PSA | Win Your Next Job Interview!
Updated: May 27
Public Service Announcement
As many of you already know, for the last twenty+ years, I have worked as a Human Resources Executive for companies like, Westin & Sheraton Hotels, Four Seasons Resorts and Hotels, Neiman Marcus, W Hotels & The Luxury Collection, George's Inc. and Marriott.
This life event that we are all living is truly unprecedented. Unemployment Insurance reached a shocking 6.8 million claims last week and is expected to rise.
In this blog post, in the spirit of paying-it-forward, I thought I would highlight three key elements that I look for in order to help you nail your next job interview, because now, more than ever, in these uncertain times, is when every job seeker should be very well prepared.
"The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability."- Henry Ford
In the words of this historic automobile giant, let's put his formula to work.
Make sure that your resume is easy to read and conveys to the person reading it that you possess the ability and the desire to learn and advance your knowledge. While, in a normal job market, many people get hired when they present a level of knowledge that is based on the job they are interviewing for, in this abnormal job market employers are going to want to hire that unicorn in the mix with the understanding that they are smart enough to learn the duties required to perform the job.
Be mindful that your resume and your interview responses convey your knowledge well and more so, your unending thirst for learning. The worst thing anyone wants to do in any interview is to come across as a know-it-all.
One of the most unfavorable things to hear in an interview is, "I left that job because I was at the top of my game and I learned everything I needed to learn." This tells the hiring leader, hmmm, when this applicant is done learning, they shut off.
In this new job market, if you don't convey this well, the one who is truly a life-long student, poised and ready to learn new things and head out in a new direction of opportunity and abundance is the candidate right behind you.
First and foremost, look for those optimistic moments in your past jobs and harness the best way to articulate them. Learn how to speak positively about each job that you've experienced. You would be surprised how many candidates get disqualified for taking up 15 - 20 minutes of their very valuable 45-60 minute interview by bashing their former boss, or last place of employment.
Even if that place was a true disaster, and we all know those employers are out there - don't take up YOUR 45 - 60 minutes to delve back into your horrible past. That hiring leader doesn't want to go there with you even though it was an "experience."
Once I had a candidate spend 25 minutes trying to convince me that it was a very legitimate reason to quit her last job because, in the last six weeks, she had yet to receive a paycheck from that place of employment. Trust me, it doesn't take 25 minutes to convince anyone about the legitimacy of that action. We all work to get paid. Our employers are obligated to pay us for our time.
The reason that candidate didn't get hired was because she was not actually passed the past and did not seem ready to learn, grow and achieve like three other prospective candidates in the running that presented their candidacy far, far better than she did.
Everyone can learn something from every experience. Don't go into interviews unready for those dreaded "experience questions." Those are some of the most important questions the hiring leader needs to ask.
When you list your experience on your resume, be prepared to speak to it. On the flip side, be sure you list the starting month/year and ending month/year that you held that job. Crafty interview screeners will look for employment gaps and wonder what was your "experience" during that gap period. Honesty is the best approach.
Once, I hired a person with a felony conviction. I've hired a few over the years, but let's talk about that one. The infraction was in no way related to the job, and the last time that he was incarcerated was 14 years prior. Based on those factors, and the optimistic approach to his answers to his experience as well as the gaps in employment (which he listed clearly and boldly on his resume) and his exceptional references - he got the job!
Seventeen months later, he was awarded employee of the month. Today, he's a Manager and still with that same hotel company.
The roller coaster of life experience happens to all of us. In some cases, felonies, misdemeanors, divorce, marriage, custody, relocation, child-support, having twins, being taken to court for one reason or another - you name it! If you present yourself as well as your job and life experiences in an optimistic way, with an "eager to learn" energy and a readiness to make a difference, someone will want you on their team. It happens all the time.
"Experience, both life and work, is a unique blend of teachable moments that define what we've been exposed to, what we value and what we've learned." -John-Michael Scurio
This. Is. Your. Superpower.
Exceptional hiring leaders know that hiring someone means that, they just solved (at minimum) one critical business need for their Department, their Team, and their Company. In most cases, it's often more than one critical business need that gets solved.
With that in mind, approach every interview with the innate understanding in your mind that YOU are the one that will solve their critical business needs. When creating a resume, so many applicants put down very general statements like:
Worked on projects
Improved customer service
Introduced a new approach to processes
Filed client forms
Trained other food servers
As Lead Bartender, I came up with new drinks
Many leaders have been known to pass over these resumes. When I see the above, I think it's a basic, generic, template resume. I will likely pass over it as well.
Remember, a resume serves ONE purpose and ONE purpose only - to get you an in-person interview with the hiring leader.
In order to truly stand out (especially in this unprecedented job market) TRAP them into wanting only YOU!
When creating, revising, and updating your resume, concentrate on your accomplishments, your results, include numbers (proof) and of course, speak the truth. I call this my T.R.A.P. model.
That said, please allow me to offer some examples of what I look for on a resume, and what makes me want to meet them in-person and learn more about them. Below, are the very same statements from above, and in the very same order, reworked into my T.R.A.P. model: truth, results, accomplishments and proof.
I worked on four different project teams in 2019, two teams resulted in new corporate-approved approaches to client prospecting that resulted in 142% increase year over year for our company.
In 2015, I was part of the team that steadily improved customer service that went from a satisfaction score of 67% to 95% in just six months.
In my role as VP of Business Development, I introduced a new approach to process improvement that took us from 423 customers to 816 customers in one year.
Implemented an improved filing system for client forms that the entire office adopted and improved the client response rate by 14 points.
As the receptionist at Acme, I answered, transferred and forwarded 300-500 calls per day with an error rate of less than 2% and an on-hold time of less than 2 minutes.
After four years serving food and beverage at Acme Restaurant, I was asked to start training other food servers. I trained over 45 servers in less than two years, five of which have been promoted and transferred to our sister restaurants in this area.
In 2018, at Acme Bar, I was Lead Bartender, I came up with twelve new drink specials that year that were so successful, beverage sales increased year over year by $57,000.00 in specials alone.
Candidate statements in the first section - too generic; no first interview offered.
Candidate statements in the second section - hired; job offered.
By taking this time to add more T.R.A.P. detail to your experience statements throughout your resume, you're taking valuable time to really sell your abilities up front to the hiring leaders.
The job market just got crazy-competitive, the likes of which none of us have ever seen before. Ultimately, you want to always deliver a much stronger competitive advantage right out of the gate and all through the hiring process.