Tag 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Interview, Resume

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview, 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search

Job Journey: Interview No-Nos

Interviews are stressful and sometimes we blurt out things without knowing how they will be interpreted by the hiring manager.

Here’s what interviewers don’t want to hear:

I want this to be the last job of my career.

Even though your intention is to totally commit to this role, that’s not what the interviewer hears. They hear that you are looking for place to park for the next couple of years until you retire.

I will take this job until the right job comes along.

This is fine to think but not to say. No one wants to hear that a place on their team is not the most appealing thing since sliced bread.

My objective is to have your job.

Telling the hiring manager you want kick them out of their office is not the best way to display your ambition. Talking about wanting to lead a team or run a project is a better way to do this.

I’d like to work from home.

What the interviewer hears is that you don’t feel like this job is worth getting dressed and commuting for every morning. If the position is not advertised as “remote”, then its not and the expectation is that you will be in the office with everyone else. You can ask if work from home programs are available but that’s about as far as you can go.

Hiring is about finding the right person for the role. Part of this is assessing skills and experience and part of is assessing the risks the person presents. Make sure your answers do not lead them to consider risks that are not there. Practice your interview responses with this in mind.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Back Door References – Just another form of gossip

In most searches, the final step is reference checking.  The candidate provides three or four people they have worked with or reported to.  Those people are asked a series of questions about the candidate’s work style and reliability and if the references are done right, they are also asked about areas of improvement and for an explanation of why they left the company.

This exercise is not meant to confirm that the person can do the job.  It provides verification of the good things you saw in the candidate.  And when you see common themes in what people have said, it’s a pretty sure thing.

Sure, this can seem like a bit of a rubber stamp.  But that’s okay.  If every reference check gave you crappy feedback, then you would soon realize have a major problem with your vetting and interview process.

Sometimes impatient or unsure hiring managers take this into their own hands and call people who have worked with or know of the candidate.  Many industries are small enough that this is possible.  This is called back door reference checking.

From a privacy standpoint, this is totally wrong and really crosses the line.  There is a reason we ask a candidate for people to call.

If you hear something bad, what will you do?  Call the candidate and tell them that their former manager said they were unreliable?  What if that manager was on leave for harassment?  You don’t know.  You have no context.

What if you call a former colleague and they happen to mention it to someone else in the organization?  What happens to that candidate who was quietly exploring a new role and all of the sudden everyone knows?  Bad news.

Do don’t play fast and loose with people’s careers.  If there is a particular point of view you want included in the reference, just ask.  That’s the best way.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview

Mastering the Skype Interview

This week has been interesting. I met a lot of people – about half in person and the other half virtually.

I like the skype interview. I don’t feel guilty about making people come all the way to my office (and mortgage their car to pay for downtown parking). It’s also easier to fit in to busy people’s schedules.

Here is what I noticed. The people who met me in person had obviously taken care with their appearance and their timing. There was a general sense of preparedness about them when I met them in our reception area.

The skype chats were different. It seemed to be a much more casual thing. Not too much care with the surroundings and not to concerned about attire.

Now, I know that different industries have different “uniforms”. If you meeting someone from a financial institution, you need to look well dressed and successful. Cuff links and monogrammed cuffs are optional but the suit is mandatory.

But even if you are interviewing in a software company with Red Bull on tap, you are probably going to put on a clean t shirt.

Don’t let a video interview be your downfall. It is just as important as an in-person one.

  • Be ready – test your wifi connection with a friend before the call
  • Look neat – you can take the TV news anchor approach – shirt and tie on top, shorts on the bottom
  • Have your resume and place to make notes beside you
  • Turn off your phone – you know it’s going with that obnoxious ring tone you assigned to your brother-in-law in the middle of the thorny salary question
  • Remove distractions – let everyone (including your dog) know that you are in an important meeting

These things won’t necessarily get you the job but they will help you make a better impression.

Leave a comment

Filed under career change, Interview, Job Search, recruiter