Tag: interview prep


Career Advice No One Will Ever Share With You (Re-post)

As a career coach, I’m always responding to career-related questions with various tips and career advice. I recently received a question asking,

“What are a few unique pieces of career advice nobody ever mentions?”

This is a good one because there are a lot of possible answers to it, but I chose two answers to reflect what most of my clients don’t know when they first come to me.


Career Advice Tip #1:

If you work for someone else, you still need to think like an entrepreneur.

Why? Because no one’s job is secure.

You have to view your employer as your client. And if your “client” decides not to continue working with you, you have to be in a good position to quickly land your next client.

You do this by becoming a good salesperson of your skills.


Career Advice Tip #2:

If you work for yourself, then you need to think of each meeting with potential clients or potential investors as a job interview.

For instance, I have several consultations with potential clients each week. Therefore, I’m going on job interviews EVERY SINGLE WEEK of the year!

I know I have to clearly express the benefits of my skills as a career coach.


Determine Fit

In either scenario, you not only need to sell your skills.

You also need to treat the situation as a two-way street. You need to find out if your next job or your next client is going to be a good fit for you.

This is why I always suggest job seekers ask their own questions during a job interview.

These questions should be ones to help them determine if the company (i.e. “the client”) is who they really want to spend 40+ hours a week with for the next several years.

**Check out The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview for sample questions to ask when being interviewed.***


Be Selective

For me personally as a business owner, I’m selective in who I take on as clients.

Therefore, not only do I present the benefits of my services and make sure they’re a good fit for the potential client’s goals, but I also ask questions to find out if they’re the type of client I’ll want to work with.

I start with questions in my intake form and ask additional questions during the initial consultation.

I’m looking to see how serious the person is about my coaching program.

I’m also looking for someone with a teachable spirit, an open-mind, respect for others, courtesy, and professionalism.

Someone who doesn’t possess these qualities is not a good fit for me or my company’s mission or programs.


You need to be selective too.

If you’re a job seeker with multiple job offers, be selective.

If you’re an entrepreneur with multiple potential clients, be selective (even when you feel like can’t afford to be!).

Here’s how.

Before walking into an interview or a meeting, take some time to do an inventory of:

  1. your skills and strengths,
  2. how you uniquely demonstrate those skills and strengths,
  3. the benefits of your skills and strengths,
  4. your needs and wants,
  5. your deal-breakers,
  6. and the questions to determine any potential deal-breakers or to determine if the other party can meet at least 60% of your needs and wants (because you’ll rarely find a case that meets 100% of them! — BE REALISTIC!).

Choose only those opportunities that are at least 60% compatible with your inventory.

Keep in mind also numbers 1–3 will give you leverage to ask for numbers 4–5.

Following this advice will help you develop good habits and preparedness for those times when you find yourself at a career crossroads.

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The Secret to Answering Behavioral Interview Questions (Re-Post)

“Tell me about a time when…”

UGH! Behavioral interview questions.

No job seeker enjoys answering these questions. Myself included.

They’re just as dreaded as the “What’s your greatest weakness?” question.

I can remember back in grad school doing my first mock interview with the career center on campus. It was very intimidating, even more so than any real interview I’ve ever had.

They recorded it which of course was even more horrifying. And I was really bad at answering the behavioral interview questions.

It was actually this experience and what I learned from it that made me decide to go into career advising.

A year later I was working as an intern in the same career center. Eventually I became the director of a college career center and then started my own career coaching business.

You have more experience than you think

I remember my mock interview like it was yesterday.

A few years ago I found the video and watched the cringe-worthy performance (through my fingers). I’d used the same example for every behavioral question because I thought I didn’t have any other “real” experience to pull from.

After all, I was just a lowly graduate assistant with only one assistantship under my belt.

But now I realize this wasn’t true.

I could’ve pulled from so many other experiences for more variety of answers:  my part-time jobs from college, my work as an orientation leader at my undergrad, my leadership role in my student organization, my class projects. I could’ve even pulled from my work on my passion projects.

The tried-and-true method vs. modern experience

The formula for how to answer behavioral interview questions hasn’t changed much since my grad school days.

But the way people work has, therefore giving job seekers a new way to sell themselves in an interview.

Here’s what I mean. When answering a behavioral interview question, you always want each answer to follow a method similar to the “CAR” method:

  • C:  State the CHALLENGE you faced.
  • A:  Describe the ACTION you took.
  • R:  Indicate the RESULTS of your action.

But unlike what you may have thought in the past, your examples don’t have to all come from traditional job experiences.

Today, people have side-hustles, freelance assignments, passion projects, and greater access to creative pursuits.

These bodies of work may be very different, but they all demonstrate your creativity, project management skills, and problem-solving skills. All things employers seek in potential employees.

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions

The secret to answering behavioral interview questions perfectly is to gather relevant examples from ALL your sources of experience (paid, unpaid, volunteer, stuff done for fun, etc.).

Then, tell a single interesting story for each question that connects the dots for your listener.

Show how your “soft skills” used on your own projects will benefit the company on their projects. Hard data (quantifiable results) and testimonials (qualitative results) will drive home your points, so always include them in each answer.

Also, anticipate further questions. When practicing your examples, listen for holes in your information triggering a need for clarification or more details.

A friend or a career coach is more likely to help you recognize those holes, so get assistance.

By addressing those areas right away, the interviewer won’t have to keep probing. You’ll be a hero because you made their job easier by providing all the important info without being asked or reminded to.

The best way to prepare

There’s no way to prepare for every commonly asked behavioral interview question. There are just too many.

The only way to really predict which ones you’ll get is to look on Glassdoor to see if there are any interview questions listed for your particular job opening. However there’s no guarantee they’ll ask the same questions this time around.

Instead, the best use of your time and energy is to look at the list of required skills in the job ad, and come up with a different story for when you’ve previously performed each skill. This is more manageable since this list is finite.

Always choose stories that show your success in performing the skill.

By focusing on the list of skills, you’ll have enough examples to use as answers for the unexpected questions. Most importantly, you’ll be able to connect those dots from your past experience to your future experience.

Don’t forget to use the CAR method when drafting your stories. Doing so keeps your stories organized with a beginning, middle, and end.

Pulling from ALL your experience is a great strategy for someone who has a lengthy gap in their employment history.

It’s also a good approach for recent grads with little to no professional experience. Click here to see how this has worked successfully for Tanner Christensen who landed a job as a product developer at Facebook with very little experience.

For more job interview tips, sign up for the on-demand program, Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. You’ll learn how to answer other commonly asked interview questions, questions you should be asking, and more, resulting in more job offers!

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How to Know When It’s Time to Get Career Help

My freshman year of college I found myself struggling in my college algebra class. In fact, my entire class was struggling.

That’s because our professor always let us out of class 20 minutes early and never assigned us any homework. At first we all thought this was great! What college freshman wouldn’t?

But when it came time for final exams, it wasn’t so great. None of us were prepared for the common final.

I was falling behind in my understanding of the material due to the professor’s teaching methods. But it was also my fault because I didn’t demand he spend more time going over sample problems.

And I didn’t seek tutoring, at least not right away.

I was embarrassed to get tutoring and put it off until it was almost too late.

Once I got help, I realized there was no way I could expect a tutor to teach me 12-15 weeks worth of college algebra in just three sessions to prepare me for the final.

I also couldn’t expect to crash study and do well on the exam.

By some miracle, the common final wasn’t as challenging as expected, and I squeaked by with a passing grade. But my GPA that semester was the lowest of my entire college career.

When I later became a college career adviser and professor, I noticed two different groups of students who took advantage of tutoring services.

  • The students who waited until right before an exam to seek tutoring.
  • The ones who attended tutoring sessions all semester in preparation for the big day of finals.

One group consisted of A students. The other consisted of D and F students. (You rarely saw any B or C students getting tutored.) Can you guess which group was the A students?

You Can’t Afford Not to Seek Career Help

I was reminded of this scenario in a recent conversation with a new client. She commented on how much she’s learning from our career coaching sessions. And how it’s something she should’ve done a long time ago.

Now she sees the mistakes she’s been making in networking and interviewing. She concludes this is what’s cost her some important potential connections and even some job offers.

She also commented on how much time it takes to learn and apply what we’ve been covering.

In other words, it’s not something you can wait to do until right before a job interview. Or right before you have to send off a resume.

Yet, I have so many people who wait to contact me after they see a job posted or have an interview scheduled.

In the case where they see a job posted, usually by the time they do all the things necessary to get their resume up to par, the posting has already closed.

You can’t write a resume in an hour, a day, or even a week. It requires numerous revisions which take time.

Once you have an interview scheduled, you shouldn’t spend your time learning how to prepare for an interview. You should already know how so you can spend your time applying what you’ve learned.

It’s too overwhelming to try to learn so much information in a short amount of time, while trying to also do your research on the company, prepare for your questions, and shop for something to wear.

Don’t Risk Making Bad Career Decisions

All of this is especially true for those of you who are feeling a desperate need to leave a bad job situation.

So many people come to me after they’ve reached their breaking point in their job or their business. They’re so ready for a much-needed change.

But it’s at this point they run the risk of making bad career decisions, even with the help of a career coach. It’s because they’re making these decisions while emotional and before putting a strategic plan in place.

I know people who were on the fence as to whether they should invest in career coaching or not. Then they were forced to make a decision because they got a call for a job interview the next day and now needed to know how to improve their interview skills. While I could give them some tips, I couldn’t cram all the info I had to share in one session.

They’re no different than me when I finally sought tutoring. But unlike my final exam, the grade for an interview is always pass/fail, and only one candidate passes.

You Can’t Just Wing It!

Interviewing is a skill you should already have in your back pocket. You should be so schooled in it you’ll be ready for a job interview at a moment’s notice.

And don’t think you can just go in and wing it. This approach may have worked for you in your high school jobs or entry-level jobs you’ve gotten in the past. But the further along you are in your career, the more is going to be expected of you in an interview.

It’s never too early to learn how to interview well. The skill comes in handy not just for sporadic interviews but also for impromptu performance reviews, promotion opportunities, salary negotiations, etc.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Perfecting Your Job Search Skills

While it may not always be the right time to leave a desperate situation, it’s always the right time to prepare for your exit. Knowing how to update your resume and interview well are the first steps in doing so. Being armed with this knowledge will help you get out of a bad job sooner than later.

When you do have to pull the trigger, make sure you always aim before firing.

Some signs it’s time to get career help before it’s too late include:

  • You’re already entertaining the idea of leaving your current job for something else.
  • You’re experiencing the beginning of physical illness due to a stressful or toxic work environment.
  • It just became clear there’s no longer room for you to grow or advance.
  • You can’t picture yourself in the same job or same company in the next 1-3 years.
  • Rumors about a downsize are circulating at your company.

You don’t wait until you’re in a car accident to buy auto insurance. And you don’t wait until you’re dead to see a doctor. So why would you wait until your career is collapsing to consult a career coach?

You can get career help today!

If you know your resume or interview skills are way too rusty and you need to be ready if you got a call requesting your resume or an interview tomorrow, you can start improving your skills today with paNASH’s on-demand courses.

These courses include Resumes That Get You The Interview and Steps to Acing the Interview and Reducing Your Interview Anxiety. They’re available 24/7 for you to work at your own pace.

You can also get one-on-one career help now instead of waiting until the last minute. Complete the paNASH intake form to get started.

There’s no need to feel embarrassed about any past career mistakes or interview failures. Instead, you can focus on learning how to not just improve your job search skills, but also land better job offers and negotiate a better salary.

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The One Surprising Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview

If you’re going through a job search, you know how competitive the interview process can be. And you’d probably like to know some ways to increase your chances of beating out the competition for an offer.

Below is a proven interview hack that’s been tremendously successful in my own career.


My Favorite Interview Hack

My favorite interview hack is winning the interview with the questions YOU ask!

I vividly remember my interview for my very first job out of grad school.

I went in with a list of questions based on my research of the job and the organization. My list was pretty long, so I assumed I wouldn’t have time to get all of my questions answered.

However, they didn’t have a lot of questions for me. Therefore, I had the time to ask all my questions on my list. And I got to ask additional ones that came up in conversation.

I left the interview thinking I probably wouldn’t get an offer since they didn’t ask me very many questions.

But a week later I got the offer! When I accepted it, I asked my interviewers what made them choose me from the other candidates.

Their response:

“It was the questions you asked. Your questions showed us not only how knowledgeable you are, but also how much you care about the people you’ll serve in this role.”


The Questions You Should Ask

So, what kind of questions should you ask in your job interviews?

There are six categories of questions you should ask (because interviewing is a two-way street!):

1. Questions you need to have answered to determine fit/questions related to the organization’s culture.

For example:

“How do you foster an employee’s connection to the organization?”

“How do you motivate your employees?”

Or even “Do employees typically eat lunch together or at their desks?” (this one will tell you a lot about the company culture!).

You need to ask any question (within reason) that will help you decide if the company’s culture is something you can devote 40+ hours of your life per week to.


2. Questions that come up in the research you do on the company.

Of course you probably already know how important it is to research a company before your interview. Doing so will result in questions that will be specific to the company. These questions will also make it obvious you did your research, and therefore will show you have a genuine interest in the company.

And don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, especially if they exhibit your work ethic.

For instance, in my interview, I wanted to know how one of the practices I would be required to carry out in the job wasn’t in direct violation of a federal law common to that industry (which it initially seemed to be). This gave them the chance to explain their legal and legitimate loophole that kept them in compliance with the law.

I think this was the question that impressed them the most.


3. Questions to determine future opportunities for advancement.

For example, “What opportunities are available for advancement?”

This helps you know if you might have a future at the company and shows you’re interested enough to want to stay long-term.


4. Questions to determine their hiring timeline.

Okay, these questions are really just for you and your own sanity.

When candidates go on interviews and then don’t hear anything back either way, they freak out.

Yes, it’s stressful, and also rude of the company to keep you hanging.

So, before you leave the interview, you should ask:

  • What is your deadline for making an offer?
  • How firm is that deadline?
  • Are you going to notify each person being interviewed of the final decision as a courtesy, or just the candidate receiving the offer?

This way you won’t spend your time and energy fretting over what they decided.


Here’s where it gets good!

These last two types of questions you should ask are the real hacks!

5. Questions to show your initiative and to help them visualize you in the job.

For instance:

“What results would you like to see from me in the first 90 days of the job?”

“What will be the first projects I’ll work on once hired?”

Or “When we sit down to discuss my performance a year from now, what will success look like?”

Wording questions this way helps them picture YOU as the person in the job!


6. Questions to get them to verbalize what they like about you.

In #5, it was all about helping them visualize. Now you need to get them to verbalize!

You want them to convince YOU why they should hire you, which will in turn convince them to hire you. (Yeah, that undergraduate degree I got in psychology is really paying off here!)

For example, “What part of my resume stands out to you the most?” or “What made you choose to interview me out of all the other applicants?”

Some career coaches will recommend you ask questions such as, “Are there any concerns you have about my qualifications?”

While this question is good in possibly providing you an immediate opportunity to address any of their concerns, it can also backfire on you. 

Remember, you’re supposed to highlight your strengths in an interview. Not draw attention to your weaknesses. This question is dangerous in that it immediately draws the interviewer’s attention to your weaknesses.

Instead, you want to ask questions that force the interviewer to not only focus on your strengths, but to also get them to repeat your strengths back to you. Doing so further convinces them of your capabilities.


Always Have Questions!

You should always have questions of your own prepared for an interview because interviewing is a two-way street.

When you’re asked, “What questions do you have for us?” never say, “None.” If so, you’re for sure to lose the job to someone who shows more interest with their questions.

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What You Need to Know About Job Interviews of The Modern Era


Years ago when I used to work in college career services, the interview process for college administrator positions was apparently ahead of its time. A recent article entitled “How You’ll Look For A Job in 2018” says that exercise-based job interviews are becoming more common.

Lindsay Grenawalt, head of People for Cockroach Labs, says,

“Rather than guess if a candidate can do the job based on their answers to behavioral questions exercise-based interviews ask for candidates to show [what they can do].”

This includes interviews with case studies, individual exercises, and presentations.


My Toughest Job Interviews

When previously interviewing for college career services positions, I had to do much of the same.

I’ve had interviews where I had to do presentations and teach mock classes. Once I even had to create an idea for a program in 45 minutes and then pitch it to a search committee.

I’ve also had marathon interviews. They started with a dinner interview the evening before. Then they picked back up again the next day at 8am and lasted until 4pm.

These interviews involved meeting with just about everyone on campus, including the President of the college and a panel of students. (By the way, the students asked the toughest questions of anyone.)

I’ve had to do pretty much everything but a literal song and dance!


The Advantage of Exercise-Based Interviews

Now, nearly 20 years later, these types of situations are being incorporated into today’s job interviews in a variety of industries.

While these types of job interviews may sound intimidating, there’s good news. They give candidates an idea of what it will actually be like to work in that role on a daily basis.

Grenawalt says,

“Fear not. Because these interviews require a high degree of engagement, they are more collaborative and a better experience overall than traditional interviews in which candidates have to sweat through a series of stress-inducing questions.”


How to Prepare for Exercise-Based Interviews

So how do you prepare for such interviews?

Research

In some ways, you’d prepare similarly to how you would prepare for any ordinary interview by researching as much as you can about the company and the position.

Your research should especially include all the information companies make available on their hiring and interview process. This can also be found on sites such as Glassdoor.com.

If you can’t find this type of information, you can (and should) ask questions about the interview process as soon as you’ve received an invitation for an interview.


Know the problem BEFORE you go into the interview and have a solution prepared.

You also want to ask what the main priority or goal should be of the next person in that position, BEFORE the interview. Never wait until the interview to ask this question!

Find out what challenge or problem this person will be expected to help solve. Once you have this information, use it to prepare for the interview in ways I’ve outlined in my post Modern Interview Advice to Make You Stand Out From the Competition (this ain’t your grandma’s — or even your mom’s — interview advice!).

The approach described in that post will help you in preparing for case studies, presentations, or problem solving scenarios.


Ask the right questions

The other way to prepare for such interviews is to make it a two-way street. You do this by preparing the right kind of questions of your own.

Like I said above, asking what will be the top priority of the new person in the role is NOT a question you want to ask during the interview. (By then it will be too late to ask that.) But there are more appropriate questions you should ask during the interview.

In fact, certain questions you ask can actually help you win the interview! That’s how I landed my very first job offer. I was told I was hired based on the type of questions I asked them!

To find out exactly which questions you should ask in the interview, read my post The One Tip That Guarantees a Good Interview.


Knowledge is the Beginning of Preparation

No matter what type of interview you’re faced with, you can’t go in and just “wing it.”

You have to be prepared.

Knowledge is the beginning of that preparation. Become knowledgeable of the above items, and you’ll shine!

Click here for more interview prep tips.

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