The Job Interview Skill Most Overlook But Everyone, Even The Happily Employed, Needs – Forbes

This post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:

When you’re happily employed, you probably don’t give much thought to job interviews. If you are career savvy, you nurture your network, maintain your thought leadership brand, and keep your skills updated. But actual job interview training can wait until you need it. This is fair…IF you are talking about your interview skills as the job candidate, but NOT if you are the interviewer in the hiring position. You probably don’t think of your job as interviewing and hiring people. But if you want to advance your career, grow your scope of responsibility and take on more, then you’ll need a team to support you. You will need to hire, even if it’s just selecting among internal colleagues. You need to have job interview skills –as the INTERVIEWER– on the other side of the desk.

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a former recruiter for Citigroup, Warner Lambert and Merrill Lynch and my co-founder at SixFigureStart®, works with employers to ensure their employees know how to interview other people. She often sees interviewers make these 5 mistakes:

 

You can’t stop talking

You probably experienced this as a candidate at some point in your career. The interviewer spends all the time talking about herself or the company, and when it’s over you realize you didn’t get a chance to highlight any of your skills or experience. The interview must always be a two-way dialogue. If you’re talking too much, your candidates can’t share what makes them a great fit (or a wrong hire). You may overlook someone who could really contribute, or you may favor an attentive and flattering listener who does not have any other skills.

You are too distracted

You’re too busy for this interview stuff, so you glance at your email while the candidate is speaking or pause the interview to take a phone call. Like the non-stop talker, you can miss good candidates or warning signs by not paying attention. You also come across as someone who doesn’t care about hiring. The best candidates have choices in where to work and won’t choose the manager who can’t find time to listen.

You don’t know what to ask

If you don’t take the time to think about what you’re hiring for, you won’t know how to screen. Interviewing well requires advance preparation. Making the time and effort forces you to prioritize what you really want from this hire, which will ultimately enable you to do a better job yourself.

You only speak in clichés

If you don’t take the time to prepare your interview questions to match the job you’re hiring for, you also run the risk of asking cliché questions that promote canned responses, rather than useful, honest information. What is your biggest strength? What is your biggest weakness? Why did you leave this job, that job, that next job? Candidates who intend to game the system will prepare for these boilerplate questions. Furthermore, unless you’ve thought about what strengths you need, what weaknesses are deal-breakers, or what signs of motivation indicate this candidate really wants your role, then these aren’t the right questions for your interview.

Your questions leave the company vulnerable to lawsuits

Oh, you went to Jane Doe High School, too? When did you graduate? You might get along so well with a candidate that you forget this is a professional conversation and certain questions that are fine for a social event are off-limits here. You can ask about college graduation date, but not high school (that’s seen as fishing for age). Do you know all of the issues that are off-limits? What happens if you don’t like a candidate and would have closed them out but they volunteer off-limits information? How do you safely close them out then?

If you want to advance in your career, even if it’s exactly where you currently are, you still need to know how to interview – as the interviewer. Your experience as a job candidate does not qualify you to be a job interviewer. You still may be guilty of one or more of these 5 interview mistakes. Invest the time to learn proper interviewing skills. Making hiring a priority, and prepare in advance. Get coaching from HR, your mentor, or your coach. Knowing how to interview and hire is a career advantage that many professionals overlook at peril to themselves and their company.

How To Cold Call A C-Suite Contact — Life Reimagined For Work

In my career advice piece for Life Reimagined For Work, I cover an activity that you need to get comfortable with if you want to be successful in your career or business — reaching out to senior people. You cannot expect to already know everyone who can influence or help your career. You may need to connect to pitch business or raise funds. You might just want information or have a chance at mentorship. There are a lot of reasons why you need to know how to cold call a C-suite contact:

Career success depends on a supportive group of people who can hire you, promote you, or refer you to opportunities. Your network doesn’t contain these decision-makers? Then you need to meet them. Even if you have influential contacts, you may need different ones if you’re changing careers or targeting a company outside your network’s reach. Here are five real-life examples of experienced professionals who reached out and made new top-level connections.

Warm Up That Cold Call Megan moved from Australia to the U.S. for personal reasons. An executive producer back home, she needed to reach high-level media contacts here. (Aim for people at least two levels above the position you want; they hold purse strings and headcount approval.) This meant C-level contacts, who are not typically open to unsolicited inquiries. Megan turned to a mentor, already established in the U.S., to broker the contact. Making such rarefied introductions is a high-risk proposition for the mentor, so play this card only if you are 100% prepared to act. Megan waited to ask until she had gotten other meetings on her own. She wanted to show her mentor she was serious, and save her ask for the contacts she couldn’t get.

Highlight What’s In It For Them Ed wanted a meeting with a well-known venture capital partner who gets pitched all the time for meetings, investment and jobs. To cut through the noise, Ed crafted a concise approach—a three-line email explaining who he was, why he was reaching out to this VC, and what he had to offer. In Ed’s case, he opened with their shared history (they’d worked for the same employer, though at different times). Ed pointed out why this VC was uniquely relevant to Ed’s current work (he didn’t need just any VC, but this guy in particular). Last, he offered insight into a specific area of this VC’s specialization. Ed got his meeting. This type of email takes time and research to compose; even so, it won’t work every time. If you take this approach, distill your message into three lines that answer a single question: Why on earth would a busy executive want to speak with you? Shared history is not enough. People are too busy to meet; you have to point out what’s in it for them.

Continue reading the full article at Life Reimagined For Work: How To Cold Call A C-Suite Contact.

 

Women and Negotiation – ABC World News Tonight

I made an appearance on ABC World News Tonight for Equal Pay Day:


ABC US News | ABC Business News

Only a few points made it to the segment. What I really wanted to say is that even though, yes, there are challenges to salary negotiation for women, it’s important to remember that for any one woman (and I’m talking to you here!) you only have to worry about your negotiation, not changing the world. There are always things you can do to improve your negotiation skills!

How To Negotiate Severance – Forbes.com

Connie comments on negotiating severance in Susan Adams’ latest piece for Forbes.com: How To Negotiate Severance:

New York career coach Connie Thenasoulis-Cerrachio, who previously worked in human resources for Citigroup C +1.34%, Pfizer PFE +0.07% and Merrill Lynch, says if you’re working on a long-term project or you see a particular need in your department, it’s worth it to offer to complete your assignment and to take on another task. A colleague of hers was about to be let go but wound up filling in for someone more senior who was heading out on maternity leave. He proved himself so valuable that he wound up getting promoted twice.

Read the full article at Forbes.com: How To Negotiate Severance.

To Improve, Advance And Secure Your Career: Focus On Youtility – Forbes.com

This post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com:

No, the title is not a typo. It’s a reference to Jay Baer’s 2013 business marketing book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype. Baer encourages businesses to focus on helping the customer with useful content, rather than selling the customer with overhyped marketing content. This Youtility concept is relevant to employees, as well. In today’s market, your career is a business that you own, and your employers, current and future, are your customers. Are you useful to them?

What is your content?

Ideally, a business has a website, blog, and social media strategy. What do you put out there for people to see about you? At the very least, you should have a LinkedIn profile. Is it updated? Is it complete? Do you share news about what you’re working on? Do you interact with your connections? You may not have a blog or website, but if you did, what would you include? Remember that your content can also include publications you contribute to or are sourced for. You might give a talk at a conference or internal presentation. Be proactive about sharing your expertise and experience.

How helpful is your content?

Baer writes that there are 2 ways for businesses to succeed: 1) be amazing; or 2) be useful. He proposes that being useful is more reliable and more valuable. Being useful is also a critical advantage for employees, but business conditions change and what is valuable in your skills, experience and expertise also changes. Do you know what is useful to your boss, your group, and your company? Do you know what your competitors need? Is your industry knowledge, skill set, and network up to date for what is valued right now?

Who reads your content?

One of my clients had a senior role at a brand-name company but dreamed of running a start-up. His expertise was valued, yes, but he was most well-known within the big brands and as someone who could navigate within the big-company environment. What he needed was to get known by a different set of employers – for start-ups, this means investors and founders, more than corporate HR and executive recruiters. So his career moves focused on getting published in leading-edge publications and speaking at entrepreneurial conferences. He got 3 offers within 2 months of reframing his content for a different set of readers.

Are you sharing your content with the employers you want to take notice? Is your content reflective of the value you offer? Do you have content to share? Baer makes a sound argument that businesses need to give customers a reason to patronize them, and producing useful, accessible content is an effective strategy to accomplish this. Likewise, you need to give employers a reason to hire you, keep you and promote you. Focus on being useful and make sure the right people know your value.

Why Silicon Valley Trends Matter to the Rest of Us – Life Reimagined For Work

In my career advice post for Life Reimagined For Work, I cover recent HR trends in Silicon Valley. Even if these latest changes don’t apply to you, they serve as useful checkpoints for career management. How would you fare in environments like Netflix, Zappos, or Yahoo?

Netflix offers unlimited vacation days. Zappos banished job titles. Yahoo implemented a no telecommuting policy. These big moves made by closely watched companies could ripple outward, so  it’s useful think about how you would perform under these rules. However, there’s a more immediate and practical benefit of such outlier ideas: rethinking how you work. Here is a checklist of questions that encourage you to think more broadly about your performance:

What would you do with unlimited vacation?

  • Would you take more or less?
  • Would you spend your vacation time differently (take longer, less frequent or shorter, more frequent trips) if you weren’t counting days?
  • Right now, do you take vacation when you want, at regular intervals to stay refreshed? Or do you cram it (or skip it) depending on your workplace rules?
  • If you’re in transition, what would you want in a vacation policy, or more broadly in time flexibility? What is your ideal time management structure?

Explore how you manage your free time and your work schedule, noting how deliberate and thoughtful your choices are.

How would you perform if you didn’t have a job title?

  • Would you know how you fit within your workplace structure?
  • Would your team support you if they didn’t report to you directly? Would you support your boss?
  • Right now, do you rely on title and hierarchy to influence outcomes, or are you able to motivate based on other factors (business rationale, likeability)?
  • If you’re in transition, what value do you bring? Rather than focus on the job title you seek, what functions do you want to perform and what do you want to achieve?

Continue reading at Life Reimagined For Work: Why Silicon Valley Trends Matter to the Rest of Us.

 

5 Ways To Increase Your Career Capital – Forbes.com

This career advancement post originally appears in my Work In Progress blog for Forbes.com. A special shout-out to Accenture for sharing their substantive global career survey with me:

In November 2013, Accenture conducted a career survey with 4,100 executives from large and medium-sized business, including equal thirds of Boomers, Generation X, and Millenials, and 50/50 men and women. This global research attempted to better understand 3 areas: career capital; the future role of women in leadership; and career satisfaction. Here are 5 key takeaways from the survey and my advice for how to incorporate these findings into your own career success:

91% of respondents believe the most successful employees are the ones who are able to adapt to change

If an overwhelming number of your professional peers recognize change management as a key issue, then you need to embrace change and learn how to deal with it. To be seen as a team player and as a potential leader, you need to remain flexible and optimistic, even in times of uncertainty. If you’re not sure how you feel about change or whether people perceive you as a change agent, think back to the last change that was announced at the company. Did you grimace at the meeting or did you volunteer for the new task force? Do people bounce new ideas off of you, or are you the last person to hear?

44% of respondents said their companies are preparing more women for senior management roles than in the past year

If almost half of companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote more women into leadership roles, then it’s a good time to raise your hand if you’re a woman and that’s of interest. If you’re a man, it’s a good time to make sure your network is gender-balanced so you’re not shut out when the landscape changes. If you’re not sure if you’re on the leadership track, think about a recent win in the eyes of your boss or senior management? If you can’t think of a win, you need to get on higher visibility projects. If your win seems inconsequential, you need to ensure your projects impact the bottom line. Check in with your boss to make sure you’re working on the clients, projects and day-to-day activities that matter. Business conditions change, and what you did in your job a year ago may not be what is most needed now.

77% of respondents who asked for a raise received one; 68% who asked for a promotion received one

Clearly, there is a benefit in asking for a raise and/or a promotion. The Accenture study also found that more men than women asked for raises and promotions. Hopefully, this is a survey result that changes for next year! If you need help in preparing for your next raise request, check out this webinar on seven steps to prepare for your next negotiation.

Most marketable skills in the future are: ability to multi-task; speak more than one language; be a team player; and navigate most computer applications

Diversity is clearly an advantage – diverse tasks, diverse language, diverse relationships, diverse technical skills. How varied are your skills? If you’ve been at your job for a while, you may be running on auto pilot and not focusing on what matters. Make sure you maintain your technical proficiency and take time to learn new computer applications and hacks that will help you do a better job. Make sure you expand your work relationships so that you have allies and supporters in different areas of the company. Cross-cultural experience doesn’t just have to mean learning a foreign language or working abroad. You may be able to serve international clients or work on a global project.

Above all else, respondents expand their personal and professional networks as a way to increase career capital

Networking increases career capital. In addition to ensuring you work with a variety of colleagues and possibly cross-cultural teams, you also want to look at your network outside your company, outside your industry and outside your functional role. Mix it up. Here are 3 ideas for getting a fresh start on your networking.

You don’t have to be in job search mode to work on your career. The Accenture research survey highlights interesting career trends, and given its global scope and the mixed demographics of respondents, it underscores how important these trends are for you and me. What are you going to do to increase your career capital in the coming year?

 

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