Category Archives: Workplace culture

Ace the Job Interview through Building Bridges


Let’s face it:  the job search process seems a little silly.

Your resume is supposed to spell out your years of experience, expertise and accomplishments using a dozen-or-so short, bulleted synopsis with the hope that someone ‘gets you’ and sees that your background, above everyone else, is the right fit for the position.

Now, saying that, resumes and cover letters are necessary and there are clearly effective ways to write impactful resumes and cover letters that help you to stand out.

Assuming your resume does open the door for you and you are now in the formal recruitment process, you are now faced with an even more daunting challenge: convincing the hiring manager at the interview that you are the right person for the job.

It’s during the interview where you not only must connect all of the relevance to the position they detected on your resume, but also where you must display a true passion and desire for the company and for the job for which you are applying.

I spoke with an HR manager at one of Denver’s biggest ad agencies last week and he told me that the thing that really stands out with him when interviewing someone is that the job seeker displays a level of self-assuredness not only about their skills, but how they can display how their skills translate to the specific job they are interviewing for.

“Often I see job seekers in interviews who are trying to convince me that their breadth of background would be a perfect fit for the company; I need you to connect your background to the specific job your are interviewing for – that is what I will be ultimately be judging you on.

“If someone appears desperate, then they will probably go overboard in describing how they can do anything we ask of them. Often, this also translates to long-winded answers which give us the impression you are boring.  If you are boring me, I’m left with the impression you will also bore our clients.

“Give me short, specific examples of how your background connects to the specific position.   Paint the picture in my head of how you will be the most effective person for this job.  Convince me that you are right for this job.”

Building Bridges

I’ve found that most job-seeking advice sounds good when you describe it, but in fact, is much more difficult in practice.  This is particularly true with advice about how to effectively interview.

The fact is that the end-goal for any job-seeking interview situation is to influence the perception of the person who is doing the interviewing in your favor; you want them to leave the interview believing you are the right person for the job.

One of the biggest mistakes people in interviews make is trying to quickly determine the answer you believe the interviewer wants to hear. There are a couple of things wrong with this approach.  The primary mistake is that you simply don’t know what the interviewer wants to hear; and secondly, you are giving up a great opportunity to display your true grasp of the issue.

When I was the Chief Spokesman for the Mayor of Denver, I perfected a few tricks that helped the Mayor to navigate through tricky media interview situations.

In any interview, we would prepare the Mayor to concentrate on 3-5 messages that HE wanted to get across in the interview – in other words, we worked with him to control weaving these messages into the interview.  So no matter the question, he would tailor his answers back to the points HE wanted to make.

This technique is called bridging and is completely applicable to the job-seeking interview process.

In bridging, the goal is to lead your answer to one of the 3-5 points you want to make – again these 3-5 points are going to be connected to your relevance to the job.  When you think about it this way, you can see that you are in much more control of the interview and can communicate with a much greater level of confidence and assuredness.

For example:

Q:  Our company is still coming to grips with using social media effectively.  What are the things that you would do broaden our reach using social media and how can we use a blog for our CEO to promote the company?

Wrong Answer:  Without question, you need to be on Twitter, Facebook and also we should create a CEO blog that will help promote your CEO.  I’m familiar with all social media and could really help this company promote itself using social media.

Right Answer:  My experience with social media tells me a couple of things.  Primarily, it requires a serious assessment of the need and as importantly the time, effort, and resources that are required to use social media effectively.  In my last position, we looked at all the tools we were using in our overall marketing efforts and developed a specific campaign that included social media to see how our customers would respond. Through Twitter alone we increased traffic to our point-of-sale website by 22% in the first 3 months.  But the blog we created was more difficult because of the lack of time and commitment from upper management. But the critical issue is this: before committing to using one social media tool over the other and to set realistic expectations about what social media can deliver, its important to test different social media tools.

As you can see, the second answer uses the bridging phrases ‘My experience…tells me a couple of things’ and ‘…the critical issue is this.’  Using these types of bridging phrases immediately sets up an expectation of an authoritative response.  Bridging gives you power – it allows you to use past experiences to demonstrate a point and it highlights your expertise and how it would apply to the job your applying.

Here are several other bridging phrases that can help you:

From my perspective…

I have heard that too, but the real focus should be on….

If I may, let me pick out another point that is equally as important….

Based on a similar project I was involved in, I might describe it differently…

Looking ahead, I believe…

Here’s a related point I’m even more familiar with…

That’s an important point, but here’s my view on the issue…

The question might also be…

Opinions might differ on this point, but here’s my bottom line…

Let’s use another perspective…

Some people might consider this is the most important issue, but my experience tells me that…

Bottom Line
Bridging works.  Remember, don’t always answer the question in the way you think the interviewer WANTS to hear the response, think about how you can get to the answer that is most helpful to demonstrate your 3-5 points you want to make in an interview.

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, college graduate, entry level, Human Resources, Interview Questions, Job advice, Job Boards, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, older job seekers, Social Media Jobs, Uncategorized, Workplace culture

What an employer is thinking: the most important job interview questions that will never be asked.

In a recent New York Times profile, a respected CEO was asked, “How do you interview job candidates?”

His response? “I have two basic questions in mind: Can you do the job and would I enjoy spending time with you?”

It’s a revealing statement but really not that surprising.

When you are in the interview stage with an employer, chances are, you are one of several candidates who has proven to have the experience, background, expertise and talent to fulfill the requirements of the job.  At this point, the person who is doing the hiring is trying to unlock the greatest mystery in their mind: what would it be like to actually work with you?  Why would I want you on my team?

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who is interviewing you for the job.

They have probably never met you before – they might only know you from your resume and cover letter.  And yet,  they are about to make a decision and a commitment that means they will most likely be spending more time with you at work than they do at home with their spouse, their kids and their friends!  In addition, they are trusting that your performance will help to increase the value and productivity of their organization/department and on top of that, they are going to pay you MONEY for doing so!

This is a relatively short courtship; within a period of a few weeks, this person is bringing you onto their team with the relatively blind expectation and finger-crossing hope that you are the perfect match.

Throughout the interview, they will try to figure out the answers to the following questions.  While these questions most likely will not be asked directly, by understanding and anticipating the mindset of the interviewer will allow you to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the job.

Prepare yourself!  Demonstrate with examples and specific situations answers to these questions.

Are you enjoyable and fun to be around? (I have to spend a lot of time with you, I don’t want to dread seeing you every day!  Are you a suck-up?  Are you nervous around the boss?  Are you someone I’d feel comfortable having a beer with from time-to-time? Will you get along with my other employees?)

Will you be a good deputy? (Will you be loyal and trustworthy?  Someone I can  always rely on?  Will you watch my back?  Will you be a constant ‘yes’ person or are you willing to challenge me and help me avoid mistakes?  Will you be thinking three steps ahead and help me and my department to avoid mistakes?)

Will you be easy to manage? (Are you someone with great enthusiasm who will be help me inspire my team or are you going to be a pain in my rear;  a complainer and a whiner? )

Are you a  good team player? (Do you recognize your role on my team?    Can you get along with others and inspire others?  Can you play well with others and not get sucked into office politics? Do you have leadership skills and can you leverage other team member’s strengths with your own for the good of the department?  Will you put the team’s goals ahead of you own personal ambition?  Will your negative energy drag down the morale of the department?)

Do you listen intently and can you follow instructions easily? (Do you have common sense? Can I rely that I can explain something once and expect that you’ll accomplish the assignment?  Is this person a know-it-all, been-there-done-that?  Do I have to explain multiple times how to get something done?)

Do you communicate well? (Are you charismatic?  Confident? Do you explain yourself clearly?  Do you get flustered under pressure?  Can you make a good case and argue points effectively?  Are you organized in how you communicate?)

Are you a hard worker? (Can I count on you to go the extra mile to get a project completed and not complain?  Will you work late or on the weekends if required from time-to-time?)

Are you creative?  Innovative? (Are you full of great ideas?  Do you think outside of the box?  As important, can you implement a vision?  Can you inspire people to think differently?)

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Filed under Andrew Hudson's Jobs List, college graduate, entry level, Human Resources, Interview Questions, Job advice, Job Interview, Job Posting, Job Recruiters, Job Seeker, Social Media Jobs, Uncategorized, Workplace culture

What we wish we knew at graduation…10 pieces of advice to college grads

It’s college graduation season and as a result, there’s a lot of new entry-level job seekers entering the job search market right now.

When I graduated from the University of Colorado in 1989, I saw the President of the University of Colorado at my graduation and walked up to him.  “President Gee,” I said.  “What’s the best piece of advice you can give a new college graduate with a degree in English Literature?”  He looked down at me, smiled and said.  “Never, never, ever forget to pay your alumni dues.”  This deflating piece of advice was exactly what I didn’t want and need to hear.

In any event, without sounding like a cliché graduation commencement lecture, I’ve solicited practical advice from my thousands of friends on Facebook and Twitter.

I asked a simple question:

“If you could offer one piece of advice to a recent college graduate what would it be and what do you know now that you wish you knew when you graduated from college?”

I’ve condensed the hundreds of answers I received into some general themes and transfer this advice in the spirit of mature wisdom in which it is intended.

1.)  Debt is a soul-sucker.

Live within your means and avoid the debt trap like the plague.

Right now, as a recent college graduate, you have amazing ambitions, goals and hopes for the future – don’t let those be derailed because of unnecessary debt.

All too often, I’ve met with professionals who, now in their 40’s and 50’s, are slaves to the debt trap that controls every aspect of their lives: they are in jobs they don’t like, stressful marriages, living paycheck-to-paycheck with no savings for their kid’s college education as well as their own retirement – all because of the enormous debt they began racking up early in life.

There is NO SUCH THING as FREE MONEY! Avoid the temptations of the credit marketing hucksters who are pitching easy money with credit cards offers, department store lines of credit, banks, automobiles – there’s endless ways to get handcuffed to debt for the rest of your life.

Get a credit card to establish credit, but avoid the high interest-rate and pay it off each month.   Finance problems and debt are cited as one of the top reasons for divorce.  If you are getting married, from the get-go, have honest and open conversations about finances and try your best to pay off student loans and any other debt you may have each incurred.  Work with a financial planner early in your marriage so that you can map your goals as a married couple.  Save and invest but avoid the financial slavery of debt.

2.)  Travel while you are in your 20’s.

Save up and visit new countries when you have minimal commitments.   Study abroad, intern overseas, volunteer or consider working for a non-profit or a non-governmental organization (NGO) in another country or get an advanced degree abroad.

Being able to travel not only is fun, but can be a time of self reflection after your hard work in college and give you new insights into your career and life goals.  Your experiences can be a real differentiator in job hunts.   There are plenty of resources available that can lead you to work abroad opportunities and help you be able to travel affordably.

3.)  Be a life-long student.

Just because you have a college degree doesn’t mean you should stop learning.  Be infinitely curious about all things.  Continue to learn and master new skills and open your mind to different cultures, political opinions and new ideas.  You are going into a workforce that requires you to interact with a wide range of ages, work ethics, business atmospheres, personalities and diverse opinions that you may not have experienced before.  At the end of every day, ask the same question your parents asked at the dinner table after school: “What did you learn today?”

4.) Your first job is going to be a learning experience.

Don’t be afraid to start at the very bottom.  Paying your dues means proving yourself – proving that you don’t feel entitled and that no job is below you, proving that you have the heart, the passion and drive to always find a way to get the job done, under any circumstance, proving that you will work long hours and on weekends, and proving that you will always be reliable and true to your word.

5.)  You will fail at something sometime.

John Elway threw way more interceptions than he did touchdowns.   Every successful person is also an expert at failing.  Like them, prepare to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.

6.) Be ethical, honest and confident about your integrity.

You will be faced at times during your career when a decision you have to make or a situation you are in will seem to test your character and integrity.   If you are confident in your character and integrity, these situations will never be considered a ‘judgment call.’  You are ethical and honest or you are not.  It is that simple.

7.) Happiness is many things, but it is not about money.

Don’t believe the marketing hype: happiness is NEVER found in how much money you have, how big your house is, what type of car you drive, what type of title or power you hold, the types of clothes you wear or how attractive you (or others) believe yourself to be.

Typically happiness in life is found in deep and meaningful relationships with your family and friends, being satisfied and enjoying your work, enjoying good health, having self confidence and enjoying freedom and independence from financial debt.  Most importantly, it’s found in constantly recognizing and acknowledging the things in your life that present you with joy.

8.) Become an inspirational leader.

We need more leaders in the world.   Volunteer for leadership positions whenever you get the chance.  Try to become a supervisor or a manager.  Join a nonprofit board, or volunteer for a leadership position through a professional industry association.

9.) Be passionate and committed to being the best at everything you do!

Believe in yourself, in your goals and ideas and learn how to manage people and resources wisely and fairly.   Always have a vision for the future, but more than just having a vision, learn how to inspire others to believe and help you to implement and manage your vision.

10.) Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to do right now.

Expect that your life will take many twists and turns.

When asked about their current jobs, most seasoned professionals start out by saying, “If you’d have told me when I graduated from college that I’d be doing what I’m doing for a career today, I’d have thought you were crazy!”

The fact is your niche will most likely not be what you expect it to be today.  You will discover skills in your first job out of college that you didn’t realize you possessed.  You will recognize interests that will help you focus on your future goals.  Your will find a career that will fit you – your talents, your personality, your experiences Expect your life’s mission and your professional goals to become more clear over the next few years.

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NEW RULES FOR JOB SEEKING No 1: Job Boards

I graduated from college in 1989 and parlayed an internship with a US Senator into a full-time press secretary position.   I relocated from Denver to Washington D.C. and two years later, my boss, in the beginning of a hard-fought reelection campaign, abruptly announced he was quitting and my job in Washington, D.C. came to a halt.  I moved back to Denver in 1992 and for the first time in my life was forced to look for a new job.

Back then, the way you looked for a job was pretty simple.  You crafted one really good functional resume and opened up the Sunday Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post help wanted ads and started sending your resume to employers.   At the time, the newspapers had over 50-pages of new job listings each Sunday and it the only reliable place to find new job opportunities.   As a matter of fact, I found my next job as Director of Public Affairs for RTD through a newspaper help wanted ad.

In 1998, Monster.com was created offering a quick, organized and navigable way to search for a job.  Simply type in your city and key words and dozens of jobs would appear before your eyes.  As time progressed, Monster and the other major national job boards that followed such as Career Builder, Hot Jobs and others, have become ‘monsters.’  For career-minded job seekers trying to find good, professional jobs it has become an impossible challenge to sift through the pyramid marketing and sales jobs that clutters so much of these job boards.  For corporate HR recruiters who are paying thousands of dollars to post their jobs, they are now forced to sift through the hundreds of resumes sent from throughout the world. These monster job boards have created more problems than they solved.

Today there are an estimated 80,000 job boards on the Internet and the vast majority are simply too difficult to navigate or are unreliable in terms of the veracity of the jobs that are posted.  There’s nothing worse than spending the time researching and preparing your resume package tailored to a job you found on an online job board only to find that the job has already been filled are was actually posted 6 months ago.

NEW RULES FOR JOB BOARDS:

Today’s job seekers have found that there are maybe a half-dozen job boards that have REAL and regularly updated new jobs.   Here’s some of the better job boards successful job seekers use when searching for a new career.

Company Job Boards

Most successful job seekers know that bookmarking the job boards of specific companies you are interested in working for is the best way to find reliable job leads.  However, that is limited to the companies that you know about and the reality is there are many opportunities at companies you are simply unaware of.

Andrew Hudson’s Jobs List

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t refer you to visit my website, www.andrewhudsonsjobslist.com.   Hundreds of positions are regularly posted there and I can tell you that the jobs are REAL – employers are actively and urgently looking to fill the variety of positions regularly posted on AH Jobs List.  Employers rely on the vast pool of talented, professionals who regularly view AH Jobs List.  Job seekers have daily access to new jobs and can also be instantly notified through Twitter and Facebook when a new job has been posted.  Subscribers get an email with the weekly updates that features between 75-100 new jobs each week.  Job seekers can also publish a short ‘job seeker profile’ and employers regularly scan these profiles looking for new talent.

For the most part, AH Jobs List is tailored to LOCAL employers and job seekers in the Rocky Mountain region, but plans are underway for AH Jobs List to expand to other cities in the near future.

Aggregator job boards

Aggregator job boards send ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ to search for jobs across the Internet and then compile those jobs in a searchable database accessible on the Internet.

Aggregator job boards http://www.indeed.com and http://www.simplyhired.com are terrific tools for sorting through many of the major job boards as well as corporate job boards.  The keys to success on these sites are refining your search terms and understanding the variety of job titles that might fall under one career field.   For example there may be hundreds of jobs listed under the term ‘sales’, but you can also refine that further by using the terms ‘senior sales’ , ‘business development manager’ or  other terms and titles that could reflect the career you are searching.

Niche job boards

Look for credible niche sites that focus on specific career areas.  For example, www.dice.com, is a terrific high-tech job board.  If you are looking for non-profit related careers in Colorado, I recommend the job board on www.coloradononprofits.org.  If you are looking for a job in higher education, check out http://www.higheredjobs.com which regularly lists a variety of new jobs at universities.

Professional associations many times offer good niche job listings.  Often these associations are run by volunteers and don’t have the full-time capabilities of managing a jobs site and regular postings are few and far between.   In addition, some of the associations require you to be a dues-paying member in order to see the jobs which is limiting both to the job seekers and to the employers posting their jobs.

LinkedIn

While more hit-and-miss in terms of the numbers of positions posted each day, LinkedIn.com is also a helpful job search tool.  Recruiters are using LinkedIn more and more to find quality professional candidates so make sure your profile is updated.  Also use the LinkedIn job effecient search tool to scan for new postings from companies.

Craigs List and the rest

On Craigs List I’ve found more hourly temporary jobs than salaried career-type positions.  It has some fans, but for the most part, it has not attracted the type of credibility and reliability from employers and from professional job seekers.

I also tend to frown on job sites that require job seekers to pay money in order to see the jobs.  In an age when content is king, forcing unemployed job seekers to pay to see job postings seems unfair and exploitive.  For example, in my surveys, the Ladders, which charges job seekers about $30 per-month with the promise of access to postings of senior-level, six-figure positions, regularly ranks as one of the most over-hyped yet unreliable job boards.

What are your favorite job boards?  Which job boards are the best resource for your job search?

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Frontier Airline’s Front-Line CEO

Working at Frontier Airlines several years ago, I was delivering a presentation on the Frontier branding campaign to a travel conference in Breckenridge.

At one point, I talked about how our CEO required the senior executive team at Frontier to spend time at Denver International Airport on a regular basis assisting with passenger check-in, cleaning planes on turn-arounds, loading bags on and off the planes, offering directions and other front-line customer service  and operation-related jobs.

There was a true non-hiearchy attitude that existed at Frontier and everyone was reminded over and over that each employee’s role was important to the success of the airline.

One of the only ways for the front office management to understand a traveler’s experience was to get them out from behind their desks and actually work shoulder-to-shoulder with those that were doing the heavy lifting on the front-lines of the operation.  I explained how I also required our public relations and advertising/branding agencies to spend time working on the front-line at DIA.

At the end of my presentation, I was approached by a man who had listened to my talk.

“I will always fly Frontier,” he said.

Happy to hear that, I asked him why?

He shared with me that he and his wife had dropped off their daughter at the Frontier check-in after the holidays as she was heading back to college in San Francisco.  As his daughter was waiting to check in, she realized that she had accidentally grabbed her mother’s key chain which had her mom’s car keys, work keys and house keys.  “Oh no!” she blurted.

A friendly and helpful Frontier customer service representative who was working the check-in lines heard her and asked what was wrong.  She told him the story and he asked her where she lived.

When she told him she lived in Parker, the agent said to not worry and to call her parents.  He was getting off in 20 minutes and he would drop the keys off at their home as he lived in the general area.

Even though I always thought that Frontier differentiated itself in big ways because of the pride, friendliness and general helpful nature of its employees, even I was blown away by this gesture.  I asked the man if he recalled the customer service agent’s name.

“Yes,” he responded.  “His name was something like Potter; Jeff Potter, I think!”

My jaw dropped and I let out a gasp.

“Do you know him?” the man asked me.

“Yes,”  I responded.   “He’s the CEO of Frontier.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Jeff started his career as a teenager working an hourly job cleaning planes on the old Frontier Airlines.  He’d worked about every airline job possible as he progressed his career throughout the airline industry.  As CEO of Frontier, he was the biggest advocate of doing things differently and because of his experience on the front-lines, empowered Frontier’s employees’ customer service decisions to be based on common sense not overly-rigid policies.

Jeff understood that so often in business, policies are mandated by managers who often have little or no understanding of whether the policy is practical, efficient or really necessary.  In an operation like an airline, he saw how rigid and impractical policies can impact not only a customer’s travel experience, but employee morale and ultimately the on-time performance and profitability of the airline itself.  Managers who regularly work on the front line of their operations have a better appreciation not only from seeing the result of their policies in action but from getting important feedback from employees and from the customers themselves.

It was also Jeff who never forgot that no matter how important the title or how many zeroes were on the end of your paycheck each month, if you didn’t take the time to stand at the front-line of your operations and commit to experiencing and understanding your employees, your customers, and the constant changing nature of your industry and your company, it is difficult to make good leadership decisions for your company.

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The office jerk explained….

This morning’s Wall Street Journal gives us a psychotherapy session as to the wide variety of office jerks and why they behave the way they do.  As expected, it all traces back to childhood trauma of one sort or another.

According to the WSJ, “Amid a growing focus on workplace quality, some managers and coaches are now using new techniques to identify the childhood origins of harmful behavior at work and then rout out those patterns through training or outright bans on bad behavior.”

Office jerks are typically common bullies and nimrods.  They might be the passive/agressive type jerk – the smiley, happy jerk who always says the right things, but are sharpening their knives at the same time.

Then there’s the type of jerk who yells a lot and simply disrupts the office with a constant environment of fear and unhappiness.

My favorite is the mighty martyr/victim jerk.  You can’t miss ‘em!  They are the ones who spend more time moaning about the work they are supposed to be doing then actually getting the work completed.   They also make it known quite regularly that the company/department only exists because of their ‘talent’ and will whine to anyone who will listen as to why they didn’t get a promotion or a raise.

And of course, there’s the incompetent office jerk, also many times called ‘the boss’ by the martyr/victim jerk.

In addition, I’ve had bosses who hired jerks as part of their leadership strategy.  These are the high level kamakazi jerks who aren’t afraid to insult, step on toes, piss people off, make people cry, make unpopular decisions all while the boss can be ‘good cop’ and not worry about looking like a jerk.  I’ve seen this strategy actually work before with high profile leaders.

Me thinks that office jerks exist because we allow them to exist with no accountability.  If no one stands up to their bullying, terrorizing and general bad attitudes, they believe their behaviour is completely acceptable.

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