Interviewing: Defending Weaknesses

All artwork/posters are wholly-owned imagery made by Getty Images.  Images numbers are on property release.,People who “win” in the interviewing process almost invariably are effective at what I would call “defending perceived weaknesses.” For any desirable position, the competition will be fierce. The margin between the candidate who gets the offer and “1st runner up” will be slim. Eliminating concerns can be as or more important than proudly highlighting strengths.

I remain surprised at how unprepared many candidates are for what seem to be obvious questions that poke and prod around their metaphorical soft underbelly. Stated differently, “how could you NOT know I was going to ask about that?” Continue reading

Networking: Know Your Community

networking“Software developers don’t schmooze. They talk about code & problems they’ve solved. Then they share their code.”

I was chatting with a friend at a church social about networking and meeting people when he popped this gem out. I thought this was a perfect summary of what I’ve referred to before as “networking with content”.

This topic comes up for me a lot, as I work with a number of new students every year. We preach that networking is critical to success in their search and discovery process (and it is). But we NEVER mean “go have a bunch of empty, value destroying meetings with important potential supporters.” Schmoozing doesn’t work in the long run.

So what does “effective” networking look like and what is relevant “content”? (Hint: it doesn’t mean you have to have vast experience or knowledge, but it does mean you have to be interested and interesting…) Continue reading

Curiosity: Your Most Valuable Interviewing Asset

Rubiks CatNote: The following post is by a friend and former colleague of mine, Jon Matejcek.  Jon is President of Dashe & Thomson, a Minneapolis-based firm that provides training and communication services for Fortune 1000 firms.  He is unusually wise…

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to interview dozens of smart and experienced job candidates.  It seems to me that college graduates and early-career job candidates  get better every year at rounding-out their limited experience with relevant internships, volunteer positions, and coursework.

One thing that never seems to change, however, and that I continually find surprising and disappointing:  most people are tremendously bad at interviewing.

It’s not because they aren’t good at selling their qualifications; it’s fairly easy – and common – to list one’s strengths and experience. And, most interviewees do a serviceable job of it. Continue reading

Career Management: “The Decision”

(Phil’s, not LeBron’s)

3AM and I can’t sleep. Restless. Can’t make up my mind. Maybe I can journal it out. Write. Keep writing. It’s becoming clearer, limited “upside” and big “downside” personally. Don’t take it, stay where you are.

That’s where I was about a month ago at 6:30am the day before I had to decide whether to accept a new role at Carlson. Fast forward to today and I’m actually working on my transition into the new role. So how did that happen?

The transition in question has me moving from my current teaching job as Director of the Consulting Enterprise into a new leadership role as an Assistant Dean for MBA Programs at the Carlson School of Management. I thought it might be interesting to apply a little scrutiny to my decision process. Since I give a lot of advice, let’s see if my own choices are consistent with what I preach. Continue reading

Career Management: Resume Readings

Friend Lars Leafblad and I had been kicking around ideas about how to collaborate digitally given our many overlapping interests when Lars suggested we look at each others’ resumes and read them as if we didn’t know each other and were looking to evaluate them for a position. I thought it was a clever idea and what follows is our exchange.

Ya’ll know me and many of you may know Lars, but in case, his profile can be found here. Big take-away is he is an executive search leader who sees a lot of experienced resumes, particularly in the public and NGO spaces.

Resumes: Lars Leafblad – Resume – January 2012  / Phil Miller Resume 

Note: I tried to figure out how to make the resumes cleverly appear in the post, but for readability sake you’ll have to click and they’ll open in a separate window.

Phil’s Impression of Lars’ Resume

As always for me, everything depends on context. I’m going to assume I’m looking at Lars’ resume as if I were another search firm looking to hire him. I’ll comment where I’d ask really different questions if I were hiring him for a different role (like leading an NGO). Continue reading

Student Job Search: Bridget Blazer’s “Off Road” Search

This is post 4 of 4 on student job searches. You can see the earlier posts here:

Student Job Searches / Amy Achiever’s Traditional Search / Steve Striver’s Traditional Search

Holy (obnoxiously) long post Phil! This has been a tortured delivery for me. Off-road searches are so much more divergent than traditional ones. That’s also why they can be more exciting if that’s where your interests lay. Let’s walk Bridget Blazer (BB) through the process of identifying an exciting opportunity somewhere well off the beaten path.

A brief reminder of my definition of “off-road”; I use the term to describe less conventional searches. Here there is less of (or no) “blazed trail”. The path is usually much less clear, there aren’t easy comparisons and few alumni mentors or career center references to call on. Think of a Traditional search as really mining everything “inside the box” of your program and an Off-road search as figuring out what’s “outside the box” that might be appealing. You have to engage in some significantly different activities than traditional position searchers. Remember the definition is relative to your situation. So liberal arts major getting a “traditional” business job could be off-road.

So off-road we go… Let’s walk Bridget Blazer through a representative search. Continue reading

Student Job Searches: Steve Striver’s Traditional Search

Continuing the series on student searches. This week we’ll talk about Steve Striver, a non-template candidate seeking a traditional position. See my prior search posts for more details: Student Search series: Student Job Searches / Amy Achiever’s Traditional Search / Steve Striver’s Traditional Search / Bridget Blazer’s Off-road Search

Profile: Steve is a “non-template” candidate with a mix of characteristics that make him “imperfect” on paper. It could an “ok” (but not stellar) GPA, a perceived “fluffy” major, unconventional work experience, being a different age than target etc. The more accumulated discontinuities and/or the worse the job market, the tougher the road. We’re not talking about an unemployable candidate. Simply someone with enough question marks in recruiters’ minds that they’d prefer a template candidate.

For sake of this case, let’s call Steve 34 with a liberal arts degree and a non-profit professional background who became enamored with either Finance or a Finance-oriented consulting tracks. His UG GPA was 3.4 as an English major, OK but not great in a field considered “soft” by recruiters in his chosen field. In his favor,  he had outstanding leadership experiences with challenging student organizations and scored a very high 750 GMAT (standardized graduate b-school admissions test) result entering school. Continue reading

Student Job Searches: Amy Achiever’s Traditional Search

Holy unplanned hiatus! Summer and family took its enjoyable toll, but I’m back and writing for Fall.

As promised, I’ve built a few composite examples of student job searchers to share some good (and bad) practices for several of the scenarios laid out in my last post. I’m assuming an “average” job market and use an MBA/b-school context. For an undergrad in each profile, simply take out years of work experience and substitute comparable internships.

I’ll start with “traditional search” template candidate Amy Achiever  this time and cover Steve Striver and “off-road” candidate profiles in future posts.

Traditional Search / Template Candidate: Amy Achiever

Profile: Amy is 28. Her 3.95 GPA at an elite university, coupled with 4 years in Finance at a well respected firm makes her a sought after candidate. She’s great with numbers and has great “presence” (a combination of personality and communication skills). She’s also financially flexible as she pursues offers because of her scholarship. Continue reading

Student Job Searches: Get Real Fast

I talk with students almost every day about their career goals and job searches. One of the main points I make is to be honest with yourself about what you really want and what you can really get. I see too many people squander opportunities because they either aren’t looking hard enough and/or they keep barking up the wrong tree for far too long.

So, build a plan and work it hard!

This will be another “get real” post. (Which is different from “don’t dream” or “don’t reach”). We’ll walk through some high level considerations, lay out a framework for thinking through a game plan in this post and then walk through a few case studies in a my next post.

The Specific Challenges for Students

Everyone looking for work and seeking a career faces similar issues, but the context in school is challenging in several specific ways (particularly in b-school). Continue reading

Finding Opportunity: Don’t Get Lost in Translation

It frustrates me how much opportunity is lost in failing to really understand what’s being said.  Failing to listen actively and/or clearly message about yourself can leave opportunities on the table. It’s largely because people focus on labels and don’t always listen carefully or probe to understand the meaning of what’s being said.

Look at the bottles to the right. Are you sure you know what’s in them? Probably wine (but maybe not). But even if it’s wine, what kind? From where? You get the idea.

This phenomenon works in two directions, both you misreading and others misunderstanding you. I’m focusing on a job/career search context to make the point, but it happens all over. Continue reading