Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Interview Not Going Too Hot?

If you’re crushing your interview (in the best sense of the word), you’ll often see some reassuring non-verbal cues—the interviewer might smile as you diplomatically answer a trick question or nod when you talk about your management style.

Along similar lines, if you’re crushing your interview (in the worst sense of the word), you may pick up a general sense of disinterest: An interviewer who’s tapping her foot, staring at the clock, or failing to ask follow-up questions isn’t exactly a good sign.

So, what can you do when it’s just not clicking? Can you salvage the interview?

You absolutely can, by employing one of the top skills interviewers look for: thinking on your feet. Look at a rocky start as an opportunity to show how you can adapt and get back in the game—just keep in mind the do's and dont's of course correcting mid-interview.

Don’t: Call it Out:
Ever notice how the most awkward thing about a situation can be someone saying, “awkward?” The same applies for interviews. If your first few answers felt strained, you might feel like you should jump in and clear the air (“I feel like we got off to a disjointed start… ”), but definitely don’t. Instead, focus on making your future answers as strong as possible.

Odds are, this is not your interviewer’s first time around the block; meaning, if you started shaky, he’s already noticed. But the good news is: He will also notice that your answers got better as soon as you settled. He’ll likely attribute the beginning to nerves and move on (that is, unless you keep reminding him that the beginning of the conversation was off!).

Do: Take a Quick Inventory:
While you should keep your concerns to yourself, you most definitely should not ignore them. Try to do a quick assessment of what might be turning the interviewer off: Did you simply flub one answer, or are you doing something more, like rambling, looking at the floor, or only speaking to one interviewer?

Before your next answer, take just a moment to collect yourself. And as you answer the next question, focus on all of the interview training you have—sit up straight, make good eye contact, and speak clearly, confidently, and concisely.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Change it Up:
Remember, consistency is only a virtue when you’re on the right path. So if you feel the interview going downhill, don’t be afraid to change tactics. Have you been formally addressing the staff as Mr. and Mrs.? It might make sense to loosen things up and say, “May I call you Sara?” Speaking to your interviewer like a colleague will make the interview feel more collegial, and it might be just the change of pace you need.

Alternatively, if you made a joke and it bombed, don’t keep trying—you’ll want to answer everything else by the book.

Do: Take the Lead:
If you find yourself answering simple questions (think “how do you manage your time?”) and waiting for follow-up questions that never come—you don’t have to suffer in silence, waiting for the interviewer to make the next move. Instead, take the lead and create your own follow-up.

For example, you could answer the time management question briefly, then continue with, “A time I employed these skills was…” You can also try, “Does that answer your question, or is there anything else I can share?” Or, you can use a bout of silence to ask your own questions: “How do others on the team manage their time and projects?” Any of these approaches would be good segues into further conversation—and good ways to fill those awkward silences.

Don’t: Take it Too Personally:
So, what if you take an inventory, sit straighter, and try to initiate follow-ups, and your interviewer still seems icy? Consider that the lack of affirmation may be a tactic: Some interviewers are harder on top candidates to see how they handle curve balls and perform under pressure. (Confession: I’ve done this.) Additionally, some companies have a rigid interview protocol for hiring managers to ensure they don’t appear to show bias or favoritism.

So don’t internalize it and think, “This interview isn't going well because I’m doing something wrong,” and instead, try: “This is a challenge that I’m going to demonstrate I can meet!” By simply staying positive and professional, you’ll rise above the candidates who visibly falter under the additional stress.

Do: Follow Up as Usual:
After such a tough experience, you may be thinking that a thank you note isn't worth it, or that you might as well make “worst. interview. ever.” your status update. But remember: Until you officially have an answer in hand, the verdict is still out. So it’s important to keep things professional.

This means doing all the same follow-up you would if the interview had gone well—i.e., writing a stellar thank you note to each of your interviewers. It’s always worthwhile to leave a great impression, and who knows where you really stand in the candidate pool.

Elevator Pitches: A Follow Up On My Wikipedia Post

About a month ago I wrote a blog entry about elevator pitches. My post divulged into the importance of creating an elevator pitch for young professionals, when and how it can be used and how to build one. 

For the purpose of the post, in looking to define "elevator pitch" I noticed that specific details I deemed important were not discussed on the Elevator Pitch Wikipedia page. I decided to tack on information discussing why an elevator speech is important and what an elevator pitch should include. 

Today I checked back on the Elevator Pitch Wikipedia post, to see if my add on's were left for curious readers. Unfortunately, I came to find that my edits were removed!

I guess someone thought the added details were not worth mentioning. However, I continue to emphasize just how useful elevator pitches are, for everything from creating cover letters, to email or interview introductionsfrom mentor requests to casual networking encounters and leaving voice mails.  

The elevator pitch is so important because it is the first thing that people ever hear or read about you and sets the stage for why a person should spend time looking at your resume which leads to an interview which leads to the job offer! 

I cannot emphasize just how much  an elevator pitch can help round out your job hunting arsenal. Even though Wikipedia doesn't seem to agree, it's important to write one! If you need help writing your pitch, my entry on elevator pitches gives some good ideas on how to get started.

Introducing: 5 Item Mondays

Got a case of the Mondays? I'm here to help get you packed, and ready to go!

I’m launching a new regular feature: 5 Item Monday— that allows you to peek into the desks, backpacks, purses and closets of awesome, young professionals. Let these "5 Item Monday" posts inspire you when packing your bag and getting ready for your work week!

Meet Erica Moss, an energetic and motivated online marketing coordinator for Ann Taylor. In her free time, she enjoys exploring NYC with her English bulldog, Mona. she also adores TV, photography, pop culture, cured and twitter.

Erica, show us whats on your desk!

Moleskine Notebook: While almost 100% of my job is executed online, there will never be a replacement for pen and paper. This beautiful notebook is perfect for jotting down notes during a meeting, or brainstorming for the next quarter’s projects at my desk.

Sunglasses: You never know when you might have to run out for a quick meeting over coffee, or perhaps take a much-needed break for ice cream on a hot, summer day. In my book, it doesn’t get any better than Warby Parker, and they donate a pair for every pair sold. Check out the Paley, Preston, Everett and Madison — for starters.

Notecards: Never let anyone tell you the handwritten note is dead. These little diddies are great for congratulating a co-worker on a recent promotion, or leaving a simple note to thank someone for his or her help on a particularly challenging project.

iPad Mini: This is my favorite necessity that’s not really a necessity. It’s just pretty to look at, and I use it to keep track of my social media mentions throughout the day, and also to jot down to-do lists and ideas, both personal professional. It fits in the palm of my hand and can travel with me anywhere, either in its case or tossed in my purse. Must-have app: Netflix.

MacBook Pro: If you couldn’t already tell, I’m an Apple girl, so a MacBook is essential in keeping me at my most efficient. I find that they’re more intuitive than their PC comrades, and are more conducive to the types of creative projects I’m tasked with. I like to personalize mine a bit, even though it’s for work, with the Kate Spade theme for Chrome and lovely wallpapers that add a little pop of color. Life-saver apps: Jing and Spotify.

So get to packin' readers and don't forget these essentials to jump start your work week!