When does your interview start?

I wanted to write this post in reaction to something I saw on LinkedIn the other day. A recruiter I am connected with was complaining about a candidate. Apparently this candidate had applied to her job and when she called him to set up an interview he was very rude. In the post she went on to say that for her that was all it took, she knew the candidate wasn’t going to be a fit based on the customer service qualifications necessary for the role. After I read that, it got me a thinking a little bit. Did that person actually want that job? If they did, why were they so unpleasant upon receiving the phone call?

As I was having this internal dialogue, I realized that while there are a lot of questions you can ask, perhaps the most important one is when does your interview start. Most people think it’s when you start the interview formally and the recruiter is asking you questions. In all reality, your interview starts way earlier than that. Your interview starts at first correspondence. Whether that be the very first email you respond to or the first conversation you have, setting up the formal interview, as soon as a dialogue has been established you are in the interview process.

I am sure some of you agree with me and some of you think that the interview starts when it starts. However, I can tell you that your interview starts as soon as the first impression is made. Whether that be through email correspondence or through a phone call, once you start corresponding your interview has begun. So if we are operating under that assumption let’s look at a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t sabotaging yourself early on.

Have a professional email for job application purposes

This tip is probably more for people early on in their career. I remember when I graduated college I still had my AOL email address on my resume that I created when I was 17. I wont disclose the name to avoid embarrassment but it probably wasn’t as professional as it should have been. So if you have an email address on your resume that you consider to be unfit for a resume, go to google and get yourself a Gmail account. As much as you might love Slayer, if your email address has their name in it, then it doesn’t belong on a resume. Your name with a combination of numbers should suffice.

Have a professional voicemail message

If I told you how many people had ridiculous voicemail’s while they are applying for jobs, you wouldn’t believe me. I have called candidates who applied to a role I was recruiting on just to hear heavy metal music in the background and sometimes even an inappropriate voice message. I once called a candidate and the voicemail said “Leave a message or else”. I left a message and thought to myself, “was I just threatened via voicemail recording?” If you are applying for a role, have a polite message waiting for those who call you. Simple as that.

Be polite in all communication

This is another one that should be common sense but for whatever reason, isn’t always the case. Simply put, if you are interested in finding a new job it behooves you to be polite and enthusiastic in all communications with everyone at prospective employers. If you are called to set up an interview and you communicate with all the enthusiasm of setting up a dentist appointment, you are getting on the wrong foot. If you are rude with the person setting up your interview, whether they are conducting it or not, you are getting off on the wrong foot. If you aren’t flexible in the times you are available or you push the interview out super far, you are getting off on the wrong foot. The fact of the matter is, given how competitive finding a great job is, often you can ill afford to get off on the wrong foot. Every interaction counts and if you want to be successful it is important to maximize those interactions.

So, when does your interview start? As soon as there is any form of communication. So make sure you are on your game from the get go! I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions, please make sure to comment below and I will answer.  Also, if you haven’t already, check out last weeks post Are you prepared for a career disaster? And if you didn’t catch me on the podcast I was recently on, check it out here as well I was a guest on an awesome Podcast!

9 Impactful Actions Entry Level Candidate Can Take to Jumpstart Their Careers

In my time in recruiting I have hired for a ton of different roles in many industries. I have filled roles doing everything from Paint Coatings Scientist to Production Manager at a Pizza Manufacturer to Crystal Growth Scientist. Each role I have recruiting on presents its own challenges.  However, out of all the role that I have filled, some of the most rewarding are actually entry level roles. For me there is just something exciting about finding a good fit for a company and also helping someone find their first full time gig. Most of the candidates who I end up placing in entry level roles have a level of excitement that you really only find when this type of novelty is involved. For many it is a point of validation for all the hard work they have out in over the years succeeding in schoolwork, networking and planning their future. With that being said, not all of these interviews got smoothly. In fact, I would say that they have a lower success rate than some of the more senior, niche engineering roles I have filled. You can mostly attribute this to lack of experience. A lot of these candidates who don’t have the best phone interviews or onsite interviews are really good candidates, it’s just new to them and they make a few mistakes that end up costing them. So today I am going to provide you with a few quick things you can do to make sure you go into that interview and nail it!

 

Get your LinkedIn profile looking awesome!

The first thing I recommend doing is making sure you have an awesome LinkedIn profile. Hopefully you already have a profile set up but if not do it right now! I am serious, open another tab, set it up and come back and ready this. If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, its social networking for professionals. You are able to add “connections”, follow companies, join groups, message fellow business professionals and potentially land yourself interviews. The fact of the matter is most corporate recruiters and agency recruiters use LinkedIn as one of their top tools for finding candidates. By having a great LinkedIn profile, you are increasing the likelihood that recruiters will reach out to you with potential opportunities. LinkedIn is nice in the sense that they walk you through the set up. They tell you to upload a picture, add experience, add education and add skills etc. Follow their instructions and make sure you are as detailed as possible and odds are you will have set up a solid LinkedIn profile and take a positive step towards employment. Overall setting up a LinkedIn page is pretty simple and most people have no issue doing it themselves but if you want expert assistance getting a fully optimized profile check out my Resource Page for the link on LinkedIn optimization.

 

Join entry level career groups in LinkedIn

Once you join LinkedIn you will see that you are able to follow companies, read cool articles and join groups. I am a big fan of joining groups if you are looking for opportunities. One of the things that makes LinkedIn work is that everyone can’t just message everyone. Now this is good for the most part but if you are looking for a job odds are you want hiring managers and recruiters to be able to reach out to you. In order to message someone on LinkedIn you have to be connected to them, have a special membership that costs money (for everyone else the site is free) or you have to share a group. If you are an Electrical Engineer and you join Entry Level Engineer groups, then odds are you will be giving access to recruiters who are looking for entry level candidates like you. So search LinkedIn, find some great groups and join. If you really want to maximize the benefit, feel free to be an active participant. Post articles, comment on others posts and be. Feel free to Join my LinkedIn Group!

 

Find recruiters who work in your area and connect with them

The next thing I would do is find local recruiters and connect with them. Now that could mean joining a LinkedIn group created for recruiters in your geographic area and sending them connection requests or perhaps you can google local recruiting companies and call in. That might be direct for some of you but as long as you are polite and not overly push you will find that most recruiters will appreciate the effort. The LinkedIn side of this should be easy, find recruiters who work in your geographic area or field and send them the request, that should take care of itself. As far as finding brick and mortar locations, just google them. Find local agencies, make sure they have a solid website and call in to introduce yourself and ask if they work with entry level candidates. You miss every shot you don’t take. And speaking of connecting with recruiters, feel free to Add me on LinkedIn!!

 

Make sure your resume is solid

This should go without saying but if you don’t have a good resume then you are in trouble. If you are an entry level candidate who just graduated, do you remember your classmates? You know the ones that walked across the stage before or after you? Well if they just graduated and you were in similar programs than odds are you are looking at some of the same jobs. Not to make this overly competitive but that is your competition now. You are pursuing the same companies and applying to the same jobs. Let us not forget about all the other schools with graduates who are now eager to join the workforce. The point I am trying to make here is that given there are a finite supply of openings you can ill afford to have a sub-par resume. They may not be fun but resumes are important. Few quick tips, you can google resume templates and find one you like and copy it. Also, go with traditional colors and fonts, we aren’t impressed with the bright colors. Lastly, personal pet peeve, drop the “objective” section of your resume. Why you ask? Because way more people are hurt by applying to a role that doesn’t exactly match their “objective” than people are ever helped by it. I never look at objectives and say “Oh my, they want to do the job I am hiring for, what stupendous luck!” If you are applying to a role, we already know you want it.

 

Upload your resume to Indeed

Once your resume rocks, upload it to Indeed. Indeed.com is a massive job and resume aggregator and its only getting bigger. Put your resume up there and you are again increasing the likelihood you are found. Simple as that.

 

Ask professors if they have industry contacts you can reach out to

DO you have any professors who you really got along with? Any of them have industry experience? If so, ask them if they know anyone who it make sense for you to reach out to regarding opportunities. Now, ideally you will have done great in this professor’s class and you will have cultivated a relationship with them. If not, they probably won’t have a lot of motivation to help you. But if so they can certainly become a resource for you. In my time in talent acquisition I have placed many a phone call to a professor at a school asking how I can share my jobs with the school’s students and alums. At the end of the day, they may not have any way to help you but again, you don’t know unless you try.

 

Network with classmates who have landed jobs already

Do you have any classmates you have already landed jobs? If so don’t just feel jealous, reach out and congratulate them! The fact of the matter is the last four years of your life wasn’t all about fund and learning but it was also about relationship building. You were networking without even knowing it. If you had classes with someone and you see they have landed a job at a company you respect, reach out to them! (By the way this all can be done on LinkedIn) Start up a dialogue with them. As them how they like the company. As the messaging back and forth wraps up let them know that you are still looking for that perfect fit and since they like the company so much and you are looking for similar things that you would appreciate hearing about any openings in the future. Simple as that. That could be the end of the conversation but they could also say, “well actually, we are hiring two more Jr Test Engineers, send me your resume and I will pass it along to my manager”. Now some of you are thinking, “well Ben, why would they do that?” They will do it for two reasons. The first is that generally speaking, people like helping other people. Sometimes it’s because they hope you could help them in a similar situation down the road and sometimes it’s just because they are genuinely nice people. The second reason is referral bonuses. Most companies have a referral program in which you are compensated when they hire someone you referred for an opening they have. This could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. People like money, if they have an opening and a referral bonus and you weren’t a terrible classmate, they will probably help you.

 

Practice interview questions

One of the things I see often is that entry level candidates just aren’t prepared for the interview questions they get during phone interviews and in person interviews. While I know interviews are hard and you are new to them, you really don’t have an excuse. I don’t mean that to sound harsh but you have all the tools you need to not only have successful interviews, but to be great them. You have Google!!! You can google the term interview questions and hundreds of websites just like mine will pop up and help you. You can get a list of questions you will likely be asked, write out your answers on a piece of paper (trust me that will help you remember these answers) and practice answering them in a mirror. Get to a point where you say these answers confidently and enthusiastically and as it makes sense, passionately. Even if you aren’t as confident as you would like to be, fake it. Don’t worry, it will come with time. And while I have your attention, check out this post I did about that very topic 5 Important Interview Questions You Must Be Prepared to Answer.

 

Take the interview

The last piece of advice I have for you is take the interview. Think the company is just ok? Take the interview. They are in an industry you consider boring? Take the interview. You had never heard of them until they called you? Take the interview. I counsel people to interview often and there are two reasons to do this. The first is you never know when you are going to find the right opportunity. I have had conversations I thought would go nowhere turn into awesome opportunities. The fact is you never know until you actually go down that road. Secondly, even if you don’t take the job, the experience of interviewing will help you become a better interviewer. It’s all about repetition. In the same way Steph Curry has launched thousands upon thousands of shots over his lifetime to become arguably the best shooter in NBA history, you too are going to need to practice if you want to be great. And yes, that goes for interviews as well. Now, I am not advocating the wasting of people’s time. Go into every interview with an open mind and if it isn’t a fit, then it isn’t a fit. But trust me, getting those reps help.

 

Well there you have it. I hope you found these useful, actionable and easy. Do some or all of these things and you will have an easier transition into working life. Always remember, preparation is key. You will never leave an interview saying “Well, I blew that because I was too well informed” but most people can look back at interview they probably could have done better in, including myself. Lastly, is there anything I missed? Are there any good, easy and quick things entry level candidates can to do position themselves to land a job quicker? If so comment below, I would love to read them. Thanks for reading, I hope this help and have a great day!

5 Steps to Succeeding in Phone Interviews

This post is about the five things you have to do before every phone interview. Now don’t get me wrong, there are more than five things that you should do. But this post is about the five things you absolutely have to do in order to succeed (in my opinion). So lets take a look!

  1. Research the Company

It is vitally important that you know a lot about the company. I have worked with recruiters who start the interview by saying “So, tell me what you know about ABC Company?” Now if you can’t answer that question reasonably well, how do you think the rest of the interview is going to go? If that happens and you can’t speak to what a company does intelligently you might as well hang up the phone and save you both some time. In addition to that it will save you the embarrassment of asking things like “so what does your company do?” You would be surprised how many times I have been asked that question and every single time I am absolutely shocked. So spend some time on the website, browsing products and recent news articles. Maybe go to YouTube, most companies have an account there and they have a lot of neat videos. Sometimes those videos even tour the facilities you might end up interviewing at in the future. At a bare minimum you should be prepared to answer that question. If they ask you what you know about the company and you don’t feel confident saying a few lines about their business then it is back to the drawing board.

  1. Chronicle your accomplishments

I trick I like to employ is I like to look at each of my last three jobs and write down one or two examples of things I did there that went above and beyond. What you will find is that when you do this you will easily be able to answer the questions where they ask for different examples and scenarios because these examples will be applicable. During most interviews they will ask you to walk them through your experience and it’s great to be able to give an example or two of how you made an impact.

  1. Prepare questions

At some point most recruiters will ask you if you have any questions.  This might be at the beginning or it might be at the end of the interview. Either way, you want to make sure that you have a few to ask. This should be easy because frankly, you should have questions. Accepting a job is a big decision, you would be crazy not to wonder about why the job is open or what you will be doing. But let’s say, for the arguments sake you didn’t have any questions. You still need to prepare questions to ask because it’s not all about you. Having questions prepared shows the person interviewing you that not only did you prepare but you are a thoughtful person who is calculated in their approach to big decisions. A few examples are; Why is the role open? What characteristics or traits have made people in this role successful in the past? What is the biggest challenge you foresee the person who comes into this role will have? Etc.

  1. Research Interviewer

If nothing else it is important to do this just so you don’t say something stupid. For example let’s say this person worked at a ABC Company. Knowing that will keep you from saying something like I wanted to interview at ABC Company but I heard that the people who work there aren’t very motivated (really you should avoid saying anything negative in your interview). Or perhaps they graduated from a university and you say you opted to attend the university you attended because the other local universities programs weren’t strong enough. In addition maybe they have something in common with you that you can bring up in the interview, perhaps you both have a similar background. The fact of the matter is the more information you have the better. So do a little bit of research here.

  1. Review your resume

This is kind of a small point but I do think its overlooked. You want to be able to speak to what you have done in your career. You also want to be prepared to walk them through your resume, in most interviews you will have to do something like that. You don’t want to have a whole bunch of ums and pauses as you do this. So take a few minutes and read through your resume aloud and reflect on these roles. You also should be prepared to discuss any gaps in employment and why you left certain roles. It helps to print out your resume and write notes. That way when they ask for that information you have it available to you.

So that’s it. There is my list of the five things you have to do. Did I leave any out? Perhaps you disagree with a point. I welcome any discussion. Thanks!