Interviewing Tip #3 – Who Should Be Talking?

It’s very common for the interviewer to have a standard set of questions they want to cover first.  If so, then let them proceed.  But, at the same time, you should find the most appropriate way to get your interviewer talking –especially if they are the hiring manager (or the hiring manager’s boss).  The more you can get them talking, the more you will learn about the company and the job.  You will get invaluable insights into whether this is actually the company you want to work for.  And if you are fortunate enough to get more than one job offer, you will want these insights to assist with your decision-making.  One good way to get the interviewer talking is to ask them a suitable related question immediately after answering one of their questions.  But be careful about this if you detect they are the type of interviewer that wants to get through their question list first.

Conversely, you’ll come across interviewers that just want to talk about themselves and their company.  That’s great for getting additional insights to add to your research but terrible for when the recruiter or hiring manager asks what they thought about you.  You’ll need to cleverly figure out ways to jump in with comments that relate to what they are talking about but related to you and your accomplishments.  The ideal scenario is when you find yourself in a balanced interview with dialog and questions in both directions.

Finally, be ready with a list of questions that will give you valuable information on the role, company, industry and competition.  It’s OK to have these typed/written and stored in your interview binder.  You don’t have to memorize them.  But while asking these questions, inject some commentary that demonstrates that you’ve done your research.  You’d be amazed at how many candidates don’t do research, or if they do they don’t incorporate it into their interview.  This will really help you stand out.  And feel free to take notes.  It shows you’re taking this seriously.

See the rest of my series on Interviewing Tips here.   I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Job Hunting.

Interviewing Tip #2 – Attire

While I can’t say precisely what to wear for the specific company and job you are interviewing for, I can give a solid rule of thumb.  Assess the dress attire standard you would follow once in the job and take it up a notch for the interview.  In other words, if you would dress business casual for the job (let’s say Dockers and a button-up collar shirt for guys), then wear at least slacks, a dress shirt and sport coat for the interview – and don’t hesitate to add a tie.  If you would wear jeans and a pullover collar shirt for the job, then at least dress business casual for the interview.  I also recommend mostly ignoring the advice of any existing employees at the company.  They might tell you, “Don’t worry about dressing up for the interview because we’re pretty laid back here.”  Instead, just take it up at least one notch to come across as professional and serious.

See the rest of my series on Interviewing Tips here.   I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Job Hunting.

Interviewing Tip #1 – Phone Screening

OK, so you made enough of a positive impression with your job application or unsolicited email (see related post) to get a response from the company.  This will usually start with a request for a phone interview.  It’s the company’s way of conducting a second round of filtering (following the resume filter) to make sure they only spend face-to-face time with the most viable candidates.

The main thing I’ll say about the phone screening interview is shame on you if you don’t have all of your most important research information in front of you during the interview (see related post and this one too).  In addition, you should have a cheat sheet of your personal accomplishments right in front of you.  Maybe this is just a highlighted version of your resume.  Finally, some of the recommendations in the following posts of this series are also excellent preparatory tasks for a phone screening interview.  But remember three key things.

  1. The only reason the company is doing the phone screening interview with you is to decide if they want to bring you in for a more comprehensive fact-to-face interview.  So don’t turn it into your interview of the company (that comes later).  You should be prepared with a couple of questions about the company in case you’re given the opportunity and to show that you’ve done your research.  But make sure they get what they need first.
  2. Take full advantage of the fact that there is a phone line in between you and the interviewer.  You can have every cheat sheet known to man at your fingertips.  Just be organized.
  3. Eliminate things that could distract or disrupt the interview.  Have a dog at home that likes to bark when people walk by your house?  Put him/her in the bedroom.  Have a land line phone at home?  Use it instead of your cell phone for better clarity.

See the rest of my series on Interviewing Tips here.   I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Job Hunting.

Job Hunting Tip #5 – Getting Aggressive with Unsolicited Outreaches

If a target company has a job posting that is a fit, then obviously you should follow the stated process for submitting your resume and then try to reach someone personally in the HR department, or better yet use your personal network to get to the hiring manager.  But if this isn’t the case, and you can’t seem to get any friendly introductions, what should you do?  Well, once choice is to keep waiting to see if something shakes loose.  But if you reach a point where you need to get more aggressive, then it’s time to take matters into your own hands.

My recommendation in this case is to reach out to some appropriate person in the company on your own.  It is important to reach out to the right personal at the right level.  In other words, if you are seeking a sales rep position in a 2,000 employee company, you should not reach out to the CEO but rather the Sales VP or maybe a regional Sales Director.  You’re going to get the names of these people from LinkedIn, the company website or your personal network.

The best method of doing this is email.  Even if you don’t know the email address of the person you want to reach out to, it’s not hard to figure out.  Check the website Contact page and the bottom of any company-produced press releases to see if any person’s email address is listed.  For example, if the target company is Ipswitch Incorporated and you see a press contact (John Doe) listed as, then you can pretty well predict the company’s email nomenclature.  If you can’t find any such clues, then with about 90% odds of success, you should try the following three approaches:

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #5 – Getting Aggressive with Unsolicited Outreaches”

Job Hunting Tip #4 – Build Your Research Files

Once you have your first and second lists of target companies and their related industries, it’s time to gather even more information.  Not only will this help you confirm your assessment, but it will better prepare you for your approach to the company and also a possible interview.

There are several ways to conduct your additional research:

  • Friends and colleagues – Start reaching out to them and letting them know which industries you are targeting and which companies you’re initially interested in.  Ask them what they know about any of the companies and find out if they have any contacts that could prove to be valuable.  Lunches and happy hours with your colleague and their contact can provide invaluable inside information.  If you are seeking an executive-level position, you’ll want to expand this exercise to include background checks on the CEO and the investors.
  • Internet Networking Tools – Probably the best example is LinkedIn.  If you are already a member, then you have big leg up.  LinkedIn has a function that allows you to search on a company name to see which direct members of your own LinkedIn network also have people from the target company in their network.  Secondly, does the target company use social media tools like Twitter or Facebook?  If so, it’s time to become a follower, subscriber, friend, etc.
  • E-mail Alerts  – Google, Yahoo and others have a function that allows you to enter keywords to get automated email alerts any time a press release or trade article is published with those keywords in the context.  Many of these will be company-issued press releases, which you can also get from the company’s website but would need to check regularly to see if something new was produced.  But even more valuable are analyst reports or trade articles about the company.  For future reference, make a file for all of this information or at least capture the important information in a document with web links to the get to the full content.
  • Blogs and Message Boards – Find out if they exist for the industry or even the company (ideal).  Read through them, printing out postings of interest.
  • Analyst Research Reports – If you don’t happen to have login credentials with analyst firms like the Gartner Group, Yankee, Forrester Research or The 451 Group, seek out friends or relatives that might.  Typically you can search these sites for industry or company-related reports and even see the abstract for the report.  This will give you a wish list to pass on to your friend or relative.
  • SEC  Reports – This is really just for publicly traded companies.  Search the SEC’s EDGAR site and other  public sites where annual financial reports and 10K/10Q reports are filed.  Much of this you can get from the Investor Relations link on the company’s website, but you might find other interesting things on EDGAR.

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #4 – Build Your Research Files”

Job Hunting Tip #3 – Narrow the Focus

The first order of business is to define the perfect job, with the word “job” encompassing the industry, company characteristics and job function.  If you already have experience in a given industry, perhaps you want to continue leveraging your skills and experience.  Or perhaps you’ve been in the same industry for so many years that you really need a change of scenery.  In any case, try to hone in on a short list of industries (perhaps 2-3) that get you the most excited and seem to have good growth potential.  Then, do some basic research to confirm your assumptions.  With the Internet as a tool, find out what the analysts and major trade associations are saying.  Who are the leaders in the industry?  Are they totally dominant or is there room for smaller companies to take a foothold?

Once you have a short list of industries, it’s time to target companies in that industry.  Assuming you already know which city you want to work in (whether it’s where you already live or some place you would like to relocate), find out which companies have their headquarters there or at least some meaningful presence.  The exception is a territory sales job, which are spread all over the place.  Using the Internet again (company’s website, trade articles, local online business journals), gather information about these companies.  Some recommended data points to gather are listed below:

Continue reading “Job Hunting Tip #3 – Narrow the Focus”

Job Hunting Tip #2 – Balance

In Tip #1 I discussed the importance of treating your job search like a job and spending at least 3 hours per day on this new job.  So what are you going to do with the rest of your time when your spouse, friends and colleagues are working all day?  You have an opportunity staring you in the face.  Surely you have things you’ve wanted to do but your crazy work schedule prevented it.  Weave these into your daily/weekly schedule.  Better yet, set some targets and goals around some of the items so that you can celebrate when you achieve them.  You’re likely to get regular rejection with your job search.  So it will be great to have accomplishments to balance this out.  Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Fitness – If you’re not at the weight you want to be at, make this a focus.  Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to learn?  Give it a try.
  • Hobby – Maybe you have one that hasn’t gotten as much attention as you would like
  • Kids – If they are in elementary school, why not have lunch with them once per week?  If they are older, now you can go to every game, performance, etc.
  • Projects – Do you have family videos that you’ve been meaning to compile, edit and produce on DVD?  Have you been talking about cleaning out the attic or garage for years?  Have you wanted to install a compost pile or water retention system?  Now is your time.
  • Volunteer – There are infinite ways to volunteer.  And giving back will definitely make you feel good about yourself and will give you a bigger picture reflection of your situation.

See the rest of my series on Job Hunting Tips here.  I also have a related series for Resume Writing and one for Interviewing.