Interview Like a Boss-The Behavioral Interview

October 3rd, 2017

Series: How to Interview Like a Boss

The Behavioral Interview

Behavioral interview questions will provide insight into the candidate’s thought process and personality traits. Often times, the behavioral interview format is not used for the entirety of an interview. A typical interview usually includes both traditional, fact-finding questions, as well as behavioral interview questions. The fact-finding questions will ensure the candidate has the right technical skills and experience for the role while the behavioral questions indicate a proper cultural fit.

The premise of the behavioral interview is to ask open-ended questions which show examples of skills and experiences they have used in prior situations that directly relate to the position. The logic is the candidate’s success in the past is a positive indicator toward success in the future.

Some of the favorite questions in this category include:

  1. Give me an example of a goal you reached and how you achieved it.
  2. Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  3. Give me an example of a time you faced a conflict while working on a team. How did you handle that?
  4. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get everything on your to-do list done. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do?

One particular thing to pay attention to is that they answer all parts of the question asked and don’t become sidetracked with the background of the story to never bring you through to the end. Many candidates will be well prepared with examples of stories to share in response to common behavioral interview questions. If you get the sense a candidate’s answer is too concise, follow-up questions are a great way to learn more about the example beyond their canned response.

Some great follow-up questions to example #1 above could be:

  • How long did it take you to reach your goal?
  • Did you ever feel like giving up? If so, what got you back on track?
  • How did your manager or team support you in reaching your goal?
  • What bumps along the way did you encounter and how did you overcome these bumps?

The story the candidate chooses to share can be telling as well. It can be indicative of how forthcoming they are, as well as provide you some insight into their personality. Overall, behavioral questions may provide some vision into the possible cultural fit within your organization.

Written by Tiffany Appleton, Director of Accounting & Finance Division

Interview Like A Boss–The Prescreening Interview

September 26th, 2017

Series: How to Interview Like a boss

The Prescreening Interview

A prescreening interview, performed via phone or video, is a great tool to help you streamline your hiring process. In a 10-20 minute conversation, you can quickly determine if an in-person interview makes sense as a next step.
The prescreen interview will typically include basic questions to determine if there is a match. These questions can be lumped into three major categories.

General Resume Background and History:

  • Verify the resume history. Get or verify dates of employment for each role/company. Ask for reasons for the recent job changes.
  • Tell me about your major responsibilities and duties in your current position (or the role that is most relevant).
  • Why are you looking for something new at this time?
  • What are your salary expectations?

This Role and Questions to Determine a Potential Match:

  • Provide an overview of the role including the day-to-day duties and what they should accomplish if they are successful in the role.
  • If the role requires travel, non-routine hours, or relocation, share this information and ask how they feel about these requirements.
  • If there are specific skills needed for this role, ask about their relevant experience.
  • Why would this job be a good next step for you in your career?

General Personality and Cultural Fit Questions:

  • What are you looking for in a new role?
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • Ask questions about their career goals.

The amount of time you spend on these questions will likely be determined by how well you think the potential candidate may be a match. If you know early on, this is a good match, feel free to move forward with scheduling an in-person interview and make note to revisit the unasked questions during the in-person session. If you are on the fence, continue probing by asking more of these questions or follow-up questions. As soon as you feel the candidate may not be a good match, politely share this information and end the call.

In this prescreening process, there are red flags to look for. The big ones are inappropriate energy level for the team/company/manager, focusing on money and benefits too much, the inability to articulate what they want next in their career, and the inability to give a compelling reason for considering a job change at this time.

You should always listen to your instincts; if the prescreen just isn’t feeling right, don’t move forward. This step can save you the time and trouble involved in meeting a person who, despite a strong resume, does not meet all your needs.

Written by Tiffany Appleton, Director of Accounting & Finance Division

LinkedIn Messaging the Right Way

September 19th, 2017

You’re searching on LinkedIn to find and connect with a recruiter who works for an employer at the top of your priority list. Success! You’re connected, and now it’s time to say hi with a message. But first, there are specific elements you should include in this message. With only one chance to make a first impression, let’s make certain it’s a positive one.

Get started on the right foot
Put simply, say hello in some form and use the individual’s name. Next, explain why you’re making contact, just as you would at the beginning of a cover letter. Maybe you’re really interested in this company in general, or perhaps there is a specific role or type of role that you’ve seen them advertise and you feel like you may be a great match. Whatever the case may be, this need not be a lengthy statement—one or two sentences will usually suffice.

You’ll notice there is no option here to simply type “Hi” and wait for a response as in a text message. While that approach is well intentioned, it provides neither context nor substance and is something most recruiters will not respond to. In order to create the desired reaction, this interaction must be treated as if you are typing a professional email or a condensed cover letter.

A crucial piece of the puzzle
With the intro done, now it’s time for the even more important part—a sales pitch, of sorts. Sell yourself within a couple or a few sentences.

Here, I like to emphasize the concept of exchange. In writing this message, you are likely asking for help of some kind. When asking for something of value, it’s crucial that you offer something of value in return. Ideally, this something is a skill or set of qualifications relevant to the needs of this individual. Recruiters in the corporate world get tons of these messages every day, so it’s important to let them know why they should keep you at the forefront. Otherwise, you may find yourself not receiving responses from LinkedIn outreach.

The closing
And finally, take no more than two sentences to close out the message, and part of that closing should be used to ask if you can send a resume. Since you aren’t yet acquainted with this recruiter, it’s not the right time to ask for career advice, help with the search, or for any other useful resources you feel this individual may have. Requests of that kind may be reasonable at a later date, but asking those questions early on won’t really help you. Again, it’s important to give them something of value before you ask for favors in return.

Written by:
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Salvage Relationships while Declining a Job

September 12th, 2017

During the interview process, you have a chance to learn a great deal about the position and the employer. So what happens if all this information leads you to conclude that you don’t want the job? I’ve certainly been there before, and the most important thing is to handle things in a way where you don’t burn any bridges. The good news? It’s quite simple and makes you look supremely professional.

The mid-interview technique
If you’re still in the interview when this realization hits, you have a couple options. I have had several occasions where I chose to end the interview. I felt that to continue would be a waste of everyone’s time. So instead, I very diplomatically ended the conversation, saying something like “[interviewer name], I really don’t want to waste your time here. Based on the information you’ve given me, I know this just isn’t going to be the right match, and here’s why…”

This approach has yielded nothing but incredibly favorable responses. For me, the key elements are honesty and diplomacy. It’s essential to give the interviewer a real, honest reason. If the real reason is awkward, however, keep reading into the next section.

If this method is just too direct, then certainly finish the interview like normal. If they invite you back, you’ll have to respond promptly to their request and let them know where things stand. But if they don’t call you, then you’re off the hook. However, if you’re feeling like the position isn’t a match because of a personality issue or a concern about cultural fit, it may be best to get the jump on the situation to ensure a tactful handling of things. That brings us to the next method…

For situations where the truth would hurt
Let’s go with the example where you’re not jiving with this prospective supervisor. That would certainly be an awkward conversation to have! Here, I would suggest a proactive thank you note right after the interview. After you thank the interviewer for their time, you can then add something to the effect of “While there are many great things about the opportunity we discussed today, I have decided to pursue a different direction at this time.” First, the beauty of that statement is the fact that it’s wrapped up within a thank you note. No interviewer can ever be upset that you’re saying thank you. And the other benefit is that the statement is not terribly specific, yet it also doesn’t tend to generate follow-up questions.

The job offer that you just can’t accept
Here, we’re not talking about taking a cut-throat approach to negotiation by faking a rejection. This is for when you truly wish to decline the position. While it often feels easier to leave a voicemail, send an email, or worse, just never respond, these approaches tend to burn bridges.

Saying no to an offer requires a specific reason as opposed to a general statement about taking a different direction. When someone is making an offer, they’re in a bit of a vulnerable spot. They’ve met with you and several other individuals, but they have decided to invest in you. This investment involves money, time, energy, and many other resources. Plus, you won them over! It’s a business decision yet still somehow a bit personal for those involved. When you say no, it’s a form of rejection, which most of us don’t particularly enjoy.

However, it’s quite well received when delivered properly and in a way that provides closure. The best route is to have a real conversation that involves some thank yous and an explanation as to why this is just not the right direction for you to take at this time. It does not have to be a lengthy explanation. The person on the other end of that conversation will leave the situation not feeling rejected, and you will manage to deliver bad news without tarnishing your name or reputation.

Written by:
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Candidates: Why You Should Interview the Interviewer

August 22nd, 2017

At an interview, do you jump through hoops to prove your worth to the interviewer? This is exactly what I did during the early days of my career. We aren’t wrong for wanting to put our best foot forward, but taking it to the extreme to make them like us leaves out an important part of the interview equation—how YOU feel about THEM! Only because we already know all about the value of appealing to a prospective employer, I’m going to jump right to the part that focuses on you, the candidate.

The Big Picture
In the long run, nobody wins when we end up in a job or with a company that isn’t the right match. We aren’t happy, successful, or productive. This directly affects the employee and the employer.

When you arrive
There are many things you can assess right from the start. For example, how were you greeted upon arrival and what was the experience like? If possible, see how coworkers interact. Is it positive? Or do they not interact at all? Maybe there aren’t any coworkers at all and you would be working alone. Is the office so quiet you could hear a pin drop?

Your prospective supervisor
While you do your best to impress him/her, be sure you’re auditioning them, too. Does the vibe or connection feel right? Do you feel like you’re being talked down to or interrupted? How would you feel if every work day began with a morning meeting across the desk from this person? Would you feel motivated and excited to get your day started, or would you instead feel heavy and dread starting your day?

While it’s not always easy to know 100% whether or not you can work with someone based on a 30-minute conversation, it’s usually quite possible to see if there are immediate red flags or warning signs.

Meeting the team
Ideally, your interview process will offer you the chance to meet the team (assuming there is one, of course). If that chance arises, apply the same filter to these individuals that you used for your supervisor interview. Sometimes these meetings are done as a group, which would be a great chance for you to see how the team interacts together.

Many examples here focus on potentially negative interaction during an interview; those red flags are the easiest to spot. But sometimes, situations aren’t necessarily about a supervisor or a team being unpleasant. The rest of this task relies upon you the candidate being honest with yourself about your goals, preferences, and limitations you have when it comes to certain environments/personalities. Truthfully, we all have these. It doesn’t make us wrong, but it does mean that some teams, supervisors, or organizations simply aren’t right for us. Using that self-awareness will help you to align yourself with the best opportunities for you.

Written by
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Why You Should Write Thank You Notes

August 15th, 2017

Post-interview notes are sort of like flossing; we all know we should be doing it, yet it seems to fall through the cracks. Reasons for this vary, but I typically receive one of two explanations. Either candidates simply aren’t sure how to write a thank you note, or they tend to believe that this is a generic move that doesn’t really set one apart from the crowd.

How do I write one?
It’s quite easily done! You’ll end up with a greeting and three basic paragraphs:

  1. Greeting: This varies. You may start with Mr/Mrs/Ms Last Name. In other situations, using the first name is appropriate.
  2. Introduction: You simply thank the interviewer for his/her time and say that it was a pleasure to learn more about the company/position. Keep it simple and straightforward.
  3. Body paragraph: Here, briefly connect the dots between your skills and the job itself. Now that you have learned more about the role, you’ll be in the perfect position to make the case. Feel free to directly reference something discussed in the interview. Again, keep it simple.
  4. Conclusion: And finally, close the note by thanking the interviewer again, reiterate that you’re still interested, and assure them that you are happy to pursue any required next steps in the process (additional interviews, meet with other members of the team, etc.).

A few caveats:

  • Regarding email versus an actual letter, email is the more efficient option. However, hardly anyone ever does a hand-written card these days, so following the email with a card is certainly a nice touch.
  • If you met with multiple individuals, you’ll want to write a separate note for each one. In that case, vary your language instead of sending the same exact letter to each person. Coworkers talk (especially when they’re excited about having received a thank you note!), so they’ll be comparing thank you notes with one another.
  • Of course, proofread for spelling and grammar. A typo can help you stand out in all the wrong ways!

Does it really help one to stand out from the crowd?
Since the thank you note is a basic, standard item in the interview process, some candidates assume everyone writes them, the letters are generic, and they don’t accomplish anything. I can personally say that nothing could be further from the truth! Having spent several years interviewing, I can vouch for the fact that very few interviewees actually write thank you notes. So immediately, you are standing out from the crowd.

Even further, on the occasions I have received thank you notes, I can assure you they were very well received. With a flurry of emails and letters coming in about payments due, bad news, or problems, it feels great to have a positive ray of light coming at me in the form of a thank you note. A simple, properly written message has all the potential to help you stand out quite nicely.

Written by
Adam Lafield, Recruiting & Marketing Specialist
Tiffany Appleton, Director, Accounting & Finance Division

Things You Don’t Know About Soft Skills

August 1st, 2017

In job advertisements, you’ve likely seen things like “bachelor’s degree in finance” or “3-5 years of experience in a similar role.” Those are hard skills—specific and oftentimes quantitative. But soft skills are a bit more vague and intangible. I’m focusing on my top five soft skills to get your brain headed in the right direction.

Possibly my number one soft skill, passion is nearly impossible to gain through learning and certainly cannot be bought; one either has it or they do not. But when a candidate has passion, it can oftentimes outweigh a lack of technical experience. Why? Because an individual with passion will move mountains. Whether at work or off on vacation, passionate people are always thinking about their work. It’s a labor of love and it shows.

Play nice in the sandbox
Regardless of title or position, we all have to play together in some capacity. Unless you own your own business where you work completely independently and don’t have any customers, you’re working with people. Employees who work with numbers and reports are still responsible for delivering that information to a real person. One way or another, everyone is part of the proverbial sandbox, and we truly do all have to coexist and get along.

Even for the most brilliant and gifted technical master, written and oral communication are key. One can have all the hard skills and knowledge in the world, but said knowledge cannot serve anyone very well without the ability to communicate that information to others. And if you’re still not convinced of the train wreck that can ensue without strong communications skills, check out one of our recent blogs on email etiquette.

Debbie Downer need not apply
It only takes one person to bring down the morale. With that in mind, employers and teams everywhere are hoping to avoid negativity. While many soft skills cannot be learned, attitude is one of the exceptions. It requires some retraining of the brain, but it’s quite doable.

This may be the vaguest of all the soft skills we’re covering today; it manifests differently for everyone. At the literal level, it could be as straightforward as maintaining a tidy workspace. At the more abstract level, it could be more about managing deadlines and projects. For me, it’s all about keeping the momentum moving in a forward direction. Whether you accomplish that by keeping a Zen workplace or by creating organized, detailed task lists for yourself, it comes down to getting the job done well by not creating your own roadblocks through disorganization.

At some point in the very near future, take some time to think about which soft skills apply to you and how you might be able to market them. When you have an opportunity to show versus tell, definitely do that. For example, you can show excellent written communication skills by crafting a fantastic cover letter or impress with your top-notch oral communication skills simply by using them when you speak with prospective employers (and everyone else in your professional life).

Are You Leaving Voicemails the Right Way?

July 25th, 2017

Ever wondered why it seems to take everyone so long to return your call? I sure have. And then after quick reflection, I realized that maybe I just wasn’t doing a good job of leaving voicemails. Since then, I’ve certainly mended my ways, and the good news is that leaving an effective voicemail is quite easily done! With some basic tools and ideas, you’ll be well on your way to being an expert on voicemail etiquette.

Let’s start from the beginning…with your name!
It’s surprising how often this detail is left out of voicemails. Or if not left out, sometimes it’s said so quickly that the listener really can’t quite decipher it. First and foremost, be sure to mention your name, and it won’t hurt to even mention it twice. Also, for those of us who have a name that is unusual or is difficult to spell, adding the spelling to your message will likely be rather helpful as well.

Ensure you get a call-back
Naturally enough, the phone number is an essential part of nearly any voicemail message. Just like with your name, it’s not a bad idea to say the phone number twice. Doing so could save the listener from having to back the message up again to get the entire number. When giving the digits, speak clearly with consistent pacing.

The ramblers
At one time or another, I’m sure we have all been at the receiving end of a message that rambles on to infinity, and I’m guessing we’ve all been guilty of leaving one on occasion! It’s an easy trap to fall into. For voicemails, less is more. Maybe you have five questions about the proposal you just received. Instead of listing said questions, the following would typically suffice: “Hi, this is ______. I just received the proposal you sent and have a few questions that need clarification before we can make a decision. Please call me at ______. Again, this is _____ calling about the proposal. You can reach me at ______.” The recipient immediately knows why you’re calling and has the pertinent information for the call-back.

Many people I’ve worked with over the years have opted for email over a phone call for the purpose of having a paper trail. However, this is actually changing, at least with regard to voicemails. Thanks to technological developments, many systems now allow one to save voicemails as they would any other computer file. Voicemails that in the past could only be played from the user’s phone (and had to be deleted to save space on the voicemail system) can now be saved, archived, and/or shared. With that in mind, it’s probably easy to understand why less is more when it comes to how much detail one puts into a voicemail.

Last but certainly not least, tone matters. Mopey, grumpy, or confrontational messages are not only a bit unpleasant, but they also aren’t likely to receive an enthusiastic or timely response. Move to the top of someone’s to-do list by showing that speaking with you will be a positive experience, even if the topic of the conversation is a difficult one.

Flexibility AND Productivity…What?!

July 18th, 2017

“For a flexible person, it is impossible not to reach his destination, because by using his ability to be flexible, he can easily define a nearer new destination!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

There’s a lot of emphasis on productivity in recent blogs and Pinterest postings. We are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient at home and at work with the end goal of accomplishing more in less time. There are great tips such as getting up 20 minutes earlier, reducing distractions by shutting off alerts on your phone, and creating priority lists daily, weekly etc… These are all effective ways to get more done.
Sometimes to get our priorities accomplished, we can become rigid and very focused on the task at hand. Our world narrows to a list of tasks and checklists. Distractions and deviations from this list causes much anxiety and a feeling of not being productive. Other people’s needs and priorities become an annoyance.

However, consider a few ideas of how being more flexible can actually boost our productivity and increase our effectiveness. Yes – you can actually be more productive by being flexible!

There will always be distractions, emergencies, or unexpected events in our work day. How we welcome and respond to these is key to keeping ourselves truly productive.

  1. When something unplanned or unexpected comes along, we are forced out of our groove. We have to shift our focus. This is a great opportunity to reassess our priorities. What “to do” items are really important, not to ourselves, but to our company as a whole? Taking these “interruptions” as an opportunity to ensure our goals are aligned with that of our business, can lead us closer to being more productive in the big picture.
  2. By being able to shift gears and ebb and flow with the tide, we are given a chance to continually reprioritize. We can ask ourselves “Is this truly productive?” “What does it really mean to be productive?” We can keep busy all day, or we can find ways to ensure we are contributing to the goals of the company at large. That might mean dealing with an employee issue to prevent problems and ensure a motivated workforce. It might mean letting administrative tasks pile up while we focus on a client and their needs. Thinking about long term results is ultimately more productive.
  3. Being flexible can also teach us to be proactive instead of reactive. Knowing that unexpected issues (good or bad) can occur, we can build flexibility into our plan for the day. Having a backup plan on when we will get something done can help us change gears without the anxiety of leaving our process. Knowing which tasks can wait will help us respond to bigger priorities as they come along.
  4. Sometimes the day gets away from us, and all the “productivity” we had planned goes out the window. This can help us reassess our limits and expectations. Perhaps we are trying to get too much done. Maybe we need to delegate more.

Being flexible does not mean being distracted. Being flexible means we continually redefine priorities and goals. Doing this keeps us in line with the more important aspects of our business and ultimately makes us more productive. What we do produce will then have the greatest impact.

Erin Counter, Director of Operations

LinkedIn as Easy as 1-2-3

July 6th, 2017

Ready to start planting seeds for your future? As someone who works on the recruiter end of LinkedIn, I can assure you that this can be an excellent tool for your career search. With a few simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to having a LinkedIn profile that delivers long-term results.

Complete your profile
Naturally, this would be the first step, and you very likely have already started (and possibly completed) this step. One of the most important items is the professional headline section. LinkedIn automatically fills this in with your current or most recent title, but this field is actually designed to be more than a job title. This is where you can create a dynamic description of what you do, writing a tagline that summarizes who you are and what your expertise is. This is a great place to incorporate any keywords applicable to your experience since keywords are very searchable on LinkedIn. Just make sure not to go overboard with a whole string; this should be an impactful statement that incorporates a few applicable keywords.

Connect to the right people
Connect with individuals in a way that makes sense and has purpose (as opposed to building your network through random clicks of the mouse). You’ll want to connect with current and former employers and coworkers. From there, your network will keep growing. And in connecting with these individuals, you’re setting yourself up very nicely for when you have to ask for references. You’re already in contact through LinkedIn, so it won’t be terribly difficult to ask these contacts for assistance when needed.

Share valuable content
Now that you’ve built your network, make sure they see your name on a regular basis. The best way to do this is simply to share relevant articles, industry news, job-search tips, etc. Really, it’s just a matter of sharing something your connections will likely find helpful, and the posts will keep your name fresh in their mind. As you get more acclimated to the LinkedIn functions, you’ll notice there are alerts to tell you when someone has a work anniversary, starts a new job, or has a birthday. Sending a quick congrats is another effective way to stay in contact with key people.

While these steps seem simplistic, that’s really all there is to it! While your LinkedIn profile won’t magically create and maintain itself, it takes a minimal time investment to grow and develop this resource, and it has the potential to deliver huge results for you.