Tag Archives: interviewing

Four Steps to a Solid First Impression

As we continue to power through Job Fair Season, it’s important to always remember the basics: make eye contact, smile, and have a firm handshake. There’s another aspect of the basics that you should never forget: your first impression! I’m sure you all have heard the expression before of “you only get one chance to make a good first impression,” and that is especially true during your job or internship search. This can be particularly nerve-wracking when you are going into a job fair or networking event, where you are vying with scores of other people to leave a good impression on an employer.  As part of the 4 Minute Read series, Fast Company shares four tips on how to make a memorable (in a good way!) first impression.

  1. Connect with the employer in a professional and personal manner. Your conversation doesn’t have to be strictly business. Allow the conversation to deviate if it means you can connect over a mutual interest- just make sure you go back to the original topic or interview question!
  2. Use numbers. I’m sure your professors have told you that statistics in research papers or presentations are a great way to grab the audiences’ attention.  Well, the same thing happens when you connect with an employer. Be sure to have an interesting statistic- whether it’s related to their company or the industry as a whole- to show you know your stuff.
  3. Share a fun fact. In the same vein as sharing a statistic, look for opportunities to share an interesting fact. Maybe it’s a life hack, or a cultural understanding, or a tip for their social media platform. Keep in mind this shouldn’t be totally out of the blue, but if it contributes to the conversation, feel free to share!
  4. Be word-conscious. Think about what you are saying to ensure you are concise, but still getting your point across in an effective way. Make sure they are words you won’t trip over or mispronounce.

Just as you practice your handshake and elevator speech, practice using these tips on an everyday basis so when the time comes to meet with an employer, you will really knock their socks off! To read more insight from Fast Company, click here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3066553/four-easy-ways-to-make-a-memorable-first-impression


What Questions Do You Have For Me?

When preparing for an interview, it’s pretty common for job seekers to prepare for the questions that the employer may ask. However, it’s equally important for a job seeker to have questions prepared to ask of the employer.  Of course, there are the standby questions, such as “what is the rest of the hiring process like?” or “what is a typical day here like?”  The time when you ask questions is an essential part of the interview process. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know the company more, and continue making a good impression of the interviewer.  The Forbes Coaches Council developed a list of 11 questions a job seeker should consider asking in order to stand out from the other people being interviewed. Here are a few to start:

  1. What could I accomplish in six months that would really exceed your expectations? Many job seekers ask something along the lines of “what are your expectations of me?” Of course your employer will have expectations for you. This will give you a clearer idea of ways you can take initiative and go above-and-beyond to make a good impression.
  2. What gets you excited to come to work every day?  It’s important to know the culture of your new company, as well as what motivates your new supervisor.  The response to this question can help you determine if you will mesh well with both!
  3. How does your workplace help employees reach their peak potential? Again, it will be a great insight of the company culture to know if they work to help their employees succeed, or adapt with changing needs and times.
  4. What other information can I share with you? This gives the interviewer another door to ask you more questions, and gives you the opportunity to respond to any concerns or doubts they may have.

The Forbes Coaches Council has other great questions you can ask! Check them out here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2016/11/10/11-unusual-question-to-ask-in-an-interview-to-distinguish-yourself-from-the-competition/#68ec588f25f3

Introvert Networking 101

When faced with a networking opportunity, many introverts tend to be filled with fear. Introverts know that people can be a drain on their energy, and they may be overshadowed by their extroverted peers.  Interviews also seem terrifying, because introverts know they have to be in Super Duper People Mode. The Muse recently posted an article to help introverts conquer networking events and interviews by preparing effectively.  Here’s a quick overview of their five steps:

  1. Plan out your time – Give yourself some buffer time before and after the interview or event.  This will build up your energy beforehand, and help you regroup and process information afterwards.
  2. Embrace the chitchat – Understand that small talk is part of the process. Remember that this is a way to establish a relationship, and prepare “get to know you” questions in advance, such as “did you see the Cubs win the World Series last night?”
  3. Really shine at the beginning and the end – Remember to have an awesome introduction to make a great first impression.  Having a confident, friendly closing will leave a good impression, too.
  4. Mirror the interviewer – Make sure you don’t revert to your introverted ways during the conversation.  Make it a point to match what the interviewer is doing, either in body language or tone of voice. If the employer is being unprofessional, such as slouching or using negative body language, don’t feel concerned! Instead, take a deep breath and make a point to use good eye contact and more open body language.
  5. Make your introversion a positive – If the point is to develop a rapport, it may be beneficial to keep in mind that the interviewer could be an introvert, too.  Find ways to highlight your qualities as an introvert.

The Muse has all kinds of good suggestions and points in their article, which you can read here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-survival-tricks-every-introvert-needs-to-know-before-going-on-an-interview .  Other helpful tips for introverts that the ELCDC recommends are doing your research so you feel more prepared, and set achievable goals, like “meet with three employers, and then take a five minute break to get water.”  What other suggestions do you have?

Scoring an Interview, but Not Scoring a Job

Pam Folger, the Career Center Director for Millikin University wrote a really interesting article for AAEE and, in turn, Education Week.  I find it interesting because although it’s designed to be helpful for Education majors, it can very easily be applied to students searching for a job in any major! Moreover, it’s a topic that a student in any major can relate to…. struggling with getting an interview, but then not getting the job.

Folger recommends taking a few things into account when evaluating your recent interviews. I’ll share a few of them, but you’ll be able to see the entire list in the article; the link is provided below.

  1. Did you research the organization? The more you know, the better prepared you are and the more confident you will feel.
  2. Did you dress appropriately? You have one chance to make a good first impression, and you have to look the part!
  3. Were you able to articulate why the position is a good fit for your skills and qualifications, and also how you would be able to contribute to the team at the organization? This shows a mutual benefit, which leads to longer retention and overall job satisfaction.
  4. Did you answer all of the questions thoroughly, including the behavioral-based questions? Being able to provide a solid example behind your qualifications shows that you walk what you talk.
  5. Did you send a thank you note, or at the very least, a thank you email? Not only is it polite, but it’s a chance to re-emphasize why you’re the perfect candidate.

Additionally, Folger recommends mock interviews as a way to get practice and receive feedback. Video mock interviews are also a way for you to see your body language and view any nervous habits you may have, which can be a turn-off to employers.

To get all of Folgers advice, check out her link here: http://blogs.edweek.org/topschooljobs/careers/2016/03/interviews_but_no_offers.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=careercorner

What Is Your Proudest Accomplishment?

Interviews can be tough.  It’s hard to walk that fine line of “this is why I’m an exceptional employee and you should hire me” and totally bragging. A question that employers like to ask is “What accomplishment are you most proud of?” This is a great question- it allows the employer to see what excites you and get to know you outside of your skills.  However, it can be a stumbling block for the candidate being interviewed, because that fear of bragging always seems to creep in.  In an article posted on Careerealism, Peggy McKee shares wonderful insight on how to appropriately answer this question.

McKee urges interviewees to use recent examples from their work experience- which, for a college student, could be changed to college experience that is relevant to the position. Although you may be proud that you got accepted to college, or got an A in a particularly difficult class, they don’t necessarily highlight the skills or values the employer is looking for.  However, if it’s a company that emphasizes team work, you could share an example of  how you motivated your team before a big game, used practices to focus on drills, and called plays to highlight everyone’s strength, and the team won the game. This shows your ability to work on a team for success. Or, if it’s a company that’s very customer service-driven, you could share an example from your off-campus job as a server, where you have to make sure you take orders correctly, anticipate needs for things like drink refills, and deliver food quickly so it stays warm- all while providing service with a smile, even when the restaurant is packed! To help you determine what skills a company may focus on, look at the job description and their company website to see what their values are.

McKee also recommends that, while framing your answer, you use the STAR method. This will help you stay focused. With the STAR method, you highlight the Situation or Task, Action, and Result. So, with our teamwork example, your Situation would be a big game, the Action would be using the practices to work on drills, motivating your teammates, and effectively calling plays. Your Result would be that you won! With the server position, your Task is to always provide excellent customer service.  Your Action is to take correct orders, smile, anticipate needs, and be timely.  Your Result is when customers leave happy and return- and maybe even ask to sit in your section!

For more examples and tips from McKee, check out her article here: http://www.careerealism.com/interview-question-proudest-accomplishment/

What SHOULD I ask them?!

Last week we talked about the questions you definitely should not ask during an interview. What did you think? Were there other questions you thought of that probably wouldn’t cast you in a good light during your interview?

Today, we’re going to follow up with that on 10 questions you should ask during an interview. You don’t have to ask all 10, but you can pick from the list and know they are “safe” questions. They are also questions that will provide you with more insight into the company and how it works. Remember, during an interview, you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Use the opportunity to ask questions of them so you can determine if it is really a place where you would like to work and feel like you could grow.  Asking questions during an interview also shows you are involved and WANT to learn more. Never walk out of an interview without asking any questions.  Finally, asking questions gives you the opportunity to reiterate your strengths. Ask your question, listen to their answer, and if the opportunity presents itself, follow up on their answer by indicating something that you can do to help with that. I’ll show you an example below.

1. How do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?
This will give you an idea of where the company is headed. Do they plan to expand to other states? Do they plan to hire 500 more people? Maybe they want to have a more active presence online. Use their response as a springboard to remind them that you enjoy training others or you have a lot of social media experience.

2. What opportunities are provided for professional development?You’ll learn whether there will be conferences to attended or if they participate in regular webinars. It shows that you want to keep learning and developing as a worker.

3. Is there a mentoring system in place here?
Mentoring is an important step in transitioning to a new job. It allows you to make connects and have someone you know you can do to with questions. If they don’t have one, that’s ok. Just explain that you were interested in meeting as many people as you could and, in turn, wanted the opportunity to give back and be a mentor to new people later on.

4. What is the most rewarding aspect of this position?
It’s nice to know you’ll get that warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. Maybe you’ll get to help others reach a financial goal, or learn to read, or research results to a problem that affects many members of your community. It’s also an insight into how satisfied other employees are with their work.

5. What is the most stressful part of this position?
It’s also important to know if there will be a time when everyone is cranky or the workload will get tougher- maybe tax season, for example. You can also use this time to talk about your ability to handle stress and manage your time.

6. What is one word you would use to describe your ideal candidate?
I like using this question when you’re being interviewed by a few people at one time. Write down the words they use, and then give a clear example of how you are all of those things. You also get a better idea of whether you think you’ll fit their expectations and the rest of the personalities of the group.

7. What separates a good candidate from a great candidate?
You could ask this whether you’re being interviewed by one person or many people. Again, no matter what they say will make a candidate stand out, remind them of how you fit the bill.

8. How would you describe this company/business/school’s culture?
You get more insight on how everything flows, how people work, and whether you feel like it would be a good fit for you.

9. Why did YOU decide to join this company?
It gives you insight on the person who is interviewing you, and maybe they can tell you more about how the company was then versus how it is now.

10. What will the rest of the selection process be like?I think it’s always a good idea to ask this just so you know what to expect in the upcoming days/weeks/months. Get an idea of whether they’re interviewing more people, will there be more interviews after this one, and how long they think it will take before the make their decision.

What do you think? What questions have you asked that helped you stand out or really helped you make your decision about whether you wanted to work there? Let us know!

The “Don’t Ask!” List

It’s good to ask questions during an interview, even if you’re the one being interviewed. It shows you’re interested in learning more about the company and the position, and it’s a chance for you to reinforce some of your best characteristics. However, there are some questions you just don’t ask of the interviewer. They’ll put you in a very negative light! Here are some of those questions:

1. How long until I can get promoted?
Although it shows you are motivated, it also shows you are not focused on the opportunity at hand.

2. How much vacation do I get?
3. What will my salary be?
4. Will I get health insurance with this?Your questions should show your interest in the position, not the benefits that go with it.

5. When was your company/school/organization founded?
6. Who is your biggest competitor?
7. Who is your CEO/President/Founder?Superintendent?
You should go in knowing some things about the place you are interviewing to work for. Questions like these shows you haven’t done your research, which in turn, shows you haven’t put much effort into preparing.

8. Can I work from home?
Working from home, if it’s expected of you, should be explained right up front. By asking about it, it may seem to the interviewer that you don’t want to interact with other people in the office.

9. Is there a drug test?
Well… think about it. That puts up a red flag that you have something to hide!

10. Did I get the job? When do I start?
It’s great to be eager and enthusiastic, don’t get me wrong! However, by phrasing it like this, you sound presumptuous. Don’t assume the job is yours until you get the official word from them.

What other questions do you think are not the best questions to ask in the interview? Don’t worry, next week we’ll go over questions you SHOULD ask, so be on the lookout!

Your Interview Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Sure, nerves can be healthy. And it’s absolutely normal to be nervous. But, wouldn’t you feel more confident if you knew you weren’t sweating profusely and going to freeze up on every answer? Here are some tips to help you prepare!

1. Do your research ahead of time. Google them, look them up on LinkedIn, read through their tweets and facebook page. This will give you a sense of familiarity with them. Find out the names of the people you will be meeting with and what position they work in. Come up with at least one question for each of them that relates to the job or the business. Make sure you know where you’re going for the interview, what time to be there, how much time it will take to get there, and if you need to bring anything aside from extra resumes.

2. Check yourself out in the mirror! Make sure your suit (if applicable) is dry cleaned, stain free, and has no wrinkles. Make sure your hair is clean and styled nicely. Keep the jewelry and the cologne or perfume to a minimum. Are you able to walk comfortably in your shoes?

3. Get yourself ready for the questions. Think about questions they might ask you. Your career center and google will be a great resource for you. Prepare answers to any questions you think you might get asked.

4.  Take the time to think about 6 opportunities for growth- where you excelled and where you struggled but still learned. What skills did you gain? What did you do, and what was the outcome? They can be examples from class, work, or internships. What are things you have done outside of the box, like a study abroad or a massive research project? Have you sat in on any webinars, received any certifications, or been recognized for outstanding work? The important thing here is to learn about yourself! Be proud of things you have accomplished AND learned from!  Be able to articulate these things.

5. Have questions ready for when they ask “Do you have any questions for me?” Remember to stay away from questions about salary, benefits, or time off. Also, don’t ask questions you could answer by Googling them. Think about questions like “What drew you to working here?” “What are the best and worst parts about working here?” “How do you see this position evolving over 5 years?” “What are opportunities for professional development?” and especially “What is your timeline for the rest of the process?”