Category Archives: Job Search

Job Journey: The Reference Game

References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers are looking for verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are.

And who better to hear from than other managers?

Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared such as inadvertently giving confidential information about the business or inappropriate details about the candidate.

Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.

At that point, HR departments in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references. Only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.

Not helpful.

As always, a workaround developed. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and therefore, not bound by reference policies.

Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.

Be nice to people when they leave the organization, regardless of the reason for their departure. Set up at least one coffee date per month with a former manager or colleague. You never know when you are going to need someone who can authentically vouch for your performance at work and verify the stuff that’s on your resume.

There can be an unexpected bonus in all this networking: coffee dates often lead to opportunities in the form of introductions and job leads.

Smile and bring on the double double!

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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: 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: 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: 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: 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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