Posts tagged ‘follow-up’

Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists and New Year’s Resolutions

Every year around December, people in the media seem to feel compelled to wrap up each outgoing year with various Top-10 Lists – usually featuring news events, movies, songs, TV shows, books, etc. Each December since I started Recruiter Musings back in 2009 (our visitor count recently surpassed 1 Million hits and we’re still going strong!) I’ve been posting a couple of my own “Top-10 Lists” for Job-Seekers, as well as a list of suggested New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers. In reviewing those prior lists, I found that they are mostly still very relevant and timely! Oh sure, a lot has changed in the world during the last few years. But in terms of my view of the most annoying and the most helpful things for job-seekers … well, my opinions and suggestions have aged well! I’m still very annoyed by people who don’t return phone calls, and I still think Twitter is a huge waste of time! And I’m still a firm believer in the power of Networking as the number one job-seeking methodology with the best chances for success. Likewise, my suggested New Year’s Resolutions from the last few years are still the same ones I’d advise today’s job-seekers to aspire to for the coming year.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I simply went back and re-edited the past year’s postings to make sure they were still accurate and up-to-date so that I could simply refer back to them. (By referring back to those newly edited original posts instead of re-posting them as new, the readers’ comments at the bottom of each of those articles have also been preserved.) SO … here are the links:

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 Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers

 New Year’s Resolutions for Job-Seekers

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December 1, 2014 at 11:56 am Leave a comment

“Help … I Need a Job!” A 9-Step Guide For Newly Minted Job-Seekers

Several times each month, I receive random calls and emails with unsolicited résumés from job-seekers who say, in effect: “Can you help me find a job?” My response to those people is usually some variation of my often-repeated mantra: “Sorry, but recruiters don’t find jobs for people … they find people for jobs.” I then point them to this blog for further clarification: “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters.” Still, I feel bad for those seemingly clueless job-seekers who apparently need some basic direction on how to conduct an effective job search campaign. Some are young, inexperienced job-seekers with minimal practical work experience. Others are in their prime working years, but have decided to try switching to a new career in which they have little or no experience. [For more on those types of situations, read “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers.”] Still others are older, more senior level professionals who unexpectedly got caught up in the rampant layoffs during the economic downturn of the last few years and have suddenly found themselves totally unprepared for a job search so late in life. The toughest of those cases are the ones who have been working for one company for most of their lives, and haven’t needed to write a résumé or interview anywhere in decades. Having done their last job search during an era of fax machines, cold calls and door-to-door pavement pounding, those older job-seekers are often lost in the fast-paced modern world of mobile computing and social media.

Much of the information needed by anyone in order to organize and execute an effective modern job search has already been documented here in these Recruiter Musings archives. [For a list of all of those articles organized by topic, check out the Index found on the green navigation bar at the top of this page, and also on the side-bar to the right.] I thought it might be helpful to pull it all together into one big 9-Step Guide. Some of what follows is new information, and a lot of it is a re-hash where I’ll point towards prior blogs that need to be reviewed. If you are a newly minted job-seeker, this article can be a great starting point. For the more seasoned job-seekers, consider this a refresher! And, by all means, please feel free to email, re-post, re-blog or re-tweet this article to anyone you know who needs help getting started with a new job search. SO … here we go:

1) Soul Searching: Exactly What Are You Qualified For?
The job searching process starts with some soul-searching. What are you actually qualified for, based on your past work experiences? Exactly what type of job are you looking for? What is your industry niche? What is your particular area of expertise? What job function makes the most sense as a next step for you? Answering those basic questions is easy for some, and confusing and difficult for others. However, figuring those things out determines everything else that follows. Only you know what you are experienced at, and what you are truly qualified for. If you cannot answer those questions easily, then it may be time for some serious career counseling. Pursuing jobs that you are really not qualified for can be a huge waste of time for many people, including the people you might network with in that pursuit. You should also consider things like how far you’d be willing to commute every day, what size company you’d be comfortable in, etc. The more you can narrow down exactly what type of position you’d be most qualified for, and exactly what type of company you’d like to work at where such a job exists, the more effective your job search is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.

2) Prepare an Effective Résumé.
If you ask 10 professional résumé-writers what a good résumé should look like, you’ll get 10 very different answers. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for this. As a recruiter who reads and reviews résumés all day every day, my own STRONG personal preference is to see chronological résumés rather than so-called “functional” résumés. What I can tell you is that it is of the utmost importance that your résumé be a door-opener for you. An effective résumé should clearly explain who you are, what type of job you are seeking, and most importantly — why someone should hire you over someone else. That means not just simply describing your past responsibilities, but rather trumpeting your successes, quantifiable results and achievements in each of your prior positions. The main purpose for any résumé is to pique the interest of the reader … to have them want to learn more about you … to get you an interview! I highly suggest you read the following blog articles on this topic if you need help in this area:
 The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated
 The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?
 Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps
 Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?

3) Learn the Basics of the “T” Cover Letter.”
Job-seekers often ask whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé. It’s a question that many people struggle with. In my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The blog article I wrote on that topic receives more hits on this site every week than almost all the other articles combined! It includes templates that you can download and modify to create your own “T” Cover Letters. Here’s the blog article you’ll need to read for help with this topic:
 The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending

4) Develop a Target List of Companies.
Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience. Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers. If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!! This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search. This takes some research. My advice is to use 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.) This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. Use the advanced search mode to generate a list of companies that are the most likely to have jobs like the one you think you fit. To do that, put in search criteria that fit your profile. Company look-ups can contain multiple search criteria, including location by zip or area code, industry, size, products, number of employees, revenue, and specialty fields. Try using keywords specific to your niche. Keep narrowing the search criteria until you get the list to under 100 results. If this is your first search, I’d say to go even further and narrow it closer to 50. (You can always go back later and widen this list to get more targets if you exhaust your first list.) Print out the list and look it over carefully. You can probably eliminate quite a few companies based on things you already know – places that you’ve heard bad things about, places that you know are in financial trouble or any number of other personal red flags. Simply cross those places off the list. What’s left is your first target list!

5) Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch.”
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. Read the following blog article if you need help creating an effective Elevator Pitch for yourself:
 Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You UP or DOWN?

6) Become an Effective Networker.
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers and staffing professionals to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. Read the following blog articles for details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps:
 Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places
 How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching
 Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
 The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking

7) Manage Your Time.
It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized? If you need help with how to organize your time to conduct an effective job-search, read the following blog article:
 Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search

8) Brush Up On Your Interviewing Skills.
Scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers — second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! Interviews can be on the phone, in-person, on in many cases where the opportunity is in a remote location — on Skype. Being prepared for each of those types of interviews involves critical skills that need to be mastered. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need help in this area. In my many years of experience coaching candidates for interviews of all types, I’ve found that the people who don’t think they need help are the ones who do the poorest! I always get very nervous when I represent someone who says something like: “I’ve interviewed dozens of times — I don’t need coaching — I know how to handle myself!” After someone I represent finishes an interview with a company, and I do a de-brief with that candidate, I’ve noticed a very predictable pattern: When the candidate tells me something like: “That went great! The manager loved me! We really bonded! I expect an offer to be coming soon!” … more often than not, the feedback from the company is not so great, and that person rarely actually gets the job. On the other hand, when I hear things like: “I’m not sure how well I did. I couldn’t read the interviewer. I forgot to bring up a few things that I wanted to say. I don’t know if they liked me.” … those interviews usually went much better than the person thought, and the feedback from the interviewer is generally positive. Is it overconfidence that kills an interview? It’s hard to say. I can only stress that even the most experienced and savvy job-seekers can benefit from help and brushing up on interview skills. Read the following blog articles for help with interviews:
 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

9) Follow Up and Stay Organized.
Staying in touch with the key people you talk with and/or meet with is a critical component of any job search campaign. As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more targets and decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those targets and decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” The longer you’re at this and the longer your list of network contacts becomes, the more important it will be to stay organized and avoid getting confused about who you met when, and who you need to follow up with. You should keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list, and devise a system you are comfortable with that allows you to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with on your target list. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. It’s kind of like having a first date where you think you really clicked with the other person, but then you never hear from them again! The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your targets to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch! Read the following blog article for more on why follow-up is so important:
 Following Up: An Essential Key to Success.

Final Thoughts: Attitude is Everything!
I’ve coached thousands of job-seekers during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the entire 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. There’s no question about it: job-seeking can be a real drag, and certainly has the potential to grind a person down. Don’t give in to negativism. Stay upbeat and positive, and keep the faith. Everything described in this 9-Step Guide actually does work, and good things can happen to people who project positive energy!

July 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm 8 comments

Avoiding the “Black Hole of HR”

Does the following scenario sound familiar? You spot an online job posting that looks like a perfect fit for your background and experience. You click “apply” and are led through a series of time-consuming screens asking for detailed information about yourself. You fill out their online application form, which includes an exhaustive work and salary history. You attach a formatted word version of your résumé, which you’ve already spent countless hours working on and perfecting. You create and include a killer cover letter tailored to that specific position, using all the buzz words and phrases in their job description, and pointing out how you have all of their listed requirements. Then you hit “submit” … and sit back and wait … and wait … and wait. And then – NOTHING! No emails, no phone calls, and usually not even an acknowledgment that your submission was received – just silence.

In the Recruiting world, we often refer to this as sending your résumé into the “Black Hole of HR.” Your application has been sucked into the Human Resources vortex, never to be seen or heard from again! The sad fact is, most online submissions go totally unanswered. That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. [For details on how to network your way to a job, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]

Now don’t get me wrong … I have nothing against HR people in general. In fact, over my many years as a recruiter I’ve successfully partnered with many HR professionals. Today, some of my best networking partners are Directors of HR or Talent Acquisition at large companies. In fact, in a broad sense, recruiters and staffing companies are part of the HR world. The problem, from a job-seeker’s point of view, is that many of those online applications go directly to overworked and overwhelmed HR screeners who simply don’t have the time to respond to the tidal wave of applications that they receive for every job posting in today’s candidate-flooded market. I’ve heard tales of literally hundreds and hundreds of résumés arriving on HR desks after only a day or two of a new job being posted.

Recently, I attended a talk by a Vice President of Human Resources from a Fortune 500 company who was addressing a group of job-seekers. He told a surprising little anecdote. He said that his son just graduated from college, and asked him for advice on the best way to find a job in such an ultra-challenging market. His father told him: “Just make sure you go around HR!”  This from a VP of HR!

Too many job-seekers spend the majority of their precious time searching for and responding to internet job postings – which are basically direct pipelines to the HR departments of companies. The truth is that this is one of the least productive uses of your time, and has an extremely low success rate. Online job boards are merely an updated version of the old classified ads in the newspaper, which are even less likely to get you anywhere in today’s internet-centric world. Oh sure, every once in a while responding to an online job posting scores someone an interview, or in some cases even an actual job. It does happen … albeit infrequently. So I’m not suggesting that you totally ignore this method of job searching. Simply limit the time you spend on it to around 10% of your total job-searching time. [Read “Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search”  for a guide to prioritizing your time.]

So let’s say you actually do spot that perfect job online. What should you do? By all means, go ahead and apply. However, what other steps can you take to avoid simply ending up in the “Black Hole of HR?” Here are a few suggestions:

Look for a Contact Name on the Job Posting
If there’s a person’s name, an email address, or a contact phone number on the job posting, send that person an email (separate from your online submission.) The body of the email should be your cover letter, and you should attach a word version of your résumé. Wait a day or two, and then CALL THAT PERSON! If there’s no phone number given, call the main number of the company and simply ask for that person by name. If you end up in their voicemail, leave a message (with your “Elevator Pitch“) expressing your interest in their position. If you don’t get a response, call again in 2 or 3 days. Personally, I’d try leaving voicemails 3 times before giving up. You would be amazed at how few people actually call to follow up after submitting an online application. Doing so will immediately put you ahead of your competition.

If there’s No Name Listed, Call the Company And Ask For One!
Most job posting do not actually list a contact name. In that case, call the main number of the company, and simply ask for the name of the person who oversees the position you are applying for. If possible, get their email address and phone extension. Then do the email and follow-up phone routine described above. If you are directed to an HR person, you can certainly follow that path … however an even better approach would be to identify the actual decision-maker at the company who oversees the position (usually NOT an HR person.) Emailing and phoning that decision-maker is WAY more effective. That person might re-direct you to HR … and that’s OK. At least you’ve distinguished yourself from the crowd, and made contact with the person who will eventually decide who to hire. And when you do go back to HR, you can now say: “I spoke with So-And-So about his open position, and he suggested that I call you to follow-up.  How much do you want to bet that using the person’s name when making the call back to HR will get you more attention.

Check LinkedIn for Other Employees at the Company
Do an advanced search on LinkedIn for local people who work at the same company you are applying to. Specify people who are in the same area or department, or who share similar job titles. You might identify peers … or even decision-makers overseeing the position you are applying to. Reach out to those people, and see if any of them would be willing to talk with you on the phone … or even meet with you informally. [For more specifics on how to approach those new potential contacts, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] See if you can learn any inside information from those people – e.g. names of decision-makers, information on the open position, the company culture, etc. The best case scenario would be that you might just gain a new ally on the inside who could actually take your résumé directly to the decision-maker and give you a personal recommendation!

The bottom line is that if you ever expect an online application to lead to an interview (and eventually a job!) you need to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The best way to do that is to go beyond the online posting and try to reach out to actual people who work at the company who are in positions to help you. Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some ideas on how to do just that.

April 6, 2010 at 6:48 am 30 comments

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

[This article was updated in March 2016]

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, reach out to those people and ask if they can give you any insights. Also look them up on Facebook, Twitter and any other Social Media sites you can find to see if they have any public profiles.  Take note of things like prior places they’ve worked, where they went to school, hobbies and interests, etc.  The more you can 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.   (And by the way … your interviewer might be doing those same exact Social Media searches on you — so don’t be surprised if they mention things they’ve learned about you from those same sources!)  Just be careful during the interview to not to let the conversation drift too far away from professional topics and into either offering up too much personal information or discussing potentially controversial subjects.  For example: politics, religion, sexual orientation … those might be great topics for a first date — but not a job interview!

Study the job description and prepare stories.
Carefully think through each element of the job description (assuming you have one) 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 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 you 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 27 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

Following-Up: An Essential Key to Success

A few weeks ago, I posted a long blog titled “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.” After making a target list of companies, identifying and reaching out to decision-makers in those companies, and actually talking and meeting with those people … the simple act of following-up with them was the final step described in that guide. Following-up (and continuing to do so on a regular basis) after a networking meeting, a phone call, an interview, an online application, emailing your résumé, after sales calls, and with so many other interpersonal interactions is a critical activity for success in the business world. Unfortunately, it’s a step that most people fail to do consistently. Failure to follow-up is a formula for non-results. I’m not sure why a lack of follow-up seems to be such a common failure point for so many people – perhaps it’s a combination of laziness, and a fear of picking up the phone and actually talking with a live person. However, I can say with a great deal of certainty that those people who actually do follow-up properly have a huge advantage over their competition.

A friend of mine was recently offered and then accepted a great job. That offer came purely through networking activities. The person who offered him the job was a decision-maker who my friend first met as a referral from another networking connection. He reached out to that decision-maker – not by asking for a job, but by using this classic networking approach: “Our mutual friend So-and-So spoke very highly of you, and suggested that I reach out to you. Since you are an expert in your field, I’d like to find out more about your background and experiences, and ask for your career advice and help.” [For more ideas on how to approach decision-makers, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] When they met for coffee, my friend was given several new referrals to other decision-makers in his industry niche. After that meeting, he emailed and called each and every new person he was given, and set up meetings with many of them. Now here’s the critical part: he then sent the original decision-maker regular emails with updates on everyone he had contacted, who responded, who he met with, and what the results were. He also called a few times and updated him verbally on his progress. The referring decision-maker told my friend that over the last year he had been approached by a TON of job-seekers asking to meet with him to “network.” The vast majority of those people never followed-up with him after those meetings. He never knew if any of his referrals were ever actually contacted, or if they were – what the results were. My friend’s diligence in following-up was so impressive (and so outside of the norm) that it made him a memorable and stand-out candidate. When that decision-maker’s own company began to experience growth, my friend was the first and only person that he contacted. He ended up offering my friend a newly created, non-posted job. Obviously, my friend’s overall talent and specific experience in his industry niche were the main factors that landed him that new job. But his new boss told him flat out that it was his excellent follow-up with his networking activities that cinched the deal!

Now, consider one of the least effective ways to find a job these days: applying to an online job posting. Despite the well-known low success rate for that method, I’m constantly amazed at how many job-seekers still spend a huge portion of their time doing just that! And what is the typical result of such a time-consuming activity? Nothing! Silence! No response at all from the recruiter or the company they’ve just applied to! (Sound familiar?) So, what do most job-seekers do when their résumé has gone into the “Black Hole of HR” after applying to an online job posting? Nothing! They sit back and wait for an email or a phone call that almost never comes. Inaction leads to more inaction!

I recently spoke with a job-seeker who makes it a point to follow-up after every online application with a phone call one week after applying. It’s not always easy to figure out who to call … it takes some investigative researching, and sometimes plain old cold-calling. However, this candidate was a sales professional, and was accustomed to such sleuthing. He would call the main switchboard of a company he’d applied to, and ask for the name of the person who oversaw the department he was applying to … or barring that, the name of the person who headed up the HR area. He would then call that person directly, and simply say he wanted to follow-up on his application and make sure that the person actually received his résumé. So what happened when he did that? Last week, an HR Director told him that she had received over 300 applications for the particular position he had applied for – but he was one of only two people who called to follow-up after applying. Because of that, she said, he was going to the top of the list for consideration! Now, does that mean he’ll get the job — or even get an interview? Who knows. But clearly, his follow-up put him a step closer than his competition.

The lesson to be learned here about following-up is not just for job-seekers. Following-up consistently is an essential key to success in almost every business activity. Sales people should certainly know this. And remember – job-seeking IS a sales activity! [See “Why Job-Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position.”] How many times have you heard someone say: “Let’s stay in touch” … and then you never hear from that person again? How about a sales call or a business meeting where someone promises to do something or get back to someone within a certain amount of time … and then simply doesn’t! This sort of “dropping the ball” stuff happens all too often in the world of sales and business in general. Earning someone’s trust and gaining credibility are basic goals that are deeply connected to a person’s ability to simply follow-up and follow-through! My favorite two business mantras are: “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.” and “Under-promise, and over-deliver.” People who follow those guidelines, and truly make an effort to follow-up with every person of significance that they encounter are heading for success.

January 11, 2010 at 8:12 am 23 comments


Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for nearly 20 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with 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 social-services 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?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

 "Why Did You Leave Your
         Last Job?"

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

 Phone 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

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

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

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

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

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 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 for
         Business: 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
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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