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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Job Journey: The Post Interview Thank You Note

Until recently, I was a strong advocate for sending a hand written note to the hiring manager after an interview.  I have come to appreciate that an email will do just fine. Emails are easier, quicker and you don’t have to worry about terrible hand writing.

Thank you notes help to cement your qualities of professionalism and the ability to follow up.  These are two characteristics are important for pretty much every job and the more you can bolster the positive impression you made during the interview, the better.

Your note should thank the person for their time and recall one or two points that were raised during the conversation.  The last bit should confirm your interest in the role and the company.

Ideally, you want to send the note the day after the meeting.  You don’t want to do it the moment you leave.  When you send it the day after, it shows that you have taken time to reflect and that you are organized enough to fit it into your busy day.

If you did not get a business card during the conversation and you do not have the contact information for the hiring manager, then send your note to whoever set up the meeting and ask them to forward it.

Thank you notes are an easy way to score points in the interview process.  Make them part of your post-interview follow up.

 

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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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