to enjoy life as a generalist recruiter – I am the recruiter that will tell you what others won’t.

The misnomer of recruiting, Folks – is that, as a candidate, you think your recruiter exists to find you a job.  Most recruiters do genuinely enjoy helping people – but a recruiter is primarily looking to find their client the right person.  We do not broker people, we broker jobs.  Let me manage your expectations for a minute – you are two things to a recruiter – a human being and a commodity.  You need to understand that.  When a recruiter is talking with you, you are a human being.  When speaking with their client, you are a commodity.  A good recruiter knows how to treat you with respect even though you are a product.       

As a candidate, what I think you should expect, if not demand, is the truth – and I would suggest you always look for congruence in your recruiter’s words and actions – tempered with the understanding hiring authorities are often elusive moving targets. 

Are you getting facts or generalities?  You obviously need facts.  Ironically, what you need from the recruiter is what they need from you.  The best recruiter-candidate relationships are built on respect – like all good relationships – and clear communication. 

One last thought, probably the absolute key – once the process gets rolling, your sense of urgency needs to be amped up.  Amped up!  If your recruiter calls, you better call them back.  A strong sense of urgency indicates interest and ultimately offers reassurance to the employer that you are serious – you control the sense of urgency that controls the inference whether you are REALLY serious, which influences whether you get this gig or your slightly more amped up competition does.  Think.  Please.

Specifics, Specifics.

22 Feb

You just got out of the interview.  You debrief yourself.  You are feeling fairly good about how you answered the questions.  You liked it because it didn’t feel like an interview – it was more of a conversation.  Good.

Here is what I would like you to focus on and I SO wish we had gotten to talk about this before your interview.  What did the interviewer say?  NO! – not what do you think they said.  What did they ACTUALLY say?  What words did they use?  The words matters.  I see plenty of self-deceit in these moments, we need brutal honesty.   Were you listening?  Listen.

You feel good about your experience.  Why?  We need specifics.  What specifics did they offer you or was it all general commentary?  Anyone can get general commentary.  You want specifics.

“I like your background.”  “You certainly could do the job.”  General.  “I like your background in dealing with the implementation of…” – “I am glad to hear you have managed a team through a merger because we are in acquisition mode.”  That is better.

We want to sell ourselves in specifics and we want to listen for specifics.  If you want specific feedback, you better sell YOUR specifics.  Just as facts on a resume serve as “speedbumps” to the reader, facts in the interview illicit more questions.  More questions signal more interest.  More interest signals more chance of you getting this offer.  That is why you are interviewing, right?

This applies whether you are a construction superintendent, a CFO, a whatever.  I had a construction superintendent tell me yesterday that his projects “were on time and under budget.”   I was thinking, “that is what they all say.”  I asked him, “Can you elaborate?”  He then says, “My last project we finished in 11 months as opposed to the scheduled 13 and we made 14% intstead of 7%.”  He goes on with this nugget, “I also ran 300 guys on that $40 million job with no lost work time due to accidents or safety issues.”  I would say that sets him apart – specifically.

Specifics Sell.  Are you just a construction superintendent or are you a construction superintendent ready to sell what you can do for the company?

Learnings. Winnings.

15 Feb

I was talking with a gentleman that has been out of work for 13 months.  13 months.  A year and a month.  He attends my weekly meeting for job seekers.   One of my favorite parts of the meeting is where we discuss what everyone learned this week and where were the wins.  LearningsWinnings.  In the previous meeting, we discussed LinkedIn.  This guy had done little more than piddle around in it at that point. 

He goes home last week and completes his profile.  He applied what he learned.  So back to this week – his time to share.  He shares with us that he completed his profile.  Picture and all.  Great.  I was glad he shared that. 

We move to Wins and he speaks up again.  His win?  He has an interview this week.  13 months out and he has an interview.  Someone had found him on LinkedIn.  No job posting, no ad to reply to, just someone saying “I’d like to talk with you.”  Imagine that.  Do I think it happens that fast?  It certainly can. 

I followed up with him after the meeting with an email – here is an excerpt: 

________, if I may, make sure they understand you have put this time off in to perspective.  You know – “it is part of the plan” stuff.  I think employers want to know you are in the game and have examined this.  Hope that makes sense. 

He responded with a thank you and “he would address it.”   I clarified with: 

HR professionals hear people complain all day long about this kind of stuff.  To get their attention you should come in with a fresh perspective on YOUR experience.  Don’t draw attention to it, or have a monologue about it;  just know if you can convince them you have gained some understanding of the benefit of having this time – you are better than the rest.  And ..of course you are. 

My point here is that employers are tired of hearing the complaining of candidates in interviews.  Interviews are not family counseling.  I know this sounds insensitive but you have to shed the “woe is me – I never saw it coming” mentality or interviews can turn in to therapy sessions.  HR quickly goes from “Human Resources” to “Has Reservations” – we don’t want that. 

Unemployment is no fun.  It can be devastating and can have an impact on every facet of your life.  I understand.  The good news is that you have time to reinvent yourself.  You have time to take a look,  examine the situation and make peace with your new found perspective.  During this time, take note of learnings and winnings.  Write them down.  Record them.  Journal. 

As far as LinkedIn goes – you gotta get on there.  A MUST along with your professional resume.  Here is the takeaway – he knew he needed a resume because he was looking.  He never really got the fact that people were looking for him.   They found him.  And, THAT is a learning and a winning.

3 Tough Questions

22 Jan

They are coming.  The questions – the big 3.  The three questions you can’t stand that they always ask.  The questions you hope they don’t ask.  Those questions.  The questions you better own.

What are they?  You tell me.  C’mon, job seeker – you tell me what they are.  If the competition for jobs is greater than ever before and I believe it is – then the candidate (this is you) better be prepared better than EVER.   You gotta prepare.  You have to take the time on these 3 questions.

Meaningful work is hard to find – meaning you better mean it when you prepare.  Your opportunities to present your skills can be few in this market.

The questions are coming.  Why did you leave your last job, by the way?  A new level of empathy exists for the job seeker but you still are going to have to answer this.  Why did you leave?  What did you learn while you were there?  Yes, that is a question too, but it is where the answer to why you left ends up.  You gotta answer why (brief) but I suggest gravitating quickly to something that reveals the perspective you gained.  Potential employers like your acknowledgement of the bigger picture.

The questions are coming and they are individual in their focus.  Here is the exercise – Look at your resume like you are hiring “you.”  What would you ask you?   What would you want to know about you?  Now give you an answer – a great answer that flows.  Practice it.  Say it.  Ask your significant other, spouse, close friend, an HR professional in your world to listen critically.    The HR pro will have no issue listening critically.  One last thing, does it make sense?  Do your references support it?  It has to flow.

We aren’t talking about how I can better develop sociopathic tendencies during my career transition to allow me to not flinch mid-interview.  After all, the sociopath always gets the job – they just don’t keep it.  I am simply saying, do your answers flow?  Are you properly framing the discussion?  You control their interpretation.

It isn’t just the words either – it is how you say them.  Your abrasive tone that exists because of your bitterness needs to be harnessed.  You gotta deal with that crap and the interviewer does not care about ALL THAT.  This is not a time to take a shot at their hiring process either – you can resent it, just don’t express it in any way.

The questions depend on you, your career history and where you worked, how long you were there, what will you wear, the title that you had, the location that was bad, the travel you’ll accept, the hours you’ll work, the boss was a jerk – the questions, they lurk.

I don’t really know why I am rhyming – the job search is certainly about timing – maybe I am bored with my post – it is longer than most  – yes, the questions will vary and I don’t mean to be arbitrary – so take this to heart and here’s a good place to start – with one that will definitely be asked by more than a few – TELL ME, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

March Madness

18 Mar

Pretty much my favorite time of year.  Hoops Galore!  ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and on and on.  Invariably as you are watching the highlights of your favorite team, you always get the post-game interview where a common quote is uttered by a student(allegedly) athlete as they make their point and say, "Ya know what I’m sayin’."  I mean, you know what I’m sayin’, right?  I’m just sayin’, ya know.

Sure I know what you are sayin’.  I think you are sayin’ you are looking forward to your NBA career where you will get paid for playin’.  I feel ya, Bro.  As I contemplate this, I flashback to my early days in recruiting when a former mentor of mine would say – You are responsible for their interpretation.  Regardless of the encounter, we are responsible for the interpretation of what we say or – are sayin’.

This is so true in any encounter dealing with your spouse, significant other, kids, boss, co-worker who ever it it is – but let’s just focus on the interview in this blog.

Think about the interview – it really is one of the strangest encounters in life.  I mean, ya know what I’m sayin’.?  Let’s get together, decline the beverage they ask if you want and always wish you would have accepted, have a brief meaningful conversation, look each other up and down, tell me about yourself, answer some behavioral based questions (you hate those – "tell me about a time when…"), in 3 to 5 minutes decide if we like one another, spend another 27 – 57 minutes more with one another, ask a few more questions, take a tour of the office environment to see if the others look normal and like your kind of people, take a card, ask a question or 3, grab a handshake and leave.   Seriously, how we do this?

Anyway, back to communication.  Maybe it is not quite like depicted in the previous paragraph but …sure it is.  OK.  So during this meaningful conversation – as the interviewee you have to make sure the interviewer understands your position.  Did they really understand what you just said about why you want to leave your company?  Did they?  Watch them – are they on the same page?  You have to check-in with the interviewer – what I am proposing is that you say "Ya know what I’m sayin’" without saying, "Ya Know what I’m sayin’."

I want you to check-in and confirm they got it.  You know if they got it, right?  You know – they smile, they nod a little, they have that mini-sigh thing going on that indicates their time is not being wasted – as if to say finally a viable candidate has arrived in their presence, better yet they are simply engaged in active listening and are following along.  It’s that moment when an interview seems more like a conversation between professionals than a first date gone awry.  In March Madness terms per CBS, we are talking about the One Shining Moment of the interview.

Check in, confirm they got your point – Ya know what i’m sayin?!  For more on Ya Know What I’m Sayin – please go to the Urban Dictionary.

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