How to Successfully Prepare for an Interview

Congratulations – you’ve made it the interview stage!

Now what?

Interview prep, of course. With nearly 30 years interviewing and recruiting candidates, we have comprised a list of important tips to consider when preparing for an interview.

  1. Visualize Yourself in the Role Already

By visualizing yourself in the job, you will naturally express your answers with confidence, enthusiasm, and determination. This will help with the pre-interview jitters everyone gets.

  1. Do Your Homework

You should expect that a potential employer will want to see what you know already about the company. This indicates your level of interest, and an effort to research and appreciate the work a company does. Take some time to visit the company website, learn about the company’s previous achievements, and find out who will be conducting the interview – title, personality, what they are looking for, etc. Ensure you know the location of the company and even take a practice drive to the site. Make sure you are not late and be 10 minutes early. However, do not be too early as this will send a similar message as being late (i.e. 30 minutes is too early).

  1. So Much is Said with the Unsaid

Make sure to dress professionally, even if the environment you are working in is casual – the interview is formal. At minimum, a sharp suit or conservative dress in dark colours with clean shoes will present well. Ensure your handshake is firm – practice with someone if need be – and maintain eye contact with the person asking you questions. Bring a copy of your cover letter, resume, and note pad.

  1. Talking Money

Do not initiate the conversation about the compensation package. The time will come for this, but you do not want to imply that this is most important to you.

  1. Ask Questions

Always come prepared with questions for the interviewer. This may be more natural for some than others, but you really do want to consider thoughtful questions about the role and company. This is an opportunity in the interview where you can again showcase your excitement in the role.

  1. Wrapping Up

If the answer is not readily provided, do ask what the next step looks like. Be sure to offer your gratitude for the interview.

  1. After the Interview

Send a thank you email or letter to the interviewing member(s). Make this letter short, professional, and to the point, again offering thanks for the opportunity to interview with them.

Thinking about your next career move – late in the game?

Often, we are approached by senior leaders who have reached a point in their career where they are either taking “early retirement” or wanting a significant change. For years, they have developed so many skills and abilities and yet, they do not feel fulfilled in what they are doing. Some may have been “squeezed out” of their companies, making room for younger up-and-coming professionals. Spending
2/3 of your time working and not believing you are “making a difference” can be really deflating.

When I am asked, “What should I be doing at this stage in my life?,” I often suggest that the person think about applying their leadership skills and networking abilities to the Not-For-Profit sector. There are some that still think that the typical NFP organization is “sleepy” – not forward-thinking – and basically a placeholder in one’s career. Nothing could be further from the truth!

With government cut-backs in terms of funding, all NFPs are facing significant challenges in continuing to fund their operations. Those organizations who have boards who are “forward-thinking” and “proactive” are already taking the steps necessary to bolster operational leadership in order to ensure the sustainability of their respective agencies.

I have witnessed first-hand the transformation of well-intentioned Not-For-Profit organizations as they consider hiring from outside of their sector. Strong leadership skills and business acumen coupled with compassionate dedication for the particular cause, have proven to be a powerful combination in gaining traction where there is significant competition for funding, resources, and skilled workers.

Thinking about your own career and all your accomplishments? How about volunteering at an NFP on a committee or board. If you do, you will quickly see how things “work” and you might want to consider applying for a leadership role as the “next step” in your career.

Tips for Working With Recruiters

Tips For Working With Recruiters What should I expect from my third party recruiter who is working with our organization on a “contingency basis”?  There is a fundamental difference in terms of “scope of work” when you consider engaging a recruiter on a “contingency” versus “retained” basis.  If you have chosen to “retain” a recruiter, your expectations in terms of deliverables should be very high.  You want them to have completed a thorough “vetting” process and bring only those excellent candidates forth who are worthy of making a “short list”.   They will be, in fact, your right hand person throughout the entire recruitment process.   On the other hand, if you are asking a recruiter to work with you on a “contingency” basis, they know that they have a much lower chance of actually closing the placement with you and making their fee.  What that means is you will not have their “undivided” attention to your needs.  What can you do to ensure you get more of their attention to your search than other searches they might be working on?

Here are a few pointers:

 

  1. Make it an exclusive agreement – you will not use other recruiters while they are engaged in this search for you.  Of course, if they don’t come up with results in a reasonable amount of time, you should expect to be able to put this search out to other contingency recruiters.  Make sure you are comfortable that your recruiter has the appropriate “reach” for the type of candidates you are looking for before committing to an exclusive arrangement.  If they are part of a network, such as NPA Worldwide then you can have the confidence that they will have the resources to find excellent candidates for you.
  2. Pay a nominal “engagement fee”.  This can really up the ante with respect to attention of your search assignment.  In effect, you have given them a small portion of their overall potential fee so they are beholding to you (ahead of any other contingency search they may have on the books.)  If you can’t pay an Engagement Fee then see if you can offer a “cancellation fee” in the event you need to cancel the search because you found someone better on your own.  The value of having a recruiter on contingency means you have a chance to compare your candidate to those who are being submitted by the contingency recruiter.
  3. Get back to your recruiter with IMMEDIATE feedback once they have submitted candidates for your consideration.  Even if you haven’t heard back from the hiring manager, at least get in touch with your recruiter and tell them that.  Nothing is more discouraging for a recruiter than to have done all the work in getting resumes over to you, only to sit and wait for a response.
  4. Do all you can internally to move the recruitment process along at a good pace.  In today’s market where extraordinary talent is in high demand, too many recruitment processes break down because of lack of feedback and movement down the hiring continuum.  Candidates get mixed messages when they are confidentially considering your opening while still employed with another organization.  It makes things very unsettling and they are more likely to pull themselves from the process.
  5. Pay your invoice on time!  Don’t make the recruiter come after you only to find that you had it sitting on your desk and didn’t approve it and send it to payables.  Once the work is completed to your satisfaction, the recruiter deserves to be paid on time.  Often the bill is paid many months after the search process started ( in contingency work, the recruiter doesn’t get paid until their candidate is hired)
  6. Periodically, thank the recruiter – preferably in writing for a job well done.  Nothing increases the relationship with a recruiter like a simple “thank you”.
  7. Offer to be a reference for their services to others.
  8. Refer a business colleague to them. 

 

 

How well do you Prepare for an Interview?

You’ve awakened and it’s the day you have your first interview with a company you have dreamed of joining for a number of years. Are you ready to have a stellar interview that will bring you to the next level of your career?  Can you look in the mirror and honestly say “I am prepared”?

Interview preparation: is it an Art or a Science? To me, as a Recruiter working with Project Managers and Engineering staff, all around the world, I believe it’s an Art form. It’s not something you go to school for, or something they teach in university; it’s really all about you!

I remember back in my early years during school, I started developing my personality traits while playing sports and working at my first job. Team building, communication skills and technical skills are traits your interviewer will ask about during your first meeting and are very important to “sell” to demonstrate the value you can add to the organization. So how do you get there?

The interview process is seen by many as a challenge, filled with a sense of anxiety like you are on a first date. How do we prepare for that first meeting? Preparation in advance before you arrive to the interview will give you a clear mind with the ability to focus and answer the questions with detail.

Keys to a good start:

  1.  You find out all you can about the company – the more the better.
  2. Who will be part of the process? Will there be one person interviewing or will it be a group? If you find out their background, this will help during the first meeting.
  3. Arrive on time and dress appropriately.
  4. These are all good steps going into the first meeting

HR Professionals are often asked about the traits they look for in top candidates: Problem solving/initiative, communication and technical ability (do you have degree or PMP) are all very helpful.

I spoke with David Uze, an HR professional in Kitchener, and he believes a “Project Manager in matrix organizations may require strong influencing skills.” This is the ability to influence others to take certain actions even though that individual doesn’t report to the influencer.

Do you have Leadership Skills?

They may ask questions around how you hold team members accountable for deliverables.

Every meeting is important but first impressions will heighten your chances of being moved to the next stage in the process. You will need to show them strong examples of the times when you led a team and handled multiple projects simultaneously like a good leader can.

You must prep! Sitting down and looking at things – showing them you were proactive. Can you show the stakeholders how you will be able to overcome any roadblocks? How do you motivate a team? You must be able to demonstrate those learnings during the interview. So prepare by sitting down and writing a one-page synopsis around these points. Leadership starts early in life whether you’re the captain of a sports team or active member within your school. Life skills! All things that help in the interview setting.

Have you done your Homework?

Part of the process is understanding the organization and their core values. A big piece of it is understanding how you fit into the culture. Do you show any initiative within your last role or previous roles? It’s been said past behaviour predicts future behaviour. As with any leadership team who may interview you, they may think if you have done your homework you may likely do the same in your job.

I believe a big part of doing your homework shows initiative to the client. Demonstrate confidence in your ability as a leader. As we know, an inspiring leader will help the team do well and be successful for the company, so be positive and demonstrate these traits. A candidate who has done some background work will have a better chance in moving to the next step of the process or even the final stage. Good project managers are able to articulate their strengths during the interview.

Good preparation of anything must be done over time. As we grow, we develop many strengths and it is important to bring those to the interview. Work hard to prep yourself if you have challenges or weaknesses for the role. The candidate who gets chosen to move to the next level will often demonstrate their ability to learn, communicate, and show their technical skills and be a cultural fit for the organization.

The “Art” of the interview preparation must start early in life. The more you adapt, grow, and develop the traits of a good leader, the better the chances are to experience success during the interview process and landing that position with the company you have dreamed of. Excellent interview prep will help you win the race! I believe if you can show your leadership traits and have prepped yourself, you will show the interview team that you are the right person for the job!

How Do I Know When I’m Ready to Make a Career Move?

F.E.A.R. (False Expectations Appearing Real) can be a big deterrent when it comes to self-career management.  It is never easy to deal with change and it is particularly stressful when it comes to your career.  Many people put so much pressure on themselves to have everything “absolutely in order” before they make up their minds to even look at another career option.  You will be missing out on opportunities if you get stuck early in the process by “analysis paralysis”.  One of the best ways to keep your career options open is to develop a trusting relationship with a well respected, recruitment professional who will grow to understand what constitutes an excellent career fit.  Understand however, that they are not in the business to “find you your next career move” but rather they are one of the “tools in the toolbox” in order to facilitate such a life changing event.  It is also a good idea to keep your resume up to date.  Rather than scramble at the last minute to put something on paper, keep a list of things you actually do at work so you can develop a clean resume with minimal effort.  Make sure the things on your resume are relevant to the opportunity you are considering.  Don’t be afraid to take the first step and at least have a conversation about a new opportunity.  If you don’t open a door, there is no way you can walk through it.

Help! Is my co-worker helping or hindering?

What do you do when a co-worker keeps sending you postings for potential “next career moves?”  The answer to this is really based on a couple of things.  Do you trust your co-worker to have YOUR best interest at heart?  Do they know you well enough to point out career options for you?   What is the risk if you do apply for another role while still employed?  Can your co-worker offer any insight into the new potential role?  Do you know yourself well enough to be clear on what you are looking for when an “unsuspecting” opportunity presents itself?  It is always better to be “moving towards” your next career option rather than “running away” from a situation where you are unhappy.

Can you help my Son/Daughter?

HelpMany times, we are approached by the parents of recent grads and asked if we can assist them.  Too often we have found that the parents really want us to re-affirm what they have been telling their son or daughter all along.  While that type of career coaching might seem the right thing to do in the parent’s eyes, it can be very destructive for the young person who is already feeling the pinch of real life hitting them square in the eyes!

The best approach for a parent to take is to simply “open doors” for networking purposes and trust the relationship that will build (or not) with the recruiter who is looking at things from a neutral, third party.  All conversations (usually done out of courtesy since it is rare that Executive Recruiters would ever be retained to help find a new grad) must remain confidential – between the young person and the recruitment professional.  Parents are best to “cut the apron strings” and let things unfold the way they should when young people launch into their careers.

We are thinking about using a professional recruitment firm… what questions should I be asking?

There are so many options when it comes to recruiting.  Many organizations are really good at utilizing on line resources to attract qualified candidates.  They are particularly good at crafting awesome postings which appear to drive traffic to their website.  The only problem is… they are still not finding the “right” candidate for their openings.

When organizations have called me to discuss potential requirements, they often ask some standard questions about timing, cost and previous experience.  What they don’t ask is about our process.  Think for a moment how easy it would be if you really could put a posting up and voila.. all sorts of qualified candidates apply and you actually are lucky enough to get one of them to accept your job offer?  It isn’t that easy… why?  Mostly because we are dealing with Human Beings!  People have reasons for moving along in their career and it is not always about money.  In fact, it is very seldom about money.  It is about the entire experience of work.

In any event, if you are thinking about engaging the services of a Professional Recruiter here are some things you may want to ask:

1.  What do they need to know from you in order to be successful in attracting the “right” candidate?

2.  What is their “track record” in terms of completing assignments and candidates staying in the job?

3.  Have them explain “their recruitment process”.  If they can’t articulate it, chances are they don’t have a well defined process – they may just want to send resumes to you and ask you “what do you think”?  Be careful about a recruitment firm where the consultants ask you what you think.  You should ask them what they think and why they sent the candidate to you!

4.  Ask what resources they will engage in order to fulfill your requirement.  Are they a “one person” show or do they have other resources in order to attract key talent for you.

5.  Ask them if they only work with “active” candidates or do they have a strategy to attract “passive” candidates.

6.  Ask them if they have any experience in recruiting similar types of roles ( it doesn’t have to be exact but you need to be comfortable that they have the capabilities to be able to represent your organization in the marketplace)

7.  Ask yourself… do I see this firm as an extension of our organization?  Would I be proud to announce that I have engaged the services of this particular recruiter?

8.  Ask about their fees… not just their recruitment fees but about the entire invoice that you might receive at the end of the search.  What are the “hidden” or “surprise”costs which might come out at the end.  Make sure they let you know what to expect around the total cost of the recruitment initiative…

 

It is difficult to ask questions when you don’t know what to ask.  If you find yourself needing some assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

Help… I just received a counter-offer!

This happens all too often to candidates who are moving to a new career opportunity.  Here’s why it happens.  First of all, employers are not good at keeping the lines of communication open with their existing employees.  Without specific conversations concerning an employee’s career options, people are left to tell the story on their own.  This is where misunderstandings can occur and leave employees feeling like it is time to look around for new and better career options.  During the process of researching, applying, interviewing and getting job offers, an employee goes through a myriad of emotions.  They can be so disappointed with their current employer that any new opportunity seems like the best option.  However, without being “intentional” about their desire to move along in their career, an employee can be left to the whims of anxious recruiters trying to talk them into something or a company who seems too good to be true!.  Now… when the employee decides to make a move, they have to go to their employer and tell them that they are leaving… That’s when the counter-offer happens!  If only employers would be saavy enough to speak openly with their staff ( and in particular their high performers) to give them a good idea of what is coming down the pipe-line. If an employee is good enough for a counter offer, why wait until they come back to you to say they are considering leaving your organization.  Deal with it up front and have them stay – not have them go through the roller coaster of searching out career options.

Now, if you are the employee that just received a counter-offer, you have to stop and ask yourself..”why me and why now???”  Sometimes a counter-offer can simply mean that the organization doesn’t want you to leave because it is not convenient for them at this time.. .afterall, they have to replace you and that will take time.  Think about all the reasons you even went on the journey of searching out new career options.  Take your existing employer out of the equation as you look forward in your career.  If what you are looking at looks different, it is because IT IS!! You might be afraid of something new because you don’t feel comfortable with change… This is normal but should not be the reason you use to deter you from accepting a favourable offer from a new employer who will be providing you a whole new experience in your career.  Speak to people you trust, including your professional recruiter, who will walk you through the process of leaving one career to embark on another…

 

I wasn’t looking for a career change but got a call from a recruiter…

If you are good at what you do… expect to get calls from recruiters.  When you do get calls, here’s what you should expect.

The recruiter should be very professional and identify themselves as a recruiter.  They should not be on the phone “selling you” anything.  However, they should be taking the time to find out about you and your career and what is working and what isn’t working.  They need to get to know you “as a person” before you can be a “candidate” for anything.  Find out about their process…. If they are only looking for your resume to “flog it” out there, then chances are you will not be represented in the right light.  Expect that they will ask in depth, thorough questions… for everything including preferred work environment, to leadership questions to compensation and benefits questions.  Do they let you know where your resume is going and ask for your permission to send it or do they take that upon themselves.  Remember, your resume is your private information and YOU should be aware of where it is being sent ( unless of course, you choose to put it on a job board).  Working with a professional recruiter can be an excellent way to get the “inside scoop” on some companies you only dreamed of working for but first you need to be discerning of which recruiter(s) you want to give your resume to…