Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Authentic Interviewing

By now you've probably heard about Hillary Clinton's emotional "moment" yesterday in New Hampshire - how at the end of a 2-hour Q&A with NH residents she suddenly teared up as she spoke about the importance the upcoming U.S. presidential election has for her. This rare personal glimpse into Hillary's personal life turned some people off and convinced others to vote for her (or think more seriously about doing so).

Watching the clip of the Hillary's "moment" made me think about the importance of authenticity in interviews, in our case, job interviews. So much of the time job seekers are memorizing answers and caught up in "interview speak" that little room is left to get real. Yet isn't getting real what really matters?

Years ago I read somewhere that your skills get you an interview but your personality gets you the job. True! The trick, though, is to find ways to share your personality authentically without risking the potential backlash that can come from too much sharing. Some random recommendations:

  • Always tell your truth in interviews. By this I mean not only being honest about dates and details, but also being honest about who you really are, what you stand for, and what you value.

  • Share your passions. If there's an issue in your industry that you feel strongly about, share it. Authentic passion is a powerful force and one that cannot be ignored lightly.

  • Keep your responses short. A great antidote to saying too much is to always keep your answers to 1-2 minutes in length. Once you talk beyond the 2-minute mark you'll probably find yourself getting vague, repetitive, or inappropriately emotional, so stop while you're ahead.

  • Share positive rather than negative emotions. Never say anything negative about anyone or anything in an interview - you're the one who looks bad no matter what "they" (whoever they are) did. Share positive emotions like joy, pleasure, excitement, or anticipation, though, and the interviewer will likely remember you - for all the right reasons.
  • Be yourself. Don't use any interviewing advice unless it truly resonates with you. Find your own words and use them rather than copying what experts suggest. Socrates was right: To thine own self be true. Listen to expert advice but tailor it to your personality.

I have to admit that I haven't given Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy too much thought to date. But after yesterday, I can see that she is driven by a passion that I resonate with. I don't know yet if I'll vote for her, but I definitely will not be able to ignore her anymore.

Would that be such a bad thing for employers to say about you?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The 9 to 5 Job Search

One of the things that interrupts the life balance of many job seekers is the amount of time they put into the job search on a weekly basis - too much or too little with no happy medium.

If you're currently unemployed, my suggestion is to put in a 35-40 hour week on your job search during traditional business hours.

  • Job search Monday through Thursday and try to take Fridays off. Give your weekends to your friends, family, and loved ones, and dedicate your Fridays to self-care.
  • Self-care is vital in a job search because without it you will drift into burn-out. Your interviewing will suffer as will your resume submission output and you're more likely to take a less-than-satisfactory position because you're sick and tired of the search.
  • Use your Fridays to work out, play, read, or pursue your personal interests. By investing in yourself once a week you can ensure you have the energy, focus, and determination to stick with your search over the long haul.

If you're working full-time and job search as well, the latter will have to be a part-time effort at best.

  • Aim for quality and consistency over quantity: Put in 2-3 hours weekly on your search and use that time to focus on the most important tasks at hand.
  • Consistent job search output week after week will produce a stream of interviews, provided, of course that you're using stellar self-marketing documents and submitting them to the right kinds of positions using the right strategies.
  • You don't have to put those 2-3 hours in all at once. Rather, feel free to spread them throughout the week whenever you can fit them in. If you've chunked down your job search activities into bite-size pieces then it will be easy to find things to do in 15, 30, or 60 minutes at a time.

By setting clear goals for yourself you can keep your job search on track and your life in balance.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Unschedule Your Job Search

If you haven't already heard of Neil Fiore's "Unschedule", perhaps it's time you took a look at it - your job search and your life balance (not to mention your family) will thank you.

Fiore is the author of The Now Habit in which he counters traditional thinking on procrastination. Fiore recommends a radical new approach to scheduling work activities which I strongly recommend to current or prospective job seekers. Although Fiore's system is designed for general work scheduling, I believe it's perfect for job seekers who want to live their lives fully in the midst of a too often time consuming career transition.

What is an "unschedule"? Essentially it's a way to schedule everyday priorities and fun before you schedule work to do's or complex tasks like job searching. The idea is that you record work and project tasks after you've completed at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted work, thus allowing you to put your life first and thereby maintain a healthier life balance.

Visit Dr. Fiore's website to see a sample Unschedule filled out and to download a blank schedule for your use. Then follow these instructions to design your customized Unschedule:

  • Record your non-work activities on your Unschedule first. These include routine activities like meetings, sleep, meals, classes, and commute time as well as your r&r time, leisure time, reading, meals out with friends, and healthy habits such as exercise. Also list your pre-scheduled work and non-work appointments.

  • Do not record work on projects unless and until you complete a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted work. Look at your unschedule, see where you have a non-scheduled slice of time, then work a minimum of 30 minutes on your job search. After doing so, record that time on your Unschedule, much as you would a timesheet. Make sure you only record truly productive time of at least 30 minutes in duration.

  • Reward yourself after you complete a period of work. This is absolutely critical to Fiore's Unschedule system. If you do not take time out to do non-job search activities, you are guaranteeing yourself job search burnout. So, treat yourself to a movie, to a fun outing, to some form of creative expression, and return to your job search afterward.

  • Track the number of quality hours you job search weekly. This will help you focus on what you are accomplishing rather than on what remains to be done.

  • Set aside one full day weekly for small chores and recreation. Allow yourself to play with as much dedication as you work.

  • Before you do something fun or recreational, challenge yourself to complete 30 minutes of job search first. In this way your creative pursuits will inspire you to job search and reward you after you complete job search tasks - the ultimate win-win.

The simple genius of Fiore's Unschedule is that it helps you to focus on getting started rather than finishing tasks - a radical shift in perspective, thinking, and action. So rather than feel stressed about getting things done in your job search, you can get excited about getting things started.

Fiore suggests that thinking small helps you to focus on getting started with the task at hand. He recommends breaking large, complex tasks into small chunks that can be initiated within a 30 minute period (notice I did not say "that can be finished within a 30 minute period").

Fiore also notes that you may be tempted to give up on a project when you feel stuck or reach an impasse of some kind and that ending your work time during such a period of discouragement is unwise. Rather, Fiore urges you to stick with the task at hand just long enough to come to a partial solution or begin to wear a few cracks in that impasse. When you return to the task later you'll know right where you left off and can get started again immediately.

The Unschedule is brilliant idea and one that can make a positive impact on your life balance if you're willing to, well, unschedule it.