The ABC’s of Face to Face Interviews

There are many important points of a face to face interview that need to be considered. These are some of the most rudimentary.   We will call them the ABC’s:

-Dress for the occasion:

This does not always mean wear a suit whether you are male or female. I recently sent a candidate on an interview and they specifically said do not wear a suit as they are business casual. Do your best to find out from the person who set you up on the interview what the dress code for the interview is and how you should dress. If you can’t find this out then the rule of thumb is to dress professionally.  For a man you can’t go wrong with a pair of dress slacks, dress shirt with a collar and a sports jacket. You can always remove the jacket if it is more casual. For a woman slacks and a nice shirt will work. If you are interviewing for a bank or financial company a suit or pant suit may be in order.

-Come early:

Often at an interview there will be some paperwork to fill out such as an application, background check permission etc. Coming early you can often get this information taken care so it does not cut into the actual interviewing time. Also if you are driving or being driven to an interview coming early can handle if there are any traffic problems. Beyond these points there is something to be said for getting a little adapted to your surroundings before beginning your interview. I will make you more relaxed and can even give you a feel for the people coming in and out of the office.

-Bring prepared documents

It is good to have a small binder with several nice copies of your most recent resume. Also you should bring a list of your references on a separate sheet with their name, email, title, when you worked for them and phone numbers to reach them. If you are filling out an application at the interview a sheet with everything you would put on the application is generally a good idea, include exact dates of employment, who your boss was etc. will make it much easier to fill out your application. Human Resources may ask you questions on what you wrote on your application and if necessary you can refer back to this information. If you have a portfolio that supports your skills, say you are in marketing or Graphic Design, bring that with as well.  I would not whip it out at a moment’s notice like your Mother does with embarrassing pictures of you when you were an infant in the bathtub when you prom date comes over, But if requested at least you have it ready.

-Get business cards

Ask for business cards from everyone you interview with. Other than the simple fact it is a good professional thing to do, it also serves a few other purposes. Sending a thank you email is a good idea right after the interview and without a direct email address to the interviewer it is difficult to do this and make sure the email is received.

lso if you do not get a response for a while from the company you have a contact point to follow up with. Lastly the contacts you meet at an interview can be very useful in the future even if you don’t get the job.

-Make a good first impression

Make sure you smile look in the eye and shake the hand of your interviewer when you meet the person who is interviewing you. Try to be genuine as you do this. A fake or strained smile can do more damage than good. Be yourself, interviewers are looking to find out who you are not a just a perfect version of yourself you are portraying at the interview. Plus if you are hired and the fake version of you is all they see during the interviewing process, when they meet the real you, who is to say that your real personality is the right match for the culture of the company and not the fake one.

-Get your questions answered

Interviewing is a two way street. Certainly you’re there to be asked questions by the company to determine if you’re right for the role they are hiring for, but equally important you’re there to find out if the role and company are right for you. Definitely you need to have questions ready for the hiring authorities that you could end up working for related to job. But also it is important to have questions for human resources about benefits and the company in general. The more information you have early in the interviewing process the easier it will be for you to compare this opportunity to other potential opportunities you may have come up.

-Find out what the next steps are before you leave

A face to face interview for most companies is a considerable amount of effort and does not occur unless they are seriously considering hiring you.  Often it is the last step other than references or a background check before an offer of employment is extended. While you are at a face to interview and you are interacting with real live people, there is a certain obligation from the individuals you are dealing with to answer your questions; it would be rude otherwise. Therefore you should definitely not leave the building without getting some sense of what the next step is in the interviewing process as the sense of obligation to communicate with you tends to be much less when you are no longer physically at their offices. Take for example after a week of hearing nothing from the company you call HR and get nothing but an answering machine and no call back. The nerve racking thing about this lack of communication is that it does not necessarily mean that they are not interested in you and moving on. It truly may just be “their process”. So if you can find out exactly what their process is before you leave you will save yourself a lot of frustration.

Assume the person reading your resume is a Monkey

The title of this Blog is a bit insulting and rightly so. It is meant to get your attention so that you do not pass over the article – – to make you take notice!!!

If you were driving down the street and you saw a Billboard but you couldn’t make out what it said because the words were too small and the message was hidden in a thousand words, you would probably not understand it or crash your car trying to figure it out.

But on the other hand, if it said “EAT AT JOE’S” there would be no mistaking the message.

So is my message when referring to your resume. If you were trying to show something to a monkey you wouldn’t do it quietly or subtlety. You would be obvious about what you were doing. You’d talk simple to a monkey — Monkey wants a Banana? Monkey wants a toy? — Straight forward and obvious.

So how does simple talk, monkey talk, apply to a resume?

As a recruiter when I am sent an unsolicited resume or one that just lands in my inbox without me asking for it, I read it quickly. I am looking for the general gist of what it is about. Do I have a job for this person now, later or never? If it is later, I take a minute to review it. If it is never I take even less time. The “now” resume I will read in detail.

But if it is not obvious to me what your resume is about, what you are looking for, what your skills are, I could easily pass you by. A candidate’s submission that could be a “now” resume can easily be missed.

Let’s take for example a resume from Joe who sells software to wireless clients. Joe’s resume needs to spell out who he’s selling to, how much he sold, how much his quota is and how he achieved or exceeded it. Plus, if Joe knocked it out of the park by hitting a quota of 150%, this statistic had better jump out on the resume, bold-faced and blazing across the top of the resume.

Having placed many sales people, I have learned the hard way that when the client throws the resume back in my face because this blazing info was not included. A sales resume is not the exception to the rule. Every resume needs a bold-faced listing. Show a little confidence in your resume. Speak out. It never hurts.

In my business, we are submitting resumes for specific jobs. That means we have job-specific specifications. In “monkey” terms, — state the obvious, say what you do, say it boldly, say it so that it’s obvious, meet the specifications, tell me what you do best, tell me what you have achieved that apes (mimics) the job-specific specifications — because if you don’t, your resume won’t be a “now” resume to anyone who reads it.

Companies speak in their own language or nomenclature. If you have the exact skills in your resume that meet the job-specific specifications, and you call these exact skills “email marketing” and the company calls it “viral marketing” or “ECRM Marketing”, change your verbiage to read what the company is asking for on your resume. Make it obvious

Make it so that a Monkey could figure out that you’re the one for the job!

When you give a resume to a company, either through a recruiter or directly, you do not see the path that your resume takes. Your resume can pass through an “applicant tracking system” that looks for specific keywords. This “monkey-like” system only reads for key words — no key words and the monkey understands nothing.

Take my advice. Make your key points bold, clear and obvious. Always assume the person reading your resume is a Monkey.

Interviewing is Like Dating

I have often run into situations that this statement is true. The act of interviewing like dating can make candidates as well as interviewers act in irrational and even down right crazy ways. Candidates lose perspective and take everything way too personally and interviewers totally lose sight of what is common courtesy and sometimes even common sense.

Here are some real life examples:

A candidate was interviewing for a development job. She was living on one side of the Country and the job was on the other side of the Country. After two very good phone screens,  the recruiter working with the candidate followed up with the company to see if they were ready to fly her out for a face to face. Instead to the recruiter’s surprise, the hiring manager said he had already left the candidate a message that they wanted to make her an offer.

Now you would expect her to think what great news! “They love me so much after two phone screens they want to make me an offer!”

Well think again…

Now compare this to dating, you have been on two dates and suddenly you get a phone call from budding romantic partner saying they love you & they want to move in.

How do you think most people would react?

Nine out of Ten would be a bit freaked out by this. “Will he ask to marry me in a weak?” “Hell I have never even been to where he lives it could be a rat hole?”  “Is he a serial killer?”

And sure enough the candidate freaked out as well saying she was “feeling pressured” asking “is there something wrong with this job”. The recruiter thinking fast worked it out for her to go for a face to face so she could see the area & also the office. But by that time the damage was done. The candidate suddenly got sick, and could not be reached because of a sore throat and could not talk on the phone. Two days later she texted the recruiter she had taken another job.

Lesson learned: Doing things in the right order does matter in interviewing, dating and disarming a bomb. Cutting the blue wire before red can be very dangerous.

Now on the flip side to this often candidates move to fast and talk themselves right out of a job before they even know it is right for them.

For example:  A candidate submits their resume through a recruiter for a sales job. They receive an initial phone screen from human resources. During the call the HR person tells them to their dismay the position requires you to be in the office every day & that the commissions for this job is expected to be 30K less than was represented to them.

Unfortunately it is not that unusual to have HR & the hiring managers have different ideas as to what the job requires or even pays. That is why recruiters are so determined to speak with the hiring manager to take a job order.

Well now back to the example. The candidate in a very upset tone calls the recruiter who set them up for the interview and says that even if they want another interview that he is not interested now as he was lied to about that position was a virtual office & commissions were uncapped.

So after a long conversation the recruiter calms the candidate down enough & assures them that the job is in a virtual office & the pay is uncapped because that’s what the hiring manager said. So a second interview occurs & the candidate actually gets the job.

Lesson Learned: Interviewing & relationships are a work in progress. A job description often evolves as candidates are interviewed & priorities change. Also the truths you have on the first date as you are trying to impress the person in front may be quite a bit different 3 weeks later after you have had two or three dates.

Now besides the dating comparison, both these examples show why having a recruiter is an important component in many hiring processes. Would A-Rod or Payton Manning think of negotiating their own contracts, of course not!

Unfortunately not every company can afford using recruiters or have a strong internal recruiting staff and actually do a good job of hiring on their own. But still there is nothing like having a Jerry Maguire to navigate you through the “” mine field called interviewing.

I know I had you at Hello…

NEVER put your references on your resume!

In theory it seems like a great idea to put your references on your resume as you show that you are liked and respected and have nothing to hide.  That is the upside.

Here is the downside:

Employers cannot legally check your references with out your permission. By putting them on your resume, they can check them without even interviewing you!

Interviewing is a step by step process and checking references is not the first step.
The resume is submitted, the resume is reviewed, and the phone screen occurs, a face to face interview occurs, an offer is extended then references are checked. Sometimes references are check just before a face to face interview or just after, but no matter, it is not the first step.

Interviewing is like buying a car. Would you buy a car just by reading the sticker on the side? No you would sit in it, open the glove compartment, maybe look under the hood and take it for a ride. Your decision would be based on the whole process not just the specs and sticker price.

By putting your references on your resume you give the employer the option to make a decision about you just by reading your resume and by calling one reference without ever getting to know you (looking under the hood) or interviewing you (taking you for test drive).

References are golden! They are not handed out willy-nilly like free fake tattoos at a child’s birthday party. Before a client calls your reference you had better damn well know that they will say the right things and be available when called. And also expect the call from the employer or whoever is calling to ask them the questions.

Imagine because you put your references on your resume and then posted your resume on Monster or Dice or some other job board, your references where called 10 times in a week without your knowledge. By the 10th time this busy executive being called could be a little less positive about you.

References can actually be your competition. If the reference is a co-worker and has similar skills as you, the person reading your resume may also call the references and solicit them for your potential job.

Avoid these potential problems. DO NOT put the names, titles & contact info of your references on your resume. If you must, put at the bottom of the resume “References available upon request”.

Here are 10 tips from a Career Coach to help you find a job.

1. Have a plan:

The difference between one person’s success in a job search and another’s can simply be that the former has a workable plan; though a job seeker may be taking many of the right steps, if he or she does not have a plan, then the plan is incomplete, steps are missed, and the job seeker may give up because he or she does not have enough direction to carry a job search through to completion.

2. Be organized:

There are many methods of organization that you can use to accomplish things. One of the most basic methods is to create a check list each day before you begin your job search to keep you on track. For example:

  • Go on job boards and find jobs 9 – 10 a.m.
  • Go on LinkedIn and find jobs 10 – 11 a.m.
  • Follow up with companies you apply to 11 – 12 a.m.

Map out your day in the best manner you can. Of course, conditions may change, you may get a call for an interview or spend more time on one step or another, but as long as you have some plan in place that keeps you on track, you will have a much better chance of being successful.

3. Track your progress:

During your job search, it is easy to find yourself questioning whether you are being successful or not, especially if you have been looking for a new job for quite a while. An excellent way to keep to measuring your success on your steps along the way is to track your progress. Maintaining a chart or spreadsheet in Microsoft Word or Excel is an excellent measurement tool.

For example:

  • Companies applied today: 25
  • Companies applied to this week: 100
  • Total companies applied to thus far: 325
  • Number of responses: 30
  • Number of phone interviews: 12
  • Number of face to face interviews: 4

Why does keeping track of all these activities and recording specific numbers matter? This method offers you a true representation of how much effort is actually needed to get a job. Based on the example above, this person has averaged 1 face-to-face interview a week, or 4 in a month. These type of numbers will probably not result in getting you a job; 1300 applications in a month would be more likely to produce 4 face-to-face interviews a week. As long as these interviews are indicative of the right jobs for your skill sets, chances are you will be hired.

4. Apply in volume:

If you honestly think that applying to a few jobs online and casually networking to a few other folks will get you a job, then you are sadly mistaken. If this method actually works for you, then you don’t need to be reading this. However, I’m skeptical that anybody can casually look for a professional or management position and actually get hired. But, if you are like most serious job seekers conducting a job search, it is critical to let companies knowing you are looking and are a strong and viable candidate.

5. Diversify your search:

Not that long ago, the most common way to find a job was to read the job section in the newspaper. Now there are several ways to search for a job, and a newspaper is not one that any true job seeker uses. Here are some others that are worth trying:

  • Major job boards like Dice or CareerBuilder.
  • Mega job search engines like indeed, Simply hired or Juju.
  • LinkedIn’s job board.
  • Industry specific job boards. Just put the description of your industry into Google with the word “jobs” or “careers” and you will see that there is a job board specific to your background.
  • Approach companies directly that you would like to work for. Many companies don’t post their jobs but are still hiring.
  • Send your resume to recruiters.

6. Research the companies you apply to:

There are some jobs you may apply to that only stimulate a mild interest, and others you would kill to get. On the positions that most interest you, research the company and the position. You can even Google the hiring manager or contact him or her through LinkedIn, which can be helpful in increasing your chance of actually getting hired if you can talk to the hiring manager directly.

7. Online social networking:

With online social networking, you no longer do you have to go to weekly “business mixers” designated physical location to meet people who could lead you to your next job. It’s much easier than that. Facebook, LinkedIn and a host of other social networking sights provide ways to connect with people for very little if any cost.

8. Follow up with a phone call:

I have often been asked: “I applied for a job recently and got a first interview on the phone, but it has been a week since I got a call from the employer. What do I do?”

It’s simple. Call the employer! Take initiative! What do you have to lose? Get your name in front of the employer. Let the employer know who you are. Be not afraid.

9. Getting a job is sales and marketing:

Your resume is a marketing tool that sells you and gets you an interview. This is the same tool that a salesman uses to sell a product, a collateral, a brochure, a supportive marketing tool. The only real difference is that you are the product.

10. Make getting a job your full time job:

Some years ago, I was given some excellent advice on how to find a job: Make sure that looking for a job becomes your full-time job. If you are already employed, then this would not apply to you, as your full-time job is your job. Unless, of course, it is really important to get another job. If so, then be prepared to hold down two jobs, because “looking for a job becomes your full-time job.” If you are out of work, then it is imperative that you treat your job search as a full-time job. Get up early in the morning, and make your priority looking for a job. If you wake up at 10:00 a.m., and don’t get started looking for a job until after 12:00, then it is obvious why you are not successful in obtaining a job. Enough said.

Carl Schumacher – Career Coach, Executive & Technical Recruiter

Re-launching my career Blog!

After several attacks on my blog I have moved from WordPress and now relauched on GoDaddy’s server which should be a lot safer. So stay tuned for more tips on improving your career & jobsearch. Sorry for not communicating more, I promise to blog more frequently!

Carl Schumacher – Executive Recruiter & Careercoach.