Think About What Managers Like to Interview Your Best

July 30, 2008

An interview is selling your services to the hiring manager (decision maker). You may be interviewed by numerous people and each will have input (no manager wants to take full responsibility for a bad hire) however, it is the hiring manager who has the final say.

Since you are selling your services to your potential boss it makes sense to focus on what would really please the boss.  Here are some things that make bosses happy:

Communication:
Particularly at the beginning of a new job communication is the key to establishing a productive relationship. It is equally important to know how the boss likes to receive communication. Does she want the details, the highlights, the problem and the solution, communications via email or in-person meetings?

In the interview talk about how you communicate and the importance of being in communication with the person to whom you report.

Listening to the boss:
Bosses really like to be heard. In order for them to feel heard, it helps for them to hear from you what you learned from what they said. Responsive listening where you summarize what you heard is very effective. For example, “What I heard you say is you want this report to include all client sales figures and you would like it by close of business Thursday is that correct?”

You can display responsive listening in the interview. Example, “What I understand from what you said is you are looking for the person in this position to manage all perishable inventory for the three East Coast locations, is that correct?”

Collaboration:
Bosses are looking for someone to support and cooperate with them to bring their ideas (good or not) to fruition. They are not looking for naysayers and doubters. It is important to give the idea a try and not to throw up roadblocks.

In the interview, if possible acknowledge the hiring manager’s ideas. Being genuine, say “interesting idea” or “good thought” or “I like that approach.” If you cannot genuinely say one of these phrases, consider if the job is for you.

Understand how you fit the bosses style:

Good bosses are not looking for a Minnie-Me. They want someone to compliment their style and add additional skill dimensions. Understand what your boss is strong at, what he is weak at, and try to fill the gaps.

Listen during the interview and discern what the hiring manager is good at, what they like, and don’t like to do. Position yourself as filling the gaps; if you really can and if you want to.

Engagement:
Bosses like committed engaged workers that are motivated and energetic. They like a person who is thinking about the job, going above and beyond, and is offering suggestions and solutions.

Be proactive in the interview. The best way to do this is to prepare an interview presentation including strategic action plan for your first 30 and 60 days on the job. An interview presentation communicate interest, motivation and engagement.

In your interview you can talk about or exhibit many of the qualities the hiring manager is looking for. Once they experience your attitude and style they will feel more secure to make you the candidate of choice.


Prepare Your References to Interview Your Best

July 25, 2008

Reference checking is a standard although flawed process. Candidates choose references that will speak positively about them so hiring managers are expecting glowing references with little valuable information. If a hiring manager hears anything that sounds the least negative they immediately see red flags.

Instead of your reference checks being a standard procedure with little information, you can have your reference check enhance your candidacy. Once your interview is over you will have a great deal of information about the position, the qualities the hiring manager likes about you, and any hesitations the hiring manager may have about hiring you. This is all very important information your references need to know.

Call your references and prepare them for the reference check call. Tell them about the critical requirements of the position, how you fit the position, and your strongest selling points. Tell them what the hiring manager likes about you and ask them to highlight those points. Mention any concerns the hiring manager has and ask your reference to talk positively about those areas.

The Business Pundit in his online blog suggests that hiring manager ask references the following questions:
* What did he learn during his time at your company
* If you could give him a single career suggestion, what would it be?
(If the reference was a supervisor)
* How did the candidate respond to your management style?
* Would you rehire her
You can discuss these questions with your references and prepare them with answers.


Think Shareholder Value to Interview Your Best

July 19, 2008

Regardless of the position for which you are interviewing, it helps to think in terms of shareholder value. In other words, what can you do in the position for which you are applying that will increase the value of the company? In the performance of any job, there is something that you can do to contribute directly or indirectly to the bottom line.

The following are three ways a company increases its value. They include:

Growing revenue
This includes getting new customers, increasing the amount and frequency of customer purchases, and selling additional items to existing customers. Successful organizations have a “sales culture” where all employees, regardless of job, are focused on selling more product or services. Communicate this sales orientation to the interviewer and let him know you know the bottom line is the top of mind for you.

Increasing operational efficiency
Improving operations, even if it is just making a better form or removing a couple of steps from a process, drops money to the bottom line. What can you do in the position to make operations more efficient and improve profits? What have you done in the past that you can use as an example of having improved operations? Once again, let the interviewer know you have a broader perspective than just doing the job; you want to contribute to profits.

Representing the company
This relates to being a good ambassador of the company and supporting the company’s brand. When you speak with contacts, business associates, and friends how will you speak about the company. Will you be positive and suggest people use your company’s products or services. Can the interviewer depend on you to be a company team player?

Communicate to the interviewer that you have a broad view of your role in an organization. As you do an excellent job in the position, you will also be thinking about how you can contribute to the organization’s overall success. Communicating this broad perspective will position you as a high potential employee that will contribute to the overall health and growth of the company.


Avoid Bad Sales Habits to Interview Your Best

July 10, 2008

Once again lets say it together, “An interview is a sales call.” Because an interview is a sales call, bad sales habits can lose the job just the way they lose a sale. Here are some bad sales habits to be aware of:

Talking too much:
Sales is as much about listening as talking. You certainly want the hiring manager to know your strengths, skills, and experience but listen first so you know specifically what the hiring manager is looking for. Also, when you are being asked a question. Listen to the whole question first and be sure you understand it before answering. Many people start to formulate their answer in their head before the question is finished being asked.

Assume information leading to wrong answers or bad strategy:
If you have been in the same profession or the field as the job to which you are applying, there is a strong tendency to make lots of assumptions. Even if your assumptions are 95% correct the 5% can kill you. Use your assumptions to display knowledge, but test your assumptions carefully. You may assume that the company to which you are applying has the same challenges as the rest of the industry but what is their position toward the challenges. Example, “I am aware that many meat packagers such as Meatco are really being hurt by rising feed costs, are you experiencing the same raise in cost?”

Not analyzing performance:
Like sales calls, some interviews go well and others go poorly. Take the time following each interview to analyze your performance. What went well what can be improved? What was unique to this interview and what was your typical performance? What questions did you nail and which ones stumped you? What did you learn?

Not knowing what business problem you are trying to solve:
Every candidate is hired to solve a problem. Know the problem you are being hired to solve. This may be more challenging than you think. You may be interviewing for an accountant position so you would think that the problem is making sure company finances are in order. However, it may be that the more specific problem is the account receivables are delayed or the accounting system needs updating. Be sure to listen and understand the details of the problem.

Not knowing how to cope with a loss:
Not every sale goes through. Some go right down to the final decision and are lost at the end. This is particular difficult with an interview. Not only don’t you get the job but it feels very personal. Many people go into a slump when the lose a job they really wanted. The slump results in depression, lost momentum and loss of self confidence. The only answer is to have a full pipeline of opportunities so when you lose one you move on to the next. This means staying busy looking for new jobs even as you interview for a job you really want and for which you think you are well qualified.

Don’t know how to draw upon resources or get outside help
Typical candidates get called for an interview and just show up. Good candidates get called for an interview and the go into high preparation mode. They will not only research the company but try to find people they can speak with about the company and the job. They will practice their interviewing skills and will put together an interview presentation. They will show up confidant and prepared.

Setting up unrealistic expectations or making commitments you cannot fill:
Depending on your situation, you may be desperate to land the job. Landing a job you cannot do is worse than being unemployed. You will get the job, be miserable for a while and then be unemployed again and starting from scratch.

Packaging and selling yourself to a prospective employer is challenging and exciting. After all you are your most important product.


Insight From Recruiters to Interview Your Best

July 8, 2008

I just returned from the Kennedy Information Recruiting trends conference in Las Vegas. Kennedy Information is the leading recruiting industry information company in the country. The conference was attended primarily by internal corporate recruiters. The following are some of my insights from the conference.

First and foremost recruiters are absolutely panic stricken about the rapidly evolving shortage of workers. The statistics are staggering and undeniable and the impending impact is easily modeled, unlike climate change. Here are some of the frightening statistics:

20% of the countries largest most established companies will be losing 40% or more of their top talent in the next 5 years (Development Dimensions International).

By 2030 the US will experience a labor shortage of 35 million workers (Employment Policy Foundation) Babyboomers, 32% of the population, are beginning to retire. According to one recruiter who is the head of recruiting and talent management for a global shoe company, US corporations are four years late in reacting to this demographic shift.

The second greatest concern, linked to the first, is the shortage of skilled and knowledgeable workers to fill the open technical positions. Even with sourcing efficiencies provided by the internet, there are many jobs which go unfulfilled. One recruiter spoke about taking twelve months to fill a Chief Technology Officer position.

Many recruiters are focused on “time to hire” and “cost to hire” metrics; getting buts in chairs as quickly and as cheaply as possible. They focus on these metrics because they are easy to measure and are often tied to performance objectives and ultimately bonuses. Thus, in many organizations recruiters are stuffing the pipeline with candidates the hiring managers ultimately reject. Recruiting thought leaders suggested strongly that the defining metric should be quality of hire and not time or cost.

There are huge generational differences in workers attitudes, loyalty, expectations, career goals and work life balance. Gen Y or the Milleniums need to be recruited and retained with substantially different approaches and programs. The head of recruiting and retention for a leading cable company stated she would be ecstatic if they could keep a Gen Y employee for five years. Gen Y is focused on work life balance, constant feedback and challenging work. If they don’t like what they are doing or if they feel they are not being challenged they simply move on.

The primary focus of recruiters is the “sourcing” of talent and selling the candidate on the job opportunity. Once located and put in the interview process by the recruiter, the hiring department and the hiring manager takes over the care and handling of the candidate. Many recruiters think the interview and selection process is in disrepair. Interviewing skills are lacking, the selection decision is very subjective, the process is inconsistent and it is much easier for hiring managers to say no than take a risk of hiring the wrong person. As a result good candidates are not selected, the hiring process takes a long time, and positions are vacant for prolonged periods of time.

Here are my take aways:

There are going to be a lot of open positions with scarce talent. Even with this shortage, the selection process will be as important as ever and companies will continue to be very selective. Companies are aware a bad hire is worse than no hire at all.

The interview process at most companies is poorly coordinated, subjective and designed to rule out rather than rule in candidates. Candidates should take more initiative to make sure their interview is a good one.

Workers will be changing jobs often (average of every 3.5 years) and their interview skills will play a larger role in their career success.

Career management will become increasingly important and will be the sole responsibility of the individual worker rather than shared with a long-term employer.


Get a Good Job Description to Interview Your Best

July 8, 2008

When you are selling you need to know what the customer is buying

If you have been reading this blog, you are aware that I view the interview as a sales call. For a job candidate to prepare and present well in an interview, they need to know exactly what the hiring manager is looking for in an employee (upon what factors are they basing the buying/hiring decision?). Initially, the best place to find what the hiring manager is looking for is in the advertised job posting. Once you are in the interview process, you should be asking focused questions to get the full scope of the job requirements.

The hiring organization has the responsibility of providing a meaningful job description. A good job description should include the following:

* The what, where, when, and why of the job, and how the job fits into the bigger picture of the organization. This is a detailed description of the basic functions of the job and it will help you align your expectations with the expectations of the hiring manager.
* A clear definition of the job in terms of time spent, expected output/outcomes, or other success measures.
* A description of the how the job functions within the department and within the larger organization. Without a clear definition of boundaries, there are likely to be disputes over whose responsibility a particular task is, with either task redundancy or tasks “falling through the cracks.

As mentioned above, it is the company’s responsibility to provide a good job description. However, good job descriptions are fairly rare. When you are not provided with a good job description, it becomes your task to elicit the information you need to write your own job description. Similar to a sales person working with a customer who is unsure of what they need, your task is to ask good questions, listen carefully, and reflect back to the hiring manager what you understand about the job requirements. Once you have fully defined the position requirements, you can position your skills background and experiences against those requirements and present yourself as the best choice for the job.

Here are some questions that will help define the job requirements:
* What are three or four “must have” qualifications for a person to be selected for this position?
* What skill sets are required to be successful in this position?
* What are the most important personal characteristics for a person in this position?
* What are the important issues that need to be addressed immediately?
* What does a typical day look like for a person in this position?
* What made the last person on this job successful?
* What difficulties did the last person in this position have?
* What kind of planning and organizing does the job entail?
* What do you consider the greatest overall challenge(s) of this position?
* Could you tell me about the way the job has been performed in the past? And, what improvements you’d like to see happen?
* What are the biggest obstacles to performing this position well?


Use Logical Benefits to Interview Your Best

July 8, 2008

Hiring managers are scared to death of making a bad hire. A bad hire, someone who leaves voluntarily or involuntarily in the first 6-18 months, can cost a company anywhere from 1.5 times their salary to 40 times their salary. This is in addition to the negative evaluation the hiring manager receives.

To overcome this fear, provide logical benefits to choosing you for the position. Logical benefits provide reassuring objective reasons to hire you soothing the hiring manager’s fears and encouraging a job offer. Here are some examples of logical benefits:

Financial benefits
This may not work for everyone but when it does it is a deal maker. Figure out a way to assign a dollar amount to the value you will bring to the company. This is easiest for sales people, however with some creativity even non-sales operational people can figure how they can increase revenue or save money. For example, “Hire me and I can do both copy writing and web updates. This will save you money in web development consulting costs”

Measurable Results
State the measurable results you have been able to achieve at prior companies as a way of communicating what you will be able to achieve on this job. Be sure to choose measurable result that are directly related to the position for which you are being considered. For example, “I was able to bring our customer service response time down from 20 minutes to 12 minutes by…. I will be able to achieve similar results in this position.”

Risk control
Remember, the hiring manager is scared of making a hiring mistake. Reduce her risk. Give information that provides assurance that you can do the job, are interested in the job and will fit into the company culture. This is best done by telling stories about situations where you applied the skills, experience, and personality traits required for this job.

It is also a good strategy to summarize your logical benefits toward the end of the interview almost as a closing. For example “As I mentioned before, I can increase the company’s revenue by over 50% by opening up the international market, I can save money by managing the marketing function and having done this successfully twice already, I am confidant that I can do it again in this position.” Do not be concerned about repeating yourself, repetition increases retention. Also, don’t overlook the opportunity to restate your logical benefits in your follow-through letter.