Posts filed under Interviewing

Interviews: Balancing Independence & Working as a Team

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Most companies desire candidates who are comfortable working alone and with a team. After all, there will be times that you need to do both. This is why one of the most asked interview questions is, “Do you prefer to work independently or on a team?” This question is meant to unveil your personality and to get a glimpse into how you would fit in with their team.

Why Balance is Important

There are times when you must work as a team – let’s say you have a deadline and there’s no way to complete it solo. Or perhaps your work involves other departments at the company. You must feel comfortable communicating with other team members to effectively complete the task.

On the other hand, there will be times when you just need to put your head down and complete your responsibilities for an impending deadline.

Since both will be required at the job, hiring managers want to make sure you’re equally able to tackle work this way on their team.

So, do you prefer to work independently or with a team?

How to Approach the Interview

Regardless of your preferred method, you must be able to gracefully answer this very pointed question. Here are a few ways to answer this question effectively:

“I tend to be more productive when working independently. However, when tasks require more collaboration and different perspectives, I prefer working with a team.”

“I’m comfortable working alone and with a team depending on the situation and type of work.”

“I have experience working in both ways and I find productivity with each.”

These are great lead-ins. Be ready to back up these statements with an example of when you successfully worked solo and with a team. “Give me an example” is an inevitable follow-up question.

Practice answering, “Do you prefer to work independently or with a team?” using these above responses or whatever feels genuine to you. Then, briefly provide examples. Practice makes perfect so you can nail the interview!

If you’re actively job searching and want to perfect your interview skills, resume, or want to overhaul your job search strategy completely, we’re here to help.

At The Wilbanks Consulting Group, we help professionals in all stages of their careers find their dream job, land their dream job, and continue to thrive in their career.

Posted on July 9, 2019 and filed under Career, Interviewing.

How Much Personality Should You Bring To An Interview?

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During the interview process, there can be a fine line between showing your personality and showing a little too much. Sure, you want to show the hiring manager you’re a good cultural fit but you don’t want to appear like you’re catching up with friends at a party. So, where is that line and how do you know where you stand? Here are some guidelines to help you be yourself within professional boundaries.

Consider the Company and Industry

Context is everything. When you research the company, see what type of culture they have. Is it a casual start-up with ping pong tables and dogs in the office? Or is it a large corporate company where everyone wears suits and blazers every day? Based on this, you can determine how much of your personality to reveal. Startups often mean working long hours and possibly weekends to meet the demands of a new business, so the hiring manager will want to ensure you’d fit in with the team during long work weeks. On the other hand, an established corporation may need you to portray a sophisticated demeanor at all times because of frequent client visits.

Be Aware of Body Language

During the interview, the hiring manager will be looking for subtleties that make you stand out. If you approach them with a smile and handshake, you appear confident and professional. On the other hand, if you look down with your arms crossed, you appear disinterested and unapproachable. Mind your body language during interviews: sit tall, speak confidently and avoid nervous habits like biting your nails, tapping your foot, and using excessive filler words.

Avoid Controversial Topics

Regardless of how casual the interview is, don’t bring up controversial topics like religion, political views, or social issues.

Above All, Be Professional

Always act with the utmost professionalism. Be polite, courteous and humble. If you have to consider whether something is professional or not, it’s probably not.

Interviewing is an art that can be learned. If you’re considering changing careers and need guidance in the best responses to interview questions, we’d love to hear from you. Our team at The Wilbanks Consulting Group helps individuals with everything from search strategy and resumes to interview preparation and offer negotiation. Contact us to learn more.

Posted on April 30, 2019 and filed under Interviewing, Career.

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.

The Most Important Person You Need To Impress During An Interview

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Do you know who the most important person to impress during an interview? While it is extremely important to impress your interviewer, impressing the secretary or assistant who is helping you is perhaps even more important.

Secretaries and assistants usually handle emails, scheduling, and are typically your first point of contact. Although it can be very easy to overlook them because they may seem unassuming behind their desk, they are the gatekeeper to the entire organization and are paid to weed you out. Leaving a good impression matters because secretaries and assistants can hold more responsibility and influence than most people assume. They absorb everything and filter out what’s important for their boss. Oftentimes, these are the positions that are most trusted in the company.

Showing that you are professional in all circumstances and to everyone, despite their job description, can be the key to getting hired. The following pointers can help ensure you leave a positive lasting impression with the most important person - the assistant or secretary!

  • Know and use their name (Ms. Smith, Mr. Johnson, etc.)
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the interview time.
  • While you wait, keep your phone out of sight.
  • Be polite and friendly.
  • Keep good posture and body language.
  • Be sure to thank them and say goodbye on your way out.

Remember, they have a relationship with the hiring manager and will reveal if you were rude or unprofessional. Make a positive and lasting influence on the receptionist and it might help your chances of success with the company; create a negative impression and there is a good chance your future with them has reached its end.

For more interview Dos and Don’ts, read this quick guide.

Posted on May 23, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

How To Follow Up When You Don’t Have Contact Information

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You just wrapped up an interview and hit it out of the park. Now what? Follow up with a thank you! But what if you don’t have the interviewer’s contact information? It’s a pretty common problem, but there are a few things that you can do to follow up:

1. Send a thank you note to the person who scheduled your interview. Although you may not have direct contact information for the interviewer, sending a follow up thank you email to the scheduler - Secretary, Assistant, or HR representative - with a note to pass along the message is acceptable. Here is a template email you can adapt for your own follow up:

(Add contact name),

I wanted to extend my thanks to you for scheduling my phone interview last week. I enjoyed speaking with (insert names of interviewers) and was thrilled to hear about the great work taking place at (insert company name). Would you please pass along my thanks to them as well?

If there is an update on the job process, I'd be honored if you would send me a brief note. I'm excited by the prospect of working with the team.

Thanks again for your time and assistance.

Sincerely,

(Add Your Name)

2. Do some research on LinkedIn or the company website. Check LinkedIn and the company websites to find the email address of the interviewer. Contact information on LinkedIn can be found on the right-hand side of an individual’s profile page.

3. Make an educated guess. Many times, if you have a company email from a secretary or assistant and your interviewer's full name, you can make an educated guess for their company email. For example, if the assistant’s name is Victor Gonzales and the email associated with him is vgonzales@company.com, it is likely that the email of the interviewer follows the same pattern.

Following up can be a difficult task especially when you don’t have the contact information you need. These tips and tricks can be helpful when trying to leave a good impression. For more tips and tricks, visit: Job Search and Interview Follow up Etiquette and I’ve Had an Interview. Now What?

Posted on May 2, 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.

What Is Your Body Language Saying During An Interview?

Body Language

Imagine you are at an interview and are sitting in a very comfortable office chair across from your interviewer.

You are probably imagining what the interviewer and the room look like. Forget about them. Imagine what YOU are doing in this scenario.

Are you shifting your weight in your chair? How is your posture? What are your hands doing? Where are your eyes looking?

Your body is always communicating to others. At home, at work, at the grocery store. The way you stand, your posture, your facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), and personal “quirks” are all speaking something to those around you. Not with verbal words, but with body language.

If you’ve never thought about these things as they pertain to the job search, now is a great time to start. Your body language says just as much, if not more about yourself and your interest in a position than your words.

Posture

How you sit speaks loudly about your current mood and thoughts. Look down and observe how you are sitting right now. Are you laying on the couch with your laptop (casual)? Are you reading this on your phone while you pace the floor at the doctor’s office(impatient)? Are you sitting at your desk with your feet flat on the floor and back straight (productive)? Are you slouching (discouraged)?

Several years ago, I was interviewing a young woman who was sitting with one arm draped over the chair beside her and her legs spread widely - like a baseball player sitting on the bench. She was also chewing gum. I remember this particular interview well because her body language suggested she was not taking the interview very seriously and didn’t care one iota about what I thought of her.

Another interviewee’s brow was furrowed and his arms were crossed across his chest the entire duration of our time together. He didn’t seem happy to be at the interview, and exuded an arrogant demeanor by his stance.

Over the next several days, notice what your body is saying in different circumstances, personally and professionally. Ask the person you are with about what your body language is suggesting your mood or thoughts are. You might be surprised at how clearly your body language speaks!

Eye Contact

You should always look your interviewer directly in the eyes. It can be uncomfortable if you aren’t used to doing it. Practice looking directly at your own eyes in a mirror to adjust to the new habit. Try to match a pleasant facial expression with your eye contact. Once you feel you are ready, try practicing with others. When you are checking out at the grocery store, look the clerk in the eyes as you interact. You can practice this skill every time you speak with someone, making it a quick habit to strengthen.

During yet another interview I was conducting, one particular woman checked her watch every five minutes and kept looking behind me at the door. I cut the interview short as it was crystal clear that she was anxious to be done with our time together.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, by thinking of a real-world example. Have you ever been talking with a colleague or friend and he or she never looks at your eyes, but instead looks at their computer or phone? In that moment, their eyes told you that whatever was on that screen was more important to them than you and what you had to say. Eye contact reveals distraction and priority, and that’s especially true in an interview setting.

You can see how body language and eye contact are important. Don’t dismiss the powerful language your body and eyes speak. Pay attention in every aspect of your life and you might be surprised to find you are often sending messages that you thought you were keeping internally.

Posted on March 13, 2018 and filed under Interviewing, Career.