Video Interview? 7 Best Tips

Web-Cam-CAM-876-webcamMore employers are conducting first and second interviews via Skype or some other service. It’s fast, cheap and easy. Only the finalists, in some cases, get an invitation into the office. If you are in the hunt for a new gig, you should be ready for this experience. I got a call last week from a friend who was going to have a Skype interview and I shared these tips. He thanked me after.

Camera Angle: Get your camera up to eye level. This is especially important if you are using a laptop camera. If the camera is below you, you will be looking down on it. The person interviewing you will see nothing but fat chin and deep, dark eyes (remember the scene in the Blair Witch Project?). Put some books or some other support under the laptop to get the angle right.

Good Lighting: Set up some lighting that illuminates your face well. Low wattage lighting that chases away the shadows from your face will work. Avoid too-bright lights that will live you squinting.

Watch the Background: What is behind you that your interviewer will see? Be sure to clean up, take down the Kiss poster, and remove other visual distractions. If you can’t do that, move your camera so that you have a plain wall behind you.

Banish Randomness: Do you have a dog? Get someone to take it for you during your session. Do you have a cat? We do, and it gets unreasonably amorous at inappropriate times. If the cat has ignored me for three weeks, it will want to make up during a Skype call. Unplug or turn off phones. Eliminate any noises and distractions.

Dress the Part: Most people don’t sit around their homes in a suit, but professional business casual attire should be the minimum standard. With a video call, everything is the same as in-person but the hand shake.

Cheat with Notes: If you have a few points that you absolutely must make during your interview, write some notes and hang them up near the camera so that you can see them while looking at the camera and so that your interviewer cannot see them at all. Having these notes will make you more confident.

Sit Up: Your posture will affect your tone of voice. Sit up straight, breathe and project. Don’t forget to lock the tilt switch on your desk chair. You don’t want to go rocking back out of the camera’s view.

It will take a little work to do a Skype call well, but it will be worth the effort. Your preparation will translate into confidence and a better outcome. Skype well, all!

Bill Florin is a Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP) and is president of Resu-mazing Services Company.

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Setting Interview Traps

gotchaHow can you get the interviewer to ask the right questions? You could try Jedi mind tricks. Wave your hand and say, “Ask about my performance review from 2011.” Or, you can write a résumé that improves the chances of the conversation moving in your favor.

A great résumé requires great strategy. Beyond its obvious function of getting you an invitation to interview, it needs to help influence the interview. It needs to convey results and accomplishments with just enough detail to get your future boss to ask for more detail.

Here is an example:

Your résumé says, “Saved $75K annually by re-engineering warehouse picking routines.”

Your interviewer might ask, “Tell me more about this. What did you change and how did you determine that this was the right thing to do?” When that happens, the trap you set in your résumé has been sprung!

When the question comes, you will have the chance to tell the story. Highlight your critical thinking and analytical skills along with how you influenced others, implemented change and created a more efficient business process.

Focus on results in your résumé and you will get to tell your best professional stories. Set those traps with great strategy and let your interviewer fall into them to your benefit. Leave the mind tricks to Star Wars.

See “8 Things” for résumé essentials.

Need some help with common interview questions? Start with Question 1.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW) and Certified Employment Interview Professional.

Most (Unsuccessful) Candidates Don’t Use These 8 Interview Tips

Here they are, with no fluff. I coach and speak with job seekers daily. The winners do these things; the frustrated don’t.

  1. Confirm the day before. You want to use every opportunity to make a good impression. This can start before you get there. Call, confirm, and say thanks. Your brand just got better as you demonstrated your thoroughness and professionalism.
  2. Arrive just a few minutes early and introduce yourself clearly and confidently. “Hello, I am Bill Florin and I am here for a 10 o’clock appointment with Sue Smith.” Smile when you say that. Thank the receptionist. S/he talks. You want to impress everyone.
  3. Bring and offer hard copies of your résumé. Say, “I brought extra copies of my résumé. Would you like one?” Simple.
  4. Be ready to respond to, “So, please tell me about yourself.” I spoke with a client this week who interviewed with three separate people on the same day in the same firm. They all started that way. She was ready! (Extra-credit tip: See “Question 1” for more help on responding to this.)
  5. Have some company and job-specific questions written down and ready to go. You will be asked, “What questions do you have for me?”
  6. Take notes about your discussion so that you can…
  7. Send a thank you letter or note. Recap a point or two from your interview and how you will be a great addition to the team vis-à-vis that point. (Have you seen “Thank You Letter of Doom“?)
  8. Have your references ready to go at the interview. Offer them at the close of your meeting.

Will these eight pointers get you the job? No, but they will help (and they might!), and most people will not do all of them. Go get that job!

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

What to Include in Your Thank You Letter

The “Thank You Letter of Doom” piece has turned out to be one of the most popular ever on the Work blog. It made very clear what shouldn’t be in a follow up letter – spelling and grammar mistakes are just the start – but didn’t talk about what should be included (at least one reader asked). Here is the structure to follow.

Professional Greeting. This is a business letter, so use a formal greeting followed by a colon, not a comma. “Dear Ms. Jones:” or “Dear Mr. Smith:”

Lead with Thanks. Thank the interviewer for the time and consideration. Explain that you learned a lot and that you are excited about the prospect of working there.

Follow-Up Thoughts. You took notes during the interview, right? Explain how you have been thinking about one or two of the points during your discussion and how you can help the company with those issues. You want to reinforce that you were paying attention and that you can see yourself there making a difference. As importantly, you want Ms. Jones to see it, too.

Example: “As I thought more about our discussion about the Alpha initiative, I realized how my past work on the Phase III project at ABC Company was so closely related. Your company will benefit from the experience and knowledge that I have from that effort.”

Close. Explain that you want the job and will look forward to the next steps. Thank again. Sign off with a professional closing (“Sincerely” works).

Print it. Read it again. Be 100% sure that it is error free. Send it. Wait for your job offer.

Bill Florin is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut.

The Thank You Letter of Doom

Scream Thank You LetterIn the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” This was learned the hard way by a job seeker I recently heard about. It illustrates the need to address every detail and to take nothing for granted.

When talking with a recruiter today, he told me about a candidate whom he presented to his client, the hiring company. The candidate had a solid résumé, interviewed well, and followed up with a letter after the meeting. That is where it all went wrong.

The thank you letter was poor. It was filled with awkward language, grammatical errors and other defects. The contrast between the well written résumé and the substandard thank you letter was stark. It was so bad, the client lost interest and declined to go further with the candidate. The letter cost him the job.

I will state the obvious: The thank you letter is important, but it has to be great. If you don’t write well, get someone else to help. Tend to the details and know that the job isn’t yours until you report for the first day.

Here is a related story to tell you what you must include.

Here is another piece on the importance of thank you notes.

Bill Florin is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company. He can help you with a great cover letter.

Four Job Search Truths: Take Nothing for Granted

“Should I customize my resume for each job?”

“Do I really need a cover letter?”

These are two questions that I heard recently from people concerning their job searches. Let me answer your question with a question. “Do you want the job?”

If the answer is yes, then the answers are yes to both questions. And that’s just the beginning. Here are some harsh realities of the 2013 job search.

Networking is essential. If you see a job that you really want, work to identify someone in your network who can get you in invitation to interview. This might be a second or third level LinkedIn connection. It may be someone you know in the “real” world. It will be worth your time to find the connection, because your competition is working to get the advantage of a warm introduction.

It’s You Versus the Machine. I’m referring to the ATS (applicant tracking system) machine. Employers are flooded with résumés from people with little or no qualifications, so they set their force fields on “high”. You must (must, must, MUST) customize your résumé and cover letter to match the qualifications and requirements of the position. Don’t do it and your résumé will never be seen by a human. You will be filtered out and auto-rejected by ATS.

Sell Yourself with the Cover Letter. The letter explains why you are the best candidate for the job, what special skills you have that make you a cultural fit, and addresses any easily identified obstacles or objections. For example, if you are applying for a position in a different city, explain your relocation plans and that you will NOT be looking for relo assistance. Answer the obvious questions. Each letter should be different.

It’s Hard Work. There it is! Finding work is work. You must take the time and invest the energy into making yourself appear to be the ideal candidate for every position that you want. If you don’t, someone else will. Quality of your marketing documents beats quantity, but you need quantity, too. You are facing intense competition for every position.

If you aren’t making a full-time effort at finding your next full-time gig, you are not working hard enough. Make a plan to conduct meaningful job search activities every day. Then do them. Take nothing for granted and assume that the competition will be willing to do the things that you don’t feel like doing. Work hard. It will be worth it.

Here are some earlier stories to help you jump-start your search and find your next job faster:

8 Résumé Must-HavesStart Your Résumé Strong!Get Busy!Do What You Can

Bill Florin, CPRW & CEIP, is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT

Question 6: Where Will You be in Five Years?

Five Years From Now?
Five Years From Now?

Who doesn’t love to hate this question? I have heard from two clients recently that they have been asked this question very recently. Both are in different parts of the country and in different industries. If you haven’t prepared for it, you should. Here are some ideas to help.

This question is not about you predicting the future. It is about you doing some research about the company and understanding enough about your career and the industry to give a reasonable answer that makes sense in the environment you are trying to enter.

The Goal: Make a reasonable case for your career path with your new company.

Here are three things that you must know.

First, what does advancement look like for people in your profession? If you are an entry-level staff accountant, where have other people been after five years? If you are a new registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree, where have other people with the same education and experience been in that time?

Second, what is the structure and what are the titles within the targeted company? Many organizations have particular job titles. It will benefit you if you can weave these titles into your answer. It will have you speaking the company language and seeming like you belong.

Finally, discover what the company is working on and write yourself into the story. If the company has been in the news because it is launching a new long-term initiative, describe how you can contribute to the success of that program over the coming years. Paint a picture that links your success to that of the company in a tangible way.

Nobody expects you to nail your forecast. They do expect you to have clear thoughts about what you want to accomplish in the context of your (hopefully) new employer’s world.

Be sure to check out the “Questions” series:

Question 5, Question 4, Question 3, Question 2, Question 1, What Are You Good At?

Follow “Work” to stay up to date with the latest in career development and management.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Employment Interview Professional and is President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, Connecticut, USA.

Know Yourself & Sell Yourself

Feature Function BenefitCan you sell something that you neither know nor understand? Visit some retail stores and you will see people trying, but it doesn’t work. The best sales people know their product, can explain the advantages of its features and connect them as benefits to the customers. In sales-speak, it’s knowing features, functions and benefits. Used effectively, FFB helps make the sale.

As we are facing the historic, crippling, scary, panic-inducing prospect of winter storm Nemo (hype fully intentional) in the Northeast, the example of the common snow shovel seems appropriate. I know, snow shovels don’t need a lot of selling. The Weather Channel incites enough fear to guarantee a sell-out from New York to Bangor, but stick with me.

Our Snow Blaster 9000 has a key feature: an extra wide scoop. The function is that it can move a lot of snow in a single effort. The benefit is that the user can finish faster and get to his Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Mini Marshmallows faster. Simple!

Snow Blaster 9000
Snow Blaster 9000

How does this translate to your job search? That’s simple, too.

You are selling yourself, and as every skilled salesperson knows, you’ve got to know your product. When interviewing, you are selling your skills and abilities. You do that by giving examples of how you have demonstrated those abilities before. You wrap it up and make the sale by convincing the hiring manager that you will benefit the company in whatever way makes sense for the job.

Let’s consider a marketing specialist. She has expertise in social media. In fact, she launched a page on Facebook and generated 100,000 likes in 30 days. She discusses with the hiring manager her ideas on how she can help the prospective employer grow its business by bringing these proven skills with her. She has explained her ability, given an example, and presented a compelling case that she will be able to benefit the new employer.

AEB - Social Media Expertise
AEB – Social Media Expertise

Know yourself. Be ready to explain your abilities, examples and benefits. Make the buyer want the product: You!

 

Can you sell yourself in 30 seconds?

Check out “Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself” for more interviewing help.

Your Résumé Must Have These 8 Things

Are you nervous about your résumé format, concerned that it isn’t stylish and sexy enough to get you the interview? You aren’t alone. Here is a question that I just received, along with the answer that will benefit everyone struggling to write an effective marketing document.

Question: What are some of the best résumé formats you have seen?

Résumé formats are much less important than the information conveyed and the quality of the writing. If you have a good story to tell, nearly any document template will work. When I write for my clients, I start from the beginning every time and use fonts and layouts that best reflect the client’s personality, industry and career goals. Here are the must haves of your résumé:

  1. Use clear, readable font type and size. Print it and have a glasses-wearing friend read it. Is it clear and easy to follow? No? Redo it. Check spelling, grammar, punctuation and usage.
  2. Show contact information that makes you easy to reach. At a minimum, your name, phone and email address. Be sure that your outgoing voice mail greeting is professional sounding. Kill the ring back music. If I am a recruiter, I don’t want to listen to your favorite Stravinsky piece or Jay Z jam while waiting for you to answer. Be sure that your email address is professional, too. Create a new one if you have to.
  3. Start with a headline and concise professional profile. Avoid clichés like “results-driven detail-oriented professional with strong collaboration and multi-tasking skills.”
  4. Consider adding a “core skills” section to bullet your most marketable skills. Make it easy for a recruiter or HR person to see that you have what they are looking for.
  5. Use a chronological format for your work experience whenever possible. Your functional format is not fooling anyone, so why raise doubt by using this maligned format? Put your history out there.
  6. Limit the task descriptions that you use in favor of results and accomplishments. If you are an accountant, we know that you used GAAP and computers. Tell us how you led an audit that was supposed to take three months and got it done in half the time. Tell us how you created a new financial dashboard that was so well received that it is still being used today. Tell us why you are great. (See “Setting Interview Traps” for more on this idea.)
  7. Include relevant volunteer and community involvement information. If you are a sales person, your next boss might like that you are a member of civic organizations (you know people!).
  8. Finish it off with education and professional development. One exception: If you just graduated or are graduating soon, consider leading with education as it is your most marketable asset.

In summary, include information in an attractive, accessible way that will make employers want to talk to you. Make every word in your resume count, use a standard chronological format, and avoid gimmicks and fancy graphical flourishes. Substance counts much more than style.

Here are some tips on starting your résumé with power.

For some clean, professional sample resumes, see Resu-mazing Services Company’s samples page.

8 Job Fair Tactics

Job Fair Overhead Picture
Job Fair – Lots of People & Little Time to Impress

Have you ever gone to a job fair? Do you plan on it? If so, you have two choices. The first is to carpet bomb the place with your résumé. The second is to have a targeted approach and clear objectives. Guess which works better?

If you think that a run through the venue, where you will leave your résumé at every booth with a quick hello and a hand shake will bear fruit, you will be disappointed. If that is your plan, stay home and apply on line. As the recruiters and representatives at the booth receive these documents, they make quick decisions. There is the “no” pile and the “maybe” stack. Yours will not be where you want it.

Instead, have a strategy in mind and develop tactics that will give you a greater chance of success. Work to maximize the benefit of a face-to-face contact. Here are eight tactics.

  1. Research the companies and their jobs. Most job fairs have a website that lists the recruiting companies and the jobs available. Make a list of the ones for which you are qualified. Print it or carry it electronically. Work your list when you get there.
  2. Create a simple cover letter to go with your résumés. Each letter should be different and customized to each of the positions you want. At the least, include the employer’s name and two or three bullets on your qualifications relative to the requirements of the job posting. Use good paper and ensure quality printing.
  3. Have a concise introduction written and practiced. “Hi, my name is Bill Florin and I am here to share my résumé for consideration for the ____ job you are filling.”
  4. Be prepared to explain two or three things that make you qualified for the position. Again, you will need to research the job and review your talking points before approaching the recruiter.
  5. Have an answer for “What are you doing now?” Again, be concise. “My last employer went through a round of downsizing in the last two months, and I am looking to find a company that will benefit from my accounting expertise and drive for results.”
  6. Get business cards or other contact information if possible. Follow up immediately with a “Thanks, it was nice to meet you” email.
  7. Ask about next steps and the process to come. You will want to know this and set your expectations accordingly. You might not learn much, but it does not hurt to ask.
  8. Smile, say thanks, and move along. You don’t want to be a creepy job fair stalker, do you? Be good, be brief, and be gone.

Dress for success would be #9, but we don’t have to talk about that, right?

Hitting job fairs? Don’t forget these tips.

Nobody loves job fairs, but think about this: Would employers do them if they didn’t hire some of those attending? Not likely; they wouldn’t spend the time and money. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have a lot of success, but as they say about lottery tickets: Hey, you never know.

What has worked for you at job fairs? What hasn’t? Be sure to share your experiences by leaving a comment. Don’t forget to follow “Work” and share it with your friends!