“Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough.” – Author Unknown

Interviews are demanding enough to begin with, which makes trying to remember a list of things NOT to do extra stressful. I’ve tried to make this list as foolproof and simple to remember as possible.

 So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Don’t pull out any gimmicks or stunts. I recently read where one interviewee intentionally showed up late, with advance notice to the company, to see how they would react to his/her “sincere apology.” The whole point was to see if the apology was acknowledged in the interview and how understanding the hiring manager was. Not okay. Which leads into . . .

2. Don’t be late. I know this is as broken record statement. By the by, how much longer is it going to be before young people aren’t going to understand what “sounding like a broken record” means? Anyway, don’t disrespect the interviewers time by being late OR too early. Remember: 5-7 minutes early.

3. Don’t be rude to the receptionist. This type of behavior always gets back to the hiring manager. Even if you end up getting hired, people have loooooong memories when it comes to being treated poorly.

4. Don’t play/talk/text on your cell phone if you end up waiting. It shows a lack of focus and patience. It may also cause an awkward situation if the hiring manager has to wait while you wrap up your phone call. Take this time to review your interview notes and clear your mind.

5. Don’t answer your phone during the interview. In fact, your phone should be off or, at the very least, on silent.

6. Don’t be afraid to take a moment to collect your thoughts before answering any tricky questions. We often feel, especially when we’re nervous, that silence is as bad thing in an interview. A few seconds of silence is better than an ill-suited, rambling answer.

7. Don’t make any off-color jokes or comments. Everyone has a Jiminy Cricket inside. If you feel like you have to preface your statement with, “I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but . . .”, then don’t.

Same goes for any examples that aren’t related to your work history. It’s great if you made 54 pies for your church bake sale, but unless you’re interviewing at a bakery, there are probably better examples of your multitasking abilities.

8. Don’t bring up salary expectations during initial interviews. There are different schools of thought of how you should respond if the hiring manager broaches the subject, but let him or her be the one to initiate that conversation.

My advice if you are asked about salary expectations, give the interviewer a salary range you would be comfortable with. Make sure you do your market research before giving a range. Also, keep in mind the level of position you are interviewing for. A human resources administrative assistant is probably going to be making less than a human resources generalist or manager.

9. Don’t bring up any other benefits, either. Don’t ask how soon insurance kicks in or how quickly you can utilize the employee discount. This is an instant red flag you’re only in it for reaping the benefits as quickly as possible and not interested in landing a great job. A sense of entitlement in an applicant is not appealing.

10. Don’t forget to ask questions. Remember interviews are a two-way street. You’re trying to figure out if a position and company are right for you. Just make sure your questions are thoughtful and will help you gain some insight. Never ask such things as, “So, what does this company do?”

If this all seems a little overwhelming, I have an insider’s tip for ya: Human resources and hiring managers are a lot more forgiving than you think when it comes to nervousness. We appreciate sincerity and understand how awful interviews can be. When we’re all-too-eager to shuffle an interviewee out the door, it’s usually because of a lack of effort, enthusiasm, or there is a high level of cockiness. It’s okay to be a little bit nervous. A lack of nervousness usually indicates a lack of caring.

You can do this!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.” – John Maxwell

“When you go in for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they ever press charges.” – Jack Handy

Happy Valetine’s Day, Friends! Here’s to jobs we love . . . whether it’s a job we’re in or hope to have in the near future!

What’s one thing that will ALWAYS make my heart go a-flutter?? A job interview. It’s not roses, jewelry, or romantic dinners that make my knees go weak. It’s prepping for, sitting through, and rehashing every detail of a job interview. Here is a quick list of do’s to hopefully guide you through the heartache. We’ll cover the don’ts in the not-too-distant future.

Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Do be on time. Being on time encompasses many things. Obviously, it means don’t be late. If something unforeseen happens and tardiness is unavoidable, make sure to have the company’s phone number handy so you can give call of warning. When you arrive, express a sincere apology for the delay.

Being on time also includes not being TOO EARLY! I have had people show up as early as 45 minutes because they misgauged how quickly they could get to the office. If you arrive too early, take a walk, sit in your car, find a coffee shop or someplace to go until it’s time for your interview. Showing up excessively early shows a lack of respect for the interviewer’s time and could cause a very awkward scheduling situation. Interviewers should always be respectful of the job seeker’s time, as well, but they are not obligated to rearrange their day because of your eagerness/timing.

Plan to be at your interview 5-7 minutes early.

2. Do double-check your information. I had this happen to me recently, and, luckily, I avoided a potentially embarrassing situation. I had a quick phone interview with the manager of a position I had applied to and was moved on to the next round. Right before I went in to meet the manager face-to-face my gut told me to recheck my voicemail to make sure I had her name right. At first I thought, “Naw! You’re just being paranoid!” But, self-doubt won and, sure as shootin’, I was wrong.

Make sure you have the manager’s name and the title of the position in your brain. When you’re applying for multiple positions, it’s easy to blur together the names of various jobs you’ve applied to. Also, having the correct names of who you interviewed with is of the utmost importance when sending out thank yous.

3. Do your research. In this day-and-age of technology, information is literally at your fingertips. Comb through the company’s website to see how its mission and values align with what you could bring to the position.

Then go outside the company to find out about its reputation. You might even school a company on how they’re doing! I recently had a hiring manager state she wasn’t aware that her company had received an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau.

Also remember that interviews are a two-way street. If you’re interviewing for a company that has a less than stellar reputation for customer service, company culture, etc., this is your opportunity to have them address that. Just make sure you’re tactful in approaching the subject. “In doing research of Company X, I found concerns regarding (insert issue). How is the company moving towards addressing such concerns?” How they handle that question is a great indicator of their overall culture and ability to problem solve.

Show your interest and initiative by doing your homework before stepping into an interview.

4. Do make eye contact. I spent an entire semester in college focusing on nonverbal communication. It was one of the most fascinating classes I have ever taken. When we get nervous we tend to look anywhere but into people’s eyes. This sends the subliminal messages that you lack confidence or participate in shifty behavior.

Good eye contact should last between three to five seconds. If you just can’t bring yourself to look into someone’s eyes then look at their eyebrows. They won’t know the difference. Don’t stare too long, though. You want to portray confidence; not steal their soul.

5. Do remember to smile. A hiring manager can get a decent picture of your skills by reading your resume. An interview is meant to see how you, the overall package, would fit into the company’s culture. Even if a business isn’t having weekly Twister games on Friday, no one wants to hire a grump.

6. Do bring extra copies of your resumes. Nine times out of ten they will have a copy, but there is always that tenth time. Offering an extra copy also shows you are thoughtful and prepared.

7. Do have an arsenal of answers ready. I’d be very surprised if a hiring manager didn’t ask such things as:

*Tell me about yourself.

*What are your strengths/weaknesses.

*Can you give an example of an accomplishment/challenging situation?

Have a basic understanding of how you want to answer the most frequently asked interview questions. While you want to tailor your answers to each position you’re interviewing for, the backbone of each answer will remain the same. Know what you want to say. It’ll keep you from rambling.

8. Do a practice run. Either enlist a friend to do a mock interview or give answers to common interview questions in the mirror. I have to admit that it took me a long time to get on the bandwagon for the latter. I fooled myself into thinking that looking at myself while running through my information while looking in a mirror would make me more nervous. I was right. It did make me nervous, but it also forced me to work through those nerves. I was able to work through my nervousness and polish my answers to potential questions.

Will practicing in front of a mirror completely eliminate the interview jangles?? No. Hopefully it will lessen them enough for you to really shine through.

9. Do send thank you notes after the interview. If you interviewed with multiple people, send a thank you to each individual. Send them 24 to 48 hours after the interview. Now is not the time for funny cards. A simple blank thank you card will do.

10. Do have a short-term memory. Whether you nailed it or crashed and burned, the time to move on to the next possibility starts as soon as you walk out the door. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is so terrible you can’t move on from it. Keep the wheels moving!

Valentine’s Day isn’t about relationships. It’s about love! Tell someone in your life you love them. Gratitude and happiness are two great weapons to keep in your back pocket while searching for that great match!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“So many people out there have no idea what they want to do for a living, but they think that by going on job interviews they’ll magically figure it out. If you’re not sure, that message comes out loud and clear in the interview.” – Todd Bermont

“Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do” – Oscar Wilde

Hello Friends!!  Happy Friday!!  If you’re reading this and are anywhere near the Fargo-Moorhead area, stay warm.  Our tropical wonderland is supposed to dip below 50 degrees this weekend!! 

Always remember:  That new job and warmer weather are just around the corner!!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.” – Anonymous

“Life is not full of awkward situations. It’s full of opportunities. Opportunities to help others.” – Anonymous

You know I can’t stay away from lists for too long, so the do’s and don’t’s of interviewing will be coming shortly.  I did want to give one specific example of what not to do when going to an interview. 

While working as a recruiter in Seattle, Washington, I was in the office one day and had no more interviews scheduled.  Two women walked through the front door.  My office was in a spot where I could eagle-eye the comings and goings of the office.  A lady, who had to be in her forties, was carrying flowers and accompanied by a young woman, who had to have been in her early twenties.  They both stopped at my door and asked if I could spare a moment of my time.  Non-rude options were very limited, so I said yes.

The flower bearer, we’ll call her “Patty”, proceeds to give me the flowers in the hopes to brighten my day.  Patty went on to explain how “Angela” was here to help her get her career back on track after some personal setbacks.  I expected the subject of personal setbacks to be dropped then and there.  I was wrong.  Patty proceeds to tell me how two days prior her apartment was broken into and all of her underwear were cut to pieces.  To ensure I believed her, she pulled out the remnants of a pair of cut up undergarments.  Stunned, I tried to reassure her I was very sorry about the recent events and walked through a very brief interview.  The interview was wrapped up, and I never heard from Patty ever again. 

Obviously, Patty had been through some trauma, and I am not trying to exploit her experience.  I applaud her for trying to gain some normalcy and for reaching out to a career counseling agency to assist her in doing so.  However, if I could go back in time and give Patty some advice, I would let her know the following (I guess I can’t escape my propensity for list making!):

1. Don’t show up without an appointment.  Ever. 

2. Don’t bring gifts to an interview.  It won’t give you a leg up or earn you brownie points.

3.  Don’t rush too soon into finding a job after a traumatic experience.  You won’t be in the right frame of mind and won’t be able to put your best foot forward.  If money is a concern, utilize community/emergency service agencies to find any sort-of assistance until you get back on your feet. 

4.  If you have to divulge personal incidents, keep the information to the minimum.  Showing the cut up underwear was just too much!  Also, if at all possible, let the interviewer know of any positives you may have learned from the situation. 

It’s been six years since my interview with Patty, and I still wonder what she’s doing.  I hope she is doing well and has a successful career.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” – George S. Patton

Dating is pressure and tension. What is a date, really, but a job interview that lasts all night?" – Jerry Seinfeld

(Editor’s Note:  This is a post I put up awhile ago, but I am resubmitting for two reasons.  One, I was able to utilize WordPress’s reblog feature.  And, as unhumble as it sounds, it’s my favorite post so far!  Thank you for indulging me!  We’ll get back to job interviewing later this week.)

Dating is a lot like landing that great job interview. You spend countless hours looking for the “right one.” You wear outfits that you would normally never wear. You rack your brain for the best possible answers to questions they might ask. You are constantly worrying if they might reject you. Most importantly: You spend the whole time trying to portray who you think they want you to be. At least with job hunting there’s always a chance you’ll end up with a really great dental plan.

I have to make an admission. As I was trying to tear down yet another writer’s block, aka procrastinating on my next cover letter, I was sorting through old online articles I had saved to my favorites. I came across an article on the 11 Dating Mantras to Live By I had found through MSN.com. As I was reading through each point to remember while dating I couldn’t help but notice how many related to job searching.

So, I can’t take credit for today’s list. Authorship rights go to Erin Meanley of Glamour.com. Vanna, if you please, the list . . . (Editor’s Second Note: The numbered list was written by Ms. Meanley. The clarifications below each one were written by me. I know you’re a smart bunch, but just in case there’s any ambiguity . . .)

1. I can’t control his behavior; I can only control my reaction to it.
To steal another dating cliché: “He’s just not that into you.” Calling repeatedly after sending a resume or an interview isn’t going to help your chances of getting the job. Follow up one week after and leave it at that. Being too eager can actually hurt your chances. Plus, HR is super-busy with HR-y stuff. There’s a fine line between showing interest and being a job stalker.

2. I am a human being worthy of love.
Just because they aren’t calling you back doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be a great employee. The hiring process always takes longer than everyone thinks. If a job isn’t calling you back, put your hook back into the water. There are plenty more fish in the sea who would love to hire you.

3. Everyone is responsible for guarding their own heart.
This is the age-old trap that gets even the most cynical of daters. “I had a great time tonight. Can I call you sometime?” We spend the rest of the night looking at our phones to make sure it isn’t on silent. You may have nailed the interview. They may even tell you nailed the interview. Yet, that is no guarantee you’re the one they’re going to hire. Why? Who knows? The point is to pat yourself on the back, but stay diligent in your search. We all know what happens when we assume.

4. Big picture, big picture.
Every resume that doesn’t get read or interview you don’t land is just practice for the getting the right job. Don’t dwell on the things you don’t get. A job may look perfect on paper and you really, really want it, but who knows? It may have a toxic work environment. The boss may smell like tabasco sauce. Everything we go through is a lesson to be learned to help us see the big picture.

5. Life never ceases to surprise me.
There have been jobs I never thought I had a chance at that have called me for an interview. There have been jobs where I thought I would be a shoe-in for at least an interview that didn’t call me at all. Throw your hat into the ring. If you don’t even try your chances still stay at zero.

6. I am lucky to be alive.
Remember this when you’re counting all the things you don’t have or the jobs you’re not getting.

7. It’s okay to be sad.
You’re going hear ‘no’, and you’re going to be disheartened. It’s okay to be bummed out.

8. I’m taking it one day at a time.
This is a good reminder to not wish away your life until the job posting date closes on your dream job. Take time to step away from polishing your resume and combing through Monster.com. Go to the movies. Read a chapter in your favorite book. Take a shower. Your psyche and your family will thank you.

9. This too shall pass.
You will land that great job you’ve been pining after and the heartache you went through to find it will be a distant memory. If what you really wanted was easily attained, how fulfilling is it really?

10. Everything will work out fine in the end.
It’s easy to fall into the pit of despair when job hunting. You tell yourself awful things that destroy yourself confidence. When you hit that point tell yourself everything will work itself out. Yes, Pollyanna, it will. One thing that has helped me to keep my chin up is I take a dry erase marker and write nice things about myself on my bathroom mirror. What I write ranges from my ability to engage people to my shiny hair. It doesn’t really matter what it is, and I don’t really read it once it’s up there. The important thing is when I see the list grow I remember I will be okay because of all the great qualities I possess.

11. Serenity now!
Whenever I say this line, I scream it like George’s dad on Seinfeld. It doesn’t always calm me down, but it makes me laugh.

Positive Thought of the Day:
“Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they’re tax deductible.” – Andy Warhol

Single-ish Sex, Love & Life: glamour.com.

“A college education never hurt anybody who was willing to learn after he got it.” – Anonymous

Happy February, Friends!!  Thanks for the extra day this month, Gregorians!

To wrap up our fashionably fashionable posts I wanted to share a link to the North Dakota State University Career Center page.  I have to give NDSU credit.  Not only are they good at football but they also give some really solid and practical advice to their students about the ins and outs of career searching once they leave campus for good.

The Career Center even has a page dedicated on how to dress for interviews and career fairs.  The advice is broken down into men and women with academic departments weighing in on how various outfit choices would be perceived within their specific field.  Even if you’re not actively looking for a job I think it’s interesting to read other professions’ take on clothing choices in the working world.

NDSU Career Center Dress for Success

Hats off to you, NDSU!!  (For the record, I’m still a Jimmies fan!)

Positive Thought of the Day:

“When you can’t do something truly useful, you tend to vent the pent up energy in something useless but available, like snappy dressing.” -Lois McMaster Bujold