Archives – July, 2014
You’re ready for the interview. How could you not be?
- You arrived exactly 15 minutes early, professionally dressed with a reference list in hand.
- You offered a firm, confident handshake when greeted by the interviewer.
- Using LinkedIn and the company website, you thoroughly researched the employer and are prepared to answer any questions about the organization.
- You know your skills, strengths and weaknesses inside and out.
- You could do the required job duties in your sleep, you’re that qualified.
- Behavioral interview questions are a breeze because you practiced them numerous times.
What could possibly go wrong?
How about when they start the interview with one simple question: Can you tell me about yourself?
Suddenly you’re palms start sweating and your mind begins racing.
Should I tell them my name? But they already know my name. Should I tell them my work history? No, that’s on my resume. But wait, everything about me is on my resume. Is this a trick question? Ask me my strengths – I’ll spit them out. Ask me what the company’s closing stock price was yesterday- I checked. Ask me to repeat your LinkedIn profile- I’ve memorized it! But please, don’t ask me to tell you something about me.
What do they want me to say?
Before you know it, you go into ramble mode, and the interview’s over before it barely began.
So here are some strategies for answering the question “Tell me about yourself.”
Expect it. Conversations most often start with a nonchalant open-ended question. Remember that interviews are conversations, too.
Know that how you respond matters just as much as what you say-maybe more. If you pause for too long, stumble over your reply or ask for time to think about it, your answer no longer matters. Awkwardness has already been established and you’ll have to work hard to eliminate it. If you reply unenthusiastically, the interviewer might wonder how excited you really are about the job.
Keep your answer short. “Tell me about yourself” doesn’t translate into “tell me everything there is to know about you.” A crisp, one to two sentence answer grabs the employer’s attention and encourages more questions.
Avoid personal items. Where you live, your age or your marital status are common conversations openers for areas other than a job interview. Keep your answer focused on skills and qualifications.
Practice your answer. This question deserves just as much practice as the other commonly asked interview questions. If you can’t tell the interviewer about yourself, you may not get the chance to show how well you answer the other interview questions.
Develop an opening hook. This is a phrase or sentence that begins your answer, gets the interviewer’s attention and helps you transition to what professional qualifications you want to share. Some examples might include:
“I’m someone who is really excited to be talking with you today about joining your team.”
“People who know me best say that I’m…”
“The three words I would use to describe myself are…”
“With 10 years of experience in customer service, I believe I’m the candidate for this position.”
“Having just recently earned my degree, I’m eager to begin working in the profession.”
End the answer with confidence. Don’t fade off into a whisper. Don’t end the last word with a question in your voice. And don’t end the answer with “does that answer your question?” All three responses show a lack of confidence in your answer.
You’re the only person on the planet who can tell others your story. Know your professional talents and target them in a clear concise answer. Pair your answer with an opening hook, eye contact and enthusiasm, and you’re on your way to a solid interview, with hopefully a job offer to follow.
July 28, 2014
Email is a primary way to communicate in the professional world. Students use emails to communicate with professors, job seekers use it to navigate the job search process and employees use email as a primary communication method in the office.
Given its importance, make sure you know email etiquette. It’s not just a matter of being polite. Using email improperly can have lasting consequences. Check out these 13 tips before you hit the send button.
1. Use a professional email address. An email address containing your name or a combination of your first and last name works best.
2. Identify the topic in the subject line. Don’t leave email recipients guessing why you’re writing them, and don’t give a long winded answer. A subject line that reads “I have a question about the grade that I received for the midterm exam last Thursday” gets cut off when it appears in the inbox. A subject line reading “Question re: COMM 110 Midterm” works better.
3. Start with a formal greeting. Any professional email that begins with “Hey” deserves the delete button. “Dear” is the most formal greeting and your safest bet. “Hello” can also be used. Address the person with a salutation (Dear Professor Smith, Hello Dr. Jones, etc.) Continue using a formal title until given permission otherwise.
4. Write a brief email. Think about how quickly you scan your emails. Keep this time frame in mind when drafting an email. Use clear, concise language to convey your point. Paragraphs help break down the email into smaller sections. Email isn’t the format for offering a long explanation about confusing topics.
5. Don’t use email to replace face-to-face or phone conversations. The amount of emails sent and received in an office on any given day could likely be cut in half if people simply picked up the phone. Remember that the purpose of email is not to permit passive aggressiveness or laziness.
6. Avoid emoticons. When emailing professors, supervisors, or others higher up the chain of command, don’t include emoticons. Is it okay to use smiley faces when corresponding with coworkers? It depends on the office etiquette. Whatever procedure has been established, follow it.
7. Be mindful that grammar conveys emotions. WHEN YOU USE ALL CAPS, YOU’RE YELLING AT THE RECIPIENT. If anger is the emotion you’re feeling at that moment, don’t send the email. on the other hand using lowercase letters gives the perception of laziness.
8. Keep exclamation points to a minimum. Exclamation points convey excitement and should be used sparingly in writing. Whether rightly or wrongly, overuse of exclamation points shows immaturity.
9. Be careful with humor. If you say something funny in email, remember that you aren’t physically present to back up your remark with facial expressions or voice connotation. In a professional email exchange, it’s best to omit humor unless you and the recipient(s) know each other quite well.
10. Think before hitting “reply all.” The constant “you’ve got mail” notification gets pretty draining – especially when it’s for an email that you had no business being a part of in the first place. When sending an original email, think long and hard about who really needs to be included. Conversely, when you reply to an email that was originally sent to multiple people, ask yourself if everyone really needs to see your answer.
11. Know the proper way to use courtesy copy (CC) and blind copy (BCC). Only copy people (CC) who are directly involved with or impacted by the email subject. Use blind copy (BCC) when sending to a large distribution list. Should BCC be used to reply to some people in secret? No.
12. Remember that culture affects how people speak and write. Cultural differences lead to miscommunication. Email is no exception. Be mindful of a person’s cultural background when sending or receiving emails.
13. Follow the golden rule: “When in doubt, leave it out.” Email isn’t private. The delete button isn’t permanent. If you have doubts about the email’s content or the language and tone used, don’t send it.
July 21, 2014
Is an interpretive dance the best way to quit your job? Probably not, even if it gets you 18 million views on YouTube. But it’s inevitable that you’re going to change jobs throughout your career. Whether it’s to pursue another opportunity or simply leave your current job that doesn’t meet your expectations, resigning is just as much a part of career development as is accepting job offers.
Remember, you’re not erasing your current job from existence when you leave. You’ll list the employer on your resume and hopefully secure solid references. Here are some tips to follow that will help you leave on a professional note rather than leaving a bad impression.
1. Give notice. Don’t quit and leave in the same day. It’s standard practice to give at least two weeks notice when resigning. If you want or need to leave sooner, discuss options with your supervisor.
2. Write a resignation letter. It’s professional to submit a formal letter of resignation. The letter needn’t address your reasons for leaving; it’s up to you if you want to address this. The letter should state that you’re leaving and when your last day of work will be.
3. Be prepared for an exit interview. Your employer may ask for or require an exit interview, which is simply a meeting between you and a company representative (human resources employee, supervisor, etc.). Companies conduct exit interviews to gain feedback about the job, work environment or organization. Carefully consider your answers to commonly asked exit interview questions. You don’t want them to come back to haunt you.
4. Clean out your desk – and your computer. Even if you’re prepared to give two weeks notice, your supervisor may ask you to leave at that particular moment. Before submitting your resignation, delete personal files and messages on your computer. Jot down contact information of those you wish to keep in touch with after you’re gone. Do not copy any company information that you’re not permitted to have when you’re no longer an employee.
5. Keep the negative thoughts to yourself. Your resignation letter, exit interview and conversations with soon-to-be former colleagues could present opportunities to trash and blast your job, company, boss, etc. Don’t take advantage of the opportunity. You run the risk of burning bridges later.
6. Avoid bragging about your exciting new opportunity. Even if it’s a promotion, a salary increase or a move to a nicer work environment, colleagues don’t want to hear about how much better things will be in your new job. Know the difference between enthusiasm and arrogance.
7. Know details about benefits. Find out the implications of your resignation on your health care benefits and retirement package. Inquire what happens to any unused sick, personal or vacation days.
8. Ask for a reference. If you’ve been a reliable employee, it’s completely within reason to ask supervisors and coworkers if they’re willing to serve as references for you. See if they’ll write a recommendation as part of your LinkedIn profile or serve as an email or phone contact.
9. Say goodbye. Take time to email or personally thank your supervisor and co-workers. For those who you want to stay in touch with, provide your cell number and personal email address.
July 15, 2014