Answering the Important Job Interview Questions NOT Asked

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Part of the stress that comes with a job interview is the knowledge that the hiring manager has a list of questions she may ask, and you don’t always know what’s on the list.

Sometimes, however, as you strive to highlight the skills and accomplishments that make you stand out as a candidate, you might find that there are a few questions that did not get asked.

Should you give up and play it safe by only answering what you’re asked? Definitely not! An interview is an exchange of ideas and inquiry into your fit, so it’s well within interview etiquette to take the conversation where it needs to go.

If you struggle to make sure every interview highlights your strengths, here are a few ideas for structuring your interview to answer those unasked, yet vitally important, questions:

Identify the Questions Likely to be Asked

Make a list of questions you know the interviewer is likely to ask. You can do this by performing a web search such as “[Job Title] + Interview questions” or referring to your notes from past interviews to see which questions came up.

For example, if you are interviewing for a copy writing position, you may receive questions about what you write, how often you write, what you’re reading and how you stay creative or energized throughout the day.

Identify the Questions you Need to Answer

Review your resume and cover letter and consider your job history. Which significant moments, concepts and accomplishments are important to bring up in the interview?

For example, as you interview for the copy writing position you’ll want to highlight moments in your career when your work was particularly well received by a previous employer.

Identify Overlaps in the Lists

Compare the lists to each other and see if there are any obvious connections. If your interviewer is likely to ask “Tell me about the most recent book you’ve read,” prepare an answer that links your most recent reading to an accomplishment at work.

Use Unasked Questions as Questions You Ask

If you still have unasked questions, consider whether or not you can rephrase or include them as questions for your employer.

The job interview represents a significant opportunity for you to present your skills, accomplishments and unique fit for the working environment. It’s not likely that you can fit all of that into the pre-chosen questions of the average interviewer. Add an edge to your interview by planning and answering the unasked questions in a way that continues the conversation and highlights your abilities for the hiring manager.

Ashleane Alabre is a third year communication studies major from Miami, Fl. When not in class, Ashelane enjoys ballet dancing, sightseeing, and literature. Keep up with Ashleane on her Tumblr.

Completing Your Senior Checklist

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CHECKLISTYou’re a senior? When did that happen?! Time sure does fly. It’s scary to think this year is going to be over before you know it.  Take advantage of the time you have left! Spend time with your friends, create a bucket list, do all the fun things this great city has to offer…but prepare for what comes next!  Here are some tips to keep in mind as you get ready for the professional life that lies ahead:

6) Start with research, and then create a job search strategy for yourself:

Research the industry and company you want to be in and target your search around these companies. Consider what you like about the company, but also contemplate average salaries, cost of living, and other costs you might be incurring.  Utilize NUcareers, online job boards, company websites, and your network!

5) Prepare early:

Update your resume, reach out to references, and practice on Big Interview.

4) Network:

Utilize LinkedIn, Husky Nation, and go on informational interviews. Set yourself up so that you have people willing to advocate for you come application time.

3) Stay organized:

I am a big fan of spreadsheets…but do what works best for you…that might be a journal, a color-coded calendar, or maybe Google Docs.  Keep track of important dates like when an employer is going to be on campus, when an application is due, when you need to follow up, and who in your network might be a good point of contact.

2) Take advantage of all the student discounts while you still can:

Professional organizations offer some great student discounts.  It is very affordable for students to join as a member, and attend conferences.  It’s the last chance you’ll get for these great prices…but what’s even better are the networking opportunities that will come out of this.  Be a part of the conversations on ‘hot topics’ your industry is talking about.

…also make sure you get your fair share of discounts for restaurants, retail, technology, and entertainment.

1) Visit Career Development!

We have a network of employers that are eager to recruit seniors like YOU! Take advantage of information sessions, panel discussions, and interviews that happen right here on campus. Go to events, workshops and walk-in appointments. Attend the Senior Career Conference on 1/22 and the Career Fair on 2/4 – both great opportunities to learn and network with employers. Still unsure about what to do? Schedule a 1-on-1 advising session with a career advisor! We are here to help!

Emily Norris is a Career Advisor at Northeastern Career Development. She loves working with students and guiding them to make informed career decisions that will lead to personal happiness.  She enjoys hiking and a good workout, but also loves cooking and baking for friends and family to ensure a healthy balance! Tweet her @CareerCoachNU

Rock that Interview.

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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.

Advice to my 25-year-old self.

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First, manage your career because no one else will.

When choosing a job, be confident enough to ask yourself “Does this add to my career capital?” Is this something I really love to do? Will this job be a great next step?” I pursued a career path that was in an industry I loved (financial investments) but I was in a job that I hated (stockbroker).  My advice to you if you find yourself in this situation  is before leaving the industry, it is important to explore other career paths within the industry. Financial planner? Financial analyst? Fund Manager? Do some brainstorming and informational interviewing within the industry you love to find out what else is possible. The best ways to get your creative juices flowing is coffee shop with some great creative books or magazines or online blogs. Think Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com).

Second, seek out a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor. You might have different mentors at different stages in your career, but they are important. Remember that mentors are rarely colleagues and not easy to find.

Third, It matters who you spend your free time with.

Who you choose as your friends and partner will matter.  As the years march on, who you hang out with, who you choose as your partner, really does matter. Watch Meg Jay’s Ted talk on Your Defining Decade.

Find friends who support, advise and push each other as you make your way deep into your career and life. It will be fun to manage your career if the people you are spending your free time with are doing the same.

Push yourself to be uncomfortable. Have a career bucket list. Allow yourself the time and space to continually ask yourself “What do I want? What do I love? What are my gifts? Where are my growth edges? That requires a depth of self-knowledge and connection that can only positively affect your life choices. For example, if you want to work internationally, put yourself out there. Tell your company. Be strategic. Learn languages.  Be culturally flexible. At the beginning of my career, my generation stayed put in the cities they grew up in.  What differentiated me was that I moved to various large cities in the United States. San Francisco.  Los Angeles.  Atlanta. Minneapolis. Finally Boston. My willingness to be uncomfortable, displayed a flexibility and adaptability that helped me to manage my career and offer a perspective that employers appreciated. Check out Sohan Gokarn talk about how to stand out.

And Last, dance and dance every day. Sounds absurd but dancing helps you to connect with your true self. It is there that you will find all your answers.

In conclusion, enjoy this video.

What do you think of this advice? Leave your own thoughts in the comments below!

Sharri Harmel works in career development at Northeastern University.. She loves international travel, creative thinkers and good books, all with equal passion. Tweet at her about the article @careercoachNU!

Next Stop: The Real World

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Despite the fact that I’m in my fifth year at Northeastern and graduating this upcoming May, the thought of a real-world job offer seemed so far in my distant future. Yet when I was approached recently about full time positions after graduation, it seemed as though the real world came and hit me like a ton of bricks. Cue the panic.

Wake Up, Neo

While I did allow myself a few moments of total “What is happening?”s and “What am I going to do with my life?”s, I decided to buck up and prepare.

Prepping for your job search doesn’t have to be miserable. Here’s how:

  • Stay organized. If you’re anything like me, you find making charts in Excel to be extremely therapeutic. While I realize most of you probably aren’t like me, just make sure to stay organized. Keep note of what company you’re applying to, the title of the job you are applying for, any information they provide you, who your contact at that company is, and a record of your correspondence. It sounds overwhelming, but it will be absolutely worth it in the end.
  • Nurture your network. You’ve done amazing co-ops and internships, but don’t let all the valuable connections you made during those experience lay dormant on LinkedIn. A friendly email never hurt anyone, and it helps to show that you’re interested and proactive.
  • Be a little bit selfish. Job searching can be overwhelming and some people (read: loving family and friends) love asking about your search and telling you what they think is best. While they may have valuable advice, really think about what you think is best for you. Has it been your life dream to move to Seattle post-grad, but your friends want you in Boston? Evaluate your goals versus the goals that others set for you. It’ll hugely impact your happiness in the long run.
  • Most importantly, get excited. Don’t let stress shadow the excitement of these next few months. You’re going to be so prepared to take on the world, so get excited.

While the real world comes and often catches you off guard, it doesn’t have to a horrible and scary place. Have any tips to add? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy job hunting!

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

10 Tips for New Interns

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 My name is Dodie Fontaine, and I have recently been afforded the opportunity to Intern for the Career Development Center at Northeastern University. Similar to many college students actually leaving the classroom setting, entering the work force can be a daunting experience. Not to worry, I have 10 tips for you!

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1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

There really is no such thing as a stupid question,.. OOkay, maybe there are silly questions but when it comes to an internship and a task that you are unsure of make sure to ask, re-clarify, and ask again. It is better to be safe than sorry!

2. Always ask if there is anything else you can do.

Whenever you finish an assignment or project make sure to ask your supervisor if there is anything else you can help them with. This shows initiative, and that you are willing to go above and beyond your call of duty.

3. Make sure to dress appropriately.

Some offices are more casual than others so it is important to ask your supervisor what the office protocol is when it comes to dress code.

4. Introduce yourself

Although working in a new environment can be intimidating make sure you introduce yourself to everyone in the office.

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5. Learn everyone’s names.

Whether you work in an office with 5 colleagues or an office with 50, you should make it your mission to learn everybody’s name.

6. Be on time, or even early.

Whatever you do, don’t be late! Being prompt is so important and shows that you are reliable. I suggest being 15 minutes early so you can get settled before your day begins.

7. Network, network, and network some more!

Networking is key to landing a job these days so you might as well start with the connections you have made in the office.

8. Be proactive.

Take initiative and get something done without asking, whether it be a project or your own research.

9. Make the most of every minute of the experience.

Even if you’re not getting paid or getting paid very little be sure to make use of the time that you have at the internship. With every opportunity comes experience!

10. Write thank you notes.

Last but not least, make sure to write thank you notes to your supervisor and colleagues – basically anyone that has helped you throughout your time there. Trust me, this goes a long way!

 

Dodie Fontaine is an Intern at the Career Development Center. She is working towards her Master of Education in Counseling at Providence College. You can find her exploring Boston on the weekend and getting way too many parking tickets in Southie. Tweet her @CareerCoachNU!

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.

 

Mentorship? Go Organic!

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Every so often, we come across articles preaching out “the power of mentorship”. We read about how one mentor can open your mind and help your career flourish. These articles instill such a desire within us to find that one person who can change our lives and our professional careers for the better. The desire to find this person can grow so strong that we begin to focus less on the quality of the mentorship and more on the search itself.

Mentors (like most things nowadays) should form organically. Often times, you won’t realize the caliber of mentor you have in front of you until you step back and really study your relationship with them. This was the case for me when I first met mine.

I was about one month in to my second co-op when another teammate started. Even on her first day, her confidence and bright personality lit up every room. We bonded over being the newbies on the team and shared very similar senses of humor. As my co-op progressed, our conversations would get deeper and our friendship grew stronger. When I was back in classes and my homework was to interview a mentor in my chosen field, my mind immediately turned to my colleague. I realized that not only was she the first person I immediately turned to for career advice, but also the person I aspired to be more like.

By allowing relationships to grow naturally and fostering them over time, strong and meaningful mentorships will begin to form. There’s no need to force it! Be patient, keep an open mind, and let a mentorship form organically. Trust me, a true and valuable mentorship is 100% worth the wait.

Jessica Mertens is a senior studying Communication Studies, Business Administration, and International Affairs. With experience in PR, internal communications, and CSR from Metis Communications and Staples, Jessica is now in an eternal state of wanderlust at Travel + Leisure. Offline, you can catch Jessica exploring NYC, binge-watching Scandal, and planning her next world travels. Connect with Jessica on Twitter @jessica_mertens and LinkedIn.

Post-Work Habits

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Photo: Boston skyline and the Charles River

It’s 5pm, you’re off from work, and headed home. But what to do? The possibilities are endless, but it doesn’t mean we should go home, hop on the couch and watch Netflix for hours on end. We should use our evenings to try new things, be productive, and most importantly, unwind after a long day at work.

Cook something new at least once a week. I often find myself cooking the same thing on a weekly basis, but sometimes I’m really craving adventure! Try to cook a new meal, something you’ve either never cooked before or tasted before, at least once a week. It’ll spice up your day post-work and let you be creative in the kitchen. Try allrecipes for ideas!

Hit the gym. Work it out, after work. Let off some steam after a hard day in the gym or simply celebrate a great day at work with some extra endorphin release. Working out makes you feel better and might just be enough to give you that motivation to have a great evening. Bonus: if it’s nice outside, workout in nature! You get some extra sunlight (hello vitamin D!) and some fresh air at the same time.

Explore your city. We live in Boston, so there’s always something going on in some part of the city. Take some time to walk around, look up, and explore what your stomping ground has to offer. Also, chances are that there is at least one free event happening somewhere at night, so that’s a great way to spend your evening to unwind after work.

Your day after work doesn’t have to be dull, make it exciting!

Photo courtesy of National Geographic.