Category: Interview Prep


Reverse Job Search: How to Deal With Unsolicited Job Opportunities

In last week’s post, I discussed ways job seekers can take advantage of the current job market created by the “Great Resignation.” As a follow-up, I want to illustrate how being honest about both your strengths and weaknesses, and developing good salary negotiation skills, can make a difference in a post-COVID job market, specifically in dealing with unsolicited job opportunities.

Meet my client

A client I began working with in the spring was looking for a slight career change. During our time in working together, she received a couple of job offers, but turned them down because they weren’t exactly what she wanted.

We agreed it would be a good idea for her to hold out for something more in line with her career goals, especially since she already had a job providing good income.

Therefore, she took a step back from the job search. In doing so, she started enjoying her current job more.

Fast forward to September, and she, like many other people right now, was being recruited for unsolicited job opportunities three to four times per week. This is because of the “Great Resignation” and employee shortage many companies are facing this fall.

My client stuck to her guns, and said no to the opportunities not in line with her career goals. Then came a recruiter calling with a job, still not exactly what she was looking for, but it had potential. So, she agreed to an interview.

When I had my follow-up session with my client, she told me everything that happened with her interview. And it was so awesome how things played out for her.

This next part of her story goes to show how anything can happen in a job search, especially during a job seeker’s market. It also shows how important it is to be transparent in the interview process.

Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses

My client shared with me how when it came time for the interview, she’d completely forgotten about it. She was 30 minutes late, and the recruiter called to see why she wasn’t on the Zoom call. My client apologized profusely, figured the company probably no longer wanted to talk with her, and was okay with it if they didn’t.

But when it’s a job seeker’s market, companies are much more forgiving, and they still wanted to conduct the interview with her. (Note: please don’t take this to mean I’m saying it’s okay to be intentionally late for an interview, even in this current job market!)

In an ordinary job market, it’s best to downplay weaknesses and play up strengths in an interview. But because my client wasn’t feeling the typical nerves and pressure she’s felt in past interviews, she decided to take a different approach to this interview.

This time around, she chose to actually emphasize her weaknesses as much as her strengths. She wanted to be completely authentic so she could guarantee the right job match for her. Because of this approach, she said the interview felt more like a conversation, and therefore more comfortable and freeing.

I’ve always told my clients this is how an interview should be. It should be a meeting or conversation about determining a win-win scenario for all parties involved. This includes both parties asking questions of each other so everyone can make the right decision.

The benefits of authenticity in unsolicited job opportunities

As a result of my client’s more authentic approach to the job interview, and despite being half an hour late for it, she got a second-round interview! But there’s a twist to this story. The second interview was for a different role, which was a step above the job she originally interviewed for. My client’s interest increased.

She continued to be transparent about her abilities and weaknesses in the second interview. Following this second interview, another twist occurred. The company called my client to tell her they were creating a role just for her, based on her skills. This role was two steps up from the original job, and three steps up from her current job title!

My client was flabbergasted! They told her to expect an offer after they were done running the required ad for the new role.

Develop good salary negotiation skills

When my client received the offer, she contacted me, wanting to use her remaining session of her career coaching package to prepare her for salary negotiations.

Despite the fact this is the same client who taught me how to negotiate with car salesmen, she was nervous when it came to negotiating salary. She attributed her anxiety to the dip in her confidence caused by the dynamics of her current job. But she admitted her confidence was improving due to the career coaching I’d provided.

This time, I coached her on how to negotiate what she wanted, which included $5,000 more than the offer, and an extra week of PTO.

She still had some concerns that if she asked for what she wanted, the company might rescind the offer. This is a common fear, especially among my female clients.

I reminded her they recruited her, so she has more control in these negotiations. And I reminded her they had created a role tailor-made, just for her! No company would do this, and then rescind the offer.

She responded, “I think I just needed to hear this from you Lori.” She accepted the offer and is very happy with it!

Her biggest lesson from this experience is captured in what she said next:

“I learned I was only going to find the right job and the right company if I was being my true and authentic self.”

If she hadn’t been so open and honest, the company might have only offered her the original position, which was two steps down, not as good of a fit for her, and not as much money.

Handling unsolicited job opportunities

From this experience, my client understood the point of the homework I gave her, specifically, the personal branding homework. She realized it takes discovering your authentic and unique differentiators, plus learning how to articulate them to employers, to find the right fit for your career goals.

This is true whether you’re actively looking for a new job, or if you’re being recruited for unsolicited job opportunities. Other tips for handling unsolicited job opportunities include the following:

1. Know exactly what your career goals are

If you’re not clear on your career goals when recruiters come calling, you could end up trading one bad job experience for another. Writer and educator James Quigley says,

“If you’ve already gone down the rabbit hole of unfulfilling work once, do your best to avoid a repeat journey by considering factors like work-life balance and daily routine, as important as salary and benefits, when assessing possible job leads.”

The homework my client did can also help you with this. In addition, I always suggest making a three-prong list of what you’re looking for in a job.

The first column of your list should include your “must haves.” The second column should list the items you’re willing to negotiate or compromise on. And the third column should include what I call “icing on the cake” items, those things you don’t expect but would be thrilled to have.

2. Don’t let the flattery of being pursued be your only reason for taking a job

If you take the time to complete the first item, it’s less likely you’ll take a job for the wrong reasons. You don’t want to accept a job just because a company shows interest in you.

I’ve seen so many people make this career mistake. They’re so excited someone’s interest in hiring them, they feel obligated to accept the offer.

But if there’s ever a time to be picky when it comes to a job, now is the time. This current job market is your advantage in finding more of what you want.

3. Be open-minded and listen

Although you can now be picky, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open-minded when approached with unsolicited job opportunities.

Take the time to listen to the details about the job. Then, ask as many questions as necessary to determine if it meets at least 60 to 75 percent of your “must haves” on your list.

4. Be honest

As you saw in the story above, being honest about your strengths and weaknesses can make a difference in finding the right fit for your next job.

Some resources to help you be authentic to your goals and your gifting include:

5. Be courteous

Finally, if you’re recruited for unsolicited job opportunities, provide the same courtesy you’d want in the job search. If you’re not interested in the job, say so graciously. And don’t ghost companies, even if companies have ghosted you in the past.

Showing courtesy makes you memorable for the next time you’re looking to make a career change.

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Think Back to Your School Days to Help You Prepare for Job Interviews

Recently, I was working with a client to prepare her for some upcoming job interviews. When doing a mock interview with her, I noticed she made the same mistake most people make when answering behavioral interview questions. (She answered in generalities instead of specific examples.)

When I showed her the method she should use to properly answer such questions, she equated it to having to “show her work” like she had to in math class during her school days.

I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but she was right. You can give a good answer to a question or problem. But leaving off the method of how you arrived at your answer doesn’t indicate what you’ve learned. And employers ask behavioral interview questions to see how and what you’ve learned from your past experience.

Show your work in your job interviews

Give specific examples

The best way to stand out in the job interview is to include with your answers how you arrived at them. To do this, it’s often best to share one specific example. Lumping multiple examples into one general answer isn’t quite as effective as the story you tell about a particular incident. This is because details paint a visual picture in the mind of your listener, making you more memorable to him or her.

The above is always true for behavioral interview questions, but can also be true for other common questions like, “What is your greatest strength?” Don’t just say what your greatest strength is. Show your work by giving a specific example of a time when you demonstrated this strength. Paint a picture with some details.

Show and tell

Another way to show your work is to create a professional portfolio of tangible samples of your past work assignments. This can be a hard copy format to take with you to a job interview, and a digital format to link to from your resume or your LinkedIn profile.

When putting together your portfolio, always choose quality samples over quantity. Also, make sure you’re not including anything your current or past employers would deem proprietary or confidential.

Use it to “show and tell” about your skills when answering skills-based interview questions. To learn more about how to present your professional portfolio in an interview, check out the video tutorial, The 3 Super Powers of Successful Job Seekers.

Conclusion

It’s been a while since you’ve been in school. But not much has changed when it comes to having to show your work. Especially when interviewing for a new job or trying to secure a promotion or pay raise. Keeping this in mind when preparing for interviews will help you move forward in your job search and your career path.

If you also have an upcoming interview and would like to receive coaching or schedule a mock interview, click here to complete the paNASH intake form. I’d love to help you land a job offer!

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How to Know What Questions to Ask in a Job Interview

I’ve previously written on the importance of asking questions of your own when interviewing for a job. Not only do they help you make a wiser decision when it comes to multiple job offers, they also help you win the interview!

But with various interview processes, and the latest changes in the way we work due to the pandemic, there are more questions to consider asking in your next job interview.

Interview process-related questions

I’m currently working with a client going through a lengthy interview process. It includes tests, writing assignments, personality assessments, and several rounds of interviews. So far, she’s made it through every hoop to the final round.

But specifically, the personality assessment hoop can be a tricky one. While it’s not illegal for employers to require you to take a personality assessment during the hiring process, it does open the company up to potential liability. Even the creators of the popular DISC assessment do not recommend it for pre-employment screening. The reason is because it doesn’t measure aptitude, skills, or other factors critical to the position.

So, if you find yourself having to take a personality assessment in a job interview, I advise you to ask the same questions I advised my client to ask:

  • What is the test measuring?
  • How will you use the results in making hiring decisions?
  • What weight will it carry compared to other decision-making factors?
  • Are the results used to determine best fit for the company culture, or for the job role?
  • Are the results going in my file?
  • Will you share the results with me and interpret them?

Pandemic-related questions

The current pandemic has changed not only the way we work, but also the way companies hire. I’ve previously written about possible questions the candidate should expect in interviews during and after the pandemic.

Now I want to share questions the candidate should also ask during and after the pandemic. These questions include:

  • How has your company changed for the better since the pandemic?
  • How has it changed for the worse?
  • Which adaptations will you keep after the pandemic has passed?
  • What is the projected outlook for the company and this industry based on the effects of the pandemic?
  • How have you supported your employees during the pandemic?

These questions will help you determine more about the company’s culture and how it adapts to crises.

Conclusion

Never forget, the job interview is a two-way street. You should always have questions of your own prepared. Doing so shows your interest in the company and helps you make better career decisions.

If you need help preparing for your next interview, let’s talk!

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Do You Need to Improve Your Interview Skills?

Most people need help improving their interview skills. Even those who think they do well in interviews.

We all have blind spots when it comes to interviewing. And even if you’re naturally good at interviews, there are some novel things you can do in your next interview to increase your chances of landing an offer.

How to improve your interview skills

1. Go in with a solution in hand

Most job seekers don’t think far enough into the future when going into an interview. They’re only preparation involves trying to answer commonly-asked interview questions, and considering what salary they want.

But your goal isn’t to be like most job seekers. Your goal is to stand out above the competition.

You do this by thinking beyond the offer and anticipating the problem the company needs the employee to solve. Then, you prepare a possible solution to present, one you might can implement once hired.

To learn how to uncover the problem and prepare your solution, check out my post, “Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From the Competition.”

Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From The Competition (Re-Post)

2. Give unique and honest answers to common questions

Old habits die hard, so a lot of employers ask the same old pointless interview questions they’ve always asked. This doesn’t mean you should keep giving the same old answers you’ve always given to these questions.

There are ways to give more unique yet honest answers to these questions. This keeps you from sounding like all the other candidates.

To freshen up your answers to stale interview questions, check out my post, “How to Handle the Most Pointless Interview Questions.”

How to Handle the Most Pointless Interview Questions

3. Prepare for exercise-based interviews

Some employers have wised up and stopped asking pointless interview questions. Instead, they’ve started conducting exercise-based interviews.

This interview method requires you to perform various skills, instead of just having you verbally describe your abilities.

Although this method has been around for a long time, it’s become more popular among employers in the past few years.

Do you know how to prepare for such an interview? Find out in my post, “What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of the Modern Era.”

What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of The Modern Era

4. Save time when preparing for behavioral interview questions

In addition to exercise-based interviews, behavioral interview questions remain a good predictor of your skills and work ethic. This is why they’re always so popular among hiring managers.

But there’s no way you can prepare for every possible behavioral interview question. Instead, you can be ready for just about any of these questions when you follow my preparation method described in my post, “The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions.”

The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions (Re-Post)

5. Be ready to answer the question, “Can you teach me something complex in 5 minutes?”

If you’re interviewing for jobs with highly popular companies, you need to be ready for less common interview questions such as this one.

To learn how to answer such questions, check out my post, “A Google Insider Shares His Interview Advice.”

A Google Insider Shares His Interview Advice

6. Know how to handle interview ghosting, before it happens!

As you may unfortunately know, interview ghosting happens all the time these days. But, you can reduce your chances of getting ghosted after your next interview.

Find out how in my post, “Did You Get Ghosted After Your Interview? What to Do Now.”

Did You Get Ghosted After Your Interview? What to Do Now

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How to Write the Best Thank You Notes for Your Interviews

Update: I failed to clarify early on in the original post that a type written thank you note should be sent via snail mail. Thank you to one of my readers for bringing this to my attention!

This is the month we celebrate thanksgiving. Therefore, it’s only fitting to have a blog post about thank you notes for your job interviews.

I remember my senior year of high school was when I first learned the art and etiquette of writing thank you notes. For each person who gave me a graduation gift, I sent a handwritten thank you note.

I also was a debutante at the time. Every debutante was required to write a thank you note to each hostess of every party thrown for us. There were probably about 25 or more parties over the course of a few months, with about five to ten hostesses for each party. When you do the math, you can guess how much my hand was probably hurting from all that writing.

In fact, I think I spent more time those last few weeks of senior year writing thank you notes, than I did preparing for final exams.

But in recent years, I’ve noticed a significant decline in the practice of writing thank you notes. I have several friends I’ve bought wedding and baby shower gifts for, but I’ve never received a thank you note from them. It doesn’t bother me personally. It just makes me sad how some forms of thanksgiving are dying out.

Thank you notes are a job search strategy

Not only do most people not send thank you notes for gifts anymore, they also don’t send them for job interviews. In fact, when I first started doing career coaching 21 years ago, only 10% of job seekers sent thank you notes following their interviews. And guess what? This statistic hasn’t changed much since then, even though most job seekers know they should send a note.

But when it comes to your job search, you shouldn’t view thank you notes as a formality. Instead, view them as a strategy to further market yourself to the employer, even after the interview is over.

Don’t send handwritten thank you notes

The job seekers who do send thank you notes, often send handwritten ones. And some career coaches will even tell their clients to handwrite them. I don’t recommend this at all for a couple of reasons.

One, this is not a personal friend you’re sending a note to. You’re sending it to a professional business contact. The look and feel of your thank you note should reflect this.

Two, and most importantly, a handwritten note doesn’t give you the space you need to further sell yourself.

A typewritten note, on the other hand, gives you the space and opportunity to reiterate the things you want the employer to remember about you. This is especially important if you’re one of the first people they interview, or if you’re the one who falls in the middle.

A typewritten note also gives you the chance to mention anything you didn’t get the opportunity to discuss in the interview like you’d hoped.

How to format your thank you notes

So how should you format your typewritten thank you note?

You want it to be in the same format as your cover letter, which includes all the necessary pieces of information before the greeting. And remember, your thank you note is actually a business letter, just like your cover letter is. Therefore, you should have a colon after your greeting instead of a comma. A colon after the greeting distinguishes a business letter from a personal letter.

Who to send thank you notes to

Not only should you send a thank you letter to the main person you interview with, you should also send one to everyone from the company who participated in your interview. For example, if you interviewed with a search committee, you should send one to each person on the committee, and not just the chair of the committee.

Slightly edit each letter to personalize it so the reader knows you didn’t just send the same form letter to everyone.

When to send thank you notes

Always send your thank you note within 24 to 48 hours of your job interview.

In the meantime, you can also send a thank you email immediately after the interview. Just always make sure to follow up with a thank you letter via snail mail.

Conclusion

It’s important to show your gratitude for the opportunity of an interview. Doing so will make you stand out from those who don’t.

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