Question 2: Why Do You Want To Work Here?

Every recruiter will want to know why you have gone to the effort of applying for a position with the organization. It is a natural question and one for which you need solid answers. If you sound uncertain and unconvincing, that could be the end of the road for this job prospect. Be ready with a great answer and you could engage your interviewer in a great discussion and a chance for the prize. The following are some tips to consider as you plan your answer.

  1. Include something about the employer. This is a terrific chance to demonstrate that you have done your research about the company. If you know your stuff, you can help the recruiter appreciate that you want to be there badly enough to have done your homework.
  2. Discuss how your skills will make a difference. This is the next logical step in your answer. After you have talked about the company, talk about how your skills are well suited to the organization and its mission.
  3. If you know somebody on the inside, talk about it. This can also help in that the recruiter will know that you have a better understanding of the company than someone without that relationship. Here are two words of caution about this point, though. Be sure that your insider knows that you will mention her name. Second, think about your insider’s reputation within the company. If you are endorsed by and have a relationship with someone who is not well respected, your candidacy could take a hit.

Here is a simple example of how you could handle this. Watch for points one and two.

“While researching career opportunities, it was important for me to find a position with a company that feels as strongly about great customer service as I do. I reviewed national service rankings and narrowed my target list down to just a few companies, including this one. I want my next position to be with a company that will best benefit from my superior customer service skills and where I can have the opportunity to demonstrate that skill every day.”

With an answer like this, you have shown an awareness of the company, your critical thinking skills about your job search process, and an understanding about how your skills match the organization’s priorities and culture. You could do a lot worse than this in answering this interview question in just a few sentences.

Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself

Question 3: Tell Me About Your Greatest Accomplishment

Question 4: When Have You Failed?

What If There’s Just One Question?

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Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself

Welcome to the first in a new series addressing common interview questions and how you can prepare. If you have ever been stumped by a question, please share it in the comments and we can discuss it.

“Tell me about yourself.” This is the most common way that many interviewers begin, allowing the two of you to get comfortable with each other and to see what you have to say about yourself in an unstructured format. There may be variations, with the interviewer asking for something specific in the introduction, but you should never be challenged by this one.

Your answer should be one-half elevator speech and one-half “why I will be a great employee.” It is your opportunity to say what you want about yourself while also helping the interviewer know from the beginning why you are sitting in her chair and taking her time. If you combine those two elements, you will be off to a good start.

Here is an answer that uses the 50/50 formula: “My name is Jane Smith, and I am a career banker with a history of delivering top customer service scores and strong business results since I started in my career at Bank of America after completing my MBA at the University of Rhode Island. I hope that we can talk about how I can become a leader and important part of the team at Wells Fargo as you consider me for this new role.”

An answer like this is concise, clear and delivers on both parts of the formula. It tells why you are great and why you are interested in this job.

You will get this question, or one like it, so be ready. If you are interviewing over the phone, write it down and read it if you have to. If it is a live interview, practice giving your answer, asking a friend to critique your performance. Your first answer and first impressions will set the tone for the whole interview session, so don’t blow it – especially when you know it’s coming.

Question 2: Why Do You Want to Work Here?

Question 3: Tell Me About Your Greatest Accomplishment

Question 4: When Have You Failed?

What If There’s Just One Question?

Ready for Your Screen Test? Get Hired, or Not.

Have you heard about the latest launch that will have job seekers setting up their tripods and talking at their cameras? GetHired.com just hit the Internet and promises to give recruiters and hunters one more factor to consider and stress about.

Here’s the idea. Job seekers can post a résumé and an audio or video file to pitch themselves to recruiters. Recruiters can see your résumé, your location and whatever other content you post. There is more to it than that, but you can visit the site for yourself if you want to get all the details.

This concept is intriguing, and there may be value in it that we will discover if it gets big, but here are a few warnings that give me pause.

Recruiters: How comfortable are you with defending your decision while avoiding potential liability from perceived discrimination? What if the candidate has a solid résumé, but a video with all the production value of Plan Nine from Outer Space? A bad pitch, poor sound and terrible lighting could cause you to pass on a candidate who may have been considered if it were not for the video. What if the applicant is visibly in a protected class? How will you defend your decision to pass?

Job Seekers: As if being concerned about every letter of your résumé and cover letter were not enough, now you get to make a video. Then you get to wonder if it was the reason why you did not get the call. Won’t that be fun?

Here’s some advice. If you decide to use this tool, do the hard work of producing a quality video. This means having a script, delivering it well and both looking and sounding great. By the way, that will also require attention to lighting, sound (use a clip-on microphone) and the background of the shot.

The idea is compelling, and there will probably be some people who master the tool. Keep in mind that this is extra work, though, and a 60 second video could take hours of work. Should you choose to participate, work hard, and remember that the first step in the process is posting your résumé. That needs to be great, just like always, before you even start your video production.

The Terrible T’s, Shortstops and Quarterbacks

Consider this a counterpoint to the Three R’s (relevant, recent, results). The Terrible T’s are something that should be very limited in your résumé, only appearing if needed to tell your story.

The Terrible T’s are tasks, those phrases and sentences that fill some résumés with what one is required to do on the job, rather than the results achieved. Here are two examples from sports to make the point.

A shortstop takes his position between second and third base, fielding balls that come his way. The shortstop is often the key to successful double play tries, covering second when a ball is it on the right side of the infield. He also bats, taking his turn at the plate.

A quarterback is the leader of a football team’s offensive unit, calling plays, keeping the team together and driving the ball down the field. He uses a combination of running and throwing plays to get the job done, making snap decisions on what to do with the ball all while being pursued by defensive players who want to tackle him and strip him of the ball.

These are boring explanations of the jobs of shortstop and quarterback. Every person who has played either position recognizes it, from kids in their earliest games to pros making millions to do it and do it well. The previous paragraphs are unnecessary in most cases. Here is what is necessary.

Tom Brady had a record setting performance on Sunday, January 15th when he led the New England Patriots with five touchdown passes in the first half of the game. This has never been done in NFL playoff football and sent the Denver Broncos into the off season with a resounding defeat.

Derek Jeter entered the record books in 2011 by surpassing the 3,000 career hits mark. This was just one more milestone in a career with the New York Yankees, one that has included multiple Golden Gloves awards, All Star Game appearances and World Series titles.

Do you see the difference? Is your résumé describing you as a Brady or a Jeter, or just another journeyman player with no accomplishments to share?

TIP: Get a red pen and a copy of your résumé. Underline every statement that describes a task. Then get a blue pen and underline everything that describes a result or accomplishment. If you are seeing more red than blue, you have some work to do. Write your history in blue and leave the red to the employee handbook and job description documents in the HR department.

The Three R’s Your Résumé Must Include

Font choice? Debatable.

One page, two pages or more? Debatable.

The Three R’s? No discussion. They have to be there.

Relevant: How is the information in your résumé relevant to your reader? Part of the effort of a successful career search is ensuring that the information you present is important and compelling to your market. Your market is defined as the people who are reading your documents and are in a position to offer you a job. Before sending your résumé to your dream employer, review it carefully and challenge everything in it with the question, “Will they care?”

Recent: Are your stories of recent vintage, or are they showing the wear of time. If you are in IT, your expertise with HTML5 and projects in 2011 are recent and valuable. Your expertise with WordPerfect 5 that wowed your fellow cube dwellers in the 90’s: not as much. Give the majority of your space to stories from the last five years and dial down the older material.

Results: Employers will hire you if they are convinced that you will bring more benefit than you cost. If you can help them achieve their goals by getting results, you’re hired. Unlike a mutual fund, your past performance does indicate potential future success. Tell stories of results you achieved and how you got them.

Next up: The Terrible T’s that will kill your best efforts.

This Isn’t a Legal Trial

Last night I ran a seminar called Optimizing Your Résumé for a New Year’s Job Search at the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in Monroe, CT. The event was well attended and we covered a lot of ground in 90 minutes. There was one idea that several people had that is worth a blog post: “How do I prove my claims?”

The concern from a few people was that they were not comfortable making claims about their performance because there was no record of it having happened. In many cases the employers where the great work was done are no longer in business. The people who could confirm the claims are now difficult to contact. The performance data may be a distant memory with little more than recollection to support it. These are all valid concerns, but not a deal breaker.

It’s important to keep in mind the venue for these claims and how they will be used. If a job seeker states that as a Sales Manager she, “grew sales by 27% over 33 months and opened two new markets,” there may or may not be documentation to support the claim. If she does not have documentation, should she not include it in the résumé? Of course not! It has to be there.

Think about it this way: If a résumé were to only to contain claims that were supported by indisputable evidence, it would be a very short document. Are there things on your résumé that you don’t have evidence to support? Probably. Should you delete that information? No!

Your résumé is a marketing document. The standards are simple. Is it the truth? If yes, go for it. Can you discuss and defend it in a convincing and credible way in an interview? If yes, you’re all set!

Interviewers are looking for cultural fit and evidence of professionalism and potential. They are looking for transferable skills. If the sales increase performance from above leads to a discussion of how the candidate got the results – through market research, powerful leadership, cold calling, tenacious follow up, and other tactics – the interviewer will learn what she needs. The point is not the exact precision of performance claims, but evidence of the talent you bring to the new gig.

Remember that the standard of proof is not beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s just this: Give some stories that are credible and true that will lead to an in-depth discussion of your transferable talent and how you can help your next employer. Don’t worry that you past company got vaporized in 2008. Sell yourself!

BTW – Be sure to get your copy of 25 Résumé Tune-Up Tips, a brand new eBooklet ready for free download.

Trust Your Résumé

If you have done the hard work of creating a well written résumé, one that is current and packed with achievements, trust it. I share this simple thought as I have spoken with two clients in the last week who have had concerns planted in their minds by comments they have gotten about their career marketing documents.

One person said, “It’s a little wordy.” What does that mean? What words would we eliminate that will not degrade the quality of the stories that we tell? As it turned out, this comment came from a person with the notion that there is some rule that a résumé must fit on a single page. It sometimes works that way, but when the job seeker has a longer career filled with experiences that add value to the résumé, it is not always possible.

The second comment came from a recruiter. The client has a highly technical résumé, one packed with certifications, projects, multiple degrees and high-level experiences. This client has a strong interest in IT security and the experience and credentials that make him an expert. The feedback he got: “It’s a little heavy on IT security and not enough hands-on.” Yes, yes it is. That’s what this client does and wants to continue doing. That’s why it is written that way. By the way, this client is contacted by potential employers and recruiters every week, validating the effectiveness of the résumé.

My response is this: Consider the advice you get, take it seriously, but also consider from where it comes. Is the person giving you the advice qualified to do so? The average time in role in the recruiting industry is less than three years. If your résumé is written by a CPRW (Certified Professional Résumé Writer – like me) or a pro writer with another industry-recognized credential, you can be confident that it is a quality document.

The job seeker must be confident in the résumé, fully versed on everything in it. She must know what it says and why it says it. He must know the details of the stories described, ensuring that he is ready to explain in detail in an interview setting. Like a golfer who must trust his swing or a singer who has confidence in her training and ability to hit the high notes, the job seeker must know that the résumé is solid and must have the stories ready to support it.

Feedback is valuable, but don’t twist yourself in knots over every comment. Good hunting!