Developing a Tool Kit for your Job Interview

interviewing tool kit

In the most recent blog, I likened job interviewing to dating. If we continue with that analogy, how would you get ready for a first date?

You would clean up good, look your best, plan the date out…Your preparation for the job interview should be far more comprehensive than for a first date, yet so many people go into interviews with little to no preparation.

Develop a Tool Kit

Your preparation for the job interview should include developing a “took kit” of ten stories you would like to use in the interview.

These stories can be from various areas of your life, but most of them should be work-related.

I suggest that you write these stories out and then practice them in front of the mirror, with friends, or better yet, with an interview coach such as myself.

Behavioral Interviews

These stories will prepare you well for the behavioral questions many (if not most) employers ask during an interview.

These questions are based on the premise that past behavior is the best predictor of future success, and sound something like this: “Tell me about a situation…” or “Tell me about a time when…”

These questions really separate the prepared candidates from the unprepared, because it is very difficult to “wing” these types of questions.

In my experience, unprepared candidates tend to give general answers to these questions, such as “I’ve always been…” or they speak hypothetically, such as “When you’re in that situation, you want to…”

Needless to say, these types of responses do not help your candidacy.

Why Stories?

There are two compelling reasons to utilize stories in your interview.

One, they support your answer better than a general or hypothetical response;

Two, the interviewer will remember those stories– it’s how our brains are wired.

Using the CAR Format

Challenge: What was your task, and what was the context in which this happened?

Action: What steps did you take to solve this challenge?

Results: What was the outcome of the steps you took?

Typically, each story in your tool kit could be used for multiple questions that an employer might ask, so ten stories gives you a wealth of examples to help you navigate the interview effectively.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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Job Interviewing and Dating

hear with musical notes to symbolize that interviewing is like dating

It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much experience you have, or your level of education…interviewing is stressful.

To compound that stress in the fact that it’s often not the best-qualified candidate who gets the job, but rather the candidate who best navigates the interview process.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a scenario: You go on two dates. The first, with someone who hardly speaks at all, and when he/she does, it’s to say something inappropriate or irrelevant.

I am reminded of a date I went on a few years ago with someone who told me his only hobby was mowing the grass. Hard to keep that conversation moving along.

Date number two: You engage in a lively, enjoyable discussion about things that are important to you. This person is interested in you and shares things that make you interested in him/her.

So the question is: Which one are you most likely to go on a second date with? Yeah, I thought so.

Interviewing IS Dating.

I purposely used the analogy of dating, because job interviewing is much like a date. The employer chooses the candidates that, on paper, seem the most qualified (let’s call this your Match.com profile).

During the initial interview (the first date), the employer further eliminates the candidates that don’t fit and begins to rank those who meet the qualifications.

There are likely to be additional interviews (dates) leading up to the selection of the winning candidate (which is a bit like marriage).

The next important question is: How can I become the winning candidate?

Do Your Homework.

The more you know about the organization you’re interviewing with, the more you will be able to customize your answers to be in concert with the organization’s vision, mission, and goals.

Here’s an analogy: If you sell cars and I tell you that the most important thing to me is an energy-efficient, economical car, you will get nowhere trying to sell me a luxury gas hog.

If the company you’re interviewing with is focused on environmental consciousness and clean energy, you would do well to use some examples that are focused on those issues.

But Still be Yourself.

I am not suggesting that you become someone you’re not just to get the job, but rather to highlight the aspects of yourself that are most relevant to the company you’re dealing with.

Using the previous example, if you spend all of your free time dumping garbage alongside the road– except, of course, for the time you spend incinerating paint cans and batteries– then you shouldn’t be applying to that particular organization in the first place.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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Networking…A MUST In Your Job Search

Think of networking as medicine…you hate taking it, but it’s so good for you.

You’ve heard it before…75% of job opportunities are in the “hidden job market” and the only way to have a shot at those positions is  through networking.

Before your eyes glaze over, I’d like to tell you a story. I once was hiring for a professional position in my office. There was a candidate in my rather extensive pool who had been a flight attendant for 26 years. I glossed over her resume, seeing no relevance between the work she had done and what I was hiring someone to do. HOWEVER, I began receiving e-mails and phone calls from well-respected people in the community, expressing support for her candidacy. Her efforts in networking paid off and she got the job.

The purpose of networking 

The goal of your networking efforts should be to get leads, ideas, and referrals…most people are not in a position to offer you a job and will feel uncomfortable if they think that’s what you’re asking them for. Instead, ask to meet with them for suggestions that could move your job search forward.

Be specific…Vague requests get vague results

By doing your homework prior to the meeting, you’ll likely have a good idea of exactly how this person can help you. LinkedIn is a fabulous resource for this, because you can see who this person is connected to.

A request might sound something like this: “Joe, as you already know, I am on the lookout for a great new opportunity. When I was reviewing your LinkedIn profile, I see that you’re connected with Cathy Smart, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at XYZ. After doing considerable research, XYZ is at the top of my list for organizations I’d like to work for, so I’m hoping you could set up an introduction for me with Cathy.”

The mistake many networkers make is vaguely asking their contacts to “let me know if you think of anything.” Most people will be glad to help you…if they know exactly what it is you are asking them to do.

Networking etiquette

A very important point…you shouldn’t be a barnacle in this process, all take and no give. Before you meet with networking contacts, plan how you will give value to them. Is it your in-depth knowledge of something they’re working on, a contact that will help them, an article they would be interested in? What you have to offer them is just as valuable as what you’re hoping they will give you.

One more point along these lines…if you’re meeting for 30 minutes over a cup of coffee, the first 25 minutes should be about THEM. That way, when you ask for what you want after 25 minutes of helping them, they will likely be more than willing to do something for you.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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LinkedIn Job Search: Joining Groups and Following Companies

Joining Groups and Following Companies In LinkedIn to Help Your Job Search

In previous blogs, I’ve talked about how employers are utilizing LinkedIn in their recruitment efforts, how to have a robust profile, and the importance of endorsements and recommendations. As I wrap up this stream of thought, I’d like to talk about joining and participating in groups, as well as following companies you’re interested in working for.

Join AND participate in groups. 

Many of you have joined groups; after all, it looks good on your profile, right? Here’s why you should be actively participating with those groups: Branding. It’s that simple: you want to be branded as an expert in your field and one of the best ways to do that is to contribute to the body of knowledge in your field. Whether you are posing questions, providing links to resources, or commenting on other people’s posts, you are presenting yourself as an expert in your field.

I set all of my group activity to a weekly digest so that I only receive one e-mail per group each week. I have a folder in my inbox to put these digests in, and I set aside time each week to read and participate in the discussions. I recently purchased a tablet so I can access these digests when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office or riding in the car.

If you haven’t joined any groups yet, there are thousands of groups of widely varying activity level, size, and focus. Find at least 10 that speak to your career field and join them. Make sure they are on brand: I love dogs, but joining a dog lovers’ group on LinkedIn would not benefit my brand as a premier provider of career services.

Follow companies you’re interested in working for. 

Employers are telling me that they are visiting candidates’ profiles specifically to see if they are following that employer. This speaks to your interest in the company and is a great way to be “in the know” about companies you’re targeting in your job search.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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LinkedIn: Endorsements & Recommendations Boost your Job Search Efforts

LinkedIn graphicUtilizing LinkedIn’s Endorsements and Recommendations in Your Job Search

As you “ramp up” your LinkedIn profile to make a positive impression on potential employers, remember to build an Endorsements section that accurately represents the skill set you want to convey.

Your skills should be on-brand, not confusing, and not duplicated.

What do I mean? There may be a skill that you’re really good at and have used heavily in the past, but that you no longer wish to use in your professional life. Don’t list it!

Also, two or more skills that are very similar can be confusing to those who would like to endorse you, and may serve to dilute the impact of any one skill. Here’s an example:

    • Marketing

    • Brand Marketing

    • Sales & Marketing

Can you see how this would confuse endorsers and potential employers?

The best way to get your connections to endorse you is to endorse them. I set aside some time each month to endorse my existing connections.

Recommendations are written references about you, and it takes more effort for someone to do this. Consequently, it holds greater weight.

Some people will voluntarily write recommendations for you, but it’s also perfectly acceptable to ask people to write for you.

LinkedIn recommends a minimum of three recommendations and they make it easy for you to request them. Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the LinkedIn profile of the person you want to write a recommendation for you.

  2. Scroll down to the Recommendations box on that person’s profile.

  3. Click “Ask to Be Recommended,” and follow the prompts.

Be strategic about the people you ask to write recommendations for you. These should be people who know you well and who will address different aspects of your brand, yet be consistent.

What do I mean by this? Perhaps you want one recommender to talk about your record of building and mentoring high-performing sales teams, another to speak of your presentation skills, and another to speak of your outstanding sales performance.

Be sure to ask these individuals to write about these things-they will appreciate the guidance. While each is covering a different aspect of you, you want your brand to be represented in a consistent manner; contradictory information will only confuse the reader.

You should also be writing recommendations for others; this extends your brand to those individuals’ profiles as your name, picture, and tagline will be on their site.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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A Robust LinkedIn Profile: A Must for the Job Search

LinkedIn graphicMaximizing Your Job Search Effectiveness on LinkedIn

In a previous blog, I talked about the ways in  which employers are utilizing LinkedIn in their recruitment efforts…and how pervasive this use is.

Let’s talk about how to ensure your LinkedIn profile is one that will generate positive activity.

1. You need a critical mass of at least 500 connections.

To build your connections, go to the advanced search feature (the magnifying glass found in the search bar at the top of your profile) to put in the criteria you want to search for.

You might want to search on your current and past employers, companies you’ve done business with, companies where you know lots of employees, people who live in your city or others you’ve lived in, people who have attended your college or university, or keywords such as “marketing.”

2. Complete your Experience and Summary Sections.

I am amazed at how many profiles I visit where the only information they have in their Experience section is the names of employers, job titles, and dates of employment.

Others have cut and pasted their resume into this section; neither of these strategies is effective.

LinkedIn recommends that your profile be written in first person, in a conversational style. It should be written in the same way you would tell your story to someone sitting across the table from you.

3. Optimize your tagline.

Your tagline is incredibly important, because there are three things that go wherever you go on LinkedIn: Your name, your picture, and your tagline.

Many people have their job title in this space; this is a missed opportunity to brand yourself for the future. Here are some great examples:

Operations Manager | Strategically optimizing an organization’s operational efficiency and maximizing profitability

Customer Experience Expert | Combining consumer transaction technology & business acumen to create top-of-mind awareness

Award-Winning Pharmaceutical Specialty Sales Representative, with consistent success across a range of disease states

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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How Employers Use LinkedIn in the Hiring Process

LinkedIn Graphic

LinkedIn: How Employers are Utilizing to Recruit Employees

You may think of LinkedIn as a necessary evil. Perhaps you’re (begrudgingly) participating…sort of…but not really sure why.

Here’s why you want to be active on LinkedIn: According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 77% of employers are utilizing social media as part of their recruiting arsenal. Of those 77%, a staggering 94% are utilizing LinkedIn.

Let  me break that down into simpler numbers: For every 10 positions employers fill, seven or eight of those employers will have utilized LinkedIn in their hiring process. WOW.

So how are employers using this tool? It might surprise you.

1. Job postings.

This is probably the most obvious, but do you regularly seek out decision-makers at the companies you are applying to? This allows you to introduce yourself, ask questions, and stand out among the applicants.

2. Keyword searches.

Employers will often search using the keywords contained in the position description they are hiring for. This is the primary reason LinkedIn recommends a robust, complete profile.

You have about 2,000 for your Summary and each position in your Experience section, and 120 characters for your tag line; use as many of them as you can.

3. Searching their personal network, or those of their top performers.

This allows the employer to review the credentials of known entities. If I want to hire an outstanding accountant, where better to look than among the professional network of my company’s outstanding accountants? Or asking my connections if they or someone they would recommend would be interested?

Many companies even have a formal bonus program for recommending applicants.

4. Review of applicants.

LinkedIn is also being used to vet out applicants, often as part of an overall online identity audit.

You’ve heard it a million times: you MUST have a clean online presence with no “red flags.”

Here’s what you may not know: Your online identity is not just a matter of the absence of bad, it is also about the presence of good. Is your brand consistent across media? Is your profile consistent with (but not a duplication of) your resume? Is your presence that of an engaged, accomplished professional?

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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The #1 Job Search Mistake You Can Make

Job Search graphicLooking for a job or a root canal?

So, you’ve found yourself in the job market again. Perhaps it is of your own choosing, or perhaps you never thought this could happen to you.

Regardless of how you got here, the fact is…you’re here. And you are perhaps thinking that a root canal would be preferable to looking for a job.

At least they give you drugs at the dentist office

There are some similarities: with both the root canal and the job search, you’ll feel much better when it’s over; you’ll also be very sensitive during either process.

The main difference, as I see it, is that they give you drugs to help you through the root canal.

You’re going to have to face the job search without pain medication (I don’t recommend self-medicating).

If you haven’t been in the job market for some time, you may not realize that the way people go about getting great jobs has changed dramatically.

Notice I said great jobs – that is what you’re looking for, isn’t it?

There are four job searching realities you really must accept in order to move successfully into your next career role.

In this article, I want to address the most important reality.

Job boards can’t be the only tool in your arsenal

Reality #1: Your job search cannot be focused solely on looking at job boards.

Here’s what you’re doing: you’re looking at the same positions that thousands of people are looking at—even those who aren’t actively job seeking.

This means your resume will be part of a large applicant pool with stiff competition.

I’m not suggesting that you eliminate this tool from your arsenal, but I am suggesting that you minimize the amount of time you spend on this tool due to the low ROI.

Networking is the name of the game

Let’s think about how companies go about the hiring process. Increasingly, companies are turning to their internal network—including their existing employees—to find great candidates.

Some companies even have structured incentive plans that reward employees for recommending people who are then hired.

Think about it: if your company is looking for an outstanding accountant, would you rather put an ad online and have to sift through the dozens of applications you receive from strangers, or would you prefer to ask a couple of your outstanding accountants who they would recommend for the position?

Yeah, I thought so.

 

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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Don’t Make This Job Search Mistake

Job Search Candidate using computer to apply online

Okay, so you’ve decided to conduct an effective job search rather than having that root canal…good for you. Remember, no self-medicating.

Reality #1 explained the reason that passive job searches (comprised primarily of looking at job boards) are not effective. So what’s the alternative?

Bear with me as I paint a picture for you: You have a medical condition. You’ve identified what that condition is, but you haven’t yet found a medical practitioner to treat you.

Do you a) actively seek the right practitioner, based on referrals, research you conduct, whatever it takes to get the right doctor for you; or b) wait at home, looking online for doctors who are advertising for a patient just like you?

Of course, you are proactive—after all, this is your health we are talking about! You wouldn’t wait at home, and yet this is just how many people conduct their job search.

Please, Mr. Wonderful Employer, send me a sign (job notice) that you are looking for me.

It’s time to shift your thinking; it’s time for you to get into the driver’s seat of your own job search.

Which brings us to Job Search Reality #2: Your job search must be targeted. Throwing resumes out into the ether for positions you see online will probably not get you’re the results you desire, nor will applying for every position you’re even remotely qualified for.

So, what does work? Doing the work to determine what your brand is, what your ideal next position is, and which companies hire someone to do that job.

Of those companies that hire people like you, which ones are a good fit for you? It doesn’t matter what you value in an employer—it only matters that you seek out employers who provide what you value.

Notice what I didn’t say: “Which companies are currently hiring people like me?” If they are already advertising for you, then we’re back to Reality #1: looking at job boards.

Your goal should be to gain access to the hidden job market: those positions that aren’t advertised yet, may never be advertised if the company can find a qualified candidate by other means, aren’t known to the company yet (Mr. Manager is announcing his resignation next week), or don’t even exist.

You heard me right…don’t even exist. Companies routinely hire top-notch candidates and then find a perfect fit for them. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, calls it “getting the right people on the bus.”

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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How to Get Your Leg in the Room

Hopefully, by now you are sold on the ineffectiveness of a passive job search and the importance of conducting a targeted, proactive job search.

Now you need some job search strategies to get your foot in the door (or, as an international client once said to me, “I just want to get a leg in the room”).

Which brings us to our next Job Search Reality: The bulk of your job search should be focused on getting face time with decision-makers at your target companies, regardless of whether or not they have a position posted for which you’re qualified.

You want to determine who in your network can help you get to the decision- makers in those organizations.

Yes, Virginia, it really is all about networking.

For those of you who think networking is akin to a four-letter word, let’s break it down: Networking is an exchange of information among colleagues. It should be conducted throughout your career, not just during a job search.

Sometimes you’ll be in a position to give more than you take; sometimes you’ll primarily be the taker.

Believe it or not, it can be 50-50 during your job search. This is one of the techniques I teach my clients.

Let’s spend a moment trying to organize your contacts. Note that you will do this for each of your target companies, as follows:

    • Quadrant 1: People who work in your targeted company, and who know the decision-makers in the area you want to work in
    • Quadrant 2: People who know the decision-makers, but don’t work at your targeted company
    • Quadrant 3: People who work in your targeted company, but don’t know the decision-makers in the area you want to work in
    • Quadrant 4: Influencers who neither work at your targeted company nor know the decision-makers in the area you want to work in, but who know a lot of people

As you fill in the quadrants for each of your targeted companies, you goal is to have at least one contact in Quadrant 1.

If all you can come up with is Quadrant 4 contacts…it’s a starting point. Think of it as a dart board: you may be starting on an outer rung, but at least your dart is on the board.

Keep working at it, and eventually you will land smack-dab in the center of the target.

Interested in a deep dive with me? Register for my next webinar. In addition to great content, you’ll have the opportunity to ask me questions and even get coached by me live! Here’s the link to find out about this month’s topic, date, and time: click here

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