That Interview You Turned Around


When it goes bad you don’t want anyone to know; or at least not the details of your interview as it went from bad to worse. Then there’s that time it turned out to be an amazingly positive experience; that one you’ve shared with others I’m sure!

But what I’m most interested in hearing about, and what I’d love to have you share here with others, is the interview you turned around. You know, the one that got off to a bad or even terrible start; the one you were late for, the one where you spilled something all over yourself just minutes before you met the man who’d eventually become your boss.

Why? Simply put, your turnaround could be quite inspirational and beneficial to others. Let’s face it, there are a lot of people who have interview anxieties. Some fears are well-grounded and others are just overly active imaginations running unrestrained, picturing all kinds of bad scenarios full of what might go wrong. And as we all know, sometimes when one little thing goes wrong, a fragile mind-set can suddenly picture other things going wrong, and in no time at all, the person has predicted their own future and there’s a cascade of errors and bumbling’s which all started with that one little slip up.

So you can see I hope, that your personal experience might indeed be the very stuff that could assure someone that when something goes wrong, the interview can indeed be salvaged. So how did you do it? What did you say or do that hit the restart button, that changed the atmosphere in the room, that turned a nay into a, ‘you’ve got the job!’?

 

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Allow _____ To Make Changes To Your Device?


Last evening as I initiated the shutdown procedures on my laptop, I was advised of a major update available, and so as I want to run the latest and greatest, (without really even having the remotest idea of what that entails) I said yes. Then I got the message, “This may take awhile”. So I went to bed.

At 4:30 a.m. I rolled out of bed and fired up the laptop, fully anticipating there would be a slight delay as the updates came on the screen. Sure enough, this particular update was more extensive; it not only affected the laptop but synced my phone so I could move seamlessly from one device to the other. Great! Now I sat here in the quiet of my sanctuary looking at two screens on two devices.

Of course up came the inevitable messages on both, “Do you want to allow _____ to make changes to your device?”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I get these messages, I feel like saying, “Gee I don’t know if I want such-and-such program to make changes to my device. Do I?” But more often than not I find myself clicking on the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so” button. You’ve seen that button on your device too haven’t you? I bet you have.

Sure it’s an online world; the update told me this in fact. “We’re protecting you in the online world” came up right on the screen of my laptop as the updates installed. That’s good I suppose.

It suddenly struck me as ironic; this constant decision I make and I assume many other users make, to trust the updates we install and although we might pause to consider, we inevitably click on the, “Okay” button to go ahead and give a program access to our contacts, send and receive emails on our behalf or track our physical locations. We assume these are things we’re supposed to do so we do. Well, the majority of us do.

So why the irony? Right, back to that. I find it ironic that people will give more trust to an electronic update of their devices storing all kinds of personal photos, phone contacts, financial banking and password information but when it comes to allowing someone right in front of them to make changes to their resumes or give them updated information on how to best prepare for interviews, many decline.

When you’re not having success interviewing but refuse to take advantage of free workshops and seminars on how to interview better, isn’t that akin to declining the latest and best updates on your phone or laptop? Updates designed to make your phone, computers, laptops, tablets etc. function better? I think so.

So we want the latest version of whatever piece of technology is available but when it comes to ourselves, the knowledge we have and the way we go about things, it’s like we’re okay walking around in a Windows 10 world masquerading as a Commodore 64 and expecting to be taken seriously.

Things change. Progress, updates, process improvements, best practices, accepted norms, innovation and new-age thinking; ignore these and you’ll stand out alright, but for all the wrong reasons. I read an article just last evening from Martin Ellis who lives in England. Martin is a respected colleague of mine though we’ve never met in person. You can find him on LinkedIn and view his articles through his profile. He was sharing for the umpteenth time his thoughts on resumes for the present day and how to best compose them. While acknowledging that there are many people with varying advice out there, his thoughts and ideas are worth a serious read. He offers them up with the intent of helping people.

Now so does my Kansas City colleague Don Burrows. Don’s written excellent books on the subject and famous for getting his clients to stand out like a meatball on a plate of spaghetti. He loves that analogy, and again, the man’s got testimonials attesting to the success of his methods and recommendations.

These two and the many others I could cite and point you to – as well as others I’ve yet to discover – want you to succeed. In order to do so though, you’ve got to be willing to do one thing and that’s embrace change. In other words hit the, “Sure go ahead I know exactly what I’m doing button and I’m intelligent enough to know this will be in my best interests to do so button.” Do it with confidence.

You may not really know at the start that what you’re doing will work or be in your best interests. So sure be cautious. However, like anything you update, use your personal judgement and actually reserve judgement until you can test the results of what you’ve learned. I suppose if I don’t like an update on my computer I can revert things back to the wallpaper I had before just as you can revert back to your old resume if you’re attached to it.

But like that old Commodore 64, your vinyl 78’s and that stereo console your parents had sitting on that 12 inch shag carpet in the late 60’s, things change; and for the better.

Get hip to the trip daddy-o and you’ll find it’s groovy.

Job Interviews; Know Your Lines


If you’ve ever done any community theatre, film or television work, you’ll know then at some point the Director tells the cast to be, ‘off book’. This means you’ve got a target date to have memorized your lines. From that point on, you can’t carry around the script with you on stage or in front of the camera. If you need help with what you’re supposed to say at any point, you just say, “Line?”, and someone who is following along off stage or set will give you a prompt. Eventually, the Director will go further too, cutting off the prompts altogether, so if you don’t know your words at that point, you’re on your own.

Job interviews however, don’t work that way. First of all, memorizing specific answers word for word has never been advised. Let me correct that; somewhere, someone I’m sure has dispensed that advice, but please, don’t try to memorize your answers to questions you presume you may be asked. This is a bad strategy, in fact it’s one of the biggest critical mistakes you could make in preparation for employment interviews!

On the other hand, don’t go to the other extreme, (which many people do I’m afraid to say) and just plan on, ‘winging it’. Making everything up on the fly, in the moment, with no advanced preparation at all is setting yourself up to be exposed as ill-prepared and you’ll eventually find yourself growing increasingly anxious and embarrassed as it becomes clear you weren’t ready for it.

What you’re really going for is to come across as authentic and genuine, answering questions put to you with confidence and intelligence. In order to do so, you need an understanding of the position you’re after, how it fits in to the organization you’re applying with, and the ability to market your skills, experience, education and personal suitability as THE right person to be hired. If you can successful communicate this, you’re well on your way to making the best possible impression you can and landing an eventual offer.

One obvious suggestion is to do some research. Now I bet you’ve heard this before, but perhaps you haven’t really understood what it is you should be researching. Sure you should visit a website, (it is 2017 after all) and click on the, “About Us” tab. That’s a start. In the days before the internet, many job applicants would drop by an organization well in advance of a job interview and pick up brochures, financial and Annual reports. These are still largely available for the asking, and in some situations it’s a great idea to pop ’round and pick them up, with the added benefit they get to see you and you them, you get an idea of the atmosphere, how employees dress etc.

Accessing LinkedIn information is another source for this research. Research not just the company but the people with profiles who work at the organizations you’ve short-listed yourself as possible destinations. What’s their backgrounds and what routes did they take to get where they are now? How are they going about branding themselves? What have they got to say in terms of their current position? How are they dressed for their LinkedIn image?

Now all this is good but back to knowing your lines. In a play the beautiful thing is that at the first rehearsal you’re handed the script. You not only know what you have to say, you know what everyone has to say! No job interview however works this way and that’s actually a good thing. So lose the anxiety over trying to memorize answers.

You do need something to hang on to that gives you some structure and some reassurance. You can get this by looking at a job posting, networking with people who work where you want to work or those who hold down similar jobs to the one you’re after now; ideally all the above. Job postings highlight what you’ll be doing, the qualifications employers demand and often who you’ll be reporting to.

Knowing what they expect you to do should give you an idea what they’ll ask you about. It’s likely your experience will come up as they seek to see if you’ve got the skills, which come out as you relate what you’ve done in the past. Using skill-based language therefore, (I listened, I resolved conflict, I negotiated contracts, I led project teams) that mirrors their current needs will prove helpful.

An interview format will surround the content of your answers with structure and this structure ensures you’re focused and only say enough to answer the questions without running off at the mouth. Not always, but if you look at a company’s pages, you might even find information on how to prepare for interviews with them. As they want to see you at your best and make good hiring decisions, they often don’t mind sharing interview preparation information. It’s there for the looking.

So, get off book before the interview. Know what you want to say and what you want to stress. Deliver your words with confidence and certainty but at the same time by all means reflect on questions asked to compose the best answers. During this conversation with the interviewer(s), have a few thoughtful questions of your own that show you’ve given some thought. And like the best actors, be memorable!

Can You Answer These Job Interview Questions?


There are many questions that you might be asked in a job interview. While the questions themselves will vary, the thrust or point of the questions asked is identical; get to know you enough to find if you’re the best candidate. The best candidate in their mind might be the one who fits in with the existing team chemistry, the one who will be able to do the job with the least amount of training or perhaps the one who will bring creativity and innovation.

As the job applicant, you may say this is exactly why job interviews are so stressful; you’re not sure what they’re looking for which makes it impossible to present yourself in the best possible way; and you know you could if you could just figure that out.

So the questions I’m putting down here are not guaranteed to be the ones you’ll get asked. There’s no way someone could guarantee such a list. These will give you a good sense though of what you might be asked. If you can answer these strongly with examples from your past to provide proof of your skills and experience, you’ll be well prepared.

So, can you? Here goes:

Tell me about yourself.

What is your understanding of the job functions for the position you are applying to?

How does your combination of education and experience uniquely qualify you for this job?

In what area(s) would you need training and support to become fully productive if hired?

Impress me.

How would you define customer service excellence and give an example from your past when you’ve provided it.

Share a weakness of yours as it relates to the job and what have you done to improve on this?

Share with us two local and two international stories in the news at the moment.

Describe your experience working productively in a group or team setting.

How would your previous supervisor describe your performance?

Please explain this 3 year gap on your résumé.

Do you have a criminal record? (Sure it’s illegal to ask, but if it is, you’ve got to say something!)

What are your salary expectations?

Tell us about an experience you’ve had working with a co-worker who was difficult to get along with.

Describe the steps you’ve taken to resolve a conflict.

Describe your filing system.

Which is more important, a clock or a compass?

Describe your ideal supervisor.

You’ve got 45 minutes to convince me you’re the right person to hire. Go!

It’s 10 minutes to quitting time and someone has just arrived who will need at least 20 to serve. What do you say and do?

What are the qualities you’d ideally look for in a co-worker?

What qualities annoy you most in others?

Tell us about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do?

What comes to mind when I ask you to share your proudest moment?

Describe your personal availability and willingness to work a variety of shifts.

When I call your references, what will I learn about you that might surprise me?

Are you bondable?

Give me an example of a conflict you’ve had with a co-worker or supervisor and the steps you took to resolve the situation.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?

What are your future plans education-wise?

What are you reading at the moment?

Where do you stand on the issue of __________?

When can you start?

Describe a recent experience in which your patience was severely tested.

So how did you do? I suppose you may have wondered at some of the questions; why they’d ask this one or is that one even legal? If you can figure out the purpose of the question asked; what the question is designed to get at, it makes it easier to respond in such a way that the interviewer(s) are impressed. If on the other hand you’re stumped and can’t figure out the purpose or reason they’d ask, you might flounder a bit which could shake your confidence.

These are of course only a small sample of what you might be asked. The best way to prepare for the real questions you’ll actually be asked is to go over the job posting or ad. Highlight exactly what skills and  experience as well as look at the job responsibilities, (what you’d be doing) and you’ll predict with some certainty what they’ll ask.

If you read over the list here and don’t understand the purpose of a question, feel free to comment and ask. While there may be an odd one asked of you, my advice is not to dwell on the one weird question; focus on answering the questions you can prepare for, and do your best with the off-the-wall one you couldn’t have predicted. That question is really designed to see you think on your feet. So for example, “Tell me a story.” You might think, “About what?” The point of the question though is to see how quickly you get your brain in gear and just do it, and what does it show or say about you in terms of what you share.

Oh and please, feel free to share questions you’ve had asked of you or that you ask of applicants if you interview. Each of the questions I’ve provided here have actually been asked in the real world. So come on, share a little!

Have You Failed By Taking A Short-Term Anything Job?


Suppose you’re one of those people – and there’s a lot of them out there these days – who have some education beyond High School. You’ve planned all along on pursuing a job that makes use of that education. However, with a widening gap of unemployment on your résumé matching your growing frustration at not working, you’ve found yourself finding the idea of just taking a job – any job – more and more appealing; something you thought you never would. There’s this nagging notion that you’ve failed though that keeps you from actually applying for work outside your field of education. So have you?

The short answer is no, you haven’t. Exhale and breathe a sigh of relief. Do that a few times and read on.

There’s a lot of common sense involved in doing exactly what you’ve contemplated and like I pointed out in the beginning, you’re one of many who are well-educated and unemployed. It is not only understandable that you’d be looking at broadening your job search at some point – perhaps where you are at the moment – it’s also a very good idea.

So how come? I mean, Employment Coaches and Counsellors often say you should stick to your career plan and never give up on what you really want. Doing anything else is just settling isn’t it? What happened to finding your passion and not letting any setbacks get in your way of going after what’s going to make you truly happy? Flipping burgers, selling clothes, walking school kids across busy intersections: these aren’t the kind of jobs you thought you’d give more than a passing glance at. Could you ever imagine you’d actually be seriously thinking of going after one of these jobs at this point having finished College or University?

Hang on and settle down. We’re not talking forever here. No one is suggesting that you start your first day down at the fast food outlet and pump your first shouting, “Yes! I’ve arrived!”

The jobs we’re discussing here have been in the past called survival jobs. More and more they are also called transition jobs; work that bridges the gap of time and space between the present and a job in the future. These are typically short-term positions outside your field of training and education.

When you find yourself browsing these ads more and more and seriously thinking about actually applying, may I suggest you change your line of perception. Instead of thinking that you’ve failed; that your post-secondary education was a waste of both time and money, consider the positives of these transition jobs.

First and foremost, the income from a job – any entry-level job – will stem some financial bleeding. Admittedly while likely minimum wage, money is money and some is better than none. Perhaps more important than money however is the inclusion factor. Right now you’re outside the workforce; remember feeling that everyone has a job but you? That so many people you see from your window seem to have somewhere to go, something to do, while you sit and grow despondent, frustrated and perhaps depressed? Uh huh. Yep, getting up, showered, dressed and out the door with a purpose is always good. That routine you’ve been missing is more important than you might have thought.

Now if you’ve looked at that School Crossing Guard advertised on some Municipality’s website and scoffed at it, think again. First of all those hours; before school, at noon and late afternoon leave you two chunks of time – mid-morning and mid-afternoon – to continue your targeted job search. Of even more significance perhaps is that once you land a Crossing Guard job, even though you’re working outside, you’ve at the same time become an internal employee. Had you considered that? Yes, you’re now able to see and apply for the internal jobs with that Municipality; jobs that up until now you had no access to. Full-time jobs that pay much better and perhaps come with benefits too.

That Crossing Guard job might be one you have to take for 3 or 6 months before you’re eligible to apply for anther internal job. Okay so be it. Do the job at present and do it with a positive attitude. You’ve got this job so you might as well enjoy it and keep telling yourself you’re in transition from this to your next job – the one you really want.

Remember you don’t have to add a short-term job on your résumé, but consider doing so because it does bridge a gap. In your cover letter or at an interview you can certainly state with confidence that you took the short-term job where you are working to pay the bills but you’re highly motivated to seek work in your field as this is where your passion and strong interest are.

A failure? Far from it. You’re wise enough not to let pride get in the way and perhaps it even demonstrates your belief that no job, and certainly not the people doing them, should be looked down on. Perhaps it’s helped you learn humility and an appreciation for the hard work involved which you’d previously overlooked. Perhaps too you’re actually better for the experience and will be all the more grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of your choice doing what you love.

Suddenly, you might be more attractive to your employer of choice.

 

Interviews: The Key Fundamental


We’re living in a world that’s become increasingly sophisticated; (feel free to substitute the word complicated for sophisticated if you wish).

While progress is often a good thing, it can completely intimidate some, leaving them far behind when it comes to interviewing. All these new interview formats and techniques have interviewees feeling overly stressed, resulting in many not interviewing at their best. Few people love interviews and so it’s easy to understand few take the time to improve their interviewing skills. After all, if you don’t like interviews, it’s not likely you’ll invest time voluntarily participating in the experience.

For you then, here’s the key to a successful experience; for no matter how complicated things seem to be, this one fundamental will help you reduce your stress levels and compete better. What is it?

See the interview for what it is. An interview is a conversation between two or more people. That’s it. You have conversations – and therefore interviews – many times during the day. Those are not high stress interactions. You’ll notice that although I’ve intentionally omitted the word, ‘job’ to this point, you’ve probably inserted it as you’ve read along. Thus you read, “See the job interview for what it is.”

A job interview is at its heart just conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. Indulge me by re-reading that again. A job interview is a conversation between two or more people where the agreed upon subject is an opportunity. I’d remind you that this opportunity is not solely for the person applying for the job, but also for the organization conducting the job interviews.

If you are fearful and intimidated by the job application process; if you wish you could bypass the job interview and just get hired, it’s likely you perceive the interview very differently than those who embrace them. Yes, it’s likely you see the job interview as this unpleasant experience you must endure where the job interviewer judges you and decides your fate, most often rejecting you personally. If so, is it any wonder that even the subject of job interviews gets your stomach churning and you view them as a necessary evil to be avoided at all costs? No wonder there are people right now who hate their jobs but refuse to quit because it will mean choosing to put themselves through more job interviews!

Seriously, it’s just a conversation about an opportunity. In a conversation, participants contribute to the discussion; not always equally if you think about it, but both sides do contribute. A job interview is no different. The employer represented by the interviewer or interviewers, wants to learn about you, what motivates you, what you might bring and contribute to their organization. They ask about your experience, education and skills in order to flesh out as best they can who you are and most importantly how you align with what they know to be their needs.

You however? You’ve got a stake in this too. Your after information on perhaps the working conditions, the culture of the organization, the management style of the person you’d be reporting to, the autonomy the position demands, the benefits of working with the company, how they view the consumers of their goods and services. You’re likely to want to know the expectations they have, and in short whether this move would be a good fit for you for the foreseeable future. Hence, they’ve got questions and so should you.

Now think please of the first time you meet people. Back to the beginning when you two introduce yourselves. If the person you are meeting looks stressed and clearly uncomfortable, it’s probable that you’re first impression isn’t favourable and you’ll remove yourself early, ceasing to invest more time with them. You’ve sized that person up pretty quickly based on the limited information you gathered and you excused yourself.

Those who interview job applicants do exactly the same thing. Hence, it’s extremely important to make that all important good first impression. Get past the first 30 seconds with a smile, a friendly, “Hello, it’s very nice to meet you”, and an expression of gratitude for meeting with them and you’re on your way.

As you settle in, you’ll be asked questions and this is your opportunity to market yourself to their advertised needs. Doesn’t it stand to reason that those who best show that they’ll bring what the company said they want will be the best fit and get the job offers? They may ask the majority of the questions I grant, but you get to do the bulk of the talking as you phrase your replies. Remember to focus your answers on the questions asked, and the only way they will know you can do what you claim is to demonstrate via specific examples that prove to them you’ve got what it takes.

Essential to remember is that your body, at least as much as your words, communicates. Look engaged, interested, focused and dressed appropriately.

Instead of an interrogation where you voluntarily go to be executed, the job interview is your opportunity – and theirs – to determine if the match between the employer and you is a good fit for both. This fundamental shift in your thinking; how you perceive the job interview, may be the one thing you do that changes how you perform.

It starts in the mind!

 

 

Dear Employer: On Behalf Of Your Applicants


If you read all the blog posts I’ve penned – yes all 1,197 of them; you’d find that the majority are directed at the people looking to get or keep their employment. The minority of the posts I write are directed at the people who represent the companies that applicants approach for employment. This post is one of them.

So hello there! Whether you’re the owner/operator or an employee yourself tasked with finding the best talent out there to fulfill your needs, I implore you to read the 900 words I’ve put down here and then reflect a little. Please do add your comments from your perspective as that would be very helpful to others.

Okay, so you need a person or people to join your workforce. That’s great news for you and great news for those who are looking to make a contribution and start working with your organization. Understandably time is money and you’d like to get a hold of the best people to choose from in the least amount of time. You and I both know you’ll get applications ranging from highly qualified and professional to hardly qualified at all and desperate.

Sure it would be nice if you only received applications from the cream of the crop out there but there’s a lot of people looking for fewer jobs than exist in our tight economy. Still, behind every application, resume and cover letter, there’s a real person offering up their skills, experience and education to work with your firm. Let’s remember that; those people are…well…people. They’ve got hopes, dreams, and feelings just like you and me.

On behalf of those applying, thanks first of all for including what you’re really looking for in your postings. That saves you and the job seekers time trying to figure out which jobs need what skills and experience. You’ve done your part if you’re clear about these; oh and including a bit about the environment and what the person would actually do is much appreciated. Now it’s up to those applicants to target their applications to your needs.

When you do get applications, I imagine like so many other employers I hear from, you’re a little overwhelmed. It’s flattering actually isn’t it to think so many people were attracted by your advertisement that they applied? On the other hand that’s a lot of applications to go through, especially when you assume you’ll have everything from near perfect candidates to very poor ones. Still, it’s a nicer problem than having too small a number apply and wondering what you have to do to attract the best talent.

I can’t tell you how much just acknowledging you’ve received someone’s application means to those who took the time to apply. The discouragement and disappointment people feel when they pin their hopes on getting an interview and not even getting contacted is extremely distressing. You see it’s not just you they applied to but many jobs with many organizations. It’s pretty hard to consistently be that happy, positive person putting their best foot forward over a prolonged job search.

Just promise to acknowledge all those who apply and you’ll get a reputation for being a compassionate and respectful employer. That would be a good thing wouldn’t it? You know, the kind of employer that really gets it; that empathizes with the applicants they attract. That line in the posting that says, “We appreciate all the applications but only those qualified will be contacted for an interview” wears a little thin when very qualified people apply and don’t even get verification you got the application in the first place.

That takes time of course and someone’s time to respond. That one could argue is the cost of doing business though. You both have needs; you an employee to do work and they a job where they can contribute and produce income.

Everyone knows you can’t hire all the applicants. They get that. What every applicant hopes for though is to be recognized for the effort of the application. Sure you get applications from some that are too general and don’t address your needs. Maybe however those people are doing what they think is right. How will they ever learn what they need to know if they get zero feedback though?

Oh, and could you please stay open to hearing people in interviews and resist the urge to measure them up against your personal prejudices. By prejudices, I mean assuming young people have no maturity or older workers can’t learn anything new and will drain your health care plans. I tell you this; give these two groups of people your open view and you’ll find some real gems.

You wouldn’t believe how appreciative some people with gaps in their resumes will be if you give them a chance. Maybe they cared for a dying parent, raised a family or coped with a broken marriage but now have taken the steps to ensure these factors are no longer a barrier. That would be precisely why they are applying now…they are ready.

Look, you want good people; the best in fact. We all get that. All I’m saying is while you’re not a charity, you can be respectful. Don’t become jaded and just another faceless, uncaring organization. You don’t want that reputation or you’ll attract more of the wrong people.

So, how about your side of things? Comments?