It always intrigues me how people look outside themselves as soon as they think about making a change. If you’ve spent any time or thought thinking about finding a job, you’ve probably bought more books on interviewing than you’ll ever read and talked the ears off of your nearest and dearest.
Most interview books tell you how to practice for the interview as if it was a test. I’m not saying this kind of preparation doesn’t have value – it does and, if you’re lucky, you might even be asked one or two of the questions/answers that you’ve rehearsed. Other books promise to help you find your dream job and to “find your bliss”. Well, they have their value too. After all, hope and aspirations are what our civilization was built on.
Interestingly, few truly focus on YOU, the EXPERT on your candidacy. Preparing answers to questions you may or may not get asked feeds into your fears and, while you’re playing the guessing game, will also add a hefty portion of worry, doubt and anxiety to boot!!
I say control the things you can!.
In times of change simplicity gets my vote every time and the following Skills Inventory technique is one that I have found works for every candidate no matter where you are in your career. The best part is that you can do it wherever you are as long as you have a pen and blank paper!
Here we go:
1. Take a piece of paper and divide the page in two columns. Label one of them Education and the other one Dates. Next step: list the schools/colleges you attended and qualifications obtained under the first column and dates attended/graduated in the second column. Also make sure to list any achievements whilst at school – Swim Team Captain? Editor of the School Paper? you get the gist.
2. Take another piece of paper and divide it in three. This time label the columns Jobs, Dates, Responsibilities.
3. List every single job you have had and the dates you were there. While you are at it, include any volunteer positions or internships (if applicable). In this instance – the more detail, the better. The more self knowledge you have the better equipped you’ll be to ace the interview.
3. Now list all your responsibilities under each job. Now list the skills those responsibilities translate to. Start with the tactical/technical skills and expand it to softer ones like communication and people management abilities.
4. Beyond What you did, Where and When you did it – think about the impact you had. What are the things you are proud of? Did you save money? Drive revenues? Solve problems/remove obstacles? Keep high standards during tough times? What mistakes did you make? What did you learn from them?
Once this is done – take it in – look at the experience you bring to the table. Appreciate your talents. Don’t be modest or critical – give credit where it’s due!
How do you feel about yourself? Are you surprised by how much you’ve done/can do? Did life get so busy that you forgot? Do you feel confident that you can now clearly talk about your experience and why someone should hire you?
Do you feel good about your abilities but glum about the prospect of doing this job “forever”?! Then take another sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, label one Current Job(s) and the other Ideal Job and list all the skills in the first column, copy the skills you ENJOY doing into the second column and add new ones – you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bath water! – keep what you love doing and build on it by finding experiences that expand your horizons and abilities.
Have fun with this foundational step – it should be fun and clarifying – next blog: how to match your existing skills and aspirations to finding the right job.
I often find motivation and learn lessons from experts in fields that are, at times, complementary to mine and, often, completely out of the box.
My goal, when reading these “How To” books, is to find one, maybe two tools or tips that I can implement quickly and that will have the greatest positive impact. Given my tendency to work at warp speed and my natural impatience, this means I flick through and read only what interests me the most. Benefit to you is that I am a walking version of Cliff’s Notes.
I’m currently obsessed with David Allen – in fact, he’s my Productivity Hero. I’m reading his book – “Getting Things Done” – and it’s great!
Allen talks about a 4-criteria model for deciding what to do in the moment (buy the book and check out page 192 for full info). It’s brilliant and simple. So much so that I’m “borrowing” it and creating a modified version tailored for the phone interview.
If you are actively job hunting or have had the good fortune to receive a call from someone like me, the likelihood that your first interview will be by phone is almost 100%. Every step in an interview process is a means to an end and, until you are hired, one step MUST lead to the next if you want the job.
The phone interview is a first impression that you can’t afford to get wrong so pay it the respect it deserves, set the scene and follow this 3-criteria model to ensure success.
1.CONTEXT: this is all about the where and what. If your goal is to make the best impression, then make sure you aren’t calling from your car and/or on your cell in a bad cell area. Trust me, “can you hear me now?” gets frustrating and old REALLY quickly. Think that taking the call outside, around the corner from your office is a good idea – think again – nothing is less conducive to a good interview experience than competing with the sound of gale force winds or traffic in the background! Think you can juggle picking the kids up from school or food shopping and speaking to the VP, Recruiting at that company you are dying to work for? Think again! In fact, if you aren’t in a quiet, focused environment using a land-line phone, in front of your computer where you have your resume and internet browser open then you aren’t setting yourself up for success nor are you valuing anyone involved in the interview process – including yourself!
2.TIME AVAILABLE: we live in a microwave society where even 48 hours in a day wouldn’t give us enough time to get everything done. Interviews need to be planned for and that includes managing your time. DON’T cram your phone interview in between other meetings – allow for the probability that your interviewer could be late to the call and the possibility for the call to go longer than planned if you’re knocking it out of the park. An interview needs to be treated like a cable appointment – allow for the widest window of time possible!
3. ENERGY AVAILABLE: THIS is really important to get right. Energy and attitude are everything. If you aren’t a morning person then don’t agree to a crack of dawn call (or in person interview for that matter), if you are typically running on empty after 4pm DON’T schedule an interview then either.
Interviews are like tests you can’t really study for but you CAN give yourself a huge helping hand by making sure that you are, at minimum, in the right place, with the right tools and with enough time and energy to put your “best phone” forward. I think you deserve that much – don’t you?
If your phone and email are ringing/binging off the hook then it’s probably safe to bet that you are in the running. If, however, you are still checking your email, cell phone, and land line every five minutes and wondering why they haven’t called, you might want to follow these tips on what to do.
Read Their Signs…
At the end of every interview with me, candidates know EXACTLY where they stand and what next steps are. If I have any reservations, I bring them up in real time. I don’t believe in leading people on and I certainly don’t have time to deal with hundreds of calls from people who aren’t right. I’m often thanked for my “candor” – (I think that’s a compliment) and I pride myself on my no-nonsense, transparent way of communicating. In my line of business, honesty is key to building trust and to me getting you the right job! Word of warning: I am not the norm and you won’t usually get such clear communication. You are likely to end up in no man’s land…a no communication zone. Pay Attention! Notice their reactions to get clues on how you did. How well do you think you answered their questions? Did they take the time to walk you around to meet other team members? Did you get a sense that the hiring manager really liked you? Did YOU like him/her? All of these things can give you valuable hints about whether you will be asked back.
Ask The Right Questions….
An interview is a two-way street. You are really both after the same information: is this job a match for everyone involved? An interview should be a conversation — not an interrogation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But make sure they are the RIGHT questions. DON’t blurt out “How’d I do?” but DO ask for guidance.
Where are you in the interviewing process?
How many interviews will there be?
Have I answered all your questions?
If I haven’t heard from you in a week, can I call you?
These questions are designed to get a sense of what time lapsed and, potentially, silence might mean. Unless you completely blew them out of the water or it is a one person operation, they won’t give you a firm “yes” or “no” after the first interview. But if you find out they need someone to start in two weeks and a month later, you are checking to make sure your ringer isn’t off, you can safely assume they went with someone else.
Don’t be afraid to show your hand – if you’re interested, TELL THEM! But tread lightly. You could also say: “I am interested and would love to understand more about what your process is.” “Would you mind if I check back with you in about a week to see how things are going?” “Have you seen enough candidates to make a decision or do you expect to know more by next month?” Keep questions light, but don’t be afraid to let them know you have other offers coming, just do it gently and get to the point.
I’ve agonized for many moments about how or what to write about for my first blog and, after many months of procrastination, I realized that there’s one thing that comes back to frustrate me time and time again. It’s something so basic that you would think it wouldn’t happen and, if I were a betting woman, I would say that it is the cause 95% of all the job offer misses you experience. It’s so obvious in its simplicity that I’m almost afraid to insult you by bringing it up. BUT…here it is:
KNOW WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING!
And then find a way to tell your story succinctly in an engaging manner that interests the person listening to you.
I’m amazed at how many times I’m conducting a phone interview when at about the 7-minute mark my eyes start to glaze over as the person on the other end of the line is talking about everything but what THEY actually do. They talk a lot about WE, the company, the politics, why they aren’t happy, etc, etc. Typically, I’ll interrupt with something to the effect of, “That’s great but I’m really interested in understanding about YOU as a professional; about how you’ve built your career. What are some of the things you are most proud of?”
Occasionally, I will then proceed to have a much more meaningful conversation that can actually allow me to decide whether I feel this person should progress to the next stage.
Unfortunately, more frequently than not, the person will still wax lyrical about what they are looking for, about how they’ve been passed over for promotions, about their house foreclosing and anything elseBUT a valid reason I should present them to my client or why the company (any company) should hire them!
Interviewers are not mind readers. We make decisions based on facts. These are decisions that impact YOUR career and facts that only YOU can provide.
I often hear candidates complain about recruiters getting in their way. But, please, get out of your own way. Give us the information we need to be able to determine whether or not to hire you! Know who you are professionally. Ask yourself: Why should someone hire you? How have you impacted your role/department/team/company during your tenure? What have you achieved that you are most proud of? What do your peers think of you? What does your boss think of you? What are you not getting in your current job? And, most importantly, what would really make it worth you to join another company? And, know how to deliver the answers!
Do yourself a favor (and your interviewer!), know who you are, what you are looking for and why someone should choose you over all the other people lined up behind you for the same job. Don’t just recite your job description in a generic way that makes your interchangeable with any person in the same position before and/or after you. Know and show what you bring to the table. Own your interview!