In the job search, there are a multitude of factors that can contribute to one’s struggle in securing employment.  Instinctively, the first culprit blamed for the problem is the resume. If you not getting job offers, ask yourself where the breakdown is happening.  Be careful not to immediately blame the resume. 

If you are getting interviews, then your problem is most likely not your resume.  You got the interview, so your resume must be doing its job.  If you are not getting call backs after interviews, then I am going out on a limb here and your interviewing skills could be to blame.  If that is the case, then you are in need of a challenging mock interview.  Just because you have the knowledge, skills and ability to do a job won’t matter to an employer if you can interview effectively. 

There are many other possibilities as to why you might not be securing job offers which proves you have to identify the root of the issue.  Your problem could, in fact, be your resume, but it can also be your interviewing skills, your behavior while waiting for your interview (never be rude to a receptionist), your thank you note, your follow-up manner (always be gracious), along with many others.  A good solution is to find a career coach—someone who will work with you in breaking down the job search process to find where your weaknesses lie and work with you to strengthen your approach and job search competencies.

What is the first question that comes to your mind when preparing for an interview?  Let me guess:  What questions will the interviewer ask me?  You work yourself up studying interviewing questions just like you would a multiple choice exam.  When job seekers do this, they lose sight of the purpose of the interview.  They want to know what questions will be asked but fail to realize the purpose of the questions in the first place.

Who likes to answer the question “Tell me about yourself”?  What about “tell me about a time you failed”?  I can imagine the cringed look on your face as you read this. But have you ever sat down to really ask yourself why these questions are asked in the first place?  

Interviewers want to talk with you and ask questions to see if you are the best candidate, so why do we treat these interviews as if we have committed a crime and are being put through an interrogation to see if we will crack under pressure? 

Trust me; interviewers do not take the time out of their work day to torture you.   Some might come across that way, but that is not the purpose of an interview at all.  Companies have to hire talent to help the company grow; therefore, the interview is meant to get to know the person behind the resume.  It’s not meant to make you feel less about yourself or make you ill.  A company’s culture might be competitive, so the questions you are asked might lean towards those to test your ability to succeed in that environment.  However, the interviewer is not trying to beat you up at all. 

The next time you go into an interview, and I hope soon, sit down and talk with the interviewer relaxed and ready to “talk” about your qualifications, the position you are interviewing for at the time, and the company itself.   If you really studied the company culture and position in which you are interviewing for in the first place, you will know if the candidate needs to have certain traits which may sway the types of questions you are asked. 

In preparing for your interview “conversation”, focus on the position, the company, and YOU!  Know the position and be prepared to answer questions concerning your qualifications to succeed.  Know the company; its mission, competitors, partners and recent press releases.  And most importantly know you!  Know your strengths, your weaknesses, your failures, the reasons why you want this job, and your ability to succeed in both the position and a career with the company. 

Relax and smile.  You have committed no crime, so stop treating your interviews as if you have.

I get this question quite often from job seekers.  Should I handwrite a thank you note and send through snail mail or should I email so the person can get my thank you that day?  My answer is yes and yes. 

Receiving a thank you note through email from a job candidate is a great way to refresh my mind at the end of the day.  It shows that you left our conversation enthused and wanting to make an impression.            

A thank you note through the mail is something we do not receive very often.  I remember back in the early 90s when the morning and noon mail at work was two to four inches thick if not more.  Letters could easily get lost in the fray.  Today, the volume of mail we receive is much less so thank you notes stand out amongst the bills and junk mail.  A thank you note through the mail is also received three to four days after an interview.  Within your letter, note a discussion topic from our interview which will remind me of our conversation and reinforce your interest.

With the age of email, texting and social media, sending letters through the mail is not as natural as it used to be.  We have to write the letter, address the envelope, put a stamp on the envelope and take it to the mailbox.  That takes time, I agree, but this effort reinforces your interest and shows your added effort in securing the company’s offer. 

My advice to job seekers is to email a thank you note later in the day of your interview and write a thank you note to send through the mail.  Talk about making a great impression.  You can’t go wrong.

I’m a People Person!

September 10, 2010

How many times have I heard a recruiter or hiring manager say, “If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone use “People Person” as a self descriptor?” My typical response is:  “As opposed to what?”  Since we are people; we should all be a “People Person” in one way or another right?  But in all seriousness, there are many phrases or answers to questions job seekers use that are frankly overused and cliché.  Here are some of my favorites used both in interviews and on resumes:

  1. I’m a “people person”: This is one of the most widely used self-descriptors used in the job search today.  What do you mean?  Do you thrive in teams?  Do you have leadership skills?  Are you great at teaching?  Be specific and better define how your skill can benefit business.
  2. My weakness is that I cannot say no:  Of course you can say no.  Interested in washing my windows?  There, you said no.  Quite frankly, everyone tries to use this example because it is safe.  Over-committing  is actually a symptom.  The weakness is in your prioritization skills.
  3. I am looking for experience:  Well, no duh! Employers know that.  When asked why you are applying for a position, the employer wants to know the value you can bring to the equation.   The employer knows you need experience and a job.  And honestly, it is not an employer’s job to give you experience.     
  4. Resume passive words:
  • Responsible for:  Every job has responsibilities.  You get your job description before starting the job, so this information has no impact on your value.
  • Assisted:  This word leaves the reader’s imagination WIDE open.  Did you assist someone with pouring coffee?  Define “assist”.  Define “help”. 
  • Acted as a liaison:  You acted?  That is the same as performed right?  People get awards for that.  Instead of saying you acted or performed, demonstrate something concrete such as communicated between, collaborated with, resolved, etc.  Those words paint a picture of your competency which is what the reader needs to see.

Please pardon my sarcastic humor.  My point is that while all of these answers and phrases are true, they are also way overused and are frankly too vague. In the job search, you are a marketing manager.  Marketing is about selling qualities that set you apart from the other applicants.  If your answers are like everyone else’s, you will be forgotten.  You will just be another “people person” applicant.

When shopping for toothpaste, you are looking for specifics:  whitening, tartar control, flavor, etc.  You as the customer want a product to meet your needs.    I know that when I shop for any product whether it be toothpaste, shampoo or even a car, my only concern is whether that product can do what I need it to do.  Don’t you think the same way? 

Colgate’s marketing campaign never mentions the company’s goal to increase market and beat the competition.  You will never find company’s goals listed on the packaging for a tube of Crest.  Both companies and all products and services for that matter focuses on meeting the customer’s needs.  Selling by definition at www.dictionary.com is to cause or persuade to accept.  Please accept my product or service because it can meet your needs.  If Crest or Colgate offer what you want, you will buy that product.  If the product meets your expectations, you will continue buying that particular product, It is as simple as that.  Focus on meeting the customer’s needs. 

Hiring is the same basic principle as marketing any product or service.  Employers state their needs through job descriptions.  Job seekers prove their ability to meet the employer needs.  The job candidate who does the best job of marketing and proving his or her value to the employer gets the job. 

Instead of focusing on what you in a job, focus on what you have to offer the employer.  Be the solution.  What are the employer’s benefits to hiring you?  Find out what the employer needs and make sure you are promoting a solution to those needs. 

If you can produce what you promise, then you will naturally reap the benefits. 

When employers go shopping, make sure they select your brand.

Remember when you were a teenager and wanted to go somewhere with friends and your parents said no?  You were shocked because “NO” is not in the Teenager dictionary.   So, what did you do?  You stepped back and tried a different angle to get your way.   You were going to do anything within your power to find a way to go out with your friends. Am I right?  Of course I am.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.

The same should apply to a certain extent with your job search.  I am baffled by the number of job seekers who receive a “flush” letter or no response at all to a job application and take that no as a ”forever no”.  The candidate will bow his or her head and walk away defeated.  I often ask, “Whatever happened to your teenage grit?”  Usually that gets me some narrowed eyes, but if that also comes with a bit of newfound determination, then great.

Let me be clear, I do not agree with continually badgering a person after being told no.   I am, however, surprised how many times job seekers run quickly in other direction after a simple “NO”.  My response is “STOP THAT!”  Of course, you have to know when enough is enough too, so be careful not to cross that line.

My advice?   Try to find out more information.  Do further research.  Did your resume get to the correct hands?  If you only applied online and didn’t network your way to a hiring manager, then I have to honestly say you deserve the lack of response (do you have another blog entry for this – if so, you may link to it here).  But for those who network, and maybe even interview, only to turned away, I urge you to seek out more information.  Here are some quick tips if you are ever turned down for a position:

  1. Ask why? Were you not qualified?  Did you interview poorly?  Did you make any mistakes?  If you need more experience, ask for advice on what you need to do in order to return one day and be successful in obtaining another position with the organization. 
  2. Continue to network.  The position you applied for may not have been right for you.  Seek other opportunities within the organization or at least be on the company radar in the event this position or something similar arises in the future.
  3. Never burn your bridges.  Never get a chip on your shoulder for being turned down for a position.  There is always a reason, but I promise that the company did not try to squash your goals in anyway.   Also remember that the people you meet in business will most likely turn up again during your career.  Treat everyone in business as a potential client and/or colleague for the future. 

There is always a time in which you will have to take no as a final answer.  Respect that answer, but have you ever thought that walking away after a simple no might prove to a company that you were never that serious in the first place?  That old adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease does have some merit. 

The next time you do not receive a position you really want, ask why?  It’s a great networking and mentorship opportunity as well.  Show your interest.  Show your passion.  And most importantly, do what you have to do to become the best candidate so you can reach those career goals.  You will never know until you ask.