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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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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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