Friday, June 7, 2013

Didn't get the job? You'll never know why

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an article illuminating the reasons why you don't get feedback from interviews. Take a look at it here.

Tell me a little about yourself

Usually asked in the beginning of an interview, this question can trip up some candidates. If you are reviewing your resume in response to this question (don't do that) or if it makes you uncomfortable, consider this approach.

Limit your response to three things you believe are most important about your skill set. Here's an example:

1. I have more than 10 years of experience on the help desk.
2. While many people view a help desk position as a stepping stone, I have chosen to make a career out of it.
3. I truly enjoy help desk work, I'm committed to staying in the role and I'm good at what I do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When you don't get the job

A blog I read recently asked the employment question, "Have hiring practices changed?" The article is amusing: You can read it here. It reminded me that folks who are unemployed often work with recruiters because they're told we have relationships with hiring managers and even HR and that's true enough. That can be a real benefit to the job candidate who feels that submitting their resume through a website is the same as tossing it into a black hole.

Unfortunately, we don't always get feedback about why our candidates weren't chosen for an interview or, if they interviewed, why they weren't chosen for the job. It's frustrating for everyone.

Sometimes you think you did very well in the interview. Sometimes the job seemed as though it was created just for you. Sometimes you just need a job so badly you would have taken what they offered. Sometimes the promotion slips away. Hiring managers make mistakes, bad decisions are made, pay offers are too low, expectations are too high. The reasons are legion.

But sometimes, just sometimes, it's a blessing in disguise.

Discuss the skills listed on your resume

One of my candidates interviewed at a client recently and didn't answer questions very well. Has this ever happened to you?

When I first met with this person, he impressed me with quick thinking and sharp answers. By sharp, I mean that he quickly understood what was being asked and answered appropriately. Sometimes in interviews, candidates don't listen closely to the question and end up providing an answer that doesn't address what was asked. A simple example is, "Tell me about yourself," which is a question that sometimes brings an avalanche of information that isn't relevant to the discussion.

The questions that didn't go well in this recent interview were drawn straight from the candidate's resume. A skill was mentioned in the resume summary, but when asked about the skill, the candidate said he really didn't have much experience with it. Another question came from a bullet point listed under a job from a few years ago. When asked how he had used that skill, the candidate said he didn't remember anything he did with it.

Be prepared to discuss the skills listed on your resume. You don't have to discuss a skill at length, but you should be able to say at least one thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

HR surprises two job candidates with unexpected phone calls

When I was first in sales, my boss insisted that I begin each phone call to a client or a prospect with the following words, "Am I calling at a bad time or do you have a few minutes?"

It was good advice. Apparently not everyone got the memo.

Last week I had two different job seekers tell me they were ambushed by human resources calling without an appointment to conduct a telephone interview.

Ambushed is my word. I think it's fair.

Today's job seekers are sensitive to the job market and will do anything to accommodate an interviewer. Does everyone think that's a fair statement?

One of the job seekers had her two young children with her and tried to answer the interviewer's questions, but her focus was shot by both the unannounced intrusion and her need to look after the kids.

In my opinion, this particular episode was the rudest of the two. Not only because children were audible in the background, but this was no brief fact-finding mission on the part of HR. During this interview, the job seeker was asked where she saw herself in five years. In frustration, she answered, "Looking for another job."

I say good for her. Human Resources should know better. They may think they are getting a good idea of how a person reacts in a pressure situation, but I call it what it is: bad manners.

If you are trapped into a telephone interview with no warning, be assured that you can tell the interviewer it isn't possible to speak freely and you will have to talk to them at another time. Ask them to schedule a time.

If they refuse or never call you back, you may have spared yourself working at a company that doesn't get it or doesn't care.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two-page limit? Why your resume should be as long as it needs to be.

Your resume needs to be as long as it needs to be to get you noticed.

I've had it with forcing a candidate to one page and making them feel silly for having a (gasp!) two-page resume.

I had a conversation today with a new candidate whose resume wasn't equal to his skills. He has a difficult-to-find programming language in his tool belt, but his resume focused solely on accomplishments and neglected technology. It was also one page long.

He said he had done some research on the internet and all the best sources told him to keep his resume limited in length. You've heard the old message: no more than 2 pages.

But if you're a job candidate in the 21st century, you've also heard about keywords and if you've really done your research you've also heard about applicant tracking systems.

All those keywords can make a resume long!

The two messages clash, but if you aren't in the industry you may not realize that. In fact, I wonder if people in the industry realize they're sending a crazy, mixed-up message. A recruiter in my office just this morning spoke to someone whose sister-in-law, a recruiter in the healthcare industry, told her to keep the resume to no more than two pages.

Here's why I am always saying longer resumes are not evil. If an applicant tracking system is comparing your resume to a job description and the job description is looking for a receptionist who can answer phones, then your resume had best mention answering phones. If the job description is for a business analyst, then your resume needs to mention gathering requirements.

You simply can't expect anyone anymore to read between the lines or assume that most receptionists answer the phone and most business analysts gather requirements.

Don't laugh! I've seen programmer resumes that have no mention whatsoever of their programming language. I've seen help desk and PC technician resumes that have no technologies listed. When asked why, a candidate I spoke to this winter said he had to keep his resume to one page, so something had to go. He chose to eliminate all technologies.

I can't make this stuff up.

Your resume must include all pertinent technology, old and new, including tools that are used with your skill set. It also needs basic job skills that leave no room for interpretation or assumptions on the part of the hiring manager or the applicant tracking system.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You ought to be in pictures: videotape an interview

Today's suggestion comes from an instructor and isn't about video interviewing via Skype. It's about seeing yourself as others see you. 

I was talking to a friend of mine about mannerisms in interviews and how distracting they can be. He said they often videotape instructors so the instructors can see their own mannerisms and speech patterns. A recent candidate had wild gestures and a few nervous habits that went beyond hand wringing, finger weaving, or fidgeting. 

This candidate would raise his arms, lace his fingers and bring his hands down to his knee as he leaned forward. Sometimes both feet were on the ground, sometimes one leg would be crossed over with that foot resting on the other knee. After getting into this pose, he would lean forward while he spoke. He did this repeatedly and I began to be distracted by his actions rather than listening fully to what he was saying. 

These days most people have access to video. It's on your phone, your Flip or your tablet. So set that to "record" and have a friend or family member interview you. Treat the interview seriously, then watch the video. You may be surprised to find that you are doing things you didn't realize you were doing. You may also discover that you are projecting an image you didn't intend to project. 

Let friends and family watch the video as well. Take their criticism in a positive manner, make adjustments and then do the exercise again until you look like the person you want to be during every job interview. 

That is probably the best interview advice I have have ever received!!! ~Neal C.

I wanted to talk to you again before this interview because you really geek interview tips. ~Chad T.

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