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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Naughty or Nice?

People NetworkingThe holidays are coming up and many people think they should give their job search a break.  While it is true that there is less hiring activity because many people take vacations, it is wrong to assume that nothing gets done.  With the economy the way it is, people are not taking as much vacation time as they may have in the past.   And that includes hiring managers.  While many job seekers are taking this time off, why don’t you use this opportunity to take advantage of a bit less competition?

In addition, this is a good time to engage professional help as most job search expenses are tax deductible (check with the IRS for details).  Services you purchase before December 31 will be tax deductible for 2013.

The holiday period is a terrific time for networking…parties, parties, parties.  It is a great excuse to contact people you haven’t seen all year.  Send out holiday greetings, invite people out or over.  If you are invited to parties, GO!  Host a party yourself.   Being among your friends will lift your spirits and your self confidence.

When contacting friends, be sure to ask about them, how they are and what they are doing.  And let them know about you, how you are, and that you are looking for a new job…and be specific about the job you are seeking.  You can lighten it up by adding, “I thought I’d let you know just in case you hear of something.”

Send holiday greetings by email to those companies you haven’t heard from in a while.  Use this as an excuse to make an additional follow-up connection.

When you attend events, plan ahead.  Think about the people you know who will probably be there.  Prepare your “elevator speech” but in a lighter more social tone.  Again, ask them about themselves, what they have been doing, etc. and let them know about your job search.

Also consider that there may be people whom you don’t know as well and make it a point to meet as many of them as possible.   One of my favorite sayings about networking is that whenever there are two or more people, it’s a networking event!  Be sure to collect business cards so that you can follow up as soon as possible.

One last word of advice…if you are partying and networking, please be on your best behavior and do not overuse alcohol.  (Well, at least I didn’t say not to drink at all!)

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.”

Get Organized!!

Get organizedMy advice is always to customize your resume for each job opportunity, but how can you keep track of everything?  Create a document folder for each position that you submit a resume for. In this folder include the resume version you submitted for that job plus a copy of the job description, cover letter, and any other related documentation or correspondence. Be sure to save a copy of the full job description rather than just the url to the online posting as the posting may be removed from the company’s web site at any time.

Name your documents in such a way that they can be clearly identified – by the company’s recruiter and/or hiring manager as well as by you. For the recruiter/hiring manager, document tiles should include your name and the type of document; ie resume or cover letter. Don’t overlook the fact that this simple title is a mini writing sample, and so you should make sure that there are no spelling errors. Even if you’re careful to keep the right resume version in the proper folder, you may want to add something that identifies the company and/or position. Here are some examples:

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (Google)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (Google-VP, Finance)

You may add a date if you’d like but it’s much less important.

  • Schwartz, Mauri – Resume (2013)
  • Schwartz, Mauri – Cover (2013-0718)

Finally, you should create an Excel spreadsheet to track your job search progress and include the following information.

  • Company Name
  • Job Title
  • Person Contacted/Person to Contact
  • Contact Info
  • Action Taken
  • Date Action Taken
  • Next Action to Take
  • Date of Next Action to Take
  • Notes/Comments

It’s important to keep your tracking spreadsheet up to date. I’ve found that clients who do this make more progress in their search if only because they have a written plan which specifies what they need to do next and when. In this way, they keep themselves accountable.

Here’s a lagniappe: If you use Word’s Tracking feature to show changes you’ve made or those made by someone else whom you’ve asked to proofread your resume, don’t forget to turn tracking off before sending it out! (A lagniappe is a word use chiefly in Louisiana which means “a small gift given with a purchase to a customer, by way of compliment or for good measure; a bonus.”)

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. I recently 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.”

Job Search Etiquette

Interview Recently, a recruiter friend of mine told me that her client was preparing to extend a job offer to one of her candidates after a round of successful interviews.  As news of the offer was being communicated to my friend to forward to the candidate, the client received an email from the candidate thanking her for the opportunity to interview.

Proper etiquette, right?  However, in the candidate’s message, she came across as arrogant, rude, and careless as her message included misspellings and grammatical errors, and related in detail all the processes that she would change in her first few weeks on the job. Naturally, the hiring manager was offended, changed his mind and rescinded the offer. This story caused me to think that it would be good to talk more about job search etiquette.

Here are four key areas of interaction to consider when conducting a job search, or any time for that matter.

1)      Networking

  • Offer to help; focus on the ‘give’ side of a 2-way ‘give and take’ exchange.  When you make new contacts at networking events or when you reach out to your existing contacts, think first about how you can help them in their endeavors, whether they be career related or not. Keep in mind that supporting someone in an endeavor automatically makes that person want to return the favor. I call this Networking Karma.
  • Be respectful of your contact’s time and make it comfortable for that person to say yes. Don’t ask for a job; ask for advice. Everyone has advice and is happy to give it. Furthermore, you are paying her a compliment by implying that she is an expert.
  • Everywhere I look, career experts are advising job seekers to ask for informational interviews. I agree with the concept but disagree with the wording of the request. An informational interview conjures up a 30-60 minute meeting which resembles an interview but for which there is no open position that can be offered to you. This can make your contacts feel somewhat uncomfortable, first about committing so much time and then for feeling that you expect more than they can give.
  • I’m not saying this is actually what you expect, but it is the thought process that often occurs. So I say ask for a chat, which is defined as an ‘informal conversation or talk conducted in an easy familiar manner’ and implies a much shorter amount of time, for which it will be easier to get a contact to commit.

2)      Face to Face

  • Everyone knows that you should be on time for a meeting; do not keep your contact waiting. If you are meeting that person in her office, you should also beware of arriving too early. Since you are a guest in her space, she may feel responsible for meeting with you earlier than planned and uncomfortable if she can’t. If you’re sitting in the reception area for a long time, you also make other people in the office uncomfortable, and you will end up feeling awkward as well. Arrive only about 5 minutes before your designated meeting time.
  • Be prepared, know what you want to discuss and be clear about what you would like for this person to do for you. Don’t make them figure it out. Don’t shove your resume in front of her and expect her to figure out what type of job you should seek.
  • Listen and be patient, pay attention to what the person is telling you and show your appreciation for her insight without countering every suggestion with an excuse.  I really don’t have to say that your cell phone should be off and out of sight, do I?

3)      On the Phone – Pretend this is a face-to-face meeting and follow all my recommendations above. If you are leaving a voice message, make it short and to the point. Follow it up with an email if you have a lot to say. I have a colleague who not only shows up early for all our meetings but calls a couple of minutes in advance of our scheduled phone appointments. This drives me crazy, and I recommend that you call one or two minutes after your scheduled time to give the other person a chance to be ready for you.

4)      In Writing – There will be numerous occasions to send thank you messages. Always do so immediately after meeting with someone, whether it is for an interview or networking. When you’ve landed your new position and your job search is over, don’t forget to go back again and thank all those people who have helped you in any way. Whatever type of message you are sending – thank you notes, cover letters, or other correspondence, be polite and make sure that you thoroughly check for spelling and grammatical errors. Do not use text-like abbreviations such as BTW, FYI, etc. And don’t use texting or twitter to convey any of these messages. Texting is okay when the other person has used texting to contact you, but still beware of using texting abbreviations.

Here’s an extra tip:  When using a formal salutation that includes Ms or Mr, follow it only with the person’s last name. I am continually surprised by the number of people who will begin a letter with Dear Ms Mauri Schwartz when the correct way is Dear Ms Schwartz.

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. I recently 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.”

Do Unto Others: Don’t Drop the Ball

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One of the most common complaints that job seekers have is the silence that frequently follows resume submissions and interviews.  I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard one of these statements.

Ÿ “I sent in my resume 2 weeks ago but haven’t heard anything in response.”

Ÿ “The recruiter reached out to me to see if I might be interested in a specific position.  After a brief conversation, she said she’d talk to the hiring manager and get back to me.  That was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t heard from her since.”

Ÿ “Last month I interviewed with the hiring manager and it seemed to go well.  I was told that I would be contacted in a couple of days to schedule follow-on meetings with his staff, but it’s been radio silence since.  I even called the recruiter and she hasn’t responded.  I just wish someone would tell me something one way or the other.”

I find it incredible that the recruiters involved in these situations fail to communicate to the candidates.  The common wisdom is that if you don’t hear anything, they’re not interested.  So what?   If this is the case, the recruiter should have the common decency to contact the candidate to let him know that he will not be considered further, preferably by phone but at the very least by email, including an indication of the reason for rejection.  This show of respect will allow him to move on to other opportunities and perhaps adjust his search strategy, grateful for the feedback.

But to the ever hopeful job seeker, silence doesn’t always equate to rejection.  Many things could be happening.  The hiring manager could be on vacation, traveling for business, caught up in an office emergency.  Any number of issues may have occurred to slow the process down.  Communicate this to the candidate, providing status updates with a revised timeframe for continuing the process if applicable.  Even if you don’t have any substantive information yourself, notify him of that.  He would much prefer to know even if the news is negative.  Avoiding contact, not responding to emails and phone calls, is not acceptable procedure.

Sure, we’re all busy and time can easily slip away from us, but this communication doesn’t need to take long.  I think we may have become too complacent and fail to realize just how important these common courtesies are, both in terms of etiquette and the effect they have on your personal and corporate brands.  Perhaps it would be more obvious if you think of yourself as an employee working on the other end of the business, in marketing or sales, and consider each of these applicants as a customer who will carry away an impression of what it is like to work with you and your company.  Behave as if you expect to see yourself reviewed on Yelp or Glassdoor…and as you would like if you were in their place.

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 and have been invited to speak at HR West 2013 in April. 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.