Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's what you know AND who you know!

I remember as a kid hearing the phrase "It's not what you know, it's who you know."...and thinking it was a weird statement. Now that I'm a little bit older it makes a ton of sense. Although, I think we should amend it to be "It's not what you know, it's what you know AND who you know".

Here's why - you could be the greatest recruiter, salesperson or engineer on the planet but if you don't have a solid professional network (who you know?) it won't matter you'll never show the world how great you are. At the same time, you could have the greatest network in the history of networking..but if you aren't exceptional at your job (what you know) you'll doomed to the same fate of mediocrity.

Makes sense right? So, how do you avoid one of these pitfalls and live up to those lofty goals of your childhood?

1) Master your job - Not easy right, because in theory you should be constantly pushing yourself and never become an "expert". True, but master your core job so you feel comfortable and confident with your career and skills.

2) Seek out the advice and tips of Industry leaders - You know who they are, they are the people you think - "Wow, now that's someone I respect" Between blogs, LinkedIn, podcasts, Twitter and numerous other tools it's easy to find these people. Find them, follow them, engage with them. The best part of this is you'll learn a TON about your profession while at the same time expanding your professional network.

3) Give something back - Ok, so you're an expert now and rubbing elbows with your industries best and brightest. Now what? Give back. Start blogging yourself, tweet, engage with a local group to share your experience. Think of it as some weird professional circle of life were the inexperience newbie once, now you're the help out those newbies who look to you for advice.

4) Take advantage - This is the last piece of the puzzle. You're a master at your craft (Isn't this some pasta ad or something?), you're networked with industry pros and scrappy newbies looking to make a name for themselves...all that is left is using these skills, connections and reputation to find a great gig.

What are you waiting for? Get working and expand "Who" and "What" you me, your career will thank you for it.


PS - Special shout out to Steven for inspiring this post, hope you enjoy NH/Boston
PSS - Watching "2012" while I write does this movie suck, makes me wish it was true.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ace any (non-technical) interview

Ever wonder how to ace an interview? Seriously, walk in, sit down and blast through the questions and walk out feeling like a million bucks? Well, it CAN be done and you can do it. I will say, this advice does NOT pertain to technical interviews......those are a whole different animal, more on that in a later post so for now consider this advice for most any "non-technical" role.

Here's how you do and there are only two things you need to do.

1) Answer questions with detailed, specific, and relevant answers - Simple right? You'd be surprised. If someone asks you "Tell me about a time you were proud of your work"....give the a specific example, cite the company, the project, the folks you worked with, how you did it and why you were proud. This is called "Behavioral Based Interviewing"....and it's very powerful if you know what you are doing. Most people ask these questions because they sound good. You can ace them by being prepared. Have specific examples in mind before you interview so when you get asked these questions you can quickly gather your thoughts and ace it.

I've asked these types of questions for years and although they are not perfect...good candidates can fire back specific answers that really get to the meat of the question. You can find a bunch of sample questions here - and by searching for "behavioral based interview questions" on your favorite search engine..ahem, Google.

2) Leverage your experience to fill in the gaps in your experience - What? Is that even a sentence? Let me explain. Let's say I'm interviewing for a role as a Biotech Recruiter. HR Manager asks me "Jeff, tell me about your experience recruiting computational biologists?" Well, I've never done that. Pretty sure I could, but have never done it. So here's the deal, you don't say "Well, I've never done that but I haven't done it before." BAD ANSWER!! A great answer would be this " Well, over the last 10 years I've been recruiting some of the best software engineers on the planet. I order to do this I have to spend a lot of time networking and really learning the engineering community. By doing that I've learned that in order to attract top tier technical talent you need to really explain the opportunity and why it could be a good fit for them. So while I've never hired computational biologists, I have been hiring some of the best talent in my current industry and I'm confident that my recruiting skills are transferable to the biology market"

Make sense? Let's face it, if you are in the interview your skills are at least CLOSE to a fit for the job. Your task as the candidate is to use your experience to your advantage and allay any fears the interviewer has about your background to prove you are a great fit for the role.

So there you have it, two HUGE tips this week. Detailed, specific and relevant answers and if you get asked about something you know is a weakness, use another detailed specific answer from your past to turn that weakness into a strength.

Until next time, good luck and let me know how I can help in the search!