Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

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Job Seekers: Don’t Talk Yourself Out of a Job

There are plenty of articles, books, infographics, and videos which discuss the best interview tips for job seekers. They provide insightful ways to research companies before the interviews. They teach you about the different interviewing steps. They provide interviewing blunders so seekers can learn from them. And they give suggestions on how to make a candidate stand out in the interview process. Mostly, these are all great resources for job seekers to use, but what about teaching them how NOT to talk themselves out of an opportunity during an interview?

Although I’m in a recruiting role now, I have also dealt with the ups and downs of being a job seeker. As I perfect my recruiting skills and collaborate with other recruiters, I’ve learned some of the mistakes I’ve made when I was searching for a job. I realized that sometimes saying too much could actually work against a candidate and extra information could cause a recruiter to think the following things:

  • You’re all over the place: I completely understand when a candidate wants to talk about all of their experiences in detail because it shows some additional skills and initiative that they believe will add value. Sometimes this is true, but if you present it wrong or overelaborate these experiences, you may take away from the core point that you were trying to make. The purpose of the interview is to show the recruiter that you are perfect for that specific position. If you clutter it up with other details, it might cause some confusion.
  • You’re not as skilled as they initially thought: Your resume might say you have five years of experience in a specific position, but if you go off on a tangent about all the other duties you preformed while in that role, the recruiter might believe that your job didn’t focus solely on the function they’re looking for. You may have gained those skills through additional side projects. If this is the case, make sure you present it in a way so recruiters know that it was something extra that you did and that your previous job fully-involved all of the duties that the recruiter is targeting.
  • You don’t know what you want: One of the biggest things I’ve seen when it comes to this is the fact that candidates tend to talk a lot about irrelevant experiences and skills they have. They may think it helps show their diverse skill-set and years of professional experience, but it can make a recruiter wonder where your true passion lies. Are you just taking this job because you have enough experience to meet the requirements or will this job keep you engaged enough?
  • You talked yourself into a corner: make sure you ask the recruiter questions in regard to what they’re looking for in a candidate and what the expectations are. The last thing you want to do is have to backtrack a previous statement you made about why you didn’t like a specific job/duty or what you thought you were the weakest at. It’s extremely hard to recover from that.

I won’t lie, I’ve been this type of candidate before. I was excited to land an interview and wanted to tell the recruiter everything I possibly could about my professional experience so they thought I could be an asset to their company. I thought my broad skill-set would help them see that I was adaptable and flexible. Unfortunately for me, it was quite the opposite. Instead, the recruiter received a jumbled amount of information that didn’t help them easily see how my skills perfectly matched their job opening. Even if I did have a great match of skills, they couldn’t determine that with all the additional chatter about “this” and “that”.

I strongly suggest for candidates to take the time to really re-read details about the job and the company and then consider great examples from their previous experiences that fluidly matches what the recruiter is looking for. Think of these answers beforehand so you can get straight to the point effectively and don’t include any unnecessary details that isn’t relevant. As a candidate, you want to paint the best picture for the recruiter so they can see that your transition into this position will be a smooth one.

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How to Make Telecommuting Work for Your Company

With all the speculation around Marisa Mayer’s decision to reduce telecommuting options and Best Buy’s decision to get rid of ROWE, I’ve been a little concerned about the subject. Although their choices are their choices and I’m sure they had good reasoning for it, I don’t think other companies should start panicking over this. More importantly, I don’t think companies should start rethinking their telecommuters (or their plans to implement them) just because these two situations occurred. Both companies had issues beforehand and didn’t make the decision out of the blue. So, let’s not get all crazy about it. I work virtually every single day and found that it has been better for my career, productivity, and growth than the years I spent going into the office.

Sometimes virtual work and telecommuting options don’t work properly because: they are not implemented well; they are not managed well; the option doesn’t work with the job function; or the wrong people are being allowed to telecommute. Too often we hear about the negativity of things, but what about the positive aspects of it? I’m living proof that it CAN work if it’s done right.

Here are some suggestions to make telecommuting work effectively:

  • Utilize different forms of technology that makes sense for your company. This can increase opportunity for collaboration and communication in a functional way.
  • Create expectations and a plan for managers to manage this successfully.  Managers need to be very involved in the daily activities of their teams, communicate feedback regularly, and make themselves available for additional training/assistance.
  • Allow HR to look for opportunities that increases engagement throughout the organization. Some of these activities could include different committees within the company to help the company be progressive. It can also allow employees to partner up with people they might not normally work with. This can create a strong sense of community and team work.
  • Hire the right people for this position. The people who are a fit for this are ones that are trail-blazers, internally motivated, Type A, and accountable. They don’t believe in making excuses- they believe in working hard. This hard-work and dedication can inspire others and set the bar for the organizational expectations.
  • Create a culture in which they leave no man (or woman) behind. All of the employees should be there for each other and they should make sure they help out one another to ensure everyone hits their goals and expectations.
  • Compare notes regularly. Employees of the organization should regularly meet to discuss different tactics they utilize which can ensure they are managing their time well. This can keep them productive and effective at their jobs. Employees are able to learn from each other and they can try different options to see what works for their needs.

Like I said earlier, I feel like I’ve progressed more in my career working virtually than in an office. I’ve not only done well at my job, hit goals, and made my managers/clients happy but I’ve also had the ability to take on other projects that I am passionate about. Essentially, I am defining my own career path. I’m responsible for my professional development.

You don’t believe me? Check out this infographic on Youtern.

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Job Seeker: Don’t Rule Out a Phone Interview

The interview process has evolved over the last few years. I recall interview processes only being an interview or two before the company made a decision on whether or not they wanted to hire you. With the changes in the economy and workforce, recruiters are now overwhelmed with a large amount of candidates applying to their job openings and do not have enough time to interview them in that capacity anymore. Therefore, the interview processes have changed into a series of steps, with phone interviews typically being the first one.

Being in talent acquisition myself, I spend most of my week setting up initial phone interviews to determine if the candidates are: interested in the job; interested in the company; and meet the basic requirements. I’ve been a job seeker before and, trust me, it’s a full time job in itself. Surprisingly, I’ve come across plenty of candidates that have decided against doing a phone interview because they were either in the interview process with another company or holding out for a company to reach out to them about their application. In those situations, I can’t help but shake my head. As a job seeker, you should be exploring as many relevant opportunities as you possibly can, especially if it doesn’t require too much time out of your day. You never know what can happen during your job search (or what WON’T happen), so it’s best to have your feelers out as much as possible.

I’ve seen plenty of candidates who’ve waited on a company to contact them about their application just to find out a month later that they were never going to receive that call. I’ve also had candidates hold off on interviewing with other companies because they were interviewing elsewhere, only to be rejected by the company at the final interview stage. Putting off other interviewing opportunities not only wasted time, but they also ended up losing out on opportunities because other available candidates jumped all over it. As a job seeker, you not only have to be aggressive in your search, but you also need to ensure that you don’t make rash assumptions about things. For example, a phone interview isn’t going to land you a job within 20 minutes, so you still can buy time in case the other opportunity you’re waiting for comes through. Or just because the opportunity or company isn’t ideal for you doesn’t mean other opportunities that are more of a fit won’t be presented.

Phone interviews don’t require too much time or effort and can benefit you:

  • It’s quick: phone interviews typically last anywhere from 15-30 minutes and will allow you to get started with the interview process without having to dedicate a ton of time to it. This is a way for you to determine if it’s something you would want to dedicate time to.
  • It gets your name out there: this is an easy way for recruiters and companies to get to know: you; what you’re looking for; and what you’re abilities are. Even if the job opportunity isn’t right for you, you’ll at least be on their radar for something else down the line.
  • You can learn about a company or opportunities: sometimes a job description or an “about me” section on a company website doesn’t do an opportunity justice. I’ve almost ruled out companies in the past based off of these two things but was pleasantly surprised to learn that my assumptions were wrong once I spoke to the recruiter. The additional details allowed me to determine if it was a right fit or not.
  • It can help you pipeline: Like I said earlier, sometimes the timing or the opportunity isn’t right for you at the moment. However, it can help you determine if it is a company you want to look into down the line. This can be a great way to build a relationship with the company so once you do feel like the timing is right, you can easily reach out to the recruiter and get the ball rolling.
  • Recruiters like to help: Let’s say you didn’t like the opportunity that the recruiter initially reached out to you about- that doesn’t mean it’s over. Recruiters often network with each other to see what each other are working on (internally and externally). If the recruiter you spoke to knew someone who is looking for a candidate with your talent, it is very likely that they’ll pass on your resume to the other recruiter.

Before you turn down a phone interview, think about all the benefits above. A thirty minute phone call can help you be even more strategic in your job search.

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Job Preparedness: What Employers Want

More often than not, I have job seekers approach me for some career advice. They ask me all sorts of questions, such as: how should I format my resume; how should I prepare for an interview; how can I display my skills to be attractive to employers; what skills do I need to build to be qualified; and so on. Of course, depending on the role, company, and situation, my responses tend to be different per each case. However, I do remind my candidates that certain skills can be taught but passion and business ethic cannot. So, I ask them what they’re truly passionate about and how they’re going about displaying these qualities to potential employers.

After speaking to employers and researching the topic, I’ve noticed that the skills that are most valued are actually pretty surprising. For example, employers value candidates who have strong business ethic and are accountable vs. candidates that have technical skills and can work well with others. Why? Because technical skills can be taught but accountability is an internal motivation factor that an employer can’t teach an employee.

To get a better idea of this, check out this infographic on The Undercover Recruiter Blog provided by Youtern.

This is a great visual resource for candidates to not only learn what employers are looking for, but to also see how their current experience level (entry-level, managerial, etc) can tie into this. Additionally, many hiring managers evaluate these skills through the interview process, so it’s important for candidates to be on top of their game. Review the top skills that employers are looking for and take the time to think of examples from your experience to display your competency in these skills. Thinking of these examples before an interview can not only help you be prepared with strong information, but it can also help you clearly show the employer that you have what it takes to meet their value expectations.

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The Difference Between a Contingent Staffing Agency and an RPO

Is your company considering the option to outsource some of their recruiting needs? Are you a job seeker that has been contacted by a third party recruiter and don’t know who you’d actually be an employee of? Are you confused about the difference between contingency staffing and retained recruiters/recruitment process outsourcing (RPO)? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve worked in recruitment roles for both contingency staffing and RPO throughout my talent acquisition career. One of the common issues I’ve seen in regard to this is the fact that companies or candidates are not educated about the difference between the two. So, let me try to shed some light today.

Contingency agencies, also known as staffing agencies or temporary placement agencies, are typically used when a company has a job opening that needs to be filled quickly. In some instances, it is used for a one-off situation or for a position that has a low volume of needs but are hard to fill. In other instances, they are used because the client has a huge number of positions to fill and their needs needed to be filled, like, yesterday. Contingency agencies are usually very fast paced because they’re not only in competition with the internal HR/recruitment department at the client’s organization, but they’re also in competition with other recruiting firms that are trying to get their candidates to the client first. The reason for this rapidness and pressure?: these agencies only can charge a fee if the client decides to bring their candidate on-board.

Retained recruiters or RPOs usually have an exclusive contract with their client and the client typically pays an upfront fee (whether a candidate is hired or not). The retained/RPO recruiters and clients formulate a plan about what type of candidates they need, how to go about finding the candidates, and determine what candidates fit the profile. It can be considered a strategic partnership. Very often, the retained recruiters present several qualified candidates to the client on a continuous basis to help build a pipeline and also increase their interview flow. These types of companies are typically utilized by larger companies with many positions to fill or by companies that have a specific need that is hard to find.

Personally, I love working for an RPO. Although we still have goals to meet on a weekly basis, there isn’t as much pressure as there was at a contingency firm. Additionally, I feel like I’m able to provide better service to both my clients and my candidates because of the relationship I build with the recruiting department at the client. I understand the company better and I know what their needs are. I’m able to relay information to the candidates to help them get a better understanding of whether or not this is a job or company that fits with what they’re looking for. Additionally, I can take the time to find better candidates for my clients because I don’t have to worry about beating out other agencies. But, of course, that’s just my personal preference. Both are extremely good options depending on what your company needs are.

For more information, feel free to read this article on UnderCover Recruiter.

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Recruiters: Are You Going Beyond the Call of Duty?

Last week, a group of recruiters and I were talking about some of the things we do to help our candidates make it through the interview process. We discussed tips, resume restructuring, and coaching. Some of us had success stories about how their tips helped a candidate land an offer. But I asked them: what about the candidates that didn’t make it through the interview process? What about the candidates that weren’t a fit from the start? Are we doing anything to help those candidates?

Maybe I’m overly empathetic, but I really identify with the job seekers and their daily struggles to find work. I’ve been the underemployed before. I’ve been unemployed. I’ve also been the employee that felt like my abilities were not being recognized or utilized for the benefit of the company. And even though I’ve been involved in Human Resources and talent acquisition, that advantage didn’t always help me when it came to securing my next job. Even with the knowledge of knowing what recruiters and hiring managers looked for, I still struggled. If I struggled, I can only imagine what it is like for people who don’t understand the recruitment processes or tricks of the trade.

As a recruiter or talent acquisition specialist, have you ever spoken to a candidate that you knew wasn’t going to be a fit for your job opening? Or have you talked to a candidate that had potential but needed some extra guidance? In those instances, what did you do? Did you simply send a rejection letter or pass them through the hiring process knowing that they might be rejected due to the areas that needed coaching? Or did you act like a consultant? Did you go above the call of duty and make it your job to help the candidate be employable and attractive to other employers even though you couldn’t offer a job?

I know that not all recruiters have time to do this. We’re overwhelmed and most of the time we don’t even have a second to breathe. But I often try to help out candidates as much as I can. I’ll give them tips on their resume, let them know what recruiters look for, coach them on their interviewing skills, tell them how to be easily found by recruiters, and so on. Most importantly, I let them know that they are always welcome to call me or email me if they need help or have questions. That extra time and effort feels rewarding especially when you hear the appreciation in the job seeker’s voice. I love it when I get emails and calls down the line from these individuals asking me for advice or when they let me know that they landed a job because of the tips I provided.

I remember wishing that someone saw the potential in me when I was a job seeker. I hoped that employers could see my passion and hear the conviction in my voice when I told them that I wanted to do great things for their company. Eventually, a company saw that and took a chance on me. Now, I want to be the person that returns that favor, even if I can’t initially provide a job to these candidates who honestly want a future for themselves. Maybe my assistance will help them get the interview they needed so they can sit in front of that specific manager who will see their intentions and give them a chance.

It shouldn’t just be about YOUR job opening that you need to fill. It should be about helping people get back to work. People have unnecessarily suffered the situations caused by the changes in the workforce. What are we doing to help them adjust?

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The Benefits of Video Interviewing

Photo Source: Wowzer

Recently, I have come across the company, Wowzer, which specializes in video screening and interviewing. Being a remote recruiter, I was extremely interested in learning more during their recent webinar that took place this January. At first, I assumed it was generally going to tell me about the features of their service but I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that video interviewing can go beyond screening candidates. In addition to this benefit, it can also be utilized for employer branding.

Some interesting take-aways from this webinar:

  • Video recruiting can cut down time: recruiters are overwhelmed with resumes and often need to take time to call these candidates before they determine if they meet the basic requirements. Video interviews with predetermined questions can allow candidates to pre-record their answers and help recruiters cut down phone screen time.
  • Video recruiting can cut down costs: instead of flying out potential employees and paying for hotel rooms, video recruiting can help employers get a better feel for candidates before determining if they can make it to the final interview stage. Essentially, it can even cut out the need to fly out candidates for a face-to-face.
  • It can help everyone be on the same page: having a recorded interview can allow hiring managers, HR, and recruiters to all review the same thing. This can cut down biased opinions, help reduce missed information, and document things accurately. This way, everyone can make more informed decisions based off of the SAME interview, rather than reviewing notes from those who interviewed the candidate. It can help make the interview process fairer for candidates.
  • Candidates can be stronger interviewers: sometimes resumes and phone interviews don’t present candidates the best way possible. Some candidates are superstars during face to face interviews. Video interviewing can help even out the playing field and give these candidates the option to put their best foot forward.
  • It can help brand your company: video doesn’t need to just be used for candidate screening. Companies can pre-record videos or even do live interviews of their company, the culture, and so on. This can help create transparency of the organization, allow companies to personalize their employer brand, and help build engagement efforts to attract candidates.

I’ve always heard of video interviewing but never realized how much more it had evolved over the years. The benefits seem to be increasing by the day and as technology allows recruiters and HR professionals to be more mobile/remote, this can be a fantastic option for them to do their job effectively while cutting down time and costs.

More Links:

Wowzer

Video Tips to Attract and Identify Talent

Video Interviewing Research Report by Sarah White & Associates

Changes in the Workforce: Are Employer Relationships Over?

I remember when I was in high school, my parents stressed to me the importance of getting good grades, a good degree in college, so I could land a great job that would be my lifetime employer. After all, my father had been with the same employer since he was 25 and my mother had also been with the same employer for 15 years at that point. A few years after that conversation, the economy took a downturn and “employers of a lifetime” seemed like a distant memory for those entering the workforce. Sadly, it began to be a distant memory for those IN the workforce, as well.

As the years went on, full time employment became rarer and it wasn’t uncommon for people to be in and out of employers within a couple years. Employers started to focus more on utilizing temporary workers, freelancers, and contract workers for their business needs. And with this meant that the normal relationship, fidelity, and loyalty between employer and employee had weakened or completely vanished.

But with this unsteady, ever-changing workforce, do the benefits of “long term” employment have to end? Do employees have to go without benefits, training, and skill building? Do employers have to deal with talent that might not be the best fit yet because of lack of ramp up time? I don’t think so. I think that each party needs to take that extra step to bring back some of the qualities that the “good ol’ days” had and make it work in this situation.

As an employer, you need to take the time to make sure your “temporary” workers feel welcomed, appreciated, and have a place within your organization. Nothing is worse than working for a company temporarily and feeling like the outcast or feeling like your presence really makes no difference. Take the time to train them a bit and learn what skills the worker already has to offer, and try to utilize them. This can not only benefit your company but it can help you get more accomplished and can make the temporary employee feel like they have a purpose rather than just be involved in mind-numbing process.

As an employee, take the time to build relationships with those in your organization. Learn about the industry, network, try to understand processes better. Take any chance you can to build knowledge and skills and put them into practice.  Don’t be shy and wait for someone else to show you- take initiative! If you’re working for a staffing agency, find out what kind of benefits and training they offer. Many organizations now offer medical benefits and workshops to help their contractors feel taken care of and keep their skills up to date so they’re a stronger candidate in the future.

Maybe things have changed, but it doesn’t have to feel like a revolving door with nothing to show. We all can take our part to make the best of this new world of work. It’s time to start thinking it as a way to build opportunity.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter- Wednesdays at 7pm EST. Also, please feel free to join the “Talent Culture” group on Linkedin

More links:

Is the Employment Romance Really Over?

TChat Recap

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Interview or Interrogation?

Being in the HR industry and having been a job seeker before, I have encountered many different interviewing scenarios. I’ve been the interviewer, the interviewee, and sometimes even the spectator. Some experiences have been great, while others had me cringe. Recently, a few acquaintances and I had discussed some of these cringe-worthy situations which shed some light on the experiences candidates have during this. One of the most notable experiences has been delightfully dubbed, “the interr-iview”. Basically, it’s an interview turned interrogation. Regardless of the candidate’s experience in the workforce, both early careerists and seasoned professionals find this experience to not only be unsettling, but it also turns them off from wanting to work for your organization. With that being said: are your interviews scaring talent away?

Not everyone is a pro at interviewing candidates, and that’s perfectly fine. However, there are some steps you can take to help you create a better interviewing experience:

  • Create a list of questions: having a list of set questions can not only ensure you are fair to each candidate, but it can also allow you to focus on things that matter. Having these questions can help you focus on important facts and can prevent you from asking things off base (or even potentially illegal).
  • Limit the barriers: sometimes having a desk or a conference table separating you and your interviewee can seem rigid and cold. Interviews are about getting to know one another. You need to not only see what the candidate’s experience is, but also get a feel for how they can fit in your organization and vice versa. Having a barrier could create an atmosphere that is stuffy, calculated, and overly “perfected” – AKA not a great indicator on who either of you really are. It’s best to find out about each other beforehand rather than realizing it’s not a fit a few months down the line.
  • Think about your follow up questions: it’s not unusual to have follow-up questions for elaboration or clarification purposes. However, it’s important to be aware of your delivery of these questions. Are you abrasive or accusing? Are you confusing or judgmental? Think about your wording and tone to allow the candidate to know you are generally curious, not disbelieving.
  • You have an impression to make, too: candidates are interviewing your company just as much as you are interviewing them. Are you welcoming? Are you open to answering questions? Are you creating an experience that allows opportunity to build relationships? Or are you treating a candidate like you are above them and shutting them out? Remember, your impression can be a factor when a candidate is deciding if they would like to work for you or not.

Having good interviewing skills is crucial when it comes to obtaining talent. Not only that, a good or bad candidate experience can also help or hinder your chances of attracting talent in the future. Think about your interviewing skills and experiences- is there anything you would change?

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