Archives for interview tips

Prepare Your Phone Screen Playbook to Get to the Next Level

Phone screens are like open book tests. You have to have the right playbook for it to help you. Otherwise it’s like copying off the person who never scores higher than a D. You could have gotten a D all on your own without even trying. What’s the point of that?

Firstly, understand that there’s probably more research to do than you think. Don’t try cramming all in one night. You’ll want to have all of your notes together and organized prior to the night before.

Even if you can refer to your notes, you still want to know them well enough to know which parts to reference based on the questions. You won’t have a lot of control over what questions are asked and in what order. So if you’re fumbling while trying to find the right response to a question, your heart will start ticking like a clock with each second that passes. That’s not the state of mind that performs best. You’ll have to manage the interview a bit like a dance you’re not leading, so stay agile.

As soon as you know you’ll have an interview, start researching. Cross reference what you find out about a company with what you want in your next opportunity. Anywhere there is a gap between what you want and what you can find out online, make a note of that item. This will be your agenda for pre-interview calls with your interviewer. Start a company report, and then copy and paste information on key people, values, initiatives, industry challenges, etc. Go way deeper than just looking at the company’s website. I recommend creating a Google alert on the company and key people, especially the person who would be your direct supervisor and/or your interviewer.

Try to find these key people on social media, especially Twitter where it seems people reveal more about their opinions and values. Note if they are married/single, have kids, love to travel certain places, have an obvious political inclination, have hobbies, enjoy certain artists or shows, etc. Even though you won’t necessarily use this information to build a personal report, it will certainly help you to keep this personal information in the back of your mind. If they’ve shared any of this information on LinkedIn or in their Twitter handle, then it’s pretty public and could be free game. The data points you find when digging deeper should be kept to yourself otherwise it could come off as too private and creepy.

Even if you don’t discuss your findings directly, having an idea of a person’s interests and personality can still help you build trust. Are they private, conservative, do they have a sense of adventure, what are their values? What qualities do they admire? What companies and influencers do they follow (consider quoting one)? All of this considered, just remember – don’t try to be something that you’re not! That never works out well in the end. However, if you genuinely have something in common with the interviewer, you may see an opportunity to take advantage of that. It may sound dirty, but people prefer to work with people they like and trust, and having things in common can be a trust signal.

Next, have at least one achievement story for each top quality, experience, method, or talent that distinguishes you from the competition. Connect the dots between your distinctive value, the problems, challenges and initiatives of the target company/hiring manager, and what you have been able to achieve in your employment history. If you’re asked to walk through your experience, make sure you highlight the themes of what makes you the best candidate. For instance, if you’ve always been great at identifying market trends, walk your interviewer through a highlight reel describing the specific times you succeeded at doing just that. These themes should be related to what will make a candidate successful in the role. If you can validate your aptitude early on in the phone screen, do that.

Have answers and stories prepared, but don’t write them out like an article. Make an outline, cutting out as many extra words as possible. This should look more like bulleted talking points, like a politician uses before a debate or media appearance. Boldface key phrases and points that you definitely want to relay.

Another tip is to determine which questions make you most nervous and figure out why! Are you scared of revealing something? Chances are that fear will be picked up by your interviewer, even over the phone. If they sense there’s a potential risk in your fear, they’ll either dig deeper, or let it go but this uncertainty won’t really be gone. It will be lingering in their mind as an unknown variable that leaves a gaping hole for another candidate to surpass you in the process.

Practice the KISS principal when it comes to these questions (keep it simple, stupid.) Don’t go into an elaborate story – there is a time and a place for elaborating, but this isn’t the time to risk the interviewer getting caught up in details. Understand what the risk is from the employer’s perspective. If discussing a time you made a mistake, the most reassuring way to approach the situation is to own your mistake and the impact that it had. Then, move on to demonstrating how you’ve worked on never making that mistake again. It may seem risk to admit an error, but you’ll come across as genuine, which is much easier to trust than someone who never admits to making mistakes.

Finally, if the interview question has to do with conflicts between yourself and coworkers, vendors, clients or your boss, stick to facts that all objective parties would agree upon. Don’t chronicle all events, but rather share only the relevant ones that help you make a case for your character, skills, and/or problem solving abilities. If you have to recount a specific conversation, be sure to recall the exact words that were said. Again, if you misread the situation, point out your revelation and how you would handle it now that you have more wisdom. If the situation repeated itself but with your new awareness you handled it better, take the opportunity to briefly share that story.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you ace your phone screening as well as your subsequent interviews. Remember there are steps you can take to prepare yourself for questions that will likely be asked of you. Additionally, take the time to research and get a feel for the work culture of the company you’re applying to and get familiar with the personality style of your interviewer. If you employ these tips on your next phone screening, please feel free to share how they helped you in the comments section.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012) – Music Video: Alabama Shakes “Always Alright”

Pre-listen: Soundtrack Snippets of Danny Elfman’s “Silver Linings Playbook” @ http://www.chongweikk.com/2012/11/soundtrack-snippets-of-danny-elfmans.html ******* Lyrics: Well you come up stairs in the night to talk Stay a little while then you do a little walk on home I hear you downstairs smoking cigerettes, I hear your talking shit Cuz you aint got

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

The #1 Most Critical Thing You Can Do After an Interview

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set - LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

Thank You Notes Greeting Card Set – LilyWhitesParty of Flickr

 

Your last interview seemed to flow really well. You were at the top of your game, knew all about your potential employer, and you asked plenty of questions. Still, there is a little bit of doubt eating away at you. Perhaps you should have asked more questions, or you forgot to mention one of your better achievements. It does not matter how well you performed, or did not perform during your interview. Send your interviewer a follow-up within 24 hours of the meeting, regardless of your performance. A follow-up is your chance to stand out from other applicants, and to remind your interviewer why YOU are the best candidate for the position.

 

Why the follow-up counts

A follow-up after an interview can convey three major points:

  1. Your follow-up informs interviewers that you are thankful for the interview and are serious about the position. Thank them for not just the interview, but the opportunity to learn more about the company culture, the people, and the initiatives.
  1. You can reiterate why you feel you are the right candidate for the position. Use your follow-up to remind them how your experience and skills are a good fit for the company.
  1. A great follow-up demonstrates your interest in the company. Often the hours of reflection after an interview can bubble up really good ideas as to how you can add value to a company. Capitalize on those ideas and send an interviewer what you envision to be your best approach at helping them achieve the objectives you now better understand.
  1. All of those things you wish afterward you could have said, you can now say. Sometimes you do not know where you missed the mark, or afterward you might feel as if you forgot to mention an experience that was directly applicable to what a potential employer is trying to achieve. Use this opportunity to turn things around if the interview did not go as well as you think. Make an employer want to know even more!

 

A follow-up can become a later opportunity

Intriguing an employer may be enough to keep you in the running as a candidate. A follow-up is also your opportunity to remind an interviewer about an important topic you discussed during the interview. You may feel as if you made a great impression by describing a particular problem you solved, or an interviewer might have been impressed by your professional achievements. This allows you to stand out among the many applicants applying for the same position, especially those who may not follow-up. Format also counts. E-mail is more than sufficient for your follow-up. A hand-written note is an extra step, but may remain with an interviewer longer, if he or she keeps a copy of it on their desk. If you are going to send a handwritten note, send an e-mail to be prompt AND a handwritten note. If you know a position needs to be urgently filled, go with e-mail. An actual letter could be too much. Send a note and an addendum if you have extensive information to relay.

If you weren’t right for the position, you can keep your name in the mind of the interviewer with a follow-up. The point of this follow-up isn’t to ask for reconsideration, but to keep your options open, in case another opportunity with the company should arise. Do not just send a simple “thank you,” but also send articles, whitepapers, and other resources. Not all at once- drip the content on them over time to maintain the relationship and let the employer know you’ve been thinking about them, their needs, and their goals. This demonstrates that you really took to heart what an interviewer said, and that you want to add value to a company.

In case you were wondering if following up might seem desperate: taking a moment to thank an interviewer is NOT desperate! You may be tempted to address any concerns you had during the interview in your follow-up. Proceed with caution here. Make sure an interviewer is interested before you start addressing any concerns such as a period of unemployment that you could not easily explain. In fact, if you are working with an outside recruiter, address your concerns with them. With an inside recruiter or the hiring manager, wait for the second interview to bring up any issues with your prospective employer.

 

Customize your follow-up for multiple interviews

You may have been interviewed by a panel for a position, instead of a single interviewer. Take a few moments to follow-up with all of them. Each person involved in the panel of interviewers represents a different area of the company, such as a department manager, an HR manager, and team leaders. Send each of your interviewers a customized note, not a template, to avoid embarrassment should they compare their follow-up notes.

 

If there is silence after an interview

At the end of your interview ask “If I don’t hear from you by X-date (next week, perhaps), how would you like me to follow-up with you?” A phone call is the best method, but some interviewers may have their own preferences. If you have not heard back from your interviewer within a few days, take the time to follow-up by phone, unless they have indicated otherwise. Silence can mean it is possible that you may have lost out to another candidate, but were not informed. People spend too much time contemplating why they aren’t getting a response when they could be taking it upon themselves to check in.

If you did not get the job, ask them why, this is valuable information for your next interview. That said, do not be surprised if you are not given the opportunity to receive feedback, or if you do not receive an answer. In my experience as a recruiter, as much as I thought this was valuable information for any job seeker to have, not every person was truly open to hearing or accepting constructive criticism. If an interviewer or recruiter takes the time to offer you feedback, be open to accepting that constructive criticism and thank them genuinely. When the time arrives for your next interview, you will be better prepared.

 

Following up after an interview can be the difference between landing the job, or being the runner up. It may not guarantee that you will land, but it can leave a good impression that could lead to future opportunity. Just imagine if there are two equally qualified candidates in the running for a position. One candidate sends out a thoughtful follow-up, where he or she thanks the interviewer for their time, reiterates why they are perfect for the position, and provides ideas on how they can offer value to the company- all within 24 hours of the interview. The other candidate is completely silent. Which scenario leaves a better impression on an interviewer? You want to be the candidate that leaves a positive and lasting impression on a potential employer. The time you spend on a follow-up can greatly increase your chances of landing.

 

Flip The Script On Your Sad Story

Captured from a coincidental Facebook post today on https://www.facebook.com/brenebrown

Captured from a coincidental Facebook post at https://www.facebook.com/brenebrown

Are you someone that doesn’t feel very confident telling your own career story? Have you practiced it and rewrote it in the car, in the shower, before you go to bed, assessing each detail to get your story just right? Does it consume too much of your time and energy and diminish your ability to be present in your life?

When you really think about it, does it feel like you’re defending yourself? When you tell that story, is there any subject in the story who would be inclined to defend themselves if they heard you tell that story? Does your voice go up? Do you get a little more animated?

On the other hand…

Have you ever been uncomfortable hearing somebody go into “dirty” details about a previous job? Did you ever find yourself doubting if the person even believed their own story or if they’re making it up to make himself sound better?

As observers of these stories, we are subconsciously human lie detectors, automatically assessing the authenticity of someone’s story. It can take an effort to listen solely with compassion and empathy. However, when we are the storytellers, we are essentially blind to how our stories are perceived. Since it is our brain’s natural inclination to defend its own “natural” responses, most people don’t see a better way to tell the story, but there is a better way!

 

What we want can sabotage us

As a student of Landmark Education, I learned that our primal motivation in communication is to make ourselves look good and, in doing so sometimes, make others look bad. The only way to stop this cycle so that you can be your authentic self and instill true trust and confidence is to acknowledge our nature, be accountable, and overcome you story. Another added bonus of being authentic and instilling confidence is job momentum in the form of increased employment leads and interviews that convert into job offers. Most recruiters are very skeptical; a candidate who is genuine has a large competitive advantage to one who appears to be hiding something, and most recruiters assume everyone is hiding something. The question that most concerns them is, is what you are hiding relevant to your job performance and your ability to be successful?

You might’ve heard that there are two sides to every story, but what happens when your story doesn’t match up with someone else’s? It becomes a he-said/she-said no-win situation. If you are telling a story about a previous work situation that presents any kind of risk, it will be something the recruiter is going to verify. If there are any discrepancies, you are out of the running.

Stories that we tell ourselves really do shape our reality. We owe it to ourselves to be clear about our role in the outcomes we create. We owe it to ourselves to create stories in our lives in which we are the heroes, and in which we embody the qualities that we admire most.

Vishen Lakhani, Founder of MindValley, identified six basic human needs in in his Mind Hack talk at Wisdom 2.0, which are very different from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The last of these needs, but certainly not the least, is a sense of control. Does that resonate with you? Is what you want most to feel a sense of control about what happens in your life? Is what you want most to feel like things will not happen to you that you don’t want to happen?

What are you seeing in your life right now? If you don’t feel like you have a sense of control, do you feel like you react instead of respond to adversities? Do you feel like people around you never give you what you ask for or what you need? Do you feel like things never go as planned?

 

Confronting yourself

The only way to get from where you are right now to where you want to be, if what you want is a sense of control and freedom to be authentic is to look deeply at yourself and how you contributed to the status of your life right now. This is not an exercise in shame. We unconsciously make ourselves feel worse all the time. When we defend ourselves in situations, and when we feel the need to de-stress or escape our lives by doing more things that are detrimental to our mental physical and emotional well-being, we are trying to escape guilt, shame, and, in essence, the reality that you created. These things, however, only enhance our sense of dread and diminish our control of our lives. The point here is to feel free and alive.

Confronting yourself about how you impact your own life can be painful, but as Carl Jung stated, what we resist persists. Once you recognize your own accountability, eliminate the pain faster by letting yourself feel it fully for a short, set amount of time, like a half hour or a half day, depending on how deeply seeded the pain is. Notice even WHERE your pain is physically, and allow yourself to truly feel it.

Once you feel as though you have felt as much pain as was there, consciously release it. You can do this just by stating it is so, for example, “I release my pain. Or, you can imagine putting this pain and putting your mistakes in to helium balloon and then releasing it into the air. You could write them down and burn them in a fire. Let them go, and let go of the stories that other people and circumstances beyond your control are the reasons that your life is the way it is. Having a sense of control of your life is a choice that you can simply make. It’s not just mental; it is emotional. When you empower yourself to change your life, feel that power inside you. Feel as though you are supported. Your imagination can be very powerful here. Even if you do not believe in a higher power, you can just imagine what it is like to be lucky and to have a charmed life where everything goes your way, and you will manifest better fortune.

Yes, we are sometimes damaged by the actions and words of others. There’s no denying the impact that other people can have to the way that we perceive ourselves and the world around us, however we always have choice. As Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” At some point, you may have given someone permission to hurt you emotionally, and now is the time to take it back.

 

Getting clear about what’s true and what’s story

 Once you release the self-inflicted pain of your previous choices, you put your brain’s defenses at ease and you can more clearly evaluate how you contributed to an unsuccessful situation. Create a timeline of the situation starting as early as possible. If it’s a job situation, think about your first interactions with the company and your boss. Was it possible you had clues or intuitions about a possible bad outcome that you ignored? Did you misrepresent a qualification in your desperation to get hired? These things happen all the time. The only way to prevent getting stuck in a similar story and be empowered to alter your future is to really see how your choices could have been different. We can never be sure what our present would look like had we made different choices, and we are sure to make mistakes, but we owe it to ourselves to NOT make the same mistakes that we know led us to an undesirable place in our lives, careers and relationships.

 

The flipped script

No employer will anticipate you being a perfect human being. In fact, they will anticipate that you have made some mistakes. Some people think that the question, “Tell us about your weaknesses,” is a trap designed to trick you into spilling your guts about how bad you are so they can eliminate you as a candidate. What an employer really actually wants you to deliver in your answer to that question is strong sense of character that you have built by making mistakes, acknowledging them, taking accountability for them, and either fixing them or learning a lesson that alters the way you approach the situation in the future. Your ability to acknowledge when you make a mistake actually presents you as less risky than somebody who blames others. When you tell a story about somebody else who is at fault, the listener projects you in the future telling similar stories about them. They don’t want to be the future subject of your blame stories.

Some career coaches will advise you on what to say and how to correct your posture to address these stories, and some people may be successful using these tactics. However, we have found that what you say and how you say it is not as impactful as WHO YOU ARE when you say it. Meaning, are you coming from a good intention and are you being your best self?

Once you remove the emotional charge of your previous stories, it’s time to write a new one. Please refer to our previous posts: Your Heroic Job Search, How to Use an Alter-Ego to Land a Job and Be The Rock Star for more insights on that.

 

DISCLAIMER:

In some cases, less is more. This might be a difficult thing to discern for yourself. If you have questions about how to address something either in a networking situation or interviewing situation, please reach out to us. There are times when we will advise you that all you want to report are exactly the facts of what happened and leave it there. For example, when there is a downsizing, no additional details are really necessary. You don’t need to go into the conditions under which a company needed to downsize, unless you are a person who directly impacted a company’s need to downsize.

Also, some people blame themselves after being laid off when it really was a blessing they just don’t recognize yet. Make sure you don’t spend eternity confronting yourself. The key is to release the pain and move forward in a better direction.

 

We’re all human (I’m assuming,) and we all have the same tendency to protect our fragile psyches. The thing is, we don’t always see how our protection ultimately inhibits our quality of life, and even sometimes our health. Coaches shine a mirror and a light on your blind spots. Few others will. If you are lacking a sense of control and feel unsupported, the only way to change that is to recognize how powerful you are in creating your reality, CHOOSE to embrace your power, and learn how you can make better choices that align with who you really are. Until we shed the weight of the protection we carry, we don’t realize how much it has weighed us down, how light and free we can feel, and how high we can really go.