Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Interviews are a two way street.

(part 2 of "So you think you're special?")
Interviews are a two way street.  When I’m interviewing someone for a certain position, I always have my predetermined list of questions ready to go.  I also have follow up questions prepared for when the interview takes unexpected turns.  And I always leave the interview knowing what I need to know about the candidate to determine whether or not I will move forward with them.
If you want to stand out in the crowd, you need to BE PREPARED.  I can’t tell you how many candidates I have interviewed who had very few or even no questions prepared to ask me.  It’s honestly a shocking number!  If you’re interviewing for a new job, you need to leave your interview knowing as much about me, my company and the position you are interviewing for as is humanly possible.
How do you prepare for this?  Well, first and foremost you should do your due diligence and research my company.  Find connections on LinkedIn who work here and reach out to them for insight.  Do a Google search or check out www.glassdoor.com to see what our employees are saying about us.  Get to know the company as much as you possibly can before ever accepting an interview invitation.  Do some research on the industry.  Look up which companies are competitors of the company you’re interviewing with and get to know the key players in the industry.
ASK QUESTIONS.  If a candidate doesn’t ask me questions, I don’t consider them a strong candidate…PERIOD.
Here’s a quick list of my favorite questions candidates ask:
1.       How would you (or my new boss) determine my success once I accept this role?
2.       What is the career path for someone coming into this role?
3.       If you were me, what would you do to prepare yourself for success knowing what you know about this position, this team, my new boss, etc..?
4.       How do I rank compared to other candidates you’ve interviewed?
5.       Is there anything about my background that concerns you or that you need more clarification on to make your decision?
These are just a few.  But if you ask smart questions, you’ll get good answers.  So many candidates ask “What’s the next step?” type of questions.  But most never ask the tough questions like “Is there anything about my background that concerns you?” or “How do I compare to the others you’re interviewing?”.
I think it’s human nature.  Perhaps you’re scared to hear the answers, perhaps you’re not confident enough to ask the tough questions.  My advice to you is GET OVER IT!   Make it a point to ask solid questions so you will truly know everything you can know about the job.  You’ll come across sounding smarter than the average guy, and you’ll most likely get invited to the next round of interviews….or perhaps even get yourself the offer!
Until next time, best of luck in your interviews.  Be bold and ask the tough questions.  Remember, YOU’RE INTERVIEWING THEM as much as they’re interviewing you.  Make them sell you on the opportunity!  You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

So...you think YOU'RE special?

I have a confession to make to you all.  I took too much of my own advice and landed myself a great new job which has, unfortunately, pulled me away from staying in touch with you as often as I should have.  But I’m back, and I have even more tips for you as you navigate your job search.
So…You think YOU’RE special? is a blog series dedicated to sharing with you easy ways you can stand out in the droves of applicants seeking the job you were destined to have.

So…You think YOU’RE special?  Really!?  I interview about 1,000 people every year.  Year in, year out….whether I like it or not.  If you were one of those 1,000 candidates I interviewed, do you think you would have stood out?  Let me ask you that in another way…..
o   Did you have the best pressed suit?
o   Were you the guy with the most accomplishments?
o   Were you the girl who shared my alma mater?
o   Did you have the best haircut?
o   Did you have the best smile?
o   Did you have the strongest technical knowledge?
If you didn’t have ALL of these things (and more), the chances are you didn’t stand out.  No matter how unique our backgrounds are, how many significant things we’ve accomplished, what our educational credentials are, etc… we’re all very much the same in many ways.  That’s a good thing…and a bad thing.  The reason for the latter is because if we’re all very similar, HOW CAN YOU STAND OUT?  You want your interviewers to remember you!  Heck, you WANT them to HIRE you!  They can’t hire you if they forget you moments after your interview.
This is a multi-set blog I’m bringing to you, but this first tip on how to be remembered is this –
This evening as I was walking the dogs, my phone alerted me of a new message.  I looked quickly while juggling the dog leashes and dodging the cars driven by the slightly tipsy drivers leaving their various happy hour engagements, and I saw a “Thank you” email from a Berkeley student who I recently interviewed.  It reminded me, yet again, how important it is to say thanks after your interviews.  Here’s why…
If your interview was great – and you send a thank you note, it will confirm and validate the hiring managers already good feelings about you. 
If your interview was decent – and you send a thank you note, it might be that one thing that tips the scale in your direction and gets you the offer instead of that joker with the better suit and the whiter teeth who interviewed right after you.
If your interview was awful – and you send a thank you note, it may not get you the job right now.  But it sure as heck will keep you at the top of the list should the top candidate get the offer and decline…or if another position comes open, and your thank you note is sitting on their desk they just may call you.  Who knows, they may have even forgotten how botched your interview was and call you just because your name (and thank you note) are in front of them.
Trust me.  This works time and time again.  “Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” (Seneca).  Religions and self help programs have stressed GRATITUDE as being one of the QUICKEST ways to attaining peace and serenity.  I’m here to tell you, they’re right!  Being THANKFUL will bring you peace, serenity AND it will quite possibly be the one thing that gives you the leg up so you can kick the other guy’s butt in the job market and GET YOURSELF A JOB OFFER!
Say thanks, and say it often…
We’ll continue this “So…YOU think YOU’RE special?” series next week with another quick and easy way to stand out in the crowd.  Until then, all my best!