8 Interview Clichés to Avoid

The point of an interview is to show off to the hiring manager how wonderful and unique of a candidate you are.  So why would you waste precious time and words answering questions with clichés?  Unfortunately, when put in a nerve-racking situation, people often freeze up or stumble over their words, and these standard lines are the first things that come to mind.  Here are a few clichés to look out for, and some alternate ways to respond:

1. I’m a Team Player

The ultimate cliché, this one pops up in resumes, cover letters, and interviews.  But what does it really mean?  If you’re a “team player” and really want to get this point across, don’t say this line.  Explain what it is that makes you so great to work with.  Focus on your excellent ability to communicate or your willingness to both lead and follow directions.  Talk about a few instances where you have picked up the slack for someone else without having to be asked.

2. I’m the Perfect Fit

Ultimately this is up to the hiring manager.  Instead of wasting your breath telling them this and expecting them to believe you when they know nothing about you, barrage them with examples of why you’re a great fit.  Then they’ll come closer to making this conclusion on their own.

3. I’m a Hard Worker

Aren’t we all?  Again, saying this really means nothing to the interviewer until you provide concrete examples.  Tell them about all those times when you stayed late, turned work in before its due date, anticipated what needed to get done next, etc.  Make the interviewer really believe that you are a hard worker, because just saying so is not enough.

4. I’m Willing to Do Anything

Often this is the road many people have to take, especially when starting out in entry-level positions.  And while it’s great to have that sort of mentality, you don’t want to sound too desperate in a job interview.  And worse than sounding desperate, you don’t want to imply that the job itself is something you’re “willing to put up with” until you advance on to something better.  Mention specific parts of the job that excite you, and instead of focusing on your willingness to do anything, focus on your desire to do these specific things.

5. I’m a Fast Learner

When you say this, Hiring Managers hear, “I don’t know how to do this“. Saying this makes you sound like you are inexperienced, and that you may be underestimating the level of understanding it takes to do the job.

6. I’m Good with People

That’s exactly what the interviewer is trying to determine in the interview. It’s not just about determining if you have the skills and qualifications to do the job. The interviewer is trying to determine your general demeanor and personal skills, so let them see you in action, don’t simply state it.

7. I’m a very Loyal Person

People who say this are usually overcompensating for holding many jobs in the past, but not staying at any particular job for very long. Candidates who say this are typically concerned that the interviewer will think they’ll get bored and leave soon after taking the position. Instead of saying this, stress how you see this potential employer as a long term career path.

8. I really need this job

Some people think it’s a good idea to talk about their personal life in an interview, and how important it is for their family that they get this job. Even if this is true, do not say it. It only makes you look desperate. The less it seems you need the job, the more valuable you seem to the employer, because other employers want you too.

Clichés hurt you not just because they make you sound less credible, but also because they take away the chance to go into depth and provide specific examples of why you’d be a great hire.  Don’t do yourself an injustice by speaking vaguely with a hiring manager – the specifics will get you much farther.

Behaviors that Tarnish Your Office Reputation – Part 2

Financial Planner, New York, NY
Capital Markets Analyst, Houston, TX
Investment Banker, Denver, CO
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Welcome back to our next installment of reputation-tarnishing behaviors at work.  Last time we explored how being too assertive, overextending yourself, and failing to communicate with your boss can all have a negative impact on your status.  Read on for a few more behaviors to avoid if you’re trying to stay on everyone’s good side!

Lack of Coherency

It’s likely that at some point during your job you will have to share your work and progress with either your boss or your coworkers.  And while this may take some extra effort and energy on your part, it’s important to take the time to ensure that what you present to others is clear, logical, and legible.  A presentation that lacks these three factors can really frustrate others, and you may be forced to either rework what you did, spend a good amount of time explaining superfluous details, or have your work be disregarded altogether.  Presenting coherent, understandable work is a show of respect for your audience, so you should do your best to be as clear as possible.

Challenging Your Boss

At all times, no matter what, you should show respect for your boss.  This becomes particularly important when others are around, say, in a team meeting or even just around the office.  It’s okay to disagree with your boss, but set aside a time to do so in private.  If your boss happens to make a mistake in a meeting – and you feel that it’s important to point this out – either try to get the message to your boss discreetly or bring the matter up in as polite a way as possible.  Never try to challenge your boss in public, as this will likely cause you to be perceived as insubordinate.

Focusing Solely on Your Boss

While your relationship with your boss is crucial to your career, it’s important to also cultivate relationships with your coworkers.  These are the people with whom you will be working in teams, and perhaps more importantly, they’re the ones whom you will be working under (or above) when someone is promoted.  Don’t isolate yourself by ignoring your peers, and don’t be seen as a “brown noser” by focusing solely on your boss.  It’s imperative to be friendly with everyone and to be a team player.

Having No Reputation

One interesting point that many fail to consider is having no reputation.  While flying under the radar is certainly preferable to sticking out like a sore thumb, it’s still better to be in great standing at your place of work.  If you show up to work but remain unnoticed, you will likely miss out on many of the privileges afforded to hardworking, friendly, reliable employees.  Having no reputation does not mean that you are none of these things, it just means that you will have to put in a little extra work to be recognized as such.

That’s it for now on behavioral blunders to avoid at work.  As you can see, how you interact with both your coworkers and your boss is extremely important, and it’s worth putting in the extra effort so that people consider you a great component of the team!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

Impress Hiring Managers by Showcasing Your Strengths

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

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Competition for job openings continues to be fierce. But you can set yourself apart by smartly displaying your strengths, specialized training, and accomplishments to beat out the competition! Use the ideas below to develop your plan to showcase your strengths.

Flaunt Professional Development Activities

Perhaps you aced the latest company training session, or sought out additional educational activities on your own. Maybe a graduate project translated into thousands in savings or local exposure for the company. Flaunt those accomplishments in your resume and cover letter to set yourself apart from other candidates who lack such initiative.

Highlight Certifications

Certifications, licensure, and train-the-trainer experiences are uncommon accomplishments typically reserved for high-performance staff. Simply listing certifications and licensure raises your background above the competition because the additional effort required to achieve professional standards is well known and is recognized as well beyond most candidates. Likewise, being singled out to train trainers is another example of high-level performance.

Review Customer Satisfaction Ratings

Customer satisfaction ratings are gathered in many different fields, from sales to healthcare. Course and training evaluations are another form of customer satisfaction surveys. If your company doesn’t use any kind of satisfaction ratings, look at this measurement from the opposite side – reduction of consumer complaints. Outstanding customer service across internal and external divisions is a highly valued skill.

Applaud Your Own Accomplishments

Review your experience in terms of traditional achievements such as exceeding quotas, but also highlight teamwork awards and yes, even employee-of-the-month kudos! The key is to include details about your performance that set the foundation for those awards, presenting accomplishments in terms of value for the employer. For example, what did you do that others did not? What happened as a result of your performance, idea, or strong customer relationships? List positive outcomes across all levels, for example:

    · Increased morale

    · Higher profit margins

    · Streamlined procedures

    · Fewer absentee days

Outline Technological Innovations

Did you re-vamp a website to increase traffic and sales? How about automating manual records with a spreadsheet program? You may consider these routine activities, but such accomplishments definitely distinguish you from the crowd!

Explain Team Contributions

Did you make the boss look good? In what ways did you anticipate a change that allowed your manager to come out on top? What projects, programs, or initiatives did you manage? What trends did you forecast? In what collaborative projects did you participate? Examples may include:

    · Spearheading highest earning United Way Campaign in company history

    · Garnering community support for employee recognition event

    · Identifying new B2B partnerships

Show Your Career Progression

Do your resume, LinkedIn profile, and personal website tell the story of increasing responsibility throughout varied positions? Think of your business card and resume as promotional pieces for your personal brand. What do these say about you? Do they invite the reader to engage with you and learn more about your career progression?

Avoid Negative Distinction

Even though distinguishing yourself from the tight competition is a plus, you also have to be conscious of how you will be perceived. You don’t want to set yourself apart in a negative way. Photos of yourself, brightly colored paper, and unusual or colored fonts are all examples of how you may damage your personal image rather than strengthen it.

Think about the image you want to present to impress hiring managers and showcase your strengths. All the aspects discussed above contribute to the employer’s first impression of you. When that impression is positive, they absolutely want to learn more about you. A polished resume will stop the hiring manager from sifting through the endless pile of candidates and get them to call you! Showcase your accomplishments and distinguish yourself from the competition to impress hiring managers and land that new job.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Update Your Job Search Strategies

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Research Associate, New York, NY
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Making a change in jobs can be challenging at any time in your career, but may feel even more daunting for those who have been with a particular company for a relatively long time. Putting together an effective job search and resume can be difficult for workers who may not have been out in the job market recently. A few strategic tips can help you position yourself as a viable candidate while reducing potential vulnerability to ageism.

Use dates and years of experience judiciously.

It is not necessary to include dates of graduation, professional training, or membership in professional associations. Simply listing these credentials is acceptable. It is not in your best interest to describe your vast experience in terms of 25 or 30 years of experience.  Consider describing experience with adjectives such as “broad”, “deep”, or “expansive” instead. Simply put, try not to call attention to your age, but rather your skills and expertise.

Limit the length of your work history.

Most hiring managers are only interested in the last 10 to 15 years of your experience. You may feel great pride in accomplishments early in your career, but highlighting your status as “rookie of the year” from 1987 is more likely to hurt than help your job search. Including points such as these could brand you as outdated, which may quickly end your consideration for employment.

Tailor the cover letter.

Individualize the cover letter by using the name of the hiring manager or contact person.  This may require time online to identify the person to whom you address the letter. An effective cover letter serves dual purposes: enticing the reader to learn more about you and listing your qualifications. By leading with a specific name you personalize the cover letter and show that you have done your homework.

Update the cover letter.

Review current business letter formats, for both written and electronic communication. Following the styles from your first typing or computer class will identify you as outdated. Email should also be formal and include traditional greetings and a signature with all your contact information. For example:

Name
Email Address
Phone
Cell Phone
LinkedIn Profile
(can be an asset if you have set one up)

Also be certain to include an appropriate Subject Line, such as:

Sales Management Position
Human Resource Manager Application
Financial Analyst Position – Your Name

If you are uncertain about the appearance of your email, send a test version to a friend, family member, or separate account of your own. If you choose to send a test email to another email account of yours, be certain not to send to an existing work-related account. Most company email is considered open to viewing by upper management. Using company resources for a job search is not good form.

Emphasize diverse experience.

A practical outcome of experience is the accumulation of many transferable skills. Related skills and experiences that distinguish you from other candidates can be included in the cover letter and in the summary section of your resume. Connect the dots for the reader by showing exactly which skills will benefit the potential employer, rather than just stating you have “transferable skills”. You can also highlight your ability to be flexible and adaptable – a team player – as you describe these additional skill areas.

Avoid early salary discussions.

Experienced workers have a reputation for being more “expensive”, so it is important to be cautious in any requests for salary expectations. If required, you may respond by stating your flexibility or describing salary expectations as within normal market range.

Mobilize your network.

With broad experience, you have probably built a solid network of contacts. Now is the time to reach out to those contacts to explore knowledge about openings and let people know you are looking. Think about professional organizations, alumnae groups, or local civic groups.

A job search takes time and career transitions rarely happen as quickly as you would like. Hanging in there while opportunities develop may be the hardest part of the search. Using strategies that make you less vulnerable to negative perceptions from hiring managers helps position you to move more quickly through the search process to a new job.

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

Doostang News January 24: How to be a Team Player

Jr. Equity Analyst, New York, NY
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Being successful at work is about more than just your own personal achievements at a company – it’s about working well together with others.  After all, this is how you contribute to the success of a company, which is the whole reason you are there.  And being a team player at work is about more than just collaborating on projects (this is, after all, your job), it’s also about your attitude and the gestures you make to convey that you’re a part of the team.  Integrate a few of the following pointers into your routine in order to collaborate more with your fellow workers.

Volunteer for Projects

There are always those projects that will come up at work that require a few more helping hands.  So even if said project doesn’t exactly fall under your job description, offer to help out if the team needs some extra manpower.  You’ll really help out your coworkers, people will appreciate your efforts, and you might learn something new that can help you out in your own work.

Offer to Help a Coworker

If you sense that a coworker is falling behind on their work or that they’re going to be staying late that evening working on a big project, ask them if there’s anything you can do to lighten the load.  It’s often better for the company if the project is finished more quickly, and you may help that coworker catch something that they might have missed in the anxiety of tackling such a large task in the first place.

Go to Lunch

Some people like to use their lunch breaks as a chance to run errands, catch up on emails or phone calls, or get away from the office for an hour; but make it a point at least once a week or a few times a month to sit down and talk with your coworkers over a meal.  You may find that the peers who are high-strung throughout the rest of the day are really neat people during their down time when they aren’t thinking of the work at hand.

Take Part in Company Activities

Whether it’s a potluck, a birthday celebration, or an office contest, try to get involved in company activities when these come up.  If your office is part of a recreational softball league but you just aren’t athletic, show your support by cheering on your coworkers from the stands.  Taking part in the extracurricular activities of your office makes work more enjoyable for you, as well as endears you more to your coworkers, who may work more productively with you as a result.

Not everyone is a natural socialite, but even if you are shy or new to the company, there are still ways to be a team player.  Ultimately, your coworkers will appreciate your efforts, and will reach out to you more as a result.

Time for a good ol’ group hug!

The Doostang Team