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!

Today I Woke Up With No Job (6 Tips to Survive Unemployment)

This statement has been true for me 3 times in my career. Each time was a little bit different – 2 times I had advanced warning and 1 time I did not.  With each period of unemployment lots of different thoughts went through my mind.  What happened? Why me? Was there anything I could have done to avoid this?  Did my manager know more than he was telling me?  What am I going to do?  I was also thinking to myself – I am intelligent. I have an advanced degree. I’m professional.  I’m not lazy and I know I am qualified to do several types of jobs.  So why am I unemployed?

I have fully come to understand how not having a job (and a job title) is directly correlated to your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  Do you have any idea how humiliating and humbling it is for someone to ask you where you work and you have to say, “I don’t have job” or “I got laid off” or “I was fired from my job.”  Trust me….it’s not a good feeling at all.  Then on top of that people keep asking you about it every time they see you or talk to you, which just adds to the “shame.”

Nonetheless, each unemployment period was a great time of reflection for me. I was able to ask myself some very pertinent questions. Who am I? What do I like to do? What am I good at?  What am I passionate about?  Where do I want to be in 5 years?  Why didn’t I save more money?  Were the job and my co-workers really that bad? And ultimately, what have I learned from this experience?  So if this is you right now and you woke up this morning with no job, I am hoping to give you a few tips that may help you cope with this time of unemployment and uncertainty.

1) Get Some Rest

Let me repeat….BE SURE TO GET PLENTY OF REST!!  When is the last time you slept past 9:00?  (I’ll wait.)  Well, now you can!!! It won’t be long before you are back in the “rat race” and having to set your alarm clock to get up at 5 or 6 AM, so enjoy your leisure lifestyle while you can.  I know some of you have a spouse and/or children who depend on you and you still have to get up each morning at a certain time, but you can make up for it by taking a mid-day nap.  Ya know, it occurred to me one day how busy I get and how little time I have to actually spend in the house that I am paying for.  I realized one day that I never really spend anytime in my guest bedrooms.  So while I was unemployed, I made up for it by taking naps in those rooms during the middle of the day. If you really want to be a rebel, don’t even get dressed and just lounge on the couch most of the day.  Hey, you are paying to live there so be sure to get your money’s worth!! Get some rest.

2) Reassess Needs And Wants

Unemployment is a perfect time to reflect on what you really need and want in your career.  Do you want to switch industries? Do you need a job with flextime so you can drop your kids off at daycare?  Do you want a job where you don’t have to go into the office everyday?  Do you want a job with a 15 – 20 minute commute?  Assess what you want and absolutely have to have in a job. In addition, you can Google ‘free career assessment test’ and take one of the many tests online to see what career might be best for you.  Even if you are an experienced professional, it may not be a bad idea to take the test just to affirm your strengths, weaknesses, personality type, etc.  The more honest you are with yourself and where you are in your career, the easier it will be for you to find a job that works best for you.

3) Develop A Plan

While I do suggest that you get some rest, I also highly suggest that you develop a plan of action after you’re done resting and reassessing. Your plan at minimal should consist of the following:

a) Updating your resume/cover letter – I suggest that you let a professional do this because you have an emotional attachment to the information and may not be able to market yourself appropriately.

b) Uploading your resume and setting up job search agents on websites – You may want to do a few general ones (indeed.com or simplyhired.com) and a few that are specific to your industry and city.  Five or six websites should suffice.

c) Saturating your network – Once you’ve updated your resume, send it to those in your network and let them know what you are interested in.  LinkedIn is great for increasing your network and communicating with people who may be able to help you.  You must also attend networking events and job fairs.  Remember, sometimes you have to be bold to reach your goals.

d) Applying for jobs – I know it seems silly to mention this, but I need to make it clear that you should be applying for jobs until you actually get one.  Don’t get the ‘big head’ and think just because you got through 2 or 3 interviews, you are guaranteed the job.  Even if you are 99% certain you will get the job offer, KEEP APPLYING TO OTHER JOBS!!!

4) Set Daily/Weekly Goals

If you are going to file for unemployment, they will have a goal for you which may be 4 or 5 job search activities each week.   But aside from that, you should set your own personal goals.  Determine what you want to accomplish each day and week.  Now, I will be honest and say that looking for jobs everyday can be a very monotonous and draining process.  So it is necessary for you to switch up your routine.  Some days you may get up first thing and look for a job and network with others.  Other times you may relax during the day and do your job searching at night.  During one of my unemployment periods, I would take my laptop to Barnes & Noble once a week and have lunch.  I would stay there 3 – 4 hours looking and applying for jobs; however, the time went by so fast because I was in a different environment.  For each time of unemployment, once I met my goal I stopped looking for the remainder of that week.  So if I met my goal by Wednesday, I didn’t look for a job Thursday – Saturday.   This actually motivated me to stay focused and find my jobs to apply for early in the week.

5) Get a New Hobby / Stay Involved

Think about all the times you said, “I wish I had more time to _____________________.”  Now you do!  Take advantage of the extra time you have to do the things you couldn’t before.  You can repaint your kitchen.  You can go on a field trip with your son or daughter.  You can get a membership to a gym or enroll in a salsa class.  If you are already involved in the community through your sorority/fraternity or a non-profit organization, be sure to stay involved.  This will keep you motivated and give your brain a chance to think of something other than your unemployment.

6) Reward Yourself For Your Accomplishments

Of course I don’t know where you are financially, so only you can decide what is an appropriate reward for yourself.  For some it may be something as relaxing as a manicure/pedicure or as simple as going out for ice cream or a movie.  For others it may be a weekend trip out-of-town or front row tickets to a concert.  Either way you should have rewards for yourself when you have accomplished those goals listed above.  It will keep you energized and motivated.  Even though you are unemployed, you still have to take care of yourself and your mental health.  Go ahead and spend a little on yourself…..you are worth it!

As you get older and mature, you realize you are much more than what your job title says you are.   You are much more than the name tag they gave you to wear at work. Use this time of unemployment to really get to know and fall in love with yourself. Who are you really? Being unemployed for some time can be a bit of a good thing.  I know it doesn’t feel good right now, but it will work out for your good.  I’ve learned to describe my time of unemployment as a time of transition.  I have learned to be still and listen to that small voice that says – YES YOU CAN and YES YOU WILL!  I know this isn’t what you had planned for your life, but guess what – dreams change.  Your dream job is right around the corner and it will be the perfect job for you.  Now let me boldly proclaim to you what I have had to whisper several times to myself….hold on, the best is yet to come!  This too shall pass!

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.

12 Things You Do to Annoy your Co-Workers (That They Will Probably Never Tell You)

I have worked several different jobs during my career.  I have worked in 3 different industries in 5 different states.  I have been a manager and I have been an employee.  I have worked on small teams and big teams. Sometimes I was the youngest on the my team and sometimes I was the oldest.  I have been the only female on my team and I have also been the only African-American on my team.  With all of these different experiences, one thing always remained true….sometimes my co-workers annoyed me.

I know this is a touchy subject but somebody had to address the “elephant in the room.”  We go to work each day and interact with hundreds of people and let’s face it…people are different.  And because people are different, their work ethic is different.  Their idea of what is appropriate and not appropriate varies.  They have individual ideas of what is acceptable personal space.  I mean, has anybody stopped and really thought about this?  What happened to respect and etiquette in the workplace?  Are there any “rules” anymore on professionalism?  Or do we just do whatever we feel is right without regard to other people and how it may make them feel?

Regardless of how you may feel personally, hopefully you can agree that there should be a difference between how you act in the office and how you act in your own home.  Things that may be acceptable to do around your family and friends may not be acceptable to do around co-workers.  So since I’m not your co-worker, I felt it was safe for me to just bring a few things to your attention on their behalf.   Take a deep breath….here are some things that you do in the workplace that your co-workers find annoying (but will probably never tell you):

1.  They would like you to stop opening their office door and walking in without knocking.

Generally when people have their door closed it is because they are trying to concentrate on their work or may be on the phone or may be having a private discussion with a co-worker.  It’s kind of a way of saying “only disturb if really necessary” and when you just open the door and walk in, it is a lack of respect for their personal space.  Think about it this way…would you walk into someone’s home without knocking?  Of course an office is not the same as a house, but it is sort of their “home away from home” and your walking in without knocking it is borderline intrusive.

2.  They really would like you to not leave your dirty dishes/trash all over the break room.

I know some of you have seen the sign that says, “Please clean up after yourself. Your mother does not work here.”  Please, please take that to heart and clean up after yourself when you are eating your lunch or a snack in the break room. Remember, other people have to use that space as well.  I mean really??!!  Who is going to throw your trash away for you?  It only takes a few seconds to throw something away or wash your bowl after you are done using it.

3.  Your team members do not like when you assign a task to them when they are absent.

I have had this happen to me before and I was very displeased.  And then to make matters worse, my team lead told everyone I volunteered to do the task!  What?!!  Put yourself in the absent person’s shoes.  You wouldn’t like it if you missed a meeting and then were informed that you have been assigned to do a task that no one else wanted to do.  Give your co-workers the professional courtesy of knowing about the task and having the opportunity to decline if they are not interested.

4.  Not everyone wants to see pictures of your pets.

Your pets may be cute and like a part of the family to YOU but not necessarily to everyone else. So please keep this in mind the next time you are eating lunch with your co-workers and decide to pull up pictures of your pets on your cell phone and pass it around the table….multiple times!

5.  They would like you to wait more than 5 minutes after sending them an email before asking if they received it.

There is nothing more annoying than when you send an email to someone and then go knock on their door or stop them in the hallway 2 minutes after sending it to ask them about it.  Of course, I know there are some emergency situations that require an immediate response, but most emails can wait.  Also, if you are continuously overbearing in this area it may give the perception that you feel your work is more important than theirs.  This could be insulting to them.  Try being more patient when waiting for responses from your co-workers.  Remember, they are just as busy as you are.

6. If you are going to bring your children to work, they want you to make sure they are well-behaved.

I won’t say anymore so you don’t get upset and stop reading this blog.

7.  Supervisors, all of your employees do not want to have lunch or go to happy hour with you.

Your employees spend at least 8 hours a day at work and oftentimes their lunch break is the only “free” time they get.  It is the time they use to decompress and take their mind off of work for a minute or perhaps run an errand.  They don’t necessarily want to spend that free time with you as their supervisor because they feel like they are still at work and can’t relax completely.  Honestly, there are certain comments they can make in front of their other team members that they can’t make in front of you. So if they have to be on edge or watch what they say then it’s really not free time, but more of an extended team meeting.  And when it comes to happy hours, they definitely want to be able have a good time and unwind and that’s not always possible if the boss is around.

8.  If you drink coffee and eat birthday cake regularly, they want you to contribute to the coffee/birthday fund.

This is self-explanatory.

9.  Managers, your team members want the meetings to be shorter and less frequent.

Your team members do not want to sit through weekly meetings and listen to you do all the talking for an hour or more.  If there is no way around the frequency or length of the meetings, at least try to make them more interesting.  Team meetings are actually a great time to do in-house professional development; in that, during each meeting a different team member could do a mini-presentation on a topic. I am sure there is plethora of knowledge on your team and this way everyone showcases their area of expertise.  Sometimes, incorporating a team building exercise makes the meetings more enjoyable.  You could even include snacks during the meetings every now and then to ease the mood. Trust me…food ALWAYS works!

10.  They really wish you wouldn’t play your music or talk on the phone so loudly that it/you can be heard down the hall.

You have to share the same work space with your co-workers for 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week. So a little bit of consideration on your part would go a long way.  Not everyone has the same taste in music and I am 100% positive everyone does not want to overhear your conversation with your mother about Sunday dinner.

(True story:  I had a co-worker who sat in the cubicle next to mine and made/answered EVERY single phone call on speakerphone.  The most annoying part was every Monday he was on a conference call for over an hour….and yes he had it on speakerphone LOUDLY.  This went on for weeks.  I went to him twice and asked him to please turn the volume down and/or get a headset to listen to the conference call, but of course he ignored my request and continued to do it.  One day during the Monday conference call, I could not take it any longer and went over to his cubicle and turn the volume down on his phone myself.  He looked at me in utter disbelief but it solved the problem. He never listen to the conference call on speakerphone again and shortly thereafter got a headset.)

11.  Your team members wish you would stop being so nosey.

Ouch! I know this may sting a little bit so I will be very gentle.  Not everyone is an open book like you are.  Some people are just very private and conservative.  My dad used to always say, “People will tell you what they want you to know.”  All of your co-workers don’t want to talk about what they did over the weekend or show you pictures from their vacation.  You cannot make other people act or think or be like you! And for heaven sakes, stop being so paranoid and asking a lot of questions whenever you see them talking to someone who you don’t know in the hallway or in their office!!  It doesn’t mean they’re up to something or conspiring behind your back.  (Let this marinate…….)

12. Managers, your team members do not like you when immediately start talking about business first thing in the morning.

Most people quit jobs because of their manager – not the actual work itself.  Your team members are human beings and not robots.  They have personal lives. They have issues and they have feelings.  It CAN’T always be about work all the time.  You have to take a moment and show some compassion and speak to the human side by asking about how their sick son or daughter is doing.  I am sure by the end of the day the project will be completed and all the emails will get answered, but first thing in the morning is not always the best time to ask about it.  If you show genuine concern for your employees, they will be more enthusiastic and the work you are concerned about just might get finished by noon!

Now, these are just a few that I’ve noticed and I know you want to add some of your own.  You probably also want a few of your co-workers to read this blog as well, but the hard part is getting them to see it, right?  Well, maybe you could post it anonymously in the break room….right above those dirty dishes.

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.

What Does Your Resume Say About You?

Have you ever wondered what an employer thinks when he/she looks at your resume?

POORLY WRITTEN RESUME

John Doe

1234 W. Campbell Road        Dallas, TX 75240          214-890-7654         studforlife@gmail.com

Employer:  Email address means he is immature.

Summary of Qualifications:  Excellent verbal and written communication skills, team player, detail-oriented, people person, great attitude, hard worker, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Access.

Employer:  Candidate does not know that I am busy and only have 10 seconds to look at this resume.  Does not know how to sell/brand himself – did not summarize who he is.  Has not researched the job/company because he did not tailor his resume – no keywords or industry terms.  Probably sending out same resume to all jobs he is applying for. Can just say Microsoft Office instead of listing them individually.  Candidate is lazy.  I really should stop reading this resume at this point.

Education:  UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS      Bachelor of Hospitality Management        GPA: 2.75

Employer:  Candidate is putting more emphasis on school name than degree received because it is in ALL CAPS.  Does not know the actual degree he is getting.  Does not know how to sell his education and what he learned. I have no idea when I can hire this person because they did not put a graduation date.  Does not know that you don’t list GPA less than 3.0 but since he listed it, it shows he is not focused.  I don’t know where this school is because he did not list city and state.

Work History:   OLIVE GARDEN               Host                       1/2012 – 5/2012

  • Cleaned tables and swept the floor
  • Flexible, worked every position and a variety of shifts
  • Answered the phone
  • Straightened lobby area
  • Always on time
  • Worked while going to school full-time

EMPLOYER:  Placed more emphasis on company name than job title.  Only worked here 4 months – may be a job hopper.  Doesn’t know how to list accomplishments. Took up too much space on his resume with this job because he listed 6 bullets for a job he was only at for 4 months.  Poor written communication skills which contradicts “Excellent verbal and written communication skills” in Summary of Qualifications.  I don’t know where this job is because he did not list city and state. 

Student Organizations/Professional Affiliations:      None

EMPLOYER:  Not well-rounded.  Not active in the community.  Not a leader in his industry.  Doesn’t have networking skills.  Probably lacks training in professional development.   

————————————————————————————–

WELL WRITTEN RESUME

John Doe

1234 W. Campbell Road                Dallas, TX 75240                214-890-7654           johndoe@unt.edu

Employer:  No red flags yet!

Summary of Qualifications:

  • Speaks English and Spanish fluently and can communicate with a variety of customers
  • 4 years’ experience in customer service and 2 years’ experience in the hotel industry
  • Experience balancing cash drawer at end of shift totaling $2K or more
  • Strong passion for helping others and serving as first point of contact
  • Adept to working at a fast pace and handling a high volume of phone calls daily (50+)
  • Demonstrated history in upselling to meet customers’ individual needs and exceeding sales goals
  • Ability to serve as a liaison between different departments and interact with individuals on all levels
  • Proven track record in resolving customer issues to ensure complete guest satisfaction
  • Computer Skills:  Frontdesk Anywhere, RoomKey PMS, Social Media, Microsoft Office

Employer:  Candidate has tailored this section to match my job description and has given me tangible information to sell his skills and abilities.  I want to keep reading to find out more.

Education:

Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management           University of North Texas, Denton, TX             Expected Graduation:  May 2013

Major GPA:  3.4                                                                 Dean’s List  (2011-2012)

Relevant Coursework:  Introduction to Hospitality, Restaurant Operations I & II, Food Sanitation, Business Ethics, Business Communications and Contemporary  Issues in Business.

Employer:  Candidate placed emphasis on his degree because it is listed first.  I can hire this candidate soon because he graduates in May.  I have an idea of courses he has taken and what he has been exposed to.  His GPA shows he is focused on his studies. 

Work History:

Host (temporary)                  Olive Garden                        Dallas, TX                1/2012 – 5/2012

  • Greeted 200+ guests daily upon entering the restaurant and determined their needs i.e. dine in, take out, preferred seating, etc.
  • Answered customers’ questions and addressed their concerns via phone, face-to-face, and interactive website
  • Assisted 5 – 7 team members per shift with delivering orders in a timely manner and maintaining a visually appealing environment

Employer:  Candidate placed emphasis on the job tile.  He was hired in as a temp so that explains why he only worked there 4 months.  Can handle high volume of customers in person and from remote locations.  Will do what it takes to make sure the team is successful.  Probably good at speaking with others and making them feel comfortable.  Listed most important tasks to show accomplishments.  I would feel comfortable having him interact with  my clients.  This person is trainable.

Student Organizations/Professional Affiliations:

National Society of Minorities in Hospitality        2011 – Present

  • Treasurer    2012

Professional Leadership Program                       2012

UNT Green Jackets                                               2011

Employer:  Candidate is active on campus.  Has leadership experience and is concerned about his community.  I definitely want to find out more about him.  I am going to call him for an interview!

———————————-

If you need assistance with restructuring your resume, please contact Dena Bilbrew at resumelady101@gmail.com.