What should you yell if you are being attacked (and what does this have to do with getting a job)?

If your response is “Help!” you are wrong. The correct answer is “Fire!”

This comes from the case of Kitty Genovese who was murdered in 1964. Published reports at the time, later debunked as an exaggeration, claimed dozens of witnesses heard Ms. Genovese’s cries for help. No one helped. No one called the Police. The reason they all gave was that they assumed someone else had called. This is known as the “Bystander Effect.”

Now, you are no doubt asking, what in the world does this have to do with career counseling and helping people conduct an effective job search? Good question. I hope the answer is as well.

If you yell “help” when being attacked, the people hearing will assume others have also heard and have taken action. They will ignore you. That’s the Bystander Effect. And, of course, if the person is yelling “help,” by definition, that means that you are not in any personal danger. So you have no personal reason – forgetting for a moment the little inconvenient concept of civic responsibility – to get involved. But if the person is yelling “fire!” and you hear them, then the fire may be close to you. You could be in danger. Accordingly, you call the Fire Department. (I don’t know this for a fact but I think this is one of the reasons that when there is a call to 9-1-1 about a fire, the Police always arrive on the scene.)

“Fire” is personal, “help” is not. When you yell “help” you are focused on yourself. When you yell “fire” you are focused on the other person(s), warning them of danger.

The Number One mistake job seekers make is that they are focused on the themselves and not on the employer.

I have a fairly new career counseling client who does not listen. He has also been unemployed for a very long time. The two are, no doubt, connected.

He sent me the job description for a position for which he wants to apply. I read it thoroughly, reviewed the resume we had prepared and, totally confused, I called him. The conversation went something like this:

I think you sent me the wrong job description.

Was it for the coordinator position at XYZ?

Yes. Why would you apply for it?

I think it would be interesting. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I have the skills.

But you lack all of the qualifications and have none of the experience.

But I want to try. Why don’t you encourage me?

Because that’s not what you paid me for. You paid me to help you get a job. You are forgetting what I tell you practically every two weeks: Your job search is not about you, it’s about the employer. You have to meet the employer’s needs. The employer only has to meet your needs once they offer you the job.

But I know I can do it.

XYZ does not want someone who “knows they can do it,” they want someone who has done it. So by applying for a job for which you do not have a chance of getting, all you are doing is adding to your frustration. What’s more, XYZ may remember that you applied and, if they ever have an opening for a job for which you are actually qualified, the fact that you applied for this one may be held against you.

That’s not fair.

It may not be fair but it is reality. So do what I told you to do the last time this happened. Send them your resume without referencing the specific position. Just write that you want to introduce yourself in case anything should open up in the future. Focus on one of your accomplishments that you feel will resonate with them. Reference your attached resume. Thank them. That’s all you can do.

And that’s all he really can do. You have to stay focused on the employer’s needs and not on your wants if you want to get the job.

When I was looking at his resume I saw that he lives in Queens and I figured he was old enough to remember the Genovese murder, or at least had head about it. (I don’t know if it’s still true, but someone once told me that it was taught in Social Studies classes in Queens’ high schools.) He did. “Fire” vs “Help” seemed to resonate with him. Hopefully he now gets it and will remember. I hope you will too if you are in the habit of applying for job for which you are unqualified. (By the way, my next post will be on applying for jobs for which you are unqualified.)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Never Use a Functional Resume

I have been a recruiter since 2003 and a career counselor since 2009.  During this time I must have received hundreds of functional resumes.  Not in some; not in most; in ALL cases the sender was trying to hide something.  Allow me to explain:

Most job seekers either don’t know, or have forgotten, what the purpose of a resume is.  Traditionally, we say, “The purpose of the cover letter is to get the recipient to look at the resume; the purpose of the resume is to get the interview.”  True enough.  But the real purpose of the resume is to tell the recipient what they want to know.

So what does a resume recipient want to know?

First, where you live and how to contact you.  If they are conducting a search for local candidates only, and you are across the country, they don’t want to waste their time with you.  Not including your city and state of residence (no one needs to know your actual address), will not get you an interview.  At best, you will get a very short conversation:  “Where do you live?”  “Thank you, but we are only considering local candidates.  It’s on the job description!”

Second, can you keep a job?  How long did you work for your various employers?

Third, do you meet the minimum qualifications for consideration meaning, do you have the necessary education (degree), certifications, licenses, etc., not to mention years of experience?

Fourth, if you pass the first three tests, what were your most recent accomplishments.

That’s it.  Four things.  If your resume does not make those four clear, you will not be considered.

So what’s the problem with function resumes?

They usually begin with a description of the applicant’s accomplishments/ responsibilities by category.  For example, let’s say it is a business development professional.  There may be  headings for “Sales,” and “Marketing,” and “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and “Customer Service.”  Under each the owner will list their accomplishments and specific responsibilities.

That is all fine and good, but let’s say that the employer is interested in “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and the person has not been involved with that for 10 years.  That is something that they need to know but will not appear on a functional resume.  So when the employer calls and ask, “How long ago was your client acquisition and retention experience?” , that conversation will also be very short.

Under “Work Experience,” some persons list all current and past employers, but have one general heading for the years.  Except for the basics: name, title, location, there’s no content.  That sends the message that the applicant probably only had one job, if that, for a significant amount of time.  They are a jumper.  Employers don’t hire jumpers.

In other words, a functional resume sends the message:  I don’t want you to know how long I worked for my various employers and when was the last time I actually did what you are interested in hiring someone to do.

Stick to the traditional chronological resume.  Start with your name, city and state of residence, and contact information.  Don’t waste your time with an introductory paragraph telling the recipient how great you think you are; they do not care.  What they care about is what you have actually accomplished.  So start with “Selected Accomplishments” and half a dozen bullet points.  Then comes “Work Experience,” showing dates, employer name, your title, and what you actually did for the employers.  Then “Education,” “Certifications,” “Skills and Languages,” and “Volunteer Activities.”  And if you have them, “Awards and Honors,” “Publications,” “Media Citations,” and “Speaking Engagements” – all the things that tell employers that other people think you are as great as you think you are!

If you want an employer to call you, make certain your resume clearly answers their questions:  Where do you live and how can I reach you?  Can you keep a job?  Are you qualified?  What have you actually accomplished in your career that will make me confident you are the right person to solve my problems and how long ago was that?

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

You Only Need One Resume

When someone signs up for career counseling, I ask them to send me their resume and, if they have one, a sample cover letter.  No surprise there; I’m sure we all do it.

A new client said he had a few and would send them to me so I could choose the best one.  When his e-mail arrived with the attachments I called him to confirm that he had actually sent what he has sent.  There were 23 resumes!  He explained that he would “tweak” the resume to better match each job for which he was applying.  I looked at the first 10 and gave up.

I called him back and asked him to send me the one resume that had gotten him the most interviews.  There were none.  So, as the basis of our 2-hour consultation, which got the ball rolling, so to speak, I used his most recent.

He had made all of the classic mistakes:

First, no city and state of residence.

Second, there was, front and center, an “Objective.”

Third, he had a “Professional Statement.”

The rest of the resume was fine.  If you bothered to read it, you would get an accurate summary of his professional career.  He is good at what he does.

So what we did was to add on his city and state of residence, and lose the nonsense, which we replaced with a section titled, “Selected Accomplishments.”   There were now half a dozen bullet points, front and center, that gave an employer six concrete verifiable reasons to meet with him.  The only changes he would now make in the resume, if he was so inclined to do so, would be in the order of the bullets.

The reasons you don’t want to have multiple resumes is that (a) it can get very confusing; (b) if you are just adding keywords because they appear in a job description, even though you really have no experience with what they represent, you will get caught in the lie; and (c) if, and it may very well happen, you send two different resumes to the same employer, they will suspect something is wrong.

So all you need is one resume and, if you are so inclined, rearrange your highlighted accomplishments.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  His posts on LinkedIn have been read close to a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.   In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

What not to wear or bring to a job interview

No, I am not going to write again about wearing fancy jewelry to an interview.  That seems to be a sensitive subject and as one woman wrote, emotion sometimes takes over and the message gets lost.  But the question has been asked, and as always I am happy to provide an honest real-world answer.

The question which I have been asked is, Is there anything else (besides Hope Diamond-class rings) that should not be worn to a job nterview?  To that I add, “or bring.”

You smell nice

It has always been my understanding that the French invented perfume because they did not want to bathe.  Saying to someone, “You smell nice,” may appear to be a compliment, but what entices one person’s olfactory senses may repel someone else.  Why smell at all?

Yes, I know, the theory is that because humans react strongly to smell, as I believe all mammals do, it’s a good way to catch a mate.

Well, if you are going on a job interview to get a mate, you have more problems than just looking for a job.

I don’t remember all of the bad interviews I have ever had with candidates but the ones that I do remember most vividly are the ones that I ended quickly because I was literally sickened to be in the candidate’s presence, and the amount of time it took to air out the room!

In a job interview you should not smell at all.  No perfume.  No cologne.  No scented after shave.  There is no reason to have any odor in an interview, and just because you and your friends think you smell nice does not mean the interviewer will.  Nothing scented.

Smoking can kill you in more ways than one

One good thing about the ordinances against smoking in public buildings is that it has been a while since I, or rather my nose, has confronted a smoker.  But it is still relevant for some people.

I don’t care how much rinsing a smoker does with mouthwash, or how many breath mints they consume, smoke does not just get in your eyes, it gets in your clothes.

If you are a smoker, take your interview clothes to the dry cleaner.   On the day you pick them up, take your car to the car wash and get an interior wash and dry.  Make certain there is no odor.  And before you leave for the car wash, clean out a closet of anything that smells and could smell (the smoker probably will not be able to tell) of smoke.  Then soak down the closet with a good air freshener.

When you get home, keep the clothes in the plastic, put them in the clean closet, and only remove them when it is time for the interview.  And one more thing, quit smoking!

The sounds of silence

We have dealt with smell, now comes sound.

I cannot tell you how many times employers have complained to me that throughout an interview a candidate’s pockets, bags, what-have-yous, were ringing, buzzing and humming.  Turn off, not mute or silence, turn off all of your electronic devices.

It is annoying when they go off.  It is devastating when the candidate cannot find the offending device or is unable to turn it off.  It’s obviously because of nerves but, if that is what happens in an interview, it may be an indication of how you will respond in an important, stressful meeting.  Not a good mental picture to paint.

By all means, bring a pen and paper.  Take notes.  But if you are taking notes on a device, especially your phone, employers/interviewers will not know if you are, in fact, taking notes or texting.  Go old school.

The only sound an interviewer should hear is the enchanting rhapsody of your voice.

Next comes sight.

I don’t want to see that

The first point is easy: don’t fidget.  It’s a sign of being nervous.  And an interview is nerve racking.  Everyone knows that.  If you are a woman who plays with her hair or a man who plays with his beard, hold your hands.  And if you have a piece of jewelry that you fidget with, or anything else for that matter, leave it at home.  You want to send the message to the interviewer that in pressure situations you never let the other side see you sweat.

There is an old saying, “You only get one chance to make a first good impression.”  That is not so.  If the first impression is based on a fact the interviewer could not possibly know, you will get a second chance.

Case in point:  I had an interview with a candidate for an IT position.  When I approached him, he was holding his cell phone up against his nose.  The collar of his shirt was unbuttoned.  His tie was loose and crooked.  When I put out my hand he stared at it for a moment and then gave me a “dead fish” handshake.  I was not impressed.

Of course, when we sat down for the interview, and right at the beginning he told me that he was legally blind, my initial impression was replaced with one of deep respect, admiration and curiosity as to how he could do his work.  And, yes, I submitted him.

Now despite the fact that, based on the reaction to my previous posts, a lot of job seekers don’t think that interviewers look at them and judge them accordingly, and a lot of interviewers don’t want job seekers to know that they look at them, they do, and there are some things they do not want to see.

For women, and there is nothing new here, a lot of people, men and women, are turned off when a women comes to an interview showing off her physical attributes.

For men, cleavage is not a problem, it’s their shoes.  Dirty shoes send a very bad message.  It makes the person look sloppy.  Clean your shoes.  (Of course, this is true for women but, in all honesty, I have never seen a woman wearing dirty shoes, weather aside.)

In general, for both men and women, my rule is to always err on the side of conservative.  Depending on the job for which you are applying, always dress one step up for the interview.  And, no, this does not mean that a man who will be wearing a suit at work should wear a tuxedo to the interview, or a woman an evening dress.

I was teaching a class of tradesmen – carpenters, electricians, plumbers – and when I suggested that they wear a nice pair of slacks and a collared shirt to a job interview, there was no objection.  Then I said they might want to wear a tie.  They laughed.  They stopped laughing when one of their classmates said that he got his last job because he had worn a tie.  He had been one of a good dozen or so candidates.  He was hired.  On his first day he asked his new boss why he had chosen him and not one of the others (all of whom had to have had more experience than he because he was just getting started).  The response, “You were the only one wearing a tie.”

Just as an aside, and I know it is silly, but when I was a fundraiser meeting with the affluent, both male and female, I was regularly complimented on my pen.  It looks (I still have it) fancy but it was hardly expensive.  I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I bought it at Staples.  The point is that they noticed and complimented me on it.  You never know what will attract someone’s eyes or how.

My point is that interviewers will remember what they smell, what they hear, and what they see.  (They also remember what they feel so make sure you give everyone a firm handshake to send a message of confidence.)  Think about the message you send when making every decision regarding your appearance and demeanor.

Why not share your experiences in the Comments section?

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.   In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

I got fired because I am pretty!

Well, not exactly.

A young woman phoned me asking for advice.  She had been fired.  As with all young people fired for the first time, she believed that she would never get another job.  Her career was over before it even began.

This is called being human.  I have had older workers come to me with equal panic and frustration believing that their careers were over because they too were fired.  In those case, for the most part, I was able to reassure them that they were not “fired” but rather only “laid off.”  There’s a big difference, but I’ll leave that for a future post.

Let’s get back to our young woman.

I asked her what happened and this is basically what she said:

It was just like in high school.  All the boys would hang around me between classes and at events.  I liked the attention.  And it continued in college.  But at work it got me into trouble and I got fired.

Nothing new here.  We have all witnessed this ourselves.  I still see it at so-called “professional” networking events.

I asked her what she said to the guys at the office.  She told me that she told them that she had work to do and didn’t have the time.  They would then ask her out.  She told them she had a boy friend.

Then I asked what the boss had said to her.  She told me that the boss had said she was not getting her work done because she was spending too much time socializing.  She had not been hired to socialize.  She was then fired.

She had only been on the job three months.

First, I explained that I was not an employment attorney.  There may be grounds for legal actions because it could constitute sexual harassment or a hostile work environment depending on a number of things including corporate policy and whether or not she followed the policy in filing a complaint.  I advised she consult with a qualified attorney.

Second, even if she has grounds for legal action, right now she needs work and she therefore needs a good explanation of what happened.

I told her to simply tell the truth: “Guys were hanging around my desk.  I told them I had work to do.  They still came over.  When they asked me out I said I had a boy friend.  They would still come over.  The boss saw it, though that I was socializing and fired me.”

So far so good.  But now, I told her, she had to show that she learned from the experience, knew what she had done wrong, and would not do it again.

“My mistake was not going to my boss.  Impression is reality so the boss did not know what was really happening.  I should have asked for advice and direction.  If it ever happens again, that is what I will do.”

For the record, if the boss had been aware of what was actually happening, the riot act should have been read to the male employees and if they did not leave the woman alone they (the men) should have all been fired.

I have every confidence this young woman will have little difficulty finding work.  Good employers like people who admit their mistakes, learn from them and make no excuses.  I know because I have gotten jobs for people who have been fired for far more serious errors in judgement.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

A good cry may cost you a job offer but get you a career

Henry Kissinger had two rules. The first, which I understood, was that he would never bring “too many” Jews with him into President Nixon’s Oval Office. The second, which I also understood, was that if someone handed him a report he would write on it something like, “Too long!” The next version would be “Not focused!” And it would continue until that frustrated author would say, “Mr. Secretary, this is the best I can do.” To which Kissinger would reply, “Now I’ll read it!”

That is what happens when you are a writer. It happens when you are a writer of reports for a Henry Kissinger and it also happens when you are a speech writer. Whatever you write is going to be edited. The first draft will never survive. And if you want to be an author, you have to be ready for rejection.

As many of you know, I have been victimized for helping women get job offers because I had the nerve to suggest that their unique engagement rings may have been the reason they were not getting job offers. A curious thing has started to happen. Women have started to thank me. One in particular was a young woman who I had met many years ago. And I had made her cry.

She was fresh out of journalism school. She wanted to be a corporate speech writer. I had a client looking for a speech writer. We set up an appointment and I told her that, in addition to sending me her resume, she also had to send me a one-page essay on why she should be considered for the job. She did.

I have well over 100 peer-reviewed publications. My Master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation were both published by highly respected publishers. I have had articles and reviews published in journals around the world. In other words, my professors and faceless editors have cut my works to shreds. I know how to do it and I did it to this young woman.

When I handed her back her essay, there was not a phrase, punctuation, sentence, paragraph, word or thought that I had not put red pen to. She took one look at it, teared up and then the tears started to flow.

It took a couple of minutes for her to calm done but then I explained what I had done. I told her that the essay was actually pretty good, but that being a speech writer meant having to learn the person for whom you are writing. It has to sound like their words, not yours. So you have to learn how to handle criticism and criticism that is not always diplomatically conveyed.

She was obviously not yet suited for the job. She was smart enough to know it. She thanked me and today I found out that she is now a successful speech writer.

Just because at one point in your career you are not yet ready for your dream job, does not mean you never will be ready. Knowledge is not everything; sometimes experience is even more important. That is equally true for someone fresh out of college as it is for a more seasoned professional looking to change careers.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

Never Give Out References

I just received a resume that concluded with a list of references. Never give out references.

Scenario A: Employers look at your resume, like it, and call your references. They are totally unprepared because you have not spoken with them. While they may not intentionally say anything wrong, more importantly, they may not say anything right.

Scenario B: Same thing only the references don’t realize that the employers have never actually met you. So they begin to think, “I thought Mary was great. Why are all these employers calling me and none is offering her a job? Maybe I was wrong about her.”

Scenario C: Same thing only now the references are fed up with getting all these calls.

There is no excuse for giving out the names and contact information of references until there is mutual interest. And you always want to prepare your references for the conversation with the recruiter/employer.

I once got a call from a recruiter asking me for a reference on Jane Smith. I told her that I did not have a clue who the person was. She told me that she had claimed that we had worked together at XYZ, 10 years earlier! I told her that XYZ had 600 employees. I asked what the woman had done there. It took a couple of minutes but we figured it out. I knew her under he maiden name, not her married name. I barely remembered her.

Did she get the job? No. Why? Because I didn’t have anything really positive to say about her? No. Because she did not have the common sense to contact me in advance and ask my permission.

Don’t give out the names of references without their permission and without preparing them. Period. End of discussion.

(And if it is a request on an actual application form, write what I have written: Names will be provided when there is mutual interest.)

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.

When a Prospective Employer Invites You to Dinner, Don’t Do This!

When some people have a lot on their mind, and need to clear their heads to make proper decisions, they exercise, go to the movies, read, shop, whatever. My choice is to go to a nice restaurant, with good food, good service, at a fair price. And so I did.

I was looking forward to a quiet dinner. I arrived. Was escorted to a table. And a minute or two later a husband, his wife, their (I think) 11-12 year old daughter, and a man probably in his mid-thirties arrived. I did not mean to eavesdrop but my antenna went up when I heard Dad say,

“Joe, relax. This is not part of the interview.”

Dad lied. Everything is part of the interview.

A pleasant conversation no doubt followed which I ignored because I was reading a very good book on Winston Churchill by Boris Johnson, the UK’s new foreign minister. But then the waitress – sorry, server – arrived, and asked about drinks.

Mom ordered first, followed by daughter, and then Joe. Joe ordered a beer.

They then surveyed the menus and when the young lady returned they ordered their meals.

Joe asked Dad something about his company. He received a vague response. Dad asked Mom about something or other. They had a conversation. Then Daughter asked Joe a question about where he was from. Joe responded with the name of the city. Period. End of conversation.

Then Joe returned his attention to Dad asking questions about the job he was clearly certain he was going to get.

By now, as I usually do in these cases, I had taken a notepad out of my pocket because I knew I had an LinkedIn article in the making and did not want to forget anything.

Joe excused himself to go to the Men’s Room. Daughter asked Dad if Joe was going to get the job. Dad said no. She asked him why. He gave four reasons:

1) He ordered a beer.

2) He talked business in a public place.

3) He ignored Mommy.

4) He ignored you.

At this stage Dad realized something was up because I had a big grin on my face. So I introduced myself and said, “You missed two other reasons not to hire him.”

“What?” Dad inquired.

First, he believed you when you told him to relax and that the dinner was not part of the interview. And second, he said neither please nor thank you when ordering or receiving his drink or food.

At that point, Joe returned and I went back to reading about Churchill.

I don’t know if I am going to get a new executive recruiting client as a result of my dinner at that restaurant, but I know Joe is still looking for a new job!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and his upcoming speaking engagements.

The Importance of the One Question in a Job Interview

Before going any further, click here to watch the video.

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The commercial you just watched is generally considered the best commercial ever made.

In an interview the job applicant will have a chance to ask questions. All job applicants will have the chance to ask questions. The best way to differentiate yourself is by asking the best question. Have you ever wondered how the snow plow driver gets to the snow plow?

What’s your snow plow driver question? Mine is, “Who succeeds here?” because it shows that you understand the importance of corporate culture and you are looking for a long-term commitment.

So, again, what’s your snow plow question? Share!

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.

How Changing Shoes Almost Cost a Woman a Job Offer

It seems impossible but lately Manhattan appears to be even more crowded than usual. (Why the death penalty is not imposed on people who walk the sidewalks, not to mention cross the street, bumping into intelligent pedestrians, while reading, writing and responding to messages on their phones, I will never understand!) Add to this the emotional release of a successful job interview and, if everything goes wrong, it could be a prescription for disaster.

So what happened?

Anyone walking the streets of mid-town Manhattan, and other areas of the city, has seen this balancing act. A woman approaches an office building, leans against the front of the building, removes a pair of shoes from a bag, takes the shows she is wearing off, and puts the other pair on. She is replacing comfortable walking shoes for “professional” looking shoes. Happens all the time.

On this particular afternoon, a woman exits an office building and does the reverse balancing act. She replaces her “professional” shoes with the comfortable ones. As she is doing so, a friend approaches her and, balancing on one foot, albeit just for a few seconds, they have a chat. At this point one of the aforementioned phone reading/writing sidewalk walkers bumps into her friend who then bumps into her, catching her before she falls.

Just then, exiting the office building is the man who had interviewed her for a mid-management position. He smiles, says nothing, and walks off in the opposite direction.

That is the story that was related to me a couple of weeks ago by a very concerned woman who was smart enough to realize that she had a problem.

The last impression an interviewer has of you is, usually, the most powerful. It is what they remember. Forget about the bumping which he probably did not see, this man’s last impression of this woman was of her changing shoes. Again, she knew she had a problem and that is why she called me.

After conducting a mock interview with her for a good hour, I was convinced that she was correct when she had told me that she had had an excellent interview. Her thank-you email letter was perfect. (In fact, the reason she contacted me was that she had read my post on writing thank-you emails.)

She had been promised, at the end of the previous interview, that she would be called back for a follow-up interview. She received the call and was told she would be meeting with the owner of the company. Thus her call to me.

I asked her what she thought the man’s impression of her was and she hit the nail on the head, so to speak. She’s an applicant for a position of authority with us, she is going to have to solve complicated problems, and she can’t find a comfortable professional looking pair of shoes. How is she going to be able to do this job?

I could not have said it better myself.

But there was another problem. What if she was wrong and the man, seeing her changing her shoes, didn’t think anything of it? What if she was creating an issue in her own mind that was not in his? As I wrote at the start of this post, this is a scene that repeats itself constantly in Manhattan. Frankly, it’s so common that I don’t even notice it any more and I’m sure it’s the same for most people.

Of course, the question that had to be addressed was, What if she was right and he now had a negative impression of her?

Well, if it was really negative she would not have gotten the interview with the owner. So maybe it’s not all that negative, maybe it’s just an “issue” and not a “problem.”

The answer could easily be determined if the person about whom she was concerned was in the room. Just read his body language. If he was not in the room, that could be a problem. Do you raise the issue or not?

Well, she did not have to wait long to know if it was a topic that had to be addressed. In addition to the company’s owner, and one of his female executives (you never interview a job applicant without someone of the same gender as the applicant present) in the room, was the man who had previously interviewed her and she immediately sensed that his attitude towards her had changed.

So she knew three things: First, he was not the sole decision maker because if he was now against her, she would not be there. Second, the majority of the people who had interviewed her liked her, which was why she was there. Third, she had to address the “can’t find a comfortable professional pair of shoes” issue.

After the usual pleasantries, the owner of the company looked at her and said, “Tell me about yourself.”

That’s what we had practiced. And she knew exactly what to say.

(Just as an aside, she researched the owner and found that he likes to quote or mention Einstein in his speeches.)

Einstein had his thought experiments. I’m no Einstein but I like to do self-evaluation experiments. Whenever I have meetings in the city and have to do a lot of walking (For those of you who do not know, it is sometimes quicker to walk a mile or more in the Manhattan, than taking a cab or public transportation.) I wear comfortable shoes and then put on professional looking shoes when I enter the building. I asked myself, What does that mean about me? Would I accept this type of nonsense on the job? Would I purchase two different products to get one job done? Of course not. So after the last interview I had, I went out and purchased a comfortable pair of professional looking shoes. It may sound silly, but I wanted to tell you about it because it is indicative of my thought process. You know many women do the two shoes thing. I did it because it is what is done. But it is dumb and is not professional. So I don’t do it any more. So if you hire me, you are getting someone who self-evaluates and, if there is need for improvement, improves. That is what I expect from myself and that is what I will expect from my team.

Throughout the answer she was reading the owner’s body language. When she began her response she glanced at the other man in the room and his body language showed her concerns were justified and that he was pleased she recognized it. His last impression of her was negative. She could now turn that around. But as she spoke to the owner, looking only at him, he was sending positive signals (to her and, from his glances, to the others in the room). He liked what he heard. The reference to Einstein showed that she prepared well for interviews. Self-criticism and self-improvement are arguably the best qualities a person can have. No need to mention his reaction to the inference of cost savings and process/procedural improvements. She did very well.

When she finished her response, the owner rose, smiled, extended his arm, and offered her the job. No more questions needed to be asked.

Remember, last impressions are the most important.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over a quarter of a million times and have garnered national and international media attention.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador. An advocate for the protection of job seekers, visit the homepage of his website, www.hsstaffing.com, to read about questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies and to learn about his upcoming speaking engagements.