What If the Fit is Truly Wrong?

You do your homework on the company in advance.  You ask probing questions in the interview.  You network with current and former employees of the company.  You believe you have a good read on the company culture and you accept the position.  Now you have been there a few months and you realize you read it completely wrong.  What can you do?  Is it ok to leave after just a short period of time?

First priority is to learn from the experience.  What signs did you miss?  What questions should you have asked?  Figure out what bothers you most about the culture and think about to avoid it in the future.  If you don’t know how you landed in such a poor fit for you, there is a chance you could repeat the error.  Be very honest with yourself and seek to truly learn from this experience.

While job hopping is not the taboo if once was, you want to have a clear sense of what the best next step is for you.  Don’t be so eager to get out of the situation that you jump at the first job that comes along.  Have a priority list of what is important to you in your next position.  Do your homework.

Be prepared to tell your story.  With a short stint on your resume, you are bound to be asked about it in an interview.  Be prepared to address the change.  Own the mistake and show that you are doing something about it.  Try not to bash the other company or your manager in the process.  Just not the best fit for you.

Try to tough it out while you look for another position.  Unless you are in a hostile work environment or are being asked to do something unethical, it is much easier to look for work while you are still employed.  Make a commitment to doing some networking every week.  Build your target list of companies and aggressively work the process.

Early in my career I accepted the wrong job at one point.  It was very quickly clear that there was not enough work to keep me busy.  That is something that makes me crazy.  While I reached out to colleagues and offered to help, there was just not enough work.  I was also concerned about how some of the work was being done.  My biggest concerns were that if I stayed, I’d develop bad work habits, negatively impact my work ethic and could potentially damage my credibility.  I started networking immediately, built a target list of companies and soon landed a new position.  I learned a lot about what is important to me in an employer from that experience and it served me well in the long run.

If you are truly in the wrong job at the wrong company, ramp up your networking and focus on finding a job that is right for you.

Assessing Company Culture

A critical part of the interview process is assessing fit – does the candidate fit the company culture and does the company culture fit the candidate?  How can a candidate accurately assess the culture of the company they are considering?

Do Your Research:  Don’t just look at the company website.  Social media will give you much better insight into the culture of the organization.  Look at what they post on Twitter or Facebook.  Check out their videos.  Also look at independent sites such as Glass Door to see feedback from employees.

Network:  Even with social media there is some level of company control over messages.  Talk to current and former employees.  Leverage your Linked In connections and alumni contacts to identify contacts who can tell you what it is like to work there.  Ask them why they chose to join the company.  What keeps them there?  What do they like most about their work there?  What do they like the least?

Observe:  Arrive a few minutes early for your interview.  While you are waiting in the lobby pay attention to how employees interact with one another.  If there is no interaction, that certainly tells you something about the culture.

Pay Attention to Heavy Emphasis:  If everyone you talk to in the interview process mentions the pool table in the lounge or the summer outing, you should do more probing.  If they are all talking about the same thing is the emphasis on the wrong things?  Do their actions support the scripted message?

Before you decide to spend several years of your career with a company, it is critical to gain insight into the culture to determine if this is a place where you would choose to spend your days.

 

 

Selling Yourself in an Interview

Congratulations, you got the interview!  Clearly the hiring manager saw something in your resume and cover letter than earned you a coveted interview slot.  Now the challenge is to sell yourself.

It is important to do your research on the company so you have insightful questions prepared.  You can also practice answering commonly asked interview questions to help you be prepared.  But, it is often the questions they don’t ask directly that make or break the decision.  Being aware of those questions and how they impact your responses can be critical to your success.

Interviewers will ask a lot of questions about your past work.  They may also ask behavioral questions to see how you handle certain situations.  Bottom line, what they really want to know is:

  • Why they should hire you?
  • What you can do for them that others can’t?
  • How well do you fit their organization and team?

Ensure that in your responses to questions about your work, education, skills etc. that you are really answering these underlying questions.  Articulate clearly the skills, expertise and experience you bring that would enable you to succeed in this position.  Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the job and the company.  While they are assessing your fit with their team you need to form your own opinion of how well you fit the culture of the company and the specific work team.

Focus on your transferable skills.  Highlight the results you delivered in your previous work.  Results are much more important and impactful than responsibilities.  Clearly articulate your skills that differentiate you from other candidates.  Use your passion and enthusiasm as a differentiator.  Demonstrate your knowledge of the company and your strong interest by having questions prepared, having held networking meetings with employees of the company, identifying alumni within the organization, and your knowledge of what’s going on in the company and the industry.

To assess fit think about what environment enables you to do your best work.  Are you a team collaborator or an individual contributor?  What do you need from manager?  How would your current manager and colleagues describe you?  Do you research in advance about the culture using online resources and your networking contacts and seek to confirm that information in your interview by observing how people work together.  It can be very revealing to arrive a few minutes early and watch the interaction or lack there off among the employees.

When considering your answers to interview questions, be sure to frame your responses in light of what employers really want to know.  A great way to end your interview is to ask, “what concerns do you have about me as a candidate for this position.”  While it can be scary to hear what they consider obstacles, asking the question demonstrates your strong interest and gives you an opportunity to address those issues or concerns.  You can leave the interviewers with a very positive impression on your way out the door.

Tips for a Successful Interview #5

Your goal in an interview is to land the job or at least be moved forward in the process.  For the employer the goal is finding the best candidate for the job.  While several candidates may have the appropriate skills to succeed in the position, employers use the interview process to identify and assess the best fit.  You want to make the best possible impression with everyone you meet in the process and you do not want to give them an easy reason to eliminate you from future consideration.  If there is a strong pool of candidates, they are often looking for small reasons to cut the pool.  Don’t make it easy to cut you.

Attire and Professional Presence

 For interviews you want to always put your best foot forward.  While it is not likely you will get the job simply because you have the best suit, you can be easily eliminated if you do not make a good professional impression.  You want to project a confident, professional presence.  Always wear a suit and be sure it is clean, pressed and that it fits well.  Ladies, pants suits are fine but if you wear a skirt, be sure it is not too short.  Have a blouse that tucks in and is not low cut.  Men, the shirt should be pressed and the tie should coordinate.  Socks should match the trousers.  Be sure to polish your shoes.  When in doubt, err on the side of being conservative.  Be sure your hands are clean since you will be shaking hands.  Hair should be clean and well groomed.  Deodorant is critical but go easy or eliminate cologne since it can easily overpower an interview room.  Go easy on jewelry to ensure that it is not a distraction during the interview.

Demonstrate Your Interest Through Your Preparation

 Be well prepared, it shows interest and professionalism.  Have questions prepared in advance that you want to ask.  You should have your references available in case you are asked.  Be sure you have verified and confirmed the contact information.

Be Someone They Want as a Colleague

Even if you are nervous, it is important to smile.  It demonstrates your interest.  While you are onsite for your interview, be pleasant to everyone you meet.  It is not unusual for a hiring manager to ask the administrative assistant or receptionist for feedback on candidates.    Arrive a few minutes early.  Ask if you can take notes as appropriate.  Give it your best shot – focusing on how you can meet their needs not on what you want.

Say Thank You

 A handwritten thank you note should be sent to every person you interview with at a company.  Each note should be customized to the individual, referencing something that you discussed.  This is an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills, your professionalism and your enthusiasm for the opportunity.  Each note should be unique since they will likely compare notes.  Thank them for their time.  Let them know what you are excited about regarding this job.  Let them know you want to be on the team.  If you know the process is moving quickly you can send a very professional email thank you note but should still follow-up with a handwritten note.  It is a differentiator.  So few people write handwritten notes anymore they are memorable.  Always get your notes in the mail within 24 hours of the interview.  In a tough decision between two finalists the decision may come down to who sent a thank you note.

 

 

The Recruiters’ Perspective of You

Great news!  You were invited for an interview so obviously the recruiter saw something in your resume and cover letter that they believe would add value to their organization in this position.  The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself.  You prepare for your interview and assume that the hiring decision will be based on your responses to the questions asked.  Think again – recruiters also consider other factors in evaluating you as a candidate for this position.

Your Social Media Presence

Most recruiters will check you out on social media prior to an interview.  Expect them to look at your  LinkedIn profile.  Does it match your resume in terms of your work experience?  Do you have recommendations?  What skills have you chosen to highlight?  What types of connections do you have?  What groups are you in?  What can they learn in advance about you?

Some recruiters will also look on Facebook.  If your security settings are not carefully set they can see your photos from spring break, your rants about the election, and whatever other personal aspects of your life you have shared.  What kind of impression will this make on the employer?  I’ve seen candidates eliminated from the process because of what employers learned on Facebook.  They will also check Twitter and other social media platforms.

Google yourself prior to the interview.  See what the employer will see when they do it so you are prepared for questions.  Is there someone with the same name and a notorious past?  Don’t be caught off guard, know what they will see when they check you out.

Your Attire

While workplaces are generally much more casual these days than in the past, it is important to remember that you are dressing for an interview not a day at work.  Even a casual environment wants to know that the candidate can present themselves effectively in a client meeting.  Professional attire can also signal to the recruiter that you are taking this opportunity seriously.  I’ve heard of candidates not be hired because they didn’t dress appropriately but have never had an instance where the candidate was not hired because they showed up in a suit.  For an interview, be conservative, and dress professionally to make the best possible impression.

Your Non-Verbal Communication

You communicate with so much more than words, particularly in an interview.  Are you sitting up straight, making good eye contact and using an appropriate tone of voice?  Slouching in the chair, staring out the window, fidgeting with your pen, or playing with your hair can all send a very different message to the recruiter.  Present yourself as confident and engaged throughout the interview.  This can be even more challenging during a phone interview when it is only your voice that conveys your presence.  For a phone interview, keep a small mirror nearby to remind you to smile since it will show in your voice.  Do not do anything distracting since that will take focus away from your responses to the questions.  While verbal, be very careful of using filler words such as “like”, “um”, “ah” or even too many “ands” to string your thoughts together.  This can be distracting to the recruiter and it implies that you are less prepared and confident.

Your Fit with the Organization

Recruiters know that there are often multiple candidates who have the appropriate skills to be successful in the specific job.  Their goal is to assess the fit of the candidates for the organization.  Is this someone the rest of the team will want to work with on a daily basis?  Does this individual fit the culture of the company?  Will this candidate be aligned with the mission of the company?  Fit matters and leads to successful hires.

Your Follow-up

You may have the most amazing interview but if the last time the recruiter hears from you is when you shake hands at the door, you are damaging your chances of landing the job.  Follow-up is critical.  In an interview situation, it is critical to follow up to demonstrate your interest and your professionalism.  If time is of the essence (and it usually is), send an email to each person your interviewed with and thank them for their time.  Reference something you specific you learned from that person or something interesting you discussed.  Do not send a group email.  They deserve an individual thank you.  Follow up your email with personal handwritten thank you notes to each interviewer.  Send it within 24 hours of your interview.  You will be remembered.  It makes a huge impression.  Even if you don’t get the job, they will remember you and will often consider you for the next available opportunity.  After all the preparation for your interview, don’t skip the final step.

While preparation for your interview questions is still critical, pay attention to these other factors that consistently impact how a recruiter perceives and evaluates a candidate.

Making the Most of a Career Fair

As we are preparing in the Graduate Career Center for our fall Career Expo, it is important for students and alumni planning to attend our expo or any career fair to prepare in advance to maximize their time at the end.  Career fairs can be a valuable source of contacts but to be successful, the job seeker must prepare thoroughly in advance.

 

Research the Companies

Do your homework in advance.  Identify the companies participating and see if they align with your target companies, industries or positions.   If yes, research each company you plan to visit.  Learn what they do, who their competitors are, what recent press coverage they have had, etc.  Check their online postings to see if there are specific jobs which may interest you.  Know something about the companies you hope to meet and have specific, thoughtful questions prepared for each one.   Obviously if there are no companies of interest, don’t waste your time but do some research before jumping to that conclusion.  You should never ask a company “what do you do” at a career fair.  They expect that you have done your homework in advance.

Prepare Your Materials

Have multiple clean copies of your resume with you.   Also have business cards available.   Be prepared to share them when asked.  You also want to be sure to have a notepad so you can jot down appropriate notes after each conversation.  Have a calendar available in case you are asked to schedule a follow-up interview.  Use one pocket for your own business cards and a separate pocket for those you collect.  You certainly don’t want to share the wrong cards!

Put your Best Foot Forward

Dress as if it were an interview because it could be.  You are certainly making a first impression on the company representative so you want to appear professional.  Some companies have the flexibility to do on the spot interviews if they are impressed so you want to be ready.   When it is your turn to meet the representative, make eye contact, shake hands confidently and introduce yourself briefly.

It’s about the Relationships

This is about making connections.  You can apply online all day and there is no guarantee that a human ever actually looks at your resume.  At the career expo, you are meeting a representative from the company.  They have committed their time and resources because they want to meet our students and alumni.  Let them know you are interested.   Demonstrate your interest by being well prepared and asking insightful questions.  Even if they don’t immediately have the right job for you, if you make a positive impression they could bring your resume back to the office and share it with an appropriate hiring manager.  Make a strong connection.  Do not ignore contacts who may work in a different functional area that what you are interested in.  They can and will share resumes and their feedback with their colleagues when they return to the office.

Follow-up Matters

For the people you had conversations with at the expo, send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours thanking them for their time and reinforcing your interest.  Few people will do this so it helps you stand out in a very positive way.  If they don’t have a card, jot down their name and company before moving on to the next table.  Saying thank you makes a very positive impression.

 

If you are going to take the time to attend a career event, invest the time in your preparation so you can maximize the benefits.

Questions NOT to Ask in an Interview

During the process of interviewing for a new job, it is critical that you ask questions during the process to demonstrate your interest and engagement.  However, there are certain questions that should NOT be asked in an interview.

  • What is the salary? It is critical that you sell the hiring manager and team on the value you bring to the position.  Asking about salary early in the process can negatively impact your advancement in the process.  Focus on earning their interest first.  They will bring up salary at an appropriate time during the process.
  • What are the benefits? For the same reasons as with the salary question, don’t get ahead of yourself.  You need to sell yourself for the position before you worry about benefits.
  • When will I be promoted? Once you have successfully sold the value you could bring to the position you may want to ask what the manager would consider success in that role after the first year.  You may ask about possible career progression.  Do not specifically ask about being promoted.  It comes across as arrogant to assume that you will be promoted.  Promotions are based on merit but may also be dependent on business needs and budgets.
  • Can I work from home? Can I work flexible hours?  Unless the job states that it is a virtual position or flexible hours, assume that it is in the office during regular business hours.  In many companies you have to prove yourself before you can be considered for working from home or with flexible hours.  Get the job first and show them what you can do.
  • What does your Company do? This question or any other question that could be answered by a five minute review of their website clearly demonstrates that you were not interested enough to do even a basic amount of preparation.  If you are not taking the opportunity seriously, why should they seriously consider you?  Any question that shows you didn’t prepare or that you weren’t listening is not going to land you the job.

Use the interview to demonstrate your transferable skills, the value you bring to the position and your passion for the opportunity.  Sell yourself first before you worry about salary, benefits and flexibility.  This will help you increase your success on interviews.