Monday, January 26, 2015

Stop Relying on the Internet

There are two items that are on the minds of many job seekers. One is the frustration of sending a resume to a company with the understanding that there are other tens, hundreds, even thousands of resumes submitted for the same jobs. People are not stupid; they know the vast majority of resumes submitted will never be seen by a human being and are therefore never considered. The second thing about which people feel powerless is they cannot establish contact with any flesh and blood person and, especially, not a responsible hiring manager. This second concern is especially frustrating for pro-active people, who are ambitious and rightly understand emailing a resume is mostly a waste of time. Isn’t it ironic: these are precisely the kinds of people that companies claim they want to hire. 
I know a lot of very good human resource professionals. That said, however, they work for a bureaucracy that seems hung up on and obsessed with processes or fads that enable them to avoid you at all costs, even if it means missing a well-qualified applicant who didn’t submit to their formulaic and counterproductive rituals. It is little wonder companies prefer naming their departments anything but human resources and instead utilize “innovative” terms like human capital, human performance, talent acquisition or talent management to clearly demonstrate what they think of you, a mere commodity.
It is silly that so much advice for job seekers is concerning the same stale advice about improving your resume or some drivel about how increasing your social networking presence or accessing more online job portals will make a difference. Most of you reading this know I am right and yet this is what the majority of other people are doing -- wasting valuable time online to find a real job. Rather, what you need is useful advice to help you break your over-reliance on the soulless internet, diversifying your job search efforts. Even the best-written resume is meant only to get you in the door and ideally in front of a hiring manager. Now, it is at this point in time the interview and hiring process begins.
Finding opportunities
You have other options beyond the internet that only give you the impression you are actually doing something, in reality, you’re not. The internet is an information resource, a tool, but not the solution to all our problems. The supposition of the internet being the answer to all our problems was a clever marketing ploy – that’s worked too well. 
Honesty in our world is in short supply and I’m not going to BS you, if you’re looking for effortless solutions, if you think you’ll be getting your dream job by sending your resume electronically while sitting in your ‘jammies at the kitchen table, I will disappoint you. There is a sweat equity aspect; it requires effort, dedication and perseverance. You have to be able to hear the word “no” and keep going without getting discouraged; you have to be able to smile through the rudeness, antipathy and indifference, that’s life. The internet has become a crutch, insulating everyone from reality. Know this: you are fully capable of everything I suggest, although it’s likely you haven’t done it for a long time, or never learned.  
Establishing contact with living breathing people
Don’t stop using the internet, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you are doing. As a tool, the internet is invaluable and your best resource for information -- exploit it. But, then get off your butt and go out and knock on doors, phone, try to arrange appointments and hand deliver your resume whenever you can. Stand apart, be different, while everyone else is sending emails – snail mail an introductory cover letter to someone who would possibly be your employer. Use the internet to research companies, people, etc. And, oh yeah, here’s the biggest reason why waiting like Pavlov’s dog in front of your monitor for a job to reveal itself is silly … are you ready … many jobs and most of the good ones aren’t even posted online! So how are you going to find those by checking increasingly worthless online sources? Sorry, but you’ve got to go old school, telephone calls and shoe leather. Network whenever it is possible, nothing is as powerful as a personal recommendation or a reference. 
The methods I suggest break the rules of convention and many people worry that the advice I provide will irritate someone. Perhaps, but let’s talk about the rules and processes you are supposed to follow, who established them? The so-called rules exist, not to benefit you but instead to benefit bureaucrats and administrators, in order to make their lives easier. It has nothing to do with helping you attain your goals. If you want to get a different result than everyone else, you have to be, well, different from everyone else. 
So don’t be discouraged, recognize there is a lot you can do to improve your chances of job search success on many levels. If you want to empower yourself and stand apart from the crowd, do something about it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The First Interview

The first interview is the most critical step of the entire hiring process for you, the applicant, job seeker,  candidate, or in whatever manner you may describe yourself. To be clear, the first interview is characterized as the first face-to-face, in-person meeting initiated by a handshake. Telephone, Skype or any other remotely conducted interview does not count. In my opinion, yes, they matter and you must get through it to reach the first real interview, although those are events that are primarily meant for screening; in most professions the serious stuff occurs face-to-face. This being a blog, I cannot go into great detail, but in future blog entries I’ll address the finer points. Although styles and process can differ, there are some common and predictable, almost ritualistic features of most interviews that you can anticipate. 
I’m not going to advise about how to dress because readers of this blog are adults. The only suggestion I make is when in doubt, overdress. You can adjust and reflect the same dress code you encounter the next time. You never go to an interview without first investing a few minutes to look online and investigate the organization and, if possible, the person you will meet, which is often on their company website. Never go to an interview unprepared to answer two inevitable questions:
·         “What do you know about our company?”
·         “Why are you interested in joining us?”
If you cannot thoughtfully answer these questions you shouldn’t even be there because you’re wasting their time and yours.
Take these very basic items with you:
·         Pen and pad of paper (asking for a piece of paper and/or a pen makes you look, well, unprepared)
·         Questions about the job or company (if you don’t have any questions, you’re not serious and that is exactly how they see you)
·         Your business card if you have one (offer your business card – and if they don’t offer, ask for theirs)
·         A printed copy of your resume
·         Breath mints (bad breath is a distraction) 

And don’t forget to silence your phone. There are no good excuses for distractions; focus on the meeting and nothing else.
Introduction and conduct
How you introduce and present yourself sets the tone for the meeting. Be neither overly serious nor too friendly or goofy. Professional and friendly is the way to go. If you are giving a speech you may open with a joke, but not at an interview. By the way, the handshake matters; cold, wimpy-limp and lifeless handshakes do not convey, “I’m the person you should hire.” As to how to best present yourself, I strongly suggest you assemble and hone your own personal F.A.B. presentation, you can search my blog archives for more information about it. After 22 years in this business it is still, without a doubt, the best way to present yourself professionally. But it takes time and effort to assemble an effective presentation.
After the introduction, let them initiate the conversation and react accordingly. Often, people who are nervous talk too much, too fast and without meaning to cut off or interrupt the interviewer. It’s understandable that you might be nervous and have the jitters. I still have to occasionally curb my enthusiasm and slow down, it takes discipline. How to do so, and the manner of speaking is a whole separate blog entry for a future time, because what we say is as important as how we say something. Understanding and learning selling techniques can be immensely helpful with this aspect because there is a lot of psychology involved -- but save this for another day. For this blog, I suggest people try to slow down their rate of speech and, no matter how well prepared you may be, wait a second before you answer any question, this way your reply will come across as more deliberate and thoughtful.
Posture matters. Mom was right when she told you to sit up at the dinner table, so don’t slouch because it suggests you’re there and present, but not really. Body language speaks volumes.
Exchanging information
The first interview is supposed to be about you demonstrating that you are who you claim to be, ensuring you are whom your resume portrays you to be. Also, to elaborate in more detail your experience, accomplishments and for you to articulate why you think you are the best person for the job. Your function is to learn more about the job for which you have applied - that’s all. Anything beyond that depends on how well it goes but this is the basic purpose of the first interview. That isn’t too scary, is it? 
Furthermore, don’t make the mistake of repeating only what’s on your resume when telling them about yourself.  It is a merely a short summary on a piece of paper. If you do not elaborate, if all you do is recite the info they already have in front of them, you’ve likely already failed the first test.

Taking notes
Yes, you are supposed to take notes and don’t be afraid to ask them to pause and or repeat something if you need to do so. You may think you’ll remember everything from the meeting, but in 24 hours you will forget key points and kick yourself for not writing it down. Good hiring managers will not be bothered by this because, again, it shows you are serious and interested. 
Asking Questions
You should, as a result of the meeting be developing questions as the interview proceeds. Managers find it odd and a bad sign if, at the end of the interview, when asked, the applicant has no questions. In fact, it is a very bad sign and can take points away from an otherwise good interview. They are asking questions of you; so too, should you be asking questions of them. Remember, from the last blog entry, it isn’t only about them evaluating you, so actively participate. It is a business meeting, so conduct it as such.
In the first interview, you should never initiate the topic of money. Asking, “How much does it pay?” before you learn about the job is unprofessional, short-sighted and diminishes your viability as a suitable candidate. It makes you appear greedy. Use your head and be strategic; if you succeed in showing you are qualified you’ll have another interview when you can openly discuss it. I also argue endlessly with lazy human resource people who ask, “How much money do you want?” in a first interview as a screening tool. If you say a number too low, you’ve cheated yourself. Say a number too high and they won’t call you back. If asked in the first interview, try to sidestep the question. I want you to say this, “This is our first meeting and I don’t yet know enough about the job to know how much I should ask for; and perhaps you don’t yet know enough about me to determine what I am worthy of getting paid.” I don’t care how you choose to word it, but it is the truth. Stay focused on the opportunity. I always say, the best paying job that sucks is not the best job. After the first interview, the next time you meet, let it rip, talk about money – but not in the first interview. If they push and it is unavoidable, tell them you, “…need to learn more about the job, but you cannot go below (…..)”.  
Closing the interview
How you conclude the interview is a critically important step. How the interview ends is largely up to you. This topic is extremely important for the simple fact that most people fail the final hurdle of the interview. Here’s an example: I once worked with a hiring authority who told me they liked my candidate and they did everything right until the end, when the applicant failed to ask for the job (or next step). Trust me, they are watching and waiting for this. They want people who want to join them, not just those who show up and go through the motions. Do you know what most people say at the end of the interview as they are leaving? “…I hope I hear from you.” (yawn) Not very convincing is it? However, this topic requires much more time and explanation. I will cover it again soon.
To conclude, in my expert opinion, in order to greatly increase your chances of success at the initial interview, you really need to be well prepared in three primary areas. They are:
1)      A good resume (demonstrating you are qualified for the position you seek)
2)      A good F.A.B. presentation
3)      Having a basic understanding of and actively employing rudimentary Closing Skills

There are many areas where anyone can improve, but the three I listed greatly increase your potency as a job applicant. If all of this is a bit overwhelming, it isn’t, but technology has made all of us lazy and less self-sufficient, so what are we going to do about it to enhance your odds of success? Although it isn’t rocket science, know that we’re talking chess, folks, not checkers.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Interview

For most job seekers the term interview causes increased anxiety at the mere thought of the word. I know -- I have been coaching and advising both job seekers and hiring managers for over 22 years and counting.
For most people, interviewing is not something we choose or like to do, but rather cope with whenever it’s time to make a career change, either by choice or necessity. As it is and has been until recently, most of us learn our interview skills by trial and error, so that by the time we reach the middle of our careers we have for the most part figured it out. But considering the job market trends, this is not something we can take so lightly anymore; we cannot as simply write off opportunities we flubbed and say, “Eh, I’ll get it right the next time.” I often suggest the good jobs we want are harder to come by and, in the current climate, you may get only one chance with fewer opportunities – those are decreasing odds, any way you look at it. Therefore, unless you are one of the very few who have companies and recruiters knocking down your door to get to you, you need to make the most of every opportunity. 
The people I do represent are well prepared for their interviews. Although I can’t advise or coach everyone, my blog is meant to help reach more people with advice than I could otherwise provide. I also assembled a handbook a couple years ago, with everything in it from the beginning to the end of the entire hiring process, along with other info about job hunting and even tips for resigning. Now, I know what you are thinking; here he goes trying to sell his book. I don’t really care if you acquire it or not, but the people I represent always do better in their interviews than they would without my help. If there is additional advice you can use, well, that’s up to you whether to take advantage, or not.
But let me provide to you something very simple that may be helpful. Words mean things, although increasingly the common use of some words differ from their actual meaning. For example: in the minds of many the term interview is synonymous with interrogation. It isn’t the same but try telling that to some people, who would rank the event up there with a visit to a bad dentist. 
In reality, an interview is just as much for your benefit as it is for the organization of which you want to be a part. The interview is not a one-sided question and answer session; you are not seated in a small and cramped, smoke-filled room under a bright light. When the time arrives, maybe you are sweating, but that is just a case of the nerves and, yeah, it’s normal. The interview is a two-way discussion, a dialogue where they ask you questions and you have the liberty to ask questions of them. You see, not only are you there to be evaluated for your suitability, but you also have a responsibility to evaluate them and their organization to determine if it is the kind of place where you want to be. Don’t misunderstand me, the burden of proof is more on your shoulders because you want to work for them, but you are not a victim of the process, you are a participant and should recognize it.
But it all comes down to answering one question, “Why should they hire you?” If you can satisfactorily answer this question, then congratulations, you might have the opportunity to be elevated to the next step in the process. You might even consider asking them, “Can you please tell me why I should consider joining your company?” And here is another suggestion: don’t even think of it as an interview, for the reason I described above. Rather, you have a meeting where you will engage in a business conversation, and that is what it is, is it not? A business conversation or discussion is somewhat different than an interview in the minds of most. If you think of it as a business meeting and discussion, you will conduct yourself differently, trust me on this. You will be more interactive and participatory, which conveys confidence. Another reason perception matters is that companies don’t generally seek people who demonstrate they are unsure or are not confident they can perform in the role for which they are interviewing. 
So today, I only want readers to wrap their heads around this concept, to lose the anxiety of what an interview represents. Next time, I’ll share more about the most stressful interview, the first interview, the interview you’ve got to get through in order to be moved one step closer to a job offer. I’m not talking about a telephone or Skype interview – those are initial screening interviews but, rather, the first handshake-initiated, face-to-face event. We’ll talk about what you need to do in order to prepare and then set yourself apart from most other applicants, who want the same job.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Resolve to Make This Year, Your Year

Well here we go again, another year behind us and a new one ahead of us. For six years the economy has settled into the new normal. For some people it is okay, for a very few it is great, but for most the economy and jobs market seems stuck on mediocre to poor. However, often perception is reality and while a large number of people are willing to accept reality, as told to them by others, the more determined and goal oriented among us say no, we want better, we’re determined and nobody’s going to tell us otherwise. And we really don’t care what others think of our determination.

If you feel stuck, if you have long felt dissatisfied, as though your career progression is stalled, do something about it. For years I have watched as people increasingly make more excuses than to take action for their own sake. Many claim there is nothing they can do and their lot in life is beyond their control, preferring instead to bitch and whine about how unfair the world is - well boo hoo, get me a tissue. Each one of us has the power and ability to improve our station in life to varying degrees, yet many choose to do nothing. What about you?
If you’re already satisfied and see no reason to change or alter anything that’s cool, then it’s all good – for the time being. However, if you sense that you can do or should be doing better, take stock of your situation and formulate a plan; regardless of how simple or complex, recognize it might not happen overnight and get to steppin’ (move) in the right direction. But you’ve gotta know where you want to go or get to, figuratively speaking; that is, if you want to make a change, know what it is you want to accomplish. If you can articulate what is lacking and how and what you want to change, that’s a start, good for you. If it is a new job, a promotion, a pay raise, more responsibility, or maybe you want to do something completely unrelated to your current job, you first need to figure it out.  Change is a good thing and it prevents atrophy of the mind, body and soul. Who knows, it is possible that in your future an opportunity may present itself and your career could change direction, perhaps dramatically. Some may read that sentence with trepidation, while others are inspired. 
If you resolve that this is a year to make a change, be realistic and don’t expect it to happen right away. The good jobs, the kinds we want, don’t come along as often or as easily as they once did, although there are companies hiring every week of the year. And if you have a choice, never leave one job until you have secured the next.
But I suppose the primary take-away from this blog entry and frankly, what I want most to communicate, is not to let others tell you what you can or cannot accomplish. If you listen to those who tell us what we’re supposed to think and do, you’ll voluntarily be limiting your own potential. The opinion of anyone else, who is not a close family member, colleague or friend, has little meaning nor should it influence your efforts. Draw your own conclusions as a free-thinking individual. Groupthink only diminishes and handicaps potential because that is what it is meant to do. When I lecture or give presentations and I am asked by someone what they can do to set themselves apart from the crowd, my reply is simple: don’t be a part of the crowd, be different; look at what they are doing and innovate to serve your own purposes. But be prepared for disapproval from those who, for whatever reason, choose to remain within the herd mentality and tell themselves the status quo is good enough.