How to Dress For a Business Casual Interview

August 26, 2009

Everyone used to understand what to wear to a job interview. Men wore a suit with a white shirt and tie, and women wore a suit with a skirt. The rules were easy. Not anymore. With the advent of business casual job seekers are presented with a confusing array of wardrobe options to select from when preparing for their interview.

Although selecting the right business casual look can be confusing, we tell you how to dress appropriately for any business casual interview.

Bottom line: its’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

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The Interviewing Intangibles

July 21, 2009

interview2Yesterday’s post How To Make $5000/Hour dealt with the preparation that job seekers need to complete before stepping foot into the interview. As critical as the preparation process is, nailing the essential details on the day of the interview is just as important.

Make thoughtful wardrobe choices. There are plenty of articles dealing with what to wear to an interview, but they all boil down to just a few points: dress conservatively, dress up not down, and avoid cologne or perfume. The interview is not the appropriate venue to display your keen sense of style or your contemporary fashion sense. You have no idea who will be conducting the interview, how old they are, how familiar they are with fashion or what their own fashion preferences are. Take no chances that you might alienate the interviewer and simply wear a conservative, sensible outfit that will not detract from your personal message.

Arrive 10-15 minutes before your scheduled interview time. Even though you may pull up to the building 40 minutes before your interview, it is entirely inappropriate to enter the building and wait in their reception area. Stay in your car until 10-15 minutes before the interview reviewing your resume, revisiting your anticipated interview responses and checking your teeth one last time to make sure there’s no lettuce trapped between your incisors.

Schedule enough time for the interview. If your interview is scheduled for 9 am, you’d better leave your whole morning open. Don’t schedule another interview at 10:30 or you risk alienating your interviewer just as things are going well. If the interview goes long, it’s likely because the interview is going well. Your interviewer may want to run you by two or three others in the department to get their impressions. Each of these visits may last 20-30 minutes, and if you’ve got to dash to another interview you’re going to alienate someone. Don’t risk it.

Exude confidence. The most difficult task facing most managers today is finding, hiring and retaining talent. Your job is to demonstrate that you possess the talent, technical proficiency and interpersonal skills that will make their life easier. You’ll be a lot more confident if you took the time before the interview to prepare thoroughly, to learn about the company and the interviewer and to think carefully how you can add value to their organization.


How to Make More Than $5000/hour

July 20, 2009

bigmoneyOne of the recurring themes we hear from our recruiters is their surprise at the lack of preparation that job seekers display when interviewing for a position. Frankly, we find it stunning and nearly incomprehensible when an individual seeking a job won’t commit at least a full eight hours to preparing for an interview that will gain them $40,000, $50,000, $75,000 or more.

At the relatively low end of the salary spectrum, spending a complete eight hours on interview preparation can yield an annual salary of $40,000. That’s $5000 for every hour spent reviewing your resume, researching the company, gathering information about the individual conducting the interview, practicing your interview answers and formulating relevant questions to ask yourself.

Yet a recent survey revealed that more than half of the job seekers queried spent less than two hours preparing for their interview. Pretty shocking, considering the potential reward for the well prepared candidate.

At a minimum, we suggest that interview candidates do the following:

  1. Review your own resume. Make sure that you are intimately familiar with every date, title and responsibility. You’d think this step would go without saying, but candidates frequently go weeks or months without rereading their own resume and trip up on specifics that can raise flags with the interviewer.
  2. Go through the company’s entire website. Read their press releases to learn about their latest initiatives, new hires and any potential legal issues they might be facing. If they’re a public company, read their annual report. Go through their entire product section to familiarize yourself with their entire line of products and/or services. If they sell online, go through the entire buying process until you have to actually submit payment. Understand completely what kind of user experience they deliver.
  3. Find out who their competitors are. Visit and read their websites to understand how each company positions itself and to determine what cultural elements are clearly communicated.
  4. Locate an industry trade publication online and read several issues. These publications typically provide in-depth analysis of issues confronting the entire industry, industry trends and they frequently reveal which companies are regarded as the most influential.
  5. If the industry is large enough to attract public companies, try to find analyst reports that detail financial trends and outlooks.
  6. Find a list of the 50 most frequently asked interview questions. Read them all. Practice your responses so you don’t have to stop and ponder why this company should hire you. Know the value that you bring to the company.
  7. Practice your interview responses some more. In front of a camera. In front of other people. Ask for feedback, incorporate it into your answers and practice again.
  8. Create a portfolio of your work. Examples of writing, analysis and creative production that can support your claims of personal excellence. Do you know how many other applicants will bring samples of their work? Typically, none. Do you want to stand apart from the crowd of engineers/analysts/accountants? Show your work.
  9. Drive to the interview site a day or two ahead of the interview. I can’t count the number of candidates who were certain they knew where the building was until they drove to their imagined site and discovered that the interview address was actually miles away.
  10. Create a list of topical, insightful and revealing questions. Once again, too many candidates leave the interview without asking any in-depth questions and reveal themselves to be unprepared or shallow. If you need help, Google Questions to Ask at a Job Interview.

Now you’re ready to handle any question, respond with an insightful and measured response, display your personal mastery and land that job. That was worth eight hours of work, wasn’t it?


Why You’re Really Hired

June 30, 2009

interview v2While a carefully crafted resume is a crucial part of your job hunt, it’s important to acknowledge that your resume serves one task: getting you an interview. The resume does not get you hired – your interview does.

That’s why it’s so surprising to see so few candidates prepare thoroughly for each job interview and take the time to understand what’s really important to the hiring manager.

Too many job seekers focus exclusively on their specific skill set. Their accounting skills. Their programming expertise. Their writing ability. Although these skills are essential to any hire, they are the minimum required for anyone invited to interview. How will you separate yourself from every other candidate with the same professional skills?

Focus on your personal skills. In an excellent post in the Detroit Examiner, Christine Wodke outlines the seven personal skills that employers are looking for in any hire. These include:

  1. Leadership
  2. Team Player
  3. Motivation
  4. Communication Skills
  5. Time Management
  6. Flexibility
  7. Sense of Humor

Your job in the interview is to find a way to weave these personal skills into stories relating to your previous positions.

Don’t just describe the technical complexity of your last programming project, detail how you assembled a team, kept them motivated, managed the project to ensure you met the deadline, and how you stepped in to help when one of your team members needed support. These are the truly valuable skills that separate you from every other candidate whose answers focus solely on their professional proficiency.


They’re People, Not Parts

June 16, 2009

people gearsThere are days when I’m jealous of my counterparts in the manufacturing sector. They deal with precision every day. Engineering drawings show detail to .001″, the machinists program their machines to produce parts with specific tolerances, and customers know exactly what to expect when they open the box.

I deal with people. Employers. Employees. Recruiters. Managers. Just people. All of whom are distinctive individuals with their own values, priorities, interests and motivations. Not at all like precision machined parts.

So we face an entirely different set of problems every single day. An ideal candidate whose resume is polished perfection, whose references are sterling, who dazzles at their interview, whose follow up is immediate and who shows their appreciation for getting the job by not showing up. Ever.

Think it’s unbelievable? Well, it happens. And when it does, you can imagine the anger, frustration and disappointment on the part of the hiring company. All of it entirely justified.

What can we do? The best we can do is apologize, empathize and try again. Believe me, we’re just as disappointed as the hiring company. We invest an enormous amount of time in finding, screening and presenting potential candidates and are just as shocked and frustrated as our client company when the process goes bad – no matter who instigates the breakdown.

But the satisfaction of placing the right people in the right jobs, of helping companies find the precise talent they need to thrive trumps the occasional disappointments that working with people, not parts, provides.


25 Ways To Sabotage Your Job Search

June 15, 2009

There was a terrific post on CNN.com that listed the 25 ways that job seekers sabotage their own job searches.

As someone who has been involved in the staffing industry for nearly 20 years, this list resonated with me because I’ve seen so many job seekers ruin their chances by committing one (or many) of these career killing mistakes.

The mistakes fall into two basic camps: lack of thought and lack of manners.