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134 | Getting Great References – Ray Bixler, Philadelphia, PA

Episode 134 is live! This week, we talk with Ray Bixler in Philadelphia, PA.

Ray is the CEO of SkillSurvey, an online reference checking firm that helps organizations recruit, hire, and retain talent. In addition, Ray has more than 20 years of human resource and career development experience.

On today’s episode, Ray shares his advice for identifying and getting great references. He shares the latest trend in reference checking technology. And, he also shares tips on how to avoid common mistakes we make as job seekers.

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on iTunes or Stitcher.

To learn more about Ray and his company SkillSurvey, visit his website at www.skillsurvey.com.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on iTunes and leave me a review!

Questioning Your Hiring Manager

Sometimes, getting a job is dependent more on what you ask than what you answer. Let me explain what I mean by this. We spend so much time preparing for how we will answer the hiring manager’s questions, yet very little time thinking about what we want to know.

I often compare job interviews to dating. And, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been on a first date where I hoped that the guy sitting across from me would propose. That would be crazy, right? But, somehow, we do it every day with job interviews. We show up just hoping to be picked. We forget to think about whether or not we actually like the company.

The place where this is especially problematic is with the questions we ask. Very often, during a job interview, the hiring manager will say, “Do you have any questions I can answer for you?” If we’ve been in an all-day interview, it’s not uncommon to have gotten all of our questions answered over the course of the day. We may respond with an honest, “No, thanks. I’ve already gotten all of my questions answered.”

This response seems reasonable. Unfortunately, many hiring managers don’t think so. It surprises me the number of hiring managers I’ve talked to who are stuck on this issue. When the job seeker doesn’t ask questions, the hiring manager doesn’t assume their questions were really answered. They assume the job seeker isn’t interested. That’s right – they think you don’t care about the job.

Well, we all know that isn’t true. You didn’t take off an entire day at work to interview for a job you don’t care about!

Let’s avoid this unnecessary hurdle of the job search process. Make a list of questions. Research questions online. Keep more questions on hand than you’ll need, with the expectation that you will only ask a few of them.

If you find that by some chance, the hiring manager does manage to answer all of your questions, don’t stop there. Think of more on the fly. I know this can sound daunting, but here is an example of a question that the hiring manager probably didn’t fill you in on already.

“Why did you choose to come work here, and what’s your favorite thing about the company?”

This is a good question, because it helps you to learn more about the hiring manager. It gets them talking about themselves. It helps you to learn more about the company. And, most likely, it will be a question the hiring manager didn’t answer before. As hiring manager’s, we tend to focus on asking the candidate questions – and on sharing information about the role. We are rarely talking about our own personal experiences.

Before your next interview, list everything you want to know. Decide whether the company is a fit for you, and avoid being the desperate candidate. It will help you get your questions answered, and will increase the chance of a job offer.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

You weren’t picked. Now what?

Being overlooked for a job is the worst. It’s especially bad after you’ve had a series of interviews. You took off work (multiple times), bought a new suit, and updated your resume. How could they reject you after all of that hard work?

First, I’m with you. It’s pretty awful when a company puts you through the ringer, just to toss you aside in the end. Sometimes they don’t even notify you. They aren’t shopping for a new pair of shoes. You’re a person.

So, what are you going to do now that you’ve been rejected? If you’re like most people, you are going to stay as far away from the company as possible. It’s like a bad breakup. They rejected you. Clearly, they didn’t want you. Why would you want to pour salt in those wounds?

This is totally reasonable. But, what if we chose to see the situation from a different perspective? What if it wasn’t a complete rejection? Just maybe, hiring could have been put on hold. Another candidate could have been preselected. Your salary history could have been a bit high for the role. Or, perhaps the hiring manager felt you were overqualified for the job. Often, we don’t know what the real reason was. We make assumptions; assumptions that the company didn’t like us.

What if we decided not to take it personally? What if we looked at the interviews as the start of a longer conversation?

If we did this, we would probably reach back out to the hiring manager in the future. We’d keep an eye on new jobs in the same department. And, we might even meet up with someone from the team every now and then for a coffee.

What’s the worst that could happen? The hiring manager might get to know you better. They might really like you. And, they might call you the next time they’re hiring. In fact, they might call you before the position is posted online.

But, this approach takes two things. First, it requires you to separate yourself from the rejection of not being selected the first time around. You have to be confident enough in your skills to say, “This wasn’t the right fit this time” instead of, “this will never work.” Second, it takes longer. It requires you to put in more time. It’s not an immediate answer, and it could even take years to build a relationship with the company that rejected you.

I’d argue that it’s worth it. If you take this approach across the board, you will grow your network more than you can imagine. Instead of searching for a new job, jobs begin to come to you. Hiring managers will call you when you are a good fit. They will call when they can pay you enough and when they have a job that really meets your skills.

But, it requires looking at things differently when you’re not picked. So, what’s your next move – complete rejection or conversation starter?

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Answering Illegal Interview Questions

I often get asked, “What should I do if I’m asked an illegal question during an interview?” This is such a tough one. First, you’re caught totally off guard. And, you know the question isn’t right. You know it. But, you only have a moment to think about what to say, and the mold is set. So, in that moment, what should you do?

If you’ve never been asked an illegal interview question, you are fortunate. They are incredibly tricky.

To demonstrate the point, I’ll share with you a time when I was asked multiple illegal questions, back to back. You see, not everyone can guess my age very well. So, sometimes interviewers have questions about me. During an interview, the hiring manager said, “Do you have children? Are you married? Do you plan to have children?”

Yes, this really happened. When it happened, I was a little surprised. But honestly, I wasn’t as surprised as you’d expect. The reason is because I’ve been asked this sort of thing before.

I’m honestly not sure why these questions still pop up at this point in time. But, I can only assume that human resources isn’t training hiring managers well on what they can and cannot say. My guess is that they don’t spend much time on it because frankly, it seems obvious that this question isn’t appropriate.

But, I digress.

So, back to the point. How do you answer an illegal question?

Some interview coaches would tell you that you should say something light, yet quick witted, such as, “I think you’re asking if I’m committed to my job – and I am!” Answers like this can avoid the question, while at the same time, sticking up for yourself in a non-confrontational way. If you’re up for it, this can be a great option.

But, what I always think is this. Is it more about how I answer the question? Or, is it more about the person asking the question? I mean, when I’ve been asked “Do you have children? Are you married? Do you plan to have children,” it’s a sign to me. It’s a sign that I would prefer not to work for this hiring manager.

And, I’d also like to keep the tension in the interview low, so I can keep a good relationship with the company – in case I ever want to interview there again (for someone else). For me, I choose to politely answer everything I’m asked.

But, I make a mental note of what was asked. I think about it afterward and decide how I want to use the information I’ve been given. And, honestly, I’d much rather know in the interview that you (the hiring manager) aren’t going to treat me fairly than find out after I’ve been hired.

So, thank you ‘illegal-question-asking-hiring-manager’! You’ve helped me to avoid a huge career pitfall!

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Unreasonable Interview Expectations

Sometimes, interviews can be the worst. I mean, truly. Doesn’t the hiring manager realize that you have a job, life, spouse, children, and existing commitments?

You spend months and months trying to get your foot in the door for a job interview. You spend all your time filling out applications and updating your resume. You call your references, and update your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts.

Then you wait, and wait, and wait.

Until one afternoon, a recruiter calls you. They came across your resume and they have a few questions that they’d like to ask you – today. Suddenly, you’re in a whirlwind of interviews. It’s like interview hell.

Not only do you already have plans, but now you have to cancel those plans and secretly make new plans to sneak out of work. You have to figure out how to wear a suit to your job, without anyone noticing that you’re dressed up.

The hiring manager often wants to speak with you on the phone first – almost immediately. And, then they want you to come in person a few days later, for hours. They’re in a hurry after all.

So, what can you do? Well, honestly, you can push out the interview a few days. Heck, they will probably even meet with you next week. It would certainly be more convenient if you could keep your current commitments and interview a few days later.

Unfortunately, this strategy can cause you problems in the long run you may not have considered. The thing is, even though the hiring manager’s expectations are unreasonable, they’re the decision maker. And, they will often pick the first good person – rather than wait around for the very best person. Plus, even if you are the best – if you aren’t excited about the role – they will assume you aren’t really interested.

I once had a job interview that included building an entire website to showcase my programming skills. At the same time, I was scheduled to be an extra in a movie. So, I politely asked the hiring manager if the website could be turned in just a few days later, to allow me to do both. He was completely understanding.

Seems reasonable, right? Well, I built the website and turned it in on time. I worked hard on it, and was very proud of my accomplishment. The hiring manager responded to me with something along the lines of, “Thanks! This is really great. It’s even better than the website made by the person we gave the job offer to.”

Holy cow! Can you believe it? After agreeing to let me finish building a website from scratch just a few days later, the hiring manager hired someone – who wasn’t me!

I could go on about this, and how unreasonable hiring managers are. But, the truth is, they’re like your customer. And, the customer’s always right – even when they’re not. You’ve just got to decide what’s more important to you – getting the job, or keeping your plans.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Will I scare the hiring manager away?

You know the drill. “If you’re interested in a job, apply on our website. If you’re a good fit, we’ll call you.” That’s what the company’s telling us anyway.

So, what’s wrong with this approach? And, what should we really be doing?

This is a great question. The first thing that’s “wrong” is that applying online almost never works – really. There’s a good chance the applicant tracking system (the online website) the company uses doesn’t work. It’s not the company’s fault. They’re probably relying on a third party product they purchased to help them to manage their hiring process. But, when you put your resume into one of these systems, there’s a pretty slim chance that it will make it to the hiring manager. And, even if it does, there’s a smaller chance the hiring manager will select you.

Why is that? Well, when a hiring manager is hiring, they try to think of someone they already know. Or, they may ask around to find a friend-of-a-friend. They’re definitely not going to look at online applications first.

So, if you don’t know the hiring manager already, what can you do? I often advise job seekers to find a way to connect to the hiring manager. Perhaps you reach out to them on LinkedIn. Or, maybe you find their email address and send them a note.

As you can imagine, reaching out to a total stranger can be a scary thought. I often hear questions like, “Won’t I scare the hiring manager away?” This is a good question, and in all honestly, it’s possible that you might. But, let’s consider this.

  1. The hiring manager may never learn your name otherwise.
  2. You could be just who the hiring manager was looking for. And, they may be grateful that you reached out.
  3. The hiring manager may network in the same way. Being a competitive job seeker may be the way they became the boss.
  4. Nobody has ever not been hired because they were too excited about a job.
  5. What do you really have to lose?

So, let’s look at it this way. What’s the worst thing that could happen? The worst thing that could happen is…. Wait for it…. Your email is ignored.

Yep. Almost always, the worst case scenario is that the hiring manager ignores you. Is it because you “scared” them away? Probably not. It’s more likely that:

  1. They were busy.
  2. They misplaced your email and forgot to respond.
  3. They gave your application to HR, and asked them to add you to the list for consideration (but never emailed you to tell you).
  4. You weren’t a good fit for the role.

Picture this: You’re a perfect fit for a job. You are so excited that after you apply, you reach out to the hiring manager directly via email. You send a killer cover letter about how excited you are about the role, and you attach your resume.

In this example, what are the chances that the hiring manager responds by thinking, “Man, that person is the perfect fit. I mean, their resume is just what we were looking for. And, they’re super excited about the job. And, they’re proactive too. But, no. Let’s not interview them. It’s totally weird that they sent me an email. I’m sure we can find another equally qualified candidate in the stack of applications from the internet.”

I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. The chances that this occurs is slim.

So, get your courage together and test out contacting the hiring manager directly. You’ll show that you’re excited, qualified, and proactive – all great qualities to have when you’re interviewing for a job.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach