The Pietrack Press
I’m Interested!: The Art of Showing Interest
We have all heard the old adage, “Show, don’t tell.” This is true for writers and actors, but the same holds true when interviewing. Let me walk you through a common scenario that I unfortunately have seen many times. It goes like this:
Company: “We liked your candidate, but we just didn’t feel he/she was very interested.”
Recruiter: “Mr./Ms. Candidate, I spoke with the company, and though they liked you, they just didn’t feel like you have enough passion for the role.”
Candidate: “I don’t understand. I want the job, and I told them several times I was interested.”
Either the company is not being truthful about why they are releasing the candidate or interest is expressed not only verbally. The best example I know about the importance and difference between SHOWing and TELLing is imagine you are in a headlock getting punched, but the person is saying that they love you. Are you going to believe their words or their actions? So, I wanted to give you some ideas of how to SHOW enthusiasm, passion, or interest when interviewing.
Rule 1: A Poker Face Won’t Get You More Money
You are not going to get a higher offer because you played it cool in an interview. Companies want employees that want to work there, and if they catch even a whiff that you may lack interest, they will not hire you. I’ve seen some candidates try to not show their emotions (interest level) because they feel like they are showing their poker hand, which will lead to a lower offer. My advice is to show your hand, lay all your cards out on the table, because that will SHOW interest and lead to a higher offer.
Rule 2: Master Your Body Language
Non-verbally, we SHOW our true feeling. Now there are plenty of books and articles about this, so I know this isn’t ground breaking. It is still a good reminder. Eye contact is a crucial way to show a connection and genuine interest. So make a conscious effort to stay engaged with your eyes. When someone is passionate about a subject, their whole body is involved when they discuss it. So, let your hands do some talking. Allow yourself to become animated. When you’re delivering a presentation, worry not about animating your slide deck; worry more about the gestures that will animate you and SHOW enthusiasm. If you’re not standing tall, sit tall. Again, your body will SHOW what you are feeling, and posture is a non-verbal cue about your interest level. My advice would be to keep your head up, back straight and ever so slightly lean forward in your chair. Everything I’ve read has indicated that this body language SHOWS interest, engagement, and enthusiasm.
Rule 3: Remember the 3 “E”s
When you’re interviewing, remember the three “E”s. The first E is Engagement. Be an active listener and respond in ways that SHOW and TELL interest. Here are some examples: “Wow, that’s exciting.”; “That would be a great project to work on.”; “That is right up my alley.” The second E is Excitement. This is SHOWN non-verbally like in the examples from Rule 2. The third E is Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm speaks to passion and motivation. A great way to SHOW enthusiasm is demonstrating the proactive research you’ve done about the company. A subtle way to SHOW this is to preface your questions with research you’ve done. Here’s an example, “I’ve noticed XYZ has invested a lot in the research of ________, how do you see that impacting this role long-term?”
Rule 4: Predictable Responses Have No Impact
My advice would be to stop saying “interested” in the interview. It’s lost all its meaning. Try to think of different ways to SAY, both verbally and non-verbally, “I am interested”. You can even throw in slag terms like, “jazzed”, “on-fire,” “awesome”, etc. Another bit of advice I would share is that companies want to hire exceed-expectations employees. Saying “I’m interested” is what everyone says, and essentially, this is meeting expectations. At the end of your interview, try following this model to SHOW interest: Affirmation of Interest, Three Reasons, and another Affirmation of Interest. Try something like this:
“_______, (Always use their name) I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed, and I’m absolutely on-fire to join your team (Affirmation of Interest #1). Here is why. You have the best technology in the market, I love the people here, and I know my experience will help me positively impact the company right away (Three Reasons). So, again, I just want to be clear, I am passionate about this space, and I would love this job (Affirmation of Interest #2).”
I know that some of this article may seem commonsensical, but I think Voltaire said it best, “Common sense is not so common.” I hope that you picked up some tips in this article, and in your next interview, you make a conscious and deliberate effort to SHOW interest.
The Pietrack Press
The Road to Management
As an executive recruiter, I get posed a myriad of questions by candidates. One of the more common lines of questioning is centered around how to get into management from an individual contributor role.
The typical conversations goes like this:
Me: “Well, Mr/Mrs Candidate, I have a great understanding of your background. What about your interests? What can I find for you in the marketplace that you currently don’t have in your job?”
Candidate: “I’m not interested in making a lateral move, but I would consider taking a hard look at a management position. Do you have any management positions on your desk?”
Me: ”Have you ever managed a team of (specific function) before?”
Candidate: ”No, but I’m ready to.”
Have you ever caught yourself in this conversation? If so, keep reading…
Me: ”I understand that you are open to looking at management positions and that you are probably ready for that next step in your career. The unfortunate news is that whenever a company asks me to fill a management role, a prerequisite to even submit a candidate is for them to have previously managed within the specific function.”
Candidate: “I managed 12 people when I was a Director of Pharmacy before I got into Industry, so I have management experience.”
Me: ”That sounds like an amazing experience, and I’m sure that experience helped you break into industry. I’ve noticed that when companies are looking to hire managers of (specific function), they want candidates who have managed people doing (specific function).”
Candidate: ”That’s kind of a catch-22 isn’t it? I mean, how can I get a management job without management experience in (specific function)? No one is born with management experience; they had to be given a shot at some point right?”
Does this sound familiar? If so, keep reading…
Me: ”It’s true, new managers break in occasionally. The thing is that they typically (9-out-of-ten times) do it within their own company. So, as you evaluate your situation, if there ins’t a road to management for you, it might be time to get on a different path.”
Candidate: ”What do you mean?”
Me: ”Well, think of it like this. Think of your current company as an elevator. If you want to get to the 9th floor, but the elevator you’re on only goes to the 8th floor, then you might want to consider changing elevators. I know it isn’t easy to leave your current elevator. There is some inconvenience and risks associated with getting out of your elevator, walking across the room to another bank of elevators, evaluating those new elevators, and getting in a new one. The thing is that one of them might be going up. Does that make sense?”
Candidate: ”I think so. So, you’re saying that if I don’t have a career trajectory that is going up at my current position, that I should make a lateral move to a company who can set my career trajectory aimed at where I want to go, right?”
Me: ”Essentially, yes, but predicting which elevator is going up isn’t easy.”
Candidate: ”Well, how do I even begin to do it?”
Me: ”This would be my advice— look at the org. chart. There is a structure that I see where one-to-two years later they are beginning to promote their people. I’m getting the sense that you want this promotion to happen soon, so this is the org. chart I would seek. The company has a VP, a Sr. Director (both in-house), and then it goes all the way down to the individual contributor. They don’t yet have field-based management in place.”
Candidate: ”Yeah, but aren’t those companies risky?”
Me: ”Every company is risky these days. If you truly want a shot at management quickly, this is the org. chart to look for. It’s true though, you usually would be joining a company about to launch their first product and with limited infrastructure. As long as you evaluate the company and product and make a smart decision, you will be okay. When the launch goes well, and they expand, you will be grandfathered in and considered for a management role.”
Candidate: ”A friend of mine went from an individual contributor at his company to a manager of another company.”
Me: ”I’m not saying it is impossible; I’m just saying it is very unlikely. In the cases I’ve seen where someone has gone from an individual contributor at one company to a manager of another company, someone high up in the new company hand picks them.”
Candidate: ”Interesting, that is what happened in my friend’s case.”
Me: ”In my career as a recruiter, I’ve worked on filling countless manager roles. In that time, only two of them were not current managers. The reason those two were filled with non-mangers is because the money they were offering wasn’t at a level that would attract a current manager. They both changed levels, but for a very incremental salary increase.”
Candidate: ”I had no idea that my expectations were so off. If you hear of a really good company that is building a team and is looking for senior-level individual contributor, keep me informed. Let’s evaluate together if it’s a elevator that is going up!”
I hope this dialogue helps you see how you might break into management. Remember, there are exceptions to every rule. Even as I’m writing this, I am thinking of a few people I know that didn’t go the route outlined above. I must also disclose that their stories are the rarest of exceptions. If you’d like to discuss this topic live, my line is always open. If after reading this, you want to catch the next elevator going up, let’s set up a time to talk.
5 Common Resume Mistakes
The Pietrack Press
As an executive recruiter, I have access to many resumes. Most of the resumes I see are very well done, yet some can use some slight tweaking. I want to share with you some common resume mistakes that I see frequently, so that your resume is as strong as possible.
One glaring mistake I see on some resumes is that they have too much white space. My recommendation is not to get too “tab happy” to the point where the bullets of your current position are near the middle of the page. Also, I would recommend not using resume builders that come standard on your computer, as they are notorious for creating tons of white space.
On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to jam pack a twelve year career on one page with margins that are 1/16th of an inch. This is not enough white space. If I may, allow me to dispel a myth. Your resume doesn’t need to fit on one page like we were taught in school.
Always include the months and years you worked at a company. An obvious red flag is a resume that doesn’t have the months included. The main reason is that if your resume states “2004-2005,” that could be 24 months or two months. If you worked for that company from January 2004 to December of 2005, that is roughly 24 months. If you worked there from December of 2004 to January of 2005, that is roughly two months. So, whenever a candidate doesn’t have the months on their resume, it’s assumed they are hiding a short stint or a gap in employment.
One of the keys to creating a great resume is knowing your audience and tailoring your resume accordingly. Each resume you send out should be tailored for the opportunity in which you are pursuing. The “OBJECTIVE” should be specific to the job. If it’s a role where the education is paramount, then list your education before your experience. If education is not a crucial component to the position, then list the experience first. If it’s a position where specific skills are needed then a “SKILLS” section might be appropriate at the beginning.
If you’re going to list skills and write a brief summary of yourself, please realize this should not take more than half a page. I’ve actually seen resumes where the candidate’s experience doesn’t start until page two. I think people are receiving misleading advice from resume writers and career coaches that this is okay, and I would strongly suggest otherwise.
I think it is interesting how companies like to rename what the industry commonly calls a function. If you happen to be employed by a company that titles your position atypically to the industry, here is my advice to you. On your resume, list the title that your company created then make a parenthetical statement that states what the industry would title you. Here’s an example: “Title: Regional Medical Research Scientist (Commonly Known as a Medical Science Liaison).”
The reason I give this advice is often times your resume is screened by people who are not industry experts, and they may not know all the different titles that certain functions are called. I see this a lot with sales people who have “manager” or “director” in their title, when really they are an individual contributor sales person. Here’s an example on how to clear up the confusion: “Title: Regional Sales Manager (Individual Contributor).”
Some people like to describe the duties they carried out at a company in bullet point form, others prefer a paragraph. My personal preference is bullet points, but regardless of what you chose, stick with that choice throughout your resume—be consistent. Occasionally, I will see a resume where for one job they will use bullet points, and the next they will use a paragraph.
The same can be said about the tense that is used in a resume. My recommendation is to keep everything in past tense. If you want to leave your current position in present tense, that is fine, but that creates a lot of editing throughout your career. If you happen to miss editing one bullet point, it can really weaken your resume. Also, stay consistent with how you use dates. If you are going to use “Jan.” for one job, don’t use “January” or “1-“ for the next one.
I hope that by calling to attention these common mistakes you will be benefitted by avoiding them. As always, I’d welcome your feedback and thoughts on the topic. In the meantime, I wish you great success in advancing your career.
The Alpine Group
The Pietrack Press
Words to Avoid when Interviewing
When you are in an interview, your every move is being evaluated. Your word choice is also being scrutinized, so it is important to avoid certain words or phrases. Here are a few that I caution my finalists to avoid.
1. Concerned. When evaluating a company, every candidate is going to have concerns, whether they be mild, moderate, or a red-flag. The coaching tip here is not to say that you have concerns. For instance, you want to avoid saying, “I have a concern about your ________.” Even if you do, saying it will portray a lack of interest rather than genuine intrigue. Try to craft your statement with a bit more tact by saying something like, “I’d like to better understand your _______.” If you’re feeling quite apprehensive about something regarding the company, and the initial question didn’t flesh out a good enough answer try, “When you were considering the company, how did you feel about _________?”
2. To be honest with you. We all have things we say that we don’t even know we are saying. Some of us say “ya know,” “um,” or “like” often in our everyday speech. Others say longer phrases like “the long and short of it is.” The one that I would recommend to avoid in any selling situation, which an interview is, is “to be honest with you.” As a recruiter, when I get a candidate who tosses a few of these at me, there is no way I can submit them to a client.
3. I can learn it. I’ve been called every title a recruiter can possess–headhunter, staffing consultant, executive recruiter, you name it. Regardless of what I am called, I can assure you that what I am paid to do is to find candidates who KNOW it and are already DOING it, not candidates who can LEARN it. Here is how the dialogue goes–ME:”My client is looking for someone with Cardiovascular MSL experience, do you have that?” THEM:”No, but I can learn it.” If you catch yourself wanting to say this in an interview, a useful reminder is to think about what you DO have and CAN offer. For instance, you could say something like, “Well, the experience I do have is ___________, do you feel like that would be of value?”
4. Negotiable. I usually hear the term negotiable in my initial conversation with a candidate, and I advise candidates to avoid the word all together. The word negotiable has a very negative connotation first of all. Secondly, we don’t want to negotiate at all. We want a company’s best offer the first time, and we want to accept it without pause. So, if an HR Professional asks you, “what are you looking to make if you were to accept this position?” You should want to steer clear of answering, “I’m negotiable.” For more information: http://wp.me/p2PVqk-J
5. Flexible. Very similar to the above statement, you want to stay away from saying that you’re flexible when it comes to salary. What this implies is that you’ll do all the bending and that the company doesn’t need to worry about making you a great offer. Candidates should want the company to flex the high-end of their range. I would coach you not to imply that the bottom of your range is bendable.
I hope this makes sense and is helpful in your next interview. To be honest with you, I’m flexible on some of these points and if you happen to have better ideas, I can learn it.
The Pietrack Press
The Resignation Process and the Counter-Offer
A topic that I discuss often with candidates is how to resign and how to handle the counter-offer. I wanted to share a few thoughts about handling the resignation process and dodging the counter-offer discussion all together.
First I must voice a disclaimer, if you’d consider a counter-offer, my professional opinion is to gracefully bow out of the interview process NOW and go talk to your manager and ask for a pay increase. If you’d really like to stay at your company and you just would like a raise, I’d recommend talking with management before handing in your resignation. Once you hand in your resignation, the relationship will never be the same. They will know you were interviewing on company time, and you’ll never be in the circle of trust again.
Also, I invite you to consider that the counter-offer they will be giving you is just to buy time to find your replacement anyway; they are buying time for a succession plan. If you go in now, you will be considered a proactive person they can trust rather than a disloyal person that they cannot. You don’t want to be the person who had to threaten to leave to get what they wanted. As your friend, I wouldn’t want to see you do your career damage when all you wanted was a raise.
If accepting a counter-offer is NOT something you would do, then you should be prepared to have your resignation handled in three ways:
Situation #1: They will accept your resignation and thank you for your service.
“We are disappointed to see you leave, but we have valued your time here and want the best for you.“
Well-managed companies know that every employee is a temporary employee and that trying to talk a grown-up out of an intelligent life decision is a selfish move. I wish more companies took this route during the resignation, but some do not. Yet there are a great deal of companies that accept your notice and wish you the best in your career.
Situation #2: They will accept your resignation, but not before they take you on a guilt trip.
“How could you do this to me, after all I’ve done for you? How is this going to make me look?”
Understand that your manager is only human and is reacting to very bad news that affects him/her personally. They’ll get over it with time and everything will be back to normal soon. I know this isn’t great to hear, but everyone is replaceable. When they start doing this, say something like, “My decision is final and we need to focus on the turnover of my projects. When would you like to start?” If he/she still keeps trying to guilt trip you, keep bringing up the turnover. If they start getting vindictive and emotional, say, “Let me give you twenty minutes, and I’ll come back and we can start the turnover process.” Remember this is your meeting, and you don’t have to sit through a guilt trip.
The most common way counter-offers are handled are in….
Situation #3: They will very calmly and collectedly try to talk you out of it.
“Before you make this official, let me talk with management and see what we can do to keep you here.” OR “Let’s pretend this didn’t happen. What can we do to make you stay?”
It’s best not to share the reasons for leaving or to get into a dialogue about where you are going. Stick to the topic of the resignation and the plan of turning over your projects. I recommend not to fall into the trap of “let’s pretend this didn’t happen,” because it can’t be forgotten. All the reasons why you are leaving should be addressed in your exit interview, not in your resignation.
-Companies never change based upon the conversation given at someone’s resignation meeting.
-You don’t have to tell them where you are going or why you are leaving. If they keep pressing you, tell them that you’ll send them an email in a few weeks with your new contact information.
The Resignation Letter:
Keep it simple, keep it vague, keep it unapologetic, and keep it controlled.
The purpose of this letter is to inform you of my resignation from my current position as (title) with (company). My last day of work will be (date). I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to you as my manager, and I wish you and (company) much continued success.
Please understand that I am not in a position to consider an alternative offer from (company), since my decision to resign is final. Please let me know how I can be of assistance in helping make this a smooth transition.
I hope all this information will help you in the resignation process. I wholeheartedly hope that you don’t get lured into the counter-offer trap, and if you’d like to talk further about this topic, I’m always open for a discussion. Thanks!
See you at the Top!
As an executive level recruiter, I am privy to the reasons why candidates are hired or NOT hired. I find it interesting how often the same reasons for not hiring tend to come up, and so I wanted to warn you about these missteps. Below you will find the top 3 interviewing pitfalls.
Feedback: “I couldn’t get this guy to stop talking.” OR “Her answers were all over the place.” OR “I felt like I had to ask two follow-up questions just to get my first question answered.”
As I’ve mentioned in other articles we have a saying here at the Alpine Group that No One Hires a Rambling Generalist. Talking too much isn’t the only problem for some candidates—talking without a direction or clear point is the pitfall. Companies are passing on people because the candidate’s thoughts weren’t organized and expressed efficiently. They are evaluating your intelligence by how well-organized your thoughts are, which is demonstrated by succinct, clear communication. The interviewer doesn’t want to weed through a dreadfully long story to pull out ten relevant sentences. The way to avoid this misstep is to plan for the questions that they are likely to ask and practice answering them.
In my last article, I wrote about how to master Behavioral Based Interview (BBI) questions. Being effective in sharing experiences is one of the major keys to getting the job. Candidates who are vague or hypothetical are ineffective. How to master the art of storytelling in an interview setting is covered in my article called Winning Candidates are Good Storytellers (Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p2PVqk-10). Remember to use the STAR Model, where you can really accentuate your skill sets in relationship to the company’s needs.
Feedback: “He didn’t seem to have the passion we’re looking for.” OR “We need someone with a bit more fire in the belly.” OR “This candidate lacked energy in the interview.”
Believe it or not, one of the most common reasons (if not the most common reason) why candidates fail to get the job is that they lack passion for the position. I’ve heard it described as “flat affect,” “lack of energy,” “no passion,” “no fire in the belly,” etc. When you interview for a job they want you to be excited/bought-in about the role.
You may be saying, “but Michael, I am a low-key kind of person.” I understand that you might not be the most excitable person on the planet, but energy is what people hire—it’s what companies are buying when you are selling yourself. Remember that simply saying you are “very interested” or “quite intrigued” or “really excited” is not enough. Passion, energy, and enthusiasm are things you show, not things you say.
Think of it this way. Let’s say that on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, you are normally a 3 on the energy/excitement scale. When you are really excited about something you get up to around a 6 or a 7 on the scale. Then you need to interview at around a 5–this is going to exhaust you, but it is going to help you get the job.
The Under Prepared
Feedback: “He obviously wasn’t prepared for the interview.” OR “Did she even go to our website?” OR “That is not the A-Player our company needs.”
No feedback cuts to the core of me like when I hear one of my candidates presented themselves as under prepared, because it means I too was under prepared. Most of the candidates I have in final interviews have to give a presentation, and this is usually where their amount of preparation shows. If your up-coming interview has a presentation or if the company is expecting you to prepare something (business plan, etc), don’t just be prepared–be over prepared. Be so prepared for the interview that the company’s comment to the recruiter is, “Wow, she really did her homework!” OR “He nailed the presentation.” You can be less qualified, with fewer years of experience, and WIN the interview by simply being outstandingly prepared.
If you fall into the pitfall of being unprepared, you really only have yourself to blame. The people who fall in to the pitfall most often are the candidates who ARE more qualified and more experienced. My advice is not to lean on that experience as what is going to get you the job. Prepare like crazy and win the interview, and THEN let your experience be the thing that secures the job.
Interviewing is the art of creating the proper perception of yourself. If you are very qualified and you come in under prepared, you’ll be perceived as cocky or arrogant. If you are very qualified and you come to the interview very prepared, you’ll be perceived as humble and an absolute star. The only difference is the work put in to win.
I hope that knowing about these missteps helps you secure your next great position.
See you at the top!