Monthly Archives: September 2013

Tackling Tricky Interview Questions

Article by Belinda Fuller

You will usually be asked questions you may find difficult to answer in an interview. We have talked before about taking time to effectively prepare for an interview by researching the company, preparing possible interview questions and practicing appropriate responses. Interview questions vary depending on the role, industry, company culture, seniority, and what’s expected of you. Many recruiters will take the opportunity to incorporate difficult or uncomfortable lines of questioning in order to put you under pressure. How you handle this pressure provides them with a great insight into your true capabilities and if not handled well, may cost you the job.

Whilst these difficult questions can be challenging, they also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the role, as well as your ability to perform well under stress. If you take the time to prepare for these difficult questions, you’ll be far more confident at the interview.

An important way to prepare answers is by brainstorming situations you’ve been involved in to demonstrate your point. Interviewers often use behavioural based questions which focus on your past behaviour to determine potential future success. These questions can be applied to many different areas and they help the interviewer analyse how you’ve handled situations in the past. We recommend using the S.T.A.R. model (read more about that here) to brainstorm examples and develop suitable responses. I’ve provided six tricky interview questions that are commonly disliked amongst candidates:

1.  What is your greatest strength? Many candidates feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a positive way. You need to remove that barrier and remember this is a job interview. This is your chance to stand out so focus your answer on areas relevant to the role. Talk only about work related strengths and don’t just say (for example) “I’m really organised”. Tailor your response to fit the role and use a specific example that supports your point.

2.  What are your weaknesses? Don’t reveal your worst weaknesses – instead prepare two or three minor work-related flaws. There are different approaches to take with this one. You could choose something that doesn’t matter for the role, identify a weakness that could be seen as a positive, or use a fault you are working to improve. The important point is to answer honestly and remain positive. If there is an obvious gap in your experience or knowledge, you could use that as your weakness and address it directly by saying something like “I’m aware of my lack of experience in this industry, so I’ve done some research online and spoken with some of your competitors. I am confident I can learn everything I need to know in a short time frame and quickly become an asset to the organisation.”

3.  Why are you leaving your current job? Stay positive and don’t criticise your current or previous boss or company. Talk about new challenges/responsibilities, career progression, long periods in the same role having achieved significant success and the desire to develop new skills/knowledge. If you were made redundant, be honest and up front and say so, something along the lines of “Unfortunately the company had to downsize a number of roles including mine.” Practice your response so you don’t become emotional or stumble over your words – be brief and stay positive.

4.  Tell me about a time you missed a deadline? (or something similar where you have to talk about a negative situation). It’s important to clearly explain what happened, then focus on the positives in terms of what you learnt and how you do things differently now. For example, you could talk about how you have improved your prioritisation and time management skills after missing a deadline.

5.  Why should we hire you? Don’t just say “Because I’m great at what I do”. Think about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, match those to the job description and focus on why you’re a good fit for the role. Give examples and demonstrate success. Don’t forget to show interest in the company. For example, you could mention something about the opportunity the role offers to further develop some special knowledge you’re particularly interested in.

6.  What do you like least about your current job/the people you work with? Again, try to think of something that may not apply to the role you’re applying for. Answer the question, but focus on the positives such as the fact that you stuck with it or learnt something new even though the task may not have matched your strengths. If you are asked specifically about individuals, never be negative – again remain positive and if you can’t think of something in a positive light, you could just say, “I get along with most people, and I don’t usually have problems developing good working relationships with colleagues.”

Remember, there are often no right or wrong answers with interview questions – the recruiter is simply trying to gain insight into the value you can bring to the organisation. No matter what the question, try to tailor your answer to suit the job you are applying for, always answer honestly, and remain upbeat and positive – that way the interviewer will gain a good sense of why you’d be a great fit for the job.

If you would like assistance from a Career Advisor to help you prepare for tricky interview questions and increase your success rate at interviews, please see our Interview Training and Coaching service.

10 Time Management Tips to Improve Your Productivity

Article by Belinda Fuller

Too much to do, with too little time to do it is an all too common complaint. We all need more time in our day, or so we think, but there are things we can all do to make better use of our time. Here are 10 tips:

1. Diarise everything – block out all your daily commitments in a diary (electronic or paper, whatever suits you) – include work and personal appointments; social engagements; children’s/family activities if they apply; and exercise or down time. You can see at a glance what your day looks like and how much time you’ve got to work with.

2. Track time – spend a day or a week recording what you do each day – then eliminate, delegate and consolidate. Eliminate anything that isn’t productive, delegate where you can, or consolidate tasks – often we do things that may not be 100% necessary.

3. Focus – I’m a big fan of multi-tasking BUT sometimes you need to just focus on one task at a time – try it and I guarantee your results and productivity will improve.

4. Plan your day – check your emails and write a ‘To Do List’ first thing (or last thing) every day. You can set this up as part of your electronic diary, or simply use a pen and paper. The important part is to highlight urgent tasks then plan your day before you start to ‘work’. Prioritising your work this way helps you work more proactively, and there’s something so satisfying about ticking off tasks as you complete them!

5. Establish routines – issues do arise so you need to be flexible, however if you follow set routines most of the time you will be more productive. If you have tasks that have to be completed every day, or most days, try to complete them at the same time.

6. Set time limits – for me, the Pomodoro Technique is fantastic (you can read more about it here). Even if you don’t study this technique, setting time limits for tasks is great for time management. You get stale if you work on the same thing for too long and sometimes coming back to it later helps you see things more clearly. This might sound like a contradiction to number 3 but the idea is that you should complete the task in the ‘time limit’, however don’t beat yourself up if you don’t – simply move onto your next task and feel your energy levels (and productivity) soar. This is also a good strategy for large projects or tasks you procrastinate about – break them into smaller chunks, set time limits, and just get it done.

7. Switch off – you don’t need to always be contactable. Turn your phone off to allow you to work uninterrupted and check/respond to email at certain times. I don’t answer my phone after 5.30pm, however I listen to messages and call back if it is urgent – usually it can wait until morning. Same goes for emails – most people don’t expect an immediate response every time. Closing email to work uninterrupted at certain times throughout the day will also boost your productivity.

8. File things – set up systems and create and follow rules and document naming conventions so you don’t waste time looking for them.

9. Don’t over promise and learn to say no! This can sometimes be difficult in a work situation, but setting realistic deadlines is an important part of good time management so try not to set yourself up for failure.

10. Know when you’re at your best – and take advantage of it. I know my energy levels are at their peak first thing in the morning so I schedule all my complex tasks for then. Work out when your peak is and get the ‘hard stuff’ done. Save the routine tasks for low-energy times.

Just do it! No matter how busy you are, you can always get more organised. Take some time to implement some (or all) of these tips and see if you feel like you have a little more time in your day.

If you have been struggling to find time to get your career on track, you may like to consider getting career advice from one of our experienced Career Coaches. For more information, please see our Career Counselling Services. 

Do I Really Need Different Content in my LinkedIn Profile

Article by Belinda Fuller

As a LinkedIn profile writer, I am aware that many people don’t understand the value of LinkedIn. They believe a copy and paste of their new resume content will suffice as profile content. Whilst this can be a good place to start, it’s not ideal. We always recommend taking the time to work out what you want out of LinkedIn and then optimising your profile to achieve that.

The goal of your resume is to get you an interview – you’re usually responding to a job that has been advertised and there is context in terms of your suitability for the role, past experience and relevant skills. LinkedIn is a bit different in that you could be discovered by someone as suitable for a role that you weren’t actually looking for.

The important thing to remember about LinkedIn is that recruiters and other senior decision makers regularly use LinkedIn to seek out suitable candidates for positions they need to fill. There are more than 1000 corporate customers in Australia paying to market and advertise to LinkedIn members and using LinkedIn’s Talent Services’ products which include:

  • LinkedIn Recruiter to enable recruiters to search the membership base in a targeted way;
  • LinkedIn Jobs to allow companies to post job ads and automatically target the most relevant candidates using LinkedIn’s matching algorithms and profile data;
  • LinkedIn Careers pages which are created by member companies and tailored to showcase their employer brand and culture and ensure the right audience sees it. In addition, “Work With Us”, lets companies advertise on their employees’ profile pages to reinforce the brand with connections – using space that would otherwise carry a generic advertisement.

Your LinkedIn content should be different to your Resume and customised to maximise the opportunity to market you as a potential employee. Here’s a few tips on what’s different to get you started.

1.     Tone – LinkedIn is a form of social media, so whilst it should always remain professional, you certainly can (and we recommend you do) inject a little more of your personality. The most important area to do that is in the Summary – this is where you can showcase your success, while creating your value and appealing to the recruiter. Make sure it’s warm and conversational – not too formal or stuffy. Depending on your professional background, you may want to inject a strong sense of your personality or not – that’s up to you but make sure you show your value and what makes you stand out as an ideal candidate.

2.     Content – a Resume is a factual, more formal document whereas LinkedIn is more personable and should always be written in the first person. The content is more general since it needs to cater for a broader audience whereas resumes are usually tailored for a specific role or job application.

3.     Ease of Reading – LinkedIn profiles need to be ‘web friendly’ – similar to website content, so short paragraphs and concise bullet points should be used – including the Headline (to separate each job title), Summary and Experience sections.

4.     SEO – LinkedIn is an online tool and as such is subject to search engine optimisation (SEO). For those not in the know, SEO helps search tools ‘find’ you. If you’re using LinkedIn as a tool for people (whether that be employers, customers or recruiters) to find you, your profile should be optimised for search tools. Select the words you think recruiters will be looking for and use them wisely. Using up all the character limits in various sections may also help boost your profile SEO.

5.     Value Add – one of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to share your successes. By adding links in various sections you can draw people’s attention to different areas you’ve worked or successes you’ve had. You could include links to videos, presentations, publications, articles etc. and interact with others to have conversations. Ask questions, answer questions. Use it to engage your network and you will see the value flow.

If you are planning on using LinkedIn as a job search tool, you need to optimise your profile to ensure the best chance of success. Make sure you stand out from other candidates by highlighting your successes and the value you will bring to an organisation. Inject some personality, engage with the community, build your connections, and ensure your profile is keyword dense for SEO.

If you would like assistance from a LinkedIn Profile Writer to help you build a professional, keyword optimised profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and sets you apart from your competitors, please see our LinkedIn Profile Writing Services.