How to Kick Butt at Your Next Job Interview

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I am terrible at interviews. I get nervous, lose my train of thought, say awkward things and have trouble forming coherent sentences. The usual comfortableness I feel with others fades away as soon as the torrent of questions begins to weaken my resolve. If I’m lucky, what I say will at least sound intelligent, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Especially between all the um’s and awkward silences.

In an effort to overcome this, I decided to research ways to excel at interviews, as well as asking friends for their advice on what has worked for them. Hopefully my findings can help others who experience the same kind of painful interviewing experiences that I do. Here are some tips broken down into a comprehensive, numerically descending list (because I love making lists):

5. “My advice to someone would be to know the company you are interviewing with. Do your homework on that company.” – Arla Boss

It is imperative to know exactly who you are working for. If they start asking you questions about their company and you have no answers because you didn’t do your research, it may seem like you just don’t care. Trust me, I’ve had it happen, and it’s embarrassing. Employers want to hire people who care about their company and share the same values. Being prepared is essential.

4. “Above everything, show that the two things you care about most are accomplishing the task at hand, and meshing well with your fellow coworkers. Managerial staff always look for those two things when they are hiring a new employee. Will they get the job done effectively and on time? And will they cause a problem with other employees?” -Riley Milligan, Sales Director at Seattle Athletic Club

While it is important to have the necessary qualifications to perform the tasks and duties asked of you, it is just as important to be a team-player and get along well with others. No one wants to hire someone with a crummy attitude, even if their resume is stacked with skills and degrees. It is important to a company and their culture that their employees get along, bounce ideas off each other, and motivate each other. They are looking for the right “cultural fit”. This is the time to let your charming personality shine through!

3.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a question interviewers love to ask, and one you should always be prepared to answer. You could try Michael Scott’s technique (see video above), or mention weaknesses that don’t pertain to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a graphic designer, you don’t have to be great with numbers. Don’t be fake or dishonest, but try to answer their questions in clever ways.  Think of all the questions they might ask you and prepare your answers in advance. Don’t over-prepare though, you want to sound natural!

2. “In my experience, a large majority of the interview is based not necessarily on the answers you give, but the way you present yourself, self-confidence, grooming, attire, and personality. You are in a way advertising yourself and your capabilities. Show them what you have to bring to the table that your competition doesn’t.”

– Sarah Taylor

Confidence is key. This is a problem that I struggle with, but with more interviews and more practice, it gets better. Employers don’t want someone who is unsure of what they’re doing, or even unsure of themselves. They want someone who is willing to take the reins and perform. When you are at an interview, you are essentially selling yourself. “Dress for success” is a common term, but one that is so true. If you go in looking like you sleep in a cardboard box in an alley way, then you probably won’t make a very good impression. Be creative, and be memorable! Employers usually interview many people for a position, and it’s easy for them to forget the people who were ordinary. Make a great first impression and show them that you are in demand. Rather than be desperate to get the job, they should be desperate to hire you for the job. Show them that you aren’t ordinary, but extraordinary!

1. SMILE!

This is the most common advice I hear, and probably the easiest to accomplish (unless you hate smiling, then you clearly have other issues). Be friendly and warm. Make eye contact. Be a person that people will want to work with. If you go through the whole interview looking like you are miserable, they definitely will not hire you. If you are applying for a job in the customer service industry, be sure to amp up the smiles and energy! But like I said before, don’t overdo it. Be natural.

And most importantly, be yourself. If that doesn’t work, then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. The right place for you is where you will be accepted and where your talents will be appreciated. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.

Are You A Top 10% Most Viewed Profiles On LinkedIn?

Did you receive an email from Linkedin congratulating you on being a top 1%, 5%, or 10% of all profiles viewed?

Both my Linkedin and Twitter streams are filled with posts from users that have received this distinction.

The LA Times posted an article yesterday titled “LinkedIn’s clever marketing: You’re special like 10 million others“.  The story estimates that 10 million people were sent an email to the 1% or 5% most viewed user profiles out of their 200 million members.

But wait, there is more.  Linkedin also sent awards to the top 10% most viewed profiles bringing the total to an estimated 20m users.  Katie Notopolulos at Buzz Feed was the first to update the initial estimate of 10m to the current of 20m.

Are there more to come? So far most of the commentary on Linkedin’s award-bombing has been mostly positive.  Michelle Wetzler, writes on the Keen IO blog” Props, LinkedIn marketing team. Props.”.

The top 10% of users who did receive seem quite proud..  You can tell it’s working from the stream of people tweeting this stat that “deserves to be shared”

We think this type of professional recognition is awesome and want to honor LinkedIn’s Top Users.  MeritShare will honor the top 1%, 5%, and 10% most-viewed profiles with a MeritShare online badge and public award page.  The benefit to the recipient is that a MeritShare award page is more permanent than a post in a social media stream.  The MeritShare award page is also optimized for search; many MeritShare profiles with a photo and a badge show up in the first page of Google results for someone’s name.”  A personal and professional branding win!

To receive a MeritShare award, just forward the email you received from LinkedIn to kevin@meritshare.com and we’ll send you a special “Connector” award through MeritShare.

Michelle Wetzler’s Linkedin Award invitation and share page:

 

Favorite Tweets From Staffing Management Association Seattle

Team MeritShare recently attended a fantastic day of keynote speakers and panels (we were on one) at the 8th Annual SMA Staffing Symposium.  Topics included best practices, HR technology, and trends and employment and recruiting.  Here are some of our favorite tweets from the conference.  Add any of your favorites in the comment section below:

Hiring managers generally don’t care about candidate source if you hire quality, fast says @vlastelica #smaseattle
— betsybasch (@betsybasch)

@peopleshark : Social media is not just a channel, it’s a conversation tool #smaseattle
— Mark (@ihirepeople)

Feature your employees to build your brand. @peopleshark #smaseattle
— WhitePages TechGirl (@WPTechGrl)

Plug: Employee Motivation That Works

Play an advisor role in your org, help others solve their problems instead of selling them on your solutions. #leadership #smaseattle
— Travis Pearl (@TravisPearl)

 @jer425 if you are on social media and someone reaches out to you–hit the reply button or get out of social media #smaseattle
— Marvin Smith (@talentcommunity)

 RT @betsybasch: Share the good, bad, and ugly with candidates; interviews are 2 way streets says @merturner #smaseattle
— Fresh Consulting (@freshconsulting)

 @knakao @vlastelica loving this session. Nothing like oiled up muscles and #recruiting.
— Heather Nadeau (@heather_nadeau)

@vlastelica Not being afraid to rock your ’87 mullet on the big screen @smaseattle #HowNotToSuck
— Shaundar(@ShaundarNW)

 @vlastelica #smaseattle #hownottosuck ..how many tweets until its off? #betterthanaerobics
— LillianTaylorBlackmo (@LTaylorBlackmon)

 Fixing your candidate experience actually leads to fixing your overall recruiting process. #fact #SMASeattle
— Carmen Hudson (@peopleshark)

 Career agility is a spot on talking point here at #smaseattle. Lots of employers looking at that first.
— Lance Haun (@thelance)

If you are not planning to support a more fluid workforce, you are going to get pummeled by the labor market! #SMASeattle
— Master Burnett (@masterburnett)

 MT @meritshare: Codify your company culture- get individual contributors who embody that culture in a room, let them define it. #smaseattle
— Brett Greene (@BrettGreene)

#smaseattle social panel harmony..@peopleshark @jer425 and I just agreed…
— Kat Drum (@katdrum)

 How to keep a great recruiter?”Make sure to give recruiters career growth” – @merturner #SMASeattle
— Kevin Nakao (@knakao)

 

Best Places To Work in Seattle & Washington: What You Need To Know

MeritShare can help you drive employee engagement. Contact kevin@meritshare.com for more information

Winning a “Best Places To Work” designation can really help with your recruiting and appeal to top candidates.  Participation is also a great check point on the health of your work culture.   Get your employees engaged now with MeritShare and make sure you submit your application by the deadlines below.

Seattle Business Magazine
More information and web page
Submission Deadline: 1/1/2013
Awards Event: June 2013

Seattle Met Magazine
More information and web page
Submission Deadline:  Sign-up now for updates, estimated Feb/Mar entry submission.

Awards Event: TBD

Washingtonian
Submission Deadline: February 2013
More information and web page
Awards Event:  November 2013

Getting The Most Out Of Your MBA

Hi, my name is Kevin Nakao and I am the co-founder of MeritShare with Travis Pearl.

Today I had the opportunity to speak to a really great group of MBA students at the University of Utah. Special thanks to Kelly Collins for inviting and hosting me.  Here is part 1 of the notes I prepared for the presentation. I will publish the second topic we discussed, ” working in tech” tomorrow.

I received my MBA from Harvard Business School a while ago , but I can still remember with clarity what really mattered:

Pivot Time
I went from working on sales compensation systems in healthcare to developing marketing campaigns for Puff Daddy and Tom Petty at Universal Music. The time is now to pursue things you have always been interested in. You have both the permission and the opportunity to try new things and make radical career changes.

Some great ways to explore your new career include:

  • Summer internship: I thought I might be interested in consulting, so I spent my summer working for an excellent consulting firm. The people were fantastic, but I really didn’t like being a consultant.
  • Sponsored work project: I was able to work on a project with Paramount Pictures that offered a insiders view of the entertainment business, some good contacts, and paid trips to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of working in the music business. The results of our study were published in The Hollywood Reporter – -providing some credibility in my job search where I had no industry experience.
  • Your colleagues: the best information about what an industry or company can come from the students around you. Since most good MBA programs require work experience, chances are you can find someone who has worked in the industry you are interested in. It’s also a little like taste in food, movies, and music — everyone has their own preferences so it is good to know the person providing the perspective.

Network, Network, Network
Good things come to those who hustle and create their own opportunity. Anyone who tells you they don’t is setting the bar too low for themselves. Yes recruiters may be calling, but you should set your own targets and not have someone else determine your career destiny.

Again, getting to know your fellow MBA’s is critical. It’s the strongest component of my network today.  Some of my most trusted professional contacts came during business school. Make it a goal to meet and have quality interactions with 100 people from your business school program. I was very involved in many business school activities including a business ethics forum started by a friend, the b-school musical, and the volunteer consulting group. My first visit to the land of my ancestors, Japan, was with a group from the business school.

Your instructors are also an important part of your networking resources. The connection between business schools and the private sector is very strong. These are very well-connected people. One of my good friends from business school works in the commerce department for the Obama administration, the results of an introduction from a former professor.

You are investing a lot of money and time over these two years, get the most out of it. The stronger you make your network, the more you enhance the brand of your MBA and your alma mater — which in turn,makes you more valuable.

During my second year of the MBA program, I worked as an intern at the local branch office for Arista records and helped put up posters, monitor music playlists, and basically do anything I was told. During that time, I went to New York and Los Angeles at least once per month to meet people in the music industry. I had completed over 70 informational interviews with various levels of music industry people. This was an excellent education, but also a huge benefit – because an important part of the entertainment industry is who you know. This was critical in landing my dream music industry job (more below)

Build Your Brand Online
As you know, the first thing a potential employer will do is Google your name to find results about you. I do this with every potential business partner or meeting I have with a new person. You need to have more than a Linked in profile because when someone does a search, there is an entire page of results that show up – and you want to make sure that first page of results tells a positive story about who you are. There are a lot of great resources like Mashable that give advice on this topic, but I will give you a couple of quick and easy tips.

Get on Twitter. Both Google and Bing are indexing and paying close attention to these “social signals”. Most content on Facebook, and a lot of the non-resume content on LinkedIn is behind the wall that can’t be reached by Google’s spiders.  Google is also optimized to youtube, so if there is any relevant video content you can post about yourself, this is a good “SEO” tactic.

Building your online brand is one of the benefits of MeritShare, when someone gives you an award or kudos, the results are optimized for Google and Bing Searches.

Sonia Karkenny
Sonia was the executive admin to the Al Teller, the head of Universal Music which owned MCA, Universal, and Motown records. Al worked out of both New York and Los Angeles where Sonia managed his appointments. For a period of 8 months Sonia tried to help get me a meeting with Al in both places. On a trip to LA she asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting in a small office for up to 8 hours to get 15 minutes of Al’s time. She got me the meeting with Al and the first thing he asked is what I had done to research the industry. I started rattling off the names from the +70 informational interviews and the work I had done in my internship. I walked out of the meeting with a job.  In the next couple of years i was promoted to a national sales manager managing a team of 8 reps and became Director of Marketing where I handled the marketing campaigns for a roster of artists. It was a dream job that gave me exposure to every part of the music business and the opportunity to work with artists including Tom Petty & BB King (they were already big), Puff Daddy, Mary j. Blige, and Quentin Tarantino Reservoir Dogs soundtrack.

My key takeaways here are to hustle, be persistent, and know that everyone is important in your career and you never know who will put in the extra effort to make the difference. In my case it was Sonia, and it underscores the importance of my next point:

Be Nice
You represent your school, and yourself.  MBA’s sometime’s get a bad rep. You are spending a lot of money on this degree and you want other people to value the MBA brand. Everyone knows your smart, but are you likable, do they want to work with you?

It is the reason I am here today, last year Kelly brought a group of MBA’s to Seattle that I had the opportunity to meet with and speak to when they came to visit. I was really impressed with the students I met.  Several folks that participated with me remarked how polite and engaged everyone was.  I had some nice Twitter interactions with a couple of the students that visited.

You will achieve great things if you are smart and work hard, but opportunity really opens up if you approach it with kindness and niceness.

On that note, make sure to send a follow-up and thank you note when you interview. It is also an opportunity to bring up a selling point you may have forgotten or stumbled on during your interview. My rule of thumb is that if you want the job send both an email and a hand-written note to the hiring manager. Not many people do this and you will stand out. If you don’t want the job, send an email anyway – chances are good that you may run into the person again. I have actually kept in touch with folks I have met during interviewing that have become valuable colleagues.

That’s it for now, check back tomorrow for a write-up of what it is like to work in the Internets.