How Do I Describe My Weaknesses in an Interview?

This is the question almost everyone asks when preparing for a job interview.  Normally people have a good handle on their strengths and can list those with no problem, but the weaknesses almost always create an obstacle for them.  Oftentimes, the dilemma is that they don’t want to mention a weakness that makes them sound…..well….weak.  Thankfully there is no right or wrong answer and the truth of the matter is EVERYONE has strengths and EVERYONE has weaknesses.  It’s just a matter of how you communicate them.  While you want to be honest, you don’t want to raise any unnecessary red flags.

Now, there are 3 important things you want to remember.  First, instead of describing it as a “weakness,” describe it as “an opportunity to improve.”  Just simply changing the wording, instantly makes it seem less horrific.  Secondly, when answering this question end on a positive note and have a way to fix it.  This says to an employer that you are already aware of the issue and you are being proactive about correcting it. Thirdly, only have 1 or 2 areas that you need to improve. This is NOT the time to get carried away and list all your insecurities. Remember, you are trying to get a job so don’t air your dirty laundry!

OK….I have a feeling that you’re probably still not convinced.  You’re not completely sold on the idea of being able to tell someone your less than flattering work habits in an eloquent manner.  You’re still skeptical aren’t you?  At this point you’ve probably recalled a job interview that you’ve had in the past where you were asked this question and instantly began panicking.  Luckily for you, today is the day the panicking stops.  You’re going to get the help you need to be able to successfully get through this portion of the interview without sending your potential employer running for the hills.  So, let’s just get right to it…let’s turn those “weaknesses” into “opportunities to improve.” Below are some examples of the most common “weaknesses” and ways you can present them more positively.

1)  Arriving late for work or not completing tasks on time

“An area that I can improve is my time management.  I realize that things must be done in a timely manner and not being on time affects the overall flow of business. In a team environment, everyone depends on each other so timeliness is important.   To help with this, I have begun to set reminders for myself throughout the day and set my watch 5 minutes early.”

2) Fear of public speaking

“An area that I can improve is my public speaking because sometimes I’m concerned that I might not be communicating effectively. I try to overcome this by practicing in advance and being very familiar with my topic.  This puts me at ease and allows me to connect with my audience and deliver a good presentation. I know the more I practice,the better I will become in this area.”

3) Trying to be a perfectionist or not feeling confident in your work

“An area that I can improve is not trying to be a perfectionist.  I have to constantly remember to not be so hard on myself and give myself room to grow. I believe that once I become more skilled at a job, I will be more confident and not feel the need to spend so much time double checking my work.”

4) Taking on too much work or not knowing how to say no to others

“An area that I can improve is not taking on too much work and learning how to say no to others.  I am very passionate about my work and I like to stay busy.  However, sometimes I can get a little overwhelmed. I am learning that it is okay to not be busy every second of the day and taking a break can sometimes be very helpful.  Also, I know my co-workers will understand once I explain that I’m not able to help them because my plate is already full.”

5) Bringing your work home with you instead of leaving it at the office

“An area that I can improve is not bringing my work home with me at night. Oftentimes, I continue to worry about things at work after I have left for the day.  I am learning that it is very important to have work-life balance so that I can have time to spend with those that I care about. If I find myself thinking about work after hours, I just make a note as a reminder to take care of it the next day.”

6) Needing to improve your leadership skills

“An area that I am working to improve is my leadership skills.  I like for things to be done efficiently so it can cause me to sometimes get a little frustrated.  I am learning to take a step back and be confident in the skills of others.  If I feel something needs to be done differently, I make sure I am clear with my expectations and give my team the tools they need to be successful.   Communication is definitely the key.”

So you see…it can be done.  Saying what your “areas of improvement” are doesn’t have to be a scary thing. You can present them in a way that shows your potential employer you are just like everybody else – NOT PERFECT!  Your particular weakness might not be listed above, but I’m sure you can tailor your answer based on the few examples I gave.  Remember, there is no right or wrong answer and ending on a positive note makes all the difference.

Happy Interviewing!

How Do I Talk About Being Fired in an Interview?

There may come a time when you are fired from a job or asked to resign.  Honestly, it’s not the end of the world and you can recover from it.  The important thing is how you handle it in the interview.   You actually FIRST should decide if you want to put the job on your resume or not because the resume is what gets you an interview (in most cases).  If you were fired from a job where you worked for 6 months or so, you can probably leave it off without having a huge gap in employment. But if it was somewhere you worked for a number of years, eliminating it will cause a gap on your resume that will require an explanation.  Now, if you are filling out a job application, there is a way around putting the actual reason when asked why you left a job.  You can simply put “Will discuss in the interview.” I have been a hiring manager before and when I saw that on an application, it didn’t stop me from calling the person in for an interview.

So once you have made it past the resume/application phase, the most important thing you can do to overcome  this “termination problem” in the interview is to be prepared.  You know you could be asked why you left a job so prepare for it.  If you can speak about it calmly and professionally it won’t be that big of a deal. Trust me, you aren’t the only person that has been fired before.  Be able to talk about what happened without giving away too much information and WITHOUT being negative about your previous job or supervisor.   Also, be sure to mention what you learned from the experience.

For instance, if you were fired for extreme tardiness or absences, you can say “There was a point where I having some personal issues which were causing me to arrive to work late and miss days.  I was let go due to this.  I am fully aware that my absences were affecting the team because business must go on. So I understand my boss’ decision to terminate me.  I have resolved those personal issues I had at the time and if I were given the opportunity to work here they will definitely not be an issue.”

If you were fired for breaking a company policy or not following the rules, you can say “At my previous job we had  policy for __________________________________. While I was aware of the policy, I did not follow it completely because I got careless and was trying to take a shortcut.  This mistake caused customers to complain and I was terminated because of it.  I now fully understand that policies are in place for a reason and it is best to follow them.  Customer satisfaction is always the #1 priority so anything that makes customers upset costs the company money.  This was a great lesson for me and if I’m given a job here I will be sure to follow all policies and ask questions if I don’t understand why a policy is in place.”

If you were fired for consistently not meeting your quota, you can say “When I worked for _____________________, we had weekly sales goals.  It was a fast paced environment and the expectations were very high.  While I did well at first, business was very slow during the last few months I was employed there.  I tried different strategies and getting ideas from team members, but I wasn’t able to close the deals necessary to reach my goals. I was ultimately terminated for this reason.  I really enjoyed the job for the most part and I have no regrets.  I am hoping to take some of the strategies that did work in my previous job and apply them here if I am hired for this position.”

Maybe you were fired because you just didn’t feel motivated any more and were not making valuable contributions.  It happens to the best of us.  You sometimes lose interest in a job or the company makes changes you don’t agree with.  You can say “I pride myself on having a strong work ethic and being a contributor to the team.  There came a point where I was no longer able to give 100% and it really started to affect my job performance.  I had a talk with my supervisor and we realized that the best thing was to let me go so that I can pursue a job that I am passionate about.  I believe I found that job when I saw your job opening.  My previous boss and I actually still have a good relationship and he/she offered to provide a recommendation for me.”

So you see being fired/terminated does not mean your career is over.  It just means you were in a situation that was no longer working for whatever reason and it had to end.  If it was your fault, admit it and take responsibility for your actions.  We all make mistakes, but the most important thing is keep moving forward.  Talk calmly and positively about the termination and what you learned from it. Let your potential employer see the “brand new and improved” YOU!!

15 Quick Tips for Your Interview Day

Your interview day has finally arrived!  You are ready but nervous.  What should you do?  What should you not do?  What will happen in the interview?  How can you convince the employer to hire you?  I know all of these questions are going through your mind but relax….you will be fine.  Here are some quick tips to get you through your interview day.

1.  Dress professionally – less is more.

This is definitely something you want to prepare in advance.  You shouldn’t get up the morning of your interview and be frantically looking through your closet for something to wear.  It should be taken very seriously as it is part of your first impression….and most importantly it should be PROFESSIONAL.  Decide the night before what you will wear and bring to the interview.

2.  Arrive 15 minutes early. 

This is to give you time to gather your thoughts just before the interview.   Use the extra time in the lobby to look over your notes one last time and observe the atmosphere.   Remember, the interview starts as soon as you walk through the door and they are watching you.  If you happen to arrive more than 15 minutes in advance, just wait in your car.

3.  Turn your cell phone completely off.

The last thing you want to happen is your phone ringing or vibrating in the middle of your interview.  So you should turn it completely off or leave it in the car.  You don’t want the employer to think that if you’re hired, you’ll be distracted by family and friends calling you all the time.

4.  Be nice to everyone you meet.

It is very important that you DO NOT underestimate the receptionist.  If you encounter the parking lot attendant or custodian, be nice to them as well.  They could have more say in whether you or hired than you may think because they could tell the hiring manager about your rudeness.  Plus, if you get hired you don’t want to already have “enemies.”

5.  SMILE and have a nice, firm handshake.

You got an interview so SMILE!! You should be ecstatic to be there!   Remember, your handshake says a lot about you and it displays your confidence at the beginning and end of the interview.  A nice firm grip with 2 – 3 pumps will suffice.  If you have sweaty palms, very inconspicuously wipe your hand on your pants or skirt just before you extend it.

6.  Let the interviewer be in charge and match his/her style.

You are in the employer’s “territory” so let them be in charge and determine the pace of the interview.  Each employer has a different style so you have to figure out what it is and match it.  Some may be straightforward and just want to ask you back to back questions and some may have a more laid back approach and be open to small talk.  Keep in mind, if they don’t like talking to you in a 30 or 60 minute interview, why would they want to hire you and talk to you everyday?

7.  Have several copies of your resume and references (or letters of recommendation) available.

Even if you have already submitted your resume online or emailed it to the employer, bring extra copies anyway.  Besides, you may be interviewing with more than 1 person and they each need their own copy.  If your resume has changed since you initially submitted it, just let the employer know that you wanted them to have an updated copy.  It’s not a bad idea to have your references/recommendations ready because it shows you’re prepared.  If you don’t give it to them in the interview, you can always attach them when you follow up (see tip 15).

8.  Make eye contact and be mindful of your body language.

Both of these directly relate to your confidence.  Generally, you want to make eye contact the majority of the time and occasionally look away. A little trick is to look at the person’s nose or the space between their eyes and it will still look like you are making eye contact.  For your body language, make sure you always have a pleasant expression on your face and you’re not slouching or messing with your hair.  Try to keep your hands in your lap.  Ladies, cross your legs at your ankles if you’re wearing a skirt.

9.  Have paper and a pen to take notes during the interview.

This is because you won’t remember everything.  It also shows that you are interested in what’s being discussed.  Prepared for the interview = prepared for the job.

10.  Be conversational and have adequate answers to their questions. 

The interview is the only way an employer can tell if you’ll fit into their team.  So you want to give them plenty to go on by having adequate answers to their questions – not just 2 or 3 sentences.  Think of it this way….if you asked your friend what they did over the weekend and all they said was, “I watched tv and did the laundry.”  What would you think?  Of course, you would think they were leaving out something and you would want to know more.  Don’t leave the employer wanting to know more.  Adequately answer their questions by telling a complete story.

11.  Be very familiar with the company.

Do adequate research on the company AND the department you will be working in.   The key is to identify what they do so you will be able to communicate how you can help.  This research will come in handy when they ask, “What do you know about this company?” or “What attracted you to this position?”

12.  SELL YOURSELF!!! 

If you can do this very confidently, you have accomplished 75% of your goal.  Most people are very bashful in this area because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their accomplishments.  Actually, the interview and the resume are 2 places where you can brag on yourself and not be seen as arrogant.  Your task is to convey your skills and qualifications so employers know they need YOU at their company.  Even if you are unsure how to answer a question or if it seems like the interview is going rather badly, stay positive.

13.  Have at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer.

I know you’ve been made to believe interviews are one-sided and you have to just answer their questions and that’s it.  Erase that from your mind and know that you should ask questions to see if the job is a good fit for you as well.  Ask questions about the daily duties, company culture, management style, expectations, current issues (so you can offer a solution on the spot), etc.  You can write them down and read them right from your paper.  Not having any questions = not really interested in the job.

14.  Find out what the next steps are.

You should be confident that you will get to the next steps after the interview, so ask what they are so you will be prepared.  It’s that simple.

15. Follow up within 24 hours.

Get the interviewer’s business card to send a thank you letter (or e-mail).  If you had multiple interviewers, send a thank you to everyone individually.  Mention something specific from the interview so that they remember you and realize that you pay attention and retain information.  It’s important to do this in a timely manner because you want them to get your thank you BEFORE they make their final decision.

BONUS TIP:

Take a moment to gather your thoughts before answering difficult questions.  It really is okay.  You don’t have to respond the second they finish asking you a question.  Taking a moment will keep you from saying “um” and rambling as much.

 

The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

How Should I Prepare for a Phone / Skype Interview?

Employers receive 100+ resumes for every 1 job they post. The whole process of posting a job, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, extending a job offer, and training a new hire is very long and tiring.  So, employers use phone/Skype interviews to assist them with the process.  By using these tools, employers are able to narrow down the potential candidates to the top 3 they want to bring on site.  That being said, there are certain things to consider with each one so that you make the most of the interviews.

1)      TREAT THEM AS REGULAR INTERVIEWS

They are still interviews and should be taken just as seriously as a regular interview.  Remember, you have to pass this stage to get to the next stage which is the on site interview.

2)      NO NOISE  OR DISTRACTIONS IN THE BACKGROUND

For phone interviews, you should not have any noise in the background i.e. music, dog barking, roommate talking, phone ringing, etc.  For Skype interviews, there shouldn’t be any distractions in the view of the camera i.e. messy desk, tv on in the background, etc.

3)      PRACTICE IN ADVANCE

Have a friend call you on the phone and ask you some questions so you get used to answering questions over the phone without seeing the person you are speaking to. For Skype, practice speaking so you will know how to adjust the volume.   See what colors show up best on the computer to help you decide what to wear.

 4)      EXPECT MORE THAN 1 PERSON TO CONDUCT THE INTERVIEW

Because they don’t have the luxury of interviewing you face to face they will more than likely have someone else sit in on the interview to help them get a feel for you.  So, don’t be surprised if you are interviewed by more than 1 person.

5)      SMILE AND BE ENTHUSIASTIC

 Use your personality and enthusiasm to make up for the fact you are not there in person.  Your excitement should be “felt” through the phone and the computer screen.

Why Do I Need to Do an Informational Interview?

Well, the simple answer to that question is to get information.  But let’s dig a little deeper…

One of the best sources for gathering information about what is happening in an industry is to talk to people currently working in that field.  An informational interview is an interview that you initiate.  You ask the questions with the purpose being to obtain information – not to get a job.  If you want to find out how to get to where you want to go, talk to someone who’s already there.

An informational interview is one sure way to find out if your skills and qualifications match your targeted job.  You can find out about the requirements and daily tasks of the position you are interested in, plus many tips for success and insight into the future of your desired field.  It can also eliminate “surprises” in the actual job interview.  Moreover, informational interviews can help you develop employment leads and gain experience with interviewing.  It is not unusual for an informational interview to lead to a job offer.

Now, how you go about getting an informational interview and what questions you ask are completely up to you.  There is no set way to do it but here are some tips to make your informational interviews effective:

1) Identify what you want to achieve

You must first decide what you want and where you want to go.  It is impossible for someone else to figure that out for you.  It is something you have to do on your own.  Do you want to figure out if your current career is where you really should be?  Do you want someone to look at your resume and tell you what you’re “lacking?”  Do you want to know how to get a promotion?  Do you want to know how to break into a new industry?

2) Pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you

Once you’ve identified your goal, pick 10 people in your desired industry who can help you achieve it.  This may be someone in the exact position you want to be in or someone in management.  This will take some research.  You will have to look at different companies to see who they have in certain positions.  LinkedIn is an excellent place to start.  You can look at people in a certain industry in your geographical area.

3) Decide the best method to reach out to them

If it’s someone you’re already acquainted with, you can simply call them and request some of their time.  If you want to reach out to someone perhaps you’ve only met once at a networking event or you were introduced briefly through a friend,  you may want to e-mail them.

If it is a complete stranger, you may want to start with a non-traditional method like snail mail.  Everyone loves to receive something in the mail and since not that many people actually put a stamp on things and mail them anymore, your letter will stand out.  Then you can follow up within 1 week with a phone call. (I’ve actually tried this method before and got 6 out of 10 people to do an informational interview with me.)

You can also use LinkedIn to connect with them initially.   Be sure to personalize your invitation to say something like “Hello, I am really impressed with your profile and I would like to have you in my network.”  Wait a week or so after they have accepted your invitation to follow up and ask for the informational interview.

4) Explain who you are and what you want from them

This is where the 60 second commercial comes in.  Be prepared to sell yourself and let them know who you are.  Also let them know what your goal is and how you believe insight from them could help you in your career.  What you want is 15 – 20 minutes of their time FACE-TO-FACE.  15 – 20 minutes is all it really takes if you are fully prepared.  If you’re calling them on the phone, I would suggest you use a phone script because you may be nervous and this will help you stay on task.  You can jot down the key points you want to be sure to convey.   Make sure you know your schedule over the next few days so you can easily schedule an appointment with them.

5)  Arrive/Leave on time and be prepared with your 10 questions

Treat it like a regular interview and arrive 15 minutes early and dress professionally. Also, leave on time unless the person being interviewed wants to extend it.  You will have to pay attention to their body language to see if they are ready to end the meeting.  They will most likely let you lead the conversation so have your 10 questions written down.  Of course, it is up to you what you want to ask but here are some suggestions:

a.  What’s a typical day like in this position?  What are your duties?

b.  What personal qualities or abilities are important to be successful in this job/industry?

c.  What part of the job do you find most satisfying?  Most challenging?

d.  What training or education is required for this type of work?

e.  How do you see jobs in this field changing in the future?

f.  What special advice would you give a person entering this field?

g.  Which professional journals and organizations would help me learn more about this industry?

6) Show you’ve done your research and FLATTER THEM!! 

Be sure to let them know what research you have done on them and the company.  Go to the company website and find some key facts about the company.  You can also google the company name and see what comes up.  LinkedIn is a great place to get information on the person you’re interviewing.

Flatter!!  Flatter!  Flatter!! Trust me….flattery still works!!  Most people are humbled when someone actually takes a genuine interest in them and what they do.  This makes them more willing to share information.

7) Have them give you feedback on your resume

Perhaps, the most important thing you should do while you’re in the interview is ask them to look at your resume.  Ask what they think of your experience so far and if there are some areas where you need to enhance your qualifications.   Having them look at your resume serves dual purposes:  a) it lets you know what you need to do to improve it and b) it gets your resume in front of an industry professional and perhaps they will realize you might be a good fit for an opening at their company.   Be prepared in case it turns into an actual job interview! (This happened to me for one of my informational interviews.  The employer looked at my resume and saw all of my qualifications and had me go to HR on the spot and fill out a job application for one of their current openings.  I was called for an interview weeks later.)

8) Get referrals

Before you leave, you MUST get referrals.  Everyone knows someone else at their company or in their industry that has just as much knowledge as they do.  When you ask for referrals you can say, “Is there anyone else that you know who you think I should talk to to get some insight?  When I contact him/her, may I use your name?”

As you leave, give them your business card and get theirs as well.   (Don’t have business cards?  Check out my blog – “You Don’t Have to Have a Business to Have Business Cards”)

9) Follow up within 24 hours

It is imperative that you send a thank you letter showing appreciation for their time and insight.  Mention something specific from the conversation to show what you learned.  If they had some suggestions for your resume, make the changes and send the updated version with your thank you letter.  Also, end it by saying something like, “Because our meeting was so brief, I was not able to completely share my background with you.  I have included my LinkedIn profile/ blog / online portfolio to give you additional information about me.”

10) Do it all over again with the next contact

FAQ – Lunch Interviews

1.  Why do employers have interviews over lunch?

There are a number of reasons:  a.) it may be the most convenient time for them to meet, b.) they want to see your table manners – definitely if the position you are interviewing for will require you to take others out to lunch or c.) they just like to go out to eat.

2.  What should I do if I am not familiar with the restaurant the employer chooses?

Nowadays most restaurants have their menu online and you can look it up prior to your interview to familiarize yourself with what they offer.  You can also arrive a little earlier and ask for a menu or ask the host what they recommend.  If the employer shows up and sees you already looking at the menu, it’s no big deal.

3.  How early should I arrive?

You should treat lunch interviews as regular interviews and arrive 15 minutes early.

4.  Where should I put my purse, bag and/or coat?

If you have a bag or briefcase put it on the floor next to your chair or in one of the other empty chairs at the table.  A more upscale restaurant will have a coat check, but if not you can also put your coat in one of the empty chairs or hang it on the back of your chair.  Now, make sure your bag and coat are not in the aisle in the way of the servers that will be passing by.

Ladies, when you are going for an interview take a smaller purse (or wallet) that can fit in your lap under your napkin.

5.  If the interviewer is a woman should I open the door for her or pull out her chair?

Absolutely not!  In business things of this natural are gender-neutral.  If you try to pull out the interviewer’s chair or open her door, she may see it as being overbearing.  And under no circumstances do you walk her to her car.  Keep in mind, this is a business meal….you are not on a date!

6.  How do I know what to order?

You can do the things mentioned above in #2 or you can very casually ask the employer what he/she will be having or recommends.  Take notice of the price of the suggested items and stay within that range.  You don’t want to order a steak that costs $21.99 and the employer has a chicken salad for $11.99.  Do not order messy foods.  You will already be nervous and shouldn’t add to that by trying to figure out how to wrap the spaghetti around your fork.  Also, never order alcohol…even if the interviewer is having alcohol.  It could be a test to see if you will drink in the middle of the day.  Then if you get the job, you may do the same thing and come back to work after you have been drinking.

7.  Is it okay to pray over my food?

Of course.  There’s no need to make a big deal about it.  Just pray as you would normally.

8.  How do I pace myself during the meal?

You want to watch the interviewer and keep the same pace.  You don’t want them to be done with their salad and having to wait 10 minutes for you to finish yours.  Also, don’t get done too early.    The lunch interview is NOT about the meal.  So, make sure you eat a snack beforehand so you do not arrive starving.

9.  What if there is something wrong with my food or I don’t like it?

This is where you have to make a decision as to whether it is absolutely unbearable or you can still get through it.  If it is clearly something you cannot eat (you’re allergic to it or you feel it will make you sick), very politely explain that to the server and order something else.  You should order something that can be prepared quickly like a salad so you don’t “hold up” the interview.

Now, if you order something and then realize you don’t quite have a taste for it, just eat a reasonable portion of it anyway.   Remember, the interviewer is observing your table manners and you don’t want to do anything that will raise a red flag like being too picky or indecisive.

10.  How do I take notes and eat during the interview?

Very carefully.  You can have a small notepad for jotting down those important things you want to be sure you don’t forget.  You will have to use your listening skills more so in this situation and then jot down most of your notes as soon as you get to your car.

11.  What if I need to excuse myself from the table?

The only reasons you should excuse yourself is to use the restroom or excessive coughing or sneezing.  In this case just say, “Excuse me, I will be right back.”  That’s it…you don’t have to announce that you are going to the restroom.  I mean…where else would you be going????  You should not leave the table to take a phone call because your phone should be turned off or left in the car.   The only phone call exception is if there is a family emergency and someone is in the hospital.  In this instance, you would let the employer know that as soon as you sit down at the table.  You can say, “I just want to let you know that a family member is in the hospital and I may be getting an update while we’re here.  I apologize in advance if I need to step away for a moment.”

12.  What if I see someone I know while at the restaurant?

Speak briefly, explain that you’re on an interview and try to keep moving.  Example:  “Hi Michelle, how are you?”  (Michelle:  I’m doing great.)  “Good to see you! I’m on an interview with XYZ Company.  I will catch up with you later.”  Hopefully, they will get the hint that they should end the conversation.  You may have to give them a “look” that says “I can’t talk right now.”  Once you leave the interview, you can call them on the phone and fully explain the reason for your abruptness.

13.  Can I take home a “to go” box?

NO!  You should try to eat the majority of your food and not really leave too much on your plate.

14.  Should I offer to pay or leave the tip?

No, it is not necessary.  The employer will pay for the meal and leave the tip.

15.  Can I smoke after the interview?

You may smoke once you are out of the view of the employer.

 

What Do You Mean I Have to Ask Questions in an Interview?

For all major decisions in your life, you ask questions right?  When you get ready to purchase a car, you ask how much will the monthly payments be?  How many miles per gallon will I get?  How long is the car under warranty?  There are also some questions you have when you move to a new city.  How much is the cost of living?  What is the quality of the school system?  Is there a lot of crime in the city?  You ask questions when you are about to get married.  When you are deciding which university to attend and you may have questions regarding your faith and what you believe.   So if you ask questions in other important situations in your life, why not for a job interview?  Deciding whether or not a job is a good fit for you is a major decision.  You want to make sure you have all the necessary information to make a sound choice – accept the job or not accept the job.

A lot of people don’t really understand why they need to ask questions.   They assume since the employer called them in for an interview, he/she should be the one asking all the questions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Asking questions in a job interview does a number of things:  1)  shows that you have done research on the job and the company, 2)  lets the employer know that you are really interested in the position, and 3) shows that you are a professional and try to thoroughly understand before jumping into something.

Still not convinced??  OK…..suppose you bought that new car that we talked about earlier and did not ask any questions.  You just picked out the car, signed your name on the dotted line and drove off.  When your first monthly bill came in the mail,  it was $200 more than you expected.  You call the dealership wanting to know why your payments are so high.  Their response to you is, “The document that you signed stated how much the payments would be.  Why didn’t you ask any questions about how we could lower your payments? If you are willing to come back in, perhaps we can work something out but it may be a few months before the new payment amount goes into effect.”  So….you are “stuck” paying that higher amount for a while.

Well, it is the same with asking questions in a job interview.  If you don’t, you may end up “stuck” in a situation you can’t get out of….for a while anyway.  The interview should be a 2 way street.  The employer is trying to see if you are a good fit for the company and you should be trying to see if the company is a good fit for you.  Normally, this will happen towards the end of the interview.  NEVER say you don’t have any questions.  You should always have at least 3 because you should want to know about the actual position, the company and the culture so you can make an informed decision.  Don’t worry….. you don’t have to memorize the questions, you can write them down and read them right off your paper and then write down the employer’s responses.

Here are some questions I always ask as well as a few other ones:

1.  If I am hired for this position, what would a typical day be like for me?

2.  What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 90 days?

3.  Do you have a training program?  If so, would you please describe it?

4.  What are some of the issues/challenges that you currently have in this department?  (Tip:  If you can provide a solution on the spot, you are a genius!!)

5.  I saw on your website that you have an initiative/program about XYZ, can you please tell me more about that?

6.  What is the typical career path for someone who starts in this position?

7.  What are qualities someone would need to be successful at this company?

8.  What is your management style and the overall company culture?

9.  What do you like best about working here?

10.  Do you have any suggestions or feedback for my resume?  (Tip:  Make the changes they suggest and send it to them when you follow-up.)

11.  Are there any concerns you have or other questions I can answer about my skills and qualifications?

12.  When do you plan to make a decision as to whom you are going to hire?

There are certain questions you should NOT ask such as:

1.  What does your company/department do?

2.  What are the salary and benefits for this position?

3.  Will I have to work much overtime?

4.  When will I be eligible for vacation?

5.  How flexible are you when it comes to being late or missing days due to sick children?

6.  What happened to the person who had this position before me?

7. Will I have to take a drug test?  If so, how often?

Asking an employer questions in an interview, can be a little intimidating but it is necessary.  I strongly recommend that you practice your interviewing skills several times before you meet with the actual employer.  You should practice providing your answers to typical interview questions as well as practice asking the questions that you want answered.   This will help decrease your nervousness and make your responses seem more natural.   Asking questions at the end of the interview is equally as important as everything else and could be the difference in whether you are offered the job or not.

Happy Interviewing!!

How to Answer the Dreaded Salary Question

Your interview is going great.  You have answered all of the hiring manager’s questions.  You have sold yourself effectively.  You didn’t ramble and you even kept your hands in your lap and not all over the place.  Then you hear the dreaded question…..”What are you salary requirements?” Everything stands still and time starts moving in slow motion.  A million thoughts are going through your head. “What if I say a number too high?”     “What if I say a number too low?”      “Can I really ask for what I want?”      “Why did they have to ask me this question?” The employer is waiting so you know you have to say something, but what do you say?

We’ve all been there and we’ve all heard that whoever says a number first loses.  Not exactly.  You can adequately answer this question and still get the amount you want if you do your research and position yourself appropriately.  But, be sure to let the employer bring up the salary subject first.  You don’t want to seem like that’s all you care about. Many times the salary for a particular position will be advertised in the job description.  So you can start there in terms of figuring out how much to ask for.  If not, you can go to www.salary.com or www.onetonline.org to look up positions and the average salary associated with it.  Keep in mind the salary ranges are usually given for entry-level, mid-level and senior level.  So first identify what group you fall into.

So, say for instance you want a mid-level Marketing Analyst position.  The average mid-level salary in Dallas, TX is $55,089.  To get that targeted amount you should give a range that is a couple thousand dollars below and a couple thousand dollars above.   Most employers try to make candidates feel as if they really want them and tried to give them what they want.  So giving a range will give them some “wiggle room.”  You definitely don’t want to just say a specific dollar amount because you may sell yourself short if they were planning to give you more or you could eliminate yourself by saying a number that is too high.

So, the next time you are in an interview and you are asked about salary requirements, your response should be, “Based on my research I know that Marketing Analyst in this area make from $53,000 – $58,000. With my skills and qualifications I feel that I fit within this range. I am definitely willing to negotiate.” If you can say this confidently and without hesitation, it conveys to the employer that you have done your research and they will be more willing to take your salary requirements seriously and give you the amount you are requesting.

FAQ – Interviews

1.  How early should I be for an interview?  You should arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled time.  Use the extra time to browse through your notes one last time and observe the atmosphere.  Keep in mind the interview begins as soon as you walk through the door.  So don’t talk on your cell phone or underestimate the receptionist!  If you arrive more than 15 minutes before your interview, sit in your car and wait.  You don’t want to show up too early and make the interviewer feel rushed.

2.  What should I bring with me to the interview?  Bring several copies of your resume, company research, questions to ask, portfolio, references or recommendation letters, business cards, paper, pen and anything else they told you to bring.  It is better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.  Make sure all of this information is in a folder or binder — no loose papers.

3.  What should I know about the interview beforehand?  Try to find out as much as you can about what will take place so you will be prepared.  Will you have to fill out an application?  Will there be multiple interviews during your appointment?  Will you be given a tour of the facility?  Will you have to take an assessment test?  Do they have the proper A/V equipment if you are giving a presentation?

4.  How should I dress for the interview?  If you are unsure you can simply ask.  They may say professional dress and they may say business casual.  You can always observe what the current employees are wearing and use that as a guide.  But keep in mind they already have their jobs so they may be dressed “down.”  So generally I would say “dress to impress.”  Don’t wear anything (including jewelry, make up, perfume, cologne, hairstyle) that is going to leave a negative impression on them.  You may have a little bit more leeway if you are going into the fashion industry or a creative field.

5.  What if I forget the interviewer’s name or don’t know how to pronounce it?  Simply call before your interview and ask the receptionist or administrative assistant.  This is a big “NO NO” that could be avoided very easily.

6.  What if I am running late for an interview or can’t make it at all?  If you will be late, call the interviewer and give them an estimated time of arrival and the reason for your tardiness.  If something has come up and you can’t make it at all, be honest.  Ask if it is possible for you to reschedule.  Keep in mind being late or not keeping your appointment is strike one against you and it is a HUGE strike.  The employer may just forfeit your interview altogether.  If you do get the chance to still meet with the interviewer, genuinely apologize and be sure to make up for the mishap by giving a great interview!

7.  What research should I do on the company?  You should first start with the company website and look up their values, mission statement, future plans, products, services, honors, awards, current news, training and development opportunities and job openings.  You should jot these things down and familiarize yourself with them.  Your notes will come in handy when asked “What do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?”  You can also check out the Better Business Bureau, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and Facebook for additional information.  Don’t forget to look up the actual interviewer and know 2 – 3 things about him/her as well.  Not knowing anything about the company could be strike 2!

8.  What questions should I ask during the interview?  You should have at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer such as:  A) “What would be a typical day for someone who is hired in this position?”  B) “What kind of training program do you have?”  C)  “What would be expected of me in the first 90 days if I’m hired in this position?”  D) “What is your management style?”   E)  “When do you plan to make a decision as to whom you are going to hire?”   You should ALWAYS have questions.  Just like the interviewer is trying to see if you are a good fit; you should be trying to see if the company is a good fit for you as well.  No questions shows that you are not really interested in the job.

9.  What if I am asked an illegal question in an interview?  Sadly some employers do not know what questions are illegal.   Generally questions related to marital status, having children, race, religion, sex, filing for bankruptcy, hospitalization history, having a car, or garnishment of wages are illegal.  So when asked an illegal question respond to the INTENT of the question instead of the question itself.  For example if an employer is trying to figure out if you are married he/she may ask, “Will your husband/wife  have a problem with you traveling for this job?”  Your response should be, “I don’t foresee anything that would prevent me from fulfilling the duties associated with this job.”

10.  How soon should I follow up after an interview?  You should follow up immediately — definitely within 24 hours.  You want to do it right away so you don’t forget and so they don’t forget who you are.  You should thank them for taking the time to interview you and giving you the opportunity to learn more about their company.  This can be done through an e-mail, voice message or handwritten note.  I would suggest you mention something specific that you talked about in the interview to make them remember you.  Also, if you are sending an e-mail include additional information such as recommendation letters, LinkedIn profile, blogs, online portfolio or video resume.  Remember, each interviewer needs his/her own individual thank you.