"So, tell me about
yourself." What is it about this question that causes so much
trouble and strikes fear into the hearts of otherwise competent
interviewees? Simple: it's a big open-ended question, the first
question, and not many candidates think to prepare for it... so
they wing it. Please, everyone, read my lips: you can not afford
to wing this question! The interview is on and they are listening!
Here are some great DOs and DON'Ts to answer the question:
Think about it this way...if you had
only 20-30 seconds to impress someone of your suitability, what
might you say about yourself? Jot down some ideas, practice
articulating how you would benefit their company so that it sounds natural, and you'll be all set
to start the interview well and make a great first impression.
- DON'T wing it ... prepare for it
and practice it
- DON'T just list a boring
chronology of your work history
- DON'T use your elevator speech
(30-second commercial), it should sound spontaneous, not
- DO summarize your work history
- DO mention any relevant
credentials or education
- DO highlight some special
qualifications or value you bring
- DO keep it to about 20-30
seconds max (you can always ask if that answers the question
at the end)
In a job interview, put your
interviewer at ease
You are worried about the job
interview. You have gone through a rehearsal with a savvy friend,
reviewed your answers to the most likely questions, and picked out
the right clothing. You have done all of these things, in part, to
put yourself at ease. You know that the less you have to worry
about, the better your performance will be. There is, however, at
least one other person you should seek to relax: the interviewer.
You may think, "Why should I worry about that? The
interviewer has the power, and I don't." That is precisely
why you should strive to make that powerful person feel
comfortable, even happy, in your presence. A great many
interviewers hate interviewing. They know they're not good at it,
and they are dealing with strangers and asking questions to fill a
job with which they are unfamiliar.
So what should you do? Be friendly. Pay attention to eye contact.
Listen carefully to what is said and, if a question is unclear,
seek clarification. If some glitch arises, laugh it off. Be wary
of challenging a question unless it is patently offensive. Stress
your ability to work with others. Let your body language signal
that you are both professional and amiable. Don't ask any
questions that might put the interviewer on the defensive.
Tips to surviving your job search
consultants say that 90% of a job search is learning to manage
your emotions. Everyone suffers some stress during their job
search. The key is to never let it get the best of you! Searching
for a job can evoke a range of emotions - but there are ways that
you can control the twists and turns.
Try to look for value in your emotions. This will help put the
situation in perspective, and you will be able to think clearly.
Fear is another emotion that most job seekers face. Fear can often
make you feel that the situation is out of control. To get out of
this mind-trap, you can make and keep promises to yourself. Set
goals that will empower your mind and get you into action mode.
Start writing a journal or blog and register all your fears and
the possible steps that you can take to overcome them.
Another very good way of beating job search stress is to
participate in a support group. The most important thing to
remember when facing the stress of looking for a job is to remain
positive and active. By not letting your mind become idle, you can
stop negative thoughts and fears from taking hold in the first
quick job search tips
Create your own momentum, "The Big Mo" -- you hear about
it all the time in sports. Teams with momentum get on a roll,
score-more often and win more games than teams without it. If your
job search is stuck, you can create your own momentum and move
toward the position you want by starting each day with a victory
of some sort, no matter how small.
Second: Ask for help, listen -- and act! Question: How many
people have you asked this month for advice about your job search?
If you're absolutely honest in your answer, the number will be
small. Too small. Why put all the pressure on yourself to find all
the employment answers? Why not ask and discover what's worked for
other people? Stop trying to figure it all out on your own.
Instead, start multiplying your brainpower by asking others for
Third: Know that change is your friend. According to the
Bureau of Labor, voluntary employee turnover was 20.20% in 2004,
the most recent year available. This means that on average about
one in five employees quit their jobs every 12 months. What does
that mean for you? In a company with 100 employees, approximately
20 of them will quit within the next year. So, don't despair. Keep
in regular touch with the companies you want to work for, because
it's only a matter of time until something opens up for you.
Identify Barriers and Move On
The first step in moving in a positive direction is to identify
your barriers and your roadblocks. Come to terms with these
barriers and make the decision to move on. Keep in mind that there
are the career barriers that are imposed on us, and there ones we
impose on ourselves. The ones we impose on ourselves are the ones
we have to take total control over.
The state of the national economy or the condition of your
industry are things you have absolutely no control over. So
instead of dwelling on them, realize that there is nothing you can
do about it. Barriers you do have control over include:
living in the past, over-identification with a job title and
undermining your skills and motivation.
You should have "barriers" checkpoints during your job
search. At some point, many job seekers realize that some things
they are doing are not working. When you see this in your job
search, stop, take one step back, re-evaluate your process,
identify the glitches, fix them, and move on.
Cover Letter Tips
A well written cover
letter has one purpose and one purpose only, to get a potential
employer to turn the page and read the resume. It will not get you
a job; it may get you an interview. But most importantly, it will
wet the company's appetite to want to learn more about you.
Here are some tips for writing an effective cover letter:
1 KISS - Keep It Short & Sweet.
2) Be specific about the job you're applying for.
3) Always personalize it to the company.
4) Highlight your past accomplishments.
5) Write to a specific person.
6) Use action words and be positive.
7) Don't include salary information unless it's requested.
8) Spelling and grammar are more important than formatting.
9) ASK for an interview.
If asked to name your strengths in an interview, keep the
If an interviewer asks you to list your strengths, keep it short.
That sounds wrong, but few people want to hear a long-winded,
make-it-up-as-you-go-along list of all the positive adjectives you
can think of. Instead, say something like "If I had to name
three of my key strengths, they would be dependability, teamwork
and communications." You can then embellish a bit on those
three, or another three you choose, but limiting the list helps
the listener to focus and makes you sound much more prepared and
Ten Questions to Ask in an Interview
Asking the right questions to
your prospective employer will show him or her that you are
serious in you efforts to work for their company, and that you are
an organized individual. You should steer clear of asking any
personal questions or any questions that are not directly job
related. Here are some questions that you should ask your
1) Why is this position available right now?
2) How many times has this position been filled in the past 5
3) What should the new person do differently from the last person?
4) What would you most like to see done in the next 6 months?
5) What are the most difficult problems that this jobs entails?
6) How much freedom do I have in the decision making process?
7) What are my options for advancement?
8) How has this company succeeded in the past?
9) What changes do you envision in near future for this company?
10) What do you think constitutes success in this job?
Are you a
Job Hopper? Changing jobs frequently
is a reality of working today. Companies conduct layoffs with
higher frequency than ever before. Most employees are not laid off
for poor performance. Department consolidation, company
relocation, merger and improved profit are just a few of the more
common reasons for layoffs.
Changing jobs frequently is a common condition in the 21st
century, but interviewers still question candidates about why they
left jobs. Your response to this interviewer issue must provide
information about why you left a previous position and assurances
that you're seeking a long-term opportunity. Whether you changed
by choice or layoff, you'll need to provide a reason for leaving
each previous job. Candidates often include the reason for leaving
a position in their resume so they do not get screened out prior
to the interview. Your reason for leaving must be concise and
Describe the reasons for your departure directly and succinctly.
The longer you speak on the subject the more suspicious the
interviewer will become. It is important to express that you've
always sought and are still seeking a company where you can make a
long-term commitment. Tell the interviewer that this opportunity
appears to be a place where you can contribute in the short-term
these out-of-date strategies in your resume
Nowadays pumping up resumes with pictures and a full
listing of hobbies, activities, and interests is out of date.
Hobbies rarely belong on resumes (and pictures, never). First,
listing hobbies makes it look like you're trying to fill space.
Maybe you do need to pad a sparse resume, but there are better
ways. Second, your hobbies probably aren't relevant to an
employer. Finally, the longer and more impressive the list of
hobbies, the more you create an impression that your career isn't
your priority. This isn't an impression you want to make.
There are exceptions. If your hobbies are relevant, they may be
included. If you are applying for a sales job in an arts and
crafts shop, an impressive list of hobbies may work in your favour.
Also, recent students new to the working world get some leeway
here: they may include a list of hobbies and extracurricular
activities, as long as the activities listed are relevant and
likely to be seen as positive (e.g., debate club - yes, poker
shark - no).
Starting a Job on the Right Foot
You've got a great new job. Now what? How do you parlay the
wonderful impression you created in your interviews into success
during the first few weeks on your new job? Here are a few tips on
how to do that:
Join the team. Get adopted by someone on your new team, so
you can learn quickly the ins and outs of how the work is done.
Having a mentor is crucial. This gives you someone to bounce your
ideas off of, someone to ask for guidance and someone who can
introduce you to others in the company.
Respect the culture. Many new hires expect that new ideas
they bring with them are just what the company needs, and they
often go overboard in acting like a breath of fresh air. While
it's good to jump right in and participate, it's important to
respect the culture and social structure of the team. Earn your
way in by helping, not by taking over.
Become the problem solver. Everyone wants a "win"
when starting a new job, because it's a good way to score points
with the boss and the rest of the team. In fact, there's a better
way to stand out: become "the fixer". Identify the
problems your predecessor left behind and correct them. Almost
anything you do to "fix" existing problems will be
noticed, appreciated and regarded as improvements.
Blow your own horn and start boasting
Start boasting. Most of us have real difficulty telling other
people about how good we are. We consider it bad form, impolite
and evidence of a conceited and self-absorbed personality.
That’s true in many situations, but the interview is an
exception. Here your success lies in your ability to communicate
your strengths and the belief that you are probably a better
candidate than the others, while not sounding stricken with
delusions of grandeur. Find the right way to express your
strengths and get comfortable with a little horn tooting. Done
well, it demonstrates confidence, not conceit.
Perseverance is the key
Keep this quote from Calvin Coolidge handy with your file of job
ads, cover letters and resumés. Persistence is a large part of
your eventual job search success: "Nothing in this world can
take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more
common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not;
unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the
world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination
alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always
will solve the problems of the human race."
Being asked to do a telephone interview on the spot
You may find yourself answering the phone and being asked for a
telephone interview on the spot. It’s a rare candidate that can
do their best without preparing for an interview, so we suggest
that you express your eagerness to speak with them, but then ask
to call back at a prearranged time. This lets you gain your
composure and do some review of the job ad you responded to.
Don’t worry that you have somehow jeopardized your chances by
asking to call back, you haven’t. At the same time, arrange to
call back that same day, if possible. Tat way you will come
across as both well prepared and eager to discuss the opportunity.
Try and keep interview answers focused
Try to keep interview answers focused. If asked about your
strengths, do not start a rambling list that includes all the
possibly good characteristics you can think of. Instead, keep your
list of strengths limited to a few and present them in a way that
shows you know yourself well. When asked to talk about yourself,
stick to a tightly edited and relevant set of comments that have
been practiced beforehand so that your message is delivered in an
engaging and impressive way. If you do not practice in advance,
you are likely to start rambling and leave your listener more
confused than engaged. If you think about your presentation
beforehand, and then practice your responses, you send a message
of confidence and professionalism to your interviewer.
Panel interviews are a regular part of many job seekers
experience. Be ready to greet each interviewer personally, shake
their hands and send out signals that you are comfortable speaking
to a group. Keep your head swiveling as you speak so that everyone
is getting regular eye contact. Be aware that each panel
interviewer will have their own opinion of you and you must win
them over individually. As much as you can, engage those who you
feel need to have one-to-one interaction through appropriate
conversational questions. Finally, get the names and positions of
panel members in advance – perhaps at the time you set up the
When developing your resume less is more
When writing your resume,
don’t let too much specific information detract from your
chances for an interview. Sometimes saying little or nothing is
the way to go, especially if the alternative is filling two or
three pages of a resume with thorough and well written, but
irrelevant information. If you are trying to impress a reader with
your senior executive skills and vision, do not send a document
filled with your achievements as a supervisor but list that you
completed your master’s degree in management online or a
certificate to show you have had extensive training.
There may be occasions where you are best off using generic
language rather than referring to specific products or protocols
your interviewer cannot relate to.