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The Zen of Interviewing

No matter how perfect your résumé is, you won’t land the job without also nailing an interview. Experts offer advice about how to answer some of the most common interview questions you’re likely to encounter.

Tell me about yourself. This interview favorite is open-ended by design to test the interviewee’s ability to communicate well. Career coach Donald Walsh cautions job candidates to avoid the typical answer, I am a hard worker, noting that no organization would want to hire a lazy worker. Nor should you interpret the open-ended question as an invitation to tell your life story or to rehash your résumé. Walsh advises going beyond buzzwords and clichéd answers to instead summarize talents and skills without delving too deeply into your personal life. He suggests using a “listicle” that melds skills related to the job with witty responses: I was the fourth of four children, so I learned early how solve problems.

What are your weaknesses? Experts call this tricky question a landmine. To say you have no weaknesses is ridiculous; to offer up deal-killers (I’m massively disorganized) is also unwise. Still, honesty is the best policy. For example, if you have trouble organizing yourself, talk about the ways you compensate for the issue (adhering to your Google calendar or the like.) However, if you are indeed massively disorganized and a key component of the position requires organizational skills, why are you wasting your time and the interviewer’s? Finally, know that you won’t fool a hiring manager if you take a strength and try to masquerade it as a weakness (I work too hard.)

Where do you see yourself in five years? Job search mavens suggest approaching this question by preparing well thought-out answers while offering up some responses to avoid. Think twice about the wisdom of telling a hiring manager that you want her job. Why would someone hire you to unseat her? In the same vein, no company wants new-hires who just want to learn on the company’s time before starting their own businesses. The best approach, experts suggest, is to use your past experiences to tie into your future with the company: My past jobs have allowed me to progress and grow, and I hope my next role will allow me to do that over the next five years.

Why this company? This one is easy. Discuss the company’s values (which you’ve researched ahead of time!) and how your skill set will add to the organization’s mission. Don’t talk about money, perks, prestige, or the ability to bring your dog to the workplace. Similarly, if you tell a hiring manager you’re unclear about your future want and this job because it caught your eye, you will have killed any chance you had with the firm.

Curveball questions. Sometimes, you’ll get an oddball question such as, Is it better to turn in a project that’s perfect and late, or one that’s good and on time? There’s no wrong answer, says Obed Louissant, the VP of HR for IBM Watson. An organization looking for a team member would need both types of people.


  1. Why do experts tell job seekers to not complain about past jobs or managers?
  2. How could you describe your accomplishments without appearing arrogant?
  3. What can inappropriate attire—either too casual or too formal—say about you to a hiring manager?

Stress Management 101: Preparing Students for the Job Search

[Instructors: Download a PDF of the advice in this article here.]

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no matter how well we teach students to write cover letters and résumés and prepare them to interview, they will likely experience anxiety when they begin their job search. It’s only natural—they are new at the process, which is inherently fraught with fear. So how can we best prepare students for what lies ahead? Below is advice you can pass along to your neophyte job hunters.

Acknowledge the reality of situation. Looking for a job is one of the most difficult and stressful tasks we undertake, and money concerns are just one reason—it’s also disconcerting to have little control over the hiring process. Everything from unanswered applications to not receiving feedback on interviews to uncontrollable events that affect the hiring process contribute to the anxiety-provoking experience. For these reasons, experts suggest that job seekers go into the process being aware that everyone faces these hurdles and that eventually you will find work.

Be realistic. It doesn’t make sense to apply for jobs that ask for specific requirements you do not possess. Likewise, understand your own personal deal breakers when it comes to who you will work for and what you will do. On the other hand, experts suggest remaining open to situations that may be less than your ideal position. Remember your first job is just that—your first job. It may not be perfect, but you can learn something from every position you hold.

Keep focused. Have a goal and move toward it. Chart out your primary objective and then create specific steps to achieving it. Commit your proposed actions to paper—they will become more real. Hold yourself accountable by putting in time and adhering to a schedule for your job search. Learn to enjoy the rewarding feeling of finishing tasks on the path toward your goal.

 Know yourself. A career takes careful consideration and planning, so it makes sense to think about what you want out of yours. Do you enjoy working alone or in groups? Are you willing to move to take a job or travel regularly once you have one? What kind of people do you want to surround yourself with? Are you attracted to small or large firms? Then conduct a self-analysis: What are you good at? Not so good at? Define your hard and soft skills, your values, and other strengths and weaknesses. Understanding yourself and what you can bring to an organization is the first step to finding the right fit.

Learn to handle rejection. There’s no getting around the fact that you will face rejection, and it’s normal to feel down sometimes. Remember that failure is temporary. Face the emotion, process it, and then move on: Do not let setbacks put you in the doldrums. Use positive thinking, reach out to family and friends for support, and develop grit and resilience. Job hunting is a part of life, so take the long view.

Reassess.  If you are feeling hopeless because nothing is panning out, reassess your strategy. Perhaps you can talk to a career counselor or mentor. Perhaps you need to rethink your tactics or goals. Don’t let too much time go by before you take action to change what is holding you back.

 Take care of yourself. A job search can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep yourself fit, mentally and physically. Eat well, get enough sleep, and don’t forget to exercise. Make sure to keep up social relationships and stay busy with activities unrelated to hunting for a job.

Instructors: What advice do you offer your career-bound students? We’d love to hear from you!

Submit Job Applications Early in the Morning… No Callback? Fix What Went Wrong… Body Language Speaks Volumes

Submit Job Applications Early in the Morning

You’ve proofread the job application until your eyes are bleary. You’re ready to send. STOP.

Don’t submit unless it’s a Tuesday from 6:00-10:00 a.m. in the hiring company’s time zone.

The timing of when you submit an online job application has a great deal to do with landing an interview, according to research by TalentWorks, a job-search startup. The researchers found that candidates who submitted their applications in the 6-10 a.m. window were five times more likely to score an interview, and those who sent in their applications earlier in that time frame received more offers for interviews than those who waited until closer to 10 o’clock.

The research also showed that after 10 a.m., the likelihood of landing an interview dropped by 10 percent every half hour. By 7:30 p.m., the chances of getting an interview fell to just three percent. Responding quickly was another indicator of success. Applicants who submitted within 96 hours of the original job posting were eight times more likely to be offered an interview.

The bottom line, the researchers found, is that timing may not be everything, but it sure helps.

From Payscale

No Callback? Fix What Went Wrong

That post-interview elation—knowing you nailed every question and had great rapport with the interviewer—can quickly turn sour if you don’t receive a call back and later learn you didn’t get the job.

While the circumstances that lead to not be hired are often beyond your control, you can improve your interviewing skills by following these pointers:

  • Research the organization’s culture. Employers want to hire people who will fit into their organization’s ethos. Investigate the company’s values and culture before the interview so you can convince the interviewer you’d mesh well.
  • Emanate confidence. Discuss your successes and be prepared to discuss specifics that highlight your skills.
  • Ask questions, but only the right kind. Avoid questions about salary and benefits but do ask about the qualities common to successful new hires.
  • Brush up on your video interviewing skills. Many first interviews are conducted through video-chat services. Practice in front of a mirror and choose a setting that makes you appear professional.

Experts also offer advice about what kinds of traps to avoid when interviewing. Using language that is overblown (awesome! incredible!) or lackluster (possibly… I might…), claiming to have no weaknesses, making excuses, or overexplaining can kill your chances of impressing a hiring manager.

From The New York Times

Body Language Speaks Volumes

The way you present yourself to the world—especially as a professional—will affect the way others perceive you. To show yourself in the best possible light, avoid these damaging body language habits:

  • Appearing uninterested or distracted. Not paying attention is insulting. Resist the impulse to check your phone!
  • Fidgeting. Even if you are jittery, stay still. Fidgeting makes you appear nervous and powerless.
  • Frowning or not smiling. A glum face can appear aloof and off-putting. Smiling telegraphs confidence and warmth.
  • Giving aggressive looks. A long stare will make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Instead, meet someone’s eyes for a heartbeat or two. for long glances.
  • Making poor eye contact. Averting your eyes demonstrates disgust or timidity.
  • Playing with hair. This bad habit is distracting and shows you are under stress.
  • Poor posture is not only bad for your health; it can suggest a lack of confidence.

From Business Insider