WAVE TWO: Networking IN To A Company of Interest

JigSaw-partnershipWhat is the most critical skill to one’s  CAREER success – yet also the most elusive? Time management? Discipline?  Professionalism?  Reliability?  Yes, these are all desired personal traits and work habits, but rarely SEARCHED for.

How about the more functionally significant skills, like Strategic thinking? Decision making? Business acumen or intuitive ability to forecast and budget effectively?


This week’s Session, Thursday, February 14th… Turning Opportunities Into INTERVIEWS: Networking IN to a targeted organization


bob-maher-4587-editNo. While these are all important, they pale in comparison to communication skills, BOTH personal and professional: Attentive listening, asking relevant questions, showing empathy, and knowing how to handle difficult communications are the most critical to career success.  They are vital to building healthy relationships, exchanging ideas, sharing feelings, gaining buy-in, setting clear expectations, and working collaboratively.

The lack of these skills is at the root of most conflicts, employee performance issues, failed projects, and lost opportunities…JOBS????

You can be a subject matter expert, but if you can’t communicate your ideas, your ideas are of little value. You can have a great value proposition, branding, for the future, but if you can’t get people to buy into it, your vision doesn’t matter. You can be a masterful manager, but if you can’t reassure or empathize with your clients, they will seek help elsewhere.

You might have a skill set/experience to sell, but if you can’t articulate a compelling value proposition, you won’t find many takers. Your ability to communicate determines your success at work or home.

How do you rate your current communication’s skills?  And, more importantly, how do you improve them to enhance job search or career transition SUCCESS?

A famous coach, of Green Bay Packer fame, spoke frankly when he said, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Mr. Lombardi’s intent was CLEAR. He wanted his players to concentrate on PRACTICE, drilling on the “little things”, the basics, so that they became instinct during the heat of real life.

Such is productive mindset during any career transition, specifically related to your ability to relate your well positioned “story” to others, answer questions effectively, conduct productive negotiations, and, fine tune your personal marketing skills.

THE BASICS

So what are those basics that will allow you to effectively network to identify appropriate opportunities, and then secure the requisite INTERVIEWS in order to “close the deal?”

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”  Practice your two minute drill every chance you get…. it’s the fundamental building material of your communication strategy–your verbal personal marketing collaterals!
  2. Practice your exit and qualification statements… most all potential employers and networking contacts will want to know your current situation and why you are available.
  3. Practice answering both common and tough questions… including pre-offer negotiation tactics. The most asked question during career transition is, “Tell me about yourself.” Appropriate use of your two-minute drill and related verbal strategies, your “verbal collaterals,” is a key ingredient to personal marketing…
  • A verbal resume… A tightly focused, upbeat telling of “your story” told in a high impact two minute format. With practice, can be easily personalized to your listener.
  • An “elevator pitch”… A succinct summary of your qualifications for a specifically positioned function or opportunity. With practice, can become quite spontaneous.
  • A qualification statement that can be used in introducing yourself

Let’s not forget a couple of additional ‘collaterals’ that will help you round out your ability to ‘get the word out’ and serve as evidence of your qualifications.

  1. Brag bytes… Wordcraft various collections of words, phrases and sentences to capture memorable moments or accomplishments–the best you have to offer. “…saved 80% cost-perhire…” Used in MSWord, ‘Quick Parts’ can be quite efficient when building high impact correspondence as well.
  2. Personal Portfolio… Your collection of certificates, examples of work, reference letters, etc that can bring life and interest (not to mention PROOF) to your story.
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Closing The Deal: Determining ‘Next Steps’

Your Career CompassA productive mindset, during any career transition, is your ability to relate your well positioned “story” to others, answer questions effectively, conduct productive negotiations, and, in general, fine tune your personal marketing (NOT sales) skills.


Tomorrow’s Session…Thursday, November 29th… Closing The Deal II: Interview Tactics, including POST-Offer negotiation.


So what are those basic tactics that will allow you to effectively “close the deal?”

  1. Practice your two minute drill every chance you get…. it’s the fundamental building material of your communication strategy–your verbal collaterals!
  2. Practice your exit and qualification statements… most all potential employers and networking contacts will want to know your current situation and why you are available.
  3. Practice answering both common and tough questions… including pre-offer negotiation tactics.

The most asked question during career transition is, “Tell me about yourself.”  Appropriate use of your two-minute drill and related verbal strategies, your “verbal collaterals,” is a key ingredient to personal salesmanship…

  • A verbal resume… A tightly focused, upbeat telling of “your story” told in a high impact two minute format.  With practice, can be easily personalized to your listener.
  • An “elevator pitch”…  A succinct summary of your qualifications for a specifically positioned function or opportunity.  With practice, can become quite spontaneous.
  • Brag bytes…  Wordcraft various collections of words, phrases and sentences to capture memorable moments or accomplishments–the best you have to offer.  “…saved 80% cost-per-hire…”  Used in MSWord Auto Text Format can be quite efficient when building high impact correspondence as well.
  • Personal Portfolio…  Your collection of certificates, examples of work, reference letters, etc that can bring life and interest (not to mention PROOF) to your story.

Think of an interview as the natural extension, the successful result of your effective networking.  Many networking conversations actually become screening interviews, where influential contacts are assessing your qualifications, skill sets and experience relative to an opportunity at hand.

“Perfect practice” of the basics builds the confidence necessary to perform well in formal job interviews. Let’s break down the basics into four areas…

  1. pre-contact preparation/ research,
  2. greeting and rapport,
  3. questions/answers, and …
  4. meeting closure.

All four stages are equally important and deserve your consideration and preparation.

Know the needs of the company

Once your basic research is complete, you must next identify how your abilities, experience and expertise can meet the needs of the interviewer, the company and the job.  This point cannot be over-emphasized.  It is the company’s needs that you must fill, not your own.  Surprisingly, however, by meeting the company’s needs, your needs also will be met.

Your VALUE PROPOSITION

Prepare for your interviews (and networking meetings) by fully understanding the value you bring to a potential employer and hiring company.    Incorporate portions of this information into your interview responses, or use some of the material in your interview closing remarks.  Tell them why you are good at what you do!

The Interviewee’s Nine-Box Matrix of Interview Process… 

Confirm FIT

YOU

JOB FIT
ASK

 

 

 

 

     
ANSWER

 

 

 

 

     
MONEY

 

 

 

 

     

ADVICE OVERLOAD vs. “LISTENING TO YOUR MARKETPLACE”

roadsign-banner2Many people talk about “information overload” and “decision fatigue” when it comes to how to conduct your job search, or write your resume, or develop your LinkedIn Profile…or answer those challenging interview questions.  THE Careerpilot  believes there’s another side to the coin… Receiving options is actually motivational and liberating, with the right mindset.  Asking for someone else’s advice isn’t about getting the right answer out of them. Rather, it’s about adding perspective to your view so you can choose the right answer for you.

So, how can you ensure another ‘second opinion’ doesn’t cloud your judgement?


NEXT Session: Thursday, November 8th @8:45 AM… Closing The Deal I: Interview STRATEGIES, including MoneySpeak and PRE-Offer negotiation.


chalk1First and foremost, understand that your ‘core personality,’ defined by your unique strengths, skills, interests, preferences, and values (Step#1: ASSESSMENT), drives your “gut feel” on matters of choice.  TRUST that!

In THE Careerpilot’s 12-Step M.A.P. for career transition, Steps #1 and #2 are in place for one simple reason: If you don’t have a grip on what you want to do next in your career, work toward giving yourself that grip!  Your core personality should be represented in your offer criteria BEFORE development of your Personal Marketing collateral materials, like your resume!

If you cannot connect your motivated skills and strengths to supportive and confirming episodes from your actual experience, you should be utilizing your first wave of implementing your Personal Marketing Plan (Step#9) to identify and resolve this vital issue.

Only then will it become effective to proceed with Step#3 in the development and practice of your collective communication strategies (keywords) in the design of your collateral materials, both verbal and written.  Remember: Perfect practice makes PERFECT!

And that brings us to Step#4, once you are satisfied with a market-ready resume, share it with your references, coaching them to be in sync with your communication strategies.  Your references should know you well, better than any other editorial resource available to you.  Consider these two things before reaching out:

  1. ALWAYS respect the time management of the person you’re interacting with
  2. Instead of seeking JOB help… consider a very different acronym: AIR… you should be seeking Advice, Information, and/or a R

When asked, your contact may throw ideas out there for the kind of job you should have, the kind of path you should take, the kind of responsibilities you should own, or the kinds of decisions you should make. You can let it overwhelm you, or you can pick and choose what you want to factor in, and let everything else fall to the wayside…

This is an over-simplification, but it’s truly that simple. Once you see others’ advice as something you can take rather than something you have to take, the pressures off, and you can make decisions that align with your values.

This also frees you up to make the more challenging decisions based on cumulative feedback that you have heard and listened to from the job market…  how to conduct your job search, or write your resume, or develop your LinkedIn Profile…or answer those challenging interview questions. The more collective ‘advice and information,’ the better!

Remember, too, that the traditional marketplace’s over-reliance and obsession with keywords is what drives your dynamic need for feedback on your resume.  Besides, you should be constantly tweaking your market-ready resume to stay in sync with actual job descriptions and other opportunities.

Learn to embrace the OTHER job market!

Getting ‘The Feel’ For FIT

Compass-seaLEvery step in the job search process is aimed at obtaining interviews.  It is at that point, a potential hiring manager decides if you are right for the job, and, just as important, it is your time to evaluate whether the job is right for you. Most interviews follow a predictable format, with steps that both the interviewer and applicant follow to decide if both will benefit from working together. The best interviews are ones in which both participants are equal and can have a mutually beneficial, interactive conversation regarding the opportunity at hand.


THIS Week’s session, Thursday, September 6th: Closing The Deal I, a discussion of interviewing strategies, including MoneySpeak and PRE-Offer negotiation


bob-maher-4587-editThink of an interview as the natural extension, the successful result, of your effective networking.  Many networking conversations actually become screening interviews, where influential contacts are assessing your qualifications, skill sets and experience relative to an opportunity at hand.  “Perfect practice” of the basics builds the confidence necessary to perform well in formal job interviews.

The Three Phases of Every Interview

 There are three things that must be discussed in every interview:  First, the Candidate, a discussion usually conducted in the past tense to assess experience, knowledge, and skills… do they meet the potential employer’s REQUIREMENTS?

Second, the job itself.  Beyond meeting requirements, each Candidate must be judged for their potential to meet EXPECTATIONS.  As important, will the Candidate “fit in” on the team and Company culture?  This discussion occurs in the future tense… very obvious transition in a “good” interview.

Third, is the quality of FIT.  While this is the most subjective and dysfunctional part of the process, it is where both sides must come together for a desired outcome.  When both sides like and find the other to be attractive, a “right” employment opportunity can result.  This is also where the QandA can become more defensive in nature.

Research the company/position

 Second level research will help you to identify attractive companies.  But, this is third level (in-depth) research.  Learn as much as possible about the company, the position and the individual who will be conducting the interview.  Your research goals ought to include developing information about the company’s products, people, organizational structure, successes (and failures), profits (and losses), capital spending, strategic plans, philosophy and labor climate.

Showing your knowledge of some of this information can give you added credibility over other candidates interviewing for the job.

Use the following research strategies:

  • Research the company web site, looking for information relative to your function and level… a company’s financial and annual reports can provide clues to their stability and market share. Don’t forget directories, trade journals, the “business press,” and databases of articles and other news.
  • Don’t forget your friend, LinkedIn… have you been FOLLOWing the Company?
  • Ask a friendly recruiter, business acquaintance or stockbroker what they know about the company… and by extension, call people with whom you have networked and ask what they know about the company and/or the individual(s) conducting the actual interview.
  • Check with the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau.
  • Call the company directly; request a sales brochure, annual report or other company information. Companies have to market themselves, too, you know

Know the needs of the company

Once your basic research is complete, you must next identify how your abilities, experience and expertise can meet the needs of the interviewer, the company and the job.  This point cannot be over-emphasized.

It is the company’s needs that you must fill, not your own.  Surprisingly, however, by meeting the company’s needs, your needs also will be met.

Your VALUE PROPOSITION

Prepare for your interviews (and networking meetings) by fully understanding the value you bring to a potential employer and hiring company.    Incorporate portions of this information into your interview responses, or use some of the material in your interview closing remarks.  Tell them why you are good at what you do!

Have your knowing NOTION of FIT going in to any interview!

Interview SKILL: Becoming a ‘Valued Partner’

Compass-seaLWhether you are an operations manager, an internal HR professional, senior finance executive, or a key player on the IT team—ANY experienced and valued professional job seeker—ALL and EVERYONE should want to become a ‘valued partner’ in the strategic and operational planning–as well as the execution–of their next employer. To become fully engaged, Everyone wants a voice in strategic decisions and to be included in ‘the conversation.’


THIS WEEK’s Session, Thursday, June 21st: Closing The Deal II, exploring and practicing interview tactics, including POST-OFFER Negotiation


chalk1To truly be included, you need to be invited. And you will only be invited if you are seen as absolutely essential to the TEAM.  Remember, team player and team leader CAN BE interchangeable terms.

Here are some tips on becoming a valued partner…

Walk the talk.  Nothing speaks louder than results…. From the recruitment perspective, the best indicator of one’s potential for success is one’s prior experience and results gained.  A partner helps others within the organization achieve their goals. And results require actions, not just words. The better the results you get, the more likely you are to be invited on to ‘the team.’

Deep knowledge... You must have a true understanding of ‘the bigger picture…’ how does your department fit into meeting organizational goals and objectives?  In other words, you’ve done your homework and understand your potential employer’s need.  And you must be able to articulate your understanding to anyone involved in the decision-making process in a manner that demonstrates that you truly get it.

Two of the many ways of accomplishing this image are to…

  1. Keep a file of relevant articles to share with key decision-makers, take advantage of the approaches that email and social media have to offer… create and maintain top-of-mind awareness.
  2. Further, create a set of ‘white papers’ that express, from your knowledge and experience, your perspective on relevant issues to your Profession or industry of choice.

 Listen well Everyone loves to feel that they have been heard and understood. One attribute of leadership is being known as a good listener. And if you can reiterate and articulate what has been said, you will be valued as a partner in the decision-making process.  Remember, the human brain takes IN information more efficiently than it can put out valued communication.

Communicate Like The LEADER You ARE 

Remember, as a job seeker, NETWORKING is your way to share knowledge, ‘branding’ yourself as a valued resource.  It is also your best source of confirming the subjective information you seek to supplement your research of factual information about a potential employer.

 

Big picture thinking Having a strategic vision requires you to see all areas of the business, internal and external.   This is a valuable trait well beyond the C-suite.

If you only have a deep understanding of one area, you are more likely to be tactical in your decisions, rather than strategic. You must be able to foresee problems from the stakeholders’ perspective in order to offer the most highly valued and comprehensive solutions.  Tying all of this together, the best way to be treated like a valued partner is to act like one.

The more you demonstrate your value, the more you will become recognized as the go-to person in the organization and you will be included and have a voice in the big strategic decisions.

The Other Side Of The Table: Reverse Engineering of INTERVIEW STRATEGY

Compass-seaLSo, how does a concept from the field of engineering get itself into the dysfunctional event called INTERVIEWING? Reverse engineering is a detailed examination of a technical product or service, with the end-game of producing something similar. In fact, this method could also apply to the job interview because sometimes, in a job interview, the candidate does not properly understand the question the interviewer has asked, and therefore the answer, of course, would likely not be the best.  In other words, the most important element of the job interview is that the candidate clearly and fully understand the context and issue involved with each question if that candidate’s answers are to meet the interviewer’s expectations.


THIS WEEK’s Session, Thursday, June 14th: Closing The Deal I, exploring interview strategies, including ‘MoneySpeak’ and PRE-OFFER Negotiation


chalk1It’s a sad fact that many of the people who conduct job interviews, those representing your potential employers, have never taken even one structured course about carrying out a thorough and productive interview. And it’s disturbing that many professional interviewers do a less than satisfactory job of actually conducting an interview.

Anatomy of the interview

The job interview itself is a professional conversation between employers’ representatives and job applicants (EQUAL participants) for the purpose of selecting the applicant who appears to be the best candidate. Of course, interviews vary in many ways based on type of job and on level within an organization. But in all cases there are similarities.

So, what are the criteria that interviewers must satisfy for themselves in order to go ahead and recommend the hiring of an individual? The answer, of course, includes many criteria, which will differ from one interview to the next…and which at times will be influenced by prejudices, not unlike a job seeker’s offer criteria and the influence of emotions, anxiety, and other pressures.

The interviewer will want to confirm that YOU MEET REQUIREMENTS, usually set forth in a company job description.  They attempt to assure your willingness and ability to meet their JOB performance EXPECTATIONS… and finally, the most subjective of all, both parties should be optimizing how well you FIT the job and team cultural issues.

In addition, in most cases more than one interview takes place before a final decision is reached. Let’s examine the types of questions asked in many interviews… and the intentions behind the questions.

Questions for the screening interview

Here the first criterion is communication skills, and a typical question is, “Tell me about yourself.”  On hearing the answer, the interviewer has the opportunity to access how the candidate frames that answer. Is it clear and concise? Is the candidate engaging me?

The next criterion is competency. The question could be, Can you give me a specific example of a time you used a (particular) skill and the outcome (a behavioral question)? Now the interviewer listens for whether the answer indicates that the candidate is a team player. Does the candidate truly demonstrate well-developed skills in the area of my interest, and what were the main results?

At all companies, cultural fit is extremely important. Several common questions are pertinent to this area. For example, What was the biggest team project or task you’ve undertaken in your career? They may dig deeper, with specific follow-up questions, like:

  • What is the size and scope of the project team. Was the objective reached?
  • Who benefited by the outcome?

Was the candidate’s answer well communicated? Was it too long? Too short?

The next area to explore is motivation. Here they may probe the interviewee on what they have researched, or know about the company, testing whether the candidate has done their ‘homework.’  Is the candidate really interested? Does the candidate know more details about the organization than what’s available on the Web site?

You’ve made it through the screening process…NOW What?

 Questions for the second interview

Because the motivation factor is so very important, it’s likely that this criterion will come up in the second interview as well, when other members of the interviewing team look for it. Common questions are:

  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why did you leave your last position? Were there hidden problems?
  • Do you wish to grow professionally? Do you have a clear vision of your professional future?

The next area to look into would be trust of colleagues and customers. A good, probing question would be, Can you cite examples that best demonstrate your ability to relate well to others?

  • Have you been invited to contribute to other teams?
  • Did your team and other teams celebrate their successes together?
  • How about repeat business? Or returning internal or external customers?

People in management are expected to identify and establish goals. Listen closely here, because the context of goal-oriented questioning is important.  They may inquire about your plans for the first 90 days after hire. Does the candidate know the product or service? Has the candidate given thought to a plan? Is the plan detailed enough?

If at this point the candidate appears promising, they may turn to the salary issues.  What kind of money are you looking for? The answer will enable me to decide whether it’s worth continuing the interview if a candidate’s expectations are out of the hiring manager’s salary range budgeted for the position.

The DARK Side

They may ask a question about a perceived liability. For example, Aren’t you overqualified? I will determine whether the response is defensive or equable.

And the last area involves predicting future behavior.  The best predictor of future success is evidence of related accomplishment in the past.  Questions about future behavior are typically based on behaviors or situations. For example, Tell me about a time you had to defend an idea and what the outcome was.

Asking interview questions is not difficult. Making judgments based on candidates’ answers is where interviewing skills get severely tested.

And perfect practice makes perfect for both parties.

Thoughts on Behavior-based Interviews

Compass-seaLLike falling in love, interviews can be like a next step on the career path of the rest of your working days.  However, interviews can also be mind-numbing disasters that cast you into the depths of self- doubt and depression.   In EVERY interview, you can plan, prepare, and practice your way to a more confident, high performing YOU that can persevere and succeed through this critical stage of a job search.  Even rejection can be turned in to a positive outcome.

sq-knot2

For some time now, ‘behavioral interviewing’ has been a strong trend in the recruitment process.  Being aware of this as a recruitment strategy, planning to take advantage of it, will help you to avoid an otherwise nerve wrecking experience.  In fact, acing that particular sort of interview could be the stepping stone to the career path of your dreams.

Interview Preparation:

Do your background research on industry, company, interviewer(s), and, importantly, the value proposition you offer in the role, the opportunity at hand.

  1. Understand the requirements of the position and how they create expectations of you. Get the Company jo description in advance and understand it! 
  2. Know who will be conducting the interview… use LinkedIn to be aware of their background.
  3. Utilize target organization networking to gain insight into the organization’s needs.
  4. Prepare 2 – 3 points in advance that clearly communicates why you are an excellent fit for the position—and don’t overlook company (department level) cultural issues.

Behavioral Interview Questions: What are they?

They are common questions based on the premise that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. They can

·         Provide proof of your potential demonstrated through description of past situations

·         Instead of being situational e.g. “If you are faced with a difficult customer issue, what will you do?” a behavioral question is more like, “Give an example of a situation here you were faced with a challenging customer issue… and what did you do?”

·         This type of question is open ended and allows the interviewer to probe and zero in on specific behaviors and skills to find out more about the candidate

 Interviewers use behavioral interview questions to assess leadership, problem-solving, analytical thinking, time management, communication and interpersonal skills.

Candidates need to prepare examples and stories that demonstrate the themes mentioned above. In addition, as a candidate, you should prepare examples and stories for additional key competencies that are outlined on the job description.

Practice, practice, practice! (Where have you heard THIS before?)

Your self-confidence in your presentation, and belief that you’re the best candidate for the role, is paramount. It’s important to practice responses out loud. Practice with your accountability partner. Practice with family. Practice with friends, fellow job-seekers and an experienced, skilled and knowledgeable Career Services Professional.

Practice so you’ll have a flow and can articulate your examples clearly and concisely. The flip side is, of course, don’t memorize examples verbatim…  as you might sound too rehearsed an unnatural. 

Be YOURSELF.