Best Tips to Interview in 2019 with New Hacks
This blog can maximize your chances for success by several Tips to interview in 2019. This blog provides new hacks for the job search by understanding the economics that affects the organizations you target for jobs and the psychology of those hiring.
Self-confidence is an essential ingredient in the successful recipe for your interview success! What is self-confidence? The origin of the word confidence is the Latin word confidence, which means to trust or have faith in. So to have self-confidence means to approach what you are doing with faith in yourself and your abilities.
One of the most important contributions to your self-confidence is the knowledge that you are sufficiently prepared. In his recently published book, David Beckham describes how he prepared for a very important free kick in the 92nd minute of a 2001 match against Greece.
So the preparation was in three key parts:
1. The psychological preparation and choosing the right language “I emptied my mind of everything else except one thought I am going to score, no doubt in my mind”
2.The physical preparation of having practiced hundreds of free kicks during his career, taking two deep breaths, eying the corner of the net
3. The one focus “no doubt in my mind, no negativity, just one thought I am going to score”
This is an effective way of creating the right state and as football history unfolded David Beckham scored that goal in the 92nd minute taking England into the 2001 World Cup. This blog defines the 50 Tips to Improve Interview Performance 2018
Creating the right state
So translating this for your interview
1. Choosing the right language: that you create a positive mantra about being well prepared, are answering the questions with ease and have practiced out loud so you have heard yourself answering questions.
2.Your physical preparation: what you are wearing, that you are well hydrated & energized, that your body language is open and you are relaxed, confident and smiling at the interviewing panel.
3.That you have the right focus: thorough preparation into the company that you are applying to work with, knowledge of the job from the job description and job specification, applying your experience and skills to match what they are looking for.
In this triangular model, having each side of the triangle working together will ensure that you have a really clear strategy on creating your future success.
I am not suggesting that you go into your interview roaring like a lion! However how you see yourself at your interview has a big impact on your preparation. Positive mental rehearsal involves seeing yourself at the interview looking and sounding confident, seeing yourself answering the questions well and smiling.
In order to be able to achieve your goal of the successful interview; you need to be working on all three key areas as your preparation.
How to get an interview with a winning CV
The preparation can begin even before the job is advertised, having an up to date CV is a great starting point for any job application as it focuses you on your experiences.
Choose a clear font such as Arial or Times New Roman, size 10 or 12. Bold your headings. Ensure your name, address, telephone number, and email contact details are at the top of your first page.
Think carefully about how your email address, telephone answering message come across as these are a potential employer's first impression of you; they should be business-like.
Remember that your potential employer may have received 40–200 applications for one vacancy, so the Interview panel will skim read and match the CV experience with the job specification, so tailoring your CV to the job is essential to ensure you get an interview.
Two pages as a basic CV with any extra adaptations if required. For example, if you have a lot of customer care experience that you would like to say more about have an extra page titled Profile of customer care experience.
Have a positive personal profile and key skills that represent you and your experience.
Career summary: begin with your most recent work experience first.
Avoid abbreviations and words that you wouldn’t normally use.
Bullet points are an effective way of highlighting your achievements in work, university or voluntary work.
Shine a light on your positive qualities, positive people are much more attractive to employers.
Make sure you have ensured your dates flow, if you changed jobs and had an extended holiday, make sure to write this down and what you gained from the experience, avoid gaps in dates.
Write references available on request rather than waste valuable space with names, addresses.
Beware your spell check as you may end up with the American spelling of words.
Get a friend, colleague to read through your completed CV.
Be proud of your CV as it represents all of your personal and professional accomplishments; be prepared to talk about yourself through your CV.
Once you have created your CV, keep it up to date and you can add information that is relevant to a particular role. Make sure you are familiar with everything you have written about and that is a true representation of who you are.
At a recent successful interview, I was asked to talk through my CV and why I had made the career changes I had. An example of that CV is on the following page.
When the job is advertised, or you locate a role in the local newspaper or on a website. There are a number of things that you can do to ensure you are as prepared as you can be.
Occasionally an interview coaching client attends one of my workshops or coaching sessions with a jumbled pile of information, in which somewhere is their CV, application form, job description, company information, an old presentation…
The first thing I suggest to them is that they start treating their job search as a project and get organized! Printing out important information in a paper format and filing it in a file that is organized so you can access it with ease.
If you enjoy stationary, invest in an A4 file that you will feel inspired to focus on, perhaps in your favorite color and also some extra wide dividers so you can be organized with the information. For one job application you may have the following headings:
Copy of Advert, with keywords highlighted
Job description & job specification
CV adapted for the role
Information about the company
Copy of application form, covering letter
A record of any conversations that you may have had with the company or recruitment agency so you are clear about who said what, dates etc.
When you are this organized, if you are unsuccessful in your interview you have all the information to hand when you next need it, which will save you time.
Further researches to assist your interview preparation
Other factors to take into consideration whilst getting yourself organized during your preparation:
You are likely to be using several different methods of career hunting such as online advertisements, company websites, newspaper adverts, and recruitment agency. It is vitally important to keep a record of who you have said what to, applied with.
When you receive the information, if it is a paper copy, photocopy the application form and put in your project file, so that when you complete it, it is clean. Always photocopy a copy before you send it, so you have an accurate record of what you said.
Check the details of the time frame of the application and interview process; an online application will require you to plan your time completing your form online, some companies give you up to 90 minutes to complete an online application form before having to access their portal again.
Find out as much as you can about the organization, their website, arrange an informal visit if it is possible so you can see for yourself what the environment is like.
I was once applying for a job as a Nurse Facilitator within an emerging Health Care Company, what I hadn’t realized was that my new working environment would be within a Call Centre.
The person who I spoke to on the phone about the job assured me that it would not be possible to have an informal visit, so I asked them to describe the working environment and when they described the environment;
I was able to make my mind up about applying for the job and save myself a lengthy application process. Sometimes the process of applying for another job can make you appreciate where you are currently working.
The Informal Visit
If you are applying for a role where this is available, I suggest that you make the effort to attend if possible as this is demonstrating that you are interested in the role. Remember that you are presenting yourself at any informal contact that you make with your potential employer, so be professional.
Tips for an Informal visit
If the information is available on their company website to make sure that you have read about the company first, their general information and if they have a careers section so that when someone is talking about it, you look and sound interested.
Dress smartly and professionally.
Your interview process has started as you walk through the office doors as the person showing you around will have an opinion on the candidates.
Make sure all electronic items are switched off.
Smile and listen to what the person talking to you is saying, keep eye contact.
Accept any information pack/leaflet they have to offer you, even if you have a lot of online information. The member of staff will probably have put a lot of time and effort into preparing their role in facilitating this informal visit.
Have a positive statement about yourself ready for when asked what you are doing now and why you are seeking this change of job.
Sit down directly after the informal visit and write down your immediate thoughts, reflections and any concerns that you have from the experience. This will be very useful information when you come to prepare your interview questions.
If an informal visit is not possible, is there anything else you could do?
For example, if I was applying for Seasonal work at Marks and Spencer or Tesco I would go to one of the stores and walk around as a potential employee and ask myself “What is unique about this Company and what can I bring that will contribute to that?”.
Some large companies have very informative websites with virtual tours and case scenarios of each department work, extensive career sections. Check out all aspects and write notes as part of your preparation.
Take care with your Social Media
Just like you may check out a potential employers website, Facebook or Twitter to see what image and information the company is giving out…look at your own Facebook, Twitter account and other social media that you are using to portray yourself. Employers can also check out social media to see another perspective on their interview candidates.
Whilst speaking at a recent Graduate career fair, I heard some examples of people who had been using their social media to tell their world how much alcohol they enjoyed, that they were having “another sickie thanks to their raging hangover” with choice language and that the offer of that job they had worked so hard for had been rescinded.
The job offer “pending references” may also include the informal reference of what you choose to say about yourself in social media. Think before you write: once you write this about yourself any potential employer can read it and it may cloud their opinion on whether you match their job specification.
Preparing for your Interview
The competency-based interview
Whether an interview is a face to face or telephone, most interviews are competency based. A competency is a behavior that you must have or be able to acquire to be effective in the role.
The majority of companies will break down each vacancy into a number of core competencies and the interview panel will ask questions that require the candidates to show evidence of demonstrating them.
Some of the most popular competencies are:
Team working skills
Customer care skills
Why this approach works
When you prepare in this way, with the detail of specific examples that evidence / illuminate your knowledge and experience, you will have prepared for the key questions that they will be asking you.
Q: Tell us what are the key skills that you think are important for this role?
A: Highlight the competencies/skills that they have asked for with your specific examples that demonstrate this.
Q: Give an example of a time when you have assisted a team member
A: This is asking you about team working & people management skills; however you can also weave in effective communication skills and problem-solving skills.
Q: Can you tell us how you demonstrate good customer care skills?
A: This is asking about your skills with customers, also about how you would represent the organization, department. You can answer this generally and also use an example of good customer care that you will have prepared. Some positive feedback you have received from a customer also underlines your customer care skills well.
Q: We are looking for someone who works well under pressure; can you tell us how you would demonstrate this?
A: This is looking for your organizational skills, time management and some positive examples of how you work under pressure – have some examples prepared. Also an opportunity to talk about the day to day things that you do to relax: reading, sport, time with family.
Q: Tell us about your strengths.
A: Talk about the things that you really enjoy and know that you are good at remembering to include at least two of the skills that they are looking for from the job specification. If you have an example that illuminates these skills such as
“One of my skills is that I enjoy providing positive leadership to people, for example when we were planning a team building event I enjoyed making sure that everybody had a chance to contribute. I also make sure that I give challenging as well as positive feedback to my team”.
Q: Can you tell us about your weaknesses
A: The key to this type of question is to talk about something that you have improved on an area of weakness that you are/ or have transformed / are working on such as “One of my weaknesses is that I have very high and exacting standards and I can get disappointed when other people do not contribute as fully as I do;
I have realized that not everyone is as enthusiastic as me and that I need to be aware of my colleague's other areas of expertise.” Or “I am aware that in the past I have overcommitted myself and have had feedback that my time management could be improved;
I have worked hard on being more assertive and prioritizing my workload and am pleased that this area is much more focused now”.
Don’t be too hard on yourself in this question and don’t go for the worst feedback that you have ever received; choose something that you can feel positive about and that is the way you will come across to the panel.
A common mistake that leads to an unsuccessful interview
One of the most common elements of feedback given to unsuccessful candidates is that they “didn’t sell themselves as well as the successful candidate”.
I worked with a Medical client who felt very uncomfortable with the concept of “selling himself”; he felt he sounded arrogant and boastful about himself, which in turn made him very negative about how he answered the interview questions.
Thinking back to the triangle of Creating the Right State, he did not have the right focus by this negativity; so when we reframed his language to a different metaphor, this meant something to him and his work and refocused him.
Changing the focus to feel more comfortable
So instead of thinking about “selling himself” he said he felt more comfortable with “allowing himself to shine” and that he was just imparting information to the interview panel about what he did every day for his patients.
By doing this his focus shifted to a more positive outcome and he was delighted when he was successful at his next interview.
The internal candidate – make no assumptions
This is especially important if you are an internal candidate for a job within the organization you already work in. Make no assumptions that the panel will know how you work, prepare as you would for an interview in a company you don’t know.
Q: Tell us about your career history and why you are applying for this role
A: “Well as you know from my CV and work here, I have all the skills that you are looking for”.
Sitting on the interview panel I would be thinking: Which part of your CV or role…. I can’t remember those details; you are the fourth person I have interviewed today.
That answer does not allow me to tick any competencies on my interview panel answer sheet, so reluctantly (as I know you and what you are capable of) you have left me no choice but to tick has not met the required standard. A more suitable answer to the same question would be:
A: “Having left University with a degree in Communication Skills, I have enjoyed working within the Customer Services department here for the past two years.
I think that I have gained knowledge and experience with handling problems within the Customer Service department and also working as a shift supervisor for the past six months, I have gained some insight into the problems that staff and customers face.
I enjoy working for this company and would welcome the opportunity this new position would offer me”.
This answer gives me the information about your professional background, that you enjoy working for this company, have some people management experience and are enthusiastic about your work.
There is such a difference in writing things down and saying them out loud. Getting focused on answering questions out loud will really help you in how you come across at your interview.
Try saying out loud this inspiring quote from the co-founder of Apple Steve Jobs. I find it almost impossible not to smile when I am saying these words. This is how you need to be when presenting yourself at your interview, answering questions with enthusiasm. You getting this job can contribute to that ding in the universe.
A presentation at an interview is a great opportunity and your first question
If you are asked to prepare a presentation as part of your interview, this is a great opportunity as it is in effect your first question! Make sure that you practice delivering your presentation out loud and that it is within the time that they have asked you; so if it is a ten-minute presentation, deliver a nine-minute, thirty seconds presentation.
Whilst delivering your presentation at the interview, the panel is also looking at:
How you cope under pressure
Your organizational skills and time management:
For example, if you say that you are a concise communicator with good time management and your presentation overruns by ten minutes, this does not indicate that you are effective with time management.
Your leadership skills: are you enthusiastic about your topic or have you sent them to sleep by death by powerpoint?
Good communication skills: your audiovisual aids: handout
Getting your message across
Interview Stress – can you avoid it?
No, you can’t, interview stress is a necessary part of the interview preparation process. What is important is to use the energy that comes out of a stressful situation to your advantage.
When working with my interview skills clients I encourage them to transform their interview nerves into creative apprehension.
Reflect on your interview
After the interview reflect on your experience, perhaps using the Reflective learning cycle from chapter one. If you are successful, enjoy celebrating your new job!
If you are not successful on this occasion, make sure that you get feedback on your interview and build from that feedback into your personal reflection on this interview, most importantly, how can you transfer this learning back into your next experience.
You may like to engage a coach to help you with your interview technique, I happen to know a good one who will help you with the art of interview skills to create your own future success!
The Portfolio Items to Leave Behind
One of the keys to standing out from other candidates is to have a portfolio you can leave behind at an interview. Physical portfolios are quite rare in most fields these days, so anyone who takes the effort to create one automatically appears better than everyone else.
The Portfolio Process
One approach that works well is to use plain two-pocket folders. It is growing more difficult to find plain folders, but an office supply store should have at least a few options.
You can also check online, but try to find folders that are professional and not emblazoned with the logos of other firms. Plain black is generally a good choice, but well-stocked stores may have other color options. Avoid lighter colors, as they show staining, and avoid gloss finishes, as they show scratches.
One side of the folder should be filled with documents about you. At a minimum, this should be your cover letter and résumé. However, if you have done public work, such as a flyer or paper that you think is particularly good, you can include such items on that side of the folder as well. The other side is for the company you are targeting.
This will be reserved for customized documentation, such as market research or brainstorming of ideas to help the business.Some folders have a little inset in them for a business card. If this slot is available, you should use it. When you leave your portfolio behind, your targets will be reminded of you every time they look at it.
You may also wish to have a separate folder in a different color for sensitive documents that you will not be leaving behind.
Résumés Close Doors
The traditional approach of creating a résumé and blasting it to all available job openings is one that is doomed to failure. Why? Think about it from the perspective of hiring managers.
Even in a relatively small city, over one hundred résumés can quickly inundate them as the résumés keep coming and coming. In large cities, a job posting could garner well over a thousand responses.
No one is actually going to read that many résumés.
So what happens instead? If there is no hiring software in use, someone is going to sit down with the stack and do a rapid sort. Most managers will first filter out everyone who lacks a college degree.
This is, of course, not fair. However, it is a filter that can cut out half of the applicants. In technical fields, if the stack is still too large, they often filter out people who lack certifications.
Then, they often look for years of experience and pick those with a lot of experience but with job titles that indicate lower salaries. Only at that point, with a stack of five to ten applications, are résumés actually read.
If there is hiring software in use, the process is only slightly different. First, the job is assigned a series of keywords and any résumé that doesn’t match a certain percentage of those keywords is filtered out. Those that pass go through the same process as above.
So in the end, that beautiful résumé you sweated over and made perfect is more likely to get you excluded from a job than considered for it. If you don’t play the keyword guessing game the way the hiring manager wants you to, you’re out.
If you don’t fit the pattern (experience, degrees, certifications), you’re out. The résumé is there to make it easier for companies to exclude people. What you want is the exact opposite. You need a tool that makes it more likely for you to succeed.
Cover Letters Open Doors
If you can’t find a personal connection to a potential interviewer in your target company, even by tracing to friends of friends of friends, you’ll need to introduce yourself with a “letter.”
The word letter is in quotes because the term “cover letter” no longer means what it once did. It used to refer to a letter of introduction that you would send with your résumé or portfolio.
It would introduce yourself, explain why you want to work there, what you’d bring to the organization, and request a meeting. These days, however, there are often more cover letters that can be read, so they’re filtered, too.
Instead, people are starting to switch to other ways of attracting attention. Your “letter” could be an introduction video on the web. It could be a custom website such as Matthew Epstein did with googlepleasehire.me.
It could be an infographic such as those created by Keith Bates (www.kbates.com) or generated by visualizing .me. There are many options. However, in all cases, the letter should do three things.
A letter, whatever its form, is useless unless it is read. You must make it interesting enough that, in half a second, the person seeing it decides that it’s worth his or her time to dig deeper.
There are many ways to do this. In a letter, you could open with a claim that seems overly strong or counterfactual. Marketers do this all the time; while it feels a bit sleazy, it does work.
So long as you explain in the piece why you’re not lying, it’s perfectly fine. You can also make the letter exceptionally short, craft it like a full-page magazine ad, or resort to gimmicks.
If you’re doing an infographic, make sure it uses good design principles and attracts the eye. Consider getting help from an artist if this is not your skill set. If you’re doing a video, look at how trailers work. People watch movies for a reason. Look at how the trailers suck you in and make you want to see the whole video.
Explain the Benefits of Hiring You
No one cares why you want to work there. They’re not going to hire you because you’re good at flattery. They’re going to hire you because, by doing so, they can achieve their goals with either higher levels of certainty or lower cost. That’s it.
Try to explain how hiring you would help along those two dimensions. If you can make the business case that hiring you is a good idea, you can go to the next part of the “letter.” If you can’t make a good business case, you’re not ready and shouldn’t waste anyone’s time.
Ask for a Meeting
Finally, you need to ask them to meet with you. This could be a phone call, an email, or, ideally, a face-to-face meeting. The entire effort is wasted if you don’t get a meeting, and unless you actually ask for a meeting, you’re unlikely to get one.
Basically, you’ve crafted the beginning of the piece so the viewer spends half a second deciding to invest five to ten minutes in you. The entire piece then exists to convince the viewer to invest one to two hours in you. For a lot of business people, one to two hours is quite an investment, but by this time, you’ve already convinced them—twice—that you’re worth some effort.
Then, all you have to do is get them to invest a bit more in you each time you meet. Eventually, so much effort will be sunk into you that the only way they can learn more about you is to give you a job.
Using Résumés to Tell Stories
Résumés are not inherently worthless. As a “getting attention” tool, a résumé is useful for getting search engines to notice you. A well-written résumé will garner annoying calls and emails from recruiters all over the world.
These calls are aimed at getting you to do work you’ve done before for people who want to pay a recruiting firm substantially more than they are willing to pay you.
These tend to be short-run jobs, but you can string such jobs together into a career. Sadly, this career collapses completely once the world decides your skills are no longer worth what recruiters charge. When this happens, the market quickly contracts, rendering that set of skills worthless.
Approaching work from a pure skill-for-hire basis like this makes it difficult to develop new skills, so while it can be lucrative for a while, it seldom lasts long enough to constitute a career … so this book focuses on another method.
Creating and Tuning a Master Résumé
As mentioned before, your résumé is about stories. A well-crafted résumé will consist of a list of stories that, if told in series, would give the interviewer both a good understanding of what you did in each role and also show how what you’ve done can directly help the interviewer with his or her needs.
Of course, any job will have more stories that will be of interest to your interviewer. So the way to target the résumé is to start with significantly more stories than you need, then weed out the less interesting stories for each job to which you want to apply.
Take your stack of index cards and group them by job/role, sort the jobs by time with the most recent first, and start typing them up with one bulleted list per job stack.
If you have between two and five years of experience, this should take a page or two. If you have five to ten years’ worth, it should take two to three. If you have over ten, it should go well over three.
That stuff about a one-page résumé is garbage. That’s to make it easier for people to filter you out. You want to be filtered in, so you need material to work with. After you make this list of lists, add a one-line header to each bulleted list that provides the job title, the company name, and the start and stops dates.
Prospective employers care about gaps, no dates, so month and year are sufficient here.
At the top of your résumé, add a short Profile section. In no more than the top fifth of the page put your name, any certifications you have, and your email address and phone number.
If you’re feeling witty, add a byline that describes you in a single line. Avoid business speak: “Ambitious Over-Achiever Focused On Driving Business Value For Customers And Shareholders,” tells a pretty boring story. “Creative Thinker, Developer, and Sculptor,” tells a much more interesting one.
Now, to whip the rest of the document into shape. Choose a reasonable font and type size for your lists. It should be no smaller than 11-points. The font is up to you, but keep it professional.
Once that’s done, tighten up each story summary that extends past a single line so everything fits at one bullet per line and looks pretty.
This makes them easier to read and can dramatically reduce the amount of space your résumé takes up. A self-consistent résumé is much more powerful than one that isn’t, and keeping the résumé down to one line per story makes it much easier to scan. There will be some stories that will look as if they cannot be shortened. This is wrong.
If you get stuck, set the résumé aside for a couple of days and revisit those lines. If you still can’t do it, get someone to help you. Maybe your story is really two stories.
Maybe you’ve been overly wordy and need to cut. Or maybe that story doesn’t belong in the résumé at all. If you can’t fit a story in a single line, you probably can’t tell it to your interviewer in a way he or she can understand it. Edit yourself mercilessly.
In an actual interview, you need to be able to review the résumé quickly, be reminded of your story card, and tell the story. By keeping each story reminder short enough to read quickly, you improve your interview flow and gain the ability to jump straight into the bit that matters—storytelling.
The story you tell must be focused on your target. There are almost certainly stories that you do not want to tell to your targeted interviewer, as they may be irrelevant or convey an impression that you don’t want.
Since your résumé is now a list of bullet points, simply make a copy of the file and remove all the bullets that you don’t want to talk about.
This is where you get it down to a single page—but instead of a generic single page that tries to cover everything, this is a page of pure gold, full of stories you can tell that make you sound awesome.
The interview will then consist of the interviewer pointing to something random on the page and asking you about it. You get to knock their socks off by telling a crafted story with characters and plot arc.
This will be so different from any other candidate that your interview will rapidly turn into a series of stories, some of which will not be on your résumé at all, and time will fly by.
There are many ways to structure résumés. The method described here is optimized for story flow and for people who do not have a design background. If you have more advanced graphics skills than average, consider adding color and pictures to your résumé.
For inspiration, do online searches for “creative résumés.” Just remember that your résumé must also be searchable, so if you do get creative with it, be sure to also make a boring version that search engines can read.
Custom Cover Letter
The cover letter process will be much like that of the résumé. You have your fonts and colors; make them match. Then choose a nice large font size for the letter (12 pt or 14 pt) and a larger size for the letter header.
Keep the letter very simple. Explain what you think you’d be able to do for your target company, and inform them that you’ll be calling to request an interview.
The point of the letter is not to lay everything on the line; it’s to make them more likely to respond favorably to your request for an interview. That’s all. If you try to explain too much, you risk causing confusion, and that will work against you.
While there are many ways to style the cover letter, a three-paragraph approach often works very well. In the first paragraph, introduce yourself. Explain the skills you have, some successes you’ve made for other companies, and, in general, why you’re awesome.
The second paragraph should explain why you think their organization is awesome and that you’d like to help them become even more awesome.
Then, in the third paragraph, state that you’d like to have a further discussion and that you will be calling at three specific times. Ask that, if any of those times will not work, they let you know what times would be better.
Next, you should sign the letter, attach your résumé, and send it. Wait about four days, then send an email version of the same. Finally, at each of the scheduled times when you said you’d call, do so, and be prepared to leave a message that states who you are and the reason you are calling; reference the letter(s) you sent and say when you’ll call again.
If you’ve created your master résumé as described earlier in this blog, now is the time to adjust it for the position you’re currently pursuing. First, run through it and remove anything that doesn’t help you tell a story that would be interesting to your targets. With luck, this will get you down to one or two pages.
If not, run through it again and mark the items based on how objectively interesting you consider them. Put a number at the front of each line, marking each story from 1 (somewhat interesting) to 4 (extremely interesting). Pull out all number ones and see if that gets you down to a good size. If not, purge all the twos, and so on.
When the résumé is at a reasonable size, go through it line by line and adjust the content to reflect the language you expect your targets to respond to. You’ve mapped your metaphors and know the language they are likely to use, so spend a bit of time with thesaurus.com and see what improvements you can make.
Once the résumé is fully adjusted, look at the fonts and colors on your target’s website. You don’t necessarily want a perfect match, but you want something in the same font family and a similar color scheme.
When someone is distracted, you have between 30 seconds and two minutes to get your point across. Aim for the lower bound and work out a way to tell your story as quickly as possible.
This should be easy, as each story is already in the form of a bulleted list. Just visualize the list, run through each point in about five seconds, and stop at the end.
Then, once you have that down, record yourself and look for areas of improvement. You don’t want to be scripted, but try to eliminate as many “um”s, “uh”s, and “but”s as you can.
Make sure that the story flows logically and that you didn’t skip over any details that you should have explained in greater detail. Don’t add details at the expense of time. The goal is to catch someone’s interest, not explain absolutely everything.
Then, see if there’s anything you can do to punch up the story. This will have to be on the fly, as you don’t know who you’ll be talking to. Just think of how you can emphasize specific portions if you’re talking to a peer, someone you are mentoring, or a potential boss.
Again, you don’t have to be an expert. Simply putting a bit of thought into the process will raise you far above the competition.
When someone is paying attention, you get a bit more of their time, but still not a lot. You should be able to expand your basic story to three to five minutes. Practice with a timer so you can track the time you actually take.
As you expand the story, put a bit more time into why the problem was significant. Talk about how it affected customers, employees, and the business itself.
Mention any criticality; an emergency issue that you had to resolve in 30 minutes during business hours is very different from a project that you got to work on over a period of two years.
Then, talk about your problem-solving process, how you arrived at your attempted solutions (if they exist), the challenges you faced, and how you overcame them. Finally, talk about the ultimate resolution, how you determined the problem was truly fixed, and how it affected the character with whom your listener will identify.
Once you’ve done this a few times, you should find your sense of timing developing so you won’t need the timer in an actual interview. It is very important that you only use the timer as a tool and do not grow dependent on it.
Using an actual timer in an interview is a good way to completely blow it, destroying all chances to build rapport with your interviewer.
This can also be called “interrupted” storytelling. If you have practiced short and long forms of each of your stories, there may be a tendency to become focused on completing the story, forgetting that the goal of the exercise is to make yourself seem awesome. If someone interrupts, they are trying to turn the story into a discussion. This is great.
Discussions are better than stories since they flow from topic to topic with no barriers getting in the way. If instead, you stay focused on completing the story, once you’re done, there’s nothing left but another story. The process of moving from one story to another requires a prompt, which is a barrier to conversation flow.
In fact, if you tell a story and get into a discussion before the end, it creates a feeling of incompleteness for the listener. People don’t like this and will want a resolution of some kind.
This is why television series often use cliffhangers at the end of a season. They want the viewers to return to resolve their feeling of uncertainty. If your interviewer feels this in an interview, they’ll have to invite you back for a follow-up.
To practice this, it really helps to work with friends. Explain to them that their job is to interrupt you as you tell the stories you’ve practiced. Get into discussions with them, and start another story at an appropriate moment. Once this stops feeling awkward, you’re decently prepared.
A more formal version of storytelling is the presentation. See the Resources section for some great information on presenting. To very briefly summarize most of the advice on presenting, remember that when someone is reading, they’re not listening to you. Someone who is listening to you is not reading. Someone trying to do both is going to do each badly.
So if you are presenting as part of the interview process, avoid “Death by Powerpoint” and just tell a story using the techniques in the previous section. Back this up with visual aids as appropriate, but make sure they support rather than replace what you’re saying. In a nutshell, use graphics with limited words.
Then, each time you change slides or show an animation, you’ll recapture your audience’s interest in what you’re saying, but not for so long that they miss what you’re saying.
A critical piece of this process is to have custom documents to leave behind. The nature of these documents will vary from target to target, but in general, their purpose is to indicate to your target organization that you have taken the time to consider its needs.
Such documents can consider business challenges, such as a desire to push into new markets, ways to improve internal efficiency or ways to better service existing customers.
These documents should be highly visual, as interviewers are not going to read them during the interview and will be unlikely to read large blocks of text after the interview.
One common reason that organizations create new positions is to branch out into a new market. Thus, documents that reflect market research can be quite valuable.
One way to approach this is to look for holes in the competitive landscape. Most organizations have competitors, and these competitors can be easily found through a few searches.
Look for independent analysis of the industry that you are targeting. Turn off your Internet ad blocker and do searches on each of your target organization’s products and services.
Build a list of competitors and rank them based on how well-known they seem to be in the market. Then, review each competitor’s site and build a list of features.
Work to move the list of features into a single one-page document and make a comparison table. This table should list competitors across the top and features down the side, with a checkmark in each box that indicates if that feature is present. Then, place a dash in each box where that feature is lacking.
This chart should make it easy to identify which competitors are missing features and which are well-positioned. You should only list features that have value in the market.
Many products suffer from feature bloat that makes them appear more important than they truly are. You should avoid listing any of your target organization’s products or services.
Those are well-known by the organization, and anything you get wrong will be pointed out and counted against you. It doesn’t matter if the source of the poor information is their website—you will be viewed as the one who guessed wrong, so it’s safer to just leave your target organization out completely.
Once this document is generated, you should apply a reasonable font and colors to it, as discussed in the Repositioning blog. Flow-based documents can also be useful. If you are applying for a support role, including a document that indicates how problems are reported and handled.
If you are hoping to help create a new market, create a document that shows how sales will work within that market. If you want to create a new technology, make a flow diagram that shows how that technology will work.
This way, when you discuss your hopes and dreams, you can pull out the document and walk through the flow as you explain your ideas to your interviewers.
Other documents can include different ways to bundle products or services (block diagrams), ways to define new markets (demographic diagrams), and timelines for industry changes.
This can seem overwhelming, but such work is easily done with free tools like Inkscape (inkscape.org), LibreOffice (www.libreoffice.org), and Gimp (www.gimp.org). These free replacements for applications like Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Office, and Adobe Photoshop have learning curves, but there are many tutorials and instructional videos online.
Start by sketching your idea on paper, then work it into a digital format. Then, throw that away and rework it into a better version that includes the organization’s colors and fonts.
If you are not used to a creative process like this, doing a throwaway draft may seem counterintuitive, but it often results in a much better version of the idea. You usually don’t get nearly as much improvement on subsequent iterations, so focus on the second version of your idea, then move on.
It may help to take your first idea to a friend or two and get their opinions on where it’s unclear. This will help form your concept for the final version.
Finally, in at least one final document, introduce a small typo. This is so when you use the document in the interview, you can notice the typo, circle it with a pen and, in the second interview, provide a version of the document with that error corrected.
Ideally, you would also adjust the document based on the feedback you received in the interview, but while you have no control over what others will say, by introducing a deliberate error you still get to show improvement.
To prevent people from thinking that you just didn’t proofread your materials, try to make the introduced error appear reasonable. Think of typos that are still properly spelled words (“it” for “is”) or places where a small word like “a” is left out.
Aim for at least two such custom documents in your first interview, then add one document for each subsequent interview you have, updating each document as you learn more about what the organization needs.
Everyone wants an awesome business card, but face it—with all the work that must be done to get a solid customized résumé, a good cover letter, and some custom documents, the business card is going to get shorted.
To create a card that is good enough, get some inspiration by looking at other people’s cards, then try your hand at a design. Google Image search is a great place to start.
Just search on “best business cards” or “business card template” and look at what others have done. There will be some with special shapes, embossing, or fancy multi-layer printing.
Ignore those, as they will not be very cost-effective. Also, ignore those that have a lot of complex layouts. Instead, look at how color is used and the overall design.
At the bare minimum, a business card should contain your name and an email address. A catchy title, phone number, and other such information can be useful, but the more you veer from “normal,” the riskier it gets.
Remember, the goal is not to show off how awesome you are at designing business cards unless you are hoping to get a job doing just that.
While you can always use your current title (if employed), consider giving yourself a clever title like “Employee of the Month: January–December (next year)” or “Looking for a Boss.”
Since your card should never be seen by anyone at your current place of work, there’s little risk to this practice, and a memorable title can be invaluable in the job search process.
Add your own hobbies to your card to make you seem more well-rounded. If you can strike the right balance and give interesting and useful information on the card without adding anything too frivolous, you can create very strong connections in the brains of the people you talk to.
The stronger these connections, the less likely they are to forget you, and the more likely it will be that they’ll contact you when they need something.
Once designed, use one of the tools listed earlier (Inkscape, Gimp, LibreOffice, or Microsoft Word) to generate a basic sheet of business cards with cut lines. Save the document as a PDF and take it to a printing store or office supply store with a print department. Explain that you need a small number of cards printed on heavy stock and that you need them cut.
Finally, avoid the “print your business card for free” services. They often print their name on the back of your card and use lower-quality materials, which does nothing but spread confusion and make you look cheap.
An office store can print a set of 100 decent business cards starting at $20. This is more than sufficient so long as you’re careful to only hand cards out to people who can help you get a job.
Notes on Design
It is unreasonable to expect to become a great designer in the limited time you have, and it is better spent on research and preparation for your interview. Your goal is to be good enough to look better than those who didn’t put in any work at all.
With that in mind, there are a few design rules of thumb to keep in mind for the business cards as well as the customs documents that you will be generating for the portfolio
Fonts, Colors, and Gradients
Using the same technique you used for the Cover Letter section, verify the color scheme and fonts that you will be using for the more advanced documents. You may need a few more colors to use on these documents, so if your target is relatively monochrome, use the color tools mentioned earlier to find other colors that look good with the basic schemes.
One useful trick is to take advantage of gradient support in vector tools. When you have a color scheme, you can select gradients that fade from one color to another.
If you keep with the standard of having black text on a white background, you can also fade any color to black or white. This must be done carefully to avoid looking amateurish, but when done consistently and minimally, it can add a great sense of depth to your images. Do not do this with text.
It takes a lot of experience to get gradients to work with text and often involves special adjustments to outline and shadow objects. If you are not a graphic designer, it is best to just let the text be text.
Clutter is the enemy. Avoid it at all costs. Remember that you have both the front and back of each document to work with, though just working with the front is much easier. After you make the initial design, run it past your friends and ask if it looks too cluttered. If so, simplify where you can.
The purpose of a business card is to allow people to contact you. The purpose of a business document is to convey a single idea and allow people to explore it. All other uses, such as making you look particularly creative or risky, are ancillary. If you have the technical and creative chops to pull something like that off, you’ll know. If you’re not certain, embrace minimalism.
As you’ve done your research on your interviewers, you should have a guess as to what metaphors they use to think about things. If one of them is an avid golfer, for example, you can use language around “getting a hole in one” or “avoiding hazards.” You can back this up in your customs documents with images involving golf clubs, courses, or balls.
Similar visual metaphors can be used for hobbies like knitting or reading, or causes as indicated by membership in groups focusing on poverty or conservation.
Keep your design simple and visually clean. Remember that metaphors serve as frameworks, so a little bit goes a long way. If you’re targeting someone who is interested in golf, they will respond well to a document that has a single golf club in one area, a green as a background, and a hole somewhere else.
They will likely not respond any better, and possibly respond poorly, to a document that uses an entire golf course as the metaphor with tees, greens, and hazards all over the document.
Think first about graphics that will support both your text and the metaphor that you are using. Remember that you can use them as both primary and supporting objects.
For example, a document with a single graphics featured prominently will attract the target’s interest, but the subtle use of graphics, such as for bullets and horizontal dividers, will support your metaphor in a more subtle way.
Many images can be found through basic image searches, though you will not want to use them directly. The Google search “item filetype:svg” will help you find vector graphics that can be imported directly into Inkscape. Once there, you can adjust the colors and lines to match your document’s style.
It is wise to check the license of such works before you use them, but for any image, be it a directly editable .svg file or a bitmapped .png or .jpg, you can always trace over parts of it in a tool like Inkscape or use it for inspiration and create your own work that is similar, but not identical, to the original source.
This makes it easy to illustrate your documents in ways that will make your portfolio stand out from any other “walls of text” documents.
Odds are that you can’t edit your own work. As you build your portfolio, you will have created a résumé, a cover letter, and at least two custom documents. You may have anonymized versions of public documents you’ve created. You may have blog articles that you’ve turned into articles or internal reports that you’ve scrubbed for public sharing.
It can be very useful to get a second pair of eyes to look over what you’ve done. Copyeditors are easy to find. Do a search on “copyeditor for hire,” place ads on sites like Craigslist, or hire one off of the CE-L copyeditor freelancers list (www.copyediting-l.info).
Professional copyeditors will often charge between $100 and $300 to review a smallish set of documents—and they are well worth the investment. Most of this blog advocate using free tools and services where possible, but in this one case, you very much get what you pay for. Pay for it.
Thinking about Money
No matter where you are in the process, it is useful to think about salary negotiation. However, it is wise to be prepared. The technique discussed in this blog is only one way to do it. There are as many others as there are blogs on job hunting and negotiation.
The view taken here is that any job you land through this process will have a much higher chance of job satisfaction than where you are today, so any money above what your current or last job had is an improvement.
Everyone wants their next job to be the one that makes them rich, but each employer wants each new employee to be one that makes them more profitable. Since employers set the salaries, they often win.
This approach to total compensation can help even the odds, but always keep in mind that your real goal is a win/win situation in which both you and your new employer wind up better off for hiring you.
The core idea behind total compensation is to capture everything your current or most recent employer gives you. This means capturing not only what you are given in salary, but also converting nonmonetary items like benefits, software, and hardware to hard dollars. This is best done with a spreadsheet.
Calculate your annual pretax salary; that’s the first line. To this, add calculations (by year) for nonmonetary compensation, like these examples:
Bonuses (end of the year, profit sharing, project-based, commissions, quarterly MBOs)
Education (training classes, conferences)
Travel and lodging for education opportunities
Any monies paid to help sustain certifications and professional memberships
Insurance paid by the company (health, dental, vision)
Retirement paid by the company (401(k) match, IRA match, management fees)
Vacation and sick days, flexible time, volunteer time
Reimbursements (cell phones, mobile Internet devices)
Tools (computers as factored into a yearly cost, software subscriptions)
Add these together to obtain your total annual compensation. Then, if you’re considering a job in a new place, factor in a multiplier for cost of living increase (or decrease).
Be sure to support this number with statistics in case you’re called on it. Searches on “cost of living” for where you are and where you’d be moving help, and do searches on sites like bankrate.com and payscale.com.
If you’re physically relocating to a larger metro area, this one step could make the difference between being able to live comfortably while working at the job of your dreams and being unable to support yourself financially, no matter how otherwise rewarding the job might be – so do your research.
The final number will give you an answer to the question of “What are you making now?” Armed with that, you can reply with a higher number than your base salary, but one that is defensible if you are challenged.
Finally, make a new column on the spreadsheet and fill in specific areas you’d like to improve. Some people are motivated by hardware and need to boost their annual computer budget to be happy.
Some want more educational opportunities. Unsurprisingly, most want a higher take-home salary. Add all these together, and add 10% to the top and bottom of that number, and you have your asking range.
Be willing to be flexible within the total compensation calculation; if a lower salary is offered, you might ask for a higher education budget. So long as the total compensation offered is higher than where you are today, and each relevant individual line item is higher, you’re moving forward. You can always renegotiate later—though if this process is successful, you’ll be spending so much time doing work you enjoy that you may not bother.
If you’ve been unemployed for a while, your baseline may be what you need to live on and will not necessarily be linked to your previous job. Pick an asking range that is 10% above and below the average for that job as reported on various salary surveys. Make sure the bottom end of your range is not below your actual financial minimum.
In this example, notice that even though the base salary is $50,000, the current total compensation comes to $64,201.83. This is because of the contributions to insurance, vacation, and training, plus the commission. Additionally, there is a cost of living difference of 15% between where the job currently is and where the new job target is.
This brings the total compensation estimate to $73,832.10. Since negotiation works better with ranges, the +/−10% rule would bring the asking range to $66,448.89 to $81,215.31 or, keep things simple, $67k–$81k.
This is, of course, an annual salary calculation. If you wished to have a discussion around hourly rates, just divide the total number of working hours in a year. Assuming two weeks of vacation, that’s 50 weeks at 40 hours per week. Thus, in this example, you could expect an hourly rate of $33.22 to $40.61.
Before the Interview Plan to Succeed
To a certain extent, the entire blog up until this point has been about the pre-interview process. There are also some things that should be done after the interview is scheduled but before it takes place.
This mostly involves logistics, but there is also a bit of analytics and practice involved. Fundamentally, the first time you do anything, it’s going to be of less-than-ideal quality.
Often, it’ll just be flat-out bad. The best way to improve is to make mistakes—but you don’t want to do that in actual interviews, so you need to prepare.
If you live in the same metro area in which the job is, go there. The easiest way to be late is to get lost. If you’re driving, know where you’re going. If you’re taking public transportation, know the route.
Take a trip there during the same time of day you’d travel on a real day. This gives you a reasonable feel for the traffic and helps you check your route.
If you’re interviewing on a weekday, make sure to test your drive under those conditions. If you make the run on Saturday but the interview is on Thursday, there will almost certainly be traffic differences.
If you do not live there, verify the map on several online mapping services, such as Google Maps, MapQuest, and Bing Maps. Once you know the route, pull up Google Street View and make sure you can identify the landmarks. Drive the route mentally, to minimize surprises.
If you can get there, or have access to good photos, look at the cars in the parking lot. Read the bumper stickers and take note of the quality of the cars.
Bumper stickers can disclose information about hobbies, causes, and political affiliations. Vanity and special license plates can give you similar information. Linking specific cars to your interviewers may be difficult.
After all, you can’t just use a police database to run a plate search. However, this data can be an indicator that, when combined with other information you’ve uncovered about people who work for the business, can be a good way to identify aspects of the culture that may not be apparent from online resources alone.
Car quality can give you a feel for how well the employees are paid. As with everything else, this is just an indicator, not a certainty—and more than other indicators, this one can be quite misleading. The biggest thing to check is whether there are reserved spots for managers and if those spots have noticeably better vehicles than other spots.
Such a disparity can indicate not only a financial difference but, more importantly, a social difference in how management treats employees.
While you are physically there, you have some options to consider. These may not always be wise but are worth considering. Entering the building can give you data about how people interact with one another and the dress code but can cause you to be challenged in ways you’d not prefer.
Peering in windows and digging through trash could get you in serious trouble and might be illegal. The safest option is to just drive through the parking lot, then leave.
Another option is available if there is a public area near the office. Locations like coffeehouses and parks allow you to linger within sight of the main door so you can note the types of clothing people wear, the traffic patterns as they go in and out the door, the general level of friendliness, and so on.
This may not give you hard data, but it helps with your overall impression of the organization.
Remember, the entire process for getting the job surrounds taking control of the eventual interview. This is where you finally get your chance. Interviews have common questions. The entire premise of this blog is that you’re not going to get a great job by answering the questions with a standard “right” answer.
Simply making the interviewer like you isn’t enough. That’s the game everyone is playing. After all, your competition has the same interview blogs you do and has practiced the same standard questions, so if you practice, you are, at best, no worse off than they are.
You are, however, no better off, either. And if you don’t practice, you run the risk of interviewing poorly, even if you’ve done all the other preparation—so you’ve got to do it.
This is not a blog that will tell you how to answer questions like “What is your greatest weakness?” or “Why do you want to work here?” or “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”
There are tons of blogs for that already, and the world does not need another. Pick up one of those, but pick it up in audio format. It doesn’t matter if it’s a CD, MP3, or video.
The important thing is that someone asks you the question and you pause playback to answer. If you are currently commuting, you can practice this in the car. Otherwise, try it out at home.
Run through each of the questions repeatedly until you have a good answer for each —one that feels natural but does not sound scripted. For most people, this will take three to five times through the list of questions.
As you work through the possible answers to each question, consider whether you can reference one of your résumé stories. Consider how others would answer the question and see if you can come up with a more creative and memorable answer.
You know some of the questions you’re going to be asked, so prepare in a way that will make you stand out but also supports the rest of your message.
If you do not have the budget to use one of the other resources, visit your library, check out your local unemployment office, look around online, or have a friend read you the list of questions.
If you anticipate dangerous questions arising in the course of the interview, consider how you’ll respond to them. Such questions can involve gaps in your employment history, a history of job hopping, situations in which you’ve been fired or quit in anger, or anything else that might raise alarms from things they see in your résumé or online.
In almost all cases, the appropriate response is to acknowledge their concerns, admit to any issues you may have had, and explain what you learned in addressing them. As you practice your questions, keep this in mind, and add questions of this type to the list.
Remember that the truth has many facets. Perhaps you were let go for what you believe to be prejudiced reasons. Raising that concern in an interview is not likely to endear you to the interviewer, so find a tactful way to state things. There’s a reason that bands break up over “artistic differences” and politicians resign to “spend more time with their family.”
Interviewers like to set aside either one hour for an interview or about thirty minutes for each person conducting the interview. Thus, expect to receive interview requests scheduled for one to two hours. However, most interviewers do not expect to be presented with a prepared interviewee who has a portfolio and a set of ideas for improvement.
This will take them by surprise and can often cause the interview itself to stretch out significantly. It is not uncommon for a morning interview to turn into a lunch interview and then extend into the afternoon.
Because of this tendency, it is best to block off the entire day on your schedule for the interview. If it ends when scheduled, you’ll have time to relax and get other things done.
If it extends, you won’t have to worry about rescheduling anything. At the end of the interview, thank everyone, and just walk out the door, leaving behind the customized portfolios that you designed for the job.
Arrival can be a bit different. Plan to arrive at least half an hour early. This will give you time to find a parking place (if you’re driving), check yourself to remove any lint or cat hair, do a quick breath freshener, and prepare to go in.
Arrive ten minutes early for the interview and be a prepared wait in the entryway until your interviewer is ready.
If there is a receptionist present, introduce yourself and ask them to notify your interviewer. If company material is available, read that. This will cause you to appear interested in the business. If such material is not available, review your résumé and portfolio.
If you are physically able, stand while you wait. This way, when your interviewer arrives, they see someone with energy at a similar level as them. When you are sitting, you appear at disadvantage, with the other person being physically above you.
You don’t want to dominate your interviewers, so if you’re excessively tall, you may choose to sit. But you don’t want to unnecessarily place yourself at a disadvantage.
It can help to engage in “mirroring” to help build rapport. You can learn more about this concept from various social engineering and psychology blogs. In general, the concept is to assume similar postures and physical actions as your interviewer.
This makes the person you are mirroring feel more rapport with you and, over time, feel like they and you are similar enough to grow the relationship. Try not to be identical, as that can be creepy; but if you dress somewhat similarly, sit in similar positions, and use similar gestures, it can help.
Much of this will have to be done in the interview itself. You can also prepare a bit by looking online for photos that illustrate the company dress code and for videos that show your interviewers in action.
While there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to get good data, you can check out a company’s Facebook page and blog and photos of internal events to get a feel for dress code. You can search on YouTube and Vimeo for your interviewers’ names and watch their body language.
You can also use tools like PushPin (bitbucket.org/LaNMaSteR53/pushpin), by Tim Tomes, to enter a longitude and latitude (www.findlatitudeandlongitude.com) and get a listing of photos taken in that area.
To run the tool, make sure you have Python loaded, then enter the coordinates and a range. It will open up browser windows with images, videos, and Twitter tweets that are geotagged for that area.
This approach will typically fail for small organizations and will have a high rate of false positives since even modern smartphones do not always get the geotagging right. However, in larger organizations with campuses, this is a reasonably reliable technique.
Once you know how people in the organization dress, try to dress one level up from the job you wish to have. The meaning of “dress one level up” can be tricky, and this is not a blog on fashion.
If you, like many, are unclear as to what this means, download the photos into a gallery on a laptop or tablet and take them to a business attire store.
Explain what you want to do and ask them to help you. They’ll want you to buy a new outfit, of course, and you may want to do so, but either way, it is a very reliable way to find out.
Other options include asking people at a fashion program at a nearby college for assistance. Professors may well turn such a question into a topic of discussion for class, though this will depend on your specific school.
It should go without saying that this extends beyond mere clothing. Haircuts, hygiene, and adornments (piercings, tattoos, etc.) should appear in line with the organization’s culture.
Planning the Conversations
While each interview is theoretically a freeform discussion, you should be guiding it. The interviewers’ intention is to decide whether or not to hire you. Your purpose is to decide whether you want them to hire you and if so, to make it more likely for them to do so.
Interviews are conversations that exist to satisfy curiosity. Your interviewer wants to know about you and has a certain amount of interest in what you have to say.
As their curiosity is satisfied, their level of interest in the discussion goes down. To keep the discussion interesting, your job is to add “hooks” to the discussion to re-engage their interest. We do this naturally in interesting conversations with friends, but it’s harder to do with strangers.
Fortunately, you’ve already constructed a metaphor map for these people. This means that you can review your résumé for stories you want to tell and find a way to drop hints in the discussion that tie into your interviewers’ metaphors, like baited hooks. If they are picked up on, these hooks can then boost the discussion to a more interesting level.
By planting numerous hooks and hoping your interviewer bites on some of them throughout the conversation, you can sustain the level of interest until the interviewer runs out of time.
By ending a conversation at a higher level of interest than you started, you increase the likelihood of being invited back or of being offered the job.
For an example of how metaphors are used, reread the previous paragraph with the view of someone who likes to fish. See how the same things are said, but they resonate more strongly to people with a history of fishing.
Suppose you have a story to tell about a time when you were in charge of a system that had performance problems that you solved by sorting through each potential cause until you got to the cause. You have identified that your interviewer is an avid reader of mysteries.
By using the phrase “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” you can plant a hook referencing Sherlock Holmes. If the interviewer responds to this, you can use it as a lead-in for your story.
By knowing the metaphors that drive people, you can be prepared with common phrases appropriate to these metaphors. Simply using them will help increase rapport, but by thinking about them ahead of time and linking them to interesting stories, you can go beyond increasing rapport to actively boost the conversation to higher and higher levels.
In this model, you are effectively using specific metaphors as springboards. This allows you to logically link the current discussion to something else you wish to discuss, using the metaphorical framework to carry your interviewer along with you as you boost the discussion to more and more interesting topics.
To discover these phrases, search on the subject and “famous quote” or “common phrase,” along with variations in conjunction with the metaphor you are exploring. Some examples may help.
This section makes the concept of boosting sound easier than it often is. This is a very powerful tool but one that is difficult to use successfully. It may be wise to practice with your friends first.
Here is an example conversation that uses two boosting lines, one as a direct quote, the other as a reference. In this example, the interviewer (Steve) has a passing interest in travel but has a military background. The interviewee (Alba) did research along these lines so the conversation can be controlled.
Steve: Welcome to Thesis Scientist Corp. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.
Alba: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for being willing to talk to me.
Steve: Let’s get started. What interests you about this position?
Alba: Well, I’ve always been interested in autonomous machinery, and your recent research and development efforts are fascinating.
Steve: Really? Are you interested in R&D?
Alba: Well, I view research as a journey and development as the successful conclusion of that journey. I love the process.
Steve: Interesting. I’d not heard anyone describe it that way.
Alba: I like to travel. As Martin Buber said, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” I find that R&D is fun because you get to learn as you go and find ways to help others.
Steve: You know, that’s what got me into this in the first place. I remember when I started and got sent on a trip to Los Angeles …… the conversation moves into a rapport-building discussion on work-related travel, having been boosted by the Buber quote …
Steve: So, anyway, if we offer you the leadership of this team, how would you go about your day? What’s your general work style?
Alba: I think that the important thing is the ultimate goal. Sometimes the goal is best met through a team working together. Sometimes, only one member of the team has the skills to get the work done.
I think it’s important to delegate the task to them and get the team to pick up their unessential tasks so they can focus. If that person is me, then I’d roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Steve: So, you’d consider yourself a hands-on manager?
Alba: Well, as they say, no good decision was ever made at a desk. If I put artificial barriers between myself and my team, it’s going to get in the way of the goal. That’s what matters, after all.
Steve: That reminds me of my time in the service …… the conversation moves into another rapport-building discussion, boosted a second time by a conversational trigger
It’s important to stress that not everything you plant in a conversation like this will get noticed or picked up on. This example is intentionally blatant to illustrate the point.
It’s important to realize, though, that even when the conversation is fully directed, the use of familiar language will help your interviewers respond favorably to you. As the conversation moves along, they’ll like you more and more, increasing your chances at the job.
The True Purpose of the Interview
The purpose of the interview is for you to learn about the organization and for the organization to learn about you. Your goal is to either get a job directly from the interview or get a second interview with people further up in the hierarchy.
That’s it. All other things you think an interview is about are distractions. Your thought process should be along these lines:
Do I want to do the work?
Will I fit into the culture here?
Are they willing to pay me enough to compensate for any negatives?
Are they willing to pay me enough for me to achieve my financial goals?
How can I advance the process?
The reconnaissance process you’ve gone through to get here should have significantly helped you answer questions 1–4. You should have an idea as to what your expectations are, and you can verify these during the early stages of the interview.
You should know what you’re willing to accept for compensation and be armed with your total compensation spreadsheet. Once you have validated your assumptions, you’re ready to begin advancing the process.
A proper advance will either result in salary negotiation or a plan for the future. Such plans can involve setting up a future interview or receiving a promise to get back to you by a certain date, either with an offer or a future interview.
If you cannot get them to commit to a specific date with another step in the process, begin the process with your second choice organization. If the first organization gets its act together, you can always resume the process, but it’s imperative not to lose any time while they dither.
Successfully advancing requires using all your tools. The technical tools are easily understood; the softer tools, less so. There are numerous resources online about how to properly shake hands, smile at people, and generally be polite.
If you are uncertain how to play these games, educate yourself. In today’s world, with all the information available on the Internet, there is no excuse for failing to learn the social languages used by others. You don’t have to become an expert, but if you can learn how to manage and manipulate data as the tools listed here allow, you can learn this.
Using Your Tools
Throughout this process, you created tools. You have a résumé that lists all the stories you want to tell. You have a portfolio that tells what you’ve done and what you want to do. Now it’s time to use them.
Most interviewers will be ill-prepared for you to effectively take control of their interview and will start as if it’s a normal interview. You can save everyone a lot of time if you start the interview by thanking them for the opportunity, telling them that you’ve prepared some documents for this discussion, and handing out your prepared folders.
Alternatively, you can wait until they refer to a copy of your résumé and ask you a question, at which point you can hand them the folder and say, “there’s an updated résumé in here if you wish to use that.”
Once the portfolio is out, the game is going to change.
Odds are that they’ll still want to ask you some of their prepared questions, but at every opportunity, refer to your additional documents. If they ask you about your past work, show them an example.
If they ask you about what you want to do, show them one of the customs documents you created. If they ask you about your hobbies, show them your business card.
By tying each verbal question into a visual and verbal response, you make the interaction far more memorable. If they ask about something for which you’ve not prepared a document, make one on the fly. The back of your résumé is likely blank, so flip it over and start sketching.
If you’re in someone’s office, ask if you can use his or her whiteboard. Whiteboards are great because they’re seldom cleaned until they’re needed again. With luck, that person will see their whiteboard and be reminded of your conversation every day until they offer you the job.
Remember that everything in your folders is a tool. It exists for the sole purpose of getting you the job. If that purpose is best filled by you writing on the document, do it.
If it requires you to cross things out and adjust the document as you go, so be it. Not only does this further set you apart from everyone else, but it also shows that you understand that ideas must change based on the input.
A document that you change and then bring back fully updated in the second round of interviews is far more persuasive than a pristine one that just sits on the desk.
Real life is messy; embrace that.
As the interview progresses, you will find things that you’ll need to remember, so be sure to bring a notepad. Make notes of anything important that is discussed.
This will include things you’ll want to use to alter the documents for the second round of interviews, information or links you’ll want to send to your interviewers, and anything specific that you’ll want to bring up in the thank-you notes.
You should devote one page to each phase of the interview. That is one page for each person who interviews you or, if you are interviewed by multiple people, for each panel. Each page should have enough information in it that, once you are done with the interview, you can reconstruct the flow of conversation and track any promises and interests.
If it has been a while since you’ve had to take notes, you can practice this skill by taking notes as you watch TV. Once you’re at a point where you can understand the important things that were said while jotting down notes, and reconstruct a complete episode from those notes, you’ll be in good shape to do it in the actual interview.
Manipulating the Conversation
There has been a lot of focus thus far on pre-interview items—tools to use during the interview and how to look and act—but nothing on what to say. That’s by design. If you need specific advice on what to say in an interview, get one of those blogs on how to answer interview questions.
By this point, if you’ve done your research and practiced the common questions, you should be able to have a frank and honest conversation about what the organization needs and how you can help.
You don’t need any gimmicks or magic answers to inane interview questions. In fact, you should quickly find that you’ve left all the standard questions behind and are discussing real issues. That said, there are a few small pointers to the actual discussion.
First, open with a schema-setting statement. People like to work within structures, and by taking this information- and problem-solving-centered approach, you’ve blown apart their structure.
If you provide them with a new structure, they’ll slide into it without stopping to think about what they’re doing. One way to do this is with a three-item framing approach.
There are many ways to frame an idea, but in general, people respond well to threes. Think of the three things you want your interviewer to know about you and work those into a sentence or two.
Most hiring decisions are made within the first few seconds of meeting someone. The rest of the process is largely about making the decision-makers comfortable with their initial gut-level choice. Framing statements are things like:
Thanks for meeting with me. I believe that this discussion will help us both to learn how I can help you achieve your goals. I look forward to discussing your challenges and collaborating on solutions.
I’m glad we were able to connect. I understand that you have some needs. I look forward to learning more about them and seeing if there’s a way we can work together in the future.
I understand that you’re busy. I’ve prepared some documents to help speed this process and make efficient use of both of our time. Shall we get started?
These statements highlight your goals—focus, collaboration, desire to learn and help out, and respect for resources. Once planted, these statements should be revisited at the end of the process to help remind your interviewers about the structure you set up around them so they continue to think in that mode as they work towards their final decision.
Questions and Answers
Questions are asked for two reasons. First, the interviewer genuinely wants to know the answer. Second, the interviewer feels obligated to ask all candidates the same questions out of a sense of fairness or to avoid legal concerns. In general, you’ll be able to tell why you’re being asked each question by whether the interviewer looks at you or their notes.
If they’re looking at their notes, you have to find a way to draw them into the conversation. While there are many ways to do this, you can often break the flow by answering the question with a question.
Asking for clarification works, but so does try to work out the meaning behind the question. Be careful how you do this, of course. You don’t want to wind up saying things like “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” However, digging just a little bit deeper is often enough to get people to open up and talk to you.
When answering questions, try to keep answers to definite questions short but phrased in such a way that they lead to more questions. The idea is to slowly work them to one of the stories you have on your résumé. This could take a while, but as you wear them down with short answers and clarifying questions, you can work them off their script.
Once people are off their script, you can begin actually talking. Share your stories and ask for theirs. If they nod at particular parts of your stories, ask if they’ve been in those situations, too.
Ask how they’ve handled things. Try to understand what their challenges are, and ask what sorts of solutions they’ve tried. Take notes as you go so you can incorporate this data in future interviews.
If people are talking, they are conveying what matters to them and will necessarily be happier than listening to what matters to you. Sometimes, the best thing you can do in a discussion leaves the other person feeling like they’ve been heard.
Prospective employers want to know that their subordinates will listen to them and take their ideas into consideration when acting. If you are being interviewed by a potential subordinate or coworker, they’ll want exactly the same thing. So listen.
Finally, remember that silence is golden. It is fairly common for the quieter person in a discussion to be thought of as the better conversationalist. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence with an ill-formed thought.
Take the time to think and then answer. During that time, your interviewer may volunteer additional information that will inform your final answer.
Leave Them Wanting More
As discussed in the section on boosting, you’ll want to end the interview with your interviewers wanting to know still more about you. If you feel that the interview is getting too complete and you risk satisfying all their curiosity, ask them some questions.
Keep the conversation flowing so that their curiosity isn’t completely satisfied. Remember, they need a reason to ask you back.
If you feel the conversation is stretching on for too long, feel free to ask your interviewer what his or her schedule looks like. One danger of this approach is that you risk annoying the interviewer by not actually answering his or her questions.
You want to keep the conversion moving in a direction, not going around in an indefinite loop.
Post-Interview The End of the Interview Is Not the End of the Interview
It is common to believe that the interview ends when you leave the building, but it doesn’t. Hopefully, by this point, you have had several good conversations, left documents behind, and take several pages of notes.
The rest of the process involves clarifying any misunderstandings, demonstrating adaptability, and following up as needed.
If things went well, you were asked things that you didn’t know. This is where you do a bit of research and email your interviewers with the answers. If they objected to anything in your documents, this is also where you make corrections, generate PDFs from the updated documents, and attach the files to your emails.
While you should certainly say “thank you” in these emails, these are not thank-you notes. Their purpose is to continue the discussion and make sure that any hanging items that could reflect poorly on you are addressed.
This could involve the answer to a technical question that you didn’t know, a follow-up to a question of personal interest asked by your interviewer, or a correction to your documentation.
These emails should be sent the same day as your interview so your interviewer receives them in the morning when they come into the office. They should also be free of spelling and grammatical errors.
These emails should be simple and to the point, like:
I wanted to thank you for the time you took to visit with me today. You asked a question about Python and I said I’d get back to you. The JSON module was added in Python 2.6. Since Red Hat Enterprise 5.x has Python 2.4 by default, the system will have to have version 2.6 added for native processing of this data type.
There are many ways to do this, and the ideal solution will have to be discussed before I can recommend total replacement, side-by-side installation, or a virtual environment.
Additionally, I corrected the typo you found in my “Potential Product Changes” document. Please see the attached PDF for the corrected version. I look forward to continuing this discussion at our next meeting.
There’s no reason to effuse over their generosity or how much you hope to work with them. That goes in the handwritten thank-you note.
Thank-you notes should be handwritten and personalized. This does not mean that you should start writing them out by hand. Each should be different, not based on a template, but should be short enough to fit in a single thank-you note.
You can draft them in a word processor first, to get your spelling and grammar checks in, then transcribe them to the notecard. Your handwriting should be legible and avoid unnecessary flourishes. After all, you’re not going after a job writing letters. You need to express your thoughts succinctly so you don’t waste your interviewers’ time.
Focus the notes on thanking your interviewers, mentioning a specific reference or two to the discussion, and closing with an appropriate ending. Some examples follow:
Thank you for taking the time to have an exploratory discussion about your products. I enjoyed it very much and hope that you agree there are interesting things we could do together.
The “slope” drawing I made has the official name “cumulative flow diagram” and is part of the queuing theory. I have sent you additional information about this via email.
I wanted to thank you once again for meeting with me and being willing to accelerate the pace of our discussions. It sounds to me as if we are very strongly aligned in our goals and capabilities.
The discussion around growing the market was particularly enjoyable. I am greatly looking forward to meeting with you again on <Date> so we can finalize the next phase of working together.
Looking forward to the future,
Thank you, once again, for treating me to lunch. I very much enjoyed our discussion, and as I think about it, I would be interested in exploring opportunities in the education market.
As there is a long sales cycle and we have discussed focusing on other verticals first, I would like to begin laying the groundwork there and possibly make it an area of focus at some point in the future.
Each example is of similar size and can be written out fairly easily. Once done, address each note, add a stamp, and drop them in the mail the following day. The idea is for them to arrive within a few days of the interview to remind people that you were there and that you had some good discussions.
If you were told that you’d hear back by a specific date, wait one day past that date, then send a polite email to your contact asking for a status update. Then wait two more days; if you still haven’t heard from them, send an email to the person with whom you most connected during the interview.
If you still haven’t heard after a couple more days, telephone your contact. If you can’t reach them, call the person with whom you best connected. If you still can’t get any answers, it’s time to move to the next organization on your list.
If you do get an answer, adjust your time frame accordingly and basically reset the clock. Just remember to be polite and understand that their mental clock will almost always run slower than yours.
After all, you want to start something new or have an existing opening adjusted to better meet your needs. However, in order for you to do so, the organization has to prepare a space for you, find the budget, allocate training time, and determine whether the cash flow will support your hiring.
That’s almost always going to take longer than expected, especially if you demonstrate that you’re better than they were expecting. Remember, this process is designed to shake things up. It’s going to take a bit of time for things to fall back into place before things can move forward.
Revising Your Portfolio
If it looks as if there will be follow-up interviews, update your documents from the notes you took in your discussions. You should have already fixed the deliberate errors that you added to the documents, so you could send the updated versions out via email. This is the point in the process where you review them for missing structure.
Perhaps you made a guess as to how the organization functions and missed an entire use case. Perhaps you believed the organization did something it no longer does and needs to remove aspects of your documents.
Hopefully, you got brand-new ideas and want to make new documents detailing your ideas. While you wait for your next interview or to hear whether you’re getting the next interview, spend some time being creative.
That way, when you go in again, you can do the portfolio trick again with both updated and new documents in it. This will demonstrate that you are learning and moving forward.
If, at the end of your waiting period, it turns out that you will not be moving forward, you can use your learning to help bootstrap your process with another organization.
At the end of the three calls, send a follow-up email stating your regret that you were not able to reach them, reiterate why you want to talk to them, and leave your contact info.
This approach shows that you have initiative, drive, and follow-through. Even if you do not succeed in reaching anyone, you’ve planted a seed that can be used as you follow the same approach with others in the same organization. Work your way through the prospective interviewer list.
Supposing you have identified five people in your target organization; if at the end of the process, you’ve sent five letters and ten emails and made 15 phone calls over the course of many days, you can assume they’re not interested. This is when you can make your last-ditch contact attempt before moving on.
To do this, identify the target organization’s largest competitor and simply write an email to each of your interview contacts. In the email, thank them for their time, express sadness that you were unable to connect with them, and say that things are looking promising with another company. Then mention the competitor by name, and let the target organization decide whether or not to contact you.
This approach is not without risk, as the organization may know someone at that firm and be in a position to check up on you; but all you have to do is send one letter to the competing organization to be on the right side of truth.
After all, if you’ve managed to go through the process without getting a contract, you might as well reach out to their competitors. You’ve done the industry research already and now need to investigate the next potential interview board.
The Phone Interview
Phone interviews can come about in many ways, but in the end, either you call them or they call you. If they call you, and you’re lucky, it will be someone you’ve already researched.
If not, schedule it a few days out if possible so you can do some preliminary research. Aside from that, the goal of scheduling the phone interview is to identify a particular time at which you will be available to have a good discussion.
If the interviewer asks if you have time right now to chat, the answer is a polite “no.” Doing so gives all the power to the interviewer and gives you almost no benefit whatsoever.
Explain that you have another appointment in a few minutes and find out what other times your interviewer may be available. That allows you time to prepare. Even if you have done your research already, set aside enough lead time to do some backfill research before you have the actual discussion.
Prerequisites for a Good Discussion
It should be fairly obvious, but be sure to schedule this discussion at a time when you can reliably be somewhere quiet, with good reception, no distractions, and easy access to your resources.
You’ll want to be able to refer to your quick reference sheets during the discussion. You may need to be able to do quick searches on the Internet, but that can be risky, as the Internet can be quite distracting.
Once you’ve picked your time and place with the person scheduling the interview, spend a bit of time trying to determine any interview specifics so you can be prepared.
This can be as easy as just asking if there’s anything you should prepare for the interview. Odds are that they’ll tell you “nothing,” which is just an indicator to dig a bit deeper.
What you’re looking for is confirmation that your assumptions about the organization (culture, approach to work, style of management, etc.) are correct. Ask the names of the people you’ll be speaking with.
Ask what their titles are. Then ask if there is a specific problem they’re expecting to solve with the new position. Finally, ask for their email addresses so you can send an updated version of your résumé prior to the phone interview.
Goals for the Phone Interview
Chatting on the phone is not the same as an interview. An interview has goals. On the side of the interviewer, his or her goal is to identify whether or not it is worth his or her time to talk further with you. If his or her current pain level is high, he or she will be motivated to bring you in.
If it is low, he or she will be looking for ways to kick you off the list of candidates. Most people who do this initial round are not the ones who feel the pain, so go into the interview presuming you are at a disadvantage.
Your goals are twofold. Your primary goal is to get a real interview. Your secondary goal is to get information to help you succeed in that real interview.
That’s it. Keep focused on these two items and avoid any tendency to chat informally. Answer their questions and ask questions of your own, with each minute spent on the phone aimed at helping you advance towards these two goals.
The Actual Phone Interview
When the actual phone interview starts, you should be in a quiet room with a reliable phone. You should have a pad of paper for notes and a small stack of notes that list your target’s specific information.
It’s tempting to do it with a laptop or tablet, but the click of keys can be quite distracting and technology can fail you.
Stick with older, more reliable, and silent technologies. You can always transcribe your handwritten notes into your preferred system after the interview.
It is often best to hold these interviews in your kitchen. Obviously, do not do this while cooking or if the kitchen is a public area prone to disruption.
If you can clear the room for the duration of your call, you can lay your papers out in a row along a counter and hold the interview standing up. When people stand and speak, their voices naturally sound more forceful and resonate more deeply.
The lessons learned by professional singers also work well for phone interviews. Stand, breathe, and know what you’re going to say before you say it. While it is true that dead air during an interview sounds bad, stumbling over your words and reversing what you’ve said sounds a whole lot worse.
As you talk, try to face a reflective surface—bring in a mirror if you have to— and watch your body language. This will help keep you from slouching, folding your arms, or adopting any posture that can affect your voice.
Smiling makes your voice sound friendlier. All of this will also help make the experience more genuine for yourself and for the person you’re talking to.
As the phone interview continues, you should be able to determine whether or not you are progressing toward your primary goal. Once you’ve answered their questions sufficiently to be confident that they’re not going to weed you out, it’s time for you to start asking questions of your own.
This includes knowing whether you are going to fit into the company, looking at the corporate culture, and identifying whether you’d be able to work for your potential new boss.
Questions to ask involve the basic theme “What is it like to work at Organization X?” Open questions may be hard for your interviewers to answer, so ask more specific questions, like these:
What is the average number of hours worked per week? If I work more than the average, how would it reflect on me?
What percentage of the work week is expected to be used in solving problems or creating value versus planning work?
It takes time to get up to speed on anything. If I am selected for this job, how long do you expect it to take me to reach peak efficiency?
Do you have any expectations for the sort of work I would be doing in 30, 60, or 90 days?
These questions probe for how much you’re expected to work and how fast you’re expected to get things done without making it sound as if you’re lazy. If you suspect that what they’re looking for will be difficult to find, too expensive for them, or flat-out impossible, this is your chance to start changing their expectations.
Ideally, you would adjust their expectations to be more realistic while also making it evident that you are the right person for the job as they now see it.
Planning the In-Person Interview
Once things look promising enough to lead to an in-person interview, you must take advantage of the opportunity to actually talk to people. You should have their quick reference sheets sitting in front of you, with details as to which metaphors you think they’ll respond.
As you talk to them on the phone, try to make references to what you think will resonate. Score each metaphor you use according to a scale like the following:
A simple six-item system works well here, where a 1 indicates failure and a 6 indicates wild success. The 2 through 5 give you a bit of room to work with, while the absence of a middle number helps you avoid the trap of scoring every attempt in the middle of the range.
As the phone interview winds to a close, you should plan the physical interview. Pick a day, not a time, when you can be free. Within that day, try to choose a morning time to start the interview, but the not first thing in the morning.
In organizations that work from 8 AM to 5 PM, anytime between 9 and 10 AM is a good starting time. This gives you time to get lost on the way to the building and gives your interviewers time to deal with any issues that arose overnight so they can focus on talking with you.
Again, identify the specific people who will be interviewing you so you can update your research ahead of time. Then, schedule it sufficiently far out that you have a chance to do another round of backfill on the research and, if you choose, customize your portfolio for the opportunity.
If you succeed in getting a follow-up interview, preparation will go just as before. Quickly run through the process again, using the information you got from the interview to make additional searches and preparation.
Update the personal cheat sheets so you can remember more about your interviewers. Create data sheets for any new people you may need to interview with.
Then, when it comes time for the interview, you should be able to do even better. Remember, the point of subsequent interviews is usually to get other people in the organization to buy into their creating a new position for you.
If you come in for a second round, at least one person in the organization wants to hire you, and you just have to win over a few others. Keep at it, and so long as each interview is with another set of people and advances the process, it’s worth doing.
This blog addresses the point in the process where your target has offered you a job and you are evaluating the offer. In general, the question you should be asking yourself is how flexible they are. If they are willing to be flexible, it’s worth negotiating. If they’re more of a “take it or leave it” organization, your decision is simple.
If you think the job is worth what they’ll be paying you to do, take it. If not, tell them that you can’t change jobs without a better offer and thank them for their time.
It’s possible they’ll change their offer, but that’s up to them. You’re not playing a game here. If you turn them down, you have to be serious about it and ready to move on to the next target organization on your list.
This is not intended to be a complete guide to salary negotiation. There are other works devoted to that topic. Instead, you should read this section to get ideas, then use other sources to delve deeper into them.
Working with Total Compensation
The key idea behind the total compensation calculation you ran earlier is that what you take home in terms of money is only part of what an organization gives you in exchange for your work. The total compensation approach captures less-tangible items like ongoing education and health care benefits.
In many organizations, the budget these things come out of is different from the one that pays salary, so if they can’t boost your actual salary, they may be able to do other things for you. These things generally fall into “financial” and “nonfinancial” benefits.
A financial benefit is one that involves money. There are more ways to get money than just your paycheck. Different industries vary in how much they employ such methods;
But in general, the higher you rise within an organization’s hierarchy, the less your compensation plan looks like a simple hourly or salaried rate, and the more confusing it gets.
The simplest form of financial benefit is the hiring bonus. These come in different forms, from a lump-sum payment to lure you away from your current employer to ways to defray your costs in taking the new job.
This can show up as a traditional bonus like relocation assistance. However, it can also take alternative forms such as training for a technology you need to do the job or reimbursement for a certification you paid for yourself in order to land the job.
Not all organizations will do this, but for those that do, it can be very helpful to have receipts that demonstrate that the costs you claim are legitimate.
Performance pay is another form of a bonus, but it is paid after a period of time, not at hiring, and it tends to come in three flavors. Individualized performance pay is based directly on how well you do your job.
This is typically for people who are considered “billable resources,” where you get to keep a fraction of the amount of money you bill out. This can be done as a fraction of the total amount billed or a fraction of the margin made on your billing rate.
Either is reasonable, but be sure to run some calculations to verify that whatever option is presented will be acceptable. Salespeople tend to live largely on their commissions, with a very low base salary. This is typically reversed for technical people.
If a large percentage of your salary is expected to be based on a commission, it may be wise to consider aspects outside of your control, such as how much interest salespeople have in selling your services, support from marketing people, the maximum amount of work you can sustain over time, and how much time you spend working “after hours.”
If you find that the estimates do not match what is being discussed, it’s worth running through the calculations with the organization and seeing if they can raise the fraction that goes to you to make up for overly optimistic calculations.
Group performance pay is much like individual performance pay, but it is focused on rewarding the team. In these models, the team is often given group goals that, if met, result in a lump-sum payment to be divided among the team.
Sometimes this is divided relatively fairly (equal or apportioned according to effort or seniority), and sometimes it’s up to the manager to adjust it.
The group approach to performance pay should work well in theory, but in practice, it can fail due (among other reasons) to small teams simply not being given the resources to succeed. As with any performance-based structure, be sure that you are provided with what you need to reach your goals.
Organizational performance pay is more common in large organizations and is referred to as profit sharing. If the organization makes a profit, the money is shared among the staff, often as a flat percentage of salary. This results in managers receiving the largest amount of the organization’s profit, then salaried employees, and finally hourly workers.
It’s worth noting that some organizations receive significant tax benefits by failing to make a profit in some years. In such years, no organizational bonuses would be available, though individual and group performance pay might still be an option.
While there are many ways to make performance pay work well, in theory, it does not always do so in practice, so be careful to research ways in which the model might fail before you agree to such a plan.
If you believe the deal you are looking at is unfair but worth the attempt to make it fairer, it’s time to negotiate. While there are all sorts of tricks to use in a one-time negotiation to get your way, it may be best to not use any of them here.
Unlike the other tips contained herein, compensation negotiation has effects that last for the length of your entire employment. If you push too hard, you risk souring the relationship before it even starts. Instead, consider three simple rules:
1. Be fair
2 Know when to stop
3. Keep the organization’s needs in mind
The goal is not to hold your negotiating partner over a barrel unless you plan to leave and find a new job in a year or two. Frame all your discussions in terms of what is fair and what you need, not what you want.
Some people want more money just to have more money. A fair negotiation would focus on what money is needed. For example, if you have to have more money to pay for a healthcare assistant for an ailing parent, you can frame it as “It is what it is, and nothing you or I do can change it.
I either need enough extra salary to pay for an assistant, or I need more time off so I can pay the assistant less and do more of the work myself. I don’t want to be greedy, but my parent’s well-being means more to me than this job; so if I can’t take care of them, I’ll have to pass on the offer.”
That is a straightforward presentation of facts that are difficult to argue with. When framed in this way, your negotiating partner can either help you out or not. If they can’t, you can part as friends; and if they can, you can get the compensation you need, either as salary or time off.
Know When to Stop
The classic work on negotiation Getting to YES introduces the concept of the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). The core idea here is to identify, before you enter a negotiation, what your exit option is.
Perhaps it’s continuing to work where you currently are. Perhaps it is getting a less interesting job at a better rate of pay. Perhaps it’s going freelance for a period of time.
Whatever you’re going to do if this negotiation falls through, figure out what its worth is, and if the negotiation falls below this BATNA, be prepared to stop negotiations and move on to other options.
Keep the Organization’s Needs in Mind
Your future organization is talking to you for one simple reason: They think they’ll be more successful with you than without you. Keep this in mind at all times. If the negotiation starts to lean too far in your direction, it will eventually cross an invisible line, and the organization will be better off without you.
The goal is to grow with your organization, not start off with an adversarial relationship. By focusing on this facet of the negotiation, you can work together to find a solution that works for both of you.
If you’ve analyzed what you want to do as a job, you should have some level of understanding as to what you want your job tasks to be. You next will have to figure out what sorts of industries need those tasks.
This may or may not be a waste of your time. If, for example, you really just want to be a Java developer and don’t much care what you develop, you only need to do some searches for companies in your target area that code in Java.
However, if you have a personal driving interest in helping people heal but your technical skills are in information architecture, you may look for healthcare organizations with data requirements.
These could be pharmaceutical companies using “Big Data” analytics to find new drugs. They could be hospitals wanting to collect performance metrics to reduce operating room mistakes.
They could be clinics aimed at lower-income people looking for ways to identify people benefiting from early outreach and increased focus on preventative care.
Basically, if you know what you want to do and can identify companies that would benefit from you doing it, add them to a list. If you can’t think of any, look at the Yellow Pages (it’s not much good for telephone numbers anymore) and, for each category, ask yourself, “Does this type of organization need someone like me, and if so, what would they have me do?”
Accepting or Rejecting the Offer
Once you and the organization have both settled on an agreement, you must formally accept the offer. This will protect you once you give notice at your current firm, if applicable.
You may initially accept it verbally, but you must accept it in writing in order to get the protection you need. Make certain, before you sign it, that the offer letter you receive includes each point you negotiated.
Some organizations may try a bait and switch on you. Others manage to screw up the terms because different departments work on different parts of the letter. It’s rare, but it does happen. You should also send a quick thank-you note to each person who helped you along the way. This keeps your network alive should you need to use it in the future.
If you decide to reject the offer, do so carefully and in such a way as to keep your options open. If you don’t think you’d be a good fit, mention that, but do so without bad-mouthing the organization. Try to have a reason that isn’t something they can or were willing to negotiate.
Perhaps you like large companies and want to focus on a narrower range of tasks than a small business can afford and the offered salary doesn’t compensate for that change. Perhaps you need more time with your family than the culture allows and while the salary is fine, they can’t be flexible with respect to time.
That’s why total compensation should be considered; it allows you to press for advantage during negotiation but also to bow out without burning bridges in a way that both parties understand. It’s reasonable to want something different than what they offer. That is, after all, why different organizations exist.
Giving Notice Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
The final piece of your job search, unless you are unemployed, is giving notice to your current company. While you likely do not need to dig deep into indicators as to how your organization functions, it can be useful to know how they are likely to respond.
Some will be very understanding and help you in many ways, from adjusting your departure date to maximizing your insurance coverage to requesting that you remain available should they need you in an emergency.
Others will consider the risk too great and walk you out the door immediately. You will probably already have a feel for which of these is most likely to happen, based on how your organization has treated others in your situation. It is also likely to vary according to how reliant they are on you.
If you know all of the passwords and are deeply involved in the organization’s infrastructure, you may be walked out the door immediately—but only if there is another person in the organization who also knows these things. If there is not, you will probably be treated with kid gloves while the organization makes sure that it can function without you.
The same goes for people with deep product or operations knowledge. You can make your best guess as to which scenario you face, but your employer will decide what to do. To best protect yourself, you should prepare for the worst.
Preparing for the Worst
Barring situations in which you’ve been caught engaging in illegal or unethical activities, the worst that will happen when you give notice is that you’ll be escorted off the property and HR will send you your belongings at a later date.
This is easily handled. After all, you’ve known for a while that you were planning to leave, so you should have been gradually removing your belongings from your work area. If you have sufficient time, make it look like you’re just cleaning up so you don’t inadvertently cause other people to guess what you’re planning.
Then, the day before you plan to give notice, take the last of your personal stuff home so you are ready to go the next morning if you have to.
Though it is certainly possible to take digital copies of files, source code, and other items that may technically belong to the organization, doing so is generally frowned upon and may result in negative consequences.
Think about this carefully and consider purging any “backups” that may exist on your personal media. Be careful, though, not to destroy your public work. Anything you did to create your portfolio should be fair game and able to be kept in perpetuity.
Insurance issues will vary depending on where you live, where you work, and where you’re going. In the United States, where it is common to have health insurance tied to employment, it is often wise to make sure that your last official day at your current organization is the first of the month.
This extends your benefits for a month while the waiting period at your new organization is in effect.
In some cases, it might be feasible for you to take some personal time to extend your stay at your old organization while you start at your new one near the end of the last month. This minimizes your wait time while extending your old company’s benefits.
If you can’t work the timing perfectly, you may wish to consider getting private health insurance to cover your gap in coverage. Your local insurance agent can assist you with this. If you’re in the US, you can also play the retroactive COBRA insurance game. The HR department of your new organization should be able to explain how this works.
Another benefit to consider is that of retirement savings. Retirement vehicles like 401(k) plans and pension plans have specific rules as to what happens to the money after you are no longer associated with the organization. Usually, the money you put in is yours, and that of your employer is vested according to a specific schedule.
There are ways in which you can convert your funds to similar retirement accounts at little or no loss to you. However, these methods change from year to year as tax and related laws change. See a financial adviser for specific suggestions around this issue.
You should give notice in person if you can, but always give your notice in writing. If you are leaving because you are upset or angry, using a letter helps to keep emotion out of it.
If you really like the people you have worked with, even though it’s appropriate for you to leave, this can also help to keep you from losing control over more positive emotions.
The letter should be short and simple. It should simply explain that you are leaving and give the effective date. If you wish to negotiate at all, you should mention that your notice period is negotiable, as is your post-employment availability. Keep it short and sweet.
It may be that your current employer offers you more money or benefits to staying. While the ultimate decision is up to you, in almost all cases the correct decision is to decline such an offer.
Accepting the counteroffer would sour the relationship with the new organization that you have just spent a significant amount of time developing, and the fact that you gave notice will have soured your relationship with your current employer.
Additional money can be good, but accepting a counteroffer is a trick you can usually play only once. And once it has been played, your employment situation will grow far more uncomfortable and will be unlikely to improve.
Everything mentioned here should be settled well in advance of the obligatory exit interview with your current employer. It’s always tempting to use these interviews as your chance to “set the record straight” and tell everyone what you really think of them.
However, all this approach does is harm you. If you could have changed the organization, you would have done so while working there.
In this interview, be polite and relatively non-committal. Make sure they know that you enjoyed working there but that it’s time to move on. Then, move on.
It is common for people to be nervous when job hunting. Increased familiarity —with the interviewers, with the organization’s needs, and with the process as a whole—helps calm the nerves and allows you to shine in interviews.
The world is full of people who interview well but can’t do the work. By going through this process, you can demonstrate the most important criterion—that you can do the work.
It takes a truly stupendous effort of will to examine your ethics, exhaustively research people and organizations, discover their metaphors, and adjust your résumé, cover letter, and additional documents to meet their needs.
Once this is done, you have to communicate your work to others, which involves social understanding, discussion, and visualization skills. Then, you must negotiate the legal morasses of contract law. And if you currently have a job, you have to do all of this in your off-hours. It’s a lot of work, but when it all comes together, the result can be almost magical.
As with all work, there will be hurdles. Not every company you target will give you an interview. Not every interview will land you a job. However, each time you go through the process, you will learn more and the overall process will get easier.
As time goes by, you will be able to learn more quickly and improve your skills. As your preparation, writing, presentation, and interview skills develop, you will rise in corporate hierarchies, negotiate salary and benefits more effectively, and—most importantly—have more interesting work to do.
False Evidence Appearing Real
One of the things that happen to us is we get fearful and start worrying about what may happen at the interview. I would like to suggest that if you break the word fear down into the acronym this can serve as an interruption to your negative pattern.
Where is the evidence that you won’t perform at the interview? Our brain searches for evidence that we won’t do well. 95% of the things we worry about never happen, however, it appears real, when it is false.
So if this happens at your next interview, think to yourself; “It’s just false evidence appearing real, I am prepared, organized and I have practiced my answers out loud – my Interview Bring it on”
Creating your own future history: Positive mental rehearsal
When Mohamed Ali prepared for his fights, he used his own unique form of mental preparation that he called creating your own, future history. By visualizing his success with such detail, clarity, and focus, he could predict accurately when his opponent was “going down” after his knockout punch.
It was a very successful strategy and it worked for him fourteen out of his seventeen title fights. When asked about the three that he lost he said.
Beware of Imposter Syndrome
People with Imposter Syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Any proof of success is dismissed as luck, or timing “I was just in the right place at the right time” or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be despite the external evidence.
Originally thought to be particularly common among women who are successful in their careers, it has since been shown to be equally common in men.
Quotes from people to illustrate Imposter Syndrome include:
“I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have” Leonardo da Vinci
“At any time, I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me” Mike Myers
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think…uh oh they are going to find me out now” Maya Angelou
“I would wake up in the morning before going to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this, I’m a fraud” Kate Winslet
So having prepared so thoroughly for this interview, you are going to have a two-sided conversation, answer some questions that you have thought about and are able to share with the panel your experience, knowledge and skills and how you will be able to contribute to their team, project, organization.
Enjoy your interview
The first 90 seconds of the interview is crucial, so practice introducing yourself positively, using open body language, smiling and giving the whole panel eye contact.
If you have a presentation deliver it well, with enthusiasm and enjoy your first question of the interview. Enjoy your interview and have a positive closing statement.
Here are some examples of questions that you can ask for an interview panel.
Can you tell me about the potential career progression within this position?
How do you see this role developing over the next 6 months?
What type of induction will I receive?
What is the timescale for appointments for this role?
Thank the panel at the end of the interview and smile saying that you welcome the opportunity to contribute your skills and experience to this team. A positive ending to the interview demonstrates that you would be a valued member of their staff.
Best of luck to you.