Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about job interviews.

Improve Your Job Interviews (even when they go horribly wrong)

Do you ever leave a job interview with that amazing feeling that everything went perfectly well and as planned? You’re confident that even if you don’t get the job, you left the absolutely best impression possible. Great! Now what about the interview that you bombed? Ya… those happen too. Here are a few ways you can improve your job interviews, even after they start to fall off the tracks in these all-too-common scenarios.

You Show Up Late

Life happens and sometimes extenuating circumstances lead you to be late for an interview. As a result, you suddenly get nervous, lose your momentum, and assume it’s all over before it even started. Before you throw everything away, consider these three great tips from Work It Daily:

  1. Don’t blow it off — you’ll only burn a bridge and make people angry
  2. Avoid begging for mercy, and ask forgiveness — apologize, but don’t go overboard or rhyme out excuses
  3. Shut down your inner negative Nancy — move forward and focus on what you rehearsed

They Ask the Dreaded Question About Getting Fired

Picture this — everything’s going amazing, you’re connecting with the interviewers and all of a sudden they ask that question: “Why did your last contract end so quickly?” This can be terrifying if it’s because the gig did not end well. Take a deep breath and consider these steps from FastCompany:

  1. Know the policy — review any agreements you may have with your former employer on what you can and can’t say (this one’s rarely applicable in the IT contracting world)
  2. Be honest — show you’re truthful and trustworthy, but also refrain from making yourself look bad (ex. “I was let go” sounds better than “I was fired”
  3. Avoid the blame game — this doesn’t look good on you, no matter how true it is
  4. Bring it back to fit — focus on the positive and how you’re still the best fit for this current position

To summarize all of this advice easily: “Stuff” happens. Suck it up, move on and stay positive.

When you let little things get into your head during an interview, everything will quickly go downhill as one little problem snowballs into a bigger one. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Remember to  plan for your interviews. Take into account what could go wrong and know ahead of time how you’ll deal with it. Good luck!

How Recruiters Know (or just think) You’re Lying

Experienced recruiters have talked to thousands of professionals throughout their careers. They get to meet great people and see hundreds of successful careers flourish, and they also see plenty of stunts by job seekers who will go to any extent to land a job. So naturally, recruiters who have been working with IT contractors for years are certain to catch the sneaky liars quite quickly. Unfortunately, it also means that they’re more skeptical of everyone. Even if you’re an ethical, honest professional, if you unintentionally raise a recruiter’s red flag, they may think you’re lying and proceed with caution, making your job search that much more difficult.

To avoid being falsely categorized as a sketchy candidate, it’s helpful to understand the basic signs recruiters use to identify unethical independent contractors. You’ll notice that it is easy to accidentally make these common mistakes and it could be the reason some recruiters are hesitant to follow-up on your recent job application.

Inconsistencies Between Your Resume and LinkedIn

Every recruiter is going to do at least some preliminary research before calling you in for an interview. This will, no doubt, include a look at your LinkedIn profile. In conjunction with reviewing your skills, projects and connections, they’re going to put your resume beside it to see if everything matches up. For many people, LinkedIn is a profile that you set-up quickly with little thought and then ignore for a while. Now consider how much effort goes into your resume, where you may provide more details, different titles, and additional experiences. While neither your online profile nor your resume is wrong, the differences cause a recruiter to ask some questions.

Inconsistencies Between Different Resumes

If you’ve submitted multiple resumes to a staffing agency over the years, you can be sure that your recruiter is reviewing your version from a few years ago as well. It’s impossible to change the past, so when they see that your education differs, time in a specific role got longer, or titles somehow changed, your credibility will start to dwindle. Especially in a tough job market, stretching the truth on your resume can be tempting. And while these little white lies do not make you unqualified or a bad person, they will hurt your chances hearing back from a recruiter.

Your Resume Looks Fake

Believe it or not recruiters receive a ton of fake, spammy resumes from people who want to get through the hiring process and make as much money as possible before they get figured out. The resumes are usually fabricated by the same people and need to be conspicuous enough to fool professionals, so they look extremely generic/templated and share many of the same traits. For example, fake resumes usually only include a simple Gmail address without any phone number or street address. The experience is also with large organizations scattered across North America, making it harder to verify. If you’ve engaged with a resume writing agency to help prepare your work or if your resume’s content naturally contains these symptoms, we recommend adding a personal touch with some explanations to avoid going directly into the burn pile.

There are Gaps in Your Resume

Perhaps you were travelling, took parental leave, required time for your health, or any other number of legitimate reasons to have a gap in your resume. To the skeptical recruiter, no matter how much they want to give you the benefit of the doubt, they wonder what you’re hiding. Did you work on a terrible project that was a disaster? Were you fired and don’t want the recruiter to know? As much as your personal reasons are none of a recruiter’s business, unless you help clarify the gaps in your resume, they’re going to make assumptions which may or may not be in your favour.

Your Story Changes

Ensure you carefully review your resume and everything you say you did, when you did it and how you did it. When a recruiter is interviewing (interrogating?) you in person, they may ask questions to catch some lies. Any inconsistencies in the story on your resume and the story you tell them will catch their attention. Even if the interviewer doesn’t see an inconsistency between your resume and your interview, it could be revealed when they call your reference. Especially when nervous, it’s easy to accidentally tell a story or explain a situation with details that aren’t accurate, which is why it’s always important to take a minute and think before answering any question.

There is nothing worse for a recruiter than an IT contractor who’s lied about their experience. Every recruiter has a dreadful story or two about that contractor who made it to onto a client’s site without half the qualifications they claimed. It does not take long for the client to recognize, the contractor is quickly fired, and the recruiter is left to pick up the pieces. It’s no wonder all recruiters are a little bit apprehensive when they see any discrepancies during the recruitment and hiring process.

Introverts Guide to Job Interviews

Introverts have it rough. There’s a mindset in the business world that often favours traits usually associated with extroverts. As a result, introverts can go into a job interview with a disadvantage before  walking through the door.

If you’re an introvert (as many IT contractors are) then you know the struggle is real. Worry no more — this infographic from CashNetUSA is here to help. Not only does it point out the overwhelming fact that the world is full of successful introverts, it also identifies unique skills where introverts excel. They combine those skills with tips to overcome common uncomfortable points in a job interview, and the result is perfect toolkit for any introvert on their way to meet with a client or recruiter.

Courtesy of: CashNetUSA

How to Use the Job Description to Nail Your Next Interview

This article was posted October 18, 2015 on TheSavvyIntern by JobScan Blog

ow to Use the Job Description to Nail Your Next Job Interview The most underutilized tool in preparing for job interviews?

The job description.

As a job seeker, you rely heavily upon the job description in the early stages of the hunt—after all, it’s the only piece of information you have to help you land an interview. But, once many job seekers have landed the interview, the job description gets tossed aside.

Too bad, because job descriptions contain a secret wealth of knowledge that can aid you in preparing for an interview!

Instead of closing that browser tab, here’s how to use that job description to nail your next interview…

Talking Points

When preparing for an interview, most people will focus on what questions they think the employer is going to ask. While this is a valid approach, it can also be a complete guessing game. Instead of focusing on what the employer might ask, focus on creating answers you can use for any number of different questions based on the things included in the job description.

A good job description will lay out all the essential skills the employer is seeking. The employer wants to understand how you developed those skills and what you’ve accomplished using them.

Prepare for your interview by brainstorming a talking point for each technical or hard skill or listed in the job description. Focus on highlighting your accomplishments, milestones, and the goals you’ve achieved using that specific skill.

For instance: If they are seeking someone with “2+ years of experience leading a team,” make notes on the key successes that a team has accomplished under your direction in the last few years.

Create Your Soft Skill Stories

Also, take the time to identify quantifiable stories that will demonstrate you possess the characteristics and soft skills the employer is seeking.

Assessing soft skills in an interview is difficult because the employer usually spends less than an hour with you. While they’ll be able to get a snapshot of your general personality and interpersonal skills during the interview, you need to paint a complete picture of what you’re like in a professional setting day-in and day-out.

Create a list of stories from your previous jobs, school, and volunteer work that correspond to soft skills in the job description. If they want someone “highly communicative and client-centric” be armed with a story of a specific time you went above and beyond your normal job duties to satisfy a client or kept them abreast of developments in a highly important campaign you headed up.

If you’re prepared with talking points about both your hard and soft skills, including specific stories and examples to back up your claims, you don’t need to stress over what the questions will be—you’ve already got your answers!

Identify Weaknesses

Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t meet all of the criteria for a position. In a job description, the employer essentially lays out their “unicorn employee.” In reality, most candidates will have mastered some skills, but lack others.

In preparing for the interview, your weaknesses should become apparent. As you developed your talking points in step one, you probably struggled to come up with stories for some of the desired qualifications. Those are your weak spots, and you need to be prepared to talk about them.

To combat your weaknesses before the interview, be honest with yourself about your skill levels. If you exaggerate your skills during the interview, and can’t perform them upon landing the job, it will reflect poorly upon you—and could even get you fired.

Then, start learning as much as you can about the areas in which you are weakest. Even if you only spend a couple hours reading up on the subject, you will at least have enough knowledge of the topic to understand what the employer is seeking. Plus, there’s always the chance you know more about the subject than you realized!

Be armed with specific plans about how and where you can learn the skills where you are weak or lack experience. And, of course, share any related skills you already possess that will speed up the learning curve.

Create Your Own Set of Interview Questions

While a job description can give you a ton of useful information on how to prepare for your interview, it does not present a complete picture. Company websites and resources such as Glassdoor can be useful tools to gather further information, but interviews provide the best access to information—directly from the source.

After you’ve read the job description, you should have a broad sense of what the position entails, what the company values, and how you stack up. Ask yourself what the job description doesn’t tell you. Those are the questions you want to ask during the interview!

Consider the following:

  • What does the job description tell you about company culture?
  • Do you get a clear sense of what the company’s ideal candidate would look like?
  • Do you understand how this role fits into their team? Their organization? The company?

Use your answers to these questions to guide you; think about what missing information you want to gather during the interview. Remember: most interviewers expect you to have questions prepared, because it demonstrates that you’ve been researching the company and are serious about the job!

The other bonus to crafting questions based on the job description is that you can verify how accurately it portrays the job and the company. If the job description says the company values a good work/life balance, and that’s a big selling point for you, don’t be afraid to ask:

“The job description mentioned this company prioritizes work/life balance. Can you tell me about how the company helps actively promote the balance? How does it impact your work here?”

The job description is only a starting point, but it can help you assess what you don’t know, as well as what you do know about the job. It’s up to you to collect the rest.

When you land an interview, keep in mind that one of the hardest parts is already over. Your resume beat their applicant track system and now you have the opportunity to meet with someone face to face. The company has already shown an interest in you, so showing up to the interview prepared and relaxed will just affirm their decision to select you