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How To Steal The Spotlight At An Interview

How To Steal The Spotlight At An Interview

You spruced up your resume, destroyed the photocopier, and managed to land yourself an interview. Congratulations! But what’s next? You’ve done the easy part getting an interview, now you need to make yourself really stand out from the crowd and turn an interview into a job. Interviews can be really daunting experiences, but on the whole they all tend to follow a very similar format, and there are loads of things you can do to get yourself in the right frame of mind and prepared to steal the limelight from the other applicants. Here’s what you need to do, starting from the beginning:

Preparing for an Interview

Getting yourself ready for the day of the interview is probably the most important part of the whole process. Most companies will give you approximately a week between the day they invite you and the day of the interview. This is to give you ample time to prepare yourself as they wish to see you at your best, and so don’t procrastinate – prepare!

Rehearse Typical Questions

Many interviewers will ask similar questions no matter what the field or sector, as they are looking for more personal views rather than expertise-based notions when looking to hire. They want to make sure your desires match up with the companies, and that you will fit into the culture. Glassdoor sifted through thousands of interviews and put together the 100 most common interview questions. It’s best to run through a list like this, and see if you can prepare and plan the points you want to mention, and try to remember the key points and not a speech – sounding rehearsed in an interview often comes across quite negatively.

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Relate to your Resume

When you’ve considered how you want to answer the questions, try and relate your answers to evidence you can find within your resume. Nothing ties together a stronger argument to hire you than you being able to reflect what you have learned and how you have developed, as well as being able to notice your flaws. When considering your flaws, try and highlight how this job will help you develop and concentrate on them alongside strengthening your existing skills. However, be careful in doing this, as they may think you are trying to freeload on their training and development opportunities. Something along these lines:

Although I’ve not previously worked in a managerial role, I have worked amongst many teams and have adopted somewhat of a leadership role, such as a project in [Company]’s Marketing Department. It will be a great challenge to myself, and I am at a position within my career where I am ready to take that step.

(Need help with your Resume? Check out 10 Tips on How to Craft the Perfect Resume)

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Prepare Yourself Mentally

Think about how many people you are competing against probably for one job. You need to prove not only to the company, but to yourself, that you are worthy of the role and that you deserve to have the job. Look through your experiences, your skill set, and highlight to yourself why you deserve the job, and what benefits you can bring to the company. This will have clear knock-on effects to your confidence, the way you present yourself, and will be noticed by those at the interview.

Pre-Interview Communications

This is one area people often forget to consider. You will be communicating with a company or interview prior to the interview, and these first impressions can have a serious impact on how they will consider you following and during the interview. If you’re applying to a large corporate firm, be formal in all communications with them, and thank them for the opportunity (not every time, but at least once!). Again, how you communicate with them will depend on the existing company culture, and this can be a great way to evaluate whether or not you feel the company will be a suitable fit for yourself. Also, if you are unsure, ask about the dress code of the interview. There’s nothing worse than turning up to an interview in suit to find everyone else in jeans and a polo shirt.

Interview Day

Dress the Part

Think about the interview process. You probably emailed a resume, corresponded via phone or email to book in the interview, and now you’ve arrived at the door. This is the first time they will physically see you. That said, your first impressions will be lasting. It’s important that you dress to impress, but also dress appropriately. If they say dress professionally, make sure your suit is clean and ironed, your belt and shoes match (a winning tip for any outfit!), and you are well groomed. Ladies, not too heavy on the make-up; a sleek, a natural look gives off a great elegant and sophisticated vibe, as well as confidence. The outfit isn’t everything though, make sure you have the body language to match (we’ll talk about this further on).

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Be on Time

So the day has come. Make sure you prepared your journey, have a fresh copy of your resume just in case, and you’re presentable and dressed appropriately. Give yourself adequate time to arrive there early, I always suggest trying to get there about 20 minutes early, and sign in or make it known that you are there. Although they probably will not see you earlier, them knowing that you are eager and that you have arrived on time, but not ridiculously early, is a sign of good organization skills. Many people will arrive early and wait until 5 minutes before to make it known that they have arrived, but you’re competing – take every minor advantage you can get.

Body Language

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Everyone has heard a saying along those lines, but there is so much importance in it. I am aware of at least two people who have been turned down for a job because they seemed “too relaxed” or “not passionate enough” because of the way they were sitting in the interview. Keep your body language open and interested (sit up, shoulders back, open arms), and try not to fidget. Being in control of your body is a great way to show you are a confident. Some great ways to practice body language are to record yourself in a mock interview setting and analyze afterwards. Study public speakers and famous figures in interview settings (on  the news, talk shows, etc.) and see how they compose themselves and try to mimic them. Another great trick is to try and mimic the behaviors of the interviewer subtly. If you do this too obviously it can be very noticeable and somewhat off-putting, but in general people subconsciously mimic the behaviors of people they like as a form of trying to gain acceptance and trust. Although this normally happens fairly naturally, its a good thing to be aware of.

Be Confident, Be Honest

Following on a similar note from Body Language, be careful in the language you choose as well during the interview. Avoid weak phrases such as “I feel that…”, “I think that…” as they show doubt in your opinions. Rather, simply state “I am…”, “It is…” and it shows not only confidence in what you are saying, but that you have previously reflected and have created assertions based upon this (especially if the point is regarding past experiences or situations). With regards to honestly, do not lie about what your previous jobs entailed, but simply be honest with what you’ve achieved before and where you wish you could improve. By being dishonest you may open yourself up for danger in the future, if your expertise are ever called upon, and it will cause friction within the group dynamic of the workplace. Do not be ashamed if you feel like your achievements are little compared to others of the same age or field, everyone has to start somewhere!

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Prepare Questions

Do your homework on the company you’re applying to and have some questions prepared which are meaningful to you. Maybe consider whether or not the company culture is right for you, and ask about the office space and the dynamic of the office, or about work do’s-and-dont’s. If not that, maybe ask about what a typical day will entail, or how much autonomy you will have – whatever is important in a role to you. Not only will asking questions benefit you, it will show the interviewers that you are assessing your fit to the company, and will help make sure that both you and the company will mesh together well.

Summary

And there you have it, a few tips and tricks about handling the interview situation. I would say the biggest thing really to consider is confidence. Confidence is so important in so many ways as it will help you: a) Decide which companies are the right fit for all your aspects and you won’t simply rush into anything just because they offered you the job. b) Stand out during the interview process, but be sure you know the line between confidence and egotistical c) Keep you in the forefront of employer’s and interviewer’s minds in case opportunities arise elsewhere or in the future. Interviews are not necessarily just a yes/no, but can be great networking opportunities too. I wish you all the best with your interviews in the future, and hope you get the dream job and progress through your aspired career!

Featured photo credit: S. Charles via ununsplash.imgix.net

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Kerim Hudson

Unemployed

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Published on December 13, 2018

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

If you’ve ever thought about starting and running your own business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, having flexibility with your schedule and keeping more of the financial rewards that come with business ownership are all good reasons to own your own company.

But as you might expect, it’s not all vacations and fat bank accounts. According to the SBA, 2/3 of businesses survive at least 2 years and approximately 50% survive 5 years.[1] So why is the failure rate so high? At least for the businesses that fail early on, lack of, or poor planning can be a major factor.

So how to start a company?

Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 9 steps to take when your are starting a company from scratch.

1. Do an Honest Evaluation of Yourself

Do you work better in a structured or unstructured environment? Does a daily routine reduce your anxiety? What kinds of things are you good at? Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous? Are you good at accounting and numbers? Can you handle the rejections you’re bound to get when selling or cold calling?

These are all important questions to ask yourself, in fact it’s a good idea to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.

Whatever the answers you come up with for your evaluation, remember that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. Think of it as a way to identify both your areas of strength and weaknesses.

You maybe good at public speaking which can help when raising money, but bad at accounting which just means that you’ll need to find some kind of help with that area of the business.

2. Evaluate Your Idea

If your business idea involves a new product or service (or even an enhancement to an existing product or service), it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.

There are firms that specialize in doing market research for new products, but if you are on a tight budget, you can do this yourself.

First, if you can build a prototype for people to use, touch and look at that’s the best option. If a prototype is not possible or it’s a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.

Then listen! Remember that this is not about others liking your product, this is not your baby that they are talking about. You want honest market research that gives you the best chance for a successful business. Take notes, when someone tells you that they didn’t like a feature or some aspect of your idea tell them ‘Thank you”.

After several rounds of market research with different groups of people, you should see patterns emerging about things that they both liked and didn’t like. Use this information to tweak your product or service and do another round of market research.

Keep in mind that you’ll never come up with a universally loved product, your job is to produce a product or service that appeals to the broadest range of your target market.

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3. Make a Business Plan

I know, I know this isn’t the “fun” part of starting your own business, but it is an very important step in creating a successful business!

Basically, you can think of a business plan as an outline or blueprint of your business. A good business plan should have the following elements:

  • Executive Summary – This should lay out the businesses product or service and the problem that it solves for the consumer.
  • Market Evaluation – This should talk about the market you are serving. Is it an expanding market, and how does your product better fulfill the consumers in that market.
  • Market Strategies – How are you going to penetrate the market and sell your product.
  • Operational Plan – How will the company run from day to day? Who are the key employees and what are their specific rolls. Do your key players have specific goals set for them in advance?

A final word on making a business plan: while lying is never acceptable especially when you are using the business plan to raise money, it is acceptable to “put your best foot forward”.

Playing up the positives while minimizing the negatives is almost expected in a business plan.

Besides, banks as well as professional investors will both do a more in-depth analysis before investing any money into your idea.

4. Decide on a Business Structure

You have many options here, and discussing them with your accountant or financial adviser is really the only way to know what’s right for you. But just to give you a quick rundown of the types of business entities and their pros and cons we will briefly go through them:

Sole Proprietorship

This is a common way for small businesses to get started.

The pros being:

Relatively low costs to set up (usually a business license and sales tax license).Owners normally do not have to set up a special bank account, they are allowed to use their personal one. Any income earned can be offset by other losses (check with your state!). You as the sole proprietor have complete control over all decision making. 

Finally, sole proprietorship’s are relative easy to dissolve.

The cons of using a sole proprietorship include:

You as the sole proprietor can be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. Some benefits, such as health insurance premiums, are not directly deductible from business income.

If you need to raise money, you are not allowed to sell an equity stake in the company. In that same vein, hiring key people maybe more difficult because you cannot offer them an equity stake in the company.

Partnership

A partnership is formed when two or more people decide to start a business. Although there is no legal requirement for any documentation to form a partnership, it is my advice that you never enter into a partnership without having a partnership agreement. (Remember, spending $1500 now can save you $150,000 in legal fees later!).

The pros of a partnership include:

Being relatively easy and inexpensive to start. Hiring key employees can be easier as you are allowed to give equity ownership to as many partners as you want.

For tax purposes, partnerships are relative simple as any income is treated as “pass through” meaning that each partner pays tax on their individual portion of the partnerships income (As of this writing, always check with your tax adviser).

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As far as the cons go:

It can be difficult for some general partnerships to raise capitol. Because it is a partnership, the actions of one of the partners can obligate the entire organisation. All profits must be shared according to the partnership agreement regardless of the amount of work done by any single partner.

Some employee benefits may not be able to be deducted on income tax returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This is a very popular business entity for small to medium sized businesses. The reason for this is the cost of set up is not prohibitive and there is a separation between the owners and the company.

The pros of an LLC include:

Limited liability for the partners, unlike sole proprietorship’s and partnerships where the owners are held responsible for all of the companies debts and liabilities, an LLC provides some protection against certain debts and liabilities that are solely the companies.

Simple taxation, just like the sole proprietorship and partnerships, income is considered “pass through” and is only taxed once on an individual level.

There is no limit on the number of shareholders in an LLC. An LLC requires fewer fillings and administrative requirements than a corporation.

Corporation

A corporation is much more complex and expensive to set up. And a corporation is legally considered an independent entity that is separate from its owners.

The pros of a corporation include:

Complete separation between the owners and the company. Because the corporation is considered its own legal entity, owners can not be held personally responsible for any debts or liabilities of the company.

A corporation can raise capital much easier just by selling more shares in the company.

Cons of corporations include:

Much higher administrative costs than any other business entity. Corporations generally have a higher tax rate. Dividends are not tax deductible for corporations. Income paid in dividends is taxed twice, once by the corporation and again by the shareholder.

Again, this is just a short summary of the pros and cons, always check with your tax adviser about what will work best in your situation.

5. Address Finances

Again, not one of the “Sexier” parts of starting your business from scratch, but very important nonetheless.

So, you’ve done your business plan and an estimate of your start up funding should be included. It should include the amount of funding you’ll need to get you through your first full year of operations.

Now, how do you get that money?

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Self Funding

If possible, self funding is the easiest. You won’t have to go to banks and investors with hat in hand, or give up ownership or control of your company. But as we know, this is not a reality for most people. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available.

Friends and Family

They can be a good source of funding your business if they can see and understand your vision.

Remember that business plan? Pass them out to everyone you know. Then follow up, be prepared to tell them the total amount of money you expect to raise, the minimum investment you are looking for and what you will give in return for the investment.

For example, you give a friend your business plan and follow up with him/her a few days later. You can explain that you have secured funding for $80,000 of the $100,000 you need. You are selling a 2% share in the company for every $2,000 investment. How many shares would he like?

And when he/she tells you no, thank him/her and ask if he/she can think of anyone off the top of his head who might be interested? Tell him/her you really appreciate his/her time and if he/she does come across someone who might be interested to let you know.

Banks

These guys are happy to lend you money when you don’t need it, but all of the sudden they get stingy when you actually need a loan! This is where preparation comes in.

It’s a good idea to go over your business plan with an expert and maybe even have it rewritten by an expert before you approach either a bank or professional investor. Both will want to go over your business plan with a fine tooth comb, verifying all the numbers and data you provide.

You should also brush up on everything in the plan so that you can answer any questions they have with authority.

Crowdfunding

Finally, there is crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Crowdfunding helps to build interest, community spirit, and a customer base. It’s also an efficient way to raise funds. You can take a look at these tips to find out more:

6 Crowdfunding Tips To Get Your Project 100 Percent Funded

6. Register with the Government

As stated earlier, different types of business entities have different filling and administrative requirements. At the very least, you’ll probably need a business license as well as a state sales tax license.

Unless you are forming a corporation, there are many good resources on the web that will do everything for you at a minimal cost.

7. Assemble Your Team

Remember when we evaluated your strengths and weaknesses? Here is where we fill in the gaps!

Do you hate sales and cold calling? Great! There are people who love selling and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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Bored to death with accounting? There are a ton of small accounting firms out there that will take care of that for you.

What about marketing? You can hire someone in-house or out-source that too.

Your job is to keep on top of all the different aspects of the business to make sure they are all running smoothly and getting the results you need. If not, it’s your job to figure out the problem and implement a solution.

Check out this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

8. Buy Insurance

No matter what kind of business you start, you need insurance! Yes, I know, no one likes to buy insurance, but it can literally be the difference between having a minor inconvenience and declaring bankruptcy.

We live in a very litigious time, even a minor slip and fall at your place of business could bankrupt you without insurance. If you need help finding a good agent, check with your local trade organizations or fellow business owners.

9. Start Branding Yourself

Has anyone ever ask you for a Kleenex or a QTip? We all know what they are because of branding, Kleenex is just a brand of tissue and QTip is just a brand of cotton swab. It doesn’t have to be as widely known as Kleenex or QTip, but you can make your brand a common name within your niche.

I once owned a manufacturing company that developed a product that was so popular that my competitors started co-opting my brand name for their products.

If you aren’t sure how to kickstart branding yourself, check out these ways:

5 Ways to Build your Personal Brand & Make More Money

The Bottom Line

Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.

But do you know what’s even more rewarding? Having a business that succeeds, is profitable and provides a good source of income for you, your employees and their family’s.

More Resources About Entrepreneurship

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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