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Career Coach, Bethany Wallace

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September 2016

How to avoid nerves during job interviews

Do you ever feel nervous when preparing for job interviews? Do nerves interfere with your ability to be the best version of yourself during interviews?

I created this four-minute video to help you avoid nerves during job interviews.

Determine why you’re nervous.

Have you adequately prepared? Have you researched the company and position, printed out copies of your resume and cover letter, and completed at least one mock interview? Have you read plenty of articles about common interview questions, how to succeed in job interviews, etc.? Did you only get four hours of sleep last night, drank three cups of coffee within two hours to make up for lack of sleep, and now feel entirely too jittery?

Determining the reason you feel nervous is key. If you don’t understand the problem, you can’t solve it or prevent it.

Here are five ways to help you avoid nerves during interviews.

  1. Practice and prepare. Consider job interviews to be the most important meetings you’ll ever have; they help determine your future career path. If you have not adequately prepared with the help of career services professionals on your college campus or with a career coach you hired, get busy! Conduct practice interviews or mock interviews and ask for your expert’s best interview tips.
  2. Be sure to research the company thoroughly and understand the scope of the position. Research the company firsthand by talking to current and former employees if possible. This helps you answer the question, “Why do you want to work for this company?” without looking like a deer in the headlights. The more you research the company and position and practice and prepare for the interview, the more confident you’ll feel, and your nerves will take a backseat to your motivation to land the job.
  1. Do something fun. If you’ve prepared adequately and still feel nervous before job interviews, do something fun, relaxing, or trivial to get your mind off the interview. For a few hours prior to the job interview, listen to soothing music, drink some hot tea, take a leisurely walk outside, or watch silly YouTube videos.
  2. Ask yourself the HALT question. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? If so, take care of your basic needs before job interviews. Don’t arrive on site with a growling tummy, a brooding resentment, or droopy eyelids due to lack of sleep. Take care of yourself, prepare for the interview, and you’ll likely feel much less nervous.

    Remember the advice your elementary school teachers gave you before standardized tests? Take that advice when preparing for job interviews. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat a balanced breakfast (or lunch, if your interview is scheduled for afternoon). Take care of yourself.

  3. Prepare spiritually. Meditate for a few minutes, practice deep breathing techniques, pray, and think positive thoughts before job interviews. The benefits of prayer and meditation are proven—why not take advantage of these practices during the interview process?

Remember, interviewing is a two-way street. While you may be nervous about landing the job, the employer is probably just as nervous about asking you questions and finding the right candidate for the position. Job interviews are just as much about you learning about the company and position as they are about employers learning about you as a candidate.

Be yourself during job interviews, but be the best version of yourself by assessing your state of mind and emotions in advance and taking care of yourself accordingly.

Need help preparing for your upcoming job interview? Let’s talk.

 

3 ways to avoid interview clichés

If you’ve interviewed for job openings more than a handful of times, you’re probably familiar with the body language an employer exhibits when he’s bored, tired of listening to you talk, or turned off by something you said.

Isn’t that a horrible feeling?

I was recently interviewed by writer Matt Krumrie for an article on ZipRecruiter.com about interview clichés. In addition to the helpful information in this article, I’m providing you with my top three ways to drive employers crazy during interviews—and ways to avoid driving them crazy, too, by avoiding interview clichés.

Which came first… canned interview questions or cliché interview responses? The chicken or the egg?

It doesn’t really matter, does it? If your end goal is to land a great job with a great company, you have to be smart and prepared. If the employer throws out 10 canned interview questions, and you’re adequately prepared for the interview, you’ll be able to respond candidly and concisely while avoiding interview clichés.

It’s important for you as a job seeker to understand that recruiters will likely ask a standard set of questions for a variety of reasons. Employers must ask candidates the same/similar questions to avoid exhibiting bias, and most employers also don’t have time to reinvent the wheel when preparing for interviews with candidates. Employers need to ascertain as quickly as possible whether candidates fit well within the open position and within the company’s culture. It’s your job as the candidate to provide unique, detailed information within the confines of standard interview questions. The only way to do this is by adequately preparing for interviews. Reality check: you will likely be asked standard interview questions. If you don’t prepare responses in advance, you’re choosing to perform poorly and weed yourself out of the screening/hiring process.

Here are three standard interview clichés and ways to avoid them.

  1. “What’s your greatest weakness?”

You’ll be asked this question in at least half of your interviews. Please don’t mention a strength and spin it as a weakness. This is a really old school tip, and employers see right through it. How many times have employers heard candidates say, “Well, I’m a perfectionist, and it causes me to spend too much time on projects?”

Even if this is true, employers will either call bull or roll their eyes at this response. Instead of taking this approach, mention a true weakness, but limit the weaknesses you mention to teachable skills. “I have to admit I wish I had more cross training experience in HTML. My lack of coding is very limited, and when I switch over to code occasionally, I am not as comfortable as I’d like to be. I’d like more training in this area so I can contribute in more ways to my team.” The reason this approach works is because most employers recognize that you’re mentioning a problem which can be easily remedied by professional development or training, and you’re expressing a desire to learn. Good employers don’t see these weaknesses as insurmountable problems but as opportunities for growth.

  1. “Tell me about yourself.”

Avoid responding by launching into a monologue about your life. Unless employers are hoping you’ll throw yourself under the bus so they can weed you out from a big pool of candidates, employers simply don’t want to know about every detail of your life, and they don’t have time to hear the story, either.

What do they care about? They care about what is relevant to the company, to the position, to your work background and future career goals. Briefly explain who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Keep it simple. Avoid sharing personal information which might give away information employers can’t legally ask you. If you’re not familiar with illegal interview questions, add this to your interview prep to-do list.

  1. “Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years”

Do not lie to your potential employer and respond with, “Why, working for you, of course.”

Employers understand that you’re a human being with hopes, dreams, and goals. They want to hear about your future career plans. However, use caution when sharing your plans during an interview; it’s probably not a good idea to mention that in two years, you hope to quit your job and move to Jamaica for the rest of your life.

Focus on what you hope to gain from your employment with their company, but more importantly, how you hope to contribute to the company’s goals or overall mission. Do you want to transition from a contributing writer to editor-in-chief within 10 years? Don’t be afraid to mention that. It’s ambitious, but a quality employer wants to hire candidates with drive and motivation.

It’s better to showcase yourself as caring deeply about your career than as someone who provides cliché answers due to lack of concern or preparation. With a little interview preparation, you’ll not only avoid clichés; you’ll also land your dream job.

Need help preparing for upcoming job interviews? Reach out to me for a free consultation, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for more tips.

 

5 smart ways to fit into corporate culture before you even land the job

Corporate culture is all the buzz these days. All companies and organizations, whether small business or non-profits or monstrous corporate giants, want to create a buzz about what it’s like to work there. You’re familiar with this, right? The Googleplex? The lists upon lists of top companies to work for in the United States?

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Each company or organization has its own brand or identity. I like to think of these as personalities. I’ve worked for all types of companies and organizations, and I’m sure you have if you have much work experience. I worked for a small business owner whose over-the-top, charismatic personality oozed out into the workplace. He converted part of the second floor of the building into a workout facility and game room. This man was the king of fun, but we all knew there was work to be done, so we simply made work fun, too. I thrived in this environment and helped my sales team earn national recognition two quarters in a row.

I also worked for more than one organization with zero personality, or maybe the Debbie Downer personality type. These companies were characterized by low morale, boring meetings, quiet hallways and empty breakrooms, and embarrassing employee retention and attrition statistics. It wasn’t just that these organizations weren’t fun—they lacked passion, enthusiasm, and concern for the work being done. Nobody wants to show up to work each day in a negative, pessimistic, or stifling work environment. Can I get an amen?

I’m sure you’re like me, and you want to work for a company known for its great corporate culture. How do you learn more about a company’s culture and values? And once you determine you want to work for a particular company or organization, how do you go about convincing that employer to hire you?

I was recently interviewed by my former colleague, Matt Krumrie, for a FlexJobs.com article about cultural fit. In addition to the information I shared with Matt, these five tips will help you strategically research companies, determine if they’re a fit for you or not (remember, fit is a two-way street), and then convince your ideal employers to bring you on board during the job search and application process.

1) Do your research about the company before tailoring your resume or crafting your cover letter. If you don’t research the company prior to applying for openings, you don’t know the company well enough to apply for positions. Part of applying for job openings is selling yourself as a candidate. To sell yourself well, you need to convince the person reading your cover letter and reviewing your resume–most likely a hiring manager, recruiter, or human resources coordinator–that you are not only a great fit for the position, but that you are the only fit for the position. How do you do that? You display an understanding of what the company needs (and demonstrate that you’re the best person to give it to them).

2) When conducting research about the company, don’t just peruse the website randomly for 30 minutes. While this is better than nothing, it won’t cut it if you want to dig in and learn about corporate culture. Be strategic in your approach. Is there a media kit available online with quick, hard facts available? A FAQ page about the company? An “in the news” page? Become as familiar as possible not just with statistics but also with information about how the company is posturing itself in the community or world. How is the company selling itself? This helps you gain insight on the pulse of the company’s ethics and values–the corporate culture.

3) Ask yourself whether you are attracted to the interests of the company as well. Is the company endorsing civil rights publicly? That’s fantastic if you care deeply about civil rights. Did the company post several articles about its affiliation with a non-profit organization which promotes health and wellness? That might not be something you find interesting. While this isn’t often a deal breaker in helping you decide about applying for a job, it’s still something to consider. Are you an avid volunteer? If so, a company’s social or political interests might matter more to you than you think in the long run, so take it into account.

4) Don’t overlook opportunities to talk to real people who work for the company. Talking to employees is often the best way to learn about the company, even though you should take opinions with a grain of salt. Employees and former employees know the inner workings of a company or organization better than anyone else. Most people aren’t shy about divulging their experiences if you just ask (especially if you offer to pay for lunch or coffee!). If nothing else, you’ll build your professional network, and that’s never a bad thing.

5) After completing the research phase, tailor your resume. Polish it up in the traditional sense–with the help of career services employees (if you’re a college student) or with my help if you no longer have access to career services employees on your college campus–but keep your research in mind. Share what you learned to your career coach or career services expert, and explain why you want to work for the company. This helps me help you!

Did you learn that the company is a non-profit organization which tends to hire employees with strong backgrounds in the non-profit sector? Play up your volunteer experience and that one non-profit gig on your resume. Even if you don’t normally emphasize that position heavily, this might be the time to add more accomplishment statements to describe your work in that position. Consider discussing your own love for helping others in your cover letter, too. Perhaps you don’t have much non-profit experience, but you’ve always donated financially to two different organizations. Explain why in your cover letter, and if writing a cover letter makes your brain hurt, contact me for assistance.

Remember, your resume and cover letter are simply documents to help you land interviews. Think of them as door openers. You can’t afford to bypass the research phase, slap together a shoddy resume, and whip out a generic cover letter if you want the door to open. In today’s competitive job market, it’s important to use every tool available to ensure your future employer sees you as a great cultural fit before she emails you to invite you to interview.

Do you need help creating a basic resume, tailoring your existing resume, or crafting a cover letter? Reach out to me to schedule a free one-on-one consultation, and let’s get to work.

 

 

My secret to stress-free networking

Holding it all together as a professional–not to mention finding time for networking–in today’s competitive workplace often feels like walking a thin, greased tightrope. Just open LinkedIn and view the images of your suggested connections for two minutes. Read their titles. Check out their white, shiny teeth and unwrinkled suits. Feel intimidated yet?

I do.

Now exhale.

The good news is you don’t have to perform at your best 100% of the time to network successfully. You really don’t. You simply have to be your best self as often as possible.

How do you accomplish that?

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Volunteering my time by sharing career tips with college students at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

You don’t become your best self by arriving earlier, staying later, spending more on your work wardrobe, paying an additional $200 per month for Botox injections, or by obsessing about metrics constantly. You won’t feel like your best self by focusing so much on return on investment that you neglect to listen to people during conversations. And you probably won’t feel like the best version of yourself after spending hours having superficial conversations with people over drinks week after week. You will not feel like yourself after giving the same spiel to everyone you interact with—at the grocery store, at the career fair, or online.

You become your best self by getting outside yourself.

This isn’t meant to be a super touchy feely article—it’s just the truth.

I’ve learned from experience that when I’m honestly seeking to serve others in my community or even at work, I forget about ROI, making connections, branding myself, and pitching my services to clients. I stop worrying about whether my suit is trendy enough, whether my nail polish is the color of the season, and whether my forehead wrinkles are peeking out from behind my bangs.

When I get outside myself and into service, I am a better version of myself. And if I am serving in an area I am good at and truly enjoy, and I am serving an organization I respect whose aligns with my own values, I’m the best version of myself.

We don’t all work for companies or organizations we respect, but we all have the option to volunteer for organizations with great causes and missions. I don’t know of many non-profit organizations willing to turn their noses up to professional volunteers. I’ve volunteered as a writer, editor, fundraiser, event organizer, teacher, board member, and more. Whatever your specific passion or professional talents, there’s an organization out there willing to put them to work. Why not utilize your skills, build your resume, and make professional connections while contributing to a great cause?

When you’re volunteering alongside other professionals—and I don’t mean just sitting in a board meeting next to other suits who are there simply to be seen, because I’ve done that before—you’ll build genuine relationships with professionals. This isn’t just networking—it’s relationship building at its finest, and if you ever need to call upon these friends, you’ll find that they’re willing to help. I’ve called upon former fellow volunteers to serve as references during my job searches, to speak at events on campus, and to donate to charities. The friendships—not connections—I have made by networking while serving are some of my strongest. They know the Bethany who is passionate about serving. They know the Bethany who cares about a cause and is committed to something greater than the bottom dollar. They know the best version of Bethany.

Why not let others get to know the best version of you, too?

Need help building your networking skills and branding yourself? Reach out to me for help.

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