Have you ever watched “The Apprentice”? I love it, especially the interviews with the final few candidates. There are so many ways that a candidate can get tripped up, from their resume to their business plan, everything is fair game in the interview situation. However, one of the episodes that stuck in my mind was one where the candidate was asked what they knew about Lord Sugar’s companies, and the candidate didn’t know anything about the company’s Lord Sugar owned or what they produced. The person was using a tv programme to interview for a job with 6 figures, and they didn’t know anything about the company that they work intending to work for. As you can guess, the person was torn to shreds.
Pretty much every employer wants to know how much research you’ve done about their organisation. Don’t underestimate this interview question. It’s one that makes or breaks the interview, for the simply reason that it shows them how interested, or not, you are in the job.
Why is this question so important?
These days, most companies have some sort of online presence, whether it’s a website or social media channel, so you should be able to research a company and tell them what you found. It may seem like an easy question, but the depth of your research tells the interview panel just how interested you are in their company. If you haven’t shown any interest in them, then they’ll quickly lose interest in you as a candidate, and give the job to someone who has demonstrated that they are interested in working for them.
Where should you start?
Start with a basic Google search of the company’s name. You should be able to see if they have:
other social media accounts
what other people are saying about the company, for example, has there been anything about the company in the financial newspapers?
You should then be able to find out:
the history of the company, for example who set it up and when
their products and services
where they are based
how big the company is
their mission statement of they have one
what they say about themselves
what markets they do business in, and what they don’t
if they have any reviews on websites for example a hotel may have reviews on tripadvisor
whether they have won any awards and what they were for
In addition, if they have a LinkedIn profile, look at who you know who works at the company, or who you know, who knows someone who works at the company and ask them about what they like or don’t like about working for the company. Interviews are a two way street, and you may find out that the culture of the organisation isn’t one that you’d thrive in.
Set up Google alerts for the organisations, and check them daily to see what the latest information is. If they have released some sort of press statement on the day of your interview, you may give yourself an advantage over other candidates by knowing this.
Preparing for interview
It’s one thing to have done all the research, it’s another to be able to answer the question, so make so notes on the key points that you want to make and practice how you would answer the question. Remember, this is probably the first time you’ve been interviewed for the company, and you want to leave a positive impression, so the more you practice, the more confident you’ll be in how you answer the question.
As I’ve already said, this may seems like an easy question, and it is in a way, because you know it will come up, so you can be prepared for it, however, many people trip themselves up by not being prepared.
Keep to the key points that you want to make.
Always reflect on how well you answered the question (or not as the case may be). If you don’t get the job, then use each interview as a learning experience, and make sure that you are better prepared for the next one.
In the last few weeks, I’ve written a few blog posts about preparing for that all important job interview. However, there is one question that many people fear, and that is the weaknesses question. Who likes acknowledging what they’re not good at, their flaws, imperfections and weaknesses? In trying to answer it, you risk putting yourself in a very vulnerable position, and very few people are comfortable doing that. However, when you look at the question from the interviewers point of view, and understand the objective of the question, then it won’t seem so daunting.
Why do interviewers ask the weaknesses question?
Nobody’s perfect. We all have strengths and weakness. Things we are naturally good at, and things that we aren’t good at, but learn how to manage. For the person asking the question, they want you to demonstrate that:
you understand that you do have weaknesses. Self-awareness is key.
you know how to manage those weaknesses. Be prepared to provide an example of how you have worked to improve a weakness.
you get that sometimes weaknesses can be an asset, and in certain circumstances strengths can be weaknesses. In either case, it’s about being self aware and managing the skill or behaviour.
How to identify your weaknesses
If you’ve taken the Keirsey test or Myers-Briggs test, then you can use your personality type to help you identify the weaknesses associated with that personality type to get a feel for what you could use as weaknesses in an interview situation, and then reflect on how you many have managed or overcome the weakness is a specific scenario.
At interview, I could use any one of these as a starting point to answering the question. For example, being very private, I respect the privacy of others, and can keep information obtained in a business capacity confidential.
Examples of weaknesses that can be strengths
There are many different weaknesses, but here are a few that can be re-framed so that they become strengths. For example:
Being stubborn -> being persistent
Being cautious -> being prudent
Being sensitive -> being intuitive
Think of your weaknesses and how you could potentially re-frame them as strengths.
Examples of strengths that can be seen as weaknesses
In the same way that weaknesses can be strengths, so can strengths be perceived as weaknesses. Some common strengths used in interview are shown below, along with how they can be seen as weaknesses:
Being a perfectionist – People who strive to perfection are almost always going to fail, because very few things are perfect. As a result their self-confidence takes a knock. Some people then start to procrastinate around tasks where they feel they’re going to miss some impossible ideal.
Working hard – People who are prepared to work long hours risk burning out unless they have strategies in place to prevent this. If you use this, then be prepared to demonstrate a proper work/life balance.
Being passionate – I suffered from this one myself, and found that it’s ok to be passionate about something, however, it can be really annoying to other people who don’t share that passion.
How to answer the weaknesses question at interview?
To be able to answer any question well at interview requires some preparation and practice. The same applies to the weaknesses question. So where to begin?
First, review the job description and identify what qualifications, skills and experience are required of the job.
Next identify where you meet, exceed or don’t meet their requirements.
Look at the specific behaviours and standards that are expected. Are there any areas where your weaknesses would need to be managed, and if so, how have you done this before, or how could you do this in the future?
Also look at your strengths, and think about how they could become a weakness in a different context or situation.
Mistakes made at interview
Being too honest. For example, admitting that you’re not a morning person, when the job requires early starts would not leave the interviewer with a positive impression, unless you can demonstrate the steps that you have taken to overcome this, for example, you go to bed earlier and set your alarm clock early to allow you to wake up slowly.
Not admitting to having any weaknesses. We all have them. What the interviewer is looking for is that your acknowledge them and that you manage them.
Using strengths as weaknesses. It’s an old tactic, and employers see through it. Call a spade a spade, and be honest about what your weaknesses are, but remember to re-frame them. For example, start by saying that you can be stubborn, then talk about how being persistent (the positive) has helped achieve a specific goal, but that you recognise when being stubborn because of ego could have a negative impact.
Answering the weaknesses question at interview is sometimes seen as quite difficult, as it can leave you vulnerable, however, with a bit of preparation and practice, you can nail it.
“Manners are boring!” declared my little boy at dinner.
“Ok”, I said, “But what happens when you say please and thank you?”
After a moment’s thought, my little one realised “I get what I want”
Explaining good manners to a young child is fairly easy. To them, it’s simply saying “please” when you ask for something and “thank you” when you get it. With a bit of positive reinforcement, mine soon learnt the benefit of manners: if he said please he had a better chance of getting what he asked for. If he didn’t say please, then his request was ignored. However, to some people, manners seem to have gone out of fashion. But if you’re on LinkedIn, then you’d better get over that idea. On LinkedIn, manners are not only expected, they are essential. If you don’t use them, then you’ll stand out a mile, but for the wrong reasons.
What are manners?
Manners are the customs and standards used in society. However, there are cultural differences across the world.
Have a look at this old video about cultural differences:
On LinkedIn, it’s simple. Use please and thank you.
When to say please
When should you say please? Pretty much whenever you’re asking for something. Whether you’re sending a request for an introduction, an endorsement of a skill or a recommendation, always say please. The person may turn down your request, for example, I’ve had new connections that I’ve never met ask me for a recommendation. (Even if you say please, that’s not going to happen!) However, they will remember that you did say please, and are less likely to be annoyed by the request, than if the request is done in a manner that is perceived as being quite rude.
When to say thank you
When should you say thank you. Again, whenever, someone does something for you. This could be when someone:
accepted your invitation to connect
endorsed your skills
provided a recommendation
liked and/or shared an update or post
commented on an update or post
introduced you to their connection
emailed you about a job
So next time you logon to LinkedIn, check your notifications. If someone has been kind enough to do something for you, send them a quick email saying thank you. They’ll remember that you did.
PS If you’re looking for help with LinkedIn, then I have a range of books, e-learning courses and services that you may find useful. Use the form below if you’d like a chat. Just give me a bit of notice, because, I’m a mum and a carer, so don’t always have time to check or update my online calendar.
It’s a common question used at interview, but many people vastly undersell themselves when answering it. So let’s stop you being one of them.
Aim of the question:
To ascertain whether you actually know what your strengths are
To see if those strengths align with what the job needs
To see if they also fit in well with the strengths and weaknesses of the existing team
To see if your strengths align with the culture of the organisation
Common mistakes made by candidates:
They haven’t identified their strengths and so find it difficult to answer the question
They don’t feel comfortable talking about their strengths and in their modesty fail to impress with those chosen
Choosing strengths that have nothing to do with the job at hand e.g. being analytical as a childminder, where patience would be an expected answer
Choosing strengths that are just plain stupid in the context of the job that you’re applying for e.g. limbo dancing champion for a job as Area Sales Manager.
Finding out what YOUR strengths are
When interviewers talk about strengths, they are simply asking what are you better at than most people. The difference between a strength and a skill is that a skill can be taught, but a strength is something that you’re naturally good at.
In terms of answering the question, think about your strengths. If you need to sit down and write some different headings and think about the different skills needed for your job, and then think of which skills are your natural strengths. For example:
Your qualifications. Which skills do you have that are specifically covered by qualifications or certifications. For example, there is a difference between someone who uses Microsoft Office at home to someone with the ECDL qualification. In terms of your degree, take a look at each course module and identify what skills were being taught in that section. What fields of expertise to you tend to work well in?
Your experience. What skills have you developed in each of the jobs that you have done. Are there some skills that you keep using? Are there some skills that you are particularly drawn to or enjoy?
Soft skills. These are things such as influencing skills, problem solving, communications skills, conflict resolution, team building etc.
Don’t forget, if you have taken the VIA Strengths test, which 5 character strengths did you get? These may be slightly different, however, it does show your future employer a level of self-awareness.
What skills are requested in the the JOB description?
One thing that I always did when I applied for a job, was get a highlighter pen to the job description to highlight those keywords that are skills, qualifications and experience required by the post. When you’re preparing for a job, then sit down and write them out and then compare them to your qualifications, skills and experience. Where do you match up and what areas are you missing? Can these deficiencies be met anywhere else?
Use this download to compare your experience, skills and qualifications to that requested in the job.
You’ve been invited to interview. You’re ready. You look the part, have practiced your handshake, you turned up on time and so your interview starts. The first question you will inevitably be asked is: tell me about yourself. This isn’t so much a question, as a command, but it’s used for two reasons:
As an icebreaker. Most people are happy talking about themselves.
To get a sense of who you are. Afterall, your resume can only tell them so much.
The problem from a job magnets point of view is that the scope of the question is so wide, you can’t get a sense of what the interviewer is actually asking. But don’t read too much into the question. Remember, interviews are all about finding the right candidate for the job and it’s as much about whether they like you, as whether you can do the job.
So how should you answer? Well, to start of with, remember this is a JOB interview, so keep it work related. They are not asking for your life story, they are looking to find someone to fill the post. Think about what the job required and how you fit the post. If the job required x number of years experience working in marketing, then you could answer by telling them:
tell them how many years you’ve worked in marketing
what areas you specialise in for example social media marketing
what your achievements were for example what the outcome of a marketing campaign that you lead was
what your goals are in terms of your career in marketing and how the job you’ve applied for fits into that goal
So one way of answering the question could be:
Well, I have 8 years experience in marketing, with the last 2 years focusing on increasing the brand awareness of x company’s newest product. We developed a social media marketing campaign, with print advertising and a tv advert. This resulted in x number of sales in the first quarter, increasing by 50% in the second. I found that I really loved working in this area and the job that you advertised offers me the opportunity to develop these skills further, by working on larger campaigns as part of a specialist team
Another method that you can use, is the present-past-future method:
I’m currently working for x company as marketing assistant, having spent the last 8 years working in marketing…
Returning to work
If you’re a person returning to work, then tweak this technique, changing it to past-present-future:
I’ve 8 years experience working in marketing, however, in the last two years I’ve had to take time out of my career to focus on caring for children/parents/family member. Whilst I was working as a carer, I took the time to take a few courses to keep my skills up to date and I’m looking forward to returning to full-time work.
If this is your first job, then hopefully, you’ve completed some work experience or an internship as part of your course. In this case, the achievements will have been as part of the course, and you use the present (your course), past (your experience) and future.
Transitioning military personnel
If you’re in the military transitioning into civilian life, then remember to put your experience in terms that non-military people will understand. Again, go back to the job posting and use the language used in the post.
Remember, you don’t need to spend long answering this question, just a couple of minutes at most, but make sure that whoever interviews you has a better understanding of how you are the best fit for this job.
Save time scheduling posts using Buffer and Pinterest
One thing that I’ve learned from being a member of Yasmin Vorajee’s Momentum Circle is that you need to be consistent in your business, and that includes posting regular updates to all your social media accounts. The only problem is, I work around school hours and carer duties, so don’t just have tiny time for my business, I have teeny tiny time! So when I discovered this quick of how you can save time scheduling posts using Buffer and Pinterest, I had to share.
Buffer for scheduling posts
I use Bufferapp to schedule my posts. There are other applications such as Hootsuite etc that do the same thing, but I use Buffer. It allows me to:
set the number of posts that I want to schedule to each social media channel
set the time of day the posts should be sent out
post them automatically
This allows me to be post consistently. I still need to check my accounts and respond to comments, retweets etc, but I can start the week knowing that during the week, my social media accounts will be filled with useful content.
Pinterest account for bookmarking content
I also have a Pinterest account. Pinterest is a great place to bookmark your content. You can create boards that you pin content to, saving useful content that you can use later. All content is saved via an image on the website, so it is essential that any blog post has an image that you can use to save the post on Pinterest.
I have lots of different boards, for both personal and business use. I have set up different boards for job hunting tips, interviews etc. I also have one for my blog. When I come across interesting content from other websites, I add them to the relevant board.
Buffer + Pinterest = quick and easy scheduling of posts
Recently, Buffer added the ability to connect your Pinterest account to your Buffer account. Whilst you can post to Pinterest from Buffer, I don’t. But what the integration between the two applications does do, is allow you to load and schedule your posts by clicking on the buffer icon on the pin. The implications are huge.
By creating a Pinterest board with all my content: blog posts, ebooks and e-learning courses, I have everything in the one place. Next, when I’m looking to load content onto Buffer, I just need to visit that board and click on the Buffer icon on the pin. Buffer then loads that pin, adding it to the schedule. It’s that easy.
I don’t know how much time you spend each week planning your social media content, but this method has saved me a huge amount of time. And because I’m posting regularly and consistently, then I can see, especially on LinkedIn, that the number of profile views and invitations to connect has increased.
I’m a trainer, resume writer, career coach and author, specialising in LinkedIn. Nearly 75,000 copies of my free Mastering LinkedIn ebook have been downloaded since it was published last year, and over 4000 people have signed up to my e-learning courses on Udemy.
If you’d like to learn more about job magnets, then book your free 30 minute discovery call, by phone if you’re in Ireland or via skype for the rest of the world.
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