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Career-Life Times, Issue #55--How to Do a Job Interview Self-Assessment
January 15, 2009
Happy New Year!
A while back I sent out an e-mail asking, "If you could have a private conversation with me—or any other career expert—what two questions would you ask?"
The e-mails came flooding into my inbox. I am completely stunned by how many people took the time to write back to me!
(By the way, if you haven’t written yet, I would still love to hear from you. My email link is at the bottom of this newsletter.)
One thing is clear: there are a lot of you who are very unhappy with your job, or incredibly frustrated that you can't get ahead in your career.
I want to help all of you. What I'm doing right now is compiling and organizing all the questions that were sent in. Then I’ll determine the best way to answer them. Because most of the questions are about important issues that can affect so many people’s careers, I’m going to make all the answers available to all of you (rather than responding individually to each questioner). Due to the volume of questions, I don’t think doing that in this monthly newsletter would be practical.
But I do have a plan that I think you’ll like. I have a few details to work out, but hope to have something for you soon. Please stay tuned—and thank you for your patience!
Now, on with this issue…
There’s no such thing as a bad job interview, because every interview gives you the opportunity to practice, learn, and improve your interview skills. Think of it this way: you are either succeeding or learning; you are never failing.
To ensure you maximize your learning experience and thus do better next time, assess your performance after each job interview. Here’s how:
Immediately after the interview, find a quiet place (perhaps your car) and write your answers to these questions:
1. What questions were difficult for me to answer?
2. How did they catch me off guard?
3. What made me uncomfortable about the interview?
4. Did the interviewer ask many follow-up questions? (If so, this may mean you didn’t answer the questions in sufficient detail.)
5. Which of my responses impressed them the most?
6. What do I wish I had said or done differently?
The next day, look over your answers and add anything new that occurred to you after a good night’s sleep.
Now that you’ve assessed your performance, you’ll know which areas need improvement. Then get busy and get ready for your next interview… just in case you don’t receive a “When can you start?” call this time.
Nancy prepared long and hard for her job interview. She researched the company, studied the job description, developed and practiced answers for likely questions, dressed appropriately, and arrived early. She really needed the job!
At the job interview, Nancy answered every question well.
Unfortunately, her behavior sabotaged her performance.
When introduced to the interviewer, she said, “Thank you so much for seeing me. I really need this job.” After answering one of the questions, she added, “I hope I answered that sufficiently for you. I really need this job.” As the interview was ending, the last thing she said was, “Thank you for the opportunity to interview for this job. I really need it!”
Nancy, like many other job candidates, believed that letting the interview know she really needed the job would help her to get it.
But that’s not true.
As a matter of fact, being “too desperate” for the job is one of the most common reasons hiring managers will reject you, regardless of your qualifications. If they know how desperate you are, they will wonder to what lengths you will go to get the job—would you exaggerate on your résumé or lie during the interview? You don’t want them wondering about things like that. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity, but don’t be a “Needy Nancy.”
Here are six other behaviors to avoid during job interviews (despite the names, all behaviors apply to both men and women):
“Overly Familiar Fred” behaves like he’s best buddies with male interviewers, and flirts with female interviewers. He’ll smile, wink, joke around and try to come across as God’s gift to the hiring manager. It’s OK to be friendly and charming to a point, but there’s a line you should never cross. Professionalism is paramount. Don’t be an “Overly Familiar Fred.”
“Aimless Amy” behaves like she wants a job… and any job will do. It’s obvious to hiring managers that she doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. Be prepared to communicate clear career goals and give compelling reasons why you want the specific job for which you are interviewing. Don’t be an “Aimless Amy.”
“Rambling Randy” behaves like he’s trying to win a talking contest. He goes on and on, telling personal stories and getting completely away from the point of the question. Listening is as important as talking. Don’t talk just to fill a temporary silence from the interviewer. Stories are good, but they should be relevant and brief. Don’t be a “Rambling Randy.”
“Emotional Emma” lets her feelings interfere with her performance. If a tricky interviewer insults her appearance or skills to gauge her reaction, she’ll become visibly upset—perhaps even burst into tears or hurl insults back at the interviewer. If you have a temper or cry easily—or tend to get overly nervous—focus on remaining calm during the interview, no matter what. I’m not saying you should hide all emotions; no one wants to hire a robot. Let your personality show. But don’t be an “Emotional Emma.”
“Arrogant Andy” behaves like he’s doing the hiring manager a favor by coming in for an interview. He speaks in a condescending tone when answering questions he feels are beneath him. He enjoys bragging about his accomplishments, never mentioning team efforts. He is confident that his qualifications are far superior to those of other candidates. He’s sure the interview is just a formality, and believes the job is his if he really wants it. No matter how qualified you are, it’s more important to be likeable. No one will hire an egotistical jerk. Don’t be an “Arrogant Andy.”
“Timid Tina” behaves like she’s afraid to be noticed. She avoids eye contact, speaks in a quiet voice, answers questions with the fewest words possible, and rarely smiles. When asked if she has any questions as the interview winds down, she quickly says “No,” and looks longingly at the door, eager to escape. Many people are shy; very few people enjoy being interviewed. But no matter how desperately you wish someone would hire you based solely on your résumé, it’s not going to happen—you’ll have to talk your way into the job. Force yourself to show confidence and enthusiasm. After all, you have a lot to offer! You can’t offer anyone anything if you’re afraid to be noticed. Don’t be a “Timid Tina.”
Remember, at the job interview, your behavior outweighs your answers!
The U.S. unemployment rate has recently jumped to a 14-year high. At the same time, we are being told to prepare for a long, drawn-out recession. If you are currently in the job market or expect that you may be in the not-too-distant future, you are certainly aware that the job market is fierce. But even in the fiercest of job markets, hiring continues. The challenge, of course, is to get YOUR phone ringing and to get YOU in the door to interview for these positions.
Now, more than ever, you MUST find a way to stand out and to break ranks with all the other candidates in the hiring line. Your resume—your first introduction to those with the power to hire you—doesn’t merely have to be good, it has to be incredible.
Professional resume writers work with thousands of job seekers, each one an individual, yet all with one thing in common: they need a resume that will make them stand out from their competition, promoting themselves as THE best solution to an employer’s needs.
While every single one of these job seekers is unique, professional writers know the secrets to creating attention-getting and job-winning resumes that get results even in the most competitive of job markets.
How do they do it? The truth is that the best resume solution and strategy is often as unique as the individual client. But, to develop those solutions, there are seven steps that the best professional resume writers carefully think through prior to tackling any new resume writing project for a client.
As you work on developing or refining your own resume—as you try to come up with ways to transform your background into a job-winning resume—it may be helpful for you to work through the same seven steps.
Step #1 - Know your goal
What is your current career goal? What profession? What industry? What professional level? Knowing your objective and your goals for a job search is the foundation of not just your resume, but of your entire job search.
Unless you know where you are going, you will have no idea what the focus of your resume must be and you won’t have a clue how to begin writing it. Don’t expect a busy employer to figure it out for you.
Your resume must have a precise focus and it must convey that focus in five seconds or less. If it doesn’t, it will be discarded. It is that simple. Every word and element of your resume must support your focus.
Step #2 - Know your audience
Now that you know your goal, you are in a position to begin thinking about the recipients of your resume. What are the expectations and requirements of a candidate for the job you are targeting? What are the problems that a person in your ideal position is likely to be faced with? In what way will the company profit from having an exceptional performer in the position you are targeting?
Remember that the person doing the hiring has problems that they are hoping their new-hire will solve. What are those problems? Do they need to increase sales? Reduce costs? Increase productivity? Improve efficiency? If you clearly identify the problems of your target audience, you can construct an entire resume focused on how you are the ideal candidate to solve them.
An employee is an investment, and if you create a resume that proves you have VALUE to offer and will produce a better RETURN on that investment than the next guy, doors will swing open to you.
Step #3 - Know your competition
Who is your competition in the job market? What qualifications might they have that you don’t have? What qualifications might you have that they don’t have? For most situations, I’m not referring to specific individuals. Obviously you wouldn’t want to violate the privacy of any specific person competing for the same type of job. But, there is definite value in trying to define your competition in generalities. What types of qualifications does the typical candidate have for the job you are targeting?
Knowing your competition is a key part of Step #4…
Step #4 - Clearly identify any challenges or problems that your resume must address
Okay. Now that you know where you are going, know what your audience is seeking, and know what your competition brings to the table, you are ready to fully define the problems that your resume must overcome.
Some of those problems might be obvious. Work-history gaps, concerns about age discrimination, and multiple job changes are among the most common. But, you may have identified others. Are there key qualifications you are lacking? Educational requirements that you don’t quite meet? Ways that your experience doesn’t quite stand up to your competition? Whatever those problems might be, make sure you define them. In the next step, we will begin to solve them.
Step #5 - Be willing to throw the rules out the window and think outside the box
Now, take everything you have ever learned about resume writing and forget it. Well, maybe not everything, but at this point you definitely do need to begin thinking creatively and strategically.
Remember that a resume is essentially an advertisement--a personal sales pitch. Resumes are NOT autobiographies! They are marketing documents meant to sell you as the ideal candidate for a position. Everything about the content, the structure, and the design of your resume should be strategically and selectively included, excluded, highlighted, or de-emphasized.
Always be meticulously honest, but be willing to think outside the box and present your background in a format and structure that will be most flattering to you in relation to your career goal.
Do you want to be one of a kind? Or do you want to be one of many?
Your resume is meant to make you stand out and shine. You will NOT achieve this by following some rigid template that doesn’t have the flexibility to showcase your unique qualifications.
Step #6 - Differentiate yourself
When you considered your competition in Step #3 did you also identify exactly what it is that sets you apart from your competition in the job market? If not, now is the time to think about that.
Infuse your resume with your differentiating personality, passion, and expertise. This is probably THE most important factors that makes a resume stand out. So many resumes are terribly generic and cookie-cutter. They are boring, read like a job description, and all look the same.
Your resume should emphasize your differentiators and distinguishing qualifications rather than just the baseline qualifications that are common and expected in your profession. Additionally, it isn’t enough to tell a reader that you have certain abilities; you must show them through examples of achievements. Prove impact! Forget about cliches and jargon. Soft skills are often important, but even those should be backed up by specific accomplishments that illustrate them.
Step #7 - Reframe, reposition, reformat, and redesign
It is really all about how you frame and position your experience, your achievements, your educational background, and any other qualifications. Once you get to this step, you are ready to begin writing your resume. Take what you know about the expectations of your target audience, combine this with your understanding of the competition, your differentiating value add, examples of your past achievements, and the problems you defined in Step #4, and start writing your resume.
Perhaps you are making a career change into a completely new profession. Much of your past experience is transferable, but this might not be immediately obvious to the resume recipient. How can you “reframe” your past experience to selectively emphasize the transferable skills and de-emphasize those that will no longer be relevant?
Is there a qualification you are lacking for the position you are targeting? Perhaps some other experience you have had has helped you to develop this qualification in a non-traditional way. How can you “reposition” that experience to illustrate the qualification in question?
Maybe you are returning to a career path that you veered away from ten years ago. Your recent experience is not as relevant as your past experience. What opportunities do you have to “reformat” your resume to bring the older skills to the forefront?
Or maybe you have a couple of big gaps in your work history. Can you think of a way to “redesign” your resume to take the visual emphasis off of the chronology/dates of your experience and place it instead on your achievements and results?
If you aren’t sure what the best resume writing strategy is, create several versions and ask your friends and family for feedback before choosing the one you use in your search. And, if you get stuck, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional. Professional resume writers can often provide solutions that you would never have thought of on your own.
Certified resume writer and personal branding strategist, Michelle Dumas is the director of Distinctive Career Services LLC. Since 1996, Michelle and her team have empowered thousands of professionals all across the U.S. and worldwide with outstanding resumes and other job search tools. Michelle is also the author of 101 Before-and-After Resume Examples.
More Articles. You can find more articles on my website by clicking on Article Index. Here are a couple of new ones you might enjoy:
Phishing in Plain English. This video isn't career-related, but is helpful information for anyone who uses email and the Internet (that's YOU!): CommonCraft.com/Phishing.
Resources for "Overqualified" People. Potential employers often use the word "overqualified" when they really mean "too old" because it's illegal to discriminate based on age. If you're fed up with the way older workers are treated, here are some sites you may find useful. Some of them charge fees.
Job Interview Success System. This is my guaranteed step-by-step system to help you ace your next job interview. See the details here: Job Interview Success System.
is to create it."
Asking for a Raise
One day Joan sent a letter to her boss asking for an increase in her salary:
In thi$ life, we all need $ome thing mo$t de$perately. I think you $hould be under$tanding of the need$ of u$ worker$ who have given $o much $upport including $weat and $ervice to your company .
I am $ure you will gue$$ what I mean and re$pond $oon.
The next day, Joan received this letter of reply:
I kNOw you have been working very hard. NOwadays, NOthing much has changed. You must have NOticed that our company is NOt doing NOticeably well as yet.
NOw the newspaper are saying the world's leading ecoNOmists are NOt sure if the United States may go into aNOther recession. After the NOvember presidential elections things may turn bad.
I have NOthing more to add NOw; You kNOw what I mean.
President George W. Bush recently designated three remote Pacific island areas as national monuments to protect them from energy extraction and commercial fishing. It's the largest marine conservation effort in history. Not bad for a president who's environmental protection record is pretty poor, eh?
The three areas—totaling about 195,280 square miles—include the Mariana Trench, the deepest spot on earth at 36,000 feet below the sea. Each location harbors unique species and some of the rarest geological formations on Earth—from the world's largest land crab to a bird that incubates its eggs in the heat of underwater volcanoes. All will be protected as national monuments.
I don't know about you, but that makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over!
So, what did you think of this issue? Any suggestions? Topic ideas? Questions? I really appreciate your feedback. Please send me a note at Bonnie@Best-Interview-Strategies.com
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P.S.S. I apologize for the glitches (especially in links) you may see if you receive this as straight text. If you can receive your email in HTML format, choose that and it'll look better. (There may still be some odd formatting quirks, though.)
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