Tag Archives: Interviews

It’s Not You, It’s Me…

By: James Caan, originally published on LinkedIn

Have you recently left an interview feeling demotivated? Disappointed you didn’t get the job, or unhappy with your interview performance?

As an investor, I’ve had to learn that not every deal succeeds. The same is true of interviews. I would love to guarantee you 100% success, but not every interview will end with you getting the job, because some things aren’t meant to be, and for whatever reason, you’re not the right candidate for that role.

The important thing is not to dwell on your misfortune, it’s okay to fail, failure doesn’t mean you need to give up, it’s just another experience to learn from.

Instead of wallowing and losing hope, immediately look for what you can learn from the experience and come away stronger.

Make sure you ask for feedback

If you fail to get selected, assess why you weren’t chosen and be prepared to deal with any issues you can identify.

Let’s say you receive an email that says “Thank you for coming in, but unfortunately you haven’t been selected”.

The first thing you should be thinking about is finding out why. Nine out of ten interviewers won’t give you a reason in the email, and most people accept that.

This is where they go wrong. If you don’t know why, how are you going to improve?

Find out what went wrong

Don’t be afraid to call your interviewer directly and pose the question. The trick is to handle this conversation carefully to ensure you get an answer you can work with, and not a bland, generic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ response.

Be polite, yet forward. Show your appreciation, thank them for their time, trigger their memory by referring to something specific you discussed – something that will help the interviewer put a face to your name.

Then it’s time to make your move…

Ask: “I interviewed for the marketing role recently. I fully understand you found a better suited candidate, but just out of curiosity, could I ask what did you think made me unsuitable for the job? What do I need to work on?”

Initially, the interviewer will be taken aback by your question, and will probably try and give you a generic “you didn’t have the right experience” approach.

That’s the time to push harder.

“What area in particular did you feel I lacked experience?”

When you have an answer you can work with, you can either take this opportunity to push back and pitch yourself again, or thank them for the feedback and ensure you take this particular point into consideration next time you’re interviewing.

Constructive feedback can highlight weaknesses you weren’t aware of. Don’t see this as a bad thing, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is vital for future success, and it’s a skill many of us lack.

Take it from me, as an employer and businessman, this approach is guaranteed to leave a good impression.

Make a Great First Impression at the Job Interview

When you are ready to look for work, really ready, take the time to put your best self forward.  There are many opportunities for error on a resume and in an interview, so here are a few tips to help you stand out in a positive manner.

Ensure the individuals you recruit as references for your resume:  a) know that you are using them as a reference, b) know what position you are applying for and what your expectations are of them as a reference c) think highly of you as a professional.  Too often job seekers list references without first checking with them.  Put a lot of thought into the people you put down.  Make sure they are articulate, think highly of you, and are professional on the phone.

Stay positive.  When an interviewer asks you about a past employer, or why you are looking to leave your current position, it is important to not state the negatives about the job.  It is easy to say that you don’t like the supervisor, or you have a co-worker that always calls in sick, or perhaps that you keep getting skipped over for a raise.  But DON’T.  Instead say that you have always been interested in the company you are applying to, or that you have been working toward this position.  Refrain from saying anything negative about your past/current employer and turn the tables to where you are seeking out this position because it is the perfect fit for you and you are the perfect fit for the company.

One more piece of advice, when you arrive, shake your interviewers hand, firmly, while looking him or her in the eyes and smiling.  Do not give the limp fish handshake.  A firm handshake exudes confidence and power.  That is the goal of the whole interview, to show that you are confident that you are the perfect fit for the company and position.

The interview is your ticket to the position.  Research the company, know your stuff and be prepared and confident.  Your future just started.

The Power of Small Talk

Everyone knows a person who can talk to anyone.  This person has interesting information to share, interesting experiences to discuss and a general knowledge of local current events.  In the realm of job seeking, does small talk help?  Yes.

For a person who can strategically create small talk the Kellogg Business school study of 120 hiring managers in the professional services sector showed that modern hiring decisions were not just being based on capabilities. It seems that hiring decisions are being based on a person’s culture fit, (determined by their interests and hobbies) and may be becoming more important than experience and qualifications in the assessment decision.

Well placed small talk at the beginning and end of the interview allows hiring managers to understand your hobbies and interests and determine if you would be a good cultural fit for the company.

Another area where some strategic small talk will help you to get the job is via word-of-mouth hiring, naturally, which is dependent on small talk to help you make contact with potential referrers. It also helps you to build trust, increasing the chance of them referring you for a job.

Whether you like it or hate it, there is power in small talk.  Of course, small talk alone won’t get you the job, it needs to be combined with appropriate displays of competency, enthusiasm and energy, but relationship building via small talk is clearly advantageous when you are job hunting.

How do I answer that?

You have worked so hard on your education, you perfected your resume and you finally get the call.  You have an interview.  This is the time to start REALLY preparing!

Ask who is going to be conducting the interview.  Research the interviewer.  Research the company.  Gain an understanding of the culture at the company by asking current employees.  Understand fully the position you are applying for and last but not least prepare for unpredictable interview questions.

Most interviewers ask about your education, your work history, accolades that you hold, and your community involvement.  But, what if they ask who your favorite superhero is?  Or how many ping pong balls will fill up a 10’ x 20’ pool?  You may even be asked to demonstrate a sales pitch.  What do you do?

When throwing these questions at you, interviewers are not seeking a correct answer; they are simply trying to understand how you work under pressure, your thought processes, or what makes you tick.  Remain cool, ask questions if it will help, and do the best you can.  More than likely all interviewees will be asked the same questions, so use this opportunity to show who you are and how well you can handle a curve ball!

What Interviewers Wish They Could Tell Every Job Candidate

by Jeff Haden

In the best interviews, job candidates say a lot and interviewers very little – after all, the interview is about the candidate, not the interviewer.

But there are a few things interviewers would like to tell job candidates well before the interview starts.

1. I want you to be likeable.

Obvious? Sure, but also critical. I want to work with people I like and who in turn like me.

So: I want you to smile. I want you to make eye contact, sit forward in your chair, and be enthusiastic. The employer-employee relationship truly is a relationship — and that relationship starts with the interview (if not before.)

A candidate who makes a great first impression and sparks a real connection instantly becomes a big fish in a very small short-list pond. You may have solid qualifications, but if I don’t think I’ll enjoy working with you, I’m probably not going to hire you.

2. I don’t want you to immediately say you want the job.

Oh, I do want you to want the job — but not before you really know what the job entails. I may need you to work 60-hour weeks, or travel 80% of the time, or report to someone with less experience than you… so sit tight for a bit.

No matter how much research you’ve done, you can’t know you want the job until you know everything possible about the job.

3. I want you to stand out….

A sad truth of interviewing is that later I often don’t recall, unless I refer to my notes, a significant amount about some of the candidates. (Unfair? Sure. Reality? Absolutely.)

The more people I interview for a job and the more spread out those interviews, the more likely I am to remember a candidate by impressions rather than by a long list of facts.

So when I meet with staff to discuss potential candidates I might initially refer to someone as, “the guy with the bizarre stainless steel briefcase,” or “the woman who does triathlons,” or “the gentleman who grew up in Lichtenstein.”

In short, I may remember you by “hooks” – whether flattering or unflattering – so use that to your advantage. Your hook could be your clothing, or an outside interest, or an unusual fact about your upbringing or career. Better yet your hook could be the project you pulled off in half the expected time or the huge sale you made.

4. … but not for being negative.

There’s no way I can remember everything you say. But I will remember sound bites, especially the negative ones – like the candidates who complain, without prompting, about their current employer, their coworkers, or their customers.

So if for example you hate being micro-managed, instead say you’re eager to earn more responsibility and authority. I get there are reasons you want a new job but I want to hear why you want my job instead of why you’re desperate to escape your old job.

And keep in mind I’m well aware our interview is like a first date. I know I’m getting the best possible version of “you.” So if you whine and complain and grumble now… I know you’ll be a real treat to be around in a few months.

5. I want you to ask lots of questions about what really matters to you…

I need to know whether I should hire you, but just as importantly I need you to make sure my job is a good fit for you.

So I want you to ask lots of questions: What I expect you to accomplish early on, what attributes make our top performers outstanding, what you can do to truly drive results, how you’ll be evaluated… all the things that matter to you and to me and my business.

You know what makes work meaningful and enjoyable to you. I don’t. There’s no other way to really know whether you want the job unless you ask questions.

6. … but only if the majority of those questions relate to real work.

I know you want a positive work-life balance. Still, save all those questions about vacation sign-up policies and whether it’s okay to take an extra half hour at lunch every day if you also stay a half hour late and whether I’ve considered setting up an in-house childcare facility because that would be really awesome for you and your family.

First let’s find out if you’re the right person for the job, and whether the tasks, responsibilities, duties, etc. are right for you.

Then we can talk about the rest.

7. I love when you bring a “project.”

I expect you to do a little research about my company. That’s a given.

To really impress me, use the research you’ve done to describe how you will hit the ground running and contribute right away – the bigger the impact the better. If you bring a specific skill, show how I can leverage that skill immediately.

Remember how I see it: I have to pay your salary starting day one, so I’d love to see an immediate return on that investment starting day one.

8. At the end I want you to ask for the job… and I want to know why.

By the end of the interview you should have a good sense of whether you want the job. If you need more information, say so and let’s figure out how to get what you need to make a decision.

If you don’t need more information, do what great salespeople do and ask for the job.

I’ll like the fact you asked. I want you to really want the job — but I also want to know why you want the job. So tell me why: You thrive in an unsupervised role, or you love working with multiple teams, or you like frequent travel.

Ask me for the job and prove to me, objectively, that it’s a great fit for you.

9. I want you to follow up… especially if it’s genuine.

Every interviewer appreciates a brief follow-up note. If nothing else, saying you enjoyed meeting me and are happy to answer any other questions is nice.

But “nice” may not separate you from the pack.

What I really like – and remember – is when you follow up based on something we discussed. Maybe we talked about data collection techniques and you send me information about a set of tools you strongly recommend. Maybe we talked about quality and you send me a process checklist you developed that I could adapt to use in my company. Or maybe we both like cycling, so you send me a photo of you on your bike in front of the sign at the top of the Col du Tourmalet (and I’m totally jealous.)

The more closely you listened during the interview, the easier it is to think of ways to follow up in a natural and unforced way.

Remember, we’re starting a relationship — and even the most professional of relationships are based on genuine interactions.