Ace the Phone Interview

Interview - comks12851 - $50

Congratulations on getting that interview!  These days it takes hard work to get even that far in the search process.  That is unless you have expertise in some esoteric programming stream processing framework like Storm, S4 or Samza.  Huh?

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.  First, consider a phone interview pretty much like a face-to-face meeting. Prepare in detail just as you would normally.  Dress the same too.  Create a private space without noise or distraction to take the call, one where you know you will get the best phone reception.  Be ready a few minutes ahead of time and operating on all cylinders – be at your best.

The nice thing about phone interviews (that are not Skyped) is that you can have some notes in front of you, but be very careful not to have too much. You don’t want to be in the position of making noise by shuffling papers or taking too much time to answer because you’re searching through your notes to find it.

Use your computer to help you, one with a big enough screen to be useful.  Not your phone; it’s not big enough. I highly recommend that you bring up the person’s LinkedIn profile so that you can talk to the person directly. It’s not ideal in that the facial expression is fixed and you won’t be able to read body language, but I believe you can still tell a great deal just from a photograph.

And don’t forget to prepare ahead.  You can download a free copy of my proven Interview Prep Guide from the Resources page of my web site.  Good luck!

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Watch Your Language, Young Man!

Resume Image LinkedIn recently announced its 2013 Top 10 Overused Buzzwords in member profiles. One of them is “responsible.” Why is this not a good word to use? What are good words to use in a resume or profile instead of “responsible,” and what are some good words to use to make your resume stand out?

I agree wholeheartedly with LinkedIn on this issue and have always advised against using the word “responsible” as in “Responsible for conducting surveys, updating spreadsheets, and producing reports.” First, it is unclear as to whether or not you actually performed these tasks or if you managed one or more employees who did. If you did perform these activities, then you should just say so. Use this opportunity to describe your actions and their results as in the example below. Your resume shouldn’t be just a list of your job duties.Client Resume Review

◾ Conducted surveys of all new employees, approximately 500, for the first quarter of 2013, completing this task in half the usual time by implementing an online survey application.
◾ Input respondent data into spreadsheet offering an immediate comparison with surveys from Q1 2012.
◾ Formatted, printed and compiled survey details and summary data into executive reports and delivered to senior management.

If on the other hand, you managed a team of one or more people who performed these duties, you could describe it this way:

◾ Managed execution and reporting of quarterly survey of new employees, averaging 500/quarter.
◾ Obtained Vice President’s approval to implement SurveyMonkey as our first web-based survey solution, completing the entire survey process in half the usual time.

You will want to use vocabulary that presents your achievements in the best light, ones that indicate that you accomplished something that someone else in your position may not have been able to do, that you made a difference. Describe the results of your actions as compared to previous results or compared to other companies in your industry, but only if the comparisons are positive for you. Include situations when you introduced a process that improved the way work was getting done.

Mauri in Orange BlouseHi my name is Mauri, and I am the President of Career Insiders, a career management and talent acquisition consulting firm. I speak frequently at conferences, job fairs, and career panels. Earlier this year I was invited to participate on a panel discussion at NCHRA’S Annual HR West Conference. I consult with career centers at universities including UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Tulane University, Mills College, and others, and contribute regularly to publications such as TheLadders RecruitBlog. I am what some might consider a professional “people person.”

One Size Does Not Fit All

I can’t stress enough how important it is to tailor your resume to each specific position.  It must immediately capture the attention of the hiring manager as he/she will only give it a 15-20 second glance to decide whether to reject it or to continue reading.  Your cover letter should be well written, short and to the point, directly addressing your relevant qualifications in a way that will compel the hiring manager to take a look at your resume.  However, it’s not enough to customize your cover letter, because the vast majority of them are never read, even often when one is expressly requested.  With only a short amount of time to sift through hundreds of applications, most hiring managers and even HR will go straight to the resume, and it must be able to stand alone.

In the initial 15-20 second scan of your resume, the reader will most likely focus on the top 1/3 of the first page.  Anything they need to know about you regarding your fit for their job should somehow be expressed in this space.  That is why I recommend using a summary of qualifications section at the top to outline these key points in bullet form.  I also advise that for each of your jobs, you include only relevant experience so as not to cloud the picture and make it difficult for the reader to see pertinent achievements.  A resume is a marketing brochure, not a historical document.

I believe in using what I call the People Magazine philosophy of resume writing, as compared to The New Yorker or Vanity Fair whose articles go on and on for days.  In People as in the USA Today newspaper, for each article there is a headline, a sub-headline, and a few sentences. It is easy to grasp the key points without making a huge commitment of time.  Keep in mind that the purpose of a resume is not to get you a job; it is to convince the hiring manager to invite you to interview.

Regarding LinkedIn, it is true that while you may have several versions of your resume, you only have one LinkedIn profile.  My rule in this case is to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is not inconsistent with any of your resumes.  That will most likely mean that it will contain fewer details about your experience.  This may not be ideal, but it’s much better than causing confusion with mismatched bios.

Carefully proofread all your documents – resumes, cover letter, thank you notes, and emails.  Nothing is worse than saying you have excellent communication skills when you have grammatical or spelling errors.

Finally got an Interview? Don’t screw it up!

Interview - comks12851 - $50

A client recently approached me to help her prepare for an interview with an organization that she had been trying to get into for the past six months. She was very concerned that she perform well because she knew she wouldn’t get another chance…and rightly so.

In today’s job market, it is so difficult to land an interview that you need to make sure you do a good job.  As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.  Here are some good tips.  Study the job description carefully and identify the four or five most important criteria.  What skills do they need the most?

For each of the criteria that you have defined, write a couple of sentences that indicate how you fulfill that requirement.  Describe one or two achievements that most illustrate your ability to carry out that function.  Be sure to write complete sentences, not just notes. This way you will be comfortable speaking in full sentences during the interview. Make your statements concise and be sure to highlight the positive results of your actions.

Don’t take these notes into the interview but practice reading them, keeping in mind that you need to stop when you reach the end of your answer.  I emphasize this because it will help prevent you from rambling which is one of the most common interview mistakes.  You will want to deliver the information and stop.  It will then be up to the interviewer to move on to the next topic or ask follow-up questions.  Select accomplishments that are among your most significant, ones of which you are proud.  However, be sure to use examples that are most relevant to the specific position.

Remember that this is not about what you want; it’s all about what they need.  Refrain from bringing up experiences that are not germane.  This will only cloud the issue with extraneous information.

If you have properly prepared this framework, you can use the information to respond to a variety of questions.  For example, if you are asked, “Tell me about yourself,” the interviewer does not want to hear you recount your life history or even your professional history from the beginning to the present.  By the time you get to the most recent / most relevant information, you may have lost their attention.  Tell them the aspects about yourself that show them you will do their job successfully.

If you are asked, “Why should we hire you,” this is another ideal time to respond with the key points in your framework.  If you are asked to describe your strengths, make sure they correlate directly with these same points.

Throughout the interview, show enthusiasm for the job and the company even if you aren’t sure you will accept an offer.  At the conclusion, be sure to thank them and let them know you are interested.  If the information is not provided, ask them to tell you what the next steps in the decision process will be and when you should expect to hear back.  Also, ask for business cards so that you can write a thank you letter as soon as possible after the interview, preferably the same day and by email so that they receive it immediately.

Good luck!

(Please email me for a free copy of my Interview Prep Guide)

Linking on LinkedIn

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Whether in person or through social media, a first impression is made within a matter of seconds, and the opportunities to change this impression are few and far between. So whether connecting with a friend, colleague, or boss, it’s extremely important to make your first attempt so good that they can’t ignore you.

Today I’d like to focus on LinkedIn. I’m a true believer in the value of LinkedIn as a job search tool, especially for research, and naturally I have a lot of connections. I’m happy to connect with people I know but lately I’ve been receiving invitations from folks I have no way of having met, from all over the world.  I guess I could be flattered, but I wish they would provide some information as to how they know me and why they’d like to connect with me. Since I’m known as the career expert who is committed to integrating old-fashioned interpersonal relationship building skills (i.e., social etiquette) with the latest technological tools, this has prompted me to lay out my three cardinal rules for LinkedIn requests:

  1. Never ask a stranger to connect!  If you want to introduce yourself, do it in an email or by phone. Build the connection first before you try to link.  If you’ve just met someone at a party or networking event and you’ve exchanged contact info, then that counts.
  2. Never use the “Friend” category unless that person would consider you their friend. If you have attended the same school, then you may use “Classmate” even if you weren’t there at the same time.  The same goes for “Colleague” if you have worked at the same company.  Otherwise, use “Other” and type in the person’s email address in the box provided.  If you’ve followed rule #1, you will have this information.
  3. Never use the generic introduction message that Linkedin provides! Take 20 seconds or so to personalize the request. Remember it took days, weeks, months, and maybe even years to build this connection.