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CAT | Interview

Jan/10

21

Be happy!

applyI was interviewing the other day again and I really noticed a difference between the people I met: some were happy, others nervous/scared.

Why you need to enjoy the interview

In the end you will do so much better in interviews – both in terms of getting to the “right” answer and in terms of making a personal connection with the interviewer – if you are happy and enjoy yourself. People who are very apprehensive, nervous and clearly don’t enjoy the interview very rarely do well. The interview is often a mini-preview of the job at stake – you meet people you will work with, you discuss work related topics etc. If you are nervous and apprehensive about that, then why would the interviewer expect you to do any better in the actual job. Also, your personal emotional state is often reflected in your body language, choice of words etc and it will rub-off. Unless your interviewer is some sort of sadist, you will create a negative impression of you are apprehensive and nervous. If you enjoy yourself, you will likely be able to create some sense of goodwill on the side of the interviewer … and when push comes to shove, interviewers will favor people they like.

How to enjoy your interview

This is easier said then done, I know, but for myself I have learned to enjoy being interviewed. I view the interview as a challenge I want to crack, a record I want to beat or a person I want to win over. I don’t see it as some sort of life and death judgement or the one pivotal moment in life where I better not screw up.  By thinking about interviews in that way, you can avoid negative connotations – remember life will go on even if you screw up, so you might as well enjoy it.

Next, tune yourself to think positively about interviews. Whenever you catch yourself down, worried or nervous in anticipation of an interview, remind yourself to think positive and reiterate the points above.

Before the interview, get pumped about the interview – force yourself to look forward to it, even listen to upbeat music on your way to the interview.

Then in the interview, just write the word “fun” in small letters at the top of the notebook – that will help remind yourself to have fun and enjoy the interview.

Good luck!

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This is the fourth and final post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first postexplained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager. The second post explains in detail how to develop you talking points – by brainstorming strengths and then developing proof points to back them up. The third post explains how to customize your pitch for a specific job opening.

How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

If you have followed the advice in the first three parts of this series you will have developed a specific pitch to use for each company or job interview. But how do you use your pitch? At what moment does it make sense? How do I avoid sound like I am over-selling?

The following spells out how to use your pitch in specific situations.

Using the pitch in interviews or casual discussions

Using your pitch in 1:1 conversations, with recruiters, influencers or even just contacts in your network, is tough but also the most important use of this vital tool. It would would sound corny, inappropriate and plain weird if you would use your pitch at the wrong moment, yet at the same time no one will ever say: “let me hear your pitch”. So when do you use it? Well, you need to weave it in opportunistically when you are presented an opening. You will typically be presented multiple openings, and they key is to recognize and them use them.

For example, a typical question asked in interviews is: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a perfect launch point for your pitch. Assuming you have 5 talking points in your pitch, your answer would start something like this: “I think I have 5 key strengths ..” then quickly high-light each talking point including the corresponding proof-point as discussed in Part 2. Of course, you should then also have a good answer to satisfy the weakness portion of the question, but that is the topic of a future post.

In some cases you will be only be able to weave in part of your pitch to satisfy a specific question, but be patient, there will be other opening to give your entire pitch.

Questions that give you an opening to deliver your pitch:

  • What are your strengths?
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • Why are you a good fit for this job?

Using your pitch in a cover letter

Your pitch should be the central theme in your cover letter. We will discuss this in detail in yet another future post, but a cover letter should typically have 3 parts:

  1. Introductions - who your are and how you became aware of this job opening
  2. Your pitch – why your are a good candidate
  3. Closing -ask for an interview

As you can see, you pitch is the “meaty” part of your cover letter and should be at least 80% of the words on the page. Here you can carefully craft a written version of your pitch. Again, this should be designed to meet the job “specs”. Often, the best way to list your talking points is in the form 4-5 bullet points, each of which claims a key strength and is then backed-up by a proof point (see Parts 2 & 3).

Using your pitch in your resume

Your resume also needs to mirror your pitch, although much more subtly than your cover letter. Essentially, you should make sure that all proof points for your pitch listed in your cover letter is backed up by your resume.

This usually does not require major open heart surgery redesign of your resume, but rather dedicated much space to your proof-points, and deemphasizing stuff that is not relevant to this specific position.

This concludes our short series on developing your pitch – we hope it helps!

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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This is the second post in our short series on developing your hiring pitch. The first post explained what the hiring pitch is and what you need it for: a short, succinct summary of the most critical points of your candidacy that address the must-have and nice-have issues faced by the hiring manager.

How to develop the talking points in your pitch

So what should you talk about in your pitch? We think there are two things you should do here. First, you should make a long list of talking points, together with hard-hitting proof-points. Then, as we will explain in part 3you should assemble a specific pitch from the long list of talking points. This post will discuss how to develop and flesh out the long list of talking points.

Figure out what topics are most typically asked

Your pitch needs to cater to the needs of the hiring managers you want to convince, so you should start by laying out what you think they are looking for in a candidate.

Hiring managers will likely have expectations around the following topics:

  • Education & training
  • Skills & talent
  • Experience & knowledge
  • Relationships & networks

Try to establish what the hiring managers you want to cater to will specifically be looking for. Be as specific as possible and as comprehensive as possible. Some expectations can easily be gleaned from looking at job descriptions and postings, but others require common sense (if you were the hiring manager, what would you look for), and others you may only learn by talking to people currently in the field or at a specific company. Worst-case you will have to ask someone at HR or the hiring manager prior to the interview – “So what are you looking for in candidates?” Next, you should spell out all these requirements in a list. Mark those that you think that are must-haves clearly

Here is an example of a hiring manager’s needs for a tech sales opening:

  • College degree from a Top 50 school, ideally in business
  • At least 4 years of sales experience, ideally in the technology space
  • Strong sales tool-kit: winning personality, ability to handle pressure, strong interpersonal skills, excellent communication skills etc
  • Strong team skills: ability to work seamlessly in a large team, proven ability to deal with conflict, good leadership skills
  • Technical knowledge: knowledge of computer system xyz

Brainstorm your strengths

Next, for each of the hiring manager’s needs, develop your list of strengths. This is a brainstorming process that may take a while. Involve your family and friends in figuring out how you match against the needs – rack your brains to come up with examples from work, personal life, college years etc. Start a list on a piece of paper and keep adding to it until you have enough to work with. Remember to stay honest with yourself – it is OK to emphasize and call out skills, experiences and other assets that you truly have, it is not OK to invent, or grossly embellish and exaggerate. Use this test – if you would feel comfortable sharing this point with your current boss, best friend, teacher etc without being embarrassed, it is good. If you would feel embarrassed, it is not.

Try to make the list specific, e.g. not just say you have strong interpersonal skills, but that you are very easy to get along with, work well with abrasive people, are able to smooth over weird and aggressive situations with your humor and charm etc.

In the end you should have a long list of strengths that address all of the key needs / requirements of the hiring manager. Now clean it up – merge points that are too similar or repetitive, delete points that are contradictory, sort by importance and write on a clean sheet of paper.

What if you have a gap?

What if at the end of the day you come up short on one of the important hiring needs? For example, the job requires a college degree, but you left college without a degree. Then what? Well if you think this makes the whole thing a non-starter, move on. Don’t waste your time; look for a career or job that fits better with what you have to offer. However, if you think that you candidacy is so strong on many other points that you could overcome that gap, go for it. Articulate why this gap should not diminish your application and why your strengths on other points more than make up for it. Make sure to include this issue in your pitch. It is better to address such a point early on in your job application or interview rather than for the hiring manager to overlook something and then ding you when the issue is noticed – without you being able to speak to it.

Develop proof points

Next, for each of your strengths that you have brainstormed, develop one or two hard hitting proof points: little stories and anecdotes that prove out your strengths. Ideally these should be from within the last few years and if possible from a professional context, but it is fine to weave in experience from college, personal life or the more distant path, as long as the other proof points you use are more recent and applicable. Think of a very simple way of conveying the story or anecdote that quickly emphasizes your strength while offering enough detail to make it seem real and substantial enough to act as proof. Typically, I find that you should be able to tell such anecdotes in less than a minute. If the interviewer asks you for more details you should be able to talk up to 5 minutes on the story, but for your 1st pass 1 minute should be sufficient. Often building in a little humor or using more active body language is very effective.

Hone & polish

Finally, you should spell out your talking points including proof points. Write them out just the way you would speak about them, and then practice them out loud – alone or in front of your family. See what works, what needs to be refined and in particular work to make each point as short and sweet as possible – cut out as much words as you can without changing the message. In the end you should be able to talk about each strength in about 30 seconds, and have a 60 second anecdote or two to support each strength. Remember, you will not use all of these points in every interview or conversation – you will need to customize your pitch for every discussion.

This is the second post in a short series of posts on the topic of developing your hiring pitch. The next posts will cover the following topics:

  • How to customize your pitch for a specific job
  • How to deliver your pitch in interviews and elsewhere

Image by Nevada Tumbleweed

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Dec/09

29

Interview Check List

applyInterviewing is hard enough, so we created a quick check-list you can use to make sure you are ready to rock and roll.

The CareerAde Interview Check List

The week before the interview:

  • Read annual reports, company websites etc to research the company and the open position you are interviewing for
    • What do they do, what is their revenue, who is their biggest competitor, what were their most important recent announcements, what has their stock price been doing etc.
  • Develop your main talking points
    • Concisely articulate the 3-5 reasons why you should be hired for this job / what you have to offer compared to other applicants
    • If there are any inconsistencies in your application (e.g. unexplained time off, career change etc), developing logical and clear explanations
  • Develop your responses to the most typical interview questions
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • Why should I hire you?
    • Why are you interested in this job, this company?
    • When have you shown <attribute expected in the job, e.g. leadership>?

The day before the interview:

  • Re-read your research on the company and the open position
  • Rehearse your main talking points and answers to the most critical questions
  • Figure out and prepare what you want to wear
  • Print out driving / travel directions
  • Figure out when you need to leave the house to make it to the interview on time
  • Go to bed on the early side to give yourself 7-8 hours of sleep

The day of the interview:

  • If you are working, try to take the day off to concentrate on the interview
  • Have a good breakfast / lunch so that you will not be hungry during the interview but also do not eat too much so that you are lethargic and ready for a nap
  • If you are a lower energy-type person or tired, have a coffee before the interview!
  • Get to the interview location with some time to spare, especially if you may need some time finding the location
  • Enter the employer’s office building 10-15 minutes before your interview – they will need time to get you to sign in, call interviewer etc
  • Showtime!

Here is a PDF version for you to download and print

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applyI spend some of my time at my day job interviewing candidates. After a typical interview, I write up my notes on the candidate.  I look for many things such as analytical ability, whether they seem like the genuine article or if they are all smoke and mirrors, whether they have proven drive and commitment in the past and their communication skills.

Looking through my notes, one of my most typical issues I get excited about in a candidate is when they have great energy.

What is personal “energy”?

Energy in this sense is the ability of a person to convey that they are keen to move to action, to get things going. Someone with high energy conveys that with the use of body language, speaking skills and messaging. They are attentive, contribute to the discussion, are friendly and outgoing. They are not slow, boring, lethargic, quiet, afraid, nervous etc.

Why is energy attractive in a candidate?

High energy candidates typically convey a sense of vitality and confidence. They are self confident movers and shakers. In careers that involve a lot of personal interaction, they will typically be more effective and likable in working with their peers or clients than people with low energy. They are more likely to excel at leadership and team work.

Low energy candidates are often rejected in the interview process as they likely will struggle in such interpersonal situations.

What can I do make sure I project high energy?

Be aware of your body language – sit upright, don’t slouch, don’t cross your arms, look your interviewer in they eye – especially when you are being asked tough questions; make good but not excessive use of your hands and arms when talking.

Talk loud and clear – increase your speaking volume until you are being heard loud and clear; don’t mumble or be so soft spoken that people have to ask you to repeat yourself; make sure you annunciate carefully; if you tend to talk fast, slow down a bit, if you talk slowly, kick it up a notch

Smile, laugh and enjoy yourself – nothing conveys high, positive energy than honest cheerfulness; try to be chipper without overdoing it; keep smiling – show your teeth; all of this is much easier if you are actually having fun, so try to enjoy it, go with the flow, cherish the challenge

Get going – get enough rest the night before, drink a coffee, exercise in the morning, listen to music, do whatever it takes to get yourself going

How can I tell if it is working?

People often mirror what they see across the table – if your interviewer seems lethargic and about to fall asleep, you likely are not projecting enough energy – amp it up! If your interviewer pushes away from you and seems a bit worried, you might be overdoing it. Practice having higher energy on your spouse, friends and family. See if it works for them. If they think you seem weird, you are overdoing it – learn how to dial it in just right and then use it in your interview.

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