Category Archives: Protecting Your Brand

How to Position Your Branded Value and Expertise with the Two Most-Dreaded Interview Questions

nervous candidate in office

I should file this post under “More Nonsensical Advice from (Former) Recruiters” but I won’t. I just watched a couple YouTube videos from “career experts” that claimed two of the worst interview questions a decision maker can toss your way are these:

  • “So, tell me something about yourself…”
  • “What’s your worst work habit or greatest weakness?”

They are only the worst questions if you aren’t prepared because most candidates don’t anticipate these questions or don’t know how to respond by promoting their branded value and expertise.

Let’s begin with Question 1: “So, tell me something about yourself.” This is NOT the time to respond with “uh…what do you want to know?” or reciting your résumé…for crying out loud, the decision maker probably has your résumé on his or her desk and has looked at more than a couple times if you’ve been called in for an interview. You’ve been given a golden opportunity to promote your branded expertise and value (“branded expertise and value” is a key phrase I use a lot, so learn what it is and how to apply it). I enjoyed asking this question because I wanted to see if the candidates really got the idea behind it.

Here’s a template for your response: “I’m a <personal fact No. 1>, a <personal fact No. 2>, a <personal fact No. 3>, a darn good <position for which you are interviewing>, and I have an eye on your <No. 1 key item of importance to decision maker> and your <No. 2 key item of importance to decision maker>.  Here’s a real-life response from an Android platform programmer I interviewed back around 2009 (I hired him on the spot):

“I’m a cello playing kids’ soccer coach, a member of the PTA; I’m a darn good Android programmer who has an eye on your project schedule and project budget.”

Wow! He nailed it. I learned that he, like myself, played classical music, was involved with his kids and the community, and he knew two things that were important to ME: project schedule and budget. And he did it in one sentence that took less than 15 seconds! He didn’t recite his experience or education; he didn’t “brag” (I don’t consider self-confidence as “bragging” because he had the background to back it up), and he didn’t beg or plead for the job. He positioned his branded expertise and value in such a way that influenced the hiring decision.

Let’s look at Question No. 2:  “What’s your worst work habit or greatest weakness?” Why on earth would ANYONE give a “brutally honest” answer to this question? If a compulsive liar says that he’s a compulsive liar, how will that influence whether or not he gets a job offer? It’s almost a trick question and no interviewer worth his or her credentials would ask such a question of candidates, but they do. You can try to soften the response with something like, “My co-workers would say that I’m tenacious at problem-solving and won’t quit until I have the solution” which is a softball-type of response that (1) decision makers are wise to; and (2) it’s not really a “worst” work habit.

I once responded to this question with: “Only my wife and my pastor know what my greatest weakness is, but for my worst work habit, my references are in a better position to provide unbiased assessments.” That response didn’t hurt my chances of moving forward in the hiring process at all because it showed that I protected my branded expertise and value by not blurting out some stupid response that would have stopped my progress cold! It’s 5-star impression management!

So, that’s how you respond to those two most-dreaded questions that not only preserve your value, but better position you to influence a decision to hire you or buy from you. I teach these techniques in my “Power of Presence” seminars that reveal the steps behind engaging –> positioning –> influencing –> and converting decision makers to become your ally, advocate, champion, client, customer or whatever your end goal is.

What are your experiences with such questions? Any other good responses?

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Are you a meeting professional with an upcoming conference that needs a dynamic speaker with a program that offers high energy and high takeaway value? Give me a call at (512) 797-3035 and let’s see whether my programs would be a good fit.

Speaker, award-winning author, and positioning/influence strategist Donn LeVie Jr. has nearly 30 years experience in various leadership and management positions with such Fortune 100 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, and Intel Corp., the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA), and academia (adjunct faculty, University of Houston Downtown College, Dept. of Natural Sciences and Mathematics). He is the author of two award-winning books on professional development positioning and influence strategies and a popular conference keynote and seminar speaker. He holds certifications as a “Certified Fraud Examiner” (CFE) and in “Project Risk Management” and “Managing Projects in Large Organizations” from George Washington University. 

Request Donn’s free e-book, ACCESS GRANTED: A 10-Step Social Media Plan for Gaining Access to Decision Makers

 

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Word of Warning: Snake Oil Career Revitalizer Tonic! (Part 1)

MMAYO-Clark-Stanley-Snake-Oil

It’s no secret that the professional career advice field overflows with tips, suggestions, strategies, and methods that run the gamut from the banal to the brilliant. Part of the problem lies with the nature of the employment process and the many variables that do lie beyond the control of applicants and employers alike. The global economy, the Fed’s influence on interest rates, government regulation, health care costs, competition from foreign markets, political instability overseas, the list is a long one.

And then there are some variables where candidates do have control over their career direction. One of those controllable variables is how you choose to get help with various aspects of your career, be it cover letter, résumé, job interview skills, building brand equity, or overall career strategy. For example, if you enjoy reading, there are career strategy books written by a dating expert from The Millionaire Matchmaker TV show, by two psychologists/personality experts, by an ex-Wall Street management expert-turned-career-coach, a former fund manager and stock broker, the president of a global consulting firm, an occupational therapist, and several from prominent names in academic leadership development. The applied value of books by such authors for getting hired or charting a career I leave to be determined by the reader.

Similar situations can be found with the plethora of different coaching titles and certifications that can be had in 3 days for as little as $795 as this Google search shows.

certified coaching google

The Universal Coaching Institute offers certification in, well, just about any conceivable area you can think of. The IAP College offers a part-time online Career Coaching certificate for $97 where they promise the course can be done in as little as four weeks. How confident would you be with someone who earned an online career coaching certificate in one month helping YOU with YOUR career you’ve spent years developing? I’ve worked with some outstanding career strategists who have spent years honing their skills in corporate positions before venturing out on their own. Their experience and knowledge has been tested in the crucible of time, and as Indiana Jones once said, “It’s not the years, honey….it’s the miles.”

There are comedians, storytellers, and TV reality stars performing career coaching and résumé services that advocate making résumés more interesting or unique for hiring managers who are bored to tears reviewing typical résumés. Some of those folks have a few happy, satisfied clients.  “It’s about taking your brand to the next level,” some claim, by using narrative and other rhetorical devices. But they miss the boat when it comes to why hiring managers are uninterested and what’s needed to stimulate their interest.

In Part II of this post, I’ll explain why it’s the hiring manager and not the career coach who determines the criteria for “taking your brand to the next level.”

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






 Donn LeVie Jr. is a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and has worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). He is the author of Strategic Career Engagement(September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  He leads career strategy seminars and “Talent Spotting” programs for hiring managers at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. 

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information.

Don’t miss out on his blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie.

 

 

 

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5 Signs You Suffer from Career Entropy™

meltingiceEntropy. A long-forgotten term from our high-school physics days, no doubt. Let me refresh your memory: Entropy is a lack of order or predictability; a gradual decline into disorder in a system. Examples would include ice melting, your teenager’s bedroom, and our propensity for less physical activity as we grow older (for many of us anyway).

Your career and your professional brand can suffer from entropy as well (“Career Entropy” doesn’t seem to exist as a formal term, so I’ll claim it with a ™ ). Early in your working life you may have been actively involved with professional, social, religious, or community organizations. The excitement of working in a profession that you devoted at least 4 years of your student life to fuels your drive to achieve and excel. As your career matures, maybe you’ve let up on the gas pedal just a little; maybe you find yourself being distracted by things you would have ignored before.

Here are 5 signs that your career universe is slowing down to a crawl:

  1. You aren’t involved with professional associations to the same level as you once were. You don’t read the journals anymore; your attendance at chapter meetings has been hit or miss; you don’t go to as many conferences as you used to, you thought about submitting an article for publication, but it’s too much trouble – maybe you let your membership lapse completely.
  2.  You’ve exchanged your “consultant” attitude for an “employee” attitude. You’re starting to find yourself cutting corners on the quality of your work, unnecessarily pushing out schedules, or just skating by with a lower level of effort than before.
  3. Your level of social media activity has decreased or changed direction. You are spending less time on networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn,  and cranking out fewer blog posts, and putting more effort into social sites. (True, there’s too much of that seeping into networking sites now).
  4. You’ve been bypassed more than once for a promotion or raise. Before you start thinking “conspiracy,” look in the mirror and perform an honest assessment about your performance at work. The truth is out there.
  5. You have an itch you can’t scratch. Maybe that restlessness, that full stall you find yourself going into is a signal that you need a change of job, company, or career. Truly evaluate your current situation and future prospects; they can’t pay you enough to be miserable. Time to move on.

To paraphrase an old saying, if you ain’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards. Or maybe it was no matter where you go, there you are…

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER







Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

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Why Video Résumés are a BAD Idea

video resume

“First Impressions Video”, “Video Cover Letter”, and “Video Résumé” all sound like creative and unique ways to be remembered by hiring managers. Before you whip out your Sony handheld, have you ever heard of Aleksey Vayner? As a senior at Yale, he created a video résumé entitled, “Impossible is Nothing” for potential investment banker hiring managers, and he never dreamed of the results.

He included clips of his weightlifting expertise, some dance moves that would make Baryshnikov blush (the dance moves – or the outfits – or maybe both), and his own unique diatribe about the ingredients for attaining success in the working world. One of those hiring managers emailed the video to his friends, and from there it went to YouTube, where it instantly went viral.

The media and bloggers everywhere ran the story, thereby making Mr. Vayner’s humiliation total and complete. You might find some YouTube parodies of Mr. Vayner’s video, but the original has long since been removed. Wikipedia and Google have documented Mr. Vayner’s self-absorbed career strategy beyond the video résumé and it makes for an interesting read. A wild and crazy guy for sure.

Besides the video résumé being an ineffective medium for getting a hiring manager’s attention (do you think attractive people might receive a different level of consideration vs. less attractive candidates? Wouldn’t you want to be evaluated on your expertise instead?), Mr. Vayner mistakenly believed that a résumé was about him, and not how his skills, knowledge, and experience could be positioned as the hiring manager’s problem solver.

I think the grammatically incorrect title of the video résumé should have been a clue to its contents – or maybe a warning.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER






Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

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10 Reasons to Purge Your Professional Networks

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About once a year, I go through a purge of my professional networks. I do it more often with social media networks as “friends” drop off the radar, or some posts from friends/acquaintances are nothing but hyper-political rants (I plead guilty to the occasional rant myself), age-old video retreads, or just offensive content.

But professional networks represent (or should) a different collection of individuals who are trusted contacts where you can exchange ideas, job leads, and other opportunities. Not everyone you know or have known should get in to your networks (a policy I embrace). The quality of your network is tied directly to the quality of the professionals in it.

Here are 10 reasons to purge your professional network on a regular basis.

  1. The decision for who you select for your network (other trusted professionals) should be grounded in your overall network (LinkedIn, Twitter, others) and career strategy.
  2. Your definition of “trusted professional” may change over time as many in your network seek to help others first,  while some seem to always seek help from others first. I receive a number of requests on a daily basis from people I do not know to join my LinkedIn network. If they are members of a client organization which subscribes to my career strategy services, seminars, or consulting, I generally accept the request after reviewing their profile.
  3. Your first-degree connections usually are with people already in your offline network that you’ve known since “pre-network” days. They are the first layer of your multidimensional network.
  4. You can have too many first-degree connections, but you can’t have too many trusted first-degree connections. You aren’t trying to be the Ashton Kutcher of LinkedIn, because that’s not the purpose of professional networks. Trusted first-degree connections are those folks who can facilitate introductions and connections to others in their networks. Remove contacts who may not be able to assist here.
  5. Review your participation in network discussion groups; you want your participation in those groups to reflect your current career and professional interests. When those change, think about dropping those discussion groups that are no longer pertinent and joining others that now are.
  6. Review your endorsements and recommendations to determine if they reflect your current career position; if not, remove them. Purge (or reprioritize) any stale skills in the endorsements as well.
  7. Review any documents, photos, presentations you may have in your chosen professional network to ensure they still reflect your current career position; if not, delete or update them as necessary.
  8. Rethink keywords used in your profile that others may search on and ensure those keywords remain current and germane to your current or future career strategy.
  9. Be sure to purge dead links to blogs, YouTube videos, websites and ensure the active links provide helpful information for others. Be seen as a resource for others first, and others will gladly return the favor.
  10. When receiving requests to join your network, you have several options available: You can accept, reply to a request (to ask for more information from the requestor), ignore a request, or report the request as spam. Ask yourself: “Which response will enhance the quality of my existing network?”

For your professional network to function like a well-oiled “reciprocal opportunity machine,” it will require two important components: your finely tuned expertise (skills, knowledge, experience and accomplishments), and the quality of those unique trusted relationships in that network.

Recommended: The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success and Twitter Power 3.0

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The Rush to Reputation Ruin

Well, I’m back in the office after taking a break from things so now I can get back on track with regular posts.

It seems every week, there’s another story about someone sabotaging their career with a variety of social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Do people not stop to think about the ramifications of their rants and antics when the very people they mock become witnesses to their stupidity? Whether it’s government bureaucrats partying on the taxpayers’ dime and posting photos and music videos of their hijinks, or high-profile politicians posting lewd photos of themselves online, the complete absence of forethought for the ramifications of such moronic behavior has long-term consequences, both on and off the Internet. People get disciplined or even fired for such imbecilic behavior, but their lapses of discernment linger for far longer in cyberspace.

Has common sense taken a holiday? Has the world’s doofus population exploded? I think that such behavior is nothing new–it’s always been around–it’s just that now people have the opportunity to instantly broadcast their antics to the entire world through various social media outlets, which act like flames to so many “watch me, hear me, NOW!!” moths screaming for attention. In fact, many of these social media tools have set the conditions for repurposing the word “social” to mean any non-verbal/digital communication that doesn’t involve actual interpersonal interaction.

When creating and promoting your professional brand for the job market or a career move, navigating the social media landscape can be like walking across a minefield. You have to be select not only with which applications you choose to use, but what you choose to reveal to the world if you want to protect your professional brand. Your brand consists of three fundamental components: your specialized professional or technical expertise; your public image or persona, and your personal values. People whose professional brand is centered on strong personal values–who possess a rock-solid moral, ethical compass–rarely allow themselves to fall into compromising situations. They understand that their professional brand is more than just what they excel at doing–it’s who they excel at being that is the higher value.

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