Do Job Interviews Get You Frazzled? Exhale!

It pains me when I see job seekers get stressed out at interview time. One way to ease the anxiety is to understand the pressures on the interviewer. This post that I wrote in 2010 does just that.  

Amazing, how a job interview can make our blood run cold.

Our ego, sense of self, and value get all tied up in being picked. Our brains gear up wildly to compete, to be the winner!

I spent a lot of years as a functional hiring manager for a Fortune 500 energy company. The people I hired either worked for me or for departmental colleagues. As a consultant, I still help clients screen resumes and interview.

Over the years, I’ve hired over 100 candidates myself or as part of selection teams. I thought you should know that, so you’ll believe this:

More often than not, the person interviewing you is in a major squeeze and feelin’ it! 

Yes, the interviewer, not just you, is feeling the pressure. S/he has a position to fill and chances are it’s been open for longer than anyone would like. That means work isn’t getting done, other staff are picking up the slack, and the manager is feeling the pinch. Someone is undoubtedly squawking. This reality works in your favor, so relax.

4 Things to Remember When You Sit Down for the Interview 

Curb your nerves by focusing on the needs of the interviewer and not yourself. Here’s why and how:

1. The interviewer is desperately hoping that you are the right person for the job.

That means the interviewer is rooting for you. They want you to do well. They are hoping beyond hope that you will mean the end of their search. They really want you to be the candidate they’ve been looking for, so you will make them a winner.

2. Your interviewer wants you to relax, so s/he can relax. 

Interviewing isn’t easy. It means asking the right questions, gathering the right information, assessing you correctly, and representing the company positively so you’ll want to work there if chosen. If you’re a visible wreck, you will be a distraction and will take the fun out of the process for the interviewer and yourself.

3. The interviewer will be grateful for anything you do to make the process go smoothly.

If you approach the interview generously and focus on meeting the needs of the interviewer for crisp and clear answers, you’ll showcase your skills as a communicator and team player. This means being prepared and asking the interviewer if s/he has gotten the needed information.

4. The interviewer wants the conversation with you to be enjoyable. 

Interviewing is tedious unless the candidate takes the monotony out of it. A candidate with an appropriate sense of humor, a relaxed but alert demeanor, and the ability to use the questions as a way to engage in dialogue about the job is a godsend. That will be you!

You can’t be more than you are. 

You can’t hire yourself for the job. But you can showcase your business fitness by explaining what you know, the skills you have, and the experiences you’ve banked. Trying to oversell yourself or to compete with candidates you don’t even know is the death knell.

When you get hired for a job, you’re committing to a relationship with the hiring manager and the company. It’s the job of the interviewer to decide whether or not you and the company are a good fit.

So be patient and be yourself.

Candidate selection isn’t just about the interview. 

A lot goes into final hiring decisions and it’s not always about you and your interview. That’s another reason to leave your nerves at home.

Photo from Michelle Ranson via Flickr

The Job Seeker’s Death Knell—Believing Your Own Excuses

Beating the pavement does more than wear out your soles. It can wear out your self-confidence.

Rejection is strength sapping. When the reward for trying hard and staying the course keeps netting a big fat zero, we become frustrated beyond belief, plagued by that nagging question, “Why?”

Hiring decisions are the great unknown.

When we walk out of a job interview, we usually have a sense of “how it went.” If we think it went well, we expect a call back or a job offer. But often that never comes. Once this pattern starts to repeat itself, we become uneasy, struggling to figure out how we’re falling short.

We’re inclined to take it personally. Remember George Costanza from Seinfeld who could never understand why he didn’t get hired, or even sometimes why he did! It’s easy to forget that the hiring process isn’t just about us. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes that we never hear about.

Excuses only get in our way.

A woman recently e-mailed me about her many months out of work, the high unemployment in her state, and her credentials. She’d been to many job interviews without success. The reason, she decided, was her age, refusing to acknowledge her “job hopper” work history.

I empathized with the stress this woman was experiencing. She’s not the only one who’s made excuses for unsuccessful job searches. Have you ever used any of these excuses for why you didn’t get an interview or a job:

  • My resume and cover letter aren’t right.
  • The interviewer asked quirky questions that didn’t make sense.
  • There are just too many college grads out there for me to compete.
  • My degree and/or training are outdated.
  • They don’t want to hirer Baby Boomers (or Gen Xers, new grads).
  • Companies already know whom they want. These interviews are a set up.
  • I’m too short, heavy, contemporary, handsome/pretty, or tattooed. 

When we create excuses to feel better temporarily, we risk the likelihood that we’ll reuse them, until they become a truth that we’ve accepted. That will only bury our chances.

Set yourself free! 

Throw off any negatives you have about your job search experiences. If you don’t, you’ll carry them into your next interview. You may not think so, but it’s in your posture, your voice, your eyes, your tone of voice, and the words you choose.

You’ve got to shake off the negative stuff! Think of yourself as a pro athlete who’s had a bad game and needs to put it out of his/her mind and take the field again. Excuses don’t wash. You’re mantra needs to be: “Do better next time.”

When you aren’t the winning candidate, take action to make yourself a stronger one. Focus on things you can control:

  • Fire up a bright, can-do attitude
  • Expand your skills, particularly software applications and social media
  • Ask: “Have I been too narrow in my job search?”
  • Increase and perhaps redirect your networking efforts
  • Stay in touch with your contacts at companies where you weren’t hired (You may have been their second choice.)
  • Reexamine the way you present yourself (appearance, style, energy level) 

The job search is a marketing effort! 

If you have something of value to offer that an employer needs and can afford, you will be a viable candidate! Your ticket to the job you want is good marketing of your capabilities and attitude.

We all need to be prepared and ready to showcase our value. That’s what business fitness is all about, smart moves that you execute with consistency. It’s how you keep the Grim Reaper far away from your job search!

Have you ever lapsed into excuse-making when you didn’t get a job? How did you turn that around? We need all the help we can on this one!

The Job Market’s A Moving Target. How’s Your Aim? | Positioning As Career Strategy

Specialties—they’re everywhere! The more we hear about them, the more excited we get about the prospects. Surely, there’s a way to align our education and training to get a job doing something exciting.

The old days of generalist jobs are waning. Today you can become a forensic accountant, reading specialist, triage nurse, “green” builder, news media blogger, or packaging engineer. The options are intoxicating.

Jobs brand the marketplace.

Jobs tell us about what businesses are trying to make, service, or sell. They need us to do that.

Here’s the rub: Society and its economy are always in flux. When the flux is upward, there’s lots of a business activity and jobs. When it’s down, opportunity shrinks. 

We select careers with an optimistic view of the future. Sometimes our decisions are based on what “has always been” or “is now.” Other times they’re about “what’s on the horizon” or “what could be.” In any event, we select our academic majors, our internships, our craft apprenticeships, and our starting jobs based on our interests and our “best guess” about what the marketplace will need.

Options are not opportunities. 

Here’s the challenge: Whether you are just entering the job market or making a transition, even though there are lots of ways to apply what you know, the marketplace is short on openings. That leaves many talented employee prospects in limbo.

A career strategy that doesn’t weigh career options with employment opportunities is short-sighted. Those who are business fit are business savvy. That means looking at the job market through the eyes of a business professional, a marketplace analyst, and a futurist, not as a job seeker.

Align your expectations with marketplace realities. 

Most people talk about wanting a job. I suggest we should want a position instead. A job is about tasks. A position is about vantage point. The vast majority of employees don’t land the job of their dreams at first. We’re not supposed to. To start we need to position ourselves in a business or industry with growth potential, in a job we can perform well, and then attract increased opportunity so we can expand ourselves.

Positioning is about making strategic moves to advance our careers. It protects us from being on the outside looking in as the business landscape changes.

At minimum I see four categories of careers:

1. “Old reliables”—Established careers like sales, education, police, politician, plumber, and electrician 

2. “Newbies”—Emerging careers like green technologies, health information technology, home stager, simulation developer, and emergency management.

3. “Off and running”—Evolving careers producing families of jobs in areas like electronics, health care, program analysis, and engineering

4. “New horizons”—Uncharted waters that may be a source of future careers in areas like medical, space, and oceanic research, climate change, and food production

Depending on where these career sources are in their own cycles, they are either sustaining, eliminating, increasing, replacing, or innovating jobs that need us.

We need to watch where we aim. 

It’s important to keep shooting for the career that bring the best out in us. But it makes no sense to shoot wildly. We need to understand that the target is moving, so we need to move with it. That’s why it’s important to position yourself to use the shifting and changing marketplace to your advantage.

You may start in an “old reliable” job and see an opportunity to align with one of the “newbies.” Or you may land in an “off and running” career that is so innovative that you find yourself contributing to a “new horizon.” Just remember to keep your eye on the target, the career you want, and position yourself to make the right connections. A little patience will serve you well too!

How have you been able to position yourself to make a good career move? Did you have obstacles to overcome? How did you handle that?


Suffering from Resumophobia? | A Remedy for Job Seekers

The dreaded resume! Every job seeker desperately needs one but no one wants to write one. Why? Because it’s agony. 

The irony is that we fear our resume—the very thing that is our entry ticket to the job we want. Since we resist the things we fear, we put off writing it or suffer major distress when we must. Our concern: “What if my resume isn’t good enough!” 

Our “resumophobia” has three main causes: 

  • Frustrating uncertainty about what recruiters/businesses want
  • Doubt or confusion about the value of what we’ve done
  • Lack of confidence in our ability to write it “right” 

These are legitimate and paralyzing reasons. But we cannot succumb to them. Why? Because—no resume…no interview. No interview…no chance. 

The resume is a rite of passage in nearly every job search

There are lots of great books and experts to teach you how to craft a great resume. What I’m offering are insights that will unfreeze your thinking, so you can get started. 

Your resume is packaging. 

It is not a biography, a job description, or a sales pitch. It’s your box! 

The content of a good resume showcases concrete results that you have achieved in other jobs. It contains the products (results) that you created. So when you write your resume, make sure it is about important outcomes you delivered. Not everything you ever did—just the most significant results.

 Your resume is a picture. 

A resume is art and you want the viewer to be absorbed by yours. 

Great artists control the eye of the viewer. Great resumes do that too. The screener’s first scan needs to spot something of interest. That means you need to: 

  • Position important facts where the eye falls

Don’t make screeners struggle to find what they’re looking for. When they come to your resume, they will scan down the middle. So make sure that their eyes will land on the words, job titles, and achievements they are looking for. Highlight in bold the words that link what you accomplished to the duties listed in the job posting. 

  • Create white space so the eye has relief. 

Wading through resumes is visually exhausting. White space is relief so use a font size that isn’t too small. Avoid dense copy since it sends the message that you couldn’t identify your priority accomplishments and don’t know how to write concisely. Use bullets, avoid paragraphs. 

  • Include interesting information that keeps the eye reading. 

Everyone brings their own uniqueness to their jobs. Capturing that in a resume differentiates us from other candidates. So be sure to mention a fresh approach you may have taken to a routine work process or to an initiative that you led.

The sections called “interests,” “activities,” and “affiliations” are your big finish. Interesting tidbits there often turn out to be the “big opening” during an interview. 

Your resume is your voice. 

The tone of your written words becomes the sound of your voice. That’s the only glimpse of your personality that the screener will get from your resume. When your words are clean and clear, precise and easy, they create a sense of your nature, your confidence, and your approach to work. 

Please remember: 

  • The screener is your audience
  • Your purpose is to provide an honest, factual story about your work life 

If resume writing still intimidates you, if you are having a difficult time sorting through all that you have done, or if you have some unfortunate “wrinkles” in your work history, investing in some professional assistance may be in order. 

The bottom line is that it’s always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume on file, especially in these times. Enough said! 

Do you have a specific question about resumes that you’d like discussed? I’m sure you’ll get some help here.