Friday, June 24, 2011

Could've, Should've, Would've (and how to "behave" in a behavioral interview)

Talent Scout Q&A (Real questions from real candidates)

Job Seeker: Would you have any advice on how NOT to get nervous during an interview?  I’ve been to so many interviews, and you’d think I wouldn’t care at this point.  But I do, and that’s why I’m nervous!  Unfortunately no amount of practice (with my family or alone in front of a mirror) seems to help me remember things “in the moment”.  Then after the interview, I walk out and it all comes flooding back… I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. 
I find that I’m more nervous with inexperienced interviewers or people who just want to blast me with those behavioral interview questions…which seem to have nothing to do with whether I can do the job, want the job and WILL do the job to the best of my ability!
Why is it that recruiters take so much stock in those behavioral interview questions?  Or should I say the ability for someone to answer them?

Talent Scout: Well it seems like your question is twofold:  Behavioral interview questions and how to calm your nerves.  Am I right? 
Behavioral questions help us understand each other (both the interviewer and the candidate, when you ask questions in return).  Consider you are on a first date.  If all you ask are “Can you do ___?” or “How many years experience do you have doing ____?” you wouldn’t learn nearly as much about your potential partner as you would if you said something like “Tell me about your favorite experience doing ____.” Or “What are you most proud of?” or “How would you handle ____ situation?”  THE SAME GOES FOR INTERVIEWING!  It’s like a first date where you are both trying to learn as much as you can about the other in a one hour (or less) time frame.

As for being nervous, I personally try to overcome that by visualization techniques.
  • Visualize yourself sitting in the interview with all the confidence in the world
  • Visualize every question that gets asked of you and how you are quickly able to answer it with a strong, solid answer.
  • Visualize yourself at the end of the interview “closing” them on the deal.
  • Visualize the call you’ll be getting with the offer!
  • Visualize yourself as a valued member of the company, with your office and your boss and your team, etc..
I think visualization combined with practice (and a good night’s sleep before your interview) are the most powerful tools at your disposal when preparing for an interview.
I wish you all the success in the world in your next interview, and that your next job is just around the corner!!  Let me know how these work for you, and good luck to you!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Did he (Mr. Candidate) really just say that? (and the one question you should ALWAYS ask)

What’s the one thing I would need to do, if offered this position, to have an immediate impact on the team?” he asked as we were wrapping up the interview.  How refreshing”, I thought!  This mid level manager candidate nailed it just by asking the question!
Wrapping up my interviews, I always ask if a candidate has any questions for me.  Half of them ask something like “Is this a new position or replacement?”, or “How long has this position been open?”, or “How quickly are you looking to fill this position?”.  All of these are decent questions, but they sound like something most likely found off a quick Google search on “what questions to ask the interviewer”.  Others say something like “Not really…I think you did a great job of explaining things.”  The absolute worst ones are when a candidate takes this opportunity to go straight to “What are the hours?” or “How long until Short Term Disability kicks in?” (YES, I’ve actually had a candidate ask that last one!)
When a hiring manager or recruiter asks if you have any questions, ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING PREPARED TO ASK THEM...NO MATTER WHAT!!  Do you research on the company or department ahead of time if you are able to do so.  If not, ask probing questions.  Great questions include,
·         “How can I make an immediate impact in this department?”
·         “What’s the one thing this team/department/company struggles with that keeps you up at night?”
·         “How will you measure my success in this role?”
·         “What do you think would it look like if someone with more potential than you can imagine (ie. ME) stepped into this role and took the team to the next level…or the level after that?” (MY PERSONAL FAVORITE…IF YOU ARE BOLD ENOUGH, BE PREPARED TO KNOCK THEIR SOCKS OFF WITH THIS ONE)
·         “How do I measure up against other candidates you’ve spoken to?”
·         “What concerns do you have about my background and abilities?”
There are many more great questions to ask, but as you can see the questions that stand out (and get you more REAL information about the situation you may be stepping into, if given the role) are the ones that aren’t about the basic logistics of the recruiting process or the job.  They elicit answers that will paint you a clear picture of what may be your future.  They are discovery focused questions about the situations that lie waiting in the deep, dark cubicle lined offices where you just might be spending the next few years of your life.  Why wouldn’t you want to know the details on WHAT’S GOING ON THERE?  Whatever you learn from the answers will surely help you to:
1)      Decide whether it’s a mission you want to pursue.
2)      Get an idea of what your game plan will need to be if offered the job.
3)      Understand what the manager (or your new boss) sees as areas of opportunity.
4)      Learn what you need to do to make a difference (and make your new boss happy!)
Senior leaders like to hire individuals who they trust can get the job done.  They want people who are problem solvers who “get it” and who care about the business.  They are generally not looking for someone with the limited mindset of “How soon are you looking to fill this job?”  Understand?

I hope you get a chance to try out some of these or your own versions of them on your next interview.  And if you’re looking for work, I hope that interview is just around the corner for you!  Until next time, much continued career success your way!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

1,000 Interviews Later

What can you learn in 1,000 (one thousand) interviews?  In a typical year, I interview approximately 1,000 people.  The overall “feel” of the candidate landscape changes each year, and some years are harder than others (especially lately when I speak with people who have been out of work for sometimes as long as a year or more).  But what I love most about my work is that I get to make an impact on people’s lives…whether I hire them or not!   It also affords me the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.
The following is a partial list of types of candidates I have come across lately:
1)      There are the people with the funky ring tones.  If you’re looking for a job and you have one of those ringtones that will make me think I’m jamming out in the club, CHANGE IT!  Period.  It doesn’t matter if it’s rock or rap or country or blues, CHANGE IT!

2)      There are the eager ones who are willing to accept just about any job.  I call them up and they are willing to adjust their “experience” to meet whatever I’m looking for.  Again, if this is you…DON’T DO IT!  You should be looking for a position that actually matches your experience.  You should also consider the corporate culture of the company.  Not every corporate culture is a fit for everyone.  Be on the lookout for a place you can call “home”.  It will make your work life much more enjoyable, trust me!

3)      There are the ones with poor communication skills.  It happens way more often than it should unfortunately.   I call someone who isn’t expecting my call, and they either:

a)                   Sound like they just woke up from a rough night out at the clubs and should’ve let my call go to voicemail, or
b)                   They just have poor communication skills in general.
If you’re looking for a job (and have your resume out for recruiters to find) you should ALWAYS be prepared for our calls!  If you partied too hard last night, let the call go to voicemail and call us back when you’re better prepared.  If you have poor communication skills, PRACTICE!  Join a Toast Masters group in your area and work on your elevator pitch.  Try calling yourself up and leaving a voicemail for yourself or for a friend.  Play it back and hear how you sound.  Ask your friends how they think you sound.  Tell them to be honest, and if you need to make adjustments DO IT!
4)      There are the gems who just can’t seem to find a break.  This is the toughest part of my job.  When I call someone up who has been out of work for many months or a year (or in some cases longer), it is tough.  I can hear the desperation and despair in their voice.  Even if you’ve been unemployed for a long time, do whatever you can to keep yourself in a good space.  Eat right, get adequate rest, exercise and try to remain positive.  It will come across when you’re interviewing.

5)      There are the crazy ones.  You can’t have 1,000 (one thousand) interviews without coming across some characters.  I’ve had some candidates who felt they should’ve been considered for a position when either I or the hiring manager didn’t see it.  The most appropriate thing to do if you get a “no thank you” from a position you’ve applied to is to reply and thank the recruiter for the opportunity and ask them to keep you in mind for other opportunities. 
Once I had a guy who had lied on his resume.  When I realized it, I let him know that I wouldn’t be considering him for the role.  He became furious and even called back several times leaving me obscene voicemails.  Believe me- he will NEVER BE CONSIDERED for any position I EVER work on again.  Don’t let your emotions get the most of you (and if you really are unstable or having a tough time emotionally in your job search, talk to a professional!).
6)      Lastly, there are the ROCK STARS!  There’s nothing quite as wonderful as those first few minutes on the phone with someone who I “just know” will get hired.  They communicate well, they are prepared, they have researched the company and positions they are applying for, and they can present their case of why I should hire them.  Even if you’re the best candidate, YOU MUST BE ABLE TO SELL THE RECRUITER on your background.  Put together a 90 day plan of how you will make a difference in the position, prepare and rehearse your elevator pitch, stand up when you’re talking on the phone for better energy.  Go above and beyond and you won’t be interviewing for long….you will have yourself a job in NO TIME!

Until next time, I hope you have yourself a wonderful day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Did you learn something new today?

If you’re not LEARNING, you’re LOSING

What the heck was I thinking?” I said to myself as the clearly over-caffeinated Drill Instructors shouted orders in a language containing words I understood but used in a manner that made absolutely no sense at all.  They shuffled us off the bus to the pavement and onto those infamous yellow footprints at Parris Island in the middle of the night.  I was a skinny kid from a small town with no idea what I had gotten myself into. 

You are now aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island South Carolina” the Drill Instructor barked, “And you have just taken the first step toward becoming a member of the world’s finest fighting force, the United States Marine Corps.”

The next 3 months were grueling.  The physical training, the mind games, the sleep deprivation, the instructions on weaponry and Marine Corps history....all of it was nothing like I had ever experienced.  But I soon learned that if I paid attention, and learned how to think quickly on my feet, it would be easier on me.  And I wasn’t a fan of doing pushups in the mud, so you better believe I started paying attention!

Several weeks into it, I remember looking back at how much I had changed and how much I had learned.  No longer was I a kid, but a man well on his way to becoming a Marine.  Many of the guys in my platoon didn’t make it.  Either they were too weak physically or mentally or they just gave up.  But for those of us who made it to the finish line, having our drill instructors call us “Marine” instead of the demeaning “Recruit” was worth all the struggles.

One of the things that had clearly occurred was I had learned something new throughout the process.  I put in the time to challenge myself, and in the end I came out as a better, improved person (with a military career ahead of me).  Yes, this may be a somewhat extreme example because we were practically forced to learn, adapt and change (not to mention we were held captive on an island surrounded by swamps in the “jungles” of South Carolina!).  But my point is that in order to have more, we need to do more and put in the time to improving ourselves.

Luckily in your professional life there are easier ways of improving yourself.  If you don’t have a degree and can’t afford to quit your job to return to school full time, there are ways to do both.  Many people juggle a full time job and a full class schedule, with the end result being twofold:

1-      You’ve improved your situation and are likely more marketable.
2-      You’ll feel that incredible sensation that accompanies accomplishment. 

In my opinion both are equally rewarding!  The sense of accomplishment alone is worth it, as it will naturally breed more success.

Perhaps you could benefit by pursuing a certification in your industry that would give you more knowledge and perhaps make you more marketable or more valuable to your current of future employer.  Many companies will pay for a portion of your ongoing education, especially if the coursework is related to your career.  Some companies will even pay 100% of tuition.  Check it out.  Know what your options are, and make a decision to learn something new.

If going back to school isn’t for you, you could always take on a challenging new project at work.  Step outside of your comfort zone and see where your search for learning takes you!

Whether it’s in a classroom setting or on-the-job-training, learning more will make you a more valuable asset to your employer.  If you’re looking for work, it will make you more marketable in your search.  If you’re a person with a passion for improving yourself (and I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this), you will give your brain an extra activity which in turn will ensure it continues working for you well into your old age.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.”  And if you learn something interesting, share it with someone else.  It’s no secret that this world could use a few more enlightened folks, and it’s just good social responsibility to PAY IT FORWARD!

Until next time, make it a great day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

People Always ask me..."What makes you so happy?"

Searching for a new job can be tough, I understand!  It’s even worse if you’re out of work and have been out of work for a while, I’m sure!  No matter what though, my advice to you is to do things to help keep you in your “happy place”.   As a generally upbeat person, I’ve realized that it naturally does two things.  One, it draws other positive and upbeat people to you.  Two, it annoys the heck out of negative people (which I find amusing on a personal level).
Here are a few things you can do to increase your happiness (and improve your job search as well):
1.       Find out what it is that makes you happy.  We’re all unique and have different “happiness sources”.  Revel in your uniqueness, and be the master of this mission.  Figure out what it takes for you to be happy NOW…not down the road, or when you make more money or get that promotion or find a job, NOW!
2.       Make a DECISION TO BE HAPPY.  If you’ve figured out some things that make you happy, incorporate them into your daily life EVERY chance you get.  HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. 
3.       Surround yourself with happy people.  This is a REQUIREMENT for my happiness.  Life’s too short to hang out with people who are downers.  Don’t hang around them, and don’t be one!  Find people with similar interests and make connections.  Happy people are also more likely to help you in your job search if you haven’t realized that yet. 
4.       Do something nice for yourself every day. Take a walk after work, take a long bath, spend a few extra minutes working on your appearance, take a group fitness class, read a book…. the options here are endless.  As you do these, you will subconsciously be putting yourself in a better mood.
5.       Find humor in situations that cause you stress.  People are strange, situations are awkward, and we have to deal with both on a pretty regular basis.  When something causes you stress, like traffic or meetings or children or spouses, FIND THE FUNNY and realize we’re all in this together. It’s tough to laugh and frown at the same time…
6.       Get connected!  Science has proven that people who interact with others more are happier, live longer and tend to be healthier.  Join a club, find a church, check out your local sports league, etc… Meet people, get to know them and appreciate them.  In addition to making someone else’s day brighter, you’re also automatically increasing your happiness (sneaky, right? But it works!)
7.       Maintain your health.  Eat the green vegetables instead of that drive thru food, exercise a little (or a lot if that’s one of your “happy sources”) every day, get outside and enjoy yourself some of this beautiful, crazy world!  Your health is invaluable…  Hold on to it!
8.       Lastly, understand you deserve to be happy.  No matter what, you deserve to be happy.  No one else can do this for you.  Your happiness is 100% in your control, and you can choose to be happy right now as you are reading this….and again in 10 minutes if you forget….and again if you forget after that.  You deserve this!

People ask me all the time “What makes you so happy and upbeat?”.  Honestly, it kind of comes as a shocker still.  The truth is I had some serious personal setbacks in my twenties, and I have had my share of bad times.  Some of these tough times really hit me hard and I had a tough time seeing reasons to be happy.  But one thing I will always remember my Dad telling me….”Even if you don’t feel happy, act like you think a happy person would act.” I tried it out, and over time I became a different person.  Now it’s become second nature.  If I wake up in a bad mood, I realize (from previous experience) that I can wallow in it or change it. 
My friend Nina sometimes says, “Bless it or Block it”.  I think it’s a reference to external situations and people, but the truth is it can be used for our own warped sense of reality sometimes.  I can bless or block my own negative feelings, and instead choose to be positive as I go through my day.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR WORK, make the choice to be happy, and incorporate it into your job search.  My bet is if you increase your happiness and positive energy by even a small percentage, your return on investment will be amazing!
Let me know how it works for you, and make today a great day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Social Media- Blessing/Curse, Use it Wisely!

Social Media – Blessing and Curse, Use it wisely
Effective social media networking is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to get yourself the job you want. I personally found my two most rewarding jobs (including my current position) by tapping into my social media networks and having conversations with targeted individuals who I felt would be able to get me where I wanted to be.  In fact, I would be so bold as to say I believe the odds of simply finding a job on your or careerbuilder type site, applying to it and then getting hired just from this activity is extremely low…and it will continue to become an increasingly less effective way of landing your dream job.
But you’ve got to be strategic about using social media.   You need to tactically find those individuals who might be able to help you.  You need to be creative and compelling in your message to them.  You need to be organized in your approach, including a contact list, status, follow up, etc.. and you need to network, network, network!
Assuming you are able to strategically go about finding and contacting the right people (or you already know how to do this because you’ve worked with me or read some of my other material), there are a few social media perils you need to AVOID while searching for a new position.
1)      If you’re currently employed and looking for a new position, be smart about it.  If you’re updating your status with “looking for a new job” or “I can’t believe what a jerk my boss is” etc.. you are all kinds of wrong (and a bit disassociated from reality perhaps?).  Remember, the Internet is forever and putting that kind of information out for your current (or potential) employer is just not smart.  Your current employer will realize you’re looking to make a move and this will likely hinder any further advancement at your current company.  Potential employers (who may review your Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or other account) will see you as a complainer and form impressions of you based on this. 

2)      During your job search (and just in general), it’s a good idea to stay away from discussing controversial topics on your social media sites.  Religion, politics, etc.. all have their place.  Whatever you believe, it’s likely someone will disagree.  Why let your potential new employer have that kind of ammunition before they even get a chance to meet with you?  Consider some recent Social Media FAILS:

a.       Gilbert Gottfried lost his job over offensive twitter updates.  DUMB!
b.      Rep Weiner has made a fool of himself with twitter photos, and may lose his job.  At the very least his future “employers” (the voters) have the right to “fire” him next election.
c.       Casey Anthony had her party-like-a-rockstar photos of her all over the place, which may ultimately be some of the evidence that gets her the death penalty.
There’s just no reason to make these fatal mistakes.  Think before you tweet or before you hit “send” on that LOL status update.  You may think you’re clever and your friends will get a kick out of whatever it is you have to say, but even if it MIGHT offend someone, maybe you could tell them in person the next time you see them instead of jeopardizing your own career search.
3)      Change your privacy settings.  If you insist on ignoring tip #2, there are some precautions you can take.  Change your settings.  Edit who (your friends and people out of your network) can see what.  Some sites, like Facebook, have private groups you can join to discuss things you don’t want all to see.  All the sites have some levels of privacy settings available.  Know what they are, and choose the most private settings if you must.   DISCLAIMER **Even if we’re not friends on twitter, FB, LinkedIn, etc… I can find your status updates.  Trust me on this…RECRUITERS ARE CREATIVE!  We have our ways of finding information.  Not all potential employers will see this, but some of them might…even if you’re “private”.
I want you to have success in your career search!  I hope these reminders will help you to this end.  Go out there and tweet to your heart’s content, grow your networks, start conversations, get yourself actively networked.  Just BE SMART about it and you’ll be glad you did.
Until next time, stay positive and keep envisioning yourself in that career you’ve always dreamed of.  There is power in visualization! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let's Talk $$ (Salary Negotiations)

Let's talk Money $$$ (Salary- to Negotiate or Not)

In today’s economy, many people are just hoping to land an interview, and then get the job...right?  But can you also land the job and bargain for a better salary as well? Or should you just be thankful you are being offered the job?

The right time to ask for or negotiate your salary is once a concrete job offer has been made. Until that point, asking about salary or asking for a higher salary during the interview process will give the impression that you are only interested in working for the company based on money and not the job or company itself. We as recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to hear your salary negotiating BEFORE it’s been decided that you are a match for our company, and we are a match for you.

Once you are negotiating your salary, keep in mind that the initial job offer and salary is just the beginning and if you work well and prove yourself to the company, the sky is the limit. Remember, employee evaluations take place in a company every six months or year.  So if you don’t get your initial salary you had wanted, you can prove to the company that you are deserving of that increase once you are hired.

Here are seven mistakes professionals make when negotiating salary:

Being afraid to ask. Some job seekers fear asking for a better offer because they think it could damage their relationship with the new employer. Remember: It never hurts to ask, and you have your greatest leverage when you receive the job offer.

Failing to do your homework. Don't ask for a specific salary simply because it sounds good. Always conduct research to determine your market value by reviewing sources, and talking to colleagues and recruiters for their insights.  There is plenty of online research where you can find out what someone with your experience might expect to make in a given job.

Focusing only on salary. Consider the benefits package in addition to compensation. If higher base pay isn't available, perhaps the employer could offer a signing bonus or early salary review. I know of one employer who couldn’t give the job applicant a higher starting salary but were willing to add additional benefits that equaled in the end to that higher salary.  Remember, your earnings are more than just your base pay.  Benefits, time off and other perks should also be taken into consideration.

Tipping your hand. If you're desperate to leave your current job, keep it to yourself. The conversation should remain focused on the position for which you are applying.  Don’t come across as so desperate to leave your current job (or get hired if you’re unemployed) that you will take anything.  It will show, and you will likely get a lowball offer.

Thinking you can't say 'no.' Some people by nature always want to be accommodating, but being able to say 'no' is critical when negotiating. If an offer is less than you think it should be, point it out politely then counter with your desired salary. If the employer can't meet this request, you will need to decide whether or not you can accept the lower pay. It will depend on your need for immediate employment, as well as how excited you are about this particular opportunity.

Failing to get it in writing. Once you've agreed on terms, ask the employer to draw up a letter that outlines the specifics of the offer. This will help you avoid any misunderstandings before you start the job.  Most companies do this as part of their hiring process, but some smaller companies may not.  GET IT IN WRITING-Period!  Make sure key things such as base, commission, title, start date, etc.. are agreed upon in PRINT!

Forgetting your manners. Regardless of how the negotiations turn out, be professional and courteous. You don't want to burn any bridges.  If you don’t get the salary you were hoping for, but it is still a job you want, you can still accept it with grace and go in there and show them what you’re really worth!  As a proven commodity (once you’re an employee who has proven yourself) is worth far more than an unknown (a candidate who the company knows very little about other than from their interviews).

Salary negotiation can be a very tense ordeal if you haven’t done it before, or don’t feel comfortable discussing money.  My advice to you is GET OVER IT!  It's your money we're talking about, so find a way to make yourself comfortable discussing it.  Keep in mind that you believe you deserve this salary amount. At the same time if you are requiring a higher salary, be sure that you are going to prove to the company once you are hired that it was the right decision for the company to make. 

The sky’s the limit!  Until next time, continued career success to you and yours!!