The Interview Series - what to wear

Tricky. Tricky. Tricky.

I think most people struggle to put a decent outfit together on a daily basis let alone for something important as a job interview. I mean you just have to look at people on the streets of any major city at lunch time. Unkind but true. Have some pride people! There is no need for dressing shabbily even if you don't have a lot of money. In Australia Target and K-mart have great pieces for work as do many of the slightly more expensive chain stores. Rant over.

So, unless you are going for a very creative job I think it's best to err on the side of conservative. You want the interviews to be interested in you and what you are saying, not be distracted by what you are wearing. Though having said that I did go to my last job interview with pink hair....more on that later.

The most conservative and dressy type companies include finance and banking, accounting firms and consultancies and some technology companies. Wear a suit in a dark colour and a nicely pressed shirt or women could also wear a business type dress like this:

Actually this kind of outfit would suit pretty much all interviews and companies unless you are going to a job at a funky creative cutting edge company.

But you don't always have to wear a suit. It's just an easy option. Other options include:

For men: dress pants or suit pants and a long sleeve business shirt. For a more casual company you could possibly do a short sleeve shirt but I can't say I like them. Lace up brogues or slip on more business type shoes. No sneakers. No thongs

For women: Tailored skirts or pants and a blouse or top, no t-shirts. Closed in court shoes. No sneakers and no thongs.

The last interview I went to I didn't have anything that resembled a suit in my wardrobe. I had been working in an industrial part of Sydney for an industrial distributor and suits weren't really the expectation. Plus I'm not really that fussed about suits (even though I am recommending them here). I also had pink hair. My sister was horrified! "what are you going to wear?"

I think I wore a red jacket and black pants to that interview, with the pink hair. You see I figured that this was me. I had really good experience for the job and figured that if they had an issue with my hair, well then maybe that company wasn't for me. You can only be this bold if you are confident in your abilities and yourself generally. I got that job but don't recommend you turn up with coloured hair or lots of facial piercings and visible tattoos. Most interviewers are still very conservative and even though these things don't affect your ability to do the job in most cases you won't get the job. Some exclusions are funky cool hairdressers, where coloured hair, tats and piercing are expected. As well as sneakers or thongs.

If you need some inspiration head over to Pinterest and do a search on work wear or work fashion.

Lisa x

The interview series - 8 things not to do

Interviews can be nerve racking and hard, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't behave yourself. Demonstrate some common sense. The thing about common sense is that it's not common. Here we go. Don't do these things in a job interview. Please.

1. Throw a tanty
Well this seems obvious doesn't it? I've had a candidate do it though. When I was the HR Manager for a project in India we had arranged for the candidate to come to our Sydney office to be interviewed face-to-face with me, and on video conference with the Project Director in India. So firstly video conferences are often always a pain to set up, and secondly the video conferencing links in India are notoriously dodgy. In fact lots of things only work sometimes in India including power and internet. The day of this interview was no different. It took at least 30 minutes to get the video conferencing working and for the interview to commence.

While I was madly trying to get it all to work the candidate decided to throw a tantrum about the fact that I couldn't get the technology to work. Unfortunately for him this situation was a realistic example of what it would be like to work on the project and all the frustrations that go along with that. In no uncertain terms I told him that this was EXACTLY what it would be like working for this company and in the role he was interviewing for. He settled down and the interview commenced. The Project Director in India who has missed the tantrum liked him. I filled him in on the pre-interview behaviour. He didn't' get the job.

2. Interrupt the interviewer. A lot.
I had this happen to me recently. Was interviewing with two other senior people for a senior type role. The candidate was particularly obnoxious and actually held his hand up to stop me telling him something. He also interrupted the group of interviewers a number of times.  We couldn't stand this guy for an hour and there was no way we wanted to work with him. Ugh.

On the positive side we have a good story to tell over drinks with other work colleagues. Always a silver lining.

3. Be late
Don't be late. Ring if you are going to be late. Don't be late. Get your shit together. That is all.

4. Talk too much
If you go on too much the interviewers will switch off. They will start skipping questions and try to wrap up the interview early. Practice answering the questions succinctly. Having recently sat through a number of interviews with candidates who went on and on,  I can attest to the fact that you won't get the job.

5. Talk too little
There's a balance between talking too much and not enough. If the interviewers have to drag out information from you, it will be too much like hard work.

6. Ask too many questions
OMG. I once had a candidate come in for a first interview with a list of 20 questions. Let's get something straight, a first interview is a bit like speed dating. The company is getting a feel for you and how you will fit with the company. For you, it's about learning about the company and people and whether you can work there.

You should have some questions to ask. Genuine questions that you would like the answer to. 2-4 questions is way enough. If you turn up with a list of 20 questions wanting to know the ins and outs of everything, the interviewers won't be impressed, they will be wondering if you have a personality disorder that needs treatment.

If you are invited for a second interview you will have an opportunity to ask some more detailed questions. This is like a dinner date. There is more time to get to know each other and you can explore more about the company and job.

7. Criticise the company
Really? If you have turned up for an interview surely you might want to work for the company? Mr Obnoxious above (see point 2) also arrived at the interview with very detailed company information to grill the interview panel on why we had done things the way we had. There was a definite implication that stupid decisions had been made. We were definitely sure we didn't want him working with us.

8. Ask about salary in the first interview
The first interview is too early to ask about money. The company is still deciding whether you will fit the company and role so don't ask about what salary they are offering. This may depend on the skills and attributes on the best candidate.

If the interviewer asks you what salary you are looking for though, you should have an answer that is well researched based on your skills, experience, qualifications and what the market generally pays. You can work this out by reviewing the pay offered by various roles on online job boards.

So, have you done any of these things? I went to an interview once feeling very unwell and sneezed so hard in an interview that I ended up with a big handful of snot. I didn't get the job.

When did you not get the job? What did you do?

Lisa xx

The Resume Series: Resume Basics - the 5 don'ts

So back over here I gave you some tips on what you should do if you are pulling together or updating your resume. Sometimes it's easier to say what not to do (and infinitely more fun!). Here we go!

  1. Don't include referee contact information: If the company wants to do reference checks they will ask you. This will give you time to chose the best people to speak about you for that specific role, and give you time to contact them. This is also important if they are travelling or overseas where you may need to provide different contact details. You don't want your referees being contacted without your permission.
  2. Don't include a photo. Seriously. Unless you are a model about to go to a casting, this will just give recruiters and HR people the chance to roll about the floor grabbing their stomachs in mirth make fun at your ill chosen photo. Stop it. Do have a photo on your Linkedin account. A professional one. Not one holding a cocktail. Not one where you eyes are red from a flash and not one with someone's arm around you, that you have cleverly cropped out. It's not clever.
  3. Lose the fancy fonts (thanks Rob). I like me a fancy font. I do. Fancy fonts look great on Pinterest and craft blogs. But unless you are going for a creative type role leave them to the creative types. I recommend just using one font, two at a stretch if you are a little creative. That is it. Also use a fairly normal one. If your resume gets pulled through expensive recruitment software basic fonts and formatting will be your friend.
  4. You don't need to detail your family situation or age. Most employers don't care if you are married, separated, divorced, with 2 kids, 3 dogs, a cat and 2 budgies or whether you are living with an alien. If they do care it's none of their bee's wax and in most developed countries it's illegal to ask. In places where it's not illegal they can ask you at interview where you can tell them in person to mind their bee's wax. It's not relevant to the job.
  5. Don't send the same resume in for every job. Tailor it to each company and opportunity, AND
  6. Yes I know I said 5 don'ts but a friend who works in recruitment (thanks Lynette) made a suggestion about another great don't. It's the section on your resume about your interests. I personally think you should leave this out altogether. If interviewers are interested in you personally, they will ask. If you have to include interests don't put things like "watching TV" or "sleeping" I mean really? One resume I read told me that the person liked to do massage, both kinds. What was I supposed to think about that? I don't remember interviewing that person.

So there you have it folks. Got any other don'ts?

Lisa x

The Resume Series: Resume Basics - the top 10 do's

In times of change and organisational restructuring a good resume is the ticket to your next role. Over this week and the next I'll be covering the basics of resumes. Here is my first post on the topic - the top 10 do's!

Lets face it. Resumes are hard. They are hard because we don't do one very often. They are hard because they get out of date quickly and they are hard because mostly we don't know what a prospective employee is looking for. The job ad may detail a number of things and you may have addressed them in your cover letter and/or resume and you still don't get an interview. Ugh!

I would like to say the process of choosing candidates for interviews is scientific but often it's not. I mean, there is a correlation between choosing resumes that match the selection criteria but it's sometimes a little random. Humans are not particularly rational (despite what some humans tell you) so no matter how closely your resume meets the specification you may or may not get chosen. That's life and unless you have been discriminated against you should just move on. Big companies now use sophisticated resume selection and recruitment software but I'm a little sceptical about how effective it is, though there isn't much choice when you receive hundreds of applicants for any given role.

So what are my top tips for creating or updating your resume?
  1. Include basic contact information:  You don't need to provide two email addresses, two phone numbers and your home address. Cut it down. I think a mobile phone number and an email address is adequate. Put them in the header or footer. Will look good and be easy to find.
  2. Have a "normal" email address. No and no sexymamma81@gmail. Also don't use your current work email address. That's just bad form.
  3. Be crystal clear. You can always say something in less words. Make sure you do. Be succinct and if you are not good at this get a friend to read it for you and ruthlessly edit.
  4. Be short. I have seen a candidate for a senior role get the job on a one page resume. It can be done. I think 2-3 pages is fine. No more. 
  5. Stick to the highlights. No one wants to read War and Peace. No one. I promise, your work history is not that interesting.
  6. Be relevant. To the job vacancy. That is all. You look like an idiot when you apply for a job with nothing that matches what the company is looking for. Overseas students pay attention.
  7. Spell check. I can forgive one, maybe two spelling mistakes or typos. More pedantic people will not and if writing is part of the job, you are done for.
  8. Only include your highest and most relevant qualifications. A massive list of certificates obtained by attending time management 101, team building for dummies and "intro to excel" have no place on your resume.
  9. Don't flick it. Online job boards make it very easy to apply for jobs. Don't apply for everything that looks even slightly up your alley. It wastes everyone's time.
  10. Tailor your resume for every role you apply for. That might sound like hard work but you should be choosey what you apply for and not apply for that many roles at the same time. 
 What would you like to hear about in regards to resumes? What do you struggle with?

Lisa xx

2014 Goals

Oh I know. Boring. Another post about new years resolutions and goals for the year. Pffffft!

The thing is though if you are going to keep track of your career and where you want it to be, you have to take time to reflect on what you have achieved and what you wished you had done better. Sometimes we don't realise how much we have achieved or how far we have come. A little bit of looking back is a good thing.

I wrote a post here about what I achieved and what I was grateful for in 2013.

I also looked back on my most popular blogs posts. Here they are:
But what of 2014? Nothing better than a new year full of possibilities. A year when you could achieve anything or be anyone, though I recommend working out your purpose and being (the best version of) yourself.

I have set some goals for this blog. I originally started the blog because honestly, I was sick and tired of employees I work with expecting other people to somehow look after their career. My philosophy is that while there are people who will help you with your career and your goals, you have to take responsibility for your own development. This blog is about helping people do that.

I also started this blog to develop my blogging skills in a different content area. I write over at Secret Homes of Glebe but wanted to try my hand at something more in my career area. I also wanted to raise my profile as a HR professional. While I will continue to do this my goals for 2014 for the blog are:
  • Once a month feature a video interview someone interesting about how they are got to where they are in their career..I'm going to learn how to shoot and edit videos!
  • Blog at least once a week. I lost my way in about September last year and never got my blogging grove back.
  • Speak/present at 3 different events during the year, either on improving your career, being a full time working mum who travels a lot or something HR related. I'm open people and I work for free!
What do you want to achieve in 2014?

My Top 7 Interview Tips

Source: via 윤재중 on Pinterest

To progress your career most of us have to go through job interviews. Pretty much. Few of us are lucky enough to be offered a new job without attending an interview. Even if you are applying for a role internally most companies have a process where you need to interview for the role. The problem with this is that most of us attend job interviews so infrequently, we don't get a chance to get good at them. And often being good at a job interview, has nothing to do with being good at the job. Tricky. I have just been through a job interview process that consisted of 3 different interviews, which I think is fairly standard now-days. My first interview was via Skype, or video conference. The second interview was face-to-face, and the third via phone. They are different types of interviews and you need to consider different things for each. So here are my top 7 tips for any type of interview:

1. Be. On. Time
Yes this is a pretty simple one but lots of people turn up late for job interviews. Being on time for your interview is really the first test. If you can turn up on time for the interview, perhaps you can also be on time if you get the job? For some jobs this is more important than others but its still a good measure of how important you think the interview is. There are times when you can't help but be late. In this circumstance you should ring your contact, aplogise and give an indication of when you will arrive. It's polite. It's not hard.

2. Be focused. 
In the first place, only apply for jobs that interest you in companies and industries you like. Internet job boards such as Seek make it very easy to apply for any job you see, but I encourage you to be picky. For example, I"m not sure I would be a great fit for a Financial Services company. I might be, but I tend to like businesses and industries that are more practical and that do or make things that are tangible. That's just me. Nothing wrong with Financial Services companies. My husband Arran loves working in Financial Services. Whatever floats your boat.

The times I have interviewed at companies who operated in industries that didn't really interest me, was a complete waste of time for all concerned. If I was really honest with myself I didn't really like the company or the role and I didn't enjoy the interview. I felt like I was on the wrong planet and I don't think the interviewers thought I would be a good fit either. On these occasions they didn't even give me the courtesy of letting me know I had been unsuccessful. I knew anyway.

3. Be you.
I'm really rolling out the hard stuff now! I know this sounds simple but sometimes it's hard to accept that you need to be true to you and your purpose, specially when you really just need a job! I know what that's like, but there is nothing more miserable than doing something you hate. It's good to remember that a job interview is not (or should not) be a one way process. A good interview will be a conversation between you and the company representatives. It's an opportunity to find out if the company and the role is going to be a good fit for you and your purpose. For the company, it's an opportunity to learn about you, how you will contribute to the business and how you will fit the culture. You are going to spend a lot of your time with these people if you get the job, so be yourself and ask questions that are important to you.

Of course you should hold a little back. One of my favourite interview experiences was with a candidate who threw the most amazing "tanty", because we were having difficulty getting the video conference technology working for his interview with a Manager in India. Anyone who has travelled or worked in India would know that things working there consistently is unusual. While trying desperately to get things working he threw his "tanty" saying that he couldn't be expected to interview under such conditions. Unfortunately the technology working intermittently was a realistic experience of working on the project, for which he was interviewing. He gave a little too much of himself. I couldn't get him out of the building quickly enough.

4. Be prepared.
Most companies are looking for a mix of experience, skills and knowledge as well as cultural fit. Some will weigh in heavily on experience while others will look for cultural fit first. So before you head off to the interview have a think about what they might be looking for. If you are invited for an interview there is obviously some stuff in your resume that is a match, but at interview you will need to articulate your experience in more detail. If the role is a customer service type role you might need to talk about when you have given excellent customer service and use a real example. Or you might need to talk about how you have dealt with conflict or an unhappy customer. 

You should also have done some research about the company. Google is your friend. Use it and have a bit of an idea of why you might like to work there.

5. Be thoughtful
When answering interview questions you can be much more successful with answers that you have given some thought to, and can demonstrate some self awareness. Companies are not looking for perfection. They are looking for honesty, awareness and actions that are consistent with your personal and career goals. Most people will ask you your strengths and development areas. You can really derail an interview here.  I have seen a colleague fail to successfully gain an internal role because she couldn't articulate her development areas. These were development areas that she had been given feedback on in performance reviews for the prior 3 years and had a development plan in place to address them. They were also very evident to the Managers who interviewed her. A little thought before the interview and she should have been able to answer this confidently and have a better chance of securing the role.

An external candidate I once interviewed told me the same development need for every role on his resume.This showed to me he was either stupid, had no self awareness or had learnt nothing during his career. Do you think he got the job?  

6. Be well presented
This is not just about what you are wearing, although that is important. First impressions count, and even though an interview should be about learning about you and what you can offer, if you arrive and you are not dressed to suit the company or the role, you are going to get off to a bad start. This counts for face-to-face interviews and interviews via Skype. I spent some time thinking about what would look good on a computer screen on the other side of the world for my recent Skype interview. I did my hair and make-up and my top half was dressed as if it was a face-to-face interview (only my head and shoulders were going to be seen on the computer screen). I was at home during the interview so the bottom half I had on jeans. I found out later that some of the other applicants for the job looked like they were wearing pajamas during their Skype interview. Didn't make a good impression.

You should be yourself but I would caution against wearing anything too distracting. You don't want to be remembered just for the massive diamonte bow in your hair (which matches your brooche and your belt and your ring and your shoes) , or the VERY VERY BADLY FITTED SUIT you are sporting (yes I have had seen both of these examples).

Being well presented is not just about what what you look like.  It's also about what you say. Completely bad mouthing your previous employers makes you look very bad and is a complete turn off. You know the saying, if you can't say something nice? It applies to job interviews.

It's also not a great idea to attend an interview if you are sick. I went to an interview really early in my career with an awful case of the flu. During the interview I did a massive sneeze and ended up with a handful of ...well...snot. There is no other way to say it. The poor people interviewing me had to scramble to get me a fistful of tissues. I was mortified. I'm guessing they were fairly disgusted. I didn't get the job.

7. Be confident
I haven't met a person who enjoys interviews. Most people find them very nerve wracking and unsettling. My mum was telling me a few weeks ago that she hates them. And then added that she got the job at every interview she has attended. Hmmm...they can't be that bad can they? 

I'll let you in on a secret. Unless the people interviewing you, run interviews all the time (like recruiters and HR people), the interviewees are often very nervous themselves. So just settle in and try to relax. If you prepare and try to be yourself you will perform well. 

Inspire me

Job interviews are just one style of interview, and as I was writing this blog I thought about interviews you often see on TV with celebrities or public figures. Many of these types of interviews are not that interesting and poorly thought out, on the part of the interviewer. Many are just opportunities to promote something, a movie or a new line of product, and are tightly controlled by Publicists. But there are a couple of excellent interviewers around. My two favourite are Andrew Denton on Enough Rope and James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio.

They have completely different styles but still get the best out of their "subjects". They both start with meticulous preparation and research. Andrew has a gentle, genuine and curious approach that puts people at ease, so they are willing to share more of their story. James Lipton is the opposite. He has a direct and staccato like questioning style but sticks to the actor's history and experience. No gossip and no dirt. 

 You can take some inspiration from both these masters. Be prepared and curious, and focused.

Develop me

Want to learn more? One of Australia's online job boards Career one, has some great resources here.

Just for me

Have you discovered Pinterest yet? So addictive. It's a visual pinboard. Check out this great graphic on job interviews:

Source: via Giovanni on Pinterest

When have you had a really good interview? Or do you have a horror story?