Corporate Outplacement and Career Transition Information

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Behavioral Interviewing - Practice, Practice, Practice

Recently, in working with corporate-sponsored outplacement candidates to prep them for various interviews, we focused on the subject of Behavioral Interviewing, its importance, and how to prepare.

Behavioral interviewing is a style of interviewing that was developed in the 1970's by industrial psychologists. Behavioral interviewing asserts that "the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in a similar situation." Currently, most organizations are using behavioral interviewing to some degree.

Unlike traditional interviews, which include such questions as:
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why are you interested in working for us?

Behavioral Interviewing poses questions like these:
Tell me about a time you disappointed a client or your supervisor.
Tell me about a situation you really exceeded expectations.
Tell me about a work environment that you didn’t enjoy.

Behavioral interviewing emphasizes past performance and behaviors. As a consequence, candidates unprepared for behavioral interviewing will not fare well; simply practicing the list of common interview questions no longer works.

To start in the reverse and address Preparation is appropriate here. We put our clients through a good deal of brain work; from the very first conversation, we use a variety of methods suitable to the individual candidate to pull information from them regarding how they did their jobs in their unique fashion, always working to establish articulate, quantifiable contribution in every instance.

I contacted an expert or two, and together we present the following, with 7 specific areas to practice at the end:

Many interviewers typically start with a behavioral question, like “Tell me about a time you had conflicting priorities. How did you handle that situation?” If a candidate says they never have them, that’s a red flag. Even someone who is perfectly organized will have personal conflicts that come up during their time at work.

Once a candidate tells the interviewer the situation and explains how they handled it, there will be a follow up question or two, such as:

“Were all the people involved completely happy with how you ended up prioritizing your work?”
“If you could do it again, would you prioritize those items the same way?”

How do you answer the question "Give me an example of a time you've failed?"

This is always a tough question for interviewees. The first time you reflect on this, on anything, should not be in the high-stress environment of an interview. Think about this and all possible questions beforehand, write down your answers, but don't get too rigid to adhering to your script. For this question specifically, remember you don't have to immediately relate the last most devastating failure in your life - don't aggravate a fresh wound. Rather, go to an instance you've had time to reflect upon.

One expert we consulted advises:"First, if you tell me you've never failed, I know that's not true. Sometimes you have to fail, so tell the story of what you learned. Tell the recruiter what you would have done differently in order to avoid that situation in the future. Be honest, and know that some employers want people who take risks. Those people do fail from time to time, and often learn the most highly valued skills and lessons.

What are the examples of behavioral based sales questions?

While your resume may list that you achieved your former employer's "President's Club" six times, you do have to explain the "how" of it.

Here are examples of questions we gathered for Sales Interviews, and in preparation for a Sales interview, be ready for drill down, follow-up questions like:

The Recruiter may ask “Tell me about a time you really exceeded your client’s expectations and closed a great deal”

The follow up questions will likely be:
How long did it take you to close this deal?
How long is your average sales cycle?

Another hot button topic most sales people avoid: “Do you get your sales reports done on time?” Recruiters know it’s an area that most sales people procrastinate, so they ask!

Can you be Over Prepared?

We encourage our candidates to remember that an interview is a conversation between two professionals about a common interest, subject, and passion. I recently had a candidate get thrown by the question "Give us two instances of success you've experienced." The candidate has many, many instances, all outlined clearly on his resume, however, he only practiced one aloud to that specific question. He was both over- and under-prepared. You're going to go "off-script" so know who you are, take a deep breath, relax and tell your story.

Do your homework, but be genuine.

"Just tell the truth," states one expert, "I'll get to it one way or another through follow-up questions, but being prepared is key. I know it’s not comfortable, but ask a friend to interview you. Or find questions on the internet and answer them out loud, then scratch that answer and give another. Be prepared for the detailed follow up questions. I remind candidates that they are an expert in what they are discussing – themselves! It’s easier to think of it that way and can often ease nervousness.

How much research on your potential employer is enough - or too much?

Recruiters value that you have done your research and have a true interest and passion for the role, citing that you know the recruiter loves dogs or the color green is just plain creepy.

"Don't stalk the recruiter or "over-share". It comes off as disingenuous. Talk about what interests you based upon your research, but keep it relevant to the position and your potential for contribution. Although there is a plethora of information about your Recruiter and Hiring Manager on the internet, be careful what you reference during your conversation. Not everyone is prepared to discuss personal information to a candidate, so take their lead. If they keep it strictly professional, you should as well. What would be appropriate is to ask why they chose to work for that organization and what they like and dislike about it.

Just one piece of advice?

Ask questions! Sounds simple – but you would be surprised how many candidates don’t. Even if you ask everyone you speak with at the same company the identical 4 questions, its great information. You can evaluate how each person’s answer differs and if there are any concerns that you might have from their answers. And for you sales people out there – are you asking for the job or closing?

We further provide the below list of 7 key Behavioral Interview question areas for you to review. Good luck, and remember: be yourself, be honest, and be prepared!

1: Decision Making and Problem Solving

Give me an example of a time when you had to keep from speaking or making a decision because you did not have enough information.
Give me an example of a time when you had to be quick in coming to a decision.

2: Leadership

Tell me about a time you had to work with a group or client that was challenging. How did you overcome it?
Tell me about a time you had difficulty getting others to accept your ideas? What was your approach? Did it work?

3: Motivation

Give me an example of a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.
Describe a specific situation when you were able to have a positive influence on the action of others.

4: Communication

Tell me about a situation when you had to speak up (be assertive) in order to get a point across that was important to you.
Have you ever had to "sell" an idea to your co-workers or group? How did you do it? Did they "buy" it?

5: Interpersonal Skills

What have you done in the past to contribute toward a teamwork environment?
Describe a recent unpopular decision you made and what the result was.

6: Planning and Organization

Tell me about a time you had conflicting priorities. How did you manage them?
What do you do when your schedule is suddenly interrupted? Give an example.

7: Other Behavioral Questions

Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree.
Give me an example of an important goal which you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
Describe an instance when you had to think on your feet to extricate yourself from a difficult situation.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Using Social Media Webinar - Success

I was thrilled to partner with VisualCV to conduct a webinar on Using Social Media in Job Search, and April’s webinar was exceptionally well-received. Here are some comments and a link to the presentation:

"...wanted to tell you how EXCELLENT I thought the webinar was yesterday. It was my first one and SO valuable. I was and am thrilled over the amount of valuable information. I wrote pages full of notes."

"After viewing the CV all I can say is WOW! What a difference a VisualCV can make.

This technology makes a paper resume obsolete. I have seenmany resumes in my past when I had to do recruiting and this type of resume would clearly give a candidate who uses this a serious advantage. Again, Thank You for your help and VisualCV has a new fan."

"I took your webinar last Tuesday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I cannot begin to tell you how much I learned, especially about Visual CV and Twitter. I am going through a career transition and so these tools are very important to me in my job search. Thank you for the presentation last Tuesday."

"Just had a chance to listen to VisualCV webinar. Outstanding info thanks for sharing!"

"You were absolutely wonderful! I really enjoyed it and I'm working on my VisualCV right now! "

"I just wanted to take another minute and thank you for the help you gave me. Not many people in your position would reach out to a college student the way you did. This may be something you do regularly, but I'm not used to it so it's refreshing to see the professionals of today doing what they can to groom the professionals of tomorrow....Once again, thank you for everything, I promise to pay it forward."

"Thanks to Pierce (from VisualCV) for hosting and Karen Masullo for delivering an insightful webinar with VisualCV earlier today "

"I just finished listening to an awesome presentation by Karen Masullo and I'm working on my SEO, VisualCV and Twitter."

"The session was best hour I've spend in a long, long time. Pure 100% value."


Monday, April 6, 2009

Another Reason to love VisualCV

I'm tellin' ya folks, this is the right tool at the right time:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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