Category Archives: Job Search

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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Job Journey: How to Apply for the Job You Really Want

If you are lucky enough to know what you want to next, you don’t have to wait for it to be posted.

You can express your interest in ways other than the traditional application. This requires some research and perseverance but is likely to be worth it in the end.

Think about the role you want. What department is it in? Who leads the group? Who else interacts with the group or has overlapping activities? You can do most of this research on LinkedIn. Just search for people by company. Company is one of the boxes you can fill in on the Advanced Search page.

You can also check out the company web page to see who is listed there.

 

The next step is to figure out where you have connections. Perhaps some of the names were former colleagues? Maybe you belong to the same professional association? Any connection point will do.

A friend of mine got his last job from an introduction by one the parents he met at the arena during a hockey tournament.

The next bit is Networking 101. Reach out to say hello. See if they would be open to a conversation with you. Here is an opening line you can try: “You are obviously having great success with your organization. Would you be open to taking a few minutes to chatting about the culture?”

This will give you a chance to hear first hand about the organization and confirm that it is, in fact, the kind of place/department/group you want to join.

At some point in the conversation, the person will want to know why you are curious. That’s your cue to talk about yourself and your interest in a possible role. If the conversation has gone well, it is quite likely that they might offer to make an introductions for you. If they don’t offer, then put it out there yourself.

We can talk about how to follow up later but for now, do your research and get ready for the handshakes..

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Job Journey: How to Apply for a Job

There are lots of places to find jobs posted: LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed are just a few.  You can even look at company websites if you are specific companies in your sites.

Regardless of where you find the posting, the number one thing to do is to follow the instructions.

  • If you are asked to send your resume with a cover letter including your salary expectations, do that.
  • If you are asked to apply into their company site that is full of mandatory fields, do that.
  • If you are asked to use a particular reference number, do that too.

The posting is providing the gateway to the recruitment person or people.  They are not all robots even though sometimes it feels like they must be.  I know it seems like you are putting your information into a big, black hole but that is the most direct way of getting your resume into the pile for consideration.

You can help it get to the top part of the pile by making sure you have at least half of the requirements in the posting on your resume, preferably on the first page.

Feel free to be creative (but truthful).  When a posting asks for a designation, you can say P.Eng (in process) or CHRL (will be complete in April).  That allows you to rank high in the results even though you don’t exactly meet the requirement.

Similarly if you are asked for salary information in your cover letter, you can provide a wide range with some commentary.  For example, you could say “I am looking for 70-120k depending on the base, bonus, benefits and opportunities for growth”.  You have answered the question without hemming yourself in.

People do actually get jobs by applying to a posting. It is an important part of the job seeking process.

There are many alternate ways to show your interest in a company/role/opportunity and those will be covered in the coming weeks.

 

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