Category Archives: Career Development

Why Do They Ask That?

imagesCAZDDIOR

Yesterday I received an instant message from a student who was asked a question during an interview she wasn’t sure how to answer. She was interviewing for a Medical Billing position and the hiring manager asked “What would you do if the computer system went down?” She was confused by the question and after the interview called to ask me why they asked that question and what the right answer should have been.

I asked her how she responded and she told me that she said “I would do other activities like filing and returning calls.” they asked the follow up question, “So you wouldn’t do any billing the whole day?” Ouch!

Ok let’s think about this. No this wasn’t a question designed to catch you off guard, although that was probably how it felt. This was a question to get to the root of your critical thinking skills, how would you behave under pressure, or if you had to improvise to still achieve your goal. In other words can you call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Ok you’re at the line and you can read the defense is going to blitz to your left and your play is leaving you vulnerable on that side. So you have to call an audible, make a play change on the line to still move the ball toward the goal. Are you decisive enough to change direction when you see the line collapsing in?

Once she understood the reason for the question, she then asked me what I would have said. I would have asked if they have resources in place for a paper only process in the event this happens. If they do not, I would probably make it a priority to help devise a process to accomplish the daily tasks with a manual or paper process in the event of a power outage or computer crisis. What I would want to make sure is that all my daily tasks were able to be completed in a timely manner regardless of computer issues.

Understanding the question goes a long way to making sure you’re providing the best answer. The questions hiring managers ask are purposeful, to see if you are a good fit culturally, skillfully, experientially and professionally. A good way to think of those, not so obvious questions, is to just think what would you want to hear as an employer? You would want to know that the individual you are hiring will be dependable (there on time for their scheduled shift), professional (able to express to your customers the image you want), adaptable (able to change priorities as needed by the organization), and decisive (able to make decisions for the benefit of the organization). This is not an all-encompassing list; but you can’t just come out and as a candidate, so will you be here every day, on time? You know what that answer would be, true or not.

Think about what kind of employee you would want to hire, what would you want to know about them and answer the question accordingly.

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

Help A Shark Ate My Resume!

interview etiquett

I had to put a catchy title out to get your attention. The truth is, everyone has an opinion about interviewing etiquette, which do you follow. I had an extraordinary high school social studies teacher and my junior year he gave me a great piece of advice. “Betsy”, he said, “the world is full of people with opinions. One thing you have to understand, opinions are like butt holes (sorry couldn’t use the real word), everyone has one and they usually all stink.” Dressing for an interview is not rocket science, nor is behaving like a professional. However several of my colleagues felt this was an area that may need further discussion so here we go.

  • Always arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Always leave your cell phone in the car not in your purse/pocket/portfolio.
  • Only 1 in 4 job seekers bring a portfolio to an interview. If you don’t’ have one, get one.
  • Smile!
  • Look everyone you meet in the eye, shake their hands firmly and speak clearly.
  • You have never had a bad boss, co-worker, customer, company or experience with a previous employer.

If you have spent more time figuring out your outfit than you’ve spent researching the company, you’re already in trouble. Make sure you google the organization, look up their mission and vision and any recent news about them. Never go into an interview with out at least three very thoughtful questions to ask the hiring manager that aren’t, salary, schedule or vacation centric. Always, always have a way to relate a personal connection you have to their organization.

  • There is a difference between interview shoes and Friday night shoes. Please differentiate!
  • When you look in the mirror after you’ve dressed for the interview and think, “dang I look cute”, it’s probably not the right outfit.
  • Sensible shoes, minimal jewelry and make up, hair out of your face, teeth brushed, deodorant on and no perfume.
  • If you think your skirt may be too short, it is.
  • If you think your shirt may be too low cut, it is.
  • If you question any part of your ensemble, there is a reason, listen to your inner self and make the right decision.

An interview is a time to shine. You want the hiring manager to see you for the diamond that you are; you also want them to be able to visualize you actually doing the job. If any part of what you say or what you wear makes them question how you will fit into their world, game over. No matter how casual the interview may feel, never let your guard down for a minute. Reframe all questions in a positive way. Only wear an outfit your mother would approve of and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your father to hear come out of your mouth.

Again, it’s not rocket science, its common sense. Say please, and thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Shake hands, smile and follow up with a thank you note within 3-days. If you can take just these few tips with you to the interview, then you will be playing head and shoulders above your competition.

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

One Size Does Not Fit All

untitled

Should my resume have an objective statement? Should it be in chronological order or reverse chronological order? Does my education go at the top or the bottom? Should my skills section include bullet points or a paragraph? How long should my cover letter be, should it include my personal mission statement?

I could go on and on with a never ending list of questions regarding the content, format, flow and chronology of your resume. There was a time when resumes were expected to conform to a somewhat specific format; a formulaic (if not archaic) standard of content inclusion and order. That is no longer the case. Depending on the research, a hiring manager can take anywhere from 3-12 seconds to review your resume. I’m of the mind that the higher level the position the longer they’ll spend initially reviewing your resume. However that being said, you need to think of your resume as a piece of real estate; it’s all about location, location, location.

If the job description is heavy on the bulleted technical skills; then your bulleted list of technical skills should take up the best real estate on your resume. If there is heavy weight given to your educational degrees or requirements, then that information should reside in the prime location. If the position requires writing samples, your objective statement and cover letter must be clear, concise and superbly written. I give very similar advice to students/graduates preparing for an interview. If the hiring manager is excited, mirror their enthusiasm. Look to your audience for your queues.

You can glean a lot of relevant information from a job posting/description.

  • Required skills – these are your key words.
  • Results Oriented & Proven Track Record – what success have you achieved at previous positions?
  • Relevant work experience – what positions have you held with transferrable skills?
  • Bachelor’s /Master’s Degree Required – make sure it’s front and center not buried on page 2.
  • Progressively responsible positions – not reverse chronological order.

I don’t claim to be the end all be all of the resume writing world. Doubtless there are many who would disagree with me on some points; however there is one area which I think we’ll all agree. The days of a one size fits all resume are gone. If you are not tailoring your resume for the job, industry, level and audience, the chances you will get the call are greatly diminished. Someone out there is taking the time upfront to perfect their image as the ideal candidate, are you?

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

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

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

Charming Can Only Get You So Far

strike three

I was interviewing a candidate the other day for a Director level position in my organization. Now to be fair, the candidate wasn’t really qualified for the job but I could play connect the dots from his job experience to the skills needed for someone in this position to be successful. Plus he seemed like a colorful character from his background so I thought, why not! I scheduled him for a Skype interview and set to work.

First there were multiple technical difficulties. He tried to take the interview on his tablet, while at work, surrounded by people. Strike one!

Then his tablet and his phone cut out, not once, not twice, but three times. Ball one!

Next he did NOT research my organization or even read the job description so he could not speak intelligently about either. Strike two!

He borrowed a phone from a co-worker, called back and apologized, while at the same time asking his co-workers to keep it down while he was on this call. Ball two!

I asked him, “When you reviewed the job description, which areas did you feel would be the most challenging for you?” He replied, “None of them, I don’t think I’ll have any challenges at all.” Ball three!

It’s a full count…needless to say; I’ve known pretty much from the beginning that this is not someone that I’m going to move forward with. However I wanted to get to the final question, because I was really curious as to how he would answer it. He’s labeled himself a ‘talker’ and that he can motivate and coach anyone, and that there are no challenges he can’t overcome. I’m trying to decide if he is charming in an overconfident kind of way or completely arrogant in a really annoying way.

“So why should I consider you for this position?”

His reply, “because I’m me, and no one is going to be better than me.” Strike three, you’re outta there!

One of the best things about a full count, there’s only one pitch left. You have one more chance to hit it out of the park, walk to first base or fail miserably. (And yes, for my baseball fans, I know they can hit a foul ball and it remains a full count; however for the purpose of the argument let’s assume one more pitch.)

Having a powerful personality, the ability to converse easily with people combined with a charismatic energy will get you much farther in life than those who don’t possess such characteristics; however it will only get you so far. I would choose someone with a strong skill set, who understands the work that needs to be done and the qualities of leadership necessary to succeed over someone who is relying solely on their personality to move them forward.

This candidate was one question away from a bottom of the 9th walk off home run; but he came to the plate swinging a twig at a fastball, he didn’t even make contact.

  • He didn’t research the company or the specific job.
  • He didn’t research the industry.
  • He wasn’t prepared to answer real questions about any specifics; e.g. his experience and how that related to the job requirements.
  • He actually said his personality gets him what he wants, and I think he believed it.
  • He certainly didn’t seek any assistance with how to appropriately answer interview questions

When given the opportunity to redeem an incredibly lack luster ‘at bat’ performance he had no idea what to say other than “I’m me”. Well you’re obviously not Babe Ruth, but perhaps this approach to interviewing has worked for him in the past. As far as this interview went, it was like watching my 10 year old son try to hit off Randy Johnson; painful to watch, but I love rooting for the underdog.

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

You Said What in the Interview?

Dont

Have you ever been in an interview and said something you almost immediately wish you hadn’t? Worse yet did you say something you shouldn’t have and didn’t even realize it, only to find out later that was the deciding factor for you not being chosen for a position?

I have read several articles this week revolving around the kind of questions job seekers ask that they probably shouldn’t have.

Last week I was sitting in my office when a colleague shared that she was just interviewing a candidate for one of her open positions. The candidate asked about the work schedule and when she was informed it was 8am to 5pm her response was, “Oh, I can’t get up that early.” WHAT?

Then a friend of mine forwarded me an article she had just read titled, “ 8 of the Strangest Interview Questions Job Candidates Have Asked ” This highlighted yet again the type of career limiting questions that folks ask in an interview.

Words of advice:

  • Think before you speak. The question might seem benign to you, however how may it be received by the hiring manager looking for their next rock star?
  • Words have power and meaning. If you are unsure how a comment may be received, rephrase, reframe or refrain. Once it’s out there you can’t take it back, and yes they will remember it.
  • Know your audience. Take a moment to try and size up your interviewer; are they outgoing and gregarious or are they reserved and calculating? Whatever their demeanor, you should mimic the energy level. Don’t come out the gate with a crazy joke for someone who has a hard time smiling or shaking hands; you may turn them off when you want to impress them.
  • Exercise sound judgment. Don’t tell the interviewer that you can’t get up early enough to work the schedule they are hiring for. Don’t ask if Mom can come too. Don’t ask if the boss is single or how quickly you can put in for a raise or transfer.

The main purpose of an interview is to showcase your skills, experience and cultural fit. The best way to accomplish that is to have the hiring manager be able to visualize you doing the job. If you are asking questions during that first encounter that will cause them to take pause…your chances of getting the call back are slim.

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

DIY is Cool, Except in Your Job Search.

to do list

You inevitably can’t do a complete channel surf these days without hitting on some kind of DIY program. From rennovating your kitchen or bath to upgrading your dating life or turning your simple idea to a money making landslide. DIY is the trend that keeps on giving, except in your job search. This is one area of your life where having a little professional help can go a long, long way.

We’ve all been there filling out endless applications online and in person. Dressing up and prepping up for interview after interview only to not hear back. Face it, finding a job is a full time job; but at work, you have direction and structure. At work you have someone at the very minimum telling you where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. However when you are looking for work, there isn’t that person there helping, coaching, mentoring and motivating you to keep going.

DIY is not the way to go in a job search!

Now is the time to do a good hard review of the resources available to you. That means you need to step away from your computer and make a list of people you know that can help.

Who do you know in the industry?

  • Do the people that can help you, know you are looking for a new position?
  • Do they have an updated copy of your resume?
  • Have you reached out to industry professionals for an informational interview?
  • What networking opportunities are available in your area/industry?
  • Have you asked your network to critique your resume?
  • Friends, family, teachers, past co-workers, etc. you never know who may know someone you need to know.

I think the picture is getting clearer. You don’t have to go out and hire professional resume writer, although it may help. You don’t have to hire a career coach, however there are resources available that can assist you. Contact your local government job help organization, if you’re in school frequent your Career Services department. The point is, there is no reason to Do It Yourself! We aren’t talking a 2-day make over in your home; we’re talking about your future. This is not the time to try and go it alone, and the great thing is you don’t have to.

If anything good has come out of our recent recession it’s the recognition that job search skills and resources are a necessary part of every day life. Everyone needs a little assistance and direction sometimes.

That help can come in many forms:

  • Your local Department of Economic Security or Workforce Development
  • Educational assistance
  • Local staffing agencies
  • Reputable resume writing and career assistance organizations

Between your network of friends, family and associates and the availablity of public and private resources; you can turn this project from a to do into a done.

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

Who is Your Hero?

batkid

I am going to take a different turn with my blog this week. I was reading the newspaper this weekend and was struck by an article. There was a young boy, Miles, who was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 18 months old. Now at the ripe old age of 5, and in remission, he was given an incredible gift by the “ Make-A-Wish Foundation ”. Do you know what his wish was? This 5-year old was asked; if you could be anyone, go anywhere, do anything or meet anyone; what would you want? He wanted to be superhero. He wanted to be someone who saved other people. WOW this child, presented with the option of getting almost anything he wanted, chose to be someone who helped others.

Being the parent of a child who lost her battle to leukemia and who also had a wish granted by this amazing organization. Realizes first-hand what these children go through, endure and sometimes overcome. My daughter, who lost her battle to leukemia at 13, fought a good fight for 2 years. Never once did she ask why me, or did she say it’s not fair. She looked at each day as a gift and touched more lives in her 13-years than I could ever hope to touch in my lifetime. She, along with little 5-year old Miles are my heroes.

We face challenges of all kinds every day. Those challenges can range from finding affordable housing, sustainable employment, finishing or starting our education, and how to pay for it. These children are faced with the ultimate challenge of life and death, and they embrace it. They get up and face every day as if it were their last. They feel weak but they want to play, they experience pain we can’t imagine but they still smile, laugh and continue to move forward.

I know what you’re thinking, what does this have to do with my job search? How is this going to help me? It’s actually quite simple, you can’t give up. No matter what you face, no matter how hard it seems, when you just don’t think you can face it for one more day. That is when you have to dig deep within yourself and find the last bit of strength and plow forward. If you think you can’t move forward, if you think you can’t achieve the outcome you want. You’re right! The minute you make the decision you can’t do it, you won’t. The minute you decide it’s too hard, you’re done.

The people who succeed in this world, truly succeed are those that never gave up. They never assumed that their dreams/ideas were too big or too hard. When the challenges surmounted they looked deep within themselves to find the strength and courage to continue on. Just like little Miles.
Here is the other part that so many people don’t realize. The world loves a hero. They love a success story. They want to stand behind someone who faces down seemingly insurmountable challenges with a courage that is almost superhuman. The point is, when you face down your challenges, whatever they are, people will be there to support you, cheer you on, and help you find a way to make your dreams come true.

I read a quote and forgive me I’m not sure where it came from. “Greatness is coded deep inside each of us if we dare to look for it.” Miles got to be Batkid for the city of San Francisco. He spent the day foiling crimes, rescuing damsels and saving the city. Riding alongside Batman in a black Lamborghini, receiving the keys to the city from the Mayor and being a hero. Over 7,000 people took part in granting his wish. Yes I said 7,000! “At one point organizers struggled to keep a path open for the motorcade, which drove past onlookers lining the streets six deep for several blocks”, according to the associated press.

There are resources available to help you, if you look for them. There are people who will help you, if you let them. There are people who will cheer you on to success. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is simply, not give up.

Miles, thank you for allowing us to participate in your wish. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of never giving up, not matter what the obstacle. Thank you for showing us that at the end of the struggle are rewards and opportunities better than we could ever have imagined.

To see more about this amazing story browse to: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/15/batkid-san-francisco/3588173/

Fired Up? You Should Be!

fired up

If hard skills get you hired, what gets you fired?

I’m sure everyone has heard from some source recently that soft skills are lacking in their job candidates.

What exactly is this? Working with college students and graduates, I like to show them this video“Entitlement Creed

I love how it sums up much of the soft skills gap so simply that it borders on remedial. However, I still hear from students and graduates alike:

  • So I was late a few times, what’s the big deal?
  • Yes I use my cell phone at work, that’s my personal business not theirs.
  • They won’t let me check Facebook at work.
  • They don’t like my language, but everyone uses bad words these days.

Yes these are real examples. Add these to the list of entitlement issues prevalent in our culture and we have a real problem.

A mentor told me that once you are labeled as; clown, lazy, foul mouthed, distracted, unreliable, unmotivated or entitled, it will take a very long time and a ton of effort to change that perception.

This is so true! It took me all of 6-months (probably less) to be labeled as a ball-buster that’s difficult to work with, and around 18-months (or longer in some cases) to repair and rebuild that perception. Not to mention an uncounted amount of home baked goodies. But it was completely worth it.

Trouble is, once individuals realize they’ve created the perception (if they ever realize it), they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to fix it. They chalk it up to “This is the way I am.”or “They have to accept me as I am.” Then my personal favorite. “It’s their perception, their problem, not mine.”

I love the last line from the video, “If you think we’re asking too much (say the employers), then you’re entitled to look for another employer who will not ask these things of you. But the odds of you finding one aren’t good.”

Take ownership of your own behavior. Take inventory of what others say about you professionally, how are you perceived? Then dig in, dig out and make a difference. That is how you keep a job.

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

Why an interviewer wants to tell you why you were rejected, but can’t.

9-20-13 Rejcted

Have you ever wondered why you didn’t get the job? Have you ever been in the interview and known you weren’t going to be chosen? Have you ever thought you nailed an interview only to find out you didn’t? Well join the club; we have jackets, t-shirts, and hats.

In a perfect world, we’d get the feedback we so desperately need to grow, develop and do better; however, in the world we live in, it just doesn’t happen.

In my field, I work with literally hundreds of employers. Some will give me a call after one of my students has finished an interview to give me feedback. What they can do better, differently, more professionally. This is, indeed, rare.

Unfortunately, in today’s employment climate, there is such a fear that if you provide feedback, that information can in turn be used against you. Human Resource professionals have to be part recruiter, interviewer, counselor and lawyer. What they are and are not allowed to share is so limited that they are actually hurting today’s job seekers.

I would love it if my interviewer could tell me:

  • Your answers were too short
  • You didn’t seem prepared for the interview
  • Your presentation was not professional enough
  • You spoke too negatively regarding your past experiences and organizations
  • You weren’t able to articulate your skill-set well enough

If this feedback were offered to job seekers, they could actually improve their skills and do better the next time. Instead, we blame the educational system, our culture, the economy, and on and on, when we could allow HR and hiring managers to just offer back some helpful advice.

Instead we close the door and turn a blind eye to otherwise valuable employees without them having a clue as to why. And “Why don’t they?” you may ask. Simply, they are afraid of getting sued.

Just think what it would be like if at the end of an interview we could hear, “Thank you for coming in today to meet with me. May I give you a few helpful hints that may assist you with future interviews?” Bad um bump! How hard is that? Don’t send people back out into the cold job search world without giving them some kind of help to make them better for their next interview.

As a culture we have, in my opinion, become so afraid of helping people for fear of being sued, that we’ve stopped doing the right thing in favor of doing the safe thing. In the long (and short) run this ends up causing more harm than good.

There are a few things, however, you can do to try and get some feedback from your interview.

  • Contact the hiring manager after you’ve sent your thank you note and followed up (building rapport). Ask if they would be willing to offer you some advice on how you could do better in your next interview.
  • At the end of your interview, after you’ve asked for the job, ask if there are any concerns the hiring manger has about your ability to do the job.

While these tips may help you get some feedback, nothing will do as much good as being well prepared for the interview in the first place. Being proactive in your job search will get you so much further than chasing reactive information after you’ve been let down.

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

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