If you’re one of the millions of Americans having trouble finding a job right now, there might be something you could do to change your fortunes. John West Hadley, an expert on job seeking, is giving a talk specifically aimed at those who feel like their job searches are going nowhere.
Hadley will give a presentation on “What’s Blocking Your Search?” on Saturday, July 18, from 8:30 to 11 a.m. at the St. Gregory the Great Networking Group at the SGG Parish Center. For more information, E-mail at CSGatSGG @gmail.com or visit www.jhacareers.com.
Hadley grew up in northern New Jersey. After graduating from Stanford University, Hadley worked as an actuary in the insurance industry for 20 years. Thirteen years ago he started his career search counseling business. He publishes a monthly career tips E-mail newsletter to 9,500 subscribers. Hadley’s father was a partner in a Wall Street law firm and an expert in the trusts and estates. His mother was a long time substitute teacher in the Maplewood/South Orange school district.
Hadley is a frequent writer on job searching techniques, and wrote this article on interviews:
Interviews are critical to career success, whether you are looking for a new job, or simply seeking a promotion. In fact, the internal interview can sometimes be the trickiest, because we are lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that it’s “among family,” when in fact a poor performance can reduce your long-term career potential.
Many feel like an interview is a minefield, where one must take careful steps to avoid the pitfalls that could prevent a job offer. This is the wrong attitude, one of desperation that often sabotages you. Instead, you must approach it with an air of confidence, which comes from proper preparation.
The first step in a successful interview comes long before the actual meeting, perhaps even before you are thinking of making a change: Developing compelling accomplishment stories.
The key to a compelling story is twofold: challenges and results. You need to tell what challenges you faced, and how you overcame them, and the result you achieved for your employer. This is where many job seekers fall down. They talk about how they developed a new product, or reported the financial results, or designed the illustration system. While this may be important, it’s not what gets the hiring manager interested. What an employer WANTS to know is whether you can produce results: that you developed a product that increased revenues, or reported results in a way that facilitated more effective decision-making, or designed an illustration system that saved the cost of purchasing and installing an expensive vendor system. . . .
With your compelling accomplishment stories in hand, boil the key ones down into one or two line bullets for your resume. After all, you need to have a resume that is a strong sales brochure. Often, the resume that will make the difference in getting you the interview; and it’s the leave-behind that reminds the hiring manager of what set you apart from other candidates.
Many forget about crafting a high-quality resume for an internal interview. If you really want the best shot at that internal promotion, you should have just as professional a resume as if you were seeking a job with a different employer. Plus, since so many neglect to do so, this can set you head and shoulders above the internal competition.
Next you need to research the opening. Read the company’s annual report to get familiar with its market and the issues it is facing. Use your networking contacts to find out everything you can about the company and its culture, the position, the department, and issues facing that particular area of the market. Get any materials you can from the employer or recruiter in advance of the interview, particularly a job description and organizational chart. Review the job description carefully to see what specific skills, qualities and areas of experience they are most interested in. Then think about which of your accomplishment stories will best illustrate those. Make a mental checklist so that you can be sure to find ways to weave those key stories into the interview.
Now for the interview itself. The opening salvo should always be your two-minute pitch, your strong answer to the standard initial request “tell me about yourself.” You should have practiced a good answer to that until it practically rolls off your tongue in any interview situation. This should be a quick summary of the skills, quality and experience you bring to the table, and the highlights of your job history. It should never be more than two minutes long, just enough to get across the highlights without boring your interviewer.
And if your interviewer doesn’t happen to ask right away, ask it yourself. Say something like, “Would it be helpful for me to tell you a little bit about my background?”
Many candidates treat the interview like a Q&A session. The interviewer asks a question, they answer it, and repeat. The candidate then mentally pulls out his or her carefully prepared list of insightful questions, and now the Q&A reverses directions. This is a very uninspired interview process that rarely impresses the hiring manager.
You need to turn the interview into a conversation. While you don’t want to monopolize that conversation, you do want to ask questions every so often to gradually convert the interview into a comfortable give and take. This will develop rapport with the hiring manager, and will give you a more complete picture of the company, and its priorities.
A powerful way to do this is by occasionally giving a short answer. For example, the interviewer asks you “What is your greatest strength?” You respond, “I consider myself particularly adept at project management, building an effective team, and mentoring my employees to enable them to perform at their best. Which would you like me to talk about first?”
Finally, don’t forget the all-important thank you. Even if you meet six different people during the interview process, make sure to write individual notes to each of them, ideally within 24 hours after your visit. This is a simple professional courtesy, and since many candidates don’t bother, it again differentiates you from your competition. The thank you is also an excellent chance to reiterate what specifically you bring to the table, or to bring up a talent you forgot to mention or highlight in the interview that occurs to you might be important to that employer.