Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

We’re all quite special (or at least we tell ourselves we are), and we want employers to know. The tough part about that is we’re all different, and yet we have to use the same tools to convey our unique personalities to employers. The other day Bree told us what she’s doing to get noticed in a sea of applicants. Now it’s Natalie’s turn to offer up her method:

cbnatalieI’ve been told that a hiring manager will only look at your résumé for 30 seconds before putting it into the “yes” or “no” pile.  I’ve also been told that a hiring manager only looks at your résumé for 10 seconds before making a decision.

Either way, that’s not a lot of time to make an impression.

To help my résumé stand out, I’ve gotten it critiqued by as many people as possible. This list includes my old boss, both of my sisters, three different ladies at three different career centers on campus and my boyfriend. They each offered a slightly different opinion that together helped shape the most recent form of my résumé.

I think one of the most important things I learned was how to write effective bullet points. I was told that it’s more than what your tasks are at work, it’s how those tasks affected the company.

Example: Bullet A represents an impressive task that you may have put on your résumé, while bullet B shows how this bullet point can not only be impressive but it can stand out from the others —

A) Tutored middle school students in reading for two hours daily

B) Tutored middle school students in reading for two hours daily, increasing their average reading level by more than two grade levels

In addition to stating what you task was, you’re also saying why this task was important. This shows that you’re effective at your job and making a difference.

My résumé is constantly changing. I like to stay involved on campus to show that I’m well-rounded and versatile. My résumé is easy to follow,  (hopefully) doesn’t contain grammar mistakes, reflects how my actions made a positive impact for my companies and highlights a wide variety of involvement.


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With all of the economic challenges we’ve been hearing about on the news, it’s clear that searching for a new job is trickier than it was before.

And the statistics are indicating that there are fewer jobs to go around. Jobs that might previously have been the domain of new graduates entering the job force are also being awarded to mid-level candidates who are competing for jobs after a layoff or downsizing.

But we’re hearing a lot of fear and hesitation from our readers. And we want to encourage you to take the leap. It may be harder, but finding a job is by no means an impossible task.


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Searching for a job can be hard work. There are many factors to think about and consider as you launch your job search. Experience and education are two critical aspects that every employer will look at.

But those same companies will also analyze you in more subtle ways. How do you interact with people? Do  your clothes and grooming project a professional appearance?

Potential employers will definitely be looking at your communication skills. They will analyze your face-to-face communication skills in an interview. And with the tremendous focus on interview skills, many people overlook the importance of written communication. 

How you express yourself in writing can be an important clue to companies about your job skills and your abilities. And companies may be even more likely to scrutinize those kinds of clues when your resume is long on learning, but short on experience.


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Job Buffet

One of the more fun aspects of job hunting – and I promise it can have enjoyable moments – is that you get to see some new things you might’ve never thought about before. The offices tucked away in buildings you always pass but never go into, the positions you didn’t know existed, the people you get to meet. Regardless of whether or not you take a job with anybody you interview with, you sort of walk through a buffet line of workplaces.

How should you get the best sampling of the delicious job platter?

1. Do some legwork. The Internet’s a fantastic job hunting tool (see number 2), but the serendipitous nature of walking (or driving) can’t be beat. When you’re looking for work, you’ll suddenly notice businesses you hadn’t seen before (such as an advertising agency whose sign you always ignored).

2. Log on. Of course you know to look online, but don’t limit yourself to a narrow, targeted list of jobs. You might think you know the job title you want, but don’t be afraid to enter keywords that appeal to you – you might be surprised to find jobs you never thought of that suit you perfectly.

3. Be willing to go on a lot of interviews. Even if you’re not sure you really want the job, don’t be afraid to show up and see what they have to say. Unless it’s a monstrous day-long interview, you only have an hour or so of your life to lose, and you could end up actually liking what you hear. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to practice your interview techniques.

4. Pick up the phone. If you know of a place you’d like to work (either because of its reputation or word-of-mouth), contact them. They might not be hiring but they could be willing to sit down for a quick interview with you or to hear you out and keep you in mind for a future position that might open up.

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When you’re looking for a job, you really don’t want to think about anything other than “Can I find a job that I’ll love and that will let me pay the bills?” And while those are two very – if not the most – important questions you should ask yourself, you also need to think about whether you’ll fit in the company culture. Even if there is nobody in this world better at you than sales, if you can’t stand the people you work for and with, you won’t care how big your paycheck is.The culture depends on a lot of things – the dress code, everybody’s sense of humor, the rigidity or flexibility of schedules, the expectations for socializing during and after work. A lot of these qualities aren’t something you’ll find in a job description or even in a first interview, but they’re important.

In the Job Hunter’s Questionnaire entry a few weeks ago I mentioned the importance of culture, and I think it’s worth devoting more time. So here’s what to think about during your interview and interaction leading up to a job offer.

  • If you’re given a walk-through of where you’ll be working, note if people look relaxed or are talking to each other or if they’re focused (maybe too focused) on their work.
  • “How often does the team/department meet to discuss goals and progress?” This can give you an idea of whether you’re seen as on your own or if a team camaraderie is stressed.
  • “How would you describe your management style?” You can get a sense of the manager’s tendency or refusal to micromanage.
  • “What is your typical day like?” or “What kind of schedule can I expect?” You don’t want to sound like you’re trying to come in late and leave early, but you’ll probably get a quick sense of whether you’re expected to arrive before the clock strikes 8:00 or if you have some buffer time. That can tell you a lot about the general climate.
  • “How would you describe the kind of person are you looking for to fill this position?” Some hiring managers will mention a sense of humor or a laid-back personality or a hard worker. If the description is entirely about work ethic and doesn’t mention personality type, then there’s a chance the department is focused on results and doesn’t spend a lot of time interacting with each other (for non-business reasons).

The thing to remember is that there’s not a single right or wrong answer for everybody – only for you. You know what suits you, so do what feels right.

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More Interview Tips

Some universities teach students how to go on a job interview, but chances are these are small lessons and not thorough walk-throughs. I’m not saying interviews are impossible rocket-science-like obstacles, but they’re tricky.

Job hunting is a definite give-and-take for both employers and job seekers. You want the job, they want you to want the job, you want them to want you and they want you to prove yourself. That’s enough to give you a headache.

So the interview is where you have a chance to do all of the above things. But how? Here are some tips:

  • Learn about the company. When you’re asked what you know about the company, you should be able to recall important names, figures, or events of the company. An interviewer wants to know you’re ready to be part of the organization.
  • Ask questions. When the interviewer offers you the opportunity to ask questions, don’t say “No, you’ve answered everything.” If you’re an active participant in the interview, you’ll show that you’re not just looking for a job, but that you also care about the position.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll probably be asked what your biggest weakness is, so think about where you have room for improvement and be able to talk about it without talking yourself out of the job. Also know where your strengths lie so that you can mention how they have contributed to your past successes either in school or at other jobs.
  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Just because you need to adhere to business etiquette doesn’t mean you have to be someone else. Do you want a job where you’re pretending to enjoy yourself every day? Be courteous but don’t act like you love public speaking just to get a job in PR that you’ll dread.
  • Be nice. It’s simple but helpful advice. Just being pleasant with everybody you encounter can go far. Many hiring managers ask the receptionist how you behaved to see if you’re the kind of person they want. Your credentials can be great, but when the decision makers are narrowing down the list of candidates, they’re going to think about whom they want to work with every day—and a nice person will win over an unpleasant one every time.

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Why would you choose to accept or reject a job offer?
Why would you even apply to a particular company in the first place?

These basic questions can help direct your job search. Although you might not have thought to ask yourself these questions, you should know the answer before you begin sending out résumés.


If you’re anything like I was in college, I knew what classes I had to take, what classes I wanted to take, what other people said about each course and the professors, what days and time they met. For all the money I was paying and the time it was taking, I wasn’t going to be stuck in a horrible class if I could avoid it. Don’t lose this attention to detail once you graduate.

Often, when college graduates start job hunting, they’re eager to get their first big paycheck—and rightfully so, they’ve worked hard! Just make sure you know what you want when you’re in that position.

  • How much money do you need to survive? (Hint: Don’t forget student loan repayments.)
  • What benefits (health insurance, dental coverage, vacation, bonuses) do you insist on having, if any?
  • Does the company have the culture that suits you? (For example, do you like a professional, strict environment or a casual one?)
  • Are other company perks (like charity work or tuition reimbursement) important to you?
  • Are you looking for a future at this company or just something to hold you over until you move?
  • Will you like what you’re doing on a daily basis? How about the people you work with? (This is something you’d have to investigate in interviews, since you obviously can’t know this for certain until you’re actually there.)
  • Have I checked with other people to see what kind of place this is?

The ultimate question is: What do you need to hear in order to make a decision you can be comfortable with?

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