Thursday, January 7, 2010

Are You a Prius or Great Cup of Coffee?

Most job seekers do not realize the vital importance of establishing, maintaining and promoting their unique personal brand. Generally speaking, creating or updating a resume and developing a list of desired open jobs becomes a time specific activity because most people engage in these activities only when they are seeking a new opportunity.

But a personal brand is more broad, and arguably, more important than just posting your resume on a job board. Your brand is what is communicated to fellow colleagues, references, network contacts, industry thought leaders and hiring managers. Effective development and promotion of your brand ensures that you are conveying a clear and accurate message about the kind of expert you are and the type of value you may offer.

No two people are alike, share the same expertise or have the exact same set of experiences. Your personal brand is more than just an advertisement for the kind of job you are looking for. You are your own “product”. You must start to think in terms of the most popular products, services or celebrities and learn how they manage their image and create a “call to action”. An effective personal brand will ensure that you are marketing and representing yourself in a manner that is clear, concise and appeals to the desired audience. Your brand should create a call-to-action, which is interest in your background to interview or to service potential clients.

For example, when you drive down the expressway and see a billboard for a Toyota Prius, not only do you immediately recognize it because of the Toyota logo but you garner a lot of information about that product. You know it is a Hybrid, that it offers exceptional gas mileage and that it has a reputation for quality. And you know all that in less than 8 seconds as you drive by! Additionally, customers feel confident recommending the product to others. You want contacts to refer you and your background to the right people.

Seeing an image of an apple with a bite out of it, you know immediately its Apple. When you hear the phrase “Good To The Last Drop” you can visualize the blue Maxwell House coffee can. Seeing a picture of Will Farrell or Adam Sandler, it evokes thoughts of laughter and comedic movies, the Dalai Lama congers feelings of peace and non-violence. Effective brands and personal images tell the world large amounts of information about the product with simple, consistent and repeatable statements.

Try these 10 Steps to create, manage and promote your own personal brand.

1. Create a Blog to illustrate your expertise and gain credibility as a thought leader in your industry. Start a free blog at: or

2. Create an Online and Interactive Web-Based Resume that will differentiate you from the mountain of other candidates. It offers employers and recruiters a unique, professional and cutting edge view of you as a professional. Visit:

3. Join Industry Specific Groups on LinkedIn and answer discussion questions and post new questions to the groups. Every time you post something and add your knowledge and expertise, you want it to be visible and marketable. It increases your credibility and identification as a thought leader.

4. Create a “Brag Book” or portfolio of your background, accomplishments, awards and completed projects. This creates a tangible and visual aid to bring to interviews as well as to gain prospective clients if you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Portfolios and brag books are not simply for sales professionals or artists.

5. Join Your University Alumni Network Group. This fosters electronic exchange of contact information, industry experience and strengthens your network presence and thought leadership.

6. Volunteer time with Well-Respected Not For Profit Group. This exposes you to individuals from all industries and backgrounds and grows your network exponentially.

7. Research Your Industry’s Specific Trade Journals, Websites and Publications and Offer to Write an Article or White Paper. This shows your motivation to promote your thought leadership. This is very attractive to potential employers to see the depth of your knowledge.

8. Create personalized Business cards for yourself and your functional expertise. Visit for nice, efficient and inexpensive business card development and printing.

9. Research the companies and experience of at least five (5) of your LinkedIn contacts per month and Offer to Help them in some way. The connection is free but it establishes dialogue and rapport that may lead to future business or job opportunities.

10. Create an effective “15-Second Pitch” to describe yourself and your expertise.
You will use this standard pitch when meeting prospective employers, network contacts or even at a cocktail party. It is easy and memorable and helps people pass on the word about you. Visit Use

Monday, January 4, 2010

5 Types of Interviews & How To Prepare

Depending on the type of industry you are in, the level of the role you are interviewing for and the types of requirements needed for a particular role, you may encounter one or more of the following types of interviews. Not all interviewers are created equal, so it is crucial to be prepared for anything!

Phone Interviews

Employers are starting the interview process more and more these days with a phone interview even prior to the face-to-face interview. Time considerations and travel costs have all lead to an increase in the number of phone interviews being conducted in the earliest stages and even into later stages if there are important stake holders that are not located in the same geography as the candidate. Completing a successful interview is critical to moving to the 2nd phase of the interview so it should be approached with fervor and preparation.

Phone interviews are often pre-scheduled allowing you to prepare properly. However, sometimes they are often just spontaneous as a hiring manager may just pick up the phone in an effort to catch you off guard or just because they are excited about your background and want to catch up with you as soon as possible.

How to Prepare:
• Always be prepared! This means, practice discussing your background, experience and accomplishments to the point that is automatic for you and you can recite your prepared responses even when you do not have a scheduled phone interview. You never know when that phone will ring and you never want to ask to reschedule a hiring manager just because you don’t feel prepared. It is your background and your resume, so you should always know it inside and out.
• When possible make sure you are on a land line versus a cell phone. You do not want any distractions like a bad connection.
• Prepare specific examples, projects and demonstrated outcomes and create a bullet point list in your mind so you can easily access them during the phone interview if you are caught off guard by the hiring manager just calling your without a scheduled time. If it is scheduled, have a list written in front of you with key words so you can reference them easily during the call and you will avoid delays on the phone while you think of a response. Since you will not be in front of the person there will be no non-verbal cues you can use. You must be able to provide rapid fire answers which shows how well you communicate and think on your feet.
• Don’t let a pause or awkward silence throw you off. They’re a natural part of conversation, albeit more noticeable over the phone. Your interviewer is probably just taking notes or preparing their next question. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence with a nervous giggle or pointless comment, wait patiently for the interviewer to pick up the conversation.

Traditional or Standard Interviews
Traditional interviews are what most of us are accustomed to. They typical interview revolves around the interviewer asking basic questions such as:

“Tell me about yourself?”
“Why are you looking for a new role?”
“Tell me why I should hire you?”

This type of interview follows a basic format and is often a very generic and canned interaction between the candidate and the hiring manager. The interviewer typically will just read the steps of your resume and ask relevant questions.

How to Prepare:

• Create standard responses to the anticipated questions by writing down your responses and rehearsing them several times.
• Practice role-playing with a family member, friend or career coach to make sure you know your resume inside and out.
• Ensure you can elaborate on anything you have documented on your resume. Make sure you can provide additional information or back up to claims of accomplishments or skills you have listed.
• Prepare answers to describe what you have learned from each role you have held and all of the key experiences that support your background.
• Provide real-life examples to drive the point home.

Behavioral Interviews
Interviewers are becoming more highly skilled and often trained in conducting behavioral interviews which will help them predict future success and cohesiveness in their organization based on your past results and experiences. Typically, the hiring manager or team will have identified a set of key indicators or core competencies they feel are needed for the successful candidate to be hired. They may even employ technology based assessment tests to support their findings.

Behavioral interviews include:

• Open Ended Questions. For example, “Give me an example of a time when ________” or “Tell me about a situation you handled where you ______”
• Follow Up and Probing Questions. For example, “In the project you describe, how did you manage to increase sales revenue?”

How to Prepare:
• Make a list of a few stories, projects and/or examples of where you overcame a challenge, created a new process, increased revenue and efficiency, decreased time to perform, improved customer service, motivated yourself and so on.
• Structure you responses in a 3-part manner.
1. Part A – “What” was the task, duty, charter, situation
2. Part B – “How” did you accomplish it
3. Part C – “End Result” what was the measurable outcome or result?

• Research the organization and reach out to current and former employees via LinkedIn or other avenues so you can learn a little about the culture of the organization. It will help you understand some of the behaviors they seek in hiring candidates.
• Know the job description inside and out. Make sure you can provide relevant examples that speak directly to the key requirements of the job.

Case Interviews

Case interviews are typically used for legal, investment/financial, medical or consulting type roles. In a case interview, the interviewer will present a real or hypothetical business problem, and ask you to analyze the situation and present how you might go about solving it.

The interviewer is usually trying to assess your critical thinking skills and general business knowledge. Normally, you’re not given enough information prior to the interview to prepare a response in advance. This type of interview not only will test your knowledge and business acumen, but also how quickly and effectively you think on your feet. They are also looking to evaluate the kinds of questions you ask about the business problem in order to effectively provide a solution. This will test your analytical skills. In a case interview, there really is no perfect answer. You’re going to be judged more on how you approach the problem than on the specific solutions you come up with.

How to Prepare:

• Since you will not know the subject or content of a Case Interview it is difficult to prepare pre-canned responses or examples. However, researching case studies, white papers and post-mortem consulting reports for your industry will help you identify key areas to question and the basic types of questions you should elicit from the interviewer to begin to prepare your solution.
• Start by fully understanding the situation, based on the information you’ve been given. This type of interview is a two-way conversation, so make sure you have a process for evaluating the data set and formulate thoughtful questions.

Stress Interviews
Most candidates may never experience a specific “stress” interview; they may feel all interviews are stressful. But a true “Stress” interview is designed to deliberately create a stressful and even hostile environment for the candidate and to evaluate how they cope. The interviewer may ask questions that seem to have no bearing on the role or to even create an emotional response from the candidate. They may perform actions that purposefully will set the candidate off and to evaluate how they compensate for that.

Stress Interview Tactics May Include:

• Asking off-the-wall or even absurd questions like “If you were a color, which one would you be?” or “What kind of super hero power would you like to have?”
• Making the candidate wait for extended periods of time before bringing them in.
• Having multiple people fire questions one after the other at the candidate without time for a real response.
• The interviewer may respond with indifference, rudeness, cockiness or the silent treatment.

How to Prepare:
• The first key to surviving a stress interview to stay calm and focused. Remember it is an interview and one designed to evoke a stress response, so take a deep breath.
• Do not take this treatment (or mis-treatment as it may appear) personally. It is all part of “stress” so approach it like any other business problem. Do not get flustered. Be calm and methodical in your responses.
• Do not ever get defensive, argumentative or aggressive. That is what they are hoping for and it will show the crack in your armor. You want to be the rock solid candidate they look to hire.