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Category Archives: Interview Tips

Interview Question

Most of us know it’s coming. It’s that question interviewers love to ask, just to keep you on your toes: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

Are your palms sweating yet? Is your brain spinning in circles, trying to figure out how to answer this question? Or, do you have some kind of canned answer you found from a website?

It’s a tricky question, and infamously difficult to get right. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal anything too terrible that will potentially cost you your interview. Then again, you don’t want to be dishonest or gloss over the answer with something like, “People say I work too much and am too dedicated to the company!”

No interviewer is going to be impressed with an answer like that. It’s disingenuous and doesn’t tell them anything about you, except that you’re good at studying stock answers for interview questions. So how to approach this question?

First of all, be aware that sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you come off as a more authentic, relatable candidate.

Joe Grimm of the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest and avoid mentioning character flaws because these are traits that are difficult to change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as adept with Excel as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.”

Be sure to never talk about strengths as weaknesses. Your “over-commitment” to work is just another way of saying, “I’m a dedicated employee” and interviewers can see right through your wordplay.

Remember: Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman reminds us, “the worst responses are ‘I don’t know’ and the comical ‘I have no weaknesses.’”

You should also try to cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story. For example, if you are applying for a position as a financial adviser, you might talk about one of the specific areas in which you lack experience—say estate planning for people with over $1 Million in assets. And then (as mentioned earlier), demonstrate how you will familiarize yourself or how you are already working to improve in this area.

Keep in mind, this question mainly exists because it reveals whether you, the applicant, possess key qualities such as self-awareness, authenticity, sincerity, adaptability, and foresightedness.  Reveal that yes, you have weaknesses, but you will not let them stop you from doing the best job you can do for their organization.

Happy interviewing! Please contact UXL today to find out how we can help you transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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Banish your self-doubt! Here’s how…

We’re mixing things up today and posting an Infographic on the UXL blog. Enjoy! (Text posted below for those who can’t read it).


  1. Pay attention: Recognize when you’re thinking negative thoughts or telling yourself, “I can’t.” Do certain situations prompt more self-doubt than others?
  2. Talk back: Though it may sound crazy, start talking back to your self-doubt! For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, “No one wants to listen to my ideas,” counter with “Yes, they do. My ideas are valuable and people are interested in what I have to say.”
  3. Use a Power Pose: Keeping your shoulders back and your head held high has a positive psychological effect and can actually boost your confidence.
  4. Do Your Research: Going into a scary situation with a little preparation can make a huge difference. Be sure to anticipate questions others might ask and practice answering them.
  5. Challenge Yourself: The way to achieve growth is to constantly challenge yourself. Once you overcome doubt in one area, move on to another!

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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woman-1703834_1280

Hunting for and landing a job seems more complicated now than ever before. Most people hunt online for potential openings and therefore have to compete with, essentially, the entire world. It’s tough to stand out from the crowd with impersonal, uniformed job applications. Many online forms leave no room for creativity and, with many HR departments overwhelmed by the number of applicants, something as trivial as a certificate of completion or the college you attended can either make or break you.

How do you cut through the noise?

One of the solutions is to make the job hunt personal again. Here are four ways to do that:

1. Pick up the phone

The phone, you say? Like, an actual call?

Absolutely. With email and messaging, we’ve begun to develop a phobia of talking over the phone. Your phone call to an HR recruiter could make a huge difference. Just be sure to plan out what you’re going to say and put your best self forward. Don’t sound too “salesy;” be your wonderful, genuine self.

And don’t forget to have a purpose for the call. If you have a specific question, that’s a great reason to pick up the phone.

2. Tailor your resume to the position

You’re more likely to get noticed if your resume is tailored to fit the position for which you are applying. There is nothing wrong with highlighting certain parts of your experience, as long as the information is true. If you’re interested in a job and think it would be an excellent fit, take the extra time to refocus your resume around relevant areas of experience.

3. Find a referral

Most people now have a vast network of connections through social media. Use it! If a friend or acquaintance works at a company that you’d like to apply to, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. A personal recommendation can go a long way and most HR professionals don’t mind getting them (personal recs can actually make the hiring process a little easier!).

Even if you don’t have any direct connections to an organization, you may have a secondary connection. You can see your secondary (or tertiary) connections on LinkedIn and ask a primary connection to introduce you to a secondary connection. This may seem like a stretch, but the generosity of others never ceases to amaze me.

4. Schedule an informational meeting

If you’re trying to break into a new industry, or would like to make a switch to a radically different company, consider setting up an informational meeting. Even if your company of choice isn’t currently hiring, reach out and see if someone will meet with you over a cup of coffee or lunch. Once you have the meeting arranged, be sure to prepare a list of thoughtful questions. Ask about the company, their mission, a typical work day, the ideal skill set someone in your dream position needs, etc.

Even if your meeting doesn’t lead to something right away, it may help your dream company keep you top-of-mind when they are looking to hire. OR, if nothing else, you will have gained some valuable information about a company and/or position that you idolize.

 

Set yourself apart by making the job hunt personal! Even in our age of technology, the hiring process is still very much built on human connections.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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ask for the job

When I tell my coaching clients that they should ask for the job in an interview, I often get slack-jawed stares and looks of horror.

“What?! What do you mean? How could I possibly be so bold?”

You can. And you should.

Keep in mind that you are one person amid a sea of candidates. Think of yourself as part of a gigantic choir. How will you make your voice stand out? How will you deliver a solo that can be heard above the rest?

I have several strategies for developing your “solo” (if you’d like to learn more, let’s talk), but one of my key strategies is to have the confidence to ask for the position you’re seeking. Note that this is different than begging. You’re not on your knees, desperately pleading with the interviewer. Instead, you’re self-assured, enthusiastic, and authentic. You demonstrate that this job means a lot to you and you know it’s aligned with your skill set.

So, HOW do you ask for the job?

Start by affirming that, yes, this is the right fit for you. Research the company and the position. Read reviews on Glass Door. And listen to your gut–if you walk into an interview and notice that everyone in the office seems to be anxious and stressed, this might not be the company for you. Or, if your interviewer is curt and unfriendly, that might be a warning sign for what’s ahead. Trust both your instincts and your research. If you’re impressed with the company and you get a good feeling when you walk through the doors, that’s a good sign that you should make the bold move of asking for the job.

When you’re asking for the job, timing is everything. Your ask should come toward the end of the interview. Usually, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions or anything you’d like to add. This is your chance to make your move.

Start by complimenting the company (but be sure you’re sounding sincere). Say something like: “When I researched ABC Company, I was really impressed by your annual growth and the way you give back to the community. Now that I’m here in person, I’m even more impressed by the atmosphere and the way everyone has treated me with such warmth since the moment I walked through the door…”

Then, deliver your ask. Be confident. Practice asking for the job in front of the mirror so you become accustomed to how it might sound. Here are a few ways to do your ask:

“Your company seems like a great fit and I can picture myself thriving here. What can I do to convince you that I’m the right person for this position?”

“I can tell this position aligns with my skill set and I would very much like to work here.”

“This job sounds like a perfect match for my skills and experience. What can I do to demonstrate that I’m ready to work with you and your team?”

“I’m even more enthusiastic about this position than when I came in this morning and I’m confident I would be a good fit. What is the next step in the hiring process?”

REMEMBER: Go into your ask with grace, confidence, and the realization that the interviewer may respectfully decline OR hire you on the spot. Are you ready to get out there and put your new skill to work?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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let your voice be heard

Do you ever feel like we live in a world where people simply don’t listen to each other? Do you sometimes feel ignored during conversations? Or that others completely miss what you said because they were concentrating on themselves?

Part of the fault may lie with the other person, but there ARE ways to get others to listen to what you have to say.

It starts with the CONTENT of what you’re saying. If you tend to gossip, complain, or exaggerate, it won’t take long before others will tune out. Make sure that what you’re saying is worth saying. Next time you feel like griping about the weather or gossiping about a coworker, stop! Shift your focus to something more worthwhile.

Julian Treasure, international speaker and founder of The Sound Agency, advises us to focus on the acronym HAIL when we are speaking. HAIL stands for Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love. When you say something, be yourself, mean what you say, and say it with good intentions.

Treasure also talks about the sound quality of an authoritative voice. For instance, people who have a deeper voice and speak from their chest tend to exude more authority than those with higher, lighter voice. He also recommends talking at a steady pace (rather than a too-quick pace), using a warm timbre, and emphasizing certain words to add interest to what you’re saying (rather than speaking in a monotone voice).

Next time you have an interview, practice speaking in front of a mirror. Relax your speaking pace, speak from your chest, and add emphasis. You may also want to warm up your vocal chords by doing a series of voice exercises. For a list of useful exercises, watch Julian Treasure’s TED Talk (he goes over vocal exercises at the end).

How would the world change if people actually took the time to speak and listen with intention and mindfulness?

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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2 Minute Power Boost Amy Cuddy

Social scientist Amy Cuddy studies nonverbal communication and how it relates to power. Through her research, she’s discovered some pretty incredible things about power dynamics, nonverbal signals, and how we can actually modify our mentality through physical actions.

Just like in the animal kingdom, humans puff up their chests and make themselves “big” if they perceive themselves to be in a position of power. On the flip side, people shrink down, hug their arms to their bodies, and lower their heads if they are feeling weak and vulnerable.

When we see someone posed in a “power position” or in a position of weakness, our brains automatically react. We are drawn to enthusiasm, confidence, and ease. From political candidates to doctors, we tend to gravitate toward displays of power.

But what if you don’t FEEL powerful? What if you doubt your abilities and lack self-confidence? Let your body language change your mind.

In Amy Cuddy’s studies, she has found that people who assume a power pose (opened chest, relaxed, arms wide) for as little as two minutes have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, which translates to more confidence and less stress. These people are able to cope with high-stress situations, such as a job interview, and are usually well-liked by others.

When you take on a power pose, something uncanny happens in the brain—it begins to believe that you are powerful.

When people question the authenticity of “faking it ‘til you make it,” Cuddy responds that she prefers the statement, “Fake it ‘til you become it.” The more frequently you tweak your nonverbals to indicate power and self-assurance, the more you’ll believe in that power. Eventually, you won’t have to fake it at all. You’ll elevate your confidence and approach situations with more comfort and poise than you used to.

Try assuming a power pose for two minutes the next time you are about to face a high-stress situation. It IS possible for your physical actions to change your brain!

 

To watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, please click below:

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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phone meeting2

Many initial meetings happen over the phone. You might be “meeting” with a prospective client OR interviewing with a potential new company OR connecting with a possible collaborator for a new project. Whatever the case, don’t take these initial meetings lightly. Phone meetings are valuable opportunities to put your best foot forward and make an excellent first impression. How can you make sure your next phone meeting is a positive one?

1. Prepare

Nothing is as important as well-planned preparation. One of the most critical things you can do is research the other party. Visit their website, familiarize yourself with the company (or the person with whom you’ll be speaking), and learn about their guiding principles or mission statement. You’ll likely be able to interject some of your knowledge about the company during your phone conversation, but DON’T FORCE IT. You don’t want to sound canned or rehearsed.

Next, go over exactly what you’re going to cover in the meeting (or what you think you’re going to cover). Practice asking yourself questions that will likely be covered in the conversation and prep answers that are flexible and can be elaborated on or modified, depending on the question.

2. Warm up your voice

If it’s early in the morning or you haven’t been talking much all day, your voice will likely sound scratchy or weak. And that does NOT make for a good first impression. What to do about unused vocal chords? Warm ‘em up! Talk to a co-worker, call your mother, or even talk or hum to yourself. Newscasters, actors, singers, and other people who depend on their voice know the importance of warming up—a warmed up voice sounds more powerful and confident. For more ideas on prepping your voice, Business Insider printed an excellent article with several tips and tricks.

3. Be punctual

If it’s up to you to initiate the phone call, be punctual. Calling too early might rush the other party; calling too late gives the impression that you don’t really care.

If you’re on the receiving end of the phone call, be prepared to speak five minutes before the scheduled time. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by an early call.

4. Practice good listening

It’s easy to let your mind wander if you’re speaking with someone who is not in the same room. If your laptop is sitting in front of you, you might be tempted to absentmindedly scan your email, Facebook, the New York Times, the latest shoes on your favorite retail site…DON’T DO IT.

In order to truly absorb what the other person is saying, you must give them your full attention. Multi-tasking has been proven time and again to be ineffective and unproductive. Instead, put distractions away, take notes, and really listen. By being completely engaged in the conversation, you’ll be able to ask good questions and demonstrate that you care about the speaker and what he has to say.

Keys to Good Listening

5. Set up a follow-up meeting

If it’s within your power to set up a follow-up meeting (i.e. if you’re NOT interviewing for a job), then do so. Unless the phone meeting was a complete disaster, you’ll likely want to follow up with the other party. By setting up a time to meet—either face-to-face or over the phone—you’re demonstrating that you care and are enthusiastic about working with the person or company.

Once you hang up, send out an email to 1) thank the person for their time on the phone and 2) confirm the next meeting time and place. Not only is this good etiquette, it also shows that you’re grateful for the other person’s time.

 

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming phone meeting? Send me a message! I would be happy to answer any queries you might have.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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