Job Journey: How to Dress for an Interview

Jeans?  Khakis? Suit?  There are so many different work cultures now, it can be tricky to figure out what to wear to an interview.  Over dressing or under dressing can make you feel awkward at the beginning of a conversation and that can be tough to recover from.

Ultimately, you want to dress in a way that makes you feel confident. So if you have favourite socks or lucky underwear, start with that.

You can check out the website of the company to see how they present themselves.  Look for candid work photos under the careers page.  You can look on Glassdoor (although you will learn a lot more than how employees dress!).  You can also ask the person who is setting up the interview.  Whether they are in the organization or from an agency, they should be able to give you some insight.

And don’t be afraid to ask.   How you show up is as important as where you show up.

Whether it’s a jeans place or a suit place, make sure what you are wearing is clean, neat and smells fresh.  Not like a garden, a beach or a forest.  Just plain clean.

This goes for hair and shoes as well.  People won’t care if your hair is long or short.  It’s about showing that you respect this opportunity enough to care about how you put yourself together.  If you care about that, the assumption is that you will care about your work, too.

On the way in to the meeting, wipe your palms, square your shoulders and take a deep breath and you will be dressed and ready for a great conversation!

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Job Journey: Interview Questions You Should Ask

You are sitting with the hiring manager.  It has been a great conversation.  You have answered all the interview questions with aplomb.  You have provided colourful examples of your work and experience.

In other words: you are rocking the interview.

Then the manager says “Do you have any questions for me?”

And you say “No, you have covered everything.  I’m good.”

Boom!  You blew it!

There are always questions.  You cannot possibly know everything at the end of an interview.  It will look like you are not really serious about the job and not really much of a thinker if you don’t have a few questions of your own.

Your questions can focus on the team, the manager or the company.

  • How would you describe the culture of the team I would be joining?
  • Based on your experience, what are the personality types that succeed here?
  • How serious is your competition?
  • Are there a lot of development opportunities?

Or the classic:  what would success look like in six months?  I don’t love this one but it is effective in providing good insight into what the manager is looking for down the road.

There are a myriad of choices.  Prepare five or six questions on your note pad.  Look down the list to see what has not been covered in the conversation and lay it out there.

This gives you a chance to turn the tables to see how the interviewer reacts as well as the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the organization.

Make sure your interview preparation includes developing your own interview questions.  You never know what you will learn.

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Job Journey: Interview Pro Tips

I heard a fantastic phrase last week.  One of our senior sales leaders was talking with us about value propositions, enhanced authenticity and other eye rolling stuff.  I was starting to glaze over when he came out with this gem:

Don’t just show up and throw up.

What a perfect way to describe what happens when you head into an interview and you are nervous as hell.  The first question is thrown out and off you go.  You do a complete and uncontrolled brain dump.  Then you run out of oxygen and can no longer remember the question.  So embarrassing…..

Don’t get me wrong.  Nerves won’t ever go away.  There should always be some anticipation and a sense of excitement when you meet with new people.  I get that feeling even when I am meeting people I already know and I talk to strangers for a living.

The key is confidence and that comes with research and practice.  Once you know you have secured an interview, research the company.  Use LinkedIn, industry news sources and your network to find out what you can about the company.  Look for information on growth, awards, competitors, culture, locations and values.

Spend some time thinking about your experience and what might be relevant to the hiring team.  What stories could you share that would induce some good eyebrow raises and head nods?

Prepare five or six stories that illustrate how you deal with challenges, how you set priorities, how you tackle something new.  Practice telling these stories.  Make sure they sound smooth and they hang together so you don’t drift off in the middle.

A good career example is like a good joke.  You have told it many times and you know when to pause and when to keep going to get the desired impact.

That preparation should allow you to walk in to an interview ready to share what you know and learn what they need.  And that’s the goal.

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Job Journey: How to Prepare for a First Interview

It’s spring here in Canada and if you are doing the interview circuit, you need to be prepared.

There is nothing worse than sniffling during a conversation.  You try to be subtle by wiggling your nose or casually wiping your sleeve near your nose but face it: there is no substitute for a tissue.  So start each day by putting one in your pocket, sleeve or bra strap.

If you have a bit of a cough or a tickle (and who doesn’t these days?), then put some lozenges or tic tacs in your pocket, purse or briefcase. You can pop one while you are waiting for your meeting to start.  It will give you something to do with your hands.

Make sure you give yourself extra time before the interview but don’t hang around the reception area – that’s not cool.  Plan to take a few minutes in the lobby for your body temperature to sort itself out.  Your face and hands will be cold but your armpits will be working overtime.  It will be better if you greet the person you are meeting with warm hands and the tell-tale half moons of nervousness will have dissipated.  Take off your coat, blow your nose and wait until everything comes to room temperature.  Then head upstairs to announce your presence.

Finally, no matter how much of a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fan you are, don’t take your coffee into the meeting unless you are prepared to offer some to the other person.

Set yourself up for a great first interview:  arrive early, finish your latte in the lobby and pop a tic tac.

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Job Journey: What if a Recruiter Calls? 

Answer the damn phone!  Just kidding…..you don’t have to pick up the phone if you don’t have time at that moment or your boss is in your office.

But it might be worth listening to their voice mail or checking your inbox (mail or LinkedIn) to see what they have to say.

Frequently, companies partner with third party recruiters to do the initial screening of the applicants for a role.  So that recruiter might be calling about something you actually applied for.  You would not want to miss that.

They might be calling you out of the blue to tell you about something they are working on.   Recruiters are not much for wasting time.  We only get paid if we are successful in helping our client solve their problem.  There is a reason you have been selected for a call.  Your name was not randomly chosen out of a hat.

Find a quiet place to have a brief call to explore what they have to say.  You are not saying “yes” to a job and you are not leaving your current job.  You are just taking a few minutes to learn more.

I realize that I am quite biased, but there is a lot to gain from this investment.  You could get some valuable market intelligence on your worth, your marketability, your competition.  You might come away thinking the recruiter is a dolt and has no idea what you really do.  But you might also be able to think of someone who is looking for exactly that sort of role.  You would be a hero then right?

Take a few minutes; you never know what you might learn.

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Job Journey: The Art of the Follow Up

When you apply for a job, it’s a bit like calling someone after the first date.  You really want them to call back to make plans.  You keep looking at your phone (or hitting “get mail” in your mailbox) while you pretend to be doing something else.

What if you don’t hear back? How should you go about following up?

I like the “3 Touch” rule.  Reach out three times to follow up.  It can be emails, voice mails, LinkedIn messages or a combination of all three.  

Your messages (on either platform) should be short and meaningful.  Include your name and the role that you applied for.  If someone important suggested that you apply, mention that next.  Make a reference to the most relevant thing you bring to the table.  It could be your current title, the software you developed, the award you just won, Anything that might offer a spark of recognition when your resume hits the top of the pile.

If after three tries, you hear nothing, walk away.  You have made a strong impression.  You don’t want to cross the line into “oh no, not her again”.

Keep in mind, you might still in the running for the job.  All sorts of things happen behind the scenes to delay a positive response.

Your resume might be the next one to review when the recruiter gets called into two back to back meetings and that rolls into lunch and then all of the sudden, it’s the end of the day.  The resume pile goes home for an evening work session, but then he or she falls asleep on the couch only to be woken at 3am by the dog.

Or the hiring manager decides that this role is not as important as the other two in the department and so the focus shifts away for a week or two.

Be diligent and move on.  There are lots of opportunities out there.  Keep raising your hand and someone will call on you.

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Job Journey: How to Apply for the Job You Really Want

If you are lucky enough to know what you want to next, you don’t have to wait for it to be posted.

You can express your interest in ways other than the traditional application. This requires some research and perseverance but is likely to be worth it in the end.

Think about the role you want. What department is it in? Who leads the group? Who else interacts with the group or has overlapping activities? You can do most of this research on LinkedIn. Just search for people by company. Company is one of the boxes you can fill in on the Advanced Search page.

You can also check out the company web page to see who is listed there.

 

The next step is to figure out where you have connections. Perhaps some of the names were former colleagues? Maybe you belong to the same professional association? Any connection point will do.

A friend of mine got his last job from an introduction by one the parents he met at the arena during a hockey tournament.

The next bit is Networking 101. Reach out to say hello. See if they would be open to a conversation with you. Here is an opening line you can try: “You are obviously having great success with your organization. Would you be open to taking a few minutes to chatting about the culture?”

This will give you a chance to hear first hand about the organization and confirm that it is, in fact, the kind of place/department/group you want to join.

At some point in the conversation, the person will want to know why you are curious. That’s your cue to talk about yourself and your interest in a possible role. If the conversation has gone well, it is quite likely that they might offer to make an introductions for you. If they don’t offer, then put it out there yourself.

We can talk about how to follow up later but for now, do your research and get ready for the handshakes..

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