Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Graduates- don’t wait till after graduation to start the job hunt! Start now!

8-29-13 graduates...

I’m always surprised to get a call from a graduate that I haven’t heard from in months only to find out they are not working, have not been working, and haven’t even begun the career search.

“How have you been?”

“Fine thanks.”

“What have you been up to?”

“I took a break from the job hunt after graduation, but now I’m ready to start looking.”

“Did you keep in touch with your intern/extern supervisor?”

“No. I kinda just wanted to give my brain a rest after school.”

“Have you started applying with any of the employers you met with while in school?”

“No.”

“Do you have an idea where you’d like to work?”

“No. I just want a job. Can you help?”

Unfortunately, this conversation is far from infrequent. It doesn’t seem to matter how often I inform my students they need to strike while the iron is hot; inevitably, there are those who feel a 6-month vacation is not going to affect their chances of gainful employment. Even worse, they don’t feel the education they worked so hard for adds enough value to their skill set to obtain a career over a job.

WAKE UP! The country is full of people just looking for a job. We live in a country running short on skilled, educated workers, and you just want a job? Why did you go to college? Why did you spend all that time begging, stealing, and borrowing all that money to obtain your degree? Surely it wasn’t to get just a job?

If you are looking ahead at your graduation within the next 6-12 months, you should already;

  • Have a list of employers you want to work for.
  • Have a list of contact at those employers.
  • Know how your training/education will add value to their organization.
  • Have a kick butt resume.
  • Have a stellar cover letter.
  • 3-5 professional references all lined up.
  • Letters of recommendation from your instructors, supervisors, volunteer coordinators, etc.

Last but, by no means, least you must have enthusiasm, ambition, and determination to not quit until you obtain the career you dreamt about when you started your educational journey.

  • Don’t take 6-months off. Don’t take 6-minutes off.
  • Don’t ignore your resources who are there to help you.
  • And by no means, don’t ever underestimate the power of your education.

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
    ~Nelson Mandella

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

If you were a Muppet which would you be? The Strangest Interview Question I’ve Been Asked

If you were a Muppet which would you be? The Strangest Interview Question I've Been Asked.

If you were a Muppet which would you be? The Strangest Interview Question I’ve Been Asked

kermit-the-frog-the-muppets

I’ve been working with students and graduates on mock interviews. The one question I always get asked is, “What is the strangest quetion you’ve ever been asked in an interview?”

  • Well, it’s not, “If you were an animial what would you be?” (A Lion by the way.)
  • “Which cheesy 80’s song do you listen to the most?” (Anything Richard Marx.)
  • “Which Muppet do you most closely identify with?” (This is a toss up between Kermit the Frog and Fozzy Bear, and is a constant souce of disagreement between my mother an myself.)

The strangest interview question I ever received came from a man I never thought would hire me, at a company I didn’t think I was qualified to work for, at the first interview I thought I’d blown. One question threw me into such a tail spin, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

“So, I’m going to give you three minutes to ask me anything you want to ask, then you get 60-seconds to tell me what you’ve learned.”

I spent three minutes shooting off questions trying to discover family, home, hobbies, education, religious, and political information about my interviewer.

“Time’s up,” he said. “What did you learn?”

My response? “Well, did you want me to find out about you personally or professionally?

His response? “You probably should have asked that question first, shouldn’t you?”

OUCH! I began to shot off all my Holmesian conclusions and with a look of sheepish satisfaction, craving a fatherly approval, he looked at me and replied, “Thank you. We’ll be intouch.”

I forgot to mention this was my last interview of a day-long round robin of interviews for what I thought was a dream job and I just blew it, or so I thought.

I believe all stories should have a happy ending. Needless to say, I did get the job, and within 2-years, he was my direct supervisor. He promoted me to my first department head position and became my best, most infuential and beloved mentor. One day I got the gumption up to ask him about the question.

“Jim, what was the point of that question? What were you looking for in an answer?”

“Bets, there is no right or wrong answer. It is a question to see how you can communicate in a stressful or uncomfortable situation with executive level leaders. You did great. You didn’t stop. You fully used your time. Your answer was full of humor and insight, and you spoke articulately.”

It’s not alway about the right answer. but the right attitude. Be positive, be confident, and take risks. You never know where they can lead you. Mine lead me to a career path that, if I had hesitated trying to find the right answer, I might have missed out on.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome – Sensory Part 5

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I’ve never really been a fan of war movies or Clint Eastwood (I know that’s almost un-American), however his 1986 Heartbreak Ridge became one of my all-time favorites and not just because both my father and older brother are Marines. I’m something of a student of human nature and the dynamics of Gunny Highway (Clint Eastwood) and his ragtag band of Marine misfits (Oxymoron isn’t it) is remarkable. Why you ask, because of three words; improvise, adapt, overcome.

This group of United States Marines weren’t the smartest, strongest, most skilled or highly motivated group of young men, but these three words made them the most successful group of soldiers in their unit; improvise, adapt, overcome.

You may be out there looking for your new career. You’ve been through an uncountable number of interviews with little to no success and your beginning to wonder, “Is it me?”. No it’s not and yes it is. So many of us go out thinking, “I’ve got this.” When in actuality we are not nearly as prepared as we think we are.

The best thing you can do is to take an inventory; in other words Check Yourself before you Wreck Yourself

The days of walking into an interview, introducing yourself and handing in a resume are LONG since gone.

You have to:

  • Prepare.
  • Know your audience.
  • Understand their business.
  • Demonstrate your ability to communicate.
  • Show them you understand their company culture.
  • Impress them with thoughtful and relevant questions.
  • Put their minds at ease regarding the chance they are taking on you.
  • Exhibit your exceptional customer service skills through appropriate follow up and follow through.

Yes it sounds like a lot; however getting a job is a full-time job and anything less than your best effort will yield less than the best results. Interviewing is hard. Pardon me for a moment while I channel my mom, “If it wasn’t hard to get, is it really worth having?” I don’t normally quote her but, in this instance mom was right on.

If you have doubts regarding your interviewing skills, how to research the company you’re interviewing with, and any other interview tips and tricks; ask an expert. There are tons of great resources like A Better Interview . Ask a friend working in the field you are trying to get into. Ask your preferred employers for an informational interview to find out more about their business. Exceptional rewards take exceptional efforts. You can do this and you can be successful, it’s all up to you and what you are willing to put into it.

For more information on interviewing, resume writing and career changes, check back often. I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your feedback and suggestions for future series.

Touching and Tasting in an Interview, WHAT? Sensory Part 4

handshake

Do you remember that “Friends” Friends episode where Rachel finally got the dream job interview and at the end mistook her interviewers intentions of opening the door for her as him coming in for a kiss? This is a great example of how touching should NEVER be part of your interview.

I know we all have funny stories about absolutely embarrassing things we’ve done in an interview, ALL of us. However for the sake of today lets keep them narrowed down to just two areas.

I started on touch, so let me finish with that before moving on. There is only one, and I mean,ONE instance where touching should be involved in an interview; yup you guessed it, the hand shake.

This is an underestimated gesture in the interview process; yet so important. It demonstrates confidence, articulation, enthusiasm and so much more. A firm hand shake (no don’t make them wince) accompanied by a smile, a confident look in the eye and a clear introduction made with genuine enthusiasm can positively influence the most stoic of interviewers.

Seems easy enough, but like the friend I spoke about last week in my article on “Sound ” sometimes just shaking hands, smiling and speaking with confidence can be very difficult. The answer, PRACTICE.

Now on to Taste, how did that interview taste to you? I know what you’re thinking, you can’t taste an interview. Well actually you can.

Did you?

  • Bring in your coffee?
  • Walk in chewing a piece of gum?
  • Chewing on a mint?
  • Bring in your big gulp?
  • Bring in your water bottle?

As you can see bringing your taste with you to an interview can leave a bad taste with the interviewer. Quick story; a young man (let’s call him Sam) walks into his interview. He is greeted by the receptionist, she politely asks, “Would you like some coffee or tea?” Sam answers, “Yes I would love some tea, thank you.” The horror in the receptionist’s eye was obvious, she had asked out of politeness, and now she has to go and find some tea, which she does not have. Answer politeness with politeness and just say, ”No thank you.”

Too much can go wrong in an interview where there is liquid involved.

    You could:

  • Spill it.
  • Slur it.
  • Dribble it on your pristine outfit (this has happened to me more than once but I’m clumsier than most).
  • Cough and spit it at the interviewer.
  • Sneeze and spit it at the interviewer.

I think you’re getting the idea. Remember the point of the interview is to be a clean slate they can envision actually in the job. If you do any of the above what are they going to visualize? I’ll tell you, they’ll visualize you doing the same to a customer, client or partner. Not a good visual, right? Not to start the relationship certainly.

You have to take into account all aspects if the interview and how you touch and taste are just as important as how you’re seen, sound and smell.

Tune in on “Friday” for the grand finale of your interview as a sensory experience.

Sound Funny to You? Sensory Part 3

sound

Have you ever listened to your recorded voice and catch yourself, “Oh my gosh, I sound just like my mom!” Then you find yourself talking with a lower voice or slower to correct what you think is just plain wrong? It’s not that different with an interview. Right along with “Sight” and Smell; Sound is a powerful influencer.

The first thing that normally comes to mind when we think of sound and how it relates to our interviewing performance is how we answer questions. That is a very true statement, but have you thought of how the following might influence your interview as well?

  • Noisy jewelry.
  • Noisy shoes.
  • Drinking from your thermos or 64oz Big Gulp.
  • Grinding your teeth.
  • Your cell phone vibrating in your purse or pocket.
  • The tone of your voice when you introduce yourself.
  • Clicking your nails or pen.
  • Tapping your feet on the floor.

Yes we all have nervous habits that make up our quirky uniqueness. However there is a time and place to display those and an interview is not one of them. I shared previously that the goal of an interview is to be able for the employer to visualize you in the job; the composed, confident, articulate, professional you.

Being aware of your quirky and noisy nervous twitches is the first step to keeping them under control. You however are not the most objective identifier. This is where a great interviewing coach or mentor can come into play. Sitting down with someone for a mock interview is the best preparation you could ask for. Let them help you identify those twitches so you can work on not doing them. Practice walking into a room, shaking hands and introducing yourself, smile, stand up straight and speak clearly and confidently.

A mock interview can help you recognize if you:

  • Mumble or slur your words.
  • Over use words such as; um, like, you know, uh, so, and other dead time fillers.
  • Grind your teeth.
  • Tap your feet.
  • Etc.

I know that not everyone feels comfortable having another person practice with them to identify areas for improvement. However, isn’t it better to find out what those areas are from an objective 3rd party than from the employer you are dying to work for? That’s like letting someone you don’t know cut your hair before you told them what style you wanted; not a smart idea.

An interview is a highly subjective moment in time. It’s you telling another person(s) that you’re all that and a bag of chips and hoping they believe you. Your best chance is to bring the most polished, practiced, prepared version of you to the table. The best way to accomplish that is to work with someone to help identify those areas where you don’t sound that way.

A friend of mine came to me for assistance with a job interview. She is a painfully shy young woman who has difficulty putting herself forward. We practiced question after question; she had her answers down and she was ready for whatever they asked. All she had to do was be able to walk in the door, shake a hand, smile, make eye contact and introduce herself. She didn’t think she could do it.

So what did we do? We went shopping! I took her to the mall to buy a new outfit for the interview and for each person that came up to us in the stores, she had to say, “Hi, my name is Billie, it’s so nice to meet you.” and shake their hand. I thought she was going to kill me but; 3 sales clerks, 2 cashiers and one waitress later, she had it down.

Yes she got the job, yes she still chides me for putting her through it and yes she credits the preparation, identification and practice to her success.

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Identify the areas for development, practice how to improve and then nail the interview!

Come back on Thursday, August 15th to find out how Touch can influence your interview!

How to Send an Interesting Interview Follow-Up Note

The Search Firm Insider

Soreaching candidates you landed the interview, did your company research, had great rapport with the hiring manager and breezed through the interview questions.  You gave a proper, firm handshake, and left the interview feeling pretty good about yourself. Then they didn’t call you, or a month went by…and they turned you down. What gives?

You should have written a follow-up note. Maybe you did, but it was a waste of their time, because it offered nothing useful, and was the exact note they’ve seen 1000 times before, so they hit delete without even looking at the name. Sending a follow-up note is expected. You’re not leaping ahead of the pack by sending one, you’re still in the middle of the pack. Hey, at least you’re not the sickly, limping straggler anymore, right?

If you want your follow-up note to shine, and really make a good impression on your…

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Is the résumé summary statement on its way out?

Things Career Related

I’ve read many résumés that contain summary statements (or Personal/Professional Profile) which, in effect, say nothing at all. I’ve spoken to recruiters and hiring managers who told me they don’t even read the summary statement.

Is the summary statement on its way out or even dead? Is it wasted real estate? Have we become a society so hurried that we don’t have time to read a section of the résumé that tells our story, expresses our value, leads to the meat of  our experience, encourages reviewers to continue reading?

I fear we are reaching the point where the summary statement is gradually losing the foothold it once held. And as a result, I fear what used to be a poetically written four or five lines of prose is becoming obsolete and will soon be excluded from the résumé, simply because people who read résumé don’t have the time. I hope I’m…

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Their nose Knows if you’re a good fit – Sensory Part 2

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You’re in the perfect well thought out ensemble. You’re groomed, ironed, smiling and confident…but how do you smell? Seems like a silly question but let me pose this to you?

Did you…

  • Drink coffee or soda prior to your interview?
  • Light up to ease your nerves?
  • Sprayed perfume or cologne?
  • Used a ton of hairspray?
  • Have you brushed your teeth?
  • Applied deodorant?
  • What do your shoes smell like?
  • Are you a gum chewer?
  • Are you a mint chomper?
  • Did you have you a drinking binge last night?

All of these can affect your interview.

Did you know that smell is one of the strongest senses and one of the easiest to cause discomfort?

Have you ever walked up to shake someone’s hand and their breath made you want to take a step back? Have you walked by someone you know was just smoking because the cloud followed them into the building? Did you go out to celebrate the night before your interview? You know that the smell of alcohol can exude from your pores for up to 12-hours after you finished drinking, right?

It may seem obvious; in reality it is obviously overlooked.
My husband was in the process of hiring a new student worker. He had met with several candidates and was on his final interview walking in the door when he experienced an extremely offensive smell. Now before you get carried away, he has one smell aversion and that is watermelon. I can’t even have the stuff in the house, unfortunate for me because I love it. The student walking in the door had just been chewing on a piece of watermelon gum and had disposed of it before she came in. However, the smell was so strong that he couldn’t even make it through the interview. He asked all the required questions, thanked her for her time and sent her on her way. Did she get the job, no, was that fair, maybe not. However, this speaks exactly to what we’ve been talking about. You need to present a clean, neat, professional slate that an employer can see in the job. My husband just saw watermelon pink and green coming in the door with that smell every day. It wasn’t going to happen.

Before you leave your house make a check list.

  • Shower!
  • Did I brush my teeth (after the coffee)?
  • Did I apply deodorant?
  • Don’t apply cologne or perfume.
  • Don’t smoke before your interview!
  • Don’t chew strong smelling gum or candy.
  • Don’t party the night before; your cosmo will come seeping through your pores.

    You never know who you are going to interview with, what preconceptions, hang ups and prejudices they are bringing to the table. Your best chance is to come in as a neutral palate they feel they can write on. Check yourself, and be yourself…the very best version of yourself.

    Check back on Wednesday, August 14 to hear more about how sound can affect your interview.

Is Interviewing a Sensory Experience – Part 1 of 5

sensory overload

How much time do you spend getting ready for an interview? When I ask my students this question, the normal answer is a tirade upon how long it took for them to pick out an outfit (the winner thus far is two weeks), picking the right hair style and make up, and coordinating shoes and lip gloss. For my male students, it’s the Shakespearian, “To iron or not to iron” conundrum.

What many people fail to realize is that an interview, believe it or not, is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences. The interview encompasses all of your senses and after taking a minute to review them, you may be surprised how missing just one can cost you the job.

This is the first part of a series regarding the five senses of an interview.

Let’s take these one at a time…

Sight – This, of course, is the most obvious; it takes into consideration… your clothes, shoes, jewelry, make up, hair, etc. It also takes into consideration your walk, your smile, your cell phone, your watch, eye contact, etc. One of the things that novice and professional job candidates alike fail to recognize is that sight encompasses ALOT!

  • Are you talking on your cell phone when you walk in the door? BAD
  • Do you keep checking your cell phone or watch? BAD
  • Are you standing up straight and presenting a professional confident demeanor? GOOD
  • Do you look people in the eye when you introduce yourself and shake their hand? GOOD
  • When you are sitting waiting for the interview to begin, are you sitting up straight? GOOD

When I’m working with students to hone in on their soft skills, especially their interview skills, I tell them the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the hiring manager can actually visualize them doing the job. You never know what kind of prejudices the employer may have, so you want to present a clean, professional slate that they can see fitting into their culture. If you have tattoos, facial piercings, stiletto heels, low cut tops, high cut skirts, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair…what does that say about you and the image their organization is trying to present? Yes you may look great, for Friday night, but not for Monday morning.

Remember to think of the job you want and dress for it: not too much, not too little, but just right. Give yourself the best foot forward to get the job, and then let YOU shine through. An interview is not the time to make a social political statement; it’s the time to show the employer you are the best fit in skills, culture, and professionalism.

  • When in doubt, look in the mirror. If you think your skirt may be too short or your top too low…it probably is. Change it.
  • If you’re wondering, “Iron or not to iron,” throw it in the dryer till it’s flat.
  • Is your make up Friday night fresh or Monday morning professional? Fix it.
  • Can you hear your shoes or jewelry coming down the hall? Change them.
  • If you are expecting a call that’s so important you have to take your cell in with you…Reschedule the interview.
  • Take a look in the mirror, and ask one simple question: “Would I hire me?”

Take a deep breath, walk into the office, smile, introduce yourself with confidence, look them in the eye, and let them know you are the best person for the job.

Check back on Tuesday, August 13th where I’ll discuss how it’s not your nose but theirs that matters.