Ready for Your Interview: How JVS Chicago Prepares Clients to Meet Employers, and Questions Employers Can Ask to Find the Right Candidate


Interviewing job candidates can be stressful. How will you know if a person will be the right fit? What questions can you ask to determine a candidate’s experience and value?

In issue after issue of jvs@work, the JVS Chicago enewsletter for employers, executives have complimented JVS Chicago on how well-prepared its job candidates are, and how that preparation saves employers time and money. Looking at how JVS Chicago coaches candidates can give you insights into where you want your next job interview to go.

Career Success Equation™

To achieve that level of preparation, Career Moves, the JVS Chicago employment program, devised the Career Success Equation™, which divides the job search into four manageable parts:  Identity, Branding, Marketing and Sales.

“Candidates are no longer just employees,” says Linda Wolfe, Director of Career Development and Placement at JVS Chicago. “Job seekers are entrepreneurs selling a service in a highly competitive market.  An employer has to be convinced to buy what you are selling.”

Career Moves serves an eclectic group of clients, running the gamut of almost every demographic.  It serves the Jewish community and Chicagoland at large, young and old, blue collar and white collar workers.  Yet Wolfe, a spunky, petite veteran of the “Mad Men” culture of advertising before she took on employment services, insists that the questions remain the same for those looking to be a janitor as they are for CEO candidates.

“What are you selling?  Why should they buy? If you can’t address those questions,” says Wolfe, “you don’t get hired.”

A prime method of preparation is the workshop. The Success Series™ begins with Career Identity.

Why do you think you are a good fit for this job?

“The ‘I’ll do anything’ crowd doesn’t get hired today,” said Wolfe. “A job seeker can’t move on if the question of Career Identity can’t be answered.  The competition is too fierce.”

Why should we hire you instead of the other candidates?

Next comes Branding, which differentiates each job candidate.

“While it’s difficult to point to one part of an individual’s preparation as being most important to their search,” said Laurie Rosen, Executive Career Specialist, “having a career identity and brand is essential.”

The Marketing section of the Success Series™ includes social media and networking, the foremost method of securing a job in recent years and a tactic that Rosen said is almost as key as career identity and branding. It’s also the fastest changing area of job seeking, according to Wolfe – “LinkedIn is not going away, but emailed resumes just might,” she said.

How do you know our mutual acquaintance?

Networking also takes place between JVS Chicago staff and former clients, according to Rosa Simon, an Associate Career Counselor who frequently works with Russian-speaking clients.

“I’ve developed a big network of former clients and Russian-owned companies,” she said. “That helps to make it possible for me to place clients.”

Sales are achieved with a cover letter, resume and what Wolfe calls “the single most important step in the hiring process,” the job interview.

Why did you decide to apply for a job with our company?

“This is where the job is made or lost,” Wolfe said. “It’s getting even trickier with the introduction of video interviewing. Most candidates believe an interview is about them – it’s not. It’s about the company.”

Simon agrees – “The number one thing I tell clients to do is to research the company and know everything about it.”

Insights like that give JVS Chicago candidates an interview advantage.

The Success Series™ offers workshops in every area related to job seeking, but it’s only one tool in the JVS Chicago kit.

“Our approach is holistic,” said Rosen, “in the sense that we prepare clients for every aspect of their search – workshops are augmented by assessments and individual counseling that address and reinforce what is taught in workshops. We offer accountability groups, mock interviews and resume reviews by executive volunteers.”

Prep for People with Disabilities

Bob Parkinson, who helps people with disabilities prepare for job interviews, said that their preparation is more like others’ than it is different.

“I tell my clients to do the interview based on their strengths,” he said. “The interview is essentially two people talking about a job.”

Parkinson said he had two bits of advice for his clients with disabilities – don’t put your disability out front – or do!

“People with obvious disabilities – they use a wheelchair, for example – might as well deal with their disability in an interview situation,” said Parkinson. “I try to get my clients to let go of anxiety they may feel about how the job interviewer will react to them.  Most interviewers are trying hard to be ‘politically correct’ and may be more anxious about doing the right thing than they are about a person’s disability.  An appropriate sense of humor can help the situation – but it has to come from the person with a disability, of course, not from the interviewer.”

Parkinson tells clients with hidden disabilities – ADHD, epilepsy or diabetes are examples – not to disclose their disability out in front.

“The topic is not ‘what can you NOT do for me today?’” he said. “A hidden disability should not be a topic in the first interview. The right time to mention it is if and when you are going to need an accommodation from the employer.”

Parkinson said that it is inappropriate and actually illegal for a prospective employer to ask candidates if they have a disability.

“On the other hand, it is perfectly okay,” said Parkinson, “for an interviewer to ask, ‘how do you see yourself performing task number six on the job description?’”

Parkinson had two more tips for employers interviewing a candidate with a disability – “when talking with a person who needs an interpreter, such as a person who is deaf, remember to direct your questions and attention to the candidate, not the interpreter. And an employer should never make a person feel that they have been hired because of a disability.”

Carefully prepared candidates from JVS Chicago take up less of a human resource manager’s valuable time and are more likely to be matched to the job opening.

“The obvious benefit to employers is that we are referring fully prepared, vetted candidates at no charge to them,” said Rosen, “but you can count on JVS Chicago to reach beyond the obvious.”

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