To paraphrase Mr. Gump, an interview is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Sure, you might have certain expectations for the interview to go a certain way, or perhaps you expect to be asked certain questions, but sometimes (read:often) life likes to throw you a curveball and mix things up a bit and you get a question out of left field. Then you’re stuck staring blankly while your brain is switching directions suddenly and the interviewer is left wondering if you speak English or if you’re just dumb. It’s embarrassing, but we’ve all been there.Read More
Even if you’re lucky enough to live close to the career hub for your industry, chances are that you are going to have to do a preliminary interview over the phone at least once. Those chances are multiplied if you’re applying for remote positions or for companies that are large enough to be using (third party or in-house) recruiters who like to assess potential candidates over the phone before recommending them to the internal hiring team.
Each time a writing contract ends, I am put back into interview mode. This past week, I had five different phone interviews (and three video interviews…which we’ll talk about soon), and it inspired me to jot down tips I’ve learned over the years:
Five Tips for Slaying Your Phone Interview
- Smile and Move Around Often. This might sound crazy since the person on the other end of the phone can’t see you, but have you ever talked to someone on the phone while they were watching TV? You could totally tell that they were distracted, right? Similarly, your interview will pick up on your positive energy and enthusiasm for the job if you act as though they can see you smile and nod. Walking while you talk will help keep your energy up and blood pumping, which will send the message that you’re excited about the job.
- Minimize distractions. For me, this includes locking my cats in the bedroom, shutting all the windows, and turning off my TV and laptop. Even if you think you’re super focused, it’s human nature to attempt to ease nervousness of new situations by falling back to the familiar, so you might not be able to prevent your eyes from wandering to the TV. If your apartment or home is too full of distractions or you don’t live alone, consider taking the call somewhere, such as in your parked car.
- Prep ahead of time (don’t depend on notes). Phone interviews might seem like a slam dunk since the interviewer can’t see you. If they ask you a question you aren’t sure how to answer, you can always look something up on your laptop, right? Wrong. Although using your laptop is okay for an emergency, you shouldn’t depend on it. Prep for the call as though it were in person. The time it takes to look up an answer or research the company will be noticed by the interviewer and might make you feel self-conscious, which could throw off your confidence for the remainder of the call. If you prep for the interview, then just keep in mind that you are qualified and you know the answers. Trust yourself!
- Be ready for a call at any time. Once you submit an application for a job, you should be prepared to receive a call from the recruiters at any time. They might email you ahead of time, but they might not. If you don’t have the time to focus on the call (or you’re driving, feeding an infant, etc), it is absolutely okay to reschedule the call for another time. This is much better than not giving the best interview you could have because you were distracted, and your caller might even be impressed by your polite manner. Similarly, if you aren’t able to be able to talk professionally (i.e. three beers in at Happy Hour), let your voicemail get it…because, you already recorded a professional voicemail message before applying.
- Don’t forget to follow up with a Thank You note. Since your conversation took place over the phone, it’s easy to forget to send a thank you note. However, sending an email within 24 hours of the call is essential after phone interviews because it will keep you top of mind during a critical step in the hiring process: the initial screen. Chances are that whoever you spoke to probably spoke to several other candidates, and you want to make sure they remember you, specifically. Thank them for your time and refer to specific parts of the conversation. Offer to send any additional materials needed for the application and include all of your contact information. Since I’m a writer, I usually include my writing samples again, even if I sent them in the initial application, to make it easier to forward on. Include your resume, too, if you think it’s appropriate. Make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to move you to the next level!
Best of luck on that phone call! Next time, I’ll give you some tips on acing the newest and perhaps most panic-inducing type of interview: Video!
You sit down with a prospective employer, you have your shiny resume in front of them, and you expect to start discussing your wonderful credentials. Then, just as you settle in you get, “Well ______________, tell me a little bit about yourself.” With that question you totally freeze, not knowing what to say. Is he interested in your My Little Pony collection? Does he want to know about your crippling addiction to online surveys? That you have an imaginary three legged hamster for a best friend? Probably not. The question is a little trickier than you might think at first.
There is a lot of advice out there on how to handle this question. Some advice has been, “What would you like to know?” Another is, “Well, I was born in a little log cabin in Blah, in the great state of Blahblah.” With some employers we’ve dealt with over the years, either answer could send the wrong signal, and as a result, you have to be careful. Many employers aren’t going to narrow it down for you, and if they do, it’s likely going to end up a boring question about your hobbies. So make sure you take this opportunity when it presents itself.
What we have found over the years is that the best way to answer that question is to say, “Well Mr. Employer, I find myself to be a—,” and at this point, start your sales pitch. What you want to do is focus on the strengths you have that would apply to the job you are interviewing for. Talk about your managerial ability, leadership skills, attention to detail, reliability, etc. Whatever would best tie into what the employer wants. Sometimes it is pure guesswork, but it is a much better way to address that age old question. Every question in an interview is an opportunity to sell yourself. Don’t let even one get away from you.
For you to do this effectively, you must prepare for it, and rehearse it. You may never get asked the question, but as the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, then memorize it. Your mind can go blank when you’re on the spot, and you may struggle to just remember what your strengths are. But if you memorize a list of them, you’ll have an easier time recalling them when under pressure. Before any interview, go over your list, and try to find ways to apply them all to the job you’re interviewing for.
As mentioned above, there is a lot of advice out there, and everyone has an opinion. But, we know for a fact that the approach suggested above does, and has worked. Everytime you speak on an interview, you should be demonstrating some way you’re the perfect candidate. Being ready to tell an employer about yourself in a positive and beneficial manner will only help you nail the interview.
The amount of information that is available on the Internet can be overwhelming (and even scary, if you’ve ever had a blind date with someone who seemed to know way too much about you). However, as a job-seeker, social media can be your best friend. You just have to use it correctly! For example, here are five ways to use social media to prepare for an interview:
What is the company’s point of view? Go to the company’s website and read their About Us section, as well as any other content that explains the history and objective of the company. Jot down a few questions about this content to ask at the conclusion of the interview.
What does the business do? This might sound like an easy question, but, in the tech world, it is sometimes difficult to know what it is you’re selling. Browse the product selection and price points. Test check out. If you have time, look up some of their competitors, so you have a better idea of the landscape of the industry.
What type of press has this company received? Has this company recently gotten a round of funding? Involved in a lawsuit? Been ranked in the Top Ten in a magazine? This information will help you to make your decision in regards to whether or not you want the job and also give you an idea of what topics to bring up and what topics to avoid.
How do current employees and former employees rate the company? Web sites like Glassdoor.com display reviews of companies just like Yelp does for restaurants. This is a great way to get a sense of what it’s “really” like to work somewhere. Just remember to check the date of each review; companies can change as quickly as within a year!
What do you find when you Google yourself? You should know by now that it’s not a good idea to have college photos of you chugging beers on the Internet for anyone to see. However, just because you have made sure nothing scandalous has ever been posted to Facebook, you want to Google yourself to make sure that you know what will surface. Employers use social media just as much as you do and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Being tech-savvy includes knowing how Google portrays you to the outside world.
Think of looking for a new job or opportunity as a home improvement project. As with any project, you must have the right tools. Most people who decide to paint a room, or repair something around the house think to themselves, “What will I need to get this done and do it right?” That same attitude needs to be taken into a job search. So think about finding a new position the same way. Below is a checklist to help you have the most success possible in completing that job search project.
- Have the right attitude to use the tools in your toolbox. When looking for a new job, whether you are working or unemployed you must have a positive and upbeat attitude. Employers, like most people are attracted to candidates that project success and are positive. Any negative thoughts, no matter how bad MUST be left in your tool box, and should never be taken out and used. We have seen many a fine candidate, with great skills, not get hired because they let negative words seep into an interview. No matter how tempted you are, negative language regarding previous jobs, bosses, or companies should never be used.
- Keep your tools in tip top shape. As with any project the tools that you use need to be in working order. In relationship to a job search, this means your appearance. Unfortunately there is only so much you can do with how you look. But, make what you were born with as good as possible. The one thing you can control is your grooming and the appearance of your clothes. We beat that same old subject to death, but many people still do not get it. Before you go on an interview, look in the mirror and honestly say to yourself, would I hire this person?
- Make sure your tools work. How is that resume? Is it accurate? Does it represent you effectively? Make sure it does before you send it out for all to see. It represents you and the quality of work you will do. It is similar to showing your neighbor Ralph or Mary the fence you built, and saying to that person, what do you think? The one thing you want is that fence not to be toppling over and crooked. Check your work before you advertise it!
- Have your tools ready to go! You never know when a project may come up at home, and when it does you want your hammer, screwdriver, or whatever clean and ready to be used. Take that same attitude into your job search. Always be prepared! That phone call or e-mail regarding a new opportunity may come at any time and you want to be ready. The bus (not Jerome Bettis) taking you to a new opportunity only comes by so often, and it makes only so many stops, so do not miss it, and be left behind.
Keep these points in mind as you begin your job search project. They will keep you focused and ready. For more fun filled job search advice visit our other blogs. Happy Hunting!
You have decided that it’s time to move on with your career, or you just lost your job, and you think to yourself what do it do. In order to help focus you we have below steps that need to be taken to get you in a position to get the offer for the job you want.
1. Have your resume ready to go!
It needs to be updated, and most of all make sure it’s accurate with dates and overall information. Have several trusted people read it paying strict attention to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Simple things, but many times overlooked. Remember a basic rule of thumb; “The devil is in the details”. I am still amazed by how many people overlook the basics.
2. Make connections!
Whether you connect with Headhunters, contacts, or Linkedin, make connections. The degree is based on your urgency, and your own situation. If you are unemployed you must contact everyone, if you are still working you would want to be more discreet. Whatever you do, just use common sense.
3. Hats and spats!
You are going to market yourself, get yourself out there. There is only so much you can do. But, you have to do your best. The best in regards to your clothes, shoes, and hair. Fortunately or unfortunately, employers make quick judgments as soon as they lay eyes on you, so please put your best foot forward. Make the best impression you can. It cannot hurt and will only help.
4. Prepare, prepare, prepare!
In this day and age it is very easy to prepare for an interview. As a matter of fact, it may be too easy. The internet, especially LinkedIn has made the preparation process very painless. When you have an interview coming up, take the time to go to the internet to thoroughly research the company and the individual or individuals you will be meeting with. Knowing everything you can in regards to the company, the person, or the culture can only help, and it impresses the employer. In addition, prepare questions. Write them out, take them on an interview. It will help focus you.
5. Be yourself!
Employers want to know who you are. Do not try to be anything other than the person they see in front of them. But, it does not hurt to watch the basics. Pay attention to your handshake, body language, and most of all, your grammar. Resist the urge to get too comfortable, and use slang or vulgar language. Employers pay attention to those things. They see it as a reflection on how you will represent them with either customers, or people with the company. Trust me, Employers are observant.
When the interview is over, please send a thank-you note. Thank the employer for their time, and confirm you level of interest. But, like with all correspondence, check your spelling and grammar. The best thank you notes are generally those that are short, sweet, and to the point.
There is a lot of advice out there. Everyone is an expert, and has an opinion, but we hope the 6 points we discussed above may help, and get you thinking. For more tips and tricks and help interviewing, take a look at the rest of our blog, our Youtube Channel and our podcast, Job Talk. Good luck, and happy hunting!
In today’s episode, John, Larry, Jason and Dan discuss answer the most common question they get, What’s the market like? We go on at length about the market for both employers and applicants, and have a few laughs along the way.
One of the interview questions that can be stressful to prepare for is one that challenges your honesty and your ability to sell yourself in one fell swoop: Tell me about your weaknesses. Usually on the heels of “Tell me about your strengths,” this question can be helpful to hiring managers when thinking about how a candidate will fit in with the current team, especially their potential manager and potential reports. It’s also a good measure of how well someone can handle negative feedback. If the candidate is able to comfortably discuss aspects of their working style that need more development while in an interview setting, than they are probably going to be pretty open-minded when receiving feedback in the workplace and during annual reviews. Therefore, the trick to answering this question is to use your weaknesses to show off your strengths!
A common “joke” answer that people like to toss around when this question comes up is, “I’m a perfectionist – I can’t rest until I achieve high quality results!” Yes, it’s tempting to pretend that you’re perfect. However, saying you’re perfectionist in an interview can sometimes be a red flag to the hiring committee. Admitting to perfectionism could be interpreted as admitting to being stubborn, unyielding, or obsessive when it comes to execution vs. the big picture. If you’re interviewing for an entry-level position, prioritize flexibility over perfectionism. Be the person that can pivot and change direction without falling to pieces, not the person that’s going to waste three hours of company time searching for the perfect email font.
Without further ado, here are three better answers to “What are Your Weaknesses?”
“At my most recent employee review at my last company,…..” This is the perfect opportunity to show that you are not only great at receiving feedback, but you also take it to heart and use it to improve. Use examples from feedback you’ve received at past jobs and give specific examples regarding steps you took to make changes. Add a few more specific actions you intend to take in the future to continue your development.
“I know that your ideal candidate would have experience with (x) and that’s not something I’ve had a chance to work with yet. However…” Keep the focus of your answer on the role and anything that you already know they are looking for that you don’t have. Maybe they were hoping for someone with experience using a specific analytics platform; bring it up and say that, although you haven’t used it yet, you have proven experience picking up similar platforms quickly, then provide examples. This is your chance to speak to weaknesses in your overall application – go for it!
“As I mentioned before, one of my strengths is (x). The drawback to that strength is (x)…” With most people, there is a balance when it comes to strengths and weaknesses. Admitting to a natural “drawback” that accompanies your strength is a genuine response to this question and it doesn’t really reveal anything about you that they wouldn’t have figured out, anyway. For example, if you are a natural collaborator and love working with other people, maybe it’s easy for you to get carried away and spend time talking with co-workers. Since you learned this about yourself, you wear headphones now when at work to keep you focused. This answer could be refreshing to your interviewer in its candidness, and it shows that you’re both self-aware and willing to take action to correct behaviors that detract from your productivity.
When you first enter the job market, it can seem like the whole system is against you. It can be frustrating to lack the qualifications because you lack experience, especially if it feels like you’ll never get enough experience because you can’t get hired anywhere!
Here are a few tips on how to utilize your time:
Don’t underestimate the value of paid internships. Most people think that internships are just for college kids and mostly consist of getting coffee for executives and doing all the “grunt work,” but not getting paid for it. Actually, internships today are very different from their stereotype. You’ll not only find more paid opportunities these days, but also older, more experienced folks taking on these jobs (the average age of a paid intern at one of the companies I used to work for in San Francisco was 27). Internships have replaced entry-level positions at many companies, and is the best chance you’ll have of getting your foot in the door to eventually being hired full-time.
Use your downtime to explore networking and volunteer opportunities. Just because you haven’t been hired yet doesn’t mean you should wallow in self-pity on the couch all day. Instead, use your extra time to meet people in the industry by attending mixers and social events (you can usually find out about these through Linked-In and other career-oriented sites). If you want more experience, consider volunteering your time at a local non-profit to beef up your skillset and, again, meet people in the industry. No matter what it is you decide to do, be sure you have something to say to a recruiter or hiring manager when they ask you what you have been spending your time on since graduation / your last job.
Reach out to your college network. Most colleges have alumni programs that focus on getting graduates in touch with each other. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say that I receive an email from a fellow Denison alum at least twice a month…and it makes me very happy when I am able to help them get in touch with someone in their field. Just remember to prepare your correspondence in a respectful manner and have a specific objective for the next steps in your career that you can communicate clearly. This will increase your chances of getting a response!
When I moved to Pittsburgh, I faced the daunting task of trying to find employment in a system radically removed from what I considered the norm. No more “good ol’ boy” network. No more getting a job simply because I could breathe. No more starting work the day I applied. Now I actually had to interview, talk to people, and worst of all, answer questions.
I missed out on more than a few great jobs at first because when presented with typical interview questions (or atypical, looking at you Google), I froze, unsure how to answer them. Short range goals? Occupational priorities? Turns out, “having enough money for lunch” isn’t a great short term goal. Well, at least for the interview question. Seems like an important goal to me though.
So don’t be like me, and leave you deer in the headlights stare at home. The next time you go on a job interview, be prepared to address the following questions, even though they may never be asked.
- “What are your short range goals?” When confronted with that question there are many different answers, and you need to answer it in an honest, direct way. One response to that question is to say, “Mr. Employer, I am looking for an opportunity that would allow me to utilize my skills in (fill in the blank), and help a company grow. The simplest way to look at that is to remember that employers want to hire people that can either help a company make money, save money, or protect their good name.
- “What are your long range goals?” The answer to that question should focus on what you see yourself doing 5+ years down the road. It could be eventually moving into a more responsible position, or improving your skills. Most employers look for candidates that have some degree of ambition.
- “What are your occupational priorities?” This is code for what are you looking for in your next position. The answer should NOT be more money or better benefits. The best answers center around growth, challenges, opportunity, and contributions you can make to the company.
- “What are your strengths?” You need to evaluate what your strengths are and how an employer can benefits by those strengths. It is very important that before you go on a job interview that you access what you bring to the table. Remember as we have said before, employers hire people that can either help them make money, save money, or protect the company’s good name.
- “What are your weaknesses? The classic answer to that age old question is to address weaknesses that tie into your strengths. An example would be, my strength is my ability to multi-task, and my weakness is, I multi task so well that at times I take on too much.
- “What kind of money are you looking for?” The best answer to that question is to say, “Mr. Employer, I am open and flexible. I am looking for the right opportunity.” It is best to avoid blurting out a figure. If you do you may under sell yourself, or knock yourself out of the running.
These are the big questions you’re most likely to run into while on an interview. They’re pretty standard. If you interview with someone who thinks they’re smart, and asks you weird questions, just stay calm, think about the question, then try to present yourself in the best possible light. Remember, they’re only asking these questions to see how you react under pressure. So don’t give them the satisfaction of cracking like an egg.