Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Job Interview With a Mime

This article was originally published on the author's LinkedIn profile

Marcel Marceau is probably the most famous pantomimist in the world. Years ago he had a funny bit in the Mel Brooks movie "Silent Movie" where he actually speaks.

Why am I talking about a pantomimist in a column about job interviews? Because today I felt like I was interviewing a mime (pantomimists are referred to as mimes).

Recently, I have been interviewing candidates for some Data Analyst positions in my current project. Today's experience was, I hope, unique. I share here with you now so that you can take note and make sure that you nail your job interviews instead of blowing it like this guy did.

This was a simple, 30 minute phone interview to screen candidates for a longer virtual interview with a team of interviewers.

I used the first eight minutes or so to explain the program and the position and then I launched into the meat of the interview - the candidate's experience.

Me: "Tell me about your experience doing data profiling and data cleansing."

Him: "Yes. I have done that."

Me: "Tell me about what kind of problems with data you have uncovered while doing data profiling, how you found them, and what you did about them."

Him: "Yes. It is common to uncover problems like missing data and bad data during data profiling."

Me: "Well, okay then. I think I have all the information I need. Do you have any questions for me?"

Him: "No. I don't think so."

Me: "Okay. Thanks for taking time to talk with me. We'll be in touch." Click.

We were done and off the phone in about 10 minutes and in 30 more seconds I had fired off an email to the recruiter saying "Pass" on this candidate.

I am really hoping this guy heard the job as I described it and decided it wasn't a good fit. However, rather than giving such a terrible interview, I would have appreciated a candid remark like, "This really doesn't sound like something I want to do. Please remove me from consideration for this role. Thanks."

My fear is that this guy is really this bad at interviewing.

Just so you know, when an interviewer like me asks you to talk about your experience, I am expecting you to tell me what you have done and for whom. Even if you give me a quick synopsis or overview, that is fine (in fact that is great). I can then pick where I want to dig deeper.

While it is true that long answers can be deadly in an interview, really, really short answers in interviews are not a good idea. They don't showcase your skills, which is what you want to do to get an offer (or a follow up interview).

My favorite interviewing book, "Killer Interviews" by Ball and Ball, advises that you keep your responses to no more than 2 minutes long.

Tom Sheppard has been hiring, firing and coaching job seekers for decades. He is the author of Tips and Tricks for Effective Interviews and several other books for job seekers. You can learn more about Tom on his Author Page.

(C) Copyright 2016 Thomas K Sheppard and A+ Results, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

It's (NOT) All About Me!

This article was originally published on the author's LinkedIn profile

Okay, here is another quick chapter in the ongoing saga of resume faux pas that I see as people apply for PM roles with me.

Today, I got one that I hadn't ever seen before. Which is really pretty amazing to me considering how many resumes I have seen over the years.

What was this noteworthy mistake?

Under "Key Achievements" which an applicant listed he noted "Developed technical expertise" and "Developed a background understanding..."

I don't know about you, but I admit freely that unless an engagement show signs that it will help me develop or grow in some way, I am not overly eager to take it on. So what I learn in and engagement is important. To me.

A prospective employer doesn't care a whit about what I learned in a past engagement. What they do want to know is what I did that benefited my past employers.

If your resume reflects a WIIFM (What's in it for me?) attitude, chances are good that, like this guy's, your resume will end up in the trash instead of doing what it should do: getting you an interview.

The dance between job seeker and prospective employer is one where both side tries to present their best face and make themselves as attractive to their dance partner as possible.

Don't step on your own foot by crowing about how you benefited from a past dance partner. Instead, show them how you applied your knowledge to get results for others which you can also do for them.

Tom Sheppard has been giving practical help to job seekers since 1993. You can find his latest book at TipsForEffectiveJobSearches.com

(C) Copyright 2016 Thomas K Sheppard and A+ Results, LLC. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Borrowed Glory Resume Failure

This article was originally published on the author's LinkedIn profile

As a veteran of the USMC I take serious exception to people who claim veteran status, or claim to have served in certain units, or been given certain military awards, which they didn't actually earn.

The picture above, as cited on the website TaskandPurpose.com, is Michael R. Schrenk, 47, dressed as a laughably poor fake Marine, next to a real Marine at the Erie County Fair. Feel free to follow the link above to see why they called him "The Worst Fake Marine of All-Time."

My own military career was relatively undistinguished. I never got shot at. I didn't have to shoot at anyone. I didn't even leave the USA. I earned a Good Conduct Medal, some meritorious promotions, and a few Meritorious Masts. Still, I am proud to have served and although I never had to hear a shot fired in anger, I was prepared to go into harm's way if I had been required. And, I have a deep and abiding respect for those who have "seen the elephant."

Lately, I have been interviewing job candidates for data analyst and business analyst positions. The other day, I saw a resume which made me want to scream! I call it "borrowed glory" when the candidate includes psuedo accomplishments in a resume, but the real accomplishment was done by someone else.

The key words that give away this sort of borrowed glory in a resume are:
"Involved in"
"Participated in"
"Worked with" or "Worked on"
"Met with"
"Collaborate with"
"Helped with"

One resume I received had nearly 40 of these useless 'accomplishments' listed. And, they weren't made any more impressive by adding opinions in the form of adjectives such as, "collaborated extensively..." and "Worked closely...".

Nearly as useless as these verbs are in telling what a candidate has actually done are "served", "coordinated" and "utilized."

In contrast with these useless and fluffy filler bullet points, this candidate used good action verbs like "developed", "analyzed", "maintained", "documented", "led", "performed", "created" and "gathered" less than 30 times.

To add more to the fluffy-filler of the resume, the candidate included bullets explaining the nature of the projects among the bullets listing the candidate accomplishments.

I can only infer that the job seeker thought that volume would make up for lack of quality in the bullet points listed in his resume. Perhaps he thought that the nature of the projects where he was a participant would so impress me that I would perceive him to be so skilled and knowledgeable that I would feel compelled to interview him. And, that in the interview he could wow me enough to overlook the steaming pile of manure that he had served up in his resume.

Anyone who has been in the workplace very long knows that every team has participants. A few of those participants are real contributors. And, that in spite of the drag on the team from participants, the contributors manage to actually get the work done and deliver results.

Your resume has exactly one purpose, to get you an interview. If it isn't getting interviews for you, then you need to examine it very carefully.

If your resume peppered with pieces of fluffy-filler, get rid of them. They aren't doing you any favors.

This candidate never got an interview from me. I wasn't about to waste my time talking to a participant. I am only willing to consider hiring contributors, the people who deliver results.

Perhaps I am more critical than many hiring managers. But, do you want to count on that when it comes to getting the job you want?

Tom Sheppard is the author of Tips for Effective Resumes: Get and Keep the Job You Want, available as an ebook through Amazon. In addition he has authored a series of books to help job seekers Get and Keep the Job You Want.

His books are the results of decades of interviewing, hiring and firing people as well as coaching job seekers, preparing resumes and cover letters.

(C) Copyright 2016 Thomas K Sheppard and A+ Results, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A Very Odd Duck

This article was originally published on the author's LinkedIn profile

Today, I wanted to share something that seldom happens to me. I got a resume that contained a couple of crazy screw-ups that I have never seen before.

In the last few weeks I have been working to fill several roles in my current project team. That means I have, once again, been looking at lots of resumes, doing some phone interviews, and doing even fewer face-to-face interviews (most of those using video conferencing software).

In case you aren't aware of my background, you should understand that I have literally seen thousands of resumes. So, when I tell you that this is a first for me, you will hopefully understand how startling that really is.

Any decent interviewing coach will tell you, never trash-talk a former employer. When you say bad things about a former employer, the prospective employer immediately is put on guard, wondering what you will say about them when you move on to your next position.

Still, sometimes a job candidate will screw up, letting the mouth get ahead of the brain, and say negative things about a former employer.

However, I have never heard of a job seeker putting negative things about a former employer in their resume, until today. 

I started reading this poorly formatted resume (I could waste a whole column on the bad formatting in this resume), wading through it diligently until I hit this phrase, "... groups had open turf wars...". This was followed by another loaded phrase, "... continue without ruining the testing of others...". This last part was embedded in the candidate's accomplishments. I also found the word "harmony" in the situational objectives mentioned in the resume.

For just one former employer, this candidate effectively delivered a message that the company had a dysfunctional team that had to bring in this candidate to get everyone to behave like adults working for a common enterprise. The assertion begs the question, now that the candidate is moving on, will the inner-bad-children come out once more and cause the dysfunctional behavior to flourish again?
If you aren't getting my point on this, consider what I am saying from another perspective.

What would happen to you if you wrote on your FaceBook or LinkedIn page that your current employer had a dysfunctional environment where turf wars were raging? If you don't know what would happen, let me help you out. As soon as your employer found out about your post, they would be very likely to fire you.

Some will ask, "why would they fire me if it is a known fact within the company?" The answer is simple. Loyalty. You don't air the family dirty-laundry in public.

I know that loyalty has a bit of a bad name right now. And for those who are looking for a job, the word may make you uneasy. But loyalty is as indispensable today as it ever has been, even if its limits are more constrained now than ever before.

In the past, loyalty was a two-way street. Employees gave their best to their employer and employers offered decent pay and benefits that may even include a job for life.

Now, it's more of a one way street, or at least a much shorter two-way street than it used to be. Today, employees give their best to their employer while they keep looking for the employer and job that they really want, and employers offer what benefits they feel they must to attract employees, while they stand ready to cut benefits and jobs at a moment's notice if it will boost their quarterly returns and keep the shareholders happy.

Still, there is a dimension to loyalty that persists and is a two-way street. You don't want your former employer to share all your warts with anyone who will listen, and your employer doesn't want you to share their warts with others.

We all know that in private conversations, once trust has been established, warts will get shared. But, we don't expect to see them appear in writing.

When this candidate tried to highlight his wart-removal skills, what he actually did was manage to point out the warts of his former employer, and betray their trust. If he had done this in the confidential setting of a job interview, it might have been forgivable. This wart was outed in writing in a resume that could be read by anyone, forwarded to anyone, and possibly seen by thousands.
If this resume is posted on a site like Monster.com, the candidate is at risk of being sued for libel by the former employer.

In comparison with the total faux pas of outing an employer's warts, the second never-before-seen feature of this candidate's resume pales to almost insignificance. Before this resume, I have never seen a candidate insert in their resume a "personal challenge." 

Right along with all the experience and accomplishments, the candidate posted a phrase, "Personal Challenge", and then proceeded to list the challenge that this employment opportunity presented to the candidate. It was presented as a question, such as, "Can I ...?"

Do you see the insanity of questioning your abilities in the text of your own resume or job interview? Instead of presenting an image of accomplishment in the resume, this personal challenge inserts a question of the candidate's abilities.

When a prospective employer reads your resume, they always ask themselves, "can the candidate really deliver this kind of performance for me and my company?" It is a sure way to kill your job prospects for you to question your own abilities in your resume.

This job seeker showed he is disloyal and questions his own abilities. Why would anyone want to hire a duplicitous incompetent?

Remember, your resume gets the first interview. If it doesn't interview well, you won't get a chance to speak for yourself.

This candidate never even got an interview because his resume didn't interview well. 

(C) Copyright 2016 Thomas K Sheppard and A+ Results LLC.

Tom Sheppard is the author of several self-help books for job seekers. His bookTips for Effective Resumes is available as an ebook through Amazon. His bookTips for Effective Interviews is in its second edition and is now available in paperback as well as ebook formats. You can learn more about his help for job seekers at his blog www.ResumesByTom.com and from his Amazon Author Page.