Career Planning

In today’s competitive job market, the most assiduous candidates take extra steps to distinguish themselves from the competiti

In today’s competitive job market, the most assiduous candidates take extra steps to distinguish themselves from the competition by planning ahead.  Here are some tactics to help you stand out in a crowd:

·         Talk about your achievements. For example if you’ve built something or you improved something, leading to beneficial results, employers want to hear about it.

·         Talk about how your job impacted the "big picture". Talk about your team's impact on the company as a whole. Employers want someone who has a passion to work with others. You have to enjoy relationships with people. Life - and top finance performance - is often about people, not things. Words are powerful: use "our" and "we" more than "I" and "me" in your interviews.

·         Show confidence. Confident people have a clear vision of what they can do, and freely admit their limitations. Admit your limitations and show that you are attending courses to continue to learn new concepts.

·         Don't put "see resume" on your job application. It suggests laziness, lack of thoroughness or that you are trying to hide something. Fill out the entire job application form.

·         Know the difference between leadership and management. Employers want leaders, not just managers. Be ready to show examples of your leadership. Having the ability to lead and motivate others is often due to your attitude towards people. If people sense you genuinely care about them, they'll follow you nearly anywhere.

·         Always bring a collection of your past work to an interview. This portfolio can include articles, reports, proposals and other writing and work samples. Employers like to know that candidates have taken initiative and completed successful projects in previous positions, and concrete examples are a great way to show off your past accomplishments. If a complete portfolio isn't a possibility, prepare a list of past projects and accomplishments to give to the interviewer.

·         A complete list of references is an important tool to have with you on an interview. Don't wait for the interviewer to ask-give them the list and let them know that you are comfortable with past employers speaking on your behalf. If possible, you could even provide letters of recommendation from your references, giving your interviewer an immediate idea of how happy past employers have been with your work.

·         Be prepared for the interview by reading through company materials and the company's web site. Then print out the important pages of the site and take them with you. They will serve as a great review of the company while you wait to be interviewed. You can also use them to ask questions about the company, and the interviewer will know that you have spent time researching the company prior to the interview.

·         A final suggestion: bring a list of questions. An interviewer will almost always ask you if you have any questions, and you may not always be able to remember them after a long or demanding interview. If you pull out a list of your questions (and also add notes to it during the interview) you will be sure to ask all of your questions and get the answers you need to make an intelligent decision. This also demonstrates your responsibility in preparation and genuine interest in the company.

·         Don't forget to make copies of everything you bring to leave with your interviewer. They serve as excellent reminders of you and your interview once you have left the office. When you are being compared with other candidates for the job, an excellent project sample or glowing letter of recommendation can be very persuasive on your behalf.

·         Research the company. Find out as much as you can about the organization before the interview. You may want to check out the firm’s web site for its mission statement and goals, as well as the company’s past financial performance. You can also read analyst ratings, scan the company’s annual report or search for media coverage. If possible, talk to someone who currently works at the organization or has worked there in the past. 


·         Prepare intelligent questions. Once you’ve done your research, come up with some questions of your own to ask about the company, the department and the job responsibilities. Ask the interviewer to describe the firm’s long-term goals and its position as compared to competitors. When appropriate, add your own insight based on what you’ve learned through your research. Try to formulate open-ended questions that will provide you with deeper insight about the business.


·         Listen up. Pay close attention to the person interviewing you. To be a good listener, you need to focus your full attention on the speaker and try to avoid thinking about what you will say next. Maintain eye contact and use nonverbal cues, such as nodding, to show interest in what he or she is saying. Ask for clarification when anything is unclear, and paraphrase to ensure that you understand what was said.


·         Keep your answers brief. Your responses should be focused and concise.  It’s okay to think for a moment before answering questions; in fact, a moment of silence can make your response seem more thoughtful.  After you have finished answering a question, avoid the urge to fill in the silence with “chatter.”  Natural pauses allow the interviewer to absorb what you have said. 


·         Go easy on the “charm.” Although you want to appear personable, don’t overdo it.  Concentrate on demonstrating that you have the skills and attributes the job requires.  If you focus to heavily on “winning over” the interviewer, you may come across as insincere.  However, if you are honest and enthusiastic, the rapport between you two will develop more naturally.


·         Be yourself. Let your personality shine through during the interview — your interviewer wants to get to know you.  Additionally, you’ll feel more comfortable because you aren’t putting on an act. 


·         Make an offer. If the interview goes well and you know you’d like the position, you might offer to solve a problem, provide additional samples of your work or spend a day on the job for free (if you are able to).  You may get turned down, but your offer will show initiative and enthusiasm. 


·         Ask for what you want. If you like the job description but the salary or benefits don’t fit your needs, find out if these aspects are negotiable. Perhaps you could ask for more vacation time or another benefit such as flex-time.


·         Leave something behind. Take something to the interview that you can leave with the hiring manager to help her remember you. It might be a piece from your portfolio, an example of work done for your previous company or even a project from college that is relevant to the job. 

The Lunch Interview

The following are tips for acing the lunch interview:

·         Be punctual. People often have a limited amount of time for lunch and tardiness can be particularly irritating. If you are going to be more than five minutes late, telephone the restaurant and ask the maitre’d to let the person you’re meeting know when you’ll arrive. 


·         Mind your manners. The rules your mother taught you probably still apply. However, if you need to brush up on your etiquette, you may find it helpful to consult a manners expert online for your in-depth queries, particularly if the restaurant you will be attending is an upscale one. 


·         Let your host guide the conversation. The general rule is to avoid business talk until your order has arrived. Ask thoughtful questions that are not overly personal, and listen carefully to the responses. While initial small talk can help smooth ensuing communication, in an interview situation your host may prefer to initiate a professional discussion earlier, so follow his or her lead.


·         Think about what you’re ordering. Select a moderately priced meal. If you are paying, you do not want to appear cheap by selecting the least expensive item, and if your potential employer is paying, you do not want to cost him or her an exorbitant amount of money. Be decisive about what you’d like, and avoid dishes that are messy or difficult to eat, such as ribs or spaghetti. It is usually safest not to consume alcohol, even if your host orders a drink — you want to be alert. 


·         Be polite to your server. Your treatment of wait staff reflects your level of professionalism and how well you work with others — so treat your waiter or waitress with respect. It’s okay to return a meal that is not what you ordered, as long as you do so courteously.


·         Give your host your undivided attention. Turn off your cell phone or pager and focus on the interview. Avoid leaving the table before the meal is concluded, and never accept a phone call while at the table.

·         Show candor. As with any interview, it’s generally not a good idea to volunteer any information that could call into question your ability to perform the job for which you are being interviewed. It’s still important to try not to respond too defensively to questions whose answers might bring to light certain “weaknesses” in your background. The challenge here is to be aware, ahead of time, of those areas that you’d like to improve so that you can admit to them, but at the same time, point to strengths that offset them.

·         Don’t over-answer. Because there is often more noise and distraction at a restaurant, the interviewer may be more blunt or direct with her questions than she would be if you were at an office. Try to keep your answers as focused and brief as possible. Don’t feel obliged to fill any silence that follows your answer with additional information. Let silence work in your favour, giving the interviewer time to absorb what you’ve said. 

·         End the lunch on a positive note. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules regarding responsibility for the bill. Often the company will pay for a lunch interview — but be sure to have cash on hand if this is not the case. Cash prevents the awkward happenstance that your credit card is not accepted. Be sure to shake hands with your host, and thank her for the meeting and the meal, if she paid.

The Interview Follow-Up

You've just finished an interview for a job you'd love to have. Now what?

·         Immediately send a thank you letter to the interviewer. This is a very effective method for expressing your gratitude and genuine interest in a position. Show your appreciation for their time and mention how much you look forward to hearing from them. Be sure to set a target date in the letter when they can expect a follow up phone call from you. Two weeks is usually an appropriate amount of time, and allows the employer to get back in touch with you earlier if they want to.

·         Develop further questions about the position and the organization. Think of additional things you would like to know about the job, such as potential for growth in the organization or continuing education. This is a great way to keep interaction going on with the interviewer, keeping you fresh in their mind when it comes time to make a decision.

·         Try to arrange a second interview. Find out if the employer is holding a second round of interviews. If so, express your interest in speaking with them again and learning more about the job opportunity. If you are called back for a second interview, try to be the first or last candidate they meet in the second round. This can help you stand out a bit more among a group where everyone is most likely being seriously considered for the job.

·         Make connections with as many people as possible. If you do make it back for a second interview, make an effort to meet others on the team. In addition to your interviewer, you might ask to meet with the peers you would be working with or the other management staff who would oversee your work. Making a good impression on more than one team member can be highly valuable when they have to make a tough decision between candidates.

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Interview Phobia