3 Powerful Reasons to Never Accept a Counter Offer

If you like your job and you like your boss, giving your notice can be an extremely difficult conversation to have. You might find yourself dreading having the conversation and even experiencing anxiety over the conversation. I have given my notice several times and in my experience it is always a hard conversation to have. In fact, the first time I did it I was nervous the entire week leading up to it. You combine that with the fear of change and comfort of familiarity and sometimes people end up accepting a counter offer. I mean, at first glance it seems like a great idea. You might love your company, enjoy the cafeteria and love your team…but, you don’t think advancement opportunities are there for you. Perhaps everything is great but you feel you are underpaid. Both of those reasons are good reasons to look if you feel so inclined.

But then you go to your boss and tell them you are leaving. They hear your reasons and they say “why didn’t you tell me you felt this way, tell you what, let me see if I can match he salary the new company is offering you. Will you stay then? As a recruiter I have been witness to this plenty of times. And frankly I get it, if everything is great but one thing and then your current employer fixes that one thing, isn’t that best case scenario? The answer is a resounding no! Below I will give you three reasons why you need to stick to your guns and move on.

 

The Math

As a recruiter, when I have a candidate call me and tell me that they think they are going to take a counter offer my advice to them is simple, Google it. They know I have a horse in the race and want them to take my role so anything that I say to them they are going to discard. I get that and it makes sense. SO I tell them look it up themselves, often that’s enough. The data is overwhelming. According to US News, it’s between 70-80% of workers who accept a counter who end not working for their current company within the year. Think about that, if five people accept a counter offer, 4 of them will not belong to that company by the end of the year. Do you like those odds? I wouldn’t. The nice thing about math is it takes the emotion of the decision out of it. If you can look at it and say mathematically this is the decision that’s best for me and my family, it’s a big help in what can be a highly emotional situation.

 

The impact on the relationship

This reason is the interpersonal reason why you never accept a counter offer. Let’s walk through this logically. You tell your boss that you are leaving. The fact of the matter is that even though some days it might not feel like it, what you do for your company is extremely valuable. They pay you a salary because there is some task the organization can’t go without. When you leave, you leave a void productivity. So something important doesn’t get done or they need to shift resources so that the task gets done. Whatever the case you have made life more difficult for many people when you leave and frankly you have made your company less efficient or less productive or both. So as a boss, you think to yourself, “I can’t let this person leave…maybe if I give them more money to change their mind.” Make no mistake, this is a short term fix. You are a leaky pipe and that extra whatever it is they are going to give you is duct tape. Imagine yourself as a manager and imagine someone vital to the success of your organization is leaving. Imagine you’re are able to throw 15k their way in order to keep them from leaving and putting you in a bind. Now you have done that and they are doing the same work for you but making a lot more money. Now imagine six months down the road you have to make a cut. Imagine you have four people to choose from who all do the same thing. They are all equally skilled and there don’t happen to be any differentiators to speak of in terms of making this decision.  Now imagine one of those people makes 15k more than the other three and six months ago was ready to leave. Now not every manager will think this way but you are kidding yourself to think that in no cases will this be a factor.

 

Everything doesn’t improve overnight

The last reason you need to consider is the fact that just because they change one thing, doesn’t mean that everything wrong with the situation has been remedied. Typically, when you have made the decision to move on from a situation, it’s for a multitude of reasons. Its usually the culmination of many disheartening events over the course of your time at the employer. When they give you a bunch of money, hoping that will sway you to stay, they haven’t fixed the host of other things about the company you probably wish you could fix if you were able to. They have fixed just one factor of many. So even if you discount the first two, which I would say you definitely shouldn’t, the fact of the matter is the same reasons you made the decision to look elsewhere in the first place still exist.

 

For these three reasons, my advice is to never take a counter offer. When you walk into your boss’s office, make up your mind that regardless of what they say you are going to stick with the course of action you have decided on. Go in there knowing there is no going back and regardless of what happens in that conversation you have already charted a new course. Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful. If you have any counter offer stories or resignation stories, please share them below! I love hearing them! Also please check out these two exciting new sections of my site! Check out my FREE Interview Prep Guide here and if you want to work with me, either as a candidate or as an HR Professional, check me out here Work with Ben!

5 Dead Giveaways That a Recruiter Isn’t Worth Your Time

Last week I wrote a piece called 5 Strong Reasons to Answer the Phone When a Recruiter Calls You in which I made a case for talking to recruiters when they call you, regardless of whether or not you are looking for a new role. In the week since it’s been out it’s safe to say that it has been one of my most polarizing posts to date! Now if some of you were expecting the push back I received after the post to be a surprise, well, then I have some bad news for you. As a recruiter, I certainly expected some people to have a strong reaction. Guess what, to all of you who bashed recruiters after you read that article, you weren’t all wrong. Some of the criticisms were very fair and as a representative of the industry, I accept them. However you were only partially right. While there are a lot of bad recruiters out there who unfortunately give us all a bad name, there are also some great recruiters out there as well. Like any professional you will find that the vast majority of people who do this for any length of time will fall somewhere in the middle. However you will also find some people who perform above average consistently. The opposite is true as well, there is certainly a group of recruiters that don’t so the profession justice. However this isn’t an apology post, far from it. As one of the recruiters in the industry who considers himself to be one of the good guys, let me tell you exactly what you need to know to avoid talking with those recruiters who will ultimately leave a bad taste in your mouth. Below are three dead giveaways you can use to determine if this is a recruiter worth engaging. For your convenience I placed them in the order they would happen.

 

They send you a terrible, generic message with a lame subject for a title

 

How many of you have received a message that was you were immediately able to tell was a template that was sent out to 100 other professionals just like you? How many of you have received an email with the subject likes saying “Great Opportunity” or “Job Opening”? Let me save you some time, if you receive an email that says job opening, you can probably delete it and not worry about you missing out on you dream job. Good recruiters don’t use subject lines like this and really good recruiters are going to write you a message indicating they have taken the time to look at your profile. If you want to maximize your time and talk to good recruiters, then this can serve as an easy way to determine if they are worth that time. Now, plenty of good recruiters will utilize templates however a generic subject line or messages that  simply sell a role instead of asking if you have time to talk should give you an idea if that conversation is worth having.

 

They mention a role that is obviously not a fit

 

Another dead giveaway is when you receive an email about a role that would have made sense for you 5-10 years ago but at this point in your career is totally not a fit. What most likely happened is you were one of many people who received that same message and the sender wasn’t particularly choosy on who they messaged. If you get a message like this then having that conversation likely won’t be worth your time. I am sure this one is no surprise to many of you reading, in fact it was one of the comments I received the most of after my last post so I felt I had to include it on the list.

 

They have a very basic, underwhelming LinkedIn Profile*

 

Another tell is the recruiters LinkedIn profile. While not everyone value’s LinkedIn equally, for the most part recruiters understand what a valuable tool it is. I personally have worked very hard to build it out over the years and amass a large LinkedIn network (if we aren’t already connected add me here My LinkedIn Profile). So if you get a message from a recruiter, go check them out on LinkedIn. Once you arrive at their page you will very easily be able to gather a lot of helpful information. How long have they been in their current role? How long have they been recruiting? How many connections do they have (once you reach 500 connections it says 500+, if they have less than 500 they might be an indicator that they aren’t very well networked)? How many recommendations do they have? Do they have several roles on their page? Are those descriptions robust and well written? Do they have endorsements? If so how many? These are all things you can look at that will let you know if the recruiter who contacted you has good experience, attention to detail and is well networked. If they aren’t these things, do you really want this to be the person setting up your phone interviews and prepping you for your onsite interviews? One last thing, I added the asterisks because some of the best recruiters I have ever met had very basic LinkedIn profiles. Now most of them had been recruiter for 30 years and had reached a point where it wasn’t necessary for them to have LinkedIn in order to be successful. They are the exception, but I felt it was necessary to add this in.

 

They aren’t flexible with when they can speak with you

 

The best recruiters know that the best candidates are busy. If you get back in touch with them and they will only talk to you between the hours of 8-12 and 1-4:30 odds are they are not good recruiters. I have fielded many a call during lunch or after work or very early in the morning. If you are a recruiter who wants to succeed it’s the price of poker. A lot of your candidates are working and they don’t want to try and find a conference room at 10am on a Tuesday. They don’t want coworkers and managers wondering why they were gone for 30 minutes. I personally start my day at 6:30am so I am able to talk several calls before the traditional work day and I am always available to talk during the lunch hour. If you talk with a recruiter and they say you are going to have to make the call happen during the typical work hours you probably aren’t talk to an A player. My advice is to move on, you don’t want to work with someone who won’t be flexible for you anyway. If you want more advice on managing the recruiter relationship I have a few chapters on it in My eBook.

 

The conversation is absolutely about them

 

When you talk to a recruiter for the first time, pay close attention to the first couple minutes of the conversation. Who is it about? Is it about you? Are they saying “I” and “me” a lot? The fact of the matter is if the relationship starts being totally about them and a role they have then that’s the way the relationship will remain. A truly good recruiter will always make the conversation about you. What are your goals? What do you see yourself doing? Are you open to discussing new opportunities? What aren’t you being offered in your current role that you would like to find in your next position? What factors about an opportunity are important to you? Does that sound a lot better than, I have a role? My client needs. I am looking for. You get where I am going with this. It’s your career. If you take a new role, that recruiter doesn’t have to hand in his or her two week notice. They won’t have to box up their belongings. They won’t have to memorize a new route to work and traffic patterns. They won’t have a new boss, a new set of places to eat and a new team to assimilate into. This is about you and if the recruiter doesn’t get that, move on and find someone who will make it about you.

 

Well there you have it! Those are my 5 Dead Giveaways That a Recruiter Isn’t Worth Your Time. There are of course more than this but these are five really good indicators early on that will let you know that you can do better. So if you have read this far I have a challenge for you. What is the worst subject line you have ever received on a message you have gotten from a recruiter. These are always fun and since so many of you probably get messages like this all the time, I would love to see some examples below of terrible attempts to grasp your attention. It doesn’t have to be the subject line, any part of the message that was terrible will work too. For those of you who are feeling positive today please feel free to share the best subject lines you have received from a recruiter. Alright everyone, thanks again for reading and have an awesome day!

5 Strong Reasons to Answer the Phone When a Recruiter Calls You

Before I start I do want to take a minute to point out the obvious here, yes, I do have a horse in this race. Obviously it behooves me to influence as many candidates as I can to pick up the phone when I call them about an opportunity. So yes, this post might come off as a little self-serving but I promise you it’s not because I follow this advice as well. So this post is aimed at all of us who have a job currently, aren’t looking for a new role but receive a call from a recruiter. Now some of you might skip into work each day and others of you might curse out your alarm clock and  dread coming into the office with every fiber of your being. However the vast majority of you fall somewhere in between. For those of you who dread Mondays because you have to go back to work, I imagine this is going to be a pretty easy sell. For the rest of you, this post is aimed directly at you with the intent to influence you to pick up the phone when myself or one of my contemporaries calls you. Some of you are thinking, thanks but no thanks Ben, I hate interviewing and I am happy with my job. WAIT!!! Do me a favor and read to the end of this post. If you make it to the end and you still have no desire to have a conversation with the people who do what I do then that is perfectly fine. However I have a feeling many of you will be more open to this call by the time we are through. In fact, if I have swayed any of you, feel free to comment below and let me know what made you change your mind. If I had no impact on your reasoning here and you feel so compelled to share why I welcome that feedback as well.

The fact of the matter is most of you will be contacted by a recruiter at some point in your career. When that happens you have two options. You can have the conversation or you can choose not to have the conversation. Now, there are several different ways you can decline. You can call back and say no thanks, you can send an email or you can simply delete the voicemail and move on with your life as if the initial call never took place (by the way, this seems like a good place to mention that this could be a call or an email). However, no matter how you choose to move forward you have only two real options here. Let’s get into the reasons why you should have that conversation.

 

Maybe the recruiter has a role that is a fit for a former colleague

 

Let’s start with the appeal to Karma. So you may be one of those people who rejoices when you alarm clock goes off and who cartwheels into the office every Monday at 6:55 am. If so, that is awesome. Consider yourself very fortunate because not everyone has this. In fact, I’ve talked to many people who are in constant search for a role that would add this type of utility to their life. So if this is you and I call you, what incentive do you have to invest the time in having this conversation with me. The answer is that I might have what turns out to be the perfect opportunity for a friend or former colleague. I don’t know about you but I like helping people. If you like making a positive impact in people’s lives there are few ways you can have more impact than helping them find a great move for their career. You spend so much time working and what you do bleeds over into so much of what you are that if you are able to help someone by putting them in touch with a company they end working for then you have found a way to make a huge lasting impact in someone’s life. That in of itself should be a great reason to consider having that conversation.

 

Recruiters are a great source of market intel

 

Recruiters are more than just people who cold call and conduct interviews. We also happen to be a great source of market info. Ever wonder if there is a lot of action going on for your industry or for people who do what you do? Ever wonder if the people getting hired today to do the same role as you are making more than you? Ever wonder how your benefits stack up compared to other companies? Well these questions and much more can be answered by taking a call with a recruiter. Now you don’t answer the call and immediately launch into probing for these answers, that would be rude and ineffective. Instead let the conversation happen organically, then when you decide the role isn’t exactly up your alley you can ask questions. Maybe start with asking, what other roles do you have similar to this one that you are working on? Follow that up by asking what the market looks like in terms of activity and ask what the recruiter has seen in terms of salary etc. I can tell you personally, I don’t mind answering a few questions on what I am seeing in the market, especially if the candidate and I have had a good conversation up to that point. In addition to spending all day talking to candidates and hiring managers, recruiters have other ways of acquiring market data. In many of my roles I have had access to market data that gives me an idea of salary for a role, the amount of available candidates as well as the volume of similar roles that are open and various other data points. I always believe it’s better to have more information than less information, this is a good way to get some free market intel.

You can make the recruiter aware of roles you would like to know about

 

The fact of the matter is most candidates I talk to about the role will not get the job. Sometimes you may interview six or seven candidates and have informal conversations with many others just to hire one of them. With that being said, I know that everyone I talk to wont take my roles however that doesn’t mean the conversation doesn’t have value. The same can be said for the candidate. Say you take the call and the recruiter tells you about the role. You listen but ultimately, it’s not the right role for you. Conversation over, right? Wrong, if you hang up after this likely conclusion then you are throwing away valuables opportunities. Once you have thanked the recruiter for presenting the opportunity to you and politely informed them that you aren’t interested, that’s when you can let them know what kind of roles would interest you. Good recruiters will love this. As a head hunter when a candidate would tell me that my role wasn’t a fit but I should reach out to them for XYZ I thought it was great. What that does for recruiters is it basically gives them an immediate potential fit for a role that they had already gotten a chance to get to know. So the next time they get a role like that they can call you immediately. The key is to be specific and let them know that you are more than willing to entertain any role that fits within that criteria. So now you have someone with access to many roles (some aren’t even posted giving you a competitive advantage) who knows exactly what you wanted to hear about and is motivated to call you when one of those opportunities arises. I can’t stress this enough, if you are serious about your career, do this. You can always say no and it’s better to know about these potential career moves than to not know about them. Can you imagine if you can establish this kind of mutually beneficial relationship with three or four really good recruiters? You may never have to apply to go on an interview again. If you are interested in how to do this check out this post I wrote on it a few months back,3 Essential Tactics to Automating Your Job Search. This post wasn’t as popular as many of my other posts but it is one of my favorite and most useful posts I have ever written.

 

You never know when you can find yourself out of a job

 

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by a layoff or a downsizing. In today’s corporate world they are an unfortunate reality for many people. If you have been there then you know exactly how it feels to without notice suddenly not have a job. It is not a good feeling. There are so many things to do. File for unemployment, upgrade your LinkedIn, upgrade your resume, call your husband and wife. How long can I survive on my savings? Are companies hiring with people with my skill set?  The questions go on and on. The fact of the matter is, in this situation, it sure would be nice to have a few established relationships with good recruiters with access to several roles that are a fit for your background. Even if none of the other reasons make sense to you, this one should. Things change so fast today and in virtually no time you can find yourself in a situation like this. In my opinion, you want to make sure that if this ever happens to you, you have invested the time to build relationships that can help you land on your feet.

 

They might be calling you with an amazing opportunity you can’t say no to

 

Three of the last four roles have been roles that I didn’t apply to. Someone like me reached out to me and pitched me an opportunity and I ultimately ended up saying yes. In all three of those instances I wasn’t actually looking for a new role. In fact, I was happy in those roles and each time it was a really tough decision. However each time it was the right decision for me. These opportunities found their way to me because I am always open to having that conversation. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you can’t be happier. Just because you are appreciated doesn’t mean you can’t be more appreciated. Just because you are in a role that is great for your career doesn’t mean the person calling you doesn’t have an amazing opportunity that will end up being the perfect thing for you at this very moment. Take the call.

 

Well there you have it! Those are my 5 Strong Reasons to Answer the Phone When a Recruiter Calls You. So what do you think? Have I changed any of your minds? Feel free to answer below, I always love getting the feedback. If you liked the post I always appreciate my posts being shared on  social media. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

PS. Fellow recruiters, feel free to share this with your networks on LinkedIn, maybe they will be more inclined to pick up your next call!

5 Important Interview Questions You Must Be Prepared to Answer

Point blank, if you are not ready to answer these five interview question than you are not ready to interview. The five questions I discuss in this post are not groundbreaking nor are they surprise questions that will catch you off guard. In fact, most of these questions you have been asked before or you are probably at least aware of. If you haven’t cheated and looked ahead try this. Write down what you think the five interview questions are. If any of you are able to guess them all right I would love to hear about it. I don’t think any of you will but if you do, please feel free to share. If you are able to guess four of them correctly I will also be impressed. These are standard questions but you would be surprised how many times I am conducting an interview just to see that the person is unprepared to answer a few of them. These questions are so commonplace that it wouldn’t surprise me to be asked all five of these during any given interview. Although these questions may appear both simple and straightforward, if you find yourself unable to give a good answer to any of them, you will most likely have to continue your job search. With that being said lets jump right into it!

 

Why are you looking for a new role?

 

I have never conducted an interview without asking this question. The answer gives the interviewer so much information. It tells you what motivates the candidate, it can tell you how their standing in the company is, what they like or dislike in their current role and more importantly, a ton of information the candidate will offer up without you even asking them. You would be shocked at the things candidates will say when asked this question. I have been told things like “I just hate my boss” or “I am really bored in my current role”. People often tip their hand that it is a pay issue or perhaps their company doesn’t offer advancement opportunities. I mean this is the nicest way possible but this question can be a landmine. In this metaphor being unprepared to answer this interview question is like walking through a mine field without a metal detector. In the moment, who knows what you will say. Never walk into an interview or pick up the phone without knowing exactly how you will answer this question. My suggestion is make it about your growth and development. Make it about your admiration for the company. Take a look at the job description and make it about something you would like to be doing more that you will have the opportunity to do if you are selected for the role. There are many ways to answer this question both correctly and incorrectly, just make sure you are prepared. A few months back I had a series on how to answer it correctly with this 3 Excellent Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why are you looking for a new role?” and how to answer it incorrectly with this 3 Terrible Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why Are You Looking For a New Role?”.

 

What about this role is intriguing to you?

 

 

You cannot afford to not nail this question. This is the recruiter or the hiring manager asking you simply, hey, why do you want this job. If you aren’t prepared to answer this question then you did something drastically wrong during your interview preparation.  Now some of you are probably saying, Ben, that is the easiest question. Of course I know how to answer that question. Nobody is really messing this question up. Wrong, most of you would be shocked how often I get a terrible answer to this interview question. So often I ask this question just to have the candidate unenthusiastically tell me it’s similar to what I have done in the past. Really? Really, that’s it? And yes folks, often that is it. When I get an answer like that to me it feels like the candidate isn’t really interested in the role. This question should be easy to answer. This should be the layup of interview questions but so often candidates end up totally whiffing on this question. The thing that is most frustrating about this is that it is such an easy question to answer that can be correctly answered in so many ways. You could say you really respect the company. You can say you see the role as the next step in your progression. Some of my favorite answers are when people reference the job description and tell me specifically what it is in the job description that spoke to them. Have something prepared and then answer the question with some enthusiasm!

 

What are you making in terms of compensation?/What are you targeting in terms of compensation?

 

Every recruiter worth their salt is going to ask you about compensation during your interview. The really good ones will ask you at every stage of the interview process. Of all the questions in this post I guarantee this is the question people like the least. In fact I bet right now, as you are reading this, many of you are thinking in your head “I hate it when recruiters ask that question”. It’s no secret that candidates don’t all love discussing this question. Guess what, not all recruiters love this part of the conversation either. We know it has the potential to be awkward or even hostile. And trust me, none of us want that.  The fact of the matter is we have to ask it. If a recruiter doesn’t ask your this question during your interview they are doing a disservice to their hiring manager. Let me explain why. Imagine you are a hiring manager and a recruiter sends you the perfect candidate. Reading through the resume and phone screen notes it hits you, “this is it, I must hire this person!” You call the recruiter immediately to give them feedback and to arrange further interviews. You pull up outlook and you figure out a time everyone can do the interview. The candidate requests that day off work. Everyone conducts the meeting and everyone loves the candidate. They are perfect for the role. It is decided that you must put together an offer and extend it. You go through all that work to get this done and you call excited as can be to welcome this person to the team. You call them, extend what you consider to be a strong offer, in fact it’s the strongest offer you can muster during this difficult business climate. However you extend the offer just for the candidate to turn you down as they were expecting an offer 25% higher than you came in. There is nothing you can do, the candidate is gone. Now, don’t you wish your recruiter had let you know up front what their salary expectations were or perhaps not even sent them at all? I know I would. Well this is the kind of thing that happens when you don’t make sure you know this information right away. I won’t tell you how to answer that question here, that topic is a post or more in of itself. However I will say this, know what you will say before the question is asked and when you answer, do your absolute best to not be adversarial.

 

Why do you think you would be a good fit for this role?

 

If you can’t answer this question you might as well stand up, shake the hand of the interviewer and walk out to your car to drive home. It’s the most basic question that you need to be able to answer. However because it’s so simple people often don’t practice it and because they don’t practice it they often end up answering it in a way that doesn’t do their skills and experience justice. Free throws are the easiest shot in basketball but you would be hard pressed to find a pre-basketball player who doesn’t dedicated time to master these shots. You know this question is coming, be prepared to knock it out of the park (that’s enough sports metaphors for one article). My advice on this is be able to talk about how your experience and job duties in prior roles overlap the job description. It’s almost fail proof.

 

What are your long term career goals?

 

Depending on the interviewer you may or may not be asked this question. However if you are asked this question by the interviewer, you better be prepared to answer it. The thing that is tricky about this question is you might end up saying something that undermines your perceived interest in the current role. I recommend saying it like this, “While I am currently really happy doing ABC, I really want the next step in my career to be XYZ”. Saying it this way lets them know you won’t walk into the role as a flight risk but also lets them know where you want to go long term. You also want to make sure you don’t mention something that obviously won’t be a fit for the company. I have done interviews representing an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and I have had candidates tell me that they are interested in getting into green energy. Now, while I think that is not only cool but extremely important, it does give me pause about their interest in the role we are talking about right now. I am not so naive to believe everyone I talk to is interviewing for their dream role or the last role they ever plan to occupy. However if someone says something like that I immediately wonder where else they are interviewing and I try to think about the probability for success if we were to both offer this candidate the role. Make sure you have a well thought out answer ready and be prepared to deliver it enthusiastically.

 

Well there you have it. Those are my 5 important interview questions you must be prepared to answer. However you decide to answer these questions make sure you are sure of your answers and you answer the questions with both conviction and passion. Ok, so how many of you guessed the questions. Feelm free to comment below with how many you got right. Thanks for reading and as always, have an awesome day!

The Hardest Interview Question I Have Ever Been Asked

This is actually a post I have wanted to write for a really long time. In addition to me personally interviewing people pretty much every day for the last six years or so, I have also been on a lot of interviews. As a recruiter, when someone reaches out to me regarding an opportunity I feel almost obligated to hear them out. I mean how could I not? I have personally called thousands of people out of the blue to tell them about a job they knew nothing about. Many of those people have said they aren’t looking and ended up taking a job. That exact scenario has happened to me twice as well. I’ve been contacted and out of professional courtesy I have listened and ultimately ended up making a move even though I had no desire to do so initially. Anyway, the point I am, getting at is that I am not averse to hearing people out when it comes to a potentially good opportunity. Over the last six or so years I have had many interviews. I also consider myself to be an excellent interviewer. Conducting them every day and hearing the bad answers I should avoid as well as being able to pick up some real gems along the way has really given me a competitive advantage in my opinion. However today I want to tell you about one set of interviews in particular that really gave me a run for my money. Also, if you read through this post I would love to get feedback to see what the toughest interview question you have ever been asked is. Many of my posts get shared on LinkedIn and commented on in the groups they are posted do. In the comments below share the toughest interview question you have ever received. If you happen to share a really hard question, I will send you a copy of my My eBook for free. Anyway let’s get to the questions. Below I will share the questions I was asked during this interview and then I will try and dissect what the hiring manager was trying to find out by asking the questions. The first two are difficult, but I saved the hardest question I have ever been asked until last!

 

What is your biggest professional regret?

 

When I was asked this question I was not prepared to answer it at all. If you have read my blog posts in the past then you know that preparation is something I consider to be absolutely paramount to interviewing success. However not only had I never asked this question but I never even heard it before. Typically when I interview every question I am asked is a question I have answered before or I know how I plan on answering it when it comes up. Like two of the three questions on this list, it required me to think on my feet. So let’s dissect the question so we can figure out the best approach to successfully answering the question. This to me is similar to the classic “what is your biggest weakness” question. However everyone knows that question and in all likelihood has a prepared answer that ultimately makes them look good in some way. So while that focuses on a skill or lack thereof, this focuses on something you did in your career that you would do differently knowing what you know now. There are three keys to answering this question. The first thing is you don’t want to voluntarily admit something that makes you look horrible. “Well one time I had a boss who was an idiot so I slashed his tires and I really regret doing that because I got fired.” That would be a terrible way to answer that question. The second is you need it to be something you do that you were able to learn from. If what you reference is something that just happened to you and you moved on with your life, you aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to showcase growth. The last thing you must do it be positive. If you are able to admit something that isn’t terrible, something you were able to learn from and ultimately appear positive, as if it ended up being a good thing, then you have done a great job answering this. However the caveat here is that it must be significant. If you pick an extremely small example that it’s going to be hard to believe it’s your biggest mistake and likely won’t satisfy the person asking the question.

 

What task in your current job do you dislike the least?

 

I hate being asked this question but it’s hard for me to not also love the question. If you really think about it, this is a super hard question to answer. Why is it hard? Well the big reason is that every interview you ever have for the most part will have overlap with your current job. Unless you’re going through a major career change there is a pretty high likelihood that you are going to be doing some of the same things. So, if you point out something you dislike that is a major component of your next role, obviously that is not a good thing. Also, when you talk about something you dislike, it can be pretty easy to get negative quickly. The key here is to make sure it’s something you won’t be responsible for at your next role as well as make sure you are the least negative you can be about the task. For example, what do you think sounds better, “I hate using our current ATS. It is slow, it never works and in most cases I have just given up using it. Our company never replaces anything, they are so cheap. That’s another reason I am looking.” Or “One of the challenges of my current role is the functionality of our ATS. At times it is challenging. In order to make sure this isn’t an obstacle for me I typically print documents out ahead of time so I can be adequately prepared for my meetings.” Do you see what I mean? You can answer this question without being incredibly negative and you can also use it as an opportunity to showcase your problem solving abilities.

 

If we hire you, in six months, what will I dislike about you?

 

There it is. The hardest interview question I have ever been asked. I will start of by saying that this wasn’t the friendliest interview I have ever taken part of. This question was pretty emblematic of the overall tone of the interview. Think about it for a minute. This question is so difficult because it’s basically saying to you, in six months when you have learned all the systems and processes and are finally up to speed, what do you do that will make you a less than optimal work in my eyes. Wow. Sometimes I think that questions like this are asked not only for the answers but also so that hiring managers are able to assess how quickly you think on your feet. That’s a question that I was in no way prepared to answer and I would wager that most applicants don’t have a canned answer for that question. This one is difficult because you can’t say something like “well most people don’t like that I occasionally sing show tunes in my cubicle”. If someone is willing to ask the question they will be willing to push back to get an answer that works for them and satisfies their criteria. What’s difficult is that you really can’t put a positive spin on this question. It’s not what will annoy me but ultimately is something you will fix and will be considered a strength. They are literally asking you for a professional flaw that will grate on them. Some of you are probably thinking “well I would just say something very minor and move on”. Maybe, maybe they would hear that and move to the next question but maybe they wouldn’t, The hiring manager answering me brushed off my first answer and probed for something I did that would really annoy him. I don’t remember what my first answer was but I remember that it wasn’t good enough. Ultimately what I ended up saying is that I am loud. As a recruiter you are on the phone frequently and more than a handful times people have stopped by me to kindly let me know they need be to be less loud. I don’t know if that’s a great answer. If I had to do it again I think I would try and find something that isn’t a favorable characteristic but also something that wouldn’t impact the success I would have on the job. That being said, I am not sure what that is and I don’t really have a great answer for you. Maybe not what you were expecting but that’s why it’s the hardest question I have ever been asked during an interview.

 

 

Well hopefully my answers for the first two were helpful and at least knowing the third question exists, in its own way is helpful. If you can think of an answer to that question I would love to hear it below. Also, like I mentioned up top, if you have a more difficult question please feel free to share it. I will pick a few of the toughest and send them a copy of my My eBook. If you want to check out some good answers to questions check out 5 Excellent Questions You Should Ask in Your Interview, one of my more popular posts I have written this year. Thanks for reading and have an awesome day!

7 Horrible Phrases to Avoid Saying During Your Interview

This post focuses on phrases you absolutely need to drop from your vocabulary when it comes to both phone interviews and onsite interviews. If you have read my blog or My eBook then odds are you know the value I place on preparation. Those of you who go into your interviews prepared to field a variety on behavioral interview questions as well as properly vocalize your skills are giving yourself the best chance to do the one thing this blog is all about, get the job! However, some of us do so much preparation on the things we need to say and the topics that we want to touch on that we sometimes kind of forget that there are those topics we absolutely need to avoid. Now I know I am probably going to get a couple of comments where people are saying “well duh Ben, obviously I wouldn’t say that.” Well if that is your response to every single one of these great job! However I am writing this because I have conducted interviews every single week for the last six years and I can tell you that I actually hear most of these weekly. Some of them seem innocent and perhaps you thought nothing of it but let me be clear in saying that in a competitive market where the attractive jobs are few and far between, sometimes it’s the little things that can be the deciding factor. In the words of Confucius, “A single grain of rice cab tip the scale”. I know this to be true. I have seen it over and over again where we end up with two great candidates, with similar everything and the decision comes down to a single thing said by one of the candidates that didn’t quite sit well with someone on the interview panel. That fact of that matter is, if you can only hire one candidate and the two you have are great, you have to find a way to differentiate them. Don’t be the person on the wrong end of that decision. Let’s get into it!

 

So what does your company do? (or any question available online)

 

I wanted to start with this one because it happens to be a pretty big pet peeve of mine. When people ask me what my company or what my client does it feels as if you thought to yourself “Hey, instead of preparing for this interview…why don’t I just not?” Or “Oh my god!!! Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt season 2 just came out on Netflix! Instead of preparing for my interview, I think I am going to binge watch that!!!” And while I totally get your enthusiasm for a pretty entertaining show, it’s the wrong choice. You can re-watch an episode, you can’t redo an interview. My rule of thumb is this, if information is available on the internet, then I’d avoid asking it during an interview. The more easily assessable it is or more essential it is to the company, the worse you asking about it will be perceived. Be prepared, don’t shine a spot light on the fact that you aren’t by asking a question you shouldn’t need to ask.

 

Any phrase containing an expletive

 

So let’s chalk this one up as an obvious one. If you are interviewing, don’t use expletives or offensive words. Here is a nice rule of thumb. If you wouldn’t say it in front a classroom of the second graders, avoid saying it in your interview. Now look, some of you might think “Come one Ben, you are being old school. People are more relaxed nowadays”. I would counter by saying, perhaps you are right. In fact, let’s say for the sake of argument that you are right 50% of the time. 50% percent, hypothetically, of the people who will interview you won’t care. Now under the assumption that’s correct, which I think is generous, are you able to tell which are which? Let’s look at it from another angle. Do you ever think it is to your benefit to swear during an interview? I can’t ever imagine a hiring manager saying to me “Ben, she was great. Everything we are looking for in fact….but…there’s just this one thing…she didn’t use any vulgarity during the interview.”  Ridiculous right? I say err on the side of caution and avoid it altogether.

 

Any phrase that expresses political views

 

This one should be another no brainer but it’s not. This one baffles me more than most actually. The thing I think is most puzzling about this is that I think people just make the assumption your views are similar to theirs. Let me be as clear as possible on this avoid, don’t talk politics during an interview. First of all, it’s probably 50/50 that they have the same political beliefs as you, maybe worse. But, even if they agree with you, they might think to themselves “wow, that is some poor judgement bringing that up during an interview”. If someone had an identical political opinion as me and brought it up during the interview I wouldn’t be thinking, “wow, now that’s a candidate with a fantastic grasp regarding the interworking of our government and the political landscape”. Rather I would be thinking “Wow, bringing that up was unnecessary and showcased very poor judgement. I wonder what else they think is appropriate to bring up during an interview”. Bottom line is this, even if you don’t offend them with your opposing views, you might be giving them pause regarding your judgement. It’s better to avoid it.

 

I am looking for a new role because I want more money

 

You can find this mentioned in one of my most popular posts about how not to answer why you are looking for a new to here 3 Terrible Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why Are You Looking For a New Role?”. That link will give you more complete answers but I’ll give you the quick reasoning here. One of the things recruiters look for is your motivation. What is the reason you are looking? The answer we come away with makes a significant impact on how you are both viewed as well as pursued as a candidate. Finding out that your principle motivator is financial is never a good thing. And you know what, money is important and maybe it is your biggest motivator, we still hate hearing that, Here are some things to say instead of that 3 Excellent Ways to Answer the Interview Question “Why are you looking for a new role?”.

 

I am not really looking for a new job, I just thought I would do the call to see what’s up

 

This one another one I get now and then that I find kind of funny. The thing is, I get what most of the people who say this are trying to do. They are trying to gain leverage by positioning themselves as a passive candidate. By appearing as if they aren’t in the market they are hoping to gain leverage for negotiations down the road. However saying it like this is just kind of poor execution. Let me draw a real life example. Imagine you are on a date and you say “I am really glad you let me take you out to dinner tonight, I am having a great time” and in response they say “Well I wasn’t really interested in going but I had nothing in my fridge and had never been to this restaurant.” How incredibly deflating would that be? And while no, you sating this won’t hurt my feelings, it will make me feel like I may be wasting my time. If you want to position yourself as a passive candidate you might want to say something along the lines of “While I am very happy in my current role and wasn’t actually looking, I have always admired your company and the role seemed to be such a great fit for my skills etc.”  This accomplishes the goal of positioning you with leverage but also showcases your interest in the role.

 

I didn’t get along with my boss at that job

 

I have mentioned this in the past but it’s worth mentioning again. You have nothing to gain by saying you didn’t get along with an ex-employer. While to some this is obvious I hear this frequently. Again, you have nothing to gain by saying this and in addition to that certain interviewers will hear this and think, this candidate must be difficult. You never want that to be the takeaway. We have all had bosses we didn’t get along with or bosses we thought weren’t good at their job. I know I have however I have never once said it in an interview. You know why? Because it can never help you but it can certainly paint you in a light that won’t work in your favor. Regardless of how terrible your boss is/was, shy away from mentioning.

 

Any mis-truths…especially involving your past employment

 

I have a pretty strong stance on lying during the interview process. Companies invest a lot in making a hire, so if there is a stone they are able to turn, you better believe they are going to turn it over. Not only that but if you have spent any amount of time in the same geographic area, odds are someone you are interviewing with knows someone you have cross paths with. It can be as simple as a text. “Hey Bill, did Jim leave on his own or was he fired from ABC Company.” Stories don’t match? Well then you are still looking for a job. You are much better off telling the truth, even if it’s a truth that doesn’t make you look so great. You know the question will come, prepare and present it in the best possible light. The fact is that a lot of people actually lie about things that wouldn’t keep them from getting the job in the first place. Then when the employer finds out, they decide they can’t hire you, not because of what you lied about but rather because you lied. Employers are much more likely to look the past that you were let go from a role then they are to look past the fact that you lied about it. Skills can be taught, integrity cant.

 

Well there you have it. Those are the 7 Horrible Phrases to Avoid Saying During Your Interview. If you can avoid saying these seven things you will be putting yourself in a much better position to nail the interview and get the job. Recently I have gotten a lot of great comments, especially in the LinkedIn groups regarding additional points. Can any of you think of things I missed that people say? I would love to hear any of the others. As always, thanks for reading and I hope this helped!

3 Essential Tactics to Automating Your Job Search

We have all been there.  The day has come that you have decided you are no longer satisfied where you currently are and it’s time to pursue other employment options. Maybe you have another rough day in a string of too many rough days or perhaps you have just come to the realization that your current employer can’t offer you what it is you are looking for. So what do you do? You go home, flip open the laptop and you update your resume.  Since you probably haven’t touched it since you got your most recent position you have to add this role, mention any updates to educations or certifications and make sure address and phone number are correct. Once you have done, that, then it’s time to get yourself out there. You pull up your internet browser of choice and you start looking for jobs that might interest. You find them and you apply one by one. It’s a painstaking process but there is no other way, right? Wrong! There is a better way and this post is all about the 3 essential job search automation tactics that are going to make your life so much easier when it comes to finding a job. Also, stay reading to the very end, I have a question I want to ask and get your feedback on after I show you these steps that are going to simplify your search.

 

  1. Have a great, optimized LinkedIn profile

Now to some of you this is going to be an obvious suggestion, “well of course Ben” you are thinking. I would counter with two points. The first being if you feel this way then you have no idea how many people tell me they don’t have one or they have one but they set it up forever ago and never use it. The second point I would make it that there is a significant difference between having a LinkedIn profile and having a full optimized LinkedIn profile. So why is it important to have a LinkedIn profile or better yet, an optimized LinkedIn profile? The answer is that because there are over 600,000 recruiters on LinkedIn and if you add in HR Professionals you are looking at over 1.5 million. Like me, many of them creating a LinkedIn profile for the sole reason of finding candidates like you! As a recruiter, there are many tools we can use to find candidates but from my experience, the most commonly used tool is LinkedIn Recruiter. LinkedIn Recruiter is basically a membership level that adds functionality to help HR Professionals or Recruiters search for and contact candidates. From my experience, it is an absolute favorite among those in search. So with that being said, the point of having a great LinkedIn profile is that it becomes a tool to help people find you. Having a great LinkedIn profile does the leg work for you. Once you have a great LinkedIn profile recruiters will find you and pitch jobs to you. How great is that? You set it up, they come and find you and pitch you on opportunities. That way you can do your research on a company and decide which ones you want to pursue. So how do you make sure that you get found?  Well let me show you what we see and what we do to find you. Below is a screenshot of my screen when performing a search.

Sample Search

So in the above picture I am doing a search for a Software Engineer. In the search bar I put together a search strong using LinkedIn’s Boolean logic (which differs slightly from google). Basically it’s just the way you conduct a search within LinkedIn. So the first thing you do is you add in the potential titles. Now normally I might add in more titles based on my knowledge of the role or the conversation with the manager but I kept this search simple because I wanted you to be able to see the entire search bar. By typing it in like (“software engineer” OR “programmer”) LinkedIn will bring up everyone within 25 miles of the zip code I put in who has one of those two terms in the profile. In addition to that I added in (“C#” OR “C++”) to my search. Finally, I clicked the choice below stating that I was looking for someone with 3 to 5 years’ experience. With those criteria entered it narrowed my search down to 790 potential candidates. Now, most of these people won’t be candidates. Some of these candidates would have been a fit in the past but now are in managerial roles and wouldn’t be interested in an individual contributor role. Now, as I start to look at these potential candidates LinkedIn will push forward the candidates who most closely match the search strong I have put together. As a potential job seeker, you want to be on that first page, or as close to it as possible. How do you guarantee that happens as often as possible? The answer to that question is optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Many people make the mistakes of having some of their roles on their page, but excluding some of the other positions they have held. People also don’t take advantage of the opportunity to load up the descriptions of previous roles with the keywords that will get them found. The sad part is there are probably plenty of software engineers who live within 25 miles of the zip code 60061 who have experience with C# but they didn’t include C# in their profile. It’s important to write a summary of every role you have held in your career and it is equally important to use those summaries as a medium to load up your LinkedIn profile with keywords that will get the job opportunities to come to you. (If you are looking for help optimizing your LinkedIn, my Resource Page has links to several great services that specialize in doing that.

 

  1. Make sure your resume is uploaded to Indeed.com

 

So first and foremost, what is indeed? So most people know that Indeed.com is a job search engine, which aggregates job postings from thousands of sources and posts them on one site. So in terms of looking for a role, Indeed is a great place to start. However, in this post we aren’t talking about where you should go to find a job, we want the jobs to come to you. Now there are a ton of places you can choose to upload your resume. You could go to local job boards or perhaps one of the other big names in the game like CareerBuilder or Monster. Now while these aren’t bad ideas, the best bang for your buck for uploading your resume would be Indeed. Why is that? Well for me, Indeed is where I recommend putting your resume if you want to be found because of how friendly the site is in terms of functionality to recruiters. I like using Indeed because the searching is easy, the outreach functionality is great and the daily resume update feature is seamless. So let’s talk about that last part. When I do a search on Indeed for a type of candidate, Indeed actually prompts me to receive daily emails of candidate who meet my criteria. So if you upload your resume and you meet the criteria of a recruiters saved search, that recruiter will actually be notified that day of your uploaded resume. For us recruiters it means we have a system basically doing some of our job for us but for you it means recruiters looking for people just like you will be notified you just uploaded your resume and in all likelihood are looking for a new role. So if you have interest in automating your job search I strongly recommend making sure you have your resume fully updated and optimized (similarly to how I suggested with your LinkedIn profile in terms of keywords) and upload it to Indeed’s resume database.

 

  1. Building Recruiter Relationships

 

So out of my three recommendations this one is probably my favorite to talk about. While unfortunately this is the one that will take you the most time it is also the one that could have the biggest impact on your search. I am willing to bet that every single person reading this has at some point been called or emailed by a recruiter (or been the one emailing or calling). Now some of those of those calls/emails might have been from corporate recruiters asking about your interest on a specific opening and some of those roles might have been from an agency recruiter who might have been asking about a single role or perhaps a variety of roles (I have made too many to count of both). I am also willing to bet that many of you responded by saying “I am not interested, thanks anyway”. I can’t fault you for that, I have done that myself. However let me tell you why you and I were both wrong to have done that. Let’s just say you have a great job that you love and you would never consider leaving. You receive the call and you think to yourself “there is nothing this person could tell me that would make me consider leaving my wonderful job”. First, if that is you congrats, not everyone is to have a job they love that much. Secondly, unfortunately, many times we are not the one who makes the decision of when our employment will come to an end. Downsizing happens all the time, entire teams and locations even are eliminated due to market conditions or a change in company strategy. Just because you would never willingly leave your role doesn’t mean you won’t one day, very abruptly, be put into the position of finding another role. So, as I always advise people, take the call. Now let’s circle back, how does building relationships with recruiters help you automate your job search? It’s quite simple really. The first step is every time a recruiter calls you, take the call. Every time you get an email from a recruiter, reply and ask for a time to talk (I understand every time is a lot, so if it makes sense for you do it less frequently but do make an effort to have several of these calls). Now, good recruiters won’t just pitch a job to you. The good ones will make it about you first, ask you what you are interested in and see what they might be able to offer you in terms of a fit. But for the sake of argument let’s just say they call you, you take the call and they pitch you a job that absolutely isn’t a fit. Does that mean the call was a waste? Well yes, if nothing else happens, then that was most likely a waste of your time. But it won’t end there, you are going to maximize the benefit of this call. You will listen to the pitch and then you will say something this effect “I appreciate you letting me know about this opportunity, I don’t think that it’s a fit for me at this time. However…” At this point you can tell them the type of role that would pique your interest. You can tell them why you are an excellent for for the role and then you will encourage them to reach out to you should they happen to get a role like that. If the recruiter is impressed with you as a candidate, guess what, when they get a role that meets your requirements they are going to call you. Now a few tips, the first thing is that this has to be a phone call. If you just respond via email, the likelihood of them remembering you and contacting you with the opportunities that fit your specific requests is very low. You need to have a good conversation and you want them ending the call thinking “well this candidate doesn’t want this role, but I could definitely place them somewhere”. The other thing I want to mention is you want to get their email and send them a copy of your resume (which should hopefully look great) perhaps a paragraph selling your skillset, a reminder of the type of roles you would be interested in hearing about and finally a reminder that they can feel free to contact you should they get something that fits your interests. Bonus points if you happen to give them a referral for the role they initially contacted you about. If you can do this effectively then you have done a big part of automating your job search. Good recruiters will come back to you with opportunities and perhaps even present you your next role (I know because I have done it). If you can do this several times then you have done a great deal towards automating your job search.

 

If you read to the end this great job! I know that was a long post but if you can implement these 3 essential tactics to automating your job search you are well on your way. Now I mentioned earlier I would have a question to ask you all at the end of this post. My question is, if you were able to ask a recruiter any one question, what would it be? Please feel free to comment on my site or if you find this in a LinkedIn or Google+ group, feel free to comment there and I will try and answer. If you liked this post please feel free to share it with your network or give it a “like”. I appreciate it a ton. If these posts help you get an interview, head on over to 7 Critical Phone Interview Mistakes Candidates Make to get yourself prepped. Thanks again and have a great day!

 

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