Why Would I Want A Mock Interview?


I can just imagine many of you reading today’s blog about the benefits of a mock interview. You of whom I envision are thinking to yourselves, “I don’t like interviews, they’re so stressful! So why, when I don’t like them in the first place, would I voluntarily want to do more interviews? Especially when they aren’t even real! No thanks; interviews are painful, nerve-wracking and overall a negative experience to be avoided as much a possible. So a mock interview? No thank you!”

That’s a pretty strong reaction, but for many I’ve met over the years, it accurately sums up their feelings. They see choosing to ask for a mock interview like asking to have a root canal when there’s no need for one – just to be ready for the real thing if/when needed. Yep, a big NO.

The unfortunate reality of those who avoid the mock or practice interview is this: without practice, there’s no opportunity to get feedback and improve on their performance, so the outcome is performing poorly in the real thing. Poor interview performance of course leads to one thing; an unsuccessful outcome and having therefore to apply for more jobs and go to more interviews. Yet somehow, it seems preferable to some people to avoid all the research, practice, feedback, adjustments to delivery and just wing it. Not to sound trite but I ask you, “How’s that working out?”

Now there’s three possible outcomes you can arrive at when you typically go about interviewing by just winging it.

  • You succeed and get a job offer
  • You fail and keep on going about things the same way
  • You fail and decide to get help and improve your odds of success

It’s that first one; that belief that despite the odds, you could succeed without ever having to go through practice interviews, that keeps people from seeking out help. It’s very much like a lottery; the odds are heavily stacked against you succeeding if you interview poorly, but there is that slim chance of success and you’ll hang on to that if it means avoiding practice interviewing. The irony is that the people who avoid mock interviews are typically the ones who could benefit the most.

So what goes on in a mock interview? Let me just say to be clear here, I’m not talking about a couple of questions you give your partner or close friend to ask here. The problem with these willing and well-intentioned people taking you through the mock interview is their reluctance to point out areas to improve because of your potential negative and volatile reaction to their feedback. And if we’re honest, you’re likely to dismiss what you don’t want to hear anyhow and tell them they don’t know what they are talking about because they aren’t an expert!

If the mock interview with friends or family works for you however, great. It’s a start and who knows, they might just observe and hit on some things that turn the experience around, helping you land that job offer. If so, well done everyone!

However, if you really want to maximize your odds of success, it’s good advice to seek out the support and feedback from a professional. Employment Coaches, Employment Counsellors and others who provide job search coaching are the people you’re after here. Many of these people can be contracted with at no charge through community social service organizations. If you’ve got the desire and the funds, you can also contract with a professional privately too.

Now, some of you I’m sure are raising the argument that if you’re out of work already and funds are tight, why on earth would you lay out your money and pay someone to put you through the mock interview? The answer of course is one you instinctively know already; if it increases your odds of success and getting offered a job, that’s money well spent. But I don’t want to appear to be just writing an ad for buying services people like me provide.

So what would a mock interview look like? Well, depending on the person you’re getting help from, it could look like this:

You meet and discuss how you’ve prepared in the past. Maybe a couple of questions get tossed out just to determine what you’ve been saying to date. From these, a baseline is established. An Employment Counsellor / Job Coach will provide feedback on:

  •  First Impressions (Clothing, Body Language, Handshake, Hygiene, Posture, Tone of   Voice, Eye Contact)
  •  Answers (Quality, Length, Sticking To A Format Or Winging It, Are You Answering The Questions? Using Examples?)
  •  Suggestions For Improvement (Some Quick Improvements and Some Longer To Master)
  •  Final Impressions (Ideas On How To Wrap Up The Interview On A Positive)

Now of course this doesn’t include how to prepare for and follow up on your interviews; both of which are extremely important and both of which you’d get a lot of help with from a professional.

Interviewing methods evolve over time and how you may have succeeded in the past could no longer be working. I suppose the real question here is whether or not you are performing well enough in your job interviews to land job offers. If you’re getting a high percentage of interviews for those you apply to, and if those same interviews are resulting in job offers, you don’t need help.

If on the other hand, you seldom get interviews at all, and the ones you do get don’t result in job offers, do yourself a favour and think seriously about getting help – and that includes mock interviews and feedback.

 

 

 

 

A Mock Job Interview Exercise


I know! I know! Yes, you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews, so why on earth would you find a mock interview helpful? The answer of course is that you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews so it’s likely the case you’re not doing any mock interviews to improve your actual performance when the real thing comes up.

If you’re an Employment Coach/Counsellor and you prepare people for job interviews as part of your role, you know the value in taking all the information you’ve provided to those you’re helping and giving them an interview to show those same skills. This practice interview if it goes well can boost the confidence one has that they can replicate this in future situations, and if it doesn’t go perfectly, you can both find what needs improving and feel good about what aspects did go as planned. In other words, reinforce the good and work on improving areas that need it.

Now for three weeks I’ve been working with a dozen people in a classroom setting. We’ve been specifically addressing issues related to job searching, and both yesterday and today, it all culminates with the big mock interview. This much they knew on day one. What they didn’t know until yesterday was how that mock interview would be conducted. They believed it was going to be a one on one experience; just them and me, isolated in some office away from the other 11 participants.

As it happens, I had a different method in mind. I set up a table in the classroom with three chairs on one side and a single chair on the other. When it was someone’s turn, I had them get up and leave the room, then selected two of their classmates to sit on either side of me one the one side. We three would act as a panel; something many find a little more intimidating. This intimidation wasn’t what I was going for mind, in fact neither person on either side of me was to ask any questions, take notes or even give feedback. They were simply there to create the panel effect. Given that we’ve all been together for three weeks and it’s a supportive group, that intimidation factor was not what you’d otherwise expect with strangers.

I then had a fourth classmate act as the Receptionist, who would go out, welcome the person and bring them in to the panel. After greeting the panel, they’d sit down, set up their material in front of them and away we’d go!

Now had I told the group on day one that it would be a panel interview, that anxiety would have built up over time – even if I’d told them the day before, it would have increased unnecessarily. Why would I want to create extra stress and anxiety over something I want to go well? And go well they have so far.

The other advantage of doing this mock interview in front of their classmates is that those outside the panel and sitting around the room found that by listening to the feedback I was giving each person at the end of their mock interview, they corrected things themselves when it was their turn. I heard people changing, “If you hire me” to “when you hire me.” I also heard them change, “I like what you guys do here” to ” I’m impressed with your organization.” Polishing…

Now the mock interview is a positive experience which works because we’ve had three weeks together to go over expected behaviour, structuring the answers, anticipating the right questions likely to be asked and how to present yourself to your best advantage.

Some of my classmates are Canadian-born and have gone through Canadian interviews all their lives. Others are relatively newcomers, and while they’ve all had job interviews in the past, these people have yet to experience what a Canadian job interview might look like. This mock interview for them, is extremely useful and comforting. After all, get through a mock interview and you’ll feel more confident if you have one in the future.

Today the other six participants have their shot at the mock interview. It’s not a long drawn out affair; a minimum number of questions. What’s significant is to have the experience. All are expected to come ready to answer the questions using the format shared, and all are expected to have a question or two ready to pose as the interview wraps up.

Now, while many were still nervous; and some have stated they are nervous about todays interviews, all of them pushed through the nerves and get on with it. There’s trust you see that I wouldn’t put them in a position to fail – and fail miserably – when I’ve demonstrated for three weeks that I’ve got their success foremost in our mutual best interest. That trust is essential for them and while they don’t know it, that’s the entire key to succeeding. They trust in me and what I’m sharing with them as being in their best interests, and I trust in them to take that same information and use it as best they can. Couldn’t be prouder of them as a group for how they’ve done. No one dropped out of class, attendance has been great, but even greater than the attendance has been the investment they’ve made while present.

 

The Hand-Written Thank You Note


How many of you have recently wrote a hand-written thank you note? Hands up out there. Hmm… not many; no not many indeed.

Okay, another question if I may. The last time you received a note of thanks from someone expressing their gratitude, how did it make you feel?

Interesting isn’t it? You enjoy receiving but aren’t doing the giving. Now of course many of you out there might just be the kind of people who are very thankful and gracious with your words of thanks, it’s just that your saying them face-to-face or in an email. After all email is so convenient, accessible and immediate. You can dash off an email expresses thanks in the same time it would take to put on your coat and find your car keys. That trip to the stationery store to buy a card just seems so unnecessary.

I admit the card of thanks takes more effort. Yes, you have to go to the store, pick out a card or a set of cards that expresses thanks but doesn’t communicate the wrong message with some flowery verse on the inside. Then there’s paying for the cards, (because email is free), and if you misspell a word as you write in pen, there’s no delete button to quickly erase your error. Then there’s the exorbitant cost of a postage stamp, addressing the envelope, the trip to a mailbox. Just too much effort!

Or is it?

Think for a moment what someone has done for you in the first place for which you might be contemplating issuing words of thanks. I suspect what they’ve done, or what they continue to do is worth a bit more than the total cost of an envelope, card, postage stamp and your time. In fact, I’d wager your effort and words of thanks pale mightily in comparison. Too much effort on your part? How unfortunate if you feel this way.

The thank you card could be composed and presented to any number of people and for many reasons. Here’s a few to inspire some action on your part:

  • An interviewer after a job interview
  • A co-worker who has your back when work piles up
  • Your Administrative Clerk; the one who ‘does everything’ for you
  • Your job search references; those who back your credentials
  • The Barista who makes your every morning must-have
  • The Teacher who instructs your child
  • The Child Care Provider who nurtures your child
  • Your neighbour who looks out for you in your absence
  • The Receptionist who greeted you on interview day

That’s a lot of people you COULD be thanking. Better get a stack of cards when you’re out and save yourself a lot of return trips. If you look over that list by the way, you’ll note I hope that not a single note of thanks requires postage at all. Nope, each one can be hand-delivered.

The thing about a note of thanks is that it is short and yet powerful; so powerful in fact that many people will hang on to notes of thanks long after they’ve been received. An email of thanks by comparison may be read and deleted in the same day, or immediately after the person replies with a ‘Thanks’.  Then they switch gears and get on with their day.

I give my job seekers with 5 cards of thanks – blank on the inside – and 5 envelopes. I recommend they make use of them and there’s more available if they need them. Sadly, many don’t even issue one. Those that do however, find them surprisingly effective. Oddly enough, they feel better too when the person expresses thanks and a little shock at having received one.

Take your references as an example of people to thank. These are the people you provide to a potential employer as those who will attest to your work ethic, accomplishments, personality, teamwork, etc. After you’ve done your best to wow an employer, they are the ones who will either close the deal or raise some doubt on your application. Suddenly I think your protest that a card of thanks being too much work is failing miserably.

“Just  a few words of appreciation for standing with me as a valued reference. As I transition to a new place, I’m grateful to have your support.”

Now honestly, how long do you think that would take for you to write? Time surely then, can’t be your argument for not writing one, and we’ve already talked about the cost.

So if time and money aren’t the real reasons, we’re left with you don’t know what to say – see example above – or you just can’t be bothered – which means you truly aren’t that grateful. You could have literacy issues I suppose, which I grant.

Need another example? Okay…

Thank you for meeting with me this afternoon. I found our interview informative and enlightening. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work together and look forward to this with enthusiasm. I am excited about the next step in the hiring process.

Short and to the point. Come on people, you can do this. You’re looking for an edge over your competition aren’t you? Don’t be the candidate who just goes home and waits for the phone to ring. You can pen this one sitting in reception and hand it in right after the interview to the Receptionist.

Or not.

This Is Not About Mark And Julie


When Mark was first approached with the offer of help finding a job over a couple of weeks, he accepted the invite, but openly expressed his doubts that I could teach him anything he wasn’t already doing on his own. You know what? I relish that honesty in people; I wasn’t insulted in the least.

Now Julie on the other hand? While her feelings were similar, her choice of words and her decision to decline the help offered was received quite differently. Not only was she sure I couldn’t do anything to help her, she said two weeks with me would be a complete waste of her valuable time.

What made Julie’s reaction and decision all the more puzzling at the time was that a highly respected colleague of mine had referred us to each other and Julie was touted as a ‘Superstar’; someone I’d absolutely be impressed with. Well she made an impression. I can’t convey in words the tone of voice she used on the phone, the emphatic disdain she communicated for the help offered.

So you should know, what both Mark and Julie were offered was to be one of twelve participants in a two-week intensive job search group. All twelve have to have: 1) A résumé 2) Basic computer skills 3) A clear employment goal 4) strong motivation to find work 5) Give me permission to give them honest feedback and 6) come dressed daily in business casual clothing ready for interviews – because they will get them. Beyond making the self-investment of time to realize their financial independence, the cost to attend? Free. In fact, I’d see they got money for clothing and grooming needs, full transportation costs to get around, funds they could use for lunch if they chose to and when they did get a job anywhere up to $500 to buy whatever they needed to get off to a good start.

Now to me, this is a pretty easy choice to make. After all, Mark, Julie and the other people I extend this offer to are all unemployed or severely underemployed; sometimes working part-time outside their field of training or volunteering. Now I know that most people are already doing a job search on their own, and that some of what people are doing already is quite good. However, if the results are not forthcoming, doesn’t it seem sensible to take advantage of free help from someone recognized as a professional helping others find work?

My accumulated years of experience has told me that when most people don’t seize such opportunities, something – or some things are going on beyond what is known. Yes, they could be secretly working and don’t want to be found out, but that’s not typically what’s going on. One of the key things I do actually is work with people and after establishing mutual respect and trust, make it a point to get at what barriers they are facing which prevent them from moving forward and realizing their goals.

Now you might not think this approach is necessary; if you help somebody write a cover letter and resume, prepare them for the interview and wish them the best, they’ll get work soon enough. That may be true of course, but if this is all you do, you’ll be puzzled and disappointed when they lose their employment in short order. Some will contact you and ask for more help, while others will feel embarrassed and not contact you as they don’t want to let you down.

You might wonder then how far I can get with twelve people in only two weeks to set up the trust required to have each person open up and share what they would otherwise keep buried. I tell you this, the faster a person opens up and the more they share, the better the counsel I can offer, and the more effective the help will be they receive. In the end, what most end up with is a job best suited to not only their education and experience, but in an environment where they’ll not only survive, but thrive. Now as an unemployed person, doesn’t this sound enticing?

The most significant factor in achieving success is wanting what you’re after with enthusiasm. If you want it – I mean REALLY want it, that inner motivation and enthusiasm will be exactly what it takes to get you through when the roadblocks pop up. Instead of throwing up your hands in exasperation, you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Make no mistake, the job seeker has to want work more than the person helping them find it.  If it’s the other way around, lasting success won’t come.

Here’s the thing about Mark; recall if you will he’s the guy who expressed doubts but accepted the offer. When we wrapped up our time together, Mark told me that he was really suspicious but it was at noon on day 1 that he realized how thankful he was that he got the offer and accepted. His is a success story in that he did find work. He ended up moving from Ontario to British Columbia, accepting a full-time job at $120,000 per year. Quite a significant change from receiving social assistance and feeling frustrated, low self-worth and getting less than $15,000 per year.

When opportunity comes your way, make a change; say yes if you typically answer with a, ‘no thank you’. There’s a lot of great help out there to seize!

Helping Others Find Work: Step 1


Whenever helping someone find employment, I know two things; they want a job and they are only going to share what they think is needed for me to help them. There are many things which, having possession of that knowledge,  would help me help them meet their employment goal faster.

It’s not enough to simply say to someone you’ve just met, “Tell me everything – even if you think it’s not connected to your job search..” After all, it’s only natural for them to withhold past bad decisions, things they find shameful or embarrassing such as addictions, criminal records, firings, failures etc.

Now they might say, “I came to you for help getting a job. My personal business has nothing to do with that so can you help me get a job or not?” This should be totally understandable. Anyone taking this position isn’t necessarily belligerent or provocative, they may be simply unaware of how all these factors are connected to ultimately being successful or running into the same roadblocks in the future they’d experienced in both the past and present.

Step one is establishing trust. Never promise more than you can deliver; a job isn’t guaranteed . One approach that I typically use is to tell them that the quicker they trust me and share openly and honestly, the more I’ll be able to help them. Anything they tell me is confidential, and if they choose to open up and share their worries and concerns with me, I can help them with if or how to put this on a résumé and how to deal with this in a job interview. They are free to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable.

Now of course not everybody jumps at that offer and bares their soul. I don’t need all the details anyhow; just enough perhaps to help them find the right job in the right setting that will give them the best chance of long-term success. Let me illustrate what the right job in the right setting means. You see they’ve likely got enough skill to scan a list of jobs and pick out one that is a match for their previous experience. In fact, many well-meaning staff at employment agencies can do this with their own expertise. However, making a résumé to match that job isn’t enough. Even if they get an interview and get hired, it’s not likely they’ll keep that job unless the fit is a good one for both them and the employer.

To truly help someone find and land a job they’ll thrive in and maintain over the long haul, you have to invest in the person enough to find out where things have broken down in the past. Someone who has experience in the Hospitality sector but had to quit because of an overly demanding boss  who made inappropriate advances shouldn’t be applying to a job perhaps where they’ll be working late hours alone with a boss in a similar environment. While they may have the qualifications, they are unintentionally being set up to repeat a negative experience. Once is bad enough; two times might seriously undermine their confidence and have them question what they are doing to bring this on themselves when they aren’t to blame whatsoever.

Without asking questions to get at outside circumstances, you might also misinterpret behaviours you see as a lack of commitment too. Finding the perfect job 35 kilometres away from where someone lives might be reasonable to you, especially if they drive. However without learning they have a child with behaviour or physical challenges whom they need to be near to if needed, you might think they don’t really want to work when they aren’t enthusiastic about applying for it.

So we need to learn what’s going on beyond the job search. This holistic approach considers all kinds of factors beyond skills, education and past work history. It’s only when trust is established that the person you’re helping will share beyond surface issues. What else impacts a job search? How much time do you have? There’s their faith, family and social supports, income, housing, addictions, education, areas they’ve succeeded in the past, bad experiences, mode of transportation, childcare or caring for parents issues, mental and physical health, and the BIG one … etc. the etc., being all the other stuff that in their own situation is more prominent than all the other things you’d guess.

Finding out what motivates someone is critically important to finding out which job is right. So even when you know a person is definitely looking for a job as an Accountant, not just any Accountant job will do. Big firm, small firm, supportive environment or working largely in isolation? On a public transit route or do they drive? If you discovered their licence was suspended, maybe getting income from a shorter-term job outside of Accounting would be better to get the licence back  faster and THEN apply for the Accounting jobs? Who knew!

It may initially move slower as you help this person with their job search. In the end though, you make greater progress, they feel valued, they come to understand trust you’ve got their best interests in mind throughout. They may tell you they didn’t like the lack of progress at first, but in the end, you’ll find more people keep the jobs they land.

3 Key Components To All Interview Answers


Many of the job seeking people I’ve met are totally confused and frustrated with the lack of success they’ve had in trying to land employment. While some aren’t getting interviews in the first place, there are a large number who get their share of interviews but always seem to finish 2nd or worse when it actually comes to getting a job offer. “What am I doing wrong?” they ask.

The short answer is they’ve failed to market themselves to the needs of the employer. In fact, if you’re an Employment Counsellor or Job Coach and you’re having a hard time figuring out why the people you’re working with aren’t getting job offers, I suggest you interview them as an employer would. Of course, you have to know both what you’re listening for and how it’s delivered to knowledgeably give the job seeker useful and relevant interview feedback.

Let me highlight what I’m speaking of with a concrete example. Suppose the job posting indicates that teamwork is one of the key requirements for the job. A lot of interviewees will pick up on this and be sure to mention in the interview that teamwork is one of their strengths. They might bring this up right at the beginning when asked to tell the interview a little about themselves or possibly later when asked about their strengths. While this sounds good, is it enough? No.

Granted it’s a start, but simply naming an attribute falls short. Perhaps you’re thinking that where I’m headed and what I’m about to say is you need to offer an example to prove your teamwork claim. Well, only in part. Yes of course you must have a real example that proves you’ve worked successfully in a team setting in the past to make your claim believable. So is this good enough? Again, No.

You’re only two-thirds of the way to the best answer. So, you’ve made a claim of teamwork and you’ve provided an example from your past that demonstrates your teamwork. Fine. Now, if you really want to stand apart from the competition, you simply have to answer the implied question, “So how does that help me?” In this case, the, ‘me’ being the company, employer or specifically the supervisor considering you for the job.

So in the teamwork example, you could close your answer by noting how working cooperatively with your colleagues creates a seamless experience for customers; supporting one another on the work or sales floor improves morale, picking up the slack when a co-worker isn’t at their best or is off ill results in clients still being served well, resulting in an improved client experience. As a result, their impression of your organization improves, they spread that reputation, and your business profitability grows as a result. Bingo! You’ve now made a clear connection between your past teamwork accomplished elsewhere and how what you’ve done there will translate into the employment opportunity being discussed here.

Unfortunately, too often when I first meet people and do a mock interview, they’ll say something like this:

“I’d be happy to tell you about myself. I’m organized, detail-oriented, work hard and enjoy working in a team.”

Even if all 4 things above are pulled right from a job posting, this alone isn’t good enough. Many people will be smart enough to name what they should tell the employer. Many of the same people will even be coached well enough to give examples from their past demonstrating one or more of the skills. Few however as I say – and this is THE key to successful interviewing – answer the implied but ever-present question, “So how does that help me?”

I’ve essentially repeated my point now twice. Why? Simple. IT”S IMPORTANT! I know the tendency of readers to read quickly and skim. When done, many might feel it was a good read and yet 3 minutes later revert right back to doing what they’ve always done; that’s human nature.

But you – yes you…

You might be one of the few who does more than just pass the time reading this with your favourite beverage in hand. You might actually re-read the above and do more than say, “Well that was interesting.” You could be one of the few who will actually approach your interview preparation differently. Whether you’re a job seeker or someone who assists and supports those looking for work, you might opt to assure all three steps are in the interview answers you provide in the future. The three steps again are:

  1. State the desired skill the employer has identified as a need.
  2. Provide an example demonstrating your use of that skill in the past.
  3. Relate how that skill benefits the potential employer here in the present.

When you do the 3rd and last step as part of your interview answers on a regular basis, you accomplish one major thing successful interviewees do; you show clearly that you get it. You understand WHY the skill is integral to the job. Employees who cognitively get it, don’t let that skill ebb and flow on the job, or just do teamwork because the boss says so. They do it because they’ve bought in to the critical importance of the skill on the job and they share a high premium on the value of the skill.

Please pass this on; it’s important! Your kindness in sharing is appreciated at my end but more importantly may greatly help another.

Debriefing 3 Interviews With 3 Outcomes


At 54 she’s got a lot of experience to offer; both Life and employment. It’s become extremely frustrating however over the last year to keep up the positive self-esteem. Oh for a while the image projecting out can be convincing, but the exhausted life savings, the move from living on her own to moving back in with her daughter, the sting of having to apply for assistance to provide money to live on; it’s just all been too, too much.

She and I have worked together, along with 10 other job seekers, since April 23rd, right from 9:00a.m. sharp each day through to 2:30p.m. We’ve covered resumes, cover letters, thank you notes and rejection letters; we’ve had mock interviews, talked about using the STAR interview format, looked at specific hard to answer questions that might arise – why we’ve even talked about how to predict with great accuracy the questions that will be poised.

Throughout the time together, I’ve asked her and everyone else to be positive; sure go ahead and have your moments of disappointment and acknowledge your frustration, but come back to the positive person you are more often than not, and come back as soon as possible. Yesterday at the close of the day, this was a big challenge for her; it wasn’t as easy to do as it had been earlier.

Now it started well enough this week; I mean after only working together for 5 days, she’d landed 3 interviews spanning Monday and Tuesday of this week. The first one was admittedly for a volunteer administrative role and the last 2 for paid employment, both in dental offices.

When everyone was gone at day’s end, she lingered and told me the outcomes of each, feeling so let down and disappointed, angry and frustrated as she spoke. The volunteer role she’d applied for wanted her in fact; they could make use of her every Tuesday for 8 hours.

The first of the employment interviews lasted all of 10 minutes; interviewed by a very young, bubbly woman who seemed to have clones of herself working around her. While she asked questions related to the job that were relevant, it seemed no matter the answers provided, at 54 the applicant just wasn’t a good fit. That wasn’t said outright I learned, but it was strongly inferred as, what else might, ‘not a good fit’ refer to?

The 3rd interview? Well imagine this situation wasn’t hers but yours. You’ve just had a 10 minute interview and you’re surprised and disappointed. You pull yourself together as best you can and after driving to the next appointment with your best face on, this interview is over after just 3 minutes! The Dentist determined her expected wages started at $22 p/hr and he was only able to start at $18. Game over; job lost. She was in a word, overqualified. He told her that even if she took the $18, he’d expect she’d keep looking and leave him soon and he wanted a long-term employee. She was honest in return and said that yes, she’d take the job if offered but keep looking.

If you read my blogs on a regular basis, you’ll hear me often say that you should get yourself connected with a supportive professional, and this is a good example of why. 3 bad experiences actually have positives to be drawn, and these can often be seen by having 3rd person objectivity.

First of all, the volunteer job is 2018 experience, a possible reference, provides purpose and relevant, current training in the environment she’s seeking. By telling the organization she accepts, but will continue to job search and if/when full-time employment is offered she’ll leave, she’s got a lot to gain while giving of herself and benefitting the organization. Win-win.

The issue of age at the 2nd interview? Not easily overcome I grant, but she needs a strategy to deal with this in an interview, and ironically, Age is the topic for today’s class; be someone too young to be taken seriously or too old to be of value; (not how I see it but how people themselves interpret these issues).

The 3rd job? Turns out there was more. The Dentist was impressed with her background and ability to not just work out front at Reception but also her qualifications to take x-rays and work in the back assisting in procedures; something he finds hard to find on a fill-in basis. So he suggested she think about self-employment; contracting herself out to offices. He had 3 offices in 3 cities and could use her on that basis in all 3.

Word gets around within an industry. Do well, and this Dentist would surely pass on his find to other Dentists; why he even asked her if she’d be willing to have him teach her in one area she knows she needs some brief upgrading. To get to the farthest of the 3 offices he runs, he offered to pay her more too.

After our talk, she left feeling better – much better – yesterday afternoon and in a few hours, we’ll be discussing the issue of age and how to address it; which she’ll find helpful too.

You see there are positives to be drawn from every experience; things to learn, to frame differently and to derive benefits from. Not every interview has to end with the job offer you’d hoped for at the outset in order for it to be a positive outcome. Is she employable? ABSOLUTELY!

 

3 Interview Questions: What Would YOU Say?


All this week I’m in the process of conducting mock interviews with a select group of people who are hunting down employment opportunities. Mock interviews in which one can practice their skills and get valuable feedback and support is extremely helpful in increasing the odds of landing a job offer. Understandably then, I’m proud to see such an enthusiastic group putting in the effort to make sure this opportunity before them is one they get the most out of.

Yesterday I conducted three such interviews; each one about an hour in length when you factor in the interview and summarizing how they’ve performed with both verbal and written feedback. While I asked each 8 or 9 questions, I’m sharing 3 such questions with you here, as well as some tips on answering the question better than your competition.

Question 1: Impress Me. 

This is actually the last question I pose to most of those I interview. So before you read further, how would you respond? Resist the urge if you can to ignore thinking about it and just forging on to read more. Where would you go and where would you take me as you respond?

One purpose of the question is to give the applicant, (in this case you) the opportunity to wow me as the employer. Use this opportunity as your one chance to make  a strong final impression on those interviewing you. For just as an interviewer is impressed or not with your first impression, they will be similarly affected one way or the other when you leave them.

The second purpose of the question is to gauge how you can think on your feet with something you may not have prepared for. Best to look thoughtful, pause and then launch into whatever it is you want to say. Good advice is to smile, look positive, entirely engaged and proud as well as emotionally connected to this answer. It is after all how they’ll remember you as things wrap up.

Question 2: Tell me about a time you’ve made a serious error and what you did to overcome it. 

Built on the premise that we all make mistakes, this question is one you should expect. Why? It’s likely you’re going to make at least one mistake if not more in this new job if offered it. So the interviewer is asking to hear not so much the error itself but rather how you reacted to the mistake and what you’ve learned from the experience so it’s chances of being repeated are lowered or eliminated. In an interview you are working hard to come across as polished and confident, marketing your strengths and assets as best you can. So this question is designed to expose a potential problem, perhaps some training needs or where you might benefit from support. Whatever you do, by all means don’t offer up a fatal error where the outcome remained a negative.

Question 3: Describe the position you are applying for as you understand it. 

Whereas the first question I’ve shared with you is actually one I ask last, question 3 here is one I typically slot in at number 2 in a mock interview, following on the heels of the famous, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

As the interviewer, I pose this question to find how well the applicant actually knows what it is they are being interviewed for. Surprisingly, there are many people who go to job interviews with only a vague idea of what they’d actually be doing in the job they are applying for. So do you know how this job fits in with the organization? Knowing how this job or role connects with other positions in the organization is critical. Does it support other positions? Is it a mentoring or leadership role?

Do more than just regurgitate what is in the job posting under the heading, “Duties” or “What You’ll Do In This Role”. Yes, if you zero in on what’s under these headings you’ve hit on the right things to share, but your competition can memorize bullet points too. So if you just repeat back what the job ad says and stop talking, while you’ve technically answered the question, you won’t score as high as the applicants who add more.

So what to add? Excellent question! After having summarized what the key things are, the best applicants then prove how they have actually done what the job entails in one or more of their earlier jobs. Even in situations where the applicant hasn’t had that same experience, the best will talk about how their past experiences use transferable skills which they’ll bring to this place.

Believe me, if you’ve got a wealth of experience and skills and you undersell yourself and your accomplishments, you are gifting your competition and making it highly likely you’ll be passed over. Those with little to no experience will benefit if you fail to illustrate and prove you’ve got what it takes.

If you answered these questions well, congratulations. If you don’t know what to say, bring these three questions with you and put them before whomever you’re working with to help prepare for upcoming interviews. Together, perhaps they can help you compose 3 solid responses.

While job interviews cause anxiety for many, when you practice, you lower your aversion and grow in confidence. While you may never love them, you’ll fear them much less.

Can You Answer These Job Interview Questions?


There are many questions that you might be asked in a job interview. While the questions themselves will vary, the thrust or point of the questions asked is identical; get to know you enough to find if you’re the best candidate. The best candidate in their mind might be the one who fits in with the existing team chemistry, the one who will be able to do the job with the least amount of training or perhaps the one who will bring creativity and innovation.

As the job applicant, you may say this is exactly why job interviews are so stressful; you’re not sure what they’re looking for which makes it impossible to present yourself in the best possible way; and you know you could if you could just figure that out.

So the questions I’m putting down here are not guaranteed to be the ones you’ll get asked. There’s no way someone could guarantee such a list. These will give you a good sense though of what you might be asked. If you can answer these strongly with examples from your past to provide proof of your skills and experience, you’ll be well prepared.

So, can you? Here goes:

Tell me about yourself.

What is your understanding of the job functions for the position you are applying to?

How does your combination of education and experience uniquely qualify you for this job?

In what area(s) would you need training and support to become fully productive if hired?

Impress me.

How would you define customer service excellence and give an example from your past when you’ve provided it.

Share a weakness of yours as it relates to the job and what have you done to improve on this?

Share with us two local and two international stories in the news at the moment.

Describe your experience working productively in a group or team setting.

How would your previous supervisor describe your performance?

Please explain this 3 year gap on your résumé.

Do you have a criminal record? (Sure it’s illegal to ask, but if it is, you’ve got to say something!)

What are your salary expectations?

Tell us about an experience you’ve had working with a co-worker who was difficult to get along with.

Describe the steps you’ve taken to resolve a conflict.

Describe your filing system.

Which is more important, a clock or a compass?

Describe your ideal supervisor.

You’ve got 45 minutes to convince me you’re the right person to hire. Go!

It’s 10 minutes to quitting time and someone has just arrived who will need at least 20 to serve. What do you say and do?

What are the qualities you’d ideally look for in a co-worker?

What qualities annoy you most in others?

Tell us about a time when you made a mistake. What did you do?

What comes to mind when I ask you to share your proudest moment?

Describe your personal availability and willingness to work a variety of shifts.

When I call your references, what will I learn about you that might surprise me?

Are you bondable?

Give me an example of a conflict you’ve had with a co-worker or supervisor and the steps you took to resolve the situation.

Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?

What are your future plans education-wise?

What are you reading at the moment?

Where do you stand on the issue of __________?

When can you start?

Describe a recent experience in which your patience was severely tested.

So how did you do? I suppose you may have wondered at some of the questions; why they’d ask this one or is that one even legal? If you can figure out the purpose of the question asked; what the question is designed to get at, it makes it easier to respond in such a way that the interviewer(s) are impressed. If on the other hand you’re stumped and can’t figure out the purpose or reason they’d ask, you might flounder a bit which could shake your confidence.

These are of course only a small sample of what you might be asked. The best way to prepare for the real questions you’ll actually be asked is to go over the job posting or ad. Highlight exactly what skills and  experience as well as look at the job responsibilities, (what you’d be doing) and you’ll predict with some certainty what they’ll ask.

If you read over the list here and don’t understand the purpose of a question, feel free to comment and ask. While there may be an odd one asked of you, my advice is not to dwell on the one weird question; focus on answering the questions you can prepare for, and do your best with the off-the-wall one you couldn’t have predicted. That question is really designed to see you think on your feet. So for example, “Tell me a story.” You might think, “About what?” The point of the question though is to see how quickly you get your brain in gear and just do it, and what does it show or say about you in terms of what you share.

Oh and please, feel free to share questions you’ve had asked of you or that you ask of applicants if you interview. Each of the questions I’ve provided here have actually been asked in the real world. So come on, share a little!

Sure You’re Ready To Work?


Have you ever decided to take a job offer and then only a short time into the job had to quit? It didn’t work out as the positive experience you believed it would be.

Some people are so focused on getting a job, all they do is scan job postings, send off resumes and cover letters, go to whatever interviews they land and then take the first job that comes their way only to regret it. If you’re doing exactly this now, you might want to re-think what you’re doing to avoid future disappointment.

Of course, I know why people do the above with such fervor; they need money to pay bills and stave off exhausting their financial savings. There is a lot of stress watching the money go out of one’s bank account week after week, month after month. All the money you’d saved up over a period of years can slip away pretty fast when additional money dries up and you’re not used to a self-imposed strict budget. Taking a job; any job mind, shores up the leaks and hopefully balances out the exiting funds.

The problem which can surface however is that a person takes a job that they haven’t really investigated much before applying. Then with the money problem addressed in the short-term, now people look at where they’ve actually put themselves.  It can often be the case that they then say, “What have I done? This isn’t right for me at all.”

What happened of course is the desperation to just get a job of any kind is in the past. Then with that out-of-the-way, attention is turned to the job and that’s when things can seem worse than when the person was out of work altogether. Knowing they can and must do better than the present job, often people quit so they can put 100% into finding a job; the right job this time.

To increase your odds of getting the job that’s right for you, there are a number of things you can do now while unemployed. For starters, and please don’t ignore this as unnecessary, address your health. Looking for work is taxing on the mind and the body. Eating properly and getting out of the house to take in some fresh air and get some exercise while walking around the neighbourhood is essential. Not only will you feel better, if you go for a walk around a block or two a couple of times a day, you’ll also focus better on the job hunt when you return.

Eating healthy foods and moving will fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to ward off excessive weight gain. At the other extreme, eating as little as possible to save money could cause you to lose more weight than is healthy. If you’re fond of the bubbly, watch your alcohol intake. You wouldn’t be the first one to increase drinking to numb some of the stress of looking for work, but what could seem like a good idea at the time could turn out to be a bigger problem than you can handle and then knowing you shouldn’t be drinking so much can for some have the impact of drinking more heavily to actually feel better.

Another thing about starting a new job when you’ve been out of work for a very long time is an abrupt change in your routine. It might not sound like anything you can’t handle, but suddenly having to get up at a given time, catch a bus that runs on a schedule and be seated ready to go at 8:30a.m.  could present a problem you hadn’t considered. Why? Could be that over the extended time you’ve been out of work, you’ve slid into the habit of getting up at 9:00a.m., and with breakfast over after simultaneously watching the news on T.V., you haven’t really got rolling most days until it’s closer to 10:00a.m.

Hey it’s understandable that your routine changed without the need to be somewhere and be accountable to anyone but yourself. I get that and so do employers. However, employers have zero tolerance for people who show up late for work, and if you’re not disciplined, you could find yourself hearing the boss tell you, “it’s just not working out” as they tell you you’re done.

Variety really is the key to staying positive and engaged in your job search. A majority of people think looking for a job means sitting in front of a computer screen for 7 hours a day, 5 days or more a week and applying for job after job. Wrong on so many levels.

A successful job search also includes getting out and introducing yourself to people, networking if you will. Call on people you want to be your references and walk into the organizations you wish to work with. Meet people, feel the atmosphere, get some literature, make some phone calls and ask about their challenges and priorities. Ask to meet with people who hold the jobs you’re after and pick their brain over a tea or coffee.

As part of your computer time, read reviews of what others are saying about the companies you’re interested in on websites like Glassdoor.

You want a job that provides income and you’ll be a good fit with right? Good. Take a breath and let’s get going.