Category Archives: Interviews

An email to remember

As the Steelers were marching on their way to the Super Bowl a while ago, I had a candidate from Pittsburgh with the email address of “steelman”. The manager in charge chuckled after the final interview and asked me, “Did you see his email address? I’m pretty sure who he wants to win the game.” That email address made the candidate memorable in a good way.

Hands Writting, Invitation, Typography, Calligraphy

If your email address is anything but your name, make sure it is memorable in a good way. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. The success of the person you hire will be directly linked to you and your career as a manager. There are three strong candidates and you can’t decide which one to hire. Your eyes stray to the email addresses. One is “ironwillsmith”, next is “bryandilts” and the third is “womanhaterjones”. I guarantee “womanhaterjones” will be eliminated. The other two will have a positive or neutral effect.

Be careful how your email address looks. It is hard to believe, but people actually try to find a job with obscene and hateful email addresses. If you have any doubt about the appropriateness of your address, sign up at gmail or yahoo for an address to use only for the job search. 

Vanilla is fine. Positively memorable is fine. An Offensive email name may keep you from getting hired. 

Something to do today

It is probably not your problem, just check your email address anyway.

Don’t dig your own grave in an interview

I had a guy come in for an interview after a depressing few months of job hunting. Within 5 minutes it was obvious why no one wanted to hire him. What really killed him was that it wasn’t his fault, sorta, why he left his last 3 jobs.  If your boss won’t explain what you have to do so that you can understand it, it isn’t your fault, sorta.  When you finally decide not to work 50 hour weeks any more, it is not your fault you quit.  And an affair with your boss that ends unhappily is certainly not your fault, is it? And every detail was explained in the interview. Worse, when questioned, “Do you explain this to everyone you interview with?” the answer was, “Of course, I can’t lie about it.”

He was digging his grave with his own hands.  He would shoot himself to prove why gun safety is important.  In a game of checkers he would explain why he made each move so he didn’t surprise his opponent.

We worked for an hour to give him answers that were true and made him look discrete and loyal.  Near the end he said, “I guess I am going to have to learn how to lie.”  He didn’t understand. We explained, “In 20 years you won’t tell all the heart wrenching reasons you left your recent job, so don’t tell them now.” He just couldn’t accept that.

What to say 

For any negatives, acknowledge them very briefly, and also find the good side of that experience.  I said, “Acknowledge them.”  I did not say, “Explain them.”  In almost every negative situation there were some positives.  Think of what those positives were and emphasize them. Explain the positives and not the negatives. Here are examples: 

Your boss didn’t train you:

“I was very grateful for that job, but I needed an opportunity to grow more. I had a strong boss who taught me about leadership.”  

You left because of long hours:

“My boss taught me a lot, but we disagreed on working conditions.  It was great to work directly with an entrepreneur like him.”

The office affair went sour:

“That was a great company, but I left because of the office atmosphere. My trainer at that company was brilliant.  I learned a lot about business as well as the technical side of my job.”

When someone asks you more about the negative, refuse to talk about it.  Instead, talk about the positives you brought up.  It is called loyalty when you refuse to discuss unimportant tidbits of gossip and concentrate on the positive. Another word to describe it is discretion.

Something to do today

Make a list of all the things you mention in interviews that just don’t sound good.  Figure out how to mention them in 5 words or less.  Then figure out 2 good things you can mention that are related to those negatives.

12 tricks to stand out in your next interview

A moth trap can teach you how to stand out, be remembered, and be hired. The principles can be used in interviews, resumes, and networking.

The moth trap in our pantry is supposed to be much better than the average one. It has the same sticky glue and pheromones, but instead of just a white sheet of cardboard, it has black stripes on it. I don’t know if it really is better, but I paid a few dollars extra for it. If it is better, great. I made a great decision. If it is only as good as the cheaper trap, I still made a good decision. Either way the trap will catch the bugs before they lay eggs in our flour, cornmeal and popcorn. I get protection either way, and maybe I get a little better protection with the more expensive traps.

In every interview you have to have something that sets you apart. It is nice if it is a huge difference, but that is not absolutely necessary. One of the reasons a college degree or certification in your field is valuable is because it sets you apart. People can remember how you are different and hopefully better. Other things that can set you apart are:

  • Putting yourself through college
  • Courses you have taken
  • Projects you have lead
  • Having lots of kids… or having no kids
  • Your volunteer work
  • Your passions and hobbies
  • Dressing sharper than is required
  • Shoes that shine like the sun… or suede tennis shoes
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Someone you know who already works there
  • Long hair… or a marine haircut
  • Something amazing and relevant you did in high school

Remember why I bought the expensive moth trap. It MIGHT be better. Anything you can do to show you just might be better than Mr. Bland will help. 

For the moth traps, it was just a black stripe on cardboard. What is it that you can do, say, be, or show that makes you worth a few extra dollars?

Something to do today

Every time someone is hired at your current job, go find out what was different about that person. When you are told, “They were more qualified,” ask, “Were there any small details that seemed to confirm that they were better?” You may be surprised what little details separate first place from no place at all.

Getting the best benefits out of your next job.

One of our candidates was offered six weeks of vacation and personal time per year.  It wasn’t a matter of begging, pleading and negotiations.  It was just offered. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure she did anything special in the interviews.  She was just worth it to the company that hired her.  

Put on the brakes and read that last sentence over. The way to get more vacation is to be so valuable to the company that they offer it.  I’m always pleased when a job offer comes in with three, four or five weeks of vacation. It means that the job and the candidate matched well at a highly skilled level.

A recruiter is the best person to get better benefits for you.  They can tell the company exactly what you currently have at the beginning of the process. They can suggest an extra week of vacation will sweeten the offer.

With or without a recruiter, the time to negotiate for vacation time is after the company has decided to hire you.  If you ask for an extra two weeks of vacation in the first interview, you won’t have a second interview.  A key question you may be asked is, “What is your current compensation package?”  That means they want to know the full cost of hiring you.  It is a very different question from, “What do we have to pay you?”  When the company is asking about your current full compensation you can give them the whole story including pay, vacation, personal days, car allowance, 401K matching and healthcare costs.  Telling the HR person or the hiring committee in your second or third interview your full current pay and benefits is not threatening. Telling the first person you talk to that you need 5 weeks of vacation along with a 30% pay raise and every other Friday off is a mistake.    

So, getting your recruiter to get that fourth week of vacation is the best idea.  The time for YOU to ask for more vacation is when the company already knows your current vacation time and wants to hire you.  Then you have some leverage. And the most important point is to make sure you are worth the extra vacation time.  If the company wants your skills enough, they’ll give you all the vacation you want.   

Something to do today

Find out from your HR department what your full benefits package is worth.  You need to know vacation days, personal days, sick days, pension contributions, 401K matching, their healthcare costs and what exactly is your contribution to healthcare.  You can add your salary, bonuses and expense allowances to the list.  You may be surprised at the cost of your benefits, and it will be a great thing to know when asked in your job interview. 

It is just about the end of the quarter.  Monday would be a great day to give your supervisor a list of your major accomplishments for the quarter and year so far.

10 questions to ask during your interview

Dare to be different. Different like the cartoon roadrunner, not like the coyote. Everyone likes the roadrunner. He has an infectious smile and inventive ways of getting safely past the coyote. 

Companies hire to fill a need. By asking the right questions, you can find out what that need is. Just by finding out that need, you may get the job. When your interviewer feels they are understood, they are likely to say to themself, “This candidate will be a great team member since they understand what I need.” Then you are hired.

Phone, Business, Person, Lifestyle, Males, People, Man

You may want to consider using a variation of these questions which I got from Danny Cahill:

  • When you made the move to come here, what was the most compelling reason for YOU? 
  • What keeps you here?
  • I’m looking for a leader who I can believe in and whose coattails I can ride. Tell me your ambitions. 
  • What do I have to do to get your job? 
  • You’re not hiring because everything is wonderful. What are the problems that need solving?
  • Companies hire short term solutions to short term problems. How can I stand out in the next 60 days?
  • I’m happy to give you my references, are there people here or at some other company that I can talk to about you? 
  • Profile your top performer for me. What do they do that makes them so much better? 
  • When it comes to work, what keeps you up at night? 
  • Do I have your vote? Are you going to recommend I be considered? 

Something to do today

Make a list of questions you can read over before every interview. You will be amazed how often the right question will help you in a tough situation.

Ask these questions to stand out in an interview

Salespeople who earn over $100,000 per year know how to ask questions. Then they ask another related question. Top salespeople get smart people to say, “He’s right, I need his help.” They do it without telling how smart they are. They do it by asking the right questions.

Your job interview is a sales meeting. You need the interviewers to “buy” you. Getting a job at McDonalds is just like getting a CEO’s job. You have to convince the interviewers that you can do the job and that you are the best person available. 

Everyone says, “I’m the best.” You will be expected to list your accomplishments. You will proclaim yourself a team player. “I’ll do whatever it takes,” will be a key phrase you will utter, just like everyone else. I’m still waiting for the candidate that says, “I hate people. I refuse to work hard. If possible, I will drive this company into the ground.”

So, be different. Ask great questions. Here is the first one:

“How will I be measured in 12 months time if I take this job?”

Or use a related comment and question:

“Everyone is hired to fill an immediate need. So, what problems do I get to resolve in my first two months?”

Are you getting the idea? Tomorrow I’ll give you a list of some more questions I have gleaned over the years.

Something to do today

Make a list of at least 3 questions or topics you should ask about in every interview. 

Now think about the exact wording. Can you make the questions show your keen interest in doing a great job and helping your team? 

Learn the basics before you experiment

Most of my kids at one point or another play some sort of instrument. When kids first play an instrument they mash keys on a piano or play with the strings on a violin. To them, it sounds really good. To other people, not so much. Eventually they get to learn in classes and through books how to play. Of course most people will want to learn how to play the hit songs or their favorite songs immediately. Of course that’s not how that works. 

You have to learn the basics before you can become good. Lots of my kids can tell you that learning their notes and the basics can be annoying or tedious. But once they learn them (and learn to practice them right) they realize how important they can be, even if it is more fun at the start to mash keys on a piano. Fun doesn’t mean it sounds good.

When going into interviews, learn to give the correct response, even if it’s boring. Then experiment with different answers or variations to improve it. 

Learning comes in stages. First you have to learn to give a correct response. It may be dull to learn and practice, but you will be right. After you know a correct response and why it is correct, you can experiment with different answers. Eventually you will come up with much better responses than you were originally taught. But every once in a while you have to go back to what you started with. You have to check what you are now saying against what really needs to be said.

The next few days are going to be going over interview questions you need to ask. I’ll start out with the basics. They are the questions that work in every interview. Then I’ll go to questions that set you apart in an interview.

I suggest you repeat your practice questions aloud 3 times before you go in for an interview. When you are in the interview, don’t worry about getting them word perfect. You’ll have the ideas cemented in your brain. You’ll be prepared to set yourself apart from the competition by the questions you ask.

Something to do today

Make a list of at least 3 questions or topics you should ask about in every interview. 

Now think about the exact wording. Can you make the questions show your keen interest in doing a great job and helping your team? 

Dress right for each situation

Anna Nicole was a stripper-turned-actress. She used clothes as a weapon. To win a Texas millionaire husband she dressed provocatively. Then her husband died and she was fighting to get her inheritance in court. She showed up at the US Supreme Court dressed conservatively in black. Anna Nicole effectively used clothes in both cases.

Are you as smart as she is?

First off, if you won’t be happy at work unless you have pink hair with cheek, nose and tongue rings, and a t-shirt with a provocative theme, wear them all to the job interview. You may as well find out quickly if you fit in.

If you don’t really care what you wear, dress conservatively. Guys, remove all earrings (not gauges — those look awkward when they’re missing). Girls, one pair will do, maybe two conservative pairs. Ask someone who is a manager in a similar company to help you choose what to wear. Tell them to be brutally honest. Then follow their advice.

Make sure that your clothes all fit. Guys, if you need bigger pants, get them. Using hydraulic equipment to tighten up your belt looks terrible. Girls, make sure your bra fits and is not a distraction because of bulges around the edges. Both of you, if your shirt buttons are strained at all then the shirt is too small. 

You need to find out if you should wear a suit or business casual. If you have any doubts, ask. Your recruiter or the HR person who sets up the interview will tell you.

Are you smart enough to dress yourself? Then dress yourself to get the job. 

Something to do today

Find your clothing advisor. Make it someone at the level of your interviewers if you can.

When you’re replacing the interviewer

Jill had to interview with the person she was going to replace. That person was being fired. It was an uncomfortable situation. Let’s make it worse. That person thought he was irreplaceable. No one could possibly know accounting like he did. No one would work as hard. Jill couldn’t possibly win.

Jill didn’t pass the interview. She won anyway.

It was a chance to spy, do business intelligence and find out about the other leaders. A month later the managers who allowed this curmudgeon to reject her came back to Jill. They came on bended knees. It was a terrible mistake they admitted. But that terrible interview gave her insight to ask difficult questions of those managers. Jill quickly found out that she didn’t want to work for them. We found her a different job that was a much better fit.

If you are thrown into the lion’s den, take advantage of it. You can turn the interview around and find out about the company, the leadership and the rest of the team. You may be able to find out where the company is really going. Find out who the biggest competitors are. One of those competitors may want to hire you. The possibilities are only limited by the questions you ask. 

Take a hostile interview and turn it into a learning opportunity. You don’t have to let anyone beat you down. 

Later, if you are in a friendly interview, the same questions can show your interest in the company, job, and industry.

Something to do today

In your journal write down questions you can ask in an interview. What would help you in your job search? Showing interest in the company, competitors and industry will actually make you look better in the interview.

Each stage of the interview is important

One recruiter had a candidate going for a final interview. It was a nice executive job. He was ushered in to talk to the board of directors. They shied away from him during the introductions and after barely 15 minutes he was dismissed. He did not get the job.

The recruiter was baffled. He called the CEO and asked, “What happened?”

The CEO replied, “You’ve seen that our building has mirrored windows all around. It looks like a silver cube. We were in the first floor conference room finishing a little business when your candidate drove up. He got out of his car and walked right up to the windows of our room. He took a quick look at himself in the glass. He saw something he didn’t like so he spat on his fingers and rubbed down an errant lock of hair. He liked that better, but he was still uncomfortable. He undid his belt, reached into his pants to adjust himself then buckled back up. Do I need to tell you more about why we declined to hire him?”

The second you drive onto the company property, you are on stage. Many managers ask the receptionist what you were like in the waiting room. That is particularly true of sales candidates (they want someone who tried to get information from the receptionist). The HR (Human Resources) interview may be as important as the interview with the CEO. Every phone call is important. You may be competing against 10 or 20 other candidates. 

Be yourself. Be your best self at all times.

Something to do today

Think of your last three interviews or job hunting phone calls. How did you do? Did you treat each contact with professionalism?