Monday, July 28, 2014

The Profile of an Ideal Job-Seeker

 One of my career coaching clients recently asked me what the “profile of an ideal job-seeker is”.  Career building and job-seeking consulting has been my profession for over thirteen years after a career in advertising and retained executive recruiting, but I had not thought about this question in just these terms
So, what is the profile of an ideal job-seeker? One man’s opinion follows:

The Ideal Job Seeker is the following:

1.    They know themselves. He/she has taken the time to drill down and truly assess their real goals, their real interests, their real talents and their ideal career and job. They have taken professional personality assessments (Birkman, Myers-Briggs, Strong, Emotional IQ, etc), have thoroughly evaluated their “career bridges and barriers” (factors that are helping and thwarting their career growth), and have learned exactly what type of career, and therefore, jobs that make the most sense for their career success and satisfaction. They are fully prepared to answer that simple, but important question, “tell me about yourself” succinctly and persuasively.

The key here is that you must know yourself so that you “seek work, not just a job”. Jobs are fleeting; work is eternal.

2.    They are comfortable in their own skin and in their professional value. They have learned to modulate their self-promotion, to cast their search in terms of how they can help others rather than being mostly self-focused and self-serving. This attitude is infectious; others will sense and appreciate it. And very likely, want to help the person achieve their objectives. If they are over fifty (and sensitive to the issue of age in their search), they adopt the persona of an “expert”, someone who is fully experienced and informed to help a company solve very challenging problems while working seamlessly with a younger group of people.

3.    They rely on themselves instead of others (friends, recruiters, Lady Luck, etc) to make their career happen. They take a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to their search. They do most of the work, even if working with a career coach or outplacement firm. They know their success is up to them.

4.    They have a solid, well-crafted Action Plan. They know that clear, well-written communications are key to life, so they have revised their resume to include a tight and unique “summary statement”; they have written a powerful and arresting biography, they have their elevator speech down pat, they have a tight email template designed to get recipients to call them to meet, they have improved their interviewing skills and have done all the other important “homework”.

5.    They have a clearly defined Prospective Company Target List. They have researched and identified 10-20 companies within a reasonable commute of their home that they have determined match their skills, interests and experience. They know the companies “where they deserve/are qualified to work”. This is their mission; to obtain employment at one of these firms while keeping all of the best connection alive with ongoing communications in the future. This list is their “search world”.

6.    They do not waste time firing off hundreds of resumes, wandering around job boards, calling friends for ideas (who are likely in the same boat, or may soon be) on job opportunities

7.    They go into action and remain in action. They allocate a significant part of each day and week to their search. They “live their search”. They go after their future, not wait for it to happen.

8.    They keep their family apprised of their progress so that they are not “left in the dark” to wonder how the individual is faring. They carefully choose their references and keep them apprised of their progress. They keep a careful record of all contacts and events with their Target Companies. They avoid being concerned about “pushing too hard”. Remember, today, everyone understands the deal that people are having a challenging time being or getting employed. If done well, including people in your search will bear fruit. Just do not rely on them for the work you should be doing.

9.    When you land, be sure to thank people. And stay in touch with all of your contacts at your Target Companies. Again, these firms are now your career universe- your future will likely include some of these companies, so keep your relationships via email or phone calls alive and healthy.
This, I believe, profiles an Ideal Job-Seeker. I hope this is helpful for you.

The Art of the Phone Interview

One of the surprising things that I have learned in coaching executives at all ages in gaining new or different employment is that most of my clients have given little thought to how to effectively conduct a phone interview. Most of their concern revolves around the live, in-person interview.

This is doubly surprising as most interviews, be they initial or later-stage interviews, take place by phone or Skype.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next phone interview (some may seem obvious, but they bear repeating):

  • Be at your phone on time.  It is best to have agreed that you would call at a specific time so that you can have at least a modicum of control over the call.  Answer it on the second or third ring with a pleasant (“Hello, this is Peter Engler”) and slightly formal answer.  Have a glass of water at hand and perhaps, have taken some honey or a lozenge to smooth your voice.  Also, remember to “wake up” your voice before the call if it takes place in the morning.

  • Do the call from home or a quiet place.  A landline is best, as you may have a bad cell connection and not realize it.  Ensure that no family members or associates (or pet dogs) are liable to interrupt your call. 

  • Dress in business casual (shirt with collar), especially with Skype. If using Skype, conduct a practice session to see how you look including the appearance of the background. Have an uncluttered wall as background. Dressing will help ensure that you are in a “business mode”.

  • For non-Skype interviews, stand up and smile during the interview.  Put up a picture (of them if possible) and speak to it.  You will sound more energetic and powerful, and will likely be more focused regarding your comments. 

  • For Skype interviews, sit back a bit so that you are not looming over the screen, especially if you are male. Be sure your lighting is good. Move around a bit so that you do not appear to be stilted or too intense.

  • Answer the questions completely but briefly. Avoid extended responses. Respond directly to the question and provide data to support (I improved profitability for my product line by 6%) your responses.

Speak in a assured, confident, but attentive fashion. Let them guide the conversation, but look for opportunities to take the lead (“Can you tell me what the key challenges of this job are?”, “What are successful people in your company like?”, “What attracted you to the company>”).

Be prepared for key questions like, “Tell me about yourself”. Keep your responses brief, targeted and thoughtful. Don’t simply recite your resume; explain how you work, what success looks like to you, how you engage with people, what you take particular pride in doing, etc.

  • Avoid letting the call lose energy, which is more likely to happen in a phone interview.  Keep your responses and comments focused, brief, energetic and informative.  Smile into the phone, chuckle a few times.  Be “human”- all they know of you is your voice and your resume.  Remember that a phone interview may be conducted by a junior Human Resources employee, and therefore, they may not be an effective interviewer.  Help the process along as best you can.

  • Have your resume, notes, job description and other applicable items on hand.  Also, ensure you have thoroughly thought through the job requirements and have written down bullet points that clearly qualify you for the job.

  • At the close, ask how it went.  Doing this illustrates your level of interest as well as your ability to keep a business relationship moving forward. It is also a good way to learn, right then, what the potential is for additional interviews. Should the interviewer actually note some concerns at this point, gently respond to them or suggest a follow-up conversation to respond to their concerns.

  • Enjoy yourself, be present and go for it.  You will do fine if you prepare and think about your answers before speaking!

Are We a Fit?

It is not surprising to realize that the primary purpose of a job interview, or even a casual conversation around a possible business association is, “are we a fit?” “Can we work successfully together”.
When you are in a 1:1 meeting to discuss your candidacy for an opportunity,you have already passed the test of having the right credentials and experience for the most part. They have reviewed your resume and your terrific bio and know you professionally to a certain extent. 

What they really want to know is the answer to the classic question, “tell me about yourself”.  

They want to know how you think, interact with people, size up and solve problems, deal with stress; how you are to work with. The interviewer (and the company) wants to know how successful you will be at the company. How you will “fit in”.

This is especially true the older you are. Young people can be trained and molded to a company culture; older folks bring years of acculturation elsewhere to the party. This can prove problematic in many cases.
So what to do?

I believe that the more you can present a convincing attitude of “I am here to HELP”, the more appreciative and interested they may be in bringing you on board. This is also true for pitching consulting assignments.

Your primary interest should be in learning “what needs to be done” (solve their need). Focusing your comments and questions on how you can help, rather than on personal issues of what resources, office space, and other secondary issues, should help convince them that you are focused on them and their needs rather than on yours. 

As you begin to satisfy them in the interview of your intentions on their behalf, the “fit” will improve and become comfortable for both you and them.

Once you have an offer, you can decide if the opportunity is a “fit” for you. But, until that point, ensure you have them and identifying and satisfying their needs 100% in mind.