Scary interview moments

Let’s face it—interviews can be downright scary. Many of us, no matter how much work experience or charisma we possess, feel intimidated when we’re being analyzed and assessed by recruiters and hiring managers during interviews. Even basic communication with human resources professionals can feel daunting. We don’t want to use too many exclamation points, but if we don’t use ANY, will they understand our enthusiasm regarding the job opening? There’s a lot to consider and many steps to take prior to and during a job interview.

Hopefully these two videos and tips will help you walk through the interview process unscathed and come out on the other side with a job offer in hand.


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Scary interview moments (and how to overcome your fears):

Calling and emailing to inquire about interview details.

After you’ve landed the job interview, you might need to contact the employer to verify details. Of course, my first suggestion is to prevent this situation. You can do this by asking a few key questions when the interviewer contacts you. Take notes when the recruiter calls you to schedule the interview or save the email you receive containing pertinent information. During that initial call, or immediately after receiving the initial email, verify time, date, and location. If you’re unfamiliar with the job site or interview location, ask clarifying questions or request a physical address. Don’t forget to ask where to go within the building and where to sign in when you arrive, either.

If you forget to ask these questions, or if you think of other questions you might need to ask, don’t hesitate to call or email the employer prior to the interview. But use caution—no recruiter wants to respond to 10 emails from a candidate before she’s ever interviewed the candidate.

Backing out of an interview if you decide you’re not interested.

If you decide the job opening isn’t a good fit for you, or if you land another job after scheduling the interview, you need to respect the potential employer enough to politely decline the interview opportunity. I suggest doing this via a short email so there’s a lasting record of your communication; voicemails are too easily deleted and forgotten.

Even if you don’t believe you’ll ever be interested in working for the company in the future, be prompt and polite when declining interview opportunities. You might change your mind and apply for a different job opening in a few months. Or the recruiter you’re communicating with might leave that company, and you may find yourself facing her when you apply with Company B in a few months. Ending on good terms is key to successful professional networking.

Running late to a job interview.

Again, prevention works better in this case than damage control. Try to avoid arriving late by taking extra precautions against tardiness. Allow yourself about twice as much time as usual to shower, dress, eat, and drive to the interview location. Set at least two alarms so you won’t oversleep. Allow yourself at least 5-10 minutes of quiet reflection time before leaving for the interview. And plan to pull into the company parking lot about 10-15 minutes prior to your actual interview time.

If all these tips don’t work, and you run into unforeseen problems on the way (such as a horrible traffic jam), call or email the employer immediately. Don’t wait until five minutes before the interview starts to call to notify the employer you’re running late. Call as soon as you realize you simply don’t have enough time to arrive promptly. And by all means, don’t make up ridiculous stories about having to stop your car at the end of the driveway to help an elderly woman carry groceries into her house, which held you up for an hour… or anything equally as unbelievable. Employers aren’t stupid, and they’d rather you simply let them know you’re running five minutes late than listen to your false fish stories.

Understand that if you’re late to a job interview, your chances for landing the job drop significantly. You’re communicating to the employer that the interview appointment simply wasn’t important enough to you to ensure prompt arrival. Arriving late demonstrates lack of time management skills—and all employers want to hire candidates who demonstrate mastery of this soft skill. Whether you feel this way or not is irrelevant, so do your best to arrive a little early and avoid this scary predicament.


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Deciding what to wear to a job interview.

Selecting interview attire can feel overwhelming. You want to make a great first impression. Do it by selecting interview attire which is appropriate, comfortable, and professional. And yes, you can find a suit which meets all three criteria! If you’re uncomfortable and wear clothing which is too tight, too long, too short, or another TOO, you’ll be unable to focus on responding to interview questions. And if you under dress, you’ll quickly recognize your mistake and will feel embarrassed throughout the interview. You might think it’s okay to wear jeans because the dress policy at that company calls for casual attire. Don’t. If the employees wear jeans, you still need to wear interview-appropriate attire. Go for business casual if you’re interviewing with a casual organization. Wear a suit otherwise.

If you can’t afford a suit, pair up separates which create the impression of a suit. If you’re a male, by all means, wear a tie and shine your shoes. And if you’re a female, avoid super high heels, excessive perfume or makeup, and over-the-top accessories. It’s also important to remember that your appearance includes your facial expression and non-verbal communication. When you greet the employer, smile. Ensure your posture is open (don’t cross your arms or fidget with your purse). Leave your phone in the car or at least put it on silent mode.

Realizing you are poorly prepared for the interview.

When you don’t research the company/position, you’ll have a sinking feeling in your stomach when asked, “What do you know about our company?” or “Why are you interested in working here?” And you WILL be asked these questions—most employers ask common interview questions, even if they word them a little differently.

You can prevent this by spending plenty of time researching the company and the job role online. If you know current employees, reach out to them and ask their opinions of the work environment, company culture, supervisors, etc. Wouldn’t you rather learn that your potential boss carries a terrible, micromanaging reputation BEFORE the interview than AFTER you’ve accepted the position?

You’ll also need to practice responding to interview questions, especially those tricky questions about why you’re leaving your employer or why you were out of work for two years. Think carefully about your interview outfit, and map directions to the interview site (whether you prefer printed directions or simply enter the location into your smartphone).

Answering difficult interview questions.

We all get tired of responding to the same old commonly asked interview questions. But guess what? You’ll probably be asked those same questions, so you better prepare to respond well. The best way to prepare to respond to interview questions is to schedule a mock interview with a career coach. If you can’t afford to pay for professional interview coaching, at least print out common interview questions and ask a friend or family member to grill you a few times. Or if you’re more comfortable preparing on your own, sit in front of a mirror while responding to questions or record yourself responding to questions using your webcam.

Interview coaching not only helps you prepare the right words to say, but it also helps you avoid the wrong phrasing. A career coach can also provide objective feedback regarding your body language, level of anxiety, and more.

Overcoming general anxiety and introversion during the interview.

Let me assure you that you’re not the only one who feels anxious about interviews. I rarely work with a client who expresses total confidence before a job interview. Even if you aren’t introverted, you may feel anxious because you haven’t interviewed for jobs in years or because you genuinely want to land the job and don’t want to screw up during the interview.

There are many ways you can ease your anxiety and even overcome introversion. Prepare and practice. Research the company. Dress appropriately, comfortably, and professionally.  Follow every bit of advice in this article and on the videos, and you’ll find that you’re much less nervous. You can also ease your nerves by avoiding cigarettes and excessive caffeine before the interview, getting plenty of sleep in advance, and eating a well-balanced meal or snack with water.

Getting rid of anxiety can help you perform well throughout the interview process and end the interview knowing you have a great chance of being selected to fill the position.

The interview process can genuinely be scary. But there are so many ways you can prevent your fears from standing in between you and your dream job. Reach out to me to schedule an interview coaching session and to up your odds of interview success.

What am I doing wrong in my job search?

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked this question, I’d be working remotely while at the beach on vacation! Frustrated job seekers who’ve been searching for a new job for months or even years obviously want to identify the problems they’re facing. And when working with clients, I am repeatedly asked to help them identify those problems.

There are a few times when I’ve worked with job seekers facing clear discrimination in the job search. Perhaps a company is retaliating against them and refusing to give them a good reference for no factually based reason. Maybe the job seeker identifies as a minority, and recruiters express bias during the job search. But more often than not, when job seekers continue to search for a long period of time and do not land a great job, the problem lies with the candidate’s job search strategy.

I recently recorded two videos to help frustrated job seekers identify the problems in their job search. Hopefully these videos can help you, too, if you find yourself working very hard to land a job but feel like you’re spinning your wheels.


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  1. Take a look at your resume. Almost always, when a client tells me he’s been applying for countless jobs and receiving no interview offers, the client’s resume isn’t working for him for one reason or another. I can help you identify the reasons and fix the problems.
  2. Maybe your resume looks fantastic, but your branding efforts are nil or negative. Are you on social media? If you’re avoiding it like the plague, which can actually harm you more than it can help you. If you’re online but aren’t really taking full advantage of networking and branding opportunities on social media, you may be missing the boat there. Or maybe you’re branding yourself negatively and portraying yourself as the type of employee no one wants to hire. Branding or networking coaching can improve your strategy and up the odds you’ll start landing interview opportunities.
  3. Are you landing interview opportunities but aren’t receiving any job offers? Something is going wrong during the interview process. What is it? Maybe you’re not dressing appropriately. Perhaps you are communicating poorly prior to the interview, and by the time you arrive, the recruiter doesn’t even want to speak to you. Maybe you were running late, and you ruined the opportunity by making a poor first impression. Assess your non-verbal communication skills—what you say without speaking often says more than words. Or maybe you simply need to practice answering common interview questions to discern if your responses are appropriate and effective. Interview coaching is absolutely going to help you.


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  1. Are you getting job offers but keep turning them down? You might need to reassess your career goals. Or perhaps you’re simply applying for positions which don’t list salary ranges, and you’re being offered much less than you’re worth—and don’t know how to negotiate for more.
  2. Lastly, if you’re landing interviews but aren’t landing job opportunities, you should evaluate your soft skills. Employers are looking to hire someone who meets the minimum qualifications and possesses core competencies. But they’re also trying to hire a candidate who will fit in with the company culture and someone who will be a pleasure to work with. Soft skills coaching may be necessary to ensure that you stand out among other candidates (and receive the job offer).

If you find yourself stuck at any point in the job search and are not getting the results you want, reach out to me for help. I want to help you do what you love.

Part 2: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

If you’ve been interviewed more than once, chances are, you’ve been asked this common interview question every single time: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Trust me; you’ll hear it again. Recruiters, talent acquisition leaders, human resources professionals, and hiring managers will keep asking this common interview question during interviews.

Why? It works. It allows employers to see whether you know yourself well (or not), and it demonstrates your ability to respond to tough personal questions without including a lot of clichés which drive employers crazy. In Part 1 of this two-part series, I explained how to provide great examples of your strengths. Now let’s talk about how to provide examples of your weaknesses. This is often the part job seekers feel more nervous and uncomfortable about during mock interviews and interview prep sessions. A little preparation goes a long way; this article should help you work out the kinks and avoid stumbling over your words and thoughts during your next job interview.


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Before I share three primary tips with you for responding to this question, let me share one additional freebie. Do not, for the love of recruiters everywhere, attempt to spin a strength as a weakness. Don’t say something like, “Well, I’m such a perfectionist that it really ends up making it tough for me to stop working sometimes, and that can keep me from moving on to the next project.” No. That is a very 2007 way to respond to this question. I say this because a) I responded to this question in this exact manner in 2007, and b) I advised college students when I worked in career services at that time to respond in that manner. It was okay then. We know better now. So don’t do it.

Here are some general guidelines you can follow when preparing to respond to interviewers about your weaknesses.

  1. Share fewer weaknesses than strengths.

Unless the interviewer specifically asks you to list a certain number of strengths and weaknesses, list fewer weaknesses than strengths. A 3:2 ratio is fine. Don’t be self-deprecating by going on and on about areas of weakness, defects of character, or faults you’ve discovered about yourself. It’s not a sign of great self-awareness. It’s a flaming red flag to employers reading, “Do NOT hire this person.”

  1. Focus on weaknesses you can work on.

List hard skills/technical skills which can be trained or taught. Do not mention soft skills.

Soft skills are, by definition, a combination of talent and ability. If you share that you’re lacking a soft skill, employers start wondering how much you can possibly grow in the talent portion of that soft skill. Even though you can certainly take courses in communication skills, leadership, and problem-solving, employers understand that there will always be that zone of “talent” with every soft skill, and that some candidates will shine and bring more to the table in those areas than others. If public speaking simply isn’t your thing, do not—ever—point that out to an employer during a job interview.

Instead, before your interview think about three hard skills/technical skills in your career field you could share as weaknesses or areas of potential growth/improvement opportunities. Software programs, courses you’d like to take to improve your knowledge in a certain area, and joining professional organizations in order to connect with mentors are all areas of improvement for many of us. We could all do more to become better connected, more knowledgeable, etc.

When you share weaknesses like these, you’re expressing a desire to grow, and you’re admitting that you are not the end-all, be-all SME (subject matter expert). That’s refreshing to employers because no one wants to hire an egomaniac.

  1. Explain your plan for improvement.

Express your desire to take action to improve yourself and to grow. What’s your plan to improve in this areas of weakness? Share it as you wrap up your response to this common interview question.

“I am not the best at editing photos and just haven’t had much experience in previous positions with this task. Even though it’s not a primary task in this position, I’d like to take a course online in PhotoShop to improve my photo editing skills. Then I feel I’d be better suited to help edit photos when needed and be a better contributor to the design team.”

Providing interviewers with your plan for improvement eases their minds. It lets them know that if they hire you, you’ll be a proactive, self-motivated employee. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?

Need more help with interview preparation? Reach out to me to schedule a mock interview/interview prep session.

Part 1: What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Have you been asked this common interview question repeatedly—“What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Chances are, you’ll hear it again. Recruiters, talent acquisition leaders, human resources professionals, and hiring managers will likely continue to include this common interview question in their repertoire.

Why? It works for them. It lets employers know whether you know yourself well (or not), and it demonstrates your ability to respond to tough personal questions without including a lot of clichés which drive employers crazy. In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll discuss how to respond to the first part of this common interview question—“What are your strengths?”


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Be careful when responding to this common interview question and discussing your strengths. There’s a fine line between bragging or stroking your own ego and simply sharing genuine, realistic strengths you possess. The difference comes down to the work you put into preparing your responses ahead of time (practice, practice, practice) and your communication skills.

  1. List more strengths than weaknesses (3:2 ratio is a safe bet).

This is common sense. Unless the recruiter specifically asks you to list the same number of strengths and weaknesses, why wouldn’t you list more strengths than weaknesses? Why would you rant on and on about your shortcomings? Play up your strengths. If you list two weaknesses, list three strengths. Even if you’re not the most confident person in the world, you want recruiters to believe you are. Spend a little more time talking about your strengths than you spend talking about your weaknesses, too.

  1. Highlight your soft skills.

Soft skills, by definition, are skills which combine talent and ability. By listing soft skills as your strengths, you’re setting yourself apart from candidates who may not have similar talents and abilities. There’s a little bit of intangible magic to soft skills, and employers know that. What makes a great leader? Can leadership be taught? Sure, to an extent. But there’s that talent component to every soft skill that is certainly a gift, and if you’ve got it, you certainly want to share about it during interviews.

Be sure to qualify and quantify your strengths when you share them. Don’t just respond by saying, “My strengths are communication skills, leadership ability, and great customer service skills.” Offer real-life examples to back up these claims just as you would on your resume. “One of my strengths is communication skills. I’m comfortable speaking to large groups. I have spoken to groups of up to 75 people at once and have done impromptu presentations. I talk to clients on the phone or face-to-face to solve problems and have often been called upon by my manager to resolve conflicts when my coworkers are having difficulty with difficult customers.”

  1. Tailor your strengths to the specific employment situation.

If you research the position, company culture, organization/employer, mission statement, etc., in advance, you’ll be well-positioned to tailor your strengths to the specific employment situation during the interview. Are you interviewing for a position requiring you to analyze data but which does not require you to interact with clients at all? Then it doesn’t make sense for you to highlight your communication skills as one of your strengths. It would make more sense for you to discuss your critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills.

Are you interviewing with a company that values work-life balance and encourages employees to volunteer in the community, offering incentives to those who do? You might want to mention community involvement as one of your strengths and discuss your participation in a non-profit organization or your contribution and service on a board of directors.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this two-part series because this common interview question involves strengths and weaknesses, and you need to prepare  to respond to the entire question.

If you’re searching for jobs, your best bet for a successful interview is plenty of preparation. Reach out to me if you’d like to schedule an interview prep session.

About to graduate? 3 networking tips for college seniors

It’s spring semester, and graduation is two months away. Congratulations! If you’ve been consistently branding yourself, networking your tail off, applying for grad school or jobs, and have your resume and other materials in order, you’re probably feeling ready to launch into the next stage of your life: transitioning from college student to entry-level careerist. If you’ve been procrastinating visiting with career services professionals on campus and never read articles like these (and your mom just forwarded this article to you, or you stumbled across it as part of some divine intervention), you may feel a little nervous about what’s coming in May.

It’s great to get an early start on preparing for your future career and job search, but better late than never. Networking is a huge piece of the career preparation puzzle; remember, experts estimate (based on research) that up to 85% of jobs are landed via networking. Don’t spend all your time researching companies online and applying for jobs without ever attending career fairs or networking events. Don’t fail to connect with real people.

“Don’t be afraid to put in work on the front end to connect with people who can help you in your career or job search,” says Becky Warren, Career & Disability Services Coordinator.

Here are several great networking tips for seniors in college ready to launch their careers.


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  • Talk.

Sounds simple, right? But it’s so easy to focus on everything else… your appearance, the food at the networking event, the overwhelming number of employers or attendees, the number of job candidates or students, the noise in the room, the pit in your stomach or butterflies dancing in your belly.

Focus!

If you don’t have genuine conversations with people at networking events, career fairs, alumni events hosted on campus, and in other situations designed to give you opportunities to engage with real, live people, you’re missing the point. And guess what? You need to branch out and avoid talking to the people you already know.

Give yourself an assignment to talk to at least three new people when you attend an event. Obtain business cards if possible because this gives you an easy reminder for following up later (and contact information, too). It’s great to talk to people in your career field, but if you can’t identify people in your field, that’s okay. The point is to practice overcoming your fear of communicating with new people and to make new connections. You might enjoy yourself, and you might build great new connections.

  • Update your brand.

Before you step out the door to attend a face-to-face networking event or prior to logging on to a virtual event, check your online brand. Log into every social media site. Google yourself. You should do this regularly, but definitely do it prior to events.

Recently, I attended an event on a college campus. I interacted with a really cool, engaging, savvy student. Immediately following the event, I searched for the student on social media. Her profile picture gave me pause and seemed inappropriate. I chose not to connect after all. The bummer for that student is that I’m connected to some really awesome employers, recruiters, talent acquisition leaders, and entrepreneurs. These are all people who may have benefited this young woman in her future job search. But I have to look out for my own brand. I don’t connect (or remain connected) with people who don’t portray themselves in a positive light.

Don’t let this happen to you. Put your best self out there online, particularly when you’re job searching and prior to graduation. Remember, you cannot disconnect your brand from your networking efforts.

  • Don’t overlook the little people.

When you’re networking, don’t make the classic mistake of walking into a room and glancing at name badges or honing in on the most important looking people in the room and ignoring the rest of the minions. It’s egotistical and rude to focus on a few “big names” in the room, and honestly, it might be a waste of your time because—news flash—many other candidates will be playing the same game.

You’re better off to network with everyone. Just as in life, mix it up and try to engage with a very diverse group of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all levels of experience in the workplace, etc. You’ll have interesting conversations, and you may be surprised that those “little people” often have some hidden connections which can help you later in your job search.

The same goes for building and maintaining relationships in the workplace (not just at networking events).

“Don’t sell any co-worker short. Someday that person may be a leader, in a hiring role, or know of a hidden job they could tell you about because you have a professional relationship with them. Be nice to everyone you work with. It will pay off,” encourages Matt Krumrie, freelance writer and career expert.

Remember, networking is a web of relationships you’ve worked to build; you have to maintain them, too.

“As with any relationship, what you put in is what you get out,” shares Warren.

Networking is a two-way street; what are you giving back to the people who have given so much to you?

“Be a resource for others in your network. Be willing to connect them with people you know; help them if they have a question. Always be willing to help them solve a problem. It may not pay off immediately, but it will someday, guaranteed. And that is much more rewarding,” promises Krumrie.

About today’s contributors:

Becky Warren works in career services at a community college. With five years of experience in higher education, she has a passion for serving students and helping others plan for their futures. 

Matt Krumrie writes about careers, jobs and workplace topics and issues. Learn more at resumesbymatt.com

For help building your network, branding yourself well, or writing your own entry-level resume, reach out to me for a free consultation.