Thursday, September 26, 2019

MORE Thoughts on Successful Interviewing

Not that long ago I had a conversation with a candidate who expressed frustration because they were having difficulty landing a job, even though they'd interviewed for multiple positions they were clearly qualified for, with multiple companies over many months. I've had similar conversations with a lot of people over the years.

People who are frequently turned down for positions tend to express that they believe it is due to their age, looks etc, when most often the decision not to hire comes down to a poor interview. 

Unless the candidate is video or audio recording their interview, it is impossible to be objective about the outcome.  They may "hear" themselves in the moment, but without sitting and listening to (or viewing)  the entire interview - the candidate truly does not have a thorough understanding of how they are coming across to the people interviewing them.  Even then, it might be difficult to be impartial.  Ideally it is best to gain honest insight from the perspective employer, or the recruiter that was involved in the process.

Whether the interview was over the phone or in person, these tips will apply:
  • Stating the obvious - if interviewing in person or via web/skype/video, look presentable, sit up straight, smile etc.  (It doesn't hurt to do this for a phone interview either, to put yourself in the right mode) 
  1. Not all that long ago I spoke with a friend who is a CEO of a large company.  He stated that he'd been interviewing a gentleman over the phone for a couple weeks for a senior sales position, and arrangements had been made for the candidate to come into the office and have a final face to face interview.  My friend was fully prepared to offer this person the role, but when the candidate showed up, he "looked like he'd just played 18 holes of golf on a hot, windy day" - his clothes were casual, wrinkled & disheveled, his hair hadn't been combed, etc.  After that interview the candidate was declined for the position.  In everyone's opinion, he should've known that since he was meeting with the CEO of the company, and given the role he was interviewing for, he should've taken the time to make himself presentable and wear a suit or at the very least, clean, laundered, business casual attire.
  • Shut up & Listen - Remember that song "Talk Talk" from the 80's?  Call it the gift of gab, call it diarrhea of the mouth, call it Chatty Cathy syndrome - whatever phrase you choose, some people just ramble, and this can be the most detrimental faux pas of the interview process.  Excessive talking during an interview seems to come about for various reasons - the candidate may be nervous, they may have a habit of talking too much, or they may be trying to fill dead air.  
  1. Relax - Don't be nervous - easier said than done, but try to pretend you're on the phone with someone you're familiar with.  Don't treat the interview like an exam, but more like a fact finding conversation.
  2. Be conscientious of how much you're talking - are you losing your audience?  How long has it been since someone else has spoken?
  3. "Dead-air" - its ok for there to be a pause in conversation.  Often the people conducting the interview take a moment to take notes, or consider an answer that has been given.  If there is a longer pause that normal, ask if the call is still connected, if yes, ask if they would like a more detailed answer.
  • Be Positive, no one wants to work with a complainer or someone who over-shares.
  1. Unless you're talking with a recruiter you've known for a long time, the conversation should stay very positive in nature.
  2. Don't talk poorly about your current/previous employer, either leave that out of the interview or touch on it as lightly as possible with as much positive spin as you can.
  3. Things like health, marital status / issues, children, family tragedies should never be discussed unless absolutely necessary. (example - " I understand the desired start date is 10/1 and that works for me, however, I feel I should make you aware that I have a surgery planned for 10/20 and will need that week off")
  4. Serial complainers need not apply.  If you find yourself constantly complaining about life, work, co-workers, employers, the weather ... etc., its time for a change in perspective. 
  • Don't oversell and Don't undersell.
  1. Overselling - it is never advisable to embellish your qualifications.  You may be able to bluff your way through the interview process but it won't take long for your new employer to figure out you don't have the qualifications to complete your responsibilities.  This is a huge waste of time for everyone - you'll be fired, the employer has to start interviewing again, and if you went through a firm to get the role, it makes the firm look bad.
  2. Underselling - some people are really humble, and while this certainly isn't a bad trait, it can kill an interview.  No one will sell your qualifications better than you.  Be confident enough to be able to speak to your experience & successes.  One can sell themselves without being braggadocios or arrogant.
  • Know Your Audience
  1. It is always beneficial to know about the person/people you will be interviewing with.  What type of personality do they have?  Why are they seeking someone for the position?  What are their pain-points?
  2. If a recruiter has submitted you to the position, ASK them to tell you as much as they can about the person you will be interviewing with.  If they don't know, or you don't have a recruiter, research the person who will be interviewing you - LinkedIn is a great place to start.  
  3. Example:  If you are a exuberant person who is full of energy and tend to be loud and excitable, but you learn the person you'll be interviewing with is quiet & reserved, tone it down a bit. etc.
Finally, if you aren't sure how you come across during an interview, call a recruiter you know and have them run you through a mock-interview.  You can also call a recruiter that has experience with you and ask them their honest opinion on why they feel you are having a rough time landing a position.  Most recruiters are open to taking a few minutes of their time to help guide you through the process.  Being able to be flexible in your approach & presentation is an important part of interviewing successfully.

Friday, May 3, 2019

One More Time for the people in the back....The Proper Way To Make Initial Contact To a Potential Employer

Its been over 20 years since I accepted my first Staffing job. That's tough for me to believe, its gone by so quickly!

Subsequently, I started this blog about 9 years ago to express some constant frustrations about the employment / staffing / recruiting process and hopefully help job seekers in the process.

Over the years that the blog has been active, I've received feedback from quite a few people that it has assisted them in landing a job,  BUT... I still feel like there are topics that beg repeating.

It ALL comes back to communication!  Communication is KEY to employment, regardless of the industry you're in, or the position you are applying for.  Within this blog, there are numerous posts about resume formatting and distribution, how to interview, how to present yourself etc, but the most important impression is always the first. 

Think about how you want the potential employer to receive your first effort to communicate with them about the job you are interested in.  One would assume you would want to stand out as a professional, thoughtful, educated and qualified candidate.  In order to do so, you must consider the first method of contact.  Typically the first method of contact is either via phone or email, both mediums require effort if you want the potential employer to take interest in you and respond.

ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS provide an up to date resume when you make initial contact with a potential employer via email  Additionally, the email should include the following:

  • How you found out about the position?  (if it was a referral, provide the person's name)
  • When are you available to start a new job?
  • A brief overview of your related qualifications
  • Best time and way to reach you.

My colleague Joe Donut told me that your company is seeking a Cerner SurgiNet Specialist for an upcoming project.  I have attached my resume for your consideration.  I am available to start a new position in 3 weeks, and have over 5 years of SurgiNet design, build and testing experience.
I'm happy to speak with you at your convenience.

Thank you,
Jane Eclair 

Example of what not to do: (no resume attached)
I had a friend tell me you had an IT job that fit my experience.  I'd like to talk to you about it.


Phone / Voice Mail:
Good Example of aVoice Mail:
This is Carrie Apple, my friend Tammie Fay told me about your Cerner SurgiNet opening and I would love to discuss it with you.  I can be reached at (speaking slowly & clearly) 555-555-1234 after 3pm ET.

Thank you

Good Example of an initial phone call:
I'm glad I caught you!  My name is Carrie Apple, my friend Tammie Fay works for your company and she told me you have a Cerner SurgiNet opening that would be a good fit for my qualifications.  Do you have time to discuss it?

As a job seeker, it is important to remember that it is always likely there are numerous people applying for the same job.  In order to be competitive, starting the communication off on the right foot is very important. 

It is also important to remember that HR Personnel, Managers & Recruiters receive dozens (if not more) emails and phone calls every day from potential candidates.  The emails and voice mails that provide the best information will be responded to first. 

If a HR Rep/Manager/Recruiter is working to fill 5 - 10 (or more) job openings, receiving dozens of phone calls and emails, conducting and scheduling interviews, processing new hires, and countless other responsibilities, why should they take the time out of their schedule to respond to someone that didn't make an effort to provide the necessary information?

If you have reached out to a company in a professional manner with all the above mentioned information and STILL haven't heard back, dont be afraid to try one more time.  If they do not respond, first, let me apologize on behalf of all recruiters out there, everyone who makes the proper effort deserves to be responded to, and second - it is unlikely they felt your qualifications were a match for any number of reasons and while everyone would like to know why they aren't chosen, its just not that important and a waste of your valuable time to keep trying.  Move on to the next! 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The #1 Reason Candidates Fail Interviews

The #1 Reason Candidates Fail Interviews

For over 20 years I have sat in on thousands of interviews; in person, over the phone, via video and whatever other scenario is available. Some of these numerous interviews have been impromptu, others well planned, some with just 1 interviewer and others with a panel of interviewers.  In almost every interview that has gone off the rails, the people being interviewed have failed for the same reason, they are not succinct in their answers.

Open ended questions – the questions that require more than just a “yes” or “no” answer, tend to send candidates off on rabbit trails, which will derail an interview in a matter of minutes.  Short and concise answers are ideal, but even the most polished professionals can get lost in their responses.

Here is a prime example of a popular open ended interview question:  “Tell us about yourself” – I’ve heard people go off on tangents about their hobbies, their pets, their middle school heartbreak, college sports achievements, health issues, prior employment issues, and other even less appropriate topics.  Consider the industry you’re in and think about how you’d answer that question in an interview…..(I’ll wait)…..  Are you at a loss, or do you feel you know exactly what to say?  Here are a few things to consider prior to answering:

1.       What do you know about the company you are interviewing for?  (Culture, Philosophies, Environment etc.)

2.       What do you know about the people that are interviewing you? (Background, Education, Personality etc.)

3.       What do you know about the position you are interviewing for? (Management, Responsibilities, Why the position is open, Who was in the position before etc.)

Now let’s dive into those 3 areas a bit:  (1) Prior to your interview you should have researched the company’s web site to review their mission statement, their vision statement and learn anything else you can about the company history – where they started, WHY they started and where they’re going. Armed with that information you can align your answers to their company objectives.

 (2) Your second internet search should be to Google the person or people interviewing you – what is their title at the company, where did they come from and where did they go to school, have they done anything interesting (charity work, etc).  If Google doesn’t turn up anything, search LinkedIn. Once you’ve gained some insight into their backgrounds you can potentially touch on things you might have in common, like graduating from the same college or volunteering for the same charities.

(3) And finally, do you have a complete job description of the position you are interviewing for?  If not that is absolutely something you should request prior to interviewing.  Will you be required to travel, to manage people, to work late, to work weekends?  With this information you will be able to express your past experience in other roles and give the interviewers spot on information on why you are a fit for the role. 

Once you’ve completed your research, you can prep for the interview by jotting down questions you have about the company and the position, along with some guidelines on how to answer anticipated questions like the one I mentioned above. 

Below is an example of how interviewers want the “tell us about yourself” question answered:

Interviewer: “Now that we’ve discussed our needs, why don’t you tell us about yourself?” –

The interviewers want RELEVANT information, not what is relevant to you, but what is relevant to the job you’re applying for.  They also want the abbreviated version. Let’s pretend you are applying for a Healthcare IT position (since that is the industry I’ve recruited in for the majority of my career). 

You: “I began my career about 20 years ago in nursing, a few years after I began my nursing career the hospital I was working in upgraded to a new EMR system and I was able to assist with the end-user training process.  This really piqued my interest in technology and after the implementation was completed I started my transition into the IT dept.  Over the last 15 years I’ve gained substantial EMR application build experience in both Inpatient and Ambulatory settings (naming the applications you specialize in).  I’ve also gone back to college and obtained my MBA in Informatics Management and have led multiple upgrade projects.”  “What else would you like to know?”

By providing a targeted description of your career in bullet points, you’ve used the time you have wisely and reopened the floor to the interviewer to ask more decisive questions about your experience. 

Personality plays an important part in whether a person is offered a position or not.  Not all people will be inclined to take the time to do the pre-interview research or stay focused during the interview, however the people that do are most likely to land the job.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

There is a Time and a Place

I have always been outspoken, even as a child.  However, my Mother taught me early on that there is a time and a place for discussions about certain topics.  As I grew older, more mature and started to wear a professional "hat", I learned that depending on your profession, the workplace is generally NOT a good venue for political discussions, religious discussions, and of course - sexual discussions, and any other potentially polarizing topics.  You never know who will over-hear you, what their personal beliefs are, if they might be offended and how they might react.

In our current political environment, the need for decorum is becoming more and more evident, and fortunately, the lack of tolerance for inappropriate words and actions is becoming less and less standard.

My professional responsibilities include interviewing and hiring many people every year.  Even though my sensibilities are certainly not delicate, I am often astounded at what people will say during an interview process.  While I have not walked a mile in their shoes, I am still of the school of thought that if you are trying to obtain a job, that you would be on your best behavior during the interview process.  Bringing up your opinions on various political topics, politicians, racial topics, gun rights, women's rights, religious beliefs and of course, the never appropriate sexual innuendos is not a step in the right direction toward securing that job.

Many will say "What about the right to freedom of speech"?  "I have a right to have my own beliefs".  All that is true, there is freedom of speech in this country and everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  At the same time, there is a level of decorum that should be adhered to.  Take into account that the job you are interviewing for and the folks you are interviewing with also have a right to their own beliefs which might differ greatly from your own.  In turn, they have a right not to hire you due to something you said during the interview process.

Always keep in mind that it is also your right to work in an environment where you are not discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable.  Everyone you work with has that right as well.  This is why keeping your political beliefs, religious beliefs etc. off the table at the workplace and definitely during the interview process, is important.  I shouldn't even have to mention sexual advances and innuendos, but with the recent headlines, it seems it needs to be included.

Comedians have a term "learn your audience" because not every audience is going to get your jokes, understand your humor or think specific content is funny.  The same goes for the workplace.  Get to know the people you work with before you say something that might put your job on the line.

As a rule of thumb, while interviewing for a job it is never a good idea to express your religious or political points of view during the interview process if the job is not in either of those arenas.  Should a person interviewing you ask you specifically about your religious or political views and those views do not pertain to the job at hand, be polite but clear and state that those topics are not of any relevance to the position.    It is actually your right to not have to discuss those topics to avoid any type of discrimination.

There is a time and a place to present your opinions on every topic imaginable, just know your audience and remember that everyone is entitled to their opinions, they might just not be the same as your own.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Identify Yourself

When contacting a Recruiter or potential employer it is important to identify yourself.  Whether you are submitting a resume for the first time, or checking in via voicemail or text about the status of your resume, it is crucial to let the other party know who you are!

A typical recruiter or hiring manager will have multiple people in the interview process at once.  Many recruiters and hiring managers are trying to fill numerous jobs at once.  By identifying who you are when you reach out, it will save you and your point of contact precious time.

Here are just a few example scenarios:

Phone Call / Answered:  "Hi, we've spoken in the past and I saw you had an Ambulatory role posted online, I'm really interested"  - typically this dialog goes on for a few more minutes, but I'm unable to look the person up in the database to see if they're qualified for the role until they take a breath and I can ask them who they are. 
Solution:  "Hi There, this is James, we spoke back in May.  I'm an Ambulatory Certified Analyst and saw you have posted a role that fits my qualifications do you have time to discuss"?

Voice Mail:  "Hi, I'm calling to find out if you have gotten any feedback from the client about my resume, let me know".  - the recruiter / hiring manager will have to try to run your phone number through the database to see if your information comes up, or try to call you back and ask who you are. 
Solution:  "Hello, this is Mark, I'm calling to see if XYZ Hospital has responded to my resume"?

Text Message - "Hi!  Did you get any feedback from the client yet"? - I have to text back "who is this"?.  It would be impossible for every recruiter/hiring manager to have the phone numbers of everyone they have in the submittal/interview process in their phones.
Solution:  "Hi!  This is Trina.  Did XYZ Hospital respond to my resume yet?"

Email: - Hi, I'm interested in hearing more about your go-live projects" - often there is no resume attached, no name and no other contact info.  Typically these emails do not get responded to.
Solution:  "Hi, my name is Adeola, my resume is attached for your review, I'm very interested in your upcoming Epic go-lives".

Taking a few extra seconds to identify yourself will help assure you get a timely response!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Nail a Telephone Interview

How to Nail a Telephone Interview
I’ve posted blogs with interview tips before, but this topic is always relevant.  More and more interviews are being done over the phone, particularly in the Tech industry. 
If you’re going to be sitting in on a video/skype/facetime interview – see other important tips here:

The Dreaded Telephone Interview 201
Ø  If you’re using your cell phone, make darn sure you’re in a place with great reception.
Ø  Take the interview call in a place where you won’t be interrupted by people, dogs, noises etc.
Ø  Try to build rapport early in the conversation.  If you can, start the call out with a bit of friendly banter with the potential employer – even if it’s just a comment about their weather.  Show interest in them, how their day is going etc.  The employer wants to hire someone they like, someone that they’ll enjoy working with.  It isn’t all about experience and qualifications.
Ø  Always keep your answers to the point, you will likely have only 30 minutes to impress your potential employer:  When answering questions about your experience, follow this rule of thumb:
1.       Answer the question positively – “Yes, I do have experience with XYZ”
2.       Explain where you have had the experience – “I worked on XYZ at my previous 2 employers, so I have almost 10 years of experience with it”
3.       Explain your experience with enough detail to make sense but not so much detail that you’re running on and on and on – “I started building XYZ about 9 years ago, XYZ has changed some since then, with my last employer I was not only responsible for the build, but I trained new employees on how to build and I served as Lead Analyst throughout the implementation.”  If the potential employer wants more specifics, they’ll ask.
Ø  Don’t start talking until you’re sure they’ve finished talking.  Many conference lines have a bit of a delay.  I’ve sat in on more interviews than I care to count where the candidate and the potential employer spent most of their time talking over each other because both were jumping in before the other had finished talking.  Its ok to have a brief pause before you start answering a question.
Ø  Never, Never, Never, downplay your qualifications!  Talk about what you do know and discuss your qualifications confidently.  Don’t elaborate on what you don’t know!  If a client asks you about a qualification that you don’t have, just say “I haven’t had any experience with that yet” or “I have a working knowledge of that from my experience at my last client but it wasn’t my focus” etc.
Ø  Don’t try to oversell yourself.  People that say things like “I’m the best in the business with XYZ” or “you won’t find someone more qualified” and similar statements typically get overlooked for job openings.  It’s a rare candidate that can pull off that level of narcissism and get away with it.  Confidence is good, an over-active ego is not.
Ø  Don’t get defensive, ever – for any reason.  I’ve had candidates flat out yell at me when I’ve told them I don’t think they’re right for the position.  If you feel the person interviewing you is mistaken about your qualifications, politely explain where you feel they’ve missed the mark, never yell, never become rude.  Typically, the person interviewing you knows what they’re talking about, but if they don’t, consider it an opportunity to educate them.  Turning them off by yelling or being rude isn’t going to get you the position.
Ø  Always have a copy of your resume in front of you so you can refer to it if necessary.  If a recruiter submitted your resume, ask them for a copy of what they sent prior to the interview.
Ø   Wrap Up:  Typically the potential employer will ask if you have any questions.  During the interview you should have been jotting down any points you want to cover.  At this time try to ask a few questions, not just to show interest but to show you’re paying attention.  Also, take this time to bring up any points about your qualifications you feel you might have missed earlier in the interview.
Ø  Thank them – before hanging up cheerfully thank them for their time and express your continued interest in the position (if you are still interested) and ask when you might expect to hear back.

After your interview has concluded, take a few minutes to review any notes you’ve taken and go over the call in your mind, then write a thank you note via email to express your continued interest, reiterate how your experience lends itself to their needs and your excitement in hearing back from them.  No matter how good you are, you can’t win the job 100% of the time, but by following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to nailing telephone interviews!




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Communication Highway

Technology is advancing so fast most of us cannot keep up with the new trends and software and gadgets.  Over the years I've found that many people that have a career in Technology, don't always embrace it after-hours.  My brother has been a programmer within Healthcare IT for over 20 years.  He didn't get his first Smart Phone until 2015.

With all this new technology there are now multiple ways to communicate with others through social media (Facebook, LinkedIn etc), email, telephone, text, Skype and the list goes on.  How is one to know the best way or fastest method to reach their recruiter?  Ask! That's how!  Always inquire with your recruiter what method of communication they prefer.

A few things to keep in mind when contacting your recruiter:

  • Recruiters at any given time could have up to a hundred candidates submitted to various job opportunities AND on top of those folks, they are also responsible to communicate with and care for everyone they have placed on projects.  This means that recruiters are typically open to answering communication 24/7 if the need is urgent.
  • ALWAYS include your first & late name when contacting your recruiter.  Recruiters receive 100s of emails, phone calls, texts etc. a week.  If you do not include your name in the text, email, voice mail, how are they to know who they're to respond to?  (I regularly get emails saying "do you have any upcoming go lives?" with nothing else, no phone, no name, no resume.  If your email address doesn't have your name it in, how am I to know who I'm communicating with?  I also will receive random texts that go something like this:  "Hi!  Any word from the client yet?".... What client?  Who are you?  There is unfortunately no way for me to memorize every phone number of every person I've submitted to a client.)
  • Don't be offended if the Recruiter responds asking "who is this?".  Recruiters typically keep good track of who they've submitted and who they have working on projects, but we don't always remember everyone's phone number or email address. 
  • All recruiters utilize a database to keep track of candidates, consultants, activity and so-forth.  Anytime you update your phone number or email, it is best to notify the recruiters you work with.  With this being said - most data bases will allow Recruiters to search for someone via email or phone - but providing your name in your communications will net you a much faster response.
  • Social Media - for me Facebook is a professional no-no.  I strongly believe that Facebook (Instagram, Snap Chat etc) is for friends and family and not for work related communication.  LinkedIn is for business!  Save your professional communications for professional web sites.  If a recruiter contacts you via Facebook, ask for their email/phone and reach out to them that way.  Facebook can be professional suicide.  If a potential employer is scrolling through your Facebook feed - you never know what they might be turned off by - political posts, cat videos, family conversations.
  • Message Alerts - we all get message alerts on our phone.  Personally I receive text messages, Skype messages, LinkedIn, Pinterest messages, Snap Chat Messages, Facebook messages, email messages from both personal and business accounts and phone calls.  To cut down on the noise & insanity I've turned off every alert except for email and text.  Typically the best method to reach your recruiter will be phone or email, followed by text and LinkedIn and so on. 
  • Which brings us back to - Ask... Each recruiter will have their preferred method of communication and they'll be happy to let you know the best way to reach them and at what times, just remember to include your name when you reach out :)