#1 Desired Trait? ENTHUSIASM!

If skills, experience and academic education alone were all it takes to impress upon an employer that you’re the right person to hire, there wouldn’t be any need for interviews. Employers would simply look over the resumes that come in, and presumably the first one that checked off all of their needs would get selected and the rest put aside. That is not how it works.

Interviews are held of course, most often in person, but in some cases are held over the phone, via a video link, or in a screening test or questionnaire which both lead up to an in-person get together.

The reason those employers set up meetings between applicants and their own representatives – pegged as interviewers – is to size up the person in areas that aren’t indicated on the résumé. Essentially the employer wants to meet to assess your personality, attitude, friendliness, ability to engage with them, your communication skills, first impression; all in an attempt to decide as best as possible if you’re the kind of person that will fit into their organization.

It might seem obvious to you that you want the job. I mean, otherwise, why would you have applied? People who apply for jobs however have varying degrees of excitement and enthusiasm for the work to be done. Some apply out of desperation, some are just kicking tires, seeing if they get any response, others are genuinely interested in the jobs while others are running away from the jobs they have now and almost anything else would seem to be preferable. So one’s motivation for applying in the first place is often a key question for an interviewer to determine.

This idea of determining ones motivation is why questions like, “Why are you applying for this position?”, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why are you leaving / Why did you leave your current / last job?” of interest. These kinds of questions are designed to have you respond in part to your motivation for wanting to work for this company you are being interviewed by.

So if for example you don’t know much about the company you are applying for, this could show you don’t actually know or seemingly care if the job and company will be a good fit for you or not. Your lack of interest in putting in any effort to find out before applying tells them you might just be on a fishing trip – trying to see if you can get a job offer by putting in a minimal effort. Is this an indication how you’ll go about things if they did hire you too? Probably. After all, if you aren’t investing much energy in finding out something that should be pretty important to you personally, you’re not likely to invest much energy in the work the company expects you to do on their behalf now are you?

Showing a high level of enthusiasm for the opportunity before you is first and foremost what an employer wants to hear and see in the people they hire. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job or career you’re interviewing for, you send a very appealing message. You’re going to work with enthusiasm, enjoy what you’re doing, make an investment of your physical and mental capacities and in short, you’ll be connected to the work you do.

So you’ll show up on time, be present mentally when you’re there physically, get along with your co-workers, and your overall energy and work ethic will add to and not draw from the overall goals of the organization. Let’s sum things up by saying you’re going to be an attractive addition to the team.

How do you convey enthusiasm? Ah, good question! Look and sound positive, sit slightly forward and make good eye contact. Ask questions throughout that show a real interest. Mention things you’ve discovered through your earlier research about the job, their clients/customers. Identify any opportunities you’re aware of that your uniquely qualified to respond to. Ask about future challenges, culture, expectations and reply to what you hear by thoughtfully adding how you will enjoy engaging with these same things.

You can tell when someone isn’t really engaged in what they’re doing and so can an interviewer. Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t seem invested but is going along until they can finally get away? You can tell by their glances elsewhere, their lack of conversation about anything meaningful and their posture that this isn’t a good fit for either of you. Pretty much the same thing with a job interview.

You might actually see the word, ‘enthusiasm’ in a job posting or you may not. It’s never a bad idea to bring it out right from the first moment of contact, all the way through to the handshake you respond with as they say, “Welcome aboard!”

Having said that, continuing to show enthusiasm for your job on a daily basis will help keep you in mind as a positive person and influence on others you come into contact with. Who knows? Could be that your genuine enthusiasm for what you do will gain you respect and perhaps even lead to being considered for advancement as opportunities arise within the organization in the years to come.

With Enthusiasm as always,

Kelly Mitchell

It’s The End Of The Job Interview…

Unless you’re blindsided with an abrupt end to the job interview process, I’m guessing you can sense when things are wrapping up. Whether you hear the interviewer say, “Just one more question…”, or “Well that just about does it” you can sense the end is drawing near. So in those last couple of minutes what should you do?

One thing you shouldn’t do is plan on playing things by ear and winging it. The people who tend to make things up on the fly typically don’t succeed well; these are the folks who 5 minutes after they’ve left the interview room say to themselves, “Oh I forgot to say…!”

What you say does depend on two critical things: 1) As the interview winds down are you still interested in competing for the job based on what you’ve heard and experienced and 2) Has the interview gone positively or not up to that point? This is the challenge for any applicant; continue to answer the questions and stayed focused on the process you are involved in while simultaneously detaching yourself so you can constantly evaluate how things are transpiring.

Let’s assume first that the interview is going well and that you really like what you are hearing and seeing from the employer. Your confidence is high and you want this job more than you did when you first came into the room. Ah yes, the ideal scenario! In this case, you want to leave expressing your enthusiasm for the job and what it entails. As you wrap up, what you really want is to know how the process moves forward. Once you walk out of the interview you’re in the dark otherwise.

Certainly offer your hand with confidence and a smile, making contact as you do. Leave them with a final closing statement: “You’ve done an excellent job at raising my anticipation and excitement at the prospect of joining your team. I’m confident that in choosing me as the successful applicant for this position we will have a productive and mutually beneficial relationship. I look forward to hearing from next Tuesday as you’ve said. Thank you!”

There’s assertiveness in the above statements. It’s not all about you or them but rather the start of a mutually beneficial relationship. You’ve complimented them on raising your anticipation of working there and who doesn’t like to hear they’ve done a good job themselves? You’ve also reaffirmed the timeline they’ve indicated and used your manners by expressing your thanks and appreciation.

Let’s look at another scenario. You’ve become disenchanted with the job opening as the role is explained to you or you’ve picked up that for whatever reason this isn’t going to be a good fit. Should you continue with the interview and waste both your time and theirs or sit through what are the final few minutes out of some kind of respect for the process? My advice is to end things and leave with dignity and class. “If I may, I have great respect for your time as you go about finding the right person for this position. For this reason, I feel it only fair to say that from what I’ve learned today, this isn’t going to be the best fit for either of us but I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have met you.”

You may find this catches the interviewer by surprise and they might ask what’s changed. The situation is reversed now from what is often the case where the applicant is rejected and wants to know why or what they could do in the future to better compete. In this situation it is the interviewer who might want feedback. It’s up to you what if anything you say, but I will tell you that I’ve counselled people for some time to use this strategy and every so often if the employer is really impressed with the applicant up to this point, they make some concession in a negotiating effort to retain the person’s services. More responsibility, a title that fits better, re-packaging the compensation package.

One thing to bear in mind as well with the above is that while this particular opportunity didn’t come out in the end as the best personal fit, you might wish to apply for a different role with the same company or re-think things in the future and reapply for the same position. So best to ease out of the interview process with gratitude for their time and with some class.

Every so often when I hear from a person who has just left an interview, they tell me that they forgot to ask something which is really significant to them. They had expected to ask a certain question if the information wasn’t given to them but they completely forgot. What to do? Why not pick up the phone, ask to speak with them directly and ask your question? You can do that? They won’t think you’re daft? No. Interviewers will generally appreciate the fact that you’re still very much actively engaged in the thought process. In some cases you might email them with your question. Express your thanks first for the interview, indicate your keen interest and ask your question.

By the way, if you feel you’ve messed up and are losing the job you really want, be frank with the employer. Give them your best pitch with sincerity and learn from the experience; as you should with every situation.


“So Tell Me About Yourself.”

You’re fortunate if the job interview starts off with this question. Not everybody agrees of course; in fact, this question seems to rank pretty high up there on the list of questions people dread in an interview. So let’s look at this question; why it’s asked and most importantly how to answer it intelligently so you get off to a positive start in the job interview.

To begin, imagine yourself as the interviewer; sitting on the other side of the table and meeting job applicants for the first time. Presumably the number of applicants has been reduced from all of those who applied down to a few people who – at least on paper  – meet your stated qualifications. After all, whether your company used applicant tracking software or human eyes, it’s highly probable that the reason you were invited in to meet with company personnel as a potential new hire is that you have done a good job matching yourself up with their needs as stated in the job posting.

At this point, you as the interviewer are coming face-to-face with people for the first time. Your job is to meet these candidates, listen to them respond to your questions, confirm their credentials, expose any liabilities and in the end, determine the best of those you meet in terms of finding a fit for the organization. Make the right choice and you add to the overall strength of the company; choose the wrong person and you have two problems: a) you let the right person walk away and b) you’re going to have to release the person you’ve hired and return to the interview and selection process costing you time and money.

As the interviewer, you can look at the resume of the 5 or 6 finalists for the position you are interviewing people for and compare education achievements and professional development. If the job requires a diploma or degree, presumably all the people you are meeting will have this credential. Not much point wasting valuable time confirming that in person, unless of course you’ve requested they bring in the original document for confirmation. Even so, that would take less than a minute to verify.

What you’re really interested in is getting information from the meeting itself which you will compile in order to form a complete picture of the person you are interviewing. Your ears will pick up the person’s vocabulary, ability to express themselves, hesitations and uncertainties and quality of their answers. Your eyes will provide information you’ll use to form a first and last impression based on their clothing, their grooming, posture, facial expressions, gait, smile etc. Your hands will note their handshake quality and will relay information you’ll interpret as their confidence, nervousness, confidence etc.

Leading up to the interview, you’ve no doubt sat down either alone or with someone else and come up with the questions you plan on asking in order to best extract the information you want and need to know in order to make the proper job offer to the best candidate. Some of these questions will focus on technical skills, past experiences, future plans and all the while the interviewer is listening and gathering information they’ll need to determine the right person.

In addition to the objective education (your formal schooling), experience (have you previously done the work required of you now) and skills (how well or poorly have you performed) the interviewer is focused on determining the right personal fit. From your words, tone of voice, visual cues, body language and your own questions, they are sizing up your attitude, values, personality and visualizing how you might fit or not in the environment that makes up the workplace. They know the other employees in the department you could be assigned to, the supervisor you’d report to, the qualities of the best employees they currently have who have made a success of the work. They are in short, measuring you up against this unique knowledge they possess, trying to determine not only if you have what it takes, but the impact of your hiring on the existing workforce and ultimately the services and products they produce for their end-users. Whew! No pressure there!

Okay, so upon first meeting you and the other candidates, they only know what they’ve read on your CV or resume and in the 23 seconds they first eyed you and you took your seat across from them. They are now ready and take the lead on the conversation welcoming and thanking you for coming in to meet them. The opening question is really the ice-breaker; the in-depth questions are yet to come but in the beginning there’s one question that’s really just designed to hear you speak and give them some lead data from which to add to a first impression.

To answer the question intelligently, respond to their stated needs as outlined in the job posting. Get them checking off their own needs based on your answer. You’re a proven professional in your field with the required years of expertise. You’re passionate about your industry and identify your strengths as they relate to the job at hand. Ensure your body language and words reflect your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

Personal hobbies? Avoid these unless they add to the position. Family situation? Irrelevant and could expose liabilities. What’s your motivation, what will you add?

Look at the job posting; don’t wing your opening answer or you may find by their reaction you’re going to be spending the rest of the interview in damage control.

Save Yourself From Being Embarrassed

A critical mistake you can easily make is relying solely on your quick-thinking and natural charm to get you through a job interview. More often than not you’ll be asked increasingly tough questions that will expose your lack of research and clear understanding of the company or job you are applying to.

At some point in the interview, you’d likely get this feeling of having your bravado take a hit, then another; your armour of good looks and charisma whittled away by thought-provoking questions or perhaps puzzled looks from interviews to your answers. Your antiperspirants kicking into overdrive in an effort to combat the increasing wetness of your armpits, and your frequency of looking interviewers in the eyes diminishing as your confidence unravels and embarrassment takes its place.

The danger is not so much blowing this interview – which you would think is the worst that could happen. No, the worst thing that can happen is that your self-confidence erodes so much that it carries over into future interviews. As you prepare for the interviews to come following such a poor one, you could become anxious about repeating the experience and essentially paralyze your ability to perform well.

No you don’t want to embarrass yourself, wasting both your time and the time of the people who granted you the interview. What you do want to do – presumably – is account for yourself with a positive interview where you planned for success.

So now the question is how to prepare for the interview. So let’s look at some of the key things you can do to increase your chances of success.

First of all know why you want the job, and more importantly why you want the job with this specific employer. There are likely similar job titles with other organizations, so what is it about the combination of this job with this employer that has you excited about the prospect of working in this position?

Related to the first very closely is the question of what you have to offer the employer. What makes you the ideal candidate? You know your background more intimately than anyone else, so how will you market yourself to address the needs of the employer? Are you an experienced problem-solver? Maybe you’re a seasoned or skilled negotiator with a proven track record of bringing people together in a non-adversarial atmosphere? If you don’t know what you have to offer an employer, you can hardly count on them to identify it for you.

Here’s something you’ll probably find reassuring – maybe you never even realized; you can predict the questions you’ll be asked with a fair degree of certainty. It’s true! Pull out a job posting – any job posting that lists qualifications or areas of responsibility. In all likelihood, you’ll find yourself being asked questions that seek to draw out your previous experience and qualifications that are listed in this job ad. So if it says you must have experience working in a team, prepare yourself with some examples from your past that demonstrate when you were a productive member of a team. If it calls for customer service skills, have several examples ready that prove or demonstrate your excellent customer service.

Now let’s look at social media. Do you love it, hate it or are you indifferent to it more out of ignorance of what it could do for you? One tangible thing that might ease your own anxiety or give you an edge over your competition (and don’t we all want this?) is to look up the people who will be interviewing you on LinkedIn for example. You can search by the company, probably find the profiles of some people in HR, the CEO or CFO. You can look up a Manager or search by their name if you are savvy enough to ask the person calling you for an interview who you will be interviewed by.

When you do use social media to look up your interviewers ahead of time, you can read their career path, maybe sock away some tidbit of information to drop in the interview such as, “Good morning Gerry, I see we share a passion for ________”. (insert the name of some charity that you and Gerry both contribute to). Sometimes just seeing the picture of the interviewers ahead of time can give you reason to relax, or give you clues on how to dress.

Before you walk into the room, have a few intelligent questions to ask. What information would you like to know that would best prepare you for this job?  Are you keen to know the supervision style of your potential new boss? Are you wondering how much latitude you’ll be given to experiment, introduce cost-saving measures, or the expectation to contribute to projects outside your specific job description?

I never recommend going into an interview unprepared but I hear and see people do this all the time. “What do you know about the company?” I ask of people who are on their way to an interview. “Not much. I’ll find out more when I’m there I guess” is NOT a good answer. What you’re likely to find out is that you should have already known this.

When you prepare and do your homework, you may not even get asked many of the things you came prepared with true; however, better to be over prepared and ready for anything than counting on a wing and a prayer.


Job Interview Help: Features And Benefits

So you’ve got to the job interview stage again and you’re feeling the typical nerves you always feel. If only they would look at your resume and hire you based on that, but instead they want to meet you and conduct a job interview. Ah well so be it.

During the interview you just know they’ll likely ask you about your strengths, why they should hire you, why you’re the right person for the job or something similar. Why is it that for some reason you feel you never do a good job selling yourself? Maybe it’s that you were brought up to believe you shouldn’t brag about yourself. Possibly your just not comfortable doing so, and honestly, you wonder how you could possibly convince them you’re the best person for the job when you’ve never met let alone talked to the competition. Maybe you’re not the best person for the job in the end.

I can help you with an exercise so that you can talk with confidence about yourself without feeling boastful. For this exercise you’ll need a pen; just a standard ordinary pen you’ve got no doubt nearby. Please go get one now and then resume reading.

Okay let’s look at this pen you’ve got before you. First I want you to name some of the features of the pen; it’s construction. Hold it in your hand and you may notice its light weight. Perhaps there’s a clip on the pen, the ink is black, and it may be slim or have a soft spot near the end that your thumb and index finger hold onto. The pen might have a retractable tip that appears and disappears with a click or twist. Finally you surmise that another feature of the pen is that it’s relatively cheap to buy.

Now that you’ve identified the features of the pen, I want you to go back and identify a benefit for each feature. So as its light weight, you can use it longer without fatigue. The benefit of the clip is you can attach it to a pocket or notebook thus freeing up your hands and reducing the chance of losing it. The benefit of the black ink is that it’s a standard for many contracts. Being slim, it’s easy to grip, and the soft spot to hold onto makes it comfortable to hold for long periods. The benefit of the retractable tip is that there is no cap to misplace, and when you put it in your pocket, you’ll avoid staining your clothes. Finally, the price feature means if you lose it, it will be easily replaced at a low or fair price you can afford.

Now, you’ve completed the exercise in identifying features and benefits of the pen. You should have a good idea of not only what goes into the pen but the benefit of ownership. The next thing to do at this point is to turn and think about yourself and the job opportunity before you.

Consider your features and your benefits. Look first at your academic qualifications; your masters, degrees, diplomas and certificates. Once you name them, consider of each of these of benefit to you; how they will enable you to do this job you are considering better than had you not received them. They have provided you with knowledge and a perspective you would not otherwise have.

Think too of your soft skills; personality, overall demeanor, your philosophy as you go about your day. How do these features that make up who you are, translate into a benefit the employer would realize should they hire you? Perhaps your positive attitude would be a breath of fresh air in the organization, especially when interacting with clients and customers.

This is also where you can look at a topic most people are coached to avoid talking about at all costs; your age. Your age is your feature. How I put it to you, would your age benefit the employer? As an older person, perhaps your age would approximate your target customer base; and older customers might identify with older employees. Maybe your age has brought you wisdom, an appreciation for diverse ideas, the experience and maturity that translates into a solid attendance record. Maybe the employer will benefit from your stability on the team and your ability to mentor its younger employees.

Should you be young and find you’re not taken seriously by employers, your youth is your feature, and the benefit to the employer might be your up-to-date knowledge and use of technology. Your employer will benefit from your experience with social media; you’ll have the energy to work productively the entire day without a letdown in the afternoon. The employer will also benefit from your enthusiasm and good health; for you won’t have declining health issues for years.

Okay so back in the interview, the key to this exercise is to highlight for the interviewer exactly how the employer will benefit from hiring you. This isn’t boasting but rather marketing. Market yourself to the employer’s needs; here are my features and here’s the benefit of each feature.  So don’t just say in answer to the question, “Tell me about yourself” that you have a degree. Instead say you’ve got a degree and the benefit of this is that you’ve acquired a deep appreciation for the field of work, and that translates into better performance.

Tips For An Easier Job Interview

Many people fear job interviews. What will they ask? What if the mind goes blank? Let me help you feel more confident, be more prepared and be a strong candidate. 

Let’s assume you have already submitted your resume and because it matched up well with the employer’s needs, you have been granted an interview. You’re at the stage where you’re now preparing to interview.

Pull out the job posting. Note that it has two major sections it communicates; the job responsibilities and the job qualifications. If the job posting you applied to is short on either one or both, visit the company website, search online for similar job postings; in short, do your research to flesh out both what you’ll be expected to do in the job and the qualifications based on the level you are applying for (entry, mid, intermediate or senior).

Presumably you have the qualifications or they wouldn’t have invited you in. Don’t neglect to look them over, but concentrate on the job responsibilities right now. Look over the job posting see what you’ll be expected to actually do. Some things are going to come across as more important than other things. If it says for example you’ll do, “general office duties”, that’s not as significant as, “answer multiple phone lines, administer, set-up and organize electronic client files”.

Looking at the job responsibilities, first list the key or core responsibilities and make a second list of the less critical ones. Here’s one key thing to now understand: the interviewer(s) are highly likely to want to hear about your experience and expertise when it comes to the key or core job functions. It follows then that the questions they would be likely to ask you are going to be about these key functions.

So if the job posting called for superior problem-solving, leadership and negotiation skills, we can reasonably predict in advance the questions asked will have to do with these three items. Here’s another key preference of those who interview: instead of asking you questions about how you’d act in the future, they are almost certain to ask you about your past experiences. Past experiences are the best indicators of how you’ll likely act moving forward, whereas asking you how you might hypothetically act in the future just gets the interview answers the applicant guesses they want to hear.

So knowing that they are going to ask you about your past experiences, there are some important things you can do to prepare. For starters, you need an example of the core things they listed in the posting. So here’s what you do:

1.       Skill: Problem Solving   Example: Moments before the client arrived, retrieved the password- protected files from an ill co-worker and imbedded them in the  presentation. 

2.       Skill: Leadership            Example:   You empowered an under-performing co-worker who modeled your behaviour and by doing so mastered new sales techniques.   

3.       Skill: Negotiation           Example: Negotiated a trade deal with a supplier, reducing costs by 18%.

In this case there are 3 key job requirements, and for each one there is a specific example you’ve recalled that you can use to demonstrate for the interviewer(s) that you have the needed experience. You need to flesh out the stories associated with each example, and the best way to do this is to employ what is called the STAR technique.

Situation, Task, Action and Result are the 4 components of the STAR Interview technique. As you begin your answer, describe the situation you were in, what had to be done or the problem that had to be overcome. Move on to the action you took to resolve it and then finish by stating the positive result.

For each answer or story, don’t memorize the entire answer – that’s too stressful! Instead, come up with a key word or phrase that will trigger the story in your brain when you need it.

So you might think:

1.       Problem Solving: Locked password

2.       Leadership: Mentoring peer

3.       Negotiation: 18% cost savings

The trigger words, associated with the skill or experience you want to access in the interview, will make it easier for you to recall those great stories when you need them. If needed, you could write down the trigger words or phrases on a small card put in front of you at the interview. If you feel stumped, a quick glance at these apparent odd phases or trigger words will help you access the memory files that house your great proof stories. Each story is delivered using the STAR technique.

I point out here that you are in fact, making very good educated guesses at the questions they’ll ask; and you’ll be right more often than not. Therefore, knowing the questions in advance, you can best prepare solid answers to prove you have the required skills and experience. This technique sure beats going in blind and ‘winging’ it; counting on your ability to think on the fly and provide your best answers.

Try it now by looking at a job posting, pick out the key or core experiences and then think about your past jobs and where you may have demonstrated the very thing they are looking for in the right candidate. Learn this process and you are well on your way to feeling more confident going into an interview, and you’ll interview better as a result.

Tell Us About A Mistake You Made

Can you identify a time when you made an error on the job? If you managed to right things in the end and turn the negative into a positive, how did you manage to do that?

I personally have never met anyone who didn’t at some point make a mistake. Be it a lapse of good judgement, misunderstanding a policy, sharing information that turned out to be wrong, missing a deadline; even mixing up the day you have off and staying home on a day you should have been at work; mistakes happen. So given that we all goof up periodically, let’s be honest with ourselves and get past the embarrassment or shame of having made a mistake.

Okay, so it’s not a question of, ‘have you ever made an error?’, it’s a question of what we’ve done to rectify the situation once we realize it. There are two kinds of mistakes; the major ones and the minor ones. The type that fall into the minor category are the type that might be embarrassing but can be quickly remedied and don’t carry long term consequences. I distinctly remember stepping out of my car at work some 90 kilometres from home and suddenly noting as I looked down that I was wearing two different black shoes; a slip on and a lace up! A mistake for sure, but I laughed it off and it was I who pointed it out to my colleagues, making myself the source of amusement and laughter that day. A minor mistake, no major repercussions, easily resolved.

And then of course we’ve got mistakes of the more serious variety. When we make these kinds of mistakes on the job, we are less likely to want to share them with our colleagues. We fret at work, waiting for the summons from the boss, stew over an allegation a customer or client has threatened to raise about our actions, or we feel horrible when we erroneously turn away someone in need only later to find that we could have given them the help they asked for.

On the upside, with every mistake we make, big or small, we have a learning opportunity present itself. If mistakes are inevitably going to occur, it’s not so much then that we make errors, but rather how we learn, (or fail to learn) from them. The bigger the mistake we’ve made, the more significant the learning opportunity. One of the best things you can do when you mess up is acknowledge it quickly, taking full responsibility for it, and take the necessary steps to ensure it does not occur a second time. It’s very hard to come down hard on someone who is contrite, apologetic and who otherwise has a history of positive performance.

On the other hand, attempting to cover up your mistake, blaming others rather than taking responsibility, not showing any signs of remorse, or blatantly overstepping your bounds with little regard to established procedures and policies will surely land you in more trouble in addition to the original error.

Let’s fast-forward then to a job interview. One question that comes up from time-to-time is to share with the interviewer(s), a time when you have goofed up and what you did to resolve it. Some people are understandably nervous about how to answer this question; feeling if they choose the wrong example they will essentially rule themselves out of consideration for the job if too honest. In answering this question, you may feel – and show through your body language – anxiety, embarrassment, even exposure.

The best way to handle this answer is to start with a genuine experience. Don’t invent something on the spot or claim you’ve never made an error of any kind. Neither of these is likely to end well. The key is as I’ve mentioned, to do more than just share the mistake; it’s critical to demonstrate the action you took to both address the consequences of your mistake and learn the lesson. The more authentic you are the better. Of course if your answer centers on some massive error that has disastrous consequences which can never be fully resolved – that may not be the best situation to share.

This question is really designed to both reveal something of your character (how honest you are) and how you react when you do realize you’ve made an error. Remember that even though you are sharing a story about an incident in the past, you are really demonstrating how you are likely to react in the future. This is an example of a behavioural event question; the point being how you’ve acted in the past is the best indicator of how you’ll act moving forward.

Lest you think you’ll use an example from your personal life or a relatively minor mistake like my experience that day with two different shoes, a well-trained interviewer may ask the question a second time, probing for a work-related incident of greater consequence.

It’s only natural we don’t want to voluntarily share anything which could potentially paint ourselves in a bad way and remove us from being considered for a job we want. The key then is to state the error clearly and quickly, but spend the bulk of our answer demonstrating how we responded, concluding with a positive outcome. As you sum up your story, ensure you share what you learned.


Avoid Writing Or Speaking These Words

Today I want to share with you some concrete examples of phrases people use in their daily language which betray a lack of confidence. By sharing these, it is my hope that you may benefit directly and watch your own choice of words when speaking or writing.

The word, ‘just’ when used to describe the kind of work you are looking for, can communicate your low opinion of both the job and by association, the people who perform it. “I’m just looking for a factory job”.  By including the word, ‘just’ in the sentence, it’s a self-put-down.  You might as well say, “I am not worthy of a meaningful job doing anything significant, I’m only capable of this job anybody could do”. Ouch! Remove the word, ‘just’ from the sentence and it becomes assertive immediately; “I’m looking for a factory job”.

‘Would like to’, is a phrase that I often see people use when writing a cover letter or perhaps in the opening few lines of an email. It’s often used in the sentence that goes something like, “I would like to apply for the position of…”  My question to people who use such a phrase is, “Are you applying or aren’t you?” to which they tell me, “Of course I am.” Well if you are in the very act of applying, then you no longer ‘would like to’, you are!

For example if you said, “I would like to visit Australia one day”, that’s an event that may happen one day in the future. It’s not something you would say as you boarded the plane to a fellow passenger. They’d say, “You do know this is the plane going to Australia don’t you?”, because they’d be confused by your choice of language.  So it’s proper then to change this opening to, “I am applying for the position of…” This becomes a factual opening; you’re applying for a job and identifying the position.

“I’m only” is much like the word, ‘just’. “I’m only an Accountant” reveals that low opinion you have, or belief the person you are speaking with has of those people who are Accountants. What’s wrong with being an Accountant? It’s as if you are revealing your inner value that the position you are describing is at the bottom of some commonly held job-ranking scale. If an Accountant happened to be listening nearby, don’t be surprised if they take offence and say, “I’m an Accountant. What’s wrong with Accountants?” I imagine you’d counter apologetically with something like, “Oh sorry I didn’t mean anything by it.” Ah but you’ve said it haven’t you? Drop, “I’m only” from your vocabulary.

Another common mistake I have come to see time and time again on cover letters is a failure of the writer to come right out and ask for an interview. Now isn’t the point of cover letter to introduce yourself, reference your resume and motivate the reader to extend an interview to you? So why dance around hinting at it, inferring it, implying it etc. instead of just stating with assertion, “I am requesting an interview”. It’s as easy as that and can be your opening line. “I am requesting an interview for the position of ______________. “

I am amazed at the number of people who counter this suggestion by saying, “Can I do that? I don’t want to sound pushy.” Pushy? It’s not pushy at all. It’s the thrust of your intent in an opening line which gets right to the point. The person receiving your resume and cover letter is busy and wants to know the purpose of this letter that’s landed on their desk. “Oh, you want an interview. Great, let me read on.”

One last language tip; replace the phrase, “Can I”, with the words, “May I”. I am often approached by clients when working in an Employment Resource Centre who wish to use a stapler or a pen for example. I understand they are being polite and asking for permission to use an item which is only good manners. When you ask, “May I?” you are correctly asking for permission. When you ask, “Can I?” you are asking for my assessment of your ability to actually use the stapler or pen. Presumably you have the required skills and know how to use the stapler, but maybe not. Are you asking for a demonstration first? I doubt it.

Now look, these might appear to be trifling, miniscule things that aren’t a big deal. They are however indicators of your both your self-esteem, your command of the language and by inference, your education level. In other words, the people listening to you or reading your words are going to form impressions of you – just as you yourself form opinions of others based on what you both hear and read. My intent by pointing out these few examples is to help you see how you may be perceived by others. You alone ultimately decide the choice of words you use and the impression you want others to have of you.

If you have no idea your choice of words is creating a poor first impression, it’s impossible to correct what you don’t know. So please take my suggestions as just that – suggestions. Do with them what you will. You’ll find more ideas to help you with your job search at https://myjobadvice.wordpress.com   and please share your comments freely.