Category Archives: interveiw techniques

15 Tips to finesse an online interview

Today your face can be beamed onto cinema size screeens
Today your face can be beamed onto cinema size screeens

Why?  Online interviewing skills are a must have…

Increasingly organisations are wanting to replace first contact screenings or even an initial interview with a Skype call or other online call.

This is something that is given insufficient priority by job seekers or even totally disregarded. Research from Right Management in 2012 indicated that at that time only 9% of interviews take place via web cam. Their prediction was that this will increase to 43%  over the next few years. So although cutting out extended travel time can  be a bonus for job seekers, online interviewing skills are now a must have.

Offering a Skype call can also help arrange an informational interview. A network connection might be reluctant to give up hours for lunch or coffee, but a Skype call,  which can be more easily scheduled into a busy calendar,  might be more appealing.

However, simple as it might seem,  it can be challenging for most of us to be our sparkling best with our job search A game on tap for an online interview. Sometimes even the best internet connection and web cam don’t do any of us any justice at all. Today, with advanced technology our faces can be beamed onto over sized plasma screens in conference rooms the world over. “Skyping” is no longer associated with hunching over a lap top screaming into a pilot size headset, sounding like a goldfish.

It now requires an element of finesse and one job seekers should factor into their prep work.

So where to start? —

  1. Treat it  seriously:  just because it’s  online doesn’t mean you are not being professionally evaluated. You most certainly are…. and it’s even more difficult than a face to face.
  2. Have a professional photo:  as well as your USP in your Skype  profile. This is part of your consistent branding. Many choose funky pictures for their Skype  profiles,  forgetting the professional associations of this technology. Re-visit that thought.
  3. Make sure your name and Skype address is easily traceable. We all like to think we are unique only to find there are dozens with the same name or handle.
  4. Test the technology: Don’t download Skype or any other technology five minutes before your appointment . Test your microphone and headset.
  5. Understand the technology:  know how to Skype type, screen share and what to do if the signal drops,  which it does sometimes  (turn off your camera.)
  6. ——Request a time that suits:  one where you can be guaranteed calm, the kids are in bed,  the dog isn’t running amok or the dishwasher  gurgling in the background, and so on.
  7. —Location: you need a tidy, quiet,  professional or neutral background with writing materials to hand.  If your computer is in your bedroom or kitchen,  try to angle the computer away from your unmade bed or dirty dishes. I once interviewed someone sitting on the sofa in his living room with his partner ironing in the background and the kids fighting in the corner. It didn’t go well.
  8. —Dress code, grooming:  it’s very easy to take Skype or Face Time calls in your PJs, chilled,  having a coffee. I even had someone drinking what I suspect was a bottle rather than a glass of wine. But it’s not professional. Dress code should be as for a face to face interview.  
  9. —Watch your posture : sit up straight.  Elevate your computer if you have to on a pile of books. It avoids your interviewers looking up your nose.
  10. A wifi head set is best otherwise we can all look like pilots on a space launch.  —
  11. Look at the camera and not the screen. Minimize your own image.
  12. Close down any sound alerts: incoming mails, Twitter and so on. Nothing is more distracting than hearing constant pinging in the background.
  13. Turn off your other phones: land line and mobile  – also potential  distractions.
  14. Have any documents available for easy sharing – either via screen share or download
  15. Use mobile technology  judiciously.  We are all on the run – but taking an important interview via Skype on a Smart  Phone or Tablet can be tricky.  I have been involved in these situations and they don’t favour the candidate. I recently talked to  an interviewee literally running between meetings including a period in a lift. She was so out of breath she sounded as if she was experiencing a cardiac arrest.

So don’t forget to be prepared for this latest development! It could well happen to you sometime very soon!

10 Barriers to successful promotion

careerI see many people in transition who struggle to advance in their careers  internally within their own organisations, in almost the same way as if they were involved in an external job search.

Today,  many companies have very rigorous internal promotion processes which can be as daunting as looking for a position outside a current organisation.

However,  there are many common elements and they require the same structured approach to achieve success. Just like an external  job search,  the process can take up to a year, further complicated by competition against colleagues,   some of whom may have become friends. Some companies even go to the expense of conducting external executive searches to benchmark the quality of their internal talent pipeline.

Over the years I’ve noticed what has become an all too familiar pattern with ten barriers to success:

  1. Lack of expertise in self-promotion:  many are unused to dealing with this type of process and are simply confused. This is compounded by a refusal to ask for help. Many in established positions have no idea how neutral input can make a difference to the outcome. Very often organisations will fund transition coaching especially at a senior level. Ask, and if they say “no”,  don’t hesitate invest in yourself.
  2. Lack of self-awareness: most people make very little time to think about themselves – their skills, goals, achievements, vision and passions. Those who are still employed are equally as guilty as  job seekers of this, perhaps more so because they know the organisation and the players.  They think they can ” wing it ” on the day.  A thorough inventory of achievements and skills should always be made as part of any on going career strategy. Internal candidates quite frequently have less interview exposure than externals so their self presentation skills can be more rusty.
  3. Stuck in “yes / but” :  Many want to make a change and explore new methodologies but get stuck in self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours. They are unable to make that paradigm shift to get there.  As Einstein pointed out “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different  results.”
  4. Avoidance strategies:  transitioning professionally takes a lot of work and many are not prepared to run the hard yards.  They get caught up in the cyber black  hole of “busyness” , unproductive work on computers of all sizes,  convincing themselves they are working effectively, when they are clearly not.  Business plans have to be prepared, strategic value to market statements must be created, plus whatever other activities organisations demands  (personality and psychological testing for example.)  All of this is time-consuming.
  5. Low self-esteem and or anxiety:  these two psychological states are frequent bed fellows which feed on each other to produce the  “busyness” above. Fear of failure maybe at the root of these dangerous emotions or perhaps there have been some missed  or failed opportunities in the past. Falling into the low self-esteem cycle undermines productivity and ultimately success. Find a coach, a mentor or a neutral friend or colleague to support you.
  6. Poor time management: whether in employment or on a job search a structured approach to time management is critical. Goals should be set, plans made and implemented and time planned.
  7. Failure to set goals: internal candidates are well-known to their management which has  both negatives and positives. It’s not enough to pitch up, suited and booted to give a brilliantly polished performance on the day. Strategic preparation over an extended period is critical, including professional image management. If your appearance look like a sack of spanners most days in the office,  a one day transformation for the interview will not be enough.
  8.  Lack of both mentors and sponsors: for the necessary support. Implement some visibility raising strategies to  raise your profile within your company. It is really easy to neglect an internal network. Create some strategic alliances.
  9. Failure to evaluate the competition.  Is your manager sponsoring you? If so, is he/she also sponsoring others for the position? Find out what you need to do to get full and unqualified support. Be aware of who the other candidates might be and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  10. No Plan B: in very  competitive internal processes which might have long-term career impact,  as part of the planning process ask yourself what you want to do if you are not successful.   Having a “Plan B” is key – will you stay on and try again? Does this mean your career will have stalled? It’s important to understand what your next steps will be and create a plan in advance. Knowing that a potential key resource may leave an organisation can be a factor.  Make sure your external network is in place too,  as your ” just in case” safety net.

So whether an external or internal candidate,  the career transition process carries many common elements! What would you add?

Good luck!

Brevity: The secret to a good interview

No talkingThroughout history, people way wiser than myself have counselled on the value of brevity.

  • “Good things, when short, are twice as good”. ~Baltasar Gracián,
  • The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will  do. ~Thomas Jefferson
  • ….”to talk well and eloquently was a very great art, but that an equally great one was to know the right moment to stop. ~Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

My A level Economics teacher Mr. Thomas, used to exhort our class to be  “concise, precise and relevant.” Excellent advice which I can struggle with and have to be mindful of at times. It is indeed a skill and talent which if not innate, can be developed,  importantly not to be confused with being monosyllabic or taciturn.

There is one place where the ability to be brief adds value.  That’s in the interview process.

What does brevity showcase in an interview?

Brevity shows you understand that an interview is about creating a dialogue and is not a monologue – especially in response to that old chestnut  “tell me about yourself”  – which is indeed a loaded question.

Brevity shows you know your  stuff: your  USP and Personal Brand,  who you are and where and how you add value! When you are concise, precise and relevant,  you are able to highlight your strengths and success stories succinctly,  inviting interviewers to pick up on the points that interest them the most.   This could be important for you to sell certain parts of your experience and skills a little harder,  or perhaps even to re-group if you need to.

Brevity shows that you are an active listener. The adage that we have 2 ears and one mouth and they should be used proportionately, comes into play here. If you are talking – you are not listening.  This means that you could be missing  key body language cues: drifting eye contact, fidgeting hands and so on,  all signs that you are losing your audience.  This strategy can include:

  • Reflecting before responding:  clarifying or paraphrasing the question if necessary to establish exactly what is required of you.
  • The two minute rule:  generally this is the right amount of time for one person to be holding forth without a break, unless you are  making a presentation.
  • Elaboration :  Ask if your response has answered their question adequately and if they would like you to develop any point. That puts you firmly into the game and takes you out of a passive role.

Brevity  allows you to conquer nerves. Many of us talk too much when we are nervous (I do!) but learn that this is what you do and set up some coping strategies and relaxation techniques to get you through the first difficult moments when nerves overtake you.

Brevity facilitates strategy.  If you are concise, you can target your responses accordingly and feed in the information that you want to showcase strategically.

Brevity allows the interview to become a two way street. Many people overlook the fact that the candidate is also assessing the company, the position as well as the interviewing manager. If you  have created time to listen by being succinct, you can observe communication styles,  the surroundings,  as well as interaction between the people involved in the process. Very often these can give telling signals about cultural fit.

George Burns said “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible.”

It can also be the secret  to a good interview!

What stories do you have about talking too much? 

Are we seeing a resurgence of candidate power?

Candidate power

Top candidates making greater demands
As the worst of the recession seems to have bottomed out and economies are hopefully experiencing an upward turn, I have noticed a slight, but perceptible shift in the executive search process. Organisations had their pick of top talent for probably 3 years, the challenge during that period was being able to sift through the sheer numbers of applications to identify the best candidates. Hiring managers who could during this period, choose their terms of engagement, are currently meeting candidates who are more demanding. Top candidates are now involved in multiple processes, very often with their existing companies being prepared to enter a bidding game and making counter offers to retain key employees.

Normal candidates
I’m not talking about corporate prima donnas, who are playing one company off against another, or leveraging their current employer with empty threats to move. These are genuinely top class individuals who have probably been held back by the lack of opportunities, caused by the economic downturn. In the intervening years we have been exhorting candidates to research and prepare to create good impressions with potential employers. But now is it organisations which are found wanting and not making the correct impression on candidates?

Internal audit
Perhaps now is the time for hiring companies to carry out internal audits to check that they are operating to best practises: They should be satisfied that:

All stages of the recruitment process from sourcing, interviewing, offer and onboarding, especially candidate communication and management, is efficient and timely. Any hiccoughs or delays in any part of these processes will result in losing the preferred candidate. Lost candidates = lost revenue, as positions remain open for even longer.

Salary and benefit levels are in line with the market. If hiring managers don’t know what market rates are – now is the time to find out.

Development and training programmes are in place to guarantee employee engagement in terms of future career opportunities.

Tomos, a recently graduating MBA suggests ” After a period of stagnation candidates need to know that companies are offering career development opportunities. For me this is as important as the salary package.”

Employer branding and reputation are strong. Just as employers can research candidates on-line, the reverse is also true. It is becoming increasingly easy for candidates to establish the corporate culture of any company by asking well placed connections, a few carefully constructed sentences about hours worked, vacation times, bonus systems, management style and so on. Glowing references from existing employees are a huge boost to the recruitment process. However, even a well-intentioned comment can send the wrong signals. One contact decided not to apply for a position when an internal connection within the company mentioned that he had a closer relationship with his Blackberry than his girlfriend.

First impressions count
Organisations which are complacent about any aspect of their hiring systems might be in for a wake up call. As Matteo, a Business Development Manager actively looking for a new opportunity confirmed, the recruitment process is the first encounter with the overall corporate image. If that isn’t strong, other areas of the company can be brought into question. “I was involved in 3 different search processes. All opportunities were attractive in different ways. The offer I accepted came from the company with the most professional hiring procedure. I felt it was one indication of how the company was managed from the top down

First impressions cut both ways.

Dealing with a loaded question

“Tell me about yourself”
Job seeking advice is a bit like parenting or relationship advice. Most people have done it and everyone has an opinion. No, or even disastrous experience, in any of the above, still leaves some undeterred. Share they will. Of course, basic common sense and a certain objective distance can go a long way, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Old chestnut
In the job seeking process, an old chestnut which prompts massive debate and conflicting advice is the question “Tell me about yourself.” I probably screen, coach and interview in excess of 80 people a month, so do have some experience. Imagine my consternation when a coaching client working on her interview presentation to that very question came up with ” I’m a passionate, charismatic, happy person, enthusiastic, hardworking and witty. And I don’t like cheese.” An eyebrow was raised. Mine.

The source of this inspiration came from an internet blog post by an advertising exec, recently turned transition specialist. I dreaded that the prepared response to “Why should we offer you the job” would be ” Just do it!

Before my inbox fills up, I’m not writing off humorous introductions out of hand. I am the champion of flexibility as you know. There are indeed times when a witty one – liner or gimmicky presentation can be really effective, but you have to know when that might be. For most this is not easy if you have only clapped eyes on the interviewer for the first time, 2 minutes beforehand and might be nervous. It’s high risk and can backfire. Instead of piquing interest, it may just waste valuable time. For this particular client it was possibly career kamikaze.

Iron fist in velvet glove
To avoid misunderstanding, let’s get a major point nailed. “Tell me about yourselfis a loaded question. It is a hard-hitting opportunity to gain insight into a candidate, masquerading as a sweet, gentle icebreaker. It is an iron fist in a velvet glove, so preparation for any candidate for this is vital. Although this is not articulated ,what they want to know is what you have done in the past and whether you can do it in the job you’re interviewing for. To think otherwise will lull you into a false sense of security.

Language choice
So although it’s important not to give a career chronology and I’m not a fan of elevator speeches either (prefer elevator sound bites), providing a list of qualities only, can also take you into dangerous territory. They tend to be what I call “non words“. Enthusiastic, hardworking, happy and loyal should be a given and are wasting either space or time. Would any organisations look for candidates who weren’t any of the above? No they wouldn’t, so you have to ask yourself how do those qualities translate into added value. Actually, add cheese to that list too or any other dietary preferences. It is really necessary to dig deeper and ask more penetrating questions.

Does it mean they are positive thinkers which could make them problem solvers and solution finders? Does it make them calm under pressure and capable change managers? What further value do those qualities add? Does it mean the person can be relied on to produce results on time and possibly be a good team member and /or an effective leader?

Adapt to your situation
The qualities requirements of any job vary, so it’s important to tailor any response to the specific profile and also to the audience. You can’t use the same stock phrase in every situation. There might indeed eventually be some people who will share an antipathy for cheese, but for the most part I would doubt it. That requires a certain level of empathy, an understanding of the position and mental agility to alter your approach and vocabulary content as appropriate.

Double edged
Remember as well that the many qualities we all have, carry a downside. I very often see people describe themselves as “detail orientated or perfectionist.” But associated with those characteristics are some negatives. Perfectionists are sometimes slow implementors, risk averse and procrastinators, because they get too caught up in getting things right, rather than getting things done. Big picture thinkers are sometimes poor implementors. Passionate can suggest loose cannon or lack of focus. That’s another reason why it’s better to dig deeper and indicate the value of these traits, rather than just listing them. There are also many well established personality tests available that also give precise feedback if anyone struggles with self insight.

Beware of bragging
There is a fine line between selling yourself and appearing arrogant. Saying you are “charismatic” is like saying you’re good looking. Those characteristics are normally self-evident the minute a person walks into a room. There is no need to verbalise it! They are also subjective. One person’s charisma, is another person’s turn off. Wit is also very personal. Translate those into added value. Individuals with strong personal appeal tend to make excellent sales people, leaders and public speakers. Show how that quality has worked for you. If you are a “brilliant salesperson” then you will be able to provide metrics to back that up and can drop the superlative.

I know it’s really hard to know who to listen to and which bits of advice to filter out. But eventually there is no substitute for knowing yourself. Any candidate who has been through that process will be flexible and confident and know what to deliver, when and how.

The best person to trust is you.

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Living in the shadow of your own resume

Are you what it says on the tin?

I received a CV from a candidate ( let’s call him John). My eyes lit up. A complex search had just become much easier. His CV was powerful, positive, succinct. But unhappily John was not. His responses ranged from arrogant and overbearing to hesitant, unclear and evasive. If his resume had not been on my screen I would have had no idea what John did. Who was this person?

Many candidates suffer from  what I call Resume Shadow Syndrome. This is when a CV is stronger than the candidate’s personal presentation of themselves, whether in person or on the phone. They therefore live in the shadow of their own resume. This means that they will be called for interviews or contacted by telephone, but will either come unravelled at the first screening stage, or the face to face interview. Basically for different reasons, they don’t own their message.

No quick fixes
They believe that having a strong CV is the magic carpet solution to career change, where they can float over the whole process, preferably at speed. In fact constructing a strong resume is probably only the 3rd or even 4th step in a building block process to success and by leap frogging all the basics they crash and burn. It’s like thinking you can tackle black ski runs because you have bought top class equipment and look good. Not happening. Or finding out from the small print that the “top quality fresh ” product is full of dubious additives and unpronounceable, 10 syllable chemicals.

Why is this so important?
Having a powerful CV is only part of the job search process and although it will open doors, it won’t get you the job! It’s only part of communicating your message (brand) so that people hear you! If you are not connected to your own message and you are not what it says on the tin, then you’re in trouble.

What can go wrong?

No self insight: The CV has been prepared with professional help but with insufficient time on core “discovery” work and follow-up. You have to do basic discovery work and spend some time reflecting on your achievements and skills. If candidates don’t really know themselves, how can they expect other people, who don’t know them at all, to glean any understanding of them.

Poor delivery : The message might look good on paper but it has not been converted into an elevator pitch or soundbites. Not enough practise! Laziness, ignorance or arrogance – or a combination of all three

Poor first impression. Body language, general appearance and demeanour are incorrect or inappropriate.

Insufficient preparation. No research is carried out on the companies and individuals involved in the process. Most companies make it easy for you to learn about them on their website and LinkedIn. Use Google! Even if it’s not an interview, but just a networking session or an informal chat, make sure that you know who will be involved in the process and practise your elevator speech.

Inferior content : Be concise, precise and relevant in your delivery with crisp presentation to avoid detailed questioning, because your point is fuzzy. See point on preparation, research and practise. Understanding your core mission statement and practising the delivery of your message , over and over again if necessary, is key here. Don’t expect it to be alright on the day. Even confident people get nervous and forget things. Be direct and professional in terms of language and topics covered. Interviewers don’t want to know about your kids sports games – unless you are asked.

Fuzzy : Be honest and don’t exaggerate or evade. Skilled interviewers can detect spin or lies instantly and will pick at it until the truth is out. You want to avoid the ” Let’s go back to…” unless it’s a major achievement and even then you should have sold that thoroughly. Fuzziness creates doubts. If there are real doubts – you will be cut.

Negativity : Be positive – don’t run your ex company or colleagues down. It’s a small world and you never know who knows whom. If you do that about one company you could well do it for the hiring manager and organisation.

Anyone who thinks because they have one strong document they can short-circuit running the hard yards can be in for a serious wake up call. You have to be who you say you are on the tin!

Just make sure you are a brand and not a white label!

Normalising the salary expectation question

Why this question should not be stressful
I came across a discussion on LinkedIn recently posted by J. Paige Freedland about how to handle the salary expectation question. There were almost 400 responses covering a wide range of viewpoints from all participants, some of them conflicting and contradictory. It became very clear that what is a straightforward and routine question for recruiters and hiring managers, is in fact a huge challenge for many candidates and causes considerable confusion and anxiety, especially if they have been on the job market for some time.

In her learning curve from the discussion Paige distilled and collated those 400 responses and identified 3 areas which candidates should focus on: research and preparation, knowing your own worth and understanding your bottom line! You can see her thoughts on that discussion around about the 400th response mark. Her summary marks her own journey through the process and is really worth reading.

Generally speaking, the best response is openness. “I earn(ed) x and would expect something on the range of x to y , but would be happy to be flexible for the right position” If candidates have a sense of their own market value and follow trends, then delivering this response should not be problematic. Research can be done on line , and via network contacts either actual or other professional platforms. This is essential. No one would sell their house without knowing its market value. Why do it to yourself? This gives the recruiter or hiring manager the information they need to know immediately and sends out a message about being open to negotiate.

Gay Charles, Senior Consultant & Head of Equal Talent Practice , Belux at Odgers Berndtson, with over 25 years experience in the business told me that ” I rarely find candidates reluctant to discuss salary and when that happens it is usually a fair indication of lack of confidence and self belief “. If confidence is an issue , it is really worth investing in professional support to learn skills in this process.

Some points are worth noting:
Salary negotiation is simply a business process which is a key component of any recruitment procedure. Clare Ireland, Senior Partner , Hansar Internationalthe more experienced and mature people understand that it is a hygiene question that needs to be covered and is no less or more important than any other subject covered in an interview.”

It’s not a trick question: it’s useful to have some broad indication of what a candidate would be looking for to make a move. The easiest and simplest way to deal with this is to give a realistic range related to current earnings. Normally this is covered in the early screening processes and any attempts at evasiveness or lack of transparency, tend to raise doubts about the candidate. Personally, I would give an interesting candidate some time to think about it and allow them to get back to me before the next stage of the process. Clare adds ” In our experience we find few candidates who are evasive about being questioned about their salary. In general, hiring companies will pay what is considered fair, reasonable and fits within their salary banding system ….it is rare to find clients trying to “cheat” candidates though of course what is considered fair to them, may not be the same for the candidate” Candidates should also be advised to take into account the total package including benefits and future opportunities.

Good candidates are rarely ruled out on salary grounds alone. Salary tends to be the market indicator of seniority or experience, which translates into a potentially possible lack of fit for the position ( too senior or junior) with all that implies. There might be internal repercussions on the existing team for example, but candidates could also be re-approached regarding their flexibility.

If a candidate is interesting but has a higher salary then the employer’s budget and if they are selected, negotiation begins. He/she can always decline to engage at this point. Clare elaborates ” The deal will only be closed if both sides are in agreement.” I have participated in those discussions on numerous occasions, when candidates should employ all the usual negotiating strategies. Some companies will have salary scales and for executive positions the salary will be what you are able to negotiate. Counter offers are almost always made, estimated at 10 -15% on initial offers, but similarly candidates do decide to withdraw. It is important to have calculated your ” floor” beforehand.

Under selling oneself can also be perceived as a negative factor. There is a certain belief that a lower than market level salary is an indication of an unwillingness to negotiate, prompting the question, if candidates can’t negotiate for themselves, then how can they negotiate for the company? This is particularly true for women, who step up to the negotiation table 6 times less than their male counter parts. Ladies see my post ” Let’s go girls… negotiate

Transparency is beneficial – it contributes to good working relationships within the hiring process and if one occasion doesn’t work out, the next one might. Good contacts have been established for the future.

However, in these uncertain times when organisations are examining any additional costs and salary deflation exists, it is really important to emphasise the value that can be added in the future. That involves solid interview and career transition preparation. Companies will pay what their budget will allow, but they do want the best candidate .

Paige told me she had learned that ” there is no perfect answer. In fact there are numerous effective answers. But I’m convinced that doing your homework and having a plan is essential in giving you confidence during the interview and being sincere in your responses. You need to be true to yourself and you need to feel comfortable with your responses. You want the job, but not at the expense of your long-term satisfaction and future opportunities. Only you can determine what is going to work for you. If you are sincere, honest and earnest, your chances for success grow exponentially

That is excellent advice.


Choose your words wisely!

Inspired by Wally Bock

Divided by a common language  

Chatting on Twitter the other night, Wally mentioned in passing that he was a vet. Wow I thought. He’s an international leadership guru , writer, poet AND a vet. That’s pretty amazing. I went into recruiter mode. Thoughts about wide ranging skill sets , the long years he must have spent in college and training, plus potential career paths all raced through my mind. Then I realised (just as quickly) that we were probably having a cultural mis-communication moment. In UK English “vet” is a commonly used abbreviation for veterinary surgeon, but in the US it tends to replace the phrase “war veteran”.

Word choice

It then occurred to me if two Anglophones can mis-communicate so successfully and we use vocabulary and word choice as a professional tool all the time, what are the implications for those that don’t? I’m not talking about advertising spin either, but just presenting our message in a succinct and positive fashion, that everyone can understand and easily digest.

The importance of word choice in communicating a message in job search strategies is a vital part of my coaching programme. It’s key in CV writing and drafting internet profiles not only to be identified by Applicant Tracking Systems, but to identify your personal brand, which is the essence of your message. Strong language is absolutely essential in developing a correctly pitched elevator speech used in direct networking and interviews. They all require precise vocabulary, but presented in different styles and formats. Living in an international environment where English is the global business lingua franca, I also see people both communicating and confusing in their second, third or even fourth languages every day.


I coached someone recently who used this phrase “Used to work in a multicultural environment : continuous contacts internally with US and European colleagues. Daily contacts with customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa mainly”

What he had actually done was this: successfully identified market development opportunities in key emerging markets,( some very challenging countries which I can’t specify for confidentiality reasons) created multi- cultural and cross discipline teams (requiring the management of significant cultural differences and business practises) to spearhead the launch of the product portfolio. The result was x increase( large number) to his company’s bottom line. Was that obvious? Not at all. Same role, but which one is going to attract attention?
I have observed over time that there are generally two parts to this communication process: communication with yourself (internal message) and then communication with others (external message). Sometimes it is only about the use of effective “brand” language ( vocabulary), but quite often it’s more than that.
So what needs to be done?
 Internal communication: this is about self awareness and self insight. You need to identify and understand your own challenges and achievements – I know I keep bashing on about this – but it is key. If you don’t know what you’re good at – how can you expect anyone else to know? You are your own best asset. Recruiters don’t have time to look for sub – text and to analyse the possible implications of what you’ve been doing in your career. We need to be told in very precise terms. Self insight also facilitates the interview process so you present yourself strongly verbally as well – this is your own brand development . It avoids the awkward pauses, repetition and embarrassing moments in interviews. But it is equally vital that you own your personal message. How do you define yourself? As the person in “daily contact” or the person who ” spearheads”?
External communication: Choosing powerful vocabulary and phrases to get your message across in the best possible way in all media is really important. This is not boasting (that’s about personality and delivery) or falsifying( that’s about lying). It’s your brand marketing. Would we buy Coke if it was advertised as a “brown fizzy drink” Probably not. Suggesting “refreshing” and “thirst quenching” or whatever else they say, produces a different and successful picture. Same about you! Use words such as: identifed, created, instigated, enhanced, extended, exceeded, generated, conceived, won, strengthened, secured, restructured, transformed to list just a few. Lose weaker words such as: facilitates, co-ordinated, set up, played a key role, contact etc. Let the facts speak for themselves and back up your achievements with incontestable examples or numbers.
If you are not a wordsmith, or English isn’t your first language, enlist support to help craft the most convincing CV possible to send a message you believe in. Why run the risk of being rejected because of some weak words?
You don’t want to be a “brown fizzy drink”!


When does " tailoring" your resumé become falsification?

Resumes under the microscope

I have recently become involved in several quite heated discussions about both “beefing up” resumés, or “dumbing” them down. Where do you draw the line when you are desperate to find a job that might be crucial to your economic survival? As a coach , I am obviously empathetic to the challenges of being unemployed and encounter clients’ job search frustrations daily. From a purely ethical point of view, my personal position is to always suggest that honesty is the best policy. But ethics and integrity aside, which can only be a matter of individual conscience, as a recruiter I can tell you some of the practical dangers of crossing the line.

Sales spin
By this I don’t mean writing a powerful resume, enhanced by strong vocabulary and key words to give a “ sales spin”. Or “tailoring” your CV towards a specific opening, emphasizing certain qualities and down playing skill or experience deficits. Unless you are applying to companies with a high churn, where clearly employees are not a high priority, or encounter an incompetent recruiter , then I suggest you factor in some of the following before you make a decision, because misrepresentation it is not without risk:

A skilled recruiter will research you prior to interview. The internet is a global data base and recruiters use it constantly – so any changes or modification to your CV would need to be made consistently on every platform. You would need to check where you are listed, or if any reference has been made to you on any other documents, or in any circumstances, anywhere, even photo tags, which can be traced in cyber space.

You will need to be prepared to account for any missing years , or perhaps convey that your seniority and experience in your previous employment was different to the reality. This might involve economy with the truth or outright lying. If discovered later there might be negative consequences which could damage your later career.

You will need to prime your referees. They might have to misrepresent or even lie – same possible consequences as above.

You might be asked to take psychometric tests or be given a behavioral interview where skills levels, either claimed, exaggerated or missing, should normally be identified.

If discovered, you may alienate a company who could be a potential future employer.

•  While you do all this you might miss a job, for which you are perfectly qualified, because word recognition software will by-pass you, because you are now presented differently in all media.

Square peg
This is before even going into what might happen if you are hired and become that square peg in a round hole, combined with the stress of possibly being found out and the fear of constantly slipping up.

If you can openly and genuinely persuade a company to hire you at any level, with authentically presented qualifications and skills, that is very different to withholding or distorting information to get a job. As Mark Twain said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

This article was first posted in CareerRocketeer on June 12th 2009,
at the kind invitation of Chris Perry: Brand and Marketing Generator Twitter Follow @CareerRocketeer