Questions and Answers with Career Expert Diane Burns
Please note: On a somewhat infrequent basis, Quintessential Careers asks noted career experts five questions related to their expertise and publishes the interview in the current issue of QuintZine, our career e-newsletter. Those interviews are archived here for your convenience.
Diane Burns is an international careers industry speaker and national writer.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest mistake jobseekers make in interviews?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Overconfidence. Many jobseekers are overconfident in their interviews. Many clients say, “If I can just get into the interview, I know I will ace it.” When the interview is over they say, “I blew the interview.” It is not wise to assume that you can convince a hiring manager to hire you, there is strong competition in the marketplace. You have to be yourself and answer questions naturally.
Overconfidence can make an interviewer feel intimidated or unsure of your motives for wanting the position. Overconfidence also is displayed in how you treat other people involved in the interview process — the secretary or team members you may meet during the day. Everyone that you come in contact with on the interview day will be asked about you… how do they like you? How did you treat them? Overconfidence allows you to think you don’t need to practice for an interview or conduct industry/company research. Overconfidence may cause you to embellish your experience or credentials, “Yeah, I have done that,” or “Yeah, I can do that,” when you have never actually applied the skill on the job.
Overconfidence allows you to assume that you can name your salary. Overconfidence makes you think the employer will contact you within a week with an offer; consequently, you don’t ask for follow-up information before you leave the interview. Moreover, overconfidence makes you think you do not have to send a thank-you note to help you lock in the position.
Overconfident candidates can make any of the above mistakes, which hurts their chances of being selected, because they are not coming across as natural.
To succeed in an interview, you have to be a good “fit” or good “match,” according to the interviewer. The interviewer is sizing up the candidate to determine if his or her personality is pleasant and whether he or she will work well with the office staff and other team members. Consequently, if you:
…you have a better chance against your competition.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the best way to prepare for a job interview?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Practice interviewing skills and conduct thorough research about the intended company’s products/services and competition to be able to speak intelligibly during the interview.
No one can predict what type of interview he or she will encounter, i.e., one-to-one, panel, luncheon, set questions, technical interview, behavioral questions, etc. And even if you practice responding to hundreds of questions, you may still be asked one you did not think of. But good practice will help you respond calmly to questions posed and help you understand the dynamics of the interview. You do not want to manipulate responses to questions; rather, respond normally and honestly. Practicing interviewing through role-playing with a colleague, spouse, or career coach will provide some measure of confidence and provide opportunities to troubleshoot potential interview scenarios. Role-playing should include appropriate attire, a firm handshake, strong eye contact, and ability to answer questions without saying, “Um, well, I don’t know how to answer that.”
When you critique the role-playing session, note such things as handshake, eye contact, image, fidgeting and other body language (crossing arms), clean teeth and neat hair, and ability to respond to a variety of questions without trepidation (and without complaining about former employers or providing answers that are either too short or too long). Take the role-playing session seriously to help prepare for the potentially grueling interview process.
To best prepare to answer questions, research the company and its products/services. Remember, the company wants to know why you want to work there. Your response should shed light on your knowledge of the organization’s products/services, competition, and other company information you gleaned from reading press releases, newspaper articles, and quarterly and annual reports. Nevertheless, remember, ultimately in the interview, be yourself, share your experiences, and impart your knowledge of the company via the research you conducted.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the one job-hunting secret you share with clients but that may not be widely known?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| One of the career-search tactics I encourage candidates to use is the thank-you letter. It seems that career seekers are constantly reminded to send thank-you letters, yet very few actually use or send them. I spoke with one recruiter who said he received so few thank-you letters, that when a thank-you letter arrived at his office, he posted it on the bulletin board.
Certainly it is a recruiter’s job to recruit and place candidates in interviews. But, recruiters work the placement on the candidate’s behalf. A thank-you letter does not need to be lengthy and can even be handwritten. Hiring managers on the other hand, do not get paid to interview candidates. Yes, they receive their paycheck when they interview candidates, but the time needed to interview and hire new employees takes away from daily operations and productivity. Consequently, a simple thank-you letter to both the recruiter and hiring manager, is a very thoughtful, courteous act.
Candidates should take some notes during the interview and refer to the notes to construct the thank-you letter for the hiring manager. The letter may include a few short bullets responding to specifics discussed in the interview or a suggestion to begin fixing the organizational problems that were discussed in the interview. The letter also provides a forum for telling the interviewer anything that you forgot to mention in the interview, and finally it reinforces your interest in the position and the company. Your closing line should recap any final instructions from the interview, i.e., “I look forward to hearing from in 10 days, as we discussed…”
Send a thank-you letter no later than the day after the interview.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest mistake job seekers make that your advice could correct or prevent?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Using only the Internet for resume circulation.
As of spring 2003, statistics and national articles indicate that the probability of finding a job from posting a resume on Monster.com is only 1.7 percent. This percentage is significantly lower than networking (60 to 80 percent of career seekers find a new position via networking) and even seeking employment using other means, such as through association memberships and newspaper postings (6 percent).
Unfortunately, many career-seekers find it very easy to post their resume online targeting a listed vacancy announcement. They assume that their experience and credentials match exactly to the announcement, so they are a perfect fit for the job and will receive an interview. But, with each recruiter receiving literally thousands of resumes for each posted position, most resumes will never be seen, read, or scored. So, Internet resume-posting is a very passive method of seeking new employment.
The best way to conduct a career-search campaign, is to network and employ other low-tech or “old-fashioned” methods to circulate resumes. Networking requires footwork and follow-up. To begin a networking campaign, prepare a list of everyone you know or have ever known. Send them a letter asking for their assistance in your career search. Ask them for leads. Secondly, join associations and community meetings. Volunteer with local charities or schools to meet new people. Attend networking breakfasts, join LEADS groups, circulate your resume to recruiters, and participate in job fairs. Finally, circulate your resume in response to newspaper ads, alumni associations, and career-specific associations.
Once your resume and letters are floating amongst your network of colleagues and professional contacts, get on the phone and follow up. Ask them for leads. Ask them if you can meet for coffee to learn more about their company or profession. Conduct career investigation interviews.
Don’t rely solely on the Internet to obtain employment; rather get active, get involved, and get busy.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the biggest myth about job-hunting?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| The one-page resume.
The invention and explosion of the Internet has changed many of the ways in which the career-search campaign is conducted. For example, for many years (1970s and 1980s) the one-page chronological resume was standard. The myth that is believed by most career-seekers is: You should prepare and circulate a one-page resume. Or it is thought, if you have more than 10 years of experience, you could write a two-page resume.
The reality is: There are no set rules or standardized requirements for resume preparation, including page length (except for some online job boards — which have specific Internet submission requirements). A two-page resume is fine (and fairly standard) and a three- or four-page resume is fine if the candidate is a senior executive, medical professional, or in academia. The resume length should fit the requirements and background of the candidate. Interestingly, many career-seekers who believe that a resume should be only one page are allowed to submit lengthy four- to five-page resumes on Internet job boards.
Appearance is also a consideration for preparing a two-page resume. It is better to use a two-page resume than cram 1.5 pages of data on one page, using a small point font and narrow margins. Every recruiter I speak with says they don’t care so much about resume length, but they prefer to see some type of objective, solid experience, dates that flow, education, and skills. Recruiters tell me that they would rather candidates market themselves in two pages rather than one page if the document tells them what they need to know to present the candidate’s qualifications to their client firms.
Diane Burns, Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Career Management Coach, Credentialed Career Master, Certified Employment Interview Professional, and International Job and Career Transition Coach, is an international careers industry speaker and national writer. She has authored dozens of articles and pens a monthly career-coaching column for the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Her resumes are published in more than 14 books. Burns specializes in military to corporate resumes and career coaching, and federal government resumes and application procedures. She can be reached at 410-884-0213 or through Career Marketing Techniques.
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