Block & Bridge your way into your next job

Do you know the trick that every politician and TV personality uses in their interview? It is simple task of blocking and bridging. The next time you are watching a politician being interviewed about their campaign or a movie star about their next big blockbuster, watch the way they block and bridge to make a point.

Blocking and bridging simply means addressing the question that was asked such as “Why is the sky blue?,” then blocking that question and then bridging over to an answer that relates to a point you want to get across. Example: A politician is asked “Why is the sky blue?,” but actually wants to discuss healthcare reform. He would then answer something like this “I was just admiring the blue sky today on my drive to this speech. As I was admiring the blue sky, I began considering the implications of the current state of health care in this country and realized that I had to do something about it…” This is a very simple example, but you can see where I am going with this.
Politicians and celebrities do this because they have an agenda or a point they want to convey and often times are not asked direct questions that allow them to relay this point. 
You, as a job seeker, can use this same tactic during an interview. When asked ANY question in an interview, your goal should always be to look at where you can emphasize a point about why they should want to hire you. You should always have a list of 10 or more talking points that you want to cover during your interview. These talking points should highlight examples of what makes you stand out from others in your position and where you have increased the PEP (Productivity-Efficient-Performance) of your company, your clients, your peers etc… You may touch on one or two points during the interview, or you may hit all 10 depending on how effectively you block & bridge.
During the interview, by using the blocking and bridging technique, you can address these talking points at appropriate times in the interview.
Example: You were at your last job 10 years and you were recently laid off. Point you want to get across is how stable and loyal you are. Question the Employer asks you “Why did you leave your last position?” The average person would answer by saying “I was laid off.” One way you could answer if you were blocking and bridging is “I am glad you brought up why I left my last job. That was really an amazing experience. I loved the company, which is why I stayed there 10+ years, and would have stayed there long term since I loved the people and the work. Unfortunately, like many firms, they had to restructure, but I am grateful for the 10 great years I had there and the experience I gained.”
In this case, you are addressing the question still, but you are also bridging to a point about how stable and loyal you are.
I want to be clear. I am not saying to NOT answer the questions you are being asked. I am suggesting that you answer the questions you are asked intentionally to get a point across that you are the right candidate for the job.

Is it ever appropriate to cancel an interview?

Is it ever appropriate to cancel an interview and if so, how should you go about doing it without burning your bridges? 

It is not suggested that you go around canceling interviews that you set up for yourself or that your recruiter sets up for you, but there are occasions where it may be appropriate to cancel your interview. Often times, you are not familiar with a company until you begin to research them prior to your initial interview. I personally have all of my job seeker candidates thoroughly research a company prior to any interview and come up with at least “5 reasons why they want to work for the company, 5 reasons why the company should want to hire them and 5 questions regarding the position.” If a job seeker cannot think of 5 strong reasons why they might want to work for this employer, then the position might not be worth going in for an interview.  I respect and appreciate the job seeker when they get in communication with me early to let me know the position might not be the right fit for them.

Employers and recruiters appreciate it when you are honest with them and do not go to an interview just for the sake of going. We know your time is valuable and appreciate it when you show us the same respect for our time. There have been several occasions throughout my career where a job seeker has researched a company and realized that the position is not in line with their “wishlist”. Typically, my client will appreciate their honesty, and will not hold it against them if another position comes up down the road that might be a better fit. If you do intend to cancel an interview, please do try to give your recruiter or potential employer ample notice.
On occasion, there might be other occasions where it is acceptable to cancel an interview, but always keep in mind, once you cancel the interview the first time, you might not be able to get a second interview. 

5 things that are the Kiss of Death in an interview

1) Not showing enthusiasm for the position and/or the company and why you want to work for them
2) Answering your phone and/or having your phone ring during the interview
3) Not have a good reason why they should want to hire you
4) Putting “see attached resume” on your application instead of filling it out completely
5) Not bringing a copy of your resume to the interview

The top 10 things that differentiates those who get hired from those who do not

What has one person get hired over another? Do you get theinterviews, but never get the offers? There are people getting hired in thistough economy, so the question becomes, how do you make yourself stand out from the millions of other people who are also looking for a job? Below is a list ofthe top 10 things that differentiates those who get hired from those who do not. 

People who get hired…

1) Research a firm thoroughly before their interview, andcreate a persuasive case for why they should be the one chosen for theposition.

2) Exhibit self-confidence and can provide at least 10 examplesof where they will increase the company’s productivity, effectiveness orperformance.

3) Have a minimum of 10 talking points prepared that supportthe case for why they should be hired and consistently utilize these pointsthroughout the interview to solidify their position.

4) Drive by the location of the interview in advance so thatthey will not get lost the day of the interview.

5) Give themselves an extra 30 minutes or more to account fortraffic, arrive early and review their notes before they go in.

6) Keep in touch with good contacts at old companies so it iseasy to provide outstanding references when requested.

7) Fill out their application thoroughly and completely andnever put “see attached resume” on their application.

8) Practice their interview questions and answers with aprofessional coach or a friend who is willing to be brutally honest regardingtheir response.

9) Prepare and give a great “Tell me about yourself” that addressesthe company’s problem and how they intend to solve it.

10) Never put the interviewer on the defensive, includingexhibiting a flexible attitude throughout the entire interview.

AND THEY ALWAYS DRESS TO IMPRESS!

Common Interview Pitfalls

Being back in the recruiting world has been an interesting experience. I love career coaching, and now I get to bring career coaching to the job seekers that I am helping to find jobs. It has been interesting debriefing job seekers after interviews and then getting the feedback directly from the clients as to what was missing from the job seeker in a particular interview. Often times it is simple things such as a lack of a certain skill set, or not the right personality fit, however, more and more I am noticing some common mistakes that job seekers are making that could be easily avoided. Below I am going to share the top 5 common mistakes I am seeing job seekers make in their interviews and am going to share how these mistakes can be remedied.

1) Lack of knowledge in the position and/or company. I have had two job seekers go on interviews recently for completely different jobs, and both candidates were passed on immediately due to their lack of knowledge about the position. Knowing why you want to work for a company is one of the most important components of an interview. Especially in these challenging times, it is even more important than ever to thoroughly research a company prior to an interview. In both cases, the candidates had barely skimmed the client’s website, if they had looked at it at all, and had shown little to no knowledge about the company when the client had asked them about what they knew about the company. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. It is really frustrating as a recruiter to go out of your way to get a candidate an interview, to prepare the candidate and then to have the candidate not prepare themselves for the interview. This is a mistake that can be easily avoided. Just remember, always come up with at least 5 reasons why you want to work for a company, 5 reasons why they should want to hire you, and 5 questions regarding the position, prior to ANY interview!

2) Cockiness. This may seem like something I should not even have to address, but it has come up as an issue in several recent interviews. Being confident in yourself and your abilities is wonderful. Everyone should be able to list at least 5 reasons why a company should want to hire them, however, feeling like you are entitled to the position is something entirely different. There is a fine line between cockiness and confidence. A way to avoid coming across as cocky in an interview is to avoid talking only about yourself, and to ask the employer questions about how you can help them and be a resource for them if you were to be hired. A cocky person would just go on and on about themselves, and would not be concerned about the company’s needs.


3) Bad Thank You letters.
I have seen a variety of Thank You letters over the years, and I am still amazed at what people will often put in a Thank You letter. The most common mistakes in Thank You letters are: bad grammar, misspellings, over zealous enthusiasm about the job (I once had a candidate who had their job offer rescinded due to an overly enthusiastic email sent with exclamation points and happy faces. NO I am not joking!), and sometimes, poor writing skills. The easiest way to avoid these common pitfalls is to always ask someone else to proof read any Thank you letter before it is sent out.

4) Ineffective “Tell me about yourself” (TMEAY) statements. Your TMEAY should be well thought out and well executed. From attorneys to file clerks, many job seekers have never been taught how to give a great TMEAY statement. A few months ago I wrote an article on how to do just this. To find out more about how to give a great TMEAY statement go to: blog.jhccs.com/2009/06/16/tell-me-about-yourself.aspx />


5) Lack of enthusiasm/interest in the position.
The MOST important aspect of any interview, even more important then what you say, is your attitude. Who you are being in the interview has a lot to do with how successful or unsuccessful you may be. The people who do the best in any interview are the ones who are prepared, but also, the ones who show the most enthusiasm and interest in the position. You could have prepared exceptionally well, but if your whole interview is done in a monotone voice, or just comes across as lackluster, chances are you are NOT going to be the one to get the job. The next time you go into an interview, try to think about something you are passionate about or excited about. I was recently interviewing a man who was not that excited during the interview. I proceeded to ask him what his favorite hobby was, and he started to share with me about surfing. His whole face lit up and he was a new person. I coached him to bring that same energy and enthusiasm to his next interview, and he did.

Watch out for these simple pitfalls in your next interview. If you prepare well, come across as confident, give a great TMEAY, show enthusiasm, and write a great Thank You letter, you will be the one who likely gets the job!

The Dreaded 3-Some

Panel interviews are typically twice as hard and half as much fun as regular interviews. Instead of trying to capture the attention of one cranky human resources professional, you are now responsible to entertain 2, 3 or sometimes even 5 interviewers at once. The question then becomes, how do you keep their attention in positive manner?

One suggestion I would make is to periodically address each interviewer by name. A job seeker recently shared a story with me, wherein she perceived that the interview did not go as well as she had hoped. One of the three people who was interviewing her seemed to be completely disinterested and practically ignored her. She asked me what she could have done differently, and I gave her the same advice I just gave you: take the time to address each person by name and focus on each individual as you are speaking. 
If Interviewer A, lets call him Bob, is not giving you the time of day, then it is time to take more drastic measures. Bob may have other things on his mind, but you can quickly bring him back to earth and help him focus on what is important: YOU!
One method to draw an interviewer into focus is to direct a statement to the person whose attention you would like to capture:
“Bob, let me share with you some interesting ideas and strategies about X that I feel I could bring to the table.”
Bob’s lackadaisical attitude may have nothing to do with you, therefor, it is critical not to take it personally. You should always maintain your enthusiasm, as well as a positive attitude. 
It is important to be intentional in your speaking at all times, however, in the dreaded 3-some or panel situation, it is even more critical to be focused and engaged with each individual, especially if one seems aloof. All great speakers know that you have to speak to each person in the audience as if you were speaking with them one-on-one. The more eye contact and focus you have, the stronger your panel interview will come across!

Tell Me About Yourself…


Giving a Great Elevator Speech

How to effectively answer: “Tell me about yourself.
 
“When a job seeker is asked “Tell me about yourself” in an interview or in networking situation asked: “What do you do?”, he or she can often freeze up. In other circumstances the job seeker may not know how to convey what they do in a way that will have them be memorable. Today, we are going to discuss how to succinctly present what you do and highlights of what you have to offer in an effective manner.
 
 

WHAT IS AN ELEVATOR SPEECH?

 

Essentially, an Elevator Speech is a 30-60 second sound bite that highlights what you do, as well as what makes you stand out from others in your position. If an Elevator Speech is done well, it will not only make you memorable, but will also spotlight your uniqueness in an effective way. One of the best introductions to an Elevator Speech I have heard of was an IRS man who, when asked what he did, simply replied “I am a government fundraiser.”

 

Using humor can be very effective at making you memorable in a networking situation, however, should be used cautiously in an interview until you have a better understanding of the individual you are interviewing with.
 

There are 4 main components to a great Elevator Speech:

 

1) Catch their attention

2) Tell them what you offer or can contribute

3) Give an example which illustrates the benefit of what you offer

4) Leave them wanting to learn more

 

You are not going to stand out or be memorable if you just state your name and what you do or even worse, launch into your life story. People are interested in what you can provide for them, ie. what benefits can you offer to the organization your are interviewing with or the person you are networking with. One of the ways to illustrate the deliverables you can provide would be to give examples of where you have increased productivity, efficiency or performance in your most recent position. This is what I call PEP. Employers want to hire people with PEP. They want to know what is in it for them if they hire you.

 

A great Elevator Speech will begin with a catchy first sentence that will capture your audience’s attention such as the example of the IRS man I provided earlier. If I were to introduce myself by simply stating “I am a career counselor” you are not going to be mesmerized or even remotely interested for the most part, however, if instead I say “You know how millions of Americans are struggling because they cannot find a job, well what I do, is I help them land the perfect 6 figure job in less then 3 months,” that might catch your attention.

 

From there you want to site specific results that you have produced in the past which correlate to what you are offering. In other words, if I were to begin telling you what a great artist I am, that has nothing to do with what I can offer you as a career coach. Rather I would go into more depth as to the specific services my company offers such as one-on-one coaching, teleconferences and workshops.
 
Next, you would give an example of where you were successful in one of those areas. An example I would give is:
 
 “I recently gave a workshop where one of the participants was an animator who had been looking for a job for over a year. Less then 2 weeks after completing my workshop he landed his dream job teaching animation at a University thanks to the information he learned in my workshop.”
 
You can see that sharing an example of where you have been effective can have an enormous impact.
 

Finally, you want to close by leaving your audience hungry and interested to learn more about you and/or your services your provide.

 

An example of how I would close would be:

 

“Over the past 6 years that I have been in career counseling and recruiting, I have had the pleasure of being a contribution to thousands of job seekers through coaching each individual on increasing their effectiveness and confidence which led to hundreds landing their dream jobs.”

 

If you are in a networking situation you would want to follow up with what a great referral for you would be, however, in an interview, you merely want to intrigue the person that you are interviewing with such that they are eager to learn more about you and what you can offer.