Have you ever left an interview feeling like you hit it out of the park only to get that email saying, “…we’ve gone with another candidate.”  Don’t be discouraged, because not all is lost if you do an honest assessment of your candidacy.

Here are a DOZEN reasons interviews didn’t go as well as we thought:

1.  Not clearly communicating your value
Companies don’t pay people for time, but for the value they bring.  Spend some time thinking about what makes you different from everyone else and why you would be a valuable member of the team.  Be able to answer this question:  Why Should We Hire You?

2.  Not being yourself in the interview

From the awkward hand shake to the sweaty forehead – You sat down and your personality fled the room!  Personality and likability play a huge role in hiring decisions.  Relax, Compose and BE YOURSELF!

3.  Shying away from and minimizing your achievements
An Interview is one of the unique times when it is perfectly acceptable and expected to highlight your accomplishments.  You have to sell yourself!  The candidates interviewing before and after you are not going to convey what a great job you did on that big project.  That’s YOUR job!

4.  Overconfidence
No one wants to work with a know-it-all.  You can’t teach them anything.  Talk about your achievements and value with humility.

5.  Unprepared
Preparation determines interest.  Make sure you’ve done your homework on the company and can articulate why you want to work for them.  Bad answers:  I need a job, the pay, the benefits!  Good answers:  Shared vision, mission, integrity!

6.  Failure to address that ONE thing
Did you ask if there were any concerns about your candidacy?  Most don’t.  It is perfectly OKAY to inquire about any hesitancy the company may have about hiring you or if there is anything during the interview they need more clarification on.  Once you are out the door, it is too late.  Talk about it while you have their attention.

7.  Rambling
WONK, WONK, WONK!  Don’t go on and on and on and on.  When you eat up too much time on one question, it doesn’t leave time for the rest of the interview.  Keep your answers concise.  If you think you may have cut the answer short you can always ask, “Does this answer your question?”

8.  Poor follow through
Be sure to send a hand written note thanking everyone for their time and consideration.  An email gets tossed into the “Sea of Sameness” with everyone else.

9.  It was over before it started
The company had a pre-determined candidate they planned to hire before you ever walked in and there is nothing you could have said or done to change their mind.  Don’t take it personal.  Always give your best interview and make them wish they had hired you!  The Portland Trail Blazers wish they had hired Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.

10.  Not asking for the job
In order to G-E-T you have to A-S-K.  Be sure to let them know you want the position.  Ask what the next step in the process is and for the opportunity to move forward in that process.

11.  It didn’t go as well as you thought
Reality Check – When I work one-on-one with clients we VIDEO!  The playback is often painful, but extremely beneficial.  You can learn a ton and make drastic improvements by learning from watching yourself perform.

12.  It wasn’t meant for you
Just because you can get the job and would be great at it, doesn’t mean it’s meant for you.  There is something bigger and better right around the corner.  Be ready!

Marinate on these.  Make adjustments.  Go get HIRED!  Learn more at www.brooksharper.com

Brooks Harper is an Author, Speaker and Career Expert.  He has successfully led clients to rewarding careers in higher education, pharmaceuticals, bio-medical, defense contracting, fashion and host of other industries.  He has spoken on hundreds of K-12, College and Corporate campuses to more than 750,000 students and professionals. He aspires to the belief that every day is an interview and an opportunity to turn learning into earning.

What are your weaknesses?

My answer to this question has evolved over the years. It still remains quite frustrating at times, because what we hear is, “Why shouldn’t we hire you?”  It makes it seem like asking about your strengths is more like a setup question in order to ask about all of your short comings. But that is the wrong attitude to have toward this question. It is important for the company interviewing you to know the areas in which you require improvement so they can make the most out of your orientation and training period once you are hired.

My previous advice would have been to answer this question with a clever way of turning your weaknesses into a positive such as:

“I have a tendency to take on too much responsibility”. The strategy here was to send and underlying message that you are an extremely hard worker.  This approach is tired, washed out and over with. It was limiting in its impact and I doubt it ever satisfied its intent or truthfully answered the question.  If you answer this question in this manner, you will sound like everyone else and totally miss an awesome opportunity to differentiate yourself.

I now propose an entirely different approach that is bold and refreshing:  BE COMPLETELY FORTHCOMING AND TRANSPARENT. Go ahead and tell them the areas you are challenged in.  That’s right! If you aren’t detailed oriented, tell them.  If you struggle staying organized, let them know. They are going to find out eventually when you are hired and you don’t want to be the new employee with damaged credibility two weeks in to the position because you fudged an interview question. So tell them your “weaknesses”  but make sure to include this critical addition:  explain what you are doing to overcome your weaknesses. Show them you are proactive and solutions oriented, by sharing the books you’ve read, the training courses you have taken and the tools and techniques you have acquired to improve your skill in this area and overcome this deficiency.

By openly sharing your areas of challenge and the steps you have climbed to overcome them, you establish integrity and display your willingness to invest in your own personal and professional development. Companies want to know that you are interested in growing, developing and willing to do the necessary to perform at your best.

This is the most effective way to turn a weakness into a strength.

Brooks Harper is an Author, Speaker and Career Expert.  His company helps students and professionals discover, develop, market and sell their knowledge, skills and abilities that bring tangible value to the market place.  We turn Learning Into Earning!

I have a friend named Leslie who wanted to be a dentist ever since she was a kid.  After graduation from high school, she entered college and earned a Bachelor degree in biology.  Immediately upon receiving her first degree, Leslie enrolled in graduate school where she earned a Master of Science in biology.  Prior to going to medical school and taking the final step toward fulfilling her lifetime dream of becoming a dentist, she decided to job shadow a few dentists.  She felt this would not only give her a sense of what she would be doing day to day in her profession, but it would also give her an opportunity to network and possibly establish some contacts in the field.  She found a dental practice which allowed her to come in and observe procedures being performed on patients.

Leslie arrived at the dentist office ecstatic about the opportunity to be on the opposite end of the dentist chair for a change.  The first patient who came in that morning was a little old lady having all her teeth pulled for denture fitting.  When my friend saw the lady’s teeth being extracted from the gums, she began to get dizzy.  Moments later, she fell flat on her back having fainted from this horrific sight.  When she woke up, guess what she decided not to be???  You guessed it…a dentist!  After spending six years studying biology and $100,000 in tuition, room and board, books, fees, and other expenses, she decided not to become a dentist.

Now, the rest of the $tory…

Before you begin to feel sorry for Leslie, you might want to hear what happened next.  Her six years of studying biology were not all in vain.  It turned out that a pharmaceutical company was looking for a marketing representative with a background in biology.  Since fainting in the dentist office, she had been working as a sales representative in a completely different industry.  Upon learning a background in biology and some sales experience would give her an advantage over other applicants, she sent in her resume for a pharmaceutical sales representative position.  A few interviews and personal references later, she got the JOB!

On her first day on the job, the pharmaceutical company drove her to the Volvo dealership and purchased a new Volvo for her.  She uses the car to drive around visiting doctors’ offices, educating physicians on the pharmaceuticals her company manufactures.  Due to her efforts, she receives four bonuses per year averaging $40,000 each!  $40,000 is more than most people make in a year.  Leslie makes $40,000 x 4 in bonuses, and this doesn’t include her salary, the Volvo, gasoline and expense accounts.  The company also flies her and a friend to Hawaii every year to celebrate her success.

Do you ever wonder how you get a job like this?   What do you think is needed in order to land this type of career?

The first thing that comes to mind for most students is education, but is education all that is required to ensure jobs?  We have nearly 16 million students in college right now in America.  Will there be enough positions to employ these students as they graduate?  According to an article at cnn.money.com, 85% of current college graduates are moving back in with their parents after graduation, labeling them the BOOMERANG GENERATION!  You know what a boomerang does when you throw it?  It comes right back.  This is what is happening to many graduates after college.  In order to land a sweet job like Leslie, it takes more than education…

…It takes skills to compete in the 21st Century!Camden HS

The great news:   We all possess a set of skills that can be marketed to potential employers and clients.  It’s a matter of uncovering these skills, bringing them to the surface, then cultivating and developing them.  While there are a host of different skills that people possess, there are seven in particular that are extremely valuable and vital to your success.  Many people refer to them as soft skills or behavioral competencies.  Developed, they can lead to substantial career, financial and personal success.

Why Should We Hire You by Brooks HarperRecently I had the occasion to hear an owner/operator of Chick-fil-A speak about customer service and what separates them from all other fast food restaurants.  “Our people make the difference!”  Because Chick-fil-A places tremendous emphasis on making customers “feel like family,” they are extremely careful and meticulous about what they look for in potential customer service associates.  It doesn’t matter if you are 15 or 80 years of age, there are 7 characteristics you must possess in order to be considered for hire:

1.  A SMILE on your face.

A smile on your face indicates that you have a “serving spirit” and a love for helping others.  When a customer walks in the door of Chick-fil-A, it is understood that this could very well be the first time that customer has ever been into their restaurant.  They want that customer to be greeted with a warm smile that makes them feel at home.

2.  Enthusiasm

Chick-fil-A believes that having a positive attitude is a choice that all of its associates must make.  Enthusiasm is contagious and employees feed off of each other creating an exciting atmosphere to work in.  Their team’s energy creates an unforgettable experience for the customer.

3.  Eye Contact

When you look someone in the eye it shows you have a high level of attentiveness to their needs.   One of Chick-fil-A’s priorities is to make emotional connections with its customers, and eye contact is necessary to make this happen.  When you ask for the application and meet with the manager, make sure you make appropriate, tasteful eye contact.  If you can make an emotional connection with the manager, then you are one step closer to hearing, “You’re hired!”.

4.  Good Grades and Decisions

Chick-fil-A expects their employees to work hard and grades are reflection of the effort you are willing to put in when you are on the clock.  Making good choices shows you are interested in protecting your personal brand and implies you will protect Chick-fil-A’s brand as well.

5.  “Coachability”

Your ability to accept and apply the training and instruction provided will be critical to your success.  Student applicants are often asked, “What is
some of the best criticism you have received?”  Be prepared to share feedback you have received and how you implemented it to make improvements.

6.  Personal Development

“What do you do in your free time?” is a common question asked of students who apply at Chick-fil-A.  They want to know you are goal oriented and interested in developing as a person and employee.   It is important that your free time activities are closely tied to the goals you have set for yourself.

7.  Community Involvement

Your level of involvement in your neighborhood and community shows you are concerned about others and want to make a difference.   “Tell me about a time when you helped someone else?”  Your ability to effectively answer this question will display your compassion for others and indicate how you will potentially treat and serve customers.

If you possess these 7 characteristics then you are well on your way to gainful employment at Chick-fil-A or any company that prides itself in providing exemplary customer service.  Learn more about setting yourself apart.

The questions you ask during your interview can be as important as the answers you give to their questions.

Typically when interviewers are through with their questions, you will be given an opportunity to ask questions of your own.  This is a pivotal junction in the interview.  It is an opportunity for you to shine, and it allows them a chance to see how you perform when the roles are reversed.  You now are able to showcase your level of interest in the position and force them to sell you on why you should come to work for them.

Asking genuine, compelling questions, can plant a seed in interviewers’ minds that they must convince you their company should be your employer of choice.  Psychologically their role changes from interviewers to recruiters.  Being recruited is much more fun than being a job seeker.  Once this transformation takes place, it is common for your interviewers to begin telling and selling all the other decision makers on why they think you would be the best “fit” for the position.  Conducted properly, this portion of the interview can close the deal and position you as the top candidate of choice.

Here are 5 questions to consider asking in your next interview:

What do you enjoy about working here?

This gives your interviewer a chance to highlight the positive things about their company.  They may even open up a little more about themselves and discuss their personal successes with the company.  Receive what they say with equal    enthusiasm and you may want to follow up with a statement like this:  “I hope to enjoy that same type of success here!”

How soon are you planning to fill this position?

If you are interviewing with multiple companies, this will help you manage when potential offers may come.  Knowing when the position is to be filled also gives you an indication as to how far along you are in the decision process.  Sometimes the answers you get are vague, and sometimes estimated hire dates are moved based on budgets or a variety of factors.  If you detect a sense of urgency about filling the open position, this could be a good sign for you.

If I am hired, to whom would I be reporting?

It is important to know who you will be working for and whether or not you are professionally compatible with that person.  During your interview with a hiring manager, try to envision yourself working for that person and enjoying it.  Sometimes the hiring manager will be excited about you, but you aren’t getting the same warm and fuzzy feeling.  If this is the case, think long and hard before you accept the position.  It can be better to wait for the right boss to come along.

Do you have any concerns about hiring me?

You may get a textbook corporate/politically correct answer here. Hopefully if they do have some reservations about hiring you, then they are open enough to share them.  This gives you an opportunity to respond to their concerns.  Once you’re out the door and the interview is over, then it is too late to overcome their concerns.  If you don’t ask then that one thing in the back of their minds that bothered them about your candidacy can cost you the position.

If they share concerns, DO NOT BE DEFENSIVE!  Receive the feedback openly and with empathy.  Thank them for their openness and candor, then make your attempt to overcome their concern. 

Whatis the next step in the interview process?

This question lets you know if there are other steps in the process and how many other decision makers there may be.  As long as you’re in the interview you have an opportunity to convince them why you are the best candidate.  Don’t save your best stuff for the interview you give in the car on the ride home.  Once you know what their next move is:  BE SURE TO ASK TO MOVE FORWARD in the interview process!!!!  Some companies eliminate candidates if they don’t ask to participate in the next phase.

When interviewing for a position, remember that it is your responsibility to interview the company and hiring manager as well.  Done properly it will enhance your candidacy and give you the information you need to make your decision.  For more information on how to knock your next interview out of the park check out Brooks Harper’s Book, Why Should We Hire You?

Why should we hire you?

The Grand Daddy of all interview questions!  The next few words that come out of your mouth are going to determine whether or not you are negotiating salary or sending out more resumes.

Let’s assume for a moment that up to this point in the interview you have been knocking every question they throw you out of the park. You have been precise, succinct, articulate and compelling. If you blow this question then nothing else may matter. Don’t forget that you are not the only one interviewing. The competition is fierce. Assume that they have already interviewed 10 other people with similar education and experience, and they were precise, succinct, articulate and compelling as well. It all comes down to: “Why should we hire you?”

At this point, most people begin to relist their attributes that they just spent the last 30 to 60 minutes talking about like: I’m an ethical, hard-working, team oriented, do-what-it takes, individual with an entrepreneurial spirit….blah…blah…blah. They’ve heard it. They asked you, “Why should we hire you?” They didn’t ask you to summarize everything all over again. Most people remember you by what you say or do last. This is your chance to culminate everything that is great about you into one final closing statement. It would be similar to the closing arguments in a court case. All the facts have been presented. The evidence has been thoroughly examined. Now the attorney stands and delivers his final remarks to the judge and jury, whose verdict will determine the fate of their client. This is your closing argument and the content and strength of your delivery will determine whether or not they hire you or someone else.

Personally, I live for this moment. I consider myself a closer. Not everyone is. I have used multiple closing statements in interviews, the most memorable being my Michael Jordan story, to close the deal. As I have progressed in my career and interviewed for higher level positions the expectation for this moment has increased. The Michael Jordan story was extremely effective coming from a 21 year old recent college graduate, but it may seem a little elementary coming from a seasoned professional. I have developed what has proven to be one the strongest closes that I have ever heard. This may seem biased, but the fact is I have received a job offer every time that I have used it. If it works for me it may work for you, at least in some variation. You may need to adjust it a little to fit your situation.

To find out more about the Michael Jordan close and how I answer the question: “Why Should We Hire You?” check out my book with the same title at the store page of my website: Click Here

“There are three types of students: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who say ‘what happened?‘,” Brooks Harper told an audience of freshmen and sophomores at Manning High School on Thursday, Dec.15…… CLICK HERE  to read article.

The interview is going great. You can sense the company you are interviewing with is “buying-in” to what you are selling. They’re picking up what you are putting down, mopping up what you’re spilling, eating what you’re cooking, and drinking what you’re pouring. Here are 7 things you want to avoid saying that could cost you from hearing, “You’re Hired!”

1) I don’t know.
Even if you don’t know the answer to the question they’re asking, “I don’t know,” is definitely not the right response. Come up with something. Even if you simply restate the question they asked, it beats, “I don’t know.”

2) I don’t have any weaknesses.
Interviewers will ask what your areas of opportunity are for improvement. Rephrased: “What are your weaknesses? If you say you don’t have any weaknesses you may come off as arrogant. You should take areas of opportunity and “spin” them into positives such as: “I have a tendency to take on more than I should.” This covers an area of opportunity while also revealing the positive fact that you have a strong work ethic.

3) How much money do you make?
You’re thinking to yourself: someone would have to be an idiot to ask that question. You’re Right! But there are idiots in this world. It is however, a good idea to ask about the success of the person who is interviewing you. Successful people usually enjoy talking about their career victories. Once they have shared and highlighted their wins, be sure to say, “I hope to enjoy similar successes once I am part of your team!”

4) I couldn’t stand my last boss.
Though your last boss may have been an incompetent jerk, get creative in how you phrase your dislike for that person. This is a tricky thing to do. When you are in an interview, the person asking the questions often is visualizing you working in the position and what managing you will be like. A negative relationship with your last boss can trigger the impression that you are difficult to manage. In addition, your body language when discussing your former employer can be more powerful than what you say. Make sure your non-verbal communication matches your answers.

5) I wasn’t fired at my last job. I was asked to resign.
Overcoming a legitimate bad job experience can be tough. The good news: Your prior employer has to be extremely careful in explaining the details of your departure. They typically will offer your hire and start dates, positions, verification of compensation, and eligibility for rehire. Their vagueness gives you an edge in articulating and phrasing the details surrounding your departure.

6) How many vacation and sick days do I get?
If this is something you need to know before you make a decision, ask to see a copy of the statement of benefits. This is something you would want to ask for after you have been offered the job. You don’t want to give the perception that absenteeism is going to be an issue if they hire you.

7) Well, I really want to be a ___________________!
It may be the job you are interviewing for is just what you need to hold you over until you land your dream job. Talking about your dream job can reveal an excitement that you have not shown up until this point in the interview. This simultaneously reveals the lack of excitement you have for the position you are interviewing for and can cost you the offer. Emotional consistency is essential when answering interview questions.

Mark Twain said, “I do not regret the things I have done, but the things I did not do.”

I was in an industry for 10 years in which I made a comfortable living and gleaned invaluable experience, but I was miserable. Every Sunday evening around 4:00 pm I would begin to get a sick feeling in my stomach. That feeling was the angst from having to go to a job the next day that I couldn’t stand. I worked in a cut throat environment where you were only as good as the current day’s performance. I gave ten years of my career only to hear, “What have you done for me lately?” It seemed I was always one lost account or wrong decision away from losing my job. It kept me on my toes, but it was no way to live my life. My manager used to tell me, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger!” but it began to feel like a slow death. When I would go on vacation it would take about four days for me to finally turn the job off and start enjoying it. I knew something had to change.

Then someone asked me a simple question that I had never thought of. This question was the catalyst that helped me plot a new course in my career: “If you could write your own job description, what would it be?” I couldn’t answer that question. I had never really taken the time to consider what I would really enjoy. If I was given a pen and a piece of paper and told to write my own job description and that’s what I would be doing what would it be? This questioned helped me realize that I had been going about my career all wrong. I was like many people that decide what they want to do by looking at help wanted ads. Instead of writing my own job description I was settling for the job descriptions that other people had written and I am not alone. Since that day I have asked many people the same question only to get confused, blank faced responses. It rarely occurs to people that they can write their own job description.

I came to the realization that if I work 40 hours a week for 35 years, I will have spent 72800 hours at work. If I’m going to put that much of my life and energy into something, then I mind as well enjoy what I am doing. I have always wanted to labor with a sense of purpose. Sure, I am as interested in making a good living as anyone else, but I want to be passionate about what I am doing. I decided to turn my passion of helping others into my paycheck.

For some of you, it may be that you’re just sick and tired of that feeling you get at 4:00 p.m. every Sunday afternoon as the reality of another week of working at a company, doing a job that you cannot stand, answering to someone who does not appreciate you, and collecting a wage at the end of the week that barely pays the bills sets in. For others it’s not about money, you’re just ready to do something you truly enjoy and are passionate about.

Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and write your job description. Think about the things you are good at and the things you are passionate about and merge them into a rewarding career. Once you have your job description in writing it’s time to put a plan together. Find people who are successful doing what you want to do and learn from them. Put a step by step plan together to achieve your dream job. You are not as far away as you think. Don’t live another day in regret!

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