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How to Prepare for a Job Interview

Most people dread the in-person job interview. Even the thought of an interview is enough to throw some into a tailspin of anxiety. What do you wear? What do you bring? How do you answer those tough questions? We at PromoPlacement completely understand and are here to help. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to prepare yourself for the interview.

Research The Organization

The very first thing you want to do in preparation is to research the company you will be interviewing with. Check out the company’s website. Read the “About Us” section and get a feel for who they are, what they are about, and when they were founded. Find something that speaks to you that you can slip into conversation.

Talk to someone who already works there or find someone on LinkedIn who is currently working in the position you will be interviewing for. See how they describe the position and find something you like about it. This will help you speak more to what the hiring manager may be looking for.

Package Your Positives

Go into the interview with a game plan. Select 2-4 key points about your experience and background that you want to make very clear to the interviewer. Reiterate these often. These points should tie into both the business goals of the company and the hiring goals of the manager. They should be specific and spell out exactly why you are the right person for the job.

Package Your Negatives

Many candidates have some shortcomings or weaknesses within their career history. Maybe you have had a 3-month gap in employment or maybe your formal management experience is lacking. Whatever the issue is, be prepared to address it. Plan out in advance how you are going to explain it should it come up in the interview. It’s best to keep it brief. Explain it and move on to the next topic.

What To Wear

Keep it neutral and conservative. If you are wearing a dress, be conscious of the length, color, and cut. Be sure you stay professional top to bottom. If you are wearing a suit, be sure the jacket and pants match as well as the shoes. If you are instructed that the office is “business casual” be mindful. Keep your look professional, this may mean not wearing a full suit, but rather wearing a button-down with dress pants. Remember you are trying to impress.

Remember to dress for the job you want not the job you have. Even if you are interviewing for a customer service job behind a desk and a phone, you still want upward mobility, and the best way to ensure that you have it is to show them right off the bat that you’re a professional.

What To Bring

Bring extra copies of your resume in some type of folder to keep them clean and neat. Bring a notepad or professional binder and a pen. Keep everything neat and professional. Read our “11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview” blog post for more details.

First Impressions

Sit up straight. Carefully control how you react to the interviewer and do your best to keep positive facial expressions. Remember that your first impression starts when you pull into the parking lot, so be friendly to everyone you see and meet. Make it clear that you’re actively listening to your interviewer by keeping good eye contact.

Keep Responses Simple

Be sure not to over-share. No one needs to hear your life story in an interview and no one wants to hear you ramble on about unrelated areas of interest. Keep your answers short and concise. Speak clearly and with meaning. You don’t need to use big words in your interview. Just speak to what you know and be yourself.

Always Ask Questions

Every interview ends with “Do you have any questions?” Always have questions. The number one question we recommend to our candidates is “Do you have any doubts about me taking this job?” This is where you can get an idea of where they feel you may fall short and take the opportunity to ease their doubts.  Other questions you can ask are “What do you expect of someone within the first 90 days of taking this position?” or “What are the next steps?”. Never ask about compensation, benefits, or PTO in the first interview. Those details will clarify themselves later in the process.

Send A “Thank You”

Send a “thank you” note or email to the person you interviewed with. Be sure to include why you want the position and why you feel you would be an asset to their company. This can make you stand out from all other candidates because this is the one step most people forget. I’ve seen it make the difference between getting the job or not.

The in-person job interview doesn’t have to be stressful or nerve-wracking.  Be confident in yourself and your abilities. Believe in yourself, prepare diligently, and you’ll stand out from the pack.

For more information on interview preparation read our article on the “11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview”.

 

Promotional Products Job Interview Questions | Sales Representative Edition

Most job interviews are a challenging experience for everyone involved.

The candidate is nervous and on edge. Most candidate’s greatest fear about a job interview is that they’ll be open, honest, their best self will shine through, and they still won’t get the job. To hedge against this, most rehearse their answers to standard interview questions. At best, this process results in stiff, inauthentic answers, at worst, some answers are flat-out lies.

The success or failure of most job interviews comes down to how much the interviewer prepared for the interview ahead of time. The biggest mistake a hiring manager can make is to come unprepared and simply take a candidate’s answers at face value. We all know that talk is cheap and it’s up to you, the interviewer, to get to the truth.

Canned Responses and A Wasted Hour

Here are 5 very common traditional interview questions that you’ve probably asked or been asked many times.

  • “What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?”
  • “What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?”
  • “Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.”
  • “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
  • “How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?”

9 out of 10 times these questions get you absolutely nowhere. You’ll learn little about your candidate and be no closer to discovering what they would be like as a co-worker. Candidates have prepared and rehearsed answers to these questions to death. These canned answers are designed to make the candidate look great and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. As a result, the interviewer and the candidate part ways knowing very little new, honest information about each other.

How can you be expected to make the very expensive decision of hiring a new employee with such murky information?

Behavior-Based Interviewing

The solution to this predicament is behavior-based questions. These questions are built on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Traditional interview question: “How do you handle stress?”

Behavior-based interviewing question: “Tell me about a time you had to perform a task or project under a lot of stress?”

20 Terrific Interview Questions for Sales Representatives

“Tell me about a time when a client came to you with a problem. What did you do?”

“Tell me about a presentation that you made to upper management. What was it about? How did it go?”

“Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see/do things your way.”

“Describe a situation where you had to collect information by asking many people a lot of questions.”

“Describe a time when you facilitated a creative solution to a problem in the workplace.”

“Describe a time when you took personal accountability for a conflict and initiated contact with a client/coworker to explain your actions.”

“Tell me about a time you felt you needed to be assertive in order to get what you felt you or your team deserved or needed.”

“Give me an example of a time you effectively used your people skills to solve a customer problem.”

“Tell me about a major project you recently completed. How did you set project goals and monitor your progress?”

“Tell me about a time when you used your interpersonal skills to build a network of contacts to reach goals.”

“Describe a time where your patience in gathering information paid off.”

“Describe a time where you took the initiative to act rather than waiting to be told what to do.”

“Describe for me a situation when you had to build and maintain a new relationship in order to accomplish a business goal.”

“Give me an example of a time when you were a good listener.”

“Give me an example of a time when you had to juggle several important activities and projects in a limited amount of time. Did you stay on top of all of them? How?”

“All jobs have unpleasant tasks. Tell me about the most unpleasant tasks you were required to do at work. Were you successful in getting it done? Why or why not?”

‘Tell me about a big project you had to plan for work.”

“Describe the most significant presentation you have had to give.”

“Give me an example of an important goal you have had and how you went about achieving it.”

“Tell me about the greatest business risk you have taken.”

The job interview process and the results garnered from it are greatly improved when hiring firms move from the tired, old interview questions to behavior-based interview questions.  The answers that come from behavior-based questions give the candidate a chance to truly reveal who they are, what they’ve done in the past, and what they can contribute to the hiring firm.  With this knowledge, hiring firms can make quality decisions that reduce ramp-up time, improve retention, and increase their chances of making a great hire!

 

11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

11 Essential Things to Take to Your Interview

Job interviews are stressful. Unfortunately, nothing can change that. There’s a lot on the line. However, you can minimize the stress of interview day by being prepared. A big part of that preparation is having everything you could potentially need for the interview. Bring these eleven essential items with you to your interview to reduce your stress and maximize your chances of landing the job.

A few copies of your resume

  • Odds are your potential employer already has a copy of your resume in digital form. However, you may be interviewing with multiple people or might be asked for a hard copy during the course of the interview. Have several copies ready to hand out and you won’t have to worry about it coming up.
  • PRO TIP: Go to a print shop and have your resume printed out on nice paper. It’s cheap and will take about 10 minutes. It makes for a much better presentation than if you just run a few copies off your home printer.

A folder or bag

  • You’ll need something to keep your paper and notes in. I recommend a padfolio because it allows for paper storage and easy note-taking. Whatever item you select for this purpose keep it clean, organized, and professional.

A pen and notepad

  • Taking notes during your interview is a must. It shows that you’re engaged, diligent, and actively listening. Make sure that your pen works and that your notepad clean and crisp. Keep these items simple. Your bobblehead pen won’t be seen as cute, it will be seen as a distraction.

Some prepared responses

  • Read our blog post on tough interview questions. Ensure that you’ve written out answers to each of them and any others you think might come up. Now, don’t read these responses during your interview, but keep them in a side folder in case you need to review them before your interview.

Some prepared questions

  • Much like your notes on responses listed above, you need to prepare questions for your interviewer. Nothing looks worse than when an interviewer wraps up an hour-long conversation with “So, what questions do you have for me?” and the response is “Um, nothing really.” Prepare insightful questions that display your understanding of the role and the business.

Job description

  • You should already be very familiar with the job description. It can be helpful when preparing responses and questions. Bring it with you if you have a particular question about the role or just in case you need to review it last minute to get in the zone.

The interview details

  • Bring Google Map directions. Don’t laugh! Detours, accidents, and road construction are everyday occurrences. The best practice here is to drive to the interview location the day or evening before the interview to be sure you know where you’re going. Have your interviewer’s contact information handy in case something comes up.

Turned off cell phone

  • If you need to bring your phone turn it off. The best option is just to leave it in your car. If you’re bringing the other items on this list with you, you won’t need it.

Grooming essentials

  • Bring whatever you’ll need to spruce yourself up at the last minute. Could be a hairbrush, comb, or lint roller for your suit. The more confident you are about your appearance, the more confident you’ll come across in the interview.

Mints or gum

  • There’s nothing wrong with freshening up at the last minute. No one likes coffee breath. However, don’t chew gum or mints during your interview. It’s distracting and unprofessional.

Bottle of water

  • Many offices will offer visitors water or coffee on arrival. Don’t rely on that. Bring your own small bottle of water. Few things are worse than trying to sell yourself for a job and struggling with a tickle in your throat the whole time.

Use this list when preparing for your next job interview. You’ll be ready for anything an employer can throw at you and will be significantly more confident when speaking with them.

For more information on interview preparation read our article on “How to Prepare for a Job Interview”.

Did we miss anything? What item are you always sure to bring on a job interview?

 

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

10 Hiring Red Flags You Need to Watch For

Hiring a new team member is a bit like getting engaged after the third date. You’re making a big decision with a very limited amount of information. There are three methods of reducing new hire risk. Increase the amount of information you have about the candidate, draw new insights from the information that you already have, or work with an experienced recruiter who specializes in your field.

We’re going to focus on the second method and share the warning signs to watch for when hiring a new team member.

Resume Errors

This is pretty self-explanatory. In today’s job market, candidates must proofread and present pristine resumes. If they don’t spend the time to review a 1-2 page document what does that say about their professionalism, preparation, and attention to detail?

Tardiness

Bad traffic, accidents, and car trouble happen every day. However, lateness suggests that the candidate didn’t proactively plan ahead and build buffer time into their schedule. While not the biggest red flag on our list, it is a mark against the candidate.

Sloppiness

Much like their resume, a candidate’s appearance should be professional and pristine. First impressions are critical to the job interview process. How serious can someone be about the opportunity if they don’t bother to dress the part?

Lack of Research

In our opinion, this is the biggest job interview sin on the list. In the internet age, there’s simply no excuse for failing to brush up on the history, products, and key players within a company. If you ask a candidate “Are you familiar with our firm?” and they say “Not really…”, you can probably end the interview right there.

Explain Their Interest

Ask your candidate “Why this position? Why our firm?”. There are a lot of correct responses, but just a few wrong ones. If he or she doesn’t have an answer, says something like “A job is a job”, or “My mortgage won’t pay itself” you are dealing with someone who is not passionate or even that interested in your business.

Complaints

Anyone who runs down their former employer or co-workers won’t hesitate to speak ill about your firm in the future. Integrity could be an issue for this candidate. Proceed with caution.

Doesn’t Take Responsibility

We all make mistakes and, hopefully, we learn from them. A candidate who won’t admit to failing or making mistakes in the past is either delusional, egotistical or lacking self-awareness. All three traits are to be avoided.

No Enthusiasm

Most hiring managers want to see passion and enthusiasm from job candidates. It’s often seen as an indicator of a candidate’s true interest in the company and the opportunity. It’s definitely noticeable when a candidate is just going through the motions and it’s a red flag that there’s no drive or passion for the opportunity to join your team.

Doesn’t Ask Questions

There comes a point in most interviews when the hiring manager pauses and says “Now, what questions do you have for me?” Again, there are a lot of correct responses and just one incorrect one. If a candidate doesn’t have any questions after an hour-long conversation with you, he or she either wasn’t listening or isn’t invested.

No “Thank You”

A post-interview “Thank You” note is to be expected. It won’t get a candidate any brownie points, but its absence should be noticed. A “Thank You” note is a minor sign that a candidate is professional, polite, and at least a little bit organized. The absence of such a note is a red flag that your candidate may be inconsiderate of your time or lacking some professional polish.

We’ve looked at the ten biggest and most visible red flags you’ll encounter during the hiring of a new team member. While they may seem insignificant, these cautionary signs provide valuable clues and insights into who your candidate really is and what they might be like to work with. Watching for these red flags will help you make the best decision possible throughout the hiring process.

For more information on hiring right check out our infographic “Don’t Make a Hire You Regret: 6 Simple Tips“.

What hiring red flags have you encountered?

 

“Have you ever been fired-”

“Have You Ever Been Fired?”

“Have you ever been fired?”

“Have you ever been fired?”

Being fired is the worst. However, it’s also very common. In 2014, the US Department of Labor reported that an average of 55,318 people were laid off or fired every day. The total for the year was 20,191,070.

It happens. If it has happened to you it’s likely that you’re going to be asked about it. Your best bet is to be prepared. Follow these tips and you can turn a difficult question into a springboard to a new job.

Why Are They Asking You This?

When hiring managers ask about an employment gap they are asking because they want to know:

Are you a risky hire?

Can you handle a tough question/adversity?

How do you handle pressure?

Are you honest?

Best Practices

Realize that this question is not an attack on you or your skills.

Being honest and forthcoming says a lot about your character.

Take responsibility for your role in the situation.

Frame your response in terms of what you’ve learned—not what happened.

Explain what you learned from the situation, and how you’ve improved since then.

Don’t speak negatively of your former employer, ever!

Avoid going into detail about how it happened, your emotions, how it affected your family, etc. All the hiring manager wants is a simple answer to a simple question.

Keep it brief! Rambling will only get you in trouble.

After you answer, turn the conversation back toward the new position and how your abilities match what is needed.

Keep it positive and focus on how it makes you a better candidate today.

Thousands of people are fired each day for a myriad of reasons. It has no bearing on your long-term career prospects, your ability to land a great job, or the skillset that you possess. Don’t beat yourself up or adopt the mindset of nobody will hire you because you’ve been fired. A strong answer to a question about an employment gap will show your interviewer that you’ve moved on from a very brief career setback in a positive and reflective way.

 

Promo Interview Questions

Promotional Products Job Interview Questions | CSR Edition

Promo Interview Questions

Most promotional product job interviews are a challenging experience for everyone involved.

The candidate is nervous and on edge. Most candidate’s greatest fear about a job interview is that they’ll be open, honest, their best self will shine through, and they still won’t get the job. To hedge against this, most study up on inauthentic rehearsed answers that they think the hiring manager will want to hear.

Often the interviewer is less than prepared and would rather be doing something else. The biggest mistake most hiring managers make is taking a candidate’s answer at face value. That’s not to say that they are lying, but talk is cheap.

Canned Responses and A Wasted Hour

Here are 5 very common traditional interview questions that you’ve probably asked or been asked.

  • “What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?”
  • “What did you enjoy most/least about your last position?”
  • “Describe the best boss you’ve ever had.”
  • “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”
  • “How would your coworkers or supervisor describe you?”

9 out of 10 times these questions get you absolutely nowhere. You’ll learn little about your candidate and be no closer to discovering what they would be like as a co-worker. Candidates have prepared and rehearsed these answers to death. The canned answers are designed to make the candidate look great and tell the interviewer what they want to hear. As a result, the interviewer and the candidate part ways knowing very little new, honest information about each other.

How can you be expected to make the very expensive decision of hiring a new employee with such murky information?

Behavior-Based Interviewing

The solution to this predicament is behavior-based questions. These questions are built on the philosophy that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Traditional interview question: “How do you handle stress?”

Behavior-based interviewing question: “Tell me about a time you had to perform a task or project under a lot of stress?”

20 Terrific Interview Questions for CSRs

“Describe a time you exceeded the expectations of a client?”

“Sometimes sales reps will drag their feet in taking action on something or be out of the office and unreachable. Tell me about a time that quick action was needed on something and you took it upon yourself to lead the effort.”

“Describe a situation where you had to collect information by asking many people a lot of questions.”

“Give me an example of the kinds of issues you have talked to your sales rep about rather than handling them yourself.”

“Tell me about the most difficult customer with whom you’ve had to deal?”

“Tell me what tool you would use and how would use it to source 144 US-made hot pink widgets priced below $6.00.”

“Describe a time where your patience in gathering information paid off.”

“Tell me about your most challenging sourcing project and how you overcame the obstacles.”

“Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to prioritize your tasks?”

“Tell me about a time you needed to get cooperation from a vendor for you to be successful on a task or project.”

“Describe a time when you were able to become personal friends with a customer.”

“Tell me about a time when you caught an error that others had missed.”

“Describe a time you were not able to deliver a product to a client on time.”

“Give me an example of a time you identified a potential problem and resolved the situation before it became serious.”

“Tell me about the last time you missed a project deadline because you were not well organized.”

“Describe a time you had to make a quick decision with incomplete information.”

“Tell me about a time you had to work with conflicting, delayed, or ambiguous information. What did you do to make the most of the situation?”

“Describe the worst-on-the-job crisis you had to solve. How did you manage to maintain your composure?”

“Tell me about a situation in which a customer was so difficult that you just gave up trying (or were unable to satisfy him/her?”

“Describe the most creative work project you’ve ever completed.”

The promotional product job interview experience and results garnered can be greatly improved when hiring firms shift from canned interview questions to behavior-based interview questions.  The answers that come from behavior-based questions give the candidate a chance to truly reveal who they are, what they’ve done in the past, and what they can contribute to the hiring firm.  With this knowledge, hiring firms can make quality decisions that reduce ramp-up time and improve retention.

 

"Sell Me This..."

This One Exercise Tells You Everything You Need to Know

There are thousands of questions that can come up in an interview.

There are standard questions: “Tell me about yourself.”

There are abstract questions: “What’s your favorite fruit and why?”

There are behavioral questions: “Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult client. How did you handle it?”

No question can tell you everything you need to know about a job applicant.  However, this one exercise should sum up how a promotional product rep sells.

"Sell Me This..."

Hand the sales rep a blank promotional product and tell them, “Sell this to me.”

The sales rep’s response will to you a lot about how they approach promotional products. Responses will fall into one of three categories.

Product-based responses will focus on the specifics of the item that you hand them. They’ll talk about the imprint area, decorating options, or the great quality construction of the item. This is the worst of the three responses. These reps love and know the products, but don’t sell solutions.

Solution-based responses will address the business need that the product can fill. They’ll talk about the results achieved from using promotional products, such as an increase in trade show traffic, a boost in employee morale, or higher brand recognition.

Inquiry-based responses focus on questioning. These reps will need you to tell them more. What events do you have coming up that this product might be a fit for? What business challenges are you facing now? They’ll ask questions that give them all the ammo they need to sell you the item.  In fact, they might even have you sell yourself.

This exercise will give you a terrific insight into the thought process and value proposition utilized by a promotional product sales rep. Here are five additional questions that will help to fill out the picture even further.

  • “What do you like about prospecting?”
  • “What’s your social media skill level?”
  • “How do you feel about face-to-face networking?”
  • “How long do you think it will take you to put together a sales plan and begin to execute it?”
  • “What is the first thing you would do when you realize that you’re in a sales slump?”

To read more on how to evaluate promotional product sales reps read our article on the “6 Traits of Top-Performing Sales Reps”.

What are your go-to questions when interviewing sales reps?

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

How to Write a Resume That Will Land You Any Job

A resume is an ink and paper representation of your career. During the job search, it can be the key to your next job. Like most things in the business world, it’s a good idea to stick with proven best practices. Below are several time-tested rules of resume writing.

Keep it simple and clean. Your resume should be built on your experience and accomplishments. It doesn’t need graphics, artwork, or “personality”. The structure and font that you choose matter. Keep it orderly and easy to read. Nothing should distract from the content.

Include all pertinent contact information. This includes your cell phone number, personal email address, and home address. Some younger candidates include social media handles. That can be helpful but isn’t necessary for the promotional product industry.

Tell the reader what you want. This is your objective. Your objective needs to be a strong, bold statement about 1-2 sentences long. Follow this with your summary. This should be 4-5 sentences and tell the reader what they can expect to get from you.

Focus on your accomplishments, not your duties. Don’t tell the reader what you did, tell them what you got done.

If you can’t quantify it, it doesn’t exist. In the world of resumes, numbers are king. Did you grow your sales? Great. How much? You managed a team of sales reps. Cool. How many? Put a number to everything!

Many employers and recruiters will load your resume into a database immediately. They’ll use this database to search for job candidates just like you and I use Google. Take advantage of this and make sure that your resume contains keywords that make sense for the positions you want to be considered for.

Your resume is not one size fits all. You need to customize, customize, customize! Customize it for each job and each company that you are applying for.

No matter what job you are applying for you have to highlight your qualifications for that specific position. Make it very obvious to the reader that you have everything they could want in an employee.

Resumes can quickly become stale and out of date. Set a recurring reminder to update your resume every 3 months.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, looks worse than grammatical or spelling errors in a resume. It shouts “Unprofessional!” Please proofread and have two others proofread it as well.

Promote yourself! Resumes are not for being humble or giving credit to others. Own your accomplishments and SELL THE READER! Provide all the evidence needed to convince even the most skeptical reader that you will be an immediate difference-maker for their business!