“I’m confused. What’s more important to include in a resume: an objective or a summary? Is it better to include references or say they’re available upon request? Is it smarter to name prominent people (I know a few) as my references or list people who really know me? It is wiser to include all my years of experience or just my best years?”
No wonder you’re confused, you’re all options and no answers. Let’s sort through the possibilities one at a time.
Include an objective. It’s the lead story on your resume. It states the name of the job you seek. You don’t need to include a summary. It’s redundant: your resume is a summary.
Don’t attach a list of references to your resume. If you’re asked to provide references, immediately comply, and just as quickly, call your references with a heads-up description of the job you’re seeking, the name of the company, and the person likely to call.
About those references who just happen to be “prominent people”: Include them if you have reported directly to them, they valued your work, and they agreed to serve as references for you. Employers are interested in your skill sets and strengths; what you’ve accomplished that is relevant to what they need you to do for them. Your most effective references are those best suited to realistically describe your abilities: when, where, and under what circumstances you’ve been successful. Your least effective references are those who don’t have first hand knowledge of your abilities but support your candidacy as a personal or professional favor. Before providing names, be sure you have your references’ permission; be sure they fully understand the job you seek and are supportive of your ability to get it done.
When writing a resume, should you include all your years or your best years? Like them or not, highlight the last fifteen years of your work experience, focus on your most recent responsibilities and bullet point and quantify your accomplishments. No matter how memorable your earlier achievements, they’re history to a prospective employer. State them but don’t elaborate upon them.
“Should my objective be specific or general? And which resume format is better, the reverse chronological or the functional?”
Be specific when responding to a posting or want ad and be sure that your experience and your accomplishments warrant your application.
There are three types of resumes: Chronological, Functional, and Targeted. Chronological resumes begin with your most recent work history, and in reverse order highlight up to fifteen years of work experience. Functional resumes focus on skills and strengths rather than chronology. Targeted resumes are customized and highlight specific experiences relevant to the job to which you are applying. Employers prefer targeted/reverse chronological resumes because they clearly present what you’ve done, when you’ve done it and how successful you were at it.
“Should I follow up with employers after I’ve forwarded my resume or wait to hear from them? Should I follow up with employers after I’ve interviewed or wait to hear from them? And what should I say?”
If employers have requested your resume it’s appropriate to call and confirm they have received it; to ask if they need additional information and to answer any preliminary questions they may have of you.
It is appropriate to follow an interview with a call thanking employers for the opportunity to meet, to reinforce your interest in the job, and to ask if there are any additional questions they have of you or information they need from you. One good follow up call and you’re a strategist. More than one and you’re a nuisance.
May 5, 2013 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Last week’s column focused on an unhappy, conflicted employee who feels unappreciated and undervalued. She wants to quit her current job, hoping to get more of what she needs somewhere else and she’s afraid that if she leaves, she won’t succeed.
She dislikes being invisible even as she stands in the shadows. She wants more pay and promotions yet is satisfied with a no-risk job in a low risk setting because it allows her to “not have to do any more than I want to.”
Her self-perception is that she’s a strong contributor who adds value. Others experience her as doing as little as possible and getting by as best she can. They see no reason for her to advance or to pay her more to do what is seen as average effort. They are willing to continue her employment because she doesn’t cause problems and doesn’t generate complaints.
Why bother to tell the story? Because she, like many others, are at the cusp of being shocked by a rude awakening. Being average, middling, run of the mill, is not going to be good enough. There are too many employees and soon-to-be’s who are willing and wanting to do more and learn more, challenge and be challenged, and they’re elbowing out change-resisting sub-par performers who will have difficulty finding other jobs that pay as well, benefits that do as much, and employers as willing to pay for yesterday’s performance on today’s jobs.
She says that all she wants is that “people miss me when I’m away, smile when I return, and say ‘thank you’ at the end of the day.” She wants to know “is that asking too much?”
It’s not asking too much unless she’s asking that the workplace replace the security of family, co-workers provide the intimacy of friendship, and courtesy continue as the coin of the realm. She may be disappointed about the first two. The third, courtesy, should be an expectation that continues to be extended and met, consistently, and over time, by everyone, no matter the job, the workplace, or the employer.
She asks for employers who will “tell me what to do, tell me I’m doing it well, and tell me I’m appreciated for it.”
Today’s employers need to set specific expectations, offer specialized training, provide semi-annual performance reviews and give just in time feedback. These employers also need to step back and allow the employee time to demonstrate competency in order to objectively determine if the employee is progressing, developing, and readying him or herself for this and the next opportunity.
Employees need to ask for and be open to feedback. They need to challenge themselves to do more than just enough; to learn more than what’s adequate; and to develop in areas that will be strategic assets not just tactical improvements.
Employees who want pay increases demonstrate their ability to add value. Employees who want promotions demonstrate their ability and desire to manage calculated risks, lead change, and accept accountability for the results.
As difficult as it may be to hear, “What have you done for me lately? ” is the mantra of most employers. What you did yesterday, last week, or last year, is history. What you can do for me today, tomorrow, and six months from now is the currency that’s in demand.
Nice is good. Nice people fit in. Nice people achieve and advance when they combine their good will, respectful responses, and team-oriented behaviors with tactical know-how, strategic insights, and action- to- goal focus that results in wins for the company and for all stakeholders invested in the outcome.
February 5, 2013 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
When preparing for interviews, focus on what works:
Research works. Going on line, reviewing web sites, learning content, outlining questions, works. Reading business news and trade papers, learning who’s expanding and consolidating, hiring and firing, competing and winning or falling behind are essential need-to know because research works.
Practice works. Field questions from anyone willing to help. Answer questions that come out of left field. Answer out loud, from your head and your gut, and tell a truth that’s as succinct as it is straightforward. Ask questions because there’s more to learn than what you know; find out what it is. You’re the expert of what you do best; they’re expert on what they need most. Tell your story and ask about theirs.
Positive attitudes work. Enlist the support of friends and family who are as positive about your abilities as they are optimistic about your future. Volunteer where you believe in the value of what you do and your ability to make a difference. Socialize with people who have an abundance mentality that builds others up and believe that it’s possible to succeed.
Healthy minds and bodies work. Exercise. Eat what’s good for you; drink what nourishes you; learn what expands you; and teach what invigorates you.
Focus works: Clear your mind, your desk, and your life of minor distractions, clutter, and static, and find true north by identifying what it is you like to do and do well. Then keep doing it.
Align what you think with how you act. Think positively and your body language will go along for the ride: Smile, initiate, invite, include, encourage and enable the best in others by looking and acting like you mean it.
Align what you say with what you think. Remember the carpenter’s rule and measure twice, cut once. Figure out what you want to say before you say it. If you believe you can do a job, because you have in the past, you like doing it, and you do it well, say so. If you believe that you can do more than you have in the past, say so, and say what that means for the employer willing to hire you.
Networking works. Get out there and talk to people about your job search. Tell them what you’re looking for and be specific. Talk about how you can make a difference for the company that hires you, and be specific. Go to leads meetings, job search networking meetings, Chamber meetings, Merchants Association meetings, and after work networking meetings. When your networking is focused and intentional, it works and so will you.
A focused resume works. A good resume begins with an objective that clearly states the job you want and follows with a reverse chronological outline of fact based, quantifiable, historical information that supports your objective. A good resume offers evidence of your competence in succinct and well chosen words that demonstrate you can do the job you seek and you can do it very, very well.
Good references work. Contact people you’ve worked for and describe the specific job you want. Ask for their perspective on the direction you’re taking. If they’re in full agreement, positive, and enthusiastic, sign them up. They’ll be good references and strong links in your job search network. On the flip side, if they’re non-committal or hesitant in their responses, probe to learn why. They may see something you’re missing or miss something you’re saying. Take note and adjust accordingly. If you have to step back and reassess, do it. Focus on what works.
January 15, 2013 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Want to be the best at what you do?
“She’s the best boss I’ve had because she’s as open-minded as she is clear about expectations. I always know where I stand with her because she’s willing to tell me the truth in ways that I understand. She’s never hurtful, always constructive, and trusts my ability to learn and grow on the job.”
“He’s the best manager I’ve had because he keeps us informed and encourages us to do the same with him. We don’t have to be concerned about personal agendas or blindsiding when working with him; it’s always about what’s best for the organization, and because of that, we get on board quickly when transitioning through change.”
“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve had the pleasure to follow. Change is the name of the game here, and we know that whatever direction we head, she’ll be focused on the end-in-mind. Because of that, and her sure-footedness, we’re lined up with her.”
“He’s a great supervisor. He knows what he knows and as importantly, he knows what he doesn’t know, and empowers those of us with complementary capacities to step up, close the gap, and work together to move us toward successful outcomes.”
“He’s really a youngster when compared to the rest of us on his work team, but he can teach us old war-horses a thing or two when it comes to optimism, energy, and a can-do attitude. He’s a great team builder, respectful of the intelligence and wisdom of his seniors and at the same time able to motivate us to achieve more than we have or thought ourselves capable. He makes us feel hopeful about the future. I wish he were my grandson, that’s how proud I am of him.”
“She’s a natural leader. She’s honest and respectful; she can see the big picture and at the same time can help us to see what it takes to achieve it. She knows when to be hands on and when to be hand-off. She understands what the people around her need to get their jobs done and she provides it. Sometimes that translates to getting us the physical and financial resources we need. Other times it’s encouragement and a well placed kick in the derriere. Whatever the situation, she’s pitch perfect in her delivery. “
“Sometimes the best leaders are the most humble. Our manager is one of those. He’s understated in his manner yet so clear in his commitment to excellence and in his belief in our ability to perform at the highest levels of excellence, that he motivates us to consistently give our best.”
“We’re going through enormous change in our organization and as we all know, change can create stress. I won’t kid you, we’re stressed here, but we’re able to keep it together because of our boss. She’s capable, calm, and considerate and because of that, we’re able to behave in ways that emulate her spirit. I’ve worked in other businesses where change equated to high turnover. Not here. Thanks in large part to our boss’s sure and steady hand.”
“I don’t know if you’d call our supervisor a leader or a top notch manager. I just know I’d always want to have him next to me in a fire-fight. I’ve never seen anyone as able to quickly anticipate what’s required and quickly respond with resources that meet the need. He’s a great trouble shooter, knows which fires are apt to turn into conflagrations and which will burn out on their own accord. He makes change exciting and preventive maintenance a talent worth rewarding.”
December 25, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Q: What’s the best way to answer the “tell me about yourself” question? Should I start with where I’m from? Where I went to school? Or what my work experience has been?
A: Answer with how you can make a difference to the employer who’s sitting in front of you. . That’s what she wants to know. If she wants something more or something else she’ll promptly say so.
Q: I get the feeling that I’m boring or that I talk too much. Interviewers shuffle their papers, clear their throats, even had one open his mail right in the middle of one of my answers. Are they rude or am I taking too much of their time?
A: It could be a combination of both. If it happens more than once (and it sounds like it does) get some real-time candid feedback from family and friends on your conversational style. Be sure to tell them why it’s important and ask that they signal when you’ve provided adequate information when discussing a topic or answering a question. With practice you’ll find the rhythm that works for you and your conversation partners.
Q: I’m a person of few words. Too few, it appears. I’m getting first interviews but no follow-ons. My wife thinks I don’t talk enough. I don’t want to state the obvious, so I don’t. How can I find the right balance?
A: Match the style, tempo, and conversational content of the interviewer. If she’s verbose and you give answers that could fit atop the head of a pin, that’s not enough. If she’s succinct and you go on and on in your response, that‘s too much.
Q: I do fine when I answer interviewers’ questions. I draw a blank when they ask me to ask them questions. I feel like they’ve told me all I need to know. Is it all right to just tell them that, and not respond further?
A: By answering all that you are asked you demonstrate an ability and desire to respond to requests and a willingness to do as you are told. When you ask questions you demonstrate an ability to listen, retain information, and build on that information. Do both. Good examples of probing questions that get deeper into issues and challenges at hand, that anticipate consequences and follow through on conclusions are those that ask the interviewer to “tell me more…”
Q: I’m a job seeker. I have a good education and excellent work experience. I get really perturbed when employers do not return my phone calls. To whom should I complain? I’ve called their home office, have left word on their voice mail (Don’t get me started on that) and have emailed the CEO of the corporation. That’s how angry it makes me! What else can I do?
A: It sounds like you have lots of passion and a strong desire to pursue an outcome. You might enjoy work in customer service, credit and collections, even consumer advocacy. In the meantime, consider re-applying all that energy to your job search and prospective employers who appreciate that degree of drive and determination.
Q: My son is a college graduate who’s been out of school for three years, living with us and on us, his parents. He’s making no apparent effort to get a full time job (he’s a sometime waiter and part time bartender at his old college hang-outs) and my husband and I want to get on with our lives. We love him, but we want him to move on so we can. What do you suggest?
A: Move on, dear people, move on. Give junior a move out by date, 30 days notice, and stick with it.
December 18, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Thanks for your calls, emails, and the questions you’re asking. Here are a few examples:
Q: I have a question about my resume. I’ve worked for many companies, held both hourly and salaried positions, volunteered for countless committees, and traveled to every state in the US. Because I’ve accomplished so much I can’t possibly include it all in a two- page resume. I figure it’ll take about five pages if I use small type. How many pages am I allowed?
A: If you were writing an autobiography, you could pen all the pages your heart desires. But you’re not. You’re writing a two- page resume in readable type that spells out the value you offer an employer by specifying and quantifying your work related accomplishments and connecting them to your clearly stated objective. If you have content that’s off topic, take it off the resume. Most resume readers, on average, review a resume in 20 seconds and make a determination: it’s in or it’s out. The more focused and succinct your written presentation, the greater your likelihood of making it to the in box.
Q: When I go to work sites or on line to fill in applications I notice that I’ve already answered most of the questions on my resume. Is it OK to just attach the resume to the application instead of wasting time copying one to the other?
A: If you are asked to complete an application, do it. If you think it’s optional, it isn’t. Do it. Print your answer to each question, fill in each line, check each box, and print legibly. The application form will ask that you provide a list of professional references and contact information, provide it. And now for the good news: after you’ve completed that assignment you can hand it in, along with a copy of your resume.
Q: How many on-line or newspaper openings should I pursue at one time? I think I should go one at a time and not proceed with a new application with until I know if I have the job. What do you think?
A: I think you should pursue every opportunity you can chase down and everyone that comes your way. A successful job hunt is a numbers game that requires long-haul energy, optimism, and self-confidence. There’s a direct correlation between improved odds and optimism/confidence. The more you have going for you, the greater the odds you’ll land something.
Q: I notice that some interviewers spend the entire time talking and don’t ask any questions. What should I, as the applicant, do in that circumstance? I don’t want to interrupt but how else will the employer know what I have to offer?
A: Some interviewers are naturally gregarious. Once they get going they can be hard to stop. Some are naturally excited about their companies and go on at great length about possibilities and potential. Your job as the applicant is, from the moment you are introduced, to demonstrate your energy, your interest, and your ability to add value to the discussion and to the company.
Q: I have a tough time with interviewers who don’t acknowledge what I’m saying to them. They just ask one question after the other, and don’t give a clue about what they’re thinking. How am I supposed to know where I stand if they don’t tell me?
A: Focus on each question and answer it to the best of your ability. Periodically ask the interviewer if he/she would like more or different information than what you are providing. Bottom line, you won’t know where you stand until you get a call back for another interview or are made an offer.
December 11, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
You’re rocking along, loving life, your job, your co-workers and ka-bam, you read the morning paper and find out your company’s been sold to a competitor. You bolt from the house, hair on fire, tear into work, the place is spinning, phones are ringing, rumors flying, and the sky is falling. After frantically searching for someone who ought to know you corner your boss who tells you, eyes averted, (long pause)… don’t worry. Yes! Momentary reprieve. I’m safe. I won’t worry. I’m just fine. I’m OK. You look for him later, for a little more assurance, and he’s in meetings. All day. Every day.
By the end of the week you’re all nerve endings and no nerve. You’ve managed to avoid your customers, your neighbors, your friends, and your spouse. You’re scared to go to work and don’t want to go home. Wherever you are, you want to be somewhere else. You’d curl up in the cabinet under the copier but three of your colleagues have already moved in.
Finally. A meeting. All hands. Sounds official. CEO. Be there.
You are. Wide screen TV. HR introduces Head Honcho who conferences in from an undisclosed location.
After a minute, maybe two, you tune out. For the next five minutes, (fifteen, fifty?) your brain picks up a different frequency; one that’s telling you the planet is about to explode. You tune in to the CEO just as he’s signing off: The future of our company will be even greater than the past. That’s good news!
You’re getting two messages from two messengers: Your CEO says the company’s future will be better than the past. Your brain says find another job. The company’s future will be better. That’s good news. But the company’s future may not include you. Find another job because it’s up to you, not the company, to take charge of your career, meet your financial obligations, and make you feel whole. Whether you choose to stay or to leave, develop a plan and work it.
Go slow to go fast. Get centered and think before you act. Focus on what you do best and how you contribute most. Name it, so when you say it, new owners or prospective employers will immediately know what it means and how you make a difference. Focus on organizing your resume around the job you want that delivers defined benefits to this or any other employer.
Tighten your resume. Lead with your objective and follow with your experience. List your current position, name of employer, location, dates of employment, and in reverse order, list the positions you’ve held. Highlight responsibilities and accomplishments that are congruent with your objective. Keep it brief, easy to read, and error-free. Next: Create your cover letter.
Your cover letter should focus on the specific job opportunity you seek. Address it to the individual to whom you would report. Make your case by getting right to the point: This is what I do and here’s how I add value to the business. Next: Stay in the game.
Network externally: Crack the “unpublished” market and you’ll find up to 75% of what’s available. Respond to on-line and newspaper ads and you’ll find the other 25%. Put your energy where you get the greatest return on investment. Network internally and externally: Contact people you know and respect, who can put you in touch with people they know and respect, who know of opportunities that match your credentials, talent and abilities.
Heads up. Demonstrate your ability to move through turbulent change with professionalism and composure. Think strategically, work objectively, behave optimistically, and you’ll land on your feet.
December 4, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
“I love this company. The people are great and I really like what I do. Everyone is friendly, smart, and considerate. And I’m worried sick. Why? I think our jobs are going to be outsourced and no one’s going to tell us until the day the doors close.”
What are your options?
“I don’t have any because it hasn’t happened yet, so I can’t do anything. I’m sure something bad is around the corner and I can’t stop it. There’s no point looking for another job if nothing bad does happen, right? Or is that wrong?”
Let me understand this: you’re worried that you’re going to lose your job. You don’t want to consider alternatives if you don’t lose your job. You prefer to wait and worry than make a plan and take an action.
“That’s it! And let me tell you, I am plenty worried these doors are going to shut and there’s nothing I can do to keep them open. So that’s my problem. I hope you can fix it.”
That’s how it feels for employees who suffer the alternating currents of angst: they love where they work and they’re scared witless that their companies will be sold, services outsourced, or production off-shored. They feel unsure, insecure, stuck in time and immobilized by turmoil. How about you? If this is your story, I can’t re-write it, but you can.
Pick up a pencil, crank up the computer, pull out the phone book, and get ready to take action with a new attitude, a job search strategy, a fresh resume, and a network of people who urge you forward and don’t hold you back.
New attitude: You get to choose. You don’t need permission. That’s right. You get to choose if you want to stay in this job or if you want to leave for another one. You get to choose if you want to accept another job or you want to reject one that’s offered. Your employers get to choose and they don’t need permission. They choose where, when, and with whom they open or close, grow, shrink, or stand still.
Job search strategy: When you like what you do and share the values of people who run the company where you work, you have a great match. When you can describe that match to anyone you meet, in as few words as possible, you’re on the right track. So right now, write now. If you can put it on paper, you can say it. Once you can say it, you can network with it, interview about it, and negotiate to get it.
Refresh your resume with a lead objective that crisply states what you do best that you want to do next. Follow that with a reverse chronological listing of dates and places of current and past employment. Specify accomplishments that validate your job-worthy credibility and the viability of your job objective.
Networking: Build a directory of people who share your values and interests, and include their phone numbers, email, and land addresses. Call each one of them and request 20-minute meetings (keep it brief and keep it simple). Describe your job objective and professional goals. Ask for names. You want names of people you can contact who also share something in common with you; people who just might know of a good match for you. Follow-through. Get more names. Follow through. Get more names.
Stick with people who have broad perspectives, encouraging behaviors, positive dispositions, and objective insight. Ask them questions and listen to answers. Stay on message, stay the course, and you’ll find the job you want that wants you. Then you get to choose.
November 26, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Whether you’re looking for a job or just thinking about it, you have work to do before you head out to your first interview. Here’s a quick list of gotta-do’s before you get going:
Self-assessment: This is your starting point. You need to clarify what you do well and enjoy doing before you start interviewing. Validate your perspective with those who know and can assess your performance. If they give you a thumbs-up, ask them to be your reference.
Resume: Top and center your name, address, telephone number, and email address on each of no more than two pages. Use the same font (Times New Roman, Ariel, Tahoma are all good choices) and type size (12 pt) throughout. Next, state your objective (that’s the job you want) and follow with your formal education. Include the name and location of the college or university that confirmed your degree; the degree you earned; academic distinctions; and the year you graduated. Follow education with work experience. Begin with your current or most recent employment and in reverse chronological order list the name of the company/companies where you’ve worked, their locations, followed by your job titles or positions, number of years employed. Summarize in one or two sentences the responsibilities of the job. For each position you’ve held, include a minimum of three quantifiable accomplishments.
Telephone answering machine/service: When you record your personal, professional sounding no frills greeting, first identify yourself, then ask for the caller’s name, message and phone number.
Email: If you are concerned about security, create a separate email account for your job search. Shut down any websites or postings that could be interpreted as embarrassing, compromising, or potentially damaging to your reputation. Proofread, spell and grammar check messages, resumes, and cover letters before sending them.
References: Prospective employers will expect you to provide them names and contact information for at least three individuals to whom you have reported and who are willing to provide information on your previous employment. It’s up to you to secure their permission.
Research: Employers expect you to do your homework. Check out their company websites; Google the company name for articles in mainstream media and trade journals. If you want to know what the consuming public thinks about how they conduct business, check with the Better Business Bureau.
Dress for success: When you start looking for a job people start noticing how you look. Don’t wait for an interview to be at your best. Develop and maintain a healthy life style with proper hygiene, good nutrition, exercise, and a good night’s sleep. Be as mindful of your behavior as you are of your appearance.
Networking: Spend the majority of your search time where you get the greatest return on your investment: network. Connect with people you know who know people you don’t know, so you can tap into the Hidden Job Market. Here’s the deal: employers with jobs to fill don’t want to be inundated with a torrent of applicants and applications. They’d rather use their discretion by focusing on candidates referred to them by individuals they know and trust. If you’re networking with the same people and you’re a good match, you’ll get the interview. The more you network, the better your odds of finding and landing a job.
Telephone screening calls: Companies save time and money screening applicants by telephone. The conversation is likely to be brief, so you’ll have to know what you want and how you benefit companies where you work. You’ll need to listen well and ask questions that move the process forward. How you sound is as important as what you say, so be positive and energetic.
November 7, 2012 by Joyce Richman · Comments Off
Successful job applicants know how to ask good questions. Good questions let interviewers know that you’re curious; you’ve done your homework; you’re listening to what they’re telling you; and you want to find as good a match as they do.
Good questions focus on the future and explore ways that applicants can contribute to the company’s goals and objectives. Good questions keep the discussion energized and positive. Bad questions sound critical, cynical, confrontational, and close-ended.
Good questions: What are the qualities of your most successful employees? What are some of their greatest accomplishments? What direction is the company heading? What would you like me to achieve in the first 30 days, 60 and 90 days on the job? What training would you like me to complete so I can get up to speed as quickly and effectively as possible? What do you consider important for me to know about this business culture?
Good questioners demonstrate their listening and processing skills by connecting, combining, and confirming key elements of the conversation with good builds. For example:
“Tell me more…” “Please expand your thinking about…” “What I understand you to say is…”
Good questions open the discussion, invite interviewers to educate, elaborate and inform, to be experts, to be good stewards of the company.
Good questions, asked badly, suggest that questioners already know the answer, want confirmation or recognition of their points of view, or are trying to control the conversation. Examples are: “Is (or isn’t) it true that…?” “Can you confirm that…?” “Would (or wouldn’t) you say that…?” Each of these leads suggests the obvious response is a “yes” or “”no”. Close-ended questions can stop the conversation in its tracks or take it in a direction that neither the applicant nor the interviewer want to go.
Bad questions focus on “What’s in for me?” These questioners want to know about compensation, benefits, vacation, time off, and exceptions to the rules (“… If I’m supposed to start work in the next six weeks that just won’t happen. I have to go on vacation… I bought my tickets before I knew I’d be interviewing for a job… they were expensive… my family is counting on me to attend…”)
Bad questions target what’s broken and who broke it. Instead of asking, “Why did you fire the last person who held this job?”, ask, “What skills and abilities are you looking for in the person you hire?”. Instead of asking, “Why is this company in so much trouble?”, ask, “What direction is the company heading?”
Applicants who solve problems want problems to solve and can turn potentially bad questions into good ones with lead-in statements that explain why they’re asking. For example, “I’m a problem solver by trade and training. I add value and contribute most when I protect your bottom line by finding ways to save you time and money. With that in mind, what are some of the challenges the company is currently facing and what are you looking for in the candidate who’s right for this position?”
Applicants who see themselves as efficient (and others may see as impatient) experience frustration and irritation when having to wait to ask questions that concern them most: Will you pay me what I think I deserve? Will you promote me quickly and often? Will I get the insurance coverage I need and the vacation time I deserve? If you cut to the chase too quickly you’ll be cut from the competition. You’ll have time and opportunity to get your answers after you’ve been made the offer and before you decide to accept it. In the meantime, stick with questions that keep you in the game.