Your interview begins earlier than you think!
Getting called for an interview brings a bag full of mixed emotions. Our minds tend to be overwhelmed. We go into hyper drive and begin the onerous process of preparation as we manage our excitement and deal with our fears and self-doubts.
When does the interview start?
I often ask this question before I begin a presentation to a group of jobseekers. Their answers are fairly predictable. Our dialogue goes something like this:
- When you walk in the building. (“Sorry, earlier than that.”)
- When you leave for the interview. (“Nope, earlier than that.”)
- When you start your preparation. (“Still earlier.”)
- When you get the call. (“Sorry, earlier than that, too.”)
- When you send in your cover letter and résumé. (“Actually, it’s a lot earlier than that as well.”)
- When you read the job posting? (I simply shake my head.)
At this point, my audience is looking at me quizzically as I begin to explain.
“Let’s trace what people know about us before we are called to the interview. If you understand 1) what they know, 2) when they learned about us 3) and how they found the information, then we can build a composite idea of their expectations when they meet us. Then you can begin your final preparation for the interview.”
What is their composite picture of us?
If we trace the path of information that potential employers might have about a candidate, it might go like this:
Their first introduction to a candidate might have come from a LinkedIn search, the online application, a résumé that was hand delivered or sent via email, or perhaps a conversation where you were mentioned.
Step two: On paper:
It doesn’t matter how the first contact was made. If your résumé hasn’t made it into the mix, that’s next.
One jobseeker told me that his résumé was given to the HR department by the president and he didn’t get a call for an interview…so it doesn’t matter how good your network or how much clout they have; if your résumé isn’t in good shape, and interview will not be likely.
So the résumé has to be a well-polished document. It isn’t just about information; it is an experience as well. If that “experience” includes inconsistencies in formatting, grammatical errors, questions about work history— then the experience is marred.
Step three: Online:
The online search will come next. LinkedIn will likely be the first stop. Even if a candidate was initially found through LinkedIn, a return visit is likely once the résumé is in hand. These two sets of information should clearly be in sync.
LinkedIn should be more personable than the formality found in a résumé. LinkedIn is a social venue, albeit a business environment. So your LinkedIn profile should give the reader additional insight into your professional personality and your style. Again, it should be personable.
If your LinkedIn profile simply reiterates your résumé, then the value of the tool is lost. It might not work against you, however, the opportunity to introduce added dimension of your value will be lost.
In addition to LinkedIn, other online searches may follow. Checking your digital dirt on a regular basis is an essential part of managing your career, not just your job search.
Okay, I just did a quick Internet search of my name in quotes (“Marcia LaReau”). You won’t believe this, but on page one , there was an obituary for Marcia LaReau…YIKES!!! That was Marcia Lynn LaReau who died last month in Saginaw, Michigan…not me. (I’m relieved that I didn’t miss my own funeral.)”
A few weeks ago a client checked his background record and found that an illegal possession of a firearm that was coming up in his background check. Somehow it ended up on his social security number. He had to scramble to get the right person to contact the company that was checking him out and get it cleared up…a four-day nightmare!
Check your online presence periodically if you are currently working. Check it often if you are in an active full-time job search. Consider this article on Digital Dirt and what to do about it.
Step 4: What people say:
In the last six months or so, hiring entities have been contacting references before they connect with the candidate. One of the questions may be, “Who else should we contact?” So they are now finding out what others say.
Finally, if you have made it through all the scrutiny outlined above, you may get a call. They already know a lot about you. But remember that they don’t know the whole story and your next step is to make them feel comfortable, respond to any concerns they may have, and prove you are work-ready and the right person for the job.
So when does the interview really begin?
You probably already know the answer: just like next year’s garden, your interview has already started. Everything that is available online is fair game to people who are checking you out.
About a year ago I purchased an XXL raincoat on Amazon.com for my dog. About a month later I gave the raincoat a review. Of course that comes up in an Internet search. That’s probably not a big deal for someone who is checking me out. They will know that I have a very large dog. But that’s pubic knowledge and Ernest T. Dog is on the About Us page on the Forward Motion website.
But suppose I purchased and reviewed a book on, uh, boa constrictors? Would that be a turn-off for you? Would you think about me just a little bit differently? Suppose my review read: “I purchased this book for reptile rescue expert who found the book credible and informative.” Oh…someone checking me out might not see the whole story.
The Internet has made it easy to find information about us and as the Big Data movement grows, every person should carefully consider what they are doing in this massive public forum.
Long-term interview considerations:
- All your interviewers know is what they read about you, what they can find online, and what you, and others, tell them. Carefully consider your future regarding your online persona. This includes Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Remember that the government routinely asks online data resources for information.
Here is an article where Google hands over user data when asked. That’s your data!
- Watch the Big Data movement and stay aware of how your information is being handled. Keep abreast of your background and credit checks.
- Remember that you might not have done anything wrong or suspicious in the eyes of a hiring professional, but there are other people with your name. (I did an Internet search: How many people named “Marcia LaReau”? Answer: 4. Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Connecticut.)
- Manage your digital identity as part of your career management activities. A regular Internet search (every six months) will help you keep current on changes as they occur.