March 6, 2012 by Editor · Comments Off
References. Applicants and interviewers worry about them, don’t know how to choose them, to use them, to check them, and as a result, lose out on opportunity, insight, and information both could benefit from receiving.
Job hunters need references, good references, because bad ones or those casually chosen can sink an opportunity like a rock. References should be chosen from the pool of individuals who have directly or indirectly supervised their work, and are willing to speak about and respond to questions about performance, strengths, skills, and the behaviors and attitudes they’ve projected.
Job hunters should screen references as carefully as prospective employers screen applicants. Here’s an example of what I mean: Joe Applicant calls and schedules a visit with Ms. Smith, his former boss and intended reference. He describes the position that he seeks and asks if she considers the opportunity a good match for his abilities. Joe listens closely to what Ms. Smith says and how she says it. If she’s positive, specific about why she believes the match to be a good one, encourages his candidacy, and agrees to serve as a reference, Joe’s has a positive resource on his side.
But what if Ms. Smith responds differently? What if she hesitates, equivocates, is unenthusiastic and obviously uncomfortable. Joe should ask her to clarify her reasons for hesitation.
“Ms Smith, I noticed that you got pretty quiet when I described the
position that I’ve applied for. You’ve always leveled with me in the past, so I hope you will now. What are your concerns?”
Ms. Smith will probably tell you. As a result, you can reconsider: the position might not be a good match, or Ms. Smith, your former boss, might not be reading the situation correctly. Bottom line: get more information. That means, ask your other potential references for feedback.
If Mr. Jones and Ms. Davis agree with Ms. Smith that you’re not well matched to the job, ask them for descriptions of jobs that better suit your skills and abilities. If, however, Jones and Davis think it’s a great match, and disagree with Smith, take Ms. Smith off your list of references for this opportunity, despite her having agreed to serve.
Once you secure your references, keep them in the loop on a need to know basis. Tell them when they are likely to get calls, from whom, and about what. The reference is likely to mirror the applicant’s confidence and enthusiasm about the job, so be mindful of that when calling with an update.
Employers should take the time and effort to check references on their would-be employees. When employers ask the right questions, references can provide important information and insight as to a candidate’s past performance.
Employers need a plan before they place a call. They need to know what they’re looking for in the right candidate; the current responsibilities, skill sets, innate strengths and personality traits that are essential to the position’s success. They need to outline significant challenges the incumbent confronts because the new employee will have to deal with the old issues and new ones, yet to be defined. (i.e. falling sales, rising costs, difficult bosses, disgruntled employees, unrelenting turnover, draconian cuts, unexpected and unplanned for organizational change.)
The employer should ask open- ended questions and ask for anecdotal examples that describe the candidate’s significant accomplishments, strengths and areas of development. Close-ended questions should be limited to those regarding employment dates, salary history, and re-employment.
The employer’s questions should be specific to the workplace, staying away from questions that are considered illegal and inappropriate when asked of an applicant: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and age.
Some companies have hard and fast rules that limit the information a prior employer will release regarding an employee. The only way you’ll know if that’s the situation, is to speak directly to the individual whose name the applicant has provided. Most references want to do the right thing for applicants, as well as for those who hire them. That means sticking to business, to facts and to telling the truth. When it works, it’s an effort that’s mutually beneficial. Make it work. It’s worth the time it takes.
February 28, 2012 by Editor · Comments Off
You’ve asked for more interviewing strategies and here they are:
1. Pay attention while walking around.
If you have a chance to tour the facility where you’re interviewing, go for it. It’s a great way to get a read of the culture and a handle on your comfort within it. For example, if employees appear to move about in stony silence and the place is quiet as a tomb, the company might be a model of productivity and focus, introverted reflection, or reeling from bad news. All or none of the above? Take note, and check out your impressions with the interviewer.
If the place is jumping, employees are laughing and talking, and look like they’re having fun, they could be an extraverted, creative group, enjoying each other and their work, or a chaotic, non-productive, un-structured mess. All or none of the above? Check it out.
Are employees greeting you and your host or keeping a respectful distance? Does that tell you it’s an interactive, manage by walking around company, or one that is formal or remote? See what I mean? The tour is a gold mine of clues to culture, style, and effectiveness. Don’t assume, check out your impressions.
2. Find out what happens next.
Rather than get frustrated because you’ve had a great interview and you don’t know what happens next, ask.
“Mr. Johnson, I want this job because I can make an immediate contribution to your company. When am I likely to hear that I’m in the running for it?”
“Well, Sally, (if that’s your name) we have several more people we’ll be interviewing. You should hear something in a few weeks.”
Not enough information. If you want more, take it up a notch.
“Thanks, Mr. Johnson. Here’s my dilemma: I’m really interested in this job but I’m in the process of interviewing with other companies. If I get another offer, should I accept it?”
If Mr. Johnson says, “ by all means, take it”, keep looking, because this job won’t happen. Conversely, if Mr. Johnson says, “Sally, if that occurs, don’t accept until you’ve spoken with me. Here’s my direct number.” Good news. Mr. Johnson thinks you’re a contender. Stay in touch and yes, keep looking. You’re in the hunt until you have a firm offer.
3. Know when to walk and when to talk.
Put everything you have into every interview you take and don’t bolt if after the first few minutes, you don’t hear what you want. There’s always more you can learn about the company’s opportunities and much more for the interviewer to learn, and appreciate, about what you bring to their table, if you’ll keep your seat.
Having gleaned all you can, assess the potential of your options. If you find that where you’ll spend most of your time is what you do least well, take a pass. If you accept a job that’s a poor match, the likely result will be terminal boredom, terminal terror, or just plain termination: they’ll fire you or you’ll fire them.
4. Know when to accept an offer and when to let it go.
Do you know the full extent of your responsibilities and accountability? Do you know when they expect you to begin making a measurable, quantifiable difference to the department? Have you met everyone with whom you’ll be working? Are you aware of the challenges you’ll face? Are the salary, benefits, and title commensurate with what’s expected of you? Will you be doing what you do best while expanding your learning through training and development because of the opportunities they provide?
If it’s a job with great potential, take it. If it’s just OK on a good day, keep looking.
5. Should you call, wait, or keep looking?
Ah, classic case of the what-to-do’s. You’ve had a dynamite interview. You loved them. They loved you. They promised an offer. Seven days have passed and you haven’t heard from them. Call or wait?
Call. Once. With a positive, confident, energetic tone:
“Mr. Jones, this is Tom Smith and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, working with you, and making an immediate contribution to your company.”
Then lace up your shoes, and keep looking.
February 21, 2012 by Editor · Comments Off
By request, I’ve prepared some interviewing tips for you. If you like these, you’ll get five more next week.
- Extraverts! Don’t talk too much! You’re so good with words you don’t
seem to know when to stop using them and you’re talking your way in and out of great opportunities.
Instead, stay on point and make your points calmly and succinctly. Don’t repeat yourself. And don’t interrupt.
Sell yourself on track record and potential, not on exaggerated statements and promises that sound over the top.
Limit your responses to a minute or less. If you keep going you’ll fry the patience and attention of the listener. Make your strongest points at the beginning of your response, not at the end.
Go for an airtime ratio of 60/40. The interviewer gets 60, you get 40. Use it judiciously; not all in one breath.
2. Introverts: Speak up more! A stellar resume won’t help if you consistently under-whelm your interviewers.
(“The applicant was great on paper but flat in person. She didn’t tell me enough about her ability, experience, and accomplishments to do herself justice. I had no choice but to pass on her application.”)
Get in the habit of saying more, not less, and elaborate, don’t edit your points. Brag a little. Brag a lot. As understated as you are, it won’t sound like hype.
You’re not prepared for the interview unless you’ve practiced your responses with people willing to distract (a particular challenge for introverts), critique, and coach you so you’re ready for the big game.
Practice your social meet and greet skills so you can carry your weight in the limited but necessary light talk that precedes the heavy lifting of the interview.
3. Don’t talk in circles. Say what you mean! Applicants lose time and ground when they answer questions with responses that go nowhere. Rather than jabber on in hopes of stringing together a series of sentences that make sense, own that you either need time to reflect on the answer, or that you don’t have an answer. If you’re confused by the question, and want clarification, say so. If you want to know why the interviewer asks the question so that you can respond to the intent, rather than the content, say so. Bottom line, come across as someone who doesn’t sidestep the truth, but tells it, straight up. Employers like it that way.
4. Ask more questions! Nothing kills an interview more quickly than the applicant who doesn’t ask questions, even if the interviewer “answered every one of them, before I could even ask!”
Give me a break. If the interviewer answered every one she was a mind-reading, non-stop talker, or your questions were no- brainers. Which isn’t saying much for either of you.
If you wait until the end of an interview to ask questions you’ve missed countless opportunities along the way to learn more and to maximize the information you’ll get. Timing is everything. When the interviewer discusses job responsibilities that tap into your best stuff, ask questions that probe for elaboration and respond with examples of your accomplishments. If you’re interested in the vision of the company, because that’s where you can contribute, ask. If you want to know more about the challenges they face, because you’re a problem solver, ask. Ask questions that enable you to showcase your talent, and allow you to match your values, ethics, and preferred management style to what you discover, are theirs.
5. Listen! If you want to master the art of the interview, master the art of listening. A good listener can frame questions based on where the interviewer is going, not where he’s been. A good listener knows what’s safe to probe and what’s better left undisturbed. A good listener balances listening with responding, follows the flow, understands context, and asks the necessary questions that fill in the missing pieces. A good listener answers the why of a question, and not just the what. A good listener benefits both sides by asking open-ended questions that encourage dialogue, not monologue. Above all, good listeners model behaviors that indicate when dealing with ambiguity, they choose ready, aim, fire, instead of the reverse.
September 6, 2011 by Editor · Comments Off
The slow to no-growth economy and high unemployment rates have kids of all ages returning to their parents’ homes as they transition from college to work or from lost job to new job. Co-authors Joyce Richman and Barbara Demarest have been getting some attention for their guidebook, Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job, which they wrote to help parents deal with these times of transition in their children’s lives. Steve Sumerford recently reviewed the book in the Greensboro News & Record the title is Tips for dealing with kids who say, ‘I’m coming back’ and we’ve republished it here:
Tips for dealing with kids who say, ‘I’m coming back’
People all over the country are finding solace, encouragement and a passel of practical tips from a small paperback written by two Greensboro authors, Joyce Richman and Barbara Demarest. With decades of executive and career coaching between them, the pair teamed up to address a very timely topic, “boomerang kids,” a term coined a few years ago to describe adults, who, for a variety of reasons, have to move back in with their parents.
A recent CNN Money story reported that 85 percent of last year’s college graduates say they would move back home with their parents if they couldn’t find a job.
August 16, 2011 by Editor · Comments Off
Q: It is very frustrating and unprofessional to keep someone “hanging” after an interview and not inform them if they have the job or not. People want to work and want to know if they should continue their search. Over the past year I’ve been on at least two dozen interviews and several firms never informed me as to the status of their selection process. What’s your take on this?
A. Unless you’ve experienced both sides of the interviewer’s table, it’s hard to know what job applicants or hiring managers face when conducting a job search.
Companies can be flooded by responses to advertised positions. Many applicants produce work histories that have no obvious connection to the position posted. That doesn’t mean that people applying couldn’t do the job, but that their resumes don’t make their case for them. So, they are eliminated, often without a company representative writing or calling to say that they will not be considered. Like it or not, that is customary and acceptable.
This reader has gotten through the resume-screening portion of the search. He has landed interviews and has not received status reports from his interviewers. He should have. When a company representative invites an applicant to become a bonafide candidate there is an unwritten but professional expectation that each party will keep the other informed as to the level of interest one has in the other. That’s how it ought to be, but what do you do if the company hasn’t bought, ought?
Candidates who are interested in the job are proactive in advancing their candidacy.
What can they do to get the information they need?
Here are a few strategies that take the offensive without being offensive:
“Mr. Jones, this is Sam Ram. I interviewed with you on June 11th for the position of Senior Accountant. I am very interested in that position and would like an opportunity to speak to you at greater length. I am available Tuesday or Wednesday mornings of next week, at either 7:30 or 8:30 a.m. Which would be the better time for you?”
You stated your interest in the position and your availability for a second interview. There are no guarantees that Mr. Jones will agree to see you but you will get one of a variety of responses:
“Sam, I’m glad you called. Right after you left our office the boss’s son stopped by and we offered him the job. You know how it goes. Sorry, Sam.”
“Sam, we put that job on hold. Didn’t anyone call you? Our sales aren’t what we hoped for and we’ve frozen all openings for the next quarter.”
“Sam, glad you called. Next Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. works for me. See you then.
What if Mr. Jones won’t take or return your calls? You’ve tried all times of the day and night and after several weeks and more than a dozen attempts later you decide to try something different. You send a self addressed stamped postcard with three requests for action:
Sam, call us to set your next interview.
Sam, we’d like to hire you. Call us to talk specifics.
Sam, you’re a good man but we’re no longer interested in your candidacy.
Ask Mr. Jones or his representative to check the appropriate statement and return the card to you.
Manners, time crunch, and professionalism aside, most employers don’t follow up on interviews for two reasons: 1) they don’t have good news and 2) the recipient isn’t apt to like bad news. If hiring authorities are willing to take applicants’ time and energy to interview, they have an obligation to return the favor with the truth when they know it, straight up and without hesitation.
Candidates: if several weeks pass without response to your interview or follow-up calls, assume that the opportunity no longer exists. Their silence says more about how they do business than you ever wanted to know. Let it go and find something better.
* * * *
Yes! You may use this article by Executive and Career Coach, Joyce Richman, in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:
Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada andEurope. Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.
July 12, 2011 by Editor · Comments Off
If you have to think if your joke is appropriate, it’s not. If you hesitate before lambasting a colleague, don’t. If you stop, however briefly, to determine the correctness of your comment, that’s reason enough to move it from the top of your agenda and the tip of your tongue. Study your action under cooler circumstances.
Company leaders familiar with personnel law and risk management are putting their employees on alert. Co-workers, already stressed with the “too much to do and no time to do it” syndrome, haven’t the energy or patience to tolerate abusive comments, raunchy jokes, and questionable language. Employees who feel harassed are threatening legal recourse in increasing numbers and companies that don’t want to appear on the court docket (or in the court of public opinion) know they mean business. Pun intended.
Why does bad behavior get a blind eye?
I had a client, a senior executive, sent to me for “corrective action.” His problem? He ogled women. He ogled women in elevators, in restaurants, in business meetings. He ogled his eyeballs out. No one took action until he visually groped the wrong woman (correction, the right woman) who reported his behavior to human resources and sent copies of her complaint to the corporate attorney and the Chairman of the Board. As they attempted to placate the offended, they remanded the ogler to me.
He was angry. He felt blindsided and railroaded. He resented that he was nailed as the bad guy. “They’re all part of it!” he exploded. “Everyone of them!”
What’s his story?
“Sure I do it,” he said. “And all the guys here love it. They laugh, they hoot, they cheer me on. As soon as I get caught, they run for cover, screaming ‘blame him’, then sanctimoniously offer prayers for my redemption. No one ever said, “you’re out of line” until the legal department got hold of it.”
Was he telling the truth? I checked. He was. This guy had been acting that way for all the years he had been employed with the company. It bothered some, it didn’t bother others, and most said they either didn’t notice and if they did, they didn’t care. He was a heavy hitter. He made a lot of money for the company and everyone profited from his being there. No one gave him fair warning.
No wonder he was screaming foul. Does that give him a pass? No. He was wrong. His boss was wrong and his colleagues were wrong. Someone needed to step up and straighten this guy out. No one did.
Take a look around. If you’re working with people who cross the line in how they act or or what they say, do them a favor and do it now. Tell them that it makes youuncomfortable. If they don’t want to hear about it, let them know that you’re taking it up the line.
Don’t wait. Whether you’re the target or the observer, take action before the behavior escalates to a consequence no one can back away from.
How do you know what’s out of bounds?
Is the joke at someone’s expense? Does the humor, no matter how foot-stomping, scapegoat someone? Is the behavior intimidating, humiliating, harassing, to someone?
Some people revel in over the top candor. “I tell it like it is, whether people like it or not!” For what purpose? Is the outcome they seek undone by the manner in which they seek it?
There was a time that companies and co-workers tolerated behavior that should never have been allowed. That time has gone. And the people who are doing it are going with it.
* * * *
Yes! You may use this article by Executive and Career Coach, Joyce Richman, in your blog, article in your blog, newsletter or website as long as you include the following bio box:
Joyce Richman (www.richmanresources.com) has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce is a weekly guest on WFMY-TV and the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at TheCoachingAssociation.com.
December 11, 2010 by Editor · Comments Off
December 9, 2010 by Editor · Comments Off
The Career Net, a job-focused group at the First Baptist Church in Elon, NC, welcomed executive coach and career consultant, Joyce Richman to their December 2010 meeting. Read more
December 9, 2010 by Editor · Comments Off
Joyce Richman facilitated a panel discussion at a special December 2010 meeting of the FPC Jobs Group. Hosted at the First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC, the panel worked with more than 70 people to manage the effects that long-term unemployment is having on families. When one member of the family is unemployed, they whole system has to deal with it. The program was designed to provide families with some ways to cope emotionally and strategies for job seekers. Joyce and other panelists responded to questions from the audience about:
- how to stay focused on the job search
- understanding the needs of all the family members affected by job loss and long-term unemployment
- the emotional roller coaster within families when there is job loss
- tools for supporting each other during difficult times