Picture this: you are at a job interview and things are going really well. The hiring manager leans back in her chair and asks if you have any questions. Bang! Here is your opportunity to cement everything and nail the job.
So, what do you ask?
Hint: Do not begin by asking about the start date. If they really want you, they will have already asked that question.
There are a couple of ways to go. One is to focus on the hiring manager. When did they start with the company? What do they like about the organization? What is the most meaningful part of their work?
You can also dig deeper into the company and it’s culture. What challenges does it face? What sets them apart from their competitors? What is the style of the senior leadership team?
Or you can ask about the role itself. You can ask about the compensation. Careful though. Sometimes employers don’t want to talk about that until quite late in the process. You could ask about whether there is variable compensation and how it’s tied to your performance. The answer to that could be quite insightful. You could also ask for more detail about other other
perks such as savings plans, company discount programs or tuition reimbursement. This one is nice because you could get a follow up question about your future goals around learning.
(so be ready for that).
There are lots of choices. The important thing is to think about it before you get there so that they are ready at hand. You don’t want to end an interview with a blank look and a shrug.
Looking for a new job has a lot of ups and downs….no that’s not true. There are mostly downs. Nothing is more depressing than sitting down to look at postings on LinkedIn and realizing that they are the exact same ones you looked at yesterday.
It can be tough to stay motivated with that staring you in the face. And motivation is what you need to get to a better place in the world of work.
Here is a suggestion: rather than picking through postings in a random lets-see-whats-new approach, make a plan instead.
Identify four or five different types of possible next steps for your career. You might be interested in several different industries, corporate or consulting, stepping sideways or stretching up or maybe you are considering something completely different.
The idea is that you explore one of these tracts each day. This allows you to really pay attention and give that direction some serious research and thought. Maybe after two sessions, you realize that it’s not an appropriate choice. That’s okay. Better to know than to wonder about it later.
This also makes sure you are looking at fresh material every time you sit down. There is a greater chance of seeing the interesting new roles and not just the same old stuff.
So consider adding a little more rigour and structure to your search. It will be well worth the planning time. It will reduce the deflation potential – that feeling of wanting to throw your laptop against the wall because it all looks the same as yesterday.
I once saw Anderson Cooper interview Lady Gaga on the venerable CBS show 60 Minutes. She is a pretty interesting character. Anderson was asking her about how she handles the way the press hang around waiting to catch her in an embarrassing situation.
“Well, Anderson, I am just not a barf in the bar kind of girl”.
This is the kind of authenticity that everyone needs to bring to an interview. It does not matter if it is a telephone interview with a recruiter or a face to face meeting with a hiring manager. Confident, direct and truthful is the way to go.
This does not give you permission to be rude or disrespectful. If you are asked how you got along with your former boss, you really shouldn’t say he was a jerk or he couldn’t read financial statements to save his life. It is okay, however, to explain that you made decisions differently or you had different approaches to customer service.
An interview is like the nice pair of shoes in the shop window. You go in to see if they have your size. You try them on. You walk around for a while, thinking of outfits that will work with them. You think about whether you can afford them. You see if the salesperson will give you a deal and together, you decide if they are the right pair for you.
If they don’t feel comfortable in the shop, don’t buy them, no matter how good a deal they are. They will mock you every time you see them in your closet.
Lady Gaga wouldn’t settle for ill-fitting loafers. Why should you?
How was your year? 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 your calendar from February and April 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 cousins 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. Those typically go well with eggnog and cookies.
So flip through Outlook and make a list. You might be surprised. Maybe it was a pretty good year after all.
I read resumes for a living. I have no idea how many resumes I have read but I am sure it is thousands and thousands. When I do orientation with our interns, they kind of glaze over when I start to talk about the patterns and characteristics that we look for. One of my interns described it as a kind of black art.
So here’s the thing: make it easy for us!
If you are posting your information on a job board, here are some of the things that should be included to make sure you get seen by the right people:
- You are looking/not looking but curious/not looking but like to have your stuff out there
- You are employed/not employed/not employed enough
- You are willing to look at out of town opportunities/no way in hell will you relocate
- How much money you are looking for, even if it is a wide range.
- Your education and where it came from. Don’t make stuff up. If you did not finish your degree, don’t say you have one. Similarly, if your degree is from outside Canada, don’t say you got it from the University of Gdansk in Canada. We were not born yesterday.
Monster and Workopolis put all those fields in there for a reason. Use them. Make it easy for those of us fishing in an ocean of resumes to use the right bait to find you.