Monday, October 26, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 4 of 4)

You found the job lead, you secured an interview; you do not want to blow it now. It is important to thoroughly understand the interview process to be successful.

In Part 1, we reviewed the steps that must be completed before you are ready for an interview. We also reviewed the 1st P: Purpose and that in fact there are two distinct purposes for the interview – the employer’s purpose and yours. In Part 2, we covered the second P: Preparation and in Part 3, we discussed the actual interview; the 3rd P: Performance.

The interview is not over yet. In Part 4 – Post Interview we cover what needs to be done next. A list of interviewing tips (with do’s and don’ts) and resources for further reading on the topic of interviewing are also provided. At the end you will be given the chance to receive a checklist used to rate candidates.

Thank you. The moment you leave the interview, go back and write an electronic (e-mail) thank you. Thank each interviewer individually for his / her time and reiterate your interest in the position.

Thank you again. Do not stop with an electronic thank you though. Write a handwritten thank you note and get it out in the mail that same day. When I wrote a handwritten thank you note for one company, the managers were so impressed they ran down the hall to ask the others if they too received a note. It made me stand out as a candidate. Another company was so impressed upon receiving my note they asked HR to add the note to my personnel file.

When I write my handwritten thank you notes, I compose them on a computer first so I can develop the phrasing I want to use as well as to spell and grammar check the notes. Learn from a mistake I once made. At the company where the managers compared notes, I had not varied the message in the notes other than the names. Instead, personalize each one with something that he / she said that discovered common ground / rapport between you and / or affirms you as a great fit for the position.

Follow-up. Follow-up is the job seeker’s responsibility no matter what was said or who committed to doing it. (Note: This is also true when following up after networking.) By asking at the end of the actual interview, you know the next steps and approximate timelines for each. There are ways you can follow-up without sounding desperate or nagging. You can contact the hiring manager with a follow-up or clarifying question. Make it a good question though or she will immediately see through your ruse. Another contact can be made to just check in and see if they had any further questions.

There are other ways to stay in the minds of the decision makers. One approach is to send a copy of an article you think they would be interested in reading. Here is another approach I used. During one interview I had, the hiring manger wrote on the whiteboard while explaining information about the company and their products. I noticed that the dust created when she wiped the board off was bothering her eyes and nose. Looking closer I noticed she was using a regular whiteboard eraser. Being a gadget person (I love gadgets) I knew there was a type of eraser with peel-able strips so the dust residue can be tossed out. I immediately went out and purchased one of the new fangled erasers and mailed it with a note to her administrative assistant, whom I had not yet met. I mailed it to the admin instead of the hiring manager so the admin could be the hero by giving it to the manager; if she mentioned that I sent it, great. I stood out because I was providing a solution for a problem even before joining the company and building rapport at the same time.

Continue your job search. No matter how well the interview went and no matter what the hiring manager says about you getting the job, until you have a final offer in writing, continue your job search. Things happen sometimes. Since your next job will not be your last, you will want to continue some aspects even after you start your new job (see the articles on this blog "Job Seekers: Action Items Once You are Employed" 8/4/09 and "The Truth You Need to Know but May Not Want to Hear" 7/29/09).

While you wait to hear. While you wait to hear back, continue to pray for open and closed doors. If this is not the job for you, the one that will prosper you, and not harm you, the one that will give you a hope and a future, then you don’t really want it. Pray that the door closes on that one.

Now let’s look at the list of tips and do’s and don’ts of the interview.

Tips / Do’s and Don’ts

Cell Phones & other electronic devices. Do NOT leave your cell phone on, even on vibrate. The constant NNNN, NNNN, NNNN is just as annoying as a ring. You should turn it off before you walk into the company’s building so you do not forget. If you have a watch with an alert, turn off the alert or leave the watch in the car.

Be careful with your humor. Humor is good; just do not cross over a line that you don’t want to cross. It is better to be conservative with your humor until you know the other person better.

Know yourself. Only have things on your resume (especially technical skills) that you are familiar with enough to hold a conversation about it. I had two candidates back to back who could not explain a technical concept that was on their resumes.

Know your accomplishments and know why the company should hire you for the job. Prepare your answers ahead of time to all of the tough questions you may be asked.

Practice your handshake. Men and women should have the same handshake. If you are not used to shaking hands, you should practice and get feedback from a valued person. Even if you are used to shaking hands, you should confirm you are doing it right. I shook hands with a female salesperson once and I was shocked that she used the handshake I call the Queen Elizabeth handshake. Queen Elizabeth can use this handshake because people bow and give her hand an air kiss. No one is going to kiss your hand so do not close your hand over the fingers of the other person.

If you tend to have sweaty hands, consider running cool water over them before going into the interview. Another approach is to slyly wipe your right hand on the side of your outfit as you raise your hand up. One last suggestion is one I saw recently in response to sweaty feet and it may work for sweaty hands as well. The suggestion is to soak your hands in lukewarm tea. The tannin in the tea closes the sweat glands. Of course you will want to do this earlier in the day while you are preparing for the interview.

If you have a cold, you can excuse yourself from shaking other people’s hands by apologizing and saying you are getting over a cold and don’t want to give it to them. It will be appreciated.

Body Language. 85% of all communication is non-verbal. Body language is the most spontaneous and honest form of communication. I demonstrate this when I’m speaking to groups by saying something positive (“I’m thrilled to be here”) while using negative body language (slouchy posture, left hip out with hand on it, rolled eyes, and head tilted.) People trust what my body is saying over the words I’m using. The same goes for you. Read up on body language so you are aware of yours and so you can read the body language of others. This is a handy tool during networking as well.

Do not talk too much or too little. Many job seekers blow the interview by talking too much. This is usually not intentional; it is normally done out of nervousness but has the same results regardless. Practicing will give you a feel for where the fine line is between answering the question and giving a “brain dump”. In a recent practice interview one candidate talked so much I started counting the conjunctions (ex. “and”, “or”). She completely ignored my body language (looking at the clock, flipping my papers) and verbal queues (“okay then”) that I was ready to move on to the next question.

You don’t want to go too far the other way either. If you speak too little the interviewer may think you are hiding something.

Pay close attention to grooming. From head to toe, be sure you are giving your best impression. Some jobs are lost before the job seeker has uttered the first word. Again, a practice interview is a great place to get honest feedback about the image you are projecting.

Be sure your eyeglasses and accessories (ties, jewelry) don’t date you. Even if you are young in age, out of date accessories or eyeglasses may give the misimpression that you also let your skills get out of date.

If you do not have the right clothes for an interview and truly can’t afford them, there are organizations out there that will provide an outfit at a greatly reduced price or even for free. Don’t let an outfit stand in the way of your success.

Phone Interview tips. If you are on a phone interview, be sure to be in a quiet area without background noise. I was interviewing a candidate once who was obviously hand washing dishes while we talked. No need to say, she didn’t get the job.

Stand up while you talk so your diaphragm can expand to breathe. Standing in front of a mirror will echo your body language and you will remember to smile.

If you receive an unexpected call for a phone screening, regardless of what you are doing at the time, express your interest in talking with them, propose a couple of other times, and ask which time works for them. No company expects you to put your life on hold waiting for a call. You will not blow your chance at the job. Use the time to get your materials organized before talking; review the description of the position, the research you did on the company, take one more opportunity to review your accomplishments, and get to a quiet area.

Do not ask about salary or benefits. There is a common belief that the first person to talk about salary is at a disadvantage. There are tactics you can use to defer the salary discussion if you are asked what salary you were earning or want. The discussion about benefits should be saved for the final stages, closer to the job offer.

Do NOT lie on your resume or application. If the lessons learned by famous people are not enough to keep you from making this unforgiveable move, let me share an example from my business life. We interviewed several candidates and decided one had the experience we wanted. We extended an offer contingent on the background check and then we began the background check. All elements of the check came back except the one from the college she attended. We started to get the feeling something was wrong so we called her to see what she had to say; she said she had nothing to add and knew nothing that would explain the delay. When we finally heard back from the college we found out she had never even registered at that school. Had she told us anywhere along the line that she didn’t have a degree she would still have gotten the job; we were more impressed by her experience than her education. She didn’t get the job, though; we retracted the offer, because she lied.

Lunch interviews. Eating is not your main goal for the lunch interview. Know what not to order during a lunch interview. Use the rule of thumb that you should only order food that is easy to get on your fork and to your mouth and chew quickly. Forget spaghetti, corn on the cob, ribs, and fried chicken. Save those for your celebration dinner.

Do not talk negatively about a former company, boss, or co-worker. When you have a bad experience at a company, it is easy to talk negatively about it. Save that venting for a close friend. Talking negatively during an interview reflects negatively on you. Take this time to develop ways to word and practice talking about your bad experiences. Be sure to include what you have learned from that experience and put into place to not repeat it.

Tip to organize your information. When you go to an in-person interview, the company usually has you complete an employment application. Have your information organized by going on-line and downloading a typical employment application form. Fill it out and bring it with you, not to give them, but to use to fill out their form. Your information is all in one place and will make completing their application easier and quicker.

Resources for Further Study

101 Dynamite questions to Ask at Your Job Interview by Richard Fein

Interview Magic by Susan Britton Whitcomb

The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan & Barbara Pease

For a copy of the RightChanges interview checklist, send an e-mail to with the phrase Interview Checklist in the subject line.

If you are not making the progress you’d like in your job search, do what others did to get unstuck; they contacted and are now employed. You could be next. Make that next step to success now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 3 of 4)

You found the job lead, you secured an interview; you do not want to blow it now. It is important to thoroughly understand the interview process to be successful.

In Part 1, we reviewed the steps that must be completed before you are ready for an interview. We also reviewed the 1st P: Purpose and that in fact there are two distinct purposes for the interview – the employer’s purpose and yours.

In Part 2, we covered the second P: Preparation.

In Part 3, we will discuss the actual interview; the 3rd P: Performance.

Pray: Praying for peace and wisdom is a great way to begin the day of the interview.

Arrival: You want to arrive at the reception area 5-10 minutes ahead of the appointed time. Do not arrive more than 10 minutes ahead though. When I go on an interview I plan to arrive in the area at least 30 minutes ahead of time to allow extra time in the event something unexpected happens on the drive. Because I familiarized myself with the area ahead of time, I already picked out a location to wait until it is time to drive to the company’s property and head into the reception area.

If you left for the destination with plenty of extra time and something catastrophic happens (an interstate is shut down due to an accident), call the interviewer at that moment (which should be well ahead of the appointed time) and explain the situation. Offer to contact him when more information about your status is known or to go ahead and reschedule at his convenience.

Be courteous to everyone you meet. Your interview begins before you set foot on the company property. The person who cuts you off in traffic may be the hiring manager rushing to get to the office before your appointment. Keep in mind that receptionists are valuable sources of information for the hiring manger. The hiring manger does not even have to specifically solicit their opinions. After the hiring manager walks the candidate out the front door, receptionists sometimes make a simple statement such as “she was so nice” or “he was so rude” and that could easily impact your chances. Even what you do while waiting in the reception area may be factored into the hiring decision.

Smile! Breathe! There are two things that many nervous interviewers forget to do: smile and breathe. If you are likely to forget to relax and smile and breathe, you may want to write yourself a note that you periodically see during the interview to remind you.

Meet their need. The company has a need that will be met by hiring the right person. Their need is not to give you a job. You want to determine what that need is and address your points to how you can help meet their needs.

Use your STARs. In the answers to the interview questions, you want to add weight to your answers (anchor them) by using your STAR statements. You could easily say “I have done that before and I can do it again” but really anyone can say that. It is not enough to state at which company you had that experience. You want to share the situation or task you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved to make your answer real for the interviewer.

Listen! Too many job seekers feel this is their only chance to share their skills and do what I refer to as a brain dump, sharing everything that is in their head. Using the cliché “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” we should do twice as much listening as talking. The best conversationalist is one who does most of the listening. During the interview, many hiring managers will share valuable information in their side comments that could be missed if the job seeker is not listening intently. By listening you can understand what they are looking for and address what you say to those points.

Ask questions! Asking questions shows your interest in the interviewer and in what the interviewer is saying; it is one approach to active listening. You do not have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions either. Throughout the interview, as needed, ask clarifying questions based on what the interviewer said. Ask the interviewer how long she has been with the company, what she likes best, what she thinks is the biggest challenge for the company, where she worked before joining the company, and what she feels are the traits in a successful candidate. Be sure to ask questions to determine if this is a good company and good position for you. Do not ask any questions that could easily be answered by searching on-line. You also do not want to ask something the interviewer already addressed so listen closely. One last question you can ask is what concerns they have about your ability to perform the job that you can address.

What to do before you leave. There are several steps you want to take before you leave the interviewer.

You want to thank them for their time.

You want to express your sincere interest in the position (if you are interested).

You want to ask her the next steps in the interview process and timeframes. If she answers with the next steps but not with the timeframe (or vice versa) you can repeat what they said (active listening) and ask the other question again. The hiring manager or company recruiter may not have exact timeframes but she should have an estimated timeframe for the hiring process.

Get the business card of every interviewer. If some of the interviewers don’t have business cards, get the spelling of their names and their e-mail addresses. Do not assume the spelling of their name (ex. my name is Judy but I spell it with an “i”). If you didn’t see their names on their name plates outside of their offices and you left without getting this information, you can call back to the person on the switchboard who can give you the correct spelling as long as you have the name.

You understood the dual purpose for the interview, you prepared, and you performed well because you practiced. The interview is not over yet. In the next installment of the 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 4 – Post Interview) we will cover what needs to be done next. We will also list tips, resources for further reading on the topic of interviewing, and a way to receive a checklist interviewers use to review candidates.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 2 of 4)

You found the job lead, you secured an interview; you do not want to blow it now. It is important to thoroughly understand the interview process to be successful.

In Part 1, we reviewed the steps that must be completed before you are ready for an interview. We also reviewed the 1st P: Purpose and that in fact there are two distinct purposes for the interview – the employer’s purpose and yours.

In Part 2, we will cover the second P: Preparation.

Practice, practice, practice! An invaluable way to prepare for an interview is to practice interviewing and solicit feedback. Many job networking groups offer interview workshops. Having the practice interview filmed by a job search coach will allow you to see how you come off in the interview. How is your body language? Do you forget to smile out of nervousness? Do you move your hands about while talking to a point of distraction? Do you talk too much? It is better to find out when a job is not on the line.

Network into the company. Even though you have the interview scheduled, it is not too late to use your contacts and Linked In network to network into the company. It will help you stand out if people in the company approach the hiring manager and say they heard she is interviewing you and that they know and are impressed with you. That will help you stand out from the other candidates.

Get inside information. Conduct informational interviews with current and past employees to understand the best aspects and the not so great aspects of working for the company and the hiring manager.

Research the company. You need to know everything that is on the company’s web site and you need to know more than that. Check out the company’s financials. Check out the company’s competition and check out all of the news articles that have been published about the company. You may also want to check out the blogs to see what is being said about the company by disgruntled customers and former employees.

Your questions. Develop a list of questions you need answered. During your aptitude assessments and inventories you determined what environment you need to flourish. You determined what style of manager you work best with. Ask questions about the company, the department, the position, the manager, and how the current economy has impacted the company.

Study your STARs. You inventoried and documented your previous accomplishments. Review that list so they are embedded in your memory. You will want to have these stories at the ready for the behavioral interview questions (“Tell me about a time….”).

Drive there. Unless you are very familiar with the location, drive there ahead of time. Doing so will let you know if there is anything unexpected about the route like construction and give you the layout of the property and parking so that does not add to your stress the day of the interview.
Do’s and Don’ts. Another part of the preparation is to review the interview do’s and don’ts (included in part 4).

Pray. The best preparation you can do is to pray. Pray for peace and calm. Pray for wisdom and that if the job is not right for you, doors will be closed.

If you prepare well for the interview, you will be more confident during the actual interview.

Part 3 – Performance
In the next installment of the 4 P’s of a Successful Interview series, we will discuss performance - the actual interview itself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 4 P’s of a Successful Interview (Part 1 of 4)

You found the job lead, you secured an interview; you do not want to blow it now. It is important to thoroughly understand the interview process to be successful.

According to the Crossroads Career Services ™ program, there are 6 steps (copyrighted by Crossroads Career Services) to the job search that build upon each other. Since Interview is Step 5, let us be sure we have completed the first 4 foundational steps.

Step 1- Attitude. You completed the first step if you have allowed yourself to go through the stages of grieving (anger, depression, among others) to the stage of accepting the loss. You need to have reached the point of looking for the opportunity that is ahead. If you do not address attitude, it will come out at the most inopportune times such as in the midst of an interview. You cannot fake a good attitude. A bad attitude will show in your body language, your word choice, or in the energy you need for the job search. If you are still struggling with your attitude, do not go on the interview.

Step 2 – Aptitude. You can’t sell a product (for instance a laptop computer) unless you know how it works and what makes it better than the competition’s. The same goes for selling your skills and abilities. You can check off the second step if you solicited feedback from your friends, family, and former co-workers and identified and documented your skills, abilities, values, interests, and prior accomplishments in STAR format. You must be able to articulate your skills and prior accomplishments and how a company will solve the problem they have by hiring you.

Step 3 – Altitude. Step 3 is considered complete if you identified target companies that are a fit for you. Go back to the analogy of selling a laptop. You would not want to sell a laptop at the neighborhood drug store for a couple of reasons. First, most people do not consider the neighborhood drug store as a main source for laptops. Second, if you saw a laptop for sale in the neighborhood drug store, you would probably consider it lower quality purely based on where it is being sold. You, as a job seeker, want to identify your right place: who is hiring and where you would like to work.

The first three steps are like the legs of a three-legged stool. If the stool is missing a leg, it does not function well and is not worth much. In the same way, if you have not completed the first three steps, do not go any further. Without addressing these steps you will be sabotaging your own job search efforts.

Step 4 – Search. Before you began step 4, you should have created all of your marketing material of which the resume is only 1 piece. Since the on-line job boards list only 15% of the available jobs and less than 15% of people find a job using the job boards, you spent at least 75% of your time networking to find the leads to your target market. This step continues until you land your job.

Once you complete these first steps and you secure an interview (Step 5 – Sort), you want to understand the 4 P’s of a successful interview. We will discuss each one in detail. The 4 P’s are as follows:





Part 1 of this article will cover the first P: Purpose.

There are actually two different purposes for an interview. There is the employer’s purpose for the interview and there is your purpose for the interview.

The First Purpose – The Employer’s

The employer’s purpose for the interview is to sort out candidates through a series of questions and tests to identify the best candidate based on her skills and experience who will also be the best fit for the team and the company.

The Second Purpose – Yours

Your purpose for the interview is more complex.
You want to use this time to build rapport with the interviewers so that you stand out from your competition in their minds, leaving them with the distinct impression that they want to work with you and need you for their business.

From the interview process you want to affirm the problem the company is looking to solve by hiring the person they seek. With the current economic climate, companies are not hiring people without having a driving reason to do so. You need to find out that driving reason, the pain point they have and are trying to solve.

You need to understand what they believe makes a successful candidate. What traits do they value? What experience are they seeking? What abilities will make the candidate the right fit? What prior accomplishments will convince them you are can do the job?

You in turn want to share your previous accomplishments that support why the company will benefit by hiring you. Remember the inventory of accomplishments you inventories during Step 2? You want to use your STARs of prior performance as an indication of future performance.

You also want to understand the hiring process and the next steps.
Understanding the two different purposes for the interview, the employer’s and yours, you will be able to focus on the other P’s.

In Part 2, we’ll discuss the preparation required for an interview.

For more information on many of the topics mentioned in this article, read the previously published RightChanges articles at


How to Stay Positive in a Job Search (4/15/09)

There is No Shame in Being Unemployed (10/7/09)

The Truth You Need to Know But May Not Want to Hear (7/29/09)

Truths About the New Job Market (9/22/09)


You Have to Know You to Sell You (4/29/09)

The Power of Your STAR Statements (6/1/09)

Mandatory Requirements are NOT Always Mandatory (5/27/09)


Helpful, Miscellaneous Job Seeker Tips (9/30/09)

What May be Keeping You Unemployed (8/18/09)

Marketing Materials

The Most Powerful Cover Letter (5/21/09)

The Underutilized Job Search Tool: The Informational Interview Parts 1 & 2 (6/8/09 & 6/18/09)

Resume Tune Up (7/14/09)

An Extra Tip Regarding the T Cover Letter (7/26/09)

What Document is as Valuable to a Job Seeker as a Great Resume? (8/11/09)

Another Item in a Successful Job Seeker’s Marketing Materials (8/26/09)


Metro ATL area: As Powerful as the Book of Lists (7/6/09)

How to Network if You are Not Good at It (9/10/09)

When You Can’t Find Something – You Change Your Perspective: Try it With Your Job Search Too (9/16/09)

Job Seekers Should Take a Lesson from Successful Businesses (5/13/09)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

There is no Shame in being Unemployed

There is no shame in being unemployed. The people who feel shame do not understand that the job market changed and that the out-of-date belief they hold and resulting feeling of shame is negatively impacting their ability to get a job.

Entering the job market without an awareness of the changes is like walking into a dark room and being told to go to the other side. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face so you surely can’t see where the other side of the room is, less how to get there. Most job seekers stumble around in the dark and, although they are working as hard as they can, they are getting nowhere.

Understanding the new truths about the job market is like turning on a light in that room. Although it is not a place you want to spend a lot of time, you can see where you are going, avoid the obstacles along the way, and you can get where you are going faster.

How the Market Changed

There are some major changes that occurred resulting in the new job market.
In my grandfather’s day, if you didn’t have a job, you were a bum. There were many jobs available and anyone willing to work hard could easily find a job. Back then, companies rewarded loyal, good performers with assurances of a job and retirement benefits. The Baby Boomer and earlier generations expected to work for a single company their entire career and receive a pension and gold watch when they retired.

Fast forward to today: The day of the gold watch retirement is over. Most companies no longer reward longevity with pension plans; many are even discontinuing the company match for 401K plans. Industries that have never done so before are laying off people. Even good performers are being “right sized” or “downsized” purely for financial reasons.

That means many of the unemployed are unemployed at no fault of their own. You were most likely adding value to your company and performing beyond the call of duty. It does not matter. Companies are having to cut back because of the economy and are letting good people, like you, go. Go to the many job networking meetings in town. We could create a fabulous company with all of the talent in the room.

There was probably nothing you could have done to prevent being impacted. You will see articles and books on how to recession proof your job. Although there are actions you can take to minimize the chances, there is nothing you can do to guarantee you are not cut from the company. Even if you own the company, companies are going out of business every day and if your company is one of those, you too are without a job.

The other major change in the job market is that your next job will not be your last. In the past anyone who changed jobs every 2-3 years was considered a job hopper and not favored for employment. Today, anyone who has worked for one company for over 10 years is at a disadvantage. The belief today is that anyone with that type of longevity with a single company probably has limited skills and experiences, whether or not that is true.

When asked what one word of advice he has for recent graduates, a famous author replied ”Do not spend 5 years getting 2 years worth of experience”. The new statistic being quoted is that most people will have 4 careers and 18 different jobs in their lifetimes.

Consider the home phone as an analogy for the job market. Your grandparents or great grandparents probably had only one phone in the house and it was hard-wired in a central location such as the kitchen or at the bottom of the stairs. If the phone was ripped out of the wall, it would leave a hole in the wall and loose wires.

Today, if there is a home phone, it is modular and there is an outlet in every room. You plug the phone into the outlet and when needed, you can cleanly unplug it and plug it in elsewhere. In the new job market, you plug into your new job, you work well, and you unplug cleanly when the time is right, leaving nothing behind, and cleanly plug into another company and work well there.

The market changed and it was not put up for a vote. There is no shame at being unemployed and your next job will not be your last. The only shame is when job seekers do not take the time to understand the new market and do what it takes to be successful. Let go of any shame you feel, get to know the new job market, and once you get that next job, do what you need to in order to prepare for the next job transition.

Pass the Word

Please share this article and others at with your spouse, family, and friends so they too can better understand the new job market. If they haven’t been on the job market recently, they will be one day and this bit of information will help.