Sunday, November 13, 2016

How to Close the Interview

One of the most basic, and a very important thing you can do to aid your efforts towards a successful outcome, is the manner by which you finish the interview. I mean each interview, every time, with everyone you meet, anytime throughout your career. How you close the interview says a lot about you, your abilities, and your level of interest and conveys a measure of professionalism many people overlook.  

So there you are, being interviewed and the time arrives when they ask, “So, do you have any questions?” You should, of course, have some as a result of your time spent with the hiring official with whom you’re meeting. But before you conclude, there is one final question you will make a part of your interview ritual for the rest of your career - no joke, from this time forward. It sounds like this, “We’ve been speaking for the last hour (or whatever it has been) and I would like ask, what’s the next step?” or, “We’ve been speaking for the last hour…is there any reason you would not recommend me for the next interview step?” Say it however you want, be polite but decisive and clear about your intent and then stop talking, don’t speak, zip it and if I need to suggest it more bluntly, shut up – don’t add anything or feed an answer and now wait for their reply. 

There are three likely answers: 

1)     “I first need to talk to my colleague(s)…”, “…meet additional applicants”, “…review my notes…”, “…eat a ham sandwich…” etc. (just kidding about the last one) 

No problem and it is okay, so they gave you some BS answer and chose to sidestep the question. It’s all right you asked, you did your part and it was noted.

2)     “…when I asked about…you said…but your resume says something different, could you clarify it for me?”
If they have a concern or need a clarification, you certainly want to address it here and now. You don’t want to leave question marks to dangle in their mind, assuming you’ll get a chance to clear it up later, if they have a concern you likely won’t get a next chance. Go ahead and respond, then ask if the additional info satisfies their query? If so, repeat your question about the next step which presumably brings you to the third possible reply.

3)     “We’d like to meet you again…”
Although it may appear I’m oversimplifying, I am not. This is how you close and finish every interview. Of course there are never any guarantees, but this is without a doubt the best way to conclude an interview and it might even extend the conversation, which is a good thing. 
So what does this do for you? It clearly demonstrates your interest and that you are decisive and proactive. Furthermore, you’ve distinguished yourself from most others who sound needy when they sheepishly say, “Well, um, thank you and I hope I hear from you.” Now there’s a snoozer of a parting statement!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Making a Change

The concept of change scares the hell out of some people. Many of us like our routines, and we don’t like unplanned or unanticipated surprises, or anything that upsets the status quo. But change does and will happen. Actually, I have observed that the people who attempt to exert the most effort to control all aspects of their lives, and the lives of everyone around them, are much more easily freaked out, than if they just stepped back and took on their problems as they occur, like the rest of us. These are sometimes the same people who automatically assume that change always portends something negative, and rarely do they consider change may actually portend something better. As a result, we get the very outcomes we expect whether we mean to or not, good or bad, our perceptions will make it so. If you’re negative you’ll reap lots of negative stuff. If you are positive it won’t be so bad. Our perception is reality. If you seek a bad result you’ll certainly find it.
Most of us accept change as a fact of life, and a few of us actually look forward to change. Some of us get downright bored if things remain the same for too long. I used to fear change, but it’s like the cliché of a glass of water being half-full, or half-empty. Change rarely portends only dark certainty but, more often, new possibilities, some good and some bad, but one never knows. Do we have setbacks, yes, we all experience them and to use yet another cliché, you may need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. Once again, it is all about how we choose to view it. One thing is sure, new circumstances keep us on our toes, and perhaps we are at our best when we have periodic changes in the scenery of our lives. How many opportunities are missed for fear of change? Your frame of mind will make a big difference; are you open to a new circumstance or will you fight it every step of the way? Turning negatives into positives is what we do in life. Taking a situation that holds others back, and making it work in your favor, is what sets you apart from others waiting for someone or something to do for them what they seem unable to do for themselves. If you freak out over the reality of change you are going to have to get over it if you want to move ahead. I would suggest it’s not so much change that scares us, as the worry about being caught unprepared to react to it when it comes. 
If you are going through a period during which you are questioning what is ahead for you, who knows, you may later look back and realize this was an exciting time and you were more alert, sharper edged and at the top of your game, prepared and ready for your next step and whatever life throws at you.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Act in Your Own Best Interest

When you search for a job and subsequently interview, you’re supposed to ask questions. Although increasingly, I find that people have a reluctance to do so and they somehow imagine a good resume is all that is necessary and somehow everything else will fall into place and take care of itself.
There are five basic types of questions: Factual, Convergent, Divergent, Evaluative and Combination. But let’s keep things simple, for our purposes I’m only concerned with open-ended and close-ended questions. Consciously knowing the difference and learning when to use one or another can help you, regardless of whether you are being asked, or you are the one asking the questions.
Open-ended questions require an explanation. Open-ended questions are like the name says: they are open-ended requiring explanation that will help to gain more insight or better understanding. Let’s say for example, I want to engage a person in conversation that has no real reason to speak with me, and I ask, “Are you interested in considering a new job opportunity?” Their reply is possibly going to be “no”. That was a close-ended question. If I wanted to learn more about him, I might have instead inquired, “Tell me what kind of job would appeal to you?” That was an open-ended question requiring a more thoughtful response resulting in more information.
A close-ended question is one that elicits a simple yes or no answer. If you ask a lot of close-ended questions you will not get a lot of information and the conversation will not go far. By the very nature of this kind of question, it’s not meant to. When you watch television and see a courtroom drama, you will notice a lawyer will ask someone on the witness stand a close-ended question when they might say “Did you or did you not see who killed your neighbor?” The intention is to limit the witness’ response to a yes or no and cutting off and preventing any discussion. He doesn’t want details and the lawyer has steered the question and answer process to serve his intention.
Determine, according to what will benefit you most, when to employ an open-ended or a close-ended question. When you want a black and white answer or a clear decision ask a close-ended question. When you want to keep the dialogue alive and extract more information, with which to make a better decision and prove yourself worthy of another interview, ask engaging open-ended questions. Conversely, learn to recognize when these methods are being used on you. Interviews are never meant to be, nor should they be, one-sided. I am not exaggerating when I say most people with whom you are competing in the job market are like zombies, simply going through the motions.
When sitting in front of a hiring official, their behavior is almost entirely reactive. I can assure you it doesn’t take much to set yourself apart from others, and it’s much easier than you think to make real impact. In the end they may not choose you, as there are never any guarantees but, take some initiative so when you walk out that door, unlike most others who’ll be forgotten five minutes later, you’ll have made an impact they’ll remember.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Stand Apart, Stand Out

How does one exude self-confidence without appearing arrogant or conceited? It’s simple really, but first let’s put it into context. When you attend a first real interview, I’m not talking about a telephone screening or a cattle-call and assembly-line assessment center. Instead, the first real interview when the purpose for the meeting is to consider you for whatever role you’ve applied. During the interview you will be asked, “…tell me about yourself.” We’re not going to talk about how to present yourself, that’s a whole other subject unto itself. I want to focus instead on what to share when presenting yourself, your experience and qualifications.
I’m an American living and working in Europe, I have 25 years of experience as a recruiter on two continents. I recognize there are cultural differences that influence people but that should not matter as the world and especially business is more inter-connected than ever. Interview an American and, on average, they have no problem telling you about themselves and their accomplishments. Europeans are less open and I have run into many who regard such self-portraits akin to self-promotion, as if it is a bad thing when interviewing for a new job. Regardless of from where a person is, there are a lot of people who are shy or reticent to talk about themselves and their career accomplishments. 
When you interview, you’ve got to tell the interviewer not only about what your responsibilities and qualifications are, but key to your candidacy is what you’ve accomplished with your qualifications; how did you handle your responsibilities? Did you rise to any challenges and what are some examples? If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Many think if it’s on their resume a hiring official will see it, but that’s a weak excuse and oh yeah, do you know when most interviewers review your resume? Too often it’s about 5 minutes before they shake your hand at the start of the meeting. The reality is that it’s up to you to get them to wake up and take notice of you; to show how you stand apart from others seeking the same job. It’s ultimately on you to demonstrate why you are the best person for the job compared to everyone else. Or are you like most people who mistakenly hope a piece of paper will do it for you?
Ask yourself, what are the things you’ve done and are most proud of? This is a good place to start. First, any successes or accomplishments you would share with an interviewer should be directly related to a current or past job position. Second, it must be somehow verifiable, you’ve got to be able to prove anything you point to with documentation of some kind or be able to produce a reference of someone willing to back up your claim. Documentation can be a performance review, a company news letter, an award, a company stack ranking list related to office, district, region, etc., listing your standing compared with others, such as what most salespeople receive on a regular periodic basis. It could be a press release within which you are noted or listed or a certificate of accomplishment. Whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to prove your claim if asked.
Then work on it, write it down, refine it, and rehearse it. Be able to speak with confidence and with some brevity. Condense the information down to brief but impactful points about which you can elaborate if asked. While most others are only parroting what’s on their resume, you’ll be talking past the piece of paper, relating to them what you’ve actually done.  


Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Hard Worker - With Pre-Conditions

I am in contact on a regular basis with many very well-qualified and dedicated people who want to pursue good jobs and, lately, the job market is improving and some sectors are doing rather well and experiencing growth. I have client companies with needs for everything from receptionists to senior management with a lot in-between. So you’d think people are snapping up jobs left and right. Yet I talk to many, who are frustrated they can’t get beyond the 1st or 2nd interview. Meanwhile I have hiring managers who lament they can’t find the right people to hire. So what’s wrong; where’s the disconnect? 
Well, the problem often stems from the candidate / applicant side in too many situations. Here’s what is happening: an applicant goes to the interview, they like what they hear about the job and they begin to demonstrate they are good and worthy candidates. For their part, the hiring managers like what they hear and see but then they start listening to the pre-conditions, often during the very first meeting. 
I am not new to this business; I recognize many people want a work-life balance, but it verges on the ridiculous, especially when young people, who have little or no experience, start asking how long they’ll have to work each day. Or, someone declares when they must pick up their children, at odds with the standard job description of potential work responsibilities. Many times they disqualify themselves from further consideration with demands so beyond the pale it is as if each potential employee wants a customized schedule and work conditions tailored just for them. I know hiring managers who are very frustrated and tell me they can’t find anyone willing to work. 
Sometimes the demands are reasonable and the issue may not be what you are asking for but, rather, how you’re asking or more likely you’re asking prematurely because, frankly, a growing number of people possess underdeveloped communication skills. But here it is in a nutshell; before and until you demonstrate your value to them, until such time as they identify you as someone they have more interest in than others, seeking the same job making any demands is pointless and only diminishes your chances. Get through the first interview with a goal of securing the 2nd interview as best as you can. Show them why you’re their best choice thereby increasing your stock value. Then, you can discuss your needs and possibly get some of your wants.


Monday, September 5, 2016

The Art of Asking Questions

When you are engaged in an interview process, far too many people sit mute and do little on their own behalf. Reciprocal dialogue is part of the process but, to do so effectively, requires the ability to effectively communicate. It is an interactive event and there is an aspect of self-interest in that it is incumbent upon you to make a thoughtful effort to gain the most information possible, in order to make an informed decision by the end of the process. 
To do this you’re supposed to also be asking some questions and, if you do well enough, your interview becomes a negotiation that can lead to a job offer, with a mutually beneficial outcome for both sides. It may sound complex but it isn’t. 
We live in a period when individuals don’t really communicate, regardless of all the means available to us. Dialogue between people has been reduced to a hashtag and 140 characters or an Emoji to express our feelings, because actually communicating has become too cumbersome, requiring too much effort for many.   
Furthermore, you need more than a single clever question and far more than a clever rehearsed answer or two, if you are going to shine. Being memorable is not the goal; however, being remembered well, is. Doing just enough to get by is not sufficient and will not win the day for you. Yet, that is what most people are doing.
If you’re not a good communicator, become one. Better communication skills can help you sweep aside others seeking the same job – even some of those who might be better qualified. It is a worthy effort. 
Think of the questions you will ask, instead of saying something painfully obvious, such as, “…how late will I have to work?” Use a set-up that is general but requires more than a yes or no answer, like, “…Can you describe for me a typical day in this role?” That will get you some helpful info, but that’s just the set-up. Depending on how they respond, then follow-up to extract more pertinent info. I can imagine another 4 or 5 questions so that by the time you’re done you will learn that which you need. Most interviewers are also simply going through the motions – they have a list of routine questions, especially during the first interview and they are not going to give you details unless you ask. This is where most interviewees, in my opinion, falter – not just for their own purposes but also in the eyes of a hiring manager.
Asking good questions is how you learn about a job opportunity, the company, as well as the person to whom you may both work and report. Failure to probe for this information is a dereliction of your duty as an applicant / interviewee. 
If you don’t think ahead and take charge of your own fate in order to empower yourself, do you think anyone is going to do that for you, much less care? It falls to you to act in your own best interest. This, and being able to communicate effectively, is the only way it’s going to happen.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Root of the Problem

Understandably, most people don’t consider the things I write about until such time as they need a job; ironically, it is my job. But I highly suggest you share this article with others you know, whether they find themselves in need of this less-than-desirable exercise now or sometime in the future, which for most of us is inevitable.
I hear over and over two things: there aren’t any jobs or I can’t find any jobs. But after twenty-five years in the business and, increasingly the last ten years, I’ll tell you something you won’t like to hear – you’re not trying or at the very least trying hard enough. Now before you want to kill the messenger, hear me out.
Patience and perseverance are what’s missing, as well as innovation -- by today’s standards at least. Yep, it’s true in most situations. 
I hear from people telling me they’ve (digitally) sent out 100 resumes, big whoop, I’ll bet that wore you out. Then I ask them, on how many of those did you follow up? The answer is usually, none. Without going into detail and, I do write about it all the time, if all you’re doing is reviewing the jobs posted online you’re doing yourself a disservice and barely scratching the surface.
Then let’s consider the interview. No one likes to interview per se; some may think they are pretty good at it, but it’s not as if it’s a hobby people enjoy and seek out. Nope, we interview only when we must and for most it’s half-heartedly at best. Here again, most people spend the precious limited time they have during the interview reacting to what is asked of them. Do you have any questions prepared when you arrive at the interview, are you being interactive and engaging them, and proactively posing questions important to you during that brief event? And have you made an actual effort to impose the impression they should invite you back – did you literally ask for the job, or at the very least to be advanced to the next step? How do they know if you are as much or more interested than everyone else, are you doing anything that would leave no shadow of a doubt? I am betting you’re not – or at the very least you’re not doing enough and, most likely, the very least that is required of you. 
That’s a pretty damning commentary, isn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. Along with the conveniences of the digital age we’ve lost a lot of our own abilities to help ourselves. Furthermore, we’ve succumbed to the instant gratification provided us in so many things we have taken for granted, much less forgotten. Therefore, we’re no longer patient and if someone doesn’t reply back to our resume sent to a faceless inbox, we get frustrated and give up. When we interview, we bump along asking only that which is asked of us by those who aren’t very good themselves at evaluating people, and wonder why no one called back. 
Instead of treating a job search like a chore or a pastime you do when you’d rather be doing something else – I suggest you treat it as though your livelihood depends on it, because it does. Here are tons of things you can do to improve and enhance your efforts and abilities on this topic. Frankly, I have people regularly contacting me to thank me for my advice. For example: a key question that worked, helping them either to advance or get the job. Check my Blog archives, which date back to October 2012. Last but not least in a shameless act of self-promotion, the updated and streamlined 2nd edition of my handbook will be reposted for sale again soon. Get it so you don’t have to dig through the archives.