May, 2012

Strong Answers for Interview Questions: Avoiding the Cookie-Cutter Answer

job-interview-answers-2Having strong answers for interview questions depends on a number of factors. One of the key factors that is sometimes overlooked is authenticity. Do your responses give the interviewer a good sense of who you are and what you are about?

Job seekers sometimes forget about this concept of authenticity. Instead, they provide overplayed and generic answers that they think the interviewer wants to hear. These are answers like, "I’m a hard worker," "I’m a team player,” or "I have great attention to detail."

Such cookie-cutter answers are better than saying nothing, but every interviewer has heard these responses a number of times. Consequently, the interviewer doesn’t learn much about what makes this job applicant different from the next one. The interviewer also doesn’t know whether the interviewer is a hard worker or is just saying something that seems like a good interview answer. As a result, the interviewer is likely to dismiss this applicant.

So, what do you do if you really are a hard worker? You have a couple of options.

First, you can give examples to prove it. For example: "I work harder than other people. In college, I always took six classes, and never settled for a grade less than an A-" or "Being an architecture student, the norm was to do one or two all-nighters per week. I know how to work hard."

Alternatively, you can use less overplayed language that explains what makes you a hard worker. For instance: "I am someone who will dive headfirst into difficult problems and who only stops working when the problem has been solved." Or, as another example: "At this point in my life, my work comes first. I will put in whatever hours are needed to get the job done."

As you prepare answers for various job interview questions, think about how your responses can be less cookie-cutter. Focus on examples from your past that demonstrate your abilities, and come up with language that you feel comfortable with, that authentically represents you.

May, 2012

Show Me the Numbers

What should your resume, your cover letter, your interview answers and your elevator pitch have in common?

Numbers.  Numbers are one way to prove that you are the real deal. And, they can seriously change your job search. Let me explain.  

Here are some typical examples of phrases that individuals use in job searches, and where a few numbers would make a difference:

"Improved company sales"
Was that by $500 or five million dollars? By 2% or 20%?

"Revitalized school, resulting in improved academic performance"
Did student academic achievement improve by 1/10th of a grade level or two full grade levels? Did graduation rates improve by one student or 100?

"Implemented stroke recovery best practices, expediting rehabilitation"
Did the stroke sufferers recover a day faster or a month faster? Did they return to 60% of pre-stroke functioning or 90% of pre-stroke functioning?

As you can tell, adding numbers makes your arguments a lot more persuasive. You move from being vague to being specific. More importantly, you move from seeming like a big talker to a big doer, someone who produces results.

If you are like many people, you're saying,
1.    "Numbers don't really apply to me," and
2.    "Even where they do apply, I don't know the exact numbers and I don't want to say something that would be dishonest."

Let's dispel each of these.

May, 2012

10 Tips to Better Answers for an Interview

Below are ten tips to having more effective answers to interview questions. While these tips are pretty simple, making mistakes on simple things could mean missing out on the job offer.

Tip 1 -  Make sure you know how to pronounce the name of the company. Search for YouTube videos or double-check with the security guard or receptionist to make sure you say it right in an interview.

May, 2012

Advice for an Interview

Sun Tzu and the Art of Interviewing: Advice for an interview from history’s greatest strategist.

When you’re seeking advice for interview, there are various experts you can reach out to, especially to learn interview strategy and tactics.  It seems only fitting to see how history’s possibly best-known strategist could help today’s job seekers ace their next interview. Over 2,200 years ago, Chinese military adviser Sun Tzu wrote his treatise, The Art of War. Whether or not the current version also includes the work of other generals is a point of contention, but the strategic advice it provides has demonstrated its value time and time again.  Below you will find some quotes from this work and its applications to the job hunt.

May, 2012

How to Ace the Interview as an Older Worker

For older workers, finding a job in the current economy can be especially challenging. You are very unlikely to hear an interviewer mention issues related to age aloud. Discrimination against older workers is technically illegal. Still, that’s not to say it isn’t done.

If you are in this population and want to ace your next interview, there are several issues you will have to address. You will need to demonstrate that you are a hard worker, stay current on industry trends, and fit in with the culture of modern organizations.  

In this article, we’ll discuss the various tactics that you can proactively take.

May, 2012

Job Interview Answers: 5 Common Mistakes

Before you walk into your next interview, I thought it’d be helpful to share with you some common mistakes people make when providing job interview answers.

Mistake 1. Length

The perfect interview answer should last between 20 seconds and two minutes. That means that you should basically never answer a question with a simple yes or no. You need to share the critical details and should provide a thorough answer to appropriate questions. However, you don’t want to tell your life’s story. When you feel like you’ve shared the highlights, cut yourself off. If you feel compelled to share more, you can offer, “If you’d like, I can also describe...” Don’t be surprised if the interviewer turns you down. Too long an answer, and the interviewer will just tune you out.

May, 2012

An Often Forgotten Job Search Tool

After discussing it with two Interview Success Formula customers this week, I wanted to mention an effective and often overlooked job search tool.

The first customer has been searching for a full time position for more than a year, thoughtfully applying to a new position every day, yet hasn't been getting many responses to his application. The second client has been getting interviews, and yet has not been getting job offers.

Both of them aren't sure what has been preventing their success. So, I asked them each the same question: When they call up and ask these employers about their candidacy, and why they aren't making it further in the process, what do they say?

Apr, 2012

Advice from The Princess Bride

This week, I decided to try something different: look to a movie for job and interview tips. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. So, at the prompting of my sister-in-law, I've explored how the characters in this movie provide lessons about interviewing.

If you are unfamiliar with the movie, or if it's been a while since you've seen it, here's the quick plot summary:
A farm girl, Buttercup, whose childhood love, Wesley, is lost at sea after a pirate attack, will soon become the bride of the her kingdom's prince, Humperdink. However, shortly before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three men: a swordsman named Inigo, a giant named Fezzik, and a not-so-clever mastermind named Vicene. Ultimately she is rescued by her childhood love, Wesley, and she escapes marrying the less-than-noble Prince Humperdink.