Tag Archive | "interview"

Cut That Hair! Polish Those Shoes!

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Starting out your career takes a lot of motivation and energy. Starting over on a new career path can be just as (if not more) difficult.

Depending on your point of view, the first step may be the simplest. It’s easy when you’re confident and know what you want. But it’s more complicated when you don’t know where to begin or when you dread making that initial move. So get energized by trying one or all of these tips.

1. Have Your Hair Styled or Cut: Good grooming is essential to making a good first impression. You may find looking good makes you feel good and gives you confidence.

2. Shop for an Interview Outfit: You’ll need appropriate attire for your interviews. Why not buy now and be prepared? Just as having your hair styled may jump-start your search, investing in the right outfit is another way to gain a professional edge.

3. Get Reconnected: If you’ve put off your search, chances are you’ve also withdrawn from family and friends. You may have avoided them because you hate answering the question, “Have you found a job yet?” If you think you need to land a job on your own, give it up. That’s a myth! No one succeeds alone. Get reconnected and stop cutting yourself off from the very people who care and can help.

4. Visit a Large Bookstore: Browse the career section of large bookstores, where you’ll find lounge areas where you can relax as you review the latest books on career fields. Other publications highlighted interesting jobs, like environmental zoo consultant, as well as unusual small businesses, like farming butterflies to release at weddings instead of throwing rice.

5. Take Vocational Tests: If you still haven’t a clue about what you want, invest in vocational tests. Many vocational tests, now available on the Web, help you identify career values and employment options. Some, like the Strong and MBTI, require you to contact a career counselor. Others are self-tests, like the Holland Self-Directed Search and the Values Identification Inventory.

6. See a Career Counselor: If you prefer talking things out or want individualized attention (and who doesn’t), find a qualified career counselor to help you sort through your interests and make plans. A career counselor will help you focus your goals, prepare your resume and help you prep for interviews.

7. Surf the Net: Monster offers many ways to find jobs. It’s a great way to learn about companies and job openings, or ask questions of the experts. Our experts can help you find the information or tips you need.

8. Join a Professional or Trade Association: This is a great way to find a wealth of information on your field and keep abreast of trends and salaries. Most associations also have job banks. And don’t say your can’t afford it. If you want to be successful, you need to pay your dues — literally. In return, you’ll find an easy way to get connected and gain support from people who share your ideas and values. If you want an inside track and an easy way to network, this is the place to start.

9. Trust the Process: Once a ball starts rolling, it gathers momentum; so does a job search. Once you start the process, it has a life of its own. As you begin, you’ll find opportunities and eventually receive offers. So take your pick — there’s lots of ways to start. You just need to do it!

How to Overcome Recruiting Calamities

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The outfit’s perfect. The cover letter rocks. The pitch is smooth and witty and well rehearsed. If everything goes like it did in the mock interview, that job offer is in the bag. And yet, a bad break–traffic, head cold, sadistically difficult questions–can derail the best-laid plans and turn even a flawless candidate into an also-ran. Unless, of course, said candidate can turn disaster into opportunity. Fourteen knotty problems and their slick solutions:

The interviewer poses a specific question. You have no idea what the answer is.

Some candidates stare at the ceiling and say, “I have to be honest. I have no idea.” Others drift farther up the creek by trying to pull off a poker-faced bluff. You should do neither. If you can’t demonstrate your knowledge, says Jeff Bloch, a consultant who trains big-name executives to handle the media, then dazzle the interviewers with your intelligence. If you’re asked, for instance, “What’s the essence of the Modigliani-Miller valuation model?” an appropriate response might be: “I don’t know enough about that particular model to discuss it in detail, but I can walk you through another valuation method that I think is extremely effective.

“Then explain why that method is close to your heart. “So many people get into trouble by filling the silence after a question with something that’s wrong or that digs them deeper into a hole,” explains Bloch. “No one expects you to be an encyclopedia. They do expect you to think on your feet, acknowledge mistakes, and demonstrate creativity.”

The recruiter concludes the interview by saying, “You’re staying at the Marquis Hotel, right? They’ve got a great bar. Fantastic margaritas. How about we finish our discussion there this evening?”

If you call the recruiter on this unethical, offensive behavior, you might win the moral high ground but lose the job. On the other hand, appearing to appreciate the flirtation–which some people wind up doing out of uneasiness rather than actual interest–might help you land the position but will lead to bad voodoo if you wind up getting the job. The best strategy is to dodge the advance while letting everyone save face. Judith Re, an etiquette expert and the author of Social Savvy, suggests using body language as the first line of defense. Give off a firm, controlled air, she advises: “Turn to the interviewer, maintain direct eye contact, and keep your arms on the chair.” (Resting them by your sides signals that you’re open to the conversation, she says, while crossed arms are a sign of nervous defensiveness.) “Then say, “I do have more questions, but I’m sure we can cover everything now.” This gets the message across but also clears a path for both of you to move on.” You get the result you want without creating ill will. You can save that for later.

Thirty minutes into the interview, the recruiter calls you by the wrong name.

“All right, Elizabeth, so tell me what you think the biggest external threat to the company is,” says the VP of sales. The trouble is, your name’s Leslie. “An immediate correction is the best course of action,” says Rebecca Butler, an MBA recruiter at UBS Warburg. Politely say “It’s Leslie” and move on. If it happens again? “You have to set the record straight immediately. Otherwise, the recruiter may not connect your interview with your name. It’s about not getting lost in the shuffle.” Butler suggests this clever response: “I know you see a lot of people, so I’d like to make sure you have the correct resume in front of you. Leslie McIntosh, Michigan State, right?”

Your cell phone rings.

“Grab it and turn it off immediately,” says Frank Luntz, a communications consultant and news analyst for MSNBC. Apologize and tuck it away. “Do not look to see who called. Make it clear that nothing could be more important than the interview,” says Luntz. Next time: Turn it off beforehand.

You arrive late to the interview.

There’s really no such thing as a “good” excuse–not traffic, not a broken alarm clock, not Ebola. And besides, banking on one misses the point. Everyone makes mistakes, and you can use the opportunity to show how you’d handle adversity as an employee. In short: Notify, own up, and move on. “Call as soon as you know you’re going to be late, even if it’s only by five minutes,” says Dick McCracken, director of graduate career services for Indiana University’s Kelley School. Briefly explain your situation, apologize, and then offer to reschedule. Say something like: “I realize I’ve thrown off your day, and I’m happy to return at a more convenient time.” You’ve acknowledged your responsibility (as opposed to passing the buck) and demonstrated that you’re willing to be flexible. Be contrite but not dramatic (“I’m sorry” is good; “I’m so, so sorry. I can’t believe I did this, this never happens to me” is bad). And don’t give up hope. Says UBS Warburg’s Butler: “Recruiters have seen a lot. If you make the effort, we may let it pass.”

The interviewer says something you know is incorrect.

“Our profits are greater than those of our three competitors combined,” intones the senior associate. But you, diligent interviewee that you are, have done your homework: You know that he’s referring to the company’s market share, not its profits. Should you correct the person who holds your future in his hands? Damn straight. “For one thing, the interviewer might be testing you,” says Jim Cameron, a former NBC news anchor who now coaches Fortune 500 executives on media relations. “If it’s a factual error that you can contradict with solid data, then do it–confidently and politely.” Begin your correction with “and” rather than “but”–as in “and so is your market share.” The secret is to be right without showing the interviewer to be wrong. If after you’ve made the correction, the interviewer launches into an argument, drop it. “You don’t want to come off as being rude,” says Charley Buck, president of Charles Buck & Associates, a New York search firm. Battling the future boss will not win you points.

You make a gaffe. Something that is truly stupid.

When asked to name his favorite Disney character during a group interview with, yes, Disney, one MBA candidate offered, “Daffy Duck.” “That’s great,” responded the Disney executive leading the discussion. “Warner Bros. is across the street.” The student mumbled his apology while his fellow candidates snickered. Telling the Merrill Lynch recruiter during a final interview that you’ve always wanted to work at Goldman presents an equally thorny problem. The best course of action in this situation: Correct yourself quickly and make clear your commitment to Disney or Merrill or anybody by sprinkling details about the firm into the conversation. “The best move is to draw no further attention to your slip,” says Seth Feit, an AOL talent scout. “It’s the vision of the candidate trying to get himself out of the situation that the recruiter’s going to remember.” One more thing: Do not opt for the knee-jerk reaction and say you have an interview at Goldman tomorrow–even if you do. One candidate mentioned the wrong company name to American Management Association human resources director Manny Avramidis. “Then he compounded the problem by telling me about another interview he had with a competitor,” says Avramidis. “I couldn’t believe it.”

You write a witty thank-you letter to a recruiter, sign it, drop it into the mailbox–then realize you put it into the wrong envelope.

Now what? Call the recruiter’s secretary and explain what you’ve done and ask her to toss it, advises Dorothea Johnson, of the Protocol School of Washington, which provides etiquette seminars for executives and diplomats. “Even if the assistant does mention it to her boss,” says Johnson, “it’s less embarrassing than not having pointed out your error at all.” Then let her know that you’ve already put the correct letter in the mail. Here’s the trick: You increase your chances of success if you can restrain yourself and not call immediately. Instead, wait a day or two–by then the letter’s arrival will be imminent. You don’t want to risk the assistant’s forgetting something like this.

You sneeze during an interview. And there’s no Kleenex in sight.

“Cover your nose with your left hand,” says Dana May Casperson, author of Power Etiquette: What You Don’t Know Can Kill Your Career. “If you cover it with your right hand, the interviewer won’t want to shake your hand at the end of the meeting. And covering with both hands or sneezing into your sleeve is just plain rude.” The smart job candidate knows that he’s better off excusing himself to go to the rest room for two minutes than being uncomfortable and self-conscious for the duration of the interview.

You’re asked an illegal question.

You and the interviewer are really hitting it off, swapping stories about your recent weddings. “So, are you guys planning to have kids?” he asks. In some cases it’s innocent banter. In others the recruiter might be trying to gauge whether you’ll be willing to put in 80-hour weeks or whether he might lose you to the demands of an infant. Either way, a recruiter can’t legally ask about your race, your age, your religion, any disabilities you may have, or your plans to have children. But, in this case, should you point that out? Not directly, says Sally Haver, a vice president at the Ayers Group, a New York recruiting firm. She recommends speaking to the interviewer’s intent with a response like “My record makes clear that my personal obligations have never interfered with my work. One of my strengths is my ability to separate my professional and personal lives.” By addressing the interviewer’s concerns, explains Haver, “you make it clear that you understand his question and that it’s inappropriate to ask.” That said, if you feel a recruiter has asked an illegal or offensive question, you’re well within your rights to end the interview right then and there.

You spill coffee on your lap.

Turning to greet the managing director as she enters the conference room, you knock your coffee onto your new Armani suit. Saying “Well, so much for a good first impression. Did I get the job?” is a smart way of putting people at ease. Don’t wait for someone else to take care of the problem: Quickly ask where they keep the paper towels. This response shows self-sufficiency and a sense of responsibility, says Mary Tenopyr, former director of employee-candidate testing for AT&T. If an associate runs off to get towels, join him–you don’t want to be sitting around in a mess you created, waiting for someone else to take action. Continuing the conversation where it left off, Tenopyr says, “makes clear that the interview is more important to you than the coffee spill.” Do not, under any circumstances, remove your pants.

Informational Interviews

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If your job plan consists of simply showing up at the career office with your resume during recruiting fair you can pretty much plan on landing in consulting or financial services, the only two industries that recruit widely on campuses nationwide. Sound unappealing? Overcome your laziness, pick up the phone and schedule some informational interviews.

These interviews can provide you with “inside information” about career fields, industries, and specific organizations and companies.

The contacts and experts that you meet throughout the “Informational Interview” stage of your job search can become an integral part of your professional network. Not only can these professionals be of assistance to you now, as you gather information to help you with your job search, they can also play an influential role at other times during your career. Sometime in the future – when you are well established professionally – you will undoubtedly return the favor to younger job seekers. Informational interviews require that you do a fair amount of investigative research prior to your meeting; however, it is well worth the effort.

Informational interviewing can actually be fun. It’s an opportunity to meet some very interesting people and to learn more about the fields that you are considering. Many people have even gotten job offers as a result of an informational interview. Networking is one of the most powerful means of finding a great position. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding Informational Interviews.

Why should I conduct informational interviews?

  • To obtain career information that you can’t easily find from other sources, such as publications and the Web.
  • To learn more about what it takes to break into a career field and the skills you’ll need to be successful in that field.
  • To gather inside information on job opportunities, current and future industry trends, and a company’s competitors (all of which can help you ace the real thing).
  • To get your resume critiqued for its marketability in the industry and discover what strengths you should “sell” in job interviews.
  • To receive valuable feedback on your education, training, and experience and get suggestions as to other skill sets you should acquire.
  • To obtain the names of two or three other people your contact would recommend seeing for additional information and advice.

How can I best prepare for informational interviews?

  • Talk to a career counselor who can help you explore and examine a variety of occupations and industries based on your interests.
  • Narrow down your targets to three occupations so you’ll have a clear focus.
  • Conduct research on these fields (Vault Reports and Wet Feet Press are good places to start).
  • Compile a list of all of your contacts, as well as targeted industry experts with whom you would like to talk.
  • Develop a list of questions that you want to have answered during the course of an interview.

What are some dos and don’ts along the way?

Remember that you’re not looking for a job during an informational interview, but gathering research on career fields and opportunities.

  • Do your homework. Learn all you can about the field, the organization, its competitors, and the person you’re interviewing.
  • Always make a half-hour appointment – it’s often easier to get someone’s time if they know it will be a quick meeting.
  • Be ready to manage the interview – you requested it.
  • Pay attention to everything you hear and see. You’ll pick up clues about the organization and its culture.
  • Politely ask your host to comment on your resume. This is a good opportunity to get feedback and to showcase your resume.
  • Exchange business cards. It’s important that you have a simple card to exchange – a card can serve as a memory jogger.
  • Be polite and send a thank you note.

Keep in touch. Always inform your contacts as to your progress. Keeping your contacts alive is crucial, especially if they’ve been helpful.

Let your contacts know where you’ve landed. People want to know about your success, so send your new business card and sincere thanks.

Acing the Interview

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If you have been granted an interview, there is a good chance that you are qualified to do the job – otherwise the interviewer would not be wasting their time talking to you. So relax, enjoy the process, and sell, sell, sell yourself.

Here are some pointers to help you control the interview and keep you on track.

Before the Interview

  • Before each and every interview, research the employer and know the following information:
  • Products, services, and mission
  • Competitiveness and market share
  • Corporate culture and organization
  • Recent news articles
  • Review of annual report: annual growth, sales, customer base
  • Assets and liabilities, present stock price, etc.
  • Location of subsidiaries and headquarters
  • Training programs or on the job training
  • Typical career paths
  • The name of recruiter/interviewer

Much of this information can be researched on the web (Wetfeet.com, Vault.com and CareerSearch.com are excellent resources) and should be reviewed and studied before an interview.

Warning: You really can’t get away with not doing your homework — good interviewers will pick up on this very quickly.

Practice interviewing with your roommate, friends, or a career counselor is essential. (You should do at least two mock, video-taped, interviews that can be scheduled in most university career centers. Doing this will actually give you a competitive advantage over the majority of your classmates who do not do it.) Also, career Centers can provide you with a list of the most frequently asked interview questions. Also prepare at least five specific questions to ask ahead of time — questions which show the recruiter that you have an in depth knowledge of the company, its competitors, and the playing field within the industry.

At The Interview

It’s important you combine confidence and humility. This allows you to establish yourself as an equal partner in the interviewer/interviewee relationship, and will allow you to use the interview as an opportunity to exchange ideas of mutual interest.

Make sure that you have a clearly defined career focus for every interview. Be honest and eager, but not overbearing. Be genuine too, as recruiters can easily be turned-off by a candidate who is “too perfect”, “overly rehearsed”, and “slick”. Make sure that you have had a chance to ask your questions. Finally, conclude the meeting with a quick one-minute summary restating your relevant skills and the match you see between you, the company, and the position — and don’t forget to ask what the next steps will be in the hiring process. Salary issues — such as a signing bonus, benefits, and other forms of compensation — should only be discussed when an interviewer raises the question. This is normally addressed on your last interview. Go to Salary.com to get information on average salaries.

The ability to perform well in the first five minutes of an interview is critical, as recruiters can usually tell within the first few minutes if the interviewee is a good match for their company. Focus your responses on the single over-riding question that the interviewer is asking throughout the interview, namely: “What can you do for our company?” This question requires that you know how you will “fit” into the organization.

Interviewers will be evaluating you in the following areas:

  • Appearance: Dress and groom yourself appropriately. Simple quality clothing and accessories are a must! Dress slightly better than the corporate culture of the organization would dictate.
  • Interview Preparation: It’s essential to know what kind of career you want, and know as much about the company as you can. In other words, why have You always wanted to go into Finance at XYZ, Inc.? Why is this a good fit for you and them?
  • Skill-Sets: Be confident as to what job functions you can perform, have a realistic sense of how much training you may need, and what your net-worth/value to the company will be. How are you going to make them or save them money, solve some problems, or create something new?
  • Previous Experience: It’s your job to interpret any past experience and have it be relevant to the job for which you are applying. This may take a good deal of creativity on your part.
  • Style: Your personality, manners, maturity, and communication skills must be clearly communicated throughout the interview.
  • Academics: Emphasize strong GPA and/or test scores, coursework in relevant areas, and academic skill-sets that you have honed. If you have poor grades, tell them honestly the cause for them, but focus the conversation back to your experience, skill-sets, and your determination to be a contributor to the company.
  • “Fit”: is this the right job for you and how will you get along with everyone at the office?

After the Interview

Thank-you letters are essential. Express appreciation, refer to others in the organization you may have met that day, recall those parts of the interview where their interests were piqued and restate your strong desire to work for the company. This is also an opportunity to clarify any points that may need to be re-addressed; however, do not appear to be back-pedaling on any issue. After each interview, make sure that you call the recruiter within seven to ten days to find out “next steps” in the interview process and to reaffirm your strong interest in the position.

A Dozen Tips for Writing Your Resume

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1. Don’t be vague, and be sure to customize your resume for each employer. The inability to do this online accounts for some of the low return rate for online applications. Anytime you try to do a one-size-fits-all approach (by agency, computer, or just passing a resume around an organization courtesy of a friend), you lose the all-important opportunity to craft the resume to fit a particular position.

2. Don’t be long-winded. Be pithy and keep it to one or two pages unless you want a job in academia, research or the arts.

3. Don’t confuse a resume and a curriculum vitae. The latter is for employers who will want to know all about what you’ve studied, taught, written, researched, exhibited. Resume readers want a quick summary of what you’ve done with just enough detail to let them know the depth of your skills. The rest they’ll find out in the interview. If you drown them in verbiage, you’ll never get to the interview.

4. Students and recent grads should highlight their studies. Put your education up top and include relevant courses.

5. Find out which skills the employer is seeking and be sure to showcase them. If you’re short on actual job experience, include a Highlights or Skills Summary section to editorialize about yourself a little.

6. Be clear about what you want. If you intend to be both a full-time student and a full-time employee, for instance, this might be a turnoff for some employers. You don’t want to waster their time — or yours.

7. Use verb phrases, not sentences. You’re not writing a school essay or an editorial for the local paper, so don’t fret about having complete sentences. Phrases such as these will work well for the purposes of a resume: “Conceived campaign for student elections,” “Created online student newspaper,” “Initiated weekly meetings for minority students.”

8. Use dates to show when you did things. Refrain from vague references such as “one year”.

9. Never overlook spelling errors or typos. That’s a one-way trip to the circular file. Check and recheck. Typos and spelling errors usually occur when you try to do something at the last minute, so always leave enough time.

10. Have an Experience section. For new grads without much work experience, this is preferable to having a section titled “Employment,” because you can include internships, class projects and independent study under the former, but not the latter.

11. Tailor the objective to a given position or leave it out altogether. Objectives are helpful when you’re trying to show the relationship between your skills and a particular position, but they merely annoy when they say inane things like “a challenging position suited to my education and skills.”

12. Don’t be a poet. Poets don’t write resumes; they write and rewrite poems and enter contests. It’s unlikely that flowery writing will serve you well on your resume.

What To Expect During Your Peace Corps Interview

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Peace Corps interview. And you’re nervous. Maybe this is your first “real” job interview. Maybe you’ve already had a handful of interviews, but none for an organization similar to the Peace Corps. You’re not quite sure what to expect.

In many ways, your Peace Corps interview will be like any other professional job interview, and you should prepare accordingly. But the Peace Corps interview is unique, because the Peace Corps itself is unique. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you would spend two years of your life in a foreign country, become proficient in a new language, make new friends, eat new foods, and overcome challenges you might not face in your first post-college job here in the United States.

Consider your interview an opportunity to have a conversation with someone who cares passionately about the Peace Corps. Nearly all Peace Corps recruiters are themselves Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and they can draw on their own experiences to help address your questions and concerns about Volunteer service.

Your Peace Corps interview will last about an hour. During that time, your recruiter will cover:

  • Your reasons for considering Peace Corps Volunteer service
  • Your expectations and concerns about working overseas for two years
  • Your past work experiences, including volunteer service, campus activities, and paid employment
  • Your experiences living and working with people who are different from you
  • Your preferences and flexibility about Peace Corps Volunteer assignments and geographic placement
  • Personal life issues, such as vegetarianism, current romantic relationships, and current financial or legal obligations.

You may be surprised that we ask personal questions during your Peace Corps interview. After all, what bearing do your eating habits and your love life have on your ability to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

First, a word about vegetarianism. Many vegetarians have served successfully as Peace Corps Volunteers. However, many of them have faced situations overseas where they have been served meat or dairy products, or where locally available foods did not allow them to maintain a healthy vegetarian diet. If you are a vegetarian, your recruiter will want to discuss similar experiences you may have had here at home, and ask you how you would feel and react if you were confronted with these challenges as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

As for romantic relationships, we want to make sure you and your partner have discussed the impact your decision to join the Peace Corps will have on your relationship. A 27-month separation can be emotionally difficult for the Peace Corps Volunteer and for loved ones left behind at home. Your recruiter may ask questions such as: Has your relationship ever endured a separation? What are your partner’s plans during the time you will be overseas? What are your-and his or her-expectations for your future together after your Peace Corps service? Please keep in mind that your recruiter also may ask you how your parents and family members feel about your decision to join the Peace Corps.

Some practical tips for your Peace Corps interview:

  • Bring along any completed addenda to your application or other materials your recruiter may have specifically requested from you (a recent college transcript, professional certificates, or a copy of your divorce decree, for example).
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to locate the office building and find parking if necessary. Plan to arrive a few minutes early so you can relax before your interview begins.
  • Read up on the Peace Corps, its history, and current Volunteer assignments and host countries. Check out the “News” section of the Peace Corps Web site for the latest Peace Corps happenings around the world. If you haven’t done so already, attend a general information meeting on your campus or in your community prior to your interview.
  • If you are applying to serve with your spouse (or future spouse), your recruiter will interview each of you individually. Then, he or she will meet with both of you to go over issues specific to serving as a married couple.
  • Prepare a list of questions for your recruiter. Now is a the time to ask about the rest of the application process, about specific job assignments or regions of the world, or about Volunteer life in general. Remember, no question is trivial or insignificant!

In choosing to apply to the Peace Corps, you have made an important decision that could change your life and the lives of others. Congratulations and good luck. We look forward to meeting you!