Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What to Ask at an Interview!

"Do You Have Any Questions For Me?...."
What reply does the interviewer expect when he asks, "Do you have any questions for us?" I am a penultimate-year student and will be appearing for my interviews very soon. How should one tackle such questions?
Answer by Ambra Benjamin, engineering recruiter at Facebook, previously LivingSocial, Google and Expedia.
I think it's important to note both now and throughout your entire career that when you interview for a job, you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Having well thought-out questions to ask during your interview is part of the research process, and helps increase your understanding of if this company and role is a good fit for you. I can think of a few times in my career that I completed my interview with a company and thought, "This is not going to be a good fit," and completely withdrew my name.
I presume that in preparation for your interview you will do a lot of research on the industry, the position, the company, and if you're able, even the person with whom you are meeting. While some people are able to think on their feet and come up with questions during the interview itself, it's highly advisable that you come with two or three pre-prepared questions for your interviewer. This shows diligence, preparation and seriousness.
Only you know what you want out of a job, but here are a few questions I'd suggest you ask a potential employer.
  • "What does success in this role look like to you?" or, "How will success in this role be measured?"
  • "Why did you join this company, and what keeps you here?"
  • "What's your favorite and least favorite thing about working here?"
  • "What are the biggest challenges for the person who takes on this role?"
  • "What are this company's top three priorities over the next year?
Answer below by Corrie Hausman, HR specialist and recruiter.
Ask questions that show you have really thought about the job/company. These could be questions about the duties, the best parts of the job/company/culture, the funding stream, the direction in which the business is headed, etc.  
These types of questions are great because they allow you to demonstrate in an informal and natural way that you've researched the company in advance.

  • Ask questions that show that you've been attentively listening and processing what the interviewer has said.
  • Ask the interviewer how long he or she has been at the company, and what he or she likes best. This is flattering to the interviewer, and — even more importantly — you may learn things about the company culture that you'd never hear otherwise.
  • Ask what the next steps are (if you haven't already been told, of course). Ask when you will hear from the company again. Ask who will be contacting you, and if it will be by email or phone. Ask when the next round of interviews will be, and who will be conducting them. You have every right to want to know these details, and interviewers sometimes forget to tell you.
  • Finally, don't ask about information that you should already know from the job listing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Do Recruiters See at a First Glance??

First Glance at a Resume

When recruiters look through a stack of resumes for candidate screening, what is the vital information they focus upon?
(Answer by Ambra Benjamin, engineering recruiter at Facebook, previously LivingSocial, Google and Expedia.)
I think this varies from recruiter to recruiter and also depends on the role for which you're applying. For one, I don't look through stacks of resumes anymore. I hate paper. I do everything online. But I'll highlight briefly how I personally absorb a resume.
I should preface this by saying that I primarily recruit for senior-level individuals. In my past life, I was a campus recruiter and you read resumes of new grads a bit differently, since experience is less of a factor.

How I read a mid- to senior-level resume

  • Most recent role: I'm generally trying to figure out what this person's current status is, and why they might even be interested in a new role. Are they laid off? Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months? Is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I'm hiring?
  • Company recognition: Not even gonna lie. I am a company snob. It's not even that I think certain companies are better than others (although some are). It's purely a matter of how quickly can I assign a frame of reference. This is often more difficult to do when a candidate has only worked for obscure companies I've never heard of. When I can't assign company recognition, it just means I have to read the resume a little deeper, which usually isn't an issue, unless it's poorly formatted and wrought with spelling errors in which case, you've lost my interest.
  • Overall experienceIs there a career progression? Do they have increasing levels of responsibility? Do the titles make sense? Do the responsibilities listed therein match what I'm looking for?
  • Keyword search: Do they have the specific experience for the role for which I'm hiring? I Command + F the crap out of resumes. On any given day, I'm searching for things like Ruby on Rails, Mule, Business Intelligence, MBA, Consulting, POS, Cisco, Javascript, and — seriously — anything you can think of.
  • Gaps: I don't mind gaps, so long as there's a sufficient explanation. Oh you took three years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add, I bow down. You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it. It's the absence of an explanation that makes me wonder.
  • Personal web presence: This includes personal domains, Twitter handle, GitHub contributions, dribbble account or anything a candidate has chosen to list. Two out of three times, I almost always click through to a candidate's website or Twitter account. It's one of my favorite parts of recruiting. Random aside: I care less about what people say on Twitter and more about who is following you and whom you follow. There's so much insight to be gained by seeing who values your thoughts.
  • General logistics: Location, eligibility to work in the U.S.
  • Overall organization: This includes spelling, grammar, ease of use and ability to clearly present ideas.
Total time it takes me to do all of the above: Less than 30 seconds. Note: I will likely later read the resume far more in-depth, but only if I already know I like the candidate. It takes me less than a minute to fully digest a resume and flag that person for follow-up. I read a resume pretty thoroughly once I know I will be speaking to that person on the phone. But I will not thoroughly read a resume of someone who did not pass the above categories.

Things I rarely pay attention to

  • Education: In the last month alone, having viewed hundreds of resumes, I honestly don't remember looking at this section once. When I used to exclusively recruit MBAs, this was one of the first things I looked for because I was generally looking for top-tier B-schools. When I used to be a campus tech recruiter, I immediately checked for top CS schools.But outside of my old campus recruiting days, I am not often looking at the education. I think this is because at the level for which I generally hire, it's the least of what I'm looking for. Experience is king. I can think of a few exceptions when perhaps a hiring manager wanted a certain pedigree, but I find that's happening less and less. I will also add that this changes drastically by industry and company. I currently work in tech, but I've also worked in management consulting — and education is huge in consulting. I'll also add that some tech companies care more about education than others — take Google or Facebook, for example.
  • Fancy formatting: There are exceptions here. I say this with the caveat that I love a creatively formatted resume. LOVE. In fact, on Pinterest, I've started collecting beautifully presented resumes. However, it's important to keep in mind that if you're applying to a position online, whether it's a PDF or not, most companies' applicant tracking systems parse your resume for information and convert it to pure text as the most immediate viewing format.Recruiters don't often see how awesome your resume is. The original file is usually there for us, but most recruiters aren't clicking through to that. If you're going to do something fun with your resume, I recommend having a clean text resume as well, whenever possible, so it doesn't come through our system looking wonky. Also, if the formatting is important, always send in PDF. Nine times out of ten, if I genuinely like a candidate and all I have is a text resume, I'll ask them to send me the prettier version for when I present them to a hiring manager.
  • Uncomfortably personal details: There are legal reasons here. I learn to tune out certain things like marital status, family status (whether or not a person has children), reference to health or medical issues/triumphs and personal photos. Including things like this is common in CVs in other countries, but it seriously makes me uncomfortable when people include photos with their resumes. If I want to see what you look like, I'll look you up on LinkedIn.
  • Cover letters: I abhor them and rarely read them. Most of my recruiting colleagues agree, but I know there are still recruiters that do. I find that a lot of candidates don't even send them anymore. If you're going to send one, that puppy better be darn good. I'm of the mind that most companies that request cover letters only do so to weed out the people who haven't bothered to read the directions.

Things I wish more people would do

  • Bring personality into the resume: We recruiters are staring at these missives all day long. Throw a joke in there somewhere for goodness sake. Talk about how much you love Nutella (I have this in my own personal resume). If you're a rockstar, throw some cheeky self-deprecation in there (if you can do so elegantly). I think it's important to keep the work experience details as professional as possible, but trust me, there are ways to have fun with it. I love an easter egg buried in a resume, figuratively speaking.
  • Include URLs for other web presences: Enough said. And within your comfort levels, of course. I get it; I don't want professional acquaintances to see my Facebook page either.
  • List key personal projects: I ask this in almost every phone interview I do. "What kind of stuff are you working on in your free time?" I am always inspired by this. It also shows me that you have passion for your field beyond your nine-to-five (which, by the way, hardly even exist anymore).
  • Use color and lovely typography.

Things I wish people would stop doing

  • Using MS Word's resume templates: Period.
  • Writing resumes in first person: Exceptions made for people who do it cleverly.
  • Allowing their resume to be a ridiculous number of pages: Unless you are a college professor with multiple published works, you do not need an 8+ page resume. That is not impressive; that is obnoxious. Condense that bad boy s'il vous plait. Also, I do not care that you worked at Burger King in 1988. I mean, good for you, but no; not relevant.
  • Mixing up first person and third person or present tense and past tense: Pick a voice, pick a tense, and then stick with it. I suggest third person and past tense.
  • Listing an objective at the top of the resume: Dude, seriously? This isn't 1992.
  • Mailing, faxing or hand-delivering paper resumes: Immediate disqualification. Do not pass go.
  • Sending resumes addressed to the CEO end up on my desk unopened: This is a gross generalization here, and exceptions are made for smaller companies, but [generally speaking], CEOs don't read resumes — not the first pass. Also see above re: paper resumes.
  • Exaggerating titles and responsibilities: Eventually the truth comes out.
(All of the above does not apply if you're Tristan Walker or exude ridiculous amounts of awesomeness.)

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The DREADED Interview Question...

"What is Your Biggest Weakness?"
In a job interview, should you answer the the question, "What's your biggest weakness?" with a humble brag?
Honestly: No.
I hate this question because of the number of "humble brag"-type answers that I get: The overly cliched "I work too hard" or "I get too excited about projects," or similar answers. I don't ask this question. Unfortunately, other people on interviewing panels usually do.
What I appreciate in an interview is honesty. Having someone squirm to make their chosen "weakness" seem like an asset doesn't help me form an opinion of the person at all.
You know what impresses me? When someone describes a genuine weakness, and then goes on to tell me how they work to acknowledge it and work with it. I've had a candidate tell me that it was hard for him to remember to follow-up on tasks because he got very focused on what was currently in front of him. Then he went on to describe how he'd used calendaring in Outlook to manage reminders and follow-ups, and adapt his workflow to that blind spot. He owned that it was something he still struggled with, but of which he was also very aware, and actively working on improving. (We hired him.)

People have weaknesses and they make mistakes. If you can't talk about yours in an interview, then I worry you will hide mistakes and weaknesses once you're working for me. Give me something real, and let me get to know the real you. I'll let the interview run as long as it needs to — after all, if I'm going to spend 40 hours a week working with you for the next several years, it's time well spent.
Short answer: Yes, but it's not about your weaknesses. It isn't about your strengths either. It's about your self-awareness.
Long answer: Jason's answer is practical: What's more important is not your weakness but how you overcame it and how you are currently dealing with it. Ideally, the question should be: "Tell me about how you overcame one of your weaknesses"; not, "What is your biggest weakness?" This eliminates any possibility of misunderstanding between both parties at the table, and is clear and honest. This shows that the interviewer is self-aware, and has the ability to actually process an honest answer.
Sadly, that's not how usually the question is asked. 
Because of the way the question is phrased, the burden of understanding the true intention behind the question is on the candidate, but not on the interviewer. 

So, how do we use this opportunity for a win-win scenario?
If you are a candidate and you are asked to share a weakness, don't tell them any weakness that you haven't figured out how to deal with or overcome. Honesty about an open weakness in such a situation can backfire, and you will tend to think that you should never share a weakness in an interview again. Why would you put salt on your wounds? Dress them up first. If you have a weakness that you know how to deal with, emphasize your strategy and explain how you overcame it, and focus less on what the actual weakness is.
If you are a recruiter or an interviewer asking this question, understand that you must phrase it differently. Tell the candidate that you want to know the strategies they use to deal with their weaknesses, and are not interested in knowing what their weaknesses are. You can't demand to know a weakness without showing that you can process and respect honesty. If they tell you a weakness, it would be morally presumptuous of you to end the interview right there, because it indicates that you are looking for someone who doesn't have a weakness — which is unreasonable and unrealistic. [The best course of action is to] immediately move on and ask how the candidate is dealing with this weakness or plans to overcome it.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

You Will Soon Be Able to Text 911 for Help

FINALLY! You Can Soon Text Your Emergency

In a move that brings emergency services into the 21st century, you'll soon be able to text 911 for urgent assistance.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a ruling that requires all cellular service providers to make texting 911 a possibility for its customers. The requirement will not only help save lives — especially in situations where a voice call might not be possible — it will also give those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities a better way to get immediate assistance.

The rules apply to wireless carries (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) as well as "interconnected" text messaging providers that allow users to send texts to and from U.S. phone numbers. However, it doesn't apply to messaging apps that only support "communications among users of games or social media."
The FCC said text-to-911 should not replace calling 911, and serve only as a complement to the existing service.

"Today’s action will make text-to-911 more uniformly available and keeps pace with how Americans communicate," the FCC said in a statement. "More than one hundred 911 call centers serving portions of 16 states and two entire states (Vermont and Maine) are now accepting emergency texts, and there are already reports of lives saved."
The organization didn't say if location-based data will be used to trace text messages, and didn't address if the inability to ask immediate follow-up questions (which, depending on the situation, might be done more quickly on the phone) could complicate matters. 

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to BENEFIT from LinkedIn!

LinkedIn is a great platform for finding capable employees, but that's only the beginning of its value. Chances are, you are probably not using it to its fullest potential in areas like content marketing and event preparation — yet, anyway.
To find out more, I asked eight entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to share some lesser-known LinkedIn tips. Here's what they had to say:

1. Get involved in niche groups

There are specific groups available for many micro-niches on LinkedIn. Becoming active and engaged in these communities is a great way to be seen as an expert and helpful resource. This leads to opportunities for lead generation, networking, partnerships and much more. The key is to give freely in those groups and not expect anything in return. Don't be the person trying to "sell" yourself in the groups. Give value first, receive later.
— Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

2. Use it for conferences

LinkedIn is a treasure trove of information. I've found it especially useful for preparing for conferences and events. I look up who's going to be there and who's speaking. I then search for their profiles on LinkedIn, and either reach out directly or through a mutual connection. The response rate is surprisingly high. A little preparation on LinkedIn goes a long way — you'll meet the right people and they'll know about you and your business before the event kicks off.
— David Adelman, ReelGenie

3. Export your contacts

A great tool is the contact list export option. Every quarter or so, I'll export my LinkedIn contacts and share them with my valuable referral partners. I'll invite them to go through the contacts and highlight anyone who might be a great resource or potential client for them. Generally this becomes a reciprocal practice and a great way to warm up referrals.
— Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

4. Go premium

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by LinkedIn Premium and their InMail feature. Our company has seen phenomenal success by using the Premium subscription for recruiting, business development and partnership purposes. It has given us access to a much wider range of connections with the ability to reach out directly, which is invaluable when you have limited time.
— Luke Skurman,

5. Help others

LinkedIn mutual connections is an amazing tool. It shows you exactly who you are connected to, and how you may be one direct introduction away from your dream customer. However, it is easy to abuse and constantly request intros. To avoid this, when you identify a great introduction you want, go to your mutual connection and tell them that you are interested in them making that introduction. However, before they make the intro, demand that you do something that helps them first. It can be something small like a user test, or an intro you can make for them. Being clear that you have an ask upfront, but making sure your contact knows you value their time and help, will get you very far.
— Brewster Stanislaw, Inside Social

6. Start with warm leads

We all get bombarded with emails, messages and now LinkedIn mails. It's hard to stand out from the crowd unless there is a perception of a warm lead. The first thing to do before online marketing is to develop your offline network. Go out and meet people who are trailblazers and connectors in the sector you want to target and become their LinkedIn friends. That way, when you chose to approach someone on LinkedIn, they will notice you have many trusted connections in common.
— Divya Dhar, Seratis

7. Start writing

LinkedIn recently opened up their publishing platform to 25,000 members. If you are one of these members, take advantage of it and start writing. If you aren't a great writer look to services like CopyMint to help polish your work before uploading to LinkedIn. Then ask your audience for feedback to help determine what to write about next. You should also respond to comments on your LinkedIn articles to start and engage conversation within your industry.
— Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

8. Simple: Invest more of your time

If you want LinkedIn to work for you, grab leads and get you connected, you have to invest some time. Logging in and checking out the "Who's Viewed My Page" section isn't going to cut it. Even just 15 minutes a day will really bring in results. I personally use Sprout Social to post frequently, which takes no time at all. I also use their new publishing platform where I get some pretty great social numbers on my content. I can establish my credibility with the audience that really matters: people who will need my firm's services. So the bulk of that 15 minutes I actually use to comment, chat and reach out personally.
— Maren Hogan, Red Branch Media

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