Lunch Interviews – They’re NOT About the Food

26 07 2011

Photo credit: Oliteratico

You’ve done your job research.  You polished your resume, attended the career fair, applied online and followed up with the recruiter.  You may have already received a call from the recruiter to set up an interview and that interview may have gone perfectly.  You expect that they’re going to offer you the job, when the voice on the other end of the line says, “I’m pleased to inform you that you’ve moved on to the next round of interviews.”  WHAT??  They then tell you that the next interview is over lunch.  GULP.

For recruiters or hiring managers, the lunch interview gives them additional perspective and insight into the “real you”.  People can memorize GREAT answers to the toughest interview questions; having a phenomenal resume, even appearing to have excellent communication skills can only get you so far.  The lunch interview (or dinner – whatever) puts you to the test.

It’s designed for two reasons:

  1. To allow the recruiter or hiring manager to get to know you on a more personal level.
  2. To see how you react to situations out of your comfort zone or element.  You’re not in the office conference room with the interviewer or a panel.  You’re in a much different setting with all kinds of variables to throw you off your game.

A few tips to help you make the most of your lunch:

  • Bring a notepad and something to write with – just because it’s lunch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be taking notes
  • Be polite to the host, wait staff, ANYONE you interact with at the restaurant – people are watching and listening.  I’ve even known hiring managers to arrive late and ask the staff about their interaction just to test the candidate.  NOTE: Wait for the interviewer to arrive before being seated.
  • Know before you go – check the restaurant’s menu ahead of time.  Most are online these days.  If you have dietary restrictions or are watching calories, you’ll have plenty of time to pour over the menu.  Select 2-3 (just in case the restaurant doesn’t have one) choices that look good and keep them in mind when ordering.  Be prepared and KNOW what you want – this should make a good impression.
  • Order something simple – the point is to land the job.  You can order the rack of ribs during your celebration dinner afterwards.  Stick to things that can be eaten easily with a knife and fork.  I’d also recommend water or other non-alcoholic beverages.  If the host orders wine, politely decline.  Now, if this interview is for a wine or spirits company, there’s a difference.  Take your cue from your host.  Just don’t order the most expensive bottle.  Stick to the middle and to one glass.

Emily Post’s Guide to Etiquette still applies today.  Check out this website for more information on which fork to use, what all the different plates are used for, and basic tips like how to pass the bread, which hand to use for your drink (yes, there is a right way) and much more.

Relax, be yourself, and don’t forget, it’s still an interview.  Now, go land that job!

This post was originally created for Rich DeMatteo’s blog, Corn On the Job.  Click here to visit his site – there’s a lot of great stuff there, too!


Change Happens

19 07 2011

“The script of your life is not yet written.  Life changes, and you change with it.” – Michael J. Fox

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Michael J. Fox speak to over 10,000 HR representatives from across the globe.  He shared his wisdom and told a great story.  I remember him as Marty McFly, the kid that teamed up with Christopher Lloyd to travel Back to the Future (and 2 more times after that.)  Michael shared that one of the most valuable life lessons he has learned from a career of acting is not to play the result; that is, you can’t act as if you know what’s coming, as if you know how the scene is going to end.  You have to behave as if you don’t know what’s going to happen.  You have to live in that moment.

Change, and as Fox states, “don’t play the result” is really about possibilities.  The outcome of your life is uncertain.  So, why is it critical for leaders and managers to be successful at organizational change?  According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, it’s because it’s our job.  But we have to change for a reason, and not for the sake of change.  We’re all beginning to realize that “business as usual” simply isn’t enough anymore.  As a job seeker, employee, leader or manager, we should expect change.

What’s changing in the jobs landscape?  Here are a couple things that are changing:

  • How job seekers are researching and connecting with potential employers.  With social networking in its heyday, everyone is trying to figure out how to use the available platforms in the job search.  LinkedIn, Twitter, even Facebook (check out Monster’s BeKnown app and competitor, BranchOut) are being used to connect with recruiters, brands (research), and engage in conversation around a shared interest.  There are mixed emotions here and like anything other tool, it’s all about what makes the most sense for you, the user.
  • How employers are marketing themselves to potential employees.  I covered this in a roundabout way in the first bullet, but employers are looking for new ways to tell their story.  Whether it’s using all the technology available like QR codes, video, social recruiting and blogging or keeping things old school (which is actually refreshing these days) with word-of-mouth campaigns and traditional networking, the way companies connect with the consumer (you) is changing. 

Why?  I think it comes down to a few factors:

  • Attention spans are much shorter.  If we can’t find the information we’re looking for in 3-5 clicks on a company website, we’re out.  We (and not just this newfangled Generation Y) have more responsibility and less time and resources.  We’re all competing for time and attention.
  • People have more information available than ever before.  I remember (and I’m not old) when I had to look something up, the process included several weighty books (encyclopedias/dictionaries, not Wikipedia) and the Dewey decimal system.  Some of you may be thinking, “What the heck is that?”  Believe me; it has nothing to do with Donald Duck’s nephew.  People today have the wealth of the world’s knowledge available to them at the command of one word:  Google.
  • The definition of talent has changed.  Gone are the days where a basic college degree set you apart from the competition.  This recent class of college graduates entered (if they were lucky) the workforce as unemployment rates soared at 9.3%.  Today, employers are seeking talent with strong analytical (may also be described as “critical thinking” skills), business acumen, communication, leadership skills and look for those candidates that can actually articulate their experience.  Minimum qualifications aren’t enough anymore.  I’m not saying a degree in Business Administration won’t get you hired.  It could.  It happens every day.  But, what sets you apart from the competition?  What skills will you bring to the organization that no one else can?
  • It’s where the people are.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “fish where the fish are?”  When there is a large amount of people on a particular platform, using a particular tool, employers gravitate toward that pool.  It might be a talent pool.  It might be a consumer pool, or both.  As I stated before, change must be intentional.  Why are you changing strategy?  Should you?

I thought a lot about what to write about this week.  Last week, I mentioned that I would share with you the wisdom of Fox, one of the keynote speakers for the SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) Annual Conference.  I think we got that covered and hopefully you are able to pull some useful information from this post.  Change is inevitable.  It’s actually the only constant.  Let’s change together and make a positive difference in the job seeker and candidate recruitment process.

I’ll leave you with this inspiring quote:

“Change is the essence of life.  Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

The Pursuit of Happiness (#SHRM11 Learnings pt. 2)

12 07 2011

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” — Agnes Repplier

Am I a culture fit for this company?  Do my values and beliefs align with those of the organization?  These are two questions that many job seekers, employers, and employees are asking themselves these days.  Culture is the true embodiment for which the organization truly stands.  Some companies have culture that is world-famous, while many are simply trying to figure it out.  As a member of Generation Y (typical, but not stereotypical), I can tell you this on behalf of Gen Y’ers:  Culture counts.  It does matter.

What company immediately comes to mind when you think about the word culture?  This question is for everyone – job seekers, those gainfully employed and employers.  I know one that rises to the top in my mind:  Zappos!  Yes, the web-based shoe (and much more) company located in Henderson, NV that has been covered a gazillion times in the media regarding their company culture and customer service.  They have puppets in their TV commercials.  How’s that for culture? 🙂  I had the opportunity to hear Tony Hsieh, CEO of, speak at the SHRM (Society for Human Resources) Annual Conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago.  Wow.  Talk about a cool company culture.  I can honestly say that EVERY ONE of their employees seem to have fun at work while providing excellent customer service in a transparent atmosphere.  How can this be true?  How many other companies can boast this achievement?  There aren’t many…

As promised in last week’s post, I’m going to pull the good “nuggets” from his speech and share them with you, just as I did from Richard Branson’s keynote.  There are a few other phenomenal speakers that I’m going to highlight in the coming weeks that include Arianna Huffington, Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post and Michael J. Fox.  I may be saving the best for last…MJF was riveting and left us all with a personal challenge.  I can’t wait to share that with you!
Back to the takeaways from Tony Hsieh’s speech… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Zappos + Culture” and see what pops up at the top.  Customer service.  Culture.  Purpose.  Passion.  What do all these things start with?  Happiness.  Yes, I said it.  Happiness!

Where does the road to happiness start?  It starts with you!  Here are a couple of key points that will help in your journey:

Define committable core values.  What are the top things you’re committed to in your career and life?  In my opinion, they shouldn’t be separate.  Put some serious thought into defining your core values – it takes time.  Can you commit 100%?

If one of your core values is to “deliver excellent customer service,” this applies to all your customers (including friends, family, and co-workers.)  I think we sometimes forget this and get so focused on our job at work, we forget about those at home supporting us.  They’re all customers.  Deliver them all the very best.  Click here to see Zappos! Core Values.

Define your brand.  This is like the chicken and the egg.  What came first?  If you don’t have core values, how can you define your brand?  But, if you don’t have a good brand definition, how will you know your core values serve the purpose?  Don’t try to do one without the other.  Your personal brand and core values should work together.  Here are a couple of links to help you define your personal brand:

Define your long-term happiness.  Ask yourself:  What makes me happy now?  What do I want to work toward for ultimate happiness?  The pursuit of happiness is ongoing.  Are your goals attainable, yet challenging?  Will achievement of those goals help you obtain happiness?

Hsieh said, “At Zappos, we see ourselves as a service company that just happens to sell shoes.  We wanted to make the Zappos brand be about providing the very best customer service and customer experience…..Every company should have values it can actually commit to.  In the end, it’s all about delivering happiness, whether it’s customers or employees.”

Employers – If your employees are happy, they’re more productive.  If they’re more productive, you’re more profitable.  If your customers are happy, they’ll tell others about their happiness, creating a wildfire by word of mouth – all due to the happiness factor.

Job seekers/Employees – If you’re happy, you stay longer, right?  You want to know that what you do matters; that what you do is part of the company’s mission and vision.  You want to know that your success is intrinsically tied to the success of your employer.

Curious about Tony’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose?  I read it (you should too) – here’s my review: Finding True Career Happiness: Culture Counts!

What makes you happy?  Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?  Let me know!  I appreciate (and respond to each of) your comments.  Just leave me a note below.  you like this article, it would make me happy if you would share this with your network via Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Google+, email, and the other 50 or so options for sharing.  Click the buttons below.  As always, thank YOU for reading.  You’re awesome.  Tell someone else they’re awesome today (they’ll be happy) and pay it forward!

Special Post: #SHRM11 Learnings pt. 1

5 07 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the SHRM (Society for Human Resources) Annual Conference in Las Vegas.  I joined over 14,000 HR professionals from 73 countries, 1400 exhibitors, and 650 volunteers for the largest conference for HR in the world.  I found out very quickly that these people like to have some serious fun.  The exhibit hall was packed with magicians, games, iPad giveaways, product showcases, and more.  There was even one company that hired a guy to play piano and sing classic Las Vegas tunes that included Sinatra and the Rat Pack.  Even the keynote lineup was star-studded!  I was bummed to miss Sir Richard Branson speak on the opening day due to airline delays, but was able to hear Arianna Huffington, Tony Hsieh and Michael J. Fox share their pearls of wisdom with the crowd.  Oh, yeah.  Forgot to mention that Keith Urban performed for nearly two hours one evening from the main stage!

So, why am I telling you about this conference?  Well, I wrote a nice little post a few weeks back titled Your Road Map to a Successful Conference.  I took some of my own advice and walked the walk (literally – the Las Vegas Convention Center was a half-mile walk one-way from my hotel….in the 107 degree heat.)  As a first time attendee, I found the conference to be very beneficial.  The sessions were relevant and valuable, the networking was great, and I had some serious fun….all while continuing to develop myself personally and professionally.  I even got to meet several people who I’d only know via social media up until then.  It was so nice to put a face with the twitter name!

The conference was so massive that I can’t come close to recapping it all for you.  But, I do have some help.  Check out the HR Bloggers site for the #SHRM11 conference.  There’s a lot of great stuff there!  Since this will likely be a series of posts, here’s where I’ll start:

Sir Richard Branson keynote:  As I noted before, I wasn’t able to be there in person for his speech, but was able to follow most of the conversation thanks to some serious tweeting by fellow colleagues.  What I took away from his story (and yes, I’ll be reading his book soon) was that it’s all about making a difference and paying attention to employees first (praise.)  He even said that “if you find the right people to run your business you have to give them the freedom to make mistakes.”  Here are a few other takeaways from the twitterverse:

@theredrecruiter: .@richardbranson was brought up in a household full of praise. This philosophy has passed along to his businesses. #SHRM11

@epetersonSHRM: In general, successful businesses are successful because they want to make a difference. – @Richardbranson #SHRM11

10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd: This session was focused largely on the topic of change and that “business as usual” isn’t enough anymore.  The speaker challenged everyone in the audience to think about the value they bring to their organization.  I left this session with a refocused on what I’m doing as a professional and how it relates to the bigger picture.  The speaker also mentioned that you should renew your positive attitude.  How does my attitude impact how others perceive, evaluate, work w/me, communicate & relate to me?  Key takeaway:  Don’t wait to react to change.  Expect it and be proactive.  Good words of advice.  What are you doing in your career or job search regarding change?

Rather than cram all the good stuff I learned last week into one VERY long blog post, I’m going to space it out over the next couple of weeks.  I hope you find the information useful in your career and job search.  A lot of the things I learned apply to just about anyone in any profession!  Next week, I’ll highlight Tony Hsieh, CEO of and what I learned from his speech.  Thanks for reading!