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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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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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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Do’s and Don’ts for your Phone Screen Interview

The phone screen has become a common trend in the recruiting industry. Recruiters are constantly bombarded with an obscene amount of resumes on a daily basis. Therefore, in the search to find quality talent, they have resorted to initial phone screens to weed out those not qualified and cut down time. This initial option has become a crucial part of the interviewing process. Candidates must recognize that in order to get to the next step and land a job, they must take the phone screen seriously.

I’ve been a job seeker and I’ve also recruited before. Having experience on both sides has allowed me to compile some great tips and advice when it comes to phone interviews. Candidates- please take note of these do’s and don’ts. All phone screens and phone interviews should be handled with a high level of professionalism. If not, you could be struggling to find a company who will give you the right of passage to the second interview.

DO:

  • Treat this as a face-to-face interview.
  • Handle it professionally.
  • Be ready and available to take the phone call and ensure you have enough time available in case the call runs longer than expected.
  • Your homework: Research the company so you can show the recruiter that you truly are interested in them.
  • Be prepared and be sure to have relevant examples to display that you are capable of doing the job successfully.
  • Ask questions! Recruiters like this and it can help them clearly see if this would be a good candidate/job fit.
  • Get straight to the point. Phone interviews are typically quick screens, so be sure to state the facts quickly and highlight the things that can really show that you would be an asset.
  • Ensure you are in a good service area. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to decipher what the other person is saying if they are cutting out or dealing with dropped calls.

DON’T:

  • Miss the phone call, especially if it was scheduled.
  • Have unnecessary background noise (i.e. dog barking, children screaming, tv blaring, etc.)
  • Ramble about things that are irrelevant. The screen was meant to cut down interviewing time so don’t make it longer than it has to be.
  • Take a call while driving or outside. Find a quiet room or even sit in a parked car. You must stay focused!
  • Ask what the company is or what the job is when answering the call. This will make the recruiter assume that you have application-blasted a bunch of companies and aren’t completely interested in this one.
  • Have unprofessional ringtones or voicemails. That is a huge turn off and could cause the recruiter to question your level of professionalism.
  • Come off as passive. Be enthusiastic about this job. Make sure the recruiter remembers you and your optimism.
  • Chew gum or food while on the phone. All the recruiter will hear is you chomping and will be distracted from what you’re actually saying.
  • Take the call in a restroom. Toilet flushing is extremely unprofessional (and creates some awkward visuals).

Remember, the phone screen/phone interview is your way to get on the gatekeepers’ good side. It is an extremely important step in the interview process. This can either make or break your chances of getting the golden ticket to enter into the next round of interviews. As a candidate, it is in your best interest to not take this lightly. Just because it is not face-to-face does not mean it’s any less important. In fact, this step could be even more so because this is your first impression and could define you as a hirable or non-hireable candidate for the company. Make sure you do your best!

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What Your Online Presence Can Do for Your Job Hunt

When I thought about the ideal job hunt, I always had believed that to be the most professional and proactive hunter, it was best to update your resume often and simply upload them to career websites. In addition to this, I was led to believe that the best way to get my resume in front of a recruiter was to apply to jobs online through job boards and applicant tracking systems. After all, these systems were put in place to help our resume be re-routed to the appropriate person, right? That used to work just fine until everyone else started to resort to this option. Now I realize that job seekers need to do something more to really set themselves apart. Over the course of the last few months, it became apparent that creating a personal brand via online can really help you during your job hunt.

I always assumed that doing anything online or on social media was typically considered something personal. I also heard the stories about how companies Google candidates to find these sites to do a quick “background” check before considering them for an interview. When I was in college, many teachers and guidance counselors told us to keep our online presence private or to delete anything that can potentially cause us to lose a job. With all these warnings, I never felt that having an online presence would help me land the job that I wanted. But after months of searching and being unsuccessful, I decided to give it a try.

To play it safe, I decided to keep my personal social media accounts private but then decided to create separate accounts strictly for business and maintaining a professional appearance. Of course, I decided to focus on LinkedIn first because that site is all about networking business professionals. It didn’t really pick up steam, though, until I invested more time into it. Putting up a profile with your experience isn’t enough to catch the attention of recruiters. You really need to participate. Here are some things I did on LinkedIn that helped me get more job interviews:

  • Update profile content and headline. Use keywords relevant to what you’re searching for so recruiters can find you easier.
  • Join groups. Joining groups are great but you must make sure you take time to participate in order to really allow yourself to get exposure. Comment on members’ discussion posts in a way that can show you are knowledgeable about a subject. Even post your own discussion questions on there to welcome interaction.
  • Keep the conversation flowing. In order to network effectively and build relationships, you must invest in time to keep the conversation going. If you comment on something or post a discussion question, make sure you respond to those who are also commenting. This flow of communication can help people get to know you better and open up an opportunity to connect.
  • Post interesting articles. Spark up some further conversation by posting online articles, publications, blogs, etc. This could grasp people’s attention and also display the fact that you keep up with industry trends.
  • Get personal. If you plan on sending a message or an invite, be sure to add something personal in the message. If you’re adding a recruiter, you could even mention that you’ve applied to a specific position at their company and wanted to talk more about it. This could help them pull your resume from the pile of hundreds they get regularly.

After I got LinkedIn up and running, I decided to take it a step further and see what Twitter had to offer. I used to use Twitter sporadically since 2009 and never really thought it could be useful for anything more than personal use. I was SO wrong. After using Twitter in a professional capacity, I ended up receiving more job offers, interviews, and assistance to find a job than I ever did when I used to just apply to online job boards. I couldn’t believe it. Here are some ways I effectively used Twitter during my job hunt:

  • Add people that are relevant to the industry you’re trying to get a job in.
  • Add recruiters that work at the companies you are interested in working at.
  • Write thoughtful responses to their tweets to help open up communication.
  • Tweet links to relevant online articles, publications, blogs, etc.
  • And most IMPORTANTLY, join Twitter chats(this was the easiest way I was able to get interviews.) Twitter chats are amazing. It opens up real-time communication and could help you get exposure to the right people. Some TweetChats I’ve joined that were really great for my job hunt were:
    • #JobHuntChat – Mondays @ 10PM EST
    • #TalentNet – Tuesdays @ 7PM EST
    • #TChat – Wednesday  @ 7PM EST
    • #GenYChat- Wednesday @ 9PM EST
    • #HFChat – Friday @ 12PM EST

These chats are either geared towards connecting job seekers with recruiters or the chats are HR related which means you can easily connect with HR and recruiters. Of course, these are just a few chats of the many that are out there. I would suggest researching chats that are relevant to the industry or job type you are looking for.

After a while, I really started to enjoy the results I was getting from this and decided to take it even another step further. I created a blog that was relevant to the industry I was targeting (Human Resources) and started to write on a regular basis to help extend my online presence even more. I promoted it via LinkedIn and Twitter. This blog has helped recruiters to see my competency, knowledge, and even get to know a little more about me. They were able to see how I could fit in with their company. If you are able to do something virtually that is relevant to the industry you want to work in, give it a try. It could really help you stand out even more and add something extra to your candidate profile.

Having an online presence can really help you if you do it right. Keep it professional but also keep it YOU. Your online presence can help hiring managers, recruiters, and companies really get an idea of who you are and what you could potentially do for them. I was happy to see that investing time in this has paid off. After committing time to this, I was able to get job interviews, internship offers, and guest blog post offers. I felt that I made more progress doing it this way than the months I spent just dedicating time to job boards and online applications. Give it a try, it could make a huge difference.

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