Are you making some big mistakes on your interviews?

Everyone makes mistakes, right? But you may not be aware of some of the interview mistakes that may cost you a job offer! So what makes employers crazy? Here are some of the top responses that consistently pop up in surveys as well as from recruiter feedback: Being late for the interview (with no good reason); poor personal appearance;  overly scented perfume or poor hygiene; distracting jewelry (jangling bracelets, overly fancy jewelry in the workplace, or too many piercings); untidy facial hair; overbearing personality or a “know it all.”;  inability to express oneself clearly; poor grammar; over- emphasis on money or benefits not the job; bad-mouthing a former employer; no eye contact; expressing that one wants the job just for a short time; knowing nothing about the company; asking no questions about the job; poor listening skills.

 

Review these top items and see if there are areas you need to work on, such as:

  • Are you offending an interviewer with your perfume? Most recruiters will tell you not to use perfume at all, since so many people have allergies or just may have different tastes on what scents are pleasing.
  • Have you done your homework in preparing for the interview? You can read the company website, google press reports or business journals, or dig for information from someone you may know who already works there. If a recruiter is sending you for an interview, ask the recruiter for any info about the company or the position.
  •  Check out your mode of dress and jewelry in relation to their culture – are beards or facial piercings acceptable or frowned upon? Is business casual appropriate in that environment?
  • Are you asking about company benefits at the beginning of the interview? Try to focus on understanding the job itself and emphasizing your enthusiastic interest in the position. Let them hear what you learned about the company from your research and why you are so interested in working there.
  • Be sure you leave the interview on a note that highlights your skills and how you are going to add value.  Ask questions you have about the job, the department, the company, and of course, then feel free to ask a about the benefits and the potential salary range.

Are you recharged for fall?

Summer’s over and perhaps you took some time off to enjoy those last few weeks of August. Labor Day has passed, fall is in the air, and you are feeling the pressure of renewing your job search, but you are having trouble getting started. How to recharge your search? Well, starting at the beginning is always a good place!

♦ First, sit down and evaluate your job target – what is it that you are going after? Are you seeing jobs available in this area when you search job ads? Is this still what you want?
♦ Next, review your resume. Does it reflect the skills and experience you have related to this job target? If not, update that resume to market you more effectively to employers.
♦ Set up an action plan to get started. Put the plan in writing with target dates next to each of your goals. Your plan should include renewing contacts, building your network, and researching companies where you may want to work. Commit to spending time each day conducting your search.
♦ Get your resume out there. Get posted on key job boards (monster, hotjobs, careerbuilders, etc.) Find reputable recruiters who are actively filling the types of positions that you are seeking and get your resume to them.
♦ See if there are any professional associations in your line of work. These are great for professional development and for growing your network. Many have job boards for members only and some have support groups for those in transition.
♦ Keep track of your efforts. Get organized through a notebook, spreadsheet, or software program – whatever works for you. Be sure to follow up with anyone with whom you have made contact
♦ Treat yourself. A reward at the end each week can be a nice incentive to stay “charged” – whether it’s a new book, a manicure, or an ice cream!
♦ Review & modify. Go back and see if you are on track with your plans and target dates. Is anything in the way? Have any of your goals or wants changed? See if you need to modify your plan.

Having a new plan in place, with ambitious yet reasonable goals is a great first step to recharging for fall and reaching your goals!

Handling Salary Issues: Are you Negotiating too soon?

Many candidates lose a job opportunity by negotiating salary too soon…and they don’t even realize it. The employer asks what you are looking for and you answer with a specific number. Yikes! Once you quote a specific salary, you have started the negotiations. Perhaps you quoted too low, and now they wonder if you are really qualified. Or, they do want to make you an offer but not they can keep you at the low end of the potential range. Even worse, you may have quoted too high, and they may already eliminate you from consideration.

How to prepare? First, understand that salary is only one aspect of your total compensation. Determine in advance, what your total needs are including salary, vacation, benefits, commuting costs, etc. Decide where you are able to be flexible. How to answer that question? First, ask the employer what the salary range is for the position and you can then affirm (or not!) that the range is within your ballpark. Of course, they may not be willing to provide that information to you. Alternatively, you can state that you would like to be paid fairly for the level of the position and try to avoid further discussion about it until an actual offer is on the table. Also, you can quote a salary range that you are looking for, based on a determination of your needs. Be cautious though – do not say it is based on your needs – state that it is based on fair market value and you can easily fine this info online beforehand (try www.salary.com). Do some research to see what average salaries are for your position and level, and now you will have factual info to quote to the employer as to what ranges are appropriate for your level. Let them know that the acceptable salary offered will be influenced by what is included in the rest of the compensation package. Remember, keep a poker face during these discussions and always let them know how excited you are about the position itself. You may be surprised how employers rise above their initially quoted range to close a deal when they can focus on your value and not get bogged down by the numbers coming up too soon in the process.

Facebook / Myspace users…..Beware!

Do you use Facebook, Myspace, and other social media for having fun communicating with your friends? As many of you know, these sites have become very popular for connecting with friends including posting pictures (not all discreet) and sharing personal life events (some very personal!). What you may not know, is that employers are utilizing these sites as well to check you out! AND they are making hiring decisions based on this information. In addition to the usual reference checks, employers can visit these sites and learn all sorts of interesting things about you from a highly reliable source – YOU. Of course, you may protest that this is an invasion of privacy or that info posted there is personal and not work related. However, the cruel reality is this: whatever you post on the Internet is obviously no longer “private”. Information that you post will be accepted as reliable, even if you made it up to impress your friends. Employers will form judgments about your personality, your ethics, your trustworthiness, etc. to determine whether you are the kind of person they want working for them. By the way, employers are also Googling your name to see what type of cool info – or what kind of “digital dirt” pops up about you.*

So, what can you do about this? Well, for starters, if you are in job search mode, be cautious as to what you post on these sites. You may want to consider removing some of those pictures from last week’s keg party. Next, there are privacy controls on these sites – so learn what they are and how to use them. Another idea is to check out industry blogs (use technorati.com to search for blogs by topic) and comment intelligently on them – this raises your Google presence and can help promote a more professional image. You can also participate in LinkedIn to enhance your image, a business networking site considered reputable and professional. Guess it’s like anything these days – you may be frustrated by the information I’m sharing with you, but being informed allows you to make choices and have some control in the process. Happy postings!

*(A great resource for professionals on building your online identity – Career Distinction by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson.)

Are you “desperate” for a job?

Recently, I ran into a young man I know who mentioned he was looking for a new job. When I asked what he was looking for, he replied, “I’ll do anything!” While I’m sure he thought this was a very flexible attitude, he came off sounding extremely desperate (and maybe he was!). I told him I’d keep him in mind, but the first problem was, I had no idea what his skills, interests or capabilities were in order to recommend him for a future opening. Should I call him if I hear of a teaching position? A firefighter position? A clerical position?

It is a big mistake to carry a “desperate” attitude, both for the job seeker and the impression to the potential employer. For the job seeker, conveying a desperate position immediately puts you in a poor position for negotiating salary. The employer believes you are needy and therefore can probably offer you a lower salary than someone who is not desperate. Also, you are more likely to accept “any” job, with a weak analysis as to whether it is a good fit for you. Soon enough, you’ll be wondering why you took the job and you’ll be unhappily looking for something else.

For the employer (or recruiter), a desperate candidate may seem unfocused and unable to identify their strengths. So, they will be skeptical about your abilities. Also, employers like to hire candidates who are excited about doing the work of a particular job. So, if you do not identify why you are interested in THAT job, they will wonder whether you really want it and how long you plan to be there. They are investing in the time and expense to hire and train someone new and will not consider someone who they believe is going to leave once a more interesting opportunity comes up.  

 What to do? First, be prepared to describe what you are looking for by focusing on your strengths and interests. You can keep your answer broad to show flexibility, but there must be an emphasis on your skills and capabilities. For example, that young man could have said, “I have experience in office skills and customer service in corporate and retail environments.” Someone else might say, “I am strong in sales, business development, and marketing.” Second, seriously consider whether you really want to take “anything”, since you may find yourself looking all over again in a short time. Finally, if you ARE feeling desperate, practice answering questions in a way that conveys interest and enthusiasm. You will be more likely to get an offer….and a better one at that!