Posts tagged ‘interviewing’

Is Your “Elevator Pitch” Taking You UP or DOWN?

Not too long ago, I overheard a job-seeker deliver an “Elevator Pitch” to a prospective hiring manager. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the manager stopped the speaker and said: “Is this your ‘Elevator Pitch’? … because if so we must be on a skyscraper – I think we’ve just reached the 40th floor and we’re still going up!” How embarrassing! Clearly that job-seeker had droned on way too long and was boring the manager. Most listeners would simply shut down at that point and say nothing … but this particular manager (an HR professional who was actually trying to help the job-seeker) decided to offer some blunt but much needed feedback. Needless to say, the lesson was learned! That job-seeker went home, re-worked the Elevator Pitch, and was much more effective the next time!

Every job-seeker should know what an “Elevator Pitch” is. Put simply, it’s a short introductory speech designed to be given in the time span of an elevator ride – approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s a standard tool in the world of sales, where people want to interest someone else in their product quickly, without sounding too pushy or intrusive. The fact is that a job-seeker IS a salesperson … and the product is YOU! [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for a more detailed explanation of this concept.] The basic idea is that you never know when or where you’ll run into someone who might be a prospect for you – a potential customer, a networking partner, a key contact or decision-maker at one of your target companies, or an actual potential employer. Being able to instantly deliver your Elevator Pitch to anyone, anywhere and at any time is something every job-seeker should be prepared to do.

Elevator Pitches can be quite versatile. In interviews, a well-written Elevator Pitch can be the response to the common opener:  “So, tell me about yourself.”  In social situations, a shortened version can be the quick answer to that often-heard question:  “So, what do you do?”  Elevator Pitches can also easily be adapted for use as either an email or a voice-mail message.

So what are the important elements of an effective Elevator Pitch? Here are the key components, broken down from the perspective of a job-seeker:

Keep It Short!
The entire speech should be no longer than 2 minutes – the accepted rule of thumb is between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. Shorter is better, but not so short that you fail to get your main points across. Too long, and you risk overwhelming your listener with too much information and they’ll tune you out. You might even consider having a couple of different versions of the speech – one complete version and another shorter, more abbreviated version for situations where your time is more limited. Either way, what you say in the first 15 seconds is the most important part. Why? Because the sad truth is that most people have incredibly short attention spans. As a result, they need to be “hooked” by what you say right up front. Any listener should know exactly what you do within the first sentence or two. An effective Elevator Pitch should give your audience just enough information so that they will understand who you are, what you do and what you are looking for, and want to know more.

Keep It Simple! Use Language Your Grandmother Would Understand.
Describe what you do, and what your target goals are in simple, everyday language. After saying your name, start with a simple statement of what you’ve done (job title, industry niche, etc.) the fact that you are “in transition,” and what type of position you are now seeking as a next step in your career. Don’t use industry-speak, technical jargon, or cute marketing catch-phrases. Ask yourself this question: would my grandmother, my mother or my kids understand exactly what I do if they heard the first few lines of my speech? I heard one job-seeker start his Elevator Pitch this way: “I’ve done many things over the years, but mostly I’m known as a Problem Solver. I’m looking for an opportunity to use that unique skill to help another company overcome obstacles and grow its bottom line.”  Well guess what, Mr. “Problem Solver” … I have a problem – and that is that I have NO idea what you actually do! What is that person’s job title and function? What industry is he experienced in? Exactly what type of job is he looking for? None of the information he followed that opener with zeroed in on those critical questions. By the time he got around to being more specific, he was way past the point where he lost his audience’s interest! Keep it simple!

Make It Compelling.
Once you’ve established exactly what you do, and what you are looking for, you need to sell yourself. Talk about your successes. Highlight what you’ve done – your concrete accomplishments or skills, rather than intangible concepts. What differentiates you from others who do what you do? What is your specific area of expertise? Put yourself in the listener’s shoes and realize that most decision-makers are thinking of that famous marketing acronym: “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?) Explain as briefly as possible why you are someone who could help a future employer. How can you identify and then solve their problems? Why should someone hire you? The trick here is to not go overboard or sound self-centered – and you certainly don’t want to seem overly pushy like a used-car salesperson. Your goal is not to “close the deal” … rather, you simply want to “set the hook,” start a conversation, and create just enough interest to pique the listener’s curiosity and make them want to hear more about you.

An Example.
There’s no way to make a generic “template” for an Elevator Pitch, since each one is so unique. Specific job areas, industry types, levels of experience, and target goals require different types of speeches. This isn’t a “one size fits all” situation. However, at the risk of sounding self-serving, following is an example of an Elevator Pitch I’ve used for myself. Compare this speech to the above-mentioned components to see how it was constructed. I’ve timed this out to well under two minutes. Feel free to use this as an starting point, and adjust or re-write it to fit your own situation:
“Hi, my name is Michael Spiro, and I am an experienced Recruiter with 9 years of success in the 3rd-party, agency-based staffing world. I’m in transition right now, and my current focus is to shift away from outside agency work, and move into a “Corporate Recruiter” role inside a company somewhere in Northeast Ohio. I’ve worked for two of the largest search firms in North America – MRI for 6 years and Kforce for 3 years. At those agencies I recruited and placed very hard-to-find candidates in many different industries. Most of those were for jobs in Information Technology, as well as in Sales and Finance. When our client companies had difficult searches where they simply couldn’t find the top talent they were looking for – I’m the guy they’d come to for help … and I won several awards for those recruiting successes. My real expertise is in the use of creative methods to locate candidates, including extensive networking, advanced internet searches, and most importantly – using all the latest online Social Media (like LinkedIn and Facebook) to find passive, non-job-seeking candidates. By moving over to an internal corporate position, I’m hoping to be able to continue recruiting top talent, but to do it from the inside of a company so I can also concentrate on my passion for building and maintaining relationships with internal business partners and decision-makers. Again, my name is Michael Spiro.”
Now here’s a shorter, 30-second version of that same speech for use in situations where time is more limited:
“Hi, my name is Michael Spiro, and I am an experienced Recruiter with 9 years of success in the 3rd-party, agency-based staffing world. I’m in transition right now, and my current focus is to shift away from outside agency work, and move into a “Corporate Recruiter” role inside a company. My expertise is in the use of creative recruiting methods to locate hard-to-find top talent, which I plan to continue to do from the inside of an organization. Again, my name is Michael Spiro.”
By the way … it’s often effective to repeat your name a second time at the end of the speech – especially when speaking in a more formal group situation. The reasoning is that people don’t remember names the first time they hear them … but after the speech is delivered, a second hearing of your name will be more likely to sink in. You can eliminate that second repeating of your name when you meet someone in a more personal, one-on-one setting.

Sound Natural. Practice Your Delivery.
Nothing is worse than sounding like you are reading a script. By all means, write your speech down and memorize it … but then try practicing it out loud. Practice to yourself in a mirror. Practice into a recording device or a video camera and listen back to yourself. Practice on your family and friends. Practice in job-seeker networking groups and ask for feedback. As you hear yourself reciting your speech, ask yourself: does this sound like my natural speaking voice? Are these words I use in everyday conversations? Could someone from outside of my industry who hears this easily figure out what I do and what I’m looking for? If not, change it! Use your own natural language. Use words that sound natural coming from your mouth. Sound conversational and comfortable. And sound enthusiastic and excited! When you deliver your Elevator Pitch, if you sound natural and upbeat, and you truly believe in what you are saying … chances are so will the listener!

            

May 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm 15 comments

Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips

For job-seekers in today’s challenging job market, getting in front of an actual live person to interview for a job with a company is a major goal – second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! It seems like more and more these days, companies who are interested in a candidate begin their screening process with a phone interview – usually conducted by an internal company recruiter or an HR person. I’ve already posted a separate blog about phone interviews [“Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips.”] For those candidates lucky enough to pass through the phone interview and graduate to a face-to-face interview … this blog is for you!

After coaching and prepping hundreds of candidates for face-to-face interviews over the years, here are some tips, tricks and secrets that I’ve learned that may help. Now I admit that some of this information is identical to my phone interview prep … so, you’ll excuse me if I plagiarize from myself and repeat certain sections from that earlier blog. There are, of course, several very different key aspects to preparing for an in-person interview that are included here.

Research the industry, the company and the players.
Find out everything you can about the place, their business, their products, their position in their industry, their reputation, their competition, their financial stability and the key decision-makers who work there. Study the company’s website, take notes and jot down questions related to their business that you can ask at the end of your interview. Google Search the company and see what else you can find out about them beyond their own website. Look up the company on a professional business database like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier or ReferenceUSA Business. Anyone with a public library card number can log into those databases from any home computer! (Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this.) Read and study the company’s information there in detail. You certainly want to sound like you’ve done your homework, and that you are informed about them when asked the inevitable question: “How much do you know about our company?”

Research your interviewer.
Find out everything you can about the person that will be interviewing you. Try to find a bio on the company’s website. See if there is a bio of your interviewer in the personnel listed on the professional business databases mentioned above. Do a Google Search on their name and see what comes up. Look their name up on LinkedIn and check out their profile there. Figure out if you share any of their 1st degree LinkedIn connections, and if so, call those people and ask if they can give you any insights. The more you learn about your interviewer, the better prepared you’ll be to connect on a personal level. Think of ways to use this information as part of the “Nuggets” technique listed below.

Study the job description and prepare stories.
Carefully think through each element of the job description for the position you are interviewing for beforehand and prepare concrete examples of when, where and how you have done all the specific things described in that job description. Telling stories is a very powerful interview technique. Prepare brief stories about your past accomplishments and experiences that illustrate how you provided value to your past employers … and by inference, how you would bring similar value to a new company. Be ready to tell your stories and demonstrate with details how you fit each and every requirement they listed. Try to work those stories into your conversation in a natural way during your interview.

Print out and bring a few copies of your résumé with you.
Most likely, your interviewer will already have a copy in front of them … but sometimes they don’t. If not, it’s always helpful to ask if they’d like to have a copy to refer to – which you just happen to have ready to hand them. You might also be introduced to other people who will want to interview you, and who may not be prepared with a copy of your résumé. It’s best to have them handy.

Dress for Success.
I would advise everyone to dress up for every interview (jacket & tie or a suit for men, conservative business suit for women, no flashy jewelry … and absolutely NO perfume or cologne!) Pay attention to grooming and personal hygiene (hair, nails, breath, etc.) Unless your interviewer specifically instructs you to dress casually for an interview — meaning THEY brought it up in advance … not that you asked if it would be OK — dressing up is the accepted rule of thumb. Sure, lots of places are “Business Casual” these days. I’ve seen interviewers dressed in jeans. However, don’t ever assume that means YOU can dress down for an interview. I’ve had more than one casually dressed decision-maker tell me that they thought a candidate showed a lack of respect by not dressing up for their interview. The bottom line is that dressing up cannot possibly hurt you!

Be on time – not too early, and NEVER late!
Make sure you know exactly where you are going. Verify the exact address and location that you are to meet your interviewer. Use Google Maps or Mapquest to plan your route. If you have one, use a GPS in your car to avoid getting lost. Do a practice driving run if you are unsure of the location. NEVER be late! But, also do not show up more than 5-10 minutes early. (That is disrespectful to the interviewer, and actually shows desperation.) If you do arrive too early, sit in your car and re-read the job description and gather your thoughts. Don’t go in until it’s close to your appointment time. On the other hand, if you do find yourself running late due to unexpected circumstances (severe weather, traffic problems, etc.) make sure you have a phone number with you that you can call to alert your interviewer about your delay. Nothing is worse than showing up late without having called. And then remember to silence your cell phone before you walk in the door!

Have a Firm Handshake.
It may sound obvious, but how you shake hands says volumes about your personality. Practice on someone you trust if needed. You want it to be firm, but not so tight that it feels like you are trying to break bones! The worst is the “fish” handshake – a completely limp hand. That’s just creepy! Almost as bad is gripping someone around their fingers instead of fully locking hands at the base of the thumb. This may sound overly picky, but you’d be surprised how much your handshake contributes to that all-important first impression.

Smile!
Remember to speak clearly, and try to convey enthusiasm and energy through your tone of voice. Smiling helps (really, it does!) Smile as much as possible during the conversation. Try it … you’ll notice that you actually sound very different when you talk through a smile.

Make Eye Contact.
Throughout the interview, make sure you make eye contact with your interviewer. It’s OK if you have to refer to notes, or read something … but be conscious of where your eyes are focusing, and meet your interviewers eyes as much as possible (without going overboard by staring!)

Pay attention to your posture.
Sit up straight in your chair. Do not slouch or lean back. From time to time, a good trick is to lean forward towards the interviewer. When speaking, leaning forward transmits the message that you want to emphasize your point. When listening, leaning forward transmits the message that you are fully engaged in active listening. Also, don’t chew gum!

Mirroring the vocal cadence and body language of the interviewer.
A trick often used by sales people is to listen to the speed and tone of the interviewer’s voice, and try to match it with your own. I don’t mean imitate the person’s voice or accent … but simply talk slower or faster to match the way the other person sounds, and mirror their general tone and level. Mirroring the general body language of your interviewer (which way they’re leaning, crossing their legs, tilting their head, and other broad gestures) has the same effect. Doing this subconsciously makes the other person feel more comfortable with you, and helps you form a connection with them.

Use the “Nuggets” technique to establish rapport.
“Nuggets” are all those little things that you can pick out about a person or a company that you can make a positive comment about, compliment a person on, and use to connect on a personal level with the person you are talking with. When done correctly, using “Nuggets” in an interview can increase your chances of success and cast you in a more favorable light. Everyone loves to hear compliments … and it’s simply human nature for someone to be attracted to someone else who says complimentary things about them, and who seems impressed with them. [For more on this powerful interview technique, read: “Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique.”]

Projecting a Positive Attitude is a critical key.
Concentrate on projecting positive energy and enthusiasm. Try to express passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine aura of optimism. Those are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities, and frankly it’s one of the main reasons people get hired. Being able to convey a positive attitude is critical. [For more on this, read: “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”]

Questions, Questions, Questions.
There are literally hundreds of different questions that interviewers might ask, depending on the position of the interviewer, and their interview style. I do not intend to list specific questions and how to answer them here. A simple Google Search on “Interview Questions” will take you to dozens of great websites that go into great detail on that topic. I will say that the most common thing you’ll hear from almost every interviewer near the beginning of your meeting is some variation of: “Tell me about yourself.”  Answering that is pretty basic, and also fairly critical. Don’t ask “where should I begin” – a sure sign of someone who needs to be spoon-fed instructions instead of thinking on their feet … definitely not the message you want to give! Also, don’t give an autobiography of your entire life starting with where you were born, where you went to school, what your hobbies and interests are, etc. – all personal items to be filed under the category of “too much information.” Keep your answer focused on your professional profile as it relates to this job and this company. Be prepared to give an expanded version of your “Elevator Pitch” in which you give an overview of your most recent and most relevant career experiences, and your professional goals. Try, if possible, to reference elements in their job description, and how your skills and experiences match it. Remember to use your prepared stories if you can. However, don’t let this answer go on too long … keep it well under 5 minutes. It’s OK to ask when you are done: “Would you like me to go into greater detail on anything in particular?”

Be a good listener, and never interrupt.
Any good interview is a 2-way exchange of information. Let the interviewer talk and lead the discussion without interrupting. Listen carefully, and then give thoughtful answers. Answer questions directly and completely, but try not to go off on tangents or “over-talk” your answers. It’s better to give a brief answer, and then ask “is that what you wanted, or should I give you more details?”  Candidates often get nervous and talk too much during interviews, trying way too hard to “sell themselves.” While talking, pay attention to the body language of your interviewer and watch for signs of boredom – fidgeting, looking at their watch, etc. – and cut yourself off if see them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve debriefed interviewers who complained about candidates who talked on and on and on during interviews, without letting the interviewer get a word in edgewise! Sometimes it’s better to simply shut up and listen!!!

Don’t bring up salary or benefits … but be prepared to answer the Dreaded Salary Question directly if asked.
Never be the one to bring it up … but if asked point blank what you made at your last job, or what your salary expectations are going forward – don’t play games or avoid answering. You need to prepare direct and truthful responses to those questions. If this topic came up in a prior phone interview, make sure your answers are consistent with what you said before. It’s best to be honest about your history, and to give a range for your expectations (rather than a specific number.) Your history is what it is – you can’t change it, and delaying telling them serves no purpose. And your expectations should not be a moving target … you should know what you need as a minimum, and what range makes sense based on your history. Now it is true that if the range you give does not overlap with the range that they have budgeted for the job you are pursuing, they will very likely eliminate you from consideration. On the other hand, if you dance around this issue and/or refuse to give a straight answer, then that is just as likely to raise a red flag that will eliminate you here. There are simply too many qualified applicants for every open job for most companies to want to deal with someone who can’t give a straightforward answer on this. The bottom line is that if your salary expectations do not match what they can pay, then it’s a waste of both your and their time to continue pursuing this position. They’ll find out eventually, so it’s better to know sooner rather than later. [For more details on this topic, read: “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”]

Prepare a list of questions you can ask.
Almost every interviewer asks near the end of an interview: “Do you have any questions?”  Candidates are often judged by the quality of the questions they ask … and candidates who have no questions at all might be perceived as having no interest in the position. Some suggested ideas for general questions are: “How long have you been with the company, and what do you like about it?” “How would you describe the company culture here?” “What characteristics have made your best employees successful here?”  You might also want to think of more specific questions about the company or their products, based your research. [For more on this, read: “'So, Do You Have Any Questions?' Nailing the Interview Closer.”]

At the end of the interview, clarify the next steps.
If you are interested in this job, make sure to say so! (“I just want to let you know that I am very interested in this opportunity, and hope we can move forward. What is the next step?”) Don’t leave without determining what the expectations are for the next steps, and how and when YOU should follow-up. Ask what their timetable is for hiring, and how their hiring process works. Also make sure you get a business card with the email address and phone number of your interviewer, and send them a thank-you email that same day. If you met with more than one person, get everyone’s cards and do the same with them. Then immediately make a note on your calendar of when your pro-active follow-up call will be if you don’t hear back from them first. If you really want this job, don’t just sit back wait for them to make the next move. You have to go after it!

March 9, 2010 at 6:51 am 24 comments

Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips

In today’s tight job market, scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers. It seems like more and more these days, companies who are interested in a candidate begin their screening process with a phone interview – usually conducted by an internal company recruiter or an HR person. The purpose for the phone interview is obvious – they want to determine if you are worth their decision-maker’s time and effort to bring you in for a face-to-face interview. They would rather not commit to that step until they pre-screen you on the phone first. The unfortunate truth is that they want to see if they can eliminate you! [If you are lucky enough to have already passed through the phone interview and graduated to a face-to-face interview … read “Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tips and Tricks.”]

Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of treating a phone interview any less seriously than a formal in-person interview. It’s just as important, since it’s a necessary step towards the ultimate goals of getting in front of a decision-maker, receiving an offer and accepting a job. Your immediate task should be very clear: you want to advance to the next step in their process and not be eliminated! Phone interviews can be very tricky. Obviously you don’t have the benefit of seeing the person you are talking with (no eye contact, body language, etc.) All you have is your voice. After coaching and prepping hundreds of candidates for phone interviews over the years, here are some secrets, tricks and tips that I’ve learned that may help:

Try to set an appointment rather than taking a spontaneous call.
It happens so often – the phone rings unexpectedly, and wham … your suddenly in the middle of an unplanned phone interview! Don’t get caught off guard. Simply say: “You’ve caught me at an inconvenient time, and this sounds too important to rush. Can we schedule a different time that’s good for both of us when we can talk?”  You really need to prepare for a phone interview. Winging it is usually a bad idea. Set a time and date, and clarify who is to call whom.

Research the industry, the company and the players.
This would apply to any interview – phone or in-person. Find out everything you can about the place, their business, their products, their position in their industry, their reputation, their competition, their financial stability and the key decision-makers who work there. You certainly want to sound like you’ve done your homework, and that you are informed about them when asked the inevitable question: “How much do you know about our company?”

Go to a quiet place, and use a land line (not a cell phone) if possible.
Try to arrange to take the phone interview call in a private place, with no noises or distractions. Land lines generally sound better than cell phones, and are therefore preferable. If you must use a cell phone, make sure you are in a location with good service. The last thing you need here is a dropped call! If you are at home, or someplace where there are others around – tell everyone that you need quiet and privacy for a phone interview to avoid interruptions. Nothing sounds more unprofessional than a crying baby, screaming kids or a barking dog in the background!

Have a copy of the Job Description in front of you.
Print it out, lay it on the table and refer to it during your conversation. (If you don’t have one, ask the person who set up the phone interview to email a copy to you in advance.) Think it through before you get on the phone, and prepare concrete examples of when, where and how you have done all the specific things described in that job description. Be ready to tell your stories and demonstrate with details how you fit each and every requirement they listed.

Have a copy of your résumé in front of you.
Print it out, and lay it on the table in front of you. Refer to it when asked about your work history, your qualifications, and your accomplishments. No doubt, the interviewer will also have a copy in front of them … so it’s best to see what they are seeing as they ask their questions.

The Mirror Trick: It’s all about the sound of your voice – Smile!
Since all you have is your voice here – you need to remember to speak clearly, and try to convey enthusiasm and energy through your tone of voice. Smiling helps (really, it does!) An old trick used by inside sales people is to set up a mirror in front of yourself, and look at your face as you talk. Smile as much as possible during the conversation. Try it … you’ll notice that you actually sound very different when you talk through a smile. It does subtly come through on the other end.

Match the vocal cadence of the interviewer.
Another sales trick is to listen to the speed and tone of the interviewer’s voice, and try to match it with your own. I don’t mean imitate the person’s voice or accent … but simply talk slower or faster to match the way the other person sounds, and mirror their general tone and level. Doing this subconsciously makes the other person feel more comfortable with you, and helps you form a connection with them. (By the way … this trick also works when leaving voice-mail messages!)

Projecting a Positive Attitude is a critical key.
Again, it’s all in your voice. Concentrate on projecting positive energy and enthusiasm. Try to express passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine aura of optimism. Those are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities, and frankly it’s one of the main reasons people get hired. Being able to convey a positive attitude over the phone is critical. [For more on this, read: “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”]

Use the “Nuggets” technique to establish rapport.
“Nuggets” are all those little things that you can pick out about a person or a company that you can make a positive comment about, compliment a person on, and use to connect on a personal level with the person you are talking with. When done correctly, using “Nuggets” in a phone interview can increase your chances of success and cast you in a more favorable light. Everyone loves to hear compliments … and it’s simply human nature for someone to be attracted to someone else who says complimentary things about them, and who seems impressed with them. [For more on this powerful interview technique, read: “Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique.”]

Be a good listener, and never interrupt.
Any good interview is a 2-way exchange of information. Let the interviewer talk and lead the discussion without interrupting. Listen carefully, and then give thoughtful answers. Answer questions directly and completely, but try not to go off on tangents or “over-talk” your answers. It’s better to give a brief answer, and then ask “is that what you wanted, or should I give you more details?”  Candidates often get nervous and talk too much during interviews, trying way too hard to “sell themselves.” This is especially true during phone interviews where you don’t have any visual clues to tell you if the other person seems bored or restless. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve debriefed interviewers who complained about candidates who talked on and on and on during interviews, without letting the interviewer get a word in edgewise! Sometimes it’s better to simply shut up and listen!!!

Don’t bring up salary or benefits … but be prepared to answer the Dreaded Salary Question directly if asked.
Never be the one to bring it up … but if asked point blank what you made at your last job, or what your salary expectations are going forward – don’t play games or avoid answering. You need to prepare direct and truthful responses to those questions. It’s best to be honest about your history, and to give a range for your expectations (rather than a specific number.) Your history is what it is – you can’t change it, and delaying telling them serves no purpose. And your expectations should not be a moving target … you should know what you need as a minimum, and what range makes sense based on your history. Now it is true that if the range you give does not overlap with the range that they have budgeted for the job you are pursuing, they will very likely eliminate you at this stage. On the other hand, if you dance around this issue and/or refuse to give a straight answer, then that is just as likely to raise a red flag that will eliminate you here. There are simply too many qualified applicants for every open job for most HR people to want to deal with someone who can’t give a straightforward answer on this. The bottom line is that if your salary expectations do not match what they can pay, then it’s a waste of both your and their time to bring you in for face-to-face interviews. In fact, that’s one of the reasons companies start with phone interviews. They’ll find out eventually, so it’s better to know sooner rather than later. [For more details on this topic, read: “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”]

Prepare a list of questions you can ask.
Almost every interviewer asks near the end of an interview: “Do you have any questions?”  Candidates are often judged by the quality of the questions they ask … and candidates who have no questions at all might be perceived as having no interest in the position. Some suggested ideas for general questions are: “How long have you been with the company, and what do you like about it?” “How would you describe the company culture here?” “What characteristics have made your best employees successful here?”  You might also want to think of more specific questions about the company or their products, based your research. [For more on this, read: “'So, Do You Have Any Questions?' Nailing the Interview Closer.”]

At the end of the interview, clarify the next steps.
If you are interested in this job, make sure to say so! (“I just want to let you know that I am very interested in this opportunity, and hope we can move forward. What is the next step?”) Don’t hang up the phone without determining what the expectations are for the next steps, and how and when YOU should follow-up. Ask what their timetable is for hiring, and how their hiring process works. Also make sure you get the email address and phone number of the person you spoke with, and send them a thank-you email that same day. Then immediately make a note on your calendar of when your pro-active follow-up call will be if you don’t hear back from them first. If you really want this job, don’t just sit back wait for them to make the next move. You have to go after it!

February 1, 2010 at 6:11 am 35 comments

Candidates Gone Wild: Recruiter Horror Stories

Over the many years that I’ve been a recruiter, I’ve certainly had my share of success stories. I’ve worked with many talented candidates who were eager to accept coaching and constructive criticism, and who then interviewed with my client companies, landed great jobs, and went on to perform successfully in their new roles. Some even became decision-makers themselves, and then turned around and used me to recruit other candidates for their companies because they liked the way I worked with them … which is every recruiter’s dream! That old saying, “what goes around, comes around” is so true – certainly in the staffing industry.

On the other hand, I’ve also had my share of failures, goof-ups, and outright disasters. I’m sure that every recruiter who has been in this business for any length of time can probably come up with stories of interviews that went down the toilet, candidates who behaved badly, or placements that seemed like sure things only to fall apart at the last minute. So, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my worst “Recruiter Horror Stories.” While this posting does not technically fall under the category of “advice for job-seekers” like most of my other blog posts – there are certainly lessons to be learned and information to be gleaned from these stories. If nothing else, it’s advice on what NOT to do! And by the way … while the names in this posting are fictitious (for obvious reasons) these stories are absolutely true. These things actually happened!

  • Ted was a PMP certified Project Manager – a candidate of mine who I sent to interview with a rather conservative Fortune 500 bank. Afterward, Ted told me he thought the interview had gone well, but the hiring manager ended up passing on him without an explanation. When I told Ted that bad news, he didn’t take it well. He felt they had misjudged him, and without my knowledge he began repeatedly calling and emailing my client begging for another chance – which naturally reflected badly on me as the recruiter. The email address Ted used for this unauthorized follow-up was “hrdbod4u@hotmail.com.” Later, when I Googled Ted’s name, I easily found his Facebook page filled with photos of himself with drinks in hand looking totally wasted in a bar, carousing with several different scantily clad women, and generally looking like a partying idiot. (I can only assume that the client did that same Google search.)
  • My candidate Sue was interviewing for a Web Designer job at a large software company. During the interview, Sue moved something on the interviewer’s desk to make room for her portfolio. When I later asked the decision-maker why he passed on a perfectly qualified candidate with extremely hard-to-find technical and design skills, he actually said to me “She touched my stuff!”
  • John was a candidate of mine in Texas who interviewed for, and then accepted a great job as a Territory Sales Manager with a Medical Device company based in Boston that I was working with. After only one week on the job in Texas, he disappeared. No phone calls, no emails, no returned messages. He was MIA when the company’s CEO flew down to Texas for a scheduled meeting. A couple of weeks later, I found out from John’s sister, who called me looking for his new boss’s contact information, that John was in jail awaiting trial for a domestic violence charge! Many months later, John called and told me that he had been falsely accused (or so he claimed) of assaulting his ex-wife in a bar. She was now dating a cop, who pulled some strings and kept John in jail without bail! He had been too embarrassed to call his new boss and explain where he was. Needless to say, I lost that commission.
  • Dave was a Software Sales candidate in Chicago. His résumé looked great, and he interviewed beautifully with me on the phone. He came across as upbeat, outgoing and very professional. I set him up for an in-person interview with my client company’s VP of Sales (who was himself, a former candidate of mine.) When the interview was over, I asked my friend, the VP of Sales, how Dave had done. His response was “who else do you have.” I kept probing and asking what was wrong with Dave. His background seemed so strong, his track record of software sales success was excellent, and he had worked for a couple of my client’s direct competitors. What more could they want? Finally, he told me: Dave showed up 20 minutes late to the interview dressed in jeans, sandals and a flannel shirt with a plastic pocket protector, had a pony-tail halfway down his back, multiple ear piercings, and had electrical tape holding his broken glasses frames together. (Perhaps that look might fit a code-writing software engineer who stares at a screen all day … but not a sales professional … and either way, it’s never a good look for an interview with a VP of Sales!!!) Sometimes, phone interviews just don’t give you the whole picture.
  • My absolute worst candidate story is about Walt. A large local manufacturing company I was working with needed a Network Engineer, and Walt seemed like a perfect fit – at least on paper. His résumé looked great … he had all the right certifications and experience. But when Walt walked into my office for his first in-person interview with me, his appearance and lack of personal hygiene were astounding. He was overweight and wore an ill-fitting, out-of-date suit with a wrinkled and badly stained white shirt, and a mis-matched tie that was too short. His hair was greasy, he was sweating profusely, and he apparently didn’t shower very often. This guy was like the character “Pig-Pen” from the Peanuts cartoon strip … you could almost see the cloud of B.O. wafting around and following him as he entered the room. When I tried to tactfully suggest that he needed to clean himself up and buy some better interviewing clothes, Walt became very defensive, but then reluctantly said he’d consider it. Against my better judgment, I sent Walt to the interview … and wouldn’t you know it, he got the job! (Apparently person hygiene was not a major hiring criteria for this company … and he was, after all, still a good technical fit!) He was told by HR that among many other things, he’d need to bring a copy of his birth certificate with him on his first day of work to complete his I-9 form. I reminded Walt of this several times in the weeks leading up to his start date. On the Friday before he was to start, I called to check on things … and found out that he hadn’t been able to find his birth certificate, and had not taken any steps to replace it. I knew he would not be able to start work without it, so with only an hour to go before the Records Office closed, I personally raced downtown to City Hall and paid the $20 fee to get a duplicate birth certificate for Walt. (He said he had no cash, but would reimburse me after he got his first paycheck.) After one month on the new job, Walt was fired. It turns out he had used the new company credit card he was given to make several very large personal purchases. When the HR Director asked him if he knew he wasn’t supposed to do that, he readily admitted he knew it was wrong, but said he needed the money because he was in such deep debt. Needless to say, I lost that commission as well. Oh, and I never did get my $20 back!
                             

    January 18, 2010 at 9:14 am 28 comments

Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique

A couple of years ago, I recruited and represented a candidate who was set to interview with a client of mine for an Operations Manager position at a medium-sized manufacturing company. My candidate had a successful history of managing operations for several small to mid-sized companies in the same industry niche as my client’s company. And by coincidence, he only lived a short distance from the client’s plant. After the interview was scheduled, I found out that another recruiter had presented a different candidate whose background included many years working for one of the “Big Four” consulting companies, with extensive operations experience at several Fortune 500 manufacturing clients. After hearing that (and seeing that other candidate’s impressive résumé) I figured my candidate’s chances were pretty slim against such formidable competition.

After both candidates had completed the interview process, to my amazement my candidate was offered the position and immediately accepted! Since I had a close relationship with the hiring manager, I felt comfortable asking him how that hiring decision had been made. I didn’t want to “look a gift horse in the mouth,” but on paper at least, the other candidate seemed so much more qualified. What I learned was quite enlightening. The “Big Four” candidate came in for his interview and took the tour of the plant. He looked around and nodded and smiled at everyone and everything. He had certainly been in similar, much larger facilities, and had little to say – he’d been there, and done that. When he met with the company executives, he regaled them with tales of his achievements at other companies in their industry, and did a good job of convincing them that he had all the skills they were looking for and more. He was the real deal … he zeroed in on their specific needs – as any good consultative salesperson would – and expressed confidence in his abilities to solve their problems and do what needed to be done. This guy was a real pro!

When my candidate went in, it was quite a different experience for the interviewers. During the tour of the plant, my guy recognized several local associates who worked there, and greeted them warmly with handshakes and quick references to other common friends. When shown the facilities, he commented over and over again at how impressed he was with how clean the place looked, and how fantastic their equipment was. He complimented everyone he met on their company’s high quality products and excellent reputation in their industry. He remarked repeatedly that he’d heard great things about them, and was honored and excited to be considered for a position there. Having done his homework (and received a thorough prep from me!) he connected with several of the executives on a personal level – he had learned things about their backgrounds, and made complimentary comments about the things he knew … schools they had gone to, other companies they had worked at in the past, community groups and charities they were active in, etc. He even had connections with some of their kids through his own children’s sports activities, and complimented their athletic talents. And, of course, he also asked a lot of great questions, listened really well, and gave thoughtful answers – which everyone should do in any interview!

At the end of the interview process, the executives and managers met to compare the candidates, and concluded that while the “Big Four” candidate was certainly more experienced, and possibly better qualified … the bottom line was that they simply liked my guy better! The comment my friend, the hiring manager, made to me said everything: “We all decided that we’d rather work with, spend time around, and go to lunch every day with your guy!”

The word I use to summarize the technique my candidate used is: “Nuggets.” Put simply, “Nuggets” are all those little things that anyone can pick out from another person’s background or experience, from a person’s résumé, from a company, a facility — or really, from almost any situation — that you can make a positive comment about, compliment a person on, and use to connect on a personal level with the person you are talking with. It has to be sincere. (You shouldn’t invent a compliment about something if you don’t really believe it to be true – that can really backfire.) However, when done correctly, using “Nuggets” in an interview or a meeting of any kind, in an email or a phone call, or in almost any interaction with other people can increase your chances of success and cast you in a more favorable light. Making those personal connections will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Using “Nuggets” is such a simple technique, but it takes some thought and effort to implement properly. Consider how many different situations this technique can apply to: job interviews (both in-person and on the phone), emails, voice-mail messages, business meetings, sales calls, networking meetings, personal relationships — the list is almost endless. Finding “Nuggets” that you can hook into and compliment someone on is huge. Everyone loves to hear compliments … and it’s simply human nature for someone to be attracted to someone else who says complimentary things about them, and who seems impressed with them.

This technique of looking for and using “Nuggets” goes hand-in-hand with the projection of a positive attitude. [See "The Power of a Positive Attitude."] I’ve coached thousands of candidates for interviews during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the interview process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. Using the “Nuggets” technique to further enhance that positive attitude is a winning combination that is certain to score you points in any situation.

January 4, 2010 at 10:33 am 56 comments

Newer Posts


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Senior Finance Recruiter at Experis, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, and Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, a professional services firm that deploys professionals with at least 25 or more years of experience. Prior to that, he worked for two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule: Never
         Burn Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

Share This Blog:

Click the button below to share “Recruiter Musings” on any of nearly 300 social media sites:

Share this blog with any of your favorite Social Networks, email or bookmark it.

Enter your email address below to subscribe to “Recruiter Musings” and receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

Join 668 other followers

Job Opportunities:

Click below to see job opportunities listed through the author’s company, Midas Recruiting:

Blog Visitor Count:

  • 389,459 hits

Recent Posts:

Previous Posts (by Date):

►  "Unemployed Need Not Apply" -
      Working Around This Scary
      Message

------------------------------------------
►  Explaining Short Stints and
      Employment Gaps

------------------------------------------
►  The Lost Art of Customer
      Service: Unreturned Phone
      Calls & Emails

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 3

------------------------------------------
►  The Résumé Test & Checklist:
      Does Yours Pass?

------------------------------------------
►  The "T" Cover Letter -
      The Only Type Worth Sending

------------------------------------------
►  The Brutal Truth on how
      Résumés Get Eliminated

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 2

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Exposing
      Inconvenient Truths

------------------------------------------
►  The Double-Whammy of
      Rejection and Isolation

------------------------------------------
►  Is Your “Elevator Pitch” Taking
      You UP or DOWN?

------------------------------------------
►  Comic Relief: Job-Seeking
      Humor - Volume 1

------------------------------------------
►  Warning: That Rant You
      Posted Just Went Viral!

------------------------------------------
►  Using Social Media to Enhance
      Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Avoiding the “Black Hole
      of HR”

------------------------------------------
►  “In Transition” and Other
      Awkward Euphemisms

------------------------------------------
►  Getting Un-Stuck from
      your Rut!

------------------------------------------
►  Time Management: Recipe for a
      Well-Balanced Job Search

------------------------------------------
►  Face-to-Face Interviews:
      Secrets, Tips and Tricks

------------------------------------------
►  Counteroffers: Just Say No!
------------------------------------------
►  The Proper Way to Quit a Job
------------------------------------------
►  The Real Truth About Working
      with Recruiters

------------------------------------------
►  Phone Interviews:
      Secrets, Tricks and Tips

------------------------------------------
►  The Golden Rule: Never Burn
      Bridges

------------------------------------------
►  Candidates Gone Wild:
      Recruiter Horror Stories

------------------------------------------
►  Following-Up: An Essential
      Key to Success

------------------------------------------
►  Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing
      Technique

------------------------------------------
►  New Year’s Resolutions for
      Unemployed Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  How to Network: A Step-by-
      Step Guide for Job-Searching

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Helpful Things for
      Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Top 10 Most Annoying Things
      for Job-Seekers

------------------------------------------
►  Age Discrimination: Secret
      Conversations Revealed!

------------------------------------------
►  The Art of Giving: The Key to
      Effective Networking

------------------------------------------
►  Targeted Networking: How to
      Effectively Reach Out

------------------------------------------
►  Why Job Hunting is a
      Consultative Sales Position

------------------------------------------
►  The Power of a Positive
      Attitude

------------------------------------------
►  Looking for Networking in
      All the Wrong Places

------------------------------------------
►  Answering the Dreaded Salary
      Question

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 668 other followers