We are terrible at interviewing. We walk into the interview room without preparing. We spend time worrying about “trick questions” and about what shirt we should wear, instead of the things that really matter. Worst of all, we believe an interview is intended for us to simply answer the questions that the interviewer gives us.
I say this as someone who’s sat on both sides of the table: as a candidate, interviewing against some of the world’s toughest companies (like Google and a multi-billion-dollar hedge fund), and as a hiring manager.
Yet once you can master the interview process, you can secure job offers against other candidates who have many years more experience than you. In today’s economy, knowing how to interview is a killer skill.
That starts with knowing what to avoid doing in a job interview, or what I call “5 Interview Killers.”
1. “I just sort of… and then… and like… and uh… yeah.”
If you ramble, you lose.
Think back to when you last met someone and asked them a simple question (“So, what did you do at Acme Corp?”), only to hear 6 minutes of irrelevant details. How did you feel?
Now imagine this happening in a job interview. Interviewers aren’t just evaluating your technical skills. They’re using the “Airport Test,” asking themselves, ‘Could I see myself being stuck in an airport with this person?’
Like it or not, we’re evaluated on our personality as well as our skills. And if you can’t give a tight, concise answer in an interview, the interviewer will wonder if you’ll be able to do it in your job.
2. “Yeah, I helped out with that but it wasn’t just me.”
Humility is a great trait, but going out of your way to be self-deprecating is an interview turn-off.
You should always be candid about your role, but your interviewer doesn’t care about your team dynamics or organizational chart. He wants to know what you did. He wants to know how you think.He wants to know about YOU.
If you keep downplaying your accomplishments, how is a hiring manager supposed to value you enough to hire you?
It’s okay to be proud of the work you’ve done. It’s okay to be confident. Try it: Practice saying, “I’m glad you asked about that project. I’m really proud of the results we got, including a 13% revenue increase in 6 months.” See how that makes you feel.
Does it feel uncomfortable the first time? Of course. We’re not used to talking about our accomplishments without downplaying them. But the fifth time you practice your confident answers, it will start to feel natural.
3. “I left my last job because I didn’t really get along with my boss.”
We’ve all had bosses from hell, but an interview is not the place to trade war stories.
Take the high road: “I really enjoyed working at Acme Corp. One of the things I appreciated was being able to grow my skills in email marketing, but now I’m ready to take my skills to a bigger stage. That’s why I’m excited to work with you…”
4. “I work too hard.”
What’s your biggest weakness?
Interviewers love to ask this question because it separates the top performers from the average workers. The most common — and worst — responses are trite: “I work too hard” or “I have trouble saying no to responsibility.”
Hiring managers aren’t stupid. They can see right through these canned responses.
So what is the right answer to a question about your biggest weakness?
Look for the “question behind the question.” What interviewers really want to know is that you’re self-perceptive enough to acknowledge your weaknesses — which we all have — and that you’ve taken recent action to improve them.
So instead of a canned answer, explain what a real weakness you have and how you’ve worked to fix it. Include specifics. Point to conferences you’ve attended or projects you’ve taken on.
That’s how you answer the weakness question and nail the interview.
5. “I made 40K at my last job, so I’m really looking for something more like 50K. But you know…I’ll be willing to take 45K too.”
Your interviewer will always want to know how much you made at your last job. But it’s not your responsibility to tell them.
In fact, you put yourself at a severe disadvantage if they know your salary. For example, if you tell them you make $50,000, and the hiring manager was prepared to offer you $60,000, you’ve just lost thousands of dollars from one sentence.
Even in this economy, few companies will reject you for simply not answering the salary question. That’s because it costs thousands of dollars to recruit the average candidate. If they really want you, they’ll make you an offer, and you can negotiate from there.
When they ask for your salary, here’s your line to use: “I’m sure we can discuss salary when the time is right, but for now I just want to see if there’s a mutual fit for you and me.”
Negotiating can be tough, but it can be worth thousands of dollars to you.
Original article by Ramit Sethi can be found here.
The 10 Commandments of Onboarding
Rules to live – and work – by for a divine onboarding experience.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy employee. Few things are more disappointing than the realization that the job you thought you were hired to do is sorely different than what you’re actually doing. As an employer, misrepresenting your employee’s new role destroys trust in you immediately, after which no amount of orientation efforts can undo the initial damage.
- Thou shalt give a written plan of employee objectives and responsibilities. A written plan detailing objectives, strategy and expectations of future results helps diminish any confusion about a new employee’s job functions and instead opens up the floor to discuss concerns or new opportunities.
- Thou shalt give thy employ thy undivided attention. Letting email, phone calls or other employees distract you during orientation sessions sends the message, “I’m just not that into you” and kills morale. Prepare a checklist of subjects to review with your new employees, set aside the appropriate amount of time to do it, and let others know that you are not to be interrupted while you are orienting your new workers. This gives new employees the message that they are the most important item on your agenda. (Or: this lets new employees know that…)
- Thou shalt have relevant paperwork ready. Make sure all administrative forms—such as employment, direct deposit, and benefits—are ready to be completed on day one so you don’t have to waste time dealing with it later, and so that your employee can start getting these important matters taken care of right away.
- Thou shalt introduce thy employee to thy neighbors. Provide staff members with the new employee’s résumé and job description and advise them to follow a meeting format that includes sharing a description of their own positions, ways in which their roles interact with that of the new hire, and how they might expect to work together in the future. (This is also a good time to assign a mentor or buddy to the new hire as an immediate resource for any questions and key information about organizational culture and goals.)
- Thou shall set up thy employee’s workstation. An empty workstation is to a new employee what an unkempt home is to a houseguest. Before the employee arrives on day one, stock his or her workstation with everything from paper and pens to keys and, if possible, business cards. Make sure the phone and computer, complete with voicemail and e-mail accounts, are set up. Leave a copy of an organizational chart, staff list, and phone directory on the new hire’s desk.
- Thou shalt schedule one-on-one time to ensure you connect regularly with the new employee. If you can’t do this on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, schedule meetings to provide feedback at 30- and 90-day checkpoints, or before a semi-annual review.
- Thou shalt create a balance. The first day is always tough. Vary the first day’s schedule by including less formal gatherings between meetings. Arrange for a group of staff members to treat the new hire to lunch on the first day to provide a little non-meeting relief and levity.
- Thou shalt clarify the company culture. Again, to avoid future confusion (or embarrassment), provide the employee with company information, policies – including dress code and late policies – and benefits. If your organization has a new employee handbook, leave that on the desk as well.
- Thou shalt think beyond the first few days. After 90 days, request formal feedback on the new hire’s performance from his or her supervisor, and be sure to solicit feedback from the employee as well. Take this opportunity to address any issues of concern as well as note any accomplishments so that all parties are confident that the new hire is poised for success in his or her role.
Neil Hefta is the Vice President of the Govig Senior Care Division. He has been with Govig & Associates as an Executive Recruiter within the long term care industry since 1998. Neil’s understanding and experience have made him an invaluable member of the Govig Senior Care team, throughout his tenure with GSC Neil has built a nationwide network of professionals within the senior housing industry, a network that allows him to find the right candidate for the job and the right job for the candidate.
Having a warm body fill that vacant seat in your office may seem like a better option than nothing, but beware: Your new hire could be a zombie.
No, not the living dead type. More like the deadbeat variety. Staffing firm Vitamin T has run the numbers and it turns out that a bad employee could cost you upwards of $50,000 when all is said and done. While salary makes up part of the figure, to really calculate the full cost, you have to factor in recruiting, lost business, training and possible legal action.
All the more reason to schedule another interview before you take the plunge. After all, in this economy, employers can afford to be picky and potential employees will put up with a lot.
While counter-offers may be tempting and even flattering, there can be pitfalls that you need to be aware of.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Will your loyalty always be in question?
- If there are future cutbacks, will you be the first to go because of concerns about your loyalty?
- If you accept the counter-offer for more money, are you just giving your employer the time they need to locate and select your replacement?
- Will your career track remain blocked if you accept it?
- Will your responsibilities be expanded?
- Will you have to report to a person you don’t respect?
- Will you receive next year’s raise or bonus early?
- Is the counter-offer a ploy to avoid a short-term inconvenience by your employer?
- What are your realistic chances for promotions now that you have considered leaving?
Counter Offer Statistics
According to national surveys of employees that accept counter-offers, 50-80 percent voluntarily leave their employer within six months of accepting the counter-offer because of unkept promises. The majority of the balance of employees that accept counter-offers involuntarily leave their current employers within twelve months of accepting the counter-offer (terminated, fired, laid off, etc.).
As attractive as counter-offers may appear, they greatly decrease your chances of achieving your career potential.
Source: Govig | Candidate Toolkit
Need more information
Finding a job, flourishing on the job and moving into a better job demand plenty of work–especially during a jobless recovery.
That’s why I am offering my five best lessons for managing your career, gleaned since I launched this column in July 1993. They include the importance of out-of-the box networking, sweating the small stuff and knowing yourself well enough that you’re always ready for reinvention.
The lessons’ common theme? No one can manage You Inc. better than you. And here’s how to do it:
1. Network effectively rather than aimlessly.
Focus on forging “strategic relationships” at 10 prospective employers, suggests Paul Anderson, a career coach in Redmond, Wash. That means avoiding an “elevator pitch” in which you buttonhole people and give them your career pitch on the fly.
“Relationships can’t be built in 60 seconds,” Mr. Anderson insists. “People hire people they like and trust.” So, work on building better ties with your contacts by being a reliable resource for them and offering frequent updates about your career.
You can land strong introductions through your closest contacts, social networking sites and good “connectors,” who may have nothing to do with your line of work. These professionals, such as hairstylists, dentists, ministers and accountants, amass connections that cut across industries.
Connectors “make introductions because they like to,” notes Diane Darling, a networking consultant in Boston. She expanded her connections and consulting gigs by creating a personal board of advisers.
For the same reason, attend industry conferences that attract targeted businesses. Scrutinize the guest list, pinpoint executives you wish to meet and schedule encounters there.
When Tayari Howard was an aspiring radio personality in the ’90s, he attended about 10 public events hosted by a San Diego station before meeting a department head and pitching his candidacy for a job. “Persistence paid off!” says Mr. Howard, who was hired by the radio station in June 1995, and still hosts a nightly show there.
2. Sweat the small stuff.
Tiny missteps may derail your career. You appear unpolished when you talk like an adolescent, curse at colleagues or proffer a sweaty palm.
Outdated clothes, frayed cuffs, messy hair, scuffed shoes or excess cleavage also signal poor judgment. “Looking your best at any age is what you should aspire to,” advises Patricia Cook, an executive recruiter in Bronxville, N.Y.
Even bathroom habits count. High-tech recruiter Dora Vell once worked for a major search firm where the receptionist alerted partners if candidates using the guest toilet near her desk failed to wash their hands. (She could hear the faucet.)
This lesson also applies to cover letters. Inspirica, a New York high school and college tutoring concern, found mistakes in 93% of 220 letters from tutor applicants over the past year. Many flawed letters came from experienced writing tutors.
“Pay attention to everything you write in cover letters,” warns Lisa Jacobson, Inspirica’s CEO. “Otherwise, you will get weed whacked right out.” Her firm hired just 15 tutors in the fiscal year ended in June.
3. Make your résumé and business card work overtime for you.
Too often, résumés chronicle your past rather than promote marketable skills that would benefit potential employers. An additional “pre-résumé” may make more sense, says Rick Gillis, an author of two job-hunting books who devised the concept. The one-page document contains a brief objective statement that describes precise ways you will improve a particular company, he adds.
A pre-résumé also includes highlights of four career accomplishments–plus a string of key words (such as “multi-task professional”) that get detected by resume-tracking software.
An online résumé offers another approach. You can show work samples, references’ video testimonials and any data that may demonstrate successes in your career, such as surpassing sales targets.
It’s equally important that your business card convey a memorable first impression. List your strongest skills or highest degree right under your name. But omit your physical address to appear flexible about relocation. Don’t overlook the reverse side of your card. Rather than leave it blank, you can display the name of a prominent prior employer.
4. Pay it forward.
Whether you’re on the job or seeking one, you should help others propel their careers without expecting return favors.
New Directions, an upscale executive-transition-planning firm in Boston, encourages jobless managerial clients to aid welfare mothers, homeless veterans and others hunting for work. Banker Mike Lenihan served as an unpaid mentor all three times he was a New Directions client since 2003.
He says his latest stint, involving coaching unemployed administrative assistants about the tough job market, impressed a U.S. Bancorp hiring official. He joined a unit in January as a senior vice president.
So many people assisted Mary Steele throughout her career that “I wished to pay it forward,” the head of executive compensation for Delta Air Lines Inc. says.
During a 2006 job hunt, Ms. Steele began compiling a list of high-paid human resources vacancies she didn’t pursue. She now emails similar job-lead updates 300 times a year to more than 500 people, mostly seasoned HR managers.
5. Know thyself—and be ready for reinvention.
You should constantly take stock of your dreams, values and transferrable skills. Scrupulous self-assessments can ease jitters about changing your occupation, industry, locale or pay.
After losing his job as an hourly manufacturing worker in 2006, Christopher Pearsall became a product manager for a business-software developer the following year. When the part-time paramedic got laid off again in 2008, he decided to pursue what he really loved: health care.
Mr. Pearsall will soon finish nursing school. “I have re-reinvented myself,” he says.
To succeed at your current workplace, you must be equally flexible about accepting lateral moves. Businesses like such switch hitters—as I can attest.
Today marks the last print version of a column that sought to provide uncommon solutions to common career dilemmas for 17 years. Soon, in my new monthly advice column on WSJ.com, I’ll tackle a new challenge: helping senior executives make the most of their careers.
—Write to Joann Lublin at firstname.lastname@example.org
The book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott says, “Our business is a business of conversations; while no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship or a life, any single conversation can”. The power of words is easy to forget but whether conscious or unconscious the power exists. Our words only have power if people can connect with them emotionally. Often times we hear our emotions our bad, but it is where our passion comes from. People move when they are driven in their emotions. Our emotions are moved by passion, truth, and confidence. If our communication lacks passion, truth and confidence we will never have much influence. On the other hand if all three elements exist in our communication, our influence will be great!
Cover via Amazon
- Leadership and Emotions (inc.com)