The sweet taste of interview success!

Almost every formal interview ends with “Do you have any questions for me?” It basically wraps things up and gives the interviewee a chance to say why they’re the best person for the job.

Metaphorically speaking, it’s the pretty sprinkles on a cupcake or a lovely bow in a shiny gift every so often interviewees fail to grab the opportunity to take that cupcake from rather bland to extra yummy. So here’s the scoop on how to jazz up your closing answer.

Cupcake
Having no questions! This is the worst scenario. It shows a total lack of interest in the company or an inability to “sell” your skills.
You ask a question but it was one that was answered already (shows bad listening skills) or just requires a “yes” or “no” answer from the interviewer without the ability to elaborate.

Cupcake with chocolate icing
You ask a question that is relevant to the company and shows off your knowledge of both the company and the industry.
cupcakessweet
Cupcake with icing, sprinkles and a cherry
You take a problem, mentioned in the interview or through prior research, and show how your skills will solve the issue. You’ll get extra brownie (or cupcake) points if you suggest possible strategies you’d use.

Cupcake with icing, sprinkles, a cherry and a candle
You do the above but also end with the following question: “Is there anything else I can speak to that might make you unsure of hiring me?” Very few job-seekers dare to ask this question but trust me, it will put you over the top and make you shine! Firstly, you’ll know exactly what they want so you can tailor your answer to “fit” their ideas while secondly, it allows you to clarify previous answers that may have caused confusion or didn’t fully highlight your abilities. To top it all off it shows a potential employer that you can take criticism, are flexible and have initiative.  Now that’s sweet indeed!

Elaine Logie is a current student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College and a blogger for the MCACES Employment Advisement Program. MCACESBlogs is a series of blog posts aimed at assisted job seekers with all phases of the career development process. We hope you enjoy our blogs! Happy reading!

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When a weakness is a “challenge”

The most common inquiry I’ve gotten from job-seekers over the years has got to be, “how do I give the ‘right’ answer to interview questions? Each time, my reply is pretty much the same; if you approach these questions strategically yet honestly you’ll earn an employer’s respect.

For example, when approaching the interview question,

“What is your greatest weakness(es)?”

Don’t say:

“I work too hard” or “I’m too detail oriented” (unless that’s true in which case… lucky you!)

Believe it or not, most hiring managers don’t appreciate these kinds of answers. Not only do they seem dishonest but you’ll end up sounding like a total brown-noser! In this economy most employers don’t want “yes” men but rather innovators, besides if they really just wanted “yes” men would you want to work for them anyway?

Do say:

“I don’t have as much experience working with ABC computer program as I’d like given that I didn’t have the opportunity to do so at my last position”

The key is in the approach, instead of thinking of “weaknesses” view the question as referring to “challenges” that way you are less likely to fall into the trap of talking about character traits, which are seen as unchangeable and instead focus on skills, which are learned. Be careful however, you don’t want to say you aren’t good at using Microsoft Excel or Access for a data entry job; instead pick a real skill that is not extremely applicable to the position.

Then make sure you include in your answer how you’re overcoming these “challenges.” Use examples such as taking a course, reading a book, doing an online tutorial, it really doesn’t matter, the important part is that you are being proactive, adaptable and feel a desire to fill important gaps in your knowledge.

Now “challenge” yourself to handle those tricky interview questions with aplomb!

Elaine Logie is a Career Consultant Certificate student and MCACES Blogger. MCACESBlogs is resource created by the MCACES Employment Advisement Program for job seekers, career practitioners and peers. Like what you read? Be sure to follow our blog or become part of our MCACES community, http://www.facebook.com/mcaces, http://www.twitter.com/mcaces.Image

Why, thank you! “when gratitude opens doors”

Who likes to be thanked? Everyone. Who doesn’t like to be thanked? No one. So why do so few people do it? Good question!

thankyoujpeg It seems like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, very few job seekers actually take the time to properly thank hiring managers after interviews. A case in point, I was recently talking to a friend who had the unfortunate task of interviewing potential job candidates for her team when she noted that not one person actually followed up and thanked her for the interview.

Invariably without this extra step by the job-seeker she couldn’t gauge who was just looking for a “job” or who really wanted to join the company. So unfortunately for her and the interviewees she’s still on the hunt for the right candidate…

If you need more convincing, take a look at the following stats from an employer’s perspective when thank-you notes are not sent (according to CareerBuilder):

  • Employers are less likely to hire a candidate-22%
  • Employers say it shows a lack of follow-through-86%
  • Employers say the candidate isn’t really serious about the job-56%

Now that you know a “thank-you” is so important in today’s competitive marketplace, you are probably asking yourself the following:

  1. How do I send it?

Generally what I do is bring several thank you cards with me to the interview so I can write it as soon as the interview is over. (Preferably pick a quiet spot far from food… coffee stains definitely don’t impress!) This allows me to refer to points while still fresh and I can drop it off immediately so I won’t forget. If on the other hand spelling is an issue then simply have a friend look it over before you send it but remember don’t wait, it could be the deciding factor!

  1. Who do I send it to?

You should send a personalized card to each interviewer separately, don’t try to save a few bucks and give one card to everyone- remember it’s about the personal touch! This is why you should try to get everyone’s business card at the end of the interview.

I’ll be talking more about content in the next post so stay tuned…

Elaine Logie is a MCACES Blogger and student in the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. MCACESBlogs is a series of posts created for job seekers, friends and peers. Like what you see? Be sure to follow MCACESBlogs and pass our info along.                        Happy reading!

3 Questions to ask BEFORE the Interview

Getting called for an interview is THE goal of the job search process. Exuberance can easily trump rationale if you aren’t careful.

When a job seeker receives a phone call for an interview, sometimes the excitement and nervous energy can replace the need to ask some important questions. If the following information is not provided by the recruiter or human resources professional prior to the interview, these questions may assist in preparing for the process.

Use these 3 questions to ensure “getting the call” goes smoothly.

Where do I go?                                                                                                                                                                   The bigger the company, the more challenging it may be to find your interview destination. There may be a visitor’s parking area or a specific entrance that’s closest to the interview location. Whether you drive or take public transit, be sure to do a “test run” of how long it will take you to get to the location.

Who will be interviewing me?                                                                                                                                      It’s perfectly acceptable for a job seeker to know who in the company will be present at the interview. It may alleviate some anxiety knowing who (and how many) people will be there. Such information could also assist you with thinking up some questions to ask for the interview.

Is there anything in addition to the interview itself that I should prepare for?                      Many job interviews consist of a question and answer period in addition to some type of testing or presentation process depending on the scope of the position. It’s always best to be prepared ahead of time. Sometimes, an employer may surprise job candidates, and not inform them of any tests.

Be rational.

If a job posting lists proficiency with a specific program, or that the position requires a good amount of public speaking, chances are you will be tested on the competencies that are heavily weighted within the job description.

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Lidia Siino is the Professional Development and Communications Strategist for MCACES, the Mohawk College Association of Continuing Education Students. MCACESBlogs is a series of blog posts created by students and faculty from the Career Consultant Certificate Program for readers seeking new and improved levels of employment. Like what you read? Be sure to follow MCACESBlogs. Happy reading!

 

The most important steps before the BIG interview

You’ve just been called for an interview and it’s for tomorrow morning! If you’re anything like me you’ve got angry butterflies in your stomach and are nervously pacing the house. You’re thinking about all the potential scenarios (positive and negative) that obsessively play over and over in your mind. Okay maybe that’s just me but I can definitely say that this is not the best use of your time or energy. Instead here are some much better uses for your time:

1. Check the company website again.
Most likely you have already looked into the company when you first applied for the job, but check it again. Look at projects or initiatives that interest you or you feel skilled enough to contribute to if hired since they can become talking points when the interviewer asks “Do you have any questions for me?”

2. Lay out your clothes.
This will take the stress out first thing in the morning, plus if you need to sew on a button or iron a shirt you will have plenty of time to do it. If the weather has been a bit iffy have an alternative outfit ready as well. It’s important to remember recruiters notice details so no sport socks with dress pants!

3. Research how to get to the interview.
If you are taking public transportation, print off the route times and connections thoroughly and plan to leave yourself plenty of time just in case. Once I had to take a subway to an interview in Toronto and there was a fire on the subway line, luckily I gave myself lots of extra time and alternative routes so I wasn’t sweating it…too much!

4. Go for a walk or do some “light” exercises.
Don’t over do it! You don’t want to be doubled over in pain or limping to your interview. I remember a time when I was getting over a bad cold, the night before my interview I coughed so hard that I bruised a muscle, subsequently I winced whenever I breathed too hard or laughed. Didn’t get the job so it’s hard to say what kind of impression that made.

5. Get your marketing material ready.
Print off several copies of your resume and reference sheets especially if you are not sure of the number of interviewers. Also bring a list of potential questions and the job posting. If applicable for your industry, bring your portfolio with examples of your work and make sure it’s up-to-date.

6. Practice common interview questions.
Thinking of answers to common questions using the SAR (situation, action and result) technique will allow you to feel prepared. These answers should be framed in such a way to give the interviewer a positive impression of who you are and how you think, so pick situations where you either increased efficiency, productivity, workplace morale or made a customer happy.

Remember the more you prepare ahead of time the less stressed you’ll feel on the big day, and once it’s over congratulate yourself for making it through in one piece!

Elaine Logie is a current student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. MCACESBlogs is a series of blog posts created by students for job seekers. Like what you read? Be sure to follow us or check back often for a variety of job search related posts. Happy reading!Dont-Disturb-Interview-Progress-Sign-SE-5520

kNOwledge is power

ImageAfter the excitement and stress of the interview process has worn off you are now in a waiting game to hear the all-important news…Did I get the job? Emotionally, this is tough, but by far the toughest has got to be when you finally hear the news and it is a big NO.  Well, actually few employers would actually say that word but it’ll be all you can think of in the after shock. It’s hard to pick yourself up when all you’re thinking is – What happened? What did I do wrong? Was my handshake too limp: my palms too sweaty? Basically you have two choices, you can either stew about it or take what happened and learn from it.

Your ego may be bruised and it may take a bit of time to regain your composure but it’s important to turn your NO into knowledge. Here’s how:

After the interview I usually ask the interviewer(s) this question:

“could you share any advice with me so that I can improve my interviewing skills?”

You’ll notice that I didn’t ask :

“What did I do wrong?” or “Why didn’t you hire me?”

I kept the question positive. Interviewers are more likely to respond when you are showing that you want to improve yourself and are therefore less likely to take their answer in the wrong way. Since they don’t have to give you an answer a friendly tone is much more likely to achieve results. This question also shows them that you are receptive to learning new things.

If you feel like the employer has been very helpful you should thank them for the advice.  If you applied some or all of their advice and it paid off in another interview situation let them know.

In some instances you may have even gained some rapport with the employer, if that’s the case try calling them in a few months to let them know you are still looking for work. You never know the person they hired might not have worked out. As a potential candidate they already took the time to interview now may be your chance to step into that choice position.

Without asking you’d never know, so don’t let a NO be the final word!

Elaine Logie is a current student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College. Be sure to follow MCACESBlogs, a blog created by students to assist fellow job seekers. For more information about the Career Consultant Certificate Program, please visit our website: 

http://www.mohawkcollege.ca/continuing-education/career-consultant.html

Oh, What To Wear?!? Appropriate Interview Attire

Career Consultant Certificate student Debra Hand provides interview attire advice!

Career Consultant Certificate student Debra Hand provides interview attire advice!

Have you ever woke up and couldn’t decide what to wear?  Now imagine the added stress of figuring out what to wear to a job interview?!?!?! There are many steps one can do to ensure they are properly attired. Let’s begin.

If you are not sure what to wear, you can begin by checking out the employer’s office.  If it is a public office, casually go in, walk around and see what everyone is wearing.  If the building is a secured building and you have no way of entering, grab a coffee and hang out outside the building and watch the people coming and going.  Once you have a sense on what everyone is wearing, you can then begin to put together your “interview outfit.”  This process has two positives outcomes; the first is you have an idea of what the employees wear and what the office culture is like, and second, you know where you are going for your interview.  So not only will you look great and fit in, you won’t be late!

If you cannot do either of the previous steps, error on the side of caution.  I suggest business casual which could consist of, for the ladies, dress pants or a knee length skirt, blouse and a blazer if you have one.  Do not show too much leg or too much cleavage.  For the gents, dress pants, dress shirt and tie, or sweater over dress shirt, tie optional. One thing to keep in mind is not to dress too formal, unless the type of job you are interviewing for calls for it.  Keep your colours dark or neutral tones as this will enable the interview to focus on your skills and not the loud colours of your outfit.  Shoes should be clean and polished and for goodness sake, do not wear running shoes and especially for the ladies, no flip flops!!!

Be sure that your outfit is clean and pressed and ready the day before the interview.  There is nothing worse than running around at the last minute trying to get everything ready and this step definitely will take alot of stress off the preparations for your interview.

When it comes to personal hygiene and grooming, it is suggested that you shower, nobody wants to interview someone who smells badly.  It has also been said that “you are what you eat” so be careful of the types of foods you eat before an interview.  I know I have spoken to someone who has eaten a very spicy dish and it wasn’t a very pleasant conversation.  I couldn’t wait to get away for them.  And please, please, please, refrain from too much perfume or cologne as you could be interviewed by someone who has scent allergies.  Also, for the ladies, if you choose to wear makeup, keep it neutral and light.  Finally, the one thing I personally do when I dress for any event, is look in the mirror to see if I’m overdone.  If I have to second guess what I am wearing, including accessories, I avoid wearing these items.

If you keep all of these tips in mind and are prepared and organized, you are sure to make a great first impression when you meet with your prospective employer.

Debra Hand is a student of the Career Consultant Certificate Program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. For more information about the world of work including tips and techniques, be sure to follow MCACESblogs! For more information about the Career Consultant Certificate, please contact Lidia Siino at lidia.siino@mohawkcollege.ca.