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Wednesday
Aug082007

You talk too much

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Many things can cause even the best of us to "wax on". While this might be tolerated at the bar on a Saturday night with your buddies, this is absolutely fatal during an interview. Learn how to catch yourself from babbling or you will risk coming off as nervous, boring or self-important.


You're Nervous - and are speaking too fast.

  • Smile when you talk. This has been clinically proven to help people calm down when speaking.
  • Count to 5 before responding to a question. This will at least slow down the beginning part of your dialogue.
  • Make a conscious attempt to speak more slowly. It will improve what and how the manager takes in what you've said and will avoid you coming off as anxious.


You're Not Listening
- and because you weren't focused on what they really asked, you end up getting into tangential or unrelated topics.

  • Repeat the question in your head and make sure you understand it. Ask them to clarify if needed.
  • Focus on only answering what they asked first. If you feel that your answer limits you, ask the manager if it's OK to provide some additional information you feel is pertinent.


You're Going Too Deep
- and getting into way too much detail. 

  • Think kiddy pool, not deep end. Get into only a first level of detail in your answers and ask if they would like you to expand upon these thoughts. They will tell you if they want more.


You're Hogging the Microphone
-  and doing all the talking because you think the HM is interested.

  • Don't grandstand or pontificate ever. You may feel like you are on a roll, but for all you know the manager is feeling left out of the conversation or, worse, bored to tears.
  • Catch yourself from doing this by putting a self-imposed limit on your comments of about 2 minutes max.
  • Use this checkpoint to stop and involve the manager in your commentary..."is this the type of information you wanted from me"..."can I get into any deeper level of detail for you"..."is this answering your question"..."is my experience I'm describing relevant to the role you are hiring for?"

Saturday
Jul212007

Dealing with Human Resources

Although not the most important player in the hiring process, HR does have influence over the final decision (kind of like your in-laws!). Understand what you can gain here and use that meeting to make a positive impression.

If you dismiss HR and try to marginalize their importance, they'll make things very difficult for you (kind of like your in-laws!) :)...

As an IT professional, you are interested in-depth details on the job, specifics about the work environment, future technical projects and the real scoop about who you will be working with. Unfortunately, this is not the type of information HR will typically give you. Instead, they'll tend to cover more ancillary, albeit important, things like...

  • full details of the medical and life insurance programs
  • history of this job opening (a new spot or a replacement)
  • company’s employee retention rate
  • tuition reimbursement, 401K's and other "perks" offered
  • details of the interview process (steps, timeframe, applications, background checks)
  • corporate culture
  • more extensive background information on the company

Use this list to engage them and show an interest in the kind of information they can provide. You'll score points here and also gather valuable facts about the employer.

Don't forget that they are usually the first point of contact within the interview process for many companies (often through a phone screen). Managers will look to HR for feedback on your overall disposition and typically ask about things like communication skills, promptness, attitude, willingness to fill out applications, etc.. Your overall demeanor with everyone you interact with, from the receptionist to the President, is taken note of. However, pay particular attention to how you conduct yourself with HR.

Wednesday
Jun272007

Salary Negotiaton Tips: 5 Things to Avoid

Don't blow it when it comes to negotiating salary with an employer. The wrong attitude or approach will cost you dearly. Why get all this way in the process and lose out because you said the wrong thing. Follow this good advice on avoiding the most common salary negotiation mistakes.


  1. Don't share your "opinions". First of all (sorry to say), they don't care. All you should give them are
    "facts" of what your total compensation is broken down to base and bonuses or other financial incentives. Keep what you think you're worth out of
    it. In almost all instances, when a candidate expresses their personal opinion of what they should get, it will come across as presumptive. It could also hurt your credibility if the number you throw out is way off what they were thinking.
  2. Don't throw a number out. If you give them an actual number of what you want to make, you will
    inevitably either over or under price yourself against what the manager may be
    thinking. This has negative implications since you will either decrease your offer or not get an offer at all because they think they can't afford you. Read my last post on this. Just simply give them your
    current comp and boomerang the question back. Try this ..."Well, I'm
    currently at a 95K base with a 10 % bonus.  As far as my expectations go, I'm
    open and interested in the best offer you could make me. What do you think I
    might be worth to your company?"
  3. Don't game the numbers. Don’t ever misrepresent your
    salary! The vast majority of companies will do minimal to extensive background
    checks to verify this. So be exact about your base and how your total compensation
    breaks down. Don’t calculate the net worth of all those things and add
    it into your demands for your next base salary. Also, don't ascribe a dollar
    value to your vacation time or medical benefits and use that as a bargaining
    chip to increase the base salary you want. Although this may seem fair game to do, it
    is typically a turn off to the employer and comes off as a bit
    manipulative. 
  4. Don't pull a "Jerry Maguire".  You
    know..."Show me the money!". As you tell them you're looking for the
    most competitive offer, always stress that what counts most to you is the
    opportunity. Let them know that you understand the value of the big picture.
    Having a less money-oriented perspective will make employers feel secure that
    they aren’t hiring someone who can be “bought” (and vulnerable to being
    headhunted out of their department 5 months from now for a higher
    offer!). 
  5. Don't enable a bidding war. Some companies want
    that one number that will close you down. Until you’re at the actual offer
    stage though, how can you possibly give them this (especially if you have an active search)? Ex: You tell them that you would
    entertain 80K and get another offer two days later at 85K. That previous statement is no longer true now. Tell employers that
    push you for this that it would be very difficult to provide this magic number because of the variables of your other interviews. Make sure they have your facts and tell them you are open and that all you would ask is that they simply do
    their best and make you one offer that they feel is their best offer. If every company just made their BEST offer
    the first time, we wouldn’t see so many “bidding wars” (which are headache for
    everyone).

Wednesday
Jun202007

Don't let this candidate’s market go to your head

A strong job market combined with a talent shortage provides candidates with serious leverage. However, no one (and I mean NO ONE) likes a cocky candidate! Your hard-to-find skills may be in demand,
but remember that there's ALWAYS competition in play. Stay humble and sell
yourself whether you think you have to or not. Read on as to why...

Below are all the different reasons you are not likely to ever be in the safety zone of being the only person considered for a job. Understanding these realities will hopefully keep your ego in check and remind you to sell yourself for every job you interview for.

  • Backup: Managers
    know that the really strong candidates will likely generate multiple offers
    before accepting one. Because of this, they'll need to have backup in case
    their top choice doesn’t accept.  Sometimes these "backup" candidates begin to shine in the later stages and could end up out ranking the #1 candidate of interest.
  • Requirements:
    Managers typically have a set # of how many applicants need to be
    considered before pulling the trigger. These are either HR mandated
    guidelines or just a personal rule of thumb. This happens even more so when
    agencies are involved and the expense of a fee needs to be justified. These add substantial competition to the plate. 
  • Home
    Team Advantage:
    Unknown to you, they may also be considering an internal
    candidate. Sometimes they want to see what else is out there before moving
    someone within the company into that role and many times they will come back to hiring that internal candidate if no one else presents itslef as a more compelling choice.
  • Wider
    Net:
    Managers will ultimately hire the person who makes the best overall
    impression. They will typically interview both over and under qualified
    candidates within reason to widen this scope of finding that perfect chemistry
    match.
  • Comparison:
    Most Managers aren't comfortable marrying their high school
    sweetheart
    (metaphorically speaking). If the 1st person they interview is
    a match, they'll likely want to do at least 3 or 4 more just to make sure that this is
    true.
  • Agency
    Standard Practices:
    All recruiters want to increase their chances of doing a
    placement since their client is probably working with more than one agency. As
    a result, most will refer a group of qualified candidates as opposed to just
    their top guy.
  • Continual
    Consideration:
    It "ain't over until the fat lady sings". Managers will
    interview more 1st rounds right up until the point of an offer being accepted
    to keep options open. This continued acceptance of new referrals can typically
    pad the amount of people interviewed by at least  2-4 more candidates in
    contention.

 

Monday
Jun112007

The Inside Scoop

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There is far more information available to you about a job than just the salary, location and qualifications needed. Having additional details about the job will give you a serious upper hand to sell yourself more effectively and demonstrate how much you've prepared for the interview.

And getting the "inside scoop" isn't that hard either. You just need to know where to look and what questions to ask before going into the interview.


Most managers will admit that there isn't a big difference between the resumes of the people they hire vs the people they pass on during the interview process. These candidates all usually have the same qualifications. So why does one candidate get the job over the other??? Because they have the inside scoop on how to get the job!

Everyone knows to ask about the corporate culture and team dynamics. But here are a few things you may not have thought to ask about or research ahead of time. Follow these tips and get the inside scoop on....

...the manager
Google your manager. Go to the company website and read his/ her bio. Go to sites like Zoominfo.com or Linkedin.com to see if they have a professional bio. What will you learn? LOTS! The details of their professional background, where they live, what school they went to, what training they have been through, what awards or acknowledgments they have received, have they been published, what associations/clubs do they belong to, what their hobbies are, what sports they are into, whether not they have a blog, etc. You may find you have something in common with them like having worked at the same company, attended the same school, blog about the same topic, run marathons, fly fishing...whatever. This allows you to make an immediate connection with the line manager.

...why the job is open
Ask your recruiter or the internal HR person at that company why this job is open. Is it a replacement spot or new position? It's perfectly OK to ask why the last person didn't work out and use that to your advantage to steer towards (or away from) certain topics. If it is a growth position, find out what the specific drivers are that are causing the need for this new position (sales are up, new VC funding). This is usually good news that you can reference during the interview.

...why the other candidates weren't a fit
Ask your recruiter or the internal HR person at that company if there have already been interviews that have taken place for this position. If so, what was the feedback. You can be completely upfront about why you are asking this. Understanding where other candidates fell short will give you an indication of what to focus in on more during the interview. Most recruiters make a habit of doing this, but if they have forgotten, remind them you'd like to know the detailed feedback of the last batch of people who went out for this job.

Friday
May112007

Speed it up!

As the pace of the job market picks up, Hiring Managers will need to move more quickly. However, the candidate is also responsible for the speed of this interview process. Learn how to put your foot on the gas and avoid putting your foot on the brakes.


When certain interview steps take too long, they lose their value or worse can even terminate the process. Extra time in the world of recruiting is nothing but bad news. It allows for people to change their minds and for competition to creep into the picture. Not to mention that loss of precious momentum and interest level that can disintegrate in a matter of days. Here are some interview steps that you have an impact on:

  • Feedback - Provide feedback immediately to your recruiter if you are working with one.  Literally, call them on your way out the door from the interview to share initial impressions since there will be details that you will remember now that you won't later on. If you went to this interview on your own, consider calling the HR representative who coordinated this interview for you. This saves time  and sends a powerfully positive message about your interest level and proactive nature. (I wouldn't suggest calling the manager who you just left 1 minute ago. This tip is directed at the recruiter layer of this process only).

  • Thank You Letters - Email a thank you message within 24 hrs. It shows that you are highly interested, acting professionally and that you are not a procrastinator. It also acts as a subtle reinforcement of why there's a match. Read my post on thank you notes to learn how to write a great one!

  • Messages from the Company - If you get a voice mail/ email from the company, return it immediately even if it sounds unimportant. There may be a question that is holding up the process.

  • Follow up Interviews - These should occur within 72 hrs of the last interview to be most effective. While this time frame may not be up to you, there are many times when it is. Unfortunately, many candidates make the fatal error of pushing back a second or final round assuming they have the privilege to do so given that they are a finalist. Do whatever you can to get back in their quickly to keep this high interest level maintained and close the window for the company to see more candidates.

  • References - Prep all your references on who is calling and what they are calling about so that these calls don't get screened out. Also, urge the references to return these calls immediately.

All of these actions will shave off time and save actual steps within the process. But more importantly, they create urgency and strong momentum that will help move everyone towards a positive outcome.

Friday
May042007

Dispelling Agency Myths

ImagesAfraid of a percieved "price tag" on your head? Don't like the idea of a "middleman" speaking for you? Think job boards are a "do-it-yourself" kit? Think again before deciding not to use an agency. These perceptions are about as valid as BigFoot himself. 

These myths still unfortunately exist, even though agencies are a common and
well-established business practice with a proven record of tremendous value for the candidates who use them. Here are the benefits:

No Penalization - Most agencies are "contingency", meaning the fee is only paid if the
right candidate has been found and successfully hired. These fees should
always be paid by the employer and typically come from pre-established recruitment budgets. Therefore, the placement fee should never factor into the salary a candidate is
offered.

Reputation - Many recruiters
have operated in their particular markets for a long time, affording them vast
knowledge of the major players. This will allow you to benefit from their good
reputation and long-standing relationship with any particular company.

Preparation - Why might the manager favor an agency candidate over other resources? The answer is plain and
simple: Preparation. Agencies prepare their candidates better by
offering a much more detailed and panoramic job description in addition to
background data on the hiring manager. All of this gives the candidate a serious upper hand during the interview!

Representation - The actual window for the candidate to speak during an interview is on average only about 15 minutes. Because of this, candidates often unintentionally omit things or misrepresent themselves due
to this lack of time. Agents can guarantee
that all selling points and applicable work experience get
communicated to the manager whether these things were discussed during the interview or not. Agencies also clear up any misunderstandings to make sure candidates are constantly put in the best possible light.

Negotiation - One of the
biggest advantages is during salary negotiation. Agencies
are trained to get candidates as much money as possible (since most earn a
percentage of the first year's salary). In addition to knowing the facts surrounding the actual
salary cap and the company's overall financial picture,
recruiters are also experts on specific salary trends within any Industry
niche. Combine all of this with their intensive sales training and they are best equipped to
convince any company to offer you more money.


Of course, all of this depends on the quality of the agency you choose. But there are plenty of great recruiters out there. So, go find one. It will have a range of powerful benefits for your job search!

Tuesday
Apr242007

People hire people

They don't hire "resumes" or "skill sets". So, never leave an interview only portraying these things. This sterility is  detrimental to both parties (not to mention boring). Learn how to use preparation and your personality to connect with the Hiring Manager.


Preparation
To make a connection, you need topics to engage the Hiring Manager on. Do your research on their professional and personal background (what's been their job history? Do they have a blog? Have they ever been published? Have they run a marathon? Where did they go to school? What clubs or associations do they belong to? Do they have any interesting hobbies?). The Internet makes this super simple. Just go online and plug in the manager's name. Here are a few ideas:

  • General search engines (Google, Yahoo). Good for general stuff. Make sure you have the right person though.
  • Professional networking sites (Linkedin). Hopefully, they host their profile here.
  • Professional contact aggregators (Zoominfo). Good for data on their current role.
  • Blog searches (Technorati, Bloglines). See if they have a blog.
  • Company web site - Look at the management profiles and/ or press releases

Greeting
Don't underestimate the power of the first five minutes. Be a human being for a moment and do what you can to kick things off on a more personal note.

  • Good manners - for Pete's sake, ask how they are doing!!
  • Talk about the weather - A never fail ice breaker.
  • Anecdotes - You know..."a funny thing happened on my way to the interview" kind of stuff (make sure of course that your story is and appropriate!).

Engage them
Everyone (and I mean everyone) likes to talk about themselves. Share with them what you have learned about them. But only reference the things that you are able to genuinely comment on or that you may have in common. Rattling off every single thing you read about them online will just make you seem like a stalker. Be selective and thoughtful about what you bring up. Examples:

  • Tenure - "I noticed you've been with (company) for 10 years. That's great! What do you like most about it here?"
  • Blog - "I saw your blog and really enjoyed your post on...."
  • Personal - "I googled you and noticed you do triathlons. I have been an avid cyclist, for years, but have been wary about doing these races. What's it like?"
  • Job History - "I noticed you used to work for (company x). So did I from 95-98'. What a coincidence."

Try your best to inject your personality into the interview. The key is to reveal something about THEM that allows you to reveal something about YOU (what you have in common and that you are resourceful!). This will allow you to escape the doldrums of the typical one dimensional interview and will make the Hiring manager think they have just interviewed an actual person, not just an applicant.