interview

Your Career: Five Common Job Search Mistakes

By Kristen Harris

Looking for work might seem like a fairly straightforward process but, in fact, it’s quite complex.

There are several steps, a series of interactions, and multiple people involved in your search. Each stage of the process is filled with nuance and details. One false move can take you out of the running, and you may not even know it. The job search process is challenging and stressful enough without putting barriers in your own way.

Check yourself...are you making any of these five common job search mistakes? Be honest, or ask someone you trust for feedback. Sometimes we’re so close to a problem that it’s hard to have perspective. Once you’re aware of an issue, it’s much easier to correct and avoid that mistake in the future.

  1. A mismatch between your skills and the role. It’s important to really know yourself. What are your strengths? Skills? Experience level? Interests? What stage are you at in your career? What you do you want from your next role? Once you’re clear on these things for yourself, then compare your answers to every role in which you’re interested. Do your strengths and skills align with what the company needs? Are you at the right career stage for the role? Does it align with what you want, personally and professionally? Do you like the company? Are you interested in what they do? No job is perfect, but if there is a significant mismatch in several areas, move on to the next opportunity. This is not “the one”.

  2. Cookie-cutter communications. We live in a customized world; don’t send the same message to every contact or in response to every job opportunity. Customize your resume to highlight the exact skills and experiences the company is looking for. Highlight how you’re a great fit for that specific role and company in your cover letter or introductory email. Technology means every communication can be specialized to the recipient, yet people rarely receive truly personalized messages. Make the person on the other end feel as though you’re speaking directly to them and their needs.

  3. Typos in your resume. Typos and bad grammar reflect poorly on you and your work. Resume reviewers will immediately make judgments, and often it’s a shortcut to the trash bin. Not everyone is a great writer or speller, I get it. But, even if you are, find someone to proofread everything for you–your brain often fills in the gaps, it’s easier for someone else to find your mistakes.

  4. Not being prepared for the interview. As an interviewer, there are few things more painful than trying to connect with someone who is clearly not prepared for your conversation. Research the company before your interview (actually, before you apply, otherwise, how do you know you want to work there?). You’ll know what to wear (if you’re still not sure, ask the person scheduling the interview), and you can ask about something they’re working on or a project that was recently announced. Have questions prepared; this is a two-way conversation, and you need to know if it’s a good fit for you too. Be interested and engaged, do your part to make it a good conversation.

  5. Not using your network. Go beyond searching job boards, it’s important to utilize your network. Start with people you already know, personally and professionally, in your community or school, through alumni associations or industry groups. Connect with people online through platforms like LinkedIn. Attend events where people in your industry would be, catch up with people you know and ask them to introduce you to someone new. Then follow the cardinal rule of giving before asking. Even though you want someone’s help, first ask what you can do to help them. By giving first, you’ll establish trust and truly build a relationship; people are much more likely to help or recommend people they know and trust.

Whether looking for your first job, next job, or dream job, eliminating these five mistakes will help you get out of the way of your own success.

 

60 Seconds and You’re Hired: Interview Tips that Work

By Kristen Harris

This is it! Showtime. Your interview is scheduled, you’ve taken the time to prepare, and are confidently walking in the door, ready to go. Now it’s time to show them what you’ve got.

If you haven’t quite prepared for the interview yet, check out part one of this series— You’re Hired: Five Tips to Prepare for a Great Interview.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. For one reason or another, there’s an open role on their team. They have a problem, and think you might be the solution. Actually they hope you are, because they need to get on to the work, not just keep interviewing candidates. When you walk in the door or pick up the phone, that other person wants it to go just as well as you do.

By focusing on key parts of a successful interview, you’ll give yourself a better chance of being “the one.”

First Impressions.

You’ve planned ahead and arrived on time. Take a deep breath, smile, and enter the building with confidence. Greet the person at the front desk and politely ask for the contact you’re meeting. When your interviewer comes to greet you, exude confidence – stand up, make eye contact, smile, and offer a handshake.

Make it a Conversation.

Once the interview starts, think of it as a conversation, not an interrogation. Speak clearly and confidently. Don’t blurt things out; take a few seconds to consider your answer. Explain yourself, but don’t talk too much, ramble, or go on tangents. Answer their questions, focusing on the areas you think are important to the hiring manager. If you’re not sure what’s most important, ask–it’s a conversation.

Talk Less, Listen More.

Answer questions and participate in the conversation, but also listen to what they are saying. The interviewer will give you hints as to what they want, or come right out and tell you. They came in hoping you’re a good fit, listen to what they’re saying so you can show them that you are.

Watch Your Body Language.

Sit up straight, make eye contact, don’t fidget. Don’t fold your arms, it can come across as defensive or insecure; take up space and show confidence. Pay attention to what they’re doing and follow suit. Mirroring is a psychological technique to help connect with others.

Participate and Gauge Their Interest.

Make eye contact, nod your head, take a few notes–do the normal things that demonstrate you’re listening and participating in the conversation. Watch for signs they’re engaged, like leaning in or taking notes. If you see signs they’re losing interest, like fidgeting or checking the clock, ask a question or let them ask more questions to get the conversation back on track.

Turn Off Your Phone.

This gets it’s own section because it is SO important. Having your phone ring during an interview is distracting, interruptive, and just plain rude. If you forget and it rings, don’t answer! Apologize, silence the call, and turn off the ringer. Everything else can wait, there is nothing more important right now than this interview.

Wrap It Up.

Near the end of the interview they’ll probably ask if you have any questions. If they don’t ask, about ten minutes before the scheduled conclusion let them know that you have a few questions. Prioritize in case you run short of time, the interviewer will indicate when the interview is over. Thank them for their time and consideration. If they haven’t already told you, ask when they’ll be making a decision or what the next steps will be. Part with a good handshake, a friendly smile, and “I look forward to hearing from you”.

Walk out confidently, knowing that you’ve presented your best self. Now it’s time to send a thoughtful thank you note, and wait patiently for more information or the next step.

You’re Hired: Five Tips to Prepare for a Great Interview

By Kristen Harris

You have an interview! Maybe you’re a little nervous. It probably feels like there are a thousand things to remember. Whether it’s your first interview, or you haven’t interviewed in twenty years, being prepared can help tilt the outcome in your favor.

There are two sides to every interview, the person interviewing you and YOU. While it may seem like the interviewer holds all the cards, you have total control over one half of that equation.

Keep in mind that you both want the same thing— for this to be a good fit so you can move forward in the hiring process. No hiring manager wants to suffer through a bad interview or waste time talking to a string of people that are not a good fit. And you don’t want that either. Be prepared so you can be “the one”.

  1. Clothing and Grooming. Studies show you have between 7 and 30 seconds to make a first impression, and it’s often based on subtle cues we’re not even aware of. Never give someone a reason to not like you. I’m all for creative expression, but keep it appropriate for the situation. Find out the dress code at the company, and dress one step above that. Make sure everything is fresh, clean, in good condition, fits well, and smells good. That includes your clothing, body and hair (head and facial). Keep jewelry, makeup and scents to a minimum.
  2. Resume and Work Samples. Make any last-minute updates to your resume, and bring several copies in case you meet with more than one person. If work samples are expected for your role, have those ready to present as well. If everything is online, confirm they have the appropriate technology available or bring your own. If possible, bring a few printed samples in the event of a total technology fail. For more on this topic, read our blog on creative portfolio tips.
  3. Know the Location. There is no good reason to arrive late; you are being judged from the moment you arrive, so be on time. Plan ahead, map the address, calculate travel time, and do a trial run of the route. Identify parking, or ask your contact where to park. Arrive a few minutes early, relax, take a deep breath, and walk in about 10 minutes before your interview time. Calm, cool, collected.
  4. Know Your Contact. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people show up for an interview and can’t remember the name of the person they’re meeting. You’ll need the company name, address including floor or suite number, and name of the person you’re meeting. If someone else set up the interview, bring their information too. Write all of this down, put it in your phone, or be extra-safe and do both. A day or two before your interview, use LinkedIn to check out the person you’re meeting so you know what they look like, their background, experience, and anything you may have in common or want to ask about.
  5. Prepare Questions. Before you’re ready to walk in the door, practice the interview. Plan what you want to do and say, and think about questions they might ask. Walk through your resume and portfolio on your own, or with a trusted friend or colleague. What do you want to emphasize or highlight? Find a nice notebook to bring on the interview, and write down a few questions of your own. What do you want to know about the company, role, manager, team, or culture? What do you need to know to decide if this is a good fit for you?

Remember there are two sides to every interview. You’re in control of, and responsible for your part, so take the time to be prepared. Then relax and get ready to shine!

Make the most of your interview!

An interview is your chance to make a good impression and strut your stuff, but most of us are intimidated by such things. The trick is knowing how to talk about your strengths and skills without sounding either conceited or unsure.  Let us, with help from Sharon Delay at BoldlyGO Coaching, give you some tips on how to make the most out of your interview. Follow this link for the answers to your interview questions. (The link is a .zip file, and will take a few minutes to download as it includes both a presentation and video examples)