Key Strategies for Acing the Interview

(From an article by Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, a talent acquisition consulting firm. Full text of the article can be found here:

  1. Focus on the job, not the money. It’s better to be underpaid than overpaid. Getting promoted or obtaining a big compensation increase will only occur after you’ve demonstrated great performance. Ignore anyone who says otherwise. (For salespeople, remember that the higher your base compensation, the more scrutiny you’ll face from your employer. Isn’t it better to start out by flying under the radar?)
  2. Present your strengths and weaknesses via short stories. Without a doubt, you will be a more compelling candidate if you directly connect your past successes to each of the key competencies for the position. Be prepared to provide detailed information, including dates, measurable results, actual deliverables, and any supporting information needed to validate them. Use the SMARTe acronym to form the answers: Specific task, Metrics, Action taken, Results and deliverable defined, the Time frame, and a description of the e Don’t be shy about addressing the mistakes you’ve made, what you learned from them, and how it made you better at your job.
  3. Skip the generalities. Don’t say you’re motivated, strong, dedicated, a great problem-solver or a great team player, or whatever, unless you can back it up with proof. Let the interviewer determine if you’re strong, dedicated or a team player, based on the examples you present.
  4. Divide and conquer by asking the universal question. Very early in the interview, or phone screen, you must ask the interviewer to describe the focus of the job, some of the big challenges, and how the new person’s performance will be measured. Pick at least two from this list. Then prove each is a core strength using the SAFW response below.
  5. Practice the universal answer to any question. You need to be able to validate all of your strengths with specific examples. Form your answer using the SAFW two-minute response: Say A Few Words – Statement – Amplify – few Examples – Wrap-up.
  6. Weave the 10 Best Predictors of Job Success into Your SAFW Response. I just wrote a post for interviewers on how to evaluate your answers. Make sure you have an example proving you possess at least three or four of these strengths. Then during the interview ask if these traits are important for on-the-job success. Of course they will be. Then give your example. Note: this is a slam dunk!
  7. Use the phone screen to minimize the impact of a weak first impression. Even if you make a good first impression, it’s important to ask the universal question (see above) early in the phone screen. Answering it correctly will increase the likelihood you’ll be invited to an onsite interview. This will help focus the actual interview on your past performance, instead of box-checking your skills and experience, or judging you on first impressions.
  8. Uncover any concerns before the end of the interview. To determine where you stand, ask the interviewer about next steps. If they’re not specific, you probably won’t be called back. In this case, ask the interviewer to share the biggest concern he/she has about your background. Then ask how the skill, trait or factor mentioned is used on the job. To overcome the concern, you’ll need to use the SAFW two-minute response to prove you can handle the requirement.

Lou Adler’s latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), covers the Performance-based Hiring process described in this article in more depth. For instant hiring advice join Lou’s LinkedIn group and follow his Wisdom About Work series on Facebook.

The Truth About Interviews

The best interviews are always a two-way street. A fluid, dynamic conversation will impress any employer – it will tell them that you are confident, knowledgeable and, most of all, that you will be someone they’d like to work with. This quick read contains some excellent tips that’ll help you shine. The Truth About Interviews | LinkedIn

Tips for Acing a Video Interview

This content comes mostly from the following article:

8 tips for your next video job interview
Katherine Noel
Mar. 21, 2016

Job interviews can be nerve-racking, especially if you’re meeting the hiring manager for the first time via webcam in your living room.

Since video interviews are typically faster, easier, and more cost-effective than an in-person meeting or long phone call, many companies are now using them to expedite the hiring process.

“Companies are implementing video interviews more and more, and people are actually getting hired faster now, because it’s less time and less aggravation on both ends,” says Paul J. Bailo, a digital executive and author of “The Essential Digital Interview Handbook.” “The key problem with video interviews, though, is that job seekers don’t know how to do them.”

Here are eight tips to improve your video-interviewing skills and land the job:

  1. Double-check your audio, video, and internet connection

Always test your video and audio right before an interview to ensure everything is working properly. Just because it worked a month ago doesn’t mean it’s going to work today, and you don’t want to risk the headache or embarrassment of technology issues during a conversation with a potential employer.

A stable wireless connection is also essential, so be sure to choose a location where you know spotty connection won’t disrupt your video.

  1. Pick a distraction-free background

You want the focus to be on your face and what you’re saying during the interview, so choosing a clear background that’s business-like and free of distractions is key.

Avoid windows and walls full of pictures, posters, or knickknacks. Clear all books and clutter off your desk — basically, you want to eliminate anything that could draw the interviewer’s attention away from you. If you can’t find a good backdrop at your office or at home, then just use a solid wall.

Choose a location that’s free from the distractions of children, roommates or pets. (And don’t even think of doing a video interview from a coffee shop.) Hang a sign on the door asking mail carriers and package deliverers not to ring the doorbell. Make sure the background is free from clutter and embarrassing items like laundry piles. Set up lighting that’s bright but not glaring, illuminating your face from the front. Natural light is best.

  1. Make sure you’re in a well-lit room and the interviewer can see you clearly

Pay attention to the lighting. You want the interviewer to be able to see your face clearly, so try a test video beforehand to make sure lights aren’t casting any shadows on your face. Bailo says people often have just one overhead light shining down on them from the ceiling, but this creates shadows and can be unflattering.

Aim to have one light coming from behind you, one light on your right, and one light on your left to create a glow around you.

  1. Angle and eye contact are critical

Where do you look during a video interview? It’s one of the most common questions people have, and it’s easy to get thrown off if you’re not used to video chatting. Although it may not feel natural at first, you want to speak to the camera, not the screen.

Maintain eye contact by looking directly into the camera instead of at the screen or at your own photo. Also, be sure to speak clearly so the microphone picks up your voice and the interviewer doesn’t have to strain to hear you.

Always position your camera at eye-level, not above or below you. “The angle is so critical,” Bailo says. “You don’t want the camera looking up your nose, and you don’t want the camera looking down at you. The psychology behind it is if I’m looking down at the camera, I’m looking down at the hiring manager, and they feel subservient.”

  1. Frame yourself from the chest up

Showing yourself from the waist or chest up is generally recommended for video interviews, so you don’t look like a floating head. You don’t want to be so close to the camera that the interviewer can count your nose hairs.

Bailo explains that the triangle formed from the top of your head down to your shoulders is the focal point, because all of your communication is going to be coming from your face — your emotion, your expression, your smiling — and that’s what’s going to get you the job.

  1. Dress for the job you want

While it may be tempting to do the interview sans pants with your nicest shirt, resist that urge. You want to dress exactly as if you were going for the interview in person. This can have a strong effect on your mindset, and if you’re too comfortable in the boxers or sweatpants you’re rocking out of frame, that will come through in your attitude and speech.

You always want to look your best for an interview, so wash your face, brush your teeth, comb your hair, and prepare the same as you would for an in-person meeting. Your dress and level of formality should match the industry for which you’re interviewing; if the job is at a firm where workers wear suits every day, you should wear a suit for your video interview.

Keep makeup natural-looking, and avoid wearing too much jewelry, which can be distracting and catch light from the wrong angle. Choose clothing colors that complement your skin tone, and make sure your clothing melds well with the background as well, Bailo advises.

  1. Keep your body language open

Just as with an in-person interview, it’s important to be cognizant of your body language in order to leave a positive impression on the interviewer.

It’s fine to gesture while you speak, but be careful to keep your hand movements contained and within the video frame, and be aware that your gestures aren’t always going to translate over video the same way they would in person.

It’s also crucial to maintain a pleasant facial expression during the interview. “You’re creating an image of yourself as soon as you turn on your camera,” says Barbara Pachter, etiquette and communication expert and author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.” “You want the person to like you and hire you, so smile! If you look frozen or scared for your life, why would they hire you?”

  1. Think of it as a show

Bailo tells his clients to think of video interviews as one-man studio shows.

“With the audio, the video, the lights, and everything else, you want to realize that we’re building a studio,” he says. “And you’re the star — you have to prepare because you’re the sound person, you’re the light person, you’re the camera person, you’re the copyright person, you’re the makeup artist. You’re everything to put this show on, so you really have to think of yourself as a Hollywood star.”

  1. Hit pause

Digital connections can be delayed. To avoid talking over your interviewer or having your first few words cut out, let the interviewer finish the question and then pause for a few seconds before delivering your answer.

If you take the time to prepare your answers and follow these video interview tips, you’ll be more likely to make a great impression and hopefully score the job — or at least a second interview.



Ten Things Every Good Recruiter Does Right

This is a very good article, but I take issue with #7. While salary history isn’t required, it helps recruiters to make sure they are putting you together with the right opportunities.


A great recruiter is an incredible ally in your career, but the wrong recruiter will dim your flame and leave you frustrated. Hold out for the best of the best!

Source: Ten Things Every Good Recruiter Does Right

The Right and Wrong Reasons for Changing Jobs

As the job market heats up, it might be time to update your LinkedIn profile. Just updating your profile is a clue to the folks at LinkedIn that you’re thinking of switching jobs, so don’t be surprised if you see more job opportunities pushed your way as a result.

But don’t overreact. Leaving a job to minimize pain should not be the primary reason for accepting another job. This idea is captured in the Job-Seeker’s Decision Grid. The bottom half of the grid represents the reasons why people consider switching jobs. The upper half represents reasons why they accept offers. These negative and positive motivators are divided into extrinsic (short-term) motivators shown on the left, and intrinsic (long-term) motivators shown on the right.

When considering a job switch, too many candidates overemphasize what they get on the start date of their new job – a title, location, company name and compensation package. While positive, these are short-term and if the job doesn’t represent a long-term career move, job satisfaction will quickly decline and the negative motivators will quickly reappear. I refer to this as the “vicious cycle” of dissatisfaction, underperformance and turnover. The decision grid can help job-seekers make more balanced career decisions, even when the pressure to leave is overwhelming and there’s a sizzling offer in hand.

Consider changing jobs when the intrinsic negatives outweigh the positives.

Quickly review the descriptions of the four categories. There is no question that if your job is “Going Nowhere” it’s time to change jobs. If the “Daily Grind” is getting you down, you should consider some short fixes but changing jobs should be just one of your options. The big problem for most job-seekers is that when given an offer there is usually not enough information available to make a full long-term career assessment. This is largely the fault of the company, hiring manager and recruiter involved in the process. In their rush to fill jobs as rapidly as possible with the best person who applies, little thought is actually given to the actual job itself and the potential opportunity it represents.

In this case, it’s up to the discerning candidate to better understand that what on the surface might appear to be a fine career move, underneath might be next year’s excuse for why you want to change jobs again. Here are some simple things you can do to conduct your own career due diligence.

  1. Understand real job needs. Ask the recruiter and/or hiring manager to define real job needs. If you get a sense the interviewer is flaying about ask, “What’s the most important goal the person in this role needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful?” Then follow up to further clarify job expectations, finding out the scope of the job, the resources available and the importance of the job.
  2. Convert “having” into “doing”. When someone starts box-checking skills or asks a brain-teaser, ask how the skill will be used on the job. If the person stumbles on this, you have a clue that the job hasn’t been defined too well.
  3. Find out why the job is open. The point of this question is to discover if there is some inherent problem with the job or if it’s the result of a positive change.
  4. Ask what happened to the last person in the role. This is often a clue to the manager’s ability to select and develop people.
  5. Ask how performance will be measured. Be concerned if the hiring manager is vague or non-committal. Strong managers are able to tell you their expectations for the person being hired.
  6. Go through the organization chart. Find out who’s on the team and who you’ll be working with. You’ll want to meet some of these people before you accept an offer. If you’re inheriting a team, ask about the quality and your opportunity to rebuild it.
  7. Ask about the manager’s vision for the department and the open role. This will give you a good sense of the capabilities of the hiring manager, his or her aspirations and the upside potential of the open job.
  8. Understand the manager’s leadership style. There could be a problem if the manager is too controlling or too hands-off. Make sure your style meshes with the person you’ll be working for.
  9. Find out the real culture. Ask everyone you meet how decisions are made, the company’s appetite for change, the intensity, the politics, and the sophistication of the infrastructure. Don’t buy into the platitudes and fancy vision statement.

When considering whether to accept an offer or not, don’t get seduced by your desire to leave or by the Big Brass Employer Brand and what you get on Day 1. These will all become less important 3-6 months in to the job. Instead emphasize what you’ll be doing and learning, the people you’ll be working with and how this all meets your career and personal needs. This is how to prevent the “Daily Grind” from becoming too big an issue and a “Going Nowhere” job from becoming your next excuse for leaving.


Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He’s also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. You can continue the conversation on LinkedIn’s Essential Guide for Hiring Discussion Group.

How to Get a Job–Version 2013

The way companies go about hiring is different from 5-10 years ago, “They don’t care anymore what you know; all they care is what you can do with what you know.” If you don’t understand this statement and the other changes happening around you, you’ll be left behind. Anyone who is serious about their career should read this article!

Recruiting a Recruiter for Your Next Job

The “Career Couch” column from the Sunday New York Times is generally well-researched and contains solid info for professionals and executives at any stage of their careers.  Her advice on this subject is much better than what I usually see online.

Recruiting a Recruiter for Your Next Job
How to find job recruiters in your industry — and how to stay on their radar as you look for new employment.

Thank-you Notes: Handwritten or Email?

Thanik-you Notes: Handwritten or Email?

I picked this up from LinkedIn. It was written by the Managing Editor of Business Insider and answers the question: Should You Send A Handwritten Or Email Thank You Note After An Interview?

Read more:

Are there situations when a handwritten note can be more effective? Does it have to be one or the other?

Please share your thoughts!

The Secret Sauce of Job Interviewing

Well, maybe not so secret. This guest columnist at Talent Zoo signs the praises of  an interviewing strategy I’ve been touting for years. Read on to learn more about the most effective and compelling way to sell yourself in interviews.

The Secret Sauce of Job Interviewing
By: Dan Erwin (from
July 19, 2011

Periodically Gen Yers and Xers corner me for job interviewing suggestions. By the time they get around to talking, they’ve sent off their resume and are being invited to interview. So naturally, they’re a bit tense. Knowing that a great deal of my consulting business is about interviewing for gigs and selling my services, they want to know whether these skills transfer to job interviewing. The answer to that question is a big YES.

Sure, I comment, you want to have a lot of knowledge about the company and the job for which you’re interviewing. You want to have some smart questions to ask; questions that show you’ve done your homework on the job — and the organization. You also want to be able to talk about your strengths and vulnerabilities in very constructive ways. Most of all, you want to create an identity in the recruiting manager’s mind that says that you’re the best person to resolve his or her needs.

So, they ask, what’s the best way, the best format for creating that identity, for explaining and selling yourself? The answer is easy. Be able to tell some fascinating, intriguing tales about yourself and your value.

Quite a few years ago, I was interviewing for a consulting gig with the Executive Vice-President of Marketing at Ralston Purina. After about 20 minutes, filled with getting-to-know-you small talk, he put the issue on the table. “Tell me some stories about your consulting experiences,” he said. I was surprised and amused that a sophisticated power player would put his request in plain language. I got the job — a gig that lasted more than six years, working with vice-presidents and directors at the firm.

Like most business people, Stephen Denning, a former exec at the World Bank, scoffed at such touch-feely stuff as stories, believing that analytical was good, and anecdotal was bad. Failing in his use of PowerPoint and analysis to gain the support for his efforts, he created a number of tales to envision the future of the organization. It worked, and he reports on it in an HBR article on the power of Telling Tales.

Stories are the most primitive and consistently the most highly successful means for communicating. Analysis and statistics drive business thinking. They cut through myth, gossip, and speculation and excite the mind. Their strength is their objectivity, but that’s also their weakness. They never offer a path to the heart. And that’s where you need to go to motivate a recruiter or a manager to hire you. Stories are the most attention-grabbing and best-remembered communication tool. They are the secret sauce of communicating and the one and only most powerful tool for job interviewing.

A few years ago one of my daughters got a superb management job at a hot new pharmaceutical firm in Massachusetts. After being hired, she made the rounds of the firm’s eight interviewers, mostly Harvard and MIT scientists, to check in and find out why she got the position. The responses were unanimous: she had a “superb education, unusual depth of experience,” and “great stories.” That’s a not-too-shabby recommendation for the persuasive power of telling tales.

What To Remember

Make sure your story matches the situation. When you’re interviewing for a job, the stories should help the recruiter to understand who you are, what you’ve done, and what you bring to the job. Ideally, he’ll not only end up liking you, but respecting and needing you. Stories for this purpose are usually based on personal work events that show what you did and what you took from those experiences. You also ought to have one or two stories in your toolkit that highlight some vulnerability and details how you corrected it.

For an interview, you should be able to encapsulate a story in six to eight sentences. It should describe one or two of your important characteristics, explain the context, detail the action including the problem and its resolution. If you can depict the problem as a conflicted process or relationship, all the better. A few colorful, descriptive words go a long way with recruiters. Pay close attention to the recipient as you talk and emphasize the important words or ideas.

Although the story form that I’ve identified is just a start, I hope it’ll inspire you to add stories to your interviewing toolkit. The ability to tell the right story for your interview is the secret sauce of successful interviewing.