10 Ways to Blow a Job Interview

A JOB INTERVIEW can be a golden opportunity to move up in your career or improve your life. It’s prudent, therefore, to do everything you can to increase your odds of landing a desirable position. Like first dates, job interview first impressions are critical (and can change your life!).

The following are 9 ways to blow a job interview.

  1. Be curt, impolite or unprofessional to anyone at the office where you are interviewing, particularly the receptionist or assistant to the hiring manager. These individuals often have earned the confidence and trust of their supervisors. In surveys, two out of three executives claim they are influenced to some degree by input from their assistants. If you were rude to the assistant and didn’t get the job, you likely shot yourself in the foot.
  2. Show up in a bad mood (i.e., frowning, not making eye contact, standing around with your arms crossed) or displaying an attitude that says, “I really don’t need this job” or “I’m too good for all of you.” Poor hygiene is equally bad; no one wants to work alongside Pigpen. Chemistry matters in the hiring process — big time. Hiring managers take many factors into account when making hiring decisions (beyond your résumé, education and experience). Key influencing factors include: appearance (avoid slouching posture), habits (avoid nervous fidgeting or knuckle cracking), communication style (speaking softly can indicate a lack of assertiveness or self confidence), and attitude (tone of voice and body posture can indicate interest and enthusiasm, or a lack of them). Think of the interview room as a “No whine” zone — complaining is often a one-way ticket out the door.
  3. Come to the interview unprepared to answer “Tell me about yourself” or “Why should we hire you?” or present answers without confidence, clarity and purpose. These questions are the most frequently asked and, if you are prepared, offer an excellent opportunity to go over your key talking points such as your unique value proposition for the position. Give them the Reader’s Digest version and let them dictate how specific you get — by asking, “Let me know if you’d like me to go into further detail.”
  4. Don’t have “your best stories” ready. Being prepared means coming in with examples from your past work experience that relay or give the hiring person some proof of your capabilities, creativity, initiative and how you go above and beyond. Hiring managers remember stories — good ones can set you apart from other candidates. As a coach, I help job seekers fine tune and practice presenting their “best case” stories, as these can make a difference in an interview. Deciding which story or example best represents your talents and abilities is important.
  5. Make immediate compensation demands during the initial interview. Most career experts advise against negotiating salary and/or benefits before the hiring manager fully understands what you bring to the table and what your potential value is to the organization. Ideally, compensation should be negotiated only after they have said they want to hire you. Tip: it’s often easier to get a commitment for additional compensation (more pay, bonuses and vacation) for a time in the future; in other words, base additional compensation on a review of your short-term job performance.
  6. Make inappropriate small talk, tell off-color jokes or ask personal questions of the interviewer (hint: anything related to gender, sex, religion or politics). Any of you who think this is a “duh” — I have stories to share! The bottom line — you won’t get hired if they in any way view you as a potential “risk” or not a “fit” with their team or culture.
  7. Don’t use your internal company contacts. Most companies have a strong preference in hiring individuals their own people refer. Contact anyone you know who works for the company you are interviewing with to ask them for interviewing insight and/or a potential referral.
  8. Answer the interviewer’s inevitable question, “Tell me about your weaknesses,” with, “I have none.” We all have opportunities for improvement. Communicating that you are self-aware of your own “growth” opportunities demonstrates your willingness to learn, grow and to receive direction and input that will make you a more effective (and valuable) employee. Prepare to provide a couple of weaknesses and then explain your plan to improve them.
  9. Forget to send a personal thank you note to those who interview you. It surprises me how many job seekers miss this important last step — the good news: doing so will set you apart from all those who don’t (and offer you one final opportunity to either correct any wrong impressions or add anything you may have forgotten).
  10. Not investing in this important opportunity with a career coach.  Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach.  I coach job seekers from all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

5 Top Job Interview Mistakes

As a career coach, I often help professionals prepare to secure what are many times the biggest career opportunities of their lives, from entry-level positions to senior executive positions requiring board of directors’ review and approval. For many workers, there is a lot at stake in a job interview – opportunity, financial security, happiness and making dreams come true.

I’ve come to recognize (repeatedly affirmed by my clients) just how important it is to be prepared for an interview. In fact, preparation is key to landing the job.  Don’t just wing it,  you have WAY to much riding on this opportunity.

Yet I continue to be amazed by the stories hiring managers tell me of what goes wrong. So you won’t be the one left wondering why you didn’t get the job, here are 5 top interview mistakes:

  1. Simply show up for your interview – in other words, unprepared. Failing to do sufficient (or any) research on the business or company prior to the interview is a mistake. Check out the company’s Web site, their annual report and current news articles (check online or at the library). Understand how and what the company is doing today – and what is changing. During the interview, find an opportunity to convey some of what you have learned and inquire about what it may mean for your position. Don’t ask the interviewer obvious questions about things that could (or should) have been gleaned from the company Web site. More often than not you are wasting your interviewer’s time and hurting your chances.
  2. Arrive late and breathless for your interview, explaining you “got lost trying to find the office.” Consider driving to the interview site the day before so you will know a) how long it takes and b) how to get there. Introduce yourself to the receptionist. Ask if they have any suggestions or information that might help you be more prepared for your upcoming interview. This extra effort will help you to be better prepared and decrease your stress level for your actual interview.
  3. Fail to ask questions. A good rule of thumb: you should be asking about the same number of questions as the interviewer asks you. The questions you ask convey a great deal about you, so ask intelligent ones. (“From your experience, what’s the No. 1 challenge I would face in this position?” or “What are the key skills to be successful in this position?”) Having no questions conveys you really aren’t that interested or prepared. Coach’s tip: Pay close attention to their answers. They are frequently the “keys” to what the interviewer is looking for in the position. If the interviewer identifies “working well on a team” as important and you respond with, “I know how to use Word,” you probably weren’t listening closely enough.
  4. Rant about your previous boss (as in, “My previous boss was a jerk”). This is a big red flag that indicates that you may have difficulties getting along with management and others. In trashing your previous boss, the potential new boss is now imagining you doing the same thing to him or her. If there was trouble in your previous position, speak to it briefly (less is more), with something along the lines of, “It wasn’t the right fit,” then describe your desire to be a contributor to a high-performing team and workplace.
  5. Be unrealistic. Starting the interview by asking when or how you will be promoted is inappropriate. Demonstrating you are goal-oriented is good, such as inquiring about the typical career path for the position; signaling to the interviewer that your interest in the current position is only as a stepping stone to another isn’t. Don’t leave interviewers wondering if you will bail at the first wind of something you perceive as a better opportunity.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I help job seekers all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Baby Boomers Career Advice

Many potential retirees are postponing retirement and some are job hunting.

Employers find the “boomer” resume a mixed message: many years of experience, but someone who may be on the verge of retirement. For many older job seekers, finding themselves back pounding the pavement is difficult, scary and frustrating.

The good news: Your decades of experience are highly valuable and many companies need it badly (particularly small companies).

If you are a boomer needing (or wanting) to work, consider these optimistic statistics. Almost a third of companies surveyed are concerned about their loss of “intellectual capital” with retiring boomers. One out of five indicate they are likely to rehire retirees from other companies.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a serious shortage of highly skilled workers and experienced managers and executives.  Career experts claim knowledge workers are in high demand. Companies, though slow to get on board, are increasingly identifying the shift in workers’ relative age (I’m told 50 is the new 40) and are adjusting HR policies and hiring strategies.

I regularly coach senior managers on their challenges associated with finding and retaining “experienced resources.” Many have a worried eye on upcoming and current leadership gaps in their companies. I also coach seasoned professionals trying to find best fit positions and figure out their next move in this economy. From the two sides of the coin vantage, I offer these suggestions:

  • Assess first. What are your core talents, skills and value to a business? Discern what you want in a job, both your must-have and would-be-nice- to-have lists. Be realistic about your energy, salary/benefit requirements and your commitment level to the prospective job. Employers need to be realistic, too. Starting salary levels aren’t applicable to those with decades of professional experience.
  • Identify and target industries that need your experience. Consider health care, temporary staffing agencies, retail and nonprofits; a Bridgespan Group study claims nonprofits will need some 640,000 new senior leaders over the next 10 years. Check out companies that have specifically declared their desire to hire older workers (RetirementJobs.com and the AARP are good resources). While many larger companies choose to target younger, less expensive labor (and have identified their costs associated with turnover as acceptable), many smaller companies can’t afford significant hiring mistakes. They are in need of experienced workers, particularly those with proven management and leadership skills. Of note: Small businesses in the U.S. have generated 60 percent to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade, according to SCORE.
  • Customize your resume for each position. Despite your decades of work experience, include only 10 to 15 years of your relevant experience for the position you are targeting. Use your resume to provide proof of quantifiable results. This will get their attention and get you an interview.
  • Be prepared to demonstrate that old dogs can learn new tricks. These days, job security and continual learning go hand in hand. Potential employers are looking for individuals who demonstrate a willingness to embrace continual change and keep up with changing skill requirements. Upgrade your skills. Finish that degree, master new technical skills (techno literacy is critical in today’s job market) or complete a certificate program.
  • Network, network, network. Mid- to senior-level positions are rarely filled via job ads. Most employers prefer to hire referrals from internal employees, professional colleagues or through their recruitment channels. Let your long list of contacts over all these years know what kind of work you are seeking. Use Linkedin.com or risk looking “old school.”
  • Consider freelancing or contract work. More good news — more companies than ever use outside contract work.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I ready people for interviews and career coach people from all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Happiness=Right Job Fit

If you are frequently bored, anxious or apathetic in your job, there is a high probability that your current job simply isn’t a good fit with your talents and skills. Success in your career is up to you. Finding a job that matches your interests, skills and talents is key to success and job satisfaction.

We all have unique experience and talents and it can often be challenging finding a job that fits our capabilities, potential and strengths.

A “right fit” job can look like different things to different people but here are the areas most people find important:

  • Being engaged
  • Feeling a sense of purpose
  • Having some degree of challenge.
  • Being recognized and appreciated by peers and supervisors for contributions.
  • An opportunity for advancement or development.
  • Being able to work with others we respect, like and/or can learn from.
  • Fair compensation for contributions (yes, money matters).
  • Enjoyment doing daily work tasks.
  • The opportunity to use core talents and strengths.

There are others, of course, but the list goes a long way toward increasing the potential for workplace happiness.

Marcus Buckingham, author of “First, Break All the Rules”, “Now Discover Your Strengths” and “Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” has spent his career researching and linking high performance to an individual’s core talents or strengths. His Gallup survey of nearly 2 million employees launched his “strength-based” revolution. Buckingham defines a strength as not merely something you are good at but also something you find so satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again. Those in jobs that allow ample opportunity to do what they do best are more satisfied and more productive.

Sadly, Buckingham’s research suggests that only 17 percent of the work force believe they use all of their strengths on the job. Part of the problem is they settle for jobs that aren’t the right fit.

Management is the other part of the problem. Too often managers don’t focus enough on identifying their workers’ strengths and providing opportunities for them to leverage these strengths in their jobs.

What can managers do? Buckingham recommends managers focus on the following areas:

  • Establish a process to identify individual strengths. Ask the employee to identify their best day at work in the past three months (what were they doing and why did they enjoy it so much).
  • Determine what triggers and best supports these strengths (e.g., time of the day, audience, reward, recognition, goals, specific tasks etc).
  • Determine the employee’s preferred learning style. Buckingham identifies three primary styles: analyzing (these people need time and information); doing (trial and error) and watching (they like to study the complete picture).

The best leaders do not use a “one size fits all” approach with their people.

Workplace satisfaction is important to our personal well being — given that we spend about one-third of our lives at work. As a career coach, I encourage those seeking a new job to first identify their strengths and what workplace situations or experiences result in their being in “flow.” Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies “flow” as a human “peak” experience of supercharged productivity, engagement and happiness. It happens when we bring our strengths and talents to bear on a challenging goal or task. Athletes often refer to this condition as being “in the zone.” If you have ever been doing something at work that you were so engaged that you lost track of time, you were probably in your “workplace zone.”

Frequently cited components resulting in achieving flow:

  • Immediate feedback, response or reward.
  • Highly challenging tasks met with high skills/talent/ strength.
  • Fully focused concentration.
  • Clear goals.
  • Feeling of “being in control.”
  • Loss of self-consciousness.
  • Altered sense of time.

The greatest leaders bring out the best in others. They know their people’s strengths and support an environment that eliminates distractions and impediments to performance and job satisfaction.

Leaders who help their people find work “flow” and engagement can expect exceptional creativity, productivity and job satisfaction.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and coaching abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

6 Tips for Work Seeking Boomers

The average age of retirement is extending rapidly because of increased life expectancy (and health — the good news) along with rapidly shrinking nest-egg reserves and an increased cost of living. As a result, many older “boomers” are re-entering the work force.

This week’s focus: how older workers can better prepare for job interviews.

Job seekers with decades of experience face noteworthy hurdles directly attributable to their age. Despite federal laws barring age discrimination, reality means there are “tapes” and questions that tend to run through a hiring manager’s mind.

Does this person have the energy to do this job? Is this person looking for a job to coast until retirement? Why is this person applying for a job he or she is obviously overqualified for? Will this person fit with younger team members? Is this person rigid or set in his ways? Is this person technologically savvy and current with industry trends? Won’t there be issues for this person reporting to someone younger?

Older job seekers will need to prepare to overcome these hurdles in interviews.

As a professional career coach, here are some tips I offer to my clients:

  1. You get one chance to make a first impression. Look professional and stylish. Men: minimal or no facial hair (beards tend to make you look older), and avoid outdated clothing (that tie you bought a few decades ago!) Women: no clunky jewelry (it’s distracting), strong perfumes or clothing that screams frumpy. If in doubt, get an opinion from a young professional.
  2. Be prepared with recent examples demonstrating your willingness to learn new skills. Note specifics that establish you as being current with your industry. Identify yourself as a “lifetime learner.” Relay your continual interest in learning new technologies and ways to work smarter.
  3. Prove you are technically savvy. If you can’t submit an online resume through a company’s Web site, find someone to help you learn. Likewise, don’t say, “I don’t have a cell phone or e-mail address,” because this will signal you are way behind the technology curve. Consider bringing in a USB stick of some of your best work portfolio examples to leave behind. Find a way to convey your comfort level using the latest communication tools and/or software common in today’s workplaces.
  4. Demonstrate passion. Hiring managers I coach often relay a common apprehension they have about older workers — that they don’t have the necessary energy or commitment. Prove them wrong. Show up energetically and positive. Don’t give off body language that you are tired or depressed. When asked, “Tell me about yourself” skip the fact that you have grandkids and let them know (if it’s true) that you climbed Mount Rainier last weekend or play tennis regularly. Give examples of how you handle stress, deadlines and your track record of going the extra mile when required.
  5. Provide evidence that you are flexible and adaptable. If you come off as rigid, condescending or like a stern schoolmarm, odds are you won’t be hired. Don’t give off any cues that you are put out being interviewed by someone much younger. Keep good eye contact, smile and use a confident handshake.
  6. Don’t give away age clues (grandkid photos or the date you graduated from college). It’s illegal for them to ask your age, but reality is, interviewers will often try to find out in other ways. Reciting your experience engineering the Space Needle (for the ’62 World’s Fair) would be a serious tip-off. Avoid the temptation to list every single job you’ve ever held on your resume. Stick to the last several decades. Keep focused on relevant professional accomplishments/skills that apply to the open position.

Also, prepare for these common interview questions:

  • What are your career goals? What they really want to know is, “How soon will you retire?” Reassure them that you plan to keep working because you love what you do. Use this question as an opportunity to relay your passion for work you enjoy.
  • What are your salary requirements? Don’t scare them off using your top previous salary. Be prepared to accept less than your highest earning. Do your homework. Determine the going appropriate range for the position, ask if it’s within the range, then let them know you expect a competitive salary for what you will contribute.
  • Aren’t you overqualified for this position? Tricky question. Assure them that your top priorities aren’t salary and titles. Convey your sincere interest in the new position and challenge. Emphasize your strengths (and how they are a fit for the position), your interests that led you to apply, that you’ll hit the ground running and that you can be trusted to get the work done.

Lastly, if you are dusting off the resume, consider hiring professional support for re-entry and/or reinventing yourself.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your career coach! I can help you land the right job.  I coach professionals all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com