Sunday, October 31, 2010

What’s Your Story?

When you interview at many companies, especially medium to large ones, your interviewers will have forms to fill out on your candidacy, your qualifications, how you fit in with their culture, etc. Make it easy for them to fill out the form and you’ll be helping yourself too. Show them that you’re the right fit for the company and the company is right for you. Explicitly make the connection for why they should pick you, why you want this company and job, why now. What is it about your background, qualifications or skills that makes you different from other candidates?

Your answer should never make any assumptions or comparative or negative statements about other candidates (examples: I’m more quantitative than everyone else, I have more attention to detail, I work harder, etc.)—it’s unprofessional, makes you look bad, and you really don’t know who else is being considered for the spot.

This same advice also goes for if you’re applying to schools. Answer why this school, why now, how it fits into your overall career/life goals, and of course why they should pick you.

Be Sure!

I watched a biography of Donald Trump and it said the driver of his success was that he’s always very sure. Of course this is a gross oversimplification, but there’s definitely truth in that, especially when it comes to getting a job. Believe in yourself and what you have to offer. Rehearse your story. Say it with conviction.

Pay attention to your body language. According to body language experts, most of what we communicate is through body language and only a small percentage is through the actual words we use. Yes, you say, that’s because they believe in what they’re selling and they want everyone else to buy it too. True, but what would you think about a candidate who has bad posture or talks with her hand in front of her mouth? You’d think she wasn’t very sure of what she was saying, right?

In interviews, words carry a lot of weight, but delivery is equally key. Practice in front of a mirror, tape yourself answering interview questions, or have a friend do a mock interview with you and get their honest feedback. By practicing, you’ll feel more confident and that will come across in your body language too.

If you get a question about something you don’t have a lot of expertise in, make an educated guess or offer an opinion. Never just say you don’t know. Example: I’m not an expert in turnaround management, but based on my understanding, my opinion is x.

Bottom line: Companies want to hire people who love what they do and are sure of themselves and their ideas.

Networking: The most effective way to get a job or just learn more about an industry

If you’re trying to get a new job or break into a new industry but don’t know where to start, networking will probably have the biggest payoff for time spent. The downside is that to some, it might carry negative connotations of being overly schmoozy or insincere. Or maybe you’re one of these people who just doesn’t like asking favors of others (like me).

But networking is really nothing more than talking to people, asking for information, advice and/or perspectives, getting to know them a little and letting them know you. If you can converse comfortably, then you can network. Remember, people like talking about themselves. Ask for their thoughts and opinions on their industry, how their career path led them to their current position, what their long-term goals are, what advice they have for people trying to break into that industry. People love to give advice.

Think of it this way: would you give someone a little bit of your time or possibly help them if you were in a position to do so? When you get your job through networking, pay it forward and help someone else.
If you’re more of the shy and reserved type, don’t think too much before approaching someone at a networking event. The more you stand around thinking about approaching them, the more nervous you’re likely to get. Your hesitation might come across as lack of confidence and that can ultimately hurt your chances. Just take a deep breath, smile, have some good questions ready and jump right in with a firm handshake.