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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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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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