Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Interview Questions You MUST Ask Before Accepting an Offer

A job interview should be viewed as a two sided street. As a candidate, you should be interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. I've had friends, family and colleagues all end up in the wrong job because they didn't ask the right questions before they started. Be the candidate posing original questions of the hiring manager instead of merely answering all the questions you're asked. It may seem a bit intimidating, but this out-of-the-box strategy not only benefits the candidate, who can show that he or she has done their research and knows what they're doing. It could very well impress a potential employer who will see initiative and promise. Avoid surprises and check out these interview tips so you'll not only get a job offer, you'll also know whether or not to accept.

Interview Tip #1:

Ask: Where do you see the company going in the next one/five/ten years?
First consider: Rather than simply answering the age-old question of where you see yourself in x amount of time, try asking the hiring manager the same question. Where does he/she believe the company will be years down the line? Will the firm have expanded, in terms of capital or geography? Will it have branched out into other industries? What about financial growth?

Interview Tip #2:

Ask: What impact would I have on the team/in the company if hired?
First consider: Foremost, this question shows that you are confident; you are essentially asking the hiring manager how/if he thinks you and your skills will come into play once you land the job. The answer to this question should also give you a more personalized response than a general job description and help you to better gauge the ramifications of the position.

Interview Tip #3:

Ask: What qualities does the ideal candidate for this role possess?
First consider: Another question that could get you a more personalized response and a better feel for the job requirements, this inquiry shows that you are not just looking for any job, but a job where you actually have the skills/qualities needed to perform well. You could even reply to whatever answer you are given in an email following the interview, mentioning which desired qualities you possess, which you are working towards (such as mastering new software, learning a new language, etc.), and which you are willing to improve or master.

Interview Tip #4:

Ask: How long have you been with the company? For what reasons have you stayed?
First consider: This question might surprise your interviewer because you are asking something that she must answer personally, something that cannot be answered with a “we” or “the company”. The question shows confidence, and, if answered truthfully, can give you a better idea of how the company treats its employees, as well as the values of the company.

Interview Tip #5:

Ask: What kinds of opportunities may open up down the road for someone who lands this type of position?
First consider: Showing initiative and motivation is critical to a successful interview, especially if you’re just starting out. This question would be ideal to ask if you are a candidate new to the working world and concerned/curious about how a job could benefit you in the future, whether at the same company or elsewhere.

Interview Tip #6:

Ask: How would performance be measured for this job?
First consider: Alternatively, What goals would someone in this position be expected to meet? or What checkpoints should I be expected to pass within the first 90 days or so of employment? This can further help you determine whether the role is really suited to you based on whether you can keep up with the demands of the work environment.

Interview Tip #7:

Ask: Is this position a new position or a replacement job?
First consider: If the answer to this question is affirmative to the latter, ask why the previous employee is no longer working the role. Knowing whether someone you are stepping in for was fired or quit, and for what reason(s), is useful information.

Interview Tip #8:

Ask: May I speak with a member(s) of the team I will be working on?
First consider: This question goes along with interview tip seven. If you find yourself to be under consideration for a replacement job, there is really no way of knowing whether you are truly getting the facts from the person interviewing you because he/she has the company’s best interest in mind. Potential co-workers would probably be more likely to give you the truth about the working environment (i.e. how workers are treated, work relationships, and reasonableness of tasks and deadlines).

Interview Tip #9:

Ask: What do you see as the biggest obstacle to company growth?
First consider: If a hiring manager seems to have trouble giving an answer, or responds by replying that there are no obstacles, take it as a bad omen. No company is perfect, and you do not want to end up working somewhere where things are not the same as the way they are portrayed.

Interview Tip #10:

Ask: What is your company’s image in the industry?
First consider: How other brands in the industry view a company is a major reflection on the company’s reputation. Do your research beforehand and see if your interviewer’s answers match up with what you find.

Why It's Okay to Do Laundry When You Work at Home

Why It's Okay to Do Laundry When You Work at Home


When you tell people you work at home, it's usually one of two reactions: "Oh, I'd love to be able to work in my PJs. It'd be so much less distracting." Or: "I could never. I'd watch TV and do laundry all day." The past 8 years, on and off, my home office has been my primary one, my cell phone the tether to coworkers near and far, and the video conference my main meeting room.
There are a lot of cliches and stereotypes about this new world of work. My favorite is that no one's working and that productivity goes down with a workforce at home. From the trenches of my small corner of the world, here are some truths about laundry, PJs, repair men, barking dogs, and what people really think you're doing when you're cozied into your remote office.
Remote Work Isn't For Everyone
As big a fan as I am of working at home, it's not for everyone. I know the same people you do who obviously are going to park themselves in front of a reality show and just respond to email via phone to look busy. Or the folks who are prone to long lunches that never really deliver any solid outcomes. Likewise, solid performers at work aren't always going to convert to productive remote employees. Ask yourself: Do you have initiative and drive that's coming from a place of motivation and passion about what you do? I'm much more sold on the remote situation for folks who motivate themselves because they're engaged in what they do, not because they need a boss to prod them or a team to collaborate or compete with.
I usually suggest doing a trial of 2-3 days, if not a week, to see how this fits for you before you decide it's a perfect fit. Ask yourself the hard questions about how much work you're putting out compared to the same time period in the office. We all know when we've had an insanely productive day. Those have to be the norm when you're at home for it to work out.
You're Narrowing the Lens You're Seen Through
When you're in an office, folks get to see you in meetings, at the lunch table, out for coffee, giving that presentation, going for a beer after hours, stepping up in meetings, delivering the file on time, one on one. You're this dynamic, multi-faceted coworker. But when you're at home, folks experience a much narrower range of your amazingness. There's a limit to the diversity of that interaction, which means that you put yourself under a microscope.
So don't become a narrow version of yourself. Send out an impromptu IM conversation to connect just because. Ring a colleague who you'd like to connect with and have a "lunch date" from your respective patio tables. Talk about your outside of work enough to be yourself. And make a point to send emails to your team and reach out to solicit feedback and give your opinions. Just because you're out of sight doesn't mean you should be out of mind.
If You Work Less, You Also Have to Work More
Here's the laundry paradox, friends. I have no problem if you throw a load of jeans in before your 10 a.m. meeting and then move them to the dryer before lunch and fold them before you go pick up your son from daycare. That is if you have no problem taking the 6 a.m. call with the Paris office or coming home from dinner to check email one more time before bed and responding to any urgent requests. The trouble with laundry is when it's just laundry, and not a two-way street where sometimes you work in the middle of your personal life and sometimes you do personal things in the middle of your work life. Your business deserves all the time it's paying you for.
Balance is key. Take an hour off for the dentist or to oversee your stove repair, and put an extra hour in the next morning or that night, assuming your boss is cool with this arrangement also. Too often, I hear about this balance tipping in favor of a little more time for you and a little less time for your employer. This gives all of us a bad rep for being slackers. And to paraphrase advice my dad used during his 35 years running a small business: Slacking off on the job is stealing from the company.
Make an Actual Office at Home
I did a 3' x 3' desk in the corner of my small house's bedroom for 2 years, and it was an eyesore and an earful with fans revving or the occasional email beep if I forgot to hit Mute. It also made it easy to get up and dive straight into work rather than keeping a schedule that attended to other important things, like exercise or a breakfast, before I jumped into work for the day.
Whenever possible, set up dedicated space--not community or well-trafficked space, not a corner coffee shop table, but quiet, professional space where you can have the same meeting you'd have if you were in the office. I'm a stickler on this: We don't want to hear your animals or your kids or lawnmowers or low coffeehouse jazz whenever we talk to you. And it's not because we don't love your animals, your kids, your tidy lawn. It's because folks in the office go to the effort to set a professional environment for phone and video calls, and like it or not, you need to do the same. Clients and coworkers deserve it. And it's never fun to be the one person who creates all the distractions and spends the call apologizing for it rather than focusing on the actual work of the call.
If this sounds harsh, I'll add that this is better for you too--a room with a door on it lets you turn work on and off at appropriate times in your day, which helps you stay sane, rather than stopping in to check email every time you walk by the dining table.
Embrace What's Different
In the comfort of your own home, you've got the opportunity to work as distraction free as your calendar allows. No one stops by your desk to chat about that report that's due in a week. The gossip mill is one you can check out of unless you make an effort to keep those ties. You also don't happen to see Greg in the hallway and have the impromptu conversation that leads to an important process change between your teams. Or to have face time in front of the leaders you're pitching your next project too.
So set some new expectations and determine what your success looks like. Before, it might have been that you and the VP of Marketing got were synched because you were down the hall from each other and got to have side conversations about everything before it happened. Now it might be that you have the chance to do some Skunkworks projects with a few other remote people who can deliver back a new innovation because you're seeing things differently from the outside.
Every quarter or so, I find it helpful to stop and take stock of what's changed in your work life. Where are you politically in your organization? What new relationships have you built, and are there old ones you've let go of? How connected are you to your team? How are you thought of in your team? It's easy to get locked into a feedback void at home because you're not around other folks who depend on you. So make the effort to ask: How am I doing?
A year and a half ago, a conversation on that very topic led me to move closer to my work again, not because I wasn't effective remotely, but so I could be half in the office and half out. My key partner in building products and I discovered that we wanted more face time and closer collaboration, and it wasn't going to happen with me 3-4 hours away.
And in that move, I also discovered the last and perhaps most important part of working from home.
You Have to Do What You Love
Because no one is there to check that you're not on Facebook every day or that you're actually logging those hours. Sure, goofing off will catch up with you eventually. But you're miles ahead if you believe in what you go to your desk to do every day. The people you do the work with are often the most rewarding part of the journey, so take some time to give those relationships room to grow and breathe and flourish regardless of where you're located. Find new reasons to fall in love with your company all over again. Even (and especially) if you get to do the work within a hundred-foot commute

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are you going around in circles in your job search?

Many jobseekers feel this way. You’ve prepared your resume, seen jobs of interest, fired off an application and wait with bated breath for the response, only to fail.
In many of these cases jobseekers are making the same mistakes over and over with each application. After missing out repeatedly, it’s time to stand back and analyse your approach, the materials you are using and what you are aiming for, BUT from the perspective of the employer, not yourself. This will help enormously to stop making the same mistakes and to start moving forward.
It can never be said frequently enough – if you are applying for jobs where you meet all the essential criteria and you are continually missing out on gaining an interview, then the answer to your problem will undoubtedly lie in your resume.
Similarly, if you make it to interview and consistently miss out on job offers, then the answer could be in your interview technique.
Albert Einstein said it well when he stated that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Don’t get caught in the cycle of sending the same resume that you haven’t had any success with – fix it.
Don’t continue to miss out on offers after interviews – find out what you can improve.
There is no such thing as the perfect job search or the perfect job seeker. Sure, some execute a job search better than others but they weren’t born with this skill – they researched, learnt how to do things, refined their techniques and amended their approach until they hit on the right formula for them. You can do the same.
So if you are in a job search and the scenarios above resonate with you, then I challenge you to take a step back and cast a critical eye on your materials and techniques.
What can you do to improve,
to reignite your search,
to start making headway?
© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant