…how to find out how you stack up

this is so simple it’s almost stupid and very few candidates do it. This idea applies not just on finding out where you are in the order of interviews, but also applies in finding out how you stand in the whole interviewing process. A few examples will give you the idea and a good candidate just needs to remember to practice them, then execute.

these questions are not as effective when you are dealing with an interviewing authority. They are most effective with actual hiring authorities. Now, you can ask somebody in the HR department whether you’re the first or last candidate to be interviewed, but it probably wouldn’t matter that much. But asking the real hiring authority where you are in the interviewing process does make a big difference. Most candidates are not going to have the courage to ask and if you do, the hiring authority will have a lot more respect for you.

so, when you go to make the initial interview with the hiring authority you simply ask, “Mr. or Ms. hiring authority, how many people are you interviewing and in what order of the process am I?” As we discussed in the last post, if there are number of people in the process and they are being interviewed over a long period of time it certainly would be appropriate to ask the hiring authority, “if I may, Mr. or Ms. hiring authority, I’d like to go last in the interviewing process. Would that be possible?” Most hiring authorities will accommodate you, especially since you will probably be the only one to make this request.

if the hiring authority asks you why you would make such a request, it certainly doesn’t hurt to say, “well, once you have seen a number of the people on the market for this position you will better be able to make an evaluation of my abilities and experience. you will also be able to give me feedback as to how I stack up with the other candidates.”

At the end of the interview, especially the initial interview it is very appropriate to ask at least these three questions:

“do you need any clarifications about my experience or my background as to how it fits this particular job?”

“How does my experience and ability stack up with the other candidates that you have interviewed?”

“What, in your opinion, do I need to do to get the job?”

These are very bold questions and most people don’t have the courage to ask them. Mainly because they don’t want to be rejected. For some crazy reason people want to postpone being rejected. Remember, if you’re in a job search “no” is the second best answer you can get. And if the answer is going to be no, the sooner you get it the better soon you can move on to other opportunities.

the parting thought on these questions has to be that they take practice. No matter who you are, unless you are interviewing on a weekly basis, you aren’t used to asking these questions and will be reluctant to do it unless you practice them in mock interview situations with your spouse or a friend. A savvy hiring authority will admire your courage and you will find out really quickly where you stand in the interviewing process.

… is it best to be first or last in the interviewing process

We had caller on our radio program this week who asked, “Is it best to be the first or last in the interviewing process?” He was referring to the initial interviewing process and went on to add that he wanted to know whether it is best to be first or last in the follow-up interview process, as well. This is a really good question. It’s been my experience in the last 43 years of seeing people get hired:

If you know the initial interviewing process is going to be short, like all in one day and there are going to be no more than four candidates interviewing, it probably doesn’t matter whether you are the first or the last. Some people say that it is best, in this situation to be first because you “set the bar.” Others will say it is best to be last, because of the law of recency that will be discussed in a few minutes. But, my experience has been that even being in the middle is fine because if you interview well enough (and that is a big if for lots of people) and you show yourself to be an excellent candidate, your succession in the intervening chain  won’t matter. The thing to do is, as you set the interview, ask the hiring authority how many people he or she is going to interview and over what period of time. We will discuss this next week, but asking these questions is as important as jockeying for position in a group of interviewees. Most hiring authorities will be more than happy to tell candidates about the  people they have interviewed or plan to interview and a candidate can make his or her decision about asking to be a particular position at that time.

The biggest challenge of being first or last in the initial interviewing process comes when the interviews take place over a longer period of time. I’ve been involved in initial interview processes that take from one day to seven or eight months. If the candidate knows that the initial interview process is going to be greater than any one or two day period of time, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to request being the last one interviewed. There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first is the law of recency. It simply states that people remember best the most recent candidate they have interviewed. If a candidate interviews reasonably well, he or she is looked upon more favorably than the other candidates. (Candidates who interview poorly will certainly be remembered but that memory won’t be positive.)

The second reason is that as most hiring authorities move through the intervening process they get a better idea of what they are looking for relative to the talent that might be available. They, therefore, are a little more realistic about evaluating candidates and are more likely to be positively impressed with the fourth or fifth candidate over two or three weeks than they would be if the candidate was the first one.

Being the last to be interviewed doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the job. You still have to interview really well and impress on the hiring authority that they ought to hire you. The candidate can certainly try to position themselves to come across in the best light. Only about 30% of the initial interviewing processes that even us, as professional recruiters, participate in, are accomplished in one or two days.

So, if the initial interviewing process you are involved in is no longer than a day or two, try to be first, then maybe last. If you find the initial interviewing process is going to be over a week or two, try to be last.

Next week will discuss the questions a candidate should ask to find out if he should jockey for position or even if he or she can.

(The caller on the radio program revealed that he found out the interviewing process that he was going to be involved in had already been going on for almost three months and  they had already interviewed 18 candidates. It’s obvious that these folks have no idea what they’re looking for. Being first or last won’t matter in this situation. They are still going to be confused.)

 

 

… If we all worked like an immigrant

If all of us worked with the same tenacity and diligence that I see most immigrants to the United States do, our economy would be out of the crapper. This is my own observation from having worked in the trenches, finding people jobs since 1973. I have interviewed more than 26,000 job candidates, everything from hourly workers to CEO’s. I have seen a genuine cross-section of workers in the US.

For the most part, and there are exceptions, immigrants work harder, longer and more diligently that most of the working folks in this country. They have an attitude that “I have to work harder, longer and more enduring, because I have overcome prejudice, language issues and cultural issues.” Diligent and hard work is one way to get ahead in America. And we are all blessed with the same opportunity.

You will rarely hear an immigrant, needing a job, say that they are going to pass up an interview because they can make more money on unemployment (which we hear often). I remember my grandfather talking about what it was like as an immigrant in 1900. I’m sure the stories got better over the years, but it was clear that he and his peers worked harder than most everybody else and his work ethic has been passed down.

I realized that there’s a big difference between the immigrants of today and the ones of my grandfather’s generation. His generation and their families went out of their way to become more “American.” They changed their names to be more “American,” encouraged their children to speak only English instead of their mother tongue (oh, I wish my father had taught us to speak Arabic, but he grew up encouraged to only speak English). They wanted to be American.

It is probably true that many immigrants today do not want to blend into the American culture as much as previous generations did. And there are some, even though they live here, who have contempt for the American ways. Some, especially the ones that are here illegally, are taking advantage of our schools, healthcare and government systems. I’m not saying that’s right.

But if Manuel wants to mow my yard and do a better job at a better price than Billie…let him. If Hector wants to takes care of my building as though he owned it…let him. Eric (Chinese) is the hardest working network systems guy I have ever met. He has been doing our systems work for 25 years, at a very reasonable rate…and he is available 24/7. If Patel is willing to go to school, graduate with an IT degree ( stuff most Americans just don’t want to do) and wants to write code In the wee hours of the morning…let him. Ali, the Pakistani cab driver in New York didn’t smell good and neither did his cab. I won’t use him again. But Nasser, the Egyptian Uber driver in San Francisco, had an impeccably clean smelling, wonderful Prius. He was great company as well as a good driver. I’ve got his card and number if I need it. He shared that he loved his job because he could work as much as he needed or wanted to. He had a very high rating.

Just look at all of the companies that have been started by immigrants. The people who complain about Immigrants should give thanks that they are here. I will grant you that our immigration policies are a mess. So, okay, fix ’em. We should let as many immigrants in this country who want to come.  The free market will determine how well they do. Don’t let them or anyone else freeload with entitlements or take advantage of the system. But if they want to try to outwork me or anybody else….let them. Bring it on! I’ll just have to work a little harder. It’s good for me.

If even half of us worked as hard as Hector does to keep our building running and looking as good as it does, our country would be better off. He has the mentality of an immigrant. God bless him! …wish more folks did.

Salad Dressing on Your Tie

I know, you are asking yourself, “Why is he writing about that?” Well, it is because at least twice a month one of our candidates loses an opportunity for a job offer because of their manners…mostly table manners.

Just this week…the reason I’m writing this..one of our v.p. candidates lost an opportunity because he went to lunch with the CEO and two other vice presidents and, to quote the CEO, “he acted like it was the first meal he had all week.” On top of that, he ate his salad so fast, “he sent dressing flying onto his tie.” End of consideration. The group doing the hiring was appalled.

We had a candidate sometime back who lost the opportunity because, at a meeting over coffee at the local Starbucks, he slurped his coffee instead of drinking it. The hiring authority was so annoyed he decided not to hire the candidate.

it seems to me that many of the generations in the workplace just aren’t as concerned about manners as they used to be. My casual observation of the generations behind me (… I’m a boomer) is that people’s table manners just aren’t as good as Mama taught us. This isn’t  a criticism so much as it’s an observation.

So, here are some thoughts about interview “meals”:

  • Practice your table manners with someone who loves you or likes you enough to be willing to criticize/help you with any glaring problems you may have… Slouching over your food, talking with food in your mouth, or eating sloppily
  • Try to avoid these kind of interviews if you can
  • Never, never, ever drink alcohol in this interviewing setting
  • Order your food after you see what your host is ordering. Don’t appear to be taking advantage of a “free lunch” by ordering something on the high side of the menu
  • Order something easy to eat… A small piece of meat, a chicken breast, etc.… that can be cut into small pieces
  • Take bites small enough that you can talk with them in your mouth… This means very, very small bites
  • Stay away from soups, chili, spaghetti, etc. or anything eaten with a spoon or that can be easily spilled
  • Eat a little something before you go to the interview so you don’t appear ravenous or even hungry
  • Remember, it’s an interview, not a meal

Don’t let that interview “meal” be your downfall.

Keep e-mails Short and to the Point

This may come as a relatively mundane thing to discuss, but, especially in job search, I’m amazed at the number of e-mails I get and our clients get that are ridiculously long and don’t get read. Most things that are sent and received online are scanned not read. Psychologists have found that when people read things online, they jump around a lot. They usually start in the middle of the page move to the left then move upward to the top of the page. They do not, for some reason start at the top left corner of the page and read across the page like we do when we hold something printed in our hand.

The average businessperson receives 140 e-mails a day. E-mails are opened on average for 15 to 20 seconds. Job seekers think that Hiring Authorities carefully read the resumes and the e-mails that accompany them when they send them. They don’t. I’ve always contended that the average resume get scanned in 10 seconds. E-mails of job seekers probably get less.

If you are looking for a job, your resume needs to be very clear and specific about what you’ve done and where you worked. The e-mails that you send when you send your resume need to be short and powerful. I suggest no more than two or three sentences with maybe a bullet point or two. The subject line could be something that grabs the attention of the receiver and causes them to want to read the rest of the e-mail.

I’ve had candidates who introduce themselves with a subject line like: “Hire a top performer,” or “remember Michael Jordan…” And then in the body of the email they quote Michael Jordan about all of the shots he missed. It’s a compelling quote. The writer then went on to compare himself to Michael Jordan. It was all done in about five sentences that could be read in about 20 seconds.

Follow-up e-mails from candidates often don’t get read because they are way too long. Something short and to the point like this example works:

“Mr. or Ms. Smith, thank you for the opportunity to interview with you yesterday. The conversation was stimulating and enlightening. You made it clear that you wanted to find someone who was:

  • Experienced in your business
  • a top performer
  • someone who has passion and commitment to their profession

Let me remind you that:

  • I have 20 years of experience in the business
  • I’ve always been a top performer and my past reviews reflect that
  • I have passion and commitment and my references will confirm that

When might we get together again to discuss the opportunity further?

Thank you again,

Tony Beshara

it’s not hard to be more creative with this, but the point is to keep the e-mails short and to the point. A three or four paragraph e-mail is not going to get read.

 

… “that was a mistake… poor business judgment… If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done it”

It’s really easy these days and for the past few years to make a mistake in taking a job. Companies are a lot more erratic than ever. In 1973, when I got in this business, the average company was 59 years old. In 2012, the average company United States was 15 years old and in 2014, the average age was 12 years old. Companies come and go more than ever.

It is easier to make a mistake in taking a job today than it ever has been. Business is more treacherous. Unfortunately when candidates have one, two or even three of these unfortunate incidences on their resume, they have a tendency to justify the mistake. When the hiring authority questions the moves, most candidates want to defend them and claim it just wasn’t their fault. And, most of the time, it wasn’t.

But I have to tell you that taking a defensive stance of “it wasn’t my fault,” will only lead to disaster. The more a candidate defends themselves this way, the worse off they are. They will never win that argument.

The thing to say, and this can apply to any apparent mistake in your career, is to admit that it was a mistake. Now, the fewer you have of these better, but most every hiring authority with any experience will appreciate other people making a mistake. Having said that, however, the candidate better have a good number of reasons, and good business reasons, as to why they were mistakes.

This kind of humility, along with brevity in the discussion, will go a long way in neutralizing the majority of pejorative feelings that the interviewing or hiring authority may have towards the issue. Now, saying something like, “That was a real mistake… those people are really stupid. I can’t believe they were so dumb!” won’t work! Something along the lines, “If I knew before I went to work there that they were grossly underfunded and the company was in the middle of a hostile takeover, I wouldn’t have made the move,” would be a lot better.

So if you have some glitches in your background, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that one or two of them were just plain mistakes, human error! Every business person has made tons of mistakes and, if it is presented in the right way, mistakes will not be held against you.

OMG…the disaster of social media and your job search

There are always unintended consequences that come with any new technology and the negative consequences of social media couldn’t be more pronounced than in the disastrous effects it is had on people’s job search. In the last six months, just in our organization we have had candidates who looked like they were getting job offers lose those job offers because of what the prospective employer found on social media. Now keep in mind these are mostly professional, degreed candidates with extensive experience, many of whom are earning well over six figures…

  • The VP of HR with 20 years of experience has a link on his signature that takes the reader to his blog. He is a “conspiracy theorist” and blatantly writes about his theories about present and past government officials, i.e. Presidents of the United States, Secretaries of State, etc. He didn’t get hired.
  • The sales manager with 15 years of a great track record whose signature, again, sent the reader to a blog claiming that unless you follow Jesus Christ you are going to burn in hell. He got eliminated.
  • The candidates who were eliminated when their names were Googled who: Had mugshots… Numerous lawsuits… Had written a review of a prostitute (of course the candidate claimed it wasn’t him)… An article implicating them in a case of fraud (even though there were no legal charges)…at least three cases of “mistaken identity” i.e. different people with the same name as the candidate who had very, very questionable Google reports
  • The candidates who were eliminated because of their LinkedIn profile who: was in sales and did not have a LinkedIn profile… Had no picture of themselves on their profile… Had an inappropriate picture of themselves… The LinkedIn profile did not agree with their resume… They only had 10 contacts… They were being considered for a position they claimed to have experience in on their resume, but not on their LinkedIn profile… Their profile highlighted them as a musician instead of a business professional… Their LinkedIn profile highlighted their numerous, nonprofit volunteer positions, causing the hiring authority to believe they wouldn’t focus on their work…
  • The candidates who were eliminated because of what they had on Facebook:.. Pictures of their recent tattoos… Celebrations taking place in bars…Profanity…Provocative pictures… Reports on heavy metal band concerts… Inappropriate jokes…Race-related comments… Political comments… Religious comments… Alcohol/drug references… A post on a candidate’s wall: “Those of you who are ****( sexually graphic)*** my husband, I know who you are” (Please don’t tell me “Well, all you have to do is set your Facebook page to ‘private’.”Even the most elementary hacker knows how to work around that.)
  • the candidate who texted: “grt interview, I prob got the job, but the guy was a jrk.” to one of his friends and it got back to the company and the interviewing authority.

Well, I could go on and on, but you get the picture. please remember that the kind of candidates we placed are degreed, highly experienced and highly successful. The average salary we deal with is $100,000 or more. These people that are getting eliminated aren’t young punks who are looking for hourly work. They are, on the surface, very professional.

We are now beginning to ask EVERY candidate, no matter how professional they appear, if they have done thorough research of their own on any and all social media that might contain their name or their likeness. There is now a cottage industry growing up around cleaning up an individual’s social media as well as researching all social media for companies considering candidates. Remember, there are more than 500 social media sites… And we stopped counting at 65.

The attitude, especially from millennials, but even older candidates, is paradoxical. On the one hand they use social media extensively… 88% of millennials get news from Facebook and they use an average of 3.7 social media networks daily. But when it comes to information about them, they claim that social media should not have anything to do with their professional life. They claim their social life and professional life should be separated and that potential employers should not judge hiring them or not based on what they find on social media. They often get downright pissed off when they get eliminated because of what social media reveals about them.

50% of employers recently surveyed said that they elected not to hire a seemingly well-qualified candidate because of what they found on social media. A quick Google search will find a CareerBuilder report of a litany of stupid things that people either post or text about their job, an interview or a company they are looking to go to work for.

This epidemic is probably going to get worse before it gets better. The lesson is simple. Social media can stand in the way of getting a good job.

 

 

…the spiritual side of your job search

Having done this since 1973, I guarantee you that there is a spiritual side of looking for a job that is tremendously overlooked. Those of us that believe in a relationship with God are profoundly aware of the spiritual encounter, but even those with more of a secular, humanistic “connection” with “the universe” will benefit from spiritual practice.

Looking for a job is a tremendously emotional endeavor. It is an emotional roller coaster. Enduring it is easier for those who practice spiritual giving. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned from candidates and employers along the way. (I discuss these in-depth in our online job search program www.thejobsearchsolution.com. )

Be nice… even when other people aren’t. You are going to experience a tremendous amount of rejection and frustration. Focus on being nice when they don’t feel like it.

Create flow… clean out your garage, your attic, your car, your office. “Stuff” blocks flow.

Practice forgiveness… especially when other people are rude and what you perceive to be mean. Forgive those that put you on hold, forget about you, tell you they’re going to get back to you and don’t, etc. Send an email to an old nemesis forgiving them.

Start an intentions or prayer list… pray for those that are less fortunate than you. Be specific about the individuals, even people who don’t know. Write their names down. Hopefully, others are doing the same for you.

Volunteer… soup kitchens, Habitat for Humanity, etc. Give time to those less fortunate than you.

Be grateful… every morning when you wake up and at night before you sleep, acknowledge every blessing you have regardless of every difficulty and challenge.

Seek peace… spend 10 or 15 minutes twice a day quietly sitting alone getting in touch with your feelings and thoughts. Just let them flow.

Pray… even if you don’t believe in it. It works

Meditation… not far off from “seeking peace.” It’s the practice of clearing the mind and finding that gap between conscious and subconscious.

Let go… the anger, the disappointment, the frustration. While you are seeking peace envision those feelings and send them far out into the horizon and drop them in the ocean. Do this for five times with each difficult thought or emotion and you’ll be amazed at the relief.

Release resistance… what you resist, persists! Fighting the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” thoughts that ruminate in your head leads to frustration. Release the resistance to them.

Practice acceptance… “Dear Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Laugh a lot… even if you have to read jokes yourself out loud. Listening to children’s laughter has an amazing effect on your spirit. The joy and laughter of a three-year-old is pure and infectious.

Practice empathy… in spite of the fact that you are seeking empathy from others. To receive, we must learn to give.

Sacrifice… fast one or two days a week, give up alcohol for a week at a time or give up your favorite food once or twice a week.

Journal… once a day or at least two or three times a week, write out your thoughts on recent events. Journaling is cathartic.

Love… briefly think of all of the people who have wronged you, been rude to you, etc. and send them thoughts of kindness and appreciation. Even if it is hard to do.

Feeding your spirit in emotionally stressful times can change your world!

 

…. preparing for reality

Looking for a job is one of the most emotionally challenging endeavors we confront. Most of the folks who write about looking for a job overlook the emotional strain and setbacks the vast majority of people go through in the process. There are millions of people in the United States who are out of work who just plain quit looking for a job. I contend that the majority of the reason this happens is that they are so emotionally stressed, they resort to doing nothing at all or go through minimal motions in looking for a job. They are scared and often depressed. This kind of emotional strain is debilitating.

One reality that might prepare people for this emotional strain is to recognize that they’re going to experience at least TEN negative events in their job search for every ONE positive event. What this means is that for every interview, for instance, a job seeker might get, they are going to experience 10 or so rejections. They will send their resume to the company’s job posting that is “perfect” for them… and never hear a word. And it will happen 10 dozen times. (we recently discussed the probability of getting a job by sending your resume to a company’s online ad.) They will interview impeccably for a job, be told that they are perfect for it and then never hear from the company again. They will even be told that they should expect an offer after a series of interviews& and never hear from the company again.

After a series of negative setbacks, people become discouraged and quit trying. They are unprepared for all of the difficult negative events they are experiencing. They read or hear from unenlightened authors and “experts” that all they have to do is get an interview and go to work. These people never prepare them for the long, difficult and negative filled process they are going to go through.

So, the lesson is to be prepared for tons of setbacks. Prepare to be discouraged, disappointed, lied to, dumped on in about every way you can possibly imagine. ( I even run into candidates all the time who have been “scammed” by folks who claim that if you send them $5000 they will “expose you” to the hidden job market. Not quite fraud but close to it.)  I knew one candidate, not too long ago, who realized that the negatives were going to be 10 to 1 relative to the positives so he kept counting the negative events. His rationale was “every negative is one more step towards a positive.” Not bad approach.

Be prepared for reality!

I didn’t cause it, I can’t change it and I can’t cure it

This is the mantra of Al-Anon as it applies to dealing with other people’s addictions. I am reminded of it every time I hear a candidate express their frustrations with the challenges they face when they hear this from people with whom they are interviewing. “You are a perfect candidate, will get back to you soon… you are exactly what we’re looking for… you will do great in this job…when can you start?” and then they never hear from the Hiring Authority AGAIN!

I’ve been doing this since 1973 and I’ve never figured out …ever.. why people in organizations will tell candidates this. Maybe it’s because that’s the way they feel at the moment. Maybe it’s because they don’t really want to reject anybody because they don’t want to be rejected. And maybe, I just don’t know why and never will.

I have learned, though, to warn candidates to never trust hearing that and accepting it as truth. I tell them the story about a Hiring Authority I had a number of years ago who interviewed nine candidates and told every one of them that he or she was “perfect” and that he would hire them within the next day or two. Not only did he not hire anyone, but he got fired three days later.

Spending time and emotional cycles ruminating over “How do they do this to me?” is a waste of time and a tremendous depletion of energy. I advise candidates to forget what they hear and judge the situation based on the actions of the prospective employer. If they do get back to you, and they do move you forward in the hiring process, then you have something to evaluate. Judge people by their actions, not their words.

So, quit getting frustrated when you hear these things and, subsequently, actions don’t follow. Getting wrapped around the axle as to why people do this kind of thing is a waste. You didn’t cause it, you can’t change it and you can’t cure it.

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