What is your Greatest Strength?

This month's blog continues the series of most popular interview questions. So far I've addressed 'What Are Your Weaknesses?', 'Tell Me About Yourself', and 'Why Do You Want This Job?'. Now I'm going to address the 'What is Your Greatest Strength?' question. When you prepare for an interview and want to think of a smart way to answer this, remember the following: The strength you highlight must be relevant to the position you're being interviewed for A lot of interviewees make the mistake of being familiar and transparent when they formulate their answer. For example, you may think of yourself as a very compassionate person. You may be able to talk in great detail about your charity work. However, you can flush all this sentimentalism down the toilet if you're applying for an investment banking position. Investment banking isn't a field that's renowned for its compassion. I would hazard a guess that the interviewer in this case would prefer ruthlessness or pragmatism. Similarly, if you're applying to be a social worker, ranking your intellect as your number one strength is not going to impress the interviewer. This is not to say that social workers aren't intelligent, but in an environment that deals with…

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Why Do You Want This Job?

Moving on from Brexit, this month's post returns to the series I started back in May. So far, I've covered two popular questions asked in interviews: 'What are your Weaknesses?' and 'Tell Me About Yourself.' I suggest you go and read those too, particularly if you're preparing for an interview. Now that you' ve come to terms with those two unpalatable questions, here is an even more unpalatable one: Why do you want this job? This is going to be asked at pretty much every interview, because for some reason, employers want to know that you know about their company. I'm trying to be empathetic/mature/adult here, trying to understand why this is important if the candidate is qualified and seems relatively normal. If I was an employer, would it matter if the potential employee knew about my company? Not even a tiny bit. If I'm hiring a graphic designer, I only care that they can make wonderful designs. I don't give a hoot if they've never followed my company's Facebook page. Alas, it seems I am alone in this, for this annoying question is pretty much standard fodder for an interview no matter what job you're going for. I think part of the…

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Tell Me About Yourself

Tell Me About Yourself Before I begin, I just want to take a moment to congratulate England for voting to leave the E.U. My faith in humanity is temporarily restored.   Back to the blog: Following on from last month's 'What are Your Weaknesses' post, this discusses another popular interview question and how to answer it. Personally, I hate being told how to do things, and yet here I am telling you how to do things. Anyway, once you've got over your annoyance at being bossed around and given canned answers, it's time to consider the reality that interview questions in general can be a big, fat trick. It's my job to tell you how to jump over the tricky-hoops of interviewing, so here we go. There are a few elements that make this question a pain for interviewers and interviewees alike. On the surface, it seems like a very simple question to be asked. However, it's one of those coy, the-truth-is-hiding-under-the-surface kinds of questions. I know, I know, it's silly. I mean, is this an interview or a therapy session? It's almost as if they're trying to dig into your personality and tease out psychological complexes as opposed to finding out if…

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What are your Weaknesses?

This month will be the first in a series of posts dedicated to interview techniques. There are some questions that pop up in almost any interview. 'What are your Weaknesses?' is one of them. It's a ridiculous question, but for some reason interviewers love to ask it. Before I give you the platinum answer let me just vent a little about why this question makes my skin crawl: It's a trick question. This is what it's really asking: Are you humble? Are you TOO humble? Do you lack confidence? Are you an arrogant bozo? It's like some kind of Freudian dream analysis, pulling things out of thin air or twisting whatever you say. There is no right answer, is there? All of the professionals will tell you to give a weakness but explain how you work around it. So really the key to answering this is to lie, because everyone has a weakness. No one is perfect, and sometimes a weakness is always going to be a weakness, never to be improved. Humans aren't robots. Another beef I have with this question is the utter predictability of it. It's taken straight out of a random cliched textbook called 'Interview Questions 101'. It's up there with 'How…

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Number One Interview Tip

Congratulations, you’ve landed an interview! Well done on getting this far. Landing an interview is a confidence-booster for any job applicant. It says that you have the right credentials to complete the tasks outlined in the job description. Now for the final hurdle: convincing the interviewer/interview panel that you will be pleasant to work with, have some initiative and passion, and will fit in comfortably with the team that already exists. Many recruitment bloggers will try to give a top five or top ten list of the best tips for conducting a successful interview. However, some of the points that crop up all the time are usually common sense. For example, it’s not appropriate to turn up looking dishevelled with jeans and an old, ripped t-shirt on. So many articles around the web talk too much about personal appearance; it regularly makes the top five interview tips list. I, however,  like to give job applicants some credit; they know that going to an interview usually involves wearing a suit, or at least some sort of dressy-casual outfit. It’s up to the interviewee to root through their wardrobe and find something that looks clean, tidy and professional. I assume applicants possess this initiative and so, it…

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Unconventional Job-hunting Tips

The internet is filled with job-hunting tips. You’ve probably read some that say obvious things like ‘be assertive’, ‘promote yourself’ or ‘network’. Wisdom like this is all very nice, but it’s difficult to see how it actually helps and can actually lead to more discouragement. What does it actually mean to be assertive? How do you promote yourself? Who in the world actually networks? Networking is for cheesy lounge-lizards in a shiny suit. Real people don’t network, they live life and encounter people accidentally. Trying to navigate who you meet accidentally is a bit obsessive for my taste. It’s not particularly sound advice, either. I have never seen anyone get a job or opportunity by going to a wine-and-cheese party and pulling out a little black book. Advice like this is for life inside a Hollywood film, and doesn’t translate well in ‘real life’. Too often, online advice-givers wax lyrical about vague methods of pursuing the job-hunting process. The irony isn’t lost; this too is a blog which is designed to help job-seekers. The difference, however, is that the advice on this site is honest and sometimes hard to hear. As a result, the advice which follows is intended to be practical and bring you closer to securing…

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CVs and Cover Letters: What Goes Where?

Sometimes a CV is defined as a very detailed, comprehensive resume, but for the purpose of this article, I’m talking about a standard job application. We all know CVs and cover letters are two very different things. We may not know, however, what material should be included in one and not the other. This article will break things down in a very simple way. After reading this advice, you will never make the mistake of rambling on about valuable character traits in your CV or bullet-pointing your education in your cover letter. Tailoring for each new job application will also be a much more efficient process once you have a comprehensive list of ‘what-goes-where’ to refer to. To keep it simple, we’ll begin with what information should appear in a cover letter: Note:  A cover letter should be less than one page, always. Always. What to include in cover letter: 1. Brief information about the person (you, the applicant). This doesn’t mean you tell the prospective employer that you have two sisters and were brought up on a farm. Keep the information relevant to the job. So when I say personal, I mean ‘information about you’, not what your favourite colour of underwear is.…

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The Dreaded Cover Letter

More and more employers require a cover letter as part of a standard job application. When applying for jobs, the cover letter can be an odious additional piece of work, particularly because it takes longer to edit and re-write than a CV or resume. This is because each cover letter has to be tailored precisely to the employer you want to work for. The CV on the other hand can be tweaked, cut and pasted from. There is always a skeleton CV; there is rarely a skeleton cover letter. What needs to be emphasised is that the cover letter is just as important as the CV. Most people tend to see a cover letter as exactly that; a letter. They forget the formality and relevance required. As a result, many jobseekers fail in composing a good one, and usually throw one together in a few minutes hoping for the best. The tips below hope to inspire jobseekers to reconsider the ‘get as many applications as possible out there’ mentality in favour of a ‘choose the jobs I would really love or excel at and put together a well-crafted thoughtful application’ one. Here are some very common mistakes made by jobseekers regarding a cover letter:…

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