“You aren’t learning anything when you’re talking.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

I’m a talker.  Always have been.  I clearly remember an interview I was conducting and seeing the interviewee’s eyes glaze over as I was rambling on about the cultural differences between the Midwest and West Coast.  Luckily, and hopefully, I have improved on my interviewing techniques since then.  Unfortunately, there are still a number of interviewers who do not understand that interviews are not forums for filibustering.  What to do if stuck with a long-winded hiring manager?

Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Be polite.  Eye rolling and interrupting isn’t going to speed up the interview or endear you to a potential boss.  Also, you’re not responsible for imbuing other adults with manners.

2.  Be succinct.  Keep your answers as streamlined as possible.  Engaging in a dialogue that flows is an important part of showing your personality during an interview, but try to avoid stacking stories, i.e. don’t tack on a personal anecdote that ties into the one your interviewer just told.

3.  Be in the moment.  Don’t let your mind wander.  Being an active listener is important in gaining insight to the type of supervisor or co-worker your interviewer might be, as well as the overall working environment of the company.  Also, you may be able to pick up on clues beyond what the job description states regarding the type of working styles and personalities he or she is looking for in a candidate.

4.  Be firm.  If you are working within a time constraint, e.g. you need to return back to your current job, politely let your interviewer know you need to wrap up the interview.  Something along the lines of, “I don’t mean to cut you short, and I certainly hope I have answered all of your questions.  However, I need to continue on to my next commitment.  If there is any further information I can provide regarding my background, I would love to set up another time to do so.” would work.

Interviewers need to remember they are hiring managers; not Oprah Winfrey.  Hopefully these four brief points will help you the next time you’re in it for the long haul!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.” – Fran Lebowitz

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“The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.” – Gabirol

Challenging rude behavior in an interview can be a tricky situation.  Everyone has the right to stand up for their right to be treated fairly and politely.  We’ll go over some ways to handle rude interviewer behavior.

Vanna, if you please . . .

1.  Politely wait for the interruption to finish.  Ultimately, eye-rolling and hot air puffing isn’t going to accomplish anything. 

2.  Sincerely accept the apology that the hiring manager SHOULD be offering and move on.  It’s very easy to make a joke of the situation, but make sure you are finding the humor of the situation instead of being passive-aggressive.   

3.  Keep your wits about you.  I know it’s hard to regroup, especially when you’re on a great riff about why they should hire you, but put a mental bookmark in your answer so you can pick up where you left off.  Also, do not let any anger seep through into your answers.  Is it okay to be treated this way?  No.  However, as stated in point one, getting upset isn’t going to solve the situation.    

4.  Say something.  If repeated interruptions keep happening or a hiring manager is flat-out ignoring you to finish another task, politely speak up.  Keep it professional, though.  A simple, “If there is a more convenient time to meet, we can reschedule for a later date.” will work.  Usually, this type of statement will, essentially, embarrass the interviewer into straightening up and flying right.  If they don’t, take it as a good sign they are a bad company to work for. 

5.  End the interview.  Caution:  This is only in cases of extreme interviewer behavior!  If you have been left for a significant amount of time (I would say 20-30 minutes or more) or the conversations involving the interruptions is significantly inappropriate (Think swearing or hostile talk) then it’s time to put an end to the foolishness.  Don’t just get up and leave.  Don’t give them the satisfaction of saying, “He/she just left?  How rude!”  Let them know, “This appears to be a very busy day for you.  I appreciate your time, but this position no longer seems to be a fit for me.”  If the hiring manager isn’t available to talk to then let the receptionist know. 

It’s a hiring manager’s job market out there, which can lead to the belief it’s alright to treat people this way because there will be some foolish sap who will allow it.  You don’t want to burn any bridges and, sometimes, an interview does have a full plate.  However, your time is valuable, as well, so there is no point in continuing to waste it at the hands of an inept hiring manager.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” – Maurice Baring

“People count up the faults of those who keep them waiting.” – French Proverb

Interviews are essentially meetings between a hiring manager and an applicant.  If you were leading a meeting within your company, you wouldn’t consistently interrupt the itinerary to take personal calls or answer e-mails, would you? 

Just because you are in a position to hire someone does not mean you are in the position to make people wait while you are continually interrupted.  An applicant’s time is still important and engaging in this type of behavior is not only rude, it reflects poorly on your organizational style and the company culture. 

Today we will go over how to prevent interruptions if you are conducting interviews.  Next time we will cover how to handle this type of situation if you are an applicant. 

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

 1. Nip interruptions in the bud.  Turn your cell phone on silent, your office phone down to a lower volume or to Do Not Disturb, and, if space allows, conduct the interview away from your computer so you won’t be tempted to peek at your computer. 

 2.  If you are in a position where you receive a high volume of communication from your team, i.e. a lot of phone calls or continuous drop-ins from co-workers, then send out communication letting people know you will be indisposed from such-and-such time and you will be able to respond to their concerns before or after your interview(s).

3.  Sometimes some people can’t take a hint.  Quite often people assume their problem so important that it’s okay for them to pop their head in your door for your $0.02.  Politely, but firmly let them know you will contact them as soon as the interview is over.  No need to embarrass the person, but don’t let them launch into a filibuster about their issue.  A quick, “I’m in the middle of an interview right now, but I will touch base with you by ______.”  You don’t want to freak out the interviewee into thinking it’s going to be a marathon interview or that it will take 2.8 seconds to realize you’re not going to hire him/her.  However, giving a timeframe will, hopefully, avoid incessant follow-up. 

4.  If you are in the middle of a time-sensitive project or a position immediate attention really is warranted, reach out to a co-worker who would be able to make a decision on your behalf.  Make sure you pick someone whose judgment you trust and is in the position to make any necessary decisions. 

5.  Know your schedule.  If there is a long-standing meeting every Monday morning or payroll runs the last week of every month, avoid scheduling interviews during or around that time.

6.  Sometimes interruptions are unavoidable.  Kids are sick at home.  You’re short-staffed, which is why you’re hiring.  If you honestly and truly cannot avoid interruptions during an interview, give the applicant a heads up at the beginning of the interview.  You don’t need to give a blow-by-blow account of your kid’s tonsillitis or don’t use this as an opportunity to complain about how busy you are.  A simple, “I certainly don’t want to interrupt your flow of thought during the interview, but if my phone rings, I may have to take the call. I will keep it brief so we can get back on track.” 

As an interviewer, you are an ambassador of where you work.  Make sure you are putting your best foot forward.  People want to work for your company.  Don’t dissuade that desire by exhibiting rude behavior. 

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Good manners are just a way of showing other people that we have respect for them.” – Bill Kelly

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” -James D. Miles

Happy Thursday, Friends!! You know what that means: Friday is less than 24 hours away.

One element of interviewing that is not covered nearly enough is bad interviewer behavior. Yes, I could fill the Internet up with stories of interviewees and their egregious acts. While interviewing you need to be the best version of you.

This notion does not let interviewers off the hook, though. Just because you are, essentially, in a position of power that doesn’t mean you can treat people poorly. In the upcoming posts we’ll go over poor interviewer conduct and how to handle it.

Until then, here’s to the Almost-Weekend! *raises red Swingline stapler in the air*

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.” -Aristotle

“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

“Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire” – Dan Zevin

Hey, I’ve done it.  I’ve committed fashion many, many faux pas before.  One of my senior pictures shows me wearing socks with sandals.  Not only was it a bad choice, it was a bad choice caught on film.  Truthfully, the word “caught” implies that I wasn’t expecting to be photographed in this ensemble.  I can’t claim ignorance either.  My mom told me outright the socks/sandals combo was a bad idea.  Thank you, Mom, for having more fashion sense than I did.  Unfortunately, I had poor listening skills.

However you want to dress on your own time is your prerogative.  You’re a tax payer.  You can do what you want.  While Henry David Thoreau cautions against enterprises that require new clothes, interviewing is one institution that requires a certain level of polish to what you wear.  We’ll go over the flip side of the previous post and cover the don’ts of dressing for an interview.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Don’t show up wrinkled.  I know I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  You could be wearing an expensive, well-tailored suit, but if you look like a hobo you’re not going to be taken seriously.  You might as well carry a bindle and wear a crushed top hat.

2.  Don’t try to use your clothes to make a statement.  A bright shirt or funky jewelry is a great way to show your individuality on your first day of work; not during your interview.  Unless you’re Ellen DeGeneres, Chuck Taylors are not to be worn with a suit.

3. Don’t wear cologne, perfume, body wash, etc.  You may not be able to smell your favorite wild papaya soap, but someone else might.  And, they might not like it.  People are sensitive (funny) to (about) smells.

4.  Don’t ignore your hair.  Hair should be neat and out of your face.  Gentlemen, remember that it’s not your job to keep the hair gel industry in business.  Also, if you have to flip your head back every 15 seconds to move your bangs out of your eyes, your hair is too long.  Paul McCartney is the only one who could pull that hairstyle off.  (I’m looking at you, Justin Bieber.)

Ladies, keep it simple but not casual.  A low-slung clip to keep your hair pulled back is fine.  A ponytail is too casual.  Also, you’re not auditioning for the Miss America pageant.  Keep a low profile. *taps nose*

I know money can be tight sometimes, but try to budget for regular haircuts.  You don’t have to go to high-end salons.  The main thing is to find an affordable place to keep your hair neatly trimmed.

5.  Don’t forget to accessorize properly.  No worn out messenger bags or backpacks.  Keep purses to a manageable size, i.e. no “runnin’ away from home purses.” (I have to give credit to my sergeant-in-arms, Em, for this great expression!)  Have a portfolio or pad holder to carry extra resumes in.

I still remember when I first moved to Seattle, Washington with three of my friends. We were crashing at my friend’s aunt and uncle’s place while job hunting.  I was getting ready for an interview; had on my suit and resumes in manila file folders.  Uncle “Joe” stopped me and said, “You’re not going to carry your resumes in like that, are you?  Yuck!  Let me give you something better to carry them in.”  At first I was annoyed by his condemnation of my method of doing things, but I have to say that a sense of humility is the best accessory a person can carry.

Once you wow them with your professional sense of style, it’s time to wow them with your talent and experience!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“It’s always the badly dressed people who are the most interesting.” – Jean Paul Gaultier

“During job interviews, when they ask: ‘What is your worst quality?’ I always say: ‘Flatulence’. That way I get my own office.” – Dan Thompson

Hopefully your well-crafted cover letters and resumes are reeling in job interviews.  Unfortunately, job interviews can be just as gut-wrenching as writing well-crafted cover letters and resumes.

Over the next several posts we’ll tackle various elements of job interviewing.  We’ll cover everything from what to wear, to how to handle the tricky questions, to some crazy interviews I have been involved in.  Hang on to your attaché case!  It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!!

If you still have any cover letter and/or resume questions, please continue to send them in.  We can always delve any topic you have questions about.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“I had a job interview at an insurance company once and the lady said ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ and I said ‘Celebrating the fifth year anniversary of you asking me this question’” – Mitch Hedberg