Sunday, January 29, 2017

Identifying Interview Danger Signs

There are clear signs the job markets are heating up again. Regardless, don’t think that means getting hired is any easier; companies are still screening and scrutinizing candidates more than ever. And so should you be also, screening and evaluating the people and companies for which you might work for.
Often, at our own peril, we ignore our instincts when we sense something’s amiss. Or, we acknowledge it but dismiss our concerns for whatever reason(s). The same holds true when we interview for a job, only to realize after the fact in hindsight we’ve made a mistake. Something just didn’t seem right but you failed to address it and by the time you realize it – it’s too late.
A question if I may - if there was information, that of which you became aware and which would prevent you from accepting a job, when would you prefer to learn about it -- during the interview process or later, at the water cooler?
The question was rhetorical; obviously by the time you receive a job offer, both parties involved should have had all questions or concerns satisfactorily resolved. Exclaiming, “I should’ve known better” doesn’t change anything. I mean, really, I doubt you’ll ever attend an interview where they might say, “Yeah, this job is open because it sucks and nobody’s stayed longer than 6 months. But we can’t find anyone internally willing to do it and we’ve gotta fill it.” Even if that were the truth, it is more likely you’ll be told the rosy portrayal about how great it is, in the hopes you won’t ask them any uncomfortable questions. Conversely, it might be a great job but if you don’t ask any questions and sit mute, answering only that which is asked of you, they’re very likely to conclude you’re not the sharpest candidate among their other choices. Asking questions demonstrates you are not just there, but you’re there and taking the event seriously. Now, if you opt to coast along, only going through the motions and choose to sit there like a dummy speaking only when spoken to, dutifully nodding and smiling when you think you should to show interest – well then, pardon me but you are a dummy; often, perception is reality.
Granted, you’ll never really know what will be until you start a new job. Therefore, you owe it to yourself during the interview process to learn as much as you can, by asking questions to gain as much information as you possibly can, because there is always more to be concerned with than simply the job title, duties, and money.
There are questions you will formulate during the course of the each interview you attend, but here are some examples of questions you should ask during the first interview of almost any job you’d consider:
  • Why is the position open?
  • What happened to the last person in the position?
  • How long were they in the position?
  • And the person before…?
  • Can you describe for me, a typical workday (for this role)?
  • Can you tell me something about the company culture?
  • What is the level of urgency to fill this position (when do you need someone to start)?
  • How long have you (the interviewer) been with the company?
These questions will help you to make a better informed and more confident decision.
As you navigate through the interview process you should be asking questions every step of the way, if you don’t do so you are not really an active participant but rather a passenger. If you do nothing to influence the direction of your own career you’d better hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Self-inflicted Wounds

The primary intent of my articles, blog, presentations, lectures and handbook is an attempt to provide people with the nearly lost skills for how to search, seek, effectively interview and, as a result, win a job of their choice in order to enhance one’s career prospects. Sadly, most people, as a result of internet dependence, have become in large part clueless about this necessary activity. 
No one likes to interview; it’s not something for which a normal person would choose to engage. Increasingly over the years I find myself not only coaching people about how to navigate these processes, but I find I must instruct them on the most trivial and basic interactive and communication skills. Many people think the job market and companies are unfair, when in reality, far too many people are so na├»ve about how to conduct themselves they are directly responsible for their own failure to advance in the interview process. Virtually everyone is guilty in some measure of what I am speaking.  When it comes to simple interpersonal communications skills, or now referred to as soft-skills, mainly young people who’ve entered the job market during the last 5 years and are launching their careers, are the most handicapped. 
Let’s take one simple but glaring example:  most people to varying degrees are concerned about their work / life balance. During the last year I have witnessed too many young people, who are otherwise very talented, totally blow their chances in the very first interview. They often ask in no uncertain terms, “How long will I have to work each day?” At first thought, you might think there’s nothing wrong with this question and it is something everyone wants to know. It isn’t the question that is a deal killer, it is how they ask the question that in the eyes of a hiring manager makes them almost instantly undesirable and disqualified, no matter how good their resume may look.
Apparently finesse is another lost skill in the internet-will-do-it-for-me age in which we live. I am not going into great detail nor debate anyone who disagrees with me – 25 years of experience and trend watching is the reason – I am correct and companies increasingly say the same. As is so often the case, it is not a matter of what is said, but how it is expressed. How about trying this instead, “Can you describe for me a typical work day and work week in your organization?” This is one, among many potential good questions, as to what you should ask in a first face-to-face interview. This will help you accomplish the main purpose of the first interview, to learn more about the job and company beyond that pathetically simple and empty job description you were aware of when you applied. This question is more thoughtful than asking, “what time do I gotta start work and what time can I get outa’ here each day?”, which is implied by the brain-dead simplistic question exemplified in the paragraph above.
In the past, we learned to successfully interview by trial and error. When we screwed up, we’d learn from our mistakes and adjust as we went along. But presently, you may not have as many good jobs as in the past from which to choose and, adding to the equation, interviewers are less patient. You see, compounding the problem is the increasing lack of soft-skills of both job seekers and interviewers. This means you must make the most of each opportunity you have. 
Indeed, we all make mistakes and hopefully we learn from them - and ignorance is no excuse to keep repeating stupid mistakes. All that is required is to reflect upon and recognize that your lack of progress is not everyone else’s fault. Developing and improving the interactive skills we learned – or should have learned interacting with others as children is an integral part of your career development and progress.