By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC, www.redincllc.com

This is one of those job interview questions that will be asked by the savviest of interviewers. Although it’s positively heart-stopping to be on the answering end of this question, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you want to know how this seemingly fabulous person ended up on the job market? It’s similar to finding a used car that’s only got 1000 miles on it and is 3 years old; just a little too good to be true, and you can’t believe that no one else has discovered this amazing find.

Your challenge is to not give the interviewer any ammunition to rule you out of the game.

  1. Never, ever, ever give the appearance of a grievance against a former employer. Most people know that they shouldn’t say anything, but body language and awkward pauses will give it away. Practice your cover story with a friend to provide a seamless, brief explanation. Then shift the conversation to what interests you about the job you’re interviewing for.
  2. Never speak ill of any of the tasks you performed at your current or a previous job. ANY tasks. You might think that this new job would provide a blissful escape from the tedium of your last one, and so you gleefully explain to an interviewer all of the mind-numbing things you previously did. However, your interviewer is thinking about the similar (but different) mind-numbing tasks of this position and decides that you would quit after the first month. There’s no reason to hire you if you’ve already given them a reason for you to quit.
  3. Also, you don’t want to speak ill of your co-workers. This world is too small, and good jobs are too few to take the chance.

So what CAN you say?

  1. That you wanted a new opportunity, and you’ve taken your current or past position as far as you could. You’re proud of accomplishing X, Y and Z, and now feel that it’s time for you to learn a different aspect of the business, or to work for a bigger (or smaller) company. The key here is to focus on the future.
  2. If you are applying for a job that touts flexible hours, work from home or excellent benefits, you can mention those qualities as a reason to look into this new position.
  3. That you weren’t really looking, but this job caught your eye so you thought you’d find out more about it.
  4. If you were terminated from a previous job you can say that you were laid off as a result of a company-wide restructuring or budget cut, if it’s the truth. In many cases you can simply say that and let it go.

However, if the company is going to call a previous employer to verify that you worked there, they can ask them if you are eligible for rehire. If you were let go for a disciplinary action, then the answer would be no. If you suspect that this scenario could happen to you, the best course when asked this question in an interview is to very briefly admit what you did wrong and what you would have done differently.

I’ll hire a candidate who shows genuine remorse for doing something wrong over one who gives me the impression that they’re hiding something when I ask about their termination. This answer absolutely must be practiced, but if it’s handled correctly, it’s not a problem for an employer.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

By Melanie Szlucha, Redinc, LLC www.redincllc.com

We all know that people form impressions based on the smallest details. Perhaps when you read this message line you laughed at how improbable it would be to NOT get a job offer because your handshake was too strong or too weak.

Well, you’re right, it doesn’t work quite that way.  However, it is one of the details that people use to form an impression of you.

We’ve all been the recipient of those bone-crushing handshakes.  Think about the sense you get of the person who just delivered that blow. Do you consider them too aggressive? Inconsiderate? Powerful? Overcompensating? Overbearing?  Are you likely to want to shake hands with them again?  They could have a great personality and be a nice person, but nevertheless this detail is consciously or unconsciously collected in your mental database.

What about those handshakes that are the typical limp fish?  Or, those kind of “fingers-only” handshakes? They leave me with the impression that this person doesn’t want to get too close to me. I never get a warm, friendly, approachable vibe.

If I’m hiring candidates for a customer service or sales role, I’m definitely going to be either consciously or unconsciously influenced by how people shake my hand since this is how they would also represent themselves to prospects or clients. If it’s an internal role, it could be a small clue about their personality and how they work with others.

It is hard to describe a “perfect handshake”, but I strongly recommend that you practice with a partner who will give you honest and direct feedback about what you are doing wrong.  It might seem like a very minor detail, but when you’re interviewing for the perfect position you don’t want to take any chances.

Melanie Szlucha has been a hiring manager for over 10 years. She founded RedInc, LLC to help job seekers by writing effective resumes and coaching them through job interviews. She is available to teach classes as well as work with individual clients improve their results at any phase of the job search process. Find out more at www.redincllc.com

 

Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Never Accept a Counteroffer.”  Today, I sit down to write a very similar article.  Many things have changed over the years.  Technology has changed.  The job search process has changed.  We have all gotten older and wiser.  One thing hasn’t changed, however.  My advice to Never Accept a Counteroffer still stands firm.

The job market landscape continues to be a candidate-driven market, meaning candidates are in high-demand and companies who are hiring are working hard on attracting the right candidates to join them.  The US Unemployment rate as of November 2018 was 3.7%, the lowest rate since October 1969. (https://www.thebalance.com/current-u-s-unemployment-rate-statistics-and-news-3305733)

Not only are companies working hard to attract new employees, but they are also working hard to make sure they don’t lose you – the great employee they already have.  Reasons you might look for a new job could include:

  • More money
  • More flexibility
  • Better/different training
  • Challenges with coworkers/boss
  • Company culture
  • Better commute
  • Better benefits
  • Different responsibilities
  • Career growth

Before you decide to start to look for a new job, it is important to have the right conversations with your current boss/employer to make sure there is not a potential to better your current situation.  You might not know about a great project coming your way that would interest you – or that a raise has been planned and is right around the corner.  Also, if your employer doesn’t know you are unhappy with your circumstance, they can’t do anything to change it.  However, if you determine it can’t be fixed, you owe it to yourself and your career to understand what opportunities are available elsewhere.

The step to start to look for a new job, especially in this job market, is a big one.   Understanding the emotionality of going on an interview at another company makes you really think about what you don’t like about your current job or current employer.  With the current job market as active as it is, the interviewing and offer process for mid-level high-demand talent could be as short as 3 weeks – so hold onto your hat!

Receiving an offer from a new company and making the decision to accept that offer can be very exciting and for some, can be a very challenging process full of pros and cons. If you decide to accept a new job offer, prepare yourself to give your notice as well as to receive a counteroffer.

Preparing to give your notice is as important as preparing for an interview and can be an emotional process, especially if you have personal relationship with your coworkers or boss.  Follow the following steps:

  • Draft a respectful resignation letter, thanking your employer/boss for the opportunity to work for him/her.
  • Specify your last date of employment (always give a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice) and offer to assist with a transition plan.
  • Provide your contact information so they know how to get in touch should they have questions after you are gone.

This will provide a great amount of goodwill through your notice time and will also allow your employer to have a positive impression of you during your last two weeks.  Remind yourself that you made this decision after a lot of thought and this is an exciting time!

Here are some comments we have heard over the years from our candidates (this is what their bosses said when they gave notice….):

  • “This couldn’t be happening at a worse time.” (is there really a good time?)
  • “I thought you were really happy here. Let me see what we can do for a raise and don’t make any decisions until we connect again.” (as if you hadn’t made your decision already)
  • “You are going to work for who? Oh wow. I haven’t heard great things. Have you done your due diligence?” (casting doubt on your decision)
  • My personal favorite (because it was said directly to me): “I am not impressed.You qualify for a much better job than that one.”

It is important to remind yourself the reasons you began to look for a job in the first place and to be careful not to feel bad for accepting a new opportunity.  Counteroffers will mitigate the company’s initial shock of losing a great employee, but most often will not provide the long-term solution you are looking for.  The same circumstances that caused you to consider a change will most likely repeat themselves in the future.  Enjoy your new career opportunity!

Some people believe that the hardest part of the interview process is the initial phone interview. Refining your confidence and technique will help move you to the next step in the interview process.

First, if you have been chosen for a phone interview feel confident in your skills and abilities. Over the course of the first few days of a job posting, hundreds of resumes have landed on the hiring manager’s/recruiter’s desk. Out of all those resumes, yours was chosen, so you definitely have something they are looking for!

The initial phone interview is typically 30 to 45 minutes long. After the initial introduction and small talk, the hiring manager/HR recruiter should have enough time to ask about 10 questions to determine whether you are the right fit for the company and whether you have the skills to perform the requirements of the position.  A key tip for preparing for the interview is to print out the job description and make specific notes about your work experience that correlates with the tasks of the job. That way, when you are asked specific questions about your experience, it will be fresh in your mind and you can focus on building rapport with the interviewer instead of trying to think of specific work examples.

The phone interview is a great opportunity to obtain more information on the company you are interviewing with as well.  The recruiter or hiring manager should provide you a bit of background on the company during the introduction.  Please keep in mind that it is important to ask questions as well.  Be certain not to ask questions that are too general or about information you can find on their website.  You want to make sure they know you did research prior to your phone interview.  Example questions could be:  What do you like best about working here?  What does a typical day look like if I were to take this position?   I see your company has been in the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies, can you share what has spurred that growth?

The best way to prepare for any interview is to practice.  It may sound silly, but practicing in a mirror or with a friend is a great idea!  Make sure your answers are thorough but not too lengthy.  It is ok to say at the end of an answer “does that answer your question?” if you are not sure if you got your point across.  You want be sure to speak concisely and clearly and to develop a strong rapport with the interviewer.

Questions that are commonly asked during an initial phone screen are:

  • Please walk me through your job changes.
  • Why are you looking for a new position now?
  • What interests you about this position and our company?
  • Please give me an example of your greatest accomplishment.
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • If I called your former manager, what would he/she say about you?
  • What is your long-term / 3-year / 5-year plan?
  • Why should we hire you?

 

Finally, If you have a phone interview coming up, prepare well thought out and complete answers.  Make sure you focus on building a rapport just as much as answering questions – and be sure to thank the interviewer for his/her time before ending the call.  All of this preparation will make for a successful phone interview and will lead you to a face to face interview for sure!

Preparing for an interview is as important as going through the actual interview itself.  Proper preparation and research can mean the difference in advancing through the interview process to an ultimate job offer.

Know Your Audience

Before walking into the interview, it is important that you do some research first. Spend time learning about the company you are interviewing with. Use social media to understand what is important to them and what their mission and values are.  If you are interviewing with a company that produces a product, research their client base to better understand the market they sell to.  If possible, try to buy or use their products or services to gain insight. Using LinkedIn, educate yourself on the background and experience of those who will be interviewing you.  Understanding this information prior to walking into the interview will help you speak with confidence and will allow you to ask questions about the company at a deeper level.

Anticipate the Interview Questions

You may think it is easy to talk about yourself, but for most of us it is not. Make sure you rehearse answers to standard questions including:  Tell me about yourself, where do you see yourself in 5 years and what is your biggest weakness. Be prepared to highlight your accomplishments.  Know the specifics of how your experience relates to your future career path. Using the knowledge you gained from researching the company, anticipate questions directed towards your understanding of their industry and marketplace.

It is important to be ready to ask questions about the company, too.  Asking questions in the first interview about salaries and benefits is not something we would suggest.  Instead, ask questions including:  Why do you like to work here?  What would a normal day look like for me?  Keep in mind that this is also your time to obtain enough information about the company to make sure it will be a good fit for you.

Dress Accordingly and Get Your Mindset in the Right Place

Dress to impress! Keep your attire professional, neatly pressed and conservative. Even if your interview is a video conference, pretend you are there in person. Make sure you keep a calm composure that exerts confidence. Be mindful of your posture and body language. Body language can tell a lot about who you are without you saying one word. Practice good eye contact and smile –  the rest will fall into place!

From: the other side of the recruiting desk…..

Over the past 9 months, I have observed a new phenomenon – candidates are submitting their resumes for posted positions without their address included on the resume. WHAT?  No address?  I’d like to make the case for how important an address is on a resume.

Before I make the case, let me tell you that I have socialized this idea and tried to understand from a candidate perspective why there might be a reason not to include his/her address.  Answers have been:

  • “What? My address isn’t on there?  Yes, it is.  Let me check. OMG. No, it isn’t.  I didn’t even notice.  I’ll send you a new one.”
  • “I am open to relocation and I don’t want a company to not pick me because of where I currently live.” (ok….see below for a suggestion on how to handle this)
  • “Discrimination.” Just discrimination. Not a protected class, but a reason nonetheless.

 

To be quite honest, receiving a resume without an address is baffling to my left-brain. After all, I taught a college level course for years on how to write a resume. Start with name, address, phone, email address, etc.  Why wouldn’t you? That is what you are SUPPOSED to do, right?  Well, consider it something you should do and, if you choose not to include your address, have a good reason why.

Let me let you in on the other side of the desk – the recruiter’s desk.  What we see and how things work once a resume gets to our inbox – or into our Applicant Tracking System (ATS or HRIS system for recruiters internal to companies.) could be much different than you think.  I have heard things like “my resume goes into a black hole” and “I never hear back.”  Well, there might be a reason.

  • When you apply for a particular position through following a link, the link you apply through is like MAGIC to a recruiter because the software will automatically capture your name, email address, company – all of your details and will PARSE your resume right into my system. What this means is that it will pull your current address and put it in the ‘address’ field, your current company into the ‘current company’ field…you get the point. That way, when I search for you, I can search your last name, title, company – skills, certifications, etc. and find you readily.
  • This will ALSO attach your resume to a specific job opportunity that you applied to. So, for instance, if you recently applied for a Business Development Director position, your resume will be easily linked to that ‘job’ in my system so that I can review your resume and email you information about that job.  All of our interactions will be in an organized fashion and related to the position we are discussing.

Here are the things that can confuse our systems:

  • You use a different email to send me your resume than the one on the top of your resume.  Please use the same email for your job search at all times.  Sometimes, you will show up twice in our system.  (and PLEASE don’t use your work email address)
  • You use a different name on your resume than the one you typically go by.  (i.e. John Betters might follow up with an email from Mark Betters (he goes by his middle name) and it confuses the heck out of us!)  One time I had the same candidate apply to the same job with two different email addresses and two different names.  I reached out to schedule phone screens with both of them and then realized that they had the same phone number.  You could be thinking – didn’t she realize that the resume was the same?  When reviewing 40+ resumes and one is at the top and one was at the bottom, they all start looking familiar! 🙂
  • You don’t have an address on your resume.  Some systems will bump you out as an incomplete parse and you won’t be loaded properly.  Also, sometimes, we can search our entire database looking for candidates within 60 miles of a particular zip code. Without an address/zip code on your resume, you would not show up on those searches – at all.

So, for those of you who still have strong feelings about not including your address on your resume, let’s talk about what to do to make sure you don’t go in the black hole.  Options could include:

  • In your cover letter, explain that your address is not on your resume because you are open to relocation based on a new career opportunity. Only do this if you are NOT requiring relocation assistance.  Many clients will not pay for relocation expenses and it could hinder a recruiter’s relationship with his/her client if you are not up front with them.  If you are requiring relocation assistance, please be sure to tell your recruiter.
  • Link-In with your recruiter and send them a quick note to let them know what region/geography you are open to, so they can easily ascertain whether a particular opportunity is for you.
  • Get over it. Put your address on your resume.  If you are applying for a job outside of the region you live in, add your target location in your objective statement. (feel free to message me for suggestions on how to do this)

Addresses and resumes are like peanut butter and jelly.  They just go together.

In the interview process, your personal brand is very important to landing a new career. Your personal brand starts with your resume, doing an introductory call, and then a physical interview. Through the entire process your brand is being evaluated to see if you are the right fit for the position and the culture of the company. This brings us to the critical last step to the interview process, a thank you letter.

Most people think a thank you letter is intended to just thank the interviewer for his/her time and the opportunity. However, a properly done thank you note could be the difference of you getting a new career opportunity or not. Thank you letters open the door for you to do the following:

  • Remind the interviewer of your conversation
  • Fix any missteps
  • Reinforce your candidacy
  • Open the door for future communications

An interviewer has many conversations with many candidates. Even though each conversation is different, it is important for you to highlight key parts of the conversation that distinguishes your personal brand. Besides highlighting key parts, you now have the opportunity to clarify and expand on a possible answer to a question you may not have felt confident with. Remember in both highlighting and correcting, you should elevate what makes you the best candidate. Show enthusiasm for the position and invite the interviewer to ask follow up questions, or ask for references.

You may send you thank you note via email or physical letter. Remember to address your interviewer personally and when sending physical mail, to follow the correct etiquette for a formal letter.