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4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

4 Ways You May Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

Have you ever been told to get out of your own way? In our personal and professional lives, we often make things more difficult for ourselves; taking troublesome routes around obstacles, making obvious-to-others-but-not-ourselves missteps, and tripping over our own mistakes.

A fantastic example of this self-sabotage can be seen in almost every job seeker’s approach to the job search. Here are four ways that real job seekers tripped over their their own job applications, with tips on how you can avoid these pitfalls and pave a smoother, more productive job search path for yourself.

1 Using impossible language.

Using claims like “I am a perfect fit…” or “My qualifications are unique…” is setting yourself up to be proven wrong quickly< and easily.

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When concluding his cover letter, a recent job candidate wrote, “I have attached my resume and I am certain that, after you review it, you will agree that we should discuss a potential partnership.”

To a recruiter or hiring team, this is often seen as a challenge, because certainty is not something found in spades in the hiring process. Even the best candidates—the ones who eventually get the job—can’t be certain that their applications will pass muster. As you might have guessed, the hiring team, after reviewing this resume, was not at all certain about discussing things further.

How to fix it: Don’t use language that doesn’t leave room for any other result, because the odds say you’ll be wrong more than right. Some better ways to phrase this would have been, “I feel confident that…” or “…after you review it, I would welcome the chance to discuss a potential partnership.” Confidence is refreshing, but certainty is just cocky.

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2 Applying to jobs you’re clearly not qualified for.

It’s one thing to have most but not all of the requirements listed in a job description—most employers are willing to overlook some minor deficiencies in a job applicant as long as the major qualifications are in order—but sometimes job seekers can’t help but get in their own way.

A comment in a cover letter for a blogging and social media job read as follows: “Please note that I am not currently on LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc.”

Since this person was applying to work for a virtual company whose entire presence is based on its website and social media platforms, this one line sent the entire application down the drain.

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How to fix it: If you’re a job seeker who is lacking a very important qualification that can be easily remedied within minutes and for free, then remedy it! Creating LinkedIn and other social media accounts would have taken this person a matter of minutes, and placed them back in the running for the job.

3 Offering skills no-one has asked for.

Unless you have a pretty good idea that a company can use a skill, telling them you’re fluent in Russian isn’t going to add to your application.

A job seeker who applied for a career advice writing position spent a good deal of their application explaining their long background in journalism. “I’ve reported and written on a variety of subjects, including education, consumer health care, social issues, women’s issues, politics, business, the military, animal welfare, government and much, much more.”

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Sounds great! The only problem was that this job required previous HR or career advice writing experience, neither of which were included in this applicant’s laundry list of topics.

How to fix it: If the “much, much more” portion of this applicant’s writing experience involved either of the required subjects, they should have started out with that fact. Don’t clutter up your application with skills that an employer neither asked for, nor needs.

4 Ignoring or glossing over your lack of requirements.

If you have gaps in your employment history or you’re missing a requirement, don’t pretend employers won’t notice if you gloss over those areas. Instead, address them directly, or reconsider whether you are the right candidate for the job.

A company whose services are typically geared towards mid-level career professionals was recently hiring for a role that would work directly with customers to offer them practical advice. One applicant who had yet to graduate from college felt that he was a “strong candidate”, even though he lacked the required years of experience as stated in the job description.

How to fix it: Hiring managers can tell almost immediately if someone is trying to gloss over a lack of experience or qualifications. Rather than hope no one will notice, address any perceived deficits directly in your cover letter and explain how you can fill them. If you truly are qualified for the job, this should be easy to do. And if you’re not qualified, why are you applying?

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Brie Weiler Reynolds

Senior Career Specialist at FlexJobs

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Published on December 17, 2018

15 Important Interview Questions to Ask Employees During an Interview

15 Important Interview Questions to Ask Employees During an Interview

The importance of asking great questions cannot be overstated. Great questions help you discover new things, diagnose existing problems, and explore how well solutions are working in your life or business. Whether you work with consultants, executives, or entry-level employees, you cannot skip questions.

Now imagine running a company where sustainability and profitability depends on your ability to determine the brightest minds and skills in the industry in a single conversation:

How do you know they’re the perfect fit for you? How do you assess their communication skills? How do you know they won’t cost your team in the long run?

You know it already; ask great questions!

The concept of asking questions isn’t new but there is a great chance that you’re not taking full advantage of it. A Harvard Business Review article refers to questioning as a powerful tool that unlocks value, fuels innovation and performance improvement.[1] As a hiring manager or recruiter, how to you get this information when you’re meeting a candidate for the first time?

Ask great questions, of course.

Without further ado, here are 15 interview questions to ask employees during an interview:

1. “What are your career goals?”

Another version of this question is “What types of problems do you see yourself solving in the future?”

This question is almost never asked and when it is asked, most questions are geared towards knowing how long the employees intends to stay in the company.

Instead of asking leading questions that would steer employees into declaring undying loyalty for the organization, ask what types of problems they hope to solve in the future.

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This does two things:

  1. It reveals the skills and interest in your employees.
  2. It lets you know what types of candidates you are attracting in the first place.

With this, you’re able to trend this data to improve how you market your job opening. And if employee retention is pertinent to you, you can use this information to improve the job function so that future employees can see their future selves in this role.

2. “Why do you think you’re a great fit?”

It is important to go beneath the surface to ask questions that make the candidates speak about themselves in their own words. However, a surprising benefit of asking this question is that you’re able to determine how well-versed a candidate really is with the company’s challenges and goals, in addition to their personal attributes.

Instead of listing off accomplishments, an exceptional employee is able to help you see how these previous accomplishment can translate into helping your organization solve its current business problems.

3. “What do you hope to learn from this role?”

The answers to this question can reveal if there is a job-skill match and if a linear career progression is expected.

As you listen carefully and mind these answers from candidates, you begin to see trends in responses that help you refine how you develop roles, responsibilities, how employees see themselves, and what they want their career to look like.

4. “How do you deal with conflict between colleagues?”

Almost every breakdown in relationship is caused by miscommunication or lack of effective interpersonal skills. But a solid indicator of how well a person communicates is how they manage interpersonal conflict.

Conflict management skills is no longer something required only for corporations who wish to settle million-dollar lawsuits. It’s an essential skill that every worker ought to possess and can make or break an organization.

Tip: Ask for a time when they didn’t get along with a co-worker and how they resolved the conflict.

5. “How did you learn about this position?”

Asking how they learned about the position reveals how the brand is perceived by the outside world. This way, you know if your current employees is your biggest source of referrals for qualified applicants.

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This also lets you know how effective your current staffing processes are and which channels are worth the effort.

6. “Why are you interested in this position?”

Again, another seemingly basic question. But when you field applications from candidates who are transferring their skills from a different department or industry, you want to know why the change was made.

What led to the aha moment? What was the internal struggle like for them? What stands out to them about this particular position? Very important.

7. “What excites you the MOST about this position?”

After establishing how passionate they are about this position, it’s not unusual that you would want to know what tasks and responsibilities excite them most. With this knowledge, not only are you aware of their sense of ownership, you help nurture these skills by encouraging and facilitating the discovery of hidden potential in your employees.

For example, a hospital nurse might detest inserting intravenous catheters in patients but jump at the task of motivating colleagues and initiating stress-reduction activities on hospital units. An office employee might cringe at the thought of public speaking but excel at creating world-class presentations.

While you can’t exempt your employee from every task in the role because they favor one thing over another, you are more aware of how rich your existing talent pool is in your organization and can utilize your talents effectively.

8. “What do you consider your weakness?”

Why should you ask a candidate what his or her weakness is when all you want is someone perfect?

Admitting a weakness shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate. Rather, it reveals to you how self-aware the candidate is.

Self-awareness is essential to personal and professional development, and this is sometimes a precursor to how self-directed a person is regarding their career goals.

There are arguments about the need to abolish the weakness question from interviews because it reduces candidates’ accomplishments. I disagree.

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Asking employees about weaknesses lets you understand your employees better so you can not only create a work environment that is smart, you’re able to design professional development programs that can strengthen these weaknesses.

9. “What will you find challenging about this position?”

Maybe you don’t want to ask the ”weakness question.” Maybe you’re more concerned about the capacity to perform in the current job rather than their job history.

Still, you want to know if you have a creative problem solver and how they feel about potential problems when they arise. You also want to anticipate how your employees will adjust to their roles once they are successfully hired. Self-awareness about one’s ability and limits can be observed by asking this question during an interview.

Note: This question should never be asked with a malicious intent. Exceptional employees come with flaws and this should be expected. They key is knowing whether the successful candidate is willing to be a problem solver.

10. “What additional support will you need during your transition?”

This is a very important question during the interview question because not only is the labor market diverse, the response to this question can be used to develop the orientation process and additional training materials.

As a mentor to newer nurses, this is a question I repeat more than 50 percent of the time during the orientation period. The responses I get provide me with insights into what employees really consider as constraints so that I can make their transition as smooth as possible.

11. “What qualities do you desire in a leader or manager?”

Not everyone desires a manager who provides direction while giving you free rein to make your job your own. At the same time, some employees might prefer a manager who is detail-oriented and provides all the answers.

Knowing this before a candidate is hired can prevent conflict arising from differences in communication or management styles.

12. “What do you do if you don’t agree with your manager’s decisions?”

Conflict not only happens between employees. According to a study of conflict in the Canadian workforce,[2] about 81 percent of people leave the organization as a result of conflict.

The purpose of this question is to determine how adaptable an employee is to different communication styles, what they consider deal breakers, and how they model desired behavior when conflict arises.

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The responses to this question allows you to manage expectations and an indication for leaders to continuously work on their communication and conflict management skills.

13. “What would make this company an amazing place to work?”

Maybe you can’t provide free lunches or paid hours of free time at work like bigger companies. But answers to this question can reveal a lot about what employees think is crucial to well-being.

In a study of nearly 17,000 employees,[3] it was noted that an increase in stress level is directly correlated to workplace injury. While this interview won’t eradicate organizational constraints or stressors, feedback from candidates and employees on what makes a company a great place to work is the perfect place to start.

14. “What other questions do you have for me?”

Although this is a conversation to determine the best fit for your team, company, or organization, the interview goes both ways. Yes, you are also being scrutinized by your interviewee.

The purpose of this question is to create space to answer the candidate’s questions about your organization. You also get to provide insight on processes, expectations, team culture, and information that isn’t readily available on the company website.

15. “Tell me about yourself”

If everything else seems too much, lead with this timeless question. You simply cannot go wrong here.

Sometimes, the best answers come from open-ended queries. This is your best chance to know the candidate’s history, career accomplishments, and get a feel for their career goals all at the same time.

It is less intrusive and leading with this question makes it easier to approach other questions––depending on how sensitive the position is.

The Bottom Line

Conversation is a two-way street. Good questions can give you great insights into the value an employee can bring to your company. But there is an art and science to asking questions.

While you won’t become an expert right off the bat, these questions provide a good foundation to start from if you want to attract and retain top talent in your organization.

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Featured photo credit: Drew Beamer via unsplash.com

Reference

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