Category Archives: Interviewing

4 Simple Ways to Express Your Strengths

One of the single most dreaded questions during an interview is: “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” The weaknesses part is a discussion all by itself, so today we’re going to look at your strengths.

  1. Be specific

“I’m a hard worker” is not specific. That’s a very general answer that everyone would claim. Instead, saying “Once I commit to a job I do whatever needs to happen to get it done,” is a better option.

Whatever strength you say you have, follow it up with a short, 1-2 minute story. How did this strength play out at your last job? In what way did you use your strengths and develop them?

If you’re having trouble figuring out what your strengths are, ask a friend or a coworker you trust. You can also go back and look at performance reviews or compliments from your boss. What stood out to them? That’s probably a strength you have.

  1. Be relevant

Since you’ve already discovered what your various strengths are, consider the position you’re applying for. Does it require a certain skillset? What descriptions about the job carry subtle cues as to what will be needed? Part of being able to sell yourself and what you can do well is knowing what the company needs. How do you fit this job with your unique strengths? If you can first understand that, then communicate it to the interviewer, you’ll leave an impression. Rather than just another interviewee wanting a job, you’ll be someone who knows what the company needs and knows how to fit that need to a ‘T’.

  1. Be realistic

Don’t come up with a strength that you don’t have. If you claim to know French fluently but don’t, you’ll be in big trouble if you’re asked to communicate with developers or vendors there. Google Translate will not serve you well for long.

You have specific talents and abilities. Don’t sell yourself short—or prove yourself a liar—by claiming a strength that’s not your own.

  1. Be yourself

Your greatest asset for getting this job is knowing you. You are a unique individual and no other candidate is exactly like you. That’s what you need to express. In what way do you stand out from the crowd? Let your personality show as you explain your strengths and weaknesses in the interview. Don’t allow stress or nerves to turn you into a robot.

With that said, you can also practice expressing what your strengths are. Write out what you would say, and practice saying it out loud. So many people are surprised how it sounds when they say it out loud compared to in their head. Know how to communicate what makes you a valuable asset to their company. Develop your skills in this area. You may be like many others who don’t necessarily feel comfortable tooting their own horn. However, this isn’t a pride issue. Unless you ramble on and on about how you’ll be this company’s greatest asset ever, the interviewer will welcome you explaining more about yourself. After all, they won’t know unless you tell them.

Interviews can be a big blank spot for a lot of people. That doesn’t have to be you. When you learn what your strengths are and have the ability to communicate those properly, it will get you a long way, and could even land you that job.

SURPRISING QUALITIES EMPLOYERS VALUE IN CANDIDATES

As the hustle and family time of the holidays moves further behind us and we get back into the normal work routine, do you find yourself thinking it may be time you should explore new career opportunities? Hiring in general and technology hiring for top talent continues to be strong.

Here are some qualities that have nothing to do with technology that IT Hiring Managers also consider when selecting top talent for their team…

Adaptability – Have you been in the same organization and a loyal dedicated employee for 10 – 15 + years?  Although stable employment is very important and people who switch jobs every 6 – 12 months repeatedly may be seen as “job-hoppers”, being in a certain type of organization for many years may put someone at higher risk of not working out when they do accept a new job.  Often, we will see someone who has been with one company for a long time and then their first new job change is short term.  There can be many reasons for this including being a little rusty on deciding the type job that fits them; but, if the organization they left didn’t offer the ability for someone to keep their adaptability skills honed, they may have gotten so good at the way one company works that they have trouble getting acclimated to a new organization.

  • Think about how long you have been with the same company and if it’s been the same environment and they have done things the same way for over 10 years it may be time for a change
  • Consider whether you should change jobs, even if you are doing the same work in a new place, to sharpen your adaptability skills and demonstrate that you can be successful in new and different environments

Communication – Just because you are a people person and can talk with anyone, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to improve on your communication skills.  If you have ever had someone comment on your “chattiness” or looked at their watch when you are talking with them, you should dive deeper into that.  It could be limiting your opportunities for promotion and lowering your scores on job interviews.

Are you “chatty”? There are many reasons and we’re not psychologists, but over the years we’ve seen this being a factor for a candidate being passed over for a job.  We’ve seen this from people across all ranges of skills, backgrounds, years of experience and here is some of why being long-winded is not sought after.

  • It may be an indication of poor communication skills. First and foremost, who has time to spend 45 minutes talking about something that should have been covered in 10 minutes.
  • If you are in IT, that can mean that you aren’t self-confident in your skills or you think you are underqualified for the position. It may be subconscious; but, if you can get the conversation off track and keep talking about anything, you can keep the interviewer from getting all their questions asked. If they run out of time and can’t cover everything they needed to discuss in order to assess your technical skills and fit for the position, you will probably be eliminated anyway so you might as well shorten your answers and let them drive the interview.
  • Another reason may be that you aren’t able to focus your answer on just what the interviewer is asking. This may indicate an inability to prioritize on what’s most important.  Most businesses don’t have the luxury of giving someone the time to do a perfect job, time to address every requirement.  Being able to prioritize what you need to communicate and only share what answers their questions, also demonstrates an ability to prioritize tasks and focus your time on what is your most important business need.
  • Don’t try to take control of the interview by talking on and on. I once had a colleague who asked one question at the beginning of the interview and the candidate could not be gracefully interrupted for the next 45 minutes.  No surprise they didn’t get offered the position.

Interpersonal skills and polish – The lines between technical IT talent and business continue to blur in many organizations.  Just because you spend much of your day with your ear buds in, doesn’t mean that you might not also be expected to interact with business stakeholders, end users, and other non-technical people.  The movement toward agile methods and the manner that different organizations apply agile process could drive increases in the likelihood of direct interaction between the end-user and IT.

  • Your technical peers may have an easier time of trusting your work and technical skills while you are wearing flip flops and shorts; but, that doesn’t mean someone who is not technical and doesn’t always work in your vicinity will be as accepting.
  • It is human nature for people to feel most comfortable around people who are like themselves. Even though diversity is healthy and makes for a more productive environment, you can push the limits of casual by not presenting a polished professional image or being able to fit in with the communication style with the people you are meeting. It’s been pretty acceptable for IT to be casually dressed; but, if you don’t know someone, do you have to take your flip flops off or go barefoot into a work meeting?
  • Polish and interpersonal skills include having the consideration for those around you to make them comfortable and be proud to have you as a coworker.

SUMMARY – Technical people sometimes focus too much on their technical skills.  Be aware that non-technical skills can often be more important than technical expertise.

 

 

 

The 5 Questions To Ask In A Job Interview

It has become the custom for job interviews to end with a question directed at the candidate – “Do you have any questions for me?” The question signals the close of the interview. While it’s tempting to snap out the word “no” and escape the hot seat, doing so may result in automatic failure of the interview.

When you ask questions at the close of your job interview you show the interviewer or committee you were listening while they spoke. You convey your interest in the company and showcase what a good fit to the team you would be. Your questions garner insight into how you would fit into a specific role and where you would devote your energy. Questions are critical to the success of your interview.

Here are the top 5 essential questions to ask in an interview – no matter what the job.

  1. What would you expect from me to accomplish in the first 90 days on the job?
    By asking this question it lets them visualize you in the role. You also get a better understanding of their expectations.
  2. May I meet some of the people I would be working with or have a short tour?
    While this question may seem a bit presumptuous, it signals to the interviewer that you are taking the time seriously and have a vested interest in the position. Also, by getting an impromptu tour, you get to see the office firsthand, observe colleague interaction, and take note of workspace details (such as lighting, noise, and cleanliness).
  3. I recently read that…
    This is the time to ask something specific about the company or organization you would be working for if you land the job. As a good rule of thumb, be prepared and read up on the company prior to the interview. The company website is a great place to start your research. By asking something specific about the company based on what you read, you build instant rapport with the committee members and show off your research skills.
  4. How would you define success for the person in this position?
    This question helps you understand what the job will entail and also presents company expectations. You may be able to gain insight into the daily routine, how many hours you are expected to work, and how leadership views success.
  5. Do you see any reason why I might not be a good fit for the job?
    While this question may be difficult to ask, it is a great way to close your questions because it allows for an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions that may have popped up during the interview. This will give you a chance to elaborate on a topic or present your skills in a positive light. You will leave the interviewer with one last tidbit of why you are the right person for the job.

+1 – Bonus Tip:
Always remember to have a list of questions to ask prior to your interview. You don’t want to show up empty-handed or forget to ask a few questions at closing. Don’t grill your interviewing committee with twenty questions, but reserve a handful, like the ones listed above.

 

 

You Said What? 7 Things to Never Say During a Job Interview

One sentence. That’s all it takes to derail your chances at the dream job you’ve been pining after for months – maybe even years. Employers focus on why they should hire you, but they’re really looking for reasons not to hire you. Read on to find out seven things you need to keep in the vault while interviewing.

  1. “I’m really nervous.”
    While it may be true, announcing that you are nervous to a hiring manager or committee kills your chances at getting the job. Honesty is great, but not in this context. No one wants to hire someone who lacks confidence. Why draw attention to shortcomings?
  2. Like, um, ya know…”
    You might not possess the eloquence of a polished presenter, but using an abundance of filler words makes you seem unintelligent, unclear, and insecure. These are not the qualities employers look for in a candidate.
  3. “No. I don’t have any questions.”
    You might as well pack up your stuff and leave now. Not asking questions makes you seem unprepared. And even worse, it can lead the interviewer to believe that you are uninterested in the job and company. It’s best to ask three to five questions at most. You don’t want to annoy them with 20 questions, but you certainly need to ask a few.  Write down or print out your list of questions and have them in your portfolio.
  4. “I need.  I need.  I need.”
    Your interview is a time to speak about your qualifications, but real savvy interviewees know it’s best to talk about the needs of the company, and how you are the person to fill those needs. If you find yourself repeating, “I need” over and over, you’re probably focusing exclusively on your needs when you should be focusing on the needs of the company.
  5. “I’d rather not answer that.”
    If their inquiry is illegal then this response is okay. Withholding information is a huge red flag that you’re hiding something. You need to prepare reasonable answers to difficult questions and be sure to answer them all.
  6. “F&%#, Sh*!”
    Cursing in the workplace is common at many organizations. But you’re not a member of the organization yet. If you curse during your interview, you’ll probably never be a member of that organization. Again, sailor talk isn’t all-bad. Some studies show that people who use colorful language are more honest. But, it’s a big no-no during an interview. There is no benefit and the downside is enormous. You risk coming off as unprofessional and offensive.
  7. “The perks are awesome!”
    The perks may be awesome, but you won’t have to worry about them because you’ve just blurted yourself out of the job. Talking about the free car washes, unlimited snacks in the cafeteria, and casual Fridays makes you seem like you don’t care about the job, only the benefits. If you really want the perks – don’t talk about the perks.

 

 

Interview preparation… only for Candidates? NO!

Interview Prep!!!Hiring authorities who interview candidates need to prepare for a candidate interview, just like a candidate needs to prepare for the company’s interview. The hiring manager is representing their organization and often the time spent with the interviewer(s) is the only impression the candidate gets of the company. In turn, the candidate should take some time to review their current responsibilities and be able to communicate that information in a concise & impactful manner.

Hiring managers should review a candidate’s resume before the interview and have their line of questioning well thought out and organized. Also, the candidate should research the company and the open position and have their list of questions written down and ready to ask the prospective employer. This demonstrates to the employer that you are prepared and organized.

The interviewer also needs to “sell” the opportunity and organization to the candidate, just like a candidate should “sell” why they best fit the position and the organization. The company representative should explain their hiring process clearly, and at the end of the interview inform the candidate of the timing and next step(s) in the hiring process. When both parties are equally prepared, there is a greater likelihood of an offer and an acceptance.

Don’t Lose the Job Before you Get It! 5 Things to Take Seriously in Completing a Job Application

By Jen Webb, Jacobson Staffing, Inc.

In the professional world, everyone knows that it’s common to share a resume highlighting your job history and qualifications, right? Many of us spend a lot of time putting together just the right format with just the right descriptive words to showcase who we are and what value we may bring to a potential employer. However, often somewhere along the way you may be asked to complete an application specific to an organization for which you are applying or interviewing. It may seem redundant to your resume, but an application is absolutely key to you gaining employment with an organization. In fact, I’ve seen individuals miss out on consideration, or worse, get fired after being hired, for misrepresenting themselves on the application. Here are the 5 most important things to pay attention to when completing the application:

  1. Job application is considered a legal document – you typically sign (either hard copy or electronic signature) indicating that what you’ve listed in the application is true. This is an employer’s way to secure your commitment that you’ve answered questions as accurately as possible and receive your acknowledgement that they may verify certain details. If it is discovered that you were not honest, it may cost you further consideration for the job, even if it was already offered to you. Given the sensitivity, I recommend that if you are working with a search firm or headhunter you may ask them questions along the way. They can provide relevant advice about dealing with pre-employment contingencies so you don’t have to be embarrassed to discuss with your potential new employer.
  2. Accuracy of job history – Make sure that any dates of employment are accurate. If a potential employer verifies your past employment, you don’t want them to come up with any discrepancies to what you’ve indicated. It’s also important to honestly list (if asked) the reason you left that organization, even if you did not leave voluntarily.
  3. Honesty on any job specific questions or criminal background– many candidates are fearful that if they have any sort of past trouble with the law that it is embarrassing to list on the job application. However, in my past experience it’s better to be honest and list it vs. have something come up on a background check where you’d have to explain what happened and why you did not put it on the application. Many employers have job specific criteria where they may overlook certain types of convictions or charges if the charges are not relevant to the job in which you are under consideration. More times than not, it’s just better to be totally honest (even if it’s a DUI from 15 years ago) and list it up front to avoid appearing like you’re hiding something later.
  4. Education and Certifications –This is an area where it is absolutely critical that you honestly and accurately list your credentials and the dates of those credentials were received. In positions where a certain level of education or certification is required, employers often verify those degrees and certifications or licenses. Again, you don’t want any sort of discrepancy to come up when they conduct those verifications. A discrepancy could reflect your lack of detail orientation, or indicate that you’re misrepresenting yourself. Either way, it could cost you the job.
  5. Review and verify before you submit – just like a test in school, it’s always best to double check your work and review what you’ve provided. Since specific dates and details may be asked, you may have to do a little digging in your personal records to verify. You should anticipate any information you put on the application and resume that might not be able to be verified through normal methods (i.e. the employer who is no longer in business, the college that a degree was earned from that has since shut down) and plan for alternative sources of verification like W2’s, past performance reviews, diploma and transcript documents so that the pre-employment process isn’t delayed. Being proactive and letting the future employer know ahead of time why there could be obstacles to verifying the information and having other sources of documentation ready will impress everyone with your diligence and attention to detail.

By Jen Webb

3 Things Your (GOOD) Recruiter Thinks, But Will Never Say to You

By Joseph Boyer, Jacobson Staffing, Inc.

Before I began my career in recruiting, I like so many other professionals thought of job-interviewrecruiters as “headhunters”. This was probably largely due to the fact that the one interaction I had with a recruiter was a phone call that lasted about 14 minutes, and at the end of it, he told me he was going to submit me for an entry level role at a large nationwide company. The problem was…. I was currently employed, and I was certainly not entry level. So why would I take a huge step back?

Fast-forward to today. Currently I work for a recruiting firm (I guess that’s obvious since your reading this on jacobsonstaffing.com), and now I view recruiters as “agents” or “representatives”. Looking back on my experience, I understand how some people can have a bad taste of the industry. What I can say for sure is all firms aren’t like this. In fact, I would say most are not. So, today, I wanted to take some time and tell you about the 3 things your GOOD recruiter thinks, but will never say to you.

We Want To Get To Know You. We know you are busy… We really do, but finding the right job for you is a lot of work, but more importantly, it takes a lot of information about YOU. More… YOU are the only source from which we can get that information. Trust me, if my iPhone had a “get to know everything about        ______ in three minutes” app, I would have bought it when I started doing this and saved us both a lot of time. So, we know that our emails, requests to talk or meet… or both may be tough for you to accommodate, but do it!!! It will be in your best interest and worth it when you land a great new job, and we are always willing to meet/talk to you at times that accommodate your schedule.

Be COMPLETELY Honest with Us. I cannot stress this enough. As a firm, it is our job to completely represent your interest to our client, and we take that responsibility very seriously. However, it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to fulfill our commitment if we don’t have all the information. So, if we are asking a question, I can assure you it is something that is pertinent to the role we are working on for you. Also, if you are curious why we want to know, just ask us. We will be open and honest with you every step of the way.

Manage and Communicate Your Job Search. It doesn’t have to be pretty or complex, but you need to know who you are working with, where you have applied/been submitted, when applied/submitted, and for which roles you applied/were submitted. If you take nothing else from this post, I hope this sticks with you. It is absolutely critical that you share with us where other firms are representing you and where you apply. I could write another post about why you should use firms and blah blah blah. That isn’t what this is. We know you will look on your own and work with other firms. Just be courteous and honest with us about where you have been submitted or applied. It could be the difference in you being considered or not. The majority of hiring managers we talk with will not consider someone who is submitted for the same role by multiple firms. One manager even said something like “if they can’t keep track of their own job search, how are they going to be effective in a job?”

The moral of the story is that if you do the three things listed above you will be successful in partnering with the recruiter of your choosing, and that could lead you to landing your dream job.

Behavioral-based interview questions

By Kandice Kinney-Jacobson Staffing, Inc

Behavioral-based interview questions are becoming the norm with companies today.  While this style of questioning has become more and more popular among hiring managers, they are often the questions that candidates are least prepared for.  These questions are designed to prompt a candidate to think on the spot and then communicate that experience concisely and efficiently.  At Jacobson Staffing (jacobsonstaffing.com), we recommend practicing your responses out loud or even in a mirror so that you are comfortable responding to these types of questions once you are in the actual interview.

Here is a sample of some often used behavioral-based questions that can help you as you prepare for an upcoming interview:

  • Tell me about your current employment situation and what’s prompted you to pursue this opportunity.
  • Which supervisors have you found easiest to work with and which have been most difficult?
  • What did you like best and least about your previous job?
  • Describe a work-related problem you had to face recently. What did you do to deal with it?
  • Give me an example of a time you did more than what was required in your job.
  • What are your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • How would others describe you?
  • Why should we hire you for this position?

Talking about your salary – Fifty shades of awkward?

By Suzanne Williams-Jacobson Staffing, Inc

Our culture has told us that talking about your pay is taboo. Managers instruct their employees that discussing salary with coworkers may be grounds for termination. Common sense directs us that less information is better than more information when sharing how much income we make. The question that I want to discuss here is, “Should you share your current salary with your Recruiter and your future Employer when you are looking for a new job?”
awkward-moment-sign1-296x296 Your compensation is a somewhat confidential matter; but, think about how often you actually share that. Have you ever filled out a credit application for funds to purchase a house, credit card, car, etc.? Probably. Have you left that space that asks for your income blank? Probably not. It might not have been down to the penny accurate; but, I think most people try to keep it pretty close to what they remember their current salary is. You hand the credit application to someone you may or may not know and/or trust. So why is it that you will trust someone with your job search, yet can be reluctant to share what your current salary is? In addition to credit applications, it is included on most online job applications (that’s not the paper kind where you can leave it blank and still submit it) and you usually agree that if it’s not accurate information, it could be grounds for future consequences, up to and including termination.

It is appropriate and necessary to talk about your compensation when you are negotiating for a new position or in a salary review with your manager. You really won’t get too far into discussions before the question comes up, “How much do you make?” It’s a fair question; but, I know the thought may cross your mind that one reason you are not satisfied with your current role is that you feel like they are not paying you what you are worth and you don’t want someone to know that you are working for that now. Another thought may cross your mind and that is, “What does it matter what I make now, it’s more important what I am willing to accept to make a move.” It is critical that you feel you are being fairly compensated for you to accept a future employer’s job offer. There are a lot of other perks that go along with a base salary offer that should be considered as well. That’s too much to write about in this brief article. I want to focus on the discussion of just the pay portion.

It’s in your best interest to share what you are making and what your salary expectations are so that your Recruiter can help you understand what salary you can expect. Your Recruiter sees a lot more salaries for people with your skills and experience and can give you advice on where you are relative to general market salaries. If there’s a significant variance in your current compensation and your required compensation to make a job change, you will need to come up with valid justifications for your salary requirements. You need to think it through and be consistent throughout the process. It doesn’t reflect well if you share one number with the Recruiter who needs to share that when they present you to a Hiring Company, and then you share another number if the conversation during your interview with the Hiring Company turns to salary. You can easily refer to your placement agency who is representing you and tell the interviewer that you’d prefer they discuss with Jacobson Staffing (that’s why you hired us); but, if you decide to discuss yourself you must be consistent in what you say. Negotiating for a higher salary with the client is a strategy that you should discuss first with your Recruiter to determine the best approach. A candidate may want a certain lifestyle and I, too, can certainly find ways to spend more money; but, our personal spending habits and discretionary lifestyle choices are not an employer’s concern. A candidate doesn’t want to be eliminated just because they are inconsistent in their salary requirements or if they have allowed their spending habits to price them out of being hired for a job that pays less than they want to accept. The only way to have a successful negotiation for a new salary is to be upfront about your current salary as well as candid about what your salary requirements are.