Archive for the ‘Job Search’ 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.

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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.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful Career Management tools business professionals can tap into to maximize the achievement of their objectives. LinkedIn has recently rolled out a new feature that is a great way to facilitate this and to enhance your online brand. Like all Social media, LinkedIn requires two key philosophies. First is Pay-It-Forward, and the second is “Think It Through”. A little bit of thought, and the desire to pay it forward will take you a long way. Keeping this in mind will help you use the brand new Skills & Endorsements tool to take your LinkedIn engagement to the next level. In order to help you do this, I have developed the following EZ steps.

  1. Add Skills to your profile: Click “More” on the top of the LinkedIn menu than select Skill & Expertise. Add the skills that relate to your profession that you are recognized for and that you use regularly on the job. LinkedIn allows you to choose up to 50. Choose as many as apply.
  2. If you already have some skills listed, go to the edit profile mode and click to add more skills
  3. After you add skills, you can click the skill to specify your level of proficiency as well as the number of years you have been utilizing the skill.
  4. Endorse Others: Now pay it forward. Go to the profile of contacts you want to endorse. A box opens up with some suggested skills to endorse. Eliminate skills you are not able to endorse, and add skills you want to endorse. Then click the endorse button
  5. Take an additional couple of minutes to scroll down to their skills section and review their skills. Click all the skills that make sense for you to endorse based on your knowledge of the individual.

Don’t just select the skills suggested by LinkedIn, endorse and move on. Unfortunately, even if you are trying to help the person out, the message that you are giving is that you are not putting thought into what you are doing. This will hurt your reputation, and people will assume if you are “lazy” on LinkedIn, you will be lazy in other parts of your profession. Take some time to do it right, the ROI on the time spent will come back much higher.

This blog is by Greg Johnson

My mentor and good friend John Hall likes to share that In the January 3rd 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine, Geoff Colvin talks about how Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for oral arguments he would meticulously write down hundreds of questions that he thought he could conceivably be asked, pondered and refined the answers in his mind, then he wrote the questions and answers on flash cards. He would then shuffle the questions and practice, practice, practice. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died on September 3rd 2005, George W. Bush nominated Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice. For what might be considered the ultimate job interview, Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for the confirmation hearing the same way. For anyone who was able to watch portions of the confirmation, his answers were quick, concise, and delivered in an easy manner.

You might think, “I know myself. I know my career. I know my industry. Of course I can answer interview questions.” The fact is, more times than not, candidates hurt themselves in the interview. Interviews can be so hard to come by, yet we often wing them, rambling on and talking our way out of the job. Preparation and repetition is the key to setting yourself apart from others in the interview process. Like I said in What Do Free Throws Have To Do With Interviews, you cannot afford to shoot an air ball when the game is on the line.

Finally, video tape mock interviews are a great way to see how you appear to interviewers. So many people are shocked by what they see in the video replay. The good news is I have seen many people make the necessary changes, and successfully land their next position. Practice and eliminate bad habits. For those of you who live in Southern California, Above The Rim Executive Coaching offers Mock Interviews once a month. Check the schedule and register online.

Can You afford an air ball when the game is on the line?

 

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.

 

Most job seekers take a reactive rather than a proactive approach to their job search. Their focus is on submitting resumes online to jobs that they see posted. This may be the easiest approach, but it is far from effective or efficient. One of the most essential components of a strategic job search plan is to have a target company list. Why is this so important? If you are not aiming to go somewhere, you will not go anywhere. The best way to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, is to position yourself as the solution to the problems of your target companies. You cannot position yourself as a solution, if you do not know their problems, and you cannot know their problems if you do not do adequate research.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the Laguna Niguel Connectors networking meeting, someone said to me that he understood the need to research target companies, but didn’t know where to get information. The best sources for company research are informational meetings and industry conferences or associations. In addition, here is a quick list of great online resources that you can tap into for the information you need.

1)      Call Companies for Information

The power of a simple phone call cannot be over estimated. In today’s era of social media, use of the phone is becoming a lost art. You can use this to find out

2)      Informational Meetings – Talk, either by phone or in person with current or former employees, suppliers, vendors, distributors, competitors and industry experts.

3)      Company Collateral

a)      Company Web sites

b)      Company Brochures

c)       Annual Reports

d)      Newsletters

e)      Archived Webcasts and Earnings Calls

4)      Industry Associations and News

5)      Magazines & Newspapers

6)      Professional Organizations

7)      Additional Internet Resources

a)      Reference USA – free access through many libraries. If you have a library card, go to the library website, check online data bases, and click Reference USA. You will be prompted to enter your library card number.

b)      Mergent Online Company Data Base – same as Reference USA, is accessible through many public libraries

c)       Linkedin

d)      Other Social Media

e)      Google Finance

f)       Google Discussion Group

g)      Blogs

h)      Analyst Reports

What other resources do you recommend for target company research?

 

Anyone who has participated in my workshops knows that one of my core foundations of successful career management is “It is not what you know, not even who you know, but who knows you that will impact your career”. In the course of a career, most professionals develop their reputation among a small circle of colleagues, and possibly some vendors and customers. What can you do to spread your reputation (which is essentially your personal brand identity) beyond your normal circle? There are three primary ways you can achieve this:

  1. Involvement in Professional, Industry and Alumni Associations
  2. Social Media
  3. Community Volunteering

Today, I am going to focus on community volunteering. A couple of weeks ago, my friend Dan Stone posted a great opportunity to volunteer at a bike camp for special needs children. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our daily grind; we forget what living is about. When we take the time to stop, interact with and help others, something else happens. We leave a positive imprint on their lives. By helping others even in so simple a way as helping them learn to ride a bike, we are giving them success. Anytime we help someone through a challenging time, or achieve even a small amount of success, an amazing thing happens. A special need in ourselves to serve others is filled. I have never met anyone volunteering at such a community event feel that they didn’t receive significantly more than they gave. In this, a very valuable lesson is learned. Our personal brand is not just defined by our professional skills and accomplishments; it is differentiated by our impact on others. How have we positively interacted with and impacted those around us. How have we helped those in circles and in our community live a richer and more fulfilled life? A side benefit? You never know who you will meet at such a volunteering opportunity that will see you giving of yourself to others. You never know what professional connections they may have that will lead to your next career position.

Finding opportunities is easy. For those living in Orange County, a few you can check out are : Ryan’s Reach, South Orange County Community Outreach and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. These are just a few. If you have favorite suggestions in your area, please let us know.

 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a BBQ networking event hosted by my friend Wayne Yoshida. The idea is simple. You are always attending various types of networking events where you have a short time to connect with a large number of new people. Wayne’s inspiration, which was from reading the book Never Eat Alone, is rather simple. Invite people you meet at some of these events, along with some people you regularly network with, and get together over a BBQ and pot luck. You have a few hours to talk in an informal and relaxed environment and an opportunity to get to know others in ways you do not at other networking events. So not only did we have killer ribs along with some other very good food, but I also learned quite a bit more about some people in my network, and got a better idea of how we can help each other. Maybe the next idea is Sushi Making Networking? What is your idea for fun networking?