I had an interesting conversation over lunch yesterday with a hiring manager who made the following statement:
“Surely if a Sales Professional is nervous in an interview it raises questions about how they perform in a sales meeting, what is the difference if they are meeting strangers for the first time in a strange environment regardless of if it is a sales meeting or an interview, basically they have one chance to impress?”
The short answer is that this assumption is wrong. For the simple reason that when a good sales professional goes to a client meeting that individual has 100% confidence in their product / proposition, they are going in to that meeting armed with a whole plethora of tried and tested sales techniques that they have honed in this environment, that they have probably role played and tested extensively. They are going into that sales meeting with an understanding about their clients perceived needs and a belief factor based upon success and achievement that they can provide a solution. Most good sales people will probably have a pretty good idea of what the key objections are going to be before they even walk through the door, that is called market intelligence or market data, you know who they have used before and probably what that experience was. Finally they are going into that sales meeting with an understanding of who their competition is, what their strengths and weaknesses are and how their organisation and proposition compares.
I’ve worked in sales for almost 20yrs and I know how to control even the most resilient prospect, how to engage them and to set the agenda. In effect if I walk into a sales meeting, it is my meeting and I control the direction and the flow. All good sales people do this very effectively, they have proven steps to success, established sales techniques and objection handling strategies that work.
All of this however is entirely different from walking into an interview. You probably have very little understanding in most cases of the agenda, you have little if any control and trying to set the agenda or take control could actually cause a fractious situation. In reality you have no idea about the previous incumbent (if there was one) with the exception of some limited Linkedin profile if you are lucky and of course the stakes are potentially higher.
Yes, there is some validity in questioning nervousness or drawing conclusions about a potential employees general demeanour and composure in a stressful situation. But if they have the track record, have the necessary skills and experience my advice would be to first of all adapt your interview style and try to put them at ease and secondly bring them back for a second interview and put them into a more comfortable and familiar situation by asking them to deliver a sales presentation. You may be surprised.
When I was a child my grandfather used to have an expression for an emotion, the one that you felt after a huge disappointment, when the pit of your stomach was aching and you had no idea which way to turn!
On the morning I was made redundant I felt it, understood it but simply couldn’t remember what the expression was. But mine was an overwhelming feeling of shock, followed by anger which dissipated into despair and then anxiety. What was I going to do, how would I pay for the mortgage, how would I find another job, why and how could they do this to me….
In the cold light of day it had been on the cards for a while. I’d ignored it, believing that it wouldn’t happen to me but it had!
Like many people in this situation I buried my head in the sand, my lack of motivation was mind boggling as was my sudden appetite for appalling day- time TV!
After arguments with my partner, rows with my nearest and dearest, heated discussions with the banks and soul destroying clashes with the benefit office, it suddenly dawned on me.. I had to get a grip. I needed direction and some kind of focus. I needed help!
Most of us live a life that is usually disciplined in some way by routine. From an early age we get up at a certain time for school, have dinner at 7, go to bed at 8 and so on and so forth all the way through to adulthood, when we develop different routines, but routines all the same. In my last job I caught the 7:40 train to Sheffield every morning, arrived at work at 8:30, made a coffee, checked my on-line diary , had a team meeting at 9:30am and progressed through the day, the week, on schedule and according to the routine I had established over 10yrs.
That was the Answer!
The answer was to do what I had always done, create and follow a routine. I needed a plan and I needed to take the view that getting another job had to be treated as a job!
From that day on I awoke at 7:30am every morning and went for a short walk (my commute) to clear my head and plan the day ahead, just as I had always done on the train to work. I created a desk space for my new job away from the TV (which now stayed unplugged until 5pm) and I stuck to strict break-times. I began to attack the task of finding a job full time.
One thing that quickly became evident was that I needed help. The market place had changed. No longer did the local newspapers have pages upon pages of jobs. Why? Everything had gone on line and I needed to know how to find jobs on line. My CV was atrocious, who could help me articulate my experience professionally? Interviews? I hadn’t had an interview for years, who could coach me, prepare me and get me in the right frame of mind?
I met with a couple of recruitment agencies, sucked up all the advice and information they had. I created an on-line profile to market me, to make me easier to find. I began to attend networking events, job seeker seminars and basically anything that could get me in front of someone, anyone who would recognise what I had to offer.
Within 2 weeks I was applying for 10 advertised jobs a day, I was sending speculative CV’s and targeting and making calls to researched employers. Things began to happen, don’t get me wrong I had to be tenacious, often persistent but what did I have to lose?
Oh, I’ll be honest and admit that often I sat with my head in my hands, had to really fight the urge to just turn the TV back on. I got angry when agencies and employers didn’t even acknowledge my emails and calls. But I stuck with it.
It isn’t easy but…
After 4 weeks the interviews started to roll in, my skills had been improved, I understood how to sell myself, how to tailor a CV, how to answer competency based interview questions and how to research my opportunities. 1st interviews became 2nd’s and then finally it happened, I was offered a job! Bizarrely the job I secured turned out be better than the one I had lost. The skills I had learned, the renewed discipline and the sheer drive and determination involved in the whole process had made me leaner, keener and sharper, more flexible and focused and what employer could resist those attributes..
My advice is simple. You have to attack the whole process. Treat it like as a job, but most of all ask for help, seek advice and stick to your routine.
Oh, that expression my Grand-father had, it was something like sloughened, I suspect it is a Barnsley or Yorkshire term. Regardless he would be proud, of how I turned my despair around, I know he would!
Great news, you’ve prepared a winning CV, spent weeks scrolling, searching and registering in the alternate and surreal universe known as on-line job boards, met with 20 recruitment agencies and applied for literally hundreds of jobs. Finally you’ve secured an interview and after the initial elation thought ‘Oh no, a dreaded interview……!’
The following are a few simple tips and hints to help you, not exhaustive but worth considering:
It is vital that you know who you are going to see, what they do, their successes and what makes them tick as an organisation. Check them out, use Linkedin and the internet. Get a view of the type of people who work there, what their backgrounds are and general information. Make sure you look at groups they are in, what discussions they contribute to, get to know them before the interview. You may even be able to find out what football team they support! All of this information can make a difference, and interviewers will expect you to be prepared.
Read the job description, make notes and compare your experience, qualifications and skills against it. Make notes of relevant challenges, projects and responsibilities which match from your previous employment and occasions when you have demonstrated these abilities. In some cases such as public sector (Councils for example) ask them if there is an Employee Specification document (this is different from a job description), this will enable you to match and compare your skills and experience effectively and accurately.
Ask what kind of interview it will be, is it going to be a panel interview, will there be tests, will it be competency based, what documentation or information will they require on the day. Know before you get there what to expect. If you are being assisted by a recruiter, ask them what other candidates have experience, ask them if they have an hour spare to do some role play with you. Remember it is as much in the Recruiters interests for you to do well as it is your own. So make them go that extra yard, get them involved. I absolutely love preparing candidates for interview, especially when they blow my client away.
Prepare Questions in Advance
Nothing makes an interviewer cringe more than a prospective employee who doesn’t have some great questions. Forget about asking how many smoke breaks there are, or about sickness and holidays. Ask about career progression, the company’s future strategy and growth. Ask the interviewer why they work there, what is the one thing that makes it such a great place to work?
A real crowd pleaser in an interview is when you structure questions around some very recent or major press release or business / sector development. If for example they have recently acquired a business, ask them what drove that acquisition, what the short and long term impact in terms of revenue and turnover is going to be and how that will enhance the companies competitive edge. I once had a candidate interviewed for a role as a Business Analyst and the guy interviewing him didn’t know that the company had just acquired a major competitor until my candidate asked them a question about it. Brilliant, they got the job.
It might sound obvious, but make sure you know exactly where the location is. Check timings for getting there in good time. If using public transport make sure that you have enough time in case of delays. It is great to arrive 10 minutes early but avoid turning up too early. Use a sat-nav if you have one, even check the route out the day before, make sure you know if there is a parking space or not.
Remember, it is you that wants a job! Dress appropriately for the environment, check with them if necessary and ask if it is business attire or smart casual and adapt accordingly. Be aware that many organisations will frown upon things that you may consider acceptable, not every workplace will admire your multiple piercings and the tattoos modelled on Angeline Jolie, no matter how fabulous your friends think they are.
You got there on time, you look like a million dollars, your research was exhaustive, you know your interviewer supports Manchester United (someone has to) and you’ve even researched where they are in the league and now you are nothing but a shaking, trembling bag of nerves! Seriously though, if you’ve prepared you should feel great! Remember to smile, lots!
Interviews should be two way. Of course the interviewer wants to ascertain if you have the right skills, personality and experience for their organisation. But equally, they should present their company, the culture and successes to sell the opportunity to you.
Listen carefully to the questions and answer honestly and succinctly using examples from your past experience. When you have finished confirm that your answer is informative enough. If you don’t understand a question, maybe because of terminology then be honest and ask them to repeat it or phrase it in another way. Avoid negatives at all cost, focus on positive examples and experiences.
Remember, body language is important, but don’t make the mistake of getting too carried away with it. Mimicking yiour interviewer might sound great at some job seeker workshop, if you get it wrong they could take offence. People buy people like them, but nobody likes to be made a fool of. Smile, sit up straight and don’t fidget or fiddle, even Chief Executives can be uncomfortable in an interview. Remember that your interviewer is probably as uncomfortable with the whole situation as you. So relax, enjoy the experience and you’ll notice that it should just flow.
Finally remember to ask your questions when given the opportunity. But most importantly at the end ask them how they thought it went? Ask them if there is any additional information they need? Ask them what the next stage is and how long it will be before you hear from them. Close the interview professionally and confidently and let them know that you are interested.
In the UK and Europe you can buy expertise, counselling, advice or assistance for just about anything, legally. If you want to buy a house but can’t be bothered looking, hire a house hunter. If you want to invest all your ill-gotten appearance fees (Tony Blair) hire an investment banker. If you want to book a holiday hire a Concierge service. But if you want to find your next job, guess what. You can’t hire a professional job finder! Why not?
If you were recommended by a trusted associate or family member to someone who had a track record of successfully finding people their next job including the coaching, advising, training and positioning of your skills and experience would you pay for those services?
What if they provided their services on an initial retainer fee which for example covered your initial consultation, all CV / Resume reviews and preparation costs, interview coaching, career counselling, job search advice and the development of job search strategy personally devised for you. Then you paid a further fee based upon success only if the individual actually introduced you to your next employer?
There are of course a multitude of organisations and individuals who provide all of the above specified services. But none of them can legally charge you for actually finding you a job. They can charge the employer / hiring company, but they are legally restricted from charging you.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think this is ridiculous. As an adult you can buy anything and everything on credit, you can enter into lifelong financial commitments, you can risk your home and your family’s well being to some fancy talking investment advisor authorised by the FSA who still turns out to be a Madoff style Ponzi scheme, you can buy dreadful cosmetic implants from authorised and approved surgeons and even a wife from overseas. But you can’t pay someone to increase your chances of finding you a job!
Okay, I understand that the law is this way to stop people being exploited. In many ways it is to stop vulnerable or often disoriented people (and unexpected redundancy can and often does really knock people sideways) from being taken advantage of by less ethical unscrupulous con men and fraudsters. But consider this for a moment. If you lose your job and struggle to find a new one, there is very unfortunately a massive potential disaster looming. Having a job is probably the most important thing in your life after your partner (okay, this may debatable) and your family. For many people it underlines their status, their personality and their standing in their community or even their social circle.
How many of us have met people who lost their job first only for it to escalate into a full-blown personal crisis. It begins with a slight tightening of the belt, the kids can’t go on that school trip, the gym membership gets cancelled, the credit cards get cut up, one of the cars has to go, the holiday to Tenerife gets held over for a year, the new kitchen goes on hold. The pressure, the personal stress and the anxiety build with every passing day.
The financial implications are only the beginning. Personal relationships begin to suffer, you have to swallow your pride and ask friends and family for help in finding work. You walk into your local and people begin to avoid you, or offer what can be hollow comfort. Family issues kick in as one partner feels they are taking all the strain, you aren’t doing enough or are not doing it right. Personally you begin to feel frustrated and angry and fear that you are falling into a rut.
How many people reading this post have either experienced these things personally first hand or know someone who has?
So we are agreed then that a job is immensely important to us. It often makes us who we are, it provides purpose and it provides the means and the financial stability to school our children the way we want and it enables us to socialise the way we like and to live where we want.
So why can’t you seek and pay for professional help? This Government has spent literally millions of £’s on Career Counsellors, Back to Work Advisors and Skills Teaching to help people find work more effectively. Yet none of it actually works. The vast majority of assistance provided by the public sector and welfare or related services is time locked or has restrictions on it. You have to meet certain age criteria, fall into a certain demographic or have specific issues before anyone can speak to you. When people joke about preferential treatment for ex-offenders, drug addicts or the systematically unemployed, it isn’t funny. It’s true. Try being a normal everyday citizen of the UK who loses their job after 7yrs with the same employer. The Job Centre+ people are primarily focused on making sure that you don’t get any benefits until you have exhausted all your resources, are on the verge of defaulting on your mortgage and facing a custodial sentence for non-payment of council tax.
So why don’t they issue a licence scheme for recruiters and enable them to work directly with Job Seekers in a whole new way?
Imagine if you had your very own recruitment consultant, one who focused on you first and foremost, who explored every single opportunity to find you a potential job vacancy and then made every possible effort to ensure that you nailed it at interview. Imagine a recruiter who was paid by you the job seeker and not the hiring company. You pull the strings, you lay out your demands, you work collaboratively to maximise every resource. The Recruiter reports into you daily or weekly, they provide a working document of activity undertaken. They do all the research, the networking, the cold calling and the emailing for you. Effectively their job is to find you a new job first and foremost.
How much would you be willing to pay and on what terms? Would you for example pay an initial up-front retainer of £2,500 to buy exclusive time, to buy the search strategy, the coaching and resume re-writing and everything? If the recruiter then successfully sourced and secured you a position would you agree to pay a remaining balance for example 3 – 6 months later of £7,500? If you earn £50,000 per annum, for every month you are out of work you are losing c£4,000+.
I’m just throwing ideas around here. There is a huge disconnect at the moment between Job Seekers and Recruiters. Much of this is simply because Recruiters are pressured by their actual employer and their clients the hiring companies. They simply don’t have the time to work one on one with Job Seekers or to work with them in a collaborative manner. Many do try to assist and help as many people as they can, many spend much of their free time writing up CV’s / Resume’s / Covering Letters for their friends and family. Many spend time coaching or counselling people about interview technique. But this is all on an ad-hoc basis and 99% of the time is done pro-bono.
It would have to be heavily weighted towards successful placement. There would have to be a Licence element to ensure that only respectable, legally operating and experienced recruiters were allowed to engage in the activity. But could it work? Would it offer a different or alternative means to those Job Seekers who maybe don’t have the time, don’t have the knowledge or simply don’t want to take a chance of not finding another job quickly?
What are your thoughts? How could it be made to work? Would you participate?
Its everywhere I look, BBC, Sky News, CNN, The Times, The Daily Mail and even political satire shows and those neanderthal useless, feckless TV presenters like Jeremy Paxman (who has no interest in the truth beyond his own personal welfare and ego) shower me with pie charts and graphs outlining the plight of the unemployed. So many people of all ages, all walks of life and all degrees of experience wandering the country aimlessly, like zombies out of some apocalyptic movie searching frantically not for food but for a source of income, for some self respect, for a means to keep the roof over their head and to support their families.
So where are all these people? Why don’t they respond to job postings? Why don’t they pick up the phone and call? What are their skill sets? What experience do they have to offer?
Why are they not calling me? Is there really a massive skills shortage as reported in the Telegraph?
I am currently recruiting for a number of vacancies which I personally (okay so I am biased) believe to be exceptional opportunities. Instead of my usual approach which normally consists of almost 90% headhunting in a bid to identify and secure passive talent, I decided to test the market and advertise these positions extensively. To give those people who are actively as opposed to passively seeking a new position the opportunity to apply, to open the door to some of this vast landscape of talent, approximately 2.7million apparently.
So where are they all? Maybe they are frightened by the challenges inherent in these positions. After all, who wants to take a job that has some form of challenge within it. Maybe it is the travel, not everyone wants to spend a couple of weeks a year in Chicago at company expense, we don’t all dream of having to visit vendors in Berlin, Milan, Paris and Dubai after all do we.
Maybe it is the fact that I can no longer use terms such as vibrant, youthful dynamic, creative, buzzy, energetic in a job advert for fear of implying that it might be for those under 50. Or is it because I can’t define the role as being mid management and requiring circa 6 years business experience for fear of offending and restriciting applications from graduates who don’t have the required skills and experience (something only acquired through the actual work place) but should be able to apply and waste everyones (including their own) time anyway?
I can’t even specify a nationality, although this is incredibly important for one of these vacancies. It is important because the successful candidate may have to travel at short notice to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the USA on business. These countries have rigid restrictions on nationality. Some of them don’t give two hoots if you are an EU citizen, if they have blacklisted your country, you are not getting in. Some nationalities require visas which can take weeks if not months to secure, in advance to visit Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and of course the USA. But I’m not allowed to caution this in the job advert, for fear of offending someone. It doesn’t matter that it may be a total waste of time for everyone, as long as we all feel okay about ourselves.
But basically I have 2 great job vacancies, one based in Dubai for Regional Sales Manager for a UK national with experience selling solutions, hardware, tech, IT or similar into retail and retail property developers. The other is UK based for an Implementation Manager, someone with project management experience within hardware installation, a desire to travel, great client management skills and a high degree of charisma and a fun loving personality (note that those attributes are not in the adverts, in case I offend the miserable, Jack Dee).
In my opinion they are dream jobs for those mid level professionals with ambition, desire, energy, a love of autonomy, a willingness to work in a global environment.
5 job boards, all over Linkedin, twitter, facebook.
200+ applicants from India, Malaysia, Russia, Poland – all credit to these people, someone is at least awake and many of them are great applicants with great potential, just not for these positions. But not one single application from a UK national living within 100miles of High Wycombe for jobs paying £50K+ basics and OTE’s £70K+. If you consider where High Wycombe is, 100 miles is a hell of a radius.
Is this whole credit crisis, unemployment and recession stuff a conspiracy to control the masses?
Do we have a talent drain, has all our ambitious flexible and dynamic talent disappeared to places that can ask for what they want, to locations that can be more explicit about who fits within their culture, what the intended dynamic and ethos of their business identity is?
Or is my idea of a dream job, one that offers great rewards, career progression, personal development, travel and state of the art market defining technology 2.7million people wide of the mark?
In the event that you feel you meet the above criteria, please do get in touch with me
After registering with 80 job boards who all have a different password format to ensure that you will never be able to log-in again, you have applied for 3,000 jobs and finally a response. Youare moved almost to tears at the sheer ecstasy of securing an interview, until you are told that it will be a video interview using skype. Panic sets in. Sweat runs down your brow, you are not very photogenic, you are the kind of person who gets nervous watching other people have photos taken, your nose looks big on video, what if they don’t like your wallpaper….
Relax and follow this guide to help smooth the whole thing out:
Avoid the fatal error, avoid complacency!
The first mistake many people make is the assumption that well at least I’m in a comfortable and familiar environment, so I can relax. No you cannot. I know people who have undertaken video interviews with a shirt and tie on their top half and pyjamas on the bottom. It doesn’t work, it is a psychological thing, it is a mind thing. You have to treat this exactly the same way you would a face to face formal interview. There is no room for complacency.
When you accept and confirm your telephone interview time, ensure if possible that they are calling you on a landline and ideally whilst you are at home, or at the very least where you have absolute privacy and peace and quiet with no distractions. Cell phones can be unreliable and you can guarantee that just when the interview is going really well, the network will crash.
Treat the telephone or video interview just as you would a face to face in their office, sorry I know I’m repeating myself, but it is critical. Research the company, their culture, their successes, their history. Visit social media sites such as Linkedin and Facebook to see who works there, what they are saying, what their professional backgrounds are. It is a great feeling when you notice that their staff retention is well above average, that all the feedback, all the chatter is really positive and especially when you realise that many of them seem to be like you. Visit websites such as Glassdoor and see if anyone has posted a review about the organisation and the culture.
Read the job spec, understand it. If you haven’t got one then find one from a similar type of firm. If the one you have is limited in terms of detail then get on facebook or Linkedin and check out what people in that company are doing in that type of job, what have they got on their profiles.
Check Twitter to see what other noise or chatter is coming out of that organisation.
Really important is to check news and press releases. If the organisation has just announced a huge acquisition or an expansion plan, maybe an IPO you need to know and you need to show in the interview that you know.
Set the Stage
Okay so you have all the information, you have done the preparation and you are raring to go. If it is a video interview check your PC and make sure that your webcam works, get someone to skype test you and tell you how the setting looks. Move your desk or PC if you have to, you only have one chance to get this absolutely right.
If it is a telephone interview, choose somewhere to sit or stand where you are going to be comfortable. My preference is to stand, it prevents you from slouching, makes you more alert and in my case I always walk around when I am on the phone (it may be nervous energy or maybe it is just energy). It is very common for telephone interviews to run well over their allocated time, especially if they are going well, providing of course that you aren’t the one doing all the talking. So make sure you have some water available.
You equipment works, you have set up the location, you have notes to hand,there is a jug of water to one side. What next?
You and your personal appearance. Yes, regardless of whether it is a telephone or a video interview you need to prepare yourself. Have an early night the evening before, look good and feel sharp. Have a shower, dress appropriately, if you work in a suit and tie or a less formal environment then dress accordingly. It has a psychological impact, it works. If you are a guy, have a shave, comb your hair.
Finally do some facial and oral stretching execises. Sing a song, hum a tune, pull faces, stretch those muscles, laugh out loud and relaaaaaaaaax… People always look at me strangely when I recommend they pull faces at themselves in the mirror. It is however virtually impossible to do so without laughing, laughter releases hormones and peptides which relax you, make you feel better, look better and respond more better.