Tis the Season to Job Hunt

Job hunting is super stressful, at least for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment. I feel that it’s so hard to find the right places to apply to and I don’t want to waste time interviewing for something I’m not actually interested in. Here’s how I’m working on it and hopefully some ways we can all benefit from:

Read, more reading, and a bit more. When looking at a job description, it can be very vague or super descriptive, and maybe something in between. It’s hard to find out exactly what you’ll be doing from just looking at a description. It helps to research the position on the internet – you’ll probably get some testimonials online as well as learn more about the role in that specific company.

Company matters. Potentially just as, if not more, important than the job itself is the company culture. You have to want to work somewhere in order to want to do your job. That “About us” tab on an employer’s website has a vast amount of information about what the company stands for, leadership, missions, achievements, even how they got started. It’s a good place to get a feel for the potential employer before you interview – and it shows that you did your research beforehand.

Questions. Ask questions in the interview about the company, your specific role, your interviewers’ roles, etc. It’ll teach you more about what you can do, where you’ll be, and what others do in the company, which may shed some light on whether or not this is somewhere you can see yourself working.

So get out there and hunt away! Use the time in the application process to really learn a lot about the company and position so that you can find the right place for you.

What We Can Learn from Supergirl

supergirl-cast-kara-143921If you watch much TV, you’ve probably heard that the comic book hero Supergirl now has a television series.  For those who are unfamiliar with the show, here are a few lines from Wikipedia:

“Twenty-four-year-old Kara Zor-El (Supergirl), who was taken in by the Danvers family when she was 13 after being sent away from Krypton, must learn to embrace her powers after previously hiding them.”

Supergirl’s defining characteristic is her power. So the iconic image of Supergirl shows her in a power pose, the same pose often struck by her cousin Superman as well as by Wonder Woman.  It’s no random coincidence that these superheroes stand up tall, arms akimbo, taking up space and asserting their right to do so. Not only does this posture make you look powerful, it alters your body chemistry to make you feel powerful too.

Wait, what? Yes, the way you sit or stand influences your hormonal balance, specifically the levels of cortisol and testosterone. Cortisol is a hormone released when you feel stressed and which increases your feelings of anxiety. Testosterone is a hormone that promotes feelings of confidence and tolerance for risk, and is present in both men and women.  So a person who has low cortisol and high testosterone circulating in his or her blood is biologically predisposed to feel more assertive, better able to handle pressure and less stressed.

This link between body posture and confidence was discovered by Amy Cuddy, a Harvard University researcher.  She and her colleagues took saliva samples from volunteers before and after they had held either a high power pose or a low power pose for two minutes.  Like the Supergirl stance, high power poses are open, relaxed, and involve expanding arms and legs to fully occupy the space around you.  Low power poses are closed and guarded, and involve shrinking into the smallest amount of space possible.

The results of this study were striking.  High power poses increased testosterone by 20% and decreased cortisol by 25%.  Watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk to hear the details of this work.

What this means for you is that standing like Supergirl for two minutes before an interview or a presentation can significantly improve your performance.  This takes a little planning to find a restroom or other quiet place to hold your pose; two minutes and you’re good to go.  Try it, this really works. Just be sure to avoid the kryptonite.

 

Image credit to newsrama.com

Interviewing With Confidence

Interview-tips-10Mark Twain once said, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.” Here’s how I would apply this to job seeking: Be ignorant of the paralyzing fear and contrived impossibilities that will prevent you from achieving your goals, and run toward your dreams with total confidence that you will succeed.

These are words to live by when it comes to interviewing. Your interviewer has a limited amount of time to get a feel for whether you have the skills and drive to succeed in their organization. So, your job is to confidently prove to them you do. Confidence by its very nature implies competence, and that’s the message you want to send the interviewer.

Here are several ways you can demonstrate confidence during an interview:

  1. Come prepared to share a few insights about the company that align with your career objectives and ideals. Preparation will instill a sense of confidence in you that is authentic!
  2. Dress the part. Your interviewer should be able to look at you and think, this person not only looks capable, he or she looks like they already fit in our organization.
  3. Shake hands with poise and sincerity. While you may feel like a bag of nerves on the inside, your interviewer doesn’t have to know it. A firm handshake will convey confidence.
  4. Maintain good eye contact with your interviewer, especially when answering questions. This displays confidence in what you are saying.
  5. Keep your body language in check. Don’t fidget, slouch, lean back or stiffen up. A relaxed, upright posture portrays confidence.
  6. Speak with enthusiasm and interest. If you tend to quiver or go monotone when you are nervous, this is an area you will need to practice. How you say what you say is important!

Confidence will take you a long way in your career—but it must start with the interview!

Ashleane is a third year Communications major from Miami, FL. She enjoys ballet dancing , exploring the sights and sounds of Boston, and literature. Check her out onTumblr!

Rock that Interview.

art of interviewing

You’re on the job hunt and have sent out resumes upon resumes upon resumes and you finally get that phone call offering you an interview with a potential employer. First, congrats! Getting an interview is the next step and that deserves appreciation. Second, here comes the time to shine, to rock that interview.

Interviews aren’t exactly about showing that you’re perfect; they’re about sharing with another person what you’ve done, what you want to do, and how you can fit into their workplace culture.

Think of some answers beforehand. We all know the typical interview question: Tell me about yourself, tell me about a time you faced a challenge and how you overcame it, describe a past project to me, etc. I could go on. Chances are you’ll get asked these at the majority of your interviews so it’s good to have some answers thought out beforehand. Don’t stage what you are going to say, just have a general idea. You’ll relax and allow yourself to focus on simply answering the question instead of scrambling to find an answer.

Dress to impress. It’s time to pull out a nice outfit. Dress up slightly more than you would for a typical work day. It shows the interviewer(s) that you care about the interview and respect their company. Go for something more business professional than business casual. A little tip: try to make sure you wear something you’ve worn before, at least once. The last thing you want is to find out a new shirt is itchy or just plain uncomfortable when you’re waiting for the interview to begin.

Be personable. You are a human. Your interviewer is a human. Therefore, be a person. You don’t have to build yourself up and only talk about your successes. Companies want to see that you have faced challenges in the workplace and want to know how you troubleshot them. Be yourself. Don’t try to change the way you speak, just answer their questions, ask questions, and let your natural light shine through.

Hopefully these tips help you out with any upcoming interviews! Personally, I think the last one is the most important because it’ll show the company who you are because they want to make sure you will be a great fit for their workplace culture. There’s a wealth more of tips on this blog and online, so be sure to check those out if you need more. And remember, you got this.

How Do I Answer That Interview Question?

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What would you do if you were on a flight for a business trip and there was a crying baby seated right behind you?

Believe it or not, this question has actually been asked in interviews. So have even more off-the-wall questions like “if you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?” or “if you could have a superpower which would you choose?”  According to the website Glassdoor (via Career Development web page), other recent interview questions include “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” and “What song best describes your work ethic?”

For those of us with a snarky sense of humor, many possible replies will probably spring to mind; obviously, these are not the answers you want to offer.  It is important to be prepared to hear quirky interview questions so you can avoid replying “Take This Job and Shove It,” for example, when naming a song about your work ethic.

Why do employers ask this type of question? Reasons include testing your ability to think on your feet; gauging your reaction to the unexpected; getting a glimpse of your personality in a possibly unguarded moment; and finding out if you have a sense of humor.

How should you answer quirky interview questions? Almost any response will be okay; showing grace under pressure is the first step.  The next step is to reply in a way that actually answers the question without being offensive in any way. If your reply demonstrates a relevant positive personality trait, that’s even better. The kind of personality trait you want to showcase will depend on the kind of job and the kind of employer interviewing you.

So, back to our crying baby.  The way you answer will ideally depend on what you want to communicate about yourself, based on the potential job.  A sympathetic answer could be “I would assure the parents that I realize they are doing their best to soothe their baby and that it must be awfully stressful for them.”  An answer showing efficiency could be “I would put in the earplugs I always pack with me for situations like this. That way I could continue working on my assignment.” Or “I would put on my headphones to listen to some favorite music to be in a good frame of mind when I landed,” to demonstrate you know how to manage stress.   With just a little thought and some presence of mind, crazy interview questions won’t drive you crazy.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2015. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

Interview Freak Out: How Do I Answer That?!

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Our worst fear, when walking in the door for an interview, is that we’re going to get stumped. This HR recruiter is going to ask us something that stops us in our tracks. We imagine ourselves sitting there with a blank stare, dumbfounded expression, and sweat starting to form on our brow. So what can we do?  Consider using these 4 strategies.

  1. Buy some time. Restate the question to the interviewer. It will look like you are just getting clarification. It might look something like this:

“So, you are wondering about a time when I had a disagreement with my boss about an issue at work? Let me think about that for a second.” 

By restating the question it’s giving that question time to settle into your brain and buying you valuable seconds to see if you can come up with an example. It’s far better than saying, “ummmmmmmm”.

  1. Swap the scenario. If you can’t think of a time when you had a disagreement with your boss, then swap out the scenario. Maybe you can come up with a slightly different example.

“While I’m not able to think, right now, of a time when I had a disagreement with my boss, I can think of a time when I had a challenge with a classmate during a semester long academic project. Could I share this example with you?”

  1. Answer directly. Now if you are still drawing a blank, here’s one other approach. Consider stating that you can’t come up with an example, but mention in general how you handle conflict and ask if that helps.

“While I’m having trouble coming up with a specific example, I can share that in general when I have a conflict with someone I typically pause first to think through the situation, step into the other person’s shoes to try and see where they are coming from, then think up questions that I can ask that would allow us to explore the situation in more depth as a means to working through it.”

4. Postpone

“This is an excellent question, and I can imagine it’s important to know how an individual employee will deal with conflict.  I’m having a hard time thinking up an example in this moment; however, I wanted to see if we might be able to circle back to this question at the end of the interview?”

In the end, one of the most important things you can do is to stay calm and be real.

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to www.sabrina-woods.com.

 

How Do I Answer This Interview Question: What Kind of Animal Would You Be?

You’ve prepared for your interview, practiced questions about your experience and skills, and are ready for the question about why you want to work at the company.  You feel ready and the interview is going really well. Mid-way through the interview you get hit with the interview question: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”  What? Why are they asking that and what the heck do you say?  While you wish you could just say, I’ll skip that one, you know you need to come up with an answer. 

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So here’s the 411 on why they ask this question and how you should respond. “Out of the box” questions, like this one above, are asked because interviewers can learn about your personality and see how you respond when a question is not one you would have been expected to have practiced.

It also allows a prospective employer to gain insight into whether your personality is a fit for the job, the team culture, and organizational culture.

Unfortunately folks, there’s no one size fits all here. Pick an animal that represents real qualities in your personality, and qualities which would also be a fit for the job and company culture. Be honest, strategic, and connect your answer why it’s a fit for the position and company. If you’re asked this question, understand that if the company wants a shark, they may not appreciate a candidate who indicates they’d be a dolphin so you’ll have to help them to understand why being a dolphin is a fit for the organizational culture and job.

Typically, candidates try to avoid animals that are perceived negatively, for example, snakes or sloths (lazy). Remember to share why you are selecting that animal. No one word answers—this is your opportunity to show the company that you will fit with their team and culture, and are a good fit for the job.  

If you’re an international student, be sure to ask a American friend or a career advisor about your answer since some animals may not be as common here as in your home country or may have different meanings in different cultures.

Example:

 If I were an animal I’d probably be a dolphin because they are very intelligent and yet don’t appear to take themselves too seriously. They enjoy being part of a group and look out for each other and also enjoy having fun. In some of my info interviews with employees here people mentioned that people here are really smart but also like to have fun. I also noticed that was a similar theme on your company’s twitter handle-people are doing amazing work but also volunteering for community projects together. Working hard, working smart, and having fun seem to be important values and that really resonates for me. I would look forward to building my career at ___company if I was selected as this is a first choice company for me.

Who knew this question could reveal so much but it does! So learn about the culture of the company by following them on Twitter. Talk with other Northeastern alumni employed there and check out the organization on glassdoor.com. Then put on your strategic and creative interviewing hat and pick the animal that best represents you related to that company’s culture and job and job and ace your interview!

And remember, you’re looking for an offer but you’re also looking for a good fit. If you get the offer, awesome! If you don’t, remember it’s hard to be successful and ultimately promoted if you’re working at a company whose culture does not mix well with your personality. Focus on those companies that really do resonate with who you are and maximize your strengths and you’ll be their ‘best hire’ yet!

Written by Ellen Zold Goldman. Ellen is our Senior Associate Director in Career Development. She’s a sheepdog who is loyal, even keeled, a worker dog, super friendly, very adaptable, and always enjoys finding something wonderful in everyone. She loves the work culture and her peeps at Career Development where we all enjoy being helpful to each other, work independently and yet very much rely on each other as a team.  Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

How do I Answer This Interview Question: If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

Interviewing can be nerve racking, a bit stressful, but super exciting at the same time, right?  We do our best to prepare, practice  and rehearse what to say and be well equipped to answer the typical interview questions, such as, “where do you see yourself in 5 years”, or “why do you want to work for us?” But, what tends to catch us off-guard, are those questions we don’t expect, the ones that are unrelated to the position.

But, there is a way to prepare for those bizarre interview questions! Really, you can actually have fun with them!

I will share a question that I was asked when I was interviewing for a marketing role at a large, well-known company.  My interview was with a hiring manager and a senior sales associate, and they asked, “if we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us”?  I felt like I was staring at them for an hour before I answered, but in reality I sat back and pondered for a minute on how best to answer. My first comment was, that I really like cooking and friends have told me that I am a good cook and an even better host!  From there, it was easy, I made sure to be considerate, I asked if they had allergies, any dietary restrictions, and if they enjoyed sweets! I proceeded to put together a well-thought out menu, right down to the dishes and centerpiece!  I also added, that our dinner gathering was more about the company than the food (they seemed to like that.)  By the way, the company was Disney Publishing, and yes, I got the job!

The reason these bizarre or unrelated questions are asked is often designed to assess your ability to think on your feet and get a sense of your personality.  People who interview you want to hear your thought process and how you handle challenging situations.

Think First, Then Answer

So, take your time when answering a random interview question. Your interviewer (or interviewers, in my case) has designed the question to be intentionally testing and won’t necessarily expect you to have an immediate answer at your fingertips.

Think about what the company does and what role you’re applying for and what the responsibilities are. If there is an opportunity to show off organizational skills, technical ability or math skills in answering the question, this is more than likely what the question is designed to do.

In most cases, these bizarre questions are an opportunity to demonstrate your creativity and about how you could approach the problem/challenge. Remember, there may be a number of possible answers and not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Check out this post about Rubik’s Cubes and 747’s for a similar approach to answering these types of questions.

Your willingness to embrace an unusual question and your efforts to provide a logical answer will be looked upon favorably by an employer, whatever answer you eventually arrive at!

This post was written by Christine Hathaway. Christine is an Associate Director of Marketing and Communications for Co-op and Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house marketing guru and is passionate about planning events, working with others to create powerful marketing materials and presentations and enjoys an occasional kick-boxing class or two! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.

How Do I Answer That Interview Question: Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years?

Do you know what your career path looks like for the future?

For many of us, this is such a tough question.  We’re just not sure exactly where we want to go, or what kinds of opportunities will present themselves.  But, sometimes we get asked this question, which means you need to be ready for it before you walk into the interview.

First, take a step back and think for a moment about the kinds of things that you enjoy most related to your past/current work, and take some guesses on what kinds of things you’d like more of in the future.  Next, look closely at the job description, and provide an answer that would be in good alignment with that role.  For example, if you are interviewing for a job in sales, but you are really hoping to go into PR someday, you’ll want to share an answer that is truthful and that also fits well with the job you are applying for.

In this particular scenario, here’s what you might say:

“While I’m not sure of the exact job title I’d like to have in 5 years, I can say that my goal is to further develop my client relationship building, writing and presentation skills. I’m excited about this job in sales. I’d like to really dive in and learn how to be successful in this role at your organization, then eventually branch out and see in what other ways I can assist the team. My work satisfaction comes from being challenged, pushing myself and seeing what new things I can learn and contribute to along the way.”

Sabrina Woods is an Associate Director at Northeastern Career Development and also has a private practice as a Holistic Career / Life Coach & Linkedin Trainer.  She has been in this field for 15 years and is a Husky (BA in Business) plus has a Masters in Holistic Counseling from Salve Regina University in sunny Newport, RI.  When not working at NU, teaching Linkedin or coaching private clients, Sabrina loves to hike, bike and kayak.  For more about Sabrina, go to www.sabrina-woods.com.

How do I answer this interview question: What are your weaknesses?

AD I dont understand the question

This interview question is often asked in conjunction with “What are your strengths?”. That part of the question should be easy to answer since it essentially is asking you why you’re a good candidate for the position. But weaknesses? Does the interviewer want to know why you’re NOT qualified for the position?  No. Is it a trick? Probably not, but  perhaps the interviewer wants to see how well you know yourself, or how thoroughly you’ve analyzed the requirements of the position and your ability to perform them,  or to see if you’re serious enough about the position to really spend time thinking about it instead of offering the throw away “turn a negative into a positive”. I beg of you, don’t follow that advice, it is just so much “blah blah blah”. BUT if you do go with that, please give it some substance – provide some good examples of why it is a positive.

A different strategy for answering this question is to re-frame it as though the interview question is, “What are your weaknesses in regard to this position?” this will give you a focus to work from.  Maybe the job or internship you’re applying to is a little bit of a stretch (which is a good thing), but maybe that means there are some gaps in your skills/experience? It can’t be anything central to the position, but there will probably be some areas in which you’ll need a little bit of extra support. Those are your weaknesses. Don’t stop with identifying them, think about what support you’ll need to fill the gaps and how long you think you’ll need it.

Examples of a good response:

For a position that requires significant participation in two teams:

I prefer working independently, but I appreciate the value of working in teams, so 6 months ago I volunteered to participate in a team that is working on a small research project. I’ve been surprised that I’m becoming accustomed to and enjoy this work model. For this position I think it would be helpful if I could begin by working with one of the teams and then in a few weeks add in the second team.

Conversely for a position that requires working independently:

In my classes and activities I have most often worked with other students and enjoyed close faculty or leader supervision and was uncomfortable making decisions and carrying them out on my own. I realized that I might not always be able to do that, so this semester I completed an independent study project.  My professor was out of the country for a portion of the semester so we had 2 meetings early in the semester, then while she was away we had 2 Skype appointments and a few emails. As I result I have started to enjoy and become more comfortable making decisions on my own. For this position I think it would be helpful if my supervisor would remind me to work on problems and develop solutions on my own before seeking her advice. I think it would take a few weeks before I will be comfortable working independently.

This post was written by Kate Famulari. Kate is an Associate Director of Career Development here at Northeastern. She is our in house government job guru and is passionate about helping Northeastern students find meaningful careers! Tweet her about this post @CareerCoachNU.