Interview Trap: The Bad Past Employer

Written by Stephen Cornwell

Bad work experiences are unavoidable, but ranting to an interviewer about them is a quick way to lose a new job opportunity.  Even if your last employer truly was horrible, stupid, or incompetent, these are all words that should never be used to describe a previous employer.

Criticizing previous employers makes you appear to be a negative person or one who cannot work with others. Discussing others' failures or weaknesses makes it appear that you are not taking any responsibility for the success or failure of the projects you are assigned. Additionally, the world can be very small, and your interviewer may know or be friends with the supervisor or coworker you are discussing.  Even if the interviewer does not know the person, they do not want to hire someone who may say similarly, negative things about them or their company in the future.

What is the best way to respond when asked about a job you left because of a bad employer? Remember, interviews are about getting to know you. Discussing how someone else was incompetent or unpleasant wastes the interviewer’s time and makes you look bad. Instead, follow these three steps:

1. Take responsibility

Problems are almost never one-sided.  No matter how incompetent or rude your past employer may have been, you also could have done some things differently.  Taking some responsibility for what happened shows the interviewer that you do not push the blame off on others and are humble enough to admit when you are wrong.  It is very possible to take responsibility without making yourself look bad.  For example, instead of saying an employer had no idea what he or she was doing, say something more like, “I failed to establish a clear set of goals at the beginning of my employment which led to us struggling to reconcile our different visions for my role.”

2. Explain what you could have done differently

Discussing what you could have done differently shows that you are able to be self-reflective. It is easy to want to discuss what everyone else should have done, but talking about ways that you could have changed will make you stand out.  For example, if you felt underappreciated you could say, “I should have scheduled a meeting early on to discuss the issue instead of letting it become a serious problem.”

3. Discuss how you will avoid similar problems in the future

This step is the most important.  Interviewers do not want to hire candidates who may have problems in the future. Outlining proactive measures you plan to take to prevent a similar situation demonstrates that you are trying to learn and grow and helps alleviate the interviewer's concerns.  For example, if the problem stemmed from your boss expecting you to do more than you were able you could say, “In the future I will make sure to discuss early on what the supervisor’s expectations for me are so that a similar problem does not occur.”

If you would like to receive one on one interview coaching please contact us.

The Counter Offer Conundrum

Written by Orla Treacy

The day has arrived for you to resign from your current role. You schedule a meeting with your boss to tell them that you have decided to jump ship and join another company. You quickly realise that your boss doesn’t want to lose you and asks what you need to stay or tells you that they’re going to make a generous counter offer. What do you do?

Here are some questions to ask yourself when the counter offer conversation arrives:

Why did you accept and sign an offer with another organisation?

Aside from seeing what’s out there, there must have been a push factor for you not only to go through the interview process but to successfully come out the other side and sign an offer. Was it the sense of new adventure? Was it the opportunity to change your career path? Was it for financial reasons? These are all very important factors to consider when deciding on a counter offer. Why look back now?

Why weren’t these extra items now on offer being offered to you before?

Many candidates’ current organisations will request details of the offer they have just accepted to match it or beat it. This is a knee-jerk reaction and a quick solution to avoid having a hole in their team. The main consideration here is to ask yourself why you didn’t have this extra cash before. If it was on the table, and the organisation is now saying that you are worth the raise, why did they wait until now to offer?

Will you be considered trustworthy if you stay?

Accepting a counter offer means that your boss and colleagues know that you completed a process, signed another offer and were ready to leave and therefore could assume that you are disloyal to the company. Thus, you could potentially be first out the door if there is an internal reorganisation or passed over for future promotions. Are the new conditions they are now offering worth that risk?

Time to stay or say goodbye?

Counter offers deserve fair consideration and can be used to address issues you were having in your role such as life/work balance or career progression. Unfortunately, in our experience, most people who accept them find themselves looking for a new job shortly afterwards, when the situation that caused them to explore the market, remains unresolved.

We encourage our candidates to speak with their Accelerate consultant as the counter offer conundrum is something we have a lot of experience with and we know it is not an easy one to resolve.

Por qué no responderle al headhunter

LinkedIn nos enseña valiosas lecciones, pero sólo si se es suficientemente atento.

Por Mariano Rebattini Capurro

Martes, 10:30 a.m. Comienza el día y, después de una intensa negociación, cerramos un contrato con un cliente: buscamos un nuevo director para una de sus áreas. Acto seguido, comenzamos un screening de potenciales candidatos, principalmente vía revisión de CVs para puestos anterior y vía LinkedIn. Esto último no es secreto: hasta Septiembre de este año, LinkedIn tenía 467 millones de perfiles* deseosos de hacerse conocer y de conectarse con otros colegas y potenciales trabajos.

Jueves, 3:45 p.m. Después de haber contactado a múltiples potenciales candidatos (vía LinkedIn), algunas pocas respuestas llegan. Mientras leo un par, me abstraigo y pienso ‘¿por qué mucha gente directamente no responderá los mensajes?’. No es una respuesta tan fácil como parece, pero tal vez nos lleve al próximo dato: de esos 467 millones de perfiles, sólo 106 millones son activos*. Esto significa que, para empezar, sólo un ¼ realmente está más o menos pendiente de lo pasa en LinkedIn.

Nuestro enfoque hace que LinkedIn sea nuestra mano derecha al momento de buscar candidatos. De las respuestas a nuestro mensaje inicial, descubrimos que muchos candidatos no tienen su perfil actualizado, siendo el primer gran obstáculo. Lección #1: mantener actualizado el perfil, nunca se sabe quién o cuándo entrará a ver nuestro perfil.

Si el potencial candidato tiene suficientes puntos en común con nuestras expectativas –y las de nuestros clientes–, lo contactamos vía mensaje interno en la red social. Atención para los desprevenidos: en las versiones de escritorio, en la esquina superior derecha de su pantalla verán algo así:

Fuente: linkedin.com

En este caso, tengo dos mensajes (que leeré en breves minutos). Lección #2: no ignorar el ícono de los mensajes. Nunca se sabe quién nos puede contactar ni cuáles serán sus razones.

Uno creería que lo anterior es completamente obvio, pero es mucho más común de lo que parece. Así que ayúdennos a los headhunters a ayudarlos y cuiden sus perfiles de LinkedIn, ya que son una muestra de quienes somos y a dónde queremos ir. Y quién sabe, tal vez los ayudemos a ir a un nuevo y fantástico puesto.

 (*) Según https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LinkedIn

El Porqué de Prepararse para una Entrevista

Por Mariano Rebattini Capurro

Si todos sabemos de su importancia, no tiene sentido dejar de hacerlo.

Cuando comienza un proceso de búsqueda laboral –ya sea de forma proactiva o en reacción a la llamada de un cazatalentos–, todos tenemos bien en claro las etapas del proceso: una primera entrevista, selección, una segunda entrevista (o más), negociación con el potencial empleador y, eventualmente, contratación.  Ahora bien, las chances de que algo salga mal en el proceso siempre existen, y la más pequeña nos pueden dejar afuera de un nuevo trabajo. ¿Cómo evitamos salirnos de la ecuación?

Recientemente, durante una búsqueda para uno de nuestros clientes (un Director de Marketing para una multinacional de tecnología) tuvimos a tres candidatos seleccionados para una entrevista con el cliente. Nuestra razón de ser implica que alguno efectivamente consiga la posición, por lo que intentamos darles todas las herramientas posibles para poder llegar a buen puerto. Dentro de esas herramientas, incluimos una llamada preparatoria para que nuestros candidatos puedan despejar dudas y confiar plenamente en sí mismos.

Uno creería que, teniendo la oportunidad de estar lo más preparado posible, cualquier candidato lo haría. La experiencia demuestra que no siempre es así. En el caso de los tres candidatos listos para entrevistarse con el cliente, sólo uno de ellos optó por charlar con nosotros para prepararse.  Y esta es la parte de donde sucede lo obvio: de los tres candidatos, sólo el que tuvo nuestro prep call fue seleccionado para continuar el proceso.

La intención, obviamente, no es hacer sentir culpable a nadie. Sólo es importante saber que siempre hay ayuda disponible para todo, y mientras más sea, mejor. Si nosotros hemos hablado con el cliente, entonces tendremos en claro la posición que desea cubrir y el tipo de perfil que necesita. Por lo tanto, si el candidato confía en nuestras recomendaciones, él puede confiar en que podemos ayudarlo a cambiar su vida. 

Ageism in Recruitment

Why is somebody's age such an important filter for so many companies?

Written by Orla Treacy

Our clients will regularly tell us that they don't want to see candidates over a certain age. I recently had a client specifically tell me that she didn't want to see any candidates over 35 because the General Manager of their company was 42 and wanted "a young team". Frankly speaking, I don't think it makes any sense to discriminate against candidates' age.

I proactively conducted a survey of 20 candidates I placed in a variety of companies between 2010 and 2013 and checked whether or not they were still in the same position or same organization. The majority were not in either. Therefore, this eliminates the "lack of runway" criterion imposed by clients. If I place a 32 year old in a role for 5 years and they add value and then move along to a new company or I place a 52 year old in a role for 5 years and they do the same thing, what's the difference? Why would an organization hire one over the other simply based upon their age? This needs to change as the policy, so frequently applied, does not benefit anybody. How many talented and very experienced candidates suffer when looking for a career move because of their age?

I would like to influence the age criterion filter, also know as ageism, in the recruitment industry and make people aware of the fact that career paths change direction so frequently nowadays that the idea of somebody joining a company for the rest of their lives is outdated.

"What is your greatest weakness?"

How to answer a question designed to make you stumble

By Nancy Wu

The weakness question is probably the most dreaded and difficult interview question. It has the tendency to make people defensive and puts a focus on the negative, which is precisely the reason that some seasoned interviewers won’t ask it. However, it comes up quite frequently and should warrant our attention.

The key is to give a response without getting defensive and to handle the question with grace and honesty. Keep your answer intelligent and don’t sugarcoat too much. You’ve probably heard advice that tells you to respond with a strength masked as a weakness, such as “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I’m a workaholic and won’t leave the office.” The weaknesses-as-strengths approach has been done before and shows a lack of self-awareness. With this question, you want to demonstrate that you can analyze yourself objectively (or as objectively as possible).

Think of the question as a way to show the interviewer where you can grow in the position once you start working there. Don’t worry about saving face in this situation: demonstrating that you have the ambition and room to grow is more valuable than trying to defend your ego. To answer, we recommend a two part approach, where you would state and explain the weakness first and then recover from it.

Admit

Admit your weakness. Be honest, but not too honest! It would be wise to not mention the following traits: “not a team player,” “lazy,” “not trustworthy,” “unreliable,” “have difficulty accepting feedback,” “tend to lie,” or “not able to take initiative.” In addition, do not answer with “I don’t have any.” Three common responses are people-pleasing, too critical, and inexperienced.

Recover

Now, you want to recover from the weakness and show that it will minimally interfere with your potential new position. For example, if your weakness is that you are too people-pleasing, you could mention your efforts to be more assertive. You could also say that you have no problem compromising and are willing to take other people’s opinions into account. If you have a problem of being inexperienced in the area, make sure your interviewer knows that you are very willing to learn on the job and your dedication will make up for inexperience.

Keep your answer honest and intelligent. It’s difficult to avoid answering in cliches, but if it is an authentic one, the message will get across. Some interviewers knowingly do not ask this question because it puts people on the defensive, but it’s good to learn how to handle it. Lastly, the delivery of the answer is sometimes more important than the answer itself. Have conviction and be sure of your answer, even if one of your weaknesses is exposed.

Answering Competency-Based Questions

Nail your interview with the STAR Technique

By Nancy Wu

Many interviewers will ask competency- or behavioral-based questions. These types of questions are easy to spot, in that they often start with “Tell me about a time when…” and “Can you give me an example of…?”. They are designed to assess candidates objectively, to see how they handle challenging situations. It can be used to examine your skill level in many different areas, including managerial, analytical, interpersonal and motivational.

We recommend using the tried-and-true STAR method to answer these types of questions. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Results. This technique forces you to be specific with your response. Here is an example of how to approach the question “Can you tell me about a time when you had to deal with a particularly difficult client?”.

Situation

Describe the situation of the challenge. Give the interviewer some background and context, including who was on the project and who the client was.

Example: I was working on the project for client X… We had been sent in to review the internal controls and procedures, and I found that there were a number of mistakes and discrepancies.

Task

The task component asks you to describe what was required of you. Describe the challenges or expectations of what needed to be done, and why.

Example: The client contact we were dealing with had put in place the procedures, and was a very demanding customer. He would not get back to us with the information needed and disputed almost every finding that we presented to him. I knew that I had to find a way of working with him or else risk losing the client.

Action

This part asks you to talk about what you actually did. Include any descriptions of how you solved a problem, figured out logistics, or motivated your team here.

Example: I met with him multiple times and explained the risks of letting the company run with the current procedures in place, and made sure that he was involved in rewriting some of the procedures. I told him that I did not want to go to the CEO with the current findings and that I needed his help to get things right.

Result

Did the situation play out well? What did you expect that didn’t happen? Were you pleasantly surprised by anything?

Example: Upon realizing that we had the same goals and would benefit from working together, he changed his whole attitude and became very helpful. We worked long hours for over two weeks and at the end of the project, the company was fully compliant. He received praise from his boss and was very pleased with my services. He also recommended me to a friend at another business. As a result, we are now working with that company as well.

By using the STAR guideline, it is more easy and natural to speak specifically. It is important to transition from each of the 4 components of the answer to make your answer more fluid. Your answer should be as seamless as possible; when used correctly, the interviewer won’t have realized that you used it. The STAR technique enables you to highlight the relevant experience in an organized and systematic manner. Prepare adequately and good luck!

Polish Your LinkedIn Profile

By Nancy Wu

Whether you are a seasoned professional looking for career advancement or a young graduate just entering the job market, LinkedIn is a useful tool and a helpful network for your professional needs. At its core, LinkedIn is just a database of professionals, but when paired with the setup of a social network, can be so much more. As with CVs, hiring managers and recruiters often take 30 seconds to scan your profile and make a decision about how to proceed in the process. Thus, it can be challenging to figure out what materials to include and what to highlight.

When building your profile, keep in mind that it is intended for business use. When other professionals look at your profile, they want to see someone who is competent and who they would want to work with. Just as a resume is necessary for a job interview, LinkedIn is the online presence for your professional needs. Your profile ensures that the work you do is recognized and helps other people get in touch with you.

You may still be skeptical about the practical uses of an online resume. Keep in mind that some employers find it strange when you don’t have one. In addition, according to Forbes, 98% of recruiters and 85% of hiring managers use LinkedIn to find candidates (1). Views to your LinkedIn page can lead to potential hires, connections, and career opportunities. Professionals use it to keep in touch as well as their networks inevitably grow larger with time.

The first thing to take care of is to make sure that all relevant parts of your profile are filled out. The Experience section is without argument the most important one, at least for most professionals. This is where you can highlight your accomplishments at your previous and current positions. Be sure to write a description of your responsibilities at each position, but keep it succinct-not more than 4 or 5 lines of text.

Build Your Profile

Make sure your profile is filled out, and include Experience, Education, Languages, and Skills. The more you have filled out, the better. Join groups, visit pages, and be as active as your time will allow you. Like most other networks and projects, the more you put in, the more you get back.

Grow Your Network

LinkedIn is primarily a service for connecting with your professional network, so the obvious next step is to connect with other users. It’s not strange to add someone you haven’t met to your network, especially if they are in the same area or industry as you, or if you have mutual connections.

Stay Active

To get the most out of LinkedIn, keep your profile current and continue adding connections. You never know if a recruiter will be interested in your profile. It’s not uncommon for recruiters to find candidates across different industries for positions they had not previously considered. The more active you are, the more engagement you’ll get.

(1) http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2014/06/26/how-to-use-linkedin-5-smart-steps-to-career-success/#71cd3a2d6292

Preparing for Phone Interviews

By Nancy Wu

Since Accelerate works with clients and candidates all over the world, from Mexico to South Africa to Belgium to the U.S., it is much more feasible to do an interview over a Skype or FaceTime call than meeting in person. With the availability and increased use of technology in business, virtual interviews make recruitment processes faster and more efficient. Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure the most successful phone interview;

Location, location, location

Find a place where it’s quiet enough to hear your interviewer so you can give them your full attention. Make sure you have good cellphone or wifi reception; Starbucks or coffee shops is not recommended and should be an absolute last resort. There’s too much background noise and the wifi is spotty at best and nonfunctional at worst. The interviewer will understand if the call gets dropped and it’s out of either of your control, but it is better to be prepared and have the interview go as smoothly as possible.

Take notes

One of the perks of phone interviews is that you can look at your own prepared notes, as well as take notes during the interview. Create a cheat sheet beforehand, and include some common interview questions—occasions in which you faced a challenge, your long-term professional goals, your best and worst qualities, etc. Look up some information about the company and jot down a few facts about them, too. Your notepad can also be useful for jotting down questions while the interviewer is talking. Save them for the end, so you don’t interrupt the flow of the conversation.

Feel (and look) the part

Just because your interviewer won’t see you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out of bed and put on clothes other than pajamas. Don’t see the phone interview as an opportunity to watch Netflix on mute in the background while talking to your interviewer. There’s no need to go black tie, but putting on a neat, professional outfit will energize you and get you in a professional mindset. Also, smile. Researchers have found that smiling can help people seem more friendly as well as relieve stress.

Be honest

And assertive. When the interviewer asks potentially uncomfortable questions that deal with salary and relocation, be completely honest and ask for what you need. Candidates are sometimes afraid to ask for too much and thus downplay their expectations, and later reject the offer because the salary was too low. It is better to be completely upfront with your expectations about the new role than to back out later. This mostly applies for salary, but can be extended to other aspects of the job. For example, if the role is too junior or if you would be dissatisfied with the everyday tasks of the role, you should let the interviewer know that it wouldn’t be a good fit.

Good luck!

Managing a Global Business

By Nancy Wu

Our world is becoming ever more connected, and geographic boundaries are starting to matter less for businesses in every industry. Here at Accelerate, we are constantly in contact with clients and candidates around the world, even though we operate from our base offices in Ireland and Argentina. This can pose some difficult challenges that are often hard to anticipate, from managing business across different time zones to understanding cultural nuances. 

Managing time zones

Scheduling globally can be a challenge. For example, normal business operating hours in Buenos Aires means that our clients in Asia are probably fast asleep. The 12-hour difference requires us to be more flexible and generous in our scheduling. Taking calls after hours is common, and for our business, it’s a necessary adjustment to be able to access our Asia-based clients and candidates. Tools like Google Calendar, the iOS world clock, and Every Time Zone (link) can be tremendously helpful.

Talking money

This is a relatively small detail that can lead to unnecessary misunderstanding and embarrassment. When working with clients in other locations, it’s important to specify what currency you want to work in. The client may automatically assume that they should pay you in their own local currency, unless you specify differently. For recruiters, it is especially important to clarify the currency when talking about salary details.

Get online

Put your business on every possible platform online. Different platforms are popular in different countries, and since the Internet is a given around the globe, it will make your business much easier to find for your customers abroad. Plus, the more reach your business has across different platforms, the more legitimate and established it will look to potential clients.

Cultural nuances

When the client is not from an English-speaking country, it’s necessary to take extra care when interpreting their messages and following through with certain procedures. For example, it’s not customary to discuss pricing upfront in some nations, but perfectly normal for others. Do some research and ask around your network for advice on the specific client you are working with. Most of the time, it’s reasonable to ask your client directly, if you need something clarified.

Use your track record

Pitching based on what you’ve already accomplished gives your business more credibility. If possible, mention past international clients that you have already worked with. We have found that emphasizing our scope across countries has been very effective in highlighting our international capability. A history of successful case studies will ensure the client that your business is competent and reputable, even if it is halfway around the world.

Transparency in Recruiting

By Nancy Wu

When a recruiting firm handles a large volume of clients and candidates, giving candidates feedback (especially bad news) can fall on the back-burner. However, we believe that honesty and transparency is a better policy than trying to cushion the blow by obscuring information.

Our goal when working with candidates is collaborative and cooperative decision-making; we want to find the best candidates for the job, but we also want to make sure that it is the best career option for the candidate. Many times, when we contact a potential candidate, we will tell them upfront that they are too senior or too junior for what we are looking for. On the other hand, some recruiting firms will send candidates even though they are the wrong level or have inadequate experience, just to show their client that they have a large bank of candidates to draw from and to make themselves look more capable. We believe that this is a waste of time and effort; the candidates will have to be rejected later, and the client will not fill their vacancy and the candidates will have potentially got their hopes up for no reason. Instead, we prefer to send a fewer number of specifically targeted candidates, ensuring that they are high-quality and suitable for our client.

When working with clients, we prioritize their needs and keep their requests in mind, even if it means putting in more work on our end. For example, a candidate we recently worked with had great skills and experience, and interviewed very well with us. She seemed high-energy, willing to take on new challenges, and very expert in her field. We decided to send her profile to our client after screening her, and set up an interview for the following week at our client’s request. However, during our preparatory phone call, it became apparent that she had not done her research on the company, wasn’t particularly motivated to work for our client and was just interested in the position for a financial gain. Though she was good on paper and originally interviewed well, she was not suitable for our client. We then contacted our client and warned them about the potential issue and but they decided to conduct the interview regardless, but to give us feedback afterward ASAP. Though there was no second interview, our client appreciated our honesty and proactivity. Our candidate, though disappointed, thanked us for the opportunity and agreed that she would have been the wrong fit for the company.

We find that running our company in a conscientious and transparent manner is the best way to keep clients and candidates happy. We want to offer true value for all parties, and we believe that can be accomplished by being completely accurate and transparent about our functions and services.

If you have any questions about how we operate, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What motivates you?

By Nancy Wu

“It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it”

Most interview questions ask for the hard facts: where you worked last, what your salary was, what your professional accomplishments are. These are undeniably important; interviewers and companies use them to determine if the candidate’s industry experience is relevant and if their qualifications are appropriate. But it’s the indeterminate, no-right-answer questions that are truly telling of a candidate’s disposition and character, of how they’ll fit with the company culture. For recruiters, the question “What motivates you?” is an absolute goldmine.

With just one question, the interviewer gains insight into your personality, ambitions, values, skills, expectations, and generally, what makes you tick. It can seem a little daunting to answer, due to its open-endedness. But just because the question is vague doesn’t mean your answer should be. In fact, it’s better to be as specific as possible in your response. If your answer is vague, you run into the trouble of seeming uninterested or unprepared.

When the recruiter asks this question, they are not asking what motivated you to apply for this job, or what your career aspirations are. They are asking about what you value, what you enjoy doing, and ultimately, if you’re a good cultural fit for their team. The way to approach this question (and similar ones) is to self-reflect and be honest. Think about what your past positions, your preferred work environment, and how you work best. What did you like about past jobs? Do you work better in a quiet, secluded environment or a loud, high energy one? Do you prefer working on a team with lots of interaction or by yourself with no distractions? A workplace with lots of hard deadlines, or one with less structure?

The more detail you give, the better. Back up your claims with examples from your past positions or general professional experience. It might benefit to also tailor your answer to the job. For example, if you are going for a competitive sales role, and you are someone who is motivated by setting goals and hitting targets, be sure to mention that. In contrast, if you are applying for a research-oriented academic position, and you are an internally-motivated individual who prefers a quiet environment where you can work alone, let your interviewer know. Doing so gives your interviewer a concrete and tangible picture of how you fit into the role.

If you would like further advice or interview coaching, please contact us and we would be glad to speak with you.

Tell me about yourself.

By Nancy Wu

 

When a candidate is preparing for an interview, they seldom remember to prepare for the most basic question of all: “Tell me about yourself”. Interviewers often ask this as a way to gauge how you approach the question, rather than for the content itself. Thinking of a response can be frustrating, since it is so vague and open-ended. But, if you prepare properly, this dreaded question can turn into an opportunity to emphasize your strengths and make yourself memorable.

This is not an invitation to tell your life story. In fact, this question ought to be rephrased as, “tell me about your professional self.” The interviewer isn’t trying to elicit an hour-long saga about the forces that shaped your childhood and adolescence; they are simply trying to get an idea of your professional goals and achievements, and how you relate to the company.

With that said, don’t recite your resume, either. You want to give a brief overview of what you do, how you got there, and why you want to move forward from your current position. Be direct and concise. Plan out 3-5 professional achievements before the interview that you would like to highlight. If possible, relate them to the position you are currently applying for. For example, recent graduates could explain how the knowledge they gained in school can be leveraged to fulfill the new role, and refer to extracurriculars in which they gained valuable leadership experience. For seasoned professionals, there is no need to go in depth. Mentioning the subject in which you got your degree and giving a general outline of your career path thus far should suffice.

After giving a brief and purposeful summary of your professional profile, always link your achievements to what the company needs. Doing so will make explicit to the interviewer what your contribution will look like. Make clear that you have reasons to join the company other than a financial increase. Talk about what you admire about the company, the work culture, and why you would be a good fit there.

Think of the question as your personal elevator pitch. You have about 60 seconds—the length of an elevator ride—to make a simple but impactful impression. Why should the interviewer (and ultimately, the company) invest in you? Reflect about your primary selling points in relation to the job opportunity, and on your interest in the position.

Good luck!

The Importance of Preparation

Written by Nancy Wu

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

We’ve had an influx of Talent Acquisition and Human Resources projects from our clients lately, with many candidates who conduct interviews regularly when hiring talent for their own companies. Through being exposed to HR talent, we’ve noticed the importance of preparation and work ethic, even among those who are expert in their field. Though HR employees undoubtedly have a great amount of expertise in conducting interviews and screening candidates, the role gets reversed when they are the ones being interviewed. The pitfall for those who work in HR is to be overconfident in their interviewing skills because they conduct them regularly and ultimately being underprepared for their own interviews.

When we decide to select a candidate and send their profile forward to our client, we prepare our candidates with a briefing session to help them with the interview process. A frustrating situation is when HR candidates, due to their expertise at interviewing others, refuse to prepare adequately and then botch their interviews with the client.

Recently, we were working on a Talent Acquisition Director search and interviewed dozens of potential candidates with plentiful HR experience. One candidate was perfect on paper, but came off as inept in the interview due to his lack of preparation. Having worked for a decade in the talent acquisition field, the candidate clearly had the skills and experience for the job. However, he stumbled when we asked him for concrete examples of how he applied them.

To us, this is clearly not a case of incompetence, but of being underprepared. The most suitable and high-caliber candidate can seem woefully underwhelming if he does not convey himself properly. This brings us to a useful point for professionals in all fields of expertise, and that is the importance of preparation; even the most expert professionals must be humble enough to prepare adequately.

At every level of achievement, a lack of humility and preparation can lead to poor decisions, false confidence, and the undermining of others. Being humble enough to prepare is vital in all aspects of life. Never underestimate the importance of preparation to achieving and maintaining success.

How to Be More Productive at Work

Written by Nancy Wu

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

-Helen Keller

Curb procrastination

Our brains are wired for instant gratification, but work often requires that we sacrifice our current, immediate wants for a better outcome in the future. Our hesitation to move forward is usually rooted in fear and risk aversion. At work, the fear that the result of your product is less than perfect often feeds procrastination. To beat it, visualize the result you want and then act on it. Expect resistance, identify it, and keep moving forward. If the task seems daunting, break it down into smaller pieces so it doesn’t seem so lofty and unachievable.

Do the hardest thing first

Use the morning to do the hardest or most dreaded thing you have to complete that day. The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and tackling the hardest things first will make the rest of your day seem a lot easier. The feeling of accomplishment will give you a boost of energy and carry you through the rest of the day.

Be proactive, not reactive

Letting incoming phone calls and emails sidetrack our attention span is a common practice in workplaces, but it is also one of the best ways to kill productivity. Put your laptop and phone on Do Not Disturb mode if you need total concentration, and then set aside a time (in the afternoon) to respond. Communication is important, but it should not dictate what your day looks like.

Work in intervals

Top performers often work in 90 minute intervals with a 10 minute break. To do your best work and hit peak productivity, researchers recommend doing concentrated work for 90 minutes and then unplugging for 10 minutes. Use the break to be active, whether it is taking a lap around the office or going on a coffee run.

Establish routines

The most successful entrepreneurs follow a strict daily routine to maximize productivity. Once you get used to the pattern that your days take on, the essentials become background noise and you have more mental energy to focus on more important things. President Obama wears the same suit everyday in order to minimize the decisions he has to make daily, leaving his decision-making energy for more pressing things, like running a country.

Track your habits

Pay attention to productivity drainers at work, like checking your email more often than necessary or scrolling through Buzzfeed during breaks. Create accountability mechanisms for yourself by setting up a consequence for being distracted. Tell your coworkers about your goals, or set up a habit-tracking app on your phone.

5 Questions to Ask in an Interview

Written by Nancy Wu

When thinking about an interview, job seekers tend to focus solely on preparing to answer questions, but asking questions in an interview is just as important as answering them. Asking the right questions will help you determine if this is actually a company you want to work for, as well as assert your own qualifications to your interviewer. It will demonstrate and emphasize genuine interest in the position, the company, and your future potential role in it.

1. What is a typical day here like at Company X?

Depending on the size and organization of the company, this question will give you an idea of its day-to-day operations. It will also ensure that, if you do get an offer, you are prepared and you know what is expected of you from the very first day. The answer will let you know how you fit into the company and give specifics about how your role will play out.

2.  Where do you see the company in 5 years?

Asking about the company’s future will give you information about its long-term goals, and you can then determine if they are in line with your own. It is also telling of the stability of the company, so you can get an idea of the security of your position.

3. Can you tell me about the team I would be working with?

You are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with, so who you interact with at work regularly is extremely important. It also speaks about the company culture, as the people who make up the company will no doubt influence it greatly.

4. What do you like most about your job?

This is similar to the last one as to what it accomplishes, but it adds a personal touch and helps make a connection with the interviewer. Ask this to get a feel of what makes the hiring manager/interviewer come in, day after day.

5. What is the next step in the process?

This question is more logistics-based but is a must-ask. It demonstrates interest and invites the interviewer to tell you if other people are in the running for the position. Asking about the next step will also give you a list of action items to move forward with the process, unless the interviewer tells you to simply wait for the response.

Best of luck!

How much do you earn?

Written by Orla Treacy

It is not the most comfortable question to ask or answer but this is why we ask for salary details in our first interviews.

We always ask for candidates’ salary package details during our first interview. We also always request the details of the maximum salary on offer from our clients before we engage on a search. The reasons we work in this manner is simply to avoid time wasting.

Compared to the majority of firms that operate at an executive level, we do not charge up-front retainer fees. Therefore, we are entirely incentivized to place candidates with our clients, rather than other firms who earn the lion’s share of their fee before any offers reach the table.

If we were to send candidates without knowing that they are within our clients’ salary budgets, we would potentially ruin entire processes and waste a lot of time. Imagine the unpleasant surprise of a candidate reaching offer stage, receiving approval from all stakeholders, and then learning that they are unobtainable due to compensation expectations. Some candidates are reluctant to share their compensation details during the first call with us but once explained it tends to make sense to them and they agree. We confirm all the details in writing following the interview so there is no room for misunderstandings. There is always some degree of flexibility from the clients’ side for the ideal person but in general, it is much better to be as transparent as possible about the issue of compensation from the beginning. 

When we submit candidates to our clients, we share their current salary package details, their salary expectations, assuming this role would be of interest to them and they were to accept a job offer, and their notice periods. This way, even before interviewing them, our clients have full visibility on what it would take to get them on board and how long it would take. It also allows our clients to see what the market value of these candidates is, it allows them to seek internal approval on offers outside the pay scales if required well in advance of the end of the process and helps us fine-tune the search based on the budget available.

Discussing compensation is not always the easiest and most comfortable topic but doing so provides benefits to all parties involved.

Sniper vs Machine Gun: Accelerate vs Contingency Firms

Written by Orla Treacy

We regularly get asked how we compare to the larger, more traditional head-hunting firms. The answer to this question is an explanation of our use of technology, use of more modern approaches, not charging fees unless we fill the vacancy, delivering candidates to our clients within one week of launching the search, among others.

Recently, I have been asked by a few clients how we compare to large contingency recruitment firms. As Accelerate is relatively new to the market, I thought it would be a good idea to explain the differences in our operating models on our blog.

I tend to avoid using the word contingency when describing our service. Contingency or non-retained firms traditionally focus on recruiting candidates at Manager level or below. They typically advertise vacancies or have large databases of candidates to harvest from when needed. Many firms of this nature can also speculatively gather candidates for their future searches or speculatively send candidates to clients and potentially place candidates in this manner.

While we don’t charge up-front retainer fees and work on a contingency basis, we offer a senior level headhunting service. Our approach is almost counter intuitive as a business model and we get regularly challenged on this by customers but when explained tends to make more commercial sense.

For example, if a client engages us on a General Manager position, we headhunt candidates from a relatively select few because our client will have specific targets for us, companies they are attracted to because of competitor analysis, they also may know specific people in the market they would like us to approach. They may want to see people from other sectors but mostly our client will want current General Managers or Commercial, Sales or Business Unit Directors from similar sized major multinational household recognised firms. When working with globally recognised or Fortune 500 organisations, they tend to exclusively recruit from similar organisations as the transition for candidates makes much more sense and is smoother than somebody coming from elsewhere. Therefore, during our briefing calls with clients we try to shrink the potential candidate pool as much as possible and then specifically target those candidates and try to attract them to the vacancy at hand.

The main difference from a client point of view between Accelerate and other contingency firms is the attention given and quality of service provided. Due to the low-volume specialised projects that are undertaken, we have the capacity to personally manage recruitment processes end-to-end. We engage on less searches, at higher levels, with higher commercial return, with fewer potential candidates that have higher visibility and with lower turnover. The person that speaks with the hiring manager and human resources is the same person that is briefing and interviewing candidates and the same person that is presenting candidates to clients, and managing the process. This personalised attention means a smoother service and cuts out a huge amount of wasted time due to lack of meeting expectations.

Naturally, based on the pyramid formation of organisations, there are less executive positions, lower turnover of people, less candidates available and fewer business possibilities. However, by not diluting our quality and focusing on providing a high-level search service, we gain repeat business, form strong partnerships with our clients and candidates and compete against a traditional headhunting industry sector that is quickly moving away from the retained model.

It has been described to me as a specialised sniper approach rather than a machine gun approach, why I shy away from the analogy it is a reasonable comparison. Instead of sending multiple candidates for multiple searches and hoping something makes a match, we carefully select both projects that we work on and candidates that we send to maximise results.

Free Advice: Train Your PA to Handle Headhunter Calls Correctly

Written by Orla Treacy

We receive mixed feedback from potential candidates about the method used to approach them in the market. Leaving voice messages with PAs is occasionally a source of debate in our office.

Imagine your assistant receives a call from a headhunting firm on your behalf, would you like the firm to disclose that they are contacting you about an opportunity to your PA or just to leave a message with their phone number? Which option would you react to? A random message from a company you have never heard of before or a message about another organisation wanting to start a conversation with you about joining them? I would always sway towards the latter as you have nothing to lose.

Depending upon how happy you are in your current situation, I would imagine the majority of people would be open to hearing more about the opportunity and receiving the message. Assuming that there is strict confidentiality between you and your PA, I don’t see the risk. The potential downside on this is that the PA talks in the office and word gets out that you are looking around for a new role or in touch with a headhunting firm. You can always look at the flip side of this and see that being contacted by a headhunter can make you look successful, desirable and an asset to your current company that other companies want.

Let’s imagine the headhunting firm discloses the fact that they are trying to reach you about an opportunity and they would like to schedule a call with you, how would you feel if your PA said, “sorry, he/she is not interested, goodbye.”? This unfortunately happens a lot. There is little a headhunting firm can do with this response as most PAs also have the role of filtering email and can delete any contact in writing from the firm too. 

I cannot recommend highly enough the idea of training your PA to handle these situations correctly. You could lose out on the opportunity to take part in exciting processes as a result of a blocker-PA. If you are new-career-curious, take the calls, have the conversations and don’t close doors before knowing what is behind them. Our team will also thank you a lot!

 

Job Search: Headhunter vs. Directly Applying

By Erin Kelly

The value of working with a recruitment agency.

A head hunter calls you with your dream job, but then later while researching online you discover that the company has also posted that job on their website for direct applicants – What do you do? Do you wait on the headhunter or do you apply directly? 

This is a question that a number of candidates face, and there are a number of advantages to being represented by a headhunter:

One of the biggest advantages of working with a headhunter is that we have spoken directly with the hiring manager and we know exactly what they are looking for. Initially we use this information to determine if you are a suitable candidate, but after that we can use this information to coach you through the process! Just think about it, we have the inside information on the hiring manager, what he/she likes, and what he/she doesn’t like – this is a HUGE advantage in comparison to a candidate who just found the job online.

In addition to coaching, our company, Accelerate, individually prepares each candidate for their initial interview along with providing additional feedback and coaching along the way. We prepare you for all types of questions you might be asked in the interview and we can also get your mind running on what the job expectations are and how you can meet these goals. We recognize that all of our candidates have successfully gone through interview processes before, but we can offer valuable tips on the position, on what interviewer will be looking for, and if it has been a while since your last interview, we can give you some honest practice before you interview with talent acquisition, human resources, or even the hiring manager!

 A headhunter can also chase for interview feedback and next steps, which can be a very delicate subject if you are in direct contact with the company. We can call them as many times as we want because that’s our job, and you don’t end up looking desperate or needy. We can also coordinate and schedule all of your interviews, which can be very helpful when dealing with interviewers based in different time zones all around the world.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a headhunter can help in negotiating your salary. Salary negotiations are very delicate, and having a disagreement at this stage can leave a bad taste for both the candidate and the client. Luckily, when you work with Accelerate, you know you are in safe hands and that we will in fact negotiate the best salary for you, while staying within the outlined parameters of the company (i.e. we won’t demand an exorbitant sum and leave you wishing you had the job). We work on a “no win, no fee basis” and what this means for you is that we want you to get the job as much as you do, because if you don’t accept an offer, we just did a lot of work for no financial return. You can count on us to have the hard conversation and negotiate the best salary possible, which leaves you shaking hands with the company on good terms and ready to begin a strong and successful partnership.

There you have it, the benefits of working with a headhunter can be extremely advantageous when you enter a recruitment process and really can make all the difference in not only receiving a job offer, but also in accepting the job offer.