Tag Archives: Employment

Research the Employer Before the Interview

When you don’t research the employer before the interview, your superficial research downgrades your answers to every question, disappoints prospective employers and shortchanges you. Take the time, leave your comfort zone, and learn everything you can.

As John headed back to his car after a grueling interview, he was elated. Always optimistic, he usually thought it had gone very well. The panel of interviewers seemed to like his responses to their questions, and he had a good feeling about his chances.

Finally, it was coming together for John. He was proud of the fact that he had taught himself the ins and outs of the plant manager role with a small town manufacturer before it was sold a year ago. Now he felt ready for a big break, bringing his skills and knowledge to a national firm. This position brought a higher salary, opportunities for promotion and improved benefits, just in time for the baby coming in a couple of months.

Thorough Research Before the Job Interview is essential

Research Before Interviews

Back inside, Sherman was puzzled. Something was lacking in John’s answers. John undoubtedly had solved some challenging problems with a shoestring budget. But it was harder to visualize him working in the department. His stories placed him in an environment entirely unlike this one. No more walking into the president’s office and demanding immediate approval for new equipment. If he was hired, could John adjust?

John is oblivious. The very idea that his limited knowledge of even basic differences between his former employer and this new one could undermine his credibility would never occur to him.

For that reason, John didn’t sell himself as effectively as he might have.

Good research distinguishes you from less prepared candidates

The first time I was asked what I had done to prepare for an interview, I was startled by the question. During my academic career, that would never be asked. The truth was, I had done very little to learn about the organization. It simply never occurred to me that I was expected to research the employer before the interview! Frankly, that sounded like a lot of unnecessary work.

The power of thorough, in-depth research to distinguish you from the other applicants, and to overcome biases cannot be overstated. There would have been concerns about John’s suitability just from looking at his resume, but careful preparation of responses that were designed to suit the actual workplace of the prospective employer would have reassured the interview panel.

Possibly even if John did know that he needed to adapt his answers for this specific company, he might have dismissed the idea of spending that much time in preparation for one interview. So the payoff needs to be high. Continue reading

Prepare for “How did you prepare for this interview” Job Interview Question

Kill the interview or boost your hiring prospects right here and now. Interviewers can tell when you haven’t prepared. That’s deadly for positions above entry-level.

It’s typically asked right after “Tell Me About Yourself”. Last post, I talked about how powerfully you can impact the interviewer’s perception of you as a candidate. With this question, the prospective employer continues to size you up.

Read on to deepen your understanding of the “how did you prepare for this interview” job interview question.

A Most Revealing Question: How Did You Prepare for this Interview?

Did you take this interview seriously? Do you prepare at all for important assignments? What does it look like when you really prepare?

Many applicants, particularly above the entry-level positions, have rehearsed answers for other questions. You might take this one lightly, guessing (wrongly) that there wouldn’t be much payoff if you you thoroughly “prepare for this interview”.

What Does The Employer Want/Need to Hear?

They want to know what you’ve learned about the company, even if they don’t specifically say that. Show them your findings that aren’t available just by looking at the company’s website or the first page of Google. The amount of effort you put in and the savvy that you demonstrate by your research approach convey much. Continue reading

Should you ever turn down a job promotion?

Job promotions are often welcome, well-deserved and timely as they should be. But that isn’t always true. Early in my career, I was offered an outstanding opportunity that I strongly felt was just not right for me at the time. A promotion when you aren’t ready for all that it entails can be unnecessarily stressful and limit your career options. 

Can you turn down a job promotion?Can you turn down a job promotion?

Can you turn down a job promotion?

Fresh out of my MBA, I was hired into a position with a large association. It was a perfect fit for my temperament and qualifications. I was immediately assigned a few choice projects that provided perfect opportunities to show what I could do. The work that I did on those assignments was well and widely received.

When my boss was promoted to the top position in the organization, he pressed me to apply to replace him. It was flattering but I felt very strongly that it was premature. Any national association is  rife with politics, which had never been a factor in my pre-MBA work experience as a store manager in the retail lumber industry. I was presently insulated from those concerns which suited me fine.

As you probably guessed by now, I accepted the promotion which brought a nice office, a higher salary, status and travel. Over time I learned a great deal about leadership in a large association but the role was never a great fit. And the new job, with a higher salary and title made it much more difficult to move into other employment.

What advice would I give today to that 30 year old version of myself? Continue reading

“Credential Yourself” on Microsoft Office Skills

credential yourself

Can You Credential Yourself?

Responsibility for credibly communicating your competence in advanced Microsoft Word Skills is entirely in your hands.

Fortunately, even if you can’t point to a fistful of recently-completed certificates, you can quickly create effective documentation of those essential skills and credential yourself.

If you follow the steps I will lay out for you, you will never need to worry that you will be over looked for promotion or have your job application tossed out simply because you learned barely enough skills to get by in fulfilling your current responsibilities.

And you can do that without spending a single dime!

Can you really “Credential Yourself”?

You could just create a nice colorful certificate but that would have about as much credibility as a “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt! But you can prepare something at least as effective and more relevant and current within groupings of skills that are generally considered to be basic, intermediate, or advanced skills in Microsoft Word.

You can start with the Advanced Microsoft Word Checklist that I have provided in the free resources section. Then once you have satisfied yourself that you can perform all of the listed tasks, you need to decide how you will substantiate that claim as needed when you are challenged in a job interview. Continue reading

Job seekers must fully address employer concerns

Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.

Address Employer Concerns

As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.

Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.

Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.

In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.

Know the Precise Employer Concern

Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”. Continue reading

Document your Advanced Microsoft Word Skills

I frequently see resumes from job applicants claiming Advanced Microsoft Word skills. When such a high level of proficiency seems highly improbably given their previous work experience and education, I am very skeptical. When I have doubts and the answer is important to me, I ask questions. I want to know what specific things you can do on the job tomorrow.

Document Your Advanced Word Skills

Advanced Word Skills – Really?

Many job postings ask for advanced skills beyond what is essential, but that doesn’t really matter. When you are asked in a job interview some sort of vague question about your Microsoft Office skills, you still need to nail it convincingly.

That is the reason I created the checklists that are now available in the MS Office Skills Checklists section. By making sure that you know exactly what advanced skills are, you can avoid an awkward conversation that doesn’t answer the question. You don’t want either error. You don’t want to be embarrassed when you learn that you actually don’t have any advanced skills. Pretending you have skills that you don’t makes for an entertaining movie, but I think the thrill of the experience falls short of that in real life. Continue reading

Prospective employers want you to communicate your qualifications clearly

If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications every week without response, you are not alone and it’s your job to figure out why.

Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? If I just send more applications, sooner or later it is inevitable that I will rise to the top of the pile. Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long.

magnifying glass

Communicate Your Skills Clearly

Not every opening that is posted online is filled from online applicants but some are. If you aren’t among the winning pllicants, it may have something to do with how you are applying, but you may be perplexed as to what to change.

Do you understand the hiring process from the perspective of an employer that receives thousands of applications? Often its a junior staff member who reduces the pile to a manageable number. It’s easier than you think. Just discard applications that don’t mention the key words related to the required qualifications. Then calls are made to conduct an initial screening interview or to schedule an interview. So what if that prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? Continue reading

6 Job interview questions a blogger should welcome

We all dread certain job interview questions, but with a good answer ready you can actually look forward to any question.

Successfully launching a blog is not easy and just the fact that you have a blog that is in any way career related gives you a conversation starter and icebreaker. But your blog can provide much more than that. Here are a few questions that you can respond to by drawing from your blogging experiences:

Provide an example of your problem solving skills:

If you have successfully launched a blog and sustained it for a significant amount of time, you have solved many problems. So every time you solve a significant problem, write down a short description. Note the nature of the problem and the implications it has for your blog’s availability or effectiveness. Describe exactly your problem solving process. what you did to solve the problem (e.g. use Google, phone a friend etc.). Specify clearly the outcome of the action you took and what you learned if anything. Tell the whole story in less than 60 seconds if possible in a way that is easy to understand. Continue reading

Consider blogging your way out of a career rut

Establishing a blog related to your career can cure a lot of ills. Feeling stuck in a rut is just one. It has never been easier and the benefits have never been clearer.

12 benefits from a career-related blog:

  1. Blogging  gives you, not your employer or anyone else, total control over the heart of career management, your personal brand.
  2. Here’s your chance to broadcast the experience and wisdom you have accumulated in your professional career. You can answer those questions that no one ever asks or provide the advice to a newcomer that you wish someone would tell them. Continue reading

Do your job applications fall on deaf ears?

If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications weekly with no response, you are not alone.

Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? “If I just send enough applications, it is inevitable that I will reach the top of the pile eventually.” Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long! Someone is no longer unemployed. Why shouldn’t it be you?

Is Your Approach Working?

Is Your Approach Working?

Not every opening that is posted online is filled by an online applicant but some certainly are. If you aren’t hearing back, it probably has something to do with your qualification or how you are applying. But how can you know what to change? It may help to understand the hiring process from the employer’s perspective. When a position is posted, there may be thousands of applications. Often a junior staff member or a computer program screens on predetermined minimum qualifications. Now the pile is more manageable. Calls are then made for an initial screening interview by phone. So what if the prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? No phone call, no interview, no job. Continue reading