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10 Ways To Shine In Your Dream Job Interview

10 Ways To Shine In Your Dream Job Interview

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked younger me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or its adult counterpart, “What are you going to do with your degree?” I would be sitting in the middle of one of Forbes’ lists of the richest people in the world. Every single person has a dream job in mind, and although the particular job may change from age 12 to age 22, we spend our lives preparing for that special opportunity to arise. Now it’s 2014, and you have been called to come in for that dream job interview. So here are some tips to ace that interview and get the job you’ve been hoping for and working towards.

Practice potential questions before the interview

The internet is awash with potential questions from job interviews. From the most common job interview questions to the most peculiar, take some time to practice answering these questions, written and out loud. Knowing what to expect can put any fears and nervousness to rest, and set you up for a relaxed dream job interview.

Be punctual, presentable, and well organized

The interview process is not only about how you answer the questions. It also gives the interviewer a chance to view you and how you present yourself. It gives them a chance to gather information about how you would fit into their company. Therefore, it is important to BE ON TIME! Arriving late to an interview is a bad start, but not one that cannot be overcome. If an emergency occurs, relate that information immediately so that the interviewer knows that you are responsible and can communicate well.

Make sure that you dress appropriately for the interview, showing that you realize the importance of the interview. Whether it be suit and tie, blouse and skirt, or a pantsuit, a professional attire shows you take stock of your appearance and the message it communicates. The same message applies to how organized you are during the meeting. No one shows up to their dream job interview in pajamas and fuzzy slippers!

Have a compelling story to tell

The best interviewee is a person who can describe themselves well and in a variety of ways, interspersing their description of their skills with stories and examples as evidence. Interviewers do not want to be bombarded with data and figures. They want stories with emotional impact that hold their interest, convey meaning, and demonstrate your credentials to fill the position.

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So take some time to reflect before your dream job interview, and hold in your memory the moment when the manager didn’t show up for work and you helped calm the storm by assuming some of his duties, even though you were only a cashier at the time. Think back on the time when the members of your planning project quit on you and what steps you took to see the project to completion. It is these compelling stories that will allow you to shine.

Study that industry well

Do your research! Take the time beforehand to look at the company’s website, where you can find information like corporate officers, the latest press releases, and the company’s annual report. Try to gather as much information as you can on your soon-to-be employer and their strategic goals, special projects, and new developments. Having a knowledge of company products, services, protocols and procedures shows the interviewer that you’re proactive, with an eye for detail and an appreciation for the power of preparation. You can get a glimpse of the company culture by perusing the company message board, and by reading the company mission, vision, and values statements.

And then bring the information you have gathered with you to the dream job interview (preferably in a nice portfolio or attache, presentation is important!), and WOW the interviewer with your preparedness.

Know how you can contribute

You have hunted down this interview for your dream job, and have prepared for it by researching the company. But why? Why should the company hire you over the other applicants who may want the job just as much, or be similarly qualified?

It is important to go into your dream job interview with a proper idea and assessment of how you plan to contribute to the company. Whether it is by aligning your skills with new projects and developments, or by providing a skill in an area where they currently do not reach, or by having a skill that you do better than anyone else they have or will hire, show the interviewer that you have already thought about how you will contribute and improve the company.

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Have a professional online presence

Today, an online presence is more important than ever before! The difference between getting a job or not can simply be the pictures you posted after the four days of partying in Amsterdam, or your personal, R-rated rants on Twitter about that particular subject that gets you irate. Potential employers check all these things! Clean up your current social media accounts and tweak privacy settings to properly manage your online image.

The next step is to be consistent with what goes out from your online platforms. Whether it be LinkedIn, a blog you write, your Twitter or your Vimeo account, make sure that you are providing content that aligns with the message you are trying to get across. Creating professional pages on these platforms can help keep your personal and professional lives separate and still maintain your online presence.

Be honest

Honesty is extremely important in your dream job interview. Be honest about how you have handled previous work situations, personal problems on the job, why you were fired, and anything else that the interviewer might ask. Honesty in the answers to these questions, whether the answer is politically correct or not, shows the interviewer your humanity. Telling the potential employer about the situations that caused problems in previous positions will help them place you strategically to avoid negative situations from arising again. Honesty also eliminates the need for a “transition period,” or the time you spend on the new job trying to fit in and adhere to the “dream you” you fabricated in your dream job interview.

Know your strengths and weaknesses

This tip goes hand in hand with honesty. Self-awareness and the ability to self-assess are key in moving yourself to the top of the list of potential candidates. Know your strengths and be able to describe them, especially if they are in areas that are uncommon. Be able to describe how you excel in these areas even above others who may claim the same attributes.

No one believes you when you say your only weakness is “being a perfectionist.” Saying that only shows that you lack self-awareness or are putting on a front to get the job. Be able to accurately describe areas where you are not as strong as you should be, but without sabotaging your chance at getting the job.

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Shine at your dream job interview not only by knowing your strengths and weaknesses, but having a plan in place to improve in all these areas. The plan to improve is the key interviewers look for in a potential employee.

Ask the right questions

Come prepared to interview the interviewer! While going through their gamut of questions, you get the opportunity to quiz them and assess how you measure up at that point in the process. Asking questions at the beginning of the interview allows you to tweak your future responses, adding in buzzwords and key phrases that show you possess all the qualities the position seeks.

Sarah Hansen nailed 10 questions to ask in an interview in her article. Here are some examples of her suggested questions to ask at the beginning of your dream job interview:

  • Can you tell me what a typical day in this position looks like?
  • Can you tell me about your company culture?
  • If you could create the ideal person for this position, what traits would they possess?

Or at the end:

  • In the beginning of our meeting, you listed your ideal candidate having the qualities of X, Y, and Z (repeat their words back to them that they used to answer to your opening question). Do you feel I have adequately shown you that I demonstrate these qualities?

These questions allow you to address any questions they might have concerning your hiring potential, to give evidence of your credentials in the traits they desire, and to assess how you would fit in this company if hired.

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Send a thank-you note

Last, but definitely not least, say thank you!

It is important to either send a note, an email, a phone call, or any other form of correspondence you prefer (carrier pigeon may be overdoing it). The purpose is twofold: not only do you express your sincere gratitude for the opportunity to interview for your dream job, but you take the chance to remind the interviewer of who you are. Out of sight, out of mind? Not if you take the opportunity to say thank you and stay relevant as they complete their hiring process.

Any other tips for acing that dream job interview? Any funny, strange, or random interview stories? Share them below!

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Last Updated on April 15, 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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