Interviewing When You Know The Interviewer

Which is easier, interviewing for a job when you’re unemployed, or interviewing for a job when you’re being interviewed by people who already know and/or supervise you?

Just to clarify things before you answer, you might be wondering how you could possibly be interviewed by your current boss for a promotion. Well, it could be that you’re a temporary hire and you actually have to re-interview for a permanent position and compete for it with employees from other departments or even external applicants. Or, you might be applying for a promotion to another position altogether and your long-time boss just recently advanced to a position where – surprise! – if/when selected, they’d become your boss again. So it happens.

Many believe that being interviewed by someone who already knows you would be infinitely easier. After all, they know what you’re capable of, they know the successes you’ve had, how you go about your job everyday, your great attendance and punctuality; the interview will be more of a formality than anything. Making these kinds of assumptions is extremely dangerous and ill-advised.

Why you ask? After all, they KNOW you. Well, the answer is simply that you’re in danger because you may fall into the trap of not fully answering questions with the details and examples you’d give to someone you didn’t know. Instead of providing these concrete examples of things you’ve accomplished you might say things like, “Well, you know what I’m capable of”, or “You’ve seen how I handle problems, and I’ll continue to work the same way.”

On the other side of the table, this person who knows you intimately is struggling. You see they want you to interview to your best, and they may even really want to hire you. The problem? They may be bound to record only what you actually say in response to the questions asked, and you may be scored solely based on what comes out of your mouth; not what they know you to be capable of but you leave unsaid.

I’ve heard from employers who have told me they have passed over people they knew well and who were very qualified, because in the interview itself they scored exceptionally low. Their interview scores were weak because they took for granted that the interviewer would score them high based on their relationship and telling the interviewer what they already knew wasn’t necessary.

This boss who knows you well may be rooting for you to perform highly in the interview, but they may be one of two or three people conducting the interview, and they can hardly act unprofessional and at some point in the interview start coaching you on how to best respond if you’re oblivious to the fact you’re failing to demonstrate and prove you’ve done what you claim.

The best advice I can give you is to prepare for all interviews the same; whether you know someone doing the interviewing or not. Be prepared to compete for the job and if you have to make some assumptions, assume you’ll get no favours on the other side; that you have to give specific examples from your past that prove you’ve got the experience, education and skills demanded of the position you’re competing for. Sure, you might start talking in detail about an experience the interviewer knows just as well, but you’ll be scored highly on referencing that example and for using skill-based language that interviewers are listening for.

I myself went for just such an interview many years ago now. I was a temporary employee in a position and just weeks after starting the job, the permanent posting came out. I literally had to interview a second time with the person who had interviewed me the first time. I was competing with others, and my advantage was that I was currently in the role. I treated the interview the only way I knew how at the time, by making no assumptions of favouritism, giving examples of my work which yes, I knew the one interviewer already was aware of. As I answered, I saw smiles of recognition throughout the interview, as I talked about things I’d accomplished and outcomes I’d achieved in the past; just as I did in the original interview. Only later did I learn that I’d taken the right approach. Another employee in the same situation had also interviewed for the role, (there were three jobs available) and was not successful because they gave short answers and heavily relied on the boss to fill in the details.

You might lose out on a job when you’re an external applicant and the job goes to someone already employed in the company. When this happens, you might assume they had the job already sewn up and the interview was a sham; just a necessary formality where you weren’t given an honest shot at the job. This does happen of course. However, sometimes, you lose out because the internal employee really does outperform you in the scoring system the interviews use.

To improve your chances of success when interviewing, make no assumptions if/when you know the interviewer and they in turn know you. Treat the interview as if you were meeting them for the first time and they know nothing about you. It’s up to you to demonstrate and prove you’re the best person for the job. Use all your experiences to your advantage by citing them and make no assumptions.


Now That The Interview Is Over

Whether in the past, here in the now or at some point in the future, you’re likely to have a job interview. Like many other people, you may put a lot of effort into making sure you do at your best by doing some digging beforehand to learn all you can about both the job and the company you hope to be hired by. However, after the interview is over, what now?

For many, the simple answer is they sit and wait. The reasoning most of the time is this; “If they want me they’ll call.” My question to you in reply is, “Why did you bother trying to stand apart from your competition as the best candidate before and during the interview and suddenly decide at the last stage to just blend in and do nothing?” This, ‘sit and wait’ behaviour seems contradictory to what you’ve done up to that point.

I suppose in a way the best analogy I can give you is having a date with someone. Prior to the first date, you put some effort into your preparation. You clean yourself up, put on some clothes that both make you feel good and you look your best in. When you meet, you’re on your best behaviour, and you and the date know you’re sizing each other up. Essentially you’re both determining if the match is there; is there some chemistry between the two of you. At the end, if things have gone well, you’re hoping for a second one. If things have gone extremely well, you start imagining the possibility of something long-term.

So, after the date that went well, do you sit and wait? If so, how long? Forever? Remember this is someone you really hit it off with and want to spend some time with, not just a one-time dinner. If you shared your feelings with your best friend, they’d probably ask if you have their number and say, “Make the call! What have you got to lose? They might be wondering why you didn’t call because they thought you were interested in them!”

Why is the post-job interview any different? Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak with those who do the interviewing and hiring for the companies they work for. Many of those people tell me that after all the interviews have concluded, they go through the process of weeding out the applicants who just didn’t fit as well as others. A lot of the time, it comes down to two people who they feel would be good employees and honestly, it’s no longer about qualifications and skills, it becomes all about personal fit and how much the person seemed to really want the job. Their assessment of each candidate isn’t entirely over they’ve told me, until they actually make a call and offer a job. During that assessment time, one of the determining factors can be if one person makes contact and follows-up on the interview while the second does not. Who then really wants the job more?

So with the date analogy, how would it make you feel if you got a call and they said, “I really had a good time. I think we really hit it off and I’d like to see you again.” If you feel likewise, it’s flattering and reassuring to know they are motivated and interested enough to express their continued interest.  It’s kinda like saying, “I’m very interested in the opening and would like to continue to the next stage in the hiring process.”

Now conversely, if the first date is good for you but they don’t ask for your number, and don’t follow-up with a call, the conclusion you’ll start to draw for yourself is that they don’t find you all that interesting and aren’t interested in continuing to see you. This, “I’ll sit and wait” philosophy you may have adopted after interviews is no different. The company often assumes that having had your interview, you’ve decided you just aren’t interested in working there as you may have been before or during the interview; something has changed in your decision.

Okay, but what to do? What to say? This is starting to sound more and more like a real date question if you’re fretting over how to begin. Relax. You’ve got some options. One is to send a short note either in a hand-written card or by email. Thank the interviewer for the meeting and express your genuine and ongoing interest in the position. Indicate you’re looking forward to the next step in their hiring process and joining the team.

If you’re more of a phone call person and want to avoid showing off your writing skills, make a personal phone call. Again, have your résumé on hand and the job posting in front of you. You never know if your brief call might turn into a longer conversation if they ask you about a few of your past experiences or want to clarify something you said in the first meeting. Your résumé will help you focus and not be caught off guard.

Remember, a lot of other people are sitting by the phone and just waiting. This follow-up is a quick and easy way to stand apart from all those others. Show some enthusiasm and genuine desire for the job and you’ll get results.

Reframe The Job Interview

Looking for a job, writing resumes, going to interviews, worrying about whether they will call you or ignore you; this isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. In fact, most of those I know see the process as a roller coaster of ups and downs, built up expectations and dashed hopes. In short, a stressful experience to be ended as soon as possible by getting a job.

When I ask job seekers to share with me what they find most annoying or unpleasant about looking for work they almost always tell me it’s the job interviews. They typically say they hate them, (and hate is a pretty strong word). Why does this word get used over and over to describe the experience? Typically it’s because of those feelings of nervousness, feeling judged, evaluated, setting themselves up to be accepted or rejected.

Imagine how the experience of the job interview, and more importantly the anticipation of the job interview became something to look forward to however; something you perceived as an enjoyable experience. If job interviews were fun wouldn’t you look forward to them even if, yes they still caused you some nervousness?

An analogy might help us out here….hmmm….what would work for us…? Ah ha! Think of going on a date with someone you’ve heard good things about. Better than a blind date set up by one of your friends, suppose you’ve got a date Friday night with someone you’re looking forward to meeting face-to-face. You’re looking forward to sitting down with them because what you’ve learned so far about them has your interest peaked. You hope that meeting them in-person they’ll live up to what you’ve found out so far. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but it’s a good nervous and the anticipation is a good thing.

Why can’t a job interview be along the same lines? You do your homework and find out about the company you are interviewing with. You hope when you sit down face-to-face that they’ll live up to your expectations. Are you nervous? Sure you are, but again it’s a good nervous. You just might make a long-term working relationship out of this first meeting. You’re hoping to hit it off with them and them with you. Just like a first date, you spruce yourself up and look your best and come ready for conversation.

Now perhaps you can’t see any parallel beyond what I’ve described. In your view, it’s not like a date because in a first date each person comes with their questions, each feeling out the other and the conversation goes back and forth. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you personally because you view the job interview not so much as a first date but more like an interrogation from some spy movie where you sit on a cold steel chair under some intense light being grilled by some thug extracting all your information in the most unpleasant of circumstances. The worst part is that by submitting your résumé, you actually walked into this interrogation voluntarily!

Job interviews are like so many other things in life; how we perceive them in our minds goes a long way to how we will actually experience them. Imagine it to be an interrogation and that’s what it will be. Imagine it to be a fun enjoyable experience and it will be as well. Now I know it takes more than just picturing it as a positive experience to make it so, but when you shift your thinking to seeing interviews as good experiences to look forward to, you’ll also find putting in the work to make the experience a positive one is something you’ll undertake with enthusiasm.

That date this Friday evening? Likely you’ll get your outfit ready ahead of time, you’ll wonder what you’ll talk about and prepare yourself with a few questions for them. You also think about what you’ll share on this first date, probably putting your best qualities on display and concealing some of your faults until you get to know them better. You’ll think about what you’ll do, wonder how you’ll get out of it if things don’t go well, or if they do, you hope they’ll like you as much as you like them. When it’s over, you’ll hope they’ll reach out and ask to see you again or be receptive to your own follow-up.

Sounds like an interview to me! In fact, what if the term, ‘job interview’ was replaced with, ‘opportunity conversation’? What if you told yourself you have an upcoming conversation about an opportunity? It’s just a small thing perhaps but it’s one step of reframing this experience from the negative event you dislike into one that you could view as positive; something to look forward to even.

Conversations are one way we find out information and confirm what we’ve learned previously. For both you and the interviewer(s), this interview is an opportunity to sit down face-to-face and get to know one another. They’ve got your résumé and you’ve got their website and whatever your research has revealed ahead of time. Now they and you have a chance to ask questions, listen and rate each other, ultimately deciding if you have a future together and if so, under what conditions.

Tell yourself ahead of time this date is going to be a disaster and it likely will be. Envision it positively and it has a chance to work out and be enjoyable; for both of you.

“Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Isn’t For Me

In my job as an Employment Counsellor, I hear the mantra, “Fake it ’til you make it” from a number of people; why even some of my fellow employees. Is this really the best advice to give someone and what dangers do we expose those people to who follow such advice?

The thrust of the context in which I hear this advice being passed on the most seems to be tied to the job interview. You know, you have some innate weakness or soft spot and instead of owning up or voluntarily providing information pertaining to it, you’d be better advised to cover things up by acting the way you assume the interviewer would see as most desirable; even when this isn’t the real you. Eventually you believe or hope you’ll come around to having the skill you really don’t, or behaving the way you currently don’t. If you can fake your way through the interview, over time on the job, you’ll be the person you’re claiming to be now.

I don’t like that advice. First of all it’s dangerous. Claiming you have skills and qualifications you don’t could lead the person on the receiving end of the advice to become injured by operating machinery in unsafe ways or handling dangerous products without the knowledge needed to do so responsibly.

Heeding such suggestions also opens a person up to being assessed as dishonest, unbelievable, a poor risk and none of these are the kind of traits employers seek out. You’d like to be thought of as genuine; a straight-shooter, honest and someone who is believable.

Perhaps you might agree that lying or insinuating you have certain skills you don’t isn’t what is being suggested by the phrase at all. You might suggest it has more to do with overcoming shyness, a lack of self-confidence or interpersonal skill deficiencies.  Okay let’s look at that. So suppose you convince a timid job seeker that showing a little more bravado or courage would be a good thing and increase their chances at getting through a job interview and obtaining an offer. You tell them that the interviewer doesn’t know them at all, and therefore they can fake that self-confidence until they get out of the interview and hopefully made enough of a good impression that they get hired.

This sounds on the surface as not bad advice at all. However, what I’ve witnessed as outcomes of this strategy are two developing problems. First, the person once hired can’t maintain the façade they put up over a 45 minute interview and when exposed or confronted, reverts to their genuine behaviour. Second, the person themselves feels immense pressure and stress to be someone they aren’t; to fake being something that isn’t natural for them and essentially they’ve been set up with yet one more thing to stress about. That’s far from helpful.

The irony I’ve seen and heard is that the same people who are saying, “Fake it ’til you make it” are also saying, “There’s no one as unique as you in the world so be yourself”. Talk about mixed messages.

I do think that anytime you try to learn something new you introduce the possibility of failure as much as you hope for success. It is often a struggle in the initial stages when learning, and you might have setbacks. If what you are attempting to do is change your behaviour, you will need to stretch outside your comfort zone and do things differently than you’ve done in the past. Until such time as you feel comfortable and normal behaving a certain way, you will be conflicted between what you’ve always done that feels natural and what you’re striving to do that seems foreign and strange.

I don’t believe however that the period of transition from one to the other is faking it. I think in fact the transition period is very real; that people in this period are so genuine that it’s both exciting and scary simultaneously. So the quiet, reserved person who is after a ‘people’ job where strong communication and interpersonal skills are desired by the employer may struggle in the transition period, but what they feel is real, what they experience is genuine. If the motivation is sincere and strong, it will be enough to sustain through the transition period until they gain comfort that comes from naturally behaving and acting the way they want.

Like any new learning, building on small successes until a new skill or behaviour is mastered is desirable. One small success gives a person encouragement and reinforces the results they want to achieve. Faking anything implies you not only run the risk of being exposed by others who see through you, but you ultimately know you are faking what you’re doing; and it’s pretty hard to delude yourself when you’re intentionally faking anything.

It sounds nice though doesn’t it? It’s short, rhymes and if told to us by someone we respect as wise, it can sound like excellent advice; fake it ’til you make it. However, if you want a different mantra try, “To thine own self be true.” This has been around a lot longer; be true to yourself and others will respect you for being who you are. When you do land a job offer, you’ll end up with a job that fits with who you are and one in which you can be yourself.


“Sorry, We Just Don’t Think You’ll Stay”

When you’re out of work and experiencing the frustrations of applying and being rejected only to apply and be rejected again, it’s tough to keep positive. One thing that can really be upsetting is when you’re told by a potential employer that you’ve been rejected because in their opinion, you won’t stay long because you won’t be happy to stay in the job they might have offered you.

The most annoying part of this message you receive is that the company has essentially ruled you out by thinking for you. Rather than believing you when you say you’ll stay and sincerely believe you’ll be content with the job they are offering you for the foreseeable future, they reject you based on what they themselves believe.

Ah but they aren’t unemployed are they? They don’t experience the ups and downs of unemployment; hopes raised and hopes dashed. They don’t therefore know the point you’ve reached where you will be truly grateful for the opportunity to work for them in the position you applied to. Given that you put all your previous work and academic qualifications on your resume and they were good enough to get you the interview, what changed between the offer of the interview and being removed from the hiring process? Did you somehow oversell yourself?

At this point many job seekers become confused. On the one hand the job seeker wants to put down all their experience and qualifications that match the job they are going for and certainly want to show a passion for the work they’d be doing. On the other hand, the job seeker now feels they have to conceal or downplay some of their long-term plans or additional skills so they don’t market themselves out of the running and end up rejected; again.

When you’re in this situation don’t you just want the opportunity to tell them flat-out that you’d like them to respect your honesty and yes thank you very much you’d appreciate being believed when you say that you’re making a commitment to them and won’t depart in weeks for something better? If that was honestly the case, wouldn’t you have just waited the few weeks and accepted that better job? They don’t know though that you’ve been out of work and searching unsuccessfully for such a long time that you have in fact re-evaluated how important work is and you’ve a new appreciation for whatever organization will hire you.

The company of course knows none of this. From their standpoint they see an applicant who has held positions with greater responsibility and salary than what they are offering, and they’re fully convinced despite your assurance that you’re going to jump at the first opportunity that pays more and uses more of your skills and experience than their own company can at the moment. They do not want to be re-advertising and re-interviewing applicants in a very short time or in the position of calling back people they’ve previously rejected to offer them the job.

Of course the other thing going through the head of small-minded employers or interviewers is that you could possibly not only do this job exceptionally well; you may actually come up in discussions as a suitable replacement for their own jobs with your wealth of experience. The last thing these small-minded folks want to do is be responsible for their own demise by hiring you!

Ah, but what’s a job applicant to do? Some people give the advice of, “dumbing down your resume” and in an interview, avoiding coming across as passionate, intelligent and highly self-motivated. I think this is terrible advice. After all, even if hired, you’d have to carry on this charade until your probationary period is over. Are you going to be happy or even capable pretending to be someone you’re not for 3, 6 or 9 months? Are you going to go in each day trying to remember what you’ve told or not told co-workers and your boss about your past experiences?

No stay true to yourself I think. Be genuine and authentic. If an interviewer or Manager rejects you out of hand – not because you can’t do the job but because you are more than capable of doing the job with skill and expertise and they believe you’ll depart soon, you probably wouldn’t thrive in the culture.

One strategy I have employed myself and I’ve recommended with success to others in this situation is to state your position at the conclusion of the interview in lieu of asking a question. Before you shake hands and walk away leaving the decision entirely in their hands, make your best pitch summarizing how hiring you will benefit them. There’s no harm adding how truly appreciative you are for the opportunity of working on their behalf and representing their business. Tell them straight out if they’ve communicated doubt about your commitment that you are a person of integrity and character; that if you are offered the position and accept you can be relied upon to honour their confidence in you with a reciprocal period of employment that will reward their decision in hiring you.

You do get to accept or reject a job offer and the employer gets to offer you a job or not.  If you’ve done all you can to communicate an honest intention to repay a job offer with your own commitment, it truly is out of your hands.

The Job Interview Is Over. Now What?

What do you tend to do after you’ve had a job interview? A lot of the people I meet and listen to just go home and wait; and they wait longer. They rationalize this behaviour with statements that can be summed with something like, “Well, if they want me they’ll phone me right?”

Sitting around after a job interview hoping the phone will ring is actually a terrible idea, but so many do just that. Consider 3 people who applied for the job; Jim doesn’t really want the job after going through the interview, Ruth doesn’t really care one way or the other while Ahmad is extremely interested in the job – more than ever after learning more about the job and the offer in the interview. If none of the 3 communicates after the interview with Molly who conducted all 3 interviews, she can only make the same assumption for all 3 job applicants. Jim won’t care if he never gets a call, nor Ruth; but Ahmad is extremely disappointed.

In the above situation, it’s even more bad news for Ahmad because Molly was debating between him and Derek for the position, but based on the fact Derek followed up and expressed enthusiasm for the next step in the hiring process, she offered him the job. Not having heard from Ahmad, she went with the candidate who while equally qualified, appeared to want it more. All Ahmad accomplished in the end was making Molly’s decision an easier one.

I’ve done my fair share of speaking with employers over the years, getting to know how they go about hiring applicants. One thing I’ve always found consistent with the vast majority is that they appreciate candidates who want the jobs they are offering; really want the jobs. Employers are actually afraid they’ll hire people who just see the job as a job; and this lack of enthusiasm or passion could mean that when the work gets tough, the applicant will just throw up their hands and look for other work. The real go-getter however; the one who really wants the job and everything that comes with it will work through adversity and come into work each day with a love for what their expected to do.

One of the most frustrating things I do hear from people who have interviewed for jobs but didn’t get that phone call is that much of the time, the person is truly disappointed they didn’t get the job offer; they really did want that job! Again I’d have to say in the example above, how would Molly know Ahmad really wanted the job? He did nothing to distinguish himself from both Jim and Ruth; neither of whom really wanted the position in the end. You can’t expect Molly to read Ahmad’s mine; nor yours.

After a job interview, what typically happens is that after all the applicants have been interviewed, the interviewer(s) sit down and evaluate the people interviewed. Some they will dismiss right away because they didn’t perform as well as some others. In almost all situations the hiring decision will come down to 2 or 3 strong applicants. Based on the qualifications required for the job, they may even be identical. So after looking at the ability to do the work, the interviewers turn to the impression people made on them; the soft skills like personality, drive and attitude. “Who”, they wonder, “would be the best fit if all 3 of those we’ve narrowed it down to could do the actual job?”

It is precisely at this point that a phone call or short note of thanks for the interview can tip the scales in the favour of the person who does some follow up. Derek in the situation above followed up on his in-person interview by contacting the decision-makers. He told them with his brief letter that he was really looking forward to be hired; he’d gladly supply any additional information they needed to make a decision in his favour and after the interview, he wanted the job more than ever. Essentially Derek expressed what Ahmad was feeling too; Ahmad just didn’t bother to communicate this.

Okay so let’s turn from the example to you and your situation. Are you going to interviews and then getting frustrated with the end results – no job offers? You’ve put in the time doing some research before applying, you’re writing cover letters and specifically targeting your resume to the job postings; and its working because you’re getting more interviews. That’s a lot of work and you’re doing all the right things; with the exception of course of the interview follow-up.

After your job interviews you should have some idea of the timeline the employer is working with. If they are going to make a decision in the next day or so, mailing in a thank you note won’t reach them in time before they make a decision. In this case, write a note directed to the interviewer(s) from your car or local coffee shop and then walk back to the employer and leave it with the Receptionist.

Follow-up can include a phone call too; usually 2-3 days after the interview but this can vary based on what you learn as you leave the interview.

Your choice as always whether you follow-up or not; what have you got to lose? Communicate your enthusiasm and show them you want it!

Be Honest On The Resume

I was reading last week an article that was providing results from a survey of Canadian employers, and what they looked for on a resume, the formatting choice, the desired length etc. One of the key results was employers overwhelming desire that applicants be honest on their resume and indicate why they left employment positions.

That information struck me in two ways. On the one hand, I could definitely see why an employer would want to know the circumstances under which an applicant for a job they were posting left other employers. There could be patterns of quitting or being fired, or a string of contract jobs, or things beyond the applicants control.

Yet, for the applicant themselves, they may have extenuating circumstances that preceded their decisions to move on. If indeed they were fired from a job, their last job; they might be better off gaining the interview by leaving this out on a resume, and hoping to win the employer over in a face-to-face interview. The resume after all is only designed to get you in the interview chair, but it does become the center attraction in the interview and the point of reference both parties should be referring to.

A long time ago, I can remember the days where each job did have a, “reason for leaving” line by each job. When you left one job for another, as in the case of a promotion, or to re-enter work in your field of academic education, it was never a sore point with applicants. But for the person who was fired or terminated with cause, it was like putting a rope around your own neck and simply asking the interview to please kick out the chair you were offered in the interview upon which to sit.

To be clear here, you could hardly give reasons for leaving some jobs and not others. That would only look like you were covering something up (which you were), or you had terrible attention to detail and were inconsistent. No, the advice you’d likely get would be to leave all the reasons for leaving off your resume.

There’s another kind of applicant that could benefit possibly from giving reasons for departing employers on their resume, or even in the cover letter. This is the applicant who has had numerous jobs, often referred to as the job-hopper. While on the negative side it might look like a person is in front of you who can’t hold a job for very long, it could also be that their plan up to now has been to accumulate varied experiences, and they’ve settled on a long-term career and plan on making just such a commitment to you if hired.

Now is leaving out reasons for leaving any job dishonest? I for one don’t see it that way. In my own cover letter, and those I help others write, I almost always make a statement about WHY I want to work for an employer, and why I’d be a good fit. That, ‘good fit’ usually draws on my past experience, and that experience is specific to me and makes me unique.

Up for discussion are the reasons behind the past decisions I’ve made to leave employment; and it could be that some of those departures were for reasons beyond my control; lay-offs, closures, re-locations, changing requirements of employers etc. So knowing that I haven’t included such information on a resume should have me ready to answer such questions in an interview.

Surprisingly, I often sit down when working 1:1 with a job seeker, and when I ask them why they no longer stayed employed with various employers, and it’s telling to either hear them give a short and confident answer, or look uncomfortable and stumble along in the answer. Can you tell from that observation which jobs they left on good terms and which they left on poor terms? Sure you could; and if you were an employer you could then too.

So right off the bat, make sure you have a good solid answer to the question, “Why did you leave your last job”? heading into an interview. If you left on poor terms, (you were fired), you would really benefit from sitting down with an Employment Counsellor and telling them the complete truth – no omissions. Then together, construct an answer that is truthful, but concludes with a positive; what you learned from the experience, how it was a bad fit right from the start outside your traditional field of work etc.

I once had for example a guy I was working with to prepare for employment. “Why did you leave your last job?”, I asked. “Went to jail.” That was his entire answer. In that instance, we looked at what he’d done, why he’d done it, the circumstances surrounding the situation he was in, and the likelihood of repeat offending. Then we ended up with an answer that was truthful, but instead of a 3 word blunt statement with nothing positive, he gave an answer that was honest but ended on a positive and repaired damage from the initial statement. He was also given multiple options for answering the question; it being his decision on how to answer based on the interviewer.

Sure, be honest on your resume; especially if you have, ‘honest’ as one of your strengths on it! But understand that you have control over what you share and don’t on the resume, and what you leave out doesn’t make you dishonest.

How To Finish Your Job Interview

The wrong way to conclude your interview is to answer, “No” when you are asked if you yourself have any questions you might like to pose to the interviewer(s). After all, they’ve just spent 30 minutes to an hour or so for example with you and asked you several questions to determine your fit with their organization. Shouldn’t you have something to ask in return? Yes you should.

When you are given a chance to ask questions, you can safely assume they have enough information gathered to form an opinion and will use that information shortly when assessing you vs. anyone else they are considering for the job. It’s a cue you should realize that is alerting you to the fact that the interview is about to conclude. So before you think of asking a question of the interviewer, ask yourself, “Have I done enough to sell them on me and what final impression do I want to leave them with?”

Think of your last few minutes in the interview as a chance to summarize your benefits. So you should definitely ask two or three questions to show your interest. But I also advise that instead of then saying, “Well that’s all the questions I have”, and getting up to shake hands and leave, you say one last thing. Start off with something like, “While I have no further questions at this time, I want to both thank you for this interview, and leave you with a this final thought.”

What follows this introductory sentence is going to be unique for each job applicant. Essentially the next words you speak should punch out your qualifications and your unique value; what you’ll bring to the job. So it could look like this: “I AM the last person in the world you should be interviewing for this job because I’m the RIGHT person for this job. I’m qualified, motivated, have demonstrated my past accomplishments and my education and experience have positioned me to thrive and succeed in this position. But it’s my enthusiasm and attitude above all else that I want you to remember. As of right now, I’m no longer looking for a job and I’m excited about joining your team.”

If you deliver something like the above with assertiveness, then rise with a smile, eye contact and a firm handshake, you’ll leave a strong impression. Compare this exit with what you may be doing already at interviews you’re having now. First impressions and last impressions are critical. When you watch an advertisement on television, watch how they market a product. Something at the beginning of really good ads catches your attention, and then the final few seconds you generally see the product up close, clean and polished, the name of the company and it’s all carefully done to imprint on your brain a final memorable image. You should do no less.

And this idea of marketing yourself like a product is not only close to what you are doing, it’s spot on. You are the product the company is considering investing in by ‘purchasing’ your services. Nobody just goes into a store and says, ‘Sell me a pair of pants – any kind of pants”. Customers would be asked by the clerk for your size, your inseam, what kind of pants you are looking for, the colour, your desired price range, whether you’d be interested in wrinkle-free pants, low riders, zippered, button up, pleats or no pleats, pockets or no pockets, etc. WHEW! That’s a lot of questions! But each bit of information gets the clerk closer to what you REALLY want, and you’ll get a few to try that match what you said you wanted.

In the interview, you are the pants. Interviewers are like that clerk, trying to gather enough information so they can see which applicants most closely match what they need. If you shop without a clerk to help you, you’re like the interviewer, trying to wade through all the pants in the store to find the ones that are just what you had in mind.

The last few minutes of an interview should be carefully considered both before the interview even begins, and throughout. Let me explain the two different periods. Before the interview, it’s a good practice to identify for yourself how much of a fit you think you really are. Are you in fact a perfect fit and realize you have ALL the qualifications they are seeking, or are you a very good fit with say, 18 out of 20 things they’ve said they desire? So you can have a general idea of how you want to emphasize your fit going in.

But the second thing you should be thinking to yourself DURING the interview has to do with any areas you want to stress about yourself that either will address any weakness that became exposed, or addresses new information that has been shared with you about the job or the company. So if they shared some current challenge the company is facing or the job description has shifted since it was posted, you have to conclude by emphasizing your skills and attributes as they directly relate to the new information.

The most attractive gifts often come wrapped with bows and gift paper. Conclude your interview by wrapping it up in a way that makes you appealing and wanted by the employer.

Using Time In Reception Prior To An Interview

When you get a job interview you are no doubt excited and nervous about your opportunity and the possibilities that the job presents. So when you get to the location and introduce yourself to the Receptionist, there are a number of options you have once the Receptionist says, “I’ll let them know you are here, please have a seat.” What do YOU do with this time?

Different people will do different things with this period of time. While one person just sits there, someone else might actually stand up and read framed certificates or mission statements on the walls. And perhaps one candidate might be cramming reading their notes while another is pondering their weekend plans at the cottage.

While there are few absolute right or wrong ways to spend your time in the Reception area, you should expect to wait a little upon your arrival. My advice to any job seeker is to realize that the interview may have already begun the moment you open the door to the building, and in some cases, the moment you are spotted parking your car or walking up the sidewalk if you can be seen from an office. And by realizing the interview may have already begun, I mean your approach is being watched, and your time in Reception is being observed and evaluated.

Many Receptionists share their opinions of candidates with Interviewers after candidates leave. If you were rude, loud, polite, said something offensive, or transformed yourself in the washroom etc., all of this can be reported and taken into consideration affecting an interviewers ultimate decision. And while it happens in smaller companies more than large ones, the person conducting the interview may be relieving the Receptionist for a quick washroom break when you arrive. Make the mistake of having a dismissive attitude with the person behind the desk because they are, “just the Receptionist after all”, and you may have just revealed much more or yourself than you ever intended and given the interviewer a glimpse of the real you. Strike one!

You’ll often hear the advice about arriving early for the interview, and that’s because it’s good advice. You should allow for delays you cannot control such as traffic. Arriving 45 minutes early isn’t a good idea, but 10 – 15 minutes is sufficient. The best time to walk in an announce your arrival depends largely on how well you wait. I myself have in the past arrived at a company 30 minutes early when it was 120 kilometers away and what I did was first find the location of the company, and then have a drive around the town I was in just absorbing information like how many vacate stores were on the main street, and picking up some local atmosphere.

But back to the actual Reception area. For some people, just sitting there quietly, concentrating on breathing and exhaling, calming one’s nerves is a good idea. If you prepared well, this time to just collect your thoughts and relax may be exactly what you need to mentally prepare yourself for the interview to come.

At one job I had in the past, I went into the washroom to find a man naked from the waist up. He was sloshing water around in the sink, washing his face and torso, while his white shirt and tie were hung on a hook nearby. Laid out was his toothbrush and deodorant and I gave him a wide berth as the water in the sink was going everywhere. 10 minutes later I observed this fellow sitting very calmly in our Reception area, looking polished, calm and collected. Outside the heat was unbearable, and being a larger fellow, I imagine he had planned this all in advance to avoid sweating and being conscious of this. Hey if it works why not?

You can use this time to make a good impression if you choose. Engaging in some positive conversation if the situation permits this with employees in the Reception area is a good way to make an impression. Done correctly, you may appear to be natural, but it’s a well-orchestrated manoeuver or strategy to position yourself for what you hope is positive feedback provided to a decision-maker.

One thing you should avoid is any activity that can undermine your confidence. This isn’t for example, the right time to mentally go over all the things you wanted to bring to the interview. IF you realize that you have left something at home, what good would that do you in the here and now except to cause you to fret.

Reminding yourself to smile, shake hands, walk confidently and use your manners is never a bad idea ever if these things don’t come naturally. If you are an older person or maybe out of shape, small things like straightening your shoulders, walking upright not bent over and maybe even pulling in your stomach a little may be good for you too in crafting the image that will help you most. And it’s a good time to check all your buttons are done up as well as your zipper, blow your nose, check your breath etc. Checking all these little things now lets you focus on the interview content better.

Breathe deeply, be self-confident, do your best to enjoy the interview to come and see it as your first chance to make a good impression. Now go get that job offer!

What Exactly Can A Job Coach Do?

All over the internet you’ll come across people – and I am one of them – who will prompt you to enlist the services of a professional Job Coach. Whether you pay this person, they provide their services for free, or they are paid through another source, you really should take advantage of their expertise.

So let’s talk about exactly what that Job Coach can do for you. Knowing the benefits of having one after all, will provide you with the information you’ll need to decide whether or not this is a person who can help you or not.

First and foremost, a good Job Coach will need to speak with you and find out your skills, interests, positive and negative past experiences, education, training needs and certifications. A good Job Coach will also probe into why you’ve left jobs in the past, why you are currently unemployed, what you’ve been doing to stay relevant, ask about employment and character references, and look into your job maintenance skills specifically. After all, getting a job is one thing, keeping it is another.

This person needs to discuss with you pretty early on the topic of receiving feedback and whether you are open to listening, reflecting on the feedback and considering making changes. Because if you only want to pay someone to tell you things you want to hear and refuse to hear anything that might suggest you’ve got some changes to make, this person isn’t for you; get a dog instead. Dogs think every owner is the perfect person just the way they are.

Everything related to employment is on the table with a good job coach. This includes: your attitude, clothing, non-verbal communication, technical and job-specific upgrading, interview skills, work ethic, professionalism, your commitment, communication and interpersonal skills, listening and speaking skills, writing and vocabulary skills.

A good Job Coach takes the time to show you what someone successful in your field acts like and looks like, and then holds a mirror up for you and says, “So, what do we need to change so you become that successful person?” Far from just trying to make every successful worker identical to every other person, the Job Coach has to work with whatever you present with. Building on whatever you present with, the Job Coach has to understand what it is you want, the kind of progressive acceleration you may wish to realize, and your definition of success. You may only want a relationship that gets you an entry-level position and then terminate your relationship. You may want to retain their help for the first six months of the job until you pass probation. Up to you.

And of course when I say it’s up to you, the Job Coach may or may not have restrictions on their involvement with you too. If they work for a company, they may only be able to work with you up to a certain point and then have to terminate the relationship. This could mean when you get hired, or for a year whether you get hired or not for example. If they are self-employed, they may stay helping you until you stop paying!

A Job Coach is someone you can contact when you’ve got an issue at work and need to get the external, non-partisan advice of someone on how to best handle the problem. Maybe it’s a problem with a Supervisor, a change from what you expected the job to be, a transportation problem getting to work because of a shift change, or you’re not getting paid consistently and are thinking of quitting. Before making a knee-jerk decision, the Job Coach might be worth contacting and laying things out for them so you get some advice. A huge problem for you might be something relatively easy to address and you could not only keep the job you want, but handle it professionally to following their suggestion.

If you’ve got anxiety issues over certain questions that you just know you’ll face in an interview, a good Job Coach can help you prepare solid answers for these, and then grill you in a mock interview so when it’s asked in a real interview, you’re composed and confident in your reply. And those crazy questions that are just plain stupid and an insult to your dignity? Well, the good Job Coach can explain why companies ask those questions, what they are getting at, and how best to frame a response that answers the question and sets you apart.

So how much does a Job Coach cost? Well, the smug answer is to ask you this: “How long have you been out of work and how much income have you lost during that time trying to get a job without a Job Coach?” Seriously though, it varies. It depends on whether the person is self-employed and this is their source of income, or perhaps they work for a government agency and their services are free for you to access. It also can vary depending upon the length of time you need them, what you are asking of them and what they can deliver.

A poor question to ask is, “How much do you charge and what do you do?” A good question to ask is, “I know I need help preparing for upcoming interviews, and I’d like to get along better with my co-workers. Can you help me in these areas and what do you charge for your services?”