by Mitch Byers :: July 24th, 2008 :: Posted in Interviewing to Win |
“Quick, tell me who you are and what you do in less than a minute.” This is the topic of Barbara Rose’s article, Learn to Sell Yourself in 60 Seconds. A three step strategy is used to develop an effective “elevator pitch”:
Rose suggests avoiding generalities like, “I enjoy helping people.” [More...]
InterviewRX was featured in Carnival of Careers #7 this week, hosted by Eric Folgate. Carnival of Careers presents the “best and brightest articles and blog posts from some of the most talent career and small business blog authors.” Thanks to Eric for choosing my “Law of Six” post for this week’s Carnival.
If you are in job transition, this is a GREAT place to visit. Every week, you can expect a dozen or more tips, tactics and tidbits that will help you tackle the interview and put you over the top. In the most recent edition, there were three posts that caught my interest.
by Mitch Byers :: July 7th, 2008 :: Posted in Interviewing to Win |
In a recent job interview seminar, a participant asked the following question: “Should I send an email or a thank you note?” My response was, “Send both.”
The reason for sending both correspondences is based on the Law of Six, an effective sales conversion model. The goal of the Law of Six is to convert an influential buyer into a client. In the job interview process, you can personalize the Law of Six to convert your influential buyer (the hiring manager) into a client (your boss).
The Sales Cycle
We all have a built in resistance to change. An effective sales person understands how to maneuver around or penetrate our protective shell. In the sales cycle, The Law of Six presupposes that a buying decision is made after six or more encounters. Our resistance becomes softened with each encounter until we reach a tipping point – we agree to try the product or services or sign the service contract.
It is natural for us to we work through a number of events to assimilate information and then make an informed decision. A hiring manager works through a similar cycle. They need an appropriate amount of information and time to make their hiring decisions. After all, accurate hiring decisions are one of their most critical tasks.
The Interview Cycle
In sales, the Law of Six is used to preplan six points of contact. Using the same formula, let’s see how we can work with the Law of Six during the interview cycle. Plan on utilizing at least six points of contact from the following list with every hiring manager to penetrate their protective shield.
The Law of Six requires your commitment and follow through. Here a few examples to get you started.
Following your face-to-face interview, send an email to the hiring manager highlighting one or two of your core competencies. As an example, “Cindy, thank you for visiting on Tuesday regarding the project management position. I appreciate you sharing details of the upcoming logistical projects and the challenges in South America. The work completed for South American governments, complemented with my 14-year career in logistics will provide the ability to hit the ground running. I look forward to our continued conversations. Sincerely, David.”
A brief, but thoughtful and well-crafted letter is also mailed following your face-to-face interview. A few days later, the letter arrives at the desk of the hiring manager. Their name is spelled correctly and you did not botch their title: Director of Operations of the Americas. In your email, you mentioned your South America exposure and 12 years logistics experience. The letter will also highlight areas of expertise that are relevant to the position. Your letter might provide an overview of one or two of your most successful projects and how the results benefited the company. As an example, you were entrusted with an 18-month, $23.6 million manufacturing and distribution project that incorporated the launch of upgraded logistics software. The project was envisioned to provide a 14% to 18% increase in productivity and reduce back office head count by 10%. Your expertise in the industry and strong vendor relations pushed the company beyond projections to realize a gain of $19.5% productivity gain, reduce back office 12% and increase potential manufacturing capacity up to 16%. The goal of your letter is to help the hiring manager “see” you being successful in a professional environment.
The Law of Six is a powerful concept to enhance your job search. It is a step-by-step guide to keep you in touch, stay on top, and not get lost in the shuffle. The Law of Six is one of many important strategies to incorporate in your job search. Numerous other interviewing strategies can be found in the Third Edition of InterviewRX and SalaryNegotiationsRX.
by Mitch Byers :: June 20th, 2008 :: Posted in Interviewing to Win |
Several years ago, my oldest brother began reading Dear Abby columns to my father, whose health was in decline. The daily reading brought about a chuckle, a point of disagreement, or led to a story of days gone by. Generations have looked to Dear Abby for advice – from what do about their pushy mother-in-law to how to confront a co-worker who leaves a mess in the microwave.
A recent column touched on the hiring process: Listen-up, new hires: You’re now on the clock. Dear Abby relays the concerns of a central Maine municipality worker. The worker provides three common sense tips for new hires:
Dear Abby’s final thoughts: “Different offices hold employees to different standards of dress and behavior. Until a new employee is certain of what those standards are, the sensible thing to do is to err on the side of conservatism in both manner and dress.”
Last week, I received a Workforce Vision publication from SHRM. I have commented on the article in several posts, but today will try to tackle one of the central concerns. The article is a wake up call regarding the shortage of specific skills that employers expect to increase in importance over the next five years. The number one expected skill shortage is Critical Thinking/Problem Solving.
While the SHRM list lists Critical Thinking and Problem Solving together, I would like to unbundled them as individual components. Critical Thinking is an internal process that involves gathering and analyzing a variety of data and recollections. It is the gathering and analysis stage. Problem solving provides the opportunity to apply our critical thinking. Problem solving is about sifting through the data, prioritizing the data and selecting which data can best be brought together to resolve an issue for the longest period of time. In our competitive global economy, effective Critical Thinking is the catalyst to solve increasingly complex business problems.
In my mind, “problem solving” is easier to comprehend than “Critical Thinking.” I hope I am not the only one who has a difficulty grasping the entirety of critical thinking. As I try to problem solve toward a proper definition of critical thinking, I pull from my knowledge of competencies in Chapter 6 of InterviewRX. Competencies are formally defined as the key measurable work habits and personal skills needed for superior performance.
Which of 26 job competencies will best define “Critical Thinking?” I selected two primary competencies and one supporting competency to help solidify our understanding of Critical Thinking. The primary competencies include:
1) Conceptual Thinking: Ability to see patterns no obvious to others; Notices inconsistencies most people overlook; Reviews complex data and identifies relationships from disparate sources; Able to convey ideas through original analogies and metaphors.
2) Analytical Thinking: Sees implication or consequences; Analyzes situations systematically; Anticipates obstacles and ways to get around them, thinks ahead; Analyzes what is needed to accomplish a goal.
Bundled together, Conceptual and Analytical Thinking helps frame the dynamics and brings vitality to the concept of Critical Thinking. A third competency is Strategic Thinking, which is particularly relevant the higher you are in an organization.
3) Strategic Thinking: Competitive industry analysis, Understanding Strengths/Weaknesses, as compared to competitors; Understands market/industry trends; Able to leverage organization’s competitive advantage to meet customer needs.
If you are in job transition, you have to figure out a way to convey your comfort level, if not your expertise in one or more methods of thinking: Conceptual, Analytical or Strategic. How have you used these components to solve problems? Think about past challenges, what obstacles you have overcome, what data you relied on, and what steps you took to solve the problem at hand. Using three layers – Situation-Action-Results, outline several compelling career stories to share. Your career stories should be about a minute long. The critical component is to be specific on the results. Specificity will add impact and crystallize your accomplishments. Mentioning you reduced departmental turnover from 58% to 32% peaks a hiring manager’s interest. Saying that you hired less people last year might be interrupted your department is shrinking because of your ineffective leadership style, not because you increased morale and reduced turnover.
Correct delivery of effective career stories will linger with the hiring manager long after you are gone. Focusing on Critical Thinking and results of your problem solving abilities will move you rapidly forward in the screening process. When they are able to “see” you being successful in their organization, an offer will follow.
A recent article from Dr. John Sullivan discusses up an emerging trend – speed interviewing. Speed Interviewing takes its name from the once popular, Speed Dating. Speed Interviewing severely compresses the interviewing process. Compare cooking popcorn the old fashion way – heating up oil in a deep pan and adding a shallow layer of popcorn to today’s fast and easy microwave popcorn. The popcorn today is ready in jiffy with no mess or cleanup. Speed interviewing hopes to achieve the same results: faster and easier without all the messy protocols of a traditional interview. The slimmed down version is making inroads because traditional interviews has several problems:
The article supports the point of psychologist John Gottman, whose research in the dynamics of snap decisions and first impressions is discussed in Malcom Gladwell’s best-seller Blink. Gladwell explains how “thin slicing” videotaped interactions between married couples provided Gottman the ability to predict, with 95% accuracy, the long-term outcome of the marriage.
While Gottman is able to rationalize a relationship in a matter of seconds, Dr. Sullivan’s approach is more akin to speed dating, and suggests setting a time limit between 5 and 15 minutes for the interview. This caught my interest, because when I was conducting research for InterviewRX I found a study that concluded most hiring decisions are made between 4 and 10 minutes into the interview. This coalescing research suggests speed interviewing may be valid for some companies.
Sullivan points to several advantages of speed interviewing:
While speed interviewing is not yet fully embraced in HR and recruiting circles, there are enough companies using or experimenting with the concept to rethink your interview approach. From the hiring perspective, committing to a hiring decision after a ten-minute conversation is pretty gutsy, but one most of us do internally, even if we don’t make our decision “public” that soon.
Sullivan mentions that IBM, Abbott Labs and Texas Instruments are using Speed Interviewing, though no specifics are given. My personal opinion is that companies will be reluctant to embrace a snap judgment platform, but may follow the pattern used by Tower Consultants. An employee from Tower shares the company speaks with as many as fifty prospective candidates in a day, allotting about 5 minutes with each one. The speed interviewing is the first step. A more rigorous technical and behavioral interview follows before a hiring decision is made. In my own experience, initial phone interviews have become considerably shorter over the years. Today, I allow 5 to 7 minutes to capture essential qualifying information. From there, face-to-face interviews are scheduled.
The bottom line for Tower and a growing number of companies is that the “speed interviewing works” and I believe it will be a trend more and more people in job transition will experience.
People in job transition often lament that looking for a job is a full-time job. Activities such as company research, network meetings, job fairs, connecting with recruiters, meeting company insiders for coffee, scrolling the job boards and preparing for the interview keeps you moving forward towards the end goal, landing a new position. During your job transition, you will have multiple conversations with dozens of people. Part of your “full-time job” should be to organize and track each of your contacts. Tracking your job transition contacts has several benefits:
1) Analysis of Your Current Job Search. Your job search can be an emotional roller coaster that can span over several months. Tracking your contacts and activities provides a realist assessment of your progress. Are you developing a large enough network to effectively penetrate the market? Your contacts and call activity will help you analyze if you are spending too much time on the job boards and not enough time connecting with people who can help you move forward in the job search.
Tracking your calls and contacts can be accomplished with a simple spreadsheet. To compliment your tracking system, you will also want to organize the business cards you will be receiving. Purchasing an organizer from the office supply store or scanning the cards and setting up electric files works well.
2) “Off the Market” Notification. At the end of your current job search, you will want to contact individuals on your list to notify them of your new position that you are “off the market.” This professional courtesy is one not often provided. However, this personal touch will help keep you in good standing for future contacts.
3) Continue to build your network in your new position. When you are ready to move towards your next career position you can revisit your previous contacts and mine the data. Reestablishing contact with your known sources can quickly expand your opportunities and reduce your time in job transition.
Expanding and tracking your network during your job transition is a good idea with plenty of tangible benefits. Your documentation will keep you grounded and moving in the right direction. Long-term, you can continue to build your database to support future career moves.
Being the Bridesmaid A friend of mine spent three months of his life engaged interviewing with a Fortune 100 company only to be told that the position was offered to an internal candidate that transferred from a downsized department. Ouch, that one stung.
Being the runner-up (brides maid) in a job search is something we all will experience in our career. It is a painful situation, but don’t let it be a missed opportunity. There are several things you can do to leverage the company’s investment of time in you.
After notification you were not selected, dash off a couple of letters:
Here is a sample letter to the hiring manager of a travel software company:
Hello John,Thanks again to you and your team for taking time to discuss the Office Manager position. The cohesiveness of the team and the upcoming upgrades in technology will help propel the department to greater success.
I know you weighed your decision carefully and choose the best candidate to move your team forward. Please keep my name in the hat for any possible future positions with your firm. I remain interested in working for a company that “takes pride in every ride.”
Finally, I wanted to ask for your assistance. As I continue to comb the marketplace for an exceptional opportunity, might there be someone in your network that would appreciate talking to an experienced Office Manager with expertise in travel software? Any assistance in expanding my network would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you again for your time and consideration.
George Stanford firstname.lastname@example.org 214-333-1212
A positive letter writing campaign will help neutralize the hurt feeling that may be brooding inside. You have taken the high road and have given yourself every opportunity to interview again with the company or receive a strong referral from one of the hiring managers.
by Mitch Byers :: October 10th, 2007 :: Posted in Interviewing to Win |
Have you every been embarrassed in the interview with the question, “What do you know about our company?” It can be one of those make or break questions – a turning point in the interview. Your answer can lead to an in-depth discussion and enable you to ask your pressing questions. Or you can just sit in your chair, turn red and sink. I like the first option better.
Think of the hiring process in terms of a baseball game. You have to get to first base before you can reach second base. You have to round third base before you score at home. In the interview game, consider the invitation to interview as your time to bat. If you run the bases and make it back home you score – that is, you are hired.
Unfortunately, most people strike out, pop up or are thrown out at first. They end up playing in the minor leagues. Investing time in company research and uncovering their business needs put you on first base. That is a good start. Investing significant time in interview preparation allows you to safely steel second base. Once on second base, you are in “scoring position.” It only takes one more hit (a second interview) to move you around to third and then to home. You have just made the score!!
Investigating the company and honing your interviewing skills will help build your confidence.
by Mitch Byers :: September 12th, 2007 :: Posted in Interviewing to Win |
Make a Pit Stop to avoid a Pitfall
There are plenty of sources highlighting common sense interviewing practices: Dress appropriately, don’t chew gum (or tobacco), arrive a few minutes early and give a firm handshake. We all know the drill. Pretty basic stuff, but missing something basic can really trip you up.
Here is one more tidbit. Arrive a few minutes early and find the restroom. In an office building, pick a restroom away from the company suite. If the restroom is housed within the office, stop on the way at the nearest McDonalds. Here is the action plan:
1) Get yourself in order. Straighten the tie, check your button down collars, freshen the lipstick, freshen the breath, pinch your cheeks, blow your nose, wash your hands. Go very light on the perfume.
2) Silence your cell phone (a common oversight). If you are expecting an emergency call, convey this information to the interviewer before you get started.
3) Take a deep breath and hold for 20 seconds. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times. This is an idea evangelized by Tony Robbins.
4) Look yourself square in the mirror and give yourself a 30 second pep talk. This little rahrah sets the stage for you’re the all important introduction.
5) Stand up straight, put your hand out and shake it like you mean it.
6) Proceed to the company suite like you own the building.
Make the pit stop and avoid a pitfall.