Career Coaching

4 Tips for Job Interview Success

by Alan De Back

With the start of the new year, many people decide that the time is right for a job change. Because the market is so crowded with job seekers, you need to distinguish yourself from the competition during the interview process. In addition to preparing for possible questions, how will you use all the skills in your communication toolbox? Here are four job interview tips that will give you an edge.

 

  1. Align verbal and non-verbal communication

Your non-verbal communication can either confirm your answers to interview questions or totally erase the meaning in your words. Everything from eye contact to posture can impact whether your words are believable. If your body language is inconsistent with your words, you lose credibility. A few tips:

    • Maintain confident eye contact
    • Keep your posture open (e.g. arms not crossed in front of you)
    • Use gestures to emphasize important points

 

  1. Adjust voice and tone

You need to adjust your voice and tone to the interview situation. If your voice and tone don’t reflect the confidence to make your words believable, your answers to questions are unconvincing. The best answers in the world will be disregarded. Some tips about voice and tone:

    • Practice raising volume if you are soft-spoken
    • Avoid trail-off at end of sentences
    • Prepare to use more inflection if you tend to be monotone

 

  1. Use concise and clear language

Your interviewer wants to get as much information as possible about you as quickly and efficiently as possible. Complex and difficult-to-understand answers to questions will not help you build a case for your candidacy. Both the actual words you use and the structure of your answers have impact. Some tips:

    • Avoid acronyms and slang that may be unfamiliar to the interviewer
    • Consider whether to use complex technical terms
    • Structure your message in the active voice to make your message concise and clear

 

  1. Listen and focus

Although you will be talking a good deal as you answer interview questions, your ability to listen and focus on the interviewer is critical to your success. Active listening will ensure that you fully understand the questions you are asked. The ability to focus on what you are seeing and hearing will help you realistically assess whether the job and the environment are a good fit. Here are some tips:

  • Do not interrupt the interviewer
  • Listen carefully to pick up cues about what is important to the interviewer
  • Focus on what you see and hear, and adjust your responses to questions accordingly

 

How can you be sure that your communication tools are supporting you during the interview process? Consider taking video of a practice interview and watch it with a critical eye. This is the best way to get real-time feedback as you prepare for the interview.

Heighten your awareness of the components of your communication package, and your answers to interview questions will have more impact!

10 Tips for New Grads: How to Succeed at Your First Job

communicating first job

by Jody Bruner

Last post we discussed how high impact writing can help land your dream job. Here, we are going to focus in on newly graduated millennials. While an astonishing 87% of new graduates see themselves as prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they gained from their education, hiring managers don’t agree.

A recently released study from PayScale (an on-demand compensation data and software company) and Future Workplace (an executive development firm) shows that 44% of managers feel writing proficiency is the hard skill most lacking among college graduates, and 39% feel presentation skills is the second most lacking.

Communicating on the job is different from the communicating you did at school. You’re not writing or speaking to show your understanding or that you can argue a position in the same way you did while you were in school. Still, once you are working, you’ll find your day is full of communicating: writing emails, having conversations and thinking critically to move projects forward. Mastering these skills is what we teach.

Here’s some advice to pass on to any new grads you know.

Writing tips 

  1. Many boomers feel your writing skills have been destroyed by text and instant messaging. That’s not true, of course, but it’s important to match your writing style to your reader. Use IM style when you’re writing to a peer, but standard English when writing to your boss or a client. Be smart about it.
  2. Not sure what standard English is? For starters, be certain your grammar is correct. If you’re doubtful about a sentence’s grammaticality, turn it into two simple sentences. It’s always better to be simple and grammatical than complex and ungrammatical. Curious about grammar? Learn one rule each month. There aren’t that many, and you’ll probably learn them all in one year.
  3. Get to the point when crafting your message. Avoid rambling and try not to bury your key message. Look at your message from your reader’s point of view and ask yourself what information would be most interesting and useful to them.
  4. Writing an email? Make your subject line descriptive so the reader will know what the message is about and what they need to do with it.
  5. Make your message look inviting. Use whitespace, headings and lists.

Presentation tips

  1. Video yourself to see your strengths and weaknesses. Do you speak in a monotone? Do you use fillers such as like, um, ah, you know? Do you have any distracting physical habits?
  2. Rehearse a lot! The better you know your message, the more confident you will be when delivering it.
  3. Remember you’re the presentation, not your PowerPoint presentation. Avoid a closed captioned deck. If your audience can read along, what the point of presenting?
  4. Involve your audience. Ask them questions and invite them to ask questions.
  5. Ensure your words, voice, tone and body language are in synch.

I’ll add the advice I always gave my own kids as they were growing up: always offer a firm handshake, smile, and make eye contact when you meet people.

What’s the best advice you either give your own kids or received from someone you respect?

High Impact Writing and Your Job Search

high impact writing job search

by Alan De Back

Over many years as a career coach, I’ve discovered that the most qualified person does not always land the job. You may have great credentials, but your lack of high impact writing skills could eliminate you from consideration.

How you present yourself in writing is critical to making the first cut. Whether writing a resume or editing your LinkedIn profile, a high impact writing style sends a message of energy, enthusiasm, and professionalism.

What are the most important elements of a high impact writing style?

  • Use active voice. Active voice conveys energy and gives you the opportunity to “own” your accomplishments. You will also express yourself more clearly and concisely. Here is the difference:

I presented important project results to senior management.

vs.

Important project results were presented to senior management.

  • Use action verbs. “Responsible for” is tired wording that doesn’t convey the action you took to achieve your accomplishment. Action verbs convey actions and outcomes.
  • Use the simple “STAR” formula (Situation/Task/Action/Results) to outline your accomplishments. Using active voice, you will clearly provide an overview of your achievements without fluff. Here is an example:
    • Situation: Senior management was unaware of the results of our very important project to reduce administrative costs by 10%.
    • Task: My supervisor assigned me to develop a presentation to make management aware of our results, which reduced costs by 25%.
    • Action: I developed a presentation that I delivered at the monthly senior management planning meeting.
    • Results: Our CEO gave me written feedback that my message was delivered clearly and significantly impacted the budget meeting that followed.

Using the STAR format, your final overview of this accomplishment might look like this in your LinkedIn profile:

I recently designed and delivered a very successful presentation to my company’s CEO. The situation was that senior management in our company were unaware of a project my team was implementing to reduce administrative costs by 10%. My boss asked me to develop a presentation outlining how we actually reduced those costs by 25%. I developed a presentation that I delivered at the monthly management planning meeting. My CEO gave me written feedback that my very clear message had a significant impact on the budget planning meeting that followed.

In short, a high impact writing style will help you present yourself in a positive format that will help you land the job!

How to Close Your Email Messages

by Jody Bruner

Back in the day of the letter, we were much more formal in our closings. Typically we signed off with Yours truly in formal situations, and Sincerely yours or even Cordially in less formal situations. In business today, while emails sometimes serve the same purpose as a letter, they are less formal and the traditional closes feel too dated and formal.

The close does more than mark the end of your message. It also helps reinforce your purpose in writing and defines the personality of your message—is it a thank you or an apology? Is it casual or formal? Is it personal or business?

You may be tempted to save time by making your complimentary close part of your signature block, but it won’t always match your message and can make you sound insincere. Present a more professional image by thoughtfully matching your close to the message you are writing.

Here are some popular options—the good, the bad and the ugly. Choose the close that suits your situation and your personal style:

Best: Totally safe to use.

Best wishes, Best regards: More formal, but still acceptable.

Regards: A bit bland, but totally acceptable.

Sincerely: Way too formal for an email. Maybe it would work for a cover email for a job application.

Take care: A bit bland but acceptable.

Thanks (or Many thanks): This is also common, and acceptable. Make sure you are actually thanking your reader for something specific.

Thanks in advance: Presumptuous. Avoid this if it is a command masquerading as premature gratitude.

Talk soon: Again, use it if you are going to be talking soon.

Warm regards: Formal and friendly at the same time.

Warmly: Nice. It’s great for emails to someone you’re close to but aren’t in regular touch with.

Your initial: This is very informal. Only use it with people who know you very well.

Your name: This feels cold and abrupt. The initial is warmer, even without the complimentary close.

Do you have a favourite complimentary close that’s not on this list? Please share!