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Job Search Blunders

Ok…I interviewed a guy for an opportunity I had available on my team.  He claimed to be a specialist at his craft and may have been.  The problem I had is I could not get past the BS he was shoveling.  He had a business on the side (for the past 11 years) but had been full time at other companies during the same time.  Something was not right.  In addition, he seemed to job hop a little but not too bad.

So as I dove into his current work experience, I asked him about his clients in his business.  He said to me:  “I make $80k to $90k per year with them currently.”  That prompted me to ask him why he was looking for a full time position that paid much less than that.  His answer was not well thought out and included the phrase:  “I don’t really need to work.  I do it to have fun and gain new experiences.”  This floored me and I almost didn’t know what to say.  He was not the right guy for the job and it was obvious.

So what is the lesson…was he just being honest?  If so, I really should have appreciated it, right?  My gut was telling me he wasn’t though.  He seemed to be just trying to demonstrate he was successful in the craft I was interviewing him for.  But what he got was the person on the other end not being sure if he was telling the truth or not.  So the lesson is to always be honest with your answers BUT don’t paint yourself into a corner and not think ahead on how you will answer obvious questions an interviewer will have based on your background/resume.  You don’t want to be telling the truth but sound like you are lying.  That is a bad combination.

If a hiring authority sees you job hopped ever 18 months for the past six or seven years, of course they are going to wonder if you will just be around for a year or so.  During the interview, be confident and prepared to answer that type of “obvious” questioning so you don’t sound like you are stretching the truth too much.

In addition, if you have run your own business for a number of years, it is imperative you don’t treat an interviewer like someone who is a potential client.  You should instead demonstrate your personality as one who is willing to get in there and do the tough work to get the job YOU ARE INTERVIEWING FOR done.  That type of attitude is what hiring managers are looking for.  They don’t need friends, they need people on their team willing to work hard and provide value to the company.

There are so many more blunders to highlight in a post like this.  They include things like saying “I am a people-person” in a sales interview.  Hiring managers have heard it and it has now become a negative statement when seeking a sales position.  Other blunders include trying to hit-on the interviewer or disrespecting them.  Try to stand out from the other people who the hiring manager will see that day.  Don’t do what everyone else does…but don’t be weird.

Lastly, do your homework on the company you are interviewing at.  If you don’t prepare yourself ahead of time, it will show through in the interview.

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Top 10 Tips On How To Find A Job 2012

Ok…here is my best shot at the most important tips on how to find a job in 2012:

1. Know Thyself – understand what you are looking for in your next job BEFORE you start searching.  You don’t have to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life.  Pick one direction, plan it out and stick with it.

2. Don’t get bogged down by social media stuff – I hear a lot of buzz around should I use Twitter or Facebook to find a job?  What is LinkedIn and how can I find a job with it?  If you don’t understand these tools don’t waste your time on them until you do.  Don’t let them be a distraction to your job search thinking they are the “magic bullet”.  They can help but they are not for everyone.  A successful job search means you connect with hiring managers and they want you.  Social media tools can help these interactions get started but I have also seen people spend so much time trying to make it work for them they miss great opportunities.  Don’t go down this “rabbit hole” if you get easily distracted.

3. Be genuine.  Be yourself – whether you are meeting someone to help you with your job search or a potential employer, don’t oversell yourself and your accomplishments.  You are who you are.  We like you as you are.  Don’t be someone or something you are not.  You have gifts and talents just like everyone else and you deserve what you are looking for.  Focus your efforts on who you are not who you want others to think you are.

4. Be a dream seeker - it is ok to be looking for the dream job or the right situation for your next job.  Dreaming and seeing those dreams become reality is such a wonderful experience, everyone should be striving for it.  I am a big proponent of you trying to find an opportunity that is over your head or out of your comfort zone.  “Stretch jobs” can be one of the most exciting times in your working life.  There are so many companies and so many types of hiring manager.  Look for the ones who believe in your and willing to give you a shot at your dream.  They are out there.  You just need to find one.

5. Your attitude is everything – I can’t tell you how important your attitude is.  Be happy, optimistic and positive no matter what is going on around you.  It will seep into your conversations and make your presentations most fruitful.  A bad attitude will do the same but sour your chances.

6. Don’t be too proud – being too proud is actually a form of fear.  Pride forces you to not let others into your life.  Pride puts up walls that might not be able to be seen by the other person but are felt at a deeper level.  Try “humbleness” on for size and see how it feels.  It is actually very comfortable and opens more doors.

7. Don’t give “canned” ANYTHING – no canned responses, no canned resumes, no canned cover letters, and no canned tuna (jk on the tuna).  If you look or act or sound like everyone else you are going to be perceived to be like everyone else…B-O-R-I-N-G.  Don’t be boring.  Instead be bold in order to stand out in someone’s mind.  Don’t be cocky but be bold and look for ways to make an impression.

8. The details will kill you – if you have never heard the old saying about the “devil in the details” you might want to think about this one.  Spending your time on making sure your resume doesn’t have errors or your “elevator pitch” sounds comfortable or whatever you are doing is done well, is very important.  Employers don’t want people who can churn out calls or data, they want people who take pride in their work (and maybe churn out the calls and data).  Make sure you are taking the necessary time to proof your work.

9. Slow down – if you are always feeling like you are rushing to get that resume to that lady or hurry up and push out that blog post or trying to hurry through coffee with a friend because your “schedule” is waiting, then slow down.  Slowing down allows you to focus on one project at a time and pour your whole self into it.  That means being a little flexible with your schedule and not putting so many deadlines on your time.  Have a plan but give it room to breath and take shape.

10. Have fun – now this one can be taken the wrong way if I am not careful.  I don’t want you to think of your job search as a party, necessarily.  I do want you to be excited about what direction your next job is going to take you in.  Thinking about the excitement for what is next in your working life can really get you pumped up.  Finding a job is no easy task most of the time, you might as well try to find ways to make it fun.  Adding a little fun to the work can make the work not seem so difficult.

I love the 10 tips here and hope you do too.

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What Do You Need?

It is a new year for you and me.  I have been writing this blog for over four years now.  I just realized one very important thing.  I have never asked you what you need.  I have never asked you to let me know what interests you right now, where you are.

So this is not really a post but more of a question to find out what is the one thing you need right now in your job search?  Now maybe your first answer is:  “A job” which is a good one.  I think that one is obvious…hopefully.  Dig just a little deeper and tell me what you need right now in your job or your job search.  If you need help with your search, what specific help do you need?  If you need support in your search, what specific type of support do you need?  What one thing is dragging you down where you can’t figure out what to do next?

Think about it and let me know.  All job seekers are welcome.  You can comment here or send an email to me at:  jeffonjobs at gmail dot com.  I will respond (or not if you prefer) to each message I receive.  I want to hear from you.

Let’s Get Started!

Sample Interview Questions

I started this post yesterday, May 26 on the top 10 interview questions.  Here is the last 5 additional sample interview questions and how you should answer them.

6. “How do you handle working for a difficult boss?” – This one can be tricky because you never know what “difficult” means.  The goal of this question many times is to evaluate how manageable you are.  Do you challenge the norm or go out on your own?  If the job you are going for requires you to work hard and long hours, focus on your realization of these facts and demonstrate a difficult manager might not be the problem.  Explain how even if a manager is termed “difficult” that you have worked with difficult people but what you hope for is honesty and fairness.

7. “Are you willing to travel?” - Not all jobs you go for have this as part of the requirements.  If you hate to travel, then be honest (w/o using the word “hate”).  If you love to travel then be honest as well.  Most of the time when this interview question is asked it is challenging to an individual is because they don’t want to travel.  You need to find out what is a typical travel schedule and decide if it’s right for you.

8. “What are your salary requirements?” – Questions about salary can be tough to answer.  You don’t want to go too high or too low.  I always like to suggest you know the salary range they are considering for the position.  If you don’t know when asked this question, respectively asking them what the salary range is would be appropriate.  If they give you a range and it is acceptable, then acknowledging it is ideal.  If no range is given then you better make sure you did your homework and NOT on  Their info can be too high.

9. “Why are you looking to leave your current employer” – Answering this one can be tricky.  Many times there are multiple reasons in which some can be explained and some should not be.  Have two reasons ready such as those centered around room for expanding your role as your experience grows or minimizing a factor such as travel or career direction.  Explaining you have the desire to move in this new direction because you have uncovered some skills you know are beneficial is a good path to take with this question.

10. “Do you have any questions for me?” – If this question is not asked (or if it is) make sure you have some well thought out questions ready.  If you are interviewing with the hiring manager, ask about her/his style, how long they have been managing others, what they did before and what are some of the challenges on their team.  If interviewing with someone above who you would be reporting to, ask about how many teams he/she manages, division/departmental direction and goals for current year and what they have done within the organization.  Asking the appropriate questions at the level of the specific interviewer is key.  Don’t ask a recruiter or human resources person about the direction of the department or the overall goals of the organization.

Stand out with your question and your experience.  Answer these and other sample interview questions with uncommon answers and you will have the edge.  Most people try to practice answering questions verbatim.  Avoid this at all costs and learn to be engaging on your feet.  You will do well.

Let’s Get Started!


Common Interview Questions

Here is a list of some of the most common interview questions.  Included in here are both behavioral and non-behavioral ones.  If you are preparing for a behavioral interview, review the post on May 23 for more info on what to consider when you are going to be put in the behavioral interview.

Top 5 (tomorrow another 5) of the Most Common Interview Questions:

1. “Tell me about yourself” – This question is not as bad as it seems.  Many times this is a good question to open the interview, give you a chance to highlight something from your background, and provide a chance for the interviewer to “get to know you”.  Answer this question in a way that describes yourself, your work ethic and your excitement about the opportunity in front of you.

2. “Why should I hire you over all the other candidates I have seen?” – This question usually comes at the end and is begging you to sell to your strengths and how you would make the manager’s job easy.  Highlight two or three things you picked up from the interview that are important qualities for the job at hand.  Then tell them something you haven’t told them yet.  Keep some statistic in your back pocket for this summary where you open it up and close the deal.  I will leave it to you to figure out.

3. “Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you knew was wrong.” – This question is geared to see how you handle a bit more challenging situations such as confrontation and ethics.  Being as honest as you can will win them over.  Situation examples of how you handled yourself in the past is crucial.  Everyone has had to deal with this type of thing both personally and professionally.  You don’t have to uncover your darkest secrets but being human and displaying this is important.

4. “If I asked your co-workers about you what would they say?” – The intent of this question is to uncover your strengths and weaknesses.  Presenting strengths is the easy part.  Don’t give the most common “weakness” answer about working too hard or too hard of a driver.  Pick one you are working on such as procrastination or quality and blow them away.  Describe how you are getting better at it and what steps you are taking.  This level of honesty is vital to “connecting” with the interviewer.

5. “Give me an example of how you had to deal with a difficult customer.” - If you are going for a sales or customer support-type position, this will be one of the most common interview questions you will be asked.  Explaining how you calmed a customer down or how you handle yourself in these situations will help give them a good picture of how you will do it with them.

Try to have an answer AND example for every one of these and more.  Dust off your memory banks and start telling stories.  Describe in a few minutes or less the situation, how you handled it, what the result was and what you learned.  Be patient and be open.

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Star Interview Method

When I was a recruiter with big pharma back in the 90’s, the Star Interview Method was the big push.  One of the reasons it came into being was in order to create a system hiring managers would use to interview candidates.  This “system” had a goal and that was to reduce the number of subjective hiring that was done.  This was during a time when many companies were being encouraged (strongly I might add) to bring diversity into their company ranks.  We did not use quotas per se but we were strongly encouraged to be more open-minded with our hiring and seek out diverse candidates more effectively.

The Star Interview Method was used to evaluate candidates based on their responses to interview questions.  In addition, this method attempted to begin to remove the “gut feeling” that is a very important part of the interview.  The four letters S-T-A-R represented the best way to evaluate the interview question that was asked.  The questions were to be behavioral-type questions which helped to uncover a person’s behavior for a given situation.  The “star” letters represented:

S – Situation

T – Task

A – Action

R – Result

If the interviewee answers the questions by using this method, they are given values for each of the letters.  Now each interviewer did this differently.  Some would just write down whatever they felt like to get the info on paper and still make their decision based on their gut.  Others would use this method (and only this method) to evaluate candidates.  They would take very detailed notes which would be left in the candidates file for future scrutiny.

When an interviewer used the Star Interview Method, most of the interview questions started out with the phrase:  “Tell me about a time when…”  These questions were actually very good at uncovering how a person would react to real-life situations they would be put in given they got the job.  At the end of the day, the questions and method were helpful especially to new manager or those who didn’t have much experience at interviewing.

If you are going to participate in a behavioral interview, you will probably be subjected to some form of the Star Method.  Be prepared to describe how you would handle a variety of situations.  Be prepared to describe similar situations you have been in and how you reacted in them.  Be honest with your answers but be careful.  Be careful to add some real emotional honesty to the mix.  It is important that you appear to be answering honestly and not seem like you were coached.  Letting the interviewer know you have had a struggle with a certain element of your job can either help your candidacy tremendously or harm it.

Take your time answering these questions.  Think of stories that describe you at your best.  The post on Thursday will provide the top 10 behavioral questions and how to answer them.

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The Telephone Interview

The telephone interview can be very different from an in-person interview.  One of the main reason’s is because this is going to be the first time you speak with a representative from the company who is looking at you.  If you are better in person than on the phone, you will be at a disadvantage.  Some people like to speak with others and meet face to face while others flourish when they cannot be seen.

Keeping the following things in mind will help you ace the telephone interview:

1. The person on the other side is going to screen you to see if you are “worth” bringing in for an interview.  The screener will be trying to evaluate if you have a good attitude, are excited about the opportunity and if you can coherently put your sentences together well.  Many times when hiring managers receive a resume, the “person on the other side” is not representing themselves well.  This screening helps weed out the good ones (ones with potential) from the bad ones.

2. The phone interview is many times by an assistant or human resources person.  Why this is important is because the person on the other side many times is just doing their job; trying to guess at if you have the qualifications to be considered.  Some hiring managers like to conduct the screening interview (as I have done) but others don’t have the time for it.

3. You will stand out during the phone interview if you smile when you talk.  Put a big “SMILE” sign up on your wall or computer when you call.  If you smile your voice will come through the phone as pleasant and motivated.  Smiling during a telephone interview will give you an edge on most candidates.

4. Your goal is to get the face to face interview NOT the job.  You are not selling all your assets on the telephone interview.  You are selling the idea that you are worthy of meeting the interview team to explore your background more thoroughly.

5. You can obtain good information from the telephone interview.  Use this interview to better understand the job you are going for.  It should be a rare occasion when you find out during the telephone interview that you don’t want the job.  I still suggest you try to get the face to face interview even if it appears you are not interested.  The telephone interview person might not be characterizing the job well and you might get in front of the hiring managers who like you for something else in their organization.  It happens all the time.

The process many times works like this:

Resume – Email – Telephone Interview – In-person Interview – Second Interview (sometimes) – Offer – Hired

The telephone interview is just one of the initial steps in the overall process.  Use this interview to get a face-to-face one.

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Help With Interview Questions

You probably either love or hate interviewing.  I personally like interviewing but understand I am more of an exception.  I didn’t start out enjoying interviews at all.  I used to H-A-T-E it so much.  I was the guy who would do any AND ALL of the following:

  • Sweat like a pig – like visually drops of sweat not just under the arms.
  • Not make any sense – this happened when I talked and almost impossible to fix.
  • Thoughts of death – I really thought I might not make it out I was so scared.
  • Lie – I used to say anything to help the nerves go away.
  • Almost pass out – I would get myself so worked up I would actually feel dizzy.

These are not good feelings, let me tell you.  You probably know what I am saying and could probably add to that list.  One way to get better at interviewing is to practice, practice and do more practice.  Practice doesn’t help you necessarily with specific interview questions.  What practice does is help you feel better about yourself which is the main quality needed for a good interview session.  I don’t necessarily mean practice in the mirror.  I mean practice in front of real people.  Here is a good practice schedule:

1. Practice in front of mirror

2. Practice with a friend or family member who knows you very well.

3. Practice in a group at church or a gathering.

4. Go on interviews even if you are not interested in the job.

These are good practice areas to improve your interviewing skills.  Now as far as the questions…those should be the easy part.  Answers to questions should always have the same format:

  • Honest
  • Short (under or around a minute)
  • Have a beginning, middle and end to them.
  • Many times they should describe an example of “how”.  For example, if the question is: “tell me a little about yourself” then no example is probably necessary.  If the question is: “how do you handle a difficult co-worker”, you want to explain how you might handle one AND then give an example of how you did it in the past.  If you don’t have an example from work then look for one from your personal life.
  • Pause after the question if you don’t have a good answer quickly.  Pausing helps you stay in control of your emotions.  It is ok to pause.

Specific interview questions are tough to practice because you can be asked anything under the sun.  Some of the standard ones are good to try to practice just to hear yourself answer but at the end of the day you will never be able to anticipate the ones out-of-left-field.  Get confident in your own skin first and then you will have better success with the interview questions no matter what they are.

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Grab Them At Hello

My wife bought me the movie Jerry McGuire a five years ago when I started my job search consulting business.  In case you don’t know the movie, it is a quasi-love story about a sports agent who went against the grain, was fired, and started his own agency.  His assistant decided to risk everything too and follow him.  They end of falling in love and navigating those emotions.  At one point in the move she says:  “You had me at hello”.  It was a great line which basically said:  “Stop talking…you don’t need to say anymore.  You had me when you walked in the door”.

You need to grab people you come in contact with like this.  Your first impression is very important.  I am not talking about making yourself seem fake or robotic.  Instead I want you to think about how to put YOUR best foot forward; which is going to be different for everyone.  Everyone has different characteristics they can sometimes hide behind.  Some people say they are shy or reserved in some public situations but when they are at a sporting event where they love the team, you don’t really see that side of them.  Or they might be going to a favorite store or out with their friends.  The nerves and shyness seem to disappear.

Don’t give yourself an excuse to make a whimpy first impression.  Acknowledge you might be nervous; that’s ok.  Practice your first impressions and your hello until they feel more comfortable.  Then put yourself in situations where you have to introduce yourself and meet some new people for the first time.  Practice different ways to speak or communicate with them.  Experiment in places where it doesn’t count as much until your comfort level increases.

Grabbing someone at hello is not easy to do.  It requires two things:

1. Being comfortable in your own skin.

2. Being confident in yourself.

That’s it.  Go grab them at hello!

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Poop Or Get Off The Pot

This is for all the procrastinations out there.  Stop wasting time in a dead-end job.  Get yourself out there.  Meet people.  Talk about what you want to do when you grow up.  Get noticed.  Sell yourself more.  Ask good questions.

Find a new job, today.  Stop waiting and start moving.  I love this law of physics (and of job searching):  “A body at rest stays at rest.  A body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon.”

Act upon yourself today.

Let’s Get Started!