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Being the Most Qualified Does Not Guarantee You the Job!

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Have you ever left an interview feeling you nailed it quite well that you would be offered the job? You wait for days (or weeks) only to hear you didn’t. I am sure you have, and it’s not a nice feeling.

The US elections are over. One candidate got hired; the other got fired, and for those of us who follow politics, we are wondering what happened. That conversation was what dominated the group coaching class with the women in my Let’s GROW Project today. One woman commented that the most qualified person did not get the job. I chimed in that 46.9% of eligible voters did not vote. Another spoke of places where people do not have the opportunity to vote. The discussion provided a segue into why being the most qualified candidate does not necessarily guarantee you the job.

Here is how the group drew an analogy with the results of the US elections and a job interview. Two candidates were shortlisted for the position and were going to be interviewed by a panel of the American public. One had a very impressive resume. She had 30+ years of experience in politics as First Lady of a state; First Lady of the United States, Senator and Secretary of State. She also had testimonials and references from high profile colleagues and celebrities. All that would easily make her a shoe-in for the job.

The other candidate didn’t have any of that. He touted himself as a businessman, and an outsider to the Washington establishment. Despite publicly passing incendiary remarks, and refusing to follow protocol, it did not stop him from getting the job. How did that happen? Answers to that question will vary, depending on which side of the political fence one is on. However, from a job search perspective we could examine the role that personal branding, messaging and the halo effect might have played:

Personal Branding and Messaging

One candidate branded herself as the one with the experience, a steady hand and an even keel temperament. She cited her many success stories and had proof that backed them up. Many on the interview panel (the electorate) believed her. In fact, she won the popular vote, but because of how the Electoral College works, she did not get the job. What went wrong? Was it her brand? Did people buy into the narrative that she was untrustworthy? What about her messaging? Was it clear to her audience that she understood their pain?

The other candidate branded himself as the outsider; the businessman who could turn around Washington. He pointed to his business successes and his ability to ‘swing deals’. Although that is debatable, it was enough to convince a good part of the electorate that he was the best person for the job. He showed himself as an astute marketer, ripping right into the heart of their core beliefs – that the status quo needed a shake up; that the other candidate was a part of the establishment and was going to offer more of the same. His messaging was effective enough where his negatives didn’t matter to his constituents.

The Halo Effect

The halo effect, as described in Wikipedia, “is a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties.” This means, many on the interview panel could have been influenced positively or negatively by their perception of each candidate. If that were the case, their minds were already made up. Regardless of what the candidates said from thereon, they latched on to their first impression of each candidate.

  1. Not too many of us aspire to be a head of state, but we are very often invited to interviews. In preparing for an interview, what could we learn from the results of the US elections?
  2. A resume might not be enough. An impressive resume, LinkedIn Profile (with its many testimonials), and high profile celebrity references might not be enough to get hired. Go beyond those, and think of what additional value you have to offer. Determine if your 30+ years of experience is an asset or a liability, and will it help or hurt your chances?
  3. Branding is not just for companies. It is common these days to speak about one’s ‘personal brand’. This is a blend of people’s perception of you and how you see yourself. Are they congruent, or, do people characterize you as someone different from who you really are? One way to find out is to complete a 360 assessment. These are easily available from a variety of sources, including the 360 Reach Branding Assessment.
  4. Authenticity is a key part of your branding. Be yourself. Highlight the skills, knowledge and strengths that make you unique. Showcase yourself in a way that feels natural to you, yet capture the attention of the hiring manager. You need to ensure that your brand is received positively by the people thinking of hiring you.
  5. First impression matters. You should strive to make a good first impression. Extend your research beyond that of the company and to the people who will be a part of the interview panel. Don’t know who they are? Find out, then conduct a Google search. What you discover could serve as a conversation opener and rapport builder instead of having to discuss the weather.
  6. Messaging is important. Your message should be tailored to the needs of the employer. You need to articulate your success stories in a way that convinces the employer you understand their needs, know where their pain points are, and that you “can fix it”(according to one of the election candidates).
  7. Monitor your social media footprints. Most employers conduct a search on candidates before inviting them to an interview. Make sure you do the same. Do a Google search on yourself to see if there are any negative or unsavoury mentions about you, and clear them up as quickly as you can.

It hurts when you were not hired for the job you were sure you would get. You know in your heart that you have the right qualifications, skills and experience. You did all that you could do, but the decision making was not under your control. Don’t beat upon yourself too much and never stop believing in you and your capabilities. “Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, said Frank Sinatra. This might not be easy. It could take days for you to come to terms with what happened, but life goes on and so should you.

What other tips would you offer to someone who is feeling dejected because of a lost job opportunity?

 

 

Why Are You Afraid to Tell Your Unique, Authentic Story?

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We tell stories every day – to family, friends and colleagues – yet we hardly think of telling stories when we meet recruiters, hiring managers, potential employers, and even potential business partners. Why? We are afraid; we don’t want anyone to label us as ‘braggarts’. A LinkedIn article titled “Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable – Why Now is the Time to Tell Your Work Story”, indicates that approximately only 29% of Canadians and 40% of Americans feel comfortable talking about themselves. In fact, 53% of workers admitted they feel like they are bragging if they talk about themselves. “We’re so uncomfortable touting our work successes that we’d rather share our political views on social media than let our followers know we received a promotion or got a new job.”

In his book, Tell to Win, Peter Gruber states: “Today everyone – whether they know it or not – is in the emotional transportation business. More and more, success is won by creating [and telling] compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.” This means, if you can’t engage, persuade, motivate and convince others of your accomplishments, your story will remain inside you, and someone else will snag that coveted job or business opportunity.

Storytelling has not only become a central theme to the job search process, but is also a powerful way to get your message across in any setting. It doesn’t matter if you are in an interview, at a networking event, delivering an elevator speech in 30 seconds, participating in meetings, or communicating one-on-one. What matters is your ability to confidently tell stories that will communicate your value and build credibility.

Bear in mind that you are also telling your story in verbal and nonverbal ways. For example, did you know that your resume and your other career marketing efforts are all telling your story? When your resume is set aside by a hiring manager for follow up, it is because something compelling grabbed the his or her attention. When it comes to interviews, you are often asked to “tell me about yourself” or “describe a time when…”. Those questions present an opportunity for you to recount stories that will convince the hiring manager you are the ideal person for the role.

Whether you are a job seeker or an entrepreneur, it’s important that you become a masterful storyteller. Someone who is able to strategically craft and deliver stories that will engage and capture an audience, whether it’s an audience of one or many. You need signature stories that you are proud to share, without feeling bashful. Stories that reveal your authenticity and set you apart from your competitors. How do you do that? Think of it as a movie where you were the main actor. Recall and write out compelling scenes that demonstrated the challenges you were up against, the actions you took and the results or outcomes. Look for patterns. What skills were you using most; where did you feel more energized. This exercise should give your confidence a boost and have you well-prepared to articulate your unique and authentic stories.

Before telling your story, consider the following:

  • Know yourself: Candidly assess your strengths, weaknesses, failures and successes, and be ready to address them if asked.
  • Learn to promote yourself. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but you need to learn to talk about yourself. This is not bragging. This is articulating what’s true about you; who you are, what you have accomplished, and what value you will bring to the new role. If you don’t tell your story, then people won’t know the broad range of talents you have. There is merit in the cliché of tooting your own horn, because if you don’t, no one will know you are coming.
  • Be authentic: Don’t borrow someone else’s story and try to be somebody you are not. Tell your own unique story honestly and with confidence and ensuring that you stay authentic. Author and poet May Sarton said, “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
  • Review interview questions ahead of time. While you may not know all the questions you will be asked, research, review and practice certain interview questions that are commonly asked. Then prepare to condense your accomplishments into a few short points that will be memorable.
  • Strengthen your online presence. Nothing speaks louder than a well-written, consistent, authentic online profile that tells your story even when you are asleep. This could be a personal website or blog, or your LinkedIn profile, complete with accomplishments and work samples (if appropriate).

Now, it’s your turn. Are you ready to tell your story? Need to learn storytelling strategies? Grab a copy of Tell Stories, Get Hired.

How to Interview For a Law Firm

Despite what you may have heard and read, many job seekers, including new lawyers, still get the jitters when they are invited to an interview. However, unlike painting, you don’t need to be Monet in order pull in a few useful skills that can help you land the job. New lawyers looking to get their foot in the door will need a bit more help than just your regular job interviewing tips.

Law firm jobs are sometimes difficult to obtain, and while most law firms prefer to hire someone with a good amount of experience, they’re willing to consider new hires who can nail the interview. What you need is the right mindset and a few helpful tips to put you on the right track.

First of all, it’s best to get out of your mind the idea that your interview is going to be like a courtroom. While you are on trial in a certain sense, you won’t be asked complex legal questions. The law firm wants to get to know you. Your resume will play a major role in that conversation, but how you handle yourself in the back-and-forth dialogue will be the most telling part for them.

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New attorneys will need a resume that is clear of ambiguity. To the point and totally free of spelling and grammar errors; remember that your resume is going to be the first thing the law firm sees. Avoid including extraneous information that is unrelated to your graduate and undergraduate education, and that includes unrelated work or volunteer experience.

Before handing in that application, be sure to conduct research on the law firm you are applying to. Know their history, the kind of law they practice, their size and especially any of their notable accomplishments. A lot of this information can be gleaned from their website and local news media.

Keep in mind that having questions to ask your interviewer is a good strategy. This shows your interest in the company, and your desire to want to learn more about them. Failing to ask questions can make you appear uninterested. You will also want to know more about the law firm’s culture, and to determine whether it will be a good fit for you. Remember it’s a two-way street. The interviewer is assessing whether you will be a good fit for the firm, and you should do so as well. Consider asking questions about how the firm handles assignments for associates, development strategies and continuing education.

The term “Dress for Success” applies for your law firm interview. Professional attire is commonplace for law firms, so make sure you are properly prepared and that your own personal presentation fits the bill. Also review the types of questions your interviewer is likely to ask. This can include question such as:

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • What type of practice are you interested in?
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.

You will also be questioned about your resume. Make sure you know your resume thoroughly, and be prepared to elaborate when asked.

Make sure to exude confidence at all times, but avoid sounding arrogant. Be sure that you keep your conversation to the topic. Avoid making any disparaging remarks about others or other law firms.

Prior to your interview, make sure to research your interviewer(s). Know their career history and accomplishments and be prepared to weave some of this research into the conversation. This will not only show that you went the extra mile to find out something about them, but will give you something pertinent to discuss instead of the standard ‘How is the weather?’ small talk. Having said that, avoid getting too personal.

Finally, never forget to follow up! This includes a handwritten thank-you note that individually addresses a specific topic of discussion in the interview. Make sure to send the note the day after your interview. In fact, send it the same day, if you can. If a few weeks pass without any contact from the law firm, do not be afraid to send an email inquiring about the position.

For an easy to remember, easy to digest version of this article, Tenge Law Firm LLC, kindly contributed the article and accompanying Infographic below for you to use as your visual guide on How To Interview For A Law Firm.

 

 

How to Win the Interview Game

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Interviews are terrifying. Job candidates are known to sweat profusely, become tongue-tied, give wrong answer and blow the entire interview. Some have even tried reading the interviewer’s mind to come up with what they think the interviewer wants to hear instead of than focusing on the value they could offer. These peculiarities are not limited to entry-level candidates but run across the continuum to management and executive level candidates.

It’s natural to be nervous and experience some or all of the above symptoms, but there are better ways to prepare for interviews, lessen your stress and win the interview game. It IS really possible to unravel the mystery in each question, develop answers that showcase your accomplishments, and convince the interviewer you are the perfect person for the job. It starts with knowing that the interviewer really wants you to convince her that you will be able to do the job; you will be productive and help them make money, and you will fit in with the team. All of this takes a bit of work!

Below are seven questions that are regularly asked at interviews. They are followed by a short explanation of what the interviewer is looking for. They are designed to help you understand what the interviewer is looking for and develop your stories. While they are geared to managers, mid-career professionals and executives, anyone who wants to win the interview game should take note:

QUESTION: “Tell me about a time when you accomplished something significant that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there to make it happen.”

Another question related question could be: “Tell me a time when you were not a formal leader but became a leader.

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: In both instances, they are looking for leadership competency. Are you an effective leader? Are you willing to assume a leadership role even if your job description doesn’t identify you as a leader?

QUESTION: Tell me about a time when, despite your best effort, you failed to meet a deadline. What factors caused you to miss the deadline? What was the outcome? What did you learn from it?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: Are you competent at  goal-setting, project management or organizing and planning. Do you understand how to keep track of a project in relation to its deadline? Do you demonstrate above average organizational skills? Are you a procrastinator? Are you quick to blame others, or do you take personal responsibility for failures?

QUESTION: Tell me two characteristics of your personality you have to improve, and how you will do it?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: This question is to find out if you are aware of your shortcomings (weaknesses). If so, what steps have you taken to work on them. They also want to determine if you are self-motivated, and can initiate your own developmental plans.

QUESTION: Imagine I am your manager and I offer you the position. At the end of one year, what will I be writing in your performance review?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: They want to know if you understand the importance of defining and setting specific goals and objectives; if you set realistic goals, and if you attain them. Give the interviewer two or three short-term goals you would have set for your first year on the job, then describe the results after the year.

QUESTION: Why should I consider you a strong candidate for this position? What have been your most significant achievements in your previous role?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: Have you reviewed the job posting thoroughly? Do understand the duties and responsibilities of the job? Do you have the specific skills and the right experience they are looking?

QUESTION: What if I should contact your supervisor to enquire about your technical competence in your previous position? What would he or she list as your strengths? What weaknesses would they mention?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: They are looking for evidence that you are highly competent; that you are a contributor who work hard; that you demonstrate excellent interpersonal skills when working with others. They want to make sure you have the right skills and temperament for the job.

QUESTION: What do you know about the position we are trying to fill? What are your strengths for this job? Is there any reason why you cannot perform the essential functions of this job?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER IS LOOKING FOR: If you put a lot of effort into researching the company, if you understand the job requirements, and if your skills match their needs. You need to understand what they do, then demonstrate how you would fit in. Avoid mentioning any weaknesses related to doing the job.

You can win the interview game when you understand what the interviewer really wants. To do this, you need to analyze the job posting line by line to make sure your skills, abilities and background are aligned with the requirements. Your next step is to develop accomplishment stories that relate directly to these requirements. Know yourself and your success stories well enough so they are easy to articulate. Refrain from giving rehearsed, robotic answers as they are easy to spot. Recall instances where you helped the company make or save money.

When it comes to discussing your weaknesses, tread carefully, but don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. After all, you are human. Discuss a weakness that shows the imperfect human being we all are, but nothing that could exclude you from being offered the job. Are you impatient? That’s a fair human condition, but explain what you are doing about it.

Finally, this is not the time to be shy. If you really have accomplishments, talk about them with confidence. They are your stories.

Related article in the Toronto Sun on How to Read the Interviewer’s Mind:  How Shall I Answer That?

Want to win the interview game? Ask me how.

7 Better Things to Do on the Drive to Your Interview Than Stress

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[Article contributed by Millenial Career Expert Sarah Landrum]

Your big interview is close; anxiety is setting in, and you know that by the time you are ready to make the commute to the interview, you’ll be one giant ball of stress. To make matters worse, you will be driving to the interview, and when under pressure, driving isn’t the most fun. Here are seven things you can do during the drive to your interview to lessen your stress.

  1. Crank Up the AC: Stress has a way of fogging up our brains, making articulating what we’re thinking difficult. If you’re feeling groggy or sluggish, roll down the windows or crank up the air conditioning in your car, even if it’s a chilly day. With some fresh air hitting your face, you’ll liven up in no time and be able to think more clearly. An additional advantage is if you’re prone to sweating is that the cold air will work to calm your nerves.
  1. Listen to Some Music: Whether you’re feeling excited, overwhelmed, stressed or all of the above before the big job interview, music can lower stress levels immensely. The week of your interview, take the time to create a playlist with songs to calm you down and an upbeat one to get you pumped up. If you’re not into music, you can still take your mind off the interview. There are various podcasts you can listen to, including ones covering pop culture, food and other lighthearted topics. Depending on your mood while driving to the interview, you’ll have plenty of options for your listening pleasure.
  1. Snack Smartly: Before your interview, your stomach may feel like it’s in knots and it might be hard to eat. However, nothing is worse than being in the middle of a sentence with your future boss, only to be interrupted by your stomach gurgling its displeasure at finding itself on empty. Prior to your interview, find a healthy snack that won’t be messy and isn’t going to make your breath putrid. Fresh veggies, a protein-packed smoothie or a scone or muffin will work perfectly. Snacking smartly can help to wake you up and give your brain the fuel it needs to ace the interview. Just make sure it ends up in your stomach and not down the front of your suit or blouse. It may be best to pack another shirt just in case.
  1. Go Zen: You might be lucky enough to have a yoga session right before your interview to release some stress, but why not bring the good vibes of the studio with you? With some essential oil room spray, relaxing music and a positive mantra to repeat to yourself, you can focus on the drive while melting away stress. By the time you arrive at your interview, you’ll feel refreshed and have a positive outlook for your potential new employer.
  1. Get a Massage: Tell stress to take a hike by getting your own personal massage as you drive. Old massaging cushions required a wall outlet to power them, but now, your car’s 12v charger will do just fine with various massager models. There are various types of car cushion massagers available, so do your research to find the best one for you and your budget.
  1. Practice Your Smile and Posture: Driving can be tough on your back depending on how far you’re traveling, and even with a car cushion massager, you may start to feel anxious just because you’re stuck and can’t burn the nervous energy off. The good news is you can practice good posture and a warm smile anywhere. According to a recent study, candidates who smiled less were deemed more favorable for jobs considered to be serious and professional. However, candidates who smiled at the beginning and end of the interview faired better than candidates who smiled throughout the entire interview. So practice those award-winning smiles for when you first arrive and when you leave.

Great posture – shoulders down, head up, and back – work for any type of job interview and shows you are confident, poised and ready to address anything that comes your way. Let your body language reflect your attitude about the job.

  1. Check Your Face and Breath: Stuck at what seems to be an extra long red light with only a mile or two to go? Take the time to flip down your mirror and give those pearly whites a once over. If you were snacking in the car, this part is especially important before you make your way into the interview. Having chia seeds from your smoothie stuck in your teeth won’t really win you any points. Make sure if you’re wearing makeup that nothing is smeared, and check your hair, especially if the windows were down or the AC was cranked up. Your looks will make the first impression, so ensure your looks are wow-worthy in a professional way.

A certain degree of stress is normal. It pumps up the adrenaline and allows you to be more focused, so don’t allow it to derail your chances of doing well in the interview. Recognize the stress for what it’s worth, then start focusing on success strategies to ace your interview.

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Contributed by Sarah Landrum, a freelance writer and millennial career expert. Her blog, Punched Clocks, is all about finding happiness and success in your life and career.

 

Caught in a Salary Negotiation Trap? NEVER, EVER Do This…

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When it comes to salary negotiations, experts will tell you to postpone such discussions until you have been offered the job. That does not mean you should wait until that time to craft your negotiation story.

Imagine this: You have moved to a different state where the economy isn’t booming and the job market is gloomy. You have been applying for jobs and getting interviews but not the offer. Finally, in one of these interviews you are asked about the salary you are expecting. You are thrilled, and you start your answer “Well, I am new to the city, I know the job market isn’t that hot right now. Although I have the credentials for the position, and several years of experience, I only have two years experience in the field. I am willing to start at an entry-level salary of $50K.”

The interviewer wraps up the interview and you leave, feeling a bit uncertain. Imagine a few days later you see the same job advertised with a salary range of $70-$100K. What do you do?

This is a real scenario that happened to one of my clients. I listened to him as he explained his dilemma. Family circumstances necessitated the move, and now he is in a situation where he has to get a job, any job – even an entry-level one. I could sense the desperation in his voice.

Salary negotiation is not a comfortable topic for most people. It becomes even harder when our words and body language tell a story of desperation. As desperate as you may be though, never, ever do what this client did. George C. Fraser, Chairman and CEO of FraserNet Inc. said, “Never bargain or job hunt from a position of weakness. Soar like an eagle, even when you are feeling like a wounded pigeon.” Easier said than done, but there are tools to help job candidates navigate the salary negotiation maze.

The first step is to conduct research so you are more informed when the discussion comes up. At minimum, start with tools such as Salary.com, Payscale.com, salary.monster.ca, Careerjournal.com and Salaryexpert.com. Canada’s Job Bank also has information. These tools allow you to conduct research about salary ranges based on industry, location, job title, experience, etc.

A new resource featured recently on Fast Company, is Paysa.com. One of its cofounders, Chris Bolte told Fast Company that the goal for the platform is to help people figure out how to understand what their value is in the market, and prepare them to have a more balanced, data-driven conversation with either a current or future employer.

To use the tool, a candidate would enter information such as job title, years of experience, company, location, education level, and skill set, and the Paysa platform would give a comprehensive picture of what the candidate is worth in the market.

Having said all of the above, it’s important to keep in mind that salary figures are not universally applicable. You need to take into consideration locations (cities, regions, provinces, states or territories). Having some information puts you in a better position to negotiate.

While you are negotiating don’t get stuck on the dollar figure. Some companies might not pay the salary you want, but you could negotiate for additional vacation, a more flexible work schedule, company-paid training, or other perks. These, if converted to dollars, could raise your total compensation package.

Additional Advice from an Expert

Carole Martin, President of The Interview Coach, and contributor to my book, Tell Stories Get Hired, said that the first rule of salary negotiation is to be prepared with your numbers. You need to know what you want. You never want to be caught off-guard. When they ask you questions about salary you want to be prepared and ready with answers.

You have several options when faced with the question:

  • You can tell them what you were making at your last job. (Weigh the pros and cons before you offer this information).
  • You can give them a range that is acceptable to you – making sure that the lowest number is enough to cover your basic needs. (Better way of handling this difficult question).
  • You can postpone the discussion until you have more facts about the company and the entire package. (If possible this is the best scenario for you. Only then will you be able to do a fair comparison of what you have made in the past; satisfy your own basic needs; and get the deal that is the best for you).

How you handle the salary negotiation discussion will be key to your ability to get what you want, and more, and you won’t get caught in a salary negotiation trap.

 

Your Job Search Failure is Not Fatal [Monday Rx]

Failure is Not Failure

Many of us have experienced a failure of one kind or another at points in our lives. Sometimes it’s an interview that did not go well, a job offer that went to someone else, or a promotion that did not materialize.

The reality is that whatever the failure, its initial impact is never pleasant. But, because most of us tend to wrap our self-worth around our jobs or careers, when we experience a failure or we are rejected, we tell ourselves that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.

Last week, soon after I sent out the Monday Rx, I received the following note from a client:

“Daisy, I have a job now…I am working with xxx as a Client Supervisor and Foot Care Nurse. My boss is great, and I really like my job. Very little stress and lots of fun. Thanks for all of your help. I will keep in touch.”

One would not believe that, at one point, this woman was near to giving up on herself, and she had several reasons to prove it: Her original resume wasn’t marketing me well; her age was going to preclude her from consideration; she was crippled by nervousness when it came to interviews. “I just cannot conduct a job search anymore”, she said to me then. One of my first questions to her was, “Are you a great nurse?”

Having said all of that, did she find overnight success? Of course not, but she changed her perspective about herself, and something about her changed!

As a job seeker or career changer, realize that a few failures do not mean the end of your career journey. When you embark on such a journey, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You have to dig deep to uncover your success stories and own them, then learn to articulate them clearly and convincingly in your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn Profile, and your other marketing documents. Your goal with this exercise should always be to make sure you are seen as the only candidate for that job.

Your job search failure is not fatal. Learn from your failures and setbacks, but don’t allow them to take over and cloud your ability to tell a convincing story to get hired.

Just in case you believe you will never rise from the ashes of a failure, consider the following individuals who faced rejection and failures in their lives, but went on to achieve great things:

Oprah Winfrey was told she wasn’t fit for television.
Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen received 144 rejections from publishers for their book Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Jay-Z had big dreams to become a rapper, but couldn’t get signed to any record labels. He created his own music empire: Roc-A-Fella Records.
J.K. Rowlings got fired because she spent her time writing stories on her work computer.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

While your story might not be as well-documented as these celebrities; while you might not aspire to such heights, you could change the direction of your life if you view failure as an opportunity to start over. Bob Marley, in one of his songs, says, “As one door closes, another one opens.” Don’t continue staring at the closed door of failure that you miss other doors of opportunity.

Your job search failure is not fatal. Make a decision today to learn from your failures, and spring forward to success.

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Note: Sections of this post have been excerpted from my new book “Tell Stories, Get Hired”, which will be coming soon to a bookstore near you.

 

 

 

How to Get an Influential Person to Have Coffee With You

Coffee_Meeting2How would you like to get a once-in-a-life-time opportunity (face-to-face or virtually) to connect with someone famous, or with the Chief Decision Maker at your ideal employer? What if you could meet with a VIP – someone who could give you the inside scoop about one of your target employers? Yes, you can, and all it takes is a cup of coffee and lots of courage!

As a big proponent of going beyond the resume and using unconventional strategies to reach out to employers, I am always looking for unusual ways job seekers can connect with people who can play a role in their job search.

Recently, I learned about Ten Thousand Coffees, a new organization that is making it easy for job seekers to reach out and connect with busy and influential people who they would not normally get a chance to speak with. Its mission is “to connect students, recent grads, and young professionals with industry leaders and experts and engage in life-changing, career making conversations over coffee.” Even if you do not fall within those categories, you can also use the strategies outlined below to meet with an influencer, have coffee, and boost your career opportunities.

Wondering how you should maximize those precious moments when you do connect? Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, offers four ways to connect with powerful people: “Interview them, write about them, do them a favor, and be interesting.”  Here are my suggestions, although not necessarily in the same order:

Make Yourself Interesting. First impression counts, so before you reach out to any of the individuals with whom you would like to connect, do some introspection. Ask yourself, “Apart from my skills and expertise, what else makes me an interesting person?” It could be that you are good at golf; you sew your own clothes, or you won a dance competition. Find ways of incorporating those interests into your profile, especially if the person you are targeting has similar interests. As Dorie says, “Successful professionals like meeting compelling new people.

Interview Them. Prepare a list of questions for your time together. Remember, these individuals are busy people and won’t have time for frivolous questions, so make sure your questions are well-thought out. Your list could include:

  • How did you become a/an ____________?
  • What aspects of your job gives you the most personal satisfaction?
  • What skills and personal qualities are necessary to do your job well?
  • How long have you worked for this organization?
  • What are your major responsibilities?
  • What do you perceive to be the major rewards of this job?
  • What are the major frustrations in this job?
  • What do you like most about this job?
  • What are the most frequently recurring problems?
  • What advice would you give to a person coming into a company, or entering a profession like this?

Write About Them. To gain additional mileage out of your coffee meeting, write an article or blog post about the interview. Break up the interview into mini blog posts and ask readers to comment. Or, if you are active on Twitter, use pieces from the interview as tweets. Not only will you be showcasing your expertise, but your influencer will be impressed. He or she might even retweet your posts. Sooner or later, recruiters and potential employers will begin to take notice of your professional activities.

Do Them a Favour. You may be thinking that there’s no way you could return a favour to this ‘important’ person. Of course you can. First of all, at the end of the interview, ask them this networking question: “How can I help you?” They might quickly dismiss your question by saying “It’s OK, or it’s no big deal.” It may not be a big deal to them, but do them the favour anyway. You could rebroadcast the interview as a podcast, upload it to your YouTube channel, or submit it to news outlets – online and off. It could also be as simple as recommending a restaurant, or sending them an interesting article about one of their competitors. They will thank you for your initiative.

These strategies can help you connect with influential people whether or not you are a part of Ten Thousand Coffees. Are you ready to snag an interview with an influential person? Go ahead!

Why Your References’ Rave Reviews May Be a Waste of Time

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Your impressive resume got you the interview. You built a good rapport with the panel and you are feeling confident that you might get the job. Just as you are getting ready to pull out your reference list in case you are asked for it, someone asks you to explain your relationship with your bosses and colleagues at each of your past workplaces.”  Wow! That’s a curve ball you were not expecting. Suddenly it seems that all that effort of prepping your references was a waste of time.

Some employers believe that this common practice of relying on “candidate-supplied super fans” is not objective and could be a waste of time. Deborah Aarts, senior editor at Profit Magazine wrote recently that “Candidate-supplied references are usually nothing more than glowing reviews”, and she has found other people who agree with her. The chairman of an executive search firm, as well as a small business owner, agree that the practice is flawed because “Candidates are only going to give you people who’ll say good things about them.  Well, one would imagine that that’s the point of having references!

While some may see reference checking as a waste of time, it is not going away. Employers still need performance verification from people with whom a candidate has worked. They want to make sure that the candidate can do the job, will do the job and will fit in with the company’s culture. Reference checking is a combination of asking the right questions of the candidate and the references, and administering appropriate assessments. This should help to determine if the candidate will be a good fit. The majority of times the process works, so it wouldn’t amount to being a waste of time.

The candidate also has a job to do. He or she should be ready to explain the highs and lows in each position, if and when asked. This is not the time to badmouth the boss (or ex-boss) or anyone else. If the relationship was not all that great, say so, but frame it in a way that’s open and honest. Something like:

I am not sure what George at Widget Inc. would say about me at this point since he wasn’t too happy when I resigned.  After three years in the department, I was bypassed for a promotion and asked to train the new hire. I decided it was time to explore other opportunities, and so I left for the position with ABC Company. That position represented not only a hike in salary, but the title and responsibilities were exactly what I was looking for. As you can see, I excelled in that role and was promoted within 12 months of joining the company.”

Most employers know that people are not perfect and that work relationships sour.  However, if a candidate is willing to be transparent and authentic and discuss the situation candidly, while focusing on lessons learned, they could end up being a better reference for themselves than anyone else could.

What are your thoughts? Is referencing checking really a waste of time?

 

How to Read an Interviewer’s Mind and Ace the Interview

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The main reason job seekers fear and fail at interviews is that they are attempting to read the interviewer’s mind then give answers they think the interviewer wants to hear.  This mind-guessing game will not work and is destined to fail.

Most interviewers will use Behaviour-based interview questions to find candidates who will fit the job, fit the team, and fit the company. These are open-ended questions designed to drill down and uncover evidence of the competencies needed for the position. While no one interview strategy is fool-proof, the premise behind behavioural interviews is that past behaviour predicts future success.

This is where a good understanding of the PAR/CAR/SAR interview concept will be helpful to the job seeker. If he or she knows how to develop success stories demonstrating problems faced, actions taken and results obtained, it puts them in a better position to ace the interview.

Below are five randomly selected questions followed by a sneak peek into the mind of the interviewer and ending with strategies on how to answer the questions:

QUESTION #1: Why should I consider you a strong applicant for this position? What have been your most significant achievements in your previous job?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Does this candidate understand the duties and responsibilities associated with this position? Does he have the specific skills, abilities and the right experience that demonstrate a high level of proficiency?

STRATEGY: Review the job posting very closely and identify the skills and knowledge that are critical to the position. Then offer your specific achievements that directly or closely relate to the job.

QUESTION #2: What were three of your most significant accomplishments in your previous role that directly relate to the position we are discussing today?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Is the candidate aware of the contributions she has made to the employer? Has she left a legacy that has had significant impact on the company? Did she make or save the company money?

STRATEGY: Recall and tell stories of instances where your efforts made significant impact on the company’s bottom line and where you saved the company time or money. Also mention any awards or recognitions you received for your efforts.

QUESTION #3: If I were to contact your supervisor, what would she say about your ability to complete a difficult task? What criticism would she have about your technical competence?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Is the candidate someone who accepts or resists management directives? Does he have a good work ethic? Does he willingly pitch in to help coworkers with challenges?

STRATEGY: Focus on the teamwork / collaborative competencies that directly relate to the job for which you are interviewing. Give specific examples of how you get along with your coworkers and how willing you were to go the extra mile to get the job done.

QUESTION #4: Describe a situation when you worked with someone whose work style was different from yours. What problems did you encounter? How did you resolve the problems?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW:  Can this candidate work with different personalities? Is she accepting of others? Is she flexible? Is she aware that there’s more than way to accomplish a task?

STRATEGY: Offer stories that demonstrate flexibility and tact when dealing with people and problems. Relate your cross-cultural experience and your respect for diversity.

QUESTION #5: Tell me about a challenge our company is facing and offer a solution. Why do you feel this solution is the answer?

WHAT THE INTERVIEWER WANTS TO KNOW: Does the candidate understand our industry and can he offer some insights into potential challenges the industry is facing?

STRATEGY: Tell stories that demonstrate a thorough understanding of the industry and offer ideas for solutions. Give examples of ideas you offered that were accepted in your previous role. If you can do this you will be an extremely desirable candidate.

It’s your turn. Review the questions and leave your answers and or comments below.