Welcome to my blog! Here you'll find tips on topics of interest to business owners, managers and job seekers. If you would like a blog on a particular topic, contact me and I'll be happy to give you my thoughts.

Common Mistakes on Skype Calls

Video chat programs (Skype, G-chat, Google Hangout) are wonderful technological inventions that allow us to simultaneously talk and be seen during a call.

And let’s remember the emphasis on the “be seen” part right up front.Girl w cat Video chats are not your old fashioned phone call.

Remember Why Video Chats are Called Video

You need to be mindful of at least three things:

  • What you look like.
  • What you’re doing during the call.
  • What’s behind you.

Let me be specific – especially about business calls involving several people where you may be less aware that what you’re doing can be seen by everyone on the call.

This came to mind a few weeks ago when I was on a Skype call with a colleague who lives in Boston.

Because I’m in marketing, if this person had been a client I would have said something immediately about what was happening during our call. She was clearly oblivious.

This was a business call. By definition that means you want to look like you’re at work. That includes combing your hair, washing your face, putting on fairly decent clothes. As I write this you’re probably thinking: how basic can you get. Who doesn’t know that?

Most of us should know it, but apparently it’s easy to forget because I have more than one memorable video call story. This is just one – and it’s a cautionary tale.

The colleague I was speaking to last week is a professional, in business for many years, working from her home office that day. I’m pretty sure she was in her nightgown.

How do I know that? Because during the call she got up several times to retrieve papers…and I can tell you I would not be wearing her outfit to work including the baby blue terry cloth slippers.

An additional entertainment feature of this call involved her robe which she (fortunately) pulled around her to cover her nightgown every time she got up from her desk.

What was she thinking you might ask?

I thought it was pretty amusing but I’m a woman so maybe was less startled. But I can tell you this experience has affected the way I think about her professionally – and not in a good way.

It’s also interesting to note that I remember the visual peculiarities of this call more than the serious substance we discussed. That’s not good, especially if you’re trying to sell me something.

Another entertainment feature of this call included my colleague’s hair which was in an interesting formation. I’ll call it pillow perm – an apt description of most of our hair-dos when we roll out of bed.

And she looked like she just rolled out of bed.

More Skype Mistakes

Moving on, here’s another Skype-world caution: before your call, look at the camera light and then notice what’s behind you. How’s that artwork on your wall? Are people constantly walking behind you creating a distraction? Are your dogs wrestling in the background or doing something unseemly?

Another video call oddity: when you change chair positions you often lean forward toward the computer…and therefore, the camera. This movement can look like your head and face are going to crash through the viewer’s computer screen.

Additionally, the close-up distorts your features, sort of like a fun house mirror. Maybe not your best look.

Keep this in mind and stop fidgeting – or at least back up in your chair so you avoid these fast close-ups.

A final point – don’t pull down the lid of your laptop while the video call is running.

Depending on where you’re seated that little camera light at the top of your screen will land with a full frontal view of your lap. Perhaps not the feature you’d like to showcase during a business call. But it will keep people entertained.

With the sudden lap shot during my call I had to bite my lip to stop laughing. My colleague meanwhile was oblivious about what was going on.

What to Remember During Your Skype Call

So what are the take-aways from my experience besides a few laughs at this person’s expense?

We have probably all done something weird during video chats and not known it. Try to remember that little camera light, where it’s pointed, and what it’s seeing.

Dress like you’re going to work – duh, you are at work! This is a virtual business meeting.

Consequences of Video Chat Mishaps

Don’t forget this is a video chat – everyone can see you. And if you’re doing something odd, that will be the focus…watching you – not paying attention to what’s being said.

This means no scratching, nose picking, or adjusting clothes. Things get magnified in video chats. Again, think fun house mirrors.

Video chats are powerful, efficient ways to communicate but you’re on camera. Some consequences I’ve seen from inappropriate video chat behavior include: firing, being taken off the project, not getting the contract, not getting hired, or (at best) a diminished reputation.

Those consequences are not so funny.

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Upspeak – A Big Mistake in Your Job Interview

My job is to help clients do whatever they can to present themselves more effectively in this job market.Dog w gramaphone

It’s pretty competitive out there and I want my clients to be memorable in their job interviews –  but memorable in a good way.

So we talk about the importance of establishing a rapport with the interviewer. Have good eye contact, ask smart questions, smile, and be engaged in the conversation.

I’ve recently noticed, however, a weird development among some members of the younger generation (20s and 30s) that may make them memorable as a job candidate – but not in a good way.

Upspeak can be the difference between getting a job and being turned down.

Upspeak or uptalk got its start back in the ‘80s when it was known as Valley Girl talk.

I’ve also heard upspeak referred to as high rise terminal. To me that sounds like a piece of hardware, but the terms mean (I had to look it up) “towards the end of the statement (the terminal), the intonation starts high and rises.” Wow, don’t you love it!

We’re now in the midst of a resurgence of upspeakers, mainly people aged 16 to even late 30s. And it’s not just women. Men can be upspeakers.

So What’s Upspeak?

Upspeak is when your voice goes up at the end of a sentence, turning statements into questions – when you’re not asking a question at all. Here’s an example:

“Tell me about yourself”, asks the interviewer from a major urban hospital.

“Well, my degree is in biochemistry, but I’ve always wanted to be a doctor? I’ve had summer internships in hospital labs and am very interested in the job opening at your hospital?”

What is that all about, you may be asking yourself?

Now read those same sentences as sentences –  without the question marks.

This candidate’s response is pretty good: Clear. Articulate. Strong. As a hiring manager I probably want to learn more about this person.

But add the upspeak and this same candidate comes across as immature, tentative, and inexperienced. Not the qualities one looks for in a job candidate.

Why Do People Upspeak?

I think it’s a habit, likely picked up in high school or college from friends with a similar habit. But it’s a habit that needs to be broken.

When I ask upspeakers why they do it, the typical response is: 1. they don’t realize they’re doing it and 2. they think it helps them sound interested, enthusiastic – and might actually be an asset in their job interviews.

Is Upspeak an Asset?

Let me respond as quickly and as firmly as possible: NO!

Upspeak will not help you. It is not an endearing trait and in fact distracts from what you’re saying – in the same way that saying “like” multiple times in one sentence.

But that’s another subject, for another article.

As the interviewer is looking at you in disbelief, wondering why you’re saying every sentence as a qustion, she’s also asking herself: Is this the person I want on my staff?

The response I’d give at the end of the interview is: “Thanks for coming? I’m not sure your background is appropriate for this position?”

Got the picture?

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Top Tips on Behavioral Interview Questions

Let’s begin by defining what a behavioral question is because I think it’s a confusing term…and who thought up that name anyway?

IKEA cartoon

A behavioral question is used in job interviews to help employers better understand the candidate’s work experience and skills. And they’re being used more and more so it’s important to understand what they are and how to prepare for them.

Behavioral questions are always open-ended which means you can never simply respond with a yes or no. Employers want you to give examples from your work experience that will help them understand how well you’ve performed in a certain area.

Maybe that’s why the term “behavioral” is used – they want to know how you’ve behaved in certain situations. Nonetheless, I still think it’s a strange name but I can’t think of anything better.

Some Examples of Behavioral Questions

If an employer wants to get a better idea of, say, how well you work with others, she may ask behavioral questions like:

  • Give me an example that shows how you were able to develop productive relations with others, even when there were differing points of view.
  • Tell me about a time when you were able to motivate others to get the desired results.
  • Tell me about a difficult situation with a co-worker and how you handled it.

Need I say how important it is to prepare – or at least think about – what your responses to these questions will be before your interview?

Behavioral questions require you to pull up specific examples from your work history. If you’re not prepared it’s very easy for your mind to go blank. Not good to stare at the prospective employer like Bambi in the headlights. Take time to think about your work experience and identify examples you’d like to highlight during your interview.

Why Behavioral Questions are Important

From the candidate’s perspective these are very tough questions that really make you think – and they can also make you freeze. But if you’ve thought through your work experience before your interview, your responses to behavioral questions can make you shine. They can make you stand out from your competition.

From my perspective as a career consultant, behavioral questions are very powerful and can give the employer a much deeper understanding of the type of employee you will be. They are being used more and more in the interview process so it’s a good idea for you to expect them.

What are the Most Important Behavioral Questions?

That depends on the job you’re going after. If you’re looking for a customer service position you better be able to site specific examples of how well you handle customers. If strong communication skills are key to the job, be able to give work examples that show you are above average when it comes to communicating effectively.

There are also many focus areas for behavioral questions. Too many to mention here. The best thing you can do is review the job description. Get a clear understanding of the types of skills and experiences they are looking for. Think through your experience in each of those areas and then jot down a few examples that show you have those skills.

Here are a few more focus areas with related behavioral questions. Email me if you’d like my complete list.

Problem Solving

  • Tell me about a time when you had to analyze facts quickly, define key issues and either respond immediately or develop a plan that produced good results.
  • If you had to do that activity over again, how would you do it differently?

Communication

  • Give me an example of when you had to sell your idea to someone else.
  • Describe a situation where you persuaded team members to do things your way. What was the effect?
  • Tell me about a time when you were tolerant of an opinion that was different from yours.

Customer Service

  • Give ma an example of when you had to deal with an irate customer.
  • Tell me about a time when you made a lasting, positive impression on a customer.

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

Example of a Good Resume Format

resumeformat

As I said in a previous post, I don’t think there is just one good resume format.

The more important question to ask yourself: What’s the best way to display my tailored (to this particular job opening) skills so they will be noticed? Then choose that format.

Having said that, the format outlined below works well.

HoweverWordPress doesn’t like to “format”, so my outline doesn’t look like I want it to – spacing and centering are off.

Just keep in mind that you want to produce an inviting resume. Don’t use ornate type, icons or color. It’s distracting. Keep your resume simple, focused and professional looking.

Center each section if you wish. Bold section titles and make them bigger if you’d like. Maybe use a broad line between sections to highlight them. But don’t do much more than that.

Remember: less is more when it comes to a resume.

YOUR NAME 

your.email.address.com 

                              722 Dewey Avenue                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Home: 123-456-7891

                             Anywhere, NY 7629                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Cell: 987-654-3210

PROFESSIONAL STATEMENT 

3-4 line statement summarizing your most relevant (to this job) experience/skills. No need for complete sentences. This statement should be powerful, concise and targeted to job description

RELATED SKILLS

  • 14+ years in global project managment
  • Proven leadership skills and ability to work effectively within teams

 

WORK EXPERIENCE

Company/Organization Name, Your Title, date (in years, don’t include months)           2012 to Present
One line descriptor of what you do/did at this company.

  • 2-3 bullets (not sentences)
  • Quantify accomplishments when possible
  • Repeat this format for each job you’ve help (for past 10-15 years)

 

EDUCATION

University of Denver, Denver, CO 2012-2014
MSW, Rose Community Scholarship Recipient

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 2007-2011
B.A. Literature, summa cum laude

 

COMMUNITY SERVICE

  • List 3-4 volunteer/community positions
  • This section shows a little of “who you are”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

You want your resume’s format to be inviting: clearclean looking and professional.

Don’t clutter it with irrelevant information or too much information. When it comes to resumes, make the format simple and the information focused, powerful and tailored. Your resume is “you” on a piece of paper. Take the time to make it good so you can get that much closer to the goal of a personal interview…and then being hired for the job!

 

 

 

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

Do You Always Need a Cover Letter?

I usually advise my clients that cover letters are always important.

Why? Because it’s your first introduction to the employer and should be strong enough to entice the reader to open your attached resume. If your resume doesn’t get opened, what’s the point?

recruiter cover letter

Strong cover letters should be well-written, short (no more than two short paragraphs) –  and not repeat what your resume says.

Recruiters vs Hiring Managers

I’ve learned from speaking to in-house recruiters at very large companies that they seldom pay too much attention to cover letters.

This is also true when you’re submitting your resume through employment websites like Monster or Indeed.

These recruiters or screeners focus on if the subject line matches the job opening. Then they quickly forward your resume to the appropriate hiring manager.

They may however, do a screening interview with you. Recruiters don’t typically know the details of every job opening.

But they do know the basics of what the department is looking for and they screen for keywords. If you pass that test, your resume – and you – move on.

Your cover letter in these cases is less important.

Recruiters themselves have told me this. They are the clearinghouse for a huge number of resumes which might cover skilled positions they have no direct knowledge of.

Working through recruiters, computer programs and employment websites is definitely more impersonal. But it’s a fact of life and you need to play by their rules to make sure you’re focusing on the right stuff.

The right stuff, I’ve been told, is to make sure your email’s subject line clearly states the job you are applying for. Also make sure your attached resume includes the keywords they are looking for. Find out what the keywords are for your profession by Googling something like “keywords for a sales person’s resume.”

There are also lots of articles written about good keywords in general.

When dealing with recruiters or computer websites, your “cover letter” rarely needs to be more than a couple of lines repeating the job title and (in my opinion) making sure you come across as professional and courteous – and spell the person’s name correctly. That is, if you have a person’s name.

In previous articles, I’ve I’ve focused on firms and organizations where you are writing to the hiring manager.

With this person, ideally you will mention the name of a connection in the first line of your cover letter and it will overall be a  much more personal note.

With this type of cover letter, it’s very important that you take time to write a clear, concise letter that highlights the 1-2 skills you have that qualifies you as a candidate; mentions your attached resume “which includes more detail about my background”; and ends by saying how much you look forward to learning more about this position.

The primary purpose of a cover letter is to entice the reader to open your resume. The primary purpose of your resume is to get you a personal interview!

 

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I'd love to help you market yourself or your business. Please fill out the form below to contact me and I'll get back to you within one business day.

Comments or questions are welcome.

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