Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Laid Off? Effective Interviewing to Land Your Next Job

You have now had the opportunity to decide what job you wanted to target. You have set a goal that stated the job and when you will be working. You have developed your resume that can be tailored for each job that you are targeting. You have networked and spent a little time responding to Internet postings (no more than 10% of your search time). And now you have an interview scheduled!! At the time that the interview is scheduled, ask if the company can send you the application. It is far better to complete the application when you have the information handy – and you are not under the stress of the interview. Tell the truth on your application and in your interview.

RecruiterGuy coaches his clients (companies) that Recruiting Is Sales. Now RecruiterGuy is telling you (the candidates) that Recruiting Is Sales! It is important that you understand this concept while searching for a job. What are you selling? You are selling your skills and abilities! If you haven’t developed any skills over the years, why would someone want to hire you?

In my earlier blog, I suggested that you develop a skills inventory (those skills that you do well). Prior to an interview, take the time to look at the inventory. For every skill that is asterisked, develop a succinct story that relates a time when you successfully used that skill. Jot a few words down that will help you recall that example. Why relate a story to demonstrate the skill? There are two major reasons. The first reason is that hiring managers look for proof that you have a skill. Simply responding that you have a skill generally is not a successful effective interviewing technique. The second reason is that humans remember stories. This is important. When I was on a recruiting contract with a major telecommunications firm, the managers were interviewing 6 candidates per day. Many times they later referred to a candidate by “He/She was the candidate that told the story about…”

Research the company as you would if you were going to sell to them. What does their online marketing look like? What do their press releases say? If it is a public company, take a look at their financials. It is important to be an educated candidate. This research helps you develop better questions to ask the hiring manager. For instance, “On your website, I saw that your company is…How is that going to impact your group?” You can learn an awful lot about a company before you interview – Knowledge is Power. You may decide during your research before the interview that you do not want to interview for them. If that is the case, it is best to make that decision earlier than later – and call them to let them know. It’s okay. No point to waste people’s time.

Now it is the day of the interview. How do you prepare? Go through all of your notes and the job description. Review the company’s press releases to see if there is any late breaking news that is valuable to you. You may want to add or change one of your short stories. If you smoke, don’t. Nonsmokers can smell smoke on your breath and your clothes. Today, smoking can cost you a job offer. Like it or not, insurance research demonstrates that smokers are sick more often. You make your own decisions. If the job is an office or sales job, wear professional clothing – suit, tie, polished shoes. Women should wear conservative jewelry and cosmetics, if you decide to wear either. If it is an outside job, for instance construction, wear appropriate business casual clothing. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

I worked a career fair once where a candidate told his friends that he was so good, he could even get a job offer if he walked around with a clown costume on. What a schmuck! He even dropped off his resume. No offers for him then – or probably later. His arrogance really stood out.

If you will be even 2 minutes late, call ahead and tell your connection (HR or the hiring manager). Where did that courtesy go? Everyone has a cell phone now!

When you walk in the office for your interview, treat everyone with respect. Period. I generally ask everyone to tell me if the candidate was not respectful. This is when you should be on your best behavior. Respect the receptionist and act professionally through your interviews.

Go back to the top of this blog and re-read it. That’s how important all of this information is to your success – and you haven’t even sat down in front of an interviewer yet!

Well here comes your first interviewer. Approach them with confidence, appropriate eye contact and a friendly smile. Give them a firm handshake – don’t break their fingers, just firm. Never give anyone a wet fish handshake! Yuck! It just says so many bad things about you – lack of confidence is among them. It used to surprise me when a woman gave me a firm handshake. Now women seem to be taught the importance of a firm handshake and do so more consistently than some men. Congratulations to them!

When you go into the office or conference room, wait until your interviewer indicates that you should take a seat before sitting. Once I had a manager candidate go behind the desk when we entered the office. I smiled and said, “I can see what side of the desk you are used to sitting.” He laughed and said “Oops!” He was fine. We offered the job and he accepted. Generally it is better that the interviewer gestures towards the seat.

When I present “The Secrets of a Successful Job Search”, I tell the audience that a good interview is like a racquetball game. The first questions are very easy – “Tell me a little about you.” Generally they ask this question while they are reading your resume (sometimes for the first time). Then they may ask a little about your most recent job. Now that you are warmed up, a skillful interviewer will begin the behavioral questions mixed in with the specific skill questions. You know you just had a great interview when you emerge from the interview sweating and smiling! Remember to ask good informed questions based on your notes and based on what the manager has told you. I once worked with a senior manager who laid out a situation in her interview. If the candidate did not ask a specific question, she would not extend an offer to them. You need to be an active listener. (She never shared with me the specific question). If you can focus on the hiring manager and their questions, it is a good idea to jot down some notes. These may help you develop questions. Remember if you do not understand how an organization is set up or why a company has a specific process or why something that you heard sounded off, ask the interviewer a question to clarify your thinking. That is more than okay, it is expected.

As you interview, you are measuring the company, the hiring manager, and the position in real time. Once both of you have completed your interview, generally you know your level of interest. This is a great time to tell the hiring manager that you are interested in the position because…”I feel… (Give them some solid reasons regarding the job duties, the manager’s management style, and/or the company’s culture)”. As you leave (if you are interested in the position), it is a good time to ask “Is there anything that would prevent you from offering this position to me?” Why do you ask that question? If you are interested in the job, that question will tell you if there is information that you need to explain either in a different way or be a little more detailed; and satisfy the hiring manager’s objection.

Once you get 15 to 20 minutes away from the interview, you will begin to remember aspects of the conversation that I refer to as the “Wish I Would Have Said’s”. Find a quiet place whether it is a fast food restaurant, a nice restaurant where you can order a soda, or even a library to sit down and make some notes about your conversation/conversations. This is an important exercise for a couple of reasons. One, most people just cannot prepare so completely for an interview to be prepared to give the best examples for each skill within the context of a new company. Two, if you do not write them down, RecruiterGuy guarantees that you will remember that you had “Wish I Would Have Said’s” but to save your life you can’t remember a single one. If you get a second interview with the company, this new information should be brought up. It can mean the difference between an offer or not. If there is no second interview, this information may be used for negotiation if a low offer is extended. We will cover that in the Salary Negotiation blog coming up.

Finally, do you Really want to separate yourself from the other candidates? Sit down and handwrite a personal thank you note to each person that you interviewed. Unfortunately today most people forget that “Common Courtesy” (I did get one in the mail recently. Thank you Leo C.!).