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: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130911212503-15454-10-things-job-seekers-must-do-to-get-a-better-job)

  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

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.

Jeff

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.

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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.