Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview Tips

Another article brought to you by the Recruiting Blogswap!

Article Title: Lights, Camera.....Interview: Tips for an Award Winning Performance
Author Byline: Christina Archer is a Career Agent, author, expert resume writer and presenter.
Author Website: http://www.I-CareerSearch.com

You’ve been applying for various positions in your field for a number of months, and finally have received the call to schedule an interview. Are you ready for an Academy Award winning performance?

Top candidates understand the importance of preparation. They realize it can take hours of practice to answer an interview question with the level of confidence and professionalism an employer expects of their next hire. Keep in mind, your interviewer is not looking for “canned” responses, but they do want answers that illustrate your value as a potential employee.

Let’s take a look at the top five tips every job seeker should consider, to ensure they’re ready for ACTION!

1. Review a list of most commonly asked interview questions by clicking here – http://wp.me/pL3D6-2t.

Print out the list, and write down your answers. Know in advance how you will answer each question on the list. After you’ve finished, review your answers, and tweak as necessary. Practice, practice, practice!

2. Visit the employer’s website and read, read, read.

Take notes while on the site, and create a list of ten questions you can direct to the interviewer – specifically about the company. For instance, let’s say the organization just donated one-million dollars towards the Haiti relief effort. What a fantastic opportunity for you to weave this in to your conversation during the meeting! If you’re not utilizing this resource to prepare for your appointments – you’re really missing the boat.

3. Know who you’ll be speaking with, and always address them by name when you first meet.

Remember the old saying – “first impressions are lasting.” When you look a hiring manager in the eye, have a firm handshake, and refer to them by their name, you’re off to a good start.

4. Dress to impress.

We’ve all heard it before, and it seems very common sense. The problem is, we all have a very different sense of style and fashion. In the world of job search, business suits are king. Whether you’re applying for an entry level job or as CEO, you won’t be dressed inappropriately if you’re in a suit.

5. Look the interviewer in the eye.

Many people avoid eye contact, because they have personal insecurities. They may feel intimidated, outside their comfort zone, or simply lack confidence for the interview. When you look the hiring manager in the eye, you appear professional, confident, and focused. What you actually feel on the inside at that very moment – they’ll never know.

The secret to having an award winning interview is being prepared for the unknown. Research the company, practice all possible questions, and dress like you’re the boss! Follow these simple tips, and it won’t be long before you hear…..”and the next job goes to, YOU!”

Article courtesy of the Recruiting Blogswap, a content exchange service sponsored by CollegeRecruiter.com, a leading site for college students looking for internships and recent graduates searching for entry level jobs and other career opportunities.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Quick Information on Informational Interviewing

The informational interview can be a powerful networking tool for all levels of professionals, and particularly for people early in their careers. There is surprisingly little information that I could find on how to use informational interviewing in your job search and career progression, so I thought I would collect some links of good information in one place.

Informational Interviewing Tutorial: A Key Networking Tool

As a recruiter, I learned early on that people generally like to talk about themselves and their work. Targeted informational interviewing can be a great source of intelligence on target companies, types of jobs (when evaluating a career progression), and just to make useful professional connections. A full disclaimer, I have never done an informational interview, which is why I'm relying on the "experts" on the internet. There are some professions (legal, for example) where this is commonplace, however, I firmly think that this is one of the most underutilized career management tools available.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Behavioral Interview Preparation - Addendum

I was just preparing some interview questions for a round of interviewing I am conducting for a retained search, and got to thinking that the previous preparation update I gave didn't really go into any depth on how to prepare for behavioral interview questions. There is a pretty good guide here that covers most of what I would recommend.

I would say that there are very few companies that engage in full-on behavioral interviewing, most will use some combination of behavioral-based questions (tell me about a time...) and traditional questions (what are your strengths...). I generally tell candidates that preparing for a behavioral interview will make them more prepared for any non-behavioral questions as well. Therefore, it is important to prepare for both!

The idea behind behavioral interviewing is that if somebody cannot walk the interviewer through a specific situation, they probably have not done it. I had a candidate tell me in an interview that in 9 years as a supervisor, she had not ever had to discipline one of her employees. I found that hard to believe, but she seemed like a good candidate so I went along in the process. When I checked one of her references, I learned that she had not been a supervisor at all! This reinforced the premise of behavioral interviewing. That she couldn't describe an instance where she had disciplined somebody meant that she didn't know how to do it.

The most important part of preparing is to do a thorough reading of the job description to identify the key competencies for the position at hand. Sometimes, the description will just include them in a section simply titled "competencies." Other times, they will not. If they don't, look for competency-based language "must work well under pressure," "must have excellent problem-solving skills" etc.

Write each competency down, and think of a specific situation from your work history that demonstrates your competency in that area. The article linked above advocates a STAR approach:
Situation: Use specific details about a situation or task.
Task: Tell what led to the situation or task?
Action: What action was taken; discuss what you did and who was involved.
Result: Communicate the outcome.

This seems about right. I always tell people that few details are too mundane. Your interviewer will tell you if they've gotten the point to their satisfaction. The key is to have your situations ready to go for whatever competency is mentioned or seems appropriate, and to have a plan to address what seem to be the keys to the position.

Each answer should start with a description of the situation, so if the question is "Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker." The answer should start out: "Last August, another mechanical engineer and I disagreed about a design component for the new XJ-152."

Then backtrack and give the background: "She and I had been tasked with re-designing the actuation mechanism to the XJ-152 because the previous design failed in live testing 20% of the time, which is far more than the 5% that is deemed acceptable."

Then go back and describe the situation in more detail: "I was convinced that pneumatic actuation would be a more stable mechanism than the existing hydraulic system, but she was convinced that we only need to redesign the hydraulic actuation."

Then discuss how it was resolved: "I proposed that we step back and make a matrix of the customer requirements and go through the designs point-by-point to determine the best result."

Then discuss the result: "In the end, we determined that my design really was more stable, but that given the pricing requirements of the customer, it was clear that the hydraulic design was the only one that would be feasible. I was able to identify two key places where stability was compromised in her proposed design, and we worked together to resolve those and come up with a design that we were comfortable with."

I am not an engineer, so hopefully a scenario like this would include more technical details, but you are demonstrating your ability to resolve disagreements in a process-oriented fashion and give your interviewer a really good idea of how you would handle similar situations that arose. You can demonstrate this similarly even if the question is asked in a non-behavioral way, like "How do you deal with conflict?" or even "How would you describe your ability to work in teams." Describing this kind of situation in that level of detail will tell your interviewer more about you than an answer that you would typically hear to those two questions "Well, I try to work out conflicts in a way that best achieves customer goals." Or something like that.

Going into an interview with 5-10 specific situations that highlight your strengths and successes will make you a more effective interviewee, regardless of the techniques used by the interviewer.


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Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't send a resume!

I once thought it was a great idea to write a book on job-hunting that I would call "Don't Send a Resume!" or something to that effect. It only took a couple of minutes of research to find out that my idea had already been taken by this guy. I never read the book, but skimmed through it at my local Barnes & Noble and thought that he seemed to make things way more complicated than they needed to be.

I frequently tell job seekers that they should only send a resume when the person receiving the resume knows that it is coming. It will increase the likelihood that your resume will get looked at seriously by 100% (I made the percentage up, but the point stands). Not only will that person have a voice to connect to the resume, but you hopefully got a direct e-mail address to send it to rather than careers@company.com or whatever.

How do you go about doing this? It depends on your interest level in the position and the amount of time you want to invest. If you really want to make sure that you get noticed, you will do your research to try and find out who the actual hiring manager is, then call that person and at least leave a message "Hi, my name is Erwin and I am a Senior Oracle Programmer who has been involved in 5 implementations. I had a couple of questions about the open position at Company and was hoping for a couple of minutes of your time. Please call me at your convenience at 555-555-5555." You then hit 0 and ask the operator for manager's direct e-mail address and send your resume referencing your phone call. If you get Manager on the phone, you can just ask him for the e-mail.

If you cannot find the manager, you need to talk to HR, but make sure you ask who the specific recruiter is who is handling that specific position. Again, ask some question about the position ("I was wondering how much travel was going to be involved") or whatever, the point is to be able to introduce yourself, summarize your qualifications, and get an e-mail address to send a resume.

If you are a passive job seeker, you may not have time to do this (which is why you work with headhunters, who basically spend all day doing this), but it is well worth your while for any positions of interest. You will get more interviews and get them faster if you call before sending a resume.

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