Category Archives: Interview

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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Hiring Handbook: What to bring to an Interview

It does not matter what side of the table you sit on for your next interview, there are certain things you need to bring to look credible and interesting.

Hiring teams and candidates alike need to be prepared and ready to have a great conversation.  We know that candidates put a lot of energy into doing their research and preparing their stories.  It is important for hiring managers to do some pre-work as well.

Bring the job description and the candidate’s resume.  You may not need to refer to either during the conversation but you will have them handy.  Also, it means that you can give both at least a passing glance on your way to the interview room.  

Bring your coffee cup or water bottle only if you are prepared to offer the same to the candidate.  It will be awkward for your candidate to watch you chug away on your hazelnut flavoured latte with extra whip when they have nothing.

Bring some tissues in your pocket.  Nothing is worse than sniffing through an interview.  Also, if you have a tissue to hand to the other person, you look like a hero.

Bring a pen and something to write on.  Even if you don’t end up writing down, it is a sign of respect that you are prepared to jot down notes or questions.

Bring your phone to the meeting but only if it is on silent.  No fooling around on this one.  Having your phone chirp away during a conversation is distracting even if you manage to avoid looking at it (and that’s pretty hard to avoid).

One last thing:  leave your gum in your office.  Gum has a way of moving around while you are talking and frankly, it’s gross.  

These things may seem small, but they go a long way to setting the stage for a great conversation and that’s the goal right?

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Hiring Handbook: The Importance of Timely Feedback

You have just finished interviewing a candidate and it went really well. The conversation flowed naturally, the answers were crisp and to the point and the motivation was clear and rational.

What do you do?  Usually, you jump in and start making arrangements for the next step in the process.  You let the candidate know that the experience was positive and you are looking forward to next steps.

What if the conversation was not so good?  Do you quickly let them know?  Probably not.

Sometimes, you want to get a second opinion.  You think maybe there is some common ground but you are not sure about the delivery and communication style.

Mostly, we don’t give feedback on the less-than-positive candidates because we don’t want to give bad news.  And it’s true.  Telling someone they are not getting the job can suck. 

But it doesn’t have to.

You can always find something positive to say about a conversation. Start with that. Then describe what’s missing from the candidate’s experience that you feel will pose a risk to their success in your organization.  Make it clear that you liked what they had to offer but it just was not right for what you need right now.

Most candidates will appreciate knowing what was missing (although once in a while you will get a “crier” but that will just further solidify your decision). 

All candidates will appreciate that you took the time to call.  It is shocking to hear how many candidates, having invested time to prepare for, get to and participate in an interview, never hear back at all.  Nothing.  Nada. Niet.

That not only leaves a bad taste in their mouth but it can provide the impetus to get on glassdoor or monster or twitter to let the world know what happened.

It only takes a few minutes to reach out. Take the time to do it right. 

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