It’s vital when you go to interview to make the best first impression you possibly can. The interviewer only has one chance to form an opinion of you and you need to make sure it’s a good one. How can you impress in the first 30 seconds? Here are some top tips from the Graduate Recruitment Bureau to help you come across as the perfect candidate.
This can feel awkward but you need to make sure that when you meet your interviewer you look them in the eye as much as you can. Obviously don’t stare unblinkingly (they probably won’t like that) but make sure you make the connection. It’s easy to forget and stare at the floor or the wall but you need to be aware of this because it will make you look as if you’re not engaging.
2. Walk tall
You need to make sure your body language exudes the confidence of someone who believes they will get the job. Stand up straight with your shoulders back – no slouching! Keep your body language open and friendly. Arm folding is a no-no and when you’re standing/sitting waiting don’t pace or shuffle nervously. Remember you are calm and cool and you can get this job!
3. Get the handshake right
The handshake is the universal sign for politeness and professionalism so you need to get it right. Keep it firm, not too firm though – you don’t want to crush any fingers – and two shakes should be enough. Lean in for the handshake and step back when it’s done. If you’re worried you’re going to have sweaty hands (it happens) then keep a tissue in your pocket it and give it a quick squeeze before the handshake.
4. Talk the talk
When you meet the interviewer for the first time, introduce yourself. Yes, they (hopefully) already know who you are but if you introduce yourself it makes you look confident and prepared. It also means that you can avoid any awkward discussion about the weather or your journey there. Make sure you speak clearly as well, don’t mumble.
5. Dress to Impress
You have to look the part when you show up for interview. It’s irrelevant whether everyone there is in a suit or whether they’re lounging round the office in surf shorts. You have not yet earned your place there so you must dress smartly to show the interviewer that this job is important enough for you to have made an effort.
Last but not least, try and look like you’re not having one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of your young life. Smiling will open up your face and make you look much more approachable and friendly. Believe it or not, if you smile for long enough you’ll start to feel genuinely more relaxed as well.
About the Author: Frankie Pocock is an online researcher and marketing assistant at the Graduate Recruitment Bureau.
In a time when a company can be flourishing one minute and failing the next, it might seem like you could lose your position at any minute. While a company going under might seem abrupt, there are usually some signs that indicate the business isn’t doing so great. Many employers try to avoid jumping the gun and delivering bad news when it’s too early to know for sure, but if you’re questioning the stability of your employment, here are a few key things to look out for that could signal the business you’re working for won’t be standing for much longer.
1. Your Employer Stops Addressing the Company’s Future
A big sign that a company is in trouble is if your employer stops addressing the future; when promotions, projects, and meetings are all put on hold, it’s wise to question the next step of the company. If your employer stops developing the inner workings of the business without explanation, there is usually more to it than what is being said, and it’s a good idea to gently and politely bring up the changes you’ve noticed.
2. Private Meetings are Being Held More Often than Usual
If management suddenly starts holding more private meetings than usual and doesn’t report any feedback to their employees, it could signal that a concern is being addressed on a company level. Keep in mind that there could be many different reasons why this could be happening, but often times when a company is near the end, the leadership needs time to address the issues and figure out what direction to take.
3. More Employees are Being Laid Off
Laying numerous employees off is often a last ditch effort many companies make to save the company. What is meant to be an attempt to save some funding to recover the business is often the start of a rapid downhill slope, and if your employer has a reputation for strong employee retention and abruptly starts letting workers go, it’s a good indicator that it’s not the employees who aren’t performing, it’s the company.
4. The Bonuses and Extras Start Diminishing
When the employee-of-the-month bonuses start disappearing and the office coffee switches from the primo brand to the generic, it could mean that the company’s budget is shrinking. While this could just be a small way for your employer to save a few dollars, unexpected cuts might be a cause for concern, so it’s important to stay aware and keep your eye out for other changes.
5. Higher Ups Are Voluntarily Leaving
Higher up employees and those in management positions (who would normally be included in conversations about business trouble or possible layoffs) often get out at first moment’s notice, and if you’re observing a slew of long-term, loyal employees putting in their two-weeks’, there is probably a good reason they’ve decided to take off and explore other options.
Private meetings, surprise layoffs, reduced bonuses, halted projects, and sudden departures are all indicators that your employment could be in jeopardy. If you’ve noticed several of these occurrences take place in a small period of time, address your concerns with your employers; that’s the only way to know for sure. It might be touchy thing to bring up, but even if turning the other cheek is the more comfortable thing to do, remember you have the obligation to yourself to look out for your personal well-being. No one else is going to do that for you.
About the Author: Arlene Chandler is a freelance writer who loves helping people face the uncertainty of tomorrow. When she’s not in the hills with her two yellow labs, she writes about finance tips, career advice, and income protection Australia from AAMI.
A job search can be long and difficult… and lonely. After a while, frustration sets in. At first, nothing but your dream job would be acceptable.
Now, maybe you’ve considered settling for something outside your ideal career path, joining the growing ranks of the “under-employed”. In the most frustrating situations, perhaps you’re included in the million-plus 18 to 24-year olds who have completely stopped their search for a full-time job. Maybe you’ll go back to school, or move back in with your parents.
Clearly, it’s time to take your job search to the next level… by enlisting assistance from three sources of instant credibility:
These three advocates, each with very different roles, can serve as a “living reference” for you. Most important, they serve as a vocal sponsor to influencers, recruiters and hiring managers, greatly increasing your ability to secure a job.
1. The Champion
Role: Your Champion is an industry expert who knows you well, adamantly and vocally supports your career choice, and who is confident in your ability to perform well in the industry they represent. By definition, they will not endorse you if they have any reservations. After all, their reputation is at stake.
Key Traits: Specific expertise within the industry you’re pursuing; credibility; longevity; influence
Where to Engage: Industry-specific associations; internships; social networking; your local Chamber of Commerce
2. The Mentor
Role: The Mentor has first-hand knowledge of your personal growth and career path, and has been influential in your development. The Mentor plays a critical role in your job search as they speak expertly to several critical points including your work ethic, willingness to listen and learn, and overall strengths.
Key Traits: Passion; excellent communicator and teacher; patience
Where to Engage: Social media, professors and department heads; volunteer and civic organizations; mentor-driven internships; student leadership activities
3. The Coach
Role: Ranging from the career services team at school to a professional career counselor, the Coach may be someone very new in your life – and perhaps should be. Your Coach, which usually charges a competitive fee for their services, fills a much-needed void in an ultra-competitive job market: objective (and sometimes blunt) advice designed to get you to that next level
Key Traits: Job market expertise; vast personal and professional network; success stories within your industry or geography; objectivity
Where to Engage: Google; Twitter chats; social networking; personal referrals
For those still in school, engaging the Champion, Mentor and Coach is much easier than it may be for non-students, those who have graduated or are in career transition. However, even if you fall into one of these post-college categories… it’s never too late to secure and nurture these vitally important relationships:
Are any of these suggestions a “quick fix” for getting you a job? Obviously, no.
Get started today, however, and your enthusiasm will become clear to all those around you – including your potential Champion, Mentor and Coach. And with these three advocates at your side, your job search will improve dramatically.
For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at YouTern.
About the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Switch and Shift, The Daily Muse and Under30CEO.
In your lifetime, you will probably have to prepare for lots and lots of job interviews. Every interview is different because every job and every interviewer is different. That being said, there are a few things that rarely change when it comes to job interviews.
Here are eight things you should always say (and mean) in an interview:
1. You know the company really well.
Show the interviewer you’ve done your research by talking about your knowledge of the company. Before the interview, view their website, social media, recent articles, and whatever else you can find. Know the scope of the company and current events related to it. Weave this knowledge throughout your responses, and the interviewer will see your true interest company.
2. You have the experience to do the job.
Every interviewer is going to ask about your experience. Use this question as your opportunity to prove you have the ability to do the job. Talk about relevant things you’ve done and the results of your work. Explain that your success with a previous project will allow you to successfully do something else for this company. Prove your worth.
3. You work well with others.
The ability to work in a team is one of the qualities employers want most. An interviewer wants to hear how you have worked in a team in the past and how your team succeeded. Explain what your role on the team was and how you contributed to the team’s success. Companies want to create teams that can manage themselves and produce strong results.
4. You are constantly seeking to learn.
Employers want to know you’re open to adapting and learning new methods. Talk about your willingness to continue learning more about your industry. Tell them you are constantly reading articles about industry trends and speaking to mentors for advice (and actually do these things, don’t just say so). Be specific when referencing publications you read or blogs you follow.
5. You are motivated.
When you use the word “motivated” to describe yourself, you are expressing a few things to your interviewer. First, you have a desire to help the company do well. Second, you are a productive worker. Both of these things show employers they can count on you to do your job. Explain how your motivation has helped you in the past and how it will help you with specific things related to this new role.
6. You are excited about this job.
An excited candidate is one who won’t take the job for granted. “Excited” says, “I really want the job and will do my best when I get it.” The interviewer will hear your excitement for the role and translate that into a very positive view of you. Employers want optimistic workers. Excitement demonstrates your optimism.
7. You have a plan.
The most important objective in your interview is to demonstrate how you will benefit the company (not how they will benefit you). Don’t forget this important distinction in your interview. Explain to employers how you would do the roles required for the job and why you’d be best at implementing your ideas. You obviously won’t have all of the details worked out, but have some general ideas you think would work well and know why they would work.
8. You want to build a career in the company.
This is sort of a bonus because it may not always be true going into an interview. But, if you know you want to build a career in the company, say so in your interview. Your interviewer wants to know you’re invested in the company and you don’t have plans to move on quickly. If you think you’d like to work for the company for a long time, mention it in your interview.
Whether you are applying for a job as an engineer or an office clerk, these things hardly change. If you remember to touch on these points, you’ll be better off in all of your job interviews.
What are some other things you should always say in job interviews?
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.
When we are out of work, we don’t just need to know what our options are—what different methods of job-hunting are available to us. We need to have a plan. An overall plan of attack on the problem of how to not only find work, but meaningful work.
All plans of attack basically break down to just two broad categories. Here is both the explanation, and the contrast between them:
|The Traditional Approach||The Creative Approach|
|What you are looking for||A job.||A “dream job”: one which uses your favorite skills and favorite fields or knowledges.|
|How you see yourself||As a “job beggar.” You will be lucky to get them.||As a “resource.” They will be lucky to get you.|
|Your basic plan||Figure out how to “sell” yourself, before you go out hunting.||Figure out what kind of job you’d die to do, before you go out hunting.|
|Your preparation||Do research to find out what the job-market wants. “Fitting in” will carry the day!||Do homework on yourself, to figure out what you do best, AND most love to do. Enthusiasm will carry the day!|
|How you figure out which employers to approach||You wait for them to identify they have a vacancy.||Doing “informational interviews,” you figure out which organizations most interest you—in light of your homework—even if they do not have a known vacancy at the time.|
|How you contact them||Through your resume.||Through a “bridge person” (someone who knows you and also knows them). Use
LinkedIn to find them.
|What the purpose of your resume is||To sell them on why you should be hired there.||To get an interview with them.|
|What your main goal is if you get an interview||To sell them on why you should be hired there.||To get another interview there.|
|What do you talk about in the interview||Yourself, your assets, your experience.||50% of the time you let them ask the questions. 50% of the time you ask them the things you want to know about the place, and the job there.|
|What you’re trying to
|Do they want me?||Do I want them? (as well as “Do they want me?”)|
|How you end the final interview there||You ask them: “When may I hope to hear from you?” (You are leaving things hanging.)||If you decide you do want to work there, you ask them: “I believe I could be a real asset to you. Given all that we’ve talked about, can you offer me this job?” (You are seeking closure.)|
|What to do after getting the job, but before you start||Rest.||Keep on job-hunting. (The offer may still fall through before you start, due to unforeseen circumstances there.)|
So, which plan of attack should you adopt if you’re out of work? Well, that’s up to you. Job-hunters typically begin with the so-called Traditional Approach. Most of us know how to do it, or can quickly learn. It doesn’t demand much time. Slap together a resume. Post it. Wait to see if you get any responses. Do the interviews. Get the job.
If it works, great! The problem is: increasingly, it doesn’t work. So, when we are unemployed we stay unemployed. For weeks. For months. Or sometimes for years. The traditional approach doesn’t work, but it is the only approach we know. We have no Plan B.
Every Job-Hunter Needs a Plan B
When we set out we need a plan. But, to keep hope alive we need an alternative plan as well. Fortunately, there is a Plan B. If you try The Traditional Approach and it just doesn’t work for you, try the Creative Approach (outlined in the right-hand column of the previous chart). It’s harder than The Traditional Approach. It’s more work. It takes longer. It asks you to do more thinking. But that is precisely its value. It forces you to think about your whole life, and what you want out of life. You get to deal with Life’s major issues, namely these four life questions:
First: how do I figure out what’s happening?
Second: how do I ensure that I will survive?
Third: once I know how to survive, how do I make my life have meaning or some sense of mission?
And, finally: once I’ve decided what my mission in life is, how can I be more effective at achieving the goals I’ve set for myself?
If you’re going to use the interruptions in life to do some hard thinking, these are the issues worth thinking about. So, where do you begin?
Who Are You?
You begin by doing homework on yourself. Why on yourself? Well, think of life as a journey. And recall what travel experts teach about taking a journey (unless it’s on a shoestring): they say—before you go—lay out on your bed two piles. In one pile, put all the clothes (plus toiletries, and stuff) that you think you’ll need to take. In the other pile, put all the money you think you’ll need to take.
Then, they say, pack only half the clothes, but twice the money.
A parallel ratio occurs in the journey we are all taking, called Life. For this part of that journey, you are going to need only half the information you initially thought you would need about the job-market, but twice the amount of information you initially thought you would need about yourself.
I know you’re probably going to protest that you’ve lived with yourself all your life, and you don’t need any deeper knowledge. Well, maybe. But my experience over the past forty years, with literally millions of job-hunters, is that usually we just don’t understand who we are, and what we have to offer the world. Not the fullness of it. Not the richness of it.
The solution is: a fresh inventory of what you have to offer the world. And I mean all that you have to offer, not just part of it. You already know part of it. The problem is that is only part. You need to know it all. You have to do the homework on yourself to fully understand your true value, and what will give your life meaning and purpose.
I’m Not Sure I Really Need to Do This Homework
Well, maybe not. But let’s test that.
1. Take ten sheets of blank paper. Write, at the top of each one, just these three words: Who Am I?
2. Then write, on each sheet in turn, just one (and only one) answer to that question. Incidentally, don’t put down negative stuff, like “I am a procrastinator,” or “I am a messy person.” This is a vocational exercise, and what we’re most concerned with is, “What is there about me that would attract an employer?” It is really “roles” we are looking for, and the different hats you wear. In my own case, I am . . . husband, father, advisor, writer, teacher, counselor, friend, etc.
3. When you’re done, go back over all ten sheets and expand upon what you have written on each sheet. Looking at each answer, write below it, why you said that, and what turns you on about that answer.
4. When finished with all ten sheets, go back over them and arrange them in order of priority. That is, which identity is the most important to you? That page goes on top. Then, which is next? That goes immediately underneath the top one. Continue arranging the rest of the sheets in order, until what you think is your least important identity is at the bottom of the pile.
5. Finally, go back over the ten sheets, in order, and look at your answers concerning What Turns Me On About This? See if there are any common denominators, or themes, among the ten answers you gave. If so, jot them down on a separate piece of paper. Voilà! You have begun to put your finger on Who You Are, with some things you need to keep in mind if you are to feel truly excited, fulfilled, useful, and effective, and operating at the height of your powers.
If this exercise was easy for you, then you have a very good start in defining who you are. But if it was harder than you thought it would be, then there is work to be done.
You need to know more about You. Do some hard thinking and, above all, have fun. You have talent. You have special gifts and skills. You must be sure you own up to what those gifts are. Unemployment is a perfect time. True, it seems to come as an interruption in most of our lives. But Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about that: “The major problem of life is learning how to handle the costly interruptions. The door that slams shut, the plan that got sidetracked, the marriage that failed. Or that lovely poem that didn’t get written because someone knocked on the door.”
Interruptions are opportunities. To pause. To think. To assess where we really want to go from here with our lives. The Creative Approach, with its demand that you do homework on yourself before you set out on your search for (meaningful) work, helps you take advantage of the opportunity that the interruption of being out of work offers.
Use the opportunity. Make this time of your life not only a hunt for a job, but a hunt for a life. A deeper life. A life you’re proud of. A victorious life. The world is filled with workers whose weeklong question is, “When is the weekend going to be here?” And, then, “Thank God it’s Friday!” Their work puts bread on the table but . . . they are bored out of their minds. They’ve never taken the time to think out what they uniquely have to offer the world.
So, do the homework. Dream a little. Dream a lot. The best parts of this world were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and then gave them horses to ride.
Reprinted with Permission from What Color Is Your Parachute? 2013: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career Changers by Richard N. Bolles (Ten Speed Press, 2012)
About the Author: Richard N. Bolles is author of the world’s best-selling job-hunting book What Color Is Your Parachute?, and has led the career development field for more than forty years. A member of Mensa and the Society for Human Resource Management, he has been the keynote speaker at hundreds of conferences. Bolles lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Marci. Visit www.jobhuntersbible.com. The What Color Is Your Parachute? Job-Hunter’s Workbook Tablet Edition, a new digital version of the core self-inventory exercise that has made What Color Is Your Parachute? a household name, is now available in iTunes and the NOOK Store.
If you’re looking for a job in sales, you’re in luck. You’ve got CyberCoders Executive Recruiter Marie Cravey on your side! Placing sales candidates with great companies is her forte.
Cravey sat down with me recently and went through an anonymous candidate’s sales resume. Point by point, she went over the most common errors, little known secrets and tactics to optimize your resume to its fullest potential.
So, before you send off your next sales resume, make sure you keep the following tips in mind on both resume formatting and substance:
1. Focus on the Top Two-Thirds of Your Resume
Recruiters will judge your resume largely based on the top two-thirds of your resume. Make it count. Don’t make the mistake of sticking to a resume template. For instance, education does not have to be listed first. What’s the most appealing, marketable aspect about you? Is it the prestige of your last company? Your achievements? Your awards? Whatever’s the most alluring should be listed first.
2. Summary Should Be 1-2 Lines Max
“Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the summary section because I don’t think it’s as important as the the accomplishments,” Cravey says. “But if you’re going to include a summary, make it concise and interesting.”
3. Dates Go On the Right
Cravey says that all too often, she has to tell candidates to move the dates to the right side of the resume. Recruiters and hiring managers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the left. Save that space for your current or previous company name and job title. Dates always belong on the right.
4. Recognized Company Name > Job Title
When you list your previous work history, recruiters are more interested in seeing which company you worked at rather than your title — no matter how senior it may be. If it’s a prestigious or well-known company, make sure the company comes first.
5. Quantify, Quantify, Quantify!
If you’re in sales – quantifying your accomplishments is going to make or break you. Make sure you quantify all your achievements. The more numbers, percentages and revenue generated the merrier.
6. Include Company’s Tagline
When recruiters are going through a million resumes with countless companies listed, they love when sales candidates include a quick company description. That way, they can quickly figure out what the company does – because that’s important to future employers.
“Many great candidates simply include the company’s official branded tagline under the company name,” Cravey says.
7. List Your Awards & Company Awards
Your awards should go above the fold (in the top half of your sales resume, that is) so list your awards under each position. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see sales awards like President’s Club, Achiever Club or Stock Option Award.
In addition, you should also include any notable awards that companies have earned as well. “Whether it’s a company award, departmental award or product award,” Cravey says, “Own the company’s success.”
8. List Names of New Clients & Partners
Another way to make your resume stand out is to list your new and notable clients or partners under each position, particularly if you have sold to Fortune 500 companies.
This way, when recruiters search these notable companies, they’ll see that you’ve worked with them. They’ll look to see if you’ve sold to any of their competitors. Name recognition is huge.
9. What Did You Sell? Who You Sold it To? How much did you sell?
These are the three big questions that any good recruiter will need to see in the first 10 seconds of reading each of your previous positions. This is why points 5, 6 and 8 are important. Test your resume by showing it to someone who isn’t already totally familiar with your background.
Ask him if he’s able to easily answer these three crucial questions for each of your positions. If not, it’s back to the drawing board!
For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at CareerBliss.
About the Author: Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. CareerBliss is your place to research salaries, check out companies and find your happiest job ever. Connect with CareerBliss on Facebook and Twitter.
Crafting a job description is essential for attracting the right candidates. Getting the qualifications and responsibilities of the job down should be the first step companies make before looking for a new hire, but too often, companies take a lax approach to this step.
Job descriptions can make or break your hiring process. Candidates need to know what to expect when crafting their resume or cover letter, and a job description that doesn’t provide the right details can deter great candidates from even applying. Companies need to think ahead and pay careful attention to the details they include, how they include them, and where they post their job openings if they want to attract the right candidates for the position.
New hires are an investment in a company’s future, and finding great candidates starts with this step. When crafting a job description for a new role in your organization, avoid these five mistakes:
1. Being unspecific. Your job description should include a few key things: the position, whom the position reports to or the department in which it’s included, a list of recommended or required qualifications, and a bulleted list of duties. Be specific at each level — instead of saying the candidate needs “computer knowledge,” spell out exactly what programs they need to know. Is it PhotoShop, PowerPoint, Movie Maker? Start each duty with an action verb, and explain exactly what will be done. The more specific your requirements, the more likely you’ll snag the right job applicants.
2. Making it too lengthy. Job candidates may be interested in your organization specifically but often are looking at tons of applications each day. Yours needs to be readable if it wants to stand out. Avoid lengthy blocks of texts or wordy descriptions — like a resume, a job description should be as concise and to-the-point as possible. You don’t want candidate who ignore the details, but you don’t want to have them fighting to find meaning between jargon and wordy paragraphs. Lengthy and complicated job descriptions may cause the candidate to pass it over.
3. Ignoring formatting. Formatting is essential for creating a readable job description, but it’s often overlooked. Whether you’re posting your job description online, in a paid ad, or on paper, ensure the description is properly formatted to make it easy to read for eyes that may be scanning through lots of text quickly. Ensure key areas are blocked into separate categories, like the qualifications and job duties. You don’t want your description to be one giant block of text — use bullets, headlines, and spaces where necessary.
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4. Not including a deadline. Job seekers can become irritated with your company if they spend a lot of time on an application and are unsure if a) the position is still open or b) when exactly they can expect to hear back. If you want to avoid fielding tons of additional emails from job candidates looking to get feedback, include an application deadline and a disclaimer that lets them know only qualified candidates will be contacted. If you’re expecting lots of applicants and won’t have time to take their calls, simply include “no calls please” to ensure candidates don’t bombard you.
5. Ignoring the “why.” Job candidates don’t just want to be given a list of duties — they want a clear idea of how their contributions will fit into the company’s overall goals. An ideal job candidate will want to know why the position is essential to the advancement of the organization. Include a short summary explaining why the candidate’s role will be essential to the company’s goals within the next few years. Give candidates a broad goal to strive for — not just a list of responsibilities.
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A job description is a reflection of your company. It takes keen attention to detail and formatting to make your organization look like an attractive place to work. Follow these tips, and watch as applications from talented job candidates roll in.
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies.
You’ve scheduled the job interview and know the exact location where you’re going. You’ve researched the employer, are dressed for success and ate your Wheaties. Now you’re face to face in the interview and it’s time for the real deal.
Employer: “Thanks for coming in today. As I mentioned earlier, we have one position open and have been interviewing candidates all week. Let’s go ahead and start.”
“So tell me about yourself.”
You: “Thank you, I’m happy to be here. Well, ummmm, I’ve been married for 14 years and have 3 kids. I grew up in the Bay Area and really enjoy living in this community. We have 2 cats but I’m really a dog person. I’m pretty good at doing office stuff and like, helping people.”
Sound familiar? This opening question (So Tell Me About Yourself – STMAY for short) is intentionally open-ended. When broken down into manageable pieces, STMAY is not that overwhelming. In fact, answering STMAY efficiently and effectively gives you the opportunity to talk about your strengths, achievements and qualifications for the position. A strong answer can serve as a positive starting point for the rest of your answers, while a weak answer can quickly get you derailed from the beginning. Essentially, STMAY sets the tone for the remainder of the interview. A large reason why this is a commonly asked first interview question is because employers want to see where your head goes in your response – do you go personal or professional?
Obviously, the problem with talking about yourself personally is that you’re not there to chit-chat – you’re there for a job. There’s no need to waste your time (and your interviewer’s time) discussing your family tree, personal problems or favorite color. You’ve got a good 45-60 second window to present your professional “commercial” (aka elevator pitch) and really give the employer a highlighted snapshot of your best core skills and abilities that relate to the position. How do you do that? By keeping your STMAY answer strictly professional and covering 2 important areas:
1. Hard Skills
These are the types of specific skills that are industry-based and can be taught, learned or trained. They represent the minimum amount of proficient abilities necessary to do a job and are usually the first thing that employers use to screen and weed out unqualified applicants.
2. Soft Skills
These describe your core values and interpersonal abilities. They include work ethic, honesty and integrity as well as flexibility, cooperating with others (teamwork/team player), attitude, creativity and most importantly, communication.
If you take a good look at what most employers put in their job posts, communication is a consistent characteristic and ranks very high. Employers make a point of preferring candidates who “… have excellent written and verbal communication”. In addition to touching on your technical hard skills, mixing your communication abilities with other soft skills as part of your overall STMAY answer is vital.
Here’s a better sample answer than the previous one:
“I am an extrovert who interacts well with people. I like to set myself goals and keep them and I’m very persistent. I was the top sales rep at Savoy Company for three years running. Last year I sold over $1 Million worth of product. I want to continue in the pharmaceutical sales field because it’s an area where I can continue to strengthen my ability to create solid long term relationships with clients. I want to work for your company in particular because you concentrate on gastroenterology drugs, which is an area that I specialize in – and is growing at a rate of 20% per year. That gives you a solid base from which to introduce your new products. I’m excited about that and would love to contribute to your goals.”
Lastly, some folks may have a difficult time touting their abilities or accomplishments, thinking that they are being arrogant or prideful. However, there is a distinct difference between confidence and cockiness. Remember, it’s ok to brag on yourself professionally and mention specific moments that you’re proud of. If you’re not summarizing your best traits and selling that as part of your overall skills package when answering STMAY, just know that the candidates who interviewed before you did – so there’s no reason you can’t either!
About the Author: David Nicola has over 15 years of experience in the Human Services field. He currently serves as the Career Services Director at Laurus College, providing job search information and resources to college students of all ages. He loves to golf, spend time with his family and is a hard core San Francisco Giants fan! You can follow him on Twitter (@Capt_Careerist) and connect with him on LinkedIn and Google+.
With all of the productivity applications and online calendars, old-fashioned planners and notebooks are going out of style. Technology has allowed workers to store all of their documents, to-do lists, calendars, and deadlines within their computers and smartphones.
Although today’s technology provides excellent applications to increase productivity, sometimes your brain can go into information overload when staring at a screen all day. If you are looking to create some productive work habits, maybe it’s time to power down the electronics and dust off some old-fashioned tools.
From using notepads to whiteboards, here are some ways to help you ditch technology and increase your productivity:
1. Grab some post-it notes. These little guys are very trusty when it comes to creating mental notes. Each day when you create your to-do list, use a post-it note to remind you of important deadlines and tasks, and attach it to your computer screen or stick it in your planner. You can also use post-its to break larger tasks into smaller ones. The best part is, as soon as you complete a task, you can throw away the post-it note and feel accomplished!
2. Use a whiteboard. Although they aren’t as “old school” as the chalk board, whiteboards are a great tool for brainstorming ideas. With a whiteboard, you can write down ideas for projects, to-do lists, give presentations, and easily color code everything you write. This will help you visualize your ideas.
3. Use a notebook. Notebooks are a great way to keep track of your notes, deadlines, and dates. You can also write down ongoing to-do lists and make yourself reminders. What’s great about using a notebook is its size. Not only can you carry it wherever you go, but also you won’t be able to ignore your notebook if it sits on your desk.
4. Get some fresh air. Are you feeling lethargic from sitting at your desk all day? Take 10 minutes to step outside for some fresh air. On your lunch break, go for a walk around the block or sit outside to eat your lunch. Fresh air is a great way to give your body the extra boost it needs to get through the rest of the afternoon and back to productivity.
5. Hide your smartphone. Ten years ago, smartphones weren’t a hindrance because they were a luxury many people didn’t have. When you keep your phone on at your desk during the day, it can become one of your biggest distractions. Your phone will stare at you, waiting for you to check notifications and text messages every 10 minutes, but it’s important to resist the urge to open them. When you have a project to complete, put your phone away to remove this distraction. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes when you don’t check your phone while you’re working.
6. Clear the clutter. A messy desk can be one of the biggest distractions when trying to be productive. If your work space isn’t conducive to productivity, how is it possible to be focused at work? By creating a productive workspace, your mind will be able to think clearly and you will accomplish more.
The next time you feel like you’ve hit a wall with your work, think about incorporating some of these ideas. By taking a moment to step away from technology, you will be surprised at the many different ways you can increase productivity in your workspace. Sometimes, all you need is your favorite pen and notepad to help you focus more at work!
Do you incorporate any of these habits into your work to increase productivity?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.
After working in office environments for a number of years, one of the best pieces of advice that I would give to office newbies and veterans alike is to pay attention to email etiquette.
Each day I send and receive dozens of emails (both for work and my personal life), and it’s amazing how many people just don’t get what’s acceptable and what makes for socially awkward and annoying communication.
Here are the top questions you should be asking yourself before clicking the send button:
1. Should I “reply all” or edit the recipient list?
When replying to an email with multiple recipients, consider whether all of the other people in the conversation need (or will want) to be included in your response. If it’s a brainstorming session or if you’re contributing feedback to an idea, it’s probably fine. However, if you’re simply responding with a “yes,” or “no,” you may want to think twice. And, if the reply contains sensitive information, it is likely best to respond directly to the sender.
2. Is it appropriate to “cc” or “bcc”?
Whether you’re copying in a client with pertinent details of a project or just sending an FYI about a staff function, it’s important to think about when and how to include people in on the conversation. If the information is fine to be shared with others, “cc” is a good option. It’s also helpful to use the “to” and “cc” fields to define who you’re looking for a response from, and who you are just intending to inform.
When it comes to the “bcc” function, this should be saved for when the recipient may feel uncomfortable with the contents of the email being visible to others. It may also be a good option when you’re parlaying a message that your boss or supervisor should be privy to, but you want to avoid looking like you’re tattling on a coworker.
3. How does my writing reflect my message?
When writing a professional email, it’s a good idea to align the importance of your message with the quality of your writing. If you are making a proposal to a client or negotiating a raise, texting shorthand is not even close to adequate. It diminishes your credibility, and devalues the substance of your message. It tells others that you’re not willing to invest time and/or effort into the conversation, which could prompt a similar response from those receiving your email.
In addition to language, tone can make a big difference. If you are conversing with close co-workers, a more casual voice can be fine. However, if you’re not, make sure your writing is profession and respectful.
Plus, everyone knows what spell check is. This means that if you are sending emails packed with spelling mistakes, it’s only because you haven’t bothered to fix them. So, turn on your email spell check, and take a quick second to ensure that you haven’t used the wrong “their,” “they’re,” or “there,” or committed another major spelling or grammar offense.
4. Is my sign off suitable for my audience and the conversation?
At the end of an email, consider who you’re talking to and the action that you want them to take, and go from there. “Best Regards” and “Thank you” are both generally considered friendly and courteous salutations. However, it often comes down to taste. Overall, it’s usually best to err on the side of formality.
It’s also a good idea to create a professional signature line with your title, contact info, and company name included, giving you the chance to portray a professional and put together image.
About the Author: Jennifer Kwasnicki is a career and education writer for Trade-Schools.net and its blog, where she helps to provide potential students with comprehensive resources related to schools, careers, and more.