I heard a fantastic phrase last week. One of our senior sales leaders was talking with us about value propositions, enhanced authenticity and other eye rolling stuff. I was starting to glaze over when he came out with this gem:
Don’t just show up and throw up.
What a perfect way to describe what happens when you head into an interview and you are nervous as hell. The first question is thrown out and off you go. You do a complete and uncontrolled brain dump. Then you run out of oxygen and can no longer remember the question. So embarrassing…..
Don’t get me wrong. Nerves won’t ever go away. There should always be some anticipation and a sense of excitement when you meet with new people. I get that feeling even when I am meeting people I already know and I talk to strangers for a living.
The key is confidence and that comes with research and practice. Once you know you have secured an interview, research the company. Use LinkedIn, industry news sources and your network to find out what you can about the company. Look for information on growth, awards, competitors, culture, locations and values.
Spend some time thinking about your experience and what might be relevant to the hiring team. What stories could you share that would induce some good eyebrow raises and head nods?
Prepare five or six stories that illustrate how you deal with challenges, how you set priorities, how you tackle something new. Practice telling these stories. Make sure they sound smooth and they hang together so you don’t drift off in the middle.
A good career example is like a good joke. You have told it many times and you know when to pause and when to keep going to get the desired impact.
That preparation should allow you to walk in to an interview ready to share what you know and learn what they need. And that’s the goal.
It’s spring here in Canada and if you are doing the interview circuit, you need to be prepared.
There is nothing worse than sniffling during a conversation. You try to be subtle by wiggling your nose or casually wiping your sleeve near your nose but face it: there is no substitute for a tissue. So start each day by putting one in your pocket, sleeve or bra strap.
If you have a bit of a cough or a tickle (and who doesn’t these days?), then put some lozenges or tic tacs in your pocket, purse or briefcase. You can pop one while you are waiting for your meeting to start. It will give you something to do with your hands.
Make sure you give yourself extra time before the interview but don’t hang around the reception area – that’s not cool. Plan to take a few minutes in the lobby for your body temperature to sort itself out. Your face and hands will be cold but your armpits will be working overtime. It will be better if you greet the person you are meeting with warm hands and the tell-tale half moons of nervousness will have dissipated. Take off your coat, blow your nose and wait until everything comes to room temperature. Then head upstairs to announce your presence.
Finally, no matter how much of a Tim Horton’s or Starbucks fan you are, don’t take your coffee into the meeting unless you are prepared to offer some to the other person.
Set yourself up for a great first interview: arrive early, finish your latte in the lobby and pop a tic tac.
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.
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.
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..
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.
It’s 12 minutes to the puck drop for the gold medal women’s hockey game. I am way too distracted to think about resumes.
Whether we win or not, it is sure to be inspiring and energizing and make me even prouder to be Canadian.
More on resumes and applying for jobs next week.