New Year – New Interviews

This month I have been trying to get you in a new state of mind. I’ve talked about new markets, new resumes, new cover letters, new targets, and new networking strategies. For the last post in January, let’s focus on the new interviews.

If you have a good resume and cover letter and you use those with effective networking, I can almost guarantee you’ll get interviews. These techniques will raise you above the average job seeker and give you the visibility you need to be noticed. Then, it will be up to you to use your interviewing skills to move to the next stage.

If you click on Interviewing in the Tag Cloud to the right of this post, you’ll find seven previous posts on interviewing. One of my favorites is Becoming Scheherazade… from just over a year ago. Each of the posts provides some insight in how to make your interviews more successful, but for you impatient ones…

  • Be prepared – go online and find lists of the interview questions. Then write out your answers to those questions. Then practice saying those answers aloud. Be prepared to answer behaviorally based questions (back to Scheherazade).
  • Know who you are and what you want – spend some time (before the interview) really thinking about what you want out of your next job and what you can give. This will drive your elevator speech (last week) but it will also let you answer those questions about your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Get off on the right foot – be on time, well dressed and groomed, look the interviewer in the eye, offer a firm handshake, etc. You need to make a good first impression.
  • Answer the questions you’re asked – don’t talk about unrelated subjects, don’t volunteer information they don’t need to know, don’t vent about how your former employer fired you or about how bad your old boss was at managing.
  • Ask questions – use your opportunity to ask questions to show what you know about this company (things you learned while developing your target list, networking, or through research). Asking questions shows that you are interested and want to learn more. Asking intelligent questions really gets the interviewer’s attention.
  • Be polite – enough said.

Losing one a job and finding another can be a challenging, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding process. For the most part the techniques are not rocket-science, but for many they are not common sense either. I hope that these new posts in January have given you the foundation to understand the process and be successful.


If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.

Strengths and Weaknesses

I’m not a psychic but I predict that at least one time in your job search some interviewer will ask you “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” While I don’t particularly like these questions (more on that later) you do need to be prepared to answer them. Usually the strengths are easier for people. Odds are you can say that you are honest, hardworking, dependable, loyal (remind you of the Boy Scout oath?). If you can, this is a chance to work in your previous related experience – you know the industry, know the job, etc. You understand the drill. You tell them whatever you think they need for this job is what you have – in spades. (More on that later too.)

Where people often struggle are with the weaknesses. Who wants to tell someone they just met what is wrong with them? Nobody! You were going for a good first impression. You don’t want to tell them that you’re a bear in the morning before your coffee or that you can get really cranky if you’re forced to work with people who are not as smart as you are. That just sounds like a bad idea – and to a large degree it is.

You know what issues you have, so try to find a “weakness” or two that you can put to the company’s advantage. For instance, can you turn impatience into a sense of urgency? How about perfectionism in to attention to detail? Can you turn conflict avoidance into being a good mediator, or disorganization into free thinking? The idea here is to be honest, but to also be clear that a) you do recognize that you have this “weakness” and b) you can use or compensate for that weakness in a productive way. A good friend once pointed out the difference between disabled and differently-abled. Just because you have a weakness, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be great for this job – so tell them about it.

Now back to the second aside – “tell them what you think they want to hear”. I am not suggesting that you should be dishonest. You should pick the strengths that you have that are required for this job and sell those. For instance, you might be an incredible typist and speller but those may not be skills required of a manager or a machine operator. Focus on the job you’re applying for. Above all, be honest. With both strengths and weaknesses there is no expectation to reveal everything, but whatever you say you can do well – or you need to work on – needs to be true. Be honest with yourself and others all the time.

As for first aside, if you are an interviewer, these are lousy questions to ask because you will get the answers they think you want to hear. Instead, work those ideas inside of behaviorally based questions like “tell me about a time when you used your greatest work-related strength to help solve a critical problem” or “tell me a time about when one of your personal weaknesses caused you an issue at work.” These questions require that the strength or weakness be given some context and color. I can again make a prediction – you’ll get more useful information.

According to Wikipedia, no fewer than sixteen ancient Greek sages have been credited with the phrase “Know thyself” and it is still applicable today. As you dive into your job search, spend some time reflecting on what you do well and what you need to work on. Write down instances where you’ve done both, and think about how you can use your weaknesses to your future employers advantage.