If anyone could or should write a book about the job-seeking process, it would be Mary Anne Kennedy, co-founder of a longstanding networking group for the unemployed and under-employed, a former human resource executive with Bristol-Myers Squibb, and principal of her own HR consulting firm, MAKHR.
Kennedy, in fact, had been working on a book for about a decade, but had never managed to get it published. But then a few events occurred that finally kickstarted the book writing process.
First she gained some insight into just how useful her HR experience could be. When Stephen McCarthy — the son of the man who cofounded the St. Paul’s Church networking group with Kennedy in 2001 — was looking for his first job, Kennedy coached him on how to respond to interviews. When he indicated that sales was his dream job, and she asked him why, he responded, “Because I love people and love to travel.”
She had to tell him that his answer was not a good one. “I said to him that in order for a company to be interested in someone, you have to prove to the company the value that you bring; you can’t make it about yourself. You have to figure out what’s in it for them.”
She then suggested a more effective response. “Sales is something I’m interested in because whenever I believe in something, with my personality and my successes so far in life, I will be one of your top sales folks; I believe in your product, and if you need me to travel, I’m open to that.”
To a different question that Kennedy happens to dislike, “Where will you be in five years?”, Kennedy suggested this answer to Stephen. “I’m not sure. The world is changing very quickly; the business world and the economy are changing quickly. But here’s what I know: I will be in a leadership role wherever I land; I will be in a leadership role in your company, too.”
Stephen’s response to the wisdom she shared was to enthusiastically encourage her to write a book. He said, “You are a great motivational speaker, and you know all this stuff that we were never told when we graduated from college.”
Humbled by his words, Kennedy thought that perhaps she did have something of value to share with recent graduates or people trying to land their next career moves. She told Steven, “If and when I write this book, I will dedicate it to you.” Kennedy kept her promise and dedicated the book to him.
Then she read an article about Marie Galastro, a book publishing consultant, in U.S. 1 (March 16, 2011), and she decided to give her a call. It was the start of both a friendship and mentoring relationship. “Marie literally took this book that’s been in some sort of form for the past 11 years, and she’s the one who made the book come to life in 2012,” Kennedy says. “She’s the one who said to me she really believes in this book.”
From that moment, Kennedy dived into the book-writing process. The book, “Finding the Right Job: A Step-By-Step Approach,” is now in print (and available for $14 from Kennedy’s website — www.makhr.com), and Kennedy will discuss it on Friday, November 16, at 10 a.m. at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, go to www.makhr.com or call 609-924-9529.
Kennedy’s book is a tool for job seekers not to just find a position but to find the right position. “There is a methodology to the job search,” says Kennedy. “The search starts with knowing what it is you want to do.”
Right out of high school Kennedy started work at Purolator, where her father was the credit manager. In 1982, when she was temping as a secretary and administrative assistant at J.M. Huber, the human resource director witnessed her skills and hired her to replace his assistant while she was out on maternity leave.
Kennedy started college when her third daughter was five and it took her a decade to get her degree taking classes at night; she graduated from Thomas Edison State College in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in social science.
In 1988 Kennedy moved to Herman Miller Office Furniture as human resources manager, staying nine years, until the company closed its New Jersey site. Then for five years she did consulting, finally landing a consulting job at Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2001. The next year she was hired and served as director of strategic staffing on the pharmaceutical side; of staffing on the manufacturing side; and of human resources for the global supply chain.
As Kennedy pointed out in a story in U.S. 1 (April 30, 2008), the state-of-the-art interview process is through a technique called behavior-based interviewing, based on facts and not gut feelings. Kennedy advises job seekers to be aware of the distinction between a judgment and a behavior. “There are three components to behavior,” says Kennedy. “It is observable, specific, and fact-based. Completing the budget ahead of schedule, for example, is an observable behavior. The statement ‘I am a team player’ is a judgment. When you go with the facts, you make better decisions.”
Job applicants should be prepared to provide examples of their abilities. “Tell me about a time when you were in a situation and people didn’t get along,” an interviewer might say. “Give me the situation, what actions you took, and what was the result.”
Or the interviewer might ask the applicant to describe a problem they solved in a “unique manner.” Or: “What kind of software do you use? Can you give me examples of how you did an implementation of specific software?” A smart candidate, Kennedy advises, should have some good answers.
As one who has been on the other side of the interview desk, Kennedy has lots to say about that process in her new book. She reminds job seekers that, when they reach the interviewing stage, there can be three different types of interviews awaiting them.
They are the phone screen, the traditional one-on-one interview, and the “group or panel interview,” which “may include 3 to 10 people on an interview team, interviewing one potential candidate, all at the same time. A well prepared group interview team will have assigned specific questions for each interviewer. As the candidate, it can be an intimidating situation, but remember the interview is an information gathering session. You are interviewing all of these people as much as they are interviewing you. Be sure to give eye contact to each person on the panel with each question, but pay particular attention to the person who has posed the questions.”
Through it all, Kennedy advises, “be engaging and interested. Show enthusiasm, be articulate, clear and concise. Give appropriate eye contact. Respond to the question and then be silent. Do not ramble. If you feel you haven’t responded appropriately or clearly, ask the interviewer if you answered their question.”
Kennedy emphasizes the value of occasional silence. “Know when you have completed your thought, and stop. Wait for the next question. Too many times people think it’s better to add more details, but that’s not true. The more concise the response, the better. So get comfortable with silence . . . The last thing you would want to receive as part of the feedback from an interview that didn’t go well is ‘he/she just wouldn’t stop talking.’”