Interview Etiquette: Before Meeting the Boss, Befriend the Secretary

Interview Etiquette: Before Meeting the Boss, Befriend the Secretary

If everything goes to plan, you've arrived at the recommended 15 minutes before your job interview. You've checked in with the secretary or receptionist, and now, the dreadful wait for the interview - the interview you practiced for rigorously, even talking to yourself in the car on the way there. What you don't know is, this waiting period is actually a blessing.
The 15 minutes before your interview not only give you time to relax your nerves, browse through some of the company's reading material, but this precious 15 minutes also gives you a one-on-one meeting with the company "insider" - the secretary or receptionist.
He or she knows the inside scoop about the company culture and they see interviewees like you day in and out and know the what the boss likes and dislikes. It is likely that after the interview, the boss will ask the secretary or receptionist for his or her first impressions of you. This person is your golden ticket.
So how do you go about chatting with the receptionist or secretary while seeming genuine and professional so you get their stamp of approval? Here's how:

Well, be genuine
Secretaries and receptionists can smell behavior that is "fake" or not genuine. If you get the job, this is the first and last person you'll see at the company every day. That being said, it's important to offer a genuine greeting (in and out the door) and smile.
Find a conversation starter
Unless they're busy, secretaries and receptionists are usually happy to partake in a human conversation (after being glued to the phone all day).
Try this. "Hi I'm here to see Mr. Jennings for an interview." "He'll be right with you." "Thank you so much for your help. So how long have you worked here?" Simple, polite, and approachable. 
Or try to find common ground with topics like current events or the weather. Once conversation takes place naturally, feel free to ask about the work culture or any tips he or she can give you about interviewing with the boss. OR, without creeping (this is key), if you notice anything, funny, peculiar, or personal on their desk, comment on it or ask about it. 
Real-life example: While waiting for an interview, simply commenting on photos of the secretary's children resulted in, not only in a great conversation, but she also provided tips on the boss's likes and dislikes. I later found out she put in a good word on my behalf.
Not a talker? Ask for reading material
Not all secretaries and receptionists are chatty. Rare, but it happens. In this case, remain polite and ask for any company reading material. You've still made a good impression because it shows your invested in the company. This also gives you good talking material in your interview. Interviewers like applicants who have done their research.
DO NOT stay on your phone
DO NOT sit there on your phone on Facebook updating your status about the big interview. 1. It's unprofessional and leaves nothing good to say about your first impression with the secretary or receptionist. 2. You don't know who's looking at your Facebook status (for all you know, the secretary or receptionist could be doing their homework on you right in front of you). You'd look pretty silly if he or she reported to the boss that all you were doing was tweeting the whole time.
Don't forget to say thank you and goodbye 
Whether the interview went poorly or great, make sure you make time to say thank you and goodbye. Don't be afraid to throw in, "I hope to see you soon!" Enthusiasm and positivity are always received well and you want to leave with as great of an impression as you had when you came in.

Thank you in the corporate world can go a long way so make sure you say it to everyone from your boss, to your peers, to the secretary, to the janitor. Why? It's kind, the right thing to do, and you never know who's buddy-buddy at the company. 

LinkedIn Reveals the 100 Most In-Demand Employers

And they're not all tech companies

Electric sign and logo greets visitors to General Electric home plant Schenectady New York

Quick! What are the most desirable companies to work for on the planet? Okay, Google...Apple...who else?

LinkedIn is here to save the day with their annual list of the 100 most in-demand employers on the planet. As you probably expected, a lot of them are in the booming tech industry (yes, Google and Apple claim the top two spots). Those crazy cafeterias have got to count for something. But you'll also find companies like General Electric and PepsiCo rounding out the top ten. Want to see who else is in the mix? Click through the slideshow below, or head over to LinkedIn for the full list.

Read more:  LinkedIn Reveals the 100 Most In-Demand Employers

Sticky Question for Your Boss? Here's How to Ask

Surviving those awkward conversations


By Robert Half

In your career, there will inevitably come a time when you have awkward or difficult questions to ask your boss. Very few people like uncomfortable interactions, but in order to get ahead at work, you need answers to your questions if you're to do your job well - even the sticky ones. Bringing up delicate subjects requires finesse and diplomacy, not to mention preparation.

Here are some of the top touchy employee-boss topics, along with the right and wrong ways to broach them.

Getting passed over for a promotion
If you're upset or confused about the outcome of a job competition, you should absolutely talk with your boss. However, don't approach the subject by asking, "How come Chris got the promotion and not me?" This confrontational tactic will likely put your boss on the defense, and the resulting exchange will be less productive than it could have been.

The better approach: Focus the conversation on what you can do. Better questions to ask your boss: "I'm interested in advancing in the company. How can I make that happen?" or "I was disappointed that I wasn't promoted. Can we talk about what I need to do in order to reach the next level?"

Asking for a salary increase
Of all of the questions to ask your boss, the ones that involve money can be the trickiest. Before launching into any discussion about salary, research what others in similar positions at other companies are making. Robert Half's "Salary Guides" are good resources. But don't use this information in the wrong way. You can't, for example, just march into your boss's office and demand, "According to my research, I should be making more money!"

The better approach: In addition to showing your manager job market data, you have to make your case. Before you ask for a meeting, make a list of the extra responsibilities you've taken on since your were hired or your last promotion. Don't forget any training or certifications you've received. When discussing your request with your boss, you can approach it this way: "I really enjoy working here. In the past year, I've been asked to lead two new projects and have consistently exceeded my quota. Can we talk about increasing my salary to make it more in line with my performance?"

The promised raise hasn't materialized
If you were led to think you were receiving a raise or bonus and haven't received it yet, don't approach your boss asking, "Where is the raise you promised me?"

The better approach: When you talk to your boss, don't assume any wrongdoing on his or her part. Stay neutral and professional, and - most of all - ask for action. You might say something like, "We discussed the possibility of my getting a raise three months ago. Is there anything I need to do to make that happen?"

Alternative work arrangements
If your company offers some employees the opportunity to telecommute, this can be a very tempting perk. If you want this work flexibility, your approach shouldn't be: "How come half the office gets to work remotely but I don't?"

The better approach: Don't make it about other people. Instead, inquire about what's possible for your own particular situation. Be ready to demonstrate how this would benefit the company, such as how you could be more productive if you could work from home a few days a week. If your boss seems reluctant, propose a trial period. But be ready for pushback: Not every job can or should be done remotely, and many managers are hesitant to allow junior employees to work remotely.

More advice when you have questions to ask your boss

  1. Timing is everything. Don't suggest new work arrangements or spring tough questions on your supervisor when the office is undergoing major changes or is frantically preparing for a deadline. An appropriate time is during your performance review.
  2. Be professional. In all work-related interactions, but especially when you have sensitive questions to ask your boss, mind your business etiquette. This means staying positive, not getting personal and not comparing your situation to that of colleagues.
  3. Focus on action. Managers appreciate workers who suggest solutions and not just dump problems on them. When you approach them about a sticky question, be sure to have a plan in mind - not just a complaint.

Remember: You have every right to bring up tough subjects. Just be sure to ask your questions tactfully. So do your research, gather your courage and request a meeting.

6 soft skills every professional needs


It's become more important than ever for young professionals to display strong interpersonal skills when looking for work.

Faced with rampant unemployment and stiff competition for the jobs that are available, many job seekers are struggling to find a way to make professional inroads. However, there are still those who manage to get hired or promoted not because of their degree or technical expertise, but because of their communication and interpersonal skills, often referred to as "soft skills."
According to the National Careers Service, soft skills are personal qualities and attitudes that help employees work well with others and encourage productivity within the workplace. And these types of skills may be more important than people realize. A recent study conducted by Millennial Branding and American Express showed that 61 percent of managers surveyed felt that soft skills were more important in new hires than hard skills, or even technical skills. In fact, the same study showed that the top three characteristics managers looked for when promoting millennials were the ability to prioritize work (87 percent), a positive attitude (86 percent) and teamwork skills (86 percent).

The fact that managers are prioritizing soft skills higher than other job-related skills makes sense. As an article from Mind Tools recently pointed out, most people don't choose their dentist based solely on his or her technical skills and expertise; they go with dentists who treat patients well and take time to answer their questions. The same thing goes for other professions, whether we're talking about doctors, accountants, social workers or secretaries. Despite this growing emphasis on soft skills in the workplace, they aren't traditionally taught in school, or even on the job. Workers often have to learn them on their own, either by observing and mimicking exceptional professionals who display these traits or practicing them like they would any other skill.

The soft skills employers look for
It's become more important than ever for young professionals to display strong interpersonal skills when looking for work. Here are six areas every job hunter should focus on:
1. Communication - As author Lauren Stiller recently pointed out in an interview with Fox Business, advances in technology have, in many cases, robbed young people of their ability to communicate effectively by encouraging the use of abbreviated emails and text messages. Stiller advises young professionals to demonstrate that they can communicate without technology by engaging co-workers and clients in face-to-face conversation and sending professional emails.
2. Teamwork - Being able to work as part of a team displays one's ability to get along with, and complete work-related tasks with, many different types of personalities. Team players also show their ability to cooperate and compromise with others, which is a trait often sought after by employers and hiring managers. Professionals who want to be seen as team players should take special care to mention situations when they worked effectively with others on their resume and be willing to describe those situations in-depth.
3. Flexibility - Employees who are flexible with their schedule and responsibilities don't just say they're a team player, they show it. That kind of can-do attitude is essential in the workplace, and can easily make an employee stand out when it comes to promotions, raises, and more. To ensure that this soft skill is on display, describe instances when you've been flexible that have benefited you and the company you worked for.
4. Positivity - Nobody wants to work with a grouch. To avoid being a negative nelly, don't criticize and don't complain, says author Laura Vanderkam in a recent article in Fast Company. Instead of harping on others' mistakes, show them the right way to do things and praise their improvements. The easiest way to give off a positive demeanor is to be receptive to others -- and smiling never hurts.
5. Time management - According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, time management skills are crucial for new hires since they're often juggling a variety of roles and responsibilities, especially in startups. To help your potential employer understand how well you manage your time, be prepared to explain the way you prioritize your daily tasks, and most importantly, "why."
6. Confidence - Confidence is key when it comes to winning over both clients and co-workers. However, displaying confidence in person, as opposed to on a resume, can be a difficult soft skill to master. Chloe Isabel, whose direct-sales jewelry company targets millennials for hiring, told Fox Business that she is often let down when meeting an interviewee in person, after discovering that their personality doesn't live up to the confidence they display on paper. "I find many recent college students and grads don't make eye contact, don't carry themselves well and don't speak with authority, which can be a little disheartening to the interviewer," she says.

Honing your soft skill set
Whether it's practicing effective verbal communication, being purposefully positive at work, or learning to work in teams or groups, any time invested into honing soft skills is likely a good investment. Even better news is that, unlike specific technical skills, soft skills are almost always transferable among jobs and even industries. So, take a look around at the most successful people you know and study the soft skills they have on display. There's a good chance those personality traits have helped them get where they are today -- and that the same skills could help you advance in your field as well.

INFOGRAPHIC: Which Job is Most Unique to Your State?

Explore the country's best career opportunities

state flags of the united states

By Matt Tarpey, CareerBuilder writer

The United States is made up of an incredible array of unique landscapes, climates and cultures. It stands to reason that regional economies exhibit a similarly expansive variety. An industry that is a major economic driver in one state may be almost nonexistent just a few states away. So how can you tell which jobs are the most unique to your home state?

One way is using a metric called location quotient, which is a measurement of job concentration. This is found by taking the percentage share of a state's workforce working in a given occupation and comparing it to the percentage share of the national workforce in that same occupation.

Put another way, LQ asks, "What percentage of workers in Texas are petroleum engineers?" then asks "What percentage of U.S. workers are Petroleum engineers?" and compares the two answers.

A LQ of 1.0 means that the occupation is exactly as concentrated in the state as it is at the national level. The higher the LQ, the more unique the job is to that state. Going back to the example above, the LQ for petroleum engineers in Texas is 6.39, indicating that petroleum engineer jobs are more than six times more common in Texas than they are in the country as a whole.

Industries and occupations that are more concentrated in one area are often a good indicator of what drives the economy in that region. In turn, this can shed light on career opportunities that may not be available in other parts of the country.

The following map, released by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. and designed by mental_floss magazine, uses LQ to reveal the most unique jobs in each state through 2013.


The following table provides a more in-depth look at the data behind the map.

State Occupation LQ Jobs 2013 Med. Hourly Earnings
Alabama Tire Builders 7.75 1,900 $24.55
Alaska Fishers & Related Fishing Workers 33.56 2,901 $16.85
Arizona Semiconductor Processors 4.19 1,640 $15.32
Arkansas Food Processing Workers 6.78 2,303 $10.59
California Actors 3.19 33,328 $29.23
Colorado Atmospheric & Space Scientists 7.76 1,510 $49.34
Connecticut Actuaries 4.16 1,141 $51.22
D.C. Political Scientists 86.61 3,197 $55.64
Delaware Chemists 11.65 3,050 $41.45
Florida Motorboat Operators 5.92 1,315 $14.17
Georgia Textile Winding, Twisting, & Drawing Out Machine Setters, Operators, & Tenders 10.52 8,607 $13.03
Hawaii Tour Guides & Escorts 8.55 1,687 $12.82
Idaho Forest & Conservation Technicians 14.2 2,273 $15.06
Illinois Correspondence Clerks 3.93 1,727 $19.88
Indiana Boilermakers 7.03 2,686 $31.66
Iowa Soil & Plant Scientists 8.94 1,574 $30.05
Kansas Umpires, Referees, Other Sports Officials 5.42 1,216 $11.16
Kentucky Roof Bolters, Mining 14.14 1,184 $25.65
Louisiana Captains, Mates, & Pilots of Water Vessels 17.2 8,857 $34.88
Maine Fishers & Related Fishing Workers 27.31 4,070 $17.52
Maryland Subway & Streetcar Operators 10.41 1,884 $25.43
Massachusetts Psychiatric Technicians 4.86 8,202 $17.52
Michigan Model Makers, Metal & Plastic 6.23 1,095 $24.72
Minnesota Slaughterers & Meat Packers 4.82 7,619 $12.80
Mississippi Coil Winders, Tapers, & Finishers 11.18 1,340 $18.87
Missouri Food and Tobacco Roasting, Baking, & Drying Machine Operators & Tenders 5.58 2,303 $12.37
Montana Forest & Conservation Technicians 19.41 2,200 $15.05
Nebraska Meat, Poultry, and Fish Cutters & Trimmers 9.92 11,453 $13.58
Nevada Gaming Supervisors 30.91 7,414 $25.40
New Hampshire Metal Workers & Plastic Workers, All Other 10.05 1,020 $14.40
New Jersey Biochemists & Biophysicists 4.71 3,628 $50.38
New Mexico Wellhead Pumpers 13.75 1,358 $22.50
New York Fashion Designers 5.18 7,164 $32.27
North Carolina Textile Winding, Twisting, & Drawing Out Machine Setters, Operators, & Tenders 7.63 6,394 $11.12
North Dakota Derrick Operators, Oil & Gas 28.21 2,137 $26.65
Ohio Rolling Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal & Plastic 3.53 4,778 $17.21
Oklahoma Wellhead Pumpers 8.66 1,671 $20.51
Oregon Logging Workers, all other 21.24 1,400 $16.57
Pennsylvania Survey Researchers 3.54 2,776 $13.09
Rhode Island Education, Training, & Library Workers 3.04 1,062 $20.42
South Carolina Textile Knitting and Weaving Machine Setters, Operators, & Tenders 10.99 3,220 $13.70
South Dakota Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers 9.42 14,827 $12.78
Tennessee Conveyor Operators & Tenders 4.25 3,486 $13.73
Texas Petroleum Engineers 6.39 21,457 $66.80
Utah Forest & Conservation Technicians 4.4 1,362 $13.46
Vermont Highway Maintenance Workers 3.99 1,364 $16.88
Virginia Legal Support Workers, All Other 5.75 9,039 $43.50
Washington Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, & Systems Assemblers 14.21 13,535 $23.09
West Virginia Roof Bolters, Mining 66.29 2,129 $26.84
Wisconsin Foundry Mold & Coremakers 5.47 1,351 $15.72
Wyoming Rotary Drill Operators, Oil & Gas 28.0 1,566 $27.05

Strategies for Successful Interviewing

Robert Half Legal

The job interview is a brief, but crucial, component of the employment process.  If you are thinking of re-entering the working world after a hiatus or starting to look for a new opportunity after a long tenure with your current firm, it's wise to brush up on what to expect during an interview.
Especially if the position you're interviewing for involves managing a large office and juggling numerous administrative responsibilities, the ability to present yourself well and inspire confidence is critical. By taking note of these key interview strategies, you can make the best possible impression and land the position you seek.

Understand the importance of the first minutes. When it comes to interviewing, the first minutes are often the most decisive, according to a survey by our company. Hiring managers polled said it takes them just 10 minutes to form an opinion of job seekers, despite meeting with staff-level applicants for 55 minutes and management-level candidates for 86 minutes, on average.
This finding underscores the importance of getting the interview off to a good start. From the moment you meet your interviewer, project enthusiasm, professionalism and confidence, both in your appearance and demeanor. Be prepared to extend a firm handshake, make eye contact and -- though it's admittedly difficult -- interact in an engaged but relaxed manner. Because the opening minutes are so influential in hiring decisions, be especially aware of your initial comments and actions. Although you want to come across as enthusiastic, don't be overly effusive. One job seeker, for instance, came across as insincere -- and even a little desperate -- by gushing excessively over personal photos in the hiring manager's office.

Ace the predictable questions. Carefully plan what you're going to say – or not going to say – to likely questions, which usually come at the start of the interview. Your goal should be to satisfy the interviewer's curiosity with your answers without raising any concerns. Following are some frequently asked questions and tips for responding:

  1. Tell me about yourself. Concisely discuss your professional achievements and qualifications as they relate to the job opportunity.

  2. What do you know about our firm? Research the firm beforehand and be prepared to describe how your skills and experience will help you contribute to its success.

  3. Why do you want to work here? Whether it's the organization's values, reputation for integrity or history of success, cite the specific reasons why you want to work for the employer.

  4. Why are you looking to leave your current position? Be ready with a diplomatic response that doesn't disparage other employers. Then, turn the focus back to what appeals to you about the position for which you're interviewing.

  5. What is your most significant professional accomplishment? Cite an achievement that highlights your abilities and shows you value results.

Demonstrate a beyond-the-basics knowledge of your employer. Develop a broad understanding of the prospective employer by looking beyond its website and other standard marketing materials for information. Conduct an online search for articles and other public mentions of the firm. Industry publications, professional associations and your networking contacts may also be able to provide details about its culture, history, competitors and any recent challenges or controversies.
Your research will enable you to ask more insightful questions. And if your interviewer can tell you've acquired more than a superficial knowledge of the company, he or she will be more likely to respond with candor and depth.

Help the employer understand the value you bring. You can stand out from other candidates by giving answers that explicitly outline why you have the right qualifications for the job.
For example, if you know from your research that the firm plans to open additional offices, describe how you've been involved in managing expansion plans in your current position. Or, if the interviewer is looking for someone to review and re-negotiate vendor contracts, play up your experience in this area.

Be yourself. This is easier said than done, since an interview is not an entirely natural situation. Although you should never let your guard down and risk coming across as unprofessional, take care not to seem overly programmed. Remember that an interview is really a two-way conversation and should allow for some spontaneity.
Let your personality come through in your responses by conveying a sense of humor when appropriate, as well as your individual strengths and interests as they relate to your work. Interviewers want to get a sense of how you would fit into the office culture.
Regardless of your experience level or how many times you've been interviewed in your career, a successful interview always depends on thorough preparation. By observing these strategies, you should be able to remain calm and confident while persuading the hiring manager that you're the right candidate for the job.

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