Artisan Blog

Improving Your Non-Verbal Communication

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Improving Your Non-Verbal Communication

We hope you are doing focused preparation for every job interview--researching out about the company, planning your stories, thinking of interesting questions to ask the hiring manager and roleplaying some typical job interview questions with a friend. Make sure to also prepare your non-verbal communication--it can be more significant than anything you say.

According to UCLA Psychology Professor and communications expert Albert Mehrabi, words only account for 7% of the communication in human interactions when communicating about feelings and attitudes. Seven percent.

How can you use that to improve your job interview performance?

Of course, not everything you will talk about in an interview involves feelings or attitudes, but since emotions are running high and you are telling stories about yourself, we think this kind of communication qualifies for the 7% rule. So:
  • Breathe deeply and consciously while you are waiting to be called in to the interview. This will help your tone of voice be as full and confident as possible. Another good reason to arrive a few minutes early.
  • Practice your delivery as well as the content of your stories with a trusted friend. Ask for feedback about your tone and body language as well as the story itself.
  • Make good eye contact with the hiring manager, both while you are listening and while you are talking--it makes you seem as engaged as you (hopefully) are.
  • Match your non-verbal communication styles with your your words. The more congruence, the better you will be trusted.
  • Let pauses happen in the conversation. Jumping in with more words than necessary can dilute your message.

My favorite thing about Dr. Mehrabi’s system is knowing that if I stumble over a word or tell a story better in one interview than another, as long as my non-verbal communication is successful, I will be, too--a great comfort when I walk out of the office hoping to get an offer.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Freelancers on a Job Hunt

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Freelancers on a Job Hunt

Jumping Man
Image by Mattox via stock.xchng

At Artisan Creative, we often place people in contract and temp-to-hire positions, giving our talent a chance to test the waters, while giving our clients time to try out talent and find the perfect cultural fit. Freelance roles tend to be more short-term and a long list of them on a resume may make a job seeker who is also a freelancer feel like he or she looks like a job hopper, but those freelance gigs can help if you frame them well:

On your resume:

Instead of listing your freelance jobs by company, list them by category. If you have had consistent work as a Graphic Designer, for example, create a Graphic Design category and list your clients and how long you worked for them, as well as one or two accomplishments for each project as your bullet points.

Listing the projects you worked on as a freelancer between full time roles is a far better strategy than having an empty space in your employment history.

In an interview:

A hiring manager will ask about your freelance work if you have it on your resume. Talk about what you learned and the challenges you overcame working on your freelance projects. Remember--when a company brings on a freelancer, they have a problem to be solved. You solved it and that is a great story. Make sure you practice telling it.

If you have been spending your time between full time roles as a freelancer, embrace the lessons you have learned and the relationships you have built. Those projects have more than monetary value to you if you don’t apologize for them, but rather celebrate the successes you have had, no matter where or for whom. Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

LinkedIn Is Watching You

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

LinkedIn Is Watching You

Photo by Ian Westcott via Flickr Creative Commons

We hope that you are using LinkedIn for networking and personal branding every chance you get. But you're not the only one benefiting from your presence there--LinkedIn is, too.

If you are on a job search, LinkedIn is the perfect place for hiring managers to get more details about you and find samples of your work--if you have been adding files and links since LinkedIn’s recent updates--as well as doing research about your target companies and the people with whom you are interviewing.

You should also be using LinkedIn to increase your influence by participating in Group discussions and posting valuable content. You can find an overview of our past LinkedIn tips here. While you are using LinkedIn more to help your career development, however, LinkedIn is using you and your data more to increase its value--both to professionals and to stockholders.

Who’s Viewed Your Updates is now keeping track of and reporting to you who has seen your updates. They are hoping that this feature makes you update more often. It does not require an upgraded account to see this information, unlike who has viewed your profile. If you are planning to take some time to tweak your profile, however, you might want to turn off updates until you are finished so your entire network doesn’t see when you corrected that typo or put in another comma.

You Recently Visited

It might feel more invasive to have LinkedIn so clearly monitoring where you go and what you read, but if you sometimes lose track of what you were looking at last week or the name of that person you were researching, this will definitely be helpful. LinkedIn always knew where you were going--now they are letting you in on your own data.

We find LinkedIn to be a very valuable resource, especially for research, whether you want details about a company you are interested in working with, information about a hiring manager for tomorrow's interview or when you are looking for talent. And remember, as on all social media platforms, a little thought about LinkedIn before you share goes a long way.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Expecting the Unexpected

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Expecting the Unexpected

There is no doubt that preparation is key to having a great job interview. Writing out answers to typical questions and even having mock interviews with friends can make a huge difference in the quality of your responses, your presentation and your confidence.

What about atypical questions?

It’s true that you can never know what an interviewer will ask. He might stick with “What are your weaknesses?” and “Tell me about yourself,” but there is always a chance that a hiring manager has a favorite question that he uses to compare candidates or even a strange question he asks just to see what people will say. We have written about unusual interview questions and how to prepare for them on our blog.

But do strange questions really work?

The consensus seems to be not really.

Google VP Laszlo Bock said in a recent interview that “[t]hey serve to make the interviewer feel smart.” Which might be why they can be frustrating for candidates. From what we have read and experienced, off-the-wall interview questions are more likely to make a candidate uncomfortable than elicit valuable information.

Only in rare cases, at more creative companies, can these kinds of questions really provide valuable insight into one's ability to brainstorm, concept or work with a team.

Hiring managers have their own style and a company’s culture will be reflected in the questions asked in interviews, whether those questions are traditional or not. Listen carefully, take time to think about your answers and remember that you are interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing you. Most of all--don’t worry about your answers to odd questions. Maybe they were just trying to find out what kind of a tree you are.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Hiring? Job searching? Questions for Assessing Cultural Fit on Both Sides of the Table

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

You’ve found the perfect candidate, at least on paper, and you are scheduling an in-person interview. You hope they are indeed perfect and your search is over. Or you have been offered an interview at your target company. Your goal is within reach. Or is it the wrong fit? Whether you are hiring a new employee or searching for a new role, how do you tell if there is a true culture fit?

Hiring Managers

A resume only provides limited information. Past experience and education are significant factors in finding a good fit, but company culture may be even more significant, especially if your organization is willing to train new hires who have the right temperament. A candidate who is filled with regret will never be very productive. Here are some good questions to ask in the interview to help you know if the candidate will fit into your company’s culture:
    1. What qualities are most important to you in a good boss?
    2. Do you think it is a good idea to become friends with your co-workers?
    3. What are the best things about your current or previous job?
    4. Do you prefer working independently or on a team? Why?
    5. How would you like to improve your management skills?
    6. What motivates you to go above and beyond expectations at work?
    7. Tell me about a time you felt most fulfilled at work.

Whenever you are looking to change jobs, you want to know that all of that trouble is worth the effort. Here are a few questions to help candidates evaluate a company’s culture at an interview:
    1. What do you like about working here?
    2. How many hours a week do you work in a typical week?
    3. Does the team hang out together outside of work?
    4. How much time is spent collaborating and how much is spent working alone?
    5. Are employees rewarded for high performance?
    6. How do employees usually get promoted?
Remember that the interview is not the time to ask about salary or benefits, even if those are your most important factors. 

For a happy onboarding and a long relationship, the people on both sides of the interview desk need to be comfortable that the company’s culture and the candidate’s temperament will go well together.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Reflections: Desperation

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Someone asked me recently, “Why did you apply for this particular job?” I was glad that my answer wasn’t “Because I really need one!” 

But what do you do if that is indeed the answer deep down? And how do you keep that desperation from affecting your job search process? Here are some tips for keeping that desperation at bay:

  • Talk to positive people—All of us have in our networks some people who are encouraging and others who are ready to commiserate with us. Both have value, but when you are trying to get into a healthy mental space, spend more time with those who help you feel more confident rather than those who are ready to join you in the Slough of Despond.
  • Change your language—Talking to people about your job search is great, but think about how you can solve problems for a company rather than how much you need a job. Using more positive language will feed more positive feelings to your network and to yourself.
  • Choose wisely—Applying for a million jobs sounds like it ought to land you just one, but would it be the right one, anyway? Focus your search on jobs that look like they will make you happy and fulfilled, that suit your life and your passions. You will go into any interview excited about the prospect of a better future.
  • Work with a recruiter—Not only can a recruiter steer you to roles which are truly suitable, they can coach you for interviews, help you tweak your resume to work better for you, and give you inside information that can make the difference when trying to land that perfect job.
Of course, there is a difference between being desperate and just looking like you are. Be sure to avoid these behaviors that could make you appear desperate even when you are not:
  • Too Many—Don’t apply for ten jobs at your target company, even though you really want to work there. Apply for the right job, get an interview and let the hiring manager realize that you are as good are better for another opening if you’re not right for that one.
  • Too MuchFollow through and follow up are both important, but if you contact the hiring manager too many times or via too many channels—or worse, at inappropriate times—you don’t look eager, you look over-eager. And maybe annoying before you even get a chance to show that you’re not.
  • Too Cute—Preparing for your interview by practicing answers to likely questions is key, but planning out clever ways of saying “I’m perfect for this job!” can make you seem less genuine and more panicky. Instead, plan to tell stories that show your interviewer that you are perfect by example and let her draw her own conclusions.
During any job search, there are periods of frustration and anxiety. Don’t beat yourself up about those feelings. Be proactive in your behavior and those times will pass quickly and your search will benefit from your positivity.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Unusual Resume Formats: Yes or No?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Unusual Resume Formats: Yes or No?

At Artisan we see quite a few resumes and most of them are in a variety of standard formats. On occasion, however, we will receive something especially creative or unusual, some more successful than others. What do you think of these non-traditional resume formats?

The Infographic—We’ve heard a lot about these. There is even a website that helps you take your resume information and turn it into an infographic. If the information on your resume can be easily thought of as a timeline or a pie chart, this might work for you. If your experience is more varied, it might end up being too busy and hard to interpret. Remember the purpose of your resume is to tell enough of your story that a hiring manager will want to meet you and find out more. If an infographic tells that story well, it might work.

The Video—A way of jumping the queue a bit, a video resume is a mini-interview of a sort. A hiring manager or recruiter can hear your voice, evaluate your presentation and spend a few minutes with you before meeting you in person. If you do a professional job on your video resume, it can definitely be intriguing, but if you’re not sure exactly how to produce your video resume, stick to paper. Be sure to rehearse and do more than one take to get the best possible result.

The Brochure—Especially if you are a Marketing Professional, using well-designed marketing materials like a brochure can showcase your skills tangibly as well as providing information. 

There is definitely room for creativity in your resume, whether it is in clean design elements or an less traditional format. However, the same rules apply to these as to more common styles: proofread, have as many people look at what you are sending before you send it as possible, proofread, use keywords for the job you are seeking and—of course—proofread!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

All in the Timing

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

All in the Timing

They say timing is the secret to comedy, but it’s also one of the secrets of good job interview technique.

Of course you can never know exactly what questions you will be asked and you should take the time necessary to answer them as fully as possible, whatever they may be. However, there are some good rules of thumb for both conciseness and verbosity that all of us should remember.

How short is too short?
  • One word is too short, unless you are clearly getting a yes-or-no question. Can you lift 50 pounds? Yes. Do you mind working on weekends? No.
  • If you haven’t actually answered the question, you haven’t said enough. Make sure you are practicing active listening during the question so that you know what the meat in the answer will be. It’s easy to lose track of the point of the question if you are planning your answer during it.
  • A moment of silence when you’re done is okay. It doesn’t mean you haven’t said enough—it means they were really listening, which is excellent. Don’t be tempted to fill the silence with more if you have answered the question.
How long is too long?
  • You have between 30 and 90 seconds of good listening time from your interviewer. Past there, you had better be telling a pretty compelling story or they will tune out and get ready to ask the next question.
  • If your interviewer breaks eye contact with you, you have probably lost their attention. Wrap it up.
  • If you think you might be going on too long, you can say something like, “I could tell you more about it, but I had better stop here.” They will be glad that you were aware of how long your answer was and either be happy to move on or ask you for more of your story. Both of those are good.
The real secret to great job interviews is practice, and the length of your answers can be planned and rehearsed with a trusted friend or colleague. Practice enough to get a good feel for when you have reached that magic 90-second mark and you will never see an interviewer check her watch again.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Tips on What to Ask Your Interviewer--Or Not

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Tips on What to Ask Your Interviewer--Or Not

Imagine it: you are at the job interview for the perfect role. You have charmed the hiring manager with your stories, remembered all of the quantifiable accomplishments on your resume and answered all of her questions with confidence and style. It’s time to tie this one up with a bow.

Any questions?

You would think that the hard part is over. Here is where you don’t need to know the answers, only have good questions to ask. Do you have good questions? Have you planned them and run them by a trusted friend?

Here are some questions that will pass muster and some you should put aside:

  • Ask a question based on your research about the company. Choose two qualities of its culture and ask which is the most important. 
  • Ask what changes they would like to see in the role going forward. Maybe something in your skillset will help that change take place.
  • Ask what the first priority will be for the person hired. If that person is you, you will have some training and orientation time, but a chance to think about what your first project could be should help you make the transition successfully.
  • Ask about benefits until you have an offer. I know and they know that benefits are an important part of the package, but in the interview, what you bring to the table is what’s under discussion, not what they bring. Wait.
  • Ask about telecommuting. Again, this is a significant factor for your work/life balance, but unless it is a deal-breaker, wait until you are settled in and know that you could make it work before asking if you can work offsite.
  • Decline to ask anything. Lack of curiosity about the company will turn off any interviewer.
This part of an interview generally comes at the end, so what you do here is the last thing the hiring manager will remember when it’s over. Don’t waste this opportunity to put your own spin on their impression of you. 

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Looking (and Feeling) Confident

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Looking (and Feeling) Confident

One of my roles is Vocal Coach and I’m spending many hours working with some Middle School singers this month while they are preparing for auditions. Some of the work we are doing is very technical—breathing, tone, pitch—but some of the work is on their presentation. Especially with the exceptional singers. And this work is making me think about presentation in other areas of life.

Whether you find yourself in an elevator with someone you want to connect with, in a job interview that you really want to ace, or even meeting with a client about a project, the level of confidence in yourself that you express could be the difference between success and frustration. Here are some tips for expressing yourself confidently (even if you may not feel it) in singing and in life:

  • Keep a level head. Literally. Your chin should be neither lifted nor pushed down, but in a comfortable position. Try thinking of a string coming out of the top of your head that attaches to the ceiling. Ballet dancers use this image and it really helps to put your body in balance.
  • Turn up the volume. Not a lot, but speaking a bit louder than you would in a typical conversation will add more energy and timbre to your voice. Practice when you introduce yourself. Saying your name slowly and clearly is a great way to get in the right place.
  • Focus. Making eye contact alone is not enough; you must hold eye contact for three to five seconds to make an impact. Watch movie actors. The “great ones” don’t even blink while the camera is on them. It’s quite amazing and one of the reasons they are the “great ones.”
  • Make statements. Many people allow their voices to go up, the way we do when we ask a question, at the end of sentences. Practice your interview answers so that your sentences come to a definite conclusion. 
  • Don’t hem and haw. Or um and you know. If you are in the habit of using sounds and repetitive phrases to give yourself time to think, practice your stories with trusted friends who will tell you when you do so. It’s hard for any of us to hear these things in our own speech, we are so used to them.
Thinking through these tips, I can see how they also apply to my Middle Schoolers. They need to sing well, sing strong, keep their focus and project the emotions of their songs clearly and definitively. I know they can do it. Can you?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


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