Archive for the ‘Job Interviews’ Category

  • Thanks Be To Shakespeare: Those Telling Details in the Story Behind Your Resumé Really Do Matter


    Renown scholar, Harold Bloom, in his book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, declared, “before Shakespeare, there was characterization; after Shakespeare, there was character, men and women with highly individual personalities.”

    “Our highly individual personalities” are what set us apart in today’s highly competitive job market.  Those individual details transform the nitty gritty skills and experience data in our resumés into a living picture of who we are and what motivates us.  With so many highly qualified (skills and experience) candidates applying for so few positions, it is more important than ever to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack.

    We need to stop dreading the “interview” and look at it as a real opportunity to breathe some life into our experience. That being said, particularly if you have a lot of experience, the interview is not a moment to ramble through your work history. Remember: less is more! Your details need to focus on specific experience that is strategically related to the job for which you are applying. For example, if you are applying for a job that involves creating networks of people and organizations which can be leveraged to collectively address a need, you should be prepared to share stories about the ways in which you have brought parties together, engaged and motivated them to act, and what results were achieved. Be brief and succinct but provide details that “tell” how you made it happen. You could describe how you identified key players and any challenges you faced bringing traditionally non-team players to the table. Hopefully, this involves gentle persuasion and not knocking heads together. Anyone can knock heads together, gentle persuasion where everyone feels part of a win-win solution is an art. And don’t be afraid to include a little humor. The person with whom you are interviewing wants to be assured you are committed but also that you do not consider work a forced march.

    Listen to the ways in which you describe yourself. Are they relevant to the job at hand? Ask yourself if this sounds like a person with whom you would like to work? As you share your stories, your values, energy and enthusiasm will rise to the surface. These are not things you can manufacture. Greek characters were shaped and driven by their circumstances. Our personalities reflect choices we have made and provide a blueprint for choices we will make in the future. Those choices add meaning to our work and make our contributions meaningful – a compelling asset.

  • Diamond Dewdrops and Dragonflies: Would You Fare as Well under the Scrutiny of a Macro Lens?


    Copyright: Miroslaw Swietek

    Glistening in the early morning, dragonflies, flies and beetles take on an unearthly quality as the dew gathers on their sleeping bodies. Captured in extreme close-up, one moth appears to be totally encrusted in diamonds as it rests on a twig. These remarkable photographs, published in the UK’s Daily Mail online were taken by physiotherapist Miroslaw Swietek, an amateur photographer, at around 3am in the forest next to his home.

    Writers espouse that “God is in the details,” but the same is true for job seekers. Appearances do matter, and it’s not just the obvious details such the shine on your shoes, the length of your skirt or when your trousers last saw a decent crease. You must also consider the less obvious and what they reveal.

    If, for example, you are anxious about your age, did you ever think that the employer may be more worried about your obsessing over it: that, if you are overly concerned about what others think of your age, you could become distracted from the job at hand? This scenario (pointed out to me by “Ask the Hunter” guru, Nick Corcodilos) is a lot different than the employer’s seeing your age as a serious drawback. Yes, age bias does exist but you need to stop obsessing, take control and get ahead of the story.

    Try to reframe the years. Repurpose that chronological statistic in age-positive words such as experience and wisdom. Even more important don’t hide your passion. Show that you care, you have a tremendous amount of energy and you are highly motivated to lead a purposeful life.

    Provide specific examples of ways you have applied your experience to business or community challenges. Your research should have uncovered problems the future employer needs resolved. Build your insights into a mini solution-based plan.  Keep it mini; don’t try to blow their socks off with a full-fledged strategic plan. Remember you are trying to engage not overpower, and often the best solutions are organic and collaborative so leave plenty of room for teamwork. Enthusiasm is contagious. Before you know it, your age and experience will be perceived as assets – like the dewdrop diamonds on the wing of Swietek’s dragonfly.

  • Seniors Who Rest on Their Laurels Don’t Stand a Chance in Today’s Job Market


    Yes, 25 years of solid accomplishments add gravitas to your resume, but you could also sink like a stone under the weight of that gravitas if you do not convert past accomplishments into present-day assets.

    Maybe you were a brilliant analyst, but do you know that Google Analytics is not about the company’s earning ratio?

    Perhaps you were a direct marketing mogul. That’s wonderful but do you know how to optimize social media marketing today?

    If you are serious about working in your 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s, we know you’re interesting, courageous, eager to continue learning and contributing to the world around you. The good news is that there are lots of resources to help you bring your skills up-to-speed so you can find a good home for that passion.

    Check out adult education or community college programs.

    Here in Maine, the MCED (Maine Center for Enterprise Development) is an entrepreneur-centric resource for simplifying the process of launching a successful start-up. Other states have similar programs.

    The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes are another great resource. Use this map to find an OLLI in your state.

    Your passion – your desire to find meaningful work – is only as good as your plan. And that plan requires a tremendous amount of due diligence.  That research begins long before the interview. It involves finding out as much as you can about the company where you think you’d like to work.

    What are their goals? Are they in line with yours? Check out their marketing materials. Then, find customer feedback.  Is the company accomplishing what it says it will do? Are its customers happy, apathetic, dissatisfied or extremely dissastisfied?

    What is the company culture and work environment? It’s easy for the company to project whatever image it wants in a marketing campaign; you need to find out what people are saying about the company, its management team and its employees. This is where your networking pays off. Talk to someone or someone who knows someone who can give you the inside scoop.

    Once you’re satisfied that this could be a good place to work, you need to learn who are the company’s biggest competitors? What challenges is the company facing in the next 6 months, next year and next two years. This information is key so you can tailor your working resume to meet those needs.

    First, make sure your resume prominently conveys that you have the skills (which you’ve so diligently brought up-to-speed) to do the job. You must write with the reader in mind. If the reader/hiring manager isn’t interested, your resume will hit the reject pile in seconds.

    Also – and this is critical – you must make a compelling case that your skills, background and experience make you the best candidate to do the job profitably for the company.  Provide meaningful data to document your assertions.

    All of this is necessary to actually get the interview. Once you are in the interview, you can make a much better case by asking the hiring manager what he or she sees as the biggest challenge facing the company. Then present a mini-plan (informed by your earlier research) describing how you would address the challenge if you were in the job.  This is where all your due diligence pays off. Your plan contains specifics garnered from your research which demonstrate your knowledge of the company and also your genuine interest in working there to help them solve the problems they face.  Your plan is not a generic blueprint that you could apply to any scenario.

    Yes, this is a lot of work and if you’re not prepared to do it perhaps you really do not want that job as much as you thought you did.

  • Body Language Counts! Beef Up Your Nonverbal Communication Skills!


    There’s a reason Elmo got the big nod from the White House to be the spokesperson “stressing healthy habits to prevent H1N1 (aka swine) flu,” and the sultry porker, Miss Piggy, did not.

    Who would you believe: Elmo, with his childlike innocence and perennial optimism, singing, “Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!” or the Divine “Miss P” trying to stifle a sneeze with her poofy pink boa?

    Body language does count. Certainly, it’s not a panacea for lack of skills or experience but, if the hiring manager has to choose between two equally qualified candidates, your wet-fish handshake may seal the deal – and not in your favor.

    Your body language mirrors your confidence or lack thereof. Don’t think the interviewer won’t notice if you’re slouching in a chair, open briefcase at your feet and looking like a deer in caught in headlights, while you’re in the waiting room. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to spring out of a chair (as you must to greet the interviewer) with any degree of grace. Even if you could master it, you’d then have to bend over and collect your papers – assuming you have not tripped over them – while the interviewer discreetly tries to dry the residue of moisture from your fishy handshake. It’s much easier and more effective to stand while you are waiting and keep your eyes on the door to the room. That way, when the interviewer walks in the door, you  need only take a step or two forward, reach out your dry hand, look the interviewer in the eye and execute a firm handshake while saying hello like you mean it.

    Maintain eye contact throughout the interview. Don’t let your eyes wander about the room as if you were sizing it up for your office.

    Engage in the discussion, and it is a discussion not an interrogation. If you appear bored, your interviewer will be also.

    Do not swing your legs over one another and keep swinging. Avoid tapping your feet or your fingers. There’s no need to be nervous. This interview is as much for your sake as it is for the hiring manager’s. It is your opportunity to learn if you like this organization, this job and if it is a good fit.

    Try to keep your hands calm. Naturally you’d avoid wild gesticulating to express enthusiasm, but also try to refrain from tugging at your tie or picking at the lint on your dress. There should not be any lint on your dress!

    At the end of the interview, stand, shake the manager’s hand again and say thank you – even if you don’t mean it.

    You may think this is just a lot of common sense which anyone would know and do, but you’d be amazed at how fast some of the simplest social etiquette flies out the door when you are nervous because you really want this job and are afraid of doing or saying anything that might blow it.

    The best way to remain calm and confident is to try and imagine that you are interviewing the hiring manager to learn if this really is the job you want. This should not be too much of a stretch because that is exactly what you are doing!

  • How to Capture and Hold Your Interviewer’s Attention in 20 Seconds!


    Mary Civiello’s tips on How To Capture a Crowd posted in a Fortune Magazine blog are a must read! They are just as applicable for a small audience: namely your interviewer or the interviewing committee.

    Her very first question is a stunner: 1. Can you give your presentation in 20 seconds even though you have 20 minutes to speak?

    Civiello says, “Start your preparation by asking: What is the one thing I want them to remember if they remember nothing else?”

    Read and memorize each of Civiello’s four tips and, while you’re paring your presentation down to 20 seconds, remember our SSW advice: You Are Your Brand: Be Authentic!

    Be honest about your skills and personal values.  Think about your interview as a blind date. Do not use your resume or social media marketing tools to create a false persona. Never advertise yourself as a young and sauve bon vivant when you’re really an older, highly experienced, albeit shy and introspective research analyst. Do not post a snap taken 20 years ago on your LinkedIn profile. The shock will knock your interviewer off his or her pins and they won’t believe a word you say.

    Stephanie Clark, a career consultant in Canada, recently addressed the importance of authenticity for long-term best results. Referring to how pressured job seekers feel about the interview, she said:

    Why not relax about it all, do something or behave in a way that is authentic to you and how you feel, and let the chips fall where they may? No use trying to manipulate a situation … by being anything other than you! If the person doesn’t respond favorably … perhaps it is best to move on.

    I would much rather work somewhere where my quirks, personality, and style were welcomed, appreciated, needed, than somewhere where they found my approach not aligned with theirs. Such a situation, aside from potentially being a confidence buster, isn’t likely to provide workplace successes. No success, no great content for the next resume, the need for which would likely come soon enough, given that the fit was all wrong!

    Stephanie has lots of great articles on her website:

  • Ten Tips to Beat the Waiting Game Doldrums


    Boomer or budgie – the waiting game can be maddening: waiting to hear if they have received your resumé; waiting to hear if they have read your resumé; waiting to see if they will call you for an interview; waiting to see if they will call you back after your first interview; waiting to learn if you will or will not be offered the job. With the paucity of jobs open and the glut of qualified applicants today, all of this could take months. Even worse, if there’s no job offer and if you have done nothing but twitch and bite your nails whilst waiting, you have wasted precious time.

    The good news is that we do learn to be more patient as we grow older. The bad news is that we have less time to be patient as we grow older.  Soooo, it’s time to take back some control: time to use those days, weeks, months to gear up for the next opportunity.


    1. Eggs:  Never, ever put them all in one basket! Pursue several opportunities simultaneously. What you learn from one will build upon what you need to know for another. The efficacy of the way in which you present yourself for one will inform your next “self” sales pitch.

    2. Intelligence Gathering:  Network, network, network and then network some more. Find someone who works where you want to work or who knows someone in that organization. Use your friends, family, paper rolodex and online networks. You need to get the inside scoop: what works; what needs to be fixed; what’s the strategic vision and what’s the organizational culture – collaborative or stressed, competitive or satisfied? This info is crucial for you to be able to communicate the ways in which you are a good fit and articulate the value added you bring to help the organization meet its goals.

    3. Insights and Perspectives:  Scour industry specific publications, niche business journals and online blogs and pipelines to determine what’s happening in that industry, who are the thought leaders? Form your own opinions and do not be afraid to articulate them. Innovative leaders are looking for new, actionable ideas. They are not seeking clones nor are they satisfied with the status quo. They want fresh, independent insights and perspectives to help achieve their vision.

    Remember President Lincoln’s Cabinet? He deliberately appointed a contentious “Team of Rivals,” and that team became one of the most successful Cabinets in US History.

    4. Compelling Story:  Put your best foot forward. Metaphorically and realistically speaking – polish your boots. The competition is fierce and you need to be able to demonstrate you are the best of the best. Create a compelling story. Answers alone may be quickly forgotten but stories create an impact and are memorable. Focus on what you have to offer and why it will be of value – what’s in it for the organization. You know to compose your story with active verbs but do not forget the blockbuster nouns – key words – that capture you, your strengths and your industry savvy. If your key words’ vocabulary needs a boost, explore Google’s Key Word search tool.

    5. Qualify and Quantify:  Provide metrics to quantify your successes and specific examples to qualify your accomplishments. Create bullet points to remind you of each anecdote during the interview. If you have to flip through pages of notes, you defeat the purpose of the exercise; it will appear as forced documentation rather than spontaneous elaboration or sharing.  You want to engage the interviewer so he or she is genuinely interested in what you have accomplished and how you have done it. Caveat Emptor: be brief. The best storytellers leave their audience eager to hear more.

    6. Questions:  Formulate questions to ask the interviewer, such as: what do you see as the most critical elements of this job; what are you looking for in a candidate; why is the current job holder leaving; how would you prioritize the organization’s top goals; when and why did you join the organization and what continues to interest you most? Listen carefully and then use the information you have researched on the organization and this field to follow-up on the interviewer’s answers. Don’t merely match questions tit for tat; create a dialogue. You are interested in this position and are not just desperate for any job.

    7. Continually Update Your Resume:  Note everything you are learning as you move forward. For example, if you’re becoming more fluent in social networking, provide some data to let the interviewer know you understand what differentiates each of these online tools, how to use each to your best advantage and how you would use them to the organization’s advantage.

    8. Current Events:  Keep on top of what’s happening economically. Understand how the ways in which you want to work and the organizations with which you’d like to work relate to and affect what’s going on in the context of the community, state and global economy.

    9. Beyond the Economy:  Relate current political, cultural and social events to the broader context of history and literature. Check out “deep thinking on the web.” Nothing is happening now that has not happened before. Technology may change. Human nature does not. Competition in the workplace? Remember how Julius Caesar was stabbed by his fellow Senators in the Roman Forum? Are today’s hallowed halls of the US Congress equally welcoming to our leaders?

    10. Relax: Enjoy this opportunity to learn more about yourself. If you value yourself, others will too.

  • Phone Interviews – How Can You Make the Interviewer Hear Your Best Face?


    Yes, you can “hear” a face.

    Shakespeare nailed it in his Pyramus and Thisbe play within his play, A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Shakespeare’s lovers cannot see each other through the wall that separates them, but Pyramus hears Thisbe’s voice and says, “I see a voice… an I can hear my Thisbe’s face.”

    The interviewer cannot see your smile but he or she will hear it in your voice. A genuine smile – not the Cheshire cat’s grimace – lifts the tone of the conversation and your enthusiasm. The interviewer can sense you are relaxed and enjoying the interview.

    The interview is a two-party dialog not an inquisition, and your questions are a key element.  Your questions will cue the interviewer that you are both interested and interesting. One of my most enjoyable phone interviews was with Dan Sherman, Founder and President of Explore Company, an international executive search firm specializing in recruitment for nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. Naturally, I researched Dan and his company before the interview to have a good sense of with whom I would be talking. I was impressed with the portion of Dan’s company website that was dedicated to his late father, Dr. Alan Sherman.

    Dan specifically cites two of his father’s papers which, as a tremendous testament to vitality in aging, are an inspiration to all of us now 60+

    Beyond Growing Old: Individual Empowerment as a Key to Personal Vitality

    T.I.B.E.T. and the Process for Effective Change

    I have taken many of Dan’s father’s words to heart, but the ones that struck deepest were: “As playing music has taught me, you must not let a misplayed note distract you from joy in the sound and the process of playing music. Some of us have been so well trained to get the notes right that we forget about the music and the joy.”

    I did not get the position for which I was interviewing; it was not a good fit but I learned more than I had ever anticipated from the interview.

    Now, lest you think – based on this experience – that the phone interview just a chatty conversation – it is not. You are relaxing and enjoying so you can truly engage in the process.

    Practical preparation includes:

    Eliminating all the distractions – no radio or TV in the background, dogs are outside roaming the back forty, call waiting has been turned off,  “Do Not Disturb” signs posted on the door etc.

    Confident that you and your interviewer are not going to be distracted, it’s time to focus on you. Self-branding isn’t all about selling yourself, it’s being intentional about the impression you make.

    Have your resume and your bullets addressing why you are the best candidate for the job and the one who can do the most to move the organization strategically forward at your fingertips for reference.

    We presume you’ve prepared what you want to say, but have you prepared how you’re going to say it?  We are not talking about an elaborate sound system but rather the energy of your delivery. Just as you know to have active, dynamic words in your written materials, you need to have them at the tip of your tongue. Speak with confidence and authority.

    Nick Corcodilos, on his blog, Ask the Hunter, has a great video by the poet, Peter Taylor, about how to speak with conviction.

    Now that you are ready: relax, engage and enjoy! And don’t forget, after the call send a thank you note! Further, if you think a follow-up, in-person interview will be forthcoming, revise your sales pitch with info you learned about the organization  and their strategic thinking in your call so you’ll be even better prepared for the next round.

  • 15 Secrets to Mastering the Phone Interview: What – No pajamas!


    Talk about personal setbacks… Yesterday, phone interview guru, Paul Bailo, appeared in Fortune Magazine’s “Dear Annie” column to say: absolutely no PJ’s for the telephone interview!

    His advice: “Wear business attire.” Bailo goes on to explain, “Of course the interviewer can’t see you, but ‘you won’t feel, or sound, as businesslike in your pajamas.'”

    “Businesslike?” How does Bailo know we Savvy Seniors are not interviewing to fulfill a passionate desire to become super models for a new “Boomer” line in Victoria’s Secret closet?

    Not many groundbreaking “interview secrets” in this column, but I do like Bailo’s idea to: “Have a photo of your interviewer on your computer screen. This could be from LinkedIn, Facebook, the company website, or anywhere else your interviewer’s face might appear online. (You have Googled him or her in advance, right?) It makes the interview a little more like an in-person conversation.”

    Caveat Emptor:  I think it might be safer to print and post the interviewer’s photo some place slightly to the side your computer screen just in case you feel compelled to hurl a dart at it, should you not pass the “first five minutes” benchmark…

  • Job Interview Prep


    When the wind chill here in Maine plummets well below zero and caresses your face like an exfoliant during your early morning constitutional on the beach, it’s time to focus on the interior: a warm fire, in-house blossoms, coffee and a little research on the Web.

    Economies and cultures may differ but job-seeking and anxiety-inducing interviews know no boundaries.

    Interview Prep is basically the same – no matter the job or the continent in which you live. Here, African Writer and Editor, Temitayo Olofinlua, offers sound advice:

    “So your CV made a real good impression, and you were called for an interview? Congratulations! Now you have to scale the next hurdle-the interview. (To be honest I hate interviews. They are just not real. All they succeed in doing is this: they put you on the spot and assail you with questions that make you stare, stammer or ramble away in the desperate hope that it all makes sense). Preparation is key while getting ready for an interview.

    Before the Interview

    This starts right after the (invitation) email, phone call or text message. It’s polite to say thank you and confirm if you’d be available for the interview. It’s a ‘little act’ that goes a long way to demonstrate courtesy.

    The invitation should show the date, time and location of the interview but it’s not sufficient to get you there on time. It’s advisable to take a trip to the interview venue a day before just to get a good idea of the location and distance.

    We all understand how traffic emerges from nowhere; you should give a generous time allowance for this. Remember lateness increases your stress levels which can affect your performance. There is no harm in getting to the venue 30 minutes earlier. Punctuality is the soul of a business; show that and you may be on the road to a successful interview.

    Pack a file. Yes, it’s such a shame when you realise that you have to go back home because you forgot your NYSC certificate. So pack the required essentials-the certificates, invitation letter, awards, stationery and a jotter. It is also important to have photocopies at hand. Most companies are going paperless but there are still a couple of them who would ask you for the certificates. Packing a file ahead of time gives you the opportunity to focus on other things like what you should wear.

    What you will wear will generally depend on the company you are applying to. However the safest route seems to be the corporate – a suit or a fitted shirt, pants/skirts. The important key here is neatness, no scruffiness allowed. All collars should stay where they belong; same with the underwear. Please no blings, flashy earrings or jeans; unless it’s an interview for a deejay position. Dress appropriately; it sure makes a good first impression.

    Knowledge is power. The applicant needs a firm knowledge of the organisation and the way s/he can contribute to the success of the organisation. Visit the company’s website, read up as much as you can. If you can get the company’s annual report(s) – companies quoted on the stock exchange will have this in circulation – by all means do. Know the company’s mission, vision, history and management.

    And very importantly, what exactly the company does. This shows that you are passionate about the company. It also saves you some embarrassing moments during the interview. You don’t want to look blank when asked to talk about company products.

    During your research about the company, it is important to bear in mind questions to ask your interviewer(s).

    It is also important for you to literally ‘embody’ your CV, i.e. be the person that your CV says you are. And continually seek ways in which your past experience can make your potential job more realisable. Why would anyone sound unsure or hesitant when asked what year they graduated from high school, or university. Or at what age they graduated?

    The ‘Interview’ Before the Interview

    Read through your application and try as much as you can to answer questions like why do you need the job? What skills are related to the job that you seek? What position are you applying for and how do you hope to execute the job? You should be physically and psychologically prepared so have a positive attitude.

    So you think you are ready? Brush up on your knowledge of current affairs. Then, attempt some play-acting-let someone act as an interviewer posing likely questions to you. This gives you an idea of what to expect; it also helps you relax and sometimes laugh at your failure at some questions. As such you are better prepared to address knotty questions. Throughout the preparation it is important to stay calm. Interviews can be as long as a day (a series) or merely a few minutes, but it’s advisable to eat, and to visit the toilet before you step out for the day. The Boys Scout slogan ‘Be Prepared!” means a great deal more when it comes to interviews.”

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