At the end of the interview are you prepared with questions?

You’re nearing the end of your interview.  The interviewer asks you “do you have any questions for me?”

Now what?

Hopefully, you have been asking questions all the way through your interview.  But if not, you better have a good list of questions at the ready or you will be viewed as unprepared and/or disinterested.  Neither option is good.  Here is a quick list (certainly not all-inclusive) of questions you should be prepared to ask.  You can ask questions about the job, the company/culture, your responsibilities or the rest of the interview process.  You can tailor any of them to meet the specifics of your situation.

Here are some examples or thought-starters:

Questions about the job and your responsibilities:

When I start, what would be the top 3 things I would need to address or focus on in my first 30-60 days?  (This is important to ask because regardless of what the description says or what has been discussed in the interview up to this point, their answer will tell you what’s important to them and what they need you to focus on.  It also mentally places you in the position.  You want the interviewer to see you in the position.)

Based on our conversation, do you feel there are any issues with my background and experience that would keep me from receiving an offer?  (Take the opportunity and a pro-active stance to address any objections they may have about your candidacy.  You may not feel comfortable asking about your perceived deficiencies regarding your candidacy but it’s better to ask now in the interview setting where you can address them immediately and get an idea of where their head is rather than to wait to hear you didn’t get the job.)

Questions about the company/culture:

How long have you worked here?  (Are they brand new too?  If so, they may not have great insight into the company just yet.  If this is the case, follow-up with this question: why did you decide to work here?)

What do you like best about your position?  (Do they provide a ‘canned’ answer or do they provide something specific?  Their response could be telling.)

What do you like best about the company?  (Is it the free soft-serve in the cafeteria or is it the autonomy they’re given to do their job?  There’s a wide gap between the two.)

What would you change about the company is you could?  (This will give you a glimpse into how they view the company.)

Questions about the rest of the interview process:                 

Is there anyone else I need to speak with as a part of process? (Companies these days are notorious for not wanting to make a hiring decision. To support this behavior, many of them will throw in additional interviews at that final stage for additional reinforcement of their decision to hire or not hire.)

What is the rest of the process? (Do they know or does it sound like they are making things up as they go?)

When do you intend to make a decision? (Listen carefully to their answer. You will be holding them accountable to this if the process drags on.)

How many other candidates are you talking to? (You want to know as much about your competition as possible.)

When can I expect an offer? (You know what their offer would look like because the salary has already been discussed.)

Hope is a good thing

There are three ingredients in the good life: learning, earning and yearning.  Christopher Morely

I created RecruitingShingle to help those that are in career transition.  There are so many seemingly complicated moving parts to a job search; I want to help by providing ideas, clarity or understanding however I can.    But today, I want share with you a remarkable group of people.

Week in, week out, they are in the arena slugging it out working, striving, learning, networking, sharing, and growing.  They are way outside their comfort zone but they are doing what needs to be done.  So this week I dedicate my article to the job seekers and volunteers at The Southlake Focus Group (SFG).

By far, this group is the most helpful, supportive and, most importantly, useful organization in the Dallas / Fort Worth area to help those in career transition to find a new position.  I have availed myself of their services a few times over the course of my career.

They are always there willing to help and support you as you go about the task of finding your next opportunity.  One of the comments they like to make is “we’re sorry you’re here but we’re glad you found us.”

In my experience, these job seekers are in a constant state of learning.  They are honing their skills.  Getting better at giving their elevator pitch, updating their resume and cover letter, learning how to ask better questions in an interview, learning the intricacies of Linked In, how to be more productive with their time in networking and sharing opportunities and so much more.  These are all good things.

This group is also in a state of yearning.  Many feel their lives have been up-ended due to the loss of their job.  And they’re right.  Many have been out of work for a few weeks.  Many more have been out several months.  They are all yearning for their next position.

When I think about the word ‘yearning’ I think of the word hope.  And when I think of the word hope I also think of my friend Marvia.  I met Marvia several months ago while attending the SFG and its spin-off group HR Career Networking Group.

Marvia is one of those rare people who, once they enter your life, I hope you have the wisdom to recognize the impact they can have on you.  She inspires, offers hope and encouragement.  I have asked Marvia for help several times.  Each time she has responded with more than I asked.  And she does it with a giving attitude.  When I reached out to her for help again just yesterday she provided an array of ideas and suggestions.

She also followed up with a note indicating that she just landed a new position.  No one deserves it more.  Way to go Marvia!  I am so very happy and excited for you.  To say nothing of how proud of you I am.  You have taught me a great deal and I look forward to future lessons.

She also has a very inspiring blog.  You can check it out here: http://humanimpulse.wordpress.com/

Never stop learning.  Never stop yearning.  And do what you can to never stop earning.

Take The Risk

Without risk, faith is an impossibility.  Kierkegaard

I have posted previously about some of my favorite reading material.  Fortunately, that list keeps getting longer and longer.  I was thumbing through a book I read years ago and I came to a page telling of an interesting study.

The book is The Journey From Success to Significance by John Maxwell.  The title itself speaks volumes.  It assumes you’re starting from success and want to make even more out of your life.  A good portion of the population want to get to success.  Once there, they think they’ve made it.  Nope.  Success is just a stop-over on the way to significance.

Like the definition of success, the definition of significance will mean different things to almost everyone.  But stop and ponder that for a minute . . . .  Think BIGGER.  Don’t just define what success looks like for you.  Define what significance means to you and set your sights on that!  I promise you, the two are very different.

On to the study.  The following is quoted verbatim from pages 28 & 29 from The Journey From Success To Significance:

Anthony Campolo has recounted a sociological study in which fifty people in their late nineties were asked one question: If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?  It was an open-ended question allowing any kind of response, yet three answers kept surfacing from the people:

1) If I had it to do over again, I would REFLECT MORE.

2) If I had it to do over again, I would RISK MORE.

3) If I had it to do over again, I would DO MORE THINGS THAT WOULD LIVE ON AFTER I AM DEAD.

What a perfect description of the preparation for significance!  These near centenarians didn’t miss any of the traditional trappings of success.  They didn’t wish for more money, power or fame.  They wanted to get beyond themselves and do something that mattered, boldly and purposefully.  They recognized the value of a life given to significance.

“Get beyond themselves.”  What a powerful statement.  I submit that the reason most people will never achieve success (even as they define it for themselves) is because they can’t get out of their own way.  They find all the reasons why something can’t or won’t work.  As a result, they stay stuck where they are.

So what’s in your heart right now?  Is there something stirring there?  Is something speaking to you?  Don’t ignore that voice.  Listen to it.  Pray over it.  Act on it.  Recognize your gifts and that you have a lot to offer this world.  I have had the great fortune to see glimpses of how people view me.  Believe me, you engender more influence and respect than you think.  You are more powerful than you would ever believe.  Our Maker certainly isn’t in the business of making mistakes.  You have the power and all the tools you need to have a life of significance.  As Erika Napoletano has said: when are you going to admit that there is something glorious about being you?

Have you been out of work for a while and nothing seems to be going right?  Are all the doors being closed on full-time employment opportunities?  Maybe it’s time to take a look around for that window God opened for you.  Feel that breeze?  Yeah, it’s coming from somewhere.  Go find the source.  Maybe that opening leads to you starting your own business instead.  Maybe being an employee is not where you’re supposed to be.  Maybe you’re supposed to be a business owner and the one that offers opportunities to others.  Are you in a failing relationship?  Are you refusing to take ownership of your responsibilities to make things better?  Is it the right relationship for you?  Ask the tough questions and be honest with the answers.  There’s a better life out there…for every one.  Go and get it.  Make it happen.

If you step out and take the risk, might you lose? It’s a possibility.  Will the outcome be precisely what you were working toward?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Will you regret taking the risk?  Never.  If you step out and act on what’s in your heart I promise you, you will learn more about yourself and your limits (or what you thought were your limits) than you ever thought possible.

Words are important; tone is critical.

It’s not so much what you say, as the manner in which you say it.

It’s not so much the language you use as the tone in which you convey it.

“Come here!” I said sharply,

And the child cowered and wept.

“Come here,” I said

He looked and smiled

And straight to my lap he crept.

Words may be mild and fair but the tone may pierce like a dart;

Words may be soft as the summer air but the tone may break the heart.

For words come from the mind,

They grow by study and art.

But the tone leaping from your inner self

Reveals the state of the heart.

Whether you know it or not, whether you mean it or care,

Gentleness, kindness, love and hate

Envy and anger are there.

Then, would you quarrels avoid

And peace and love rejoice?

Keep anger not only out of your words,

Keep it out of your voice.

Is your job search going mobile? It should.

Here are some quick stats to get you thinking about one way you should approach your job search.

  • 1 in 5 of all job searches are now made via mobile (Google)
  • 30% of company traffic is now coming from a mobile device (WRC)
  • 63% of passive candidates used mobile to search for their next role (Educate)
  • 90% of smart phone users use mobile to read emails and search the web (ALP)
  • 61% of users will go to a competitor site if you do not have a mobile site (Forbes)

In my life there have been two distinct job-search worlds; one when I graduated from college, the other just recently.

Here’s what my job-search world looked like when I graduated from college:

I graduated in May of 1995.  The next month I got married.  At that point, we certainly had no money and only an idea of what we wanted our future to look like.  Obviously, the first priority was finding me a job.  It seemed only fair.  At that point, my wife had two.  Actually, I was working a retail position.  But it was time to find that ever elusive “career” track.

Back then I read the want-ads in the Sunday paper and circled the best possibilities.  Because we did not have a home computer or printer I would find some time during the week to go over to my father-in-law’s office and use his.  I would update my resume and write a cover letter, print it out and put it in the mail.  So after reading an ad on Sunday I would be lucky to have my resume/cover letter in the mail by Wednesday or Thursday.  Talk about lag time.  Obviously, it was not the quickest or most efficient system.  But I had to use the resources available to me the best way I knew how.

Contrast that to what my job-search world looked like when I was searching for a new position just a few months ago:

This time, no want ads.  It would have been difficult to do that since I haven’t had a subscription to the paper in several years anyway.

I did lean on all the other avenues available to me, however.  The most valuable was my network.  I have spent the intervening 15+ plus years since my post-college job search building it and I knew it would be a powerful tool.

I also created several job-search agents on various job boards that met specific criteria I entered.  The various systems would then email me the daily results.  By the time I woke up every morning, I would have anywhere from a handful to several dozen opportunities waiting for me in my inbox.  Even before my feet hit the floor in the morning, I could respond to any particular opportunity I chose by submitting my resume which was stored on my smart phone.  I use the Galaxy S II and am a huge fan.

I had several versions of my resume to reflect various aspects of my career.  I could choose which one to send based on the details of the opportunity.  If a particular opportunity required me to make additional changes to my resume I would get on my laptop, make the changes and store the new version on my phone as well.

If a lead came through that looked really exciting I would get on Linked In and see if anyone in my network worked at that particular company.  I would then reach out to them and ask for their help in networking with the right people at the target company.

The best example I can think of to illustrate how things have changed in my two job-search worlds is this story:

I was meeting a member of my network for lunch.  I got there early and as I was a waiting, another member of my network who happened to be located in Pennsylvania had forwarded me a really good job lead.  I looked through the details, composed an email/cover letter and sent it off with the appropriate version of my resume.  By the time my lunch was over I had already received a response from the recruiter.

It’s fascinating to me how things have changed.  Years ago, looking through the paper it took days to respond. Today, anyone can receive and respond to opportunities in real-time all thanks to advances in technology, their network and their smart phone.  Did I mention I love my Galaxy S II?

If you don’t use your mobile device for your job search, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities.  The ability to respond to opportunities in a timely manner is essential.  Don’t miss out.

How should you submit a resume via email?

In your job search, a recruiter or hiring authority has asked you to send them your resume directly.  Or, perhaps someone in your network has told you “I heard about an opportunity you would be perfect for.  I know who you need to send your resume to.  Here’s the email address.”  They provide you with the email where they would like you to send it.

Ideally, the subject line should contain only three things: 1) your name 2) the word ‘Resume’ and 3) the city or location of the opening.  It should look like this:

Chris Gustafson Resume – Dallas

Those elements in a subject line tell the recipient everything they need to know about what the email is for and what it contains.  There’s no guess-work or excess information.  If there are any other details you believe should be included, I recommend you leave that for the text of the email.  I recommend adding the city because all too often recruiters or hiring authorities have multiple positions in multiple markets.  Listing the location is a very simple way for them to know where the candidate is located.  It also makes it easy for future searching.  Presenting your information this way prevents the recruiter from having to guess what email your resume is in or opening multiple emails trying to find the one with your resume in it.  Additionally, if it gets forwarded, more often than not, nothing needs to be changed in the subject line.  It’s already ready to go.

And another quick suggestion is to label (name) your resume with your name only; first and last.  Don’t put the date it was last updated or anything else.  It just makes things confusing. Ultimately, you want to make the experience of receiving your resume via email an easy experience.  Who ever you send it to will want to name it based on their system so having a lot of additional information is unnecessary.

Spelling 101

The importance of spell check cannot be overstated.  Weather you are preparing your resume, an email, a presentation, or another form of business communication you cannot skip this step.  It should go without saying but it is often overlooked.  ALWAY, ALWAYS, ALWAYS hit spell check.

I was once preparing a job-search email, hit spell check and realized I had misspelled the recipient’s name.  Had I not caught the error, my job-search query would have been over before it even began.  In my career I have seen countless resumes and cover letters with typos.  Those are the ones that do not make it to the top of the stack.  A major and consistent complaint from job applicants is that they never hear back from employers after applying for a position.  Many candidates would do well to go back and double and triple check there documentation.  Their “hit” rate might increase if they do.

Once you have gone through the spell-check suggestions be sure to re-read your whole document slowly to ensure you have used the correct words (or have not omitted a word).  You many have spelled “there” correctly so it will not flag as an error.  But do you need to use “their” instead?  Or “whether” instead of “weather”?  Spell check won’t let you know that’s wrong.

Did you notice when you spotted the errors in this post how it distracted you from the message?  That’s what those types of errors do…take away from the message you are trying to convey.

Happy hunting!

Want a resume that writes itself?

Moment of truth…does anybody enjoy updating their resume?  That’s what I thought.  I think it’s safe to say most people don’t.

Your resume is one of the most difficult documents you will ever have to write.  That’s because there is usually so much at stake to getting it right.  And even if you happen to get everything right that doesn’t mean it will ensure a quick transition or that you’ll get called every time you submit it.   If you are updating your resume there is a really good chance you are experiencing some major changes.  I believe that writing a resume is a very stressful exercise.

Add to the mix the fact that it’s tough to remember all the details of all the great things you accomplished over the years.  That all adds up to a lot of pressure.  Over time memory fades.  The details become blurred.  What’s the best way to overcome all that?  I have found it to be a resume that writes itself.

The best resumes are full of specific details.  Those details include almost anything you can substantiate by numbers including but not limited to:

  • Money saved
  • Specific percentage increases in good things such as revenue, sales, quota, productivity, growth, etc.
  • Specific percentage decreases in bad things such as turnover, cost over-runs, expenses, etc.

You might be saying “Well that’s great Chris but how do I manage to pull all of that from the deep, dark recesses of my memory and get it on paper?”  If you use this very simple system, you will not have to remember any of it.  It has proven itself time and again over the years.

Every time you start a new position take a file folder (yes, an actual manila file folder to keep in your drawer) and label it RESUME.  If you feel uncomfortable with that particular label, you can certainly use anything you like.  I like keeping an actual file folder in my desk drawer for a few reasons.  First, it’s easy to reach over and grab.  Secondly,  it’s not a file in your email system on your work computer.  Storing things on your work computer can be a gamble.  Third, on your last day, you can grab the folder, throw it in your bag and take it with you.  Your computer stays behind.

On a post-it note, write the month, day and year you started your new job as well as the complete address and phone number.  You think you will never forget your work number or the zip code at the office but it never fails, you will.  We all have so many other things to remember that are more important.  That information will be needed when it comes time to completing applications for your next job.  It’s a sad fact that these days, the average job lasts a mere three years.

Now, every time you accomplish something at work like smashing a company record or completing a project early and/or under budget, write the specific details on another post-it note and slap it in your file.  I like using post-its because they won’t fall out of the file folder.  You can use index cards or a regular sheet of paper if you like but I am used to post-its.  They are always sitting on your desk and they’re quick to grab.  Jot the details of the accomplishment along with the date and off to the file it goes.

What are the specific details to include?  The ones you can substantiate with numbers; the amount the project came in under budget, the amount of time the project was completed early, the amount of money the company will save.  If you write the details down as they happen, you won’t have to remember them later.  This system is fast, easy and painless.  No more wracking your brain for details years down the road.  By the time you need to update your resume again, pull out your folder and see that you have already written it.  All you need to do now is make it look presentable.

No matter what your line of work, you’re in sales.

After recruiting sales people almost exclusively for the past 13 years, I have come to view the job-search process as a sales process. Here’s why I think you should too.

If you are looking for a new job, you will be required to sell yourself, your skills, experience and training. Like it or not, you are now officially in sales. It makes no difference what your background may be. If you make the connection and see the similarities between the sales process and the job-search process, it will be much easier to navigate through it.

Some people have a difficult time tooting their own horn. Others find it difficult to even list the successes they have had in their career on their resume. They become uneasy in their own skin when circumstances require them to do so. If it has been awhile since you have had to create a resume I understand how difficult it can be. And by ‘awhile’ I mean 10 years or more. Things have changed dramatically since the last time you had to dust off your resume. I’ll address crafting a resume in subsequent posts.

At its most basic, the sales process consists of only a few steps:

  • Prospecting – What companies or people do you want to seek out? This also includes networking and getting referrals.
  • Setting appointments – How many interviews are you scheduling?
  • Making your presentation – Performing well in the interview.
  • Handling objections – Address their questions about your background and sell your skill and experience as the solution to their needs.
  • Closing the sale – Ask for the job!

Let’s start with prospecting:

You have lost your job and now you’re looking for another. Tell everyone you know. Your first thought might be to keep the information to yourself and I understand that. However, you need to overcome that initial instinct so you can prepare for what’s to come.

Telling your story often you will find you can never know where the next lead or opportunity will come from. They can literally appear from out of nowhere. Until you opened your mouth, you had no idea your neighbor of 15 years is a good friend with the hiring authority for that choice position you are after. Or, the high school or college buddy you haven’t seen or talked to in the past 20 years reaches out unexpectedly. You talk and find out he or she is well-connected in the industry you are trying to get into.

In these situations, you will need your connections to refer you to the people you need to get to. Likewise, the more people you talk to, the more referrals they are likely to provide. They can provide job leads you were unaware of, they can give you names and contact info of people at your target companies and they can uncover additional sources of leads. All of those activities can be considered prospecting. And you thought you weren’t good at sales.

Next is setting appointments:

On this step there is no direct correlation between the sales process and the job search. In sales, one can call prospect after prospect until they have the necessary number of appointments set to meet their goal. When looking for a job, unfortunately you cannot call every company you would like to work for and set interviews with the hiring managers. It would be nice if it worked that way but I’m quite certain those hiring authorities will have something to say about that. Instead, be ready when your phone does ring and a recruiter wants to schedule an interview. The goal is to have so many opportunities working at one time that you can have multiple interviews in any given week.

There is a good chance that your first interview will be a phone interview. If you successfully pass that test they will be scheduling the follow-up face-to-face (F2F) interview. And like the professional sales person you are, you want to schedule that next interview before you are off the phone. It may not always happen. But at the very least you want to ask the question: “Let’s go ahead and set that interview now. Is Thursday at 2:00 or Friday at 11:00 better for the hiring manager?”

Phrasing it that way is called the alternate advance. Give them an option to choose from. If neither of them works for the hiring manager they have to say so and will more than likely come back with yet another alternative.

Making your presentation:

This is the F2F interview. You are prepared, your resume is letter-perfect and you are exhibiting confidence and energy. Thinking like a professional sales person, what are they really good at doing? Asking questions. A professional sales person likes to get the other person talking. They listen more than they talk. Your job in the interview is to ask questions as well. What are the potential employer’s pain points? What are their biggest problems? If you were to start tomorrow what needs addressing right away? Find out by asking.

Handling objections:

By uncovering their issues you can craft your responses specifically to their needs; all based on your skills and experience. It is important to keep in mind that nothing about this process is about you. It is all about them and their needs. Solve their problems and you will be certain to stand out above all the other candidates.

Closing the sale:

After you have made your presentation and overcome their objections it is time to review a few things before closing the sale. You should review the process with them and ask about next steps. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Is there anyone else I need to speak with as a part of process? (Companies these days are notorious for not wanting to make a hiring decision. To support this behavior, many of them will throw in additional interviews at that final stage for additional reinforcement of their decision to hire or not hire.)
  • What is the rest of the process? (Do they know or does it sound like they are making things up as they go?)
  • When do you intend to make a decision? (Listen carefully to their answer. You will be holding them accountable to this if it drags on.)
  • How many other candidates am I competing against? (You want to know as much about your competition as possible.)
  • When can I expect an offer? (You know what their offer would look like because the salary has already been discussed. More on this in subsequent posts.)

If they dance around any of the questions pin them down. You can do that in a professional manner. Do not leave the interview not knowing the next steps and timeline. Sure, things can change but that just gives you permission to continue following up.

If you can envision yourself working there be sure to ask for the job. Tell them you can see yourself working there and would like the opportunity to do so. Keep in mind there are professional sales people who have difficulty doing this and it is their career. Feeling a little nervous is ok. But it is important to overcome that fear.

The salesperson that never asks for the business will never feed their family. It’s the same way in looking for a new position. When interviewing, you can never expect an offer if you do not ask for it. You would be surprised how many candidates never ask for the position at any point in the process.