“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” ~ Steve ~
Camden Asks: I’m going for my first set of interviews. I know I have the job skills to do the work I’m applying for, but what can I do to present myself well. How can I impress my potential employer?
Joel Answers: Great job for graduating and having valuable job skills. You ask a critical question. Many people with great skills get passed over because they make some serious gaffs in the interview process.
Your employer is going to be working with you for a while, so they want to make sure they can get along with you… and that you can get along well within the company culture. So the overarching message you need to send the potential employer is that, in addition to your work skill sets, you will be a good employee.
What are some ways you can impress this message on them? These ideas work whether you are meeting the employers at a job fair or in an interview.
- Research the company before you go. When you know something about the company you impress the potential employer. Not everyone takes the time to do that. It will help you understand what they are looking for and get a sense of their company culture. You may find the research helps you ask more intelligent questions and allows you to present areas of your background that especially qualify you for the job.
- Start with a smile and a good handshake. Look them in the eye as you smile. Think, I’m happy to be meeting you. Just that thought will make your smile more genuine.Use a firm grip on the handshake. Not crushing, not limp, not sweaty. One or two pumps is a good number. In your enthusiasm, don’t go overboard pumping the handshake.
- Ask questions about the company and the job. Your research will give you good questions to ask and asking questions shows interest. Be sure you take the time to listen to the answers and ask follow up questions. You may want to create a set of questions ahead of time. They might include:
- How does the job I’m looking at support or contribute to the bottom line of the company?
- What qualities would the ideal candidate for this job have?
- What steps would you recommend for getting quickly up to speed?
- Dress Appropriately. What you wear matters. This is the “book cover” by which employers judge you. Ideally, your clothing should be similar to that of your potential employer. Your research into the company culture should give you insight into how formal or relaxed they dress. If you come across sloppy or too casual, the interviewer will think your work will reflect those same traits. If you are way overdressed, you may intimidate rather than impress the employer. How you dress is important to a successful job interview.
- Tell Stories. This is a powerful way to show the qualities you have. Suppose they ask, “How committed are you?” You might say, “I’m very committed to doing the job right. At my last job, my co-worker was out of work due to illness for three months. I picked up the load and carried his work. We completed the job on time and it was a success.” Your story shows how committed you are to your work and the company.
Camden, if you just do these five things, you will WOW your potential employer. They will be impressed by you confidence, your awareness of their company, and your character. They will see you as a good fit for their company. Make sure you have a job search plan that prepares you for success in the interview.
If you want to polish your interviewing skills to present thoroughly impress your potential employer, contact Joel for coaching or advice.
When you’ve gone to interviews, what have you found to be effective in impressing your potential employer? What hasn’t worked?
“They’ve asked me to do this temporarily. I don’t know what temporarily means. Life is temporary.”
~ Bob Schieffer ~
Client Patrick Asks: Does it every make sense to just make a career out of temping? Does this make me look like I can’t hold or don’t want a “real” job—that I lack ambition?
Coach Joel Answers: That depends on your life situation and your personal motivations. For example, if you like the freedom to work when you want and pursue other interests at the same time, temping is ideal. Sometimes temping can give you a higher rate of pay, but it often lacks the benefits and job security of full time employment. You could easily work fewer hours and make more money, so that makes it attractive. And many people like the challenge of getting acquainted with new companies, new people, new responsibilities.
Here are a few more benefits to add into the equation, if you’re considering a long term career as a temp.
- Temping enhances your resume. It shows you have a variety of skills, as well as the ability to fit easily into different environments.
- Temping enhances your network. You’ll meet a lot more people, get to know them and get them to know you through working temporary assignments. Who knows when the guy in the next cubicle can open the door to a whole new career or even introduce you to your future spouse?
- Temping keeps your skill set sharp. You know that sign on the wall at the gym—”Use it or lose it?” The same thing applies to your professional abilities. Often you go into a new assignment wondering how in the world you’ll every figure it out. Then you do, and there’s another win you can tell future employers about.
- Temping can facilitate a major career change. Let’s say you’ve spent your life so far in sales but you see a brighter future in IT. Maybe you’ve taken some courses or gotten some volunteer experience, but you’ve got no track record. If you can land yourself a temporary position, even at an entry-level wage, you’ll start building toward the career you really want.
In today’s economy, temping makes a lot of sense from the employer point of view as well. According to research conducted by Forbes, 36 percent of US companies will hire contract or temporary workers this year, up from 28 percent in 2009, according to the survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals. They are maintaining their productivity while reducing their risk. That presents a tremendous opportunity to someone like you. If temping feels like a good place to be, I’d say go for it.
If you think temping may have potential for you, make a list of five action items you could do this week that would get you started down the temporary path.
Talkback: Are you (or have you been) a successful temp? How did you do it? Share your best advice here.
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“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”
~ Zig Ziglar ~
Client Bart Asks: I have a couple of job interviews coming up next week. A friend told me I ought to invest in a whole new wardrobe, including an expensive looking watch. I’m a pretty casual, laid-back guy. I’d feel almost like a phony in a three-piece suit and a Rolex watch. What should I do? Can the wrong clothes truly hurt my chances of getting hired?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a three piece suit and a Rolex. Let’s talk about how you want to be perceived by your interviewers.
Before a job interview, I advise my clients to write down three adjectives to describe how they want to be perceived. For example, one client listed “professional,” “experienced” and “energetic.”
Everything you say or do during the interview should reinforce the adjectives you choose, including every aspect of your appearance. This includes your shoes, your belt, your haircut. And, yes, even your watch.
When the employer meets you, they are judging the first thing they see and that’s your personal appearance. It’s extremely important that you don’t do anything that would undermine how you are perceived. So before you start planning your wardrobe, you need to consider the company and its culture. For example, many high-tech and entertainment companies pride themselves on a dress code that’s casual and laid back. They have an “almost anything goes” rule. That being said, you should still choose something just a cut above what’s customary for that company. If jeans are the order of the day, choose casual slacks and an open collar shirt. A three piece suit and tie would be overkill and would let the interviewer know you hadn’t done your homework.
On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with a bank or a stock brokerage, wear a suit even if you know your job is going to be in a back room somewhere. It’s always easy to scale down after you have the job, but scaling up after that first impression could be difficult.
As you role play the interview in your mind, here are some tips on how to dress for success during your job interview:
- Start with a smile and a firm handshake. Practice with a friend if you need to.
- Avoid wearing anything that attracts too much attention. No jangling bracelets or day-glo t-shirts.
- Men should consider having a clean shaven face.
- Minimize the amount of skin you’re showing. No tank tops or mini-skirts.
- Eliminate unusual hairstyles. Avoid pink or green hair dyes.
- Cover or remove tattoos and extensive body piercings.
- Leave off cologne or perfume. Many people have allergies to these products and some companies have a policy that prohibits them.
- Make sure your teeth are brushed and your mouth is fresh, but don’t chew gum or candy during an interview.
Remember, when you go for an interview, you’re marketing a product—that’s you. You are expressing your personal brand, telling your prospective employer who you are and what you’ll bring to the company. You may only be there for a few minutes—make them count.
If you’re in the job market you need an interviewing game plan. Before your next interview, put together a couple of outfits that are both low-key and impressive. Borrow accessories from a friend, if you need to. Dress for success!
Talkback: Have you ever been in an interview situation where you felt you could have been better dressed? Do you think it kept you from being hired? What would you do differently next time? Share your story here.
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Salary is Important, But so are Benefit and Compensation Packages
When it Comes to Looking for a Job
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston ~
Client Kevin Asks: I got an offer letter from the company I really want to work for. It’s a pretty low offer. Do I just take what I can get and hope to work my way up once I’m there, or is there a way to negotiate for more right up front?
Coach Joel Answers: Most companies expect you to negotiate, once an offer has been made. It’s not whether you negotiate that’s important—it’s HOW you negotiate that matters. Begin by thanking the hiring manager for the offer. He or she wants to hear how much you’re interested in joining the company and being part of the team. Companies want candidates that want to work for them. Reiterate the skills and experience that you bring to the table and how your past experience will add value to their company. Your goal is to develop a win-win situation for the two of you. If your negotiations are sincere, thoughtful, professional, and respectful, you’re far more likely to have a successful outcome.
Don’t be cocky in your approach, and above all, don’t lie or exaggerate about other offers. You may be the best candidate for the job, but rarely will you be the only candidate in today’s market. If you come off as arrogant or over-confident, your potential employer will likely select the next best candidate. Don’t try to play one employer’s offer against another. This makes it seem like the only thing you’re concerned with is money. Money should not be your primary concern if you’re choosing between two positions. If it’s only about money, the hiring manager will know that, if you get another offer, you’ll be likely to leave their company on a financial whim.
Remember, salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. There are many other benefits that a hiring manager may have more flexibility to offer. Vacation time is one of the most common perks people negotiate. Wouldn’t getting three weeks of vacation instead of two mean a higher quality of personal life for you? Stock options, bonuses, compensation package, commission, holiday days, telecommuting benefits, even the amount the employer contributes to your health insurance—these can all be negotiated. Sometimes perks and intangibles are more important than the net amount on your paycheck because they contribute to a higher quality of work and personal life.
What if there’s no give at all on your potential employer’s part? If you’ve presented a good, solid business case for why you should get a certain compensation package, and the answer is “No,” you need ask yourself these questions: Are you unemployed and desperate for a job? Do you see a huge opportunity to advance in this company? Would you really enjoy the job itself? Are there other benefits that make the job attractive? Can you meet your current financial obligations with the offer as is? If so, then you may want to accept the position. However, it may be that this simply isn’t the right opportunity for you.
Keep looking. Your perfect job is out there.
If you are preparing for a salary negotiation in the near future, write down all the aspects of the job as well as the benefits and compensations that are important to you. Make two lists: “have to have” and “nice to have.” This will help you know when to stay and when to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Talkback: Have you ever accepted a lower salary than you wanted in exchange for some perks and benefits you liked? Share your experience here.
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“I mean, there’s no arguing. There is no anything. There is no beating around the bush. ‘You’re fired’ is a very strong term.”
~ Donald Trump ~
Tricia just got fired. Security is putting her personal items in a cardboard box and escorting her to her car. She is in shock.
What now? Her first reaction is to drive far, far away and scream loudly about the unfairness of it all. Doubtless this has happened to the majority of you at one time or another. And screaming, however good it might feel for a moment or two, is not the answer. Instead, follow this plan for closing the door on the past and opening the door to new opportunities.
Stay calm. You may be tempted to verbally retaliate, especially if you feel the firing was unfair, and you probably do. Instead, keep calm. Having a conversation now, while tensions are high, can lead to saying things you’ll regret later.
Be thankful. Thank your boss, the HR representative, or whoever else just let you go for the opportunity they have given you. Be sincere. Any job is an opportunity to learn. And despite being fired, these very same people may be critical to you landing your next position.
Update your social media. Don’t rush to Facebook and slam your now former employer. Don’t tweet sarcastic haikus on Twitter. Instead, let the world know you’re now in the market for a new opportunity. Focus on the positive.
The Next Day
Register for unemployment. In most states, as long as you weren’t fired for willful misconduct, you’ll be eligible for unemployment. Not only will these benefits help tide you over financially while you’re planning what’s next, but the state job service is a valuable source for locating open positions.
Polish up your resume. – Highlight your key skills and experience that fit the types of positions you’ll be applying for. Use quantitative results to really show the value you’ll bring to your next employer. (“Reduced department expenses by 15%.” “Increased sales by 12%.”) Don’t be afraid to brag about your accomplishments!
Start networking. Contact your industry acquaintances and others outside of your industry to let them know you’re in the market. Even if they don’t have an open position ask, “Who else do you know that might be interested in my skills? “Often, the best positions are filled by internal referrals.
Use Internet job boards to the max. There are two ways employers find candidates on job boards: by your response to their job postings and by finding your resume when they search the site.
Create a system. Track each position you apply to, each website you register with, and every person you network with. Because your next move involves following up.
The Next Week
Follow up. Send everyone you’ve contacted a quick e-mail, or give them a call. Remind them about your last conversation and what you’re looking for.
Directly contact companies you’d like to work for. Some of the best positions never reach public job postings. If a company is interested in your skill set they may even create a position for you. If you’re a fit, they know they are making a good investment.
Tricia vowed to treat her job search like a full time job. Although the distractions of being at home were difficult at first, she scheduled her day around the search–eight hours every day, either networking, job searching, or following up. She found her new job in less than six weeks.
No matter where you are in the fired-or-laid-off process, review our checklist and make a plan. Do the things you haven’t been doing and drop the things that aren’t producing results.
Talkback: What’s been your job search strategy? Share your tips and successes here.
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