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!

20 Resumes Myths Dispelled

1.  The purpose of a resume is to get a job.

NO! The purpose of a resume is to highlight your qualifications for a SPECIFIC job so you will get an interview.   Thus, the resume leads to the interview.  After the interview is the follow-up, job offer and THEN the job.

2.  You should have 1 resume and use it apply for all jobs.

FALSE!!!  This is the worst thing you could and really is a waste of your time.  You should have a general resume to use as your foundation and then tweak your resume for EACH job that you apply for.

3.  It is best to use a resume template and just fill in your information.

The best thing to do is to start with a blank document.  This will allow you to format and space the document how you want as templates could limit your space and not be easily manipulated.

4.  It is always best to use a chronological format.

This is simply not true!  The best format to use is the one that highlights your qualifications the best whether that is a chronological, functional or mixed format.   The chronological format normally shows progression in your career and education.   The functional format focuses on your actual skills and not when or where you got them.   The mixed format is a mixture of the two.

5.  Your resume should go back as far as your first job and include all the jobs you’ve had.

Generally speaking, your resume should go back only 10 years and include previous/current jobs that are relevant to the job you are seeking. However, there are some exceptions.  If you are seeking a senior level/executive management position, the employer will probably want to see ALL of your experience which will qualify you for the job.

NOTE: If you are using a curriculum vitae (CV), it can be as long as you want it to be.  CVs are typically used in the following industries: education, research, medical, dental, and those seeking a Ph.D.

6.  Your resume should only be 1 page.

If you have enough experience/education to require a 2nd page, then by all means don’t short change yourself trying to get it to fit on 1 page.  (Tip:  Decrease your margins on your resume to 1/2 an inch and that will help with the formatting and give you more room to work with.  Be sure your name is on each page in case they get separated. Also, never print on the back of the page.)

7.  It is okay to use any font and font size.

You should always be mindful of the industry you are pursuing and what is acceptable for that particular industry.  It would be safe to stick with fonts that are legible.  However, DO NOT use Times New Roman because that is the default font in Microsoft Word and everyone uses it. To make your resume instantly stand out, pick another font.  Your font size should never be less than 10.  Your name and headings can be up to font size 16 or 18.  You want these 2 things to stand out the most for obvious reasons.

8.  Resumes should have no color or designs on them.

It is okay to use color in some instances, just be conservative.  I have seen resumes with the name and headings in a different color than the body of the resume.  Again, be mindful of the industry you are going into.  Color may be more acceptable in Marketing or Advertising versus Accounting or Information Technology.  If you have a personal design or QR code (www.qrstuff.com) that you have created, it is acceptable to use that as well.

9.  The objective should list the specific job or industry you are targeting.

There should be NO OBJECTIVE on your resume…..I repeat…….NO OBJECTIVE!! That is old school…say 1995…..and we don’t do that anymore.  Most objectives are very generic and you sound just like everybody else.  Objective:  Seeking a challenging position in a successful company where I may utilize my skills and have an opportunity for advancement.  Sound familiar?  DELETE IT NOW!!!!

10. You should list all of your education/certifications/training.

Generally, I would say list what you have earned in the last 10 years.  Definitely remove high school once you have obtained an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree.  Once you have been out of school for 10 years, remove the graduation date because it will age you.  Of course, there are exceptions such as education and the medical and dental fields where it is necessary to show your comprehensive education.

11. You should only include experience on your resume that you were paid for.

This is 100% false.  Your resume should include ALL experience that qualifies you for a particular job – whether paid or unpaid.  So it is quite acceptable to include volunteer work, community involvement and professional organizations on your resume.

12. If you have worked multiple positions/locations for a company you should list them separately on your resume.

You can list them separately; however, it would probably be best to combine them to show a longer work history with the company.  Below is an example of someone who has worked 2 positions in 2 different locations for one bank:

Chase Bank                Dallas/Plano, TX           2005 – Present

Branch Manager (2010 – Present)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

Bank Teller (2005 – 2010)

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

13. You  should include information about your employer on your resume such as company website, address, phone number, etc.

Absolutely not!  The resume is about YOU not the employer. Don’t waste space on your resume with company information.  All of these things go on an application.  If you want to highlight a specific contribution that may be listed on the company’s website, you can include a hyperlink that will take the employer directly to your accomplishment.

14. You should put the exact month and year that you started and ended each job.

It is unnecessary unless the employer specifically asks for you to include this information on your resume.  Not including the months gives the illusion that you worked somewhere longer.  This may be helpful for those who have job hopped and/or only worked short periods of time at a company.

15. You should put ‘References Available Upon Request’ at the bottom of your resume.

This is old school as well…..say 1985.  You should list 3 professional references on a separate sheet of paper with your name at the top and have it already prepared to provide should the employer ask you for it.  You want to include the following information: Name, Title, Company, Email Address and Phone Number.  Be sure to call your references ahead of time, send them a copy of your resume, and let them know that a potential employer may be calling them about you.

16. It is best to upload and send your resume as a Microsoft Word document.

The best way to save and send your resume is as a PDF document to ensure that the formatting does not shift.  Also, this keeps your information from being altered.

17. You don’t need to bring your resume with you to an interview because the employer already has it.

False!  This is a huge misconception.  You should ALWAYS bring at least 3 copies of your resume with you when you go for an interview.  You may be surprised and be interviewed by multiple people and they each need their own copy.  Also, your resume should always be printed on resume paper for a more polished look.

18. You should staple your cover letter, references and business card to your resume.

NEVER put a staple in your resume!  If it is more than 1 page or you want to submit it along with additional items, always paperclip them.

19. You should only update your resume when you are actively looking for a job.

Actually, you should constantly update your resume – probably once every 6 months.  You may not remember every skill you acquire or training class or accomplishment.  So it is best to update it consistently so that when you are ready to submit it for a job, you do not have to think about everything you have done for the past 2  – 3 years.

20. An employer will take 2 – 3 minutes to look over your resume to determine if you have the skills they are looking for.

FALSE!!  Employers receive nearly 100 resumes for every 1 job that they post.  So they will initially take 10 seconds to browse over your resume to see if they like you or not.  Ten seconds will determine if your resume goes in the ‘call pile’ or the ‘do not call pile.’  Use your 10 seconds wisely!!

 

Is There a Cure for Boredom in the WorkPlace?

It is 3:00 PM. You are staring at the clock on the wall thinking to yourself – “Man, I have 2 more hours.” This is the same time each day that you have to push yourself to concentrate just a little while longer so you can get through the rest of the day. You go through your daily “3:00 routine” – go to the bathroom, go to the vending machine downstairs to get a Coke, stop by your co-worker’s office to chat for a minute, and then reluctantly head back to your cave….uh… I mean your office. You sit there for a while thinking to yourself –  it has happened again…I’m bored.  This boredom is not because you don’t have work to do and it’s not necessarily because you don’t like the work that you do, but you are just simply bored. You contemplate leaving early for the day but you know you can’t because you want to call in “sick” later in the week.  And you have a report you need to get to your boss by EOD.  So, you are stuck at work. To pass some of the time away you check your personal email, get on social media to see if anyone commented on the last thing you posted, and you may even spend a little time perusing some websites looking for a job. BUT after all of this only 25 minutes has passed and you are still bored.

Why does this happen? Why do we get bored in the workplace? Initially when we started working at our job, we were excited to be there and couldn’t wait to tackle the issues for the day. Now some time has gone by and we’ve mastered our job duties.  We’ve built a good rapport with our team members and clients and our boss treats us good (most of the time).  We even have some great perks.  But what happened? Where did the enthusiasm go? At what point did we start hitting the snooze button on the alarm multiple times to prolong the fact that we must get up and go to work?

I’m sure we could go on and on with reasons why we get bored in the workplace, but I think there is something more important to focus on – is there a cure? I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I want to propose a few suggestions.

1) Tell Your Supervisor

I know you are thinking to yourself….No way, I’m not telling my supervisor anything because there may be repercussions.  Well, I don’t exactly mean walk into your boss’ office tomorrow and say, “I’m bored.”  You will have to be a little bit more creative in your approach.  Perhaps you could mention that you aren’t feeling challenged anymore and would like to gain some additional skills.  You may be surprised at how simple it can be.  I did this once and I must admit I was nervous, but I was very candid with my supervisor.  I said something like “When you hired me, you hired me to do my best work and I can no longer do that in my current position.  I feel that my skills would be better used in another area.  I am very passionate and like to do quality work. I want to be able to give 100% everyday and if I’m not able to do that I don’t feel like I’m doing my part.”

Remember what I said about a creative approach?  Pour it on thick.

2) Switch Roles/Teams

After you tell your supervisor you want to gain additional skills or use your current skills somewhere else, figure out if there is another role you could play on your current team. Another option would be to move to another team altogether within your company. This could be a win-win situation and hopefully an easy transition. The only change will be that your office will be on the 4th floor instead of the 3rd.  (It will also help with those who are concerned about how job hopping will look on their resume.)

Now the conclusion to my story…..After I told my supervisor I could be better used in another area, he asked me what I would like to do.  I said, “I would like to be the Career Planning Instructor.”  He asked me why and I gave him my reasons and literally within 1 week I moved to another department and was teaching my first class.

3) Change Your Schedule

Perhaps you have been working 8:00 – 5:00 Monday – Friday for the last 4 years.  Try coming in 9:00 – 6:00 or 10:00 – 7:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Sometimes just making a slight change in your schedule makes all the difference.  A few other suggestions are working from home 1 – 2 days a week or working 9 hour days Monday – Thursday and a 4 hour day on Friday.

I recently implemented a change in my work schedule myself.  I was working 8:15 – 5:15 most days and I felt rushed trying to get to work by that time and normally was dragging in.  Now I work 9:00 – 6:00 and was amazed at how much of a difference 45 minutes made.  I don’t feel like I have to rush in the mornings plus I miss some of the rush hour traffic; thus, I am much more relaxed when I arrive at work.

4) Attend Networking Events / Professional Development

Do a little bit of research to see what professional organizations are in your city pertaining to your industry.  I don’t think your supervisor will have a problem giving you some time to attend an industry networking event or a conference.  You can also enroll in some classes and get another degree or some certifications.  Be sure to mention that the more you learn about the industry, the more knowledge you have to bring back to the company.  (wink wink)  Hopefully your department has a professional development budget that will pay for your costs associated with these things.

5) Spice Up Your Personal Life

Now you can interpret this any way you want to but what I am suggesting is maybe taking salsa lessons or joining the choir at church or remodeling your home or taking more vacations.  If you have more exciting things going on in your personal life, it takes your mind off the frustration that can be caused by your job.  You actually have something to look forward to once you leave work and it can make the day go by faster.  (And don’t get me wrong……if you meet someone “special” that would be great too!)

6) Find Another Job

Unfortunately (or fortunately) this may be the only option. After you have exercised all of the above suggestions, this may be the only cure.  But BEFORE you start looking for another job, do some soul-searching and figure out what you truly want in a job.  If not, you will be right back in this same spot in a few years.  Hey, having to find another job is not always a bad thing and can be quite rewarding if you do your research beforehand.  When you are interviewing for your next job, be sure to ask how they value work/life balance and how they feel about professional development.  You can ask about the management style and culture of the office and if there is an opportunity for a flexible schedule.

Like I said, these are just some of the things that I suggest and have actually done.  I am eager to hear from you and what you do when you are bored in the workplace.  Leave your “cure” in the comment section.

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.

The Art of Interviewing – Get Them to Like You

It is the day of the interview.  You are professionally dressed.  You have done your research.  You have practiced answering interview questions and you have your questions written down that you want to ask the employer.  You are all set! Your main goal is to get this job.   Not exactly…..your main goal should be to get them to LIKE you.  If an employer really likes you, they will “find” something for you to do.  Even if they select someone else for the particular position you are interviewing for, they will contact you about doing something else within the company.

A few years ago I applied for a position as an Administrative Assistant for the Executive Vice President of a company.  On the day of the interview the Exec. VP was running late so he had another manager start the interview.  About 10 minutes into the interview he came in and observed me as the manager continued to ask me questions.  When he finally spoke the first thing he said was, “I can tell by your demeanor, your resume, and how you are responding to these questions that you could be doing a lot more for our company than the job you applied for.”  Wow…talk about shocked!!  He proceeded to tell me about the other openings they had available and asked what area I would be interested in.  I picked Career Services and he had the Regional Director of Career Services, who just so happened to be at the corporate office that day, interview me right on the spot!  I got the job and begin coaching others on how to be successful in their careers.

Now,  I will be honest and say I didn’t go into the interview with any expectation other than to answer some questions and maybe get the job as an Administrative Assistant.  But, I now know the power of getting them to LIKE you.  Had I not taken the interview seriously and not been professional and given it my all, I would not have impressed the Exec. VP and consequently would not have found my passion.

So, for your next interview THINK BIG….don’t just focus on getting the particular job you applied for.  Go in with the mindset that they need you at their company and you are going to show them why.  Here’s how you get them to LIKE you:

1. Be nice to everyone you meet. On the day of the interview be nice and professional with everyone you come in contact with.  DO NOT underestimate the receptionist!

2.  Make the best of the situation and be enthusiastic.  Even if you find that the job might not be a good fit for you still be professional and answer the questions the best you can.

3. Show them who you really are.  Chances are you have many skills that would be useful in several positions in the company.  Be sure to convey that to the employer.

4. Show interest.  Asking questions and taking notes is a great way to show your interest in the job and the company.  Don’t forget to do your research beforehand.

5. Solve a problem for them.  Ask what some of the challenges are that they are currently facing and offer a solution to the problem right on the spot.  If you can do this, you are a genius!

6. Follow up.   Follow up with EVERYONE you interviewed with.  Thank them individually for the opportunity and send them additional information about you – recommendation letters, video resume, LinkedIn profile, personal website, blog, etc.  This will keep you on their mind.