Friday, April 13, 2012

My Interview with Absolutely Abby

Abby Kohut
Abby Kohut is on a mission to help a million job seekers. Abby is a Human Resource professional by day. By night and weekends, she is all about inspiring and educating people to find their perfect job, as Absolutely Abby. I had the opportunity and privilege to speak with her.

Not only was Abby was included in the list of top 100 influential people online according to Fast Company Magazine, but she was named as one of The Monster 11 for 2011: Career Experts Who Can Help Your Job Search.  

She shares all her secrets on how to land a job. Her 15 years experience as a corporate recruiter definitely gives her the edge. Abby has been helping people find not just jobs, but careers, since 2009 through her books, speeches, and website.

I asked her to share one of her secrets, and she has an ingenious idea about how to get your resume actually seen by someone.

Normally a recruitment ad requests that a job seeker send their resumes into a company’s applicant tracking system, a.k.a “the black hole.” To get out of the hole, you need to have a mind meld with the recruiter. That is, your resume needs to have the exact words on the recruiter’s mind as he or she starts to search for candidates. After you send your resume into the back hole, send it in via fax to the hiring manager so you can be sure that someone is going to see it and read it. You’ll have to find the hiring
manager via LinkedIn or the company’s website. If you get it wrong, no worries! The person you sent it to will send it to the correct person but you still get credit for trying.

I asked Abby why HR has such a bad rep. Everyone seems to have a bad taste in their mouth from it. In preparation for this interview, I checked out a job description for an HR manager. It included duties like organizational departmental planning; compliance to regulatory concerns; employee onboarding; company-wide committee facilitation; all sounded very mechanical to me.

While Abby acknowledges that this perception is a problem, she assured me that those things are there to help people. She told me that what she does is help hire people, and then help them get things like benefits and 401ks. She says that she doesn’t understand why HR is frowned upon, because they are very helpful. She thinks it’s very misunderstood.

I watched several interviews with her, and more than once she said that oftentimes she just wanted to jump across the desk and give the person a hug and give them the absolute truth about job seeking. I asked her how she became the HR person with a heart, so to speak.

She said, Well, you don’t become one, you just are one.  

What’s so cool about Abby is that she not only helps people find jobs, but she helps them find their passions. I asked her why this was important.

She said, If someone gets into a job that they love, they’re going to perform better, get promoted quicker, and it practically won’t feel like a job. I like people to come into the company that really love both the company and job. If you are in a job you hate, you won’t flourish and you’ll usually quit or be asked to leave. It’s a no win situation

As part of her mission, she helps people get around HR, offering ways to ace the interview.

When I ask you your greatest weakness, by all means, don’t say THAT.

She says having a weakness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. She coaches people on her website and her books to answer those kinds of questions intelligently.

Abby has a way to answer the weakness question in a way that turns it around to your benefit.

"Take your weakness and explain why it’s a weakness and how the manager can help
you overcome it or how you are working to improve it."

For example, “I’m a perfectionist which means that finishing projects can be challenging. If you give me a deadline, I’ll be sure to complete the project as close to perfect as I can.”

She says we all have weaknesses and you want to work in a job where they don’t get in your way. She says that you’re doing no favors by hiding them. If someone doesn’t have writing skills, they might get a writing job, by having someone eIse write their resume; but their weaknesses are eventually going to come out. You shouldn’t be applying for jobs that require skills you don’t have.

I knew that she had encountered many stressed out people in her 15 years of experience. I asked her what the funniest thing she had ever seen in an interview was.

She didn’t know if this had to do with stress, but on a phone screen to Chicago, she called this man and he proposed to her on the phone. He said she had a nice voice.

When she told him she was calling from a private company and not a headhunter,  he felt bad.

Her response? I just tried to get off the phone and move on to normal people.

That incident notwithstanding, she doesn’t get stressed out at work, because she is passionate about what she does.

You can check out Abby’s job searching genius on AbsolutelyAbby and her latest book,  Top 12 Interview Questions Exposed  which teaches you how stand out in a crowd of job seekers.


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