Tag Archives: Tropical Air of Central Florida

Chili Cook Off and Networking

Senator Alan Hays and Baby Mo
Senator Alan Hays and Baby Mo

Research is clear, when it comes to professional progression, networking is the key. Over the past weekend, I happened to be in the middle of a well-kept networking secret: can you say Chili Cook Off?

Participants and cookers mingled for hours at one of the most relaxed environments thought possible. Though our team were part of the cookers, Tropical Air of Central Florida and Baby Mo’s Chili, connections made were priceless. For those lacking networking expertise, a Chili Cook Off offers an ideal stage to rehearse and expand those in your circle while becoming comfortable and confident around others.

With chili in hand, striking up a conversation never has been easier. I hear you, the topic of employment rarely comes up while dipping chili, but establishing networks can be as natural as fiber and peanut butter.

For tasters, simply venture table to table, complimenting along the way while learning about the companies behind the chili. To what seem as a surprise for many (not to me), I noticed over 20 local and regional businesses behind the chili. Some would call this an opportunity as one taster approaches:

Taster: “Baby Mo’s Chili? Where’s the chef?”
Server: “The young one with the gloves. She’s the master behind the chili.”
Taster: “Awesome chili. She got it right and I’ll be voting for you!”
Server: “Thanks, do appreciate it. Not only do we make great chili, we take care of air conditioning and heating needs throughout Central Florida.”
Taster: “I like the logo and no doubt keeping people cool in Florida is always a challenge. Are you a technician?”
Server: “Actually I own the company.”
Taster: “I like how Tropical Air of Central Florida is taking part in the community and would love to be part of a company like this.”
Server: “We enjoy keeping people cool and serving chili. What are you looking to do?”
Taster: “I’ve worked as an office administrator over the past two years. Now going to Seminole State. I really want to work with a small company, learning all I can and growing with the company.”
Server: “We’re always looking for positive people, grab my card and give me a call in a few days. We may be hiring part time office help next month.”
Taster: “Definitely will give you a call. And I really mean it, this chili rocks.”
Server: “Don’t forget to vote, last year we were two votes shy of placing.”

Networking can happen anywhere… the only limitations to networking are the limits YOU place on it. 

One never knows who will be walking around as well. During chili cook offs, special judges are often called in to assist, another networking advantage. During the “Apopka Old Florida Outdoor Festival Chili Cook-Off,” one of the judges happened to be Senator Alan Hays. For those interested in politics, business, and community opportunities, this was your chance to connect.

Not just for the votes, but I encourage you to attend the Orlando Chili Cook-Off March 7th. Baby Mo will be cooking the chili and I’ll be serving… hope to see you taking advantage of this networking opportunity.

Seeking awesome chili, employment, promotion, or career transitioning support, self-help job development books and resources, including material designed for those transitioning out of prison, visit www.edu-cs.com or www.CareerBreakOut.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

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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