Posts tagged #interview skills

Using The STAR Method To Ace An Interview

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Open-ended interview questions such as, “Tell me about yourself,” or “Have you ever worked with a stubborn teammate” are stressful! It’s hard to prepare in advance for situational or behavioral questions that sometimes come out of left field.

If you struggle with these types of questions, the STAR method is a great way to lower your stress level and answer in a way that will satisfy the interviewer.

The STAR Method

STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. This method helps formulate your answers in a clear and specific way. Since past performance is a good indicator for your future performance, interviewers will be listening closely to the way you answer questions such as:

“Give me an example of…,”

“Describe a situation in which you were able to use…,”

“Describe a time…”

Situation - Start by describing the situation that required you to solve a problem, use a skill, or come up with a new idea. Be specific and give enough information for the interviewers to understand.

Task - What goal were you working toward? Explain what your job required in the situation. Make sure to include any specific challenges you faced.

Action - This is where you describe exactly what you did to overcome the challenge. What specific steps did you take and what was your particular contribution?

Pro Tip: Focus on qualities and soft skills the hiring manager is looking for (i.e., initiative, leadership, attention to detail, teamwork). You will know this from the job description.

Results - Finally, describe the outcome of the situation. Don’t be shy in  emphasizing your contribution. Also, incorporate what you learned through the process.

Tips for Using The STAR Method

  1. Be prepared. You won’t know the questions your interviewer will ask, so think through several STAR situations from your experiences that highlight your best traits. Practicing the method will help when you are put on the spot in an interview.

  2. Be specific. Make sure your situations are targeted and specific. Identify qualities the hiring manager is looking for in the role before the interview and incorporate those words into your responses.

  3. Be quantitative. If you were responsible for growth in your department or project, know growth percentage and share those numbers in your interview. When you incorporate numbers, you're not just voicing your ability, you’re proving it. Numbers don’t lie!

  4. Be honest. Avoid inflating your story or success in hopes of impressing your interviewer. Not only is this lying, but when they find out you fibbed, workplace trust will be compromised.

Want to practice the STAR method and other interview tips to help land your dream career? Through our Interview Preparation service, our team of career consulting experts can equip you with the tools and guidance to succeed. Contact us today!

Posted on December 11, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

Tips For Handling A Lunch Interview

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Lunch interviews, while a routine part of the hiring process in many organizations, can be quite nerve-wracking. But remember, lunch interviews are a good thing – it means the interviewer wants to spend more time with you and get a better sense of your personality. However, it’s incredibly important to remain professional and avoid handling this interaction like it’s a casual lunch. It’s still an interview and your overall behavior will be considered when it comes to a hiring decision.

If you have a lunch interview coming up, don’t stress! Here’s a list of the top tips for handling a lunch interview like a pro.

Arrive Early & Prepared

Before the day of the interview, research the restaurant and its location. Is parking nearby? Will there be traffic? What type of food is on the menu? If it’s feasible, drive there beforehand so you know exactly where it is. Ease your interview jitters by knowing exactly what to expect. Aim to be at the restaurant about 5 minutes before the scheduled start time.

Come prepared with everything you would bring to an office interview including your resume, work samples, references, and recommendations. You may not have the chance to present them, but you can hand them to the interviewer after the lunch.

Mind Your Manners

Your interviewer will take note of the way you treat and interact with everyone at the restaurant. After all, they brought you on a lunch interview to get a better sense of your personality. Be kind, courteous, and respectful to all restaurant staff including the hostesses, servers, and bussers. If you’re interviewing for a customer service or client-facing role, this is especially crucial.

Order Your Meal Strategically

Yes, you are meeting over lunch, but we suggest eating beforehand and ordering a small dish during the interview. You’ll be talking a lot and don’t want to be distracted by an empty stomach. Avoid finger foods and anything that’s hard to eat. Even fish can sometimes have small bones in it – you don’t want to be picking food out of your teeth while you’re explaining why you’re great for the job!

Pro Tip: let the interviewer order first and choose something similar.

Offer to Pay

If your lunch interview is one-on-one, offer to pick up the check. This shows politeness and courtesy. If this isn’t feasible for you, do not worry, the interviewer will likely insist on paying since they invited you. But if you offer to pay, you must be ready and willing to pay. It would look even worse if you offered and then backed out.

Bottom line: While not required, offering to pay is a polite gesture and will go a long way to making a great impression.

Do you want more interview guidance? Our team at Wilbanks Consulting Group offers a variety of professional services to highlight your individual strengths and help you shine in interviews. Get in touch with us to learn more.

Posted on September 25, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

How to answer “What’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Strength Weaknesses

Interviewer: “What’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Interviewee: “My strength is that I have no weaknesses.”

Please don’t answer the classic interview question like this. No one is weakness free! And while this isn’t a trick question, it is a question that is meant to reveal how you view yourself, your confidence level, and your forward-thinking skills. Most of the time, interviews don’t actually care what the strength and weakness are - they want to hear how you handle a self-assessment.

Here’s the key: There is always something you can be working to improve, and this question opens the door to show interviewers that you are actively working on an area or skill.

Here’s 5 easy steps to prepare for this classic interview question:

Step 1: Write down your honest answer to this question. You don’t have to show it to anyone at this point, so be truthful!

Step 2: Ask your best friend to answer the question for you. Ask them to be honest, but helpful. In all the time you’ve known this person, what do they see as your greatest strength and weakness?

Step 3: Ask a close colleague to answer the question for you. Your best friend will answer a bit differently than a colleague. Having the two perspectives will be insightful.

Step 4: Compare notes. Were any of the answers similar? How were they different? Do you agree or disagree with their assessment? Spend some time to think through the responses and form one coherent and honest answer that is appropriate for an interview. Bonus points if you can tailor your response to the specific position you are interviewing for!

Step 5: Come up with a plan to address your weakness. It’s important to not just answer the question with the strength and the weakness, but to include a plan of action for improvement that is already in place. Here’s a great example from an author:

“I’m really creative when it comes to brainstorming topics for my writing and I’m quick to lay out an outline. My weakness lies in catching the details. I sometimes struggle to catch the small stuff when editing, but I think being aware of the problem is half the battle. In addition, I’m working to improve on this by taking editing classes and allocating more time to review work before it leaves my desk.”

Everyone should prepare for this question. Having a thought-out and plan-of-action will leave a great impression with your interviewer.

Want more interview tips? Read How to present yourself as a team player.

Tips for Handling Interview Nervousness

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If you are taking the correct steps to showcase your value while applying for jobs, you will land an interview. Interviews are standard practice in the hiring process to ensure a candidate is not only qualified, but also the right fit for the company. It’s normal to be nervous for an interview - all eyes are on you!

One particular nerve-wracking interview that I had out of college was 3 hours long and involved me being shuttled from one office to another. I met with almost everyone in the small, family-owned company for “mini” interviews (over 10 of them!) and also had to take a three part skills test on a computer. Going in to a three hour interview, I was incredibly nervous. I was afraid that I would forget someone’s name, that I wouldn’t pass the skills test, or that the fast-paced interviews would damper my ability to showcase my value.

In that interview, and any interview you may face, the challenge is to think about it for what it really is: a meeting where both you and the interviewer are trying to figure out the best fit for the position.

Bottom Line: It’s not just you being interviewed, it’s you interviewing the company and your potential future colleagues. If you don’t think the workplace culture is a fit for you, then you don’t have to take the job if it’s offered. Keeping this mindset takes a lot of the pressure off of you and puts some on the interviewer.

Keeping that perspective, here are a few tips to manage nervousness and start your interview with confidence:

  • Research. Know as much about the company as you can before your interview. Most employers will casually ask, “What do you know about our company?” Stammering through a half-right answer won’t help your confidence or leave a good impression. Be prepared and know who it is your interviewing with.

  • Prepare your own questions. Remember, you are interviewing the company too! Come with a list of questions that you want to know as a potential employee. Here are some great examples:  

    • Can you explain a bit more about the company’s {insert project here}?

    • How are the company teams structured?

    • What opportunities for advancement come with this position?

    • What is your favorite thing about working here?

    • Do you feel that you have friends at work?

  • Put your best foot forward. This is an obvious one, but it’s so important. Dress professionally. Bring copies of your resume, just in case. Be on time. Act courteously and graciously. If you do these things, you can be confident you will make a great first impression.

  • Do a mock interview. It may sound or feel awkward, but practicing for an interview with a career coach is one of the best things you can do to prepare. This practice will empower you to answer questions with confidence and equip you with a plan for presenting your value.

Still feeling unsure of yourself? We’d love to help you build confidence and increase your chance for success. Contact your personal career coach today!

Active Listening

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There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Have you ever been talking with someone and just knew they weren’t listening? When you ask, “Are you listening?” the response is something like, “Yes, I heard you!”

Perceiving sounds is hearing.

Mentally processing and understanding what you’ve heard is listening.

What is Active listening?

Active listening is a strategy that provides tools to not only listen intently, but also proves to your conversation partner that you are engaged in the conversation. Active listening is a skill that takes practice and will immediately yield positive results in whatever conversations you have on a daily basis.

During an interview, it is imperative that you are an active listener. If you aren’t engaged, it will reflect poorly on your professionalism, your qualifications, and your ability to work with others.

Strategies to be an Active Listener

There are five basic steps to follow in order to be an active listener. They are straightforward and easy to implement, so you can start practicing immediately!

  • Eye contact - Direct eye contact makes is clear that the interviewer has your undivided attention. If you are wandering the room with your eyes, you seem disinterested or distracted.

  • Acknowledge - Acknowledge that you heard what the interviewer said.

    • “That’s a great point,” or “I understand” are great acknowledgement statements.

  • Clarify - Ensure you heard and understand what is being said by clarifying.

    • “If I am hearing you correctly, the number one skill you are looking for in this position is exceptional problem solving. Is that correct?”

  • Paraphrase - Repeating back what the interviewer has just said is a great way to be an active listener. Of course, it needs to be natural, so don’t repeat back like a parrot. Paraphrase instead.

    • “I agree 100%. One of the biggest problems in the workplace is lack of teamwork and miscommunication.”

  • Respond - When asked a question or given a statement or fact, respond appropriately. Even if you don’t understand, it’s better to respond than ignore.

    • “Thank you for laying out the responsibilities of the role. I’d love to share a bit about how my skills can help in these areas.” or “I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you mind going over this again with me?”

Some of these steps may seem unnatural at first if you aren’t used to them. For example, eye contact can be very uncomfortable to some! Practice with people you know and trust first and then gradually start utilizing your skills with others. It will get easier with time!

The great news is that active listening is a skill that will help you in interviews and in every life situation, personally and professionally. You can use active listening to improve interactions with your colleagues, significant other, children, friends, and even strangers!

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Search Strategy, Leadership.