Many clients tell me that they follow up with employers by email after job interviews. They also seldom get a reply. Here’s a better strategy: Use the phone. While it is possible to dodge a message as easily as it is to delete an email, a phone call carries more weight. The interviewer hears your voice and remembers that you’re a person. Better still, if the interviewer picks up the phone, you get the chance to ask questions and engage the interviewer.
An email message is passive, and it gives you no chance to ask questions or answer them. Some clients think they are being polite by using email. Think about it this way: You took the time to interview with a company. Don’t they owe you the respect to reply to a phone call?
Know what you want to say when you talk to the interviewer. The key question is: “Are you still considering me as a candidate?” If the answer is yes, ask when the company expects to make a decision. Don’t leave it there. Follow up with this question: “I am very interested in this position. What else can I tell you that would help you make your decision?” If the interviewer tells you that she is not considering you as a candidate, ask: “Thank you for considering me. Do you have any advice for me as I continue my job search?”
In either of these cases, the interviewer could give you an answer that isn’t helpful. On the other hand, if you don’t ask the question, they won’t be helpful because you’re not asking for it. Use the phone. Ask questions.
I talked with a client for nearly an hour today. She’s spent the last twenty years working in advertising. However, she no longer wants to work in that industry, which now makes her feel disgusted (her word). It’s time to move. The problem: She doesn’t know where she wants to go.
We discussed her current emotions. Again and again, she said that she felt stuck as if she were facing a wall that blocked her path. I asked this question: What do we do about the wall? In a case like this, my philosophy is to make the metaphor real. What can one do about a wall? There seems to be these options: go over it, go under it, go around it, punch a hole in it, or knock it down.
Rather than jump right into work related matters, the client and I discussed her hesitation and fears. We also talked about what was most important to her: helping people. My advice was to use this goal to get passed the wall. I suggested finding a volunteer opportunity. Of course, volunteering isn’t the same thing as getting a job. It does help deal with the wall problem. Once my client is active, she’ll regain self-worth and confidence. She might find that helping people is very important and pursue a new line of work. Or she might find that her old line of work doesn’t look too bad.
Almost every person faces such a wall at some point in his or her career. We’re all open to fear and despair. The real problem isn’t that emotion so much as the paralysis it can generate. My solution is to find a way to be active and positive. Volunteer. Take a part time job. Find a counselor who can offer specific strategies to move forward. Don’t stand in front of the wall. There a job and better life behind it waiting for you.
What word best describes you as a professional? If you find that word, you can use it as a tool to carve out your personal brand. Start by making a list of 5- 10 words that best describe you. Test each word. Play with it. How does that word help you tell others who you are as a professional and what value you can bring them?
The word in itself is not your brand. It’s a seed. You have to cultivate it and grow it over time. For many people, the word will change, which usually signals some kind of promotion or career change. Don’t cling too tightly to any word or brand. There is always a time to adapt and change.
In making a list of words for myself, the first word was reliable. Nice, but not good enough. I couldn’t run a business for 8 years without being reliable. That word is a good start of a brand statement for someone early in their career. Later on my list, I found the word strategy. Everything I do – whether writing or coaching – depends on strategy, finding a message and a way to deliver it. My brand is about helping other people market themselves and deliver messages. To do that, I have be a good strategist, which is the simplest way of presenting my brand.
Find your word and work with it. Practice telling other people who you are as a professional. Think about how you will present yourself when looking for a job, seeking a promotion, or introducing yourself to a co-worker or client. Branding sounds like a mysterious concept. It’s not. We do it all the time. The trick is to brand yourself so people want to work with you. Start by find your word.
Interviews are all about questions, so the most important interviewing skill would seem to be answering questions. Many book titles play off this assumption, offering 100 or 200 best answers to interview questions. In coaching clients at all stages of their career, I’ve found that there is a skill that is much more important: listening.
A job interview is not a test. Companies evaluate potential employers based on a variety of factors. Interviews are usually the final evaluation, and they often get down to intuition about who will be the best fit. Employers offer positions to candidates who make them the most confident. Someone who is listening will speak more clearly to what an employer needs. Rather than spitting out scripted answers, someone who is listening will build a dialogue with the people who are interviewing her.
When we show that we are listening, we also demonstrate that we respect other people’s ideas and opinions. We also show an ability to understand other people and what they need from us. If a candidate doesn’t listen well during a job interview, how will that person perform after she has been hired?
To improve your odds of landing a good job, it is important to improve your listening skills. Practice interviewing with a friend, and have her occasionally ask you to repeat the question that was asked. Another good tactic is to repeat the resume or key word or phases in the question at the beginning of your answer. Listening is a skills, and it can be improved with practice.
Here’s one final benefit of focusing more on listening and less on having the perfect answer: You will be less nervous during interviews. People who script answers go into an interview with an anticipation that they know what questions will be asked. The problem is that interviews seldom follow the script. By listening, you will be engaged in a dialogue with the interviewer. You will be speaking to her questions and asking questions that will help you show what you can contribute as a new employee. You will also be more relaxed because you will not be focused on uttering the perfect answer. Listen first – that’s the key to a great interview.
I’ve worked with several clients who want to work close to home. Most of them use a job board that has the option of a geographical search. This method is fine, but there is another way: Make a map.
Start by outlining the boundaries of the area in which you want to work. Then identify potential companies in that area that could hire you. This is not an easy task, and it usually cannot be completed in a day or two. Give yourself enough time to build a map. While you’re doing that investigation, you can check the websites of companies you have identified and apply for jobs. You can also work your network to uncover anyone connected to those companies.
It’s great to work close to home (I work 5 minutes from my office). It’s not always easy to find such a job. However, if that is your goal, give yourself every possibility. Draw a good map.
I was talking to a client today who is having trouble jump starting her job search. Her biggest problem is balancing priorities. I do not mean to be critical of this client. All of us share this problem, and it’s a matter of making choices regarding our careers:
How much money do I want to make?
What level of responsibility do I want to hold?
How many hours do I want to work each day?
How much time do I want to spend commuting each day?
While the list of questions could go on and on, a smart job seeker needs to address the questions listed above before starting a job search. A scatter-shot, “I’ll take anything” approach usually has the same result: a bad job and even more unhappiness. Take the time to plan your career moves and set goals. That’s the first step to landing the job you really want.
Over the past few months, I’ve noted how some of my clients have found jobs by posting on job boards such as Careerbuilder and Monster. During a recent seminar, I learned a potential danger of this strategy. The presenter talked about how his former employer had the HR department screen posted resumes for the names of current employees. He didn’t say if those employees were fired, but employers in several states (often called “at will”) can legally dismiss employees who are looking for work.
What should you do? First, look at the options and settings for posting. Some job boards will let you post anonymously. If you do this, be sure to make both your name and company anonymous. Other boards will let you block a company from searching your resume. However, if your employer is using a third party service, that option will not protect you. Take the time to check all of your options before posting.
How serious is this threat? Consider it as a risk and proceed carefully. I have never heard of an employee being fired for posting a resume, but it is a possibility. One way around this problem is to maintain an updated LinkedIn profile. Since LinkedIn is a social network, it is a way to let other professionals see your value without telling a current employer that you’re looking for a new job.
The unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7, which is good news. However, job seekers need to stay realistic in how they approach the job search. There are still many people looking for work, and the job market varies from region to region. So while momentum is positive, anyone looking for work needs to stay focused and disciplined in their approach to finding a job.
People looking for jobs in areas related to home building will find more opportunities. In fact, there was growth across all sectors, except public sector jobs. Anyone who feels they have been held back from a promotion or low balled on salary should dust off their resume. It’s a good time to look for a new opportunity. The job search is almost never easy, but it’s a good way to get out of a career rut. If you’re unhappy, start looking for something better.
I met a client today who kept finding reasons why no company will want to hire him. He had an 8 month gap between his two most recent jobs. One of his former employer has a “do not rehire” policy, which might make some employers think he did something wrong. These are legitimate concerns, but they do not help my client find a job. I asked him to think about the other side of the coin: Why would an employer want to hire you?
From this perspective, my client has a lot to offer. First, he has a proven record of reliability and performance. His duties have included management and training, which are required skills in the positions he is seeking. Finally, he is a fluent Spanish speaker in an industry where that language is vital. All in all, this client’s strengths strongly outweigh his weaknesses.
My advice to any job seeker is to put your strengths before your weaknesses. I’m not saying that every job seeker needs to be prepared to answer tough questions at a job interview. It is more important to know and sell positive reasons why you should be hired. Know your strengths, and be able to sell them.
Why should I care?
Every element of a good resume should put itself under the microscope of this question. If you’re including information that the employer doesn’t care about, you’re wasting that person’s time, which means your resume will quickly end up in the recycling bin.
How can you know what an employer is looking for? Start with some good old fashioned research. Put together a market profile by collecting 5-10 job posts for positions that interest you (I recommend 10 if possible). Note what elements are repeated from post to post. Those are your keywords. Pay attention to aspects like skills, certification, and education. Taking a little time up front will let you know what the employer wants, which should be the first step in writing a resume that gets you noticed.