The Art of the Interview

Next to public speaking, is there anything more stressful than the job interview? Sure the odd interview team makes you feel at ease, but many have you perspiring and stressed out.(There is an interview style called the "stress interview," but the style is not overly popular - thank goodness.)

It's just that so much seems to hinge on how well you do in the interview. Yes, a job offer, but also what that represents: a good living, security, that Tuscan vacation you're dreaming of ... or maybe catching up on bills and rebuilding your savings.

Sheesh! No wonder your armpits are leaking!

Here at New Leaf, I've been building an interview coaching system for some years. I'm so happy to share that it has been formally recognized for its value by Career Professionals of Canada. The other day I received an email from Sharon Graham, Executive Director of CPC, who wrote:

Dear Stephanie,

 Career Professionals of Canada’s Awards of Excellence program was developed to recognize members of our community as Canada’s Top Career Professionals for outstanding performance and contributions to the industry and community.  This year's competition was extremely tight as we were fortunate to receive several excellent submissions.

 It is our great pleasure to offer you congratulations as the 2015 Awards of Excellence recipient in the Outstanding Employment Interview Strategist category.

I'm thrilled! There are few interview coaches in Canada and we are needed, if only to help relieve acute pre-interview stress! But more to the point, to help job hunters jump this final hurdle on the final stretch to employment.

My system marries a generous hour of a lesson in strategy with an eBook that you can refer to time and again. Some clients elect to hire me for another session to practice the tools I taught them and get feedback on their efforts, but many interview happily with the basic lesson.

My system is simply full of immediately actionable tools. In fact, my first-ever interview coaching client literally begged me to take her on as a client  after having been told that she interviews poorly; she was desperate to make that critical transition into management. (I hadn't written her resume and doubted the lesson's impact without customized input, hence my hesitation.)

Can you guess? Yes indeed, she landed the job offer two days after her coaching session. In fact, she received a call on her way home from the interview. And the interview team? They shared that she was the strongest interview candidate they had ever had.

The tools I teach go beyond the job interview: they are equally useful in your annual performance review.

If you're interested, give me a shout!


Weird Interview Questions

Last week I heard from two clients who are landing interviews and both had been asked weird questions. Like I've said before, synchronicity happens a lot in my world!

BTW, this is a topic that I cover in my interview coaching.

One client, a Marketing Professional, had been asked whether she was a cat person or a dog person. Now, this client is an uber creative who loves working for start-ups, so she is not without creative resources. But even she could not figure out what the interviewer hoped to gain. She knew that cat people are typically seen as being quite independent, and dog people more sociable, but truth is she is allergic to cats and thus has a dog. If you answer the question "incorrectly," you feel like you may have blown your chance, but what is the "correct" answer? Well, it has nothing to do with the actual animal; it has everything to do with your backup reasoning.

The second client, an Engineer turned Senior Product Manager specializing in technical manufacturing products, was asked "If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?" Really? His take on it was that the recruiter was inexperienced. Not having met the recruiter I cannot really comment, but I gotta tell you he may be onto something.

What valuable, critical, insightful info can the recruiter really gain with the answer? Given that most of us do not ponder this question, at all, ever, it would be difficult to come up with a particularly useful answer on the spur of the moment. And again, it's not the actual object that is important, it's the commentary you provide on your choice that gives you at least some opportunity to influence the recruiter's perception of your suitability for the position.

What weird question have you been asked? Did you answer? And if so, how, and were you comfy that the answer didn't blow you right out of the race?

Interview Coaching

In two days' time, I've learned that three very recent clients have all landed interviews! It's so exciting for me as quite often clients forget to include me in their good news broadcast. Most of the time I only hear their story years later when they return for a resume update in preparing for their next step up the career ladder.

The clients really differ. The youngest is a new grad of construction management. His goal was ambitious: to land a few interviews quickly and be in a bargaining position! He has a firm strategy!

The eldest is a seasoned medical professional, internationally trained and moving to Canada in April. He landed an interview for the first position he applied to with his new, Canadianized resume.

And the middle one is again internationally trained, a young woman who moved from Europe to fulfill her dream of living in Canada. She is a marketing and event planning specialist. We haven't even gotten to her resume yet, but I helped her with an online application when she found a job posting for her "dream job." She handled the graphics and I finessed her words. She called me a "writing rock star"! Love it!

Two booked my interview coaching - the two new Canadians - to become familiarized with what to expect and how to approach it. My coaching goes beyond the usual by diving deep into strategy so that no matter what you are asked, you have a strategy to handle it.

It's so empowering and effective! It's not at all about embellishing and certainly requires no "fudging" of the truth. (I never - ever - advocate lying, not even if you've been terminated for cause.)

Once you know what it takes to convey your value, the plain truth will do very well. Here's an example.

I can tell you that I am a skilled resume writer who writes resumes for all levels of clients, along with cover letters and LinkedIn profiles and even complete executive portfolios. I can add that my credentials include certificates from Canadian and American associations.

Okay, that's nice, but that makes me very similar to oodles of other resume writers!

But if I tell you that my clients have a high success rate of landing interviews and making career dreams come true, that I have never yet missed a client's deadline for delivery of documents, and that I support my clients with loads of info on every conceivable topic related to today's job search and recruitment processes - maybe now you're excited!

One last thought: did you know that it's not always the best qualified candidate who lands the job offer but the candidate who interviews best? And that furthermore, this approach translates well into annual performance review conversations?

I'm available for interview coaching for those who are job hunting!

Three Benefits to Interview Coaching

I have offered interview coaching for some seven years now. I love empowering my clients with this critical career management skill. And yet, I honestly don't feel that enough people engage me for this service - I wish all but the most articulate and strategic communicators booked an interview coaching session. Those that do sign up for interview coaching reap the rewards with confident skills that lead to great offers. Here are three of the benefits to taking a one-hour interview coaching session.

1. Calm those nerves. Many of us get a wee bit nervous before or during an interview. And even those who are pretty chill about a job interview can all of a sudden find themselves sweating and fretting when asked a question that spurs no answers, or if challenged about an aspect of their background that they were not prepared to address! My approach is to teach strategy and what this means is that no matter what you are asked, you can come up with an answer. Yes, no matter what.

2. Wow the interview team. Yes, I will teach you how to "wow" the team without hoopla, boasting, or bringing flowers, chocolates or passes to an event! (I don't endorse unusual tactics.) Impressing an interview team has to do with knowing what to communicate, how to articulate it, when to stop, and when to add more. It's also about how to skillfully deflect a potential negative like lack of related experience, lack of Canadian experience, missing credentials, employment gap and so on. I teach all those things.

3. Apply the skills beyond the interview. Mmhmm. The interview strategies I teach are career management skills. Communicating your value goes beyond the interview. Imagine impressing your boss during your annual review? Or structuring an influential informal presentation during a departmental meeting? Or knowing how to approach your boss for a well-deserved raise?

The job search isn't about spending hours on the internet, researching the newest job search techniques (I've seen too many of these flame and extinguish without ever catching); it's not about wasting time on the internet reading about the latest doom and gloom unemployment figures or "must do's" (a sure path to depression or utter confusion!); it's not about asking your friends, family and neighbours for advice (likely negative, conflicting and plain wrong). I'd suggest that finding a trustworthy source for reasoned and seasoned expertise will get you a lot further faster. Just sayin'.

Being Real in the Interview

This article, Real is the New Sexy, was written for personal relationships. It's easy to make a case for being yourself as an essential key to falling in love with the right person, attracting good friends, and feeling like you fit in the world!

But I know that this message holds truth for the working world as well. Let's take interviewing.

Do you fret over how to answer questions? Is your focus on "what do they want to hear" in response to questions like "What is your five year plan?" or "Have you ever failed at something and please explain?" and that gem "Tell us about one of your faults" and so on? Here's a thought that will free you from expressing yourself: tell the truth.

Of course! Why tell anything less? If they hire you and you said your fault is to be a nit-picking perfectionist, and then they see that you are not all about the details, you may find yourself either let go or passed over for special projects or promotions. After all, if you've lied about one thing, chances are your employer will assume that you've lied about other stuff!

The truth is always the best, and authenticity or being real, is very attractive even to the recruitment team. They, too, are human, and if the workplace is decently human, they are looking for other like-minded, totally human colleagues (and if the workplace is toxic and hateful of humans, best to avoid getting hired there!).

I have had clients who were forthright about their need for accommodation for a variety of issues, and still got the job offer. And one young feelow has been up front about a brain injury and what that means, and yes, he landed a job as well. And I've helped many with issues of termination, gaps in their employment history, and other situations that are experienced by many.

Now, having said that the truth is best, still it is good to be strategic in your responses. Sharing that you're a procrastinator who brings in projects late won't land you a job offer. Nor will telling them that you never plan beyond tomorrow and that you always follow on a whim! Common sense and strategy do play a role in strong interviewing.

If you've interviewed two or three times and are not landing any job offers, chances are your strategy is off or non-existent. New Leaf offers a one hour interview strategy coaching that arms you for all future interviews with how to reply well to any interview question. Yes, any interview question!