m-Pact Career Blog

from Marketing Talent Network

The Personality Factor in Telephone Interviews

Personality is one of many things that seem to suffer from the fact that so many candidates take telephone interviews for granted.  Yet, the telephone interview is the first opportunity that you have to make an impression beyond a piece of paper.  It will determine whether or not you move forward in the hiring process with this company.  So get enthusiastic.

The telephone interview is more than just a conversation.  It is more than a simple review of your resume by telephone.  It is the first step in the post-resume review to determine whether there is a fit between you and the company.  Personality counts.

Now, that doesn’t mean telling lots of jokes and trying to establish rapport by talking about sports or (please no) politics.  What it means is three things:

  1. Be Professional:  As said before, this is not a chat.  This is a business meeting.  Be in an area where you can concentrate and not have any interruptions.  Prepare for it.  Have a notepad in front of you where you have some notes on the company and the job, and on some positive points that you want to make certain you include.
  2. Show Interest:  This is best accomplished through effective listening skills and insightful questions.  When faced with a golden opportunity in the form of the sentence “Do you have any questions?”, please please don’t respond with “No, I think you’ve answered everything.”  (And yes, people have been known to do this.)  It is an interview killer.  Have a number of questions prepared in advance based on research about the company and their products/services.
  3. Show Enthusiasm:  Companies are interested in people who are interested in them.  Sit forward in your chair instead of slumping.  You wouldn’t slump in a face-to-face interview (I hope).  Why do so here?  Believe it or not, your body language tends to communicate itself through your voice over the phone.  The same is true as far as having a smile or a frown on your face.  It is very difficult to sound upbeat when you are slouching on a sofa, with a TV on in the background (sound turned down), frowning at the play that was just made at third base.  Smile, sit up and forward in your chair, listen intently, and show interest in the person on the other end of the phone and the opportunity they are discussing.  It makes all the difference in the world.

So we are not misleading anyone, we are not saying that your experience is unimportant.  We are not saying that personality will carry the day regardless of what you have to say.  What we are saying is that enthusiasm and energy can be the difference-maker, playing a major part in whether you are one of the individuals that makes it to that critical next step.

John

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June 9, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Interview Tip: Tell Them Something They DON’T Know.

Let’s begin this discussion with a fairly simple observation:  everyone who will interview you for a job will almost certainly have already read your resume.  If you want to stand out . . . if you want to make an impression . . . then tell them something that they don’t already know.  Tell them something that they didn’t read in your resume.

This can come in several forms. 

  • Providing additional details regarding how effectively you did your job — such as getting projects completed ahead of time or your skills in mentoring other employees in the company.
  • Relating stronger details on the kind of positive impact that you made in your company — such as quantifiable increases in revenue or market share or margin/profit.
  • Telling stories which build on the less visual statements of fact written down in your resume — such as stories about effective problem solving in a situation or your creative approach to the promotion of a product that had been declining in market share.

All of these techniques can help you in two ways.  First, telling them something they don’t know by simply reading the resume helps you to maintain and build their interest during the interview.  In effect, you are placing this question in their mind — “What other positive things do we not know about this candidate?”.  Second, by taking the information in your resume and applying it to the specific job to be done with this company, you are answering that question in a way that tells them why you are especially qualified for this position.

So, do what you would do with any product.  Build interest and build value.  Tell them something they don’t know.

John

 

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Tell Me About Yourself” – Getting Ready

Admittedly, we left you hanging a little after our last article.  To remind you, the subject is how to answer the stock interview question “Tell me About Yourself” — and how to answer it in a way that is meaningful.  In that article, we broke that answer down into three basic parts: 

  • Summarize Your Career in One Sentence
  • Give a Brief Example Demonstrating Your Accomplishments
  • Conclude with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career

Remember, though, that the primary idea is to do this in a way that really answers the more important unspoken question“Why should I hire you for this job?”  In order to design an answer that accomplishes this, there are three important steps in preparation.

First, try to determine the most important characteristics for this job.  There are a couple of different sources for this.  One is, of course, the advertisement or posting for the position.  Be cautious about relying on this source however.  Often these are little more than “boiler-plate” ads or short excerpts from the HR department’s job description.  Other sources?  If you have a telephone interview before your face-to-face interview(s), ask that interviewer the question – “What are the two or three most important skills or capabilities for this person to have?”  And if you are working with an executive search firm, they should be able to tell you that same information even before your first telephone interview.

Once you have those specifications, you want to compare those insights to your own skills, experience and background.  And here is where it gets a little tricky.   The talent you want to use is the one where you have the strongest story to tell — the best accomplishments and the most meaningful results.  Remember, your purpose is not to truly tell them all about yourself.  Your purpose is to lay the foundation for a good interview by making the strongest positive impression possible from the very beginning.

Which brings us to number three.  Be brief.  This entire answer — all three parts — should be only four or five sentences long at most.  If they ask you to elaborate, then by all means do so.  But do not take up valuable interviewing time by going on and on.  Trust me . . . they have other questions to ask you.  And the best way to assure brevity and power is to practice, practice, practice.  You want this to roll off the tongue naturally and smoothly, and to respect your interviewer’s time.

Do this, and you will get off to the best of all possible starts with each and every interview. 

 John

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Tell me About Yourself” – What to Say

For a deceptively simple question, “Tell me about yourself” may be one of the toughest questions to handle properly in the interview.  There is a tendency to do one of two things. 

First, some individuals will answer this question with an answer that goes on and on . . . and on . . . and on . . . and on.  This becomes a huge problem.  You are taking up valuable time in  your interview with your own monologue.  Which might be fine, except that this is not the Johnny Carson Show.  The reason you are in the interview is to answer questions, and not to give a speech.  And to answer those questions in a way that helps you advance in this hiring process.  Plus, there is a certain truth to the observation that the longer your answer, the more likely you are to get yourself in trouble.

Other individuals will answer this question with broad generalities, which also will not get you anywhere closer in your job search.  Don’t waste this question with an answer that doesn’t amount to much more than “small talk”.  You are not in this interview to have a chat.  You are there to get a job.

So how should you handle this question in an interview?  Well, several years ago, Lynden Kidd (a healthcare recruiter) outlined three steps to answering this question that can be applied to almost all industry segments, including marketing:

  • “Summarize your career in one sentence.”
  • “Next give a one to two sentence example demonstrating your accomplishments.”
  • “End your answer to this question with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career . . .”

So, let’s take that three part outline and apply these steps to the next time you hear this question in an interview.  You will find that this interviewing advice is very similar to our advice about a crafting a summary statement for your resume.

Summarize your career in one sentence.  The first rule about answering this question is for each part of the answer to relate to the specific job for which you are interviewing.  This should not be a generic answer.  It should be carefully molded to the specifics of this interview.  For our example here, we will consider a position that involves significant development of new products.  Your answer might begin with a general statement such as:  “I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept through development details such as product design and packaging to product launch.”  So, the first part of your answer is general, but customized to the specific job for which you are interviewing

Give a brief example demonstrating your accomplishments.  This is the part where we take the answer from the general to the specific.  In this stage of answering the question, you give specifics to demonstrate your success in handling this type of position in the past.  In our chosen example:  “In my last position, we introduced 3 major new products, plus a number of line extensions.  Each of these products exceeded sales expectations by between 3% and 17%, and one of them was the second most successful product launch in the company’s 37 year history.”  As with our example here, this should be limited to only a couple of sentences.  What you have done here is provide information to show how effectively you have performed this job in your career.

Conclude with a one sentence statement about what you want to do next in your career.  We shouldn’t need to state the obvious, but we will.  This conclusion needs to flow logically from the rest of your answer, and fit in well with the specifics of this company and position.  Using the example here, you do not want to say that you are really looking to add Internet experience to your resume.  Rather, your close to this answer might sound something like this:  “I love working with new products and am interested in an opportunity that focuses on this area, and a company where development of new products is a high priority.”  What you have accomplished in this sentence is to say I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept through development details such as product design and packaging to product launch.  What you have done here is to say why you are interested in this opportunity, and why they should be interested in you.

So, your answer the question “Tell me about yourself” in an interview with a company looking for a Product Manager in charge of New Products ends up being something like this: 

I’m a marketing professional with 7 years of experience including extensive work in developing products — from concept, through development details such as product design and packaging, to product launch. In my last position, we introduced 3 major new products, plus a number of line extensions.  Each of these products exceeded sales expectations by between 3% and 17%, and one of them was the second most successful product launch in the company’s 37 year history.  I love working with new products and am interested in an opportunity that focuses on this area, and a company where development of new products is a high priority.

By following this technique your answer to a general question, a question that is typically one of the first ones asked in the interview, is neither general nor meaningless.  It immediately confirms that you are indeed someone that they should be considering for this opportunity.  And it establishes a solid foundation for the rest of your interview.

But, you say, I don’t think that I could come up with something like this off the top of my head.  You’re right.  You probably can’t.  Which is why we are going to give you three additional rules on handling this question in our next article.

John

May 31, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Consultant Seeking Job?

An interesting trend over the past five years is the increase in resumes that feature a period of time in which a professional has had their own consulting practice.  This is different than someone working for a consulting group or for a marketing agency or advertising firm.  What we are considering here are situations in which a candidate is using their own self-employment as an independent consultant for part of their employment history.

It is not at all unusual in such situations for a third-party recruiter or an interviewer with a prospective employer to explore this particular period in some detail, especially if it is presented as the most recent employment on your resume or at least fairly recent employment.  And why not?  If it is part of a legitimate job history, you should expect that experience to be explored at least as fully as any other experience.

The secret, as with all areas of the interview, is to be prepared.  However, preparation is especially important in this instance because claims of consulting experience will be suspect to some of the individuals interviewing you.  We know you don’t want to hear this, but it is a fact.

  • Were you obtaining consulting assignments yourself, or were these contract assignments through an agency or marketing temp firm?  You may be asked this just to establish the type of consulting environment in which you were operating.  If these were through a marketing temp firm for example, be prepared to reveal who that firm was.  Also, don’t be surprised if you are asked why none of those assignments converted from temporary to permanent.
  • Who were your clients and what was the nature of the consulting work?  This question will almost certainly come up.  Be prepared to talk about this, but also be aware that there is a right way and a wrong way to present this information.  The most important thing to remember is to try and keep this discussion relevant to the job for which you are interviewing.  For example, if you are interviewing for a brand management job involving a lot of work with new products, try to use examples that illustrate consulting work with new product launch or designing new packaging, or examples that emphasize your creativity and conceptualization.  If you are interviewing for a marketing research job that requires experience with syndicated research or with focus groups, use examples from your consulting work that highlight your skills in those areas.  If you are interviewing for a job involving Search Engine Optimization, focus on SEO related success stories in your consulting.  Keep it relevant to the job.
  • A Resume Addendum?  It is generally a poor idea to busy up a resume with extraordinary levels of detail about every consulting client and assignment.  However, if you have a particularly strong story to tell about your consulting experience, you might consider including an addendum to your resume as a part of the portfolio that you take to job interviews.  As a brief overview, it is recommended that this be organized in bullet format with the client as the header for each bullet.  In addition to the client name, include a very brief description of the nature of the assignment and, much more importantly, any success stories related to each assignment.  In other words, tell what you accomplished for each client, quantifying these accomplishments to the extent possible.  When this period of your work history comes up in the interview, you can then use this to help establish that experience as strength rather than a potential weakness.
  • What were your Earnings as a consultant?  Especially if this is shown as your most recent job experience, you will almost certainly be asked this.  There is a tremendous temptation for some individuals faced with this question to exaggerate, and that is a disaster waiting to happen.  At some point, you will probably be asked to provide this information in writing on an application form.  Plus, don’t be surprised if you are asked to provide a tax reporting record as evidence of the accuracy of these claims.  You may think that exaggeration of this income is safe because it is a little more difficult to confirm through standard reference checking, but being caught may very likely mean losing this job opportunity entirely.
  • Be Prepared with References:  This is an era of more cautious reference checking.  If independent consulting is a part of your work history, you should be prepared with at least one or two solid references from your clients.

If you are one of that increasing number of professionals that include a period of independent consulting in your career track, don’t be ashamed of it.  More and more companies appreciate some element of entrepreneurial experience in prospective employee backgrounds.  However, be prepared to present that background with strength and credibility in order to increase your chances of landing your desired job. 

At the same time, beware of exaggerating.  Again, like it or not, fair or not — many recruiters and companies are already at least a little suspicious when they see this background presented on a resume.  You want it to work for you — not against you.

John

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Bigger They Are . . . (or a new way to lose your job)

One of the areas that we regularly stress is the importance of truthfulness in your resume.  We no longer live in a world where credentials are checked haphazardly, if at all.

This should be obvious. Except we have had candidates who sent us resumes with a changed career track that is very different than the resume they sent us three years ago.  In other words, the same person had different jobs with different employers at different periods of their career than what they had reported before.  And yes, we do keep them.

And we have had candidates who have told us that another recruiter told them it was okay to just drop the short term job that they held in 2006 for about eight months in between two other jobs.  Or to go ahead and fudge on that title a little.  Although, thank goodness, lying on a resume is usually the candidate’s own idea and not that of another recruiter. 

What’s wrong with this, other than the fact that it is lying?  The point was driven home in an article at the top of the “Who’s News” section on page B5 of the May 2nd Wall Street Journal. Quoting the first paragraph briefly:

“. . .the President and Chief Operating Officer of Herbalife, Ltd., lost his job after acknowledging he claimed a fake Master’s degree in corporate filings.”

Yep — the bigger they are . . . well, you know the rest.

Don’t let this be you.  If a company discovers that you have lied about credentials on your resume, you face two problems.  First, if they find out during the hiring process, you almost certainly won’t get hired.  But what many don’t realize is that if they find out after you have been hired — even several months later — you may very well be summarily discharged.

And if you encounter that rare recruiter who tells you to lie on a resume (remember, there is a bottom 10% in every profession) — “Well, you’re only a couple classes short of a degree, so go ahead and put it on there” or “I tell all my candidates to leave off a job when they were there less than a year” or “No one will understand that title, so just put down Director of Marketing, since that’s really what you were anyway” — run from that recruiter as fast as you can. 

Not only are they putting you in jeopardy as far as your career.  But, if they are willing to let you lie to the employer about your credentials (an employer that is paying them by the way), how many lies are they going to tell you about the company and the job?  (Sure you’ll be promoted in the next six months . . . you bet).

Of course, all of this applies to interviews as well as resumes, but more on that another time.

John

May 9, 2008 Posted by | Tips - Interviewing, Tips - Resumes and Cover Letters, Uncategorized | Leave a comment