Archive for the ‘Value Proposition’ Category

Almost every job interview begins with the interviewer asking the interviewees to tell about themselves. This seemingly innocent and obvious question sinks more interviews than any other part of the interview. Everyone knows this question is coming, however, very few candidates prepare for this. They assume that they know their background, and so they can just talk about it. However 90% of candidates talk themselves right out of a job just in telling about themselves. Because they have not prepared they:

  1. Ramble
  2. Bore the Interviewer
  3. Say irrelevant or even damaging things
  4. Do not demonstrate relevancy to the company or the position
  5. Do not demonstrate track record of success

Nailing this part of the interview makes the rest of the interview so much easier. If you strike out on this, recovering is almost impossible. Since you know they are going to ask the question, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare? I have heard recommendations to respond by asking the interviewer to first explain what the job entails. If I am interviewing, and a candidate asks this question, I will wonder why they did not read the job description, and assume they are unprepared. So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind, when interviewing, your primary objectives are to:

  1. Answer “What is in it for the interviewer”?
  2. Demonstrate how your values and culture align with the company values and culture.
  3. Articulate what you are known for, and how that is a benefit for the company.
  4. Articulate your value proposition.

Also you need to be concise and to the point. In preparing for the “Tell Me About Yourself” the following tips will help you nail the shot when the game is on the line.

  1. Read and understand the job description.
  2. Research the company.
  3. Total time should be between 1½ and 3 minutes.
  4. Give a BRIEF synopsis of your career. Shape your synopsis to the needs learned from the job description and prior research.
    1. Do not list every title and company you have worked for, but give a range.
    2. Do not give a laundry list of responsibilities tasks or processes you performed, but give a range.
  5. Based on the job description, as well as the required skills and experiences, give 2 or 3 SHORT accomplishment statements to demonstrate your success.
    1. Do not go into details.
    2. Do not take time to “set the stage”.
    3. Give a simple Quantified Result and action statement including key skill or experience.
    4. Should be 20 words or less.
  6. Summarize skills and experience inferred from the accomplishment statements focusing on skills and experiences required in the job description.
  7. Say why you want the job! Why are you interested in the company, and their products or services?
  8. Solicit their agreement that your background and experience enable you to meet the objectives of the position and the company.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the interview “Tell Me About Yourself” and how you prepare.

For most of the past three years, I have had the great opportunity to work with John Hall in teaching his Advanced Career Strategies and Advanced Career Transition classes. One of the tools taught in the class and that I have adopted for my private practice is the use of case studies as a marketing tool to help professionals land their next career position. It is an idea that really makes sense. Every company that I have ever been with, either had, or I created one page case studies demonstrating the value that the product or service has brought to other customers.

As professionals, we have numerous accomplishments throughout our careers. Many professionals who are in career transition are familiar with the concept through the use of various acronyms such as PARs (Problem, Action & Result). A case study is a one page expansion and Illustration of the PAR and how you can impact an organization. You might be thinking “I have never seen anyone else create or use a case study, why should I”?

  1. If nobody else is doing it, that is exactly why you should be doing it. You need to differentiate yourself from all the other job seekers. Getting a job may be the most important thing you do, so why wouldn’t you go above and beyond, to demonstrate you are the best person to achieve the objectives of the position.
  2. Most professionals tend to ramble, and give irrelevant or even damaging information when answering questions in interviews. By taking the time to create a case study, you cement the information in your brain, in a concise and simple manner that allows you to answer interview questions in a succinct manner, focusing on the benefit to the interviewer and employer.
  3. Case Studies are great content for portfolios. Many people think that portfolios are only for marketing people or graphic designers. Putting together a portfolio of your accomplishments including case studies sets you apart from the competition
  4. Everyone learns differently, and the more sense you can facilitate the interviewer using, the greater chance you have to positively stand out in their memory and selection process. Having a well designed and laid out case studies including diagrams and graphs, allows the interviewer to absorb information visually as well as through auditory input.

If you live in the Orange County area, and are interested in learning how to create compelling case studies join our workshop on Tuesday October 16th.

 

In my last blog on answering the salary question in the interview, so many people wanted to know how to get around the salary question when filling out an online application. The unfortunate reality is that if you are going fill out online applications, you will need to answer the salary question. The best way to do this successfully is to make sure you research the appropriate salary range for the industry, function and geography. Three resources for researching this are:

However, by doing this, you are still playing by HR’s rules, opening yourself up to disqualification before you ever get in the door, and if you get in, severely limiting any negotiating position you may have. So what are you supposed to do?

Don’t rely on online applications. Stop focusing your job search on the job boards. Focus on the hidden job market! Stop being a Job Seeker, and start being a Solution to the problems of your target companies. Most people who are looking for work, market themselves as job seekers, follow the job boards, and send their applications and resumes into the great black hole. Why? Because those are the “opportunities” that they see. But 80% of actual jobs are in the hidden job market. Going through the hidden job market, you may still need to fill out an online application, but by then, the application is no longer a screening tool, but a formality because they are already interested in you. So how do you access the hidden job market? Next week I will discuss strategies for hunting in the hidden job market.

 

Last week in my blog, I discussed how HR’s question of “What are your salary requirements?” is counterproductive to finding the best employees to achieve the objectives and missions of the position they are trying to fill. Regardless of this fact, there is one thing you can almost guarantee. HR managers interviewing you will try to force the issue so that they can either eliminate you or pin you to a number so you lose any negotiating leverage. So how do you handle this? There are several issues to consider, and prepare for so that you can successfully navigate this area of the interview.

The first issue to resolve is, you need to know what your range is that you are looking for. While it should be irrelevant to the company what you need, you need to know for your own protection what your market value is. There are two components of knowing your market value:

  • Based on the objectives of the position, and based on your past achievements, what are you contributing to the success of the company? The best way to understand this is to look at your accomplishments in your past, and what did these contribute to previous companies in terms of helping the company generate revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risks. Many professionals list these up in accomplishment statements often referred to as an acronym such as PARs – Problem, Action and Results. Identifying and understanding your previous accomplishments will help you understand your value to a company.
  • Research industry and function ranges for positions similar to the ones you are applying for. This will help you in responding to salary questions and also justifying your range you have determined for yourself.

In the interview itself, when HR asks this screening question, your goal is to defer this discussion until after both parties have determined that there is a good fit and they are prepared to offer the position. There are several ways to do this, and the key is to answer in a rational and non confrontational manner, along the lines of:

“There are so many components that go into my decision process of choosing a job, and salary is just one part. Once we determine that I am the best candidate to achieve the objectives of the position, I am extremely confident you will be able to offer a mutually beneficial and market competitive compensation package.”

If they do not accept this, but still press you, you can respond with:

I appreciate that you do not want to waste anyone’s time. What is the range you have budgeted for this position?” If they give you the range, you repeat the highest number and then be quiet.

If they still insist you give them a number, you can say something like:

Based on my current understanding of the position, objectives and expectations, I would expect the salary to be in the range of ______ to _______, which is within industry standards.”

Keep in mind that when interviewing, you are dealing with human beings. The only thing predictable about responses is that they will be unpredictable. While these types of responses are very effective in many cases, they do not always work. In addition, these are responses to salary questions early on in the interview process, and completely separate from negotiations at the time of an offer.

Finally, keep in mind that companies and HR are trying to commoditize employees and candidates. While this may make their job easier, as stated last week, it does not make their job more effective or efficient. The best way to get around this commoditization is to not approach as a job seeker but as a problem, and network your way in through informational meetings.

I am looking forward to getting your feedback.

 

“If I had known the budget range, I never would have applied. If the HR manager had known what I wanted to make, she never would have interviewed me. By the end of the interview process they were comfortable enough with what I can contribute, we were able to negotiate a salary that is good for both of us”. These are the words one client recently hired. It is a story I have heard repeatedly. On the other hand, I have heard so many times on early interviewers insisting a candidate say what their lowest acceptable salary is.

The other day, at a career fair and networking event, I had the opportunity to talk with a couple of recruiters. In introducing myself, I mentioned that I am a career coach. They asked if I was one of the people who coached job seekers to evade initial salary questions, and to negotiate salaries at the end. When I said “of course” they both said, that they hate when candidates do that. It makes them angry. I understand that HR doesn’t want to “waist time” with candidates that may be out of their range. However I would say that their focus forces them to “waste time” interviewing and hiring employees that will not bring maximum benefit and ROI to the company. I do not think HR as the time to waste on focusing so much initially on salary. Based on current practices, you end up with approximately 30% of the workforce underperforming and over paid, and 30% underpaid for their contribution. This leads to performing employees looking to leave at the first chance, and underperforming employees staying at the company continuing to drag down efficiencies and effectiveness of the company. The reality is, what a candidate wants or needs to be paid is and should be irrelevant to any company looking to hire people. Every employee needs to perform in a way that they help a company in one of three ways:

  1. Help generate revenue
  2. Help reduce costs
  3. Help mitigate risks

If the projects and tasks an employee works on don’t achieve one of those three things, there is no reason to pay a salary. Ideally, the employee’s contribution in these areas will be 3 to 5 times the value of their compensation. Therefore the process of the interview should be to:

  1. Find the best person to carry out the responsibilities and objectives of the position,
  2. Determine a mutually beneficial compensation package through past experience, including understanding their past accomplishments and contributions, and objectives of the position determine a mutually beneficial compensation package.

Therefore, I recommend when ask what your salary requirements are, I suggest you say something like “salary is only one component of my decision making process, and now cannot give a number. Once you determine I am the person who can best achieve the objectives of the position and the company, I am confident you can offer a mutually beneficial compensation package”

I look forward to your comments.

 

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools you can leverage in your career management, but most professionals use it for nothing more than an online resume. When I teach LinkedIn, people are amazed that there is so much more to LinkedIn. A repeated theme of my workshops and blogs is that job security in corporate America is a thing of the past. As a result, the most important thing a professional can understand is this: It is not what you know, or even who you know, but who knows you that will land you your next position or help you promote in your career. LinkedIn leveraged properly will allow you to spread your reputation as a subject matter expert and successful professional. So in considering what to blog about this week, I decided to write a blog on how to better leverage LinkedIn as a personal branding tool. Just as I was starting to write, I saw a posting from my good friend Neal Schaffer, spelling out exactly what I wanted to say. So rather than try to write the same thing, I would share Neal’s post. Click the link below and Enjoy! 4 Ways Of Obtaining Thought Leadership on LinkedIn.

A common theme of my blogs as well as workshops is that companies, for the most part view employees and prospective employees as liabilities instead of assets, or commodities instead of equity that bring additional value to the company. The other day I was talking with a client about the many types of experiences and skills that she possesses. It hit me that these were like the many facets of a valuable diamond, and each contribute to the value of her diamond. So rather than being viewed as coal that just gets burned up and consumed by a company, demonstrate your value and make yourself the diamond that brings equity to the company. What are you doing to know, understand and be able to articulate your many aspects that create significant value for your employer or prospective employer? Target companies that can leverage your facets to solve their most pressing issues and gain advantage over the competition. Remember, you are the diamond bringing value, not coal to be burned and consumed by the company.

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to join a speakers and writers mastermind group. As my practice grows, and my opportunities for writing and speaking increase, I wanted to surround myself with some of the best minds in the area. Saturday was my first opportunity to participate. In the course of the conversation, Mark Fierle, author of Rekindling The American Dream, made a comment that really resonated with me, not only as a speaker and writer, but as an executive coach. Paraphrasing, he said that the best authors are those that are out and about, experiencing what others are experiencing, engaging in dialogue and learning about critical hot button issues. It is the same thing for job hunters. The most successful are those who are out and about, talking with key players in their target industry, communicating and learning what keeps decision makers up at night, understanding what the hot button issues are that need to be addressed. It is with this information that a job hunter can transform their branding from that of a job seeker to that of a value added solution. Do not conduct your job search as if you are under house arrest. Don’t be a slave to your resume. Yes, social media and internet are important components of what you need to do, but they are only part of a balanced approach. They can be scheduled any part of the morning or night. Get away from your computer. Get out and about. Know the pulse of your opportunities, so you can leverage your skills, passions and experiences to solve the headaches of your target company.

What do you do? How do you answer this question? Most people I talk to respond by giving their title. When giving an elevator pitch, most people name tasks that they perform on the job, often giving a laundry list. When I ask an IT manager what they do, they might talk about implementing and or maintaining systems for a company. They may talk about particular architectures or programs that they have expertise in, but all this does is brand people as a commodity. It does nothing to demonstrate their value. What is the value of implementing a new system? What does that system do for the company? How are employees able to improve performance with the new system? Does the system actually achieve the goals that were envisioned? Was the system implemented on time and under budget? What were the skills (hard and soft) that you used to achieve your results? What were the actions that you took leading to the results? These are the types of questions that need to be answered so that you can articulate your value. Any work an employee does needs to do one of three things for the company. It needs to help the company generate revenue, help the company save costs, or help the company mitigate risks. If your work is not doing any of these, there is no reason for a company to pay your salary. By understanding the value your work or projects bring to a company, you have an ability to start articulating what value you can bring to a prospective employer. You are no longer a commodity, but you are a value added solution.

What does shooting free throws have to do with your job search and interview preparation? Most job seekers take their skills, knowledge about their industry of function and ability to talk about them for granted. They figure, “I have been doing this for x number of years, and I already know it”. Well I have been playing basketball my whole life. I grew up playing hours upon hours every day. I literally shot over 100 free throws every day. In high school, I never shot less than 86%. In recent years, I do not play as often, and my shot gets very rusty. However, with a little practice, my shot comes back pretty quickly. Today I played basketball with my son. It was the first time in a couple of weeks that I played, and my shot showed. I don’t think I shot 30% on my free throws! I know basketball very well. I know the mechanics of shooting free throws. However without the regular practice, my muscle memory had diminished, and I was stiff on my free throws. The same thing can be said of practicing for interviews. If we are not practicing every day, our answers are stiff, and we are much more prone to shoot an air ball. Athletes from high school thru professional practice every day. Is this because they do not know how to play? No, it is because they want their actions to be second nature. When you are working, you are doing your work every day, and it becomes second nature. The same thing applies to your job search. If you are in transition, your full time job is your job search. One of the most important parts of your job search is your interview. You need to be training and practicing every day. Here are 5
ways to help you do this.

  1. Put your power stories on index cards, with associated skills on the back side. Practice these every day! When you go to a coffee meeting, take out two or three and ask the person you are networking with to practice interviewing with you.
  2. Write down the most common questions, and script out your answers. (Two examples are: “Tell me about yourself.” and “Why should I hire you instead of the 15 other qualified candidate we are interviewing?” Once you are comfortable with the answer, write it down on an index card and practice it every day.
  3. Identify your perceived liabilities, and script out a response to questions about these.
  4. Take opportunities to do mock interviews, and if possible video tape them.
  5. Schedule your practice time at least 30 minutes every day into your calendar.

When you have an opportunity for an interview, you have put in a lot of work to get there. There are a lot of other qualified candidates. Do not waste the opportunity! Make sure you have put in the training for the interview so that you do not shoot an air ball when the game is on the line. Nothing is sweeter than the sound of the ball touching nothing but net in the clutch.