Monday, October 25, 2010

Interview Follow-Up with a Recruiter

By Gladys Stone & Fred Whelan, Monster Contributing Writers

After you scrupulously prepared for the interview, wore all the right clothes and nailed the interviewer's questions, now the interview is over. So what's next?

How do you make sure the company knows you are even more interested in the opportunity? How do you get to the next step in the process? If you're working with a recruiter, this is where he can earn his keep.

If you got your job interview directly through the company, all your communications will be with the hiring manager and/or HR representative who is coordinating the search. The protocol is slightly different when you are working with a recruiter, since there is another person in the communication loop. When working with a recruiter, follow these steps for your interview follow-up:

Call the Recruiter for Interview Feedback

Make the call soon after the interview, while your impressions are fresh. This is your opportunity to debrief the recruiter about the interview -- what went right and what didn’t -- from your perspective. Be honest. Explain whether you clicked with the interviewer or not and if there were any glitches in your answers. If you gave an answer you wished you could take back, now is the time to bring it up so the recruiter can potentially clarify this with the client. The recruiter will also take this opportunity to provide interview feedback to you from the client, touching on specific positives and negatives and what the next steps will be.

It's always good for the recruiter to know what you, the candidate, are communicating to the hiring manager, so he will likely ask: Did you send a thank-you note? Your note should be a two-paragraph message, thanking the interviewer and letting her know you thoroughly enjoyed meeting with her. This is the perfect opportunity to state that you are even more interested in the job (if this is true) and that you hope to move to the next step in the interviewing process. Include a sentence or two reiterating the top skills you have that will help the company grow its business. Keep it brief! Although a thank-you note to the interviewer is a must, it's not necessary to send a note to a recruiter, but it's appreciated.

For Subsequent Rounds, Let the Recruiter Take the Lead

If things went well enough in your initial interview, the hiring manager will want to bring you back for a second interview to meet with more people at the company. The recruiter will coordinate all subsequent interviews and give you background on the people you will be meeting with, including their titles, experience and what they will be looking for during the interview. The recruiter should also tell you what type of interview to expect.

Remember to also send thank-you notes to the people you interview with during subsequent rounds. Briefly thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in working at the company. You'll want to get interview follow-up from the recruiter on this round as well.

Remember: Recruiters are paid to act as the intermediary, so leverage their talents in this role. They should know the hiring manager well and be able to ask for candid interview feedback. Don't be afraid to use their knowledge to your advantage.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Top 14 Interview Questions: How to Cut Through the Clutter

Questions are the key of any interview. While that’s an obvious statement, what isn’t quite so obvious is deciding which ones to ask.

Interview questions can be inappropriate (“Is that your natural hair color?” or “Can I buy you a drink after we’re through here?“). Or illegal (So, what religion do you practice?). They can also be routine (“What is your greatest strength and weakness?“). A few may be outright bizarre (“Why are manhole covers round?“). And some just shouldn’t ever be asked.

Certain questions are better than others in generating revealing answers from a job candidate.

The most effective ones require candidates to think quickly on their feet, give transparency to character traits and reveal how they will perform on the job. This is especially important as the hiring market has been flooded with a bevy of talent—you will have to carefully examine each individual to narrow things down and find the best and brightest candidate.

Below are 14 inquiries hiring managers have shared as being most beneficial. They range from basic to very straight forward–and even include a couple of curve balls. Consider these questions, the basis for asking them, the answers you’d provide, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What circumstances bring you here today?
This very open-ended question will surprise many candidates in getting things started. But it gives context for the candidate’s situation, such as whether or not they have any problems with their current employer, what motivates them and their goals. If they do not respond quickly, just sit quietly and wait for the response. “My parents said to get a job or get out” should throw up a very big red flag.

How would your best friend describe you?
This response typically indicates how the candidate wants you to feel they are perceived by friends. Take notes and then ask, “May I call your best friend and see how they describe you?” You may or may not be interested in doing so, but the response and body language that follows can indicate if you received a truthful response. Asking this question near the interview’s beginning helps get truthful responses for the remainder of your time with the candidate.

What would you say are your two greatest weaknesses and how do you work at overcoming them?
Most interviews contain the “What are your greatest strength and your greatest weakness” question. But this question focuses more on the candidate’s ability to identify the need for personal improvement. Ideal responses include honest recognition of issues and a plan they are already implementing to overcome them. Some candidates may even be able to turn their weaknesses into a positive, indicating strong alternative thinking and sales skills. Watch out for candidates who say they have no weaknesses.

How do you alleviate stress?
Every job has stress. If someone says they handle it fine without doing anything, it may signal that they’re either lying or don’t know how to control it. Look for positive activities or hobbies. If the response is “punching stuff” or “weekend benders,” it’s not a very good sign.

How do you typically deal with conflict?
As with stress, conflicts are something we deal with frequently. And uniquely. They can range from disagreeing with a supervisor to lunch preferences and cubicle decorations. Most employers look for someone who can manage these issues without getting frustrated. Ask for real-life examples or offer a hypothetical scenario and ask how they would handle it. “Punching stuff” or “weekend benders” are bad answers for this as well. As is this.

What are three goals you’ve achieved this past year?
Another twist in the usual “what are your short- and long-term goals” question, the response to this usually reveals if the candidate has personal or professional goals and their achievements. Lack of a quick response may indicate they don’t plan ahead. A negative answer shouldn’t be considered a bad thing if they qualify it with the fact that they are still working on achieving something. Responses which indicate drive, planning and good work/life balance for both short- and long-term initiatives are the best.

What was a major obstacle you overcame in the past year?
Problem solving is a key requirement of any candidate. This question reveals several things: What kind of thinker are they? Can they do projects on their own or does a manager need to hold their hand? It also confirms how determined they can be toward a project.

How do you raise the bar for yourself and others around you?
This gives the interviewer an idea of who is an above-average performer. It also demonstrates leadership potential and the willingness to be a team player.

Tell me about two memorable projects, one success and one failure. To what do you attribute the different outcomes?
The answer will reveal the candidate’s ability to learn from mistakes and achievements.

Where do you see yourself in five months?
Another twist on an interview fave. Typically, people ask the “five years” variety to gauge drive and long-term goals. But with today’s uncertainty, the answer could realistically be “living in Hooverville.” Brave ones could respond with “your position” or the exceptionally brazen “supervising you.” But the five-month angle reveals short-term goals and level of confidence for not only getting, but succeeding in, the new position.

What are the first five things you would do if you got this position?
Reserve this one for the mid- and senior-level candidates. The most competent ones will already have several things in mind, revealing how they go about problem solving and navigating interaction with co-workers.

What could your current employer do differently to be more successful?
This reveals the situation they are leaving behind, and whether they are a bitter, insubordinate or constructive criticizer. Press for details, such as if they ever communicated or initiated actions to improve upon the situations. This will reveal if they are a catalyst, a malcontent or just full of complacency.

What risks did you take in your last position?
Generally, risk takers are more successful than more passive individuals. While you don’t want someone who always throws caution to the wind, this question gives insight into the wisdom (or lack thereof) of risky decisions they made and the results that followed.

How did you prepare for this interview?
The answer is relevant to whether you prefer those who wing it or people who gather as much information as possible. Most will assume someone who willingly offers they are winging it are either incredibly bold or downright clueless. But if they answered well on all your previous questions, it’s a good sign they can improvise on the job.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Five Steps to Beat Job Search Procrastination

By Bill Knaus, EdD, author of End Procrastination Now

Procrastination dooms most job seekers to a sluggish search. Overcoming this complex human problem takes more than a "just do it" slogan to fix. You can start now to give yourself a winning edge by using time you'd ordinarily spend procrastinating to productively pursue job opportunities. You'll gain more ground in your search while others procrastinate.

Here are five quick tips to cut through procrastination barriers, find a great job and get hired.

1. Recognize the Problem

Unless you know when and how you procrastinate, you are likely to stay in a job search rut. So what is procrastination? It's an automatic problem habit where you postpone a timely and relevant activity until another day or time. When you procrastinate you always sidetrack yourself with a diversion, such as playing computer games, daydreaming, wringing your hands about whether your resume is good enough or complaining about a dead job market. You will almost always justify the delay, such as by telling yourself that you need to think more about your career. Once you realize what you do when you procrastinate, you can see the vulnerabilities in this process.

2. Commit to a Productive Direction

A commitment is a pledge that you'll follow through responsibly. However, promissory note procrastination can waylay that pledge. This is where you make a commitment and then automatically find ways to delay. Promissory note procrastination normally follows the double-agenda dilemma: wanting to meet the commitment (the stated agenda) but succumbing to a hidden agenda, which is to wait until you have an easy time of it. You can cancel promissory note procrastination by following three steps:

· Making a plan.

· Setting a time to begin work on your plan as soon as possible.

· Committing to work on your plan for five minutes, after which you decide whether to continue for another five minutes. The five-minute technique helps you get past inertia that can unravel your best intentions.

3. Refuse to Accept False Excuses for Delays

False optimism feeds procrastination. You routinely con yourself into thinking that later is a better time to start. This thinking takes many forms. Later, or maƱana, procrastination thinking, is that tomorrow will be a better time to do what you put off today. It rarely happens that way. Contingency procrastination thinking moves you to a complex new level: You tell yourself you'll go on your job search after, say, you've read the relevant books on how to create a great resume. Then you either put off buying the books or put off reading them once you buy them. You worsen your situation with Catch-22 procrastination thinking. You tell yourself that the job market is too tight, so why try? This type of self-handicapping virtually guarantees a self-fulfilling prophecy. How do you stop this automatic negative thinking? Start with awareness. If you recognize procrastination thinking, you have a fighting chance to shift to do-it-now thinking: doing reasonable things in a reasonable way within a reasonable time to profit and flourish.

4. Build Foresight

Procrastination is partially due to a normal human tendency to go for what is easy and avoid complexities and uncertainties. This survival tendency worked well when we roamed in small tribes 1 million years ago. You had a better chance to survive by grabbing a handful of nuts and berries than planting a wheat field and waiting to harvest it. The process of planning for the future was a radical shift in human evolution that came much later. Today we have both capacities: to go for what is easiest, as well as to plan and act to get a bigger long-term reward. Procrastination comes into play when primitive urges interfere with working toward that bigger long-term gain. To get past this natural short-term gain trap, see beyond the moment. Accept the fact -- even if you don't like it -- that to do better, you need to take a longer-term view and take the essential steps to get a great job. Act on that belief and you have fewer false rewards from complaining or playing a video game. (Here's more about prioritizing strategies for achieving long-term gains.)

5. Put Yourself on a Fearless Job Hunting Path

The path of a fearless job hunter is the path of a realistic optimist. Commitment, hard work and practicality pave the path. Procrastination is a sinkhole on the way. When procrastination interferes with your job search, disappointments can turn to discouragements that translate into future delays. As a fearless job hunter, you keep your eye on your priorities and manage your expectations by expectancy thinking. With expectancy thinking, you concentrate on what is likely to yield the best results in furthering your job search. For example, if networking has the highest yield, and you spend most of your time on the low-yield activity of reading want ads, then making a radical shift to networking sidesteps the procrastination sinkhole. (Here's more about fearless job hunting.)

[Bill Knaus, EdD, is the author of more than 20 books. His most recent are End Procrastination Now (McGraw-Hill 2010) and Fearless Job Hunting (New Harbinger, 2010).]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

5 Ways to Get Past 'You're Overqualified'

by Liz Ryan

When you write career-advice columns as I do, it's easy to get the idea that you've heard everything. Of course, as soon as I think that, along comes an email message from a reader to bust that notion apart. Here's an email message I recently received:

Dear Liz,

A person at the Workforce Development Center told me to take my BA degree off my resume so as not to intimidate employers who don't require a college degree. What do you think?

Thanks, Eliza

This is a new low--advising job-seekers to deny their hard-earned bachelor's degrees! That advice, of course, is ridiculous. We don't have to pretend to be less-well-educated versions of ourselves in order to get hired. We do need to spend a little time figuring out what the employer is looking for--what business problem lurks behind the job ad. Here are five ways to stay in the pipeline when you're applying for jobs you could do in your sleep:

Address the need, not the requirements.
If a job ad asks for candidates with three years of experience, the last thing you want to do is to write, "I have 18 years of experience!" in your application or cover letter. Employers get skittish about highly qualified candidates because they fear these folks will bolt for a better opportunity at the first chance.

Improve your odds of getting an interview by addressing the business pain, instead of the listed requirements. In your cover letter, you can say, "I can only imagine that looking after dozens of suppliers and keeping on-time deliveries and supplier quality at a high level are constant priorities." Let the manager know that you've slain his particular dragon before. That will help neutralize the fear that you're too experienced to do well in the job.

Say why you're interested.
If you're actually looking to downshift in your career, for instance, or would trade a loftier title for a shorter commute, say so in your cover letter! "I'm especially interested in the job at Acme Explosives because I prefer startup energy to the huge corporations I've worked in for the past decade." Be specific. If an employer sees a logical reason for you to prefer her job even though you've held bigger positions, that will help you get over the hump.

In the interview, talk about them.
Nothing is more appealing to an employer than to have a job-seeker talk about the company, rather than blather on about himself. "I've done blah-dee-blah-blah-blah" is hard to listen to for long, but "I'd love to know more about your purchasing process--how does it work?" is not. If you keep the focus on the job and use your brilliant questions to show your understanding of, and curiosity about, the organization, you'll help allay fears that you're just looking for a safe harbor until the dang recession blows over.

Probe for the pain.
Think about the most common obstacles you've run into when you've performed similar work, and ask your hiring manager about them. "A lot of companies run into supplier-quality issues--but maybe that's not a problem for you?" is a great interview question. Most likely, the purchasing manager will say something like "No, we've got our share of that"--and then you can say, "I'd love to hear about it!" The more you learn about the pain, the more aptly you'll be able to tailor your stories to let the manager know you've slain his most annoying dragons already.

Don't make it about salary.
If you apply for jobs you could have done (or did do) 15 years ago, you're not going to be able to hold out for a massive salary. One of an employer's most understandable fears about hiring overqualified people is that they'll walk in the door and ask for a salary bump a month later. Let the employer know that you're game to grow with the company, if you are, and that there are things (flextime perhaps, or the ability to work from home sometimes) that trump dollars and cents. Keep the conversational flexible and problem-solve-y, and keep the focus on solving whatever problem the employer is facing.

If you're asked, "Will you make a two-year commitment?" answer, "I will if you can do the same thing." That is supremely reasonable. Employers need help, and you've got lots to offer. Don't deny your education and your work history--change the conversation instead!

Liz Ryan is a 25-year HR veteran, a former Fortune 500 VP, and an internationally recognized expert on careers and the new-millennium workplace. Connect with her at (The opinions expressed in this column are the author's.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

7 Ways Your Resume Dates You

Porcshe Moran

The turbulent economy has forced many people to go back into the job market for the first time in years. If there is a thick layer of dust on your resume it might be beneficial to learn the new rules of resume writing and presentation before you start submitting applications. Even the most qualified applicant might not get called in for an interview if his resume creates the impression that he is out of touch with the current business environment. Do not assume that an impressive cover letter can serve as a substitute for a poorly written resume.

1. References Upon Request

There is no need to waste valuable resume space on this outdated section. Employers assume that you will provide references if asked. Instead, keep a separate page with the names and contact information of your references ready to supply to the employer once you have advanced in the interview process.

2. One Resume Fits All

While it is smart to keep a master resume on file, you need to customize it to fit each job for which you apply. Job-seekers who take the time to tailor their resume to the employer's needs will stand out from the pack. Eliminate the details that don't apply to the position and emphasize the ones that make you look the most qualified. It might take a little extra time to apply using this technique, but it will be worth it when your interview offers increase.

3. Objective Statement

The professional summary or profile has replaced the objective statement. Employers are focused on what candidates can do for them, not what the business can do for the candidate. You will sell yourself better with a concise bulleted list of the qualifications and accomplishments that make you a match for the position.

4. Single-Page Resume

One of the most touted resume rules is that the document must be one page. Many people will go to extremes to follow this command, resulting in tiny, unreadable font sizes just to avoid having a resume that extends onto the second page.

Unless you are a newcomer to the job market, it is entirely possible that you'll need more than a page to adequately showcase your skills and qualifications. If you have enough job experience that fits the position, it is acceptable to extend your resume length to two pages. Keep your resume succinct and relevant, but don't go under a 10-pt. font size.

5. Lack of Social Networking

Websites such as Facebook and Twitter might be considered distractions in the workplace, but they can be an asset on a resume. Employers want to know that applicants are up-to-date with current technology and communication trends. Links to a professional online portfolio, blog or LinkedIn page should be included in your resume header. There is a good chance that employers will do an internet search to find out more about potential employees, so make sure that all of your social networking profiles project a professional image.

6. Too Much Information

It is not necessary to give your life story on a resume. In fact, providing an employer with too much information can be detrimental to your chances of employment. Delete information about where and when you graduated high school. Ditch irrelevant jobs from 15 years ago. Although it was standard practice in some industries years ago, it is now inappropriate to include personal details in a resume such as information about your hobbies, religion, age and family status. Not only does it look unprofessional, but that information could be used to discriminate against you.

An employer will ask if they want to know why you left previous positions, so don't mention it on your resume. The rule of thumb is to pare down your resume to only include things that show why you are the perfect fit for the specific position for which you are applying.

7. Outdated Terminology and Skills

Skills in obsolete computer software and systems should be removed from your resume. Technical experience is critical in nearly every industry and employers often use technology keywords to find resumes in electronic databases. Listing basic computer skills such as word processing and using an internet browser is not recommended because employers will assume that you have those proficiencies. The job description is the best guide to determine the terminology and technology skills that should show up on your resume.

The Bottom Line

In a fast-paced and competitive job market the parameters for writing a resume continue to change. Resumes that do not reflect knowledge of the current needs in the workplace and the new rules of how to present yourself to an employer will likely end up in the trash.