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Archive for the ‘Candidate Tips’ Category

It Helps To Stand Out

In ! Jen, Branding, Candidate Tips on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 12:12 am

Remember in high school, how counselors and college recruiters told us the unusual would get attention? That universities could fill their incoming freshman class with valedictorians, National Merit Scholars, and football quarterback MVP-honor students, but that the kid who came up with the weird tulip hybrid, might get special dispensation for his lower-than-normally-required GPA?

The same holds true for getting that first interview in job hunting. Keep the unusual things on your resume. But not the weirdly-so unusual things; keep it appropriate for the field in which you work.

I once talked with a woman who had been a personal assistant to a prominent member of the Kennedy family. This person was just looking to network, but when a mutual friend put us in contact with one another, I was anxious to talk with her, and who wouldn’t be? “Don’t ever remove that job from your resume!” I told her. “Oh, I would never!” For it had opened up that first door several times, and that’s all you need, really. After that, you must win it on your own merits. And for this particular person, she was so incredibly bright, intelligent and charming, any recruiter worth their salt would quickly get past the Kennedy curiosity and want to learn more about the candidate herself.

If you’ve been unemployed for a while and coming up against zero response in your job hunt activity, take a pause. You’re probably looking like scads of other greatly-qualified candidates. Experiment with what you’re doing and try a different approach.

Maybe it’s time to apply here?

16 Tips for Lunch Interviews

In ! Jen, Candidate Tips on Monday, October 19, 2009 at 1:11 am

As an interviewer, 12:00 is my least favorite time slot. This means that I have to take the candidate to lunch. And chances are, it’s only one hour and I’ve got to the get the candidate from the last interview, to the caf or restaurant, get them to their next interview on time. And get my interview questions answered. Yet at the same time, lunch can be the most telling and fun interview, because candidates typically are at their least guarded, most themselves. Here are some tips, from the candidate perspective, for these 12:00 lunch interviews:

If dining at the company cafeteria:

1.  As you approach the cafeteria and the interviewer shows you the lay of the land:  where the grill is, salad bar is, etc., ask “where should I meet you?” so you are clear where you will physically reconnect with your interviewer. Select your meal items before your interviewer finishes selecting his, and be waiting at the designated rendezvous point. Don’t lag behind creating a salad masterpiece and keep him waiting for you.

If dining at an off-site restaurant:

2.  After you settle in, ask your interviewer “what would you recommend here?” or “what are you getting?” Choose something at roughly the same price point. This is not the time to order surf and turf, unless that is what your interviewer is also getting. And it goes without saying, absolutely no alcohol.

3.  Let your interviewer pay and be sure to say “thank you” for lunch, both when she picks up the tab and also (“thanks again for lunch”) when she introduces you to the next interviewer.

4.  Don’t plan to eat much. You’ll be doing the majority of the talking, so you don’t want to have your mouth full most of the time. If this means scarfing down a Clif or Snickers bar prior to going to lunch to nix hunger pangs, do it.

5.  Select easy-to-eat food. Food that either comes in bite-size pieces or is easy to cut into bite-size pieces. Nix stringy or noodley soups, and complicated foods requiring more tools than the requisite fork, spoon, knife. No drippy and/or stuffed burgers and hot dogs. No onions, no garlic.

6.  Take notes during your interview. Yes, even during lunch interviews. Bring a pad of paper and pen or a portfolio. One of the ways you tacitly show respect and interest is by writing things down. This says to your interviewer: what you’re saying is important enough that I want to ensure I take it down, to remember for future reference. Obviously, you’re not taking copious notes, just key items, or tidbits that’ll be nice to refer to in the future, such as your thank-you note.

7.  Pack a tin of mints in your bag. As you take out the tin, offer the tin to your interviewer after your meal. Mint, not gum. This shows that you’re thoughtful (offering to your interviewer) and prepared.

8. Don’t be weird and quirky. Idiosyncracies like biting your straw into a mangled sculpture or taking five spoons may be cute and endearing when you’re with friends, but you don’t want to display them now. Being memorable does not equate to being seen as effective.

9. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Seriously. I know this is basic, but at least half of the lunch embarrassments I’ve witnessed (or experienced myself, truth be told) are from spitting while talking or coughing fits from talking with eating. And take little bites.

10. Exhibit good dining manners. Cut meat with your knife in your right hand, fork in left. If presented with a plethora of forks and spoons, use the utensil furthest from your plate and work your way in toward your plate with each course. No slurping. Chew with mouth closed, elbows off the table, napkin in lap. If you didn’t learn classic American dining manners growing up because your parents were immigrants or it just wasn’t a priority, no worries. Preeminent etiquette expert Jodi Smith has a perfect book for you (you can probably find it at <$10) that will show what you need, without the fussy pretense.

11.  Turn off your cell phone and blackberry. If you’re waiting for a bona fide emergency call or message, start any meeting with a heads-up: “I’m waiting for an emergency message that normally, on an important day like today, I’d wait until the end of the day. But please pardon me if I check my blackberry for 15 seconds if it beeps at 10:15. I just want to learn whether my god-daughter got a kidney.”

12.  Have more questions prepared for lunch interviews. And be more prepared to lead the discussion. The interviewer may be more casual than in an office setting, so there may be more air time for you. Here’s a good opportunity to ask questions about the corporate culture: Do people in your department usually eat lunch at their desks? what surprised you about working here, your first week? what do you wish you knew before you accepted your offer to work here?

13.  Visit the restroom before your next interview. Check your appearance, especially your teeth–you’ll feel more confident knowing that you don’t have pepper in between your teeth.

14.  Don’t be rude to wait staff or cafeteria employees. As an interviewer, I notice if candidates are boorish toward admin assistants, front desk personnel, and others who are clearly not the hire selection decision makers. A lack of respect toward these individuals is a good predictor of lack of respect toward others in future projects. How would the candidate treat those who are coworkers but not key decision makers.

15.  Don’t ask for a doggy bag. It’s not the time.

16.  Don’t forget you’re still in interview mode. The entire time. Stay on. This is not the time to bitch about how late the first interviewer was, or commiserate over how controlling the boss seems. Even if the interviewer engages in such prattle, stay professional and in full-on candidate mode. And be prepared to talk about yourself, as if you were meeting with any other interviewer: if you use sales aids or have a brag book, bring it to the lunch interview too. Go get ’em, tiger!

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