19 Aug Don’t Be a ‘Cream of Wheat®’ Candidate – Beige, Bland, and Boring
Are you pursuing a new role within your company to advance your career? Or applying within another company for your next job? Fantastic!
Now, are you a “Cream of Wheat®” candidate?
Don’t get me wrong. I like Cream of Wheat… but I don’t love it. It’s never my first choice at a buffet and I don’t wake up on Sunday morning and say,“I’m going to make myself a nice bowl of Cream of Wheat.” It’s bland and boring and the texture is unrefined and unappealing to look at. But it fills the empty spaces when you’re hungry. That’s all.
How can you avoid being Cream of Wheat when making your next career move?
1. Look Better, Sound Better
Phone and video interviews as screening techniques are on the rise. They are quick to implement and low cost for the hiring company. Plus, many positions require great phone skills and a phone interview also lets the hiring manager test your communication abilities and “phone etiquette.”
TIPS: On the phone, be in a quiet place, spread your notes out in front of you, stand up for the best voice projection, and smile! Yes, the listener can hear an upbeat tone when you are smiling. Since you can’t read the caller’s body language, give 3 short answers to every question and then stop talking. They will probe further if they want more. Periodically, you may ask, “Would you like me to provide more insight?”
SECRET: If they ask you for a SKYPE call or send you a link to a website such as Microsoft Lync, WebEx, or Citrix GoToMeeting, dress for an interview – at least above the waist. They’re not trying to trick you, but there is the possibility that these “voice calls” could turn into video calls.
2. Prepare Better
Cream of Wheat candidates do the minimum amount of preparation, talk about themselves too much, and don’t show passion for what the hiring manager is asking for in the job description.
TIPS: Prior to applying, research the company, division, competitors, industry trends, and the management team’s backgrounds. Go to LinkedIn Discussion Groups to learn and ask questions.
SECRET: Take tons of notes and bring a summary to your interview. Hiring managers enjoy seeing your research and organization skills and value that you did detailed research.
3. Interview Better
Cream of Wheat candidates leave phone or face-to-face interviewers with the same taste – or lack of taste – in their mouths. Bland. Blah. Forgettable. They are monotone, lacking passion, unprepared for basic questions, and insecure. This is a competition, folks! Both internally within your company and externally in a new company.
TIPS: The minute you know you will have any type of interview, block the time to do 2-3 hours of preparation. Do your web research; make copies of your résumé, the job description, and application; select your interview outfit, and much more. I’ve dedicated two chapters to interview preparation in my book, Cut the Crap, Get a Job! Available here.
SECRET: Hiring managers know that interviews are your “best days.” It’s when you are, in theory, the most connected, passionate, and focused that you are going to be. You have done as much preparation as possible, put on your best attire or voice, and your game is ON. It’s downhill from here. So if this day is bland and blah, well, you know the rest.
Cream of Wheat has been around for over 100 years. It’s an all-American comfort food. But hiring managers today are not hiring for comfort. They are hiring the best-qualified candidates that can make an impact very quickly. Be a WOW candidate, not a Cream of Wheat candidate!