Day 1, the only time the interns are shown any attention

Can interns manage their manager?

Todays post is on mentors, mentee’s and all of the feel good that surrounds what is right about these relationships. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I am a big proponent of mentors and I believe they can make one of THE LARGEST DIFFERENCES in a career. As I look back on my career, I absolutely know that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for a number of individuals I call mentors both professionally and personally. I am sure that if you were to ask them, they would say they were not my mentors, but this is the very nature of most mentors. They are humble and allow the mentee to take credit for the wins. After 20 plus years in HR, I still have an HR mentor and would be lost without her. When she speaks, the hills are alive with the sounds of music. I wish I figured out the mentor game when I was much younger. How young? Read on about someone I know that is a fast track flyer.  

A few months ago, a daughter of a very close friend left to attend college out-of-state. I had watched her grow up for the past number of years, occasionally helped her with her interview skills, and watched her land a number of jobs through high school. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to see her for the next four years as the entire family moved out-of-state as well. A month ago, she reached out via phone and asked if we could set up a weekly call and yes, she used the word “mentor” a number of times. We agreed to keep the relationship going after we established a few ground rules.

  • We re-established that we are colleagues who will exchange ideas and work together vs. mentor and mentee, which for me implies a Sr. and a Junior.
  • This wouldn’t be a relationship where she asks questions and I would give her the easy answer. We would collaborate on solutions.
  • We wouldn’t introduce each other as mentor and mentee in public. We are equals, we just have different experiences.

Needless to say, I was flattered. Not only to keep in contact, but it meant a lot to me that she valued what I had to say and wanted to keep connected. Her father is a very well-connected individual and although I am sure she is having a number of these types of calls I was excited to be on the list. She is a fast and thoughtful study and it always brings a warm feeling to my heart when I hear about her wins both professionally and personally.

As promised, she set up the call and we spoke the last weekend. She is taking a full load of college classes, and has an internship. All this as a freshman. Oy vey! Who ever said millennial’s are lazy haven’t met this high flyer.

Of course she came prepared. We caught up with some chitchat and then got down to business. She had 3 asks for the call.

Thing 1:

Her new job treats her like a stereotypical intern. They pay no attention to her and her single assignment is endless data entry. She doesn’t feel respected and her manager doesn’t have time for her. How does she get noticed?

I asked a few probing questions:

  • What is the CEO / culture like?
  • How old is the manager / Do you think this is the manager’s first job?
  • Are there other interns and are they doing the same type of work? Are they treated any differently?

It was determined this was the manager’s first job, all interns are treated the same and the CEO was compared to The Devil Wears Prada.

Together, as colleagues, we came to a couple of assumptions to establish a baseline:

  • The company is not looking to develop talent to be recruited come the intern’s graduation. The company is using interns for the menial tasks so that more expensive talent is freed up for time to think strategically. If they wanted to form a recruiting program for future full-time hires they wouldn’t hire freshman, they would hire juniors and seniors. Although not optimum, this is completely OK for us. We are not wearing a hair net and a name tag (which she did in high school and wants to move forward). We want a job, we want to be paid and we want tech company experience. Check, check and check.
  • They treat all interns this way so we shouldn’t take it personally. (Easier said than done, but we need to keep reminding ourselves it isn’t just us.)
  • Her immediate manager’s biggest concern is not the interns but being chastised by the Prada fan. AKA, don’t take our managers lack of interest personally.
  • Her immediate manager has had no management training. This is the manager’s first job in a leadership position and our Prada wearing devil probably isn’t helping her become a better manager or investing in the people.
  • Prada may not know the intern exists, but this is a good thing. We are not prepared for interactions or questions from this level of experience just yet.

I think this in itself was a big relief for our high flyer. My young colleague manages her parents, manages her boyfriends and now she just needs to manage her manager. At first glance, we were dealt a shitty set of cards, but in the grand scheme of things, our needs are being met. We can still win this hand.

Together we came up with the following way to get noticed:

Send the immediate manager a short email that gives a progress report on what we are working on. It would read something like the below:

Ms. Manager,

I am still enjoying the job and learning a ton every day, thanks for the opportunity. I just wanted to give you a quick update on my progress regarding the data entry input. For the past few weeks, I have input on average about 6 projects a week totaling about $230,000.00 worth of inventory. At this rate, I think I will be done in about 4 weeks. I don’t anticipate any hiccups. If anything out of the ordinary comes up, I will give you a heads up. If I can provide more clarity with anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

This email accomplishes a few critical things:

  • Lets the manager know our intern flyer is excited and engaged. No drama here.
  • Gives the manager (with no training) an update. If The Devil asks the manager for a progress report, the answer will be “I am not sure when the interns will be done with the project, but I know that Ms. Smith will be done with her portion in 4 weeks. I will find out where the others are.”
  • We can almost guarantee that the other interns are NOT providing this kind of update to the manager, so the intern will look pro active. Since the manager isn’t asking for an update, she either doesn’t have time OR doesn’t know to provide updates to the Prada wearing devil.

Thing 2:

She wanted some advice. Specifically, she asked if there was anything else she should be doing this quarter to get ahead of the game. Get ahead of the game? Are you shitting me? Sports, full academic load and an internship? If anything, I would recommend to back off and do a few things really well vs. going for broke. I was specific and explained that I am confident her father would say, “Don’t listen to that pansie, HRNasty. When you can succeed at these activities than you know you can accomplish anything moving forward!” “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.” He is a bit more aggressive than this HR guy because I like to set folks up for success their first foray into anything. I let her know I was really proud of everything she has accomplished and I couldn’t think of anything else she should tackle her first quarter.

Thing 3: She wanted to recommend a book to me and wanted to ask if I knew of any books she should be reading. If you have read this blog you know that I believe we can all bring something to the table. Even when working with someone who has more experience than us, we can at least offer to return the favor and add value

Of course our flyer brought something to the table. She recommended a book to me I have to say I was intrigued. The book she recommended is, The Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. As she described the book, I could clearly see where she thought I would be interested and yes, it has been downloaded to the Kindle app. I recommended two books. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Goldsmith And Work Rules by Lazlo Bock. The first is probably more appropriate for her particular situation and I am currently re-reading the second.

Per the linked blog post, a few days later I received a screen shot of her email exchange. She had sent the update to her manager, the manager had responded and wanted to start meeting on a weekly basis. The manager is also asking all of the interns for a weekly update. Boom! I love it when it all comes together.  

In my mind, this young flyer is doing it right. I wish I had the foresight and courage to ask for advice from those that had been there and done that when I was early in my career or in college. Which is why I wanted to share this story with you. If this young flyer can manage her schedule and still fit in a weekly call, than any of us can.

Be inspired and we will see you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

phone screen

Project excitement during the phone interview

Phone screen, the common mistakes

Phone screens are the great unknowns in the job interview process. I believe the phone interview is the easiest interview to prepare for and the intent of this post is provide reasons why and confidence. My goal is to change your view and potential fears of the phone interview.

Most candidates fear the phone screen because we don’t know what to expect with this first call. If we do well in the phone interview and land the coveted in-person interview, we have an indication of what to expect based on the initial phone screen. When it comes to in person interviews, recruiters will often give the candidates some insight into what to expect and the names of the folks conducting the interviews. On the flip side, the phone interview is “first contact” and we don’t know what to expect or prepare for.  

If you are having a tough time moving past the phone screen, then you are probably missing something important on this call and hopefully this post will help.

First and foremost, we need to be positive about the phone interview. Thinking about failure will become a self – fulfilling prophecy and recruiters can sense interview insecurity. It doesn’t smell or wear well. Remember, preparation is the best way to project confidence. 

The number 1 reason you should not be fearful of the phone interview is because you are one of the chosen ones. For most jobs out there, the recruiter or hiring manager has a LOT of resumes to pick from and they picked yours. Yes, for once, you are a horse in the race.

HRNasty’s reasons on why you should NOT be fearful of the phone screen

If you landed a phone interview then you can assume the hiring manager feels you are qualified.

You have to believe you are qualified. If there are no qualified candidates, we will change the headline on the job description or tweak the content of the job description. Recruiters will avoid candidates who are not qualified. We won’t waste anyone’s time, especially ours.

So, don’t fret. You are not just in the ball-park, you are on base. The hiring manager is not just interested in you as a candidate, they are hopeful you will be the chosen one. Concentrate more on being qualified than how you might not be qualified. They called you! Play your cards right Gomer because you can win this pot.

How to prepare for the phone interview

I have conducted a lot of phone interviews over the years and with most candidates, this stage is a weak link. It is surprising to me how many candidates do not have a grasp on the message they want to deliver. I would say that most of the candidates I talk with are technically qualified but they weed themselves out of the process because of how they present during the phone screen.

In most cases, this interview is only 30 to 45 minutes long. What this means for most recruiters is that they only have time to ask about 10 questions. Remember, within this call, recruiters need to make introductions, conduct a little bit of chit-chat to take the nervousness off the candidate and then give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions. This only leaves time for 10 or so questions, but with this limited time, we should know what is coming. They are not going to waste time with “what is your favorite color” or “if you were an animal, what would it be?”.

But what 10 questions are asked during a phone screen?

Any quick Google search for “top phone screen interview questions” will get the job done. If you want to be an over achiever, add more detail to your search with the following:

  • Top phone interview question for Customer Service Representatives
  • Phone interview questions for Product Manager’s

If you are lazy, just check out my link to the interview questions on this site here. These are not necessarily phone interview questions, but show the format of HOW to answer actual interview questions. 

Remember, the scheduled time will limit the number of questions that can be asked. This is not a session on the couch with your counselor. This is speed dating and we need to make an impression quickly.

Here is what I want to know. You should absolutely have prepared answers for these questions.

  1. What are you most proud of?
  2. What do you know about Acme Publishing?
  3. What is your weakness?
  4. What did you like about your last manager?
  5. How much do you want to make?
  6. What is your long-term / 3 year / 5 year plan?
  7. Why should we hire you?
  8. Why did you leave your last job? Why are you considering a new job?
  9. What do you look for in a manager?
  10. When can you start?

If you are like most candidates, you read through the list and felt good about your ability to answer the above questions. Based on the answers I hear, I believe most candidates read each question, formulate the first sentence to their answer (or came up with a general concept for an answer) and are quickly moving onto the next question.

If you were one of the folks that came up with short one-sentence answers and moved to the next question, the interview process will probably end after the phone screen, if not before. You may not know it, but in the recruiters mind, finito. I hear a lot of great first sentences to interview answers during the phone screen but then most candidates stumble. They have a general concept of what they want to say, but they are not able to articulate a complete answer. This is a deal killer. Lack of articulation will equal the lack of an in person interview.

One of the best ways to prepare for a phone interview is to write out a complete answer to the interview questions and then tape record what we sound like when we answer these questions. You will be surprised with what you hear. Remember, there are no “lemme start over” 2nd chances. 

Common problems with phone screen answers:

The most common problem is that the candidate isn’t articulate. There is obviously an idea of what the candidate wants to say, but there is a lot of stumbling and a lack of well formulated thoughts.

Many phone interviews literally sound like this is the candidates VERY FIRST EXPERIENCE with an interview

Having well thought out answers to the questions, writing out the answers in their entirety, and then practicing the complete answer out loud will make a big difference in how we present over the phone. With practice, we don’t miss points we want to make and the answer will flow. This isn’t cheating. If you were hired and later asked to give a presentation to a customer or the CEO, you would practice your presentation. You would not wing it. You would not come up with the first sentence and then assume “I got this bitches”. 

The other thing that listening to your phone screen answers will do is help ensure that we are answering the question. One of the big phone screen killers is being asked a question and not providing an answer. Having a pre-planned answer and then listening to what our answer is, ensures we are giving the interviewer what they want.

Most candidates that fail the phone screen have one thing in common

The candidates are asked an interview question and the candidate gives a long explanation and background before actually answering the question. The hiring manager is losing interest in us as a candidate when we give background explanations before answering the actual question. Make sure to answer the question first and then provide any necessary background information.


Q: What do you know about Acme Publishing?

Non Answer: “I have done a lot of research. I have talked with friends, I obviously went to your web page and I have read forums on your customer service. I took a look at your year-end financials for the last quarter and saw you guys have a great Twitter following. I know that you guys did well last quarter and posted a profit. I saw on Twitter that you have 10K followers which is really good. I only have about 300 followers. Your web page says you were established in 1980 and have been in business for 25 years.

I shit you not, I hear this stuff. The candidate thinks they are answering the questions, but they are really just providing me fluff and the first 4 sentences didn’t answer the question. Those first 4 sentences were DOG sentences. Each single sentence was equal to 7 sentences of a dog barking up the wrong tree.

Better answer: Well, Acme Publishing was founded in 1980 and specializes in book binding and color catalogs for sports equipment. Customers are all over the world and include X,Y, and Z. Recently Acme has expanded to online web work and I am really excited about this part of the business. Per the financials, “we” posted a profit of about $1.2M on revenue of 15M and had year over year growth for the past 5 years.

If the recruiter says “enough already”, you know you answered the question. The point is, answer the question.

If you have a phone interview coming up, prepare well thought out and complete answers and then record your answers to ensure that you are presenting your best self. The sighs, the heavy breathing and loss for what to say will disappear quickly.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!