Lori Williams: Get Less Personal, Be More Professional

In this episode of CareerCloud Radio, Lori Williams shares two perspectives, her experience as a recruiting coordinator for a national company and her experience as a career coach at her company Unstoppable Communications. Lori and Justin dove into many topics relating to career seekers with limited experience as well as resume tips, advice for women navigating tough job interview questions and much more.

Because Her recruiting audience is often nineteen to twenty-four year olds, Lori begins by sharing many young candidates show a lack of responsibility. When they arrive for an interview many do not have a resume ready that highlights their experiences and provides quantifiable stats, they do not dress appropriately, make eye contact, or they don’t show up at all. Of course this can be nerves or inexperience, but it is an easy interview mistake to address with a little more preparation. Then Lori talks about people who are responsible, like modern job seekers listening to this CareerCloud Radio. For example, she interviewed a woman who had worked in a daycare for two months. She had been responsible for fifty kids and had been promoted to lead teacher. Despite this momentum she incorrectly assumed that short length of employment was insufficient to include in her narrative. That experience is more valuable than the amount of time she spent doing the job and Lori advised her to emphasis it instead of leaving it out. As a recruiter and resume writer, Lori is looking for quality of skills and how they can be quantified. She is less interested in the amount of experience a candidate has but instead more interested in bringing out the qualifications gained from any length of experience.

Next, Lori gives more examples of what not to do at an interview. Joking that if a candidate does not want to get hired they should not ask any questions. Asking quality questions during an interview is essential to showing the employer that you are seeking a good fit for the role as much as they are. For example, “If I were selected for the role, how would I succeed in the first 6 months?” is a strong question because it will cause the interviewer to imagine you in that role.

Justin brings up that online interviews are growing in popularity and offers this advice. During a Skype interview people should look directly into the camera. It’s easier to look at the image of the person in the video but this will cause the other person to think you are not making eye contact. By looking into the camera, once in awhile, you can effectively try to “meet eyes” for a moment and form a better connection like you would in person.

Another common interview mistake stems from the most common start to an interview. When answering the “Tell me about yourself?” question do not get too personal. For example, you might not want to tell the hiring manager it took you forty-five minutes to get to the interview. A hiring manager might be concerned about your ability to get to work on time and offer to the job to someone else. This is especially important for candidates taking public transit. Depending on the style of reception desk, you may even consider taking public transit to within a mile of the job, then calling an uber or lyft for the last mile of the trip. If anyone sees you get dropped off they will not connect it to public transit and think you can afford a chauffeur.

How to effectively answer uncomfortable questions that hiring managers can present.

Towards the middle of the episode, Lori also gives examples of questions to avoid. For example, if a female candidate gets the question, “What are your hobbies?” she shouldn’t mention spending time with her kids, because it may reflect negatively on her. Candidates should only bring up children if, they have done their research into the company and think it could be an advantage. Justin gives the example of a national radio show on personal finance that is very Christian behind the scenes. The employee culture and ownership has strong family values. An employer with strong religious culture or family values might look at a married mother applying for a job more favorably than a single mother.

Company research is the only way to determine their values in advance. Listen for company values when networking with people face to face. If you don’t know the company values, then candidates should avoid questions about their religion or marital status because the hiring manager does not need to know those things. All they need to know is that the candidate is qualified for the job. Offering up more than your qualifications could be a mistake. Saying too much, not only could it hurt your chances of getting an offer, but it could also offer the employer information that was otherwise illegal. By discussing these sensitive interview techniques, Lori and Justin try to offer strategies to overcome these discriminatory realities women face when interviewing.

Have you been guilty of over-sharing in an interview? The only way to know for sure is practice where the person offering feedback listens for those parts of your story that may be used against you in certain circumstances. So ask the people you practice with to be alert for information that could be used to discriminate against you despite your qualifications. Oversharing can be as inane as clues to your home address or as illegal as your sexual orientation.

Lori and Justin then talk about gaps on a resume and how to address them. Lori works with people of all backgrounds from entry-level to C-Suite, she explains the hiring process can differ for those with various backgrounds or experience levels. In one story, a woman who was caring for her sick mother for two years was left off the resume. This experience was perfect for the role Lori wanted to fill, but the woman almost didn’t get the opportunity to interview because she left the gap unexplained on the resume. Luckily, Lori suspected a positive explanation for the gap and decided to press for the explanation in a phone screen. Explaining away a long gap need not be on the resume every time. For example, taking a trip across country for one year would not make much sense as a bullet point between your manager experience and prior role. Therefore, most often the best place to address a gap on your resume is in the cover letter. Especially, if the reason for the gap pertains to schooling, a lay off, then they should address that in a cover letter. Lori does admit that people can conceal resume gaps, and sometimes for good reason, but it is better to just be honest with the recruiter and address them. An experienced recruiter will have heard many reasonable, fair, well-intentioned explanations for a gap on the resume and we should not fear judgement for the gap. Instead, bridge the gap with brevity. State the reason and pivot off to the next topic quickly. Let the interviewer ask follow up questions if they want to learn more.

More about Lori

Lori has 5 diplomas from the Shaw Academy out of Belfast, Ireland in the areas of career development and marketing. She has worked as a Personnel Coordinator in a corporate HR role learning the laws and protocols of hiring and recruitment. She has written over 400 resumes at this point and has a 5 star rating and reviews over on Facebook.

Lori is actively taking new resume clients and loves doing career coaching/consulting. If this is something you need help with or would like to know more, check out her website over at www.unstoppablecommunications.com or drop her a line at info@unstoppablecommunications.com.