Tag Archives: recruiters

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

Job Doctor: One recruiter’s five-step plan for job seekers to get noticed

Dear Job Doctor:

I’ve sent my resume in response to dozens of job postings but am not getting calls back.  What am I doing wrong?

Going Bonkers in Denver

Dear GBID:

This is a very common problem – probably the biggest frustration I hear from job seekers.

What are things that will get your resume noticed and help your resume land in the pile for consideration?

Think about it from a human resource recruiter’s perspective.

An HR recruiter at a company is typically what we call a ‘generalist.’  They are professionals who are trained to hire the best possible talent for their organization and, in fact, their own jobs depend on it.

When you think about it that way, you can understand how important it is to prove to them why you should be considered; they WANT you to prove to them that you are the best candidate for the position.

One HR recruiter from a mid-size IT company explained the five-step-process she goes through when sifting through a pile of resumes on her desk.

1.)  Impactful resumes and cover letters that show in clear and organized ways the chronology of a career progression.

“I have about 60 seconds to look at a resume and determine if  a job seeker is a stellar candidate for the position,” she said.  “First, I look for basic criteria like years and type of experience, college degree, and chronology of employment.  I don’t have a lot of time to search for these things, they need to be laid out in a simple and easy-to-read, organized fashion.  The longer I have to search for these things, the less likely its a resume that will be considered.”

2.) Red flags.  You’ve heard it before – typos, including misspelled words and grammatical mistakes, matter.  But there are other red flags recruiters are looking for.

“Typos are the easy red flags.  But I’m also looking for red-flags such as multiple jobs in a short period of time, gaps in employment,  confusing or inconsistent dates as well as other things that might give me pause.  If things are not clear and transparent and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time questioning a resume, chances are slim it will get through my filters.

“If you have a unique situation, explain it in the resume or cover letter.  Have you been a stay-at-home parent for five years?  Have you been on the unemployment lines for 6 months without a job?  People think these and other situations will automatically disqualify them and that’s not necessarily true.  What has a greater chance of disqualifying you is if we don’t understand the situation.  Don’t make us guess or assume.”

3.) Clearly identified skills, accomplishments and experiences that are relevant to the position that is being applied for.

“If the resume gets through this initial screen, I then determine if this candidate’s background – their experience, skills, expertise, career progression – is relevant to the job they are applying for.

“No matter what the position, in both the resume and the cover letter, the candidate has to show me why their background is relevant to the job.  I want to believe you are the best candidate and it is in my best interest that you are,  but you have to help prove that to me.

“Tell me specifically what you did and what you accomplished.  Don’t use weak language to describe your background!  Impress me! Show confidence in your skills.  Use specific examples of past job responsibilities that are tied to the job you are applying for.  Did you manage people?  Oversee large budgets?  Do you have specific projects that drove the bottom line?  Were you promoted?  Tell me your story!”

4.) The pre-interview

Often, recruiters will call candidates that make it through their initial screen before they invite them in for a formal interview.

“I want to have a conversation to see if the resume really matches with the person we are considering.  Remember, ultimately, the people I send forward are based on my recommendation…I want to make sure they are the right candidates.

“Based on the initial resume review, I’ll usually have several questions relating to their background and I also want to get a sense over the phone if they are really serious about going through the recruiting process.   I’ll probably also discuss initial salary range to gauge whether the salary is a fit.  There’s nothing worse than going through the whole recruitment process only to find at the job offer that salary expectations are inconsistent with what is being offered.  It is helpful for candidates to be clear at the beginning about their expectations.

“Job seekers should always be prepared to discuss their background.  The most effective interviewers are the ones that anticipate the questions that will be asked of them.  We try to outline the job description in great detail and it is helpful if job candidates are prepared to speak to how their background is relevant to the job.”

5.) Little things matter! Politeness.  Attitude.  Prompt return of phone calls.  Gratitude.

“I often find job candidates who carry a disrespectful attitude toward HR recruiters.  They think the HR recruiter is a barrier to their opportunity; they’d prefer to immediately talk to the hiring authority or their new boss.

“We are trained professionals who are committed to the best interests of our organizations. Through the recruiting process, we also become advocates of the top talent we think will make the best employees for the position we are trying to hire.

“Many times, our first impressions will be deciding factors.  Be polite and respectful of our time.  Recognize that while we understand your anxiety, we are probably recruiting for several positions at one time and only have limited time throughout the day.

“Thank you notes are essential.  It shows us you ‘get it’ and it is a simple, respectful and appreciated gesture.

“There can be a lot of moving pieces in the recruiting process and you can do yourself a favor by being as helpful as you can throughout this process.”

Bottom line? Help the recruiter become an advocate for you.  Prove how you are clearly the best candidate.  Your resume shouldn’t read like a crossword puzzle – it should clearly show that you meet the basic criteria and most importantly, demonstrate in an organized and detailed fashion how your background is relevant to the job you are applying for.  Show how your skills, your background, your experience and expertise are a fit for the position.  Be polite and respectful and be clear about your expectations.    Answer all questions and ask the recruiter what are things that you can do to be most helpful throughout the process.

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Six tips from successful professionals on how to manage your career

I meet regularly with people who are looking for work.  I’ve met with hundreds of professionals who are either entry level job seekers or mid-level managers who are looking to progress their careers to the next level.   I meet with senior VPs who are unsatisfied with their jobs or are looking to transition to other industries.

Managing your career means constantly preparing yourself for the next path in your career journey.  From the moment you begin your career as an entry level employee it is important to constantly assess, anticipate and analyze your next move.   What are your career goals and how can you achieve them? 

Preparing yourself is not only to fulfill the desire to be promoted or to transition, but it is also a huge insurance policy in the event that you lose your job. 

Probably the most important question you need to ask yourself:  In the event you lost your job, are you prepared and positioned to begin looking for a new job?   Are you comfortable that you’d be pretty well established and connected in your industry or career sector to easily find a new job at the same responsibility and salary level?

Here are six tips that successful professionals use to manage their careers. 

1.) Understand the opportunities that will help you fulfill your current career goals.

One of the first things to consider when researching a potential employer are the opportunities for promotion; does this company have a record of hiring from within, from training, encouraging and actively working with their employees to progress upwards?  Also consider the department within the company.  Is it a small group that offers few opportunities?  If so, is it possible to transfer your skills through a promotion to another department?  It’s a legitimate and reasonable question to ask about promotion opportunities when you are being interviewed for a new position. 

It is also reasonable to ask the question about education reimbursement benefits.  Many companies will reimburse all or a portion of classes, seminars, association dues, professional development activities and other education and training opportunities.  Your increased education should be a consideration for future promotions as well.

2.) Network, network, network!!!  Get out from behind your desk.  Join a professional association, volunteer and participate in your industry and your community.

All too often, professionals who are laid off find themselves without a robust network of contacts to help them with their new job search.  In our goals to be successful at work, we often find ourselves spending every waking moment behind our desks missing terrific opportunities to network in any meaningful way with our industry peers and our community.  Our lack of connections can also add to a perceived lack of value. 

Creating a robust rolodex of friends, associates and connectors helps job seekers in many ways.

How do you get more connected in your community and in your industry?

PARTICIPATE! 

Join an association, your local chamber of commerce, rotary club or another community or business organization.  Serve on the boards of these organizations, adopt a project and put your skills to use.

In the same way, use your skills to assist a local nonprofit or at the least, take on a pro-bono project for a local charity.  Your expertise will be welcome to a local nonprofit who views you as a third-party expert that can assist them on a variety of levels.  In addition, many high-profile and powerful community and business leaders are involved in local charity work and it expands your connections.

Bottom line – here’s what networking does:

  • Helps you to connect and meet peers, associates and movers and shakers.
  • Folks get to meet you face-to-face.
  • It helps you get noticed and gives your name familiarity in your profession.
  • It teaches you about different industries and organizations and new aspects of your chosen profession.
  • It helps you find different business opportunities for your current job.
  • It gives you speaking opportunities to show off your talents and skills.
  • It gives you new information about new trends in your chosen field.
  • You can become an expert in a different area.

3.) Always return phone calls and emails. 

There’s nothing more deafening than the sound of silence when, in your desperation to find a job, your phone calls are not returned or your emails go unanswered.

I know we all get consumed with the day-to-day stress of hundreds of emails, phone calls, etc., but everyone needs a system to return messages.  I try, at least 3 times per-week to designate at least 1.5 hours to go through my email box and my voicemail and return emails and phone calls. 

I’m not always perfect, but I had an employee who just figured it wasn’t necessary.  I’d get complaints from CEO’s of major company partners complaining that they were unable to reach this colleague!  Not even an acknowledgement or referring on a request or message to an underling to return.  Nothing!

It makes it very difficult when you are suddenly in a position of needing assistance and scratching your head as to why you are not taken seriously.

4.) Always promote your successes.  There’s no such thing as modesty when your hard work has created something noteworthy.

When you achieve something that is notable, it is critical to promote that achievement.  For example, most major professional associations have annual awards to recognize significant achievements.  Participating in these awards competitions, helps to create awareness amongst your peers, and it also adds another highlight to your resume/portfolio.

In addition, when a significant achievement is notable, promote it locally to your local business section or business publication and to national trade and industry media.  Your achievement can most likely be noted as trendsetting and your reputation for creativity will be noticed.

5.) Keep a regularly updated ‘career journal’.

In this journal, constantly keep notes of different skills and levels of expertise that you are utilizing in your job. 

Constantly keep notes on the major projects that you are involved and describe the four levels of a project’s success – development, strategy, execution and results.  This type of discipline will help you to think and analyze how your skills and talents are developing.  More importantly, you’ll be able to discuss in greater detail with future employers the level of energy and talent that it required to achieve success in your career.

6.) ALWAYS keep your resume and portfolio updated. 

Spend a dedicated amount of time each month reviewing your resume.  Keep a file that you can keep store your work product for your portfolio.  This is an important exercise that will benefit you in so many different ways now and in the future.

A resume is an important tool for your job search and you need to keep it current and make sure that you are revising it to match your skills and your career goals.  In addition, a robust portfolio of your work product will help you promote your career and makes sure that if you are laid off, you access to your work product.

There are a massive amount of websites and books that can help you best set up the ‘perfect’ resume and portfolio.  Take advantage of the advice and guidance that is currently available.

Bottom Line:

It’s human nature to reach a comfort level when you are in a job that seems to be stable.  However, its also human nature to want to progress, constantly learn and succeed in our professional lives.

Much like an insurance policy or a 401k, we need to constantly manage and invest in our careers through networking, promoting ourselves and keeping our resumes and portfolios up-to-date.

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“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?” The worst job interview questions ever

Today’s  job seekers try to prepare for everything.

They diligently research the background of companies to try to match their specific talents, experiences and expertise with what is required in the job posting.  They spend long hours customizing their resumes and cover letters.   They have incredible patience and perseverance, waiting by the phone and willing to jump at a moment’s notice for an interview.

And when they do get an interview, they rehearse their answers to the most commonly asked interview questions.

But even the most experienced job seeker would be at a loss when asked the questions below.

These are all real questions asked at real job interviews.  Perhaps the recruiter was trying to be cute or trying to see how the job seeker would handle an odd question, but these have got to be some of the worst questions asked at a job interview…..ever.

Some of these questions are illegal to ask.  At the very least many of them are inappropriate.  Others are just silly.   Some of these zingers are born from bizarre workplace  profile tests in which they are attempting to somehow judge whether your personality would fit in the corporate culture of the company.

Nevertheless, if you get asked an odd question, take a deep breath and don’t say the first thing that comes to mind.   Take a moment and decide the best response.  Granted, in some cases that best response might be standing up and walking out.

The Worst Interview Questions Ever

“If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you want poured on you?”

“How do you define sexual harassment?”

“Pretend I am an Eskimo and sell me a freezer.”

“We’ve already made a hiring decision, but I’m required to ask you  some questions anyway.”

“It’s OK if you don’t know a lot about our industry.  Our CEO’s kind of an idiot about what we do as well.”

“How do you feel about a monkey in the office?”

“Are you sure you are Hispanic?  Your last name sure doesn’t sound Latin.”

I was asked “Why are pothole covers round?” while interviewing for a reception job years ago. WHAT? Luckily I got it right (so they don’t fall in), and still didn’t get the job.

“You’re not the type that would sue your employer, are you?”

“When was the last time you did something illegal?”

“What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?”

“We don’t allow personal calls at work.  Would your children ever call you?”

“You’d be the fourth person in this position in the last six months.  What traits do you think will help you stay in this position?”

“Are you dating anyone? Well don’t date anyone here.”

“If you were to pick the theme song that would be played when you stepped out onto home plate at Coors Field – what would it be?”

“Do you care if your boss reads your email?”

“If we don’t hire you, which of our competitors would you want to work for?” Followed by:  “If we finally offered the same wages as them, would you work for us?”

“If we hire you, do you promise not to quit?”

“How do you feel about working unpaid overtime?”

“Do you speak Japanese?”   Uhhh…shouldn’t they have put that in the ad??

“Are you pregnant, or going to get pregnant in the next 12 months?”

During a phone interview – “Are you as sexy as your voice?”

“Why do you want this job when you should be home having babies?”

“If you were a celebrity, who would you be?”

“If you could be a teacher, a jet pilot or an actor, which would you be and why?”

and lastly (after the interview) –

“We know we offered you the job, but our new CEO asked us to hire a friend of the Mayor’s instead.”

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Everything I ever learned about hard work, I learned working in a restaurant

When I was doing a lot of hiring at previous jobs, one question that I would always ask potential employees was, “Did you ever work in a restaurant?”

From the time I was 13 to 23-years-old, I worked in a variety of restaurants and in a variety of positions and knew the type of skills and talents it took to be successful in a restaurant environment.

The qualities it takes to succeed in a restaurant are very much tied to the qualities it takes to succeed in business: team work, customer service, multi-tasking, politeness and energy.  Working in a restaurant means you have to juggle the personalities of a variety of different characters  and develop ways to have them all on your side.   Every day you are required to manage a range of mini-crisis and difficult situations.

In my restaurant life, I worked as a dishwasher, busboy, waiter, bartender, line cook, prep cook and restaurant host.

As a waiter, I had less than an hour to create a successful experience for the diners.  My tip (the majority of mysalary) relied on it!

In my role as a cook,  the waiters, the customers and the reputation of the restaurant relied on me to serve fresh, hot meals in a timely and consistent manner.  On busy weekend nights, four cooks would be responsible for preparing over 350 meals in a short, five-hour window.  Hands, knives, pots and pans, hot stoves, ovens and grease were flying everywhere…every detail required your full attention and as important was working in tandem with the other cooks to make sure all of the food came out together.  The multi-tasking roles I learned as a cook are still relevent to everything that is required of me today.

If you have worked in restaurants, it is completely appropriate to describe those skills and experiences and explain how and why they are relevent to the job you are seeking.

For you Denver history buffs, between the ages of 13-23, I’ve earned a paycheck working in the following restaurants:

Mr. Luckys – My first job ever, I was 12-years-old and swept the parking lot every Saturday and Sunday morning of this Glendale disco.

Epicurean Catering (dishwasher/prep cook)

La Plaza (dishwasher/busboy/line and prep cook/dishwasher.  The old “Playboy Club” on Florida and Colorado Blvd.)

Writers Manor (Banquet busboy – was located at Mexico and Colorado Blvd.  Now a strip mall.)

Old Chicago (prep cook for one day.  I accidently diced instead of sliced an entire 20 pd. bag of tomatoes.  It was ugly.  They were gentle, but showed me the door pretty quickly)

Village Inn (busboy.  This was the big Village Inn attached to Celebrity Sports Center – the biggest in the nation at one time.)

Sorens (cook/dishwasher. Great restaurant at 3rd and Detroit.  My friend Aaron LaPedis now has an art gallery in that space.  I cooked and was an occasional dishwasher.  Really learned how to cook here.  Every Sunday, one diner would send us a bottle of champagne if we got his omelet jussssst right.)

Jose Muldoons (Line cook/prep cook/salad bar manager during college at CU.   Had a great time.  Fun crew.  Drank WAY too much after long shifts.  Will never forget the ‘prairie fires’…tequila and Tabasco shots)

Chautauqua Dining Hall (Boulder summer job.  Waited tables.  Loved this job.  Famous line to diners – Me: “Today our special is fried Matta”  Diner “Whats a Matta?”  Me: “Nothing, what the hell’s a matta with you?”  It would either get me a big laugh/tip or a “Get me a real waiter”)

Provisions – A Deli located at Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.  In 1990, I worked 70 hrs. per-week on Capitol Hill for a U.S. Senator for the grand sum of $16,000 per-year.   My weekend job was slicing meats and making bagel sadnwiches.

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