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What should you do when your interview seems like an American Idol audition?

You're pretty excited because you sailed through the online resume screen and right into the phone interview.  After nailing that, you were invited to meet with the manager for the job and he thinks you are someone who can be successful on the team.  So - now it's time to head into the final panel interview round with upper management and/or human resources.  You are confident about your ability to do the job, but sometimes a panel interview can spin out of your control.  American Idol is the ultimate panel interview - so think about how you are going to manage the situation if it heads down one of these paths:

The interviewers are giving you ‘negative' body language.  So visualize a contestant starting to sing and it's WAY off key.  The panel - even Luke Bryan - starts to make faces like they ate a raw lemon.  Even the most qualified candidates can find themselves wandering off into a bad answer.  The best approach here is to stop talking and ask them if you can give a different example.  Say something like "I apologize, that isn't the best example I can give you for that situation.  A different time when I handled a difficult issue was..."  They have to listen to your new answer (song) and hopefully will forget your first performance.

One of the panelists is becoming distracted.  On the show, it could be Katy Perry finding her newest crush or Lionel Richie and Luke getting up and dancing.  In a job interview this could be as simple as one of the people checking their phone while you are answering a question.  The key here is to stay on track with your answer and pay attention to the other panelists with your eye contact.  If the person becomes re-engaged while you are speaking, pretend nothing happened and show them that you are in control of answering the question effectively.

You are getting ‘buying signals' from the panel.  This can be a great - and terrible - thing to happen in an interview (audition).  It's wonderful that everyone is fully engaged and leaning forward and listening intently to you while nodding and whispering to each other about how qualified you are.  Avoid the temptation to start smiling too much and getting so internally excited that you forget your answer (the lyrics) and fall off the rails at the end.  Stay focused on what the question is and provide the clearest example of how you used your skills to successfully produce results in that type of situation in the past.

3:07 pm          Comments

How did the interview go?

This is a question you may ask yourself after a job interview and/or it may be a question you get from a significant other or friend.  So - how do you know how the interview went?  There are some obvious and not so obvious ways to evaluate how you did - here's a few:

  • The interviewer's body language - when you were answering, did the hiring person take notes on your responses? Did they nod as if they were acknowledging what you were saying? Were they sitting forward in their chair showing their engagement with your conversation? These are all good signs that you were making a positive connection with them.
  • The interviewer's questions - did the person ask follow up questions to clarify or get more details about your answers? How did the questions progress during the interview - did they start more general and then become more specific in relation to your ability to do the position? If the questions end up targeting your experience and how it will fit the opportunity, it's possible that the manager is identifying you as a credible candidate.
  • Your questions for the hiring manager - the best way to evaluate how well you do in an interview is to ask key questions at the end that make the interviewer consider their judgement of your abilities to do the job. Questions like ‘Based on our conversation today, is there any reason that you would not recommend me to move forward in the process?" or "Is there any additional information I can provide you at this point regarding my qualifications for this position?" will make the hiring person think about what you have or haven't told them.

It will also allow them to tell you where you may or may not have answered with enough impact to convince them that you are a valuable candidate who they should continue to pursue.  Even if the interviewer responds that you didn't give enough information on a certain aspect of your background, you then have a chance to provide a different example.   If you don't ask a final question like this, you won't have any way to determine ultimately how you did in answering the questions.

10:37 am          Comments

Ten criteria to determine if you need a resume update

Updating your resume can be a daunting project which people try and avoid until they absolutely need to.  But, waiting until your next great career opportunity comes along to make changes will just cause you more stress.  Find your last updated resume version and run through this list to see if you need to schedule updating time this weekend:

  • Education is at the top of your resume - if you complete the education/training more than one year ago, move it to the bottom.
  • Certifications and/or licenses are out of date - if you are currently re-certifying, update the date even if it's in the future. If not re-certifying, take it off. If it's a certification for something that never goes out of date, take the date off.
  • Professional affiliations are on there that you aren't a member of anymore.
  • You changed positions within your company - even if your title changed, but your main responsibilities didn't, you need to update it.
  • Main job responsibilities have changed - you manage some/more people, you manage new projects, you train people, you work cross-functionally...
  • You won an award(s) in your job or in professional or volunteering organizations
  • There is new volunteering experience to add or new experiences in your existing volunteering experience
  • You learned new technical and/or computer skills relevant to your job and your industry
  • You have increased or learned new language skills to use in the workplace
  • You haven't updated your overall resume in the past year - at a minimum, review your resume every 6 months and make changes and updates!
4:24 pm          Comments

Preparing for a 'bad interviewer' experience

It may be a phone or in person interview.  It can be a bad interviewer for several reasons or opinions.  So how can you best prepare for someone who just doesn't know how interview well and/or how to ask meaningful questions?  Here are some quick tips not to be caught off guard:

  • The interviewer who reads your resume to you... This is the person who literally takes one of your bullet points and says "Tell me about how you Managed a team of 4 project engineers to reduce costs by $20K monthly by analyzing new vendor contracts and shifting production methods". The good news is that you should have already built strong stories around each of your bullet points to nail this answer. The bad news is that this interview is going to be a little frustrating but hang in there and focus on specifics and results to impress this person.
  • The interviewer who only asks ‘standard' questions... This interviewer asks "What are your strengths?" "What are your weaknesses?" "Why should I hire you?" Anticipate these in various phrasings and get specific examples to help the person understand the skills and experience you have that align with the job requirements.
12:42 pm          Comments

Three interview questions you need to be able to answer

So you've landed an interview which is great but now you need to prepare.  Depending on your level of experience and industry, there will be specific questions the hiring person will ask.  These may be about skills pertinent to the role, licensure or certifications, and/or technical skills needed for the job.  But what are three general questions that you should always be prepared to answer?

1.      Why are you leaving your current job/Why did you leave your last job?  Bad answers would include comments about how you didn't like your manager, had an issue with a client, or couldn't get along with your co-workers.  It is reasonable to identify that you want to change industries, gain increased experience in a certain area or move forward and your previous/current employer will not allow that to happen.  Be honest and tactful.

2.      What separates you from the other candidates?  This is a little bit of a potential ‘gotcha' question.   Obviously you can't know what qualifications and background the competition has.  This is an opportunity to highlight the top three skills the job requires with the best examples you have with the greatest positive impact you made in a previous job.  Sharing the ways you can provide value to the employer will always help the manager identify you as qualified for the position.

3.      What questions do you have for me?  "I don't' have any." - Wrong answer.  There is no way you know everything about the job and expectations even if you are interviewing internally in the same company.  Ask about specific short term expectations and objectives, challenges you can expect to encounter, and/or training opportunities.  Prepare at least three questions that will provide you greater insight into the job and the manager's goals.

12:50 pm          Comments

Leading without a management title

Show initiative, ask others to join in, support team mates objectives - these are all ways to lead in an organization without a management title.  Leadership is a skill that can be practiced long before you achieve an official role managing people.  HR Magazine from SHRM highlights this topic in the current issue providing guidance on how to lead in your current role. 

People or projects - they both count.  It's important to remember that leading can involve projects and/or people so as you look for opportunities don't ignore current projects that could use your input for direction. 

Ask to join the group.  Check out committees that may be working on non-traditional activities in your workplace as alternative sources to develop your leadership skills.  These could include philanthropies, special interest groups, and training activities.

Look for ways to improve.  As you are learning to lead, consider how you can improve leadership methods from project to project.  Identify informal mentoring that you can do in order to transition project management into people management also.

11:24 am          Comments

Preparing for a transition into management

Moving into a management role takes preparation and planning in the earliest stages of your career.  Even if you aren't sure what level or type of management you may want to achieve in the future, there are some key steps that can position you for that move.

  • Find leadership opportunities in your current role. Any promotion into management will require current managers identifying your ability to lead. This doesn't mean that you have to show direct leading of peers. Leadership can be exhibited in many ways including participation in internal committees, mentorship of new employees, and overall project management. Ask for varied opportunities to exhibit leadership throughout your career to have a wide range of examples to share.
  • Develop a network of supporters. Obviously, having your direct supervisor's support in moving forward into management is helpful. Evaluate who else in the organization could chime in about your skills when the time for personnel discussions arrives. Cross-training with other departments, involvement in general training activities, and positive interactions with multiple levels of the organization can all be ways to build a supportive network internally.
  • Record successes and development opportunities. It is every employee's responsibility to track their own work successes and professional development. Don't just rely on your annual performance reviews for this - keep documentation that shows your work throughout the year. Remember that training you do shows your interest in life-long learning, which is a necessary skill for future managers. Having a complete record of how you have provided value to the organization and continued to make yourself a better employee will help everyone internally with a decision to move you into management when you are ready.
10:00 am          Comments

Social media networks could assist in the job search process

Depending on the field Phoenix job seekers are pursuing, social media networks could simplify the process of identifying prospective employers and applying online.  LinkedIn® is becoming even more of a resource for workers who are transitioning into new positions or industries.  Check out these features of this network to maximize your online job search:

  • Be sure to fully update your profile.  Before you use LinkedIn® or any other social network for job search, make sure you have a complete profile that is up to date.  The employer will appreciate that you are using social media appropriately and thoroughly.
  • Look for companies with a profile page.  If a company has a page, there may be a separate ‘See Jobs' page that you can click on.  The program then searches for positions listed through the company to find ones that ‘match' your background and skills in your LinkedIn® profile.
  • Use the ‘Apply' button.  This is an easy way to get your resume to the company without going to their individual website page.  Make sure you click ‘on' to share your full profile with the company when you are applying.  That helps the employer review your background quickly.
  • Ask for Introductions when appropriate.  People hire people, not computers, so making a contact within a company is always an advantage.  Depending on how comfortable you are with people in your Connections, you may find people in their networks that you can be introduced to via LinkedIn® by clicking on the person you want to be introduced to and then sending them a message and request for them to make an online introduction
3:01 pm          Comments

Effective video interviewing requires planning

Employers have found that video interviewing can be very useful in the early stages of the process when hiring candidates that don't live nearby.  So if you are asked to have a video interview, there are some key steps in planning that will give you an advantage. 

  • Location, location, location. Find a place in your home that you can be completely undisturbed with complete quiet. Since the interviewer will be able to see you, there should not be anything in the background that would be distracting to the employer - a blank wall is the best choice.
  • Double check your technology. Identify what platform or program you will be using and download it a few days in advance so you can make sure you won't have buffering issues for the interview. Practice with a friend if you can to establish what volume you should have on both your microphone and your speakers.
  • Prepare to be in person. A video interview is just like an in person interview - it's important to dress in business attire, be prepared with answers for questions you anticipate, and write down questions you want to ask the interviewer at the end of the discussion.
4:01 pm          Comments

Three things to do at your job this week

The beginning of a new season is a perfect time to find new things you can do at your job to increase your value and continue your professional development.  Whether you have been in your job for months or years, it's important to evaluate how you are working and look for ways to be a better teammate, leader, and employee.  Here are 3 things you can do at your job this week:

Share a skill.  Every member of a work team has certain skills that they personally define as their strengths.  One way to help your team excel and grow is to share your skills with your co-workers so they can get better too.  If you are the techy person on the team, find someone who consistently asks for help in that area and take time to show them something new that will benefit future projects.  If your strength is customer communication, share a ‘best practice' email with the team so everyone can build that skill.

Ask your boss how you can help.  This doesn't necessarily mean waiting until there is a problem and then asking how you can be part of the solution, but that could be one way to help.  Identify how you could provide assistance on a project or on planning and ask how you can support your manager's efforts.  The key is to open the lines of communication so your boss knows that you are interested in supporting him and the team.

Learn - or plan to learn - something new.  You could ask a co-worker with a skill you don't excel at to help train you or share ideas on how you could increase your skill in a specific area.  Or, you can find internal training programs - formal, online, or informal.  Or, you can determine what skill/function you want to learn and search for external training.  If you take that path the next step would be to have a discussion with your manager to establish if the company will pay for the training as part of your professional development.

4:56 pm          Comments

Some factors to consider in evaluating your next career opportunity

Whether you are a recent graduate searching for the first full-time job or a tenured worker who wants to transition into a new opportunity, there are multiple factors to consider in evaluating your next job.  According to recent articles in HR Magazine®, a SHRM publication, depending on your stage in your work life, some considerations will rank higher than others. 

Younger workers determine whether a job is a fit based on factors such as good pay, strong ethical culture of the company and having solid training.  Employers that are trying to attract more experienced workers are adjusting their compensation perks to include programming related to a greater focus on wellness, professional development, flexible working and assistance with retirement savings and planning.

No matter which category you fall into, employers realize that employees' satisfaction is driven by respectful treatment, a wide range of compensation types, trust between the employee and employer, job security, and opportunities to use their skills and abilities.  So when you are evaluating that next position, determine where you priorities lie, at this point in your career, with these factors so you can best match your needs to what the company is offering you.

3:57 pm          Comments

Use community resources to guide your career transition

Ready to make a move into an alternate industry but not sure which ones are going to be the best in growth over the long term?  There are places in your own community that have information and people to help guide you.  Check out these locations and resources in your area:

  • Community-based organizations - These can range from companies like Goodwill® to faith based services, to demographic specific organizations. Search for career services and job search services and you may be surprised how many places in your community are prepared with free resources to help you identify your skills and the industries where they could be best used.
  • American Job Centers - These are the hidden gems of resources for job search and transition. Not only do the Job Centers have national and regional resources, they partner with local organizations to provide comprehensive services to job seekers. Some of the information available includes; labor market information, current companies hiring locally, training resources on all aspects of the hiring process, and economic development trend information for your area.

Labor market information can be one of the most valuable resources to review when considering an industry transition.   This is available at Job Centers or through your city's economic development department.  Not only can you learn about the industries with the highest growth and companies that are hiring, but oftentimes these reports include in demand jobs, top skills desired by employers currently, and certifications or training that is necessary for the growing job sectors.

6:12 pm          Comments

Workers may want to consider freelancing

Currently, 35% of the workforce is involved in some type of freelance work and by 2025 it will be 50% of US workers.  Employers are hiring freelancers to find skills that aren't currently available in house and to meet project demands without having to hire FTEs.  If you are transitioning between industries, freelancing may be a great way to keep up your skills and show value to a prospective employer.  Here are some considerations when evaluating if freelancing is a fit for you:

  • Is it currently used in your industry? This isn't a deal breaker, but it helps if you have examples of companies that have successfully used freelance workers on projects currently or in the recent past. If not, do you have strong relationships within a company that would be willing to introduce the idea to management with you as the ‘beta test'?
  • Can you market your availability electronically? Beyond the use of social media, does your industry have platforms and websites that allow freelancers to share their portfolios and possible skills? Upwork® is a platform to check out where various skills are needed to support industry projects.
  • Be prepared to expand your skills. Freelancers are perceived as flexible and sometimes more tech savvy than in house workers may be. If you are open to being a team member who adapts to situations with an ‘I can learn it' attitude, companies will appreciate your skills to an even greater extent.
4:37 pm          Comments

Increasing your skills can help build a more impactful resume

Job seekers looking for positions in different companies or different industries, should evaluate how new skills may assist in creating a competitive advantage.  Each industry will have certain requirements for general skills, but what can you do to increase your chances of being selected for an interview because of your specific skills?

  • Computer/technological skills - Can you use a Mac and PC?  Would it help to expand your abilities with a certain program or software to move to a different position or industry?  Improving current computer skills or learning new technological ones can be viewed by employers as a good sign that you are interested in continuing your professional development.
  • Language skills - Job seekers who don't have conversational skills in languages beyond English, such as Spanish, that are useful for the workplace, should consider developing them.  Communities are becoming more and more diverse and employers value bilingual capabilities, even if the job description doesn't call for them.  Consider options available at the local library or free apps on your phone for a low-cost start to get language skills.
  • Presentation skills - Depending on your field, this may or may not be as important.  The ability to speak confidently in a group, whether it is a formal presentation or not, may assist your development into positions of greater responsibility in managing larger projects or teams of people.  Organizations such as Toastmasters® are great places to not only gain speaking skills, but also to increase your confidence and network across various industries.
12:19 pm          Comments

Social media can be a valuable tool in career transition

Anyone in the job search process should consider if they are maximizing the use of social media in the process.  Sites that are tailored to your industry, networking sites, and informational sites can all be valuable in providing helpful tips and guidance on potential positions in companies.  Facebook®® is a good source for some basic information on the current ‘hot topics' a company is focused on and viewing the company's page before an interview can assist in giving you insight into what is important for their organization currently.  If you aren't maximizing LinkedIn®® as a resource, here are some things to put on your to do list:

  • Update your profile information to be current with volunteer work or paid work experience you are doing.
  • Request recommendations from previous supervisors and colleagues that can attest to the skills you need to make the transition - communication, organization, technical skills - whatever is most relevant to the industry or company you are pursuing.
  • Check out the new ‘jobs' function on the system - look on the right hand side to find positions that the search engine has found to match your past experience.
  • Follow and join groups that are aligned with your transition, either by company name or by industry.
  • In preparation for an interview, search for the company, department, and interviewer to formulate meaningful questions to ask at the end of the phone or face-to-face interview.
12:08 pm          Comments

Volunteering could help you transition to your next career

Volunteering and giving back to the community are ways people who are transitioning between jobs or industries can maintain skills and develop new ones.  For people who are not currently working in full-time positions, being able to contribute time and valuable talents not only help the organization they are given to, but also keep the person actively involved in the community.

There are many locations that can use the skills that job search candidates may have mastered in the workplace.  Look for organizations with a focus in an area that is of interest to you.  If you are passionate about helping animals, then check out local animal shelters or rescue foundations - perhaps you have skills in construction that could be used to help improve the shelter's facility, or if you are skilled in accountancy or finance you could assist in managing or developing budgets for projects.

Some parents may be using transition time to help out at their children's summer camp or school.  Parent Teacher Organizations, lunchtime or playground monitoring, even library assistance are usually volunteer positions that can always use extra manpower.  Some school districts will be looking for volunteers in tutoring after school hours - this is a great opportunity to use academic skills and also gain valuable teaching and mentoring skills.

Transitioning workers should try to use volunteering opportunities to build their skills and continue adding relevant content to their resume about the qualifications they can bring to the employer.  Your future employer will appreciate your commitment to ongoing professional development and your creativity in helping the community too.

12:41 pm          Comments

Four things to do for your career development now that you've graduated

Congratulations!  You've graduated from a post-secondary educational experience and are ready to start your first full-time job on your career path.  Now you can forget about your resume and interviewing and focus on your day-to-day activities, right?  Before you get too comfortable, there are a few career development steps to do now that will make it easier to maintain as you move through your first few post-graduation years.

  • Update your resume now. Take time to add your new job to your latest version using the job description. When you are ready to try and get a promotion or move to another company, you can avoid having to dig this up under pressure.
  • Change your social media profile information. Evaluate your LinkedIn® profile and update your graduation date, organizations you were involved in, and add your new job. Join professional organization groups in your industry. Put aside some time at the end of the first few months to add co-workers to your network.
  • Research internal groups you can get involved in. These could include special interest groups, training and development groups, and/or volunteer groups. When you are onboarding with a company, it's a great time to ask questions about ways you can get involved and network with peers beyond the day-to-day work projects.
  • Practice your technological and/or language skills. If you were hired in part due to your ability to effectively use certain technical programs or use language skills in the workplace, now is the time to brush up your skills. Even though you may be using these on the job, taking some time outside of work to become even stronger at them will make you even more valuable to your new employer.
5:29 pm          Comments

Tips to pick a job search engine that fits

The internet has allowed the job search process to become simpler in some ways and more complex in others.  Job seekers have a myriad of options for search engines providing content on open positions and companies looking for talent.  Does it matter which website someone uses to find a position?  The answer is individualized by several factors.  Use the questions below to help tailor which websites will be most effective for you.

  • Are you looking to relocate for a position? Larger, established companies such as Monster® and Career Builder® may be better places to look for companies who may compensate for a relocation. Smaller organizations may not be able to afford the cost to use these national sites.
  • Is there a website that specializes in the area or industry you are pursuing? For example, The Ladders® has sites within their site that breakdown positions into sales, management, marketing etc. Using one of their sub-sites may help minimize the amount of time needed to search.
  • Do you belong to a professional association that has a job board? National or regional associations could provide a resource by listing local positions on their websites.

The key is to pick a couple of websites and be consistent in using them.  By setting the timeframe for search to ‘3 days' and then checking on Sundays and Thursdays will ensure that you won't miss any new opportunities.  Allocate a certain amount of time each of those days to search and stick to it - don't get stuck searching all day because you didn't research what websites can provide you the most value with companies specific to the industry.

1:02 pm          Comments

Take steps now for a career transition

Preparing to make a career transition can be an overwhelming task that is easier with focus and taking steps to be ready for an opportunity at any time.  As the summer approaches, stores are getting ready for seasonal clothing changes.  Getting an appropriate interview suit is just one key step to being ready for interviews in advance.

Research companies in the field you want to transition to for common skills that they list in postings for positions.  If you need to build more proficiency in those areas, consider taking a class or workshop, or find ways to use the skills in volunteer or organization experiences.

Update your resume to reflect key results you have achieved that fit objectives for some positions you will post for in the industry. 

Identify common questions you expect to receive in a phone screen interview and prepare some examples to show your skills in different areas.  Plan to attend upcoming career fairs with employers in the industry you are transitioning to.

Plan time each week to search for job opportunities through search engines, networking sites such as LinkedIn, and news media.

By preparing for interviews in advance, you can spend time researching the company and position and practicing for interviews once you submit for positions online

2:30 pm          Comments

Professional organizations can help in your career development

Each city has a number of professional associations that can help job seekers leverage their skills and develop new ones.  Whether a candidate is looking to transition into a new department in a current company or to move from one industry to another, professional associations provide support in different ways.

Building a network

When choosing a professional association, it's important to consider how closely aligned the group is to your specialty in the industry you are in or transitioning to.  Some organizations may have formed to provide social support or political agendas instead of networking and professional development.  Each candidate should select based on the goals you want to achieve at that point.

Developing new skills

Transitioning into a new department or industry may require learning new skills and a professional association could be a great place to find a source for training outside the workplace and in the industry.  The association itself may also be able to provide opportunities to develop skills such as leadership, teamwork, or organization.  Look for ways to participate on committees or boards for some of these positions.

Check out different options for professional associations through search engines and career based websites to determine which organizations can provide the most value for your situation in the career search process.

3:46 pm          Comments

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