Category Archives: Interview

Career Portfolio – Interview Secret Sauce

I have a friend who is a self-employed consultant.  A few years ago, over coffee, she complained that she would not have a clue as to where to start if she wanted to get a “real job”.

I suggested that she create a portfolio.  She thought portfolios were only for artists or other creative types.  Not so.

A portfolio (fancy binder with plastic sleeves and dividers) is an excellent vehicle for organizing and presenting your experience.  It can have sections that show your work, education and other credentials, volunteer activities, hobbies, thank you notes, awards and really, anything else that is relevant to the way that you do what you do.

Just the act of gathering the information together and putting it all in one place can be a pretty powerful exercise.  It’s something that you can do over a couple of weekends and then add/change revise every year.

My friend took that suggestion to heart and created what she called a career scrapbook. She had it in her car for a while and then it took up its place on a shelf in her office.

Last week she applied for an actual job and found herself staring down the barrel of an interview.  Not just any interview but a panel interview in a formal, government type organization.  She dusted off her portfolio, added a couple of items, reviewed the rest of the material and then focused on her outfit.  She felt confident and ready.  (I should point out that she was eminently qualified for the job.)

At the end of the interview, she was asked if she had any questions.  All of hers had been covered in the discussion but she told the panel members that she had brought her portfolio and asked if there was anything they would like to see.  The senior person raised her eyebrows and came over to have a look.

She looked at the table of contents, saw the “Thank You” section and flipped right to that part.   She nodded and smiled as she read the cards, notes and emails.  It turns out that the adjudicator actually knew two of the people who had sent notes and that lead to a much less formal conversation where my friend got one more opportunity to show what she knows and why she has been so successful.

She left the interview, with her portfolio tucked under her arm, feeling very good about herself and her experience.  No offer yet……..but I’ll keep you posted.

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How to Talk Compensation with a Recruiter

No one likes to talk about salary. It has this mystical kind of voodoo quality. No one wants to give the wrong answer. It can become a game of who goes first and the real objective can get lost.

It is really not that complicated. Money is just one of the things that have to align for you to be considered a “fit”. If you are already making $100,000 more than the position pays, then the fit is not there. If you are way below the salary range, that does not fit either.

But this is not entirely about the money. It’s also about the risk and the culture.

Say you absolutely love a role so much that you would take a serious pay cut to have it on your resume. Sometimes this can work (and might be necessary) when you are taking a sharp turn on your career path. If you are a corporate lawyer and you want to leave that world to do more human focused work with a better life balance then this would be credible and might be considered.

But here’s the risk: six months in, when the honeymoon is over and you have are driving home after a bad day, you are really going to feel that haircut and suddenly, your job will not seem as great as it did before. You will start to question your decision and that could have a negative impact on your work and life.

Here’s the other thing to consider: not all managers can handle knowing that one of their team members made a lot more money in their last role. It can create all kinds of negative vibes and really mess up a team.

So when money is the topic, be candid and clear about what you are used to and what you are looking for. Don’t try to get away with “Oh, it doesn’t matter” or “We can discuss it at an alternate time”. There is nothing worse than falling in love with an opportunity only to have the whole thing fall apart at the end because the salary is not appropriate for you.

So spill the beans. It is the only way they can be counted.

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Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search, recruiter, Uncategorized

Your Personal Highlight Reel

How was your summer?  Seriously.  How was it?  What did you do?  What did you learn?

When asked this question at a cocktail party or an interview, many people go blank and it is a big missed opportunity.

Don’t even think about saying “same old, same old”.  Not only is it probably not true, it just shows that you are too lazy to think of something interesting.

If you did something big like change jobs, then it’s easy.  You can ride the “new job” train for about nine months and then it’s not new anymore.  For everyone else, you need to actually spend some time looking at back at your calendar from May, June and those other months you can’t remember.

All the memories will come flooding back: that awful conference, that great presentation, the month your boss was away and you got to take over.  Those are the things you need to be able to talk about.

You might even want to work them into your resume.  At the very least, practice telling the story about the things that you did.  I am not suggesting that you bore your neighbours to death by telling them the minute details of how you implemented a new quality assurance standard.  Just distill it into a couple of sound bites.

So flip through Outlook and make a list.  You might be surprised.  Maybe it was a pretty good summer after all.

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Humour in the Interview – Tread Lightly

I had a good discussion with one of my friends this week about using humour at work, especially when you are new in a group or organization.  That got me thinking about humour in an interview setting.

An interview is like a first date.  You are listening and answering to see if there is a fit, to see if you get along.  Do you relate to the same things?  Do you share a common language or way of speaking?

There certainly can be some shared laughter in that kind of conversation but be careful it’s not nervous humour.  High pitched giggles and bathroom humour are definitely out.

If you are going to say something that you think is funny, check first – is it respectful and professional?  There is definitely no room for sarcasm in an interview.  Even if the hiring manager seems to be okay with it or throwing out some barbs, don’t do it.  Sarcasm is mean and even if it’s delivered in a funny way, it can still hurt someone’s feelings.

If the interviewer says something that’s funny to you, check their face before you burst out laughing.  If their eyes and mouth are not warm and smiling, perhaps it is not funny to them.  Definitely avoid laughing if they are not laughing.  This can be very awkward.

So tread carefully and pay attention.

And disregard this whole thing if you are interviewing at a Comedy Club.

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You are not Wolverine. These things take time.

Wolverine is a comic book hero-mutant who has, among his superhero attributes, a special healing factor that causes him to recover from anything that hurts him. This is really handy when he is fighting bad guys with the X-men or the Avengers.

We would do well to remember that we are not superheroes. Transitions, whether of our own choice or chosen by someone or something else, always take longer than we think they should.

It takes time to recover from the sadness of being dumped in a corporate layoff. 

It takes time to feel good after finding out that you did not get the job that was a perfect fit.

It takes time to regain momentum on a job search when you are really busy satisfying a boss you can’t stand.

Can you spare 15 minutes today?  Try.  It will be worth it.

  • Sit down with a beverage, a pen and a piece of paper.
  • Write down three things you are proud to tell people about from your career.
  • Next add three things that you have achieved in your non-work life.
  • Finally, if I asked three of your friends or colleagues about your best attributes, what would they say?  Add those words to your list.

Sit back and take a look.  Good, eh?  You have a lot going for you.  Take a deep breath and enjoy it for a moment.

Now, get back out there and slay those career villains!

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Interview Times: the good, the bad and the ugly

Setting up an interview can be tricky.  No matter how excited you are about the opportunity, it is another thing to squeeze into your already busy life.

When you are offered a time slot, make sure you can build in enough time to travel to the location and a good buffer on the other end as well.

Strategically, early and late in the day are probably best.  Those times are usually easier to work into a schedule.  Coming in a bit late and leaving a bit early are generally accepted for doctor’s appointments which is good because it won’t draw a ton of attention.

Things get awkward when either party is late for an interview.  If you find yourself running late, call or send a short email with an apology and an estimated time of arrival.  Try not to panic.  You will get there when you get there and swearing at other drivers won’t make a bit of difference.

Hopefully, you took the time to prepare the night before and you know the directions and the suite number.  Trying to read your phone and navigate when you are late is really hard to do.

What if you are on time, but the interviewer is late?  What you do in this case is really up to you.  I usually give 15 minutes grace period.  That’s what I would want if I was the one who was late.

You might want to send a note to the person who set up the meeting after you have been waiting for 10 minutes.  Maybe they can track the person down and find out what’s going on.

If enough time has elapsed that you are feeling a little irritated, then go.  You don’t want to go into a conversation about a job in a pissed-off frame of mind.  And honestly, if they don’t make time to meet  you, do you really want them?

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Hiring Handbook: When to Read Resumes

Every hiring manager has to read a stack of resumes at some point.  But it’s so easy to put off making time to read through them.  You put out a few fires, go to lunch and some meetings and boom, the day is done.

When the stack is still staring at you three days later, you finally relent and take it home.  After dinner, you settle in, find something good on Netflix and read resumes.

This is how important things get missed.  It’s not just that you are distracted.  At the end of a long day you are also tired.  It’s likely that you feeling pretty uninspired.  The sense that you could successfully onboard a new team member is not very high. Your ability to see candidates with potential or out of box skills is greatly diminished.

You go to bed feeling like there will never be any good candidates, have a crappy sleep and then bark at your colleagues the next day.

See how that works?

The best time to read resumes is at the beginning of the day.  You are fresh and open to possibilities.  When you see patterns or themes that work (or don’t work), you can take action.  Perhaps the job posting needs to be changed or the pre-screening questions need to be more comprehensive.

You have a much better chance of improving the process if you tackle the stack in the morning.  Block time in your calendar, grab a hot cup of coffee and get reading.  It won’t take a long as you think and you might be surprised with the results.

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Filed under Interview, Resume