Questions To Ask Your Interviewer

If you spend your interview preparation time only preparing for the questions you will be asked during the interview, you are only half prepared for the interview. It is also critical to prepare the questions you will ask the interviewer. Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position as well as your approach to preparation. The answers will also provide you valuable insight into the new position.

Of course you should always be fully alert during the interview and question anything that causes you concern. In addition to the in the moment, questions, you should consider asking some of these questions to ensure you have the best picture possible of the opportunity.

Questions About the Role

  • What is the history of this role? Is it a new position or is it a replacement hire?  What justified approval of this position?
  • What does this role contribute to the achievement of departmental and company goals?
  • What technology is used by the person in this role?

Questions About the Department

  • How does this department fit into the overall organization?
  • What are the key roles in the department and how do people in those roles interact?
  • How does this department interact with other departments across the organization?
  • What internal customers does this role support?
  • Is there formal training for this position or it is it expected that the person will just jump in and ask questions?

Questions About Management Style

  • How do you prefer to interact with the new hire? Do you prefer regularly scheduled check in meetings, ad hoc meetings, email, team meetings, etc?
  • How do you communicate with your department? How are key project deadlines tracked and monitored?

Questions About Success

  • What are the success measures for someone in this role?
  • What do you hope the new hire will accomplish in the first three months on the job?
  • What will success look like for this position at the end of the first year?
  • What are the critical goals in the year ahead for this position? How do those goals support the success of the department and the company?

General Insights

  • What do you like most about working for this company? In this department?
  • How did you get to this role at this company?

While it is unlikely you’d ever have the opportunity to ask all these questions in an interview, it is important to be prepared to ask the ones that matter most to you. Some questions can be handled via email as follow-up. Put your best foot forward in the interview by asking insightful questions.

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Lateral Moves for Advancement

Sometimes the best way to advance your career in the long-run, is to take a lateral move in the short-run. Career advancement opportunities are frequently offered to those who have a broad base of knowledge within the company or industry and who have developed a critical skill set. Companies are looking for leaders who understand the business – not just singular functionality.

To be successful at this level, it is important to have a strong knowledge of the business and a broad understanding of the entire organization. While promotions are great for advancing your career, sometimes the most strategic career move is a lateral move to gain needed experience and skills that contribute toward the crucial understanding of the business and to prepare to claim a role in senior leadership. Often exposure to operations in another country or state adds perspective but so does time spent in another functional area. So, how does one determine if a lateral move is strategic?

To determine if a lateral move is right for you, it is important to consider your long term career goals and to honestly assess what skills and experience are critical to achieving those goals. What specific skills and experience are valued by the organization, and what is required for the future positions you aspire to hold? Assess your current skills and identify the gaps.  Develop a plan to fill those skills gaps in your resume. Do your homework. Talk to people who hold the positions you aspire to, and ask what skills and experiences they consider critical to success. The more networking you do in your field, the deeper understanding you will garner of the criterion needed to prepare you for the future roles of your choice and that make you stand out from the competition.

If this honest analysis identifies holes in your resume, this discovery is not a drawback but rather, an opportunity presented to you that can enable you to benefit significantly from a lateral assignment which offers that needed experience. In addition to making you better qualified for future opportunities, it also signals to management that you are committed to advancing in the organization by deepening your skill set and understanding the broader business. Your willingness to take a lateral move to intentionally develop needed skills and experience is a clear signal to senior management that you are serious about a successful career: you are willing to walk the walk.

 

When to consider a lateral move

If the lateral move provides an opportunity to build your experience, knowledge and exposure in an area that you are lacking, this could indeed be a wise investment in your future. Consider the added value of expanding your internal network – more people will know you and what you can do. If you are learning new things about the company and its products or services, that knowledge can be valuable to your longer term plans. You should take advantage of the lateral opportunity if it provides valuable skills and experience required for your longer term career goals.

Assess in what functions your experience lies.  If your experience has been exclusively a particular area, you should consider a move to another functional area in order to gain valuable new perspective and insights.  Identifying what you need to move forward regarding skills and seeking opportunities that provide that learning opportunity can significantly enhance your career.  It is important to build a strong foundation of key business skills in order to move successfully into the more strategic roles.

 

When not to consider a lateral move

If you are considering a lateral move because you are tired of what you are doing and want a change, it is not a strategic move. Unless you are going to learn new things and gain additional skills and experience, staying at the same level can be a career- limiting move. Do not accept a lateral move just for a change of pace. You owe it to yourself to be more strategic about your career. If your job is being eliminated and your only alternative is a lateral move, you may think about it differently but avoid the temptation to accept anything simply out of desperation.  The position needs to interest you and add value to your longer term career goals that you have identified.

What if the senior leader of the company asks you to do something specific in a different area for a defined period of time as a special favor? This is a win-win and will groom you in the manner of thinking at the senior level. Why? Helping out a colleague or senior manager can benefit your career. You may have been asked because your senior leaders want to gauge how well you perform in a different function. This may require stepping out of your comfort zone, but part of the career path, no matter what the course, usually involves taking another perspective. This cross-over, if you will, increases your value by exposing you to something new and different and this can set you apart from the pack. We’ve all known individuals who may have been reluctant to work as a team – and we likely remember how it felt on the other side. Being seen as a team player can be good for your career and it demonstrates versatility and a non-verbal way to communicate that success is often achieved by group effort. It is not unusual for temporary, at-the-same level moves, to result in significant new opportunities down the road if all goes well. Being open to new experiences is part of career growth.

 

Big Picture Exposure

Exposure to the various aspects of the business may not be enough to land in the corner office however. There are other tenets that come into play in achieving a senior position. Understanding and knowledge are two themes whose roads all point back to success. The most valued functional professionals also need to understand the business so they can effectively manage their functional organization or the overall company.  All managers benefit from some understanding of marketing, sales, finance, supply chain and product management

Soft skills are important for success in leadership as well. Managers must have the ability to communicate effectively, analyze data, persuade others when they have no authority over them, and work in cross-functional teams. With complex issues, managers need to understand the implications of human resources, risk, technology, legal, compliance and business continuity issues.

Successful managers do not need a detailed understanding of accounting since they won’t be booking the debits and credits; however, they must be able to read a balance sheet, income and cash flow statements while understanding the impact of business decisions on the company’s finances and business decisions. They must understand the internal financial system and be able to analyze and demonstrate knowledge of the data in the reports to help support future decisions that merit success.

When senior managers are looking to fill key strategic positions for the organization they are looking for individuals with the right skills and experience. A combination of lateral and promotion career moves can prepare for you for the next move in your career.   Managers will also look for candidates who have demonstrated leadership skills, an ability to work projects to successful and timely completion and a track record of generating solutions to business problems. This toolbox will help you develop as a proven senior leader over time.

 

Moving lateral to move up

The decision to invest in your career by accepting a strategic lateral move to expand your knowledge and experience can be the key to longer term success. Doing the homework – expanding your skills, helping other team members, crossing over into new territory even temporarily, and enhancing your resume are all components that will hasten your goals, short- and long-term to present yourself as a supply chain leader and stay competitive with other candidates. These efforts, over time, can enhance your career options and your personal fulfillment.

Addressing Gaps in Your Resume

What is a job seeker to do if there are gaps in your resume? This occurs most often when there is a break between employers. Gaps often jump right out at the hiring manager reviewing the resume so prepare in advance to addresses these issues.

Honesty is always the best policy.  Honesty is not just the best policy but the only policy when it comes to your resume. It is a factual history of your employment and is subject to verification in background checks. Just the facts please. Do not embellish or leave things off because you’d rather not talk about them.

Years vs. months.  Job seekers often draw unwarranted attention to their gaps by listing each employment by month. It is perfectly acceptable on a resume to list years only.  This allows short gaps to go undetected. You may have to provide specific months on an application later in the process but you haven’t drawn undue attention to it early in the process.

Be prepared.  Be prepared with a response to the question about the gap. If it is there, someone will ask about it in an interview. Address the gap honestly without focusing on the negatives or being defensive. Talk about what you did during the gap. Did you volunteer? Enhance a skill? Take a class? Be prepared to address the issue head on.

Don’t rewrite history.  Because it is critical to be honest, don’t create an alternative universe where the situation was very different. It is what it is. It happened. Be honest but do so in a way that is positive, professional and forward focused. Do not be defensive. If you were laid off, do not blame others. Just state that the company was facing challenging times, reorganizing, etc. depending on the situation. Often less is more when it comes to explaining the speed bumps in your career.

Don’t be Left Out, Link In

LinkedIn is a valuable business networking tool and is critical to a successful job search. At Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business Graduate Career Center, we work with our students to help them maximize the value of LinkedIn. We are seeing an increasing number of employers using LinkedIn to find candidates to meet their needs.

There are key considerations for a successful LinkedIn strategy to support your job search.

Be Found – Build a powerful profile so employers searching for people like you can easily find you online. Make it easy for alumni, current students, and former business colleagues to find you.  The true power of your connections comes from the second and third level so work to build a strong first level of connections. Be sure to use important key words for your industry and functional area to help the right people find you.

Quality Not Quantify – There is no prize for having the most contacts but the right contacts are invaluable. Build a network of people you know to help you achieve your career goals.  Work to build connections in your target companies.

Seek Feedback – We review the students’ LinkedIn profiles with them and offer suggestions for improvements. Have someone else review your profile and share feedback. Another set of eyes can add valuable insight.

Alumni Connections – In additional to joining LinkedIn groups for alumni, utilize the alumni search to identify alumni connections in your target companies.

Regardless of what stage of your career you are currently in, Linked In is a powerful tool that you can leverage to increase your success in all that you do.

Alternatives to Summer Internship

2018 Alternatives to Summer Internships

College students look forward to the summer break as an escape from the classroom and often as an opportunity to earn money.  Finding a paid summer internship can be very competitive but don’t panic if you don’t land one.  There are other opportunities to add value to your resume and prepare for your future.

 

  • Gain Work Experience – Even if it isn’t paid.  Gaining experience is the most important goal, whether you are being paid or not. This also shows future employers that you are motivated and focused.  While it is ideal to gain some exposure to your field of choice, for this year, it is critical to be employed.  Doing most anything is better than doing nothing.  Retail or fast food experience at least exposes you to customer service skills and time management.  Before settling for those options reach out to non- profits organizations and offer your services.  They often need assistance but have no budget.  Ask your contacts if you can shadow them for a day or work on a project as a volunteer.  Be creative and find ways to build your work experience even if you are not receiving a pay check.

 

  • Networking – It is time to start seriously thinking about what you might want to do for your career.  You may have selected a major already or you may still be considering your options.  Either way, this is a critical time to begin networking.  Talk to people who work in fields that interest you or companies that interest you.  Start with the “low hanging fruit” – parents of your friends, people your parents know.  As you get comfortable with information interviews, reach out to alumni of your school.  Many people will make time to talk to a student and they often have some flexibility in their schedule in the summer.  Learn what skills are necessary for success in the field you are interested in.  Send a thank you note to each contact you meet.  Invite them to link with you on Linked In and ask if you can keep them posted throughout your next three years.

 

  • Informational Interviews– As you identify possible career options reach out to people in your field of interest and request an informational interview.  This extends your networking efforts but helps you gain valuable insights into your chose field.  What skills are critical>?  What does an employer expect from an entry level hire?  What is necessary to succeed longer term in this field?

 

  • Professional Associations – Identify a relevant professional association for your chose field and join as a student member. Attend meetings and start building your professional network.  During your informational interviews you can ask for recommendations of the best associations in your field.

 

  • Prepare Your Tools – Be ready. Sometimes companies have last minute summer needs due to students who changed their plans or unforeseen business needs.  Be sure you have your tools prepared so you can jump on those opportunities.   Update and edit your resume and ask several people to review it for you to ensure that it is flawless.  Practice writing cover letters to jobs in your field and ask for feedback to improve them.  Practice interviewing with a friend, colleague, family member or your career center.  Ask for feedback.  Anticipate frequently asked questions and consider your answers in advance.  Practice researching companies of interest to identify questions you can ask in your interview.  The more preparation you do now the easier the process will be.

 

  • Develop a Plan – Build a list of target companies you are most interested in working for.  Use your summer to research and identify alumni and other connections at those companies.  Prepare to maintain your networking even while you are back in school but get a good start during the summer.  Start reviewing job postings at your target companies to get a feel for the types of positions they post for entry level.  It is too early to apply but it gives you a better sense of what to watch for in the months ahead.  Commit to attending on campus career fairs, company recruiting events, etc. when you are back in school.  Manage your time wisely so you don’t miss these valuable opportunities.

 

Having your eye on the end goal throughout your four years in school increases the likelihood of employment at graduation but it also helps you focus on the best opportunities for you.

Summer Dress for Success

Many companies recognize that the pace changes a bit come summer and offer a summer dress code. While it is great be cool and comfortable in the hot, hazy days of summer it is important to protect your professional reputation.

Summer Dress Code Do’s

  • Know the Culture – It is critical to know the culture of your organization and to follow the lead of the managers in your group or division.  Some companies have no relaxation of the dress code in the summer and any attempt to be more casual would be frowned upon. In some companies summer casual means no neckties.  Before you head to the office in capris, shorts or a golf shirt, be sure you understand what the expectations are in your specific office. You do not want to stand out negatively from the crowd.
  • Stay Professional – Your goal should be to always appear professional while on the job. Even with a more relaxed summer dress code it is important that you still project a professional image. Focus on professional looking business casual attire.
  • Be Modest and Conservative – Think about whether you would want the president of the company or an important client to see you in that outfit. If the answer is no, don’t wear it to work. Think about whether it projects the image of the company or your own personal brand. Remember while it may be fashionable, it may not be appropriate for the office.

Summer Dress Code Don’ts

  • Forget the Beach Attire – If you would wear it to the beach, don’t wear it to work. Modesty and professionalism should be the determining factors in identifying attire for work.
  • Leave the Flip Flops at Home – The most frequent complaint I hear from employers is flip flops. They are very noisy in the office and most employers consider them unprofessional. Do not wear flip flips in the office if you want to be taken seriously. If you want to wear them for your walk to work fine, but be sure you have shoes in your bag to change into as soon as you reach the office.
  • Cover Up – Underwear is meant to be under your clothes at all times, not visible to your co-workers. Midriff baring attire or plunging necklines are also not appropriate for the office.

Protect Your Reputation

Your reputation at work is your personal brand. You work hard to known as a capable, competent professional who does great work in a timely manner. Do not ruin or at least tarnish that reputation by dressing unprofessionally in the workplace. It is not worth it. Stay professional this summer to ensure your future success.

Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations! You’ve graduated but now what are you going to do? The clock is ticking on your student loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects. What is a new graduate to do? Finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority. Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling. Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started. Here are some suggestions:

Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them. You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going. Assess your skills, strengths and interests. Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable. Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags. As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go? Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors. Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback. Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Prepare references – Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.

Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for? What industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets. With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews. Your target list will help guide your job search efforts. Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting. To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager. Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.

Networking is NOT asking for a job. It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value, etc. Networking involves a significant amount of listening. Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies. Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies? What about former co-workers or classmates? Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts. Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked. Sign up for LinkedIn and identify contacts there as well.

Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts. Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company. Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week. It does make a difference.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare. Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews. Ask for a mock interview with feedback. Research the company thoroughly. Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.

Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note. Stand out from the crowd. If the time frame is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note. It can break the tie between two finalists.

If you need to work part-time – Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search. If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective. Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills. Look for ways to gain exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility. The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket. If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter. Focus on transferable skills.

Add value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume? A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations, etc. Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help. You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations. Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.

Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer. Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about. Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success. Be careful with your security settings.

So, plan your journey. Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search. Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.