Posts Tagged ‘Interview Preperation’


The other day, while conducting a mock interview workshop, I asked the interviewee what compensation he was looking for. He proceeded to say that he needed at least six figures because he has two kids in college and alimony payments in addition to his mortgage payments. Now you might think that this is a reasonable approach, to determine what your obligations are and therefore what you need to earn.

However, your obligations have no relevancy to the company or to the value you bring to an organization. The reality is that whatever projects, processes and tasks you do for a company need to contribute to either the growth of revenue, the reduction of costs or the mitigation of risk. If your work is not helping the company in any of these areas, it is hard for a company to justify paying your salary. Therefore it is essential for you to understand how your work in impacting your organization.

In an earlier blog I wrote about 10 Tips to Optimize Your Career Security. This is the fourth instalment, Tracking Your Success. If you have followed the first tip and ask the right questions, you will understand how your projects and tasks fit into the needs and goals of your company. Once you understand this, establish Key Performance Indexes (KPI’s) relevant for your tasks and projects to measure your growth and performance. These can be in the area of time saved, improved efficiencies, improved productivity, and improved quality. You can then measure your performance against when you took over a position, or show year to year improvement.

Renowned management thought leader Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What this means that you can’t know whether or not you are successful unless success is defined and tracked.  With a clearly established metric for success, you can quantify progress and adjust your process to produce the desired outcome.  Without clear objectives, you’re stuck in a constant state of going through the motions

Not only do these measurements help your organization to understand your success, but it also helps you to understand your value. When you are able to articulate your success through quantified accomplishments, you demonstrate that you are aware of how your role impacts an organization, and that you are not just going through the motions, but striving for the success of the company you work for. You are no longer a commodity for the company, but a solution for their problems and a resource for their opportunities.

This blog is written by Greg Johnson of Above The Rim Executive Coaching

Gold Bars Image courtesy of ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

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?

 

This is a blog I posted last year, during Linasity, but was accidently deleted. The ideas about perceived liabilities are still relevant, so I am re-posting.

Perceived liabilities are what we or others perceive will keep us from being the best person for the job. The problem is that these perceptions are often based on stereotypes and prejudices that are not reflective of our actual talent. Along these lines Jeremy Lin is an Asian-American basketball player on meteoric rise in the NBA, who has not let perceived liabilities prevent him from leveraging his skills to have the success he was meant to have. Throughout his career, despite demonstrating significant success at each and every step, decision makers and “experts” had their blinders on.

  1. Despite leading his high school team to the California state championship over the vaunted Mater Dei Monarchs, he was not deemed to “have the right material for the next level” and did not receive a single basketball scholarship offer from a Division One program. Scouts said his game is good, but doesn’t have the skill, speed or strength to compete at the division one level.
  2. Went to Harvard – Not a university known for producing NBA players. Despite performances in college, even against basketball such as Georgetown, that demonstrated Jeremy is a good, fundamentally solid basketball player, he didn’t fit the stereotype for the prototype NBA guard.
  3. He was told he does not have an NBA body – is this a sub-conscience labeling because of Jeremy’s Asian-American heritage?
  4. Jeremy was not drafted, so teams were reluctant to give him a real opportunity, despite excelling against top draft picks in the summer leagues.
  5. Rookie year signed with the Golden State Warriors, and despite great performance in summer league and practice was not giving chance to play during the season.
  6. Cut by the Warriors and Houston Rockets, Jeremy was finally signed by the New York Knicks. After a stint in the developmental league where he again excelled, he was called up to the Knicks, where he sat on the bench until injuries forced his coach to give him a chance.
  7. Since then Jeremy has taken a team that had lost 8 of 11 games before he started playing to winning the first 7 games.
  8. Scouting reports said he can’t shoot. Really?? Since being given the chance to start for the New York Knicks, Jeremy has scored 20 or more points in his first seven games including a 38 point performance in leading the Knicks over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

What is holding you back from your next opportunity to shine? Age? Industry Experience? Are the liabilities real or perceived? How can you take charge of your career, and manage your brand and reputation to change or erase the stereotype that may be impacting your search.

 

Last week I discussed the best way to get around the salary question for online applications is to stop relying on online applications and pursue the hidden job market. This makes sense not only to get around the salary question, and the general road block of HR, but also because 80% of the truly open jobs are in the hidden job market. Before we go any further, what is the hidden job market? It is not that the jobs are buried somewhere hidden. It is any opportunity that is not currently posted on the job boards. This can consist of jobs that are in the still in the internal candidate search process, jobs that are in the process of being defined, or opportunities to solve problems that have yet to be identified in a job description. Your success in this depends on a purposeful strategy with a clearly defined goal of where you want to go. In the words of Yogi Berra:

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Start off creating a list of Target Companies based, not on jobs posted, but on your passions and interests. While not all companies have job openings, all companies have problems. In order to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, you need to position yourself as a solution, not a job seeker. In order to position yourself as a solution you need to know the problems and headaches of your target companies. In order to understand the problems, you need to research your target companies. Finally in order to research your target companies, you need to have target companies.

Once you have your list of target companies, begin your research, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can find a few resources here.

From here you are in a position to produce industry wide special reports which are great keys to get you in the door for information meetings. Use these as a launch-pad for a social media campaign to establish your reputation as a thought leader and subject matter expert in your particular niche. Simultaneously, you need to network network network. This doesn’t mean just attend a ton of networking event collecting business cards to put on your desk. Strategically and purposefully engage in professional organizations taking positions on committees and boards, so that you can work on a professional level with influential people in your target industry. For your success in the hidden job market, it is not necessarily what you know, or even what you know, but who knows you, and what their perception is of you that will maximize your career opportunities.

How are you strategically researching your target companies and spreading your reputation as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your particular niche?

 

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?

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.