The Best Way to Deal with the Issues You Hope Interviewers will Not Bring Up

We all have them: Things which we wish we had not done. Things we hope the interviewer does not know about. Things we pray our references will not mention.

The good news is that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, interviewers don’t know and if they did know they would not care. Human beings have the bad habit of magnifying their problems out of all proportion. Other people’s problems are simple; ours are monumental. It’s the old joke, “If you break your leg it’s a pity; if I break mine it’s a catastrophe!” (I said it was “old;” I didn’t say it was “funny!”)

This is a serious issue. Not because coming up with a reasonable explanation is difficult. It’s not. The problem is obsession. We obsess over it. Instead of practicing the answers to questions that may actually be asked, or, more importantly, practicing the questions we are going to ask, we obsess over the “what if”s which, as noted, probably won’t happen. And that usually results in a bad night’s sleep prior to the interview, which is never a prescription for success!

The best way to deal with these issues, the ones you hope will not come up in the job interview, is to practice the old saying, “Never cross a bridge until you come to it.” If the subject does come up, just like with any difficult question of a personal-professional nature, the rule is simple:

Tell the truth and keep it short. The more you talk the more your credibility will suffer. If you like game theory, it’s a zero sum game between length of answer and depth of credibility. In scores of cases, I have never had a career counseling client, panicking over how to explain an unfortunate occurrence, leave without having a short, honest explanation. I can remember once when a client took an hour to explain to me what happened. I did not interrupt him. He just kept talking. And when he was finished, I told him what to say. I literally gave him a 10-second explanation which was totally truthful and completely credible, which turned the issue into a non-issue. You see, when you remove all the extraneous details, the story usually is very simple. But, because he was so emotionally attached to the situation, because he knew too much, he could not eliminate the irrelevancies. Everything, for him, was of equal importance. He could not differentiate. And that inability is what could have cost him a job offer.

So to summarize: focus onwhat is likely to happen, and have short, honest and simple answers to the difficult questions. It really is not all that hard to do. Oh, and have a good night’s sleep!

The Components of a Successful LinkedIn Marketing Campaign

LinkedIn can and should be the nexus of a successful corporate marketing campaign. In addition to being able to write full-length articles, the beauty of the system is that it has the features of most, if not all, of the other major social media sites: You can share short messages (updates), pictures (photos), and multimedia (audio and video) files and, most importantly, you can interact with virtually no limitation, with current and potential clients/customers, whether they are your direct (first-degree) connections or not.

It is how I built my brand which equates to my business. And while it is a long, on-going, process that takes commitment and an investment of time, it’s relatively easy to do.

What are the steps?

First, obviously, create a personal profile. But what some business owners neglect is to create a Company Page as well. While not obligatory, it may be helpful, depending on your type of business. There may be some things you don’t want to have on your personal profile but would want on your Company Page. This is similar to Facebook complementing your website. You do some things on the former that you would not do on the latter.

Of course, if you do not let the world know what you are doing, then you are doing nothing. You can’t be the best kept secret in town! And this is what takes time. You not only have to write articles (posts), but share updates and (business related) photos, but also promote any of your PR successes, such as quotations on news sites, podcast or radio interviews, television appearances, and speaking engagements (all of which may come as your reputation builds).

The foundation of your LinkedIn world is your network. You can literally invite the world to join you. That is a strategy that works for some but not for others. It depends on your type of business. I, for example, need connections in all industries across the United States. A realtor in New York City only needs first-degree connections in the “Greater New York City” area. That said, she still will want to be known outside of New York so that if someone is moving to the City they will reach out to her for advice and assistance. That is accomplished by becoming a recognized industry leader.

This brings me to Groups. In addition to writing articles and sharing updates (not just about your activities but also professional articles/news stories), and photos, it is important to lead and participate in discussions in LinkedIn Groups, which is why joining Groups is so important. It is also a great way to promote your LinkedIn articles.

But let’s return to those first-degree connections. Once you have them, you have to use them. If you don’t interact with them, professionally, through messaging, it would be like going to a party, getting the phone numbers of persons in whom you are interested, not calling any of them and then complaining that you don’t have a date for Saturday night!

Additionally, you should not ignore other social media. For example, make certain to Tweet about your LinkedIn and real-world activities. (This can easily be done by using the social media message scheduling site, HootSuite, which, like all the other sites mentioned here, excluding LinkedIn, are free.) That will help to broaden your name recognition and will result in your receiving requests from LinkedIn members to join their networks. As soon as you are discovered on LinkedIn, based on your activities, people will want to have you in their networks.

(For the record, there is a free LinkedIn account. That said, you need a premium account because there will be no limitations on the number of searches you can conduct. You need to conduct searches to find members to join your network.)

A great website to help further build your reputation is Help A Reporter Out. Sign up as a “source” and every day, three times a day, you will receive literally hundreds of questions from reporters. Answer those that pertain to your profession or industry and, before you know it, you will have media citations which you can share with your LinkedIn and social media networks and include on your personal Profile and Company Page.

Similarly, opening an account on the podcast site BlogTalkRadio, can also help in the building of your brand. If you are proactive, you could be a guest on podcasts. Once the interviews go live, so to speak, you will then have links to share as updates, not to mention having something to add to your Profile and Company Page, thus making them multimedia.

There is no doubt that this is a time-intensive activity, but if you have the time, it is time well spent. And, if not, there’s someone you can hire to do the work for you.

JOB ALERT: Senior Accountant, New Jersey

Senior Accountant

Parsippany, New Jersey

 My client, a northern New Jersey Certified Public Accounting firm is seeking qualified candidates for an excellent career as a Senior Accountant to be responsible for all aspects of client engagements including tax planning, compliance, financial statement compilations, reviews and audits. Salary will be commensurate with experience.  Business casual environment, medical benefits subsidized by firm, 401K with up to 4% match. Salary range is $55,000-$65,000.

Looking for a motivated self-starter who wants to advance quickly.

Responsibilities:

The individual will be working in all aspects of accounting, tax and audit. Will be working closely with the Managers and Partners on all projects.

Tax Compliance, planning and research

  • Work closely with partners, supervisors and other staff on audits, reviews, compilations and write-ups.
  • Apply knowledge of tax forms, basic tax concepts, computer applications and other source material to prepare tax returns, projections and other data in order to prepare U.S. individual, corporate and partnership tax returns.
  • Keep abreast of current and emerging technical developments. Develop specialized technical expertise. Prepare and present assignment deliverables to clients and ensure client satisfaction
  • Use technology to continually learn, share knowledge with team members, and enhance service delivery.
  • Some travel required to clients

 

Job Qualifications:

  • B.S. in Accounting
  • Minimum 4+ years of public accounting experience
  • CPA or working towards certification
  • Proficient in Excel, Word and QuickBooks
  • Comfortable with multi-tasking, being responsible for multiple assignments and meeting deadlines.
  • Experience with CCH Prosystem and Drake tax software a plus
  • Experience with complex tax returns, compliance and financial statements.

 

To apply please submit your resume as a Word Document to bh@hsstaffing.com.

5 Simple Steps to a Successful Phone Interview

Back in July I wrote an article about conducting a successful Skype interview. “Due to popular demand…” it’s time to consider the phone interview. And it’s not difficult. Just remember to do these five things and you should be successful.

(For the record, I am not concerned here with the telephone call where a recruiter simply confirms qualifications. This phone interview is to get the face-to-face interview.)

Get Dressed

If you are at work, obviously this is not an issue. But most phone interviews take place in the home and your first instinct is to feel relaxed. Don’t! You don’t want to feel relaxed, you want to feel comfortable and professional. So forget about the PJs and pretend it’s Casual Friday. “Clothes make the man” is true in this case…for women too!

It’s all about attitude. You have to sound professional. In a Skype interview, not to mention a face-to-face interview, the interviewers can see your body language. In a phone interview all the interviewers have to rely upon to judge your sincerity and level of interest is your tone of voice. If you don’t feel professional you will not sound profession. So, get dressed!

Get a Mirror

On the same lines, in order to sound professional and interested, and certainly not negative, use a time-honored old salesman’s trick: keep a mirror on your desk. Look at it and every time you say something, smile. Human beings cannot sound negative when we are smiling. We just can’t do it. But we can sound sarcastic. So be careful. (And, of course, don’t smile if you are discussing something sad or negative!)

Resume

You will be nervous. You never want to contradict something in your resume. So have it in front of you. Refer to it. You can’t do that in a face-to-face interview, but you can over the phone.

Listen

If they are interviewing you they want to hire you. Employers have the bad habit of talking too much. They will invariably tell you what they want to hear. If you are not listening (take notes!) you won’t know what they want you to say. So listen.

Questions

In a phone interview you will not have a lot of time to ask questions. If you can only ask one, ask, Who succeeds at your company? That shows that you want to make certain you are a cultural fit and that you don’t want to waste their time or yours. A second question to ask is, What did the last person who had the position do that you want to see continued and what would you like to see done differently? That’s the mature, professional way to ask, Why is the position available?

And remember to stay focused on the prize: You don’t want a job offer you want a face-to-face interview. These require two different game plans.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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.

The One Question to Ask Yourself if You Think You Should Change Careers

I won’t exaggerate. It does not happen every day, but at least once a week I get a phone call from someone considering changing careers. As we chat it becomes clear that their problem is not their career but rather their job.

There’s a difference. If you basically like what you do but don’t like your boss or colleagues, you want a new job. If you like what you do but want to do more, and there is no room for growth with your current employer, you want a new job. (In that case, you actually need a new job!) But if you really don’t like what you are doing, despite the fact that you like your boss and colleagues, then it may be time for a new career.

That’s a major step. You will have to learn new things, maybe even go back to school. You could require a license or certification. And, no less importantly, you may need to create an entirely new network. This is not buying a new car or changing your appearance!

When you have issues with your job, it is good to talk to friends and family. They can help. They can listen. They can advise. But when the topic is changing careers, friends and family may let their feelings get in the way. They are rightly concerned about your finances. After all, a new career means starting over and starting over usually means a much lower salary. They care about you and don’t want you to end up loosing what you have worked so hard to achieve. And they may be right!

Some people, including career counselors, will suggest that you take an aptitude test to determine what you are good at. Nonsense! It’s a waste of money. If you actually want to take a test, ask the counselor what test she recommends and then go to their website and take it yourself. You’ll save time and money and won’t feel like a total idiot since you will be wasting less time and less money if you had used her services. (Usually all that happens is that the counselor sends you a link to the test and then the company sends her the link. She then calls you and, basically, reads you the results.)

The fact is, you know what you want to do, you just don’t know it! So sit down, alone, in a comfortable chair, without any distractions, and ask yourself one simple question: When you are working, doing your job, what do you daydream about?

Once you have that answer you may know what your next career will be. To find out, most friends and most family members will be of no help. As stated above, they are going to let their personal feelings get in the way. Instead of encouraging you, which means encouraging you to take a risk, they will encourage you to play it safe. That’s when you go to a career counselor. Because a career counselor can help you answer the next question, Can you make an actual career out of what you daydream about?

Previously I have written, and said at my public presentations, that when choosing a career counselor to help you conduct an effective job search you should always ask one question: How many people have you hired and fired? If they have not hired or fired anyone, then, for them, career counseling is an academic pursuit. You don’t need theory you need experience and they can’t provide it.

The same is true when it comes to choosing a career counselor to help with a new career. The one question to ask them is: Have you ever changed careers? If not, then, again, all they can do is to tell you what they have read in books and articles. You need someone who can hone in on the real issues career changers face and then, together, decide if that is really what you want. If they have not been through it, they won’t know what to ask (unless they read the right books which, after all, you can read on your own saving yourself time and money!).

The good news about changing careers, as opposed to jobs, is that you can actually change careers while keeping your current job. You can test it out and see if you like it before taking the plunge and quitting that job about which your friends and family are so concerned. Which means they will not be negative influences since there is nothing for them to be negative about. There’s no risk – which is obviously the same situation if you want to change careers because you lost your job.

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Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He has helped scores (thousands if you include attendees at his presentations) of people, including veterans, not only change jobs but, on occasion, change careers. Having successfully transitioned from academia to non-profits to the recruiting industry, he has been there and done that!

Bruce is a recognized authority on job search and career issues, having been quoted in over 700 articles, appearing in some 500 publications, across the United States and in more than 30 foreign countries. His posts on LinkedIn have been read over 300,000 times and have garnered national and international media attention, including television appearances on Fox Business Network and Headline News (CNN).

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.

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.

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.

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