7 Critical Phone Interview Mistakes Candidates Make

Phone interviews are viewed as the easiest, most painless way to interview for a new position. Think about it, you can do them from anywhere, nobody can see you and it ends up being a pretty small investment as far as your time is concerned. They also tend to be the quickest and easiest. If you are interviewing for a technical role, you might not even approach technical competencies because usually these interviews aren’t with a hiring manager. However, just because these first round phone interviews are easier than their longer, in person counterparts don’t mean they aren’t crucial to the process. In fact, in most cases if that first call doesn’t go well it will be your only contact with that company. Now I know that isn’t exactly groundbreaking however you would be surprised as to how many people end up messing something up in that first round. The thing that I consider to be most curious is that often it’s the little, easily avoidable mistakes that end up torpedoing an otherwise excellent interview. In my time in recruitment I have had thousands of first round phone interviews for hundreds of types of positions. Throughout all of these conversations I have noticed a pattern of the same easily avoidable mistakes that just keep popping up. This post will chronicle these mistakes, detail how they adversely impact you and explain how you can avoid these mistakes to make sure they never happen to you again.

 

  1. Not answering the call

 

I started with this one because it is the first opportunity you have to either do something correctly or incorrectly during your phone interview. Believe it or not this little mistake happens all the time. As a recruiter, when I call someone for an interview at a time we agreed upon and they don’t answer I can’t help but think, now why in the world would you miss this call? In fact, I think I say in my head “well that’s not a great start”. Some of you are probably thinking, “well yea, obviously that is not a great way to begin an interview, I would never do that”. To those of you with that approach, great job, your head is in the right place. However I bet a second group of you are reading this and saying to yourself, “Ben, what’s the big deal? They probably had a meeting run long or are walking to their car”. In fact, those are the two reasons why people miss the call most frequently. However I look at it like this, in terms of an interview, that’s your first impression and you will not get to make it twice. If I call someone and they don’t answer it is simply unavoidable that I don’t come away with some kind of judgment of their preparedness or perhaps the value they place on my time. The fact of the matter is, if you miss a recruiters call for a phone interview, whether or not you call them back 45 seconds or 5 minutes later, they will reach some kind of conclusion and it won’t be one that positively impacts your candidacy. So, if you feel like you might not be able to answer their call at a certain time, pick another time. It is much better to select a time the recruiter didn’t suggest then simply agree with their recommendation and miss the call.

 

  1. Walking to your car after you answer the phone to do the interview

 

So this one is kind of similar to the first mistake you can make. I can’t tell you how many times I call someone and I hear something like this, “Hi Ben, hold on (silence) one second (silence)…I am just walking ..out…to…my…car…”. When this happen I know exactly what is going on, they need to get to a place where they are free to talk. That is understandable, you can’t do an interview next to your colleagues. That just won’t work. Now it’s not the worst thing in the world but I will tell you what, it’s annoying. There have been times where I literally call someone and I am waiting four or five minutes as they walk to their car. So obviously this happens when someone is unprepared. Being unprepared never reflects well on you. You never want to have someone associate you with unpreparedness. Especially when you consider that your qualifications are being closely compared to other people who want a role. But let’s just say for the sake of argument that the recruiter doesn’t consider this a knock on your ability to adequately budget your time. Recruiters are very busy people and often if they schedule 30 minutes for you they are going to need every minute of that 30 minutes. Not only that but they may have someone they need to attend to right before your call and directly after your call. So even if it doesn’t reflect poorly on you in their eyes you might be robbing yourself of the necessary time to have a full phone interview. That three minutes you lost, will it be a question that allows you to sell yourself fully or will it perhaps be your chance to ask questions you were hoping to get answered? Either way, the fact of the matter is having less time to talk isn’t a good thing and if you can avoid it, you should. Make sure you budget extra time to get to that empty conference room or to your car.

 

  1. Interrupting

 

This one is pretty simple and straight forward. No one likes to be interrupted. Being interrupted by someone frequently makes it really hard to enjoy having a conversation with someone and it’s important that the recruiter like the conversation with you. Now some of you might be thinking, “Ben, I disagree, it’s really not that important that you like me, just that I can do the job”. And yea, there is certainly merit to that point. We don’t need to have matching friendship bracelets in order for you to be able to code in C# or for you to be able to run an effective Kiazan event. However, if there are four qualified candidates and the hiring manager has asked to see my top three, it certainly behooves you for our conversation to be a pleasant one. Nobody who gets interrupted thinks “Oh man, thank goodness this candidate interrupted me, clearly what I am saying isn’t as relevant as their thoughts”. Luckily this one is a simple fix, just be cognizant to not interrupt and if you do, say sorry.

 

  1. Not answering questions

 

One of my personal pet peeves is when I ask a direct question requiring a direct answer and I get something other than a direct answer. When I ask a question during a phone interview, it is usually something that is important to know when deciding if you are a fit for a position or perhaps even a direct question the hiring manager wants to know. So with that in mind, when I ask something like “How many years of project management experience do you have?” and I candidate says something like “well at ABC Company initially they have me in the mailroom and after that….” It drives me crazy. There are times when a question gives you the opportunity to expand and sell yourself however if none of that answer includes the answer to my initial question than you haven’t really done yourself any favors. If you have 8 years’ experience of project management then I am sitting there with my hands on my keyboard waiting to hear your number and if instead you go off on a tangent (regardless of how relevant you feel it to be) it can be pretty frustrating. If you do this one or two times than it won’t be that big of a deal.  However there are people who do this with every other question you ask them and I have to say, these might be the most frustrating people to interview. If you are asked a direct question, respond with a direct answer and if you plan on expanding, at least make sure you answer the question directly on the front end.

 

  1. Talking too quietly or too quickly

 

As someone who has spent the lion’s share of their experience recruiting engineers I have to say, this is another one that drives me crazy. Not that engineers talk more quickly or more quietly, just that they have so many acronyms and technical terms. The funny thing is that I totally understand this one, when you talk about what you do for a living you should be excited. And when people get excited or passionate they have a tendency to speak quickly. Totally understandable, however if you are trying to type down every word they are saying so the hiring manager can get an accurate picture of the conversation, this can be hard. I am always an advocate of being passionate. People buy your passion, just be cognizant of the speed at which you are answering these questions. As far as volume, sometimes this can be as simple as a weak connection. Towards the beginning of the conversation simply ask, “are you able to hear me ok?” and let the recruiter know if they have any trouble hearing you to let them know. This is simple, courteous and effective.

 

  1. Not having questions to ask

 

If you have been to my blog before (if you have, thank you and if this is your first visit, welcome) then you know how I feel about having questions to ask every person you talk to at every stage of the interview process. Its super important. It shows you prepared, are thoughtful and have interest in the role. All three of those points are important. If you don’t ask questions, how interested can you really be? Plus you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn more about the company. Do yourself a favor and  always have at least five questions to ask everyone you speak with during the interview process. If you need help with the questions check out my post 5 Excellent Questions You Should Ask in Your Interview. You would be surprised how many people say to me “I don’t really have any questions to ask at this time”. It’s quite a few. I have never thought to myself “Jeez, it was annoying answering that candidates questions” however I have thought to myself many times “Really? Not a single question to ask me….ok?”

 

  1. Not writing a thank you letter

 

Writing a thank you letter is easy. However even if it is something you consider hard you should totally do it. If someone holds a door open for you, social norms dictate a gesture of gratitude right? Imagine standing a few extra seconds to hold the door open for someone and instead of saying thanks they avoid eye contact with you and walk by you. What would your reaction be? You would probably think to yourself “Well I never?” and then be reluctant to the door open for that person as long as you are able to remember their face. While that is perhaps a tad on the dramatic side, the fact is when an interview has concluded you have two options, you can either write a quick thank you note or you opt to not write a quick note. While perhaps it won’t be the straw that broke the camel’s back in your quest for employment, wouldn’t you rather err on the side of caution? If it comes down to you and one other person with almost identical education, experience and salary requirements, would you not rather be the one of the two that wrote a nice thank you note? When a recruiter gets a note thanking them for their time, on some level they appreciate it, trust me. Even if they don’t respond (shame on them), they appreciate it.  If you want an easy guide to writing a great thank you note check out my post How do you write a thank you letter after an interview? A four step plan for success.

 

Well there you have it folks. There are the 7 Critical Phone Interviews Mistakes Candidates Make. If you can avoid making these mistakes I guarantee that you will be better off and have a better chance of advancing to the second round. What did you think of the mistakes I included? If I missed anything you consider to be a common mistake I would love to see them below in the comment section, either on my blog or on LinkedIn in the group chat. As always, thanks again for reading. Feel free to follow my blog, add me on twitter or LinkedIn and if you have any questions you would like me to answer, let me know!

5 Excellent Questions You Should Ask in Your Interview

In my last post, 5 Interview Mistakes Entry Level Candidates Make, one of the mistakes entry level candidates make is not being prepared to ask questions.  I have always maintained that an interview is as much about you learning about the company as it is them learning about you. That in of itself should be motivation enough for you to think up high impact questions that provide you with clarity on what is a huge decision. Switching jobs is always a gamble and since we spend so much time at work, it’s a decision of great consequence. However, that is not the only reason you should be asking questions. I also feel strongly that at the end of the day, you want to be the one making the decisions. So that means ultimately you want to be extended an offer and you should be the person deciding whether or not it is the right career move for you. With that end goal in mind it is extremely important that you come prepared with questions ask, at every level of interview. The reason I say that is having questions prepared is going to be a positive indicator in the eyes of virtually everyone you speak to during the hiring process. From sourcer, to recruiter, to hiring manager and human resources manager, if they talk with you, they will most likely ask you if you have any questions. Given the gravity of the situation, who wouldn’t have several questions to ask? So, we ask questions not only to find out necessary information but also because having thoughtful questions reflects highly on us. With that being said, below are some questions you should be asking during your interviews.

 

  1. Why is this role open?

 

The answer to this question will give you an idea about the companies urgency to fill the role. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, there are exceptions, if a position is newly created as opposed to a position being open because somebody left, they may not be in a hurry to fill it. Why is that the case? Well it is most often the case because when a company has a new role, it is something they have lived without up until this point. When you have an employee doing a job and that job becomes vacant, it usually means that task is no longer being done or they are having to spread resources in order to get this task completed. This either means other things aren’t getting done or employees are working longer hours. Both of these scenarios create a strain and therefor extra motivation to get the role filled. For you own information you want to be aware of their potential timing and desire to fill the role. When you ask  recruiter something like “when do you want to have this position filled?” 99% of the time they are going to tell you “as soon as we can find the right person” and quite frankly that’s not really helpful.  If you really want to know their urgency, ask why the role is open. Now that being said sometimes a role is created and it is just as urgent, but most of the time it won’t be.

 

  1. What have past employees done to be successful in roles like this?

 

This is a great question to ask. For starters, in my opinion, it is super insightful. Some questions you may ask because you are genuinely curious, some you ask because it will impress the person interviewing you and questions like this you ask for both reasons. I especially like this question if you have further interviews because it allows you to figure out what parts of your experience make sense to highlight in upcoming interviews. For example, if they mention that people in the past behave been successful in this role who happen to have strong communication skills, then clearly they have given you an area of your background that it makes sense to expand upon. Not only will this tell you if you personality or skills will help you succeed if you gets the role but it will help you shift the very make up of potential answers you can give down the road. Now, I don’t recommend exaggerating or pretending to have skills you don’t actually possess, that is always a terrible idea. But if they happen to mention a strong indicator for success that aligns with your strengths, by all means you should try and work that into answers for future questions.

 

  1. What do you like about working here?

 

This question is purely for you. The passion in the persons voice should probably tell you everything you need to know. Does it take them a long time to think of things? Do they sound like they are describing a trip to the dentist instead of what you were hoping to hear described as a great culture? Do they give you a quick canned answer or is there something more to work with there. Everyone knows what is important to them. For some people it is growth opportunity, for some it is work life balance and for some they want to hear about employee development. Do you hear an answer that indicates this company can give you what you are looking for?

 

  1. What’s the top priority for the person who takes this job for the first three months?

 

This is another great question. It gives you an insight into what you can expect to be doing for the first 90 days, which is a crucial time for their post hire evaluation. If heard employers say that they treat those first 90 days almost as another extended interview. When taking a new role, the first 90 days are absolutely crucial. By learning what those first 90 days will consist of it also positions you to better understand whether or not you will be able to thrive during this extremely important time in your tenure at your new company. It’s another question that, as a recruiter, makes me feel strongly about the thought a candidate is putting into the process. To put it simply, it’s the kind of question good candidates ask. Good candidates, who want a full picture of the situation and make sure they make decisions having all available information ask questions like that.

 

  1. What challenges will this person likely face in this role?

 

This is another great question that not only falls under the “questions good candidates ask” category but can also really help you down the road determining if the role is right for you. When someone conducting an interview is asked a question like this it can be really hard to quickly think of an answer that isn’t a genuine issue that might come up. While most of the time interviewers will attempt to not dissuade you from wanting the role, a question like this is usually pretty good at generating an honest answer. That answer might be invaluable down the road as you decide whether or not the role is a right fit for you. For example, let’s say you are a Quality Engineer. You ask the question and the answer is that often production doesn’t want to adhere to the quality standards and that it can be a challenge to get management on board when it comes to backing your quality implementations. Well whoa, if you are a quality engineer wouldn’t you want to know that? I know I would. In addition to that, much like the prior success question it can help you find different pain points that align with the skills you would be able to bring to the position. This can help you sell your abilities further into the interview process and set you up for interview success.

 

Well there you have it, those are my 5 excellent interview questions you need to ask. That being said, there are other questions you can ask in addition to those. For example I always like to ask about development opportunities they have for their employees. What a company is willing to invest in you will tell you a lot about how they treat and value their employees. There is also a lot you can learn from the lengths at which they go to answer your questions. If they answer with a lot of quick and short answers, you can probably figure out that there isn’t a lot of interest in you as a candidate. On the other hand, when an interviewer goes out of their way to fully answer your questions and continues to sell the company and the role, you can probably figure that they have interest in you as a candidate. Again, I wouldn’t consider this a hard and fast rule. The fact is that some people are overly enthusiastic and some people have more steady sounding voices that don’t give a lot away. However generally speaking there is a lot you can gain if you pay attention to the tone, duration and passion in their answers. Hope that helped! Thanks for reading!

5 Interview Mistakes Entry Level Candidates Make

What an exciting time! You have just finished school and with all the enthusiasm in the world you create a resume and attempt to land you first real job! While that sounds like quite the adventure, I can remember not too long ago when that was me and what I ended up finding out is that adventure can be longer than anticipated. I have a unique perspective on this seeing as how I went through it not too long ago and I speak with entry level candidates all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, some entry level candidates come off sounding like experienced vets. Their resumes look perfect, their LinkedIn profiles fully optimized and they are networked well better than those five or even ten years their senior. However this wasn’t me and quite frankly it’s not most people. Even if you have had jobs before, it’s a totally different call game when you finally get to the big leagues. The questions are tougher and the reality is the competition is a lot stiffer. At the same time you find yourself graduating, a ton of other people with similar goals and ambitions are also ready to enter the job market. According to the National Center for Education Statistics during the 2015-16 school year colleges and universities will award 1.8 million bachelor’s degree and over 800 thousand masters degrees. Talk about competition. Knowing that, it only makes sense you would want to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Well today is your lucky day because I am going to share with you the 5 interview mistakes entry level candidates make so that you are able to avoid them. These are the mistakes I have noticed frequently occur when I interview entry level and early career candidates.

 

  1. Unfamiliar with the company

You would be surprised how many times I have someone say to me, “what does your company do?” during an interview. What does your company do? What does your company do? It is an absolutely terrible question to ask because it highlights several negative things to us. You can tell right away this person didn’t adequately prepare. It also gives us a sense that they don’t value the opportunity. If this was something that was really important to you, you would already possess this information. Going into an interview not knowing what the company does is literally the second biggest indicator possible that you didn’t prepare for this interview. Literally the only thing indicating it more would be if you didn’t pick up the phone when you are called at the pre-agreed upon time. The thing that is most frustrating about it is that this information is painstakingly easy to find. If you are reading this, whether it is from your computer or your smartphone, it is possible for you to find out what pretty much every company in the world does in virtually no time at all. Be prepared and know a good deal about the company you are interviewing with and if you can’t do that, at least don’t broadcast your lack of preparedness by asking this question.

 

  1. Failing to familiarize themselves with the position description

There is usually a significant gap in the time between applying for a role online and when you find yourself in that first interview. Given this gap it is natural for you not to remember details about the job description. Now, that doesn’t mean it is ok. Not knowing the details of the job description  not only makes it looks like you aren’t prepared but it also puts you at a disadvantage when  it comes to answering questions. If you are familiar with the tasks and responsibilities of a role you are better positioned to answer many of the questions that typically come up during a job interview. Job descriptions are pain points for companies. If they need someone to do something it is because they don’t currently have someone doing it. If you can incorporate components of the new role into answers about your skill set you start to make yourself sound like you are part of the solution. Even better would be to find a role you are interested, look at the responsibilities of the position and then customize your resume to match the duties of the role you are applying to. The fact of the matter is the likelihood of you being asked a question related to the job description is extremely high. If you are unfamiliar with the job description you are positioning yourself to potentially miss on questions that should be opportunities to sell yourself.

 

  1. Failing to ask questions 

In most interviews you will be given an opportunity to ask hiring manager or the recruiter questions. All too often I have candidates have the opportunity but ask me nothing. There are so many good questions to ask at this point and so many things candidates should be curious about that it strikes me as odd when someone doesn’t take advantage. Most people view asking questions in a job interview as a way to obtain information. While that is true, what they are overlooking is that it is also a way to convey interest. Well worded questions citing information about the company can even be used as an opportunity to showcase your knowledge about the company. For example you can ask something the like this “In 2015 your company experienced a 8% improvement in international sales, what would you contribute that to and what does your company have planned moving forward to make sure those trends continue?”. A question like that not only gives you useful information about the company but it also lets the interviewer know that you did your homework. Make sure you go into every interview with questions to ask not only for yourself but for them as well.

 

  1. Not researching salary

This is a mistake a ton of entry level candidates make and quite frankly I get it. If you haven’t ever had a full time professional role before, it can be easy to not know what you should be making. However the fact of the matter is, any good recruiter is going to ask you a question or two around salary. The last thing you want to do here is throw out a number that’s too high and disqualifies you are throw out a number too low and had them low ball you when it comes time to get an offer. The solution to that is you need to go in there prepared. There are many websites that can help you with that but I personally like Glassdoor. Look at the pic below, by clicking on salary it will let you search by occupation title and geographic area.

Glassdoor

 

Feel free to use this link to check out the tool and see how you stack up in your current role in your area Glassdoor Salary Tool. This is a simple way to find out what people who do the job you are interviewing for make in your area. That way when a recruiter asks you what you are looking for in terms of compensation you can say something like “My research shows me that an Jr. Accountant in Milwaukee, WI makes XYZ a year. I would be targeting a salary in that range but I am open to a fair and equitable offer”. In my book, Getting the Job, I have a great chapter on negotiation if you want to learn how I recommend positioning yourself for the strongest offer they are able to make.

  1. Not being prepared to expand on their experience

Entry level roles are the quickest phone screens I ever do. On one hand this makes a lot of sense, they don’t have as much experience to talk about so their interviews are shorter. However its often because they don’t really expand on their experience. Whenever I ask questions I get a lot of short, one word answers. Or I asked them to walk me through their experience during an internship and they finish telling me everything they did in a sentence or two. Not only does this leave me asking myself “is that really all this candidate did here?” but it is also selling yourself short. Most of the time there is a lot more that was done besides what the candidate is offering up. What has always helped me was writing down each role I have had on a piece of paper. The under that I write my tasks but more importantly I write a few things I accomplished in each of my roles. Usually there are a few questions asked during an interview that afford you the opportunity to share accomplishments from previous roles. If you have these already written down it is easier to recall them and use them as examples.

 

There you have it, those are my 5 interview mistakes entry level candidates make. Have you made any of these in the past and are brave enough to share them below in the comments? I know I have made a few. Now moving forward you can avoid these mistakes and nail the interview. I hope this helped and thanks for reading!

 

-Ben

3 Excellent Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why are you looking for a new role?”

In my last post I covered three ways to answer this question if you want to totally botch it and have them delete your resume (if you want to read that, check out this link 3 Terrible Ways to Answer the Question “Why Are You Looking For a New Role?”). This post I am going to cover how you should answer it if you want to better your chances of moving forward in the process. Some of you are probably wondering “Ben, why does my reasoning for looking for a new job matter? I am looking and I have the necessary skills, what more is there to it.” I would counter by saying while that is totally fair, that is tackling the question solely from your perspective. While the “why” might not matter to you, it matters a ton to us. By us I mean recruiters and hiring managers. The reason it matters to us is because this one question can tell us so much about you as a candidate and as a potential employee. If you read my article on how not to answer this question, I take a deeper look at the bad conclusions employers are able to reach just through this one question alone.

 

But let me start by what I, as a recruiter look for. The first thing is are you looking for a good reason. That is important to me because if you reason for looking isn’t strong that increases the likelihood that something will go wrong later in the process. For example, if you reason for looking is you want more money, you might receive a counter offer from your current employer and you might accept that. If your motivation for looking is that you “Just wanted to see what is out there” I will end up drawing many conclusion, none of them particularly good. Just looking to see what is out there, well that hardly motivation to leave your current job (it’s not an easy thing, people are typically change averse). What if we make an offer and you were “just looking” all along and turn down the offer? Were you just woefully unprepared to answer this question? Who doesn’t prepare for an interview? Did you not prepare because you don’t value this opportunity? What kind of employee makes decision, just because? The best candidates have strong reasons for looking that are non-negotiable.  The bad answers fall into two categories in my opinion. They either make it appear like something might go wrong down the road if we are able to get to the point of offer or they make you look like the type of candidate who we won’t want to make an offer to anyway.  Both of those conclusion have one big thing in common, time. As a recruiter time is crucially important. We are measured by how long our roles are open so filling them as quickly and efficiently as possible will always carry some gravity. If aren’t a good candidate, then having the interview itself is a waste. Even worse, if you have a bad reason for looking and you end up getting to the offer but you turn it down we have wasted a ton of time. Not only will it be disappointing to our hiring managers to lose out to someone they wanted but now it’s highly likely we need to start the search over (assuming we don’t have a second place candidate). So, now that I have hopefully convinced you why getting this right is so important lets go over three examples on how you can do just that.

 

  1. I have always admired your company

 

Saying that you are interested in applying for a role because of your admiration for the company is a very solid option in my opinion. It kind of goes without saying that if this is the approach you choose to take you should have a solid knowledge of the organization (if you are taking the time to apply to a company I hope this would be the case already). Imagine saying that is your reason for applying and then being asked for specifics only to fumble over some obvious talking points, illustrating your lack of preparedness. That is obviously not the way to go. So if you choose this approach, do your due diligence and when you answer have some passion in your voice. There is no substitute for being prepared and being passionate.

 

  1. I don’t foresee the growth I desire at my current company

 

This is another answer that works best if it is absolutely true. However if it is true it is an absolutely great way to answer the question for several reasons. The first is it shows that you are interested in advancing in your career. There managers who want someone to fill their role and not leave for 20 years, it’s true, they exist. However most hiring managers want candidates with ambition, passion and goals. When you say you wouldn’t be looking however your company isn’t able to provide you with the growth you desire you give off the impression that you are goal oriented and high potential, what hiring manager doesn’t want to see that? Another component of this answer that is often overlooked is it gives you the chance to speak highly of your current company. I am sure many of you are thinking “Wait, why does that matter?” Well it matters for three reasons. The first being it allows you to showcase a positive attitude, which is important. Negative people are not fun to work with, showing you are positive is always a good thing. The second is it’s the opposite of speaking negative. If I was going to put together a ten interview commandment post (oooh, great idea, coming soon) one of those ten commandments would be to never speak poorly about a past employer. It doesn’t make people feel sorry for you, it makes you appear difficult. Lastly it starts your positioning for negotiation. One of the most important things you can do in negotiation is be negotiating from a position of power. If you speak highly of your current company, saying things like “I wouldn’t be looking if it was for ABC because I really enjoy working here” it lets them know that approaching you with a weak offer would be a waste of everyone’s time. Have you ever accepted a position with a company because you desperately needed a job? If so, how empowered were you to counter their offer when it came time? My guess is not very. By letting them know that there isn’t a lot of urgency behind you exploring opportunities you are positioning yourself to not only receive a stronger offer but to be able to negotiate, should you choose to do so, from a position of power.

 

  1. The job description fits my interests and skills perfectly

 

This is another excellent way to answer this question. Most job descriptions are written with the intent of solving a problem. When a job description says needs someone with 5 years’ experience in project management, preferably leading cross functional teams, the company is telling you a pain point of theirs. They are letting you know exactly what hurts and what they anticipate will fix their issue. So when you specifically say you are interested in applying to this job because the description is a great fit for your education and experience you are telling them that you are the answer to their problem. If you choose this approach make sure you read the job description and are prepared to speak as to why you are a good fit (also, you should be prepared to do this anyway).  A pro-tip here would be to print out the job description and write down an example of a time when you did that type of work by both the job duties and qualifications. I like to write down examples so that when I am asked about my experience it is concise and directly applicable. I have always been a big fan of this answer. Not only is it a valid reason for applying for a job but it’s a 1-2 punch, showcasing why you are a perfect match based on experience.

 

Bonus note: Now, if you use techniques 1 or 3, on occasion a recruiter or hiring manager will say something like “ok, well I see why you are interested but why are you looking in the first place?” To their defense, technically this is true. Sure, you might be the perfect fit for the role, but what motivated you to go to indeed and look in the first place. I personally answer this by saying something like “I am not actively looking for a role. I am actually very happy with my current role but I always keep my eyes open for good opportunities because you never know when the perfect role might become available”. To me it’s a great point. I shows that you are happy where you are (setting you up to negotiate from a position of power), that you are someone who understands the value of staying prepared and perhaps most importantly. Should satisfy their desire of getting to the bottom of why you are looking.

 

Well there you have it. I know that was a big post to be dedicated to a single question but believe me when I say that question carries a lot of weight. There are right ways and wrong ways to answer every question. To me these are 3 excellent ways to answer the question “why are you looking for a new role?”.  Executed properly each of these answers should help you pass this stage of the interview with flying colors and set you up for success later on in the process. Which is your favorite? Feel free to comment below and as always, thanks for reading!

3 Terrible Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why Are You Looking For a New Role?”

There are no guarantees in life besides death, taxes and that during every first round interview you are going to be asked why you are looking for a new role. In fact it is likely to be one of the first questions that you are asked. And while it sounds like it’s a pretty straight forward question, the fact of the matter is its vitally important that you are answer it correctly. In my next blog post I am going to tell you exactly how you should answer. I am going to use this post to tell you how you should answer it if you never want to hear back from the company again. I am going to share three very common answers that I hear all the time as a recruiter that I absolutely recommend you never use when you are asked this question. There are many important questions you will have to field as a job seeker but this particular question can totally derail your candidacy if answered incorrectly.

 

  1. I am looking for more money

 

This is one of the answers I get all the time. Absolutely do not say this. Look, I have interviewed before and for me money has always been part of the motivation. Most people don’t show up at work Monday morning because they would rather be doing that than lying on a beach. They show up because they have bills. They have a mortgage, a trip they are planning, they like eating. People go to work because that is what they do for a living. So, obviously it would be crazy to think that money isn’t important to every single job seeker. So yes, while that might be a giant piece of your motivation pie chart, don’t say that. So why shouldn’t you answer the question like that you ask? Well I can tell you that no recruiter or hiring manager considers that a good reason to want to make a change. When you are being interviewed the people asking questions are going to want to hear things that make them compelled to hire you. You saying “I want more money” is not one of these things. Strictly from a recruiters standpoint the reason we don’t like hearing this is that if the principle motivating factor for you is compensation that means if we want to hire you we could also lose out on you if someone offers you more money. Now, I feel very strongly against accepting counter offers, I think it’s a terrible idea. But as a recruiter, if a candidate tells me the sole reason they are looking for a new job is the money, counter offer immediately pops into my head. Moving is hard and people don’t like change. So if we make you an offer and your current company matches that offer, why go through the trouble of moving? So not only might we lose out on you outright, it also means that we could find ourselves in a bidding war for your services. Nobody wants that. Hiring managers are usually thinking long term with hires as well, so when someone says they are moving for money, it leads them to believe that you might move for money again. Meaning they would have to replace you. For a variety of reasons it’s a bad way to answer that question. Look, you might be moving because you aren’t being paid your worth. Most of us have been there, you just shouldn’t say it. That being said, I know compensation is extremely important. In My eBook I devote several chapters to positioning yourself to receive the best offer a company would be willing to give you, countering offers and the best way to accept an offer.

 

  1. I don’t really get along with my manager

 

Right now I know some of you reading this are thinking “Come one Ben, nobody actually says stuff like that”. Well guess what, they do. For me, an ironclad rule of interviewing is that you should never speak ill of a previous employer. It doesn’t matter how terrible of a boss they were, simply put, you stand to gain absolutely nothing by badmouthing them to potential future employers. Speaking poorly of a former company or a former boss doesn’t make people feel bad for you. It makes them think that you are difficult or that you are incapable of adapting, both things you do not want them thinking. Even if the experience was terrible, it behooves you to talk about the lessons you learned and about how grateful you are that you gained this experience. You may be looking because you can stand your boss or perhaps your company stopped its annual Christmas party to save money and that is fine, just never say that.

 

  1. I don’t know, I just kind of wanted to see what was out there…

 

Believe it or not I get this one all the time. When you give a direction like that what you are actually saying is “I lack direction and make flippant decisions…oh and there is a good chance I am going to end up wasting your time”. Do yourself a favor and don’t give answers like that. Imagine you are on a first date and you ask the person you are taking out why they agreed to go on a date with you and they respond “I don’t know, I didn’t have anything else planned, so I guess this was something to do…”. How would that make you feel? How would you feel about your prospects of getting a second date? Do you even want one? Hiring managers and recruiters alike want to be talking with people who not only know what they want but have clear and concise reasons for wanting it. If you seem like you have no real reason for looking and no motivation for looking but here you are, it says a bunch about you and it’s not good. In my next post I am going to discuss exactly how you should answer this questions but in the meantime, don’t answer it like this.

 

So there you have it. Those are my 3 ways not to answer why you are looking for a new role. I can’t wait to write my next post because there are so many great ways to answer that question that will propel you to the next interview. For another post about avoiding common mistakes check out  3 Ways Job Seekers Sabotage their Chances at Landing a Job. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask.  Thanks for reading!

How You Should Deal With Gaps in Your Resume

Anyone who has ever had a period of unemployment knows the stress it can cause. You go from having somewhere to be every day to all of a sudden being faced with the prospect of having a lot of free time. Even people who hate their jobs suddenly have a different take on things once they are without it. It can be quite the jarring feeling. In addition to that, you are now faced with the prospect of being a job seeker. That could mean updating a resume you aren’t sure you even have saved on your computer anymore, making sure you have references willing to rave about what a strong addition you would be and finally the added element of being able to explain why you are in the situation you are currently in. All that can be quite trying but this post isn’t an attempt to tackle all of that. Instead it is looking at how you should handle a gap on your resume.

 

Most people who end up with gaps in their resume don’t plan on ending up in that situation. While it can happen for a variety of reasons the end result is the same, there is a period of time in your resume that is unaccounted for. When you apply for a position at a company they are going to see it and immediately they are going to wonder why the gap exists. Job seekers know that and most of the time they try disguise the gap. I am going to spend the rest of this post talking about the right way and the wrong way to do that. The main way I see this handled incorrectly is by leaving off the months on their resume. Job seekers who have been laid off or quit a role try to hide the fact that they had a period of unemployment by only have the years that they worked at a company. Look at an example of this formatted below.

 

Typical Formatting

ABC Company 2/15 – 1/16

Manufacturing Engineer

 

In the above example you can see that the person was hired in February 2016 and was no longer with the company as of January 2016. Now let’s look at the other example below.

 

Month Missing Format

ABC Company 2015-2016

Manufacturing Engineer

 

Let me be clear on my opinion of this. Po9int blank, it doesn’t work. Recruiters might spend their days looking at hundreds of resumes and when candidates leave the months of employment off it is usually a dead giveaway that there was a big gap. In fact it draws more attention to it than if you had simply left it as is and kept the months on there. When I see that on a resume it actually leads me to believe that not only are they not with the company anymore, there is indeed a gap but also that they probably ended up leaving on not great circumstances.

 

What to do instead

 

Now they I have told you what not to do, I will focus on a better approach. While I am not a big advocate of cover letters, when you have a gap in your resume I actually think it’s a pretty good idea to have a cover letter. You can use that cover letter to express interest in the role, explain the gap of employment, explain how you kept your skills sharp during that gap and explain why you would be a great fit for the company and be able to come in and contribute day one. Another tactic to quell any concerns a recruiter might have is to indicate why you are no longer with the company if it was through no fault of your own. For example, if there was a downsizing and you were caught up in it, then it’s a lot less damning then you punching your boss in the face and being walked out.  Obviously that’s an extreme case but the point I am making is that if you were part of a larger layoff or a contract ended it behooves you to put that on your resume. The point is illustrated below.

 

ABC Company 2/14 – 1/15 (Contract assignment ended)

Manufacturing Engineer

 

When I see that on a resume it offers me an immediate point of clarification. Otherwise I would wonder, why did this person leave ABC company? If a contract ended or perhaps you were part of a layoff, as a recruiter I would want to know that. Those types of things happen to people and they do not reflect poorly on you but if you don’t specify, we won’t know. Now if you were fired for cause that is a different story. I wouldn’t include that next to the position you held on the resume nor would I include that in the cover letter. Instead I would be prepared to speak to that in interviews. I wouldn’t recommend lying about it, rather you just need to be able to frame it correctly. By that I mean talk about how valuable of an experience it was for you, what you learned and why now you are looking at roles you feel are more aligned to your skills. In addition if you can get references from that company it certainly can help.

Once you have had your interview, check out my post for how to write the perfect Thank you letter.

 

So there you have it. In my opinion that is how you deal with gaps in your resume. It’s not something you try and hide because believe me, it will be noticed. Instead, find a way to tell the story of why and explain what you did in the interim to continue to develop as a professional. Thanks for reading!

5 Things Hiring Managers Look For in a Resume

In my time in Talent Acquisition I have presented tens of thousands of resumes to hiring managers who were hiring in a variety of industries. Some of them have significant experience in hiring and some are making the first hire for their new team. However with a few exceptions most of these hiring managers were looking for the same 5 things. It has been said that perception is reality. To a point, this is also true with resumes. What you are able to convey, in the very limited time that a hiring manager is looking at your resume, is exactly how they are going to see you. If you leave off accomplishments and the impact you have made in previous roles, as far as they are concerned, it never happened. With competition for great roles being so intense, it’s crucial that you are able to vocalize why you are someone they can’t afford to not speak with. But what are those things you ask? What is it hiring managers need to see on a resume in order for you to be given the opportunity to interview for the role you are pursuing? Over the last 6 years and working with hundreds of hiring managers, below is the list of the 5 things hiring managers look for in a resume.

 

  1. Job Stability

Even as more and more millennials enter the workforce and the trend of remaining with a single company your entire career becomes an extinct concept, hiring managers still want to see some sort of job stability. They don’t want see any unexplained gaps of employment and they don’t want to see stints of jobs less than a year. What typically passes for job stability is a bare minimum of two years at each company but averaging three or higher over the course of your career. It also can vary from hiring manager to hiring manager. If someone has been at a company for 25 years and you have been at your company for 4 years, they might look at you leaving already as a potential red flag whereas another hiring manager might look at that as commonplace. While this isn’t something easily remedied, it is certainly something you should take into account when deciding if it’s time to look for a new role. That being said, there are a few easy things you can do to make your resume appear as if there is a little more stability. For example, if you had a contract or a consulting role at a company, make sure that you is something you convey. Too many people have three or four jobs in a row that are one year stays and when I talk to them I find out that they were consulting roles. It is one thing to have worked a few contract roles in a row during a tough economy, it is a totally different thing to have a string of one year stays.

 

  1. Clear and concise points of job duties

When hiring managers look at the bullet points of prior roles they are looking for points of comparison. They want to be able to look at your prior roles, clearly see what your responsibilities were and then be able to stack that up to what you will be doing on their team. They don’t want redundancy or convoluted explanations. They want to know what your responsibilities were. Make sure you look at the job you are applying for, look at the responsibly for that role and try and match up what you have done in the past. I am not suggesting you make anything up but if you have done everything under responsibilities of the job you are applying to, you are certainly not doing yourself any favors if you don’t showcase that you have done those things in prior roles. While there are many ways to format a resume, I have always been in favor of a summary of the role, followed by bulleted tasks and accomplishments. This clearly shows the hiring manager what you have done in the past and how it relates to the role you have applied for. If there are tools specific to the role, make sure you include those as well.

 

  1. Measurable Results

Making an impact in a prior role is great, but if you don’t do a good job of clearly defining that impact then it might as well not be on your resume. Let me give you a few examples. Saying “I was able to increase productivity through the implementation of lean manufacturing practices” is ok. However saying “Was able to improve productivity 18% over a 12 month period resulting in 150k cost savings by implementing lean manufacturing techniques and leading three Kiazan events” is way better. It gives the hiring manager a clear idea of what you did and the impact you may be able to deliver to their organization. Even better, if the job description specifically states a responsibility you would have in the new role and you have had successful projects in the past that are similar, use the above technique to sell yourself for that role. If you can find a pain point and align that with one of your strengths, it is a great way to guarantee the hiring managers enthusiasm towards your candidacy.

 

 

  1. Technical Competencies

Now while this doesn’t necessary hold true for all roles, if you have a role with any sort of technical requirements, you better believe the hiring manager is looking for them on your resume. For example if you are a computer programmer and the role requires you to code primarily in C and C# it would behoove you to have that in your resume. Some people do this by having a competencies or skills portion of their resume and some people will just include it in the bullet points of their previous roles. Really smart candidates will do both. Not only is this smart when it comes to impressing the hiring manager, but many ATS’s (applicant tracking systems) will assign you a percentage value for your fit to the role by examining your resume and the job description. So if you see a role requires you to be proficient in C,C+ and C#, make sure you have those in terms in your resume where applicable. Not only will it stand out to the recruiter and hiring manager but the algorithm used in the employers ATS will most likely take note of that and assign you a favorable score.

 

  1. Education and training

I have worked with many hiring managers over the course of my career who look straight to this section of the resume. Whether they are looking for a degree from a specific University with a well-respected program or if they are looking for the certifications you have racked up along the way, believe me they look. Most people who obtain a certification such as a 6 Sigma black belt proudly display it on their resume and with good reason. If you have done the work top obtain degrees and certifications, make sure they are properly displayed because for most hiring managers it is a crucial component to your candidacy. Most people have a section for education and certification so I know this isn’t groundbreaking information but I can’t stress its importance. Also, if you have undergone company training’s or have other applicable training, make sure you make mention of that too.

 

Bonus

 

In today’s world your resume isn’t your only resume. If you are looking for a job (and even if you aren’t) have a well put together LinkedIn profile. I have been contacted via LinkedIn for two of my last four jobs. I didn’t have to apply, someone reached out to me and sold me on the opportunity. Each time I am happy I listened. Not to mention I have reached out to thousands of people on LinkedIn to offer them the chance at a new opportunity. Check out this post I wrote on just why LinkedIn is so important for modern professionals LinkedIn for Job Seekers. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post below.  Thanks for reading!

How to Gracefully Turn Down a Job Offer (and why it matters)

There are  few things that are as exciting professionally as receiving a job offer. After getting your resume put together, applying to the role, doing a few phone interviews and interviewing in person you finally get that payoff. The feedback is a resounding “WE WANT YOU”. It’s a fantastic feeling. But, what if you don’t want them? What if for whatever reason you have made the decision this isn’t the right time for me. Perhaps there was a shakeup at your current company that is going to really advance your career there. Perhaps you received an offer from a third company. Maybe the onsite interview left you with a bad taste in your mouth. Whatever the reason is, you have decided you will not be taking the job. But how do you communicate this to them? Maybe another question is, does it even matter? Since you don’t want to work there why does it even matter how you tell them.

 

The answer is absolutely it does matter. From this side of the table, I can tell you that when it can be a devastating to find out that someone is turning down an offer. Companies don’t extend offers flippantly, it is a big decision that has a significant financial ramifications. So when a group of people have gotten the approval from the company to extend an offer and the entire interview team decided on a candidate, it’s not great news when they say no. So back to the question, why does it matter? It matters for a variety of reasons. The first reason is because while perhaps this role wasn’t the perfect fit, maybe a new role comes out next week or two months from now. If that company ends up having your dream job opening, how you let them down regarding this job makes a huge difference on if they would consider you for the next role.

 

While that certainly is a possibility, to me, the more pressing concern is the ripple  effects. The fact of the matter is there are a lot of people involved in an interview and offer process. And another fact is that there is a very remote possibility that all of those people work at the same company for the rest of their lives. In fact the more likely scenario is that many of those people will end up working in a similar capacity at other local companies. And it is likely that they work at companies in similar industries and of a similar size. Now, if you burn bridges, people remember that. If you accept the offer and things go swimmingly, some of the people involved may not remember you ten years from now. However if you burn bridges that is the kind of thing people remember and the type of thing that could come back to haunt you.

 

The third reason you don’t want to turn down a role in the way that upsets people is that typically the people you interview with are going to be well connected. For example. In any given geographic area it is likely that many recruiters know each other and likely communicate. If you do something that really sticks out in a negative way, it’s possible that news spreads. And while maybe you don’t want this role, you certainly don’t want to damage your reputation at other potential future employers.

 

So let’s talk about some of the ways people turn down offers that are in poor form. I have delivered many offers in my time in talent acquisition and I have had my fair share of turned down offers. I can tell you that there is definitely a right and a wrong way to do it. The worst way to turn down an offer is just to fall off the face of the planet. I have had candidates who decided they didn’t want the job just not pick up the phone, not return any messages or emails. Out of all the ways you can turn down an offer this is the worse way. This is extremely unprofessional and will definitely limit your future career prospects if any of these people are involved. One of the other ways I have experienced people turning down an offer is they make an aggressive counter offer and when the company goes back, gets the approval, they still turn down the offer. The other way I have seen is candidates say they want to think about it, they take a really long time, wait until they reach the deadline just to decline the offer. While in some of these instances the candidate may very well be examining all of their options and it just took them every minute, it can leave a bad taste in the interviewers mouth.

 

So let’s talk about how to do it right. The first thing you need to do is be absolutely sure of your decision. You want to come to a concrete decision and not be swayed either way. Whether they try to offer you more money or if your former company makes you a counter, be resolute in the direction you have decided to go. The second tip is that you want to do the communication by phone. While it is certainly easier to type up an email, hit send and walk away from the computer, it’s better to communicate via phone. It is much more personal to tell them over the phone and while it’s more difficult, they will appreciate it. My last tip is that you want to make the decision relatively quickly. If you keep them waiting just to tell them know that can keep them from moving on to a secondary candidate. If you have made your decision, make sure you don’t put them in a worse position and perhaps cost them a shot at the second place candidate. However I also don’t recommend doing it immediately either. If they call you to give you an offer and you immediately say no, they will wonder why you interviewed in the first place. My recommendation would be to thank them for the offer, tell them you want take some time to think about it and then the next day inform them that you won’t be taking the role. When you do tell them, let them know while you appreciate the offer and it was a tough decision you have made the decision to not accept the offer. If they ask if there is anything they can do to change your mind, if you have already made up your mind, let them know that there isn’t and you have made your final decision. While it won’t be what they were hoping for they will respect the way you handled the situations.

 

So there you have it. That is how you gracefully turn down an offer and why it matters. Now if you want the job but they tell you they have decided they don’t want to offer you the job check out this blog that will help you navigate that situation Smart things to do when you don’t get the job!. If you have any questions or comments I would love to answer them. Thanks for reading!