Tag Archives: Interview

#1 Interview Ooop

Picture by Yu-Chuan Hsu
Picture by Yu-Chuan Hsu

You’ve sent a tailored cover letter and resume to a job posting you’ve been hoping to find over the past six months. To your good fortune, you receive a call to schedule an initial interview for two days from now. Excited and eager, you plan the next 40 hours in preparation for a potentially life-changing event.

Here’s what you’ve done to prepare for the interview:

  • Gathered additional company research, examining their website, mission statement, and products (research should be on your “must do” list as questions about the company will come us. For example, the interview may ask: “What do you like about our company,” if you don’t have the mission statement down, when asked, you will stumble (no ooops allowed when it comes to company knowledge).
  • Revisit your references. Make sure references are aware of possible contact, what position and company you are applying for, and ALWAYS offer a thank you for their help. For those not reaching out to references, a huge ooops may answer the phone.
  • Know where you are going. Immediately Map Quest the route, estimate the driving time and always add 20 minutes to the route (just in case). If time allows, take a practice drive to the location and spot the building and/or office you will be expected to be at. Nothing like being late or having a panic attack because of traffic delays.
  • Appropriate attire needs to be rehearsed the day/night before. Make sure your clothes and shoes are clean, sharp, AND appropriate.

Though the above is not a complete list, it’s a good start. Going back to the scheduled interview mentioned in the beginning, you’ve made all the necessary steps and feel confident tomorrow is not going to be just another day.

As the night before the interview nears an end, you barely sleep. The anticipation and self-talk about possible questions and possible answers swirl like a tail-free tornado. Finally, at midnight the sound of sleep departs your lips…

Morning comes without a hitch or interruption. Immediately you look at your watch and notice the 8:00 am interview appointment time and the numbers on your watch don’t make sense. How could your watch display 8:45 am?

#1 Interview Ooop: Not setting the alarm the night before your early morning interview.

After all the preparation, you oversleep… in a single snore, you lose.

As an employer, with great confidence I claim that climbing out of the “no-show” ooop is rarely accomplished.

Seeking employment insight and career collateral, visit www.edu-cs.com or if you are seeking material designed for those transitioning out of prison, check out www.CareerBreakOut.com and consider the most powerful book that will change your life: Walls, Bars, and Razor Wire… You Choose.”

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
dhuffman@edu-cs.com
321-972-8919
Education Career Services: http://www.edu-cs.com
Career Break Out: http://www.CareerBreakOut.com

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Employer Interview Decision Time

Image by Chelsea Francis
Image by Chelsea Francis

Over the past week much has happened. Not only did I receive numerous emails asking which candidate was selected, I was asked how the decision was made.

Quick recap: Recently, Tropical Air of Central Florida, located in the Longwood area, searched for an administrative/office support staff. With the help of Goodwill Industries (Job Connection) and Christian HELP, applicants were interviewed, resulting in four final and well-qualified candidates.

Second interviews were held over a three-day period (last week):

  • All four applicants earned great marks for dress attire.
  • All four applicants arrived in a timely manner, approximately ten minutes early.
  • Nonverbal communication went well; eye contact, voice tone, attitude, and hand shake matched expectations.
  • Three of the four asked well-researched questions at the conclusion of the interview.
  • Two of the four sent follow-up notes within the appropriate time (two neglected the letter).
  • One of the four not only followed-up with a note, but also initiated a phone conversation, inquiring about the position while desensitizing latent employer concerns.
  • All four applicants felt comfortable with the environment and confident job functions would be handled with little hesitation.
  • Two of the four applicants offered beneficial unique contributions.

Decision time: Impressed by the four candidates, a choice had to be made

  • The decision was made based upon who we felt wanted the job more than the other candidates. For the two candidates not submitting a follow-up note or call, the impression was they were not as interested in the position as the other two.
  • The follow-up letters “showed” a desire to be part of our team. With this said, two candidates remained in a slot designed for one.
  • An additional phone call and strategy by one of the candidates in an effort to desensitize our concern leaned the decision her way.
  • Though education level was not officially considered, offering an advanced degree and unique value beyond the other three candidates helped sway the decision.

To summarize: There are many factors employers take into consideration during the interview and hiring process.

  • Appearance: Dress appropriately. Never wear sweats, jerseys, jeans, or fun casual.
  • Nonverbal: Show interest with good posture (no slumping in the chair), eye contact (do not stare as that can be creepy), firm hand shake, and always wear a smile.
  • Arrival: Ten minutes prior to scheduled time is considered proper. Do not arrive more than ten minutes early as this is disrespectful. If you are going to be late, call and explain (most employers know things happen and will understand).
  • KSA: Prove you possess the fundamental knowledge, skills, and abilities to get the job done.
  • Professionalism: Courtesy goes a long way.
  • Company research: Have several questions ready, proving homework and diligence is on your side.
  • Follow-up: This is often the tie-breaker. A simple hand written note and quick call often differentiates close calls.

If you are invited to interview but not offered the position, always follow-up with a thank you note. Truth is, not all initial hires are the right choice. Changes can (and do) happen, making the next in line the newest employee.

To review and consider career development books and resources, including material designed specifically for those transitioning from military service, resume / cover letter construction, networking, and interview strategies as well as employment guidance for ex-felons visit http://www.edu-cs.com, http://www.CareerBreakOut.com, or http://www.2ndChanceUniversity.com.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
dhuffman@edu-cs.com
321-972-8919
Education Career Services: http://www.edu-cs.com
Career Break Out: http://www.CareerBreakOut.com

Interview Expectations: Following Up

Last time we reviewed interview expectations from the employer’s perspective. This time we are going to go one step further and (re)discover simple techniques you should (not can) use to gain the second interview.

Picture by Paula Borowska
Picture by Paula Borowska

As previously mentioned, I am in the market to secure an office administrator for Tropical Air of Central Florida. In this effort, I reached out to two local organizations, Goodwill Industries/Job Connection and Christian HELP. Both provided top-notched candidates.

A week has progressed and now it’s time to schedule interviews with those who may fit into the position and our culture well.

Deciding factors employers consider for second interviews:

  • Professionalism is ALWAYS number one. Don’t let others tell you otherwise. How professionalism is defined and weighed differs from organization to organization but there are commonalities. Fair or not, appearance is always a concern. To eliminate appearance concerns, dress professional business. This means no shorts, no jerseys, and no funky hats. Unfortunately, three candidates were not professional in their attire. These three could have done the job but have yet to be asked back simply because of their lack of professional attire.
  • On a similar professionalism note, a proper handshake, firm, not limp or sticky, begins and closes each interview. Believe it not, some jobs were lost due to a creepy handshake.
  • Professionalism equals research. ALWAYS know what the company and position is about. Two candidates were lost when asked about what our company does, neither earned a second interview.

Of the 20 resumes and applicants for this one position, the initial interview had the task of finding a manageable number for the second interview stage. With this in mind, the following also influenced the invitation to meet the boss:

  • Follow up note. Of all the candidates, two individuals went that extra step to follow up with a personalized/professional note. One of the individuals took advantage of snail-mail by sending a two sentence post card. The handwritten note was a nice touch, allowing me the opportunity to re-examine the original application. I also received an email follow up, though not my favorite means of messaging, I appreciated the effort. On this note, both of these individuals sending the follow up have been invited to meet the boss. Of the remaining candidates, only one has been invited back.
  • Follow up latent meaning. Ever wonder why follow up notes play a role in the hiring decision? After all, anyone can jot a couple sentences together after the initial interview. No doubt this is true, ANYONE can jot a couple sentences together… my question is, why don’t they? Often times, hiring managers look for those going that extra step and question why so many don’t take an effort to impress.
  • Personality. Hiring managers look for personality and how your personality will fit into the environment. Many factors are considered, such as tone of voice, attitude, sense of humor, will you get along with differing demographics within the area, and the belief you want to be part of the organization for longer than three months.
  • Gut feeling. At the point where push comes to shove, gut feeling will rule the decision. Problem is, of the 20 candidates, I remain confident well over half have the capacity to get the job done well. How does one filter the final ten into a top three? Though not measureable, it comes down to subjective impression… things that cannot be measured by conventional methods. Here’s where soft skills, nonverbal cues, research, follow up, and personality raises the top.
  • Final three. Knowing ten would be ideal candidates for the position, the final three were selected due to candidate persistence (follow up letters and phone inquiries). Their persistence led me to believe they conducted due diligence and WANT to work in our small office family atmosphere.

Over the next few days three individuals (who were ultimately selected over seven equally qualified candidates) will be meeting the boss. On paper, these three offer little more than the others, which makes me feel badly because the remaining seven would have been offered a second interview IF they had only followed up with a note.

Though many employers are not sticky when it comes to follow up letters, many are and will not consider qualified candidates unless initiative is shown. Truth is, it’s easy to say “I want that second interview and I’ll do whatever it takes…” while a postage stamp, quick note, and an envelope shows you really do want that second interview.

As for the remaining three in consideration, I’ll let you know what happens later in the week.

To review and consider career development books and resources, including material designed specifically for those transitioning from military service, resume / cover letter construction, networking, and interview strategies as well as employment guidance for ex-felons visit www.edu-cs.com, www.CareerBreakOut.com, or www.2ndChanceUniversity.com.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
dhuffman@edu-cs.com
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
Career Break Out: www.CareerBreakOut.com

Interview Expectations: What Hiring Managers Expect

Congratulations. After two months searching for an ideal career match, you receive a call and interview invitation… now what?

Blog Jan 2015 dont just stand thereLast week I had the pleasure to conduct interviews for an office administrator at Tropical Air of Central Florida. I reached out to Goodwill Industries and the Sanford Job Connection… a great move on my part. To be clear, the experience was fantastic as the group at Goodwill Industries were helpful, the offices excellent, and the candidates impressive.

After interviewing nine individuals, I recommended four to be extended a second interview. Calls will be going out later this week.

The following summarizes the experience (valuable information for anyone currently or planning on interviewing):

Gaining that second interview:

  • Looking the part: Though most were dressed appropriately, in a competitive market, what one wears does impact perception. The final four were dressed professionally, delivered well-written copies of their resumes, and presented themselves respectfully. Unfortunately, several candidates were not prepared with proper dress or resume.
  • Focus and matchmaking: The four finalists knew what the job entailed and delivered details as to how their experience and career goals met what I was seeking. Encouraged by researching our company and industry, most of the interviews were fluid and conversational. Unfortunately, several knew nothing of the company and little of the position. Though some most likely could perform the job well, limited focus and research rarely impresses any hiring manager and can lead to a disconnect.
  • Communication: The finalist spoke with confidence, aptitude, and honesty. To be clear, these are characteristics all companies seek in potential employees.
  • Non-verbal elements: Interviews begin with a smile, then a handshake. If either element misses, candidates find themselves behind the eight-ball. On the “not-so” impressive side, I did have two candidates interview while chewing gum. I am one who perceives gum chewing during interviews low on the respect totem pole.

Overall, I am impressed with Goodwill Industries and the Sanford Job Connection Center, recommending their services and candidates without hesitation. To be specific, Alba Vazquez offered a great deal of help and support by coordinating and aligning qualified candidates in a hurry.

  • Now what? I am confident the four finalists will be notified within the next two days regarding a second interview; problem is, not one (or any applicants) has taken the first interview to the next level… not one has sent a follow-up/thank you note. I find this disturbing and surprising. If one was keeping score, and I do, thank you notes have the potential to add points to any close decision and have meant the difference between a second invitation and no consideration.
  • Thank you letter: Without going the final step in the interview process, the tape is rarely crossed. What does a thank you letter mean? Interest in the position and with the company.

Regarding the final four interviewed last week (where all four were extremely close), who will take the lead by taking professional respect to the level it needs to be? Who will follow-up? Not to worry, I will clue you into what happens next.

If you have any questions or situations you would like to share, please send it in to me directly or go through the comment box.To review and consider career development books and resources, including material designed specifically for those transitioning from military service, resume / cover letter construction, networking, and interview strategies as well as employment guidance for ex-felons visit www.edu-cs.com, www.CareerBreakOut.com, or www.2ndChanceUniversity.com.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
dhuffman@edu-cs.com
Tropical Air of Central Florida, http://www.Tropical-Air.com
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
Career Break Out: www.CareerBreakOut.com

Promise Without Practice

Over the past month we’ve been accompanying David and his journey after being terminated from Chity College. Today, we are taking a turn onto a subject itching to get the rub.

DSC_0004Throughout my years as a career coach, college instructor, business owner, and employee, I’ve had the pleasure to hear excuses justifying poor behavior. Truth is, when it comes to one’s personal and professional life, promises are meaningless unless partnered by practice.

Before scratching your head, let me share what most have heard and many have used: “I get paid XX amount of money per hour and that is all I will give them, no more.”

If you’ve stated the above, reflect to your initial interview when you accepted “XX amount of money” to perform a job. Is your acceptance of a job at a specific rate of pay a promise with or without compromise?

To say it is with compromise is to say I will work at a pace “I believe” is equal to the amount of pay being returned for my labor. In other words, I will work half-ass because I am getting paid half-ass.

To say it is without compromise is to say “I agree” with my promise and will work 100% at all times. After all, I agreed to the rate and the employer agreed to my labor.

Focusing on your career, what are the consequences of promising without practice and what (if any) the advantages of practicing what you promise?

If You Promise But Do NOT Practice: Don’t second guess yourself, your supervisor knows…

  • Job dissatisfaction increases (latest statistics suggest over 70% of employees are not satisfied with their work—are you?)
  • First out the door (not talking about end of shift out the door, I’m talking about the first to fall prey to downsizing… if you wonder why, you need two doses of reality)
  • Limited promotions and positive recognitions (wonder why the other guy (or gal) is getting the promotion and increased compensation. Really?)

If You Practice What You Promise:

  • Recognition and rewards finding their way to you are enhanced
  • Job satisfaction increases as the constant inner complaining voice no longer haunts or drags the day
  • Your value as an employee magnifies through cross-training, team building, and attitude

When I moved to Orlando, many years ago, I responded to a job posting with a starting hourly rate of $8.65. Given my education and professional background, I was surprised to earn an interview. During the interview I was once again informed of the entry-level pay. I accepted the position, promising to practice without compromise or complaint.

Six months after hire, I was managing the department, two years later I earned the title “Vice President of Operations.” Not bragging, just supporting the concept that those who do not compromise their work ethics or performance are subject to positive reinforcements.

When it comes to character, what defines you personally and professionally? For a few moments, jot three promises you make consistently but fail to fulfill. Once completed, take a look at the proverbial mirror and scribe the many ways you justify not practicing what you promise. Don’t fool yourself, we all fail fulfillment, that’s being human.

If you are entering the employment scene for the first time or are a seasoned professional and desire promotional considerations, I suggest practicing what you promise. If you are not committing yourself completely even though you agreed upon the rate of pay, rethink that strategy.

Next time you find yourself making excuses to milk the clock, do a half-ass job, or pretend to perform, recognize the mirror reflects two ways.

Interested in developing proven career success techniques or securing cutting-edge career focused material, including interview best practice techniques or how to write effective resume/cover letters? For those at a career disadvantage, take control by taking advantage of one of our most popular guides and learn ways to overcome barriers to employment (arrests and/or convictions). Visit www.edu-cs.com for a complete listing of available support or contact me at dhuffman@educationcareerservices.com.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Education Career Services: www.edu-cs.com
Follow Me on Twitter #dannyatecs
Blogsite: https://careerbreakout.wordpress.com

What NOT TO SAY at a job interview

DSC_0089According to a majority of hiring managers, one of the most common interview mistakes is: Talking TOO Much.  With that in mind, let’s spend the next few minutes reflecting the concept of “talking” and what it means to talk too much (or about irrelevant things).

A mistake made by rookie candidates (okay, seasoned ones too) is to get sidetracked and start talking about personal life issues, no matter how warm or welcoming the interviewer may be.  In other words simply answer the question and keep your answers to the point and focused.  Truth is, sharing the wrong thing makes it easier for the hiring manager to reject your candidacy.

Subjects such as spouse, home life, or your adorable children are topics falling into the area invading too much info. Rule is, an interview is a professional situation – not a personal one. With professional sitting center stage, examples of things not to say include the following:

  • How much does this job pay or when does paid off begin?
  • I hate my current employer.
  • I didn’t like my previous boss. Talking bad about your previous employer gives your interviewer the impression you are difficult to manage.
  • I am not aware of any weaknesses.
  • How many vacation days will I get?
  • I don’t have any questions for you.
  • In five years I’ll have your job.
  • When responding to: “Tell me about yourself.” Do not answer talking about your place of birth, experiences in grade school, or bad relationships.
  • When responding to:Why do you want to leave your current job? Do not say you want to leave your company because of anything relating to pay or benefits.
  • When responding to:How would your current or former colleagues describe you? Avoid responses like; “the only employee who did things right” or “a great guy to hang out with after work.”

Many hiring managers suggest candidates who seem perfect get crossed off the list by saying something senseless, irrelevant, or discriminatory.  In general, do your best to avoid discussing personal dislikes or negative comments.

CC Tip of the day: After answering questions, stop any inclination to ramble.

Once you interview successfully, thank the hiring manager for their time and follow up with a thank you note.  Good luck on your job search.

Your CC Connection

What is your greatest weakness?

DSC_0143Whether you are new to the job seeking field or are a seasoned professional, one interview question will always throw you a curve ball.  The dreaded “what is your greatest weakness?”  This sounds like an easy question, yet most interviewees freeze up as soon as it is asked.  As a general rule, the question is typically asked toward the end of an interview, after you think you’ve nailed it.  Employers do this to see how quick you think on your feet when posed with a question you do not have a ready answer for.

When asked, what is the most effective response?  Below are helpful tips to help you prepare before the interview.

First, research at the company and evaluate their needs.  Using websites such as ONET.Org or TagCrowd.com to gather and prioritize information places you above the competition.  Another great spot to research is the company.  Check the BBB website as well, detailing any complaints.  If there are a few, take a look at the outcomes and how you could cut back on complaints or eliminate them completely.

Additionally, go to your favorite search engine, such as Google, and enter the company name. No doubt you will discover a trove of information about the company.  You can even call the company itself and do an employee survey.  Be careful what you ask, you want facts, not gossip.

Equipped with company research, compile a list of company issues and how you can resolve them.  IF possible, incorporate an issue or two into the greatest weakness question.  True enough, the questions you have may not help you answer the question: “What is your greatest weakness?” but it will give you an advantage when the interviewer asks you if you have any questions.

Then sit and write down what you consider a weakness in the workplace.  Do not look at weakness in your personal life.  Future employers do not want to hear about personal weaknesses.  Keep your personal life separate as much as possible from you professional life.  This will show the employer that you are focused on work, not problems at home.

Think about jobs you have had in the past, what you struggled with and how you coped.  Once you’ve done this, pick the one you think would most benefit the employer (this is where previous company research comes in handy).  Then state it in such a way that your weakness is seen as strength for the company.

For example, one of my biggest weaknesses is that I get too involved in the companies I work for.  I get caught up in the day to day activities and find myself putting in more hours than intended and skipping lunch to keep working.  I take it personal if the company takes a hit for whatever reason, and I look back through my work and those around me and blame myself for missing something.  I have no problem being accountable for work that I’ve done incorrectly, or someone else who may have done something incorrectly as I feel I should have caught any errors before they turned into problems.

Notice in the above example how what I considered a weakness can be turned around to become an employer’s benefit.  The interviewer will be thinking that I am very involved with work, care about the company, and be willing to do what needs to be done, even making sacrifices in my personal life to be there for the team.  This would not be an erroneous assumption, it would be true and that is the key to comfortably answering the question.

CC Connection Tip of the Day: Stick to the truth, you won’t trip yourself up trying to lie; lying is not the way to get yourself employed.

Once you have determined how best to answer this question, you need to practice.  Practice with a friend, relative, or in front of a mirror and edit to best reflect the value you offer.  Watch facial expressions while practicing in the mirror; do you look scared or confident?  Do you have no expression at all?  How is your posture; slumped or straight and tall?  It is not just the words that have an impact on your answers; your body language speaks much louder than words.

Reword the answer so that if you do have a sudden attack of the “uuummms,” you can fall back on an abbreviated answer.  Ask for honest feedback if you practice with someone, and record yourself while practicing.  Play back the first recording to yourself and do an objective self-evaluation by asking yourself three questions:

  • Did your voice shake or vibrate when answering?
  • Did you have good tone and inflection?
  • Does it sound as if you’ve been rehearsing?

If you answer yes or no as appropriate to these questions, keep practicing.  Also have someone else listen to your response.  Be sure it is someone who is going to be honest and not afraid to hurt your feelings.  Have them evaluate you based on the same three questions.  It is best to have a second opinion, one that won’t be biased.  Truth is, we are always more critical of ourselves then others.  “Practice makes perfect,” as the expression goes. In this case, it is all too true.

Here’s a warning: You do not want your answer to sound practiced, so practice until you are comfortable with the answer, confident and contemplative.

When asked, don’t panic. Instead, take 2-3 seconds before answering. A slight pause gives the employer the impression you are seriously thinking about how to answer.

The best advice is to do your research.  I sound repetitive but I cannot stress enough how proper research helps you prepare for an interview even if questions are asked that you didn’t prepare for.

When it comes to the interview process, knowledge is everything. The more you know about the company, the better armed you are for the interview.

If you have any questions or comments, let us know.

Sharon Parker
Your CC Connection