Katherine Turpin

Your Professional Branding Strategist

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Category: Job Search Strategies (page 1 of 3)

Be (a little) charming

6 Recruiter-Tested Tips for Standing Out

A handful of the people I get to interview absolutely shine. What are their secrets? Amazingly, it boils down to using a little charm ~ taking authentic interest in both the job opportunity and the people with whom they’re interviewing.

What they do differently:

  1. They use their manners (please & thank you, and they’re on time).
  2. They do their research. Not just the superficial kind, like what the company does and its revenue numbers. These people have a ready answer for WHY they want to work here. You can too: Google ‘press releases’ & follow threads. Look at Glassdoor. Review the company’s LinkedIn profile. See who you know that works there. Check out key leaders (in addition to the ones you’re meeting).

    The best-prepared candidate I ever had the pleasure of interviewing did this: she aligned her desire to work for an innovative company with specific data and examples of what my employer has been doing to innovate. She was well-prepared, articulate, asked great questions, and wasn’t afraid to laugh a bit.

    She was a knockout, and we hired her from overseas on the basis of a couple of really great calls. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, take a genuine interest in the person (people) you’re talking to.

    My star candidate noted that I love to travel, an interest she shares. Review your interviewers’ LinkedIn profile(s) before you speak with them. See if you have common connections or interests.

  3. They ask good questions in the interview (because they are also interviewing the company, in a charming and gracious way).
  4. If it’s a phone interview, they answer the call like they would at work (ie. an energetic ‘Hi, this is x’).I’m amazed at how many people answer the phone FOR A SCHEDULED INTERVIEW with ‘Hello’? They know it’s going to be an interview, and still they sound like they were sleeping when they picked up.Also, stand up for the first part of your phone interview. You’ll automatically sound more compelling. And SMILE once in awhile ~ people can hear it.
  5. They treat whoever’s at the front desk kindly. At Robert Half, I used to ask our receptionist how people treated her. You’d be amazed at how many weren’t very nice. When I pick someone up from the front to take them to their interview, I notice when they remember to say ‘thank you’ to our receptionist.Also (this is so common-sense I almost didn’t include it, except it happened again this week): KNOW your interviewer’s first and last names so the front desk doesn’t need to figure out who you’re there to see.True ‘from the front’ recruiting story: a leadership candidate came in yesterday to interview. She asked for‘Scott’.  No last name. Don’t be that person.
  6. They follow up with a well-crafted ‘thank you’ email referencing something unique ~ maybe a shared laugh from the interview or a common interest that popped up. Send it within 24 hours. Keep it short, sweet, and relevant.

Put each of these tips into practice &
you’ll stand out, too!

Wondering how to polish your professional brand?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute brainstorming session.

Tell a Better (Professional) Story

For many people, writing (especially a resume) is right up there with a root canal.

Assembling details, knowing what to include, and finding the right words to describe one’s professional achievements is…tedious. It can feel like (uncomfortable) self-promotion. Also, there might be awkward gaps and regrettable choices, and now they’re being put on display.

But being seen is unavoidable when job-seeking. Or when ramping up a side business or making a foray into public speaking, for example. Take comfort in knowing that 99% of the population feels the same way (cringey), and then tell your professional story anyhow.

I recommend the following:

  1. Meet your reader where they are: to tell a good story, assume your reader knows practically nothing. If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, you’ll recall that JK Rowling takes time in each to thoroughly describe the setting and to review what happened in the previous book. She brings her readers up to speed with context.

Do the same with your resume:  what kind of business do you work for? How many people are there? What’s the annual revenue? Is it global? National? Local? Paint a word picture. Details are important to give context: what size team were you on/did you manage? What is/was the budget you manage(d), what’s the scale and scope of your work? Include accomplishments, ROI, and measurable impacts like $/time saved or efficiencies /profitability gained.

Your first resume draft should be a brain dump: get it all out. Then, revise (which brings us to step 2):

  1. Use the best (word) ingredients: Alice Waters is a Northern California chef who’s known for her exquisite, simple food. Her secret: in recipes with just a few ingredients, use only the freshest and best.

How does that translate to a resume? Here’s how: once you’ve written a first draft, read it out loud. Be on the lookout for redundancy (words or phrases repeated). Find different ways to say things. Get rid of stock phrases that have little meaning. If you’re drawing a blank, Google ‘thesaurus’ to help get you thinking. Slow down a little, and be discerning. When you find adjectives that describe you/your work aptly, use those.

Very important side note: avoid using overly dramatic words. Let others use “visionary”, “vast”, “outstanding”, or “authentic” to describe you. When you apply them to yourself, they sound hollow and self-promoting. Meaningful (and true, not trite) words carry your resume.

Finally,

  1. When you think you’re dressed, take off one piece: Coco Chanel, an early 20th century fashion disrupter, OWNED simplicity. In an era when fussy fashion was the norm, her minimalistic style stood out. Do the same with your resume.

Cluttered, busy, overly full resumes are overwhelming. OVERWHELMING DOES NOT GET READ.

When you think you’ve finished writing your resume, find things that don’t need to be there. Ask yourself, “Does it add value? Does it contribute to the picture I’m trying to paint?”

If not, be ruthless and TAKE IT OFF. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use space to your advantage ~ it will emphasize your well-chosen words and phrases. White space invites your reader in.

A resume is an appetizer, intended to whet interest and declare relevancy. It’s a preamble to the meal (the interview, the job offer). It’s not the meal itself (or the entire story of your career).

When you remember to tell your professional story using context, simplicity, and the best ingredients, you’ll stand out.

And isn’t that what you want?

 

Struggling with crafting your resume and/or LinkedIn profile? I can help!
Check out my Professional Branding Package here

The Elephant in the Room

what’s “old”? some insights (and tips) on DEFLECTING age bias

A vital, intelligent middle-aged woman with much to offer recently told me: “A friend who works in HR said I should plan on this being my last job.”

Ouch. 

I’ve also heard this: “I’d like to look for a new job, but I’m worried about companies passing me up because of my age.  So I guess I’d better just stay put.”  Or, “I’m pushing 50; I need to be careful.”

There’s real fear coming from the 50+ crowd. It’s understandable, given past trends of jobs being outsourced or companies getting rid of tenured workers in favor of younger (read: less-expensive) ones.

So we pull back, not wanting to talk about that elephant in the room, age. Notably, OUR age. We start believing that we need to settle, gratefully accept what we have, sit on the sidelines, be passed up or passed by, lucky just to have a job. Never mind stepping out and looking for a new one ~ with all our experience, we still might not get hired.

is this true?
Not so much: SOME (GOOD) news

 

According to this article from CNBC, the unemployment rate for 55+ workers is lower than the general unemployment rate by almost a full 1%.

And studies are showing that mental and emotional abilities peak at different times. It’s not like we thought, a burst of brilliance at age 30 followed by the inevitable slow decline. There are plenty of role models for hitting one’s stride later in life: people who changed careers or built businesses and made it big later, celebrities who got a slow start, people who didn’t follow a traditional path (if there still IS one).

The rules have been kicked to the curb.  People are marrying + having kids later, living longer, waiting to retire (if they do at all) and reinventing themselves along the way. PLUS there’s a shortage of workers. A pretty rosy picture, all in all.

Still, if you’re “of a certain age”, it pays to be a bit crafty. Be bold, be unapologetic, but be mindful of the possibility of age bias.

In other words, don’t give them any ammo.
How?
  1. Your resume: avoid phrases that lead with decades of experience (“25+ years”) or long-in-the-tooth descriptors. Instead of “vast”, for example, use “deep” or “extensive” or “rich”.  Also, don’t go back for decades with your work history. Especially in tech, the last 10 years or so is plenty. Add a “Prior Roles Include” section if you want to capture relevant earlier titles.
  2. Address the “older workers are more expensive” conversation (at the appropriate time): seasoned workers may be more expensive, but I’ve also heard it eloquently said, “I’m at a point in my life where money is less important: I’m an empty-nester, my kids are out of college, I have flexibility to choose the work I want to do.” This one can be a little tricky, though. Don’t lead with “I’m inexpensive” — you want to be fairly paid for your expertise.
  3. Keep learning + adding new skills: find out what the hot ones are, then pick one up that’s relevant. Not just because I told you to. Be interested in it and have some kind of practical application for it. Udemy has skazillions of courses, cheap. There’s also YouTube (free) and all kinds of interesting problems to be solved in the world.
  4. Mingle with all generations: add younger folks to your network ~ your peers may be retiring. How to find Gen Y’ers / Millennials? Go where they are: mentor, teach what you know, volunteer (find a hackathon or a social engineering opportunity). Bring Genesys Works into your company, get invited to your local high school to give a career presentation, hire college interns. Meetup.com and Evite are full of ideas.
  5. Be mindful of your appearance: stay reasonably fit + at a healthy weight. Walk with a spring in your step (want to see how you look when you walk? have someone take a quick video). Hold yourself tall. Cultivate a personal style (that suits you) based on current trends. This includes shoes, glasses, hairstyle, makeup for gals, your pearly whites. Strike a balance, though. You’re not trying to look like a Millennial ~ you be the best version of you.
  6. Listen to yourself: are you talking like a curmudgeon? Steer clear of topics like illness, surgeries, aches and pains, too many stories about the grandkids or decades-old events, how things were “back then” or “we always did things that way”. Your brain is always listening and will faithfully recreate whatever you focus on. The best part: you can reverse it! Don’t do this for them, do it for you. Read this.
  7. Cultivate a youthful attitude: open-mindedness, focused in NOW, flexibility, curiosity, an appreciation of different perspectives and an interest in new ideas. “Old” is a mindset as much as it is a chronology.

I’ve heard that after age 50, we must choose whether we’ll engage with life or drift toward the sidelines. Even though stepping back might seem appealing, decide to stay interested and relevant, whatever that looks like for you. Put energy into learning, experimenting, and getting outside of your comfort zone regularly. Not just professionally, do this in your life.

Chuck Squires, a 35+ year veteran of Robert Half International, role models this beautifully. He’s retired, but stays connected through mentoring, networking, giving back to the business community. On vacations, he’s off hiking in the Andes or volunteering somewhere. His zest for living is infectious and inspiring.

“There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

— Sophia Loren

At any age, your network is your best professional asset (keep in mind, your network is the people who will help you, not your number of LinkedIn connections). Cultivate it with consistency, and be sure you’re helping others along the way.

A LinkedIn article popped up in my feed recently ~ the topic: could older creatives compete with younger talent? The headline photo: a middle-aged guy with a full gray beard. He was sitting on the ground, MacBook Air atop his thighs.  Dressed sharp, wearing Clubmaster shades, muscles faintly visible under his rolled-up sleeves, sockless-in-oxfords-with-tanned-ankles. My god, he looked HOT. Experience and perspective + curiosity and energy are irresistibly intriguing.

You have much to offer: your unique perspective, your experience, your skills, your sensibilities. Stay in the game. We need you here.

I help mid-careerists tune up their professional brand.
Embarking on a job search? Gunning for a promotion? Launching a speaking sideline?
I use my recruiting and writing experience to help you get clear.
Want to connect?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute no-strings-attached call. 

 

Ask a Better Question

When it’s time to change workplaces, the question most people ask is, “Where do I find my new job?”

We gravitate to Careers pages on company websites, search LinkedIn, or head to the job boards. It’s pretty easy to search for a title, spend a few minutes applying  / connecting / asking. The hard part is the waiting for a response. Lordy, the waiting is the hardest part.

But what if we changed the question? Instead of “where do I find my new job?” what if we asked, “Where do I find my new leader?”

I think looking for a new leader is a much more interesting proposition.

In the traditional sense of looking for a job, we match skills and requirements. The leader is kind of an afterthought.

When the new leader is a focal point of a job search, the skills and requirements are still there, but the whole question is elevated: who do I know that I’d love to work for? Who have I worked for in the past that I’d really like to partner with again? Who in my current circle of acquaintances knows someone? Who’s a thought leader? Which companies foster a culture of engagement and innovation?

Looking for a new leader could also mean finding a different leader within your current company. If you’re generally happy with your workplace but need a change, could you network internally onto a new team?

Or how about this: who’s solving interesting problems?

The only way you’re going to find out for sure is to start asking around. Sleuthing, making connections, following the thread.

Recruiters do this all the time ~ we find out where the fire is: who’s changing technologies | growing | shedding | transforming? That’s where the interesting work is.

Find that, and then figure out how to get their attention. Know your value proposition. Come with an idea of how the application of your unique skills and experience can contribute.

The most-satisfied seekers are doing more than just looking for their next job. They’re finding great leaders and interesting problems they can help solve.

 

I help people who are 10+ years into their careers better-tell their professional story. Struggling with yours? Here’s a link to my calendar. Let’s see if we’re a fit.

Get Visible!

Congratulations! Your professional brand’s in place: your resume’s tuned up and you’re happy with your LinkedIn profile. Now what?

Here are some guidelines to help you get visible:

LinkedIn

  • Use the rule of “ABA”: Always Be Adding to your LinkedIn connections. Make it a habit to send a connection request to every new person you meet.
  • Beef up your connections: invite former workmates, leaders, vendors; people you volunteered with to connect (use your resume to help trigger your memory).
  • Ask for LinkedIn recommendations from the people who know your work. You can even write a ‘suggested recommendation’ ~ they’ll appreciate it (makes it easier for them) and you’ll get a more-specific accolade.

    Be a regular on LinkedIn (daily is great, relevant is key) and…

  • Preserve your brand: be mindful of what you’re ‘liking’ and sharing on LinkedIn. A good rule of thumb is 2 professional ‘likes’ or shares + 1 local- or professional-interest ‘like’ or share. It shouldn’t be all about business. What do you want to be known for? Let that guide you.
  • LinkedIn articles are a great way to stand out. Write a 500-word piece about a problem you/your team solved, a technology you’re exploring, a learning you’ve had in blending teams through M&A, a new idea, a personal experience around job interviewing or even a bad boss experience. Use an image (royalty free ~ you can find lots of them at www.pexels.com). Post & repeat.  Note: I help clients with ghostwriting or editing/proofreading their LinkedIn (or other) articles.

Expanding Your Circle

Be intentional. Make it your (fun) mission to see who and what’s ‘out there’. Tell yourself it’ll be interesting.  Keep it light but focused. Make it an experiment and follow the threads. Whatever (time, attitude, expectations) you put in will impact your results. 

  • Do some strategic networking. Think about the places where your next leader is likely to be. Ask others for recommendations of networking groups if you’re not sure. Find some likely targets. Go there.
  • Start & curate a list of target companies, the kind who’d benefit from your experience and that would offer you more satisfaction. Once you have your list, follow the company on LinkedIn, find out who’s running and working for them, and start building relationships.
  • Ask people you know for introductions. Vendors know lots of people. So do most recruiters. Don’t be shy. If there’s someone you want to meet, figure out how to meet them with a warm connection ~ someone you already know.
  • Invite someone you’d like to know better to coffee or lunch. When I want to learn about a new technology, I’ll invite them out. People generally like to talk about what they do, and someone with a genuine interest is, well, irresistible.

Even if you’ve let networking and LinkedIn sit on the back burner while (it seems like) everyone else was connecting, don’t worry ~ it’s fixable!

Use this strategy to get caught up.

GOT QUESTIONS?
WANT TO SEE IF WE’RE A FIT?

Here’s a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute intro call (don’t be shy).

5 Quick Tips for Bias-Proofing Your Professional Brand

I recently watched a TED talk given by a fellow recruiter. In it, she quoted a study done by The Ladders, the first-ever of its kind, which measured the amount of time recruiters spend looking at a resume.

Do you know how much time that is?

Six seconds. 

All the more reason to do two things:  have a great professional brand, and cultivate other avenues to the end goal (your new job), like networking, mentoring, speaking, blogging, and generally being connected “out there” in the world.

To give your brand the best possible six seconds…

  1. Leave location off your resume.
    Provide your email address, mobile phone (not home phone), and a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Use a professional-sounding personal email address.
    Firstname.Lastname@Gmail is best, in my opinion. AOL and Yahoo addresses, Comcast.net (for Twin Cities dwellers) sound vintage.
  3. Use a modern font like Calibri. No more Times New Roman.
  4. ‘Objective’ is out.
    Use ‘Professional Summary’ or ‘Summary of Qualifications’. Unless you’re a director or above, please don’t use ‘Executive Summary’.
  5. Have a crisp LinkedIn headshot with a neutral background.
    No wedding photos, fish, or 10-year old boudoir shots. Your photo should look like you (how else are your new networking contacts going to find you at the coffee shop?)

Read more about cultivating your network here.

In the end, job hunting is marketing. And marketing is about presenting a clear and compelling product, YOU.

Don’t let subtle, bias-inducing components get in your way. Give yourself an advantage & use these tips for a great head start.

PS: If you’re struggling with your professional brand, I can help.
Here’s 
 a link to my calendar for a free 15-minute get-to-know-you call.

Is there a ‘hiring season’?

Minnesotans appreciate warm weather, especially after (the long. dark. cold.) winter. Which just ended. 

We spend as much warm weather time as we can … outdoors.

Oh, you do this in winter too? Sure you do.  In winter, I still spend time outside daily (I own four horses that need care, plus I love to ski). But it’s not the summertime dallying-until-dark-at-10pm.

Which brings two (seasonal) points to mind:
  1. Is there an optimal time to launch a job search?
  2. Summer: the art of not doing much

I’ve noticed distinct cycles to hiring activity (exception: software developers, who can waggle an eyebrow and get swarmed). How quickly things move depend on budgets (funded) and managers (in the office + able to interview) and need (definite).

For us non-developers, the hiring seasons look like this:

January: New budgets are being  finalized and released. Once everyone’s back in the office after the holiday hiring doldrums, activity resumes. A very good time to launch your search.

February-March-April-May-June: There’s plenty of hiring activity; budgets are plentiful and new initiatives need to be staffed. Another good time to be active in your job search.

July-August: Activity slows: summer vacations and in August, people are getting kids ready for school. Not a great time to launch your search;

September – October – early November: Once school is back in session, hiring activity picks up and continues steadily until Thanksgiving (or until budgets run out, whichever comes first). A good time to be looking, as long as there’s still budget;

Thanksgiving – end of December: Probably the worst time to launch a job search.  Hiring activity grinds to a halt as budgets are depleted and holiday season hits.

So there ARE optimal times to launch your search (unless you’re not working, in which case every season is a necessary one). If you’ve interviewed and haven’t heard anything, check the calendar: the season may be the reason.

Summertime, especially July and August, is probably the worst time to launch a job search.

Rather than being frustrated, hold off! Enjoy the warm weather and longer days. Spend time with family and friends. The people you want to connect with aren’t thinking about hiring, not really. They’re vacationing and getting kids ready for school.

Keep networking & exploring, always, but reserve your mightier efforts for fall (or the new year).

 

 

Is it the season to rebrand your professional self? Need some guidance?
I can help. Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute, no strings conversation.

Intentional Interviewing, Part 2


Executing a great interview
Part 2 in a 3-part series

Interviewing is a big topic! In part 1 , we covered interview prep. In this post, I’ll take you through recruiter-tested best practices for executing a great interview.

Good interviews begin with great preparation, followed by confident execution.

You wouldn’t believe how many folks ‘wing it’, taking a quick look at the company website and job description. By observing these guidelines, you’ll automatically stand out. Ready?

Be prepared! Taking time to do your homework is hugely important. It shows respect for the interviewers’ time and also helps you be on your game. You get one opportunity to make a good first impression ~ this is it! For more on how to ace your interview prep, click here to read part 1 of this series.

Bring something to write on. Get a decent-looking $20 portfolio at Target or Walgreens. Black or gray, preferably. Having a professional-looking portfolio sets you apart from the people who show up empty-handed or with a spiral-bound notebook.

In it, you should have a legal pad and pen (test the pen beforehand). Bring a copy of your resume, too. We may not ask to see it, but having it available can be reassuring if you tend to freeze up in an interview. Also, jot a few of your key points and questions down on the pad. Use the pad to take a few notes, but don’t spend a lot of time writing when you’re interviewing – it’s distracting.

Be a little early. Not 20-30 minutes early. Arriving 5-10 minutes before your interview is ideal. If you get here earlier, wait somewhere else (in your car, in a nearby coffee shop, etc.) for a bit.

A word about scent. For an interview, leave the cologne or perfume off. Noses become accustomed to fragrance, and yours may be overpowering even if you can’t smell it. If you’re a smoker, is there a product to magically erase the smell of that last pre-interview cig? We can smell it even if you can’t. And pop a breath mint on your way in.

Know who you’re meeting. Ask for your interviewer using their first AND last names.

Silence your phone. Better yet, shut it off before the interviewer picks you up.

Be nice to the front desk person. Sometimes we check to see how you treated them. Don’t be that person who’s charming to their interviewers but dismissive or rude to the front desk person.

Have a good handshake. Firm, with palms connecting fully. Make eye contact and smile. Don’t squeeze too hard (or too limply). Don’t hang on too long or use your other hand to grab the person’s arm (creepy).

Wait to sit until the interviewer’s seated or asks you to have a seat. If you’re interviewing in a conference room, choose a chair at one of the long sides of the table rather than at either end of the table.

Smile. Your body will take the cue to relax a bit. Also, our brains work better when we’re somewhat relaxed. And breathe. You don’t need to keep a fake smile plastered on, but do check in to see what your face is doing.

Be authentic. If you get super nervous in interviews, it’s OK to say so (once, at the beginning of the interview). If you’re really excited about the position and/or the company, tell them! Mind your manners while being real, of course. No swearing, no complaining about past bosses or companies, EVER. Stay professional.

Listen to the questions. If you’re not clear about what’s being asked, say, “I’m not sure what’s being asked. Could you give me a little more detail (or an example), please?” Answer directly without rambling. Use relevant examples.

Watch the interviewers’ body language: are they nodding? Smiling? Then your answer has landed. If they’re looking confused, ask, “Did I answer your question? Do you need more information?”  If they’re looking distracted or bored, it’s time to stop talking. Some companies  use the STAR technique to interview candidates (we used it at Prime Therapeutics). If you’re not familiar, learn about it here.

Have some of your own questions. Choose 1-2 from this list (jot them down in your portfolio):

  • What brought you here?
  • What was your biggest surprise/challenge?
  • How will you know you’ve hired the right person for this position?
  • What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 6 months?
  • What’s your timeline for filling this position?
  • What would the rest of the interview process look like?
  • Based on what we’ve talked about, do you think I’d be a fit for this position?
    Or (my favorite):
  • Do you have any concerns about my experience that I can address while we’re together?

Aaaaaand make sure your questions are relevant to the interview.
For example, ask job-specific questions of the hiring manager: “What technical skills will I use most?” “What will the person you hire need to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days?” or “What’s the team like?” If you’re meeting with your prospective manager’s boss, go a little more strategic: “What is this team’s longer term goal?”

Save questions about time off, telecommuting or benefits for your Human Resources interview. In depth compensation and benefits conversations come at the end of the process, usually with HR.

Help the interviewer. Sometimes interviews go off track and the key points (ie. your skills and experience) don’t get discussed. No kidding, I’ve heard candidates say, “It was a great conversation, but we never even covered the job or my skills!”

If this is happening in your interview, it’s up to you to mention your experience even if they don’t. You’ve prepared some examples – mention them, politely, of course, before the interview is over.

When compensation comes up, say, “I’m looking for competitive pay. Can you give me an idea of the salary for this position, please?”  In our initial talent acquisition phone interviews, we always ask about salary expectations. We’re just making sure we’re in the same range.

Later on, after all interviews are completed and you’re at offer stage, get answers to all your compensation questions. Ask about the cost of benefits & when they become available, whether there are bonuses and when they’re paid out (and the company’s track record for paying them), typical merit increase (usually 2-4%), education reimbursement, and paid time off.

PHONE INTERVIEWS

Be prepared, same as an in-person interview. You have to work a little harder to engage your interviewer, since you can’t rely on physical cues. Make sure the phone connection is clear, you’re in a quiet spot, and that you’re not driving or otherwise distracted.

Be standing when you answer the call. There’s a physiology behind this: when seated, our diaphragms are compressed. When we stand, our diaphragms help project sound more fully, making us sound energetic and engaging. You can sit down after that, if you want.

Answer like you’re at your desk. “Hi, this is <your name>” not, “Hello?” Do your best to sound professional, alert, and ready to have a great conversation.

Smile. A smile is noticeable over the phone. And be sure to thank the interviewer and let them know you’re interested before you sign off (if you are, that is).

Remember, you’re interviewing the company, too: Pay attention as you wait for your interviewer. Do people seem energized, happy, friendly? Is the front desk person professional ? How about the interviewers? Do they seem prepared and intentional? Do they know who/what they’re looking for? Are they forthcoming in sharing information? Is interview feedback provided?  Do you like them?

When the interview is finished, thank the interviewer(s). You’ve just met a new connection, even if you’re not going to work together. If you’re excited about this opportunity, say so.

You can sign off by asking one last question, about timing. “When do you think you’ll know about next steps?” or “When do you think you’ll have interview feedback?” This reinforces your interest and will set the cadence for your follow up, which I’ll cover in part 3, “After the Interview”.

Be prepared, be intentional and be confident. You’ve got this.

Download this article as a PDF here.

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I help mid-career professionals clarify their brands, rock their interviews,
and add a little joy to their job search. Because life’s full of interesting people.


Got a burning question?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a 15-minute call, no strings attached.

Intentional Interviewing, Part 1

Preparing for a great interview.

Part 1 in a 3-part series.

Research is 80% of a job search, and preparing for an interview is no exception.

Unless you have nerves of steel (or you regularly talk to strangers in high-pressure situations), interviewing is unsettling. I’ve worked with senior managers who are as nervous as a new grad at the thought of talking about themselves. It’s normal: questions are thrown at you, and while being judged, you’re supposed to answer them deftly. It feels like a high-stakes pass-and-shoot.

Good interview skills are useful throughout a career. Use them when you’re seeking a new job (internally or externally); when you’re interviewing someone else; they’re even useful when you’re lobbying for a new idea or cause and need all the influence you can muster.

Even those with high-demand or unusual skills (which means they could bomb the interview & still get the job) need to cultivate good interview aptitude. Someday that knowledge may be less captivating and good interview skills may just save the day.

Good interviews begin with great preparation.

When you take time to anticipate and answer some of the likely questions, you automatically give yourself an edge (and a little relief).

Know your why. What draws you to this company / this job?(hint: it shouldn’t be all about you)
For example:
Meh: “It’s a much better commute than my current role.”
Good: “The job description seems like a good fit for my skills”.
Impressive: “Not only is the job description a close match, but I noticed that your company is doing xxx and that aligns with my values.”

Research, research, research. I agree with Lou Adler, self-proclaimed recruiting and hiring guru, who estimates that research is 80% of a job search. Review the company’s website, but don’t stop there. Google the company and read press releases over the last couple of years. Check out the company’s LinkedIn profile. Look it up on GlassDoor. Has anyone you know worked there? What do they have to say? A candidate who’s done their homework stands out.

Get to know your interviewer(s). Review their LinkedIn profile(s). How long have they been with the company? What’s their (general) background / work history? Do you share LinkedIn connections? Do you and the interviewer have common interests / universities / previous employers? What can you learn about this person (in a non-creepy way)? Note: talking about what’s on their Facebook page is creepy. Don’t.

Take another look at the job description.  Identify the top 2-3 skills. Now jot down examples of your experience as it relates to those requirements. If you don’t have experience with a specific required skill, what comparable skill/experience do you have?
For example:
Meh: “Yes, I’ve worked with x technology.”
Good: “I have 3 years of experience in x technology while working at z company.”
Impressive: “In my current company, I’m using x technology to do y. So far, we’ve been able to <insert a result you’ve achieved>” or “I haven’t worked with x technology, but I have done y with a similar technology, plus I pick things up quickly.” Here are some ideas on how to answer the most-common interview questions.

Put your interview attire together. Try it on, even before you have interviews scheduled. The night before an interview is no time to be caught without clothes you feel great in.

What to wear? I used to say that you can never go wrong with a suit (plus a tie for guys). These days, I think you can definitely go wrong with a suit. For example if you’re interviewing for a creative role, especially in ad agencies. A general rule: the higher the position you’re interviewing for, the more formal your interview attire, at least for the first meeting. Also, certain industries tend to dress more formally.

For an interview with a Big 4 accounting firm, for instance, only a suit + tie is acceptable. In corporate IT, you’ll do just fine wearing slacks (Dockers, for example) and a crisp long sleeve button-down or polo with a white undershirt peeking out at the neck. For women, slacks or a skirt and a crisp blouse in neutral/professional colors is fine. Shoes should be polished and well-kept and dark-colored (no white sneakers, please). Definitely wear socks. Remember, the focus should be on you, not on what you wear. Here’s a fun video about interview wear.

Do your mental prep: Olympic and professional athletes, top business people, and other high achievers spend significant amounts of time envisioning themselves doing well even before their event. You, too, can lay down the neural pathways to your success.

In a quiet setting, relax and close your eyes. In your imagination, go through the entire interview, from arriving at the company (looking sharp and being well-prepared, of course) to asking the receptionist for your interviewer. Now you’re with your interviewer(s). You’re answering questions, seeing them nod and smile and you’re asking a few great questions of your own. You’re connecting with the interviewer(s), feeling relaxed and competent. Things are going really well. They say something like, “You’d be a great fit here. We look forward to further conversations.” Before you know it, the interview’s over, and they’ve said they want you. You’re leaving now, thanking the receptionist on your way out. You feel the satisfaction of fielding their questions well. The fun of meeting someone new and liking them. The joy of acknowledging your nervousness and doing well despite it (because you prepared). Run through this mental movie multiple times before your interview. Seeing – and feeling – success is a powerful confidence builder.

Have you completed the steps listed in this article? Then you’re well on your way to a great interview (and you’ll be far ahead of most others). A little nervousness is normal. It’ll help you be mentally sharp.

If you’re more than a little anxious, though, you must tell yourself that everything will be fine. You’ve prepared yourself. You’ll do your best. And then let it go. Distract yourself, refuse to get stirred up by the moaning and ‘what if’s’ in your head. Keep your confidence high. If not this interview/this job, then something better. But you’re really ready for this, aren’t you? Well done.

In part 2, we’ll cover the actual interview (in-person and over the phone).
Thanks for being here ~ see you again soon! 

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I help mid-career professionals clarify their brands, rock their interviews,
and add a little joy to their job search. Because life’s short.

Got a question?
Here’s a link to my calendar. Free, just for fun.

For the happy-hour averse

start right where you are :: INTERNAL NETWORKING

 

A few weeks ago, while prepping for a Genesys Works training session, I was pondering the program: these interns have a stunning opportunity to start building their professional networks while they’re still in high school. They learn new skills, showcase their work ethic & personalities and pre-pave the way to college internships and full time employment. I was thinking that a really savvy intern would do well to leverage the heck out of this opportunity to network.

Considering the internship program got my brain firing (because traditional external networking brings to mind cringey, superficial chats with strangers at noisy happy hours, juggling business cards, hors d’oeuvres and a wineglass):

What if each of us networked inside our own companies intentionally?
Duh! A ready-made common ground + a shared mission.

So.Simple! Find and get to know people at your company who are outside your normal work trajectory. Get to know them via a committee or project, working shoulder-to-shoulder. Soon they’ll be able to vouch for your shining personality / skills / work ethic / impact. They’ll become a part of your true network, far more likely to help you if/when you need it (and hopefully, you’ll do the same for them!).

In a job that demands every second of your day, adding internal networking might be the last thing you’d choose. But I think getting to know others makes work more fun and rewarding. And who knows where those new connections will lead? So it’s a little bit selfish, in a good way.  I’ve heard of folks who brilliantly (and often innocently) landed great new jobs and built amazing careers through internal networking. Maybe you have, too.

things you can do right now
(besides being great at your job, which speaks for itself):
  • Volunteer to help anywhere it’s needed. Join committees of all kinds.
  • Offer to research / document / investigate / figure out and report back.
  • If something is wanted or needed but doesn’t yet exist, figure it out or create it.
  • Invite someone you don’t know well to have coffee, eat lunch or go for a walk.
  • Make introductions ~ help connect others. Inclusivity is IN!

In my first year at TCF Bank, I signed on for (almost) every opportunity that crossed my path: my department’s FUN committee, the IT Hackathon planning committee; IT book club, IT donut club, IT ambassador group, IT & Friends (volunteer) committee. I even launched a new club, the TCF Travel Junkies.

I didn’t think of it as internal networking at first ~ I just wanted to be a better cultural ambassador. I’ve never been part of so many initiatives before.  The benefits? They’re plentiful: getting to know great people outside my department  = more enjoyment! When I need an answer, it’s easier to find. Or when I want to get something done, I have a friendlier ear. I get to reciprocate, which also feels fantastic.  Not to mention enjoying the results of our efforts. As far as stepping out of my comfort zone? It feels a little awkward at first. And then, it’s 100% satisfying.

“Your network is not people you know; your network is the people you know who are willing to help you.”  ~~ Sol Orwell

A communication tool is helpful (we use Slack). A core group of networking-minded people helps — there are many in my company who are committed to fostering a collaborative culture. They generously share their connections and are a huge help & inspiration. But even if your company isn’t similarly inclined, you can (and should) branch out.

When you work alongside someone, you get to know them in a different way than if you’ve just chatted over drinks at some industry event. And since we  (usually) have just one boss and one team of peers at a time, we exponentially increase the number of people who know our work when we work on initiatives and projects outside our our normal scope.

It takes extra time & effort to be involved, but it also saves time: answers come more quickly. Folks with whom I’ve worked on projects are more likely to jump in when I need help. There’s a sense of fun and camaraderie.

There’s still a ways to go before I know everybody, but the gap is narrower than if I just did my job day in and day out.

Some bad news: you’ll still need to occasionally attend external networking happy hours. But with intentional internal networking, you’ll need it less.  So start building meaningful connections where you are. Get out of your office / cube / comfort zone and GET INVOLVED!!

I help mid-career professionals figure out their brand, get connected, and launch rockets of all kinds.
Want to chat?
Here’s a link to my calendar for a no-strings-attached intro call.

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