Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to Nail Your Follow-up Interview

BY Thorin Klosowski

You nailed your first job interview and they've asked you to come for another. It's a great feeling, but at the same time, it also means you have to go through that whole process again. Here's how to nail that second interview and bring something new to the table.

The second job interview is typically all about getting to know you on both a personal and professional level. When you're interviewed, your prospective employer wants to know if you can handle the details of the job, and if you're going to fit in with the company in general. That's really it. The second interview might be more relaxed and conversational or more hectic with a full panel of people talking to you. Either way, your preparation and composure are the same.

Review Your Performance on the First Interview

You did well on your first job interview. Otherwise they wouldn't be asking you back for a second. This likely means you have the behavioral aspect nailed, but the second interview is all about getting to know you better. Before you head into the job interview, think back to the first interview and the key points your potential employer made. Take another look at the job description and start coming up with responses to the same sorts of questions you already had. Basically, you already had an inside look at the job, the people, and the workplace. Use it to your advantage.

You also had a chance to scope out the overall "feel" of the office on your first trip. Use that to decide what to wear for the second. You still want to look nice, but use your new inside knowledge to decide what "nice" really means.

Prepare Yourself for Deeper Questions

The second interview is all about digging into real details about a job. This means you'll likely meet with your immediate supervisor if you haven't already. It also means you're asked deeper questions about your work history, personality, and how you'll handle the job. Your potential employer might quiz you on your technical skills, go in-depth into your work history, or even want you to dig into the reasons why you think you'd fit in at the company. The only way you can really prepare for this is research. As Forbes points out, it's all about preparation:

Have as clear a sense as possible of the department's purpose and challenges. Your main goal in this meeting will be to show how you, with your particular skills and background, will help the department succeed. You can only do that if you know what the department's needs are. Of course visit the company's Web site, but that's just a start. Read company press releases, related news stories and other general industry news to find out about the whole sector. Learn about any competitors and their strengths and weaknesses.

You can get away with a little ignorance about the job in the first interview, but it's not going to fly in the second. Since you reviewed your performance on the first interview, you can also look back at the more detailed job description and start coming up with specific examples where you can apply your work history to this job. Don't be surprised if you get some of the same common job interview questions, but prepare for them with more specific answers.
When you're applying for a technical or creative position you're also often asked to showcase your skills on the spot. This is in addition to any portfolio or samples you might have already brought in. It probably won't be anything too complicated, but make sure you're prepared for the demands of the job.

Get Ready to Meet Some Future Coworkers

It's not uncommon for the second interview to include a few other people in your potential department or to end with a short tour. The main reason for this is to make sure you're going to fit in. You can't really prepare for this, but be ready for it. As Southeastern Louisiana University point out, it's both for the employer's benefit and yours:

A major reason for the second interview is so the employer can see how well you fit in with the company culture. Realize that the interviewers at your second interview want to learn how well you will get along with other team members with whom you'll be interacting every day. Deploy your very best interpersonal communication skills. But - remember that it's OK not to fit. If you aren't a good fit with the employer, you probably wouldn't be happy working there anyway. And remember, that this interview is also your opportunity to determine whether the company is a good fit for you.

The second interview is partially about making sure both parties will be happy. When you're getting that tour or meeting coworkers make note of their behavior, dress, and even their workspaces. You should have an idea whether you'll fit in by the time you shake hands and walk out the door.

Now's the Time to Really Ask Questions

You probably asked a few questions in your first interview, but asking questions is just as important in the second interview. If you didn't ask them in the first interview, Fortune's common questions you should ask is a good place to start. Talking with Forbes, career coach Debra Wheatman offers up one set of questions you should always ask on the second interview:

It's a marriage. Always ask hiring managers what they like about the company, what they think are the firm's short-, medium- and long-term goals and how it has delivered on them. That will give you a sense of how organized they are.

Basically, make sure you really want to work where you're interviewing at, and ask any questions that will help make you feel confident in your choice.

Yes, You Should Send Another Thank You Email

Chances are you interviewed with different people in your second round. This means you should send out another round of thank you notes when the interview is over. Before you leave the interview, grab a business card for the person (or people) that interviewed and follow up the same way you did in the first interview.

Of course, you also want to prepare yourself in the same way you would for the first interview. Get a good night's sleep and eat well ahead of time. Be nice, keep your answers concise, and don't shy away from small talk. If you need some help remembering everything, fill out a one sheet to get all your points in one place.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How You Can Beat Computerized Applicant Screenings

Computerized applicant screenings are a catch-22—tell the truth and the system may disqualify you; lie and it will catch up to you in the interview process. So what's the solution? Dylan Alford explains how a little creativity and a lot of perseverance can get you past the computer and into the interview.

I stared at the screen for what seemed like an hour. "Do you have experience marketing software in a business-to-business environment?" the computer asked me.

I knew if I answered "No" to this question, which was the truth, I would probably be automatically excluded as a candidate for this job. No chance of anyone at this company that I desperately wanted to work for even looking at my resume. Forget about getting an interview. And it was a shame, because I knew I could not only do the job they were advertising, but I could excel at it.

But I wasn't willing to lie. That would be a deal-breaker if I ended up being considered for the position. So, I clicked "No" and completed the rest of the online application.

Five minutes later I opened my email to find an automatically generated rejection message. I was not being considered for the position. And nobody - no human being - had even looked at my application or resume. The software the company used to manage the online application process automatically eliminated me because I answered "No" to that one screening question. Game over.


When Software Replaces Recruiters

I understand why companies use this kind of software to screen out "unqualified" applicants. About 13 million people in the U.S. are officially looking for work. And a lot of people apply for jobs willy-nilly, regardless of their experience or skill set. The HR department simply can't sort through all of the applications.

But software simply can't do the job as well as a human. It can't apply judgment and pass along an application from someone who meets nearly all the requirements. Or maybe the problem is whoever creates the screening requirements for these positions sets the bar unreasonably high, with the hopes of narrowing the pool.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal says hiring managers now pile up so many requirements for jobs that it's almost impossible to find someone who meets them all. The owner of a temporary staffing company quoted in the article calls it "looking for a unicorn." He tells of a business he worked with that received 25,000 applicants for an open engineering position only to hear from HR that none were qualified. None! Nobody, out of 25,000?


Connections Are Key

But here's the thing. If you really want a particular position, getting weeded out by the screening software should never stop you from going after it. I don't advocate lying. I don't advocate spending a lot of time trying to game the system.

What I do advocate is building personal connections inside a limited number of target employers. Organizations that are a good fit for you. You need to meet people - either in person, on the phone or online - who work at those companies so if you run into a situation where your application gets weeded out, you know someone who will help you go around the software and reach the hiring manager.


How I Beat the Software

So what do you do if a job you know you would love and be great at and that you're qualified for comes along and you don't have any connections at that employer? That's the situation I was in when I got this automated rejection email for no reason other than answering one question on the application "incorrectly."

This was a company that hadn't been on my radar. I hadn't made any connections there. I was behind in this game. But this was a great job, and I wasn't willing to give up so easily.

Here's what I did:
1. I'd found the job posted on LinkedIn. I looked back at the posting there and saw it had been posted by a recruiter who works in HR at the company. I wasn't connected to the recruiter on LinkedIn, but I saw in her profile that she was a member of a marketing-related LinkedIn group I'm in. That meant I could send her a direct message through LinkedIn. I sent a message explaining the situation, why I felt my skill set was a good match despite my lack of software marketing experience, and provided a link to my profile and attached a copy of my resume.

2. Then, by doing a little digging on the company website, I figured out which of the company's locations she was most likely to work at. I sent her a package in the mail with a unique, direct marketing-style cover letter, my resume, samples of my work and a card that simply said, "Call Me" and included my mobile phone number.
I did all of this on a Wednesday. The following Monday, she called. She agreed I was well-qualified for the position and said she was impressed by my persistency and the mail package I sent her. She asked a few specific questions about how my experience and skills might be transferable to the software industry, and since I'd prepared to answer those questions, I responded with no problem.

Then she said she would recommend that the hiring manager interview me. A week and a half later I interviewed with the hiring manager. It went great, and I went through two more rounds of interviews with various members of the team. In the end, I didn't get the job. The hiring manager ended up going with an internal candidate (who obviously had software marketing experience and had worked with the hiring manager in the past).

Yet the recruiter emailed about a month later to ask if I was interested in applying for another marketing position they had open. Unfortunately, this other job would have meant relocating my family, so it wasn't a good fit.

But that doesn't mean I didn't win in some way. The point is, I did beat the evil software. I didn't let something stupid and arbitrary stop me from going after a position I knew I wanted.
And you can do the same. You might have to get creative. You might have to be a little pushy.

But you can do it. It really depends on how badly you want it.

 By Dylan Alford