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Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success

Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success

Great news: after all those job applications, you’ve actually made it to the interview stage! In this competitive job market, you need to stand out and though your CV has already made a good impression, you need to follow this through at the interview. I’ve had to interview for a few roles over the years and I’ve been amazed at, despite having impressive CVs, how many simple mistakes candidates make during the interview.

Yes, we all want astonish our future employers with our brilliance and expertise, but if we turn up late or don’t look the part, then there’s a strong chance the interview is blown! So to help all you future interviewees out there, I thought I’d put together a list of dos and don’ts to ensure you at least have a chance of getting your dream job!

1. Don’t stretch the truth.

First and foremost, lying on your CV is not a good idea. Remember, you will have to talk through everything you have written, in detail, so there’s a strong chance you will get caught out. While we’re on the subject of CVs, don’t exaggerate in a bid to look perfect. I remember reading a candidate’s CV once, and they appeared to be more angelic than Mother Theresa herself, undertaking various voluntary roles as well as caring for sick relatives—even their dog gave blood! I began to worry that they never had any time left to work!

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2. Do your homework.

One of the first questions often asked at interview is, “What do you know about our company?” so make sure you can talk confidently about their services. I remember interviewing someone once, and when faced with this question, they went totally blank. They muttered the words that were written under the logo which was on the wall behind my head, but couldn’t elaborate on anything after that.

I knew it was just nerves, but it was uncomfortable to watch, and the tumbleweed silence that ensued was only broken by their heavy breathing. So make sure you read as much as you can about the company and if you are prone to nerve-driven mind-blank moments, make some notes and have them in front of you as a prompt. OK, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than saying you don’t know!

Businesswoman and entrepreneur, Karen James of Lilac James has years of interviewing experience:

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“Every interviewer will have their own quirks, likes and dislikes, these are impossible to determine so making sure all your bases are covered will ensure you given the best impression of yourself. It’s simple really. I personally like to be sure people know about my business and ask questions about the role. Asking about money and benefits before an offer is on the table is not a good idea and don’t be rude about past employers. Even if you feel you are being led in this direction, the interviewer may be testing your reaction so be professional at all times.”

3. Yes, appearance does matter.

Well, this may sound like an obvious thing to say, but appearance is so important. You are expected to show your best self in every way at the interview, so if you turn up looking scruffy, dirty or dressed like you’re going to a club, interviewers will presume that if this best you can do, it can only get worse from here!

Do your research and just pitch it right. If you’re interviewing for a job in fashion, then wear trendy clothing; if you want to be a city banker, invest in a suit (watch the Wall Street movies for guidance!). It’s not just your clothes though—it’s your appearance in general.

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I know a manager who is put off by people wearing too much perfume or aftershave or smelling of smoke (take heed smokers), and if you have dirty or chipped nails, well, you have no chance! To an interviewer, looking like you care reflects how you will apply yourself in your future role.

4. Keep focused.

You must try to keep focused and answer questions clearly and concisely. Using and taking notes in an interview is acceptable and preparing questions to ask in advance will look like you’ve done your research and thought carefully about the role.

Don’t ramble and don’t over-talk. Remember, you need to give your interviewer the opportunity to ask some questions. Just bear in mind, an interview is a dialogue not a monologue; there’s a fine line between confidence and coming across as cocky. Listen to what the interviewer is saying and don’t let your mind drift through nerves. The interviewer will know when your eyes glaze over and you’re no longer in the room, so to speak. Therefore, if it takes a double espresso to keep you alert in the interview, then my advice is: do it!

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5. A hug is way too far!

OK, this is easy: don’t hug you’re interviewer when you leave! Everyone loves a hug, but this is a step too far at an interview, even if you feel like it went well. Remember, your interviewer is not your new BFF. A firm handshake will suffice.

When asked about your life don’t, whatever you do, reveal your innermost secrets. They don’t need to know that your partner had an affair or that you have a reoccurring nail fungus. The interviewer just wants to wrap up the interview with an idea of who you are out of work. They want to hear about your hobbies and interests, so appear interesting and bear in mind, this is a job interview not a counselling session!

I know these tips can’t guarantee you will get the job but at least they will help the interviewer remember you for your skills and knowledge instead of the tale you told about your fling with your old boss. After all, it’s not much to ask to turn up on time, look presentable, show knowledge and interest in the role and appear confident and positive about the opportunity of an interview with the company you really want to work with. It’s not rocket science, so what are you waiting for? Pop a mint in your mouth and go get that job!

Featured photo credit: Dollar Photo Club via dollarphotoclub.com

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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