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Understanding Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills #careers

July 2nd, 2020

When I’ve hired, or evaluated candidates, in the past, I consider hard skills and soft skills. There’s lots of talk about soft skills and how important they are. At a point they supposedly become more important than hard skills. I want to share some important thoughts to help you put the two into perspective.

I recognize that some people don’t like the phrases “hard skills” and “soft skills.” I’ll let them debate that… for the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter what we call them… just imagine whatever favorite phrases you want :p

HARD SKILLS

Hard skills are the skills you need to do the job. If you are a widget maker and need to run machinery, can you run the machinery? Have you had training? Do you have certificates or licenses?

If you need to pull levers, how many times have you pulled levers? How many levers have you pulled in your life? Have the levers been different colors, or different sizes?

If you program, which languages do you know, and how proficient are you at those languages?

If you write (ie, a marketer), how much have you written? Do you write blog posts, or ebooks, or copy for websites, or manuals?

If you train people, what methodologies do you use? What size is your idea group, etc.

Hard skills can usually be trained in a classroom and on the job. You likely can learn hard skills for the rest of your career. I had some plumbing work done recently and the licensed journeyman plumber was stuck… he called in his mentor, a master plumber. They were both licensed but the master plumber had 30 years on the job and had seen a lot more than the younger journeyman. I appreciated that the journeyman plumber was wise enough to recognize he had reached his limits and wanted to consult with someone more expert.

JibberJobber Hard Skills

Hard skills can be hard to define. Usually we say things like intermediate or expert to describe our hard skills, but those descriptors can be meaningless. I know a programmer who said he was intermediate at a certain language but I would have said he was expert. There is too much subjectivity from the person self-assessing and too much interpretation from the person on the receiving end.

Tangent: This is why Pluralsight Skills IQ is so awesome for techies. Instead of arbitrarilly guessing your proficiency you can essentially rank yourself against thousands of peers and come up with a number that tells you what percentile you fall in. It’s way less subjective. If you can find something like that, to assess yourself against others, DO IT. Pluralsight Skill IQ is free, btw.

When Hard Skills Are Important

As a hiring manager I *might* ask you about your hard skills in an interview. If I do, it’s usually in the first interview, and less with each interview that follows.

I say might because I might have already looked you up and done a bunch of research on you before you come in. This is a critical concept… before you get an invitation to the interview I will have already answered this question:

Can this candidate do the job?

This is 100% a hard skills question. My invitation to you is this: communicate the answer to this BEFORE you even get to the interview.

How do you do that? There are a few elegant ways:

  1. Have a portfolio. A portfolio is not just for artists. You should be able to create some kind of documentation or collection of projects or thoughts or writing to showcase your work. If you can’t showcase your work because of confidentiality then here’s a simple suggestion: write some articles on LinkedIn or Medium or your own blog. The articles should showcase your professional breadth and depth and passion and experience. When I see your portfolio I should say “yep, this person can obviously do the job. The experience and passion and thoughtfulness is here.”
  2. Have testimonials. You can tell me you are qualified, but what if you had peers, colleagues, bosses, and customers tell me how good you are? There are many ways to collect testimonials… I usually recommend LinkedIn Recommendations. This is something you can’t fabricate or falsify, and they are pretty easy to get. I talk about how to do this in one of my LinkedIn courses on Pluralsight (one or two, I can’t remember which). Here’s a quick tip: too often recommendations are too generic and weak. I suggest you ask for a recommendation and say “It might read something like this” … and then hit the main points you want to hit (bringing out specific hard skills). I cover this in my course, but #AMA.
  3. Have ministories. In my personal branding course on Pluralsight I talk about crafting ministories… I think I talk about it in the LinkedIn profile course as well. These are SO powerful to (a) claim you have a skill, or can do a thing, and then (b) substantiate and quantify your claim using a simple story. These should be used on your LinkedIn profile, other online places where you market yourself, in social media interactions (like a post on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn), when you network with others face to face, and definitely in interviews.

Make those three things easy to find and understand.

The most important thing I want to communicate about hard skills is that they help you get into the interview. I do not ask you to an interview to see if you can do the job. By the time I have you in the room I assume you can do the job, but I might ask some qualifying questions to dig deeper into your hard skills.

BONUS: if you can quantify the value of your hard skills, all the better. When you show me you can do a certain job with a certain proficiency and you understand you bring value, I LIKE THAT.

SOFT SKILLS

Soft skills is the funny-named cousin to hard skills. This is the one I hear people saying “we need to rename that!” I don’t care what it is called but society calls it soft skills and I doubt we’ll see that change anytime soon.

JibberJobber Soft Skills

Soft skills are harder to quantify. “I’m a really good presenter” is very subjective. Too subjective. I once interviewed someone who was an excellent presenter… until this person did a presentation. I learned they thought they were excellent but I was cringing a lot.

It’s a lot easier to quantify proficiency in hard skills because we have tests and assessments, but there isn’t really a test or assessment for presenting. A presentation received very well by one person might have been received horrible by another person.

A lot of times soft skills are just kind of … felt. Perceived. Gut reaction. You might tell me you are a great listener but when we actually talk you do all of the talking, talk over me, and don’t give me a chance to talk at all. I’ve been there. It can be equally funny and frustrating.

Soft skills have to do with cultural fit. Is your communication style and demeanor a good fit for our team or our culture? I hired someone once who I thought was a fantastic fit… turned out they were a horrible worker. I have passed over people who had soft skills that were just not a good fit… either too quiet or too loud. This wasn’t anything I could read on a resume or LinkedIn profile… this is something I had to experience myself.

My courses on Pluralsight are all about soft skills… 36 courses and counting. How to communicate outbound (in writing, presenting, talking, etc.) and how to communicate inbound (becoming a better listener is one of my most popular courses)… there are probably a couple hundred soft skills courses on Pluralsight to choose from. If you want a 30 day pass hit me up and I’ll see if I can get you one.

When Soft Skills Are Important

A few months ago I was chatting with my fifteen year old who was asking what I do for Pluralsight. I told her I create soft skills courses…. courses on communicating, listening, working with different personalities, emotional intelligence, and job search and career management. She said “oh, most of Pluralsight’s courses teach people how to do the job and your courses help them get jobs and promotions!”

YES!

I wish I had written down word-for-word what she said because it was better than what I just wrote, but that’s the idea.

Soft skills help you get the job.

Soft skills help you get promotions.

When I bring you in for an interview I want to know if you will be a good addition to our team. I want to know if you’ll be as “cultural fit.” That doesn’t mean I want to hire you if you will fit in… maybe I’m looking for someone to shake things up and bring us up a few notches. But I definitely want to know about your likability or coolness factor. I’m not looking for the most popular or likable person, but I certainly want to know if I’ll like working with you.

My team and culture are different than where you just left. I don’t want to go backwards on our team environment, for sure. The only way I can really assess that is by bringing you in and chatting with you. Behavioral questions give me an insight into your soft skills and communication. Listening and watching how you think, react, respond, and treat others gives me insight into your soft skills.

By the end of the first interview I usually know whether you can do the job or not (see hard skills, above). I will have an idea of your soft skills, and whether I think I’d like to work with you or not. If I think you can do the job and you might be a good fit, and I might like working with you, you make hte cut and might come in for another interview. Usually this is with a panel, or with other people. Of course they’ll ask about hard skills because they haven’t done the same level of research on you as I have, and they’ll want to know “can this person do the job?” But when we all circle back and talk about the candidates I think most people will come back with their gut feel. By that stage everyone should be qualified to do the job, so hard skills isn’t much of the conversation… we tend to focus on who we “like.”

How does someone “like” you in an interview when they know you can do the job? It comes down to your soft skills. Your emotional intelligence. Your likability.

The Great Thing About Hard Skills and Soft Skills

I think the great thing, and a hopeful message, is that you can learn and improve your hard skills.

And, you can work on and improve your soft skills.

Improvement in either area will take time and practice and intention. But you can definitely improve.

And that is why I hope to continue creating courses for you.

 

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The Job Search Interview Process Is Full of Emotions!

June 12th, 2019

jibberjobber-surpriseI recently had a job interview.

I know, I know. I’m not supposed to. I run JibberJobber. I’m the CEO. And I have some big short and long-term goals with JibberJobber. What the heck am I doing in a job interview.

Frankly, there is one company that I’m interested in. I’ve said for years it’s the only company that I’d LOVE to work for. And I got referred to the hiring manager and recruiter by someone pretty high up for a job that sounded really, really cool.

I’ve gotten JibberJobber to a point where it doesn’t have to be a full time job for me. It could be… there is plenty of work for me to do. But it doesn’t have to be. And if “dream job” at “dream company” comes my way, why not at least entertain it?

Since I left Bamboo, I have not been looking for a job. I’ve been plenty busy with the revenue streams I have. From creating Pluralsight courses to everything with JibberJobber to rentals to other stuff, I’m busy.

I also don’t financially need a job, because of the revenue streams I’ve created. I’m not wealthy, but I’m not as financially destitute as I was back in 2006 when I lost, in one job loss, 100% of my income.

But, this amazing opportunity came up. And so I spent time on it.

I had four interviews. Two on a Friday, two the following Monday.

I had a lot of emotions. A lot more than I thought I would.

Even though I was extremely flattered to be recommended for this job, I was nervous. Would I be good enough? Would I be chosen?

If I got the job, would I go through three months of “impostor syndrome” again, like I did at Bamboo?

How would I take care of my other commitments? Would I need to put some things on hold? Was this the right thing for me to do for my long-term goals?

Was this the right thing for me? For my family? For our future?

What if I got this dream job and it went away, like Bamboo did?

With each interview I was more encouraged. Getting invited to the process, and having interviews go well, and learning about the benefits… it was all so cool. One of the things I miss most about Bamboo was just having friends at work. Not that I don’t have friends, but there’s something about coworker camaraderie.

The excitement and the hope was growing. The worry about whether this was the right decision or not was also growing. I knew there would be some big changes if I got this job.

The reason I’m writing this post is to share with you that the crazy emotions you experience in this process are NORMAL.

You might not be an emotional person, or not used to all of the intense emotions all crammed into a few days. But as a job seeker, this is NORMAL.

The results of the interview process can be life changing. You can’t go through the process nonchalantly. I think it is impossible.

Here are my two problems:

First, I start to do the job, before I’m hired. I strategize my 90 day startup period and think about what I’ll do. I can go pretty deep on this. I get emotionally involved too early.

Second, I start to mentally spend my new income. In this case, I thought “I could eliminate my personal debt in X years instead of Y years!” Something very appealing to me. I can go very deep on this, too.

Either of those will add to, or multiply, the emotions. It’s crazy.

And it’s normal.

I don’t have a good answer for you, but I do want you to know that if you go through the emotional roller-coaster you are not nutz. You are normal.

In case you are wondering, in the end I got passed over for someone else. 

Which only added one more ride through the weird and unpredictable emotional roller-coaster.

jibberjobber-emotional-roller-coaster

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What To Do When Interviewers Don’t Know What They Are Hiring For

June 10th, 2019

jibberjobber-poor-communicationLast week I was talking to a friend of mine, a senior technical recruiter. We were talking about a scenario like this:

You read the job description and think: Yep, that’s me. I master all of those, except one, which I can learn quickly (and is probably not as important as the others)

You have your first interview: It is mostly aligned with the job description, but focuses on one or two functions (ignoring the rest)

You have the next interview: This is a little different, as the interviewer focuses on a different function (barely mentioning what the first interviewer focused on)

By this point you think “ah, two different people, who both understand the job, and each person will interface with you (or want something from you) in a different way than one another.”

Your next interviewer surprises you: This is a higher-level person… and they ask you questions that have nothing to do with what you understood the job to do, or what the other interviews focused on. It’s almost as if they are asking you about a completely different role.

Again, they know what they are doing, right? This is just a broad assessment, with each person tasked to focus on different things. No big deal.

Actually, it is a big deal. This scenario could lose you the job.

My recruiter friend said “Jason, this happens ALL THE TIME. In almost every job that we recruit for.”

How could this be?

When I interviewed at Bamboo last year, I printed off the job description from their company website. Oh wait, there’s another description on LinkedIn… print that, too. Oh my, there’s a job description I was emailed.

OH MY. They are all slightly different. Slightly, but materially.

Which is the right one?

There are at least three major parties involved in the job description creation and approval:

The hiring manager: This person knows exactly what (and sometimes who) they want. However, they might not be very good at communicating what they want.

The recruiter and that whole team: The people who are many times responsible for the final written job description, posting it, and sometimes having the first interviews with you so they can know who to weed out.

The approver, some higher-up: This person has their own understanding of what the role is and who will be right and what they will do. They aren’t as close to the team as the manager is, but they orchestrate a lot of teams and know how teams fit together.

jibberjobber-bosses-not-communicating

Imagine each of those people have a tiny misunderstanding of the role. And you, the job seeker, has a specific and perhaps a little bit wrong understanding of the role. Multiply those tiny misunderstandings by imperfect communication and assumptions, and now we have… well, a mess.

It might feel like you are interviewing for three or four different jobs.

“It happens all the time,” said this recruiter.

So, what can you do about it?

I have two ideas.

First, read, understand, and internalize the job description.

1. Learn everything you can about the job description.

Go through it again and again, line by line. Understand what they are asking for. If you need to, make notes on it. Heck, rewrite it in your own words! You should be able to talk about every single part of the job description.

Be careful to not latch on to one or two parts of the job, and redefine the description by just those parts.

If you have doubts or questions, email your contact (maybe the recruiter, or a friend, or someone you have networked with at the company) to clarify. In my interview last year I said “I understand all of this, but why does this person also need to be an expert in Photoshop?” “What?? Oh, that must have gotten there from a copy and paste from a different job description.”  Oops. I spent time wondering if I needed to learn Photoshop, and it had nothing to do with the actual job. Just ask and clarify.

Be ready to go into this job interview understanding (or at least having great questions) the job description.

2. Point the interview back to the right role.

As the interview gets further and further away from the job description, you can bring it back, without dancing around it.

Recognize, of course, that some questions that seem weird or outside of the job description might be strategic, to uncover how good of a fit you will be on the team or at the company. But generally, you should be able to tie every single answer back to the job you are interviewing for. To do that, though, you have to go back to #1, and totally understand the job based on the description (or your digging).

It would not be inappropriate to ask a clarifying question, such as:

“Based on the job description, I thought the role of this job would do more of [THIS:________] than [THAT:_________]. Is that what you understand?”

Feel free to dig down on this part of the discussion. Being precise about the role and expectations is not bad at all. In theory, you are there to evaluate the company and opportunity and team as much as they are evaluating you (but emotions are way different, depending on which side of the table you are sitting!).

You could also ask:

“What would success look like (or, how would you measure success) in the first 3 – 6 months?”

I find this to be not as effective as the question above, but it could help you get more clarity for the role. Besides, it’s a solid interview question for “candidates.”

I know that we, as candidates, assume the people who bring us in know what they are doing. Look, people have been saying “recruiting is broken” and “hiring is broken” for decades. There’s a reason for that. You can’t assume they know what they want, or that they communicate well with one another. Go in ready for some obvious poor communication and assumptions on their end that have preceded you. The two steps above should help you be more prepared in that situation.

 

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Winning Video Interviews: Who Are You Talking To?

January 23rd, 2018

Last year I did my first video interview. I used the Hireview video interview software, which is cool because I know the founders, and they are a local company. The irony? I was interviewing for a job at Hireview!  I was using their own software to hire for a job to be on their team.

When I went in for the panel interview (to be followed by an interview with the VP of Product) one of the interviewees (I was in a room full of product managers) said something like:

“Jason, you were the only one who talked to Ricky by name.”

It was the thing that made me stand out. I was the only one who did it.  Nice job Jason!hirevue-logo

Video interviews are not as personal as a face-to-face in-the-same-room interview. It is weird to talk into a camera/mic and get no reaction… the first time you do it you’ll feel weird! It doesn’t help that you get a question and then you have a certain amount of seconds to answer your question, and if you go over you have messed up. Yes, you get to do it again but after the third or fourth time answering (and trying to cram the right answer into a few seconds!) you are mentally taxed.

It’s a crazy experience.

I researched the job and the company, and found out who the hiring manager was: Ricky. It was actually Ricky who presented the questions (in video, of course). So, in my responses I would say “Well, Ricky,…” or “That’s a good question, Ricky….”

Every answer I gave was addressed to Ricky.

The cool thing was that took the impersonal out of my video interview.

And it made me memorable.

What are YOU doing to make yourself memorable?

 

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When You Don’t Say It All In A Job Interview

April 26th, 2017

What do you do if you had a job interview that goes pretty well, but after the interview there’s at least one question that nags at you.

Not the question, but the how you answered it.  It’s the familiar taste of regret.

“Oh, I should have answered this way, I should have said that!”

The big question is, now what?

Do you go back to the interviewer and clarify it?  The answer is maybe.

Does it really matter?

Did you really mess it up?

Is your other answer so much better that it merits another point of communication? Or just a little better?

Don’t get me wrong, I like points of communication, but you have to be careful that you take the opportunity to communicate with the interviewer with something that will be impactful… the most impactful!

I don’t want to scare you away from communicating with people who in any other situation are your peers and colleagues, but I want to encourage you to reach out with information that can have a real influence.

The best suggestion I heard in this situation is to include your alternative answer in the follow-up you do after your interview. You are doing that, right?

For example, let’s say you were asked “tell me about your most successful project you’ve worked on, and why was it successful?”

Your answer was okay… it was fine.  But after the interview the question nags and nags at you, and having thought about your career you think of a few other answers.  In the follow-up, you might say something like:

“John, thank you for the opportunity to talk about the product manager opening you have at your company. I’m very interested in this role and think that I can add a lot of value to your team, and the direction of your product.  I look forward to the next steps in your interview process, and welcome any follow-up questions.

In our interview you asked me about the most successful product I have managed. I talked about XYZ, which of course I’m very proud of. There are a couple of other products that I worked on earlier in my career that I didn’t think about when you asked, but I’ve thought a lot about it since then.  The first was ___________…..”

Here is why this is so powerful.  First, most candidates don’t send any follow-up.  When you do, no matter what you say, you will stand out as different.

Second, in this follow-up, instead of saying what the interviewer (aka decision maker or influencer) is expecting, and what other people write, you are carrying on the conversation. You are reminding them who you are, what your story was (from your first answer), and then going on to say “and that’s not all… here are some other great things you should know.”

One of the problems with the job search process, from the job seeker’s perspective, is that a resume does not represent all of the breadth (amount of things a person can do, has done, skills, abilities, etc.) and depth (length of experience, amount of expertise).  Let’s say that you have a lot of breadth and a lot of depth… and you have a few tools that help you convey the scope of your breadth and depth. Namely, your resume and the interview.

Can you see the problem here?

When your resume is one or two pages, providing a very summarized view of your awesomeness.

When your interview is 45 minutes (give or take), you don’t get to go to the extent of your breadth, or the end of your depth.  You get to convey a few snapshots… points in your career, but 45 minutes isn’t enough time to really tell your story, is it?

How, then, can you fill in the gaps?

A follow-up letter, like the example I shared above, is a great way to do that.  Also, a great LinkedIn Profile with mini-stories that fill in the blanks.  Having a brand such that others talk about you (the right way) and perhaps a blog (that can really fill in the gaps on breadth and depth) and perhaps an about.me page… all of those are tools to help you go from someone who is maybe right for this position to someone who is, no doubt, without a question, right for the position!

 

 

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Thea Kelley’s Book on Interviewing: Get That Job!

March 24th, 2017

thea_kelley_get_that_job_guide_to_interviewingThea Kelley sent me her new book, Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview. This is an excellent book, and I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is in a job search. No hesitation.

When I was in my job search I remember “preparing” for an interview like this: Go to google, type in “how to prepare for a job search interview,” and then reading a dozen articles that pretty much said the same thing. I would try to learn a little something from each one, and then hurry off to my interview.

Let me save you time, money, and help you not lose the interview (which could easily cost you thousands, or tens of thousands): BUY THIS BOOK.

Thea talks about everything you need to know to prepare for your interviews.  The best time to read this book is right now… even if you don’t have an interview scheduled.

Why?

Because the best interviewee will have prepared. And Thea walks you through the steps to prepare. Instead of researching online and finding bits and pieces, and spending too much time looking for the right, or even good, advice, just buy this book and go through each page with a highlighter. Have a notepad, or your computer, ready, so you can go through the exercises she presents.

I’ve interviewed enough people to know that there is a huge difference between an interviewee (or what recruiters call, a candidate) who has prepared and one who hasn’t. The difference is almost tangible.

As I was reading the book, of course I thought “this will help anyone who is getting ready for an interview,” but I had another thought: This book provides hope, and gives a vision, to someone who is in a job search. If you aren’t getting interviews you are hopeless (I know this from personal experience).  This book helps you now that when it happens, you’ll be ready!

WHEN IT HAPPENS.

It will happen.  You’ll be ready, with this book.

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Big Announcement #2: New Job Search and Career Management Video System

December 21st, 2016

Almost two weeks ago I shared Big Announcement #1: I’m Transitioning.  Today I get to share Big Announcement #2…

As I mentioned in the earlier announcement, I have been doing a lot of courses for Pluralsight, and as far as I know, I’m not doing any more courses for them.  This freed up a significant amount of time.  Oh, what to do with all that time?

Well, I decided to go back to the JibberJobber Video Library and see what we should do to update it.  Instead of making a few tweaks here, a few changes there, we decided to do a complete overhaul of both the user experience (UX) and the content.  Here’s what you need to know about the new video library, which was released in the wee hours last night:

A New Name:

Instead of the JibberJobber Video Library, we are calling this (some version of) the Insider Information Videos. Why? Because of who the video content is from… see the next section :)

New Content

Instead of just me (Jason Alba) doing courses, which is what I started out with many years ago, I am interviewing people involved in the hiring process. Right now I’m focusing my energy on HR, hiring managers, and recruiters. I love coaches and resume writers, but the feedback I’ve gotten is pointing me in this direction: find out how hiring is done by the people who are in the hiring trenches.

What does a recruiter really think about your resume? Ask a an insider (the recruiter)! What policies affect hiring? Ask an insider (the HR professional). What really influences a a decision-maker in an interview? Ask an insider (the hiring manager)!  There are other insiders I’ll interview… watch for new content over the next year.

The good news is that information from these people should supplement, and complement, what coaches are telling their clients/candidates.

Updated Content:

The LinkedIn content needs to be updated. I’ll review the content for the other stuff, and update it if I can improve it.

Updated Interface

“Interface” is a jargony, kind of boring word. But this is a critical point. Instead of a menu where you drill down to find what you are looking for, we approached this from a “what are the best ways to sift through tons of video content?”  There are three main ways to find answers to your questions, or the right videos for you to watch:

Categories, such as: HR Interviews, Recruiter Interviews, Fortune 500 Interviews, etc.

Tags, such as: interviewing, negotiation, informational interviews, etc.

Search, which is way cooler than you might think.  Why? Because not only are we searching on the names and descriptions of the videos, we are actually transcribing every video, put it into a closed-caption format, and when you search on a word or phrase, we’ll show you exactly where, in every transcribed video, we mention that word. So, in an interview, if we talk about salary negotiation five times, you’ll be able to jump to each of those five mentions easily.

That means that finding the right information in dozens, and eventually hundreds of hours of content, will be really, really easy!

Updated Pricing

For the last many years, the pricing to buy videos was simple: pay $50 and get one of the courses, like LinkedIn, Informational Interviews, etc.  You could even bundle one year of JibberJobber with some videos and get a discount.

We’re switching over to a Netflix/Hulu-like model: pay one low monthly fee and get access to everything.

But wait, it gets better!  You could pay for video access for one year and get a discount, or, the best offer we have is for you is to upgrade for one year on JibberJobber and the video library, and you’ll get 50% off on both. Here’s what that looks like:

Monthly: $9.95/month

One year: $99 (save $20)

Bundle one year + one year of JibberJobber Premium: $120 (save $60 on the video library upgrade and $60 on the JibberJobber upgrade, for a total of $120 savings).

Are you an outplacement firm, resume writer, or career coach?  Reach out to me for information on bulk pricing: Jason@JibberJobber.com.

What’s more, this is just the beginning. Over the next months, and years, I will work on adding more content and enhancing the video system, FOR YOU.  Over the next few days I’ll be cleaning up the library and getting all of the videos categorized correctly… so it will undergo a transformation. But it’s ready for you to go into now.  Just login, mouse over Tools, and click JibberJobber Videos (right under Pluralsight Videos).

What do you say? Are you in?  

Just login to your JibberJobber account and click on Upgrade on the bottom left… the payment page will allow you to choose what level you want. If you have any questions or problems, just let us know here.

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Introducing, Closed Captioning Coming to JibberJobber Videos!

October 14th, 2016

For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a ginormous project… and one of the fruits of that project is to bring closed captioning to my videos.  I went through a learning curve, then the in-the-trenches work of getting my video transcribed and formatted for closed captioning… and then figuring out how to get all that in the right format so that video players will be able to take the transcription and put the words in the right place.

This was not a quick project.  But I love what it has produced.

Check out this two year old interview I did with senior technical recruiter Robert Merrill… it was a fun interview, and going through it word-by-word reminded me of how many awesome nuggets of wisdom Robert shared with us… all of which are still relevant to today’s job search.

To see the captions, simply click the cc button, between the volume control and the HD option.  Listen to this, read this, and tell me this isn’t a GREAT interview!

Here’s the first time I posted this video, two years ago!

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You Are Always Being Interviewed, 24×7

February 12th, 2016

As a manager and business owner, I am always looking for people to be on my team, even when I don’t have a position open.  I’m always watching for someone with something special… customer service, ambition, etc.

I think there are thousands of people in my position who are continually watching and looking.  That means that we are always being interviewed.  Let me emphasize ALWAYS.  You are interviewed (aka, watched) when you walk in a room, when you look at your phone too many times, when you say something nice or rude to anyone, when you show that you are engaged or disengaged in a conversation… always.

This morning I was reading how Afterburner hires.  Afterburner is a cool consulting company that hires veterans who become business consultants… Jim Murphy shared this part of the hiring process (read the article here):

When he does hire, the first step in the interviewing process is to take the candidate out for a fancy restaurant dinner, the kind a client CEO might host. The interviewee is escorted to the bar to swap military stories with the interviewers. While the Afterburner people are limited to two drinks, the candidate can have as many as he or she wants. At dinner the interviewers watch how the candidate behaves, which fork he or she uses. Murphy says he wants people with the business poise to sit with C-suite clients.

I wonder how many people at that interview think that, while swapping military stories, they are being watched on how many drinks they order. Or on which fork he or she uses.  I’m sure they are watched on every little detail of how they interact at that dinner.

This interview might seem casual, but it’s a tool to see how you would act with a company owner, as if you were the consultant.  Would you embarrass the company?

This is one example of how we are being watched. An interview isn’t just about what we say, how smart we are, how we say it… it’s about a lot more than that.  When I “interview” people informally, I am immediately wondering these two things (among others):

– would they represent my company well?

– would they ruin, or add to, my culture?

So what do we do with this information?

Act nicely. Act professionally.  Realize that what we do or say might be the thing that gets us the job… or adds a few more months to our job search.

 

 

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The Absolutely Best Response for “What Are Your Greatest Weaknesses?”

September 23rd, 2015

You are in an interview.  You’ve successfully made it past the “tell us about yourself” chat.  You hit it out of the park on a few other questions.  And then, some variation of this question:

“Tell us about your greatest weaknesses?”

The normal advice is take a strength, frame it as a weakness, and then bring it back to a strength again.  Like this:

“Well, I’ve been known to work too hard on my projects to ensure they come in on-time and on-budget. I can’t stand to miss a deadline that I’ve committed to, especially if it would impact the company revenue.  The good news is that I’ve never missed a deadline!”

Bam! Out of the park, right?

Let me suggest a much better, more appropriate response to that question:

“That is the dumbest question you can ask me.  I know you are fishing for some reason I might fit here, and we both know that everyone is supposed to do the strength-weakness-strength response. But seriously, that is just tacky.  How about if we spend time on what I would do in the first 90 days at this job to fit in and make a difference?  I’d much rather talk about that.

CRICKETS.

Okay, I’m sure you aren’t going to respond that way (at least, not out loud).  However, if you do, feel free to say “well, Jason Alba, of JibberJobber, said to say this….”

But seriously, here’s the deal: the interview is not a time for you to sit there and answer 15 dumb top interview questions that the interviewer just printed out.

It might take some practice, but you can actually have a bigger influence on the interview.  Or,  maybe we should call it the conversation.

I know that sounds presumptuous, and it kind of is. But you will melt in with the other wall-flowers if all you do is answer the ill-prepared questions, and not have a real conversation, which is two-way.

How do you do this?

Find someone you can do mock interviews with.  This might be an interview coach, or someone at a free resource like a church or state-based job center.  Maybe you do it with your mentor, or someone in your industry who is in a lot of interviews.  Practice with others, practice on camera (and watch how you did), practice in front of the mirror.

Have YOUR OWN questions ready, and bring them up at the appropriate times.

I’m not suggesting you disrespect the interviewer, and hijack the questions.  But you might be able to figure out a way to drive the interview, be way more memorable, give the right impression, and even get information about the role or decision-making process that other interviewees don’t get.

Or, you can just do the cliche strength-weakness-strength thing, like everyone else.

What’s your preference?

 

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