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Tag: job interview

3 Questions You Should Be Prepared for When Going to an Interview


Interviews! I don’t think there is a more conflicted time in the job search process than the time you are invited to interview for a position! Your heart is pounding, the desire to hug everyone you meet, from the friendly postman to the nasty old lady across the street is unbearable, you smile, and jump and cry with joy! For a second only, because out of the blue, the image of a cold office with a suited up, aloof but polite interrogator quickly pops up in your mind and that’s it! Tears start rolling down your cheeks, the smile has changed into a panicked grimace and you start hyperventilating. Where is that paper bag?

Yes, interviews are nerve racking. Yes, interviews can be scary and uncomfortable but we all have a dentist, don’t we? There is not much we can do when we visit their office other than ask for more pain killers. Fortunately there is whole lot that we can and should do before going to an interview.

There is no escape of the behavioural questions. HR people love them because they say the answers help them predict future behaviour. I tend to think that mostly because while you are busy telling the story, they have time to analyze your body language, your communication style, your English level, and how comfortable you are taking the front row. The more prepared to answer them, the more positive impression you will leave. Let’s have a look at the three most often used questions:

  • What is your strength? It sounds easy but don’t be fooled! This is a tricky question that deserves as much attention as any other. When you have a good answer, you score points on more than just one level: you demonstrate your maturity and level of self awareness, you show a glimpse into your personality: too modest versus too boastful, reveal  clues about your communication skills and it is another opportunity for you to explain why you are the best candidate!  Be specific, be relevant and be prepared to give an example! Go for specific skills you identified (awards, specific training, employee of the month for…, special recognitions by your supervisor, colleagues or friends…). Make sure they are relevant to the position you are applying for. Carrying 5 plates without a spill from your part time as a waiter might not be of much relevance for the security officer job you are interviewing but your ability to quickly connect and communicate  with any patron proven by the number of repeat clients that ask to be waited by you might give you the edge. What if they don’t ask the question? Find a way to push in your well thought answer. Chances are, there will be some other questions you might use it: “What do you think you can bring to the company?” “Why should we hire you?” “If I call your supervisor, what will they say about you?” As a last thought, everyone should have about five to ten strengths prepared with good stories as examples. In this way, the only thing to do before the interview is to match the strength with the job description.
  • What is your weakness? “I tend to become the most devoted employee and the company becomes my family. Very frustrating for my other family! That is why I invite my wife and kids over once or twice a year to have dinner at my desk and to make them feel included.” Awesome answer you might think! Every company wants a devoted employee. And yet, this will not score you any points. Who wants an entire family dropping soup and sauce all over desks and documents? Joke aside, try to find something you are really struggling with but it is not the core requirement for the job you want. For example, your weakness cannot be creativity if you want to become a PR specialist, or attention to detail for a watch repairmen. The key to this question is that no matter what you choose to talk about, don’t dwell on it. State the weakness then move on and spend most of the time talking about what you have been doing to improve it. Companies look for people that show initiative especially when it is about self improvement. Possible weaknesses:
    • fear of public speaking; possible solution: attending Toastmasters;
    • too direct of an approach in communication; possible solution: reading on cross cultural communication, conflict management; practising different ways of phrasing ideas with friends
    • obsessed with technology/social media – customized the notifications from all social media accounts, messages and emails, only those from my family will show, the rest I learnt not to think about until later in the day.
    • lack of focus in a noisy environment that can be addressed by learning how to manage tasks: early in the morning dealing with the ones that require the most attention
    • lack of experience in a certain area but being excited at the opportunity to learn and grow your expertise                    Other questions you might use this answer for: What would your former team members/former supervisor say your weakness is? If you could, what would be the one thing you’d change about yourself? What goals have you set for yourself this year? What do people criticize the most about you? 
  • Are you a leader or a follower? I find this question quite tricky as you can easily be fooled into giving a black or white answer or an as damaging quick answer. Both words have negative connotations: leaders are usually difficult to control and don’t really follow directions while followers prefer to … follow, have little to no initiative and even if they see a better way, they will not take charge to improve the process. So, how do you answer then? You will show the interviewer your ability to be a follower and a leader depending on the company and team’s needs. Talk about a time you took an initiative (leader) and solved a problem then take about a time when you were part of a team, following directions and working together with your colleagues to complete a project. And this is how we have identified two other questions might pop up in the interview: Tell me of a time you took initiative! Tell me of a time you worked in a team! Do you work well with other people? 

Yes, interviews are nerve wracking but a couple of hours of preparation will smooth the edges and give you the confidence and right attitude to win the interviewer. After all, the successful candidate is not the one that has the best match of experience, education and skills but the one that proves to have the best attitude! 

English for Personal Branding

2011-trends-4There was a time, not too long ago, when men and women were putting a lot more effort in the way they looked. Men used to wear suits and ties almost everywhere and women preferred skirts and beautiful dresses. Times have changed, and we are way more laid back and casual in the way we present ourselves. Formal appearance is not that much of a concern and I have witnessed teachers wearing yoga and track suit pants, clients that think there is nothing wrong with wearing jeans to interviews and colleagues that wear flip flops and shorts to meetings. There is nothing wrong with this casual approach to clothes other than the fact that not much has changed in the way people judge and form a first opinion when meeting new people.

Image consultants and career experts agree that it takes an interviewer about 30 seconds to make a first impression about a candidate. Dressing appropriately and wearing the outfit with confidence increase your chances of getting hired. The most controversial piece of clothing for men tends to be the mighty tie. Steve Jobs never wore one and Sir Richard Branson thinks that ties kill creativity while the editors of GQ magazine, stated “when you’re sporting a tie, you can pretty much stroll in anywhere you want; it’s like an Admirals Club card that you wear on the outside. Whether you’re suiting up for the office or laying out a look for the evening, a tie allows you to pull together the disparate elements of your wardrobe with a touch of texture or complementary color.”

At this point you are wondering what would appearance have to do with English and personal branding? Proper English with correct grammar and punctuation is the outfit for your “on paper” persona. The recruiters, the hiring managers will make that 30 seconds judgment based on your resume and LinkedIn profile. The best way to get noticed, or for your name to be kept in the potential winning candidates bag is to wrap your profile in the best outfit possible. The Internet abounds with articles on the most common grammar mistakes and typos that you need to avoid at all costs. I will not dwell on them. I will touch only on the TIE you might want to pay extra attention to when writing your profile.

Tautology is a figure of speech and the way of expressing the same thing using two or more different words with the same or almost same meaning. It can be used to emphasize a concept but more often than not it is used in the wrong way and becomes a needless and annoying repetition of the same fact or thing. Very close to pleonasms, tautologies are a real turn off for any hiring manager. Before even getting to your skills and experience, their first impression is that you lack the basic ability to write and edit your work. In a global workplace, where business is often conducted through emails, having strong English skills has become a basic requirement for any job. The examples below were gathered from LinkedIn profiles:

  • Internal Intranet (Intranet is an internal network)
  • I saved $10,000 dollars on the project
  • A brief summary of achievements
  • A necessary requirement of the job
  • Drafted wills and testaments
  • Absolutely necessary
  • And etc.
  • CAD design (Computer-Aided Design design)
  • Helped the parties enter into a contract
  • Sills previously listed above

Have you ever heard of the term illeism?  Do you remember The Jimmy episode of Seinfeld? “Hands off Jimmy!” “Don’t touch Jimmy!”, says Jimmy. “Illeism is another figure of speech, and it denotes the habit of referring to oneself in the third person. In an interview with The Guardian, Pelé, the famous soccer player said: “I think of Pelé as a gift of God. We have billions of billions of people in the world, and we have one Beethoven, one Bach, one Michelangelo, one Pelé. That is the gift of God.” You get the idea now! We all, at times, have fallen in the habit of using it: “Give mommy a good night kiss!” or  “Daddy’s busy now, go play with your brothers!”   I would like to think we all grew out of it. I think that once you move on from watching Elmo, you should stop talking about yourself in the 3rd person. In psychology, illeism has been linked to narcissistic behaviours and in a business environment narcissists don’t make good team players.  Psychology aside, let’s just say it rubs people the wrong way. My first question when I read a resume or a LinkedIn profile written in the 3rd person is who actually wrote this document? Was it the owner or a third party? It confuses me in regards to whom I should address my questions to and it creates an unnecessary barrier in the communication flow.  One of the important objectives when writing a resume or a LinkedIn profile is a direct, honest approach that attracts recruiters and hiring managers.

The use of ellipsis on resumes baffles me. I am killing it today with all these smug words! Ellipsis is nothing else but the nerdy word for those three dots that we use but not sure where and why. It is very simple: they can be used in two instances. First and most common use is to replace text in a quote. Let’s consider this full quote from Arthur Miller Biography by Rachel Galvin:  “In his writing and in his role in public life, Miller articulates his profound political and moral convictions.”  I find the sentence a bit too long and having too many distractions from the simple idea I need to convey. I will use the ellipsis to simplify it and yet keep the integrity of the quote. “In his writing … Miller articulates his … convictions.” The second use of these three dots is in creative writing to express hesitation, a long pause, uncertainty or even a change of moods. (See also The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus) For example: I… don’t know… I think… I … must have… turned off the stove. A resume is or should be unique presenting your skills, your experience, and your knowledge.  Unless you are quoting from your work, you should never use an ellipsis. As for the second use, I don’t need to explain anything anymore! Managers need employees that can take decisions in a timely manner, with little to no hesitation and pretty stable from an emotional point of view.

The devil is in the details! The same way a tie can ruin or enhance a perfectly tailored suit, paying attention to the proper use of grammar concepts like T(tautology), I(lleism) and E(llipsis) can ruin your chances to an interview or advance your career with little effort. There are no short cuts or easy ways in writing for career advancement. The better you become, the closer you get to your dreams!


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