Wrong Answer: Case Studies of failed interviews

Originally appeared in the New York Post 
By Brian Moore

In a job interview, it’s bad enough when a candidate tosses an f-bomb or cries like a 7-year-old watching the end of “Marley & Me.” But employment pros say such behavior is nothing compared to the real Hindenburg meltdowns they’ve seen.

To enlighten and amuse, we collected tales of some of the battiest behavior New York job interviewers have encountered.

And, no, none of these candidates scored the gigs.

You want to sell yourself in an interview — not give yourself away. That distinction was lost on a woman whom recruiter Bruce Hurwitz interviewed for a gig as a special-events coordinator. From Jump Street, the applicant was hitting on him, brazenly enough that his colleagues couldn’t fail to notice. (Sample: “If you take your jacket off, I’ll take off mine.”)

Adding to the weirdness, a few days later, Hurwitz interviewed a man looking for a fund-raising job. The name was familiar — and so was his address, says Hurwitz, who realized he was the amorous applicant’s husband.

“He spoke about his pride for his wife and his children,” Hurwitz recalls.

Although many employers like to say they’re looking for “warriors” who will fight for their businesses, physical combat is generally frowned on in the workplace — and in interviews. That didn’t stop a client of recruiter Roy Cohen from going mano a mano with a hedge-fund hiring manager who questioned a decision the client had made.

“He said that anybody who made that decision was a moron, and that suggested that my client was a moron,” says Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.” “He became defensive. And at some point something else was said, and before they knew it, they were going at it,” he says. At least one punch was thrown before the client was told “to get the (bleep) out of the office.”  

The first sign of trouble for recruiter Tyson Spring was the IM he got from his receptionist telling him that the candidate for a general-counsel position for a major media company was combing his hair as compulsively as Rapunzel with OCD.

“He had a beautiful set of gold locks,” says Spring, “like the guy in ‘The Great American Hero.’”

Other assets were less evident. When he wasn’t hitting on Spring’s female colleague, the lawyer — a Yale grad who was at the top of his law school class — would open his briefcase to refer to what Spring, a VP at Élever Professional, assumed were relevant documents. Until he noticed that the briefcase was empty — save for the lawyer’s tattered hairbrush.

Ask any publicist: If you want to scale the heights of the p.r. world, it helps to be able to speak English. A Korean candidate for an internship at p.r. firm Ruder Finn didn’t let petty language issues get in the way of his ambition to secure an entry-level internship promoting books, recalls ex-Ruder publicist Dennelle Catlett, now a senior publicist at Crown.

“It was pretty quickly apparent that he wasn’t answering questions fully,” says Catlett. Or at all. When queried about what sort of books he liked to read, “He looked up, nodded at me and said, ‘Mmm-hmmm,’” says Catlett.

“We held it together,” she says. “It was very, very difficult.”

Kids like puppets. Job interviewers don’t. That lesson was lost on a woman whom Tracy Brisson — then director of teacher recruitment for New York City’s public schools — interviewed for a music teacher’s position. When the woman was asked the first question, she whipped out a puppet and let it answer. A bit cute for an opening gambit, but it got worse, as the woman insisted an answering every question in the same bizarre fashion.

“I think she thought it was making her stand out,” says Brisson, who now runs the coaching firm the Opportunities Project. Mission accomplished.

A little décolletage is one thing, but fashion industry recruiter Kate Benson recalls a chat with a jewelry designer that turned into a “Girls Gone Wild” outtake.

“She had a beautiful dress on — haute couture,” says Benson. “Japanese-inspired — with big arm holes. “I noticed it was kind of revealing.”

And how! When the woman showed her portfolio, her womanly assets lay as bare as Sylvia Plath’s soul. “Something like that is not easy to overcome,” says Benson. “You’re not Jennifer Lopez going to the VMAs.

Nothing lets a boss know that a candidate personifies grace under pressure better than sweating like John Goodman running the Boston Marathon. A candidate for a six-figure job at a media firm came into his interview sweating, and the waterworks continued from there, says Caroline Ceniza-Levine of the career coaching firm SixFigureStart. To staunch the flow, the applicant used soft tissue. Big mistake.
“He left little pieces of tissue on his face as he was daubing his face,” she says. “He’d daub his face and he’d leave one. And he’d daub his face again and there’d be another one.” By the end of the interview, his face looked like it had been caught in a spitball blitzkrieg. “And at the foot of his chair, there were little tissue shavings,” she adds.

A compelling resume: 5 things you shouldn’t do

The folks at DocStoc.com invited me to teach an online course on resume writing and interviewing.  If you haven’t dropped in on their video courses, do it. It’s an impressive and ever-growing bank of info on business topics ranging from “raising start-up capital” to mastering social media. How such smart people could believe it’s good idea to put my mug in front of their audience I’ll never know.  But they did, so as I design the course I’ll share some thoughts with you here. First, some temptations to resist while crafting your resume. Some of these might seem obvious, but I view hundreds of resumes weekly, and the follies below inevitably show up in the pile (and subsequently in a dark, moldy corner of the cloud, never to be considered again).

Don’t include a portrait of yourself.

Most of us don’t look like Christie Brinkley. But even if you do, don’t put a headshot on your resume. If you’re counting on your looks to give you the upper-hand, you’re in trouble.  Just don’t do it.  Unless your portrait was taken during an epic laser battle.  With a lynx or other predatory large cat.  Or even just a kinda large/ kinda intimidating house cat.  Or a small, frightened-looking kitten is cool too. Those instances could really add some intrigue to your brand.  Especially with the ladies.  So, to review…don’t use a portrait unless you’re this guy:

Don’t make it complicated.

I’m bad at baking.  My friend, Laura Hawkes of Hawkes Winery, is an excellent baker.  Her advice to me was, “KISS.”

“Huh?  That’s allowed?”

“Keep it simple, stupid.”

Ok, I see what you did there.  The same must be true about your resume.  Here’s the thing. You’ve got like 10 seconds to pique my interest. 6 seconds for most others.  That data came from a compelling study published by TheLadders, a must read if you’re working on your resume.  Maybe that seems cruel to you, since you spent many hours writing your resume and many, many more hours building a career that you’re trying to adequately detail to me on a single sheet of paper. That’s just how it is, cruel as a Wisconsin winter.  Don’t cry.  Just make it count. A well-organized, elegant, easy to navigate resume is more effective than a snazzy, visually challenging, intricate one.  Even if you fear it belies your creativity, it’s best to stick to convention. In six seconds a recruiter will judge whether or not she’ll consider you for the job.  She will not consider learning a new resume language.  If it isn’t blatantly evident why she should be interested after six seconds, you’ll lose her and you’ll never get her back.  Shoot me a note on LinkedIn and I’ll email you a sample .DOC with the format I like to see the best.

Don’t get crazy with fonts.

I love good design. I can spend hours on end looking at typeface books.  The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Love that sentence. We’re talking about an art form that’s been around since the 15th century.  Longer maybe.  And now we have access to thousands of free font downloads.

“Hey! Why not add a little flair to the ‘ol resume?  I just got the Ice Cream Cherry Drop Sans font from DaFont.com and I’m ready to go!  The font is whimsical and beautiful and poignant and super impactful, just like me! ”

Once you lose the recruiter, you’ll never get her back. Art is subjective.  We interpret it differently. Our taste is informed by our individual experiences. I don’t much care for Dali’s paintings, though many do.  I also loathe the Lord of the Rings movies, an unpopular stance amongst my peers. By choosing an alternative font that is edgy or arty, you’re betting that you and a recruiter you’ve never met share the same aesthetic taste.  All you stand to win in the bet is having your recruiter NOT throw your resume away.  On the other hand, you risk losing a career opportunity. I don’t think it’s worth it. Just use a tried and true serif font, art-be-damned.

Don’t write an objective.

I’m surprised that this is still a relevant question, but since I see resumes all the time with an “objective” section, I feel like I should address it briefly. I suppose that at some point in history it was important to explain why you were handing someone your resume. Not anymore. Regardless of how we state it, isn’t our objective in submitting a resume for a given job opportunity always the same: TO GET THE JOB! So, let’s put a moratorium on the objective. Instead, use that valuable real estate to provide a “PROFESSIONAL PROFILE”, a snapshot of your qualifications, a brief list of what makes you so incredibly awesome. Think about the “PROFESSIONAL PROFILE” section as an opportunity to give the recruiter a reason to keep reading.  For me an “Objective” is reason enough to stop reading.

Don’t worry about fitting everything onto one page.

My dad was born in the forties and got a job with a large Financial Services firm in the sixties. 30 years later he left that company.  In a simpler time, when people worked toward a pension, when the corporate marketplace was made up of complexly layered companies and highly specialized skillsets, the one page resume made sense.  People were more inclined to sign on for the long (and I mean, very long) haul.  Forcing someone to read more than one page about your job of 30 years is a terrible thing to do! Punishable by death in some countries.  But now it is much less common for employees, especially talented ambitious employees, to stick around one role or one company for a such a long time.  Conversely, hiring companies value a diverse professional background with evidence of an upward trajectory.  I’d argue they value “corporate athleticism” as much as they value loyalty.  So, if you have a compelling and relevant professional background that is deserving of more than one page on a resume, go for it.

I’m glad to discuss at greater length.  Leave your comments below or shoot me a note on LinkedIn.  I give this stuff away like halloween candy.


10 Things To Do After The Interview

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/07/29/10-things-to-do-after-the-job-interview/
Article By: Nancy Collamer
Date Published: July 29, 2014

Congrats. You had the job interview. Now, your work is done, right? Wrong.

In today’s hypercompetitive job market, effective follow-up after the interview is a must, and failing to do it well might cause you to lose out to another candidate.

The line between being persistent and being a pain, however, is blurry at best. So to help you sort things out, I sent a query to my colleagues in the careers world — recruiters, career coaches, hiring managers and CEO’s — asking for their best follow-up advice.

I received more than 60 responses on topics ranging from thank you notes to handling rejection. Here’s a summary of their 10 best tips:

The Thank-You Note

On this point, everyone agreed: A thank-you note is a must. Most of the pros recommended you send one via email within 24 hours of the interview. Several suggested a handwritten card as a supplement when a personal or creative touch might be especially valued.

(MORE10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask)

But if you really want to stand out, you need to do more than just say “thanks for your time.” The experts suggested these techniques to make your thank-you note shine:

Reference an article of interest. Include in the note a relevant article, link or book recommendation relating to a topic that was discussed during the interview. It’s a value-add for the interviewer and will reinforce your industry expertise.

To really make an impact, Jene Kapela, a South Florida-based leadership coach, says you should write a blog post on a topic discussed during the interview and then share the link to the post in your thank-you note.

Include supporting documentation that illustrates your ability to do the job. You don’t want to overwhelm the interviewer, but adding one or two carefully-curated examples of your work (non-confidential work samples, press mentions, etc.) can be a smart way to show off your expertise.

“It helps show you are the real deal,” says Tyson J. Spring, head of New Business & Strategy for Elever
Professional, an Austin, Texas recruiting firm.

(MOREHow to Be Fabulous In a Job Interview)

Provide a follow-up response to one of the key interview questions.Ever draw a blank or give a less than stellar response during a job interview? Use your note to modify, correct or amplify one of your responses.

Todd Cherches

, CEO 
of BigBlueGumball, a New York City-based management consulting and coaching firm, offers this example:

When you asked me about my single greatest accomplishment in my last job, I apologize that I drew a blank. However, immediately after leaving, it hit me that I should have mentioned I was voted the top salesperson in my department for 2013, and proudly received a special recognition award at my company’s year-end national convention.

The Waiting Game

Anyone who has recently looked for a job knows that hiring decisions can drag on for months. To make that in-between-time work in your favor…

Follow instructions. If the recruiter or interviewer suggested contacting them by email, don’t call on the phone. And, says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA Career Center at the D’Amore McKim School of Busineess at Northeastern University, “If they tell you it will take two weeks, wait the two weeks.”

If you forgot to ask about next steps during the interview, request clarification in your follow-up email. Then follow the instructions you receive.

Don’t be a stalker. While you’re understandably anxious, that doesn’t give you license to pester the employer.

Debra Manente, associate director of Career Services at Post University in Waterbury, Conn., says you should call the recruiter or hiring manager to follow up at their recommended time (leave a message if you don’t reach them). But if you haven’t heard back after two calls, “take it as a sign to move on,” she says.

And speaking of stalking, most of the pros advised holding off on sending LinkedIn invitations to the people who interviewed you until after the hiring process has ended.

Immediately begin prepping for the next round of interviews. You never know when you’ll be asked to come in for a Round 2, so you’ll want to be good to go at a moment’s notice.

Joe Weinlick, vice president of marketing for the online job board network,Beyond.com, recommends that you “dig deep to find interesting pieces of information that most people can’t find on the company’s website. It could be about an award-winning project, a milestone in the company’s history or a recent initiative. If you take this information and casually work it into the conversation in a follow-up interview, it will leave a positive lasting impression and increase your chances of getting the job.”

Call in a favor. Have an influential contact who knows the hiring manager or recruiter you met with? Now might be the time to ask that person to lend a hand.

Maria Goldsholl, chief operating officer of the Mom Corps staffing solutions agency, offers this advice: “Have an impressive reference reach out to the hiring manager or recruiter via LinkedIn to drop a note to praise you. The note could read: ‘Mary, I recently became aware that Josh was interviewing with your company for a position. I wanted to tell you that you would be very lucky to have someone like that on your team. His skills are sharp and he was one of the best employees I have ever had.’

Keep hope — while you keep looking. In today’s crazy job market, you never know when you might hear back about a position you’ve long forgotten about.

As Lisa M. Benson, staffing director at Mary Kraft Staffing & HR Solutions, points out, “Thanks to electronics, hiring managers do really keep resumés at their fingertips for a while when they like them. We hear stories of candidates being hired six months to a year after the initial submission of their resumeé, sometimes with very little contact in the interim!”

Of course, hope alone is not a job search strategy. So keep your search in high gear until you have an offer in hand.

If You Don’t Get the Job

Should you lose out for a position you interviewed for, accept rejection in a professional manner. Sure it hurts to hear “No.” But if you handle the rejection professionally, you might be considered for a future job at the same employer.

 Cochran, Director of Human Resources at
FlexJobs, shared that in the last six months, she has returned to — and hired — five candidates she originally turned down. “They made a great impression in our first round of
conversations and were graceful in their communications after I let them
know we had chosen another applicant,”
 Cochran wrote to me.

Stay in touch. You never know when an employer might have another opening or will hear of an opening and recommend you, so remain in contact after losing out. You might use LinkedIn to send an article or to reach out with a helpful suggestion.

But Bruce Hurwitz, a New York City-based executive recruiter, career counselor and author, says: Don’t overdo it. “Once every few months is a good idea,” he notes.

Otherwise, you might be seen as a pest, and that’s no way to stand out among job candidates as one of the best.

6 Best Ways to Make Recruiters Work for You

Source: http://www.careerbliss.com/
Article By: Ritika Trikha
Date Published: April 27, 2014

“Recruiting is an out of sight-out of mind business,” says Bill Holland, PhD and author of Cracking the New Job Market.

A recruiter’s typical day consists of a whirlwind of emails, phone calls and LinkedIn profiles. We all know that recruiters’ end-game is to keep their clients happy…but, as a star candidate, there are proactive steps you can take to make them work for you! After all, their goal is to fill jobs with the best possible match—it’s your job to show them that you’re their guy or gal!

“I can tell you with certainty that we work exponentially harder on behalf of those candidate partners who create synergy and value our work,” says Tyson J. Spring, senior consultant of business development at Elever Professional, a recruiting company.

We spoke with Spring and a few other recruiting experts for advice on how to make recruiters work hard for superstar candidates. Have you tried any of these methods to get the most out of a recruiter?

1. Be Generous: Offer Candidates from Your Network

Helping should be a two-way street. “This may sound self-serving, coming from a

recruiter, but keep in mind that our networks are what make us great,” Spring says.

So, one way you can be on top of a recruiter’s call list is to be a great resource of other candidates. If you’re generous with your network, you can stay on top of the recruiter’s mind.

“As they call, make sure they know of new developments in your career when and only when there is something to report. Continue to cultivate relationships with them and from time to time, call them to chat. They will work for you because they know you work for them,” Holland says.

2. Cater to the Recruiter’s Process

“Some may want you to check-in with them frequently, while others don’t need you to do so,” says Judi Wunderlich of WunderLand Group LLC.

It’s better to be straightforward with your recruiter rather than trial and error methods of communication. Traditionally, most recruiters are always on the phones. Some might prefer that because it’s a faster way to communicate—others might prefer email.

Whatever you do—make sure you keep the recruiter in the loop! “The recruiter can only advocate on a candidate’s behalf if they know what is happening and, if necessary, have their side of the story so that they can offer explanations to address any concerns the employer may have,” says Bruce Hurwitz, PhD and executive recruiter at Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. Ltd.


3. Send a ‘Thank You’ Note Post Interview

A lot of times, people forgo the ‘thank you’ note after an interview with a recruiter—since it’s traditionally for the hiring manager.

However, that’s precisely why sending a ‘thank you’ note to your recruiter is a great way to standout. Try this after your next phone interview with a recruiter!

Greg Patrick, president of G2K Solutions would agree and advises you to: “Treat them as you would a hiring manger by showing follow-up, personality and persuasiveness.”

4. Make Sure Your Expectations Match your Experience

First and foremost, make sure your expectations are aligned with experience,” Spring says. “If you’re expecting your recruiter to find you the position of your dreams as a VP of Marketing, but your experience today barely stretches you into a Sr. Manager, you’re not going to have very many recruiters tripping over themselves to work hard on your behalf.”

5. Be 100% Honest

If you lie about your skillset, you’re not only hurting your own credibility but also your recruiter’s reputation.

“When a candidate tries to slip a secret through the cracks, a good recruiter will not miss the discrepancy, and will not be inclined to put their reputation on the line,” Spring says. “Be honest about career mishaps and a recruiter will advise you on how to best address the issue with a potential employer.”

Related Article: Interviewers Share their Top Phone Interview Pet Peeves

6. Establish a Relationship Before You Need a Job

Lauren McGoodwin, previously a recpuzzruiter for Hulu, offers some stellar tips on getting in with a recruiter at a specific company. Here’s what she had to say, paraphrased:

Step 1. Send a professional email to schedule the meeting—work around their schedule.

Step 2: Send a confirmation for your meeting the day before.

Step 3. During the meeting, establish a professional yet personal connection.

What do you do outside of work? What college did you go to, etc.? Find things you have in common with the recruiter.

The final step: Follow up with the recruiter with a direct email with a short explanation on WHY you are a good fit and what you can offer the role with your resume attached. Be patient and respectful.

Integrity, quality, and industry experts

Like any professionals, Executive Recruiters “talk shop”.  Folks like to get together and chat about their wins and losses. And because there’s a significant sales component to this role, we’re judged more by our wins than our losses.  As such, when talkin’ shop, it’s sometimes hard to discern what information being shared is accurate.  Imagine a Ford Salesperson standing next to a Chevy Salesperson talking about the number of units they sold in October and what the Gross Margins were on their deals, it’s similar here. Before I co-founded Élever Professional, I was with a Fortune 500 Staffing firm. Former colleagues from those days often call me with reports of such gaudy sales figures that I wonder how they can fit them all in a 24 hour day.  I typically leave these conversations with a chuckle and a 30 minute deficit on my calendar. Click here to read more

Recently, I left one of these conversations concerned about the state of the industry.  A former Sr. Director with a large staffing company called me to let me know that their own firm had decided to shift from a generalist and staffing mentality to an industry focused Executive Search firm.  Their plan was to do away with temporary staffing altogether and build upon their recent success with a client in their new “area of expertise”. Their reasoning was that they didn’t want to be like me.  Hey, no offense, Pal.  None taken.

By me, they were referring to my firm’s long term commitments to a small and select number of clients, rather than a large and expansive pipeline that covered the gamut of search requisitions, from entry level admins and mail clerks to CEOs.  They’d closed a significant amount of work with one client and realized that there is money to be made in a relatively under-serviced field, and they were going to re-brand and go after it!  What’s the problem with that?  There’s a large addressable market with a proportionately small competitive field.  Smart business decision, right?  There is no problem there, fundamentally, but as I asked key questions in an effort to learn about their commitment to this field and their relative success, red flags began to unravel in every direction.  Here’s an unofficial transcript, sensationalized for your reading enjoyment. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty):

Making the most of Skype interviews…

Our Executive Search work is done primarily in Software, Mobile, and Interactive media and as such we’re often engaged in nationwide searches that require a Skype or other Video Conference call. With each virtual interview that we facilitate I offer coaching and general pep-talks to our candidates prior to their call so as to leave them well prepared for what is naturally an awkward venue. Below I’ve shared some common concerns and natural insecurities that people share, especially those who aren’t regular users of video conferencing.

Please hold, we’re having technical difficulties:
Nothing will create a feeling of anxiety and cause a candidate to lose focus on the task at hand more than a broken stream or technical difficulties. I recommend using a wired internet connection where possible and your best hardware. Don’t pull the 2002 Dell Dimensions out of the closet and hope for it to perform with 2011 Software applications. Most importantly, test your equipment AND your Skype software prior to your meeting.