Tag Archives: Interview

Interviewing: Time to SHINE

Finally… it took months to get one and nothing is going to stop me from making the right impression and landing a job offer (or at least making it to the next interview round). Securing an interview appointment is only half the battle – actually, getting the interview is only the beginning.

Over the past few days, I had the luxury of interviewing five candidates. The following summarizes the high points and a couple low points:

Thumbs Up:

  • All five entered the reception area in a timely and professional manner
  • All five dress professionally and fit the part, clothes tight and holding an eager and smiling face
  • All five engaged in a “conversational” style during the interview (as opposed to being stiff or rigid – for the record, I prefer a relaxed discussion – one not predetermined and overly practiced)
  • All five offered a firm hand shake upon initial greeting and departure
  • All five could do the job

 From the surface, it is a neck to neck rating.

Thumbs Shaking:

  • None of the five have sent a thank you follow up (I prefer snail mail [yet did not even receive an email or a phone call] showcasing a bit of personality, innovation, attention to our conversation, and sincere interest)
  • None of the five appeared to perform due diligence regarding pre-interview company research (I am only guessing here but as no one shared an in-depth knowledge of what we do and how we do it, I can only conclude based upon the premises provided)
  • With no clear-cut candidate advantage, what do you recommend I do? Having all return for a second interview would probably result in the same result. As a hiring agent, I want someone to step up to the plate and force me to recognize him/her as the one. Guess I will just keep interviewing, checking the mail, and hoping someone will rise above the complacency…

What does this mean for you? From the student to the entry-level first-time employee to the seasoned professional, interviews (if you are lucky enough to get one) are YOUR time to shine.

The concept is simple:

Interview Shining Requires:

  • Making sure you hit all points on the thumbs up category.
  • Perform due diligence prior to the interview; this means researching the company, what they do, how they do it, and what you bring which will add/contribute to the success of the company.
  • Send a thank you/follow up letter if you remain interested in the position immediately after the interview.

Take it from me, a typical employer, sometimes the little things can make a huge difference!

Getting that initial interview is only the beginning.

Prove your value AND reinforce your contributions and interest. I have five good candidates treading, all I want now is a reason to believe one of them wants the job as much as I want to hire him/her… what else can I do?

If you would like additional information about developing an introductory letter or assistance in any other career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com or you can even check visit us at Amazon.com (search Huffman at ecs).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Shadow me on Twitter: @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: Interview Preparation

Throughout our Career Breakout series, career professionals from across the country offered to take the reins now and then, sharing their career expertise and diverse background for your benefit.

In response to today’s question, Kathryn Broyles, Ph.D., Program Director of General Studies at American Public University/American Military University, will be taking control.

“I’ll be graduating in May and looking for a job. I have an interview scheduled but have no ideas on what to do besides show up with resume in hand. What do you recommend I do to prepare for an interview?”

Interviews are crucial to snagging the job you want. If your professional documents have made it past the initial HR screening and on to the desk of a hiring manager, feel confident that you’re being seriously considered for the job. Congratulations on having an interview scheduled!

However, recognize that it’s rare for a company to interview only one person for a position. Therefore, it’s essential that you put your best foot forward and make a good impression on the interviewer as well as on anyone you come in contact with as you make your way to and from the interview. You never know who’s a friend of whom or what tactics an employer might be using to evaluate all aspects of a future employee’s “fit” in a new company.

Career Tip #1: The individual you think is “just the receptionist” in fact might be a very important voice in the office whose opinion is respected, so being rude or disrespectful, or underestimating the value of such individuals can mark you as unprofessional and can even lead to your eventually not getting the position.

A few companies actually resort to creative ways to evaluate the tendencies of future employees and whether or not they’re a good “fit” for the company. It’s been reported that some companies even monitor what magazines you pick up off a coffee table as you wait in the lobby for an interview. Do you go for light reading? Are you attracted to business journals or company brochures? Are you pleasant to those around you? Do you make eye contact and seem poised and confident?

In today’s job market there more qualified people for every position than ever before and competition is stiff, but at least you can be confident that you’ve put your best foot forward and done nothing to hamper your chances. You may even find that you end up in the future with an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Career Tip #2: A great strategy is to see every moment you’re in the vicinity of a potential employer as an opportunity to learn, to make contacts, and to make a good impression. If you adopt this as you’re attitude, you can’t go wrong. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the position, of course.

Okay, we’ve ventured slightly off the path to disclose hints about “how to be” when you show up for the interview, yet you asked specifically about “how to prepare” for the interview and what to take with you. Time to get back on track…

First, here are several steps which, taken together, can help you prepare for the interview:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Know where you fit and why
  3. Be ready to ask questions as well as answer them

Let’s take a look at number one, “Do your homework.”

Given an interview has been scheduled, it is safe to claim that you know the name of the company you’re interviewing with and you may even know the specific position for which you’re interviewing. Now what you need to do is to learn as much as you can about the company itself as possible.

Companies, like people, have “values” and “culture.” If you’re a fan of Thirty Rock or The Office, you already know this. These shows, of course, are exaggerations of a kind of company culture taken to the extreme to get a laugh from the audience, but they still point to an important fact: companies and the people who work in them, together create a kind of culture shaped by what the company values and its work environment.

Career Tip #3: Companies have, in effect, “personalities.”

As you head into an interview, ask yourself:

  • What kind of company is this?
  • What sort of personality does this company have?
  • What does it make?
  • What does it value?
  • What kind of culture does it support and create for its employees?

Trying to find the answers to questions like these by researching the company website, studying any materials its published about itself in ads, in brochures, and on the web, as well as reading about the company at the Better Business Bureau, or if its big enough, in past articles (on the web or at your local library) of The Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, or Fortune is an essential part of preparing for an interview.

This looks like the perfect lead for a break. Join me in a couple days as we complete number one and journey to numbers two and three.

Thanks Kathryn, your advice is greatly appreciated. For those interested in learning more about American Public University/American Military University, where they are expanding access to higher education with more than 100 affordable degrees and certificates to prepare students for service and leadership in a diverse and global society, visit their website at www.apus.edu.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS

Career Breakout: Ink or Excuse?

In response to our most recent article dealing with tattoos, Christopher responded in the following manner…

I also have tattoos that are mostly where no one can see them but the few on my wrist are obvious. What do you suggest I do? I am a hard worker getting ready to graduate college.”

First of all, being unemployed and owning tattoos are not exclusive to each other. In other words, career success and ink can cohabitate. Not knowing your exact situation or background, I offer these general guidelines and job hunting strategies to enhance your personal career success:

  • Prepare an effective resume AND cover letter highlighting your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Overall, companies look for candidates with a proven track record. The reasoning here being that if you improved operations or increased sales with another company, you will do it again for their company. As a result, time to brag about achievements is NOW (detail accomplishments and responsibilities with numbers when possible)… simply stating you managed a sales team is not enough. To place your resume on the right pile, state the number of people you supervised and the bottom-line result due to your hard work and superior team leading skills.
  • Once you gain an interview, dress the part. Males should wear a suit accompanied by a tie (get over the tears and just do it) while the ladies should dress      professionally in a business suit of their own. Remember first impressions can ruin an opportunity.
  • Speaking of first impressions, let’s focus on your tattoos. As you will be wearing a long sleeve shirt (to go with your suit), unless there are facial markings, our concern      resides on the wrists. Wearing a watch on your right hand may shield a sliver (or most for some) and should be considered. I suggest the right hand as that is typically used during the initial handshake. Regarding your left hand, do not keep it in your pocket as that will raise suspicion.
  • If your tattoo catches a concerning eye, facial twitch, or remark, be honest but do not state any prejudicial quips. For example, don’t make mention that during a college drinking binge in Las Vegas you woke up in a bathtub to notice a      permanent mark or during a three-year stint with the state it was part of a gang initiation. Not sure why but some companies don’t think kindly on such information. Being honest (but not prejudicial) may work in your advantage.
  • Be prepared to counter negative responses or smirks with a positive. After your reply transition and refocus the interview on the many advantages you bring to the company. You may be surprised at the positive responses received once the white elephant in the room is recognized. You may be even more surprised by knowing how many of those same hiring managers have tattoos.
  • To summarize, be confident and always brand yourself as a problem resolver, not a problem maker.

It is true that many “conservative” companies are not tattoo-sensitive and discriminate, but the number of those organizations is shrinking. No matter the situation, see through the eyes of the employer and respond to his or her concerns. To be blunt, hiring manager concerns boil down to two things:

1. Can you increase sales, bring in revenue, or expand the customer base
2. Can you decrease costs, develop new methods of production, or enhance team development

Quite simply, it’s all about the bottom line. Tattoo or no tattoo, you are the right candidate if you can satisfy one of the above conditions. Going into an interview passively or not confident due to a few ink spots is not conducive to your career. Quite honestly, in the midst of the total package, it’s all about the money so get over any excuses and get into your groove.

If you have any questions for our career professionals, we are ready.

Interested in learning more about Education Career Services library of career resources, books, and workbooks, visit our website or go to Amazon.com (search Huffman at ecs).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Twitter: @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: Tattooed, what’s the big deal?

Questions keep coming in from our audience; your voices do not fall upon deaf ears. Providing you an advantage, career professionals across the United States will be offering recommendations throughout our continuing Career Breakout series, where YOU control the question.

I have tattoos and each time I go to an interview, people stare at them and I can’t get a job offer. What’s the big deal with a few tattoos?

No doubt about it, the use of tattoo art is increasing. WARNING: Tattoos may be dangerous to your career. According to the top career management associations, tattoos are not always a welcome site on prospective employees. I know you are simply expressing yourself in an innocent fashion but not everyone knows that.

Through the employer’s eye, let’s uncover some of the stereotypes associated with ink on skin.

True or not:

  • Those with tattoos are rebels, not team players
  • Hiring executives link ink with gang membership
  • Non-tattooed employees are uncomfortable around those with tattoos
  • Customers become intimidated when approached by inked representatives
  • Hiring executives often associate tattoos with individuals who have been in prison
  • Companies dealing with face-to-face clients prefer conservative looking employees

The above perceptions many companies (especially conservative organizations) hold as truths and will be a factor during the hiring process.

Regarding our original question, though tattoos may not be a big deal to me, to many they are. As mentioned in a previous submission, perception and attitude are directly related. Thus, if the hiring manager sitting across the table holds any prejudices (and we all do), you may be doing yourself a disservice by showcasing ink.

Another consideration may be more difficult to swallow. Perhaps your qualifications are not as strong as other candidates or your interviewing skills are lacking. Either factor could be the reason there have been no job offers. Ultimately, to blame tattoos may be your way of rationalizing?

There are multiple factors why individuals do not make it beyond the initial interview process. Perhaps it’s not the ink but something else. On a side note, it is not uncommon for hiring managers to eliminate candidates due to bad teeth, body odor, un-polished shoes, a gut feeling, or a fishy handshake. The list goes on and on. My advice to you is to receive an objective career evaluation from a career coach. Asking a friend or family member is nice, but knowing the truth is nicer.

If you have any questions for our career professionals, we are ready.

Interested in learning more about Education Career Services library of career resources, books, and workbooks, visit our website or go to Amazon.com (search Huffman at ecs).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Twitter: @dannyatecs

New Year / New Attitude

With the coming of a new year we can finally say that things are going to get a little better. But then again, economists and job trend analysts are about as fickle as the weather. Fortunately, each one of us has the power to develop professionally no matter what storms may come. As a career coach, an author of over a dozen career books and single-target workbooks, and a seasoned hiring manager/CEO, I can honestly state that most career progressions and/or new employee hiring is directly related to the candidate’s attitude being projected.

What does this mean for YOU? Glad you asked…

In today’s tight employment market, companies are seeking candidates who can carry more than the typical eight-hour load. You heard it, today is all about “what can you do for the company, now!” Herein resides the foundation of this article: selling YOUR knowledge, skills, and abilities in a confident and progressive manner. Easier said than done? Not really.

Quite bluntly, attitude and perception (the way others see and define you) are directly related and is a powerful tool to construct or destroy relationships, personal and professional. Taking it to back to the New Year and a new (or improved) career, the manner in which the package (YOU) is presented weighs heavily on the result.

One thing we should make initially clear to candidates lacking a great deal of career-related experience, rarely do the interview, job, and/or promotion go to the most qualified… more often than not; offers go to the individual with the right attitude.

How to enhance perception positively depends on how you package and distribute attitude. Let’s take a quick look at three mediums career seekers use and how attitude influences perception.

Informational Interviews: Defined as an informal discussion with the intent of gaining job information from an individual in your field of interest.

  • Proper attitude is upbeat, confident, respectful of the advice and time given, well      researched—asking relevant questions, and always professional.
  • Improper attitude can be defined by being pushy (asking for a job), irrelevant, sloppy, not  timely (being late or overextending), entitled, and non-appreciative.Under this example (and I’ve had plenty of both), attitude guides reaction and ultimate consequence… but you know this.

Career Documents (resume and cover letter): Defined as the primary medium used to formally exchange information related to a specific position.

  • Proper attitude is displayed by keeping information relevant, error-free, confident      (quantifying accomplishments), proper spacing (plenty of white space but not too much), and written professionally.
  • Improper attitude  is defined by taking a lazy road (using templates or self-propagating formats), using illegible fonts (or too small), filled with errors (could be an automatic deal-breaker), and is passive by nature.Under this example, a hiring manager gets a “gut” feeling as to the type      of person the author is. In other words, displaying improper techniques rings bells of keep away, even if you happen to be the most qualified candidate.

Formal Interview: Recognized to be the place where qualifications are confirmed. Most importantly, this is the setting defining how you “fit in” with the company.

Taken from experience, face-to-face attitude and perception never meant so much as during a formal interview. Naturally if the first two elements discussed above are out of sync, a formal interview will never be offered.

  • Proper attitude:  timely, respectful, firm handshake, asking the right questions  (well-researched), listening and responding directly to each question, behaving in a courteous manner, responding professionally, recognizing all parties involved (including the receptionist), and sending a handwritten follow up to be sent via snail mail.
  • Improper attitude is reflected by being late, loud, disrespectful, diverting questions,      sounding rehearsed, lacking eye contact, offering a limp handshake, not researching the company, being distracted, reeking of smoke, not offering any solid examples as to how you will create an immediate value, and oozing of arrogance.If you are currently employed, the importance of perception cannot go understated. To encourage promotions and/or job stability, take advantage and express the right attitude hour in and hour out. With downsizing and shrinking budgets, peers, managers, corporate executives all are eager to fill positions with individuals recognized as problem solvers. Candidate attitudes and the perception of others play a huge factor in shaping career success, an often ignored fact held by many.

    The New Year promises to be one of continued adjustment, personally and professionally. Irrelevant of your circumstance, the manner in which you expresses attitude directly correlates to the picture viewed by others. Now is a perfect time to reflect on this year’s goals, develop a plan to achieve each objective, and reinforce the value of a positive attitude. If you have not bought into the fact that attitude and perception is the foundation of success, try it for three months and prove me wrong. Consider yourself as being double dared. Interested in purchasing Education Career Services career resources, books, and workbooks, visit our website or Amazon.com (search Danny Huffman at education career services).

    Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
    www.educationcareerservices.com
    Twitter: @dannyatecs