Out of 100,000 Interviews, These 7 Candidate Questions Stood Out

Author: Sjoerd Gehring

“Do you have any questions for us?”

You’ll be asked it in almost any interview. And while you may be tempted to sit back and relax during this portion—while the recruiter’s put in the hot seat—that’s not actually in your best interest.

Why? Because this is your final chance to make an awesome impression.

My team and I interview around 100,000 people a year so, as you can imagine, we always take notice when someone asks a question besides “What’s a typical day like?” or “When will I hear back from you?”

In fact, you shouldn’t be afraid to grill hiring managers during this portion of the conversation. Chances are, they're hoping you will.

To help get you started, here are some of the super-smart questions I’ve been asked during actual interviews by real-life candidates–and the reasons they got my attention.

1. “Who Does the Wireframing for Your Site?”

OK, that’s clearly specific to a certain role. But I’m using this one as an example of a question you can ask that places you in the role you’ve applied for.

This question came from a prospective designer. We got talking about a new internal website we were developing and he asked, "Who does the wireframing for your website, the design team or a specific UX team?"

We ended up having a great discussion about our processes and how he could contribute to the development of the project. I remember thinking it was like we were already working together. And, from his perspective, he got a great insight into the way we work across teams and who has responsibility for what.

2. “Why Does This Role Matter to the Growth of the Company?”

Talk about putting the ball back in my court! This question showed me the candidate was interested in more than just what I thought of him then and there, in the interview. She wanted to make an impact beyond her own role or team and get a feel for how she’d fit into the future plans of the business.

And, from a candidate perspective, it’s a great way to help you see whether the role you’ve applied for will be a high or low-profile position. It also gives you an indication of what’s expected of the person who fills that role.

3. “Could I Meet Some of the People I’d Be Working With?”

I’ve been asked this a few times—especially more recently—and it’s a great question. (And one that we always try to accommodate.) It shows me the candidate understands the importance of cultural fit and team dynamics and that it matters to them. This is clearly not a person who wants to come to work, sit down at their desk every day, and work in a solitary bubble with their headphones on.

Plus, if you want to get a sense of whether you’ll enjoy being around the people you could be working with every day, this is the question you should ask.

4. “Why Has the Person in This Role Decided to Leave?” / “Who Had This Role Before?”

This can be a very revealing question! Why is the position you’ve applied for available? Is it because the previous person has been promoted or moved to a different team? Both of which would suggest that this job would set you up for progression.

Or, did the person leave to join another company? Or because they didn’t meet expectations? If the recruiter hesitates or becomes evasive, that could tell you everything you need to know! Equally, stay alert and if you sense it’s time to move the conversation on, gently change the subject to something else or ask a new question that’s easier to answer.

5. “What Do You Like Most About Working Here?”

I’ve only been asked this once, believe it or not. It was by a candidate who’d just finished giving a very competent response to the question, “Why do you want to work here?”

I loved the way she tossed this question right back at me. And, although it took me a few seconds to think how to respond, we ended up having a great conversation about how rewarding a career at J&J can be, both personally and professionally.

As a candidate, it’s the perfect question to catch the recruiter a little off-guard and get an honest answer. Regardless of what they say, you can probably gauge how they truly feel about their company, which gives you another indication of whether it’s the right fit for you.

6. “Do You Have Any Reservations About Me or My Qualifications?”

A seriously gutsy question! So gutsy that I was impressed by the confidence of the candidate who asked it. You might think you’re setting your self-esteem up for a knocking. But it’s actually very smart.

A question like this gives you the chance to address any concerns the recruiter may have about your fit for the role head-on, in person. In the instance I’m thinking of, the candidate was actually able to mitigate the concerns I had about a large, unexplained gap on his resume. It transpired he’d taken an unpaid sabbatical to care for his infant daughter while his wife went back to college.

Sure, it takes some gumption to ask. But why allow a potentially unfounded reservation turn into a reason to give someone else the job ahead of you?

7. “How Do You Deal With Professional Disagreements Within the Team? Can You Give Me an Example?”

Another question that shows a recruiter that they’re talking to a candidate who cares about team dynamics and understands that how a team works together can make or break the success of its projects.

For you as a candidate, it’s an incredibly useful way to find out whether you’ll be joining a team of ‘yes-men’ or whether respectful (emphasis on respectful!)  disagreements are encouraged to ensure all avenues are explored and that company goals are put ahead of egos. Providing the interviewer answers honestly, it also gives you an indication of inter-team dynamics.

As a recruiter, I’ve heard a lot of awesome questions (such as these)—and some I bet the candidate regretted instantly! But, with a little preparation, there’s no need to feel anxious about this part of an interview.

The hiring manager knows you want to figure out if the role is right for you so they’ll be expecting questions. And by taking a couple of the examples above and modifying them to fit your own situation, I can almost guarantee you’re going to instigate some really valuable discussions that help you (both!) to make the right decision about the role.

 

Photo credit: interview courtesy of Jessica Peterson/Getty Images.

To read the original article, click here.


The 3 Kinds of LinkedIn Messages That Are Unlikely to Get a Response

Author: Emily Liou

As a career coach, my inbox is often flooded with messages from people I’m connected with on LinkedIn who are reaching out about something or another. Now, I don’t mean to be judgmental, but I often find myself sighing with annoyance when I open them up—so much so that I was motivated to write this article.

You see, the thing is, I’m open to making new connections and willing to talk to anyone, so the fact that I often put off responding to messages means people are missing the mark. And that stinks because it takes effort to both find people to connect with in the first place and then cultivate a networking relationship from there.

I want to be excited when I read your message and I know you want that, too (or at least I hope you do!). Often times, it only takes a few tweaks to your words or tone to make that possible.

Below are messages inspired by real ones I’ve received along with my thoughts on why they’re not the best approach.

Quick note though: Unless you have LinkedIn Premium, you’ll need to connect before you send a message. But that doesn’t mean you can just send the generic invite. Instead, send a customized one with with these short templates so they’ll accept your request and you’ll be able to actually send over a note.

1. The Empty Query

Initial Reaction

It’s nice that you want to find a way to help one another out, but this message doesn’t give me anything to work with. Perhaps there’s something in my my background that led you to reach out in this manner?

Revised

Why This Is Better

Anyone can spot a generic, non-customized message from three Wi-Fi zones away, and if you care about standing out, you’ll be careful not to be labeled as generic, right? The updated version attempts to start building a rapport. By including a customized, targeted line, I can tell George has looked into my background and is excited about finding a way to potentially work together. And that makes me much more inclined to respond to this.

2. The Vague Ask

Initial Reaction

How’s everything? Hm, that’s a rather large question for someone I don’t know in real life. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even know where to begin in responding to this person.

The Revised Message

Why This Is Better

Being clear up front is just good business. It sets clear intentions and demonstrates professionalism. Many people have experienced accepting a meeting only to find it turn into a sales pitch. If you’re clear about the reason why you’re reaching out, you’re going to build a higher level of trust out the gate and find people who are attracted to your proposal. This is what building a network is all about.

3. The Forceful Demand

Initial Reaction

Hi Matt. My current profile has been updated to indicate that I’m no longer a recruiter (not to mention I definitely don’t specialize in the Florida market as I’m in Los Angeles). If you’re going to spend the time, energy, and effort in sending messages and attempting to foster relationships, it’s far more more effective if you target the correct audience.

The Revised Message

Why This Is Better

If you’re actively seeking a new position and are wanting to connect, it makes a huge difference if you can share in a couple of sentences what you’re looking for and a glimpse of what you bring to the table. Even though I’m no longer entrenched in the recruiting world, I’m still well-connected.

If Matt had demonstrated clear professionalism in a straightforward introduction, and made note of target roles he’s seeking, I’d for sure be inclined to point him to resources or ask him for his resume to pass along.

The thing to remember is that if you’re asking one of your LinkedIn contacts for something, you need to make it as easy as possible for that person to follow up.

It may be difficult to see it, but every piece of correspondence counts—from the way you first connect to how you stay connected. Don’t randomly reach out to 20 of your LI connections for the sake of hoping something falls into place in your job search. By building off of the revised templates above, you’ll be able to initiate conversations that result in meaningful networking relationships.

Photo credit: wernerimages/Getty Images.

To read the original article, click here.


Interview Translation: What 4 Common Questions Really Mean

Author: Sara Mccord

Acing the interview isn’t just about having the perfect canned speeches. Yes, you need to show off your experience, talents, and personality—but before answering each question, you also have to figure out what the interviewer is actually asking you.

Those seemingly innocuous questions, like “tell me about yourself” and “where do you see yourself in a few years?” aren’t just get-to-know-you conversation starters. They’re one of the key ways an interviewer will seek to uncover whether you’re the right fit for the job.

So, before you start to share your life story—or recite the same answer you gave at the last interview—it’s important to figure out what the interviewer really wants to know. Check out our guide to translating interviewer-speak, and learn how to plot your answers accordingly.

 

1. Question: Tell me about yourself.

 

Translation: Tell me why you’re the right fit for this job.

The interviewer already has your resume and cover letter, so she’s not looking for a rundown of your employment history. Nor does she care that you grew up in Boston and love to jog on the weekends. She’s looking for a pitch—one that’s concise, compelling, and keeps her attention, and one that tells her exactly why you’re the right fit for the job.

So, while this is a good time to paint a broad picture of who you are, it’s most important that you include a couple of key facts that will sell you as the right candidate.

Think about the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, and share them here. You can frame your stories or tie them together using a theme or a quote, if appropriate, such as “My first boss told me that fundraising is really building relationships, and that’s the approach I’ve taken throughout my career. For example…”

It’s also a good idea to practice your answer aloud, record it, then listen to your pitch. Are you engaging? Are you rambling? Are you getting your most important points across loud and clear? (This is good advice for any interview question.)

 

2. Question: How would you explain our organization’s mission?

 

Translation: Can you be an ambassador for our organization?

Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when an interviewer asks you this, she isn’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission—she wants to know whether you care about it, and she’s looking for who in the applicant pool can most effectively discuss the organization’s work and its impact.

So, in addition to doing your research on the company’s work, think about concrete ways it relates to your passions and experiences, and weave them into your answer.

Start with one line that shows you understand the mission, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two. For example, if you’re interviewing at a school that stresses character, share some specific character-building education activities you’ve led for students in your last job. If you’re interviewing for a position at a hospital, talk about the 5K you recently ran to raise money for leukemia or your passion for volunteering your time to help children with cancer.

 

3. Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

 

Translation: Do you care about our work?

Hiring someone is an investment, and interviewers believe (as you would expect) that someone genuinely interested in the organization’s work will be the better hire. So, what she really wants to know is whether this particular job and company is part of your career path, or whether you’ll be jumping ship in a year once you land your “real” dream job.

So how should you answer? If the position you’re interviewing for is on the track to your goals, share that, plus give some specifics. For example, if you’re interviewing for an account executive position an advertising firm, and you know your goal is to become an account supervisor, say that. And then add specifics about the sort of clients you hope to work with, which will help your answer sound genuine, not canned—and again show why this particular company will be a good fit.

If the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations, the best approach is to be genuine, but to follow your answer up by connecting the dots between the specific duties in this role and your future goals. It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision, or that you’re excited about the management or communications skills you’ll gain.

 

4. Question: Do you have any questions for us?

 

Translation: Have you really been listening?

It’s easy to go into an interview with a list of questions about the position. But the tougher part—and what the interviewer really wants to see—is whether you can roll with the punches, engage in the conversation, and ask questions that weren’t already answered over the course of the interview.

This will require some thinking on your feet. As you’re going along in the interview, be thinking which key areas—job duties, company culture, the team you’ll be working with—haven’t been covered yet, so you can target your questions there. You can also prepare ahead of time by thinking of more non-traditional questions, or ask questions targeted to the interviewer herself, which probably won’t be covered in the interview.

Try things like: What you like most about working here? What drew you to work for this organization? What do you think are the current strategic challenges facing the organization? What advice would you give to someone in this role?

Remember, there’s no “right” answer to an interview question—or at least not one that’s right for every job. But by thinking about what an interviewer is really after, you can go a long way in showing her why you’re right for the job.

To read the original article, click here.


How to Ace a Lunch Interview

Author: Kate Farrar

Preparing for an interview is nerve-wracking enough, let alone when your potential employer suggests it over a meal. What should you order? How will the conversation go? And how can you highlight your strengths and accomplishments while trying to maneuver a mouthful of chicken Piccata?

When I interviewed for my current position, I had two lunch interviews. I was a first-timer at this interview format and had little knowledge of what to expect. But I survived—and so can you. Here are a few things I’d encourage if you find yourself in my same position.

How to Prepare

Do some basic research on the restaurant in order to figure out the location, menu, clientele, and noise level. Even if you’ve been to the restaurant before, take some time to review the menu and pick out a few options you might order. It’ll reduce the amount of time you spend looking at entrée options (time that could be spent engaging your future employer!).

Next, remember that one of the hardest things about an interview over a meal is that you can’t have notes available to refer to—at least not easily, anyway. So, you’ll want to spend plenty of time beforehand outlining the key points that you want to get across and and asking questions that you need answers to.

Finally, dress the part. Though a restaurant might feel more casual than a conference room, you still want to wear interview-appropriate business attire

When to Get There

Plan to arrive 15 minutes prior to the reservation and wait for your interviewers at the front of the restaurant—this will prevent the whole, “I wonder if they have a table yet?” awkwardness. (If you haven’t met them before, do a quick Google image search so you have some idea of who you’re looking for.)

What to Order (and Not Order!)

One of the trickiest things about the lunch interview is figuring out what to order. The best thing you can do is take the lead from your interviewers. When you sit down, casually ask if they’ve been to the restaurant before and what they think are good options—hopefully their recommendations will give you a sense of an appropriate price range. If not, when the wait staff arrives, try to have your interviewer order first and choose something at that price point (or less).

Also, be sure to pick an option that will be easy to eat while you’re talking. (Hint: Forkfuls of Caesar salad are easier to maneuver than a massive, messy sandwich.)

Finally, no matter how casual your employer may be, you want to put forward your very, very best self. This means: Stay away from ordering alcohol, even if the interviewers do. If you get the job, you will have plenty of opportunities to share a drink with them—the interview is not the time or place to start.

How to Present Yourself

An interview spent sharing a meal with your potential employers is typically more of a conversation than a Q & A format. So, don't be afraid to engage in a two-way dialogue. Yes, answer questions they ask you, but also insert any questions you have where appropriate, and know that it’s OK if the conversation veers into more personal topics (e.g., “Where did you grow up?”).

That said, follow your interviewers’ lead and listen closely for when they switch from casual dialogue to questions about your fit for the position.

Also remember that one reason for having an interview over a meal is that the employer is looking at how you present yourself in this setting (and how you would represent the company in future social settings). So, be aware of all those table manners: Sit up straight, keep your elbows off the table, maintain good eye contact, and don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.”

 

How to Wrap Things Up

At the end of the meal, don’t be worried about the check. The interviewers have invited you to the meal, and therefore, they’ll pick up the tab.

As the bill is being paid, make sure to ask about any next steps, which will help guide what you write in your thank-you note (yep, you need to write one after every interview—meals included!). And also take the time to genuinely thank your interviewers for their time and the meal, both as they are paying the check and as you leave the restaurant.

Having a lunch interview is a good thing—it means the interviewers are interested in spending more time with you, and it’s a great way to convey your skills and personality in a less formal environment. Be prepared and remember these guidelines, and you’ll have a great coneversatio (maybe even a great meal as well).

 

Photo credit: Photo of interview over lunch courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images.

To read the original article, click here.

 


10 Types of Interviews (and How to Ace Them)

Author: the Daily Muse Editor

Interviews come in all shapes and sizes: Sometimes you’re with one interviewer, others you’re with five. Maybe you’ll be asked to lunch, expected to solve a problem, or invited to a Skype interview.

But no matter what the format, we’ll give you what you need to succeed.

We’ll show you how to nail every type of job interview you might face. Check out these 10 common interviews and what you need to know about them.

1. The Traditional Interview

This is the scenario you’ll face most often: You sit down with a solo interviewer and answer a series of questions designed to help her figure out if you’re a great candidate for the job.

What You Need to Know

2. The Phone Interview

Asked for a phone interview? A call is typically a first-round screening to see if you’re a fit to come in for a full interview, so nailing it is key. You’ll want to prepare just as you would for an in-person interview, with some key adjustments for the phone format.

What You Need to Know

3. The Skype Interview

Skype video interviews take the phone-screening interview to the next level, and they’re becoming a regular part of the job application process for many companies. From choosing the right on-screen look to making sure all of your tech systems are a go, you’ll want to be 100% ready for your TV debut.

What You Need to Know

4. The Case Interview

The case interview is a more specialized format in which you’re given a business problem (“How can BigCoal Co. double its growth?”) or a puzzle (“How many tennis balls fit in a 747?”) to solve. While case interviews were once exclusively the domain of aspiring consultants, they’re now popping up everywhere from tech companies to NGOs.

What You Need to Know

5. The Puzzle Interview

Google and other highly competitive companies have been known to ask “puzzle” questions, like, “How many people are using Facebook in San Francisco at 2:30 PM on a Friday?” Seems random, but your interviewer wants to determine how quickly you can think on your feet, how you’ll approach a difficult situation, and how you can make progress in the face of a challenge.

What You Need to Know

6. The Lunch Interview

Has your potential employer suggested an interview over a meal? That’s a good sign—it usually means she wants to learn a little more about you and how you act outside of the office. We’ll show how to highlight your strengths and accomplishments while trying to maneuver a mouthful of chicken Piccata.

What You Need to Know

7. The Group Interview

Group interviews aren’t common, but you might find them for sales roles, internships, or other positions in which the company is hiring multiple people for the same job. How do you catch the hiring manager’s eye when you’re part of the group? It takes a little gusto and a few smart tactics.

What You Need to Know

8. The Working Interview

In some industries—writing, engineering, or even sales—you may be asked to complete an actual job task as part of the interview. Basically, your interviewers don’t want you to tell them you can do the job, they want to see it.

Don’t panic: If you go in prepared, this is your chance to shine.

What You Need to Know

9. The Firing Squad

If you’ll be reporting to several people or working with a team, it’s not uncommon to meet with multiple interviewers—all at the same time. Sounds nice, because you only have to answer those tough questions once, but it can also be tricky to make a strong connection with each decision maker.

What You Need to Know

10. The Career Fair Interview

If you’re attending career fairs as part of your job hunt, get ready for impromptu interviews, where you’ll only have 10 or 15 minutes to sell yourself to the recruiter for a chance to come in for a full interview.

What You Need to Know

Photo of job interview courtesy of Shutterstock.

To read the original article, click here.


3 Steps to a Perfect Informational Interview

Author: Lily Zhang

Let’s say you managed the tricky process of asking for an informational interview (and yes, we've got tips for that, too ) and have succeeded in arranging a meeting with an amazing contact.

What now? How do you make the most of this conversation—while still keeping things casual and comfortable?

As always, it’s just a matter of being prepared. Here’s a three-part process for your next meeting that’ll make sure you get the advice you need and make a great impression .

1. Warm Up

People love to talk about themselves, so when you first sit down, let them! Get the conversation going by asking your contact something about his or her experiences thus far—something he or she knows all about. Some good places to begin:

  • How did you get your start in this field?
  • What’s it like working at your company?
  • What projects are you working on right now?
  • What’s your opinion on [exciting development in the industry]?

You should also be prepared to chat about yourself, your past experiences, and your career goals. Remember, this meeting isn’t just a time to ask for advice and learn from your contact’s experiences—it’s also a chance to make an impression. For example, don’t be afraid to preface your questions with what you already know. Something like, “It looks like recent developments in the field of nuclear fission are going to be pretty disruptive to the energy industry. How do you think this will affect your company?”

2. Get What You Want

After you’ve made some general conversation, it’s time to move on to what you came for : the advice you can’t get anywhere else.

Before the meeting, think through the insider information you want to learn from this person. What information are you seeking? Is there something you can learn from this person that would be difficult for you to learn on your own? Depending on where you are in the job search process, adjust your questions accordingly.

For example, if you’re still in exploration mode, trying to find out if, say, working for an educational technology startup is for you, then ask questions like:

  • How did you choose this company or position over others in your field?
  • What is the most rewarding thing about working in this industry? The most challenging?
  • My background is in urban planning—how do you think I can best leverage my previous experience for this field?

If you’re further along in your job search and could use some job hunting and interviewing tips for specific companies, don’t be afraid to ask questions like:

  • I’m waiting to hear back about interviews for positions—what advice would you give me about how to best prepare?
  • What experiences, skills, or personality traits does your company look for in new hires?
  • What do you wish you had done differently when you first started at your company?
  • What job search advice would you give to someone in my situation?

Of course, you’ll want go with the flow of the conversation —you’re trying to build a relationship, not fire off as many questions as you can. Also remember that what these questions have in common is that they are all seeking advice. Keep it that way. It’s no mystery that you are clearly looking for a new position or career change, and the fastest way to alienate your contact is to ask for a job (or anything along those lines). If your contact offers to forward your resume based on your conversation, then by all means, take advantage of it. But that process is for him or her to initiate, not you.

3. Tap Into Their Network

That said, as you’re wrapping up the meeting, you should ask for recommendations for two or three more people who would be good to talk to as you continue networking. The likelihood someone will take time to chat with you goes up significantly if your initial request comes through a mutual contact, so it’s a fast, easy way to talk to even more people.

The key here is to make your request as specific as possible. This might be counterintuitive, but it actually makes it easier for your contact to think of someone when you say, “Could you recommend a couple more people for me to speak with to learn more about exit opportunities after a career in consulting ?” than to come up with an answer to, “Is there anyone else you would recommend that I speak with?”

To recap: Get the conversation going, know what you want to get out of the meeting, and don’t leave without knowing who you’re contacting next. And don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you note! Better yet, follow up again with an update on your meetings with the people he or she recommended and the results of your job search. After all, your informational interviewees aren’t just useful for their one-time advice—they can become a long-term part of your network.

Photo of informational interview courtesy of Shutterstock .

To read the original article, click here.


4 Tips for Reaching Out to Someone You Admire on LinkedIn

Author: Lily Herman

Every LinkedIn user has had that moment: You’re scrolling through profiles and stumble upon your role model. Whether it’s someone who works for a company you love or someone who has the career of your dreams, you’re now dying to talk to him or her.

The question is, how do you reach out without it seeming weird, random, or awkward?

Well, it’s not quite as hard as you think. Here’s my advice for actually reaching out to a stranger on LinkedIn—and getting a response.

1. Figure Out if LinkedIn Is the Best Way to Reach Out

Before you click the “Message” button and declare your admiration, make sure you check that person’s profile to see if there are any specific requests about messages. For example, does he only want notes from people he already knows in person? Does she ask people with inquiries to send her an email instead of a LinkedIn message? These are things to figure out beforehand, because it could keep you from getting a response.

For example, my website, The Prospect, has a high school internship program that requires applicants to send materials to us via our company email. One day I opened up my LinkedIn profile and was surprised to find a high school student’s internship application in my inbox with no explanation of why I was receiving it on my personal profile. Not only was it random, but I could tell that the person obviously didn’t follow our application instructions. Why would I consider someone for an internship who obviously didn’t follow directions or offer any reason for doing so?

My advice? Do a little digging (er, stalking) before you send a message. For all you know, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by sending it to the wrong place.

2. Find Common Career Ground

Since LinkedIn is centered around careers, it’s important for there to be some job-related link between you and the person you admire. This could be pretty much anything, from working in the same industry to knowing a couple of the same people, but it’s important to do a little more digging—both on LinkedIn and on the web as a whole—to find that common ground. Believe me: It’s much easier to break the ice when your message is tethered to something career-related and personal than to something generic (“Hey, I see that you live in New York…”).

For example, if you saw this person speak at an event recently (as in, within the last week or so), use that as the jumping off point for a stellar opening line to your message (“I saw your speech about Y at event X and had a couple of questions for you”). If you have a mutual contact who both of you know very well, that person can also be a great tool (“Jenny Smith and I were talking the other day about awesome programmers, and she suggested I contact you”).

3. Avoid the “Can I Have a Job?” Line

This is an obvious one, yet people still do it all the time: Do not ask for a job from someone you admire but don’t know. Rarely do people hand out jobs to strangers they’ve never had any contact with before. Plus, chatting with people on LinkedIn is great for making connections with colleagues in the same field or professional circles, but it’s not meant to be the pinnacle of your professional relationship with someone—just a jumping off point. A connection on LinkedIn should lead to a working online relationship or a lunch or coffee meeting, not just more online interaction.

Some great reasons to want to contact someone on LinkedIn? If you’re looking for specific industry advice from someone in your field or wanting to meet up with someone in the future (again, be specific about why), then LinkedIn is the place to go.

And if your main reason for admiring someone is because he or she could potentially get you a job? You may want to rethink the entire reaching out process.

4. Draft Your Message

When you’re ready to reach out, write out the message you want to send before you actually send it. It’s easier said than done to say, “I’m going to tell so-and-so that I admire him!” and it’s important to think through what specifically you want out of this correspondence beforehand. Think to yourself, What would be the optimal response I’d receive from this person if everything were to go perfectly? And, How can this message open the door for said response?

Draft your message by separating out an introduction, body paragraph, and conclusion where you explain who you are, why you’re reaching out, and (briefly) what you want out of the correspondence. Again, the name of the game is brevity; your message should only be a couple of sentences tops (what person wants to read an eight-page summary on the life of someone they don’t know or don’t know well?).

I once sent a version of the following LinkedIn message to someone I briefly (literally a three-minute conversation) met at a conference two days prior:

Hi [name],

It was awesome meeting you during the lunch break at [event] this weekend and talking about our favorite college admissions websites.

I remember you were discussing how much you were hoping to re-launch your website’s social media platforms but weren’t sure where to start and wanted some outside input. If you still want some help, I’d love to be of assistance.

Let me know if this is something that interests you, and feel free to contact me at [email address]. Hope you’re having a great week!

I ended up getting a response to this message only a couple of hours later—and since then, this person I barely knew but really admired has turned into a valuable contact for me all because of a brief LinkedIn message.

Freaking out about reaching out to someone you don’t know at all? I once received this awesome message from a fellow blogger and entrepreneur I’d never met (she’s a high school student, no less):

Hi Ms. Herman,

My name is [name], and I run a student-run website called [blog name] that seeks to empower young women to follow their dreams.

I’ve been following The Prospect for quite some time now, and it’s amazing to see how much it has grown over the past several months. The Prospect really is an inspiration for my website, and I was wondering if you had any tips for growing your team while keeping the content quality up? We’re hoping to expand soon and could really use some pointers.

Thanks you so much, and congrats again for running such a great website!

Best,

[Name]

[Email address]

I loved this message because it was short, straightforward, and friendly (but not pushy). The writer asked a career-related question that wasn’t too vague (like “How do I run a website?”), and it led to me giving her my email address so we could chat (and we’re still professionally connected months later). Above all, our LinkedIn interaction led to greater connection elsewhere, which is key.

Above all, try not to overthink your message. While you should dedicate a lot of time, care, and proofreading (typos are the enemy!) to your message, at the end of the day, it should sound natural and not too stiff or overly formal. You want to come across as approachable and likeable, someone who anyone would be happy to talk to and help out.

 

Photo credit: the Muse.

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How To Ask People for Things Via Email: An 8-Step Program

Author: Jocelyn K. Glei

One of the golden rules of writing is: Respect the reader’s intelligence. This rule gets magnified by a factor of 10 when it comes to composing unsolicited emails.

Most people who receive any significant quantity of email in a day have developed extremely refined bullshit detectors. They can identify an impersonal templated email in 0.5 seconds, and they can spot a time-wasting “let’s explore the possibilities” ask from a mile off.

In short, getting someone that you don’t know to pay attention to you—and respond—is a delicate art. One that requires craftsmanship, charm, concision, and a lot of self-editing.

Based on years of drafting, redrafting, observation, and misfires, here are a few pointers to keep in mind when composing an email “ask”:

Step 1: Make it easy to say, “Yes.”

When it comes to giving good email, making it easy to say “Yes!” is objective number one. Sadly, it’s also where most people fall down on the job.

I frequently receive emails from people who are interested in some sort of knowledge exchange but never clarify how they would like for me to take action. Do they want to have a coffee? Do they want to do a phone call? It’s unclear, which means that instead of saying, “Yes!” I have to respond by asking them what they’re asking me for in the first place. Or, not respond at all.

If you are asking someone to take the time to answer you, it should be very clear what you are asking for. Look at your email and ask yourself: “Can the recipient say ‘Yes’ without further discussion?”  If the answer is yes, you’re doing well. If not, you need to redraft.

Step 2: Write an intriguing subject line. 

Composing a good email subject line is akin to writing a great headline. If you’re cold-emailing someone you’ve never met, it’s important to strike a balance between being direct and being interesting.

If I were asking someone to speak at our annual 99U Conference, for instance, I might use a subject like: “Jessica + Behance’s 99U Conference?” (Analysis: Using someone’s name feels personal; mentioning Behance in addition to 99U gives more chance of name recognition; and the question mark gives a sense of possibility/ creates curiosity.)

Keep in mind that while it’s always good to be clear, you also don’t want to give anyone a reason to dismiss your email before reading it. For that reason, you’ll want to avoid stock or cookie-cutter phrases that might get your email lumped in (and glossed over) with others.

For instance, for a speaker ask for the 99U Conference, I typically avoid run-of-the-mill phrases like “speaking opportunity” or “speaking invitation,” because they can turn people off before they’ve really assessed my particular opportunity.

Step 3: Establish your credibility.

“Why should I care?” is the tacit question hovering in most people’s minds every time they open an email from someone they don’t know. This is why establishing your credibility is crucial. Tell your reader why you are different, why you are accomplished, and why they should pay attention to you.

If I’m contacting someone about contributing to 99u.com, I might share stats on our monthly pageviews and social media reach to do this. If the ask is related to one of our events, I would share audience size, years sold out, and a power-list of past speakers.

If you don’t have “data points” to share, you can also establish credibility by being a keen observer of the person you are contacting; you could tell them how long you’ve followed their work, how you enjoyed the last blog post they wrote, etc. As long as it’s not fawning, most people appreciate being noticed.

Step 4: Be concise & get to the point.

Never assume that someone is going to read your entire email. You should make it clear from the get-go exactly what you are asking for. That means clarifying why you’re reaching out in the first sentence or two, and no later.

However, sometimes everything you need to say can’t be explained in 1-3 sentences. If this is the case for your ask, go ahead and say your piece (as concisely as you can) but assume your reader will be skimming it. This means using bolding, bullet pointing, and so forth as much as possible.

If it’s necessary to give some backstory prior to the ask, I like to just go ahead and break out the ask in paragraph two with a bolded preface that reads, “The Ask:” If you’re asking for something, there’s no point in beating around the bush. Make your objective clear.

Step 5: Give a deadline if you can.

People are often shy about including deadlines in emails, especially when cold-emailing. While it’s never a good idea to come off as presumptuous, deadlines do have great utility. In fact, most busy people like them. Bear in mind when you are emailing someone that—surprise!—they are probably also getting tons of emails from other people.

Most of those emails fall into one of two categories: 1) Things they have to do, and 2) Random requests for things that they might like to do, time permitting. Chances are, your email falls into group two. Which means it’s really important to know whensomething needs a response by. In other words, do whatever you can to help the receiver put the requested task on a timeline and prioritize it.

Step 6: Be interesting and interested.

At the most basic level, this means do not ever send anyone a templated email. If you are asking someone to take the time and energy to reply to you, make it clear that you actually know who they are.

That doesn’t mean being obsequious and singing their praises, it does mean talking to them like you are one human talking to another human. It’s nice to articulate why you’re interested in them. It’s also nice to articulate why they should be interested in you. Try to have a voice and say something funny, meaningful, or thoughtful—preferably all three!

Step 7: Never ever ever use the word “synergy.”

No single word lights up the experienced emailer’s bullshit detector like the word “synergy.” No one worth their salt wants to spend their time talking about exploring synergies. Emails with this language typically mean that the person asking for something hasn’t really thought through their ask enough to offer any specificity. If you want someone to take a chance on you, show them respect by thinking through what you are asking for and being up front about it. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and theirs.

Step 8: Preview your email on a phone.

You probably write most of your “ask” emails on a desktop computer. Bear in mind that your recipient will be receiving and reading your email on their mobile phone in almost all instances. And what looks “digestible” on a desktop computer looks like an epic poem on a mobile phone.

As per point 4, you may think you have already confirmed that your email is concise. But is it still concise on an iPhone? Once you check, you will probably realize there are a few more things you can remove. Edit your email again, and then send.

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How to Create a Personal Branding Plan in 30 Minutes (Even if You Hate "Personal Branding")

Author: Marietta Gentles Crawford

You're ready to make a career move—maybe you’re looking for a new job, launching a side business, or eyeing a promotion. In all of these instances, boosting your personal brand can help you achieve your goal.

That’s because a strong personal brand is a carefully designed message that’s compelling and attracts the right people. It helps you stand out for who you are and what you do best.

You’re probably nodding along, because you already know all of this. You don’t need to be convinced how valuable personal branding is: What’s holding you back is the time commitment.

That’s why you have a LinkedIn Profile, even though you haven’t updated it since you set it up. After all, who can devote hours each week on top of working or job searching? Well, believe it or not, 30 minutes is all you need to take your efforts to the next level. Here’s how to spend them:

Minutes 1-10: Evaluate What Makes You Stand Out

The first thing you want to do is perform a self-assessment. This step is often overlooked, but it’ll be super helpful as you find your voice in a sea of professionals with similar experience.

This evaluation helps you have a clear vision of your USP, or “unique selling proposition,” which is just a fancy term for the value you offer to your target audience.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. What are you passionate about? You want to think about what excites you, and what things you truly enjoy doing.
  2. What are your core beliefs? This is important because it’s like a mission statement. It’ll help you relay your personal approach to getting things done.
  3. What are your top four strengths? This’ll help you share what you do better than anyone else, to set you apart from the competition.
  4. Are you a good leader or a good doer—or both? This is good to know because it’s a way to identify and highlight the kind of roles that complement your strengths.
  5. What do others say about you? Ask around! You may have strengths you’re unaware of, or talents you need to put more emphasis on so people know they exist.

To be clear, I don’t expect you to answer these questions with witty taglines. This exercise is to help you target your branding efforts. So, answer the question(s) that inspire you by jotting down notes, and honestly writing what comes to mind.

Minutes 10-20: Compare That to What You Already Have

Now that you’ve done some reflection on what you want to say, it’s time to see how it stacks up against what’s already out there.

If someone were to read your LinkedIn profile, tweets, or personal website, would they see messaging that points them toward the answers you came up with?

You might be thinking: Wait, I only have 10 minutes, that’s not enough time to read my whole website or review my LinkedIn line by line. But, here’s the thing, people who click into one of your social profiles or visit your website are probably going to spend a fraction of that time looking at it.

So, you want to look for things that shout what you do. On LinkedIn, that means moving beyond filling out the basics and adding links to media, writing posts, and getting endorsements for skills. On your website, that might mean building a portfolio. On Twitter, it’s about not just following influencers, but composing tweets, too.

This step is about comparing what you want to highlight to what you have and asking yourself: What’s missing? What can I add?

Minutes 20-30: Create a Schedule

Truth talk: Personal branding isn’t a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Once you’ve figured out what you want your message to be and how you can share it more effectively, you’re going to need to start posting—consistently.

A helpful way to be consistent is to set a schedule that you can use as a guide. It shouldn’t feel like a chore, but if you’re anything like me, if you don’t schedule it, it could get back-burnered. All I ask is that you give it 10 minutes a day!

Here’s an example of a schedule you can start with:

  • Monday: Make (or update) a list of people you’d like to engage with more (a former manager) or simply connect with (an industry influencer).
  • Tuesday: Reach out to someone from that list. If it’s someone you’re reconnecting with, try one of these ideas. If it’s a stranger, you can test out this Twitter trick, or, if you’re brave, just send a cold LinkedIn invite using these templates.
  • Wednesday: Spend time looking for industry-related articles in publications popular in your field and share one. Or, alternatively, comment on someone else’s post (or at a minimum, share it).
  • Thursday: Make (or update) your list of improvements you’d like to make to your online presence. Break it down into baby steps. For example, you wouldn’t write, “Build personal site.” You’d write, “Look into site designers” and “write copy for personal site bio.”
  • Friday: Spend today looking yesterday’s list and knocking just one thing off.

Of course, you can tailor your plan to whatever works best for you. Honestly, if you just do the five things above even once a month, you’ll see traction. Regardless of the schedule you choose, feel free to switch it up, and see what gets the best response. You won’t see results overnight, but, that’s OK.

My final piece of advice is to avoid being misled by the term “personal branding.” What I mean is: The most successful brands aren’t just about you. Take the time to know your target audience, and listening to what’s on their minds as well. Genuinely connect and build relationships! As best-selling author Dale Carnegie said, “To be interesting, be interested.”

Photo credit: Tetra Images/Getty Images

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