Job Journey: What to Bring to an Interview

Preparing for an interview is not just about the suit and haircut. You have some options in terms of what you bring with you as well.

  • Do bring a pen and notebook to make notes or jot down questions or the names of the people you are meeting.
  • Don’t bring coffee or gum.  Ditch them in the lobby.   Fresh breath is good. Chewing gum is bad.
  • Do bring several copies of your resume.  You never know when it might come in handy.  You also look super smooth if one of the panel members has forgotten to bring it.  
  • Don’t bring your phone.  Unless it is muted.  Totally muted.  Don’t forget your watch and iPad. Silence anything you bring into the interview.
  • Do bring the job description.  Highlight the things that are well aligned that you want to emphasize.  Also note anything that’s concerning or not clear.
  • Don’t bring or share confidential information from past or current employers even if it provides great examples of what you can do.  That makes people super nervous.  If you do that to your current employer, you might do it to them too.
  • Do bring a tissue.  Kleenex is fine.  An actual cloth handkerchief is better.
  • Don’t bring strong smells.  Go easy on the cologne/aftershave.  The smell of clean laundry is ideal.  If your interviewer can’t see for the tears because they are allergic to your perfume, you are not making the best impression.  (Although, the handkerchief would come in handy here…)

So gear up and get ready for a great conversation.

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Job Journey: What to do Between Interviews

Most hiring decisions take more than one interview. In fact, it’s not uncommon for there to be three or four interviews. Then there are the references, background checks and the offer discussions. All in all, a process that takes weeks and sometimes, months.

It’s a pretty stressful time. You lie in bed at night wondering what’s happening. When you have a bad day at work, you toy with the idea of quitting because you feel like that new job is just around the corner. Or you worry about taking on a new project because you might not be there to see it through.

Ignore all of these temptations. You don’t have the job until you sign an offer and until then, it should be business as usual. Keep doing your thing and making people happy.

Interviewing is stressful and can be distracting but it is important to stay focused on your day job. When you leave, you want it to be on your terms. You don’t want to have problems putting together references because you suddenly became a “performance problem”.

The other thing is to be careful about who you tell. Most of us have one or two friendlies at work. It can be okay to confide in them but only if you can really trust that they won’t share it with anyone else. And if you choose to share what’s happening with them, don’t do it in the office. Go out for coffee, meet after work or go for a walk. It’s too awkward to have that kind of discussion in and amongst your boss and team. People make assumptions and then gossip about those assumptions. Imagine if you hear from someone in another work group that you were not considered for the new project because they heard you were leaving.

Your partner and your outside-work friends are the best people to share your progress and help you decide what to wear. Your mentors are excellent for this too. They can give you more context, help you lay out the strategy for the next steps or just help you de-stress.

Be patient and try having some warm milk before bed.

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Job Journey: The Other Thank You Note

It’s pretty common practice to send a note after an interview. You want to show respect for the time that the hiring manager invested as well as demonstrate that you are professional and thoughtful.

But what happens when you are moving through the interview process and other people are involved?

Perhaps an internal talent acquisition person set up the meeting with the hiring manager. Perhaps you are working with a head hunter who coordinated everything.

Thanking them is important but what’s really important is to get back to that person after the interview to let them know how it went from your point of view.

First of all, it confirms that the meeting took place. Often, interviews are set up days ahead and the person doing the coordination is not in daily contact with either party. When they get an email or a voice mail saying every worked out and it was a great meeting, that will definitely be a positive thing.

The second important thing is that it provides an opportunity to reinforce why you are a good fit for the role. You can briefly outline what you learned from the hiring manager and how well it aligns with your skills/experience/objectives.

When that debrief conversation with the hiring manager happens, your advocate is fully prepared to share your positive thoughts and armed with specifics about the conversation. They are ideally positioned to reinforce your strengths.

This also helps them be prepared to bring up any concerns that surfaced in the interview. For example, if the hiring manager asked you about a skill or activity that you did not know what required or how you feel about moving to Moscow, you can let the coordinator know.

In the hiring process, the more people aligned around the cause, the better. Keep communicating and keep everyone in the loop. It will pay off in the end.

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Job Journey: Interviewing Ad Infinitum

We always hear about the neighbor who got a job with a handshake. You know the one. He was in the line at Starbucks and got talking with the guy in front of him. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, he is starting his new gig.

That mostly happens in the movies.

It can happen in real life but it takes a lot longer than the story makes it seem.

Very few companies make hiring decisions after one interview. In fact, very few seem to make them after three interviews.

There are two things at play here. One is making sure that the work group supports the hire. It’s a lot easier to onboard successfully if a bunch of people gave you a thumbs up. On the other hand, if you don’t work out, the finger pointing is not at one person but at the whole group.

The other reason for multiple interviews is to make sure that the best candidate is chosen for the role. The theory here is that the first interview is a series of get-to-know-you session with a larger group of candidates. That group gets narrowed down to a “short list” of candidates. They are presented to the hiring managers for review. Generally, they fit the skills, experience and compensation.

The hiring manager whittles that group down to a small group of two or three. At this point, any of the candidates could do the role. The conversation is to determine who would bring the best of the other necessary qualities: fit, energy, relationship building and so on. That conversation is usually with a Director or Vice President, someone who is one or two levels above the hiring manager. This is where things get pretty serious. The company will make a choice and there is no second place award.

Each of these stages require similar preparation. Review the interviewer’s profile. Where do they fit in the company? How do they relate to the role you are considering?

They will surely ask you many of the same questions as others before. Make sure you sound just as fresh and energetic at each stage. The people at the second and third stage are meeting you for the first time and as you go up the food chain, those first impressions really count.

Bring plenty of your own questions as well. Senior level managers want to know that you have done your homework and have a genuine interest and curiosity about the business.

Finally, book your haircut appointments for the next six months. That way you will always be fresh and ready on the outside as well as the inside.

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Job Journey: Interview No-Nos

Interviews are stressful and sometimes we blurt out things without knowing how they will be interpreted by the hiring manager.

Here’s what interviewers don’t want to hear:

I want this to be the last job of my career.

Even though your intention is to totally commit to this role, that’s not what the interviewer hears. They hear that you are looking for place to park for the next couple of years until you retire.

I will take this job until the right job comes along.

This is fine to think but not to say. No one wants to hear that a place on their team is not the most appealing thing since sliced bread.

My objective is to have your job.

Telling the hiring manager you want kick them out of their office is not the best way to display your ambition. Talking about wanting to lead a team or run a project is a better way to do this.

I’d like to work from home.

What the interviewer hears is that you don’t feel like this job is worth getting dressed and commuting for every morning. If the position is not advertised as “remote”, then its not and the expectation is that you will be in the office with everyone else. You can ask if work from home programs are available but that’s about as far as you can go.

Hiring is about finding the right person for the role. Part of this is assessing skills and experience and part of is assessing the risks the person presents. Make sure your answers do not lead them to consider risks that are not there. Practice your interview responses with this in mind.

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Job Journey: Tips for a Panel Interview

It can be common, especially for senior level roles, to have one of the selection stages be a panel interview.

Initially, it can feel intimidating but it can be very constructive and useful. It provides a really efficient way to meet a cross section of people from the organization. You can think of it just like any other meeting where you would research, prepare and present.

Find out as much as you can before the interview. It’s helpful if you know the names and titles of who will be sitting on the panel. That will give you some insight into the types of concerns they may have. You can check on LinkedIn or look for corporate bios.

Make sure you have a strong introduction statement. Once you all get past commenting on the weather, someone will inevitably ask you to talk a bit about yourself. You need a well practiced summary that illustrates two things. What you have done and why you are there.

Bring a pad of paper and a pen. When the panel members get introduced, make note of their names. That way, when you respond to a question, you can use their name.

Bring questions of your own as well. There probably won’t be time for many but you really seal the impression you have made with a well chosen and thoughtful question.

When the panel stands up, that’s your cue to stand as well. Shake each person’s hand and thank them for their time.

Head on out and get working on those thank you notes!

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Job Journey: Skype Interview Tips

Skype interviews are becoming more and more common. I find myself using them more and more. They are not the same as meeting someone in person but they allow me to experience how the person presents, their energy and hand gestures – basically everything except their sweaty palms.

Preparing for a Skype interview is pretty similar to a face to face interview. You still have to read up on the company and the role. You still have to practice talking about your experience.

And you still need to get a haircut. Just because the conversation is on Skype rather than in person does not make it casual in any way. You need to be just as professional as you would if you were going to a hiring manager’s office.

Before the conversation starts, decide where you are going to take the call. I get really nauseous if I have to watch as you move your phone all around  while you find a good spot to prop your phone or iPad.

Also, before the call, reverse the camera so you can see what the interviewer is going to see. Check for laundry, lingerie, questionable magazines, travel souvenirs or any other distractions. Put the cat in another room. You want to make sure that the interviewer is paying attention only to you.

During the call, if you are going to take notes (which is fine) tell the interviewer.  It is awkward if you keep looking down and they don’t know why.

Also, try to remember to look up periodically. The temptation is to look only at their image at the bottom of your screen. When you focus on the top frame of your screen, it feels more like you are making eye contact.

Make a couple of practice calls with friends to get ready. Pull up a chair and get comfy, because Skpe is here to stay.

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