Reference: abintegro
08 Dec 2016

 

This is one of the more awkward questions you can expect to face as an interviewee. It also happens to be one that employers love to ask (note the reason for this below).

Everyone has their own unique approach when it comes to interview prep, and while you may not want to reveal all of your trade secrets, it’s important that you’re able to reply to this question in a logical and concise way.

Here are some handy DOs and DON’Ts to help you:

DO
Read between the lines

If you hadn’t already realised, this question is really about motivation; the assumption being that the more time and effort you expend preparing for the interview, the more likely you are to want the job. By extension, this means that the more rigorous you can make your preparation appear the better.

Cover the basics
There are tried-and-tested preparation techniques that your interviewer will be expecting to hear about. Step one inevitably involves reviewing the job specification and company website thoroughly. That’s not to say you should stop here, but eyebrows may be raised if you don’t tick off these crucial steps.

Tailor your response to the role
Different personal qualities are obviously required for different jobs, and the kind of preparation you do (and how you do it) will speak to your suitability for the role. A salesperson, for example, could be expected to spend longer researching the company’s products or services and the types of clients and customers the business has. They should also understand its USPs and how it ranks against competitors in the marketplace.

DON’T
Play it too safe

As mentioned, the staple preparatory techniques are important, but don’t limit yourself to what everyone else is doing. For instance, you could mention that you’ve attended a presentation by the organisation at a recent event, read its latest whitepaper or analysed its most recent financial report. It comes back to going the extra mile and showing how driven you are to get the role.

Exaggerate
A note of caution: you need to be able to back up the various things you claim to have done, particularly as your interviewer may well ask you to expand on what you’ve discovered during your research. Your memory can only hold so much information, so make sure to take notes of your findings during the due diligence process.

When it comes to talking about your interview preparation it’s really a case of more is more. While remembering to be honest and concise, the more evidence you can give of your scrupulousness and motivation the better.

Reference: IT World; Forbes; Abintegro
01 Dec 2016

 

Is it better to work for a large or a small company? As with most things in life there is rarely a simple or straightforward answer to the above. Each option brings its own advantages and disadvantages; when making this decision it is important to weigh up the pros and cons and see what conclusion you arrive at.

Advantages of large companies
Perhaps the best advantage of working for a bigger company is job security. A large, established business is far less likely to dissolve and far more likely to offer better benefit packages. These employers also typically have clearer structures in place, with patterns of career advancement that are more certain. In addition, a larger employer often means more opportunity and exposure. This includes the ability to transfer to a different job within the organisation, or to draw from better resources. You may also have access to a larger network of clients and co-workers.

Disadvantages of large companies
Generally speaking, the bigger the business the harder it is for you to exert influence. An employee’s role is a lot more fixed and, though not impossible, it is more of a challenge for you to assert your voice. Although there are benefits to having many co-workers, it also increases competition, and you’ll be expected to truly excel in order to stand out.

Advantages of small companies
The more intimate setting of a smaller business offers many benefits: your successes are more apparent and therefore carry greater significance, and you are likely to have a closer relationship with upper management (which makes it easier to pitch your ideas). A smaller workforce means less competition and your responsibilities are likely to be more fluid than in a larger company – it’s all hands on deck and there will be opportunities to try your hand at different things.

Disadvantages of small companies
The small structure of a company can have its downsides, however. While your successes are more visible, this also applies to your mistakes. You are more likely to work longer hours, with fewer benefits and less job security than you would receive in a larger company. There are also often no legal or HR departments in smaller businesses, which are useful in providing a bridge between employer and employee.

As you can see, there are clearly positives and negatives to both options. Whether you’re more swayed by the security and structure of a large company or inspired by the opportunities and intimacy of a small company, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of what’s on offer and of the environment you feel works best for you.

Reference: Forbes; Abintegro
23 Nov 2016

 

Your cover letter can be the introduction to you that makes a recruiter’s eyes sparkle with interest or glaze over with indifference. So it’s worth thinking about how you can use it to really stand out and get you and your CV noticed.

The tips you regularly hear for creating cover letters always include ‘don’t cut and paste it’ (either from someone else’s cover letter, yours to another employer or from the job description); ‘watch your grammar and punctuation’ and ‘err on the side of formality’.

Those tips are all completely valid and important, but they won’t make you shine. Here are some to help you sparkle:

– If you have the name of a mutual contact, include it in the first paragraph of your cover letter. It shows you have a relationship to the employer and automatically sets you apart.

1. Try to use your cover letter to showcase your personality. The recruiter needs to get a true sense of who you are. Yes, you need to explain why you think you’re right for the job and what you can bring, but you shouldn’t be copying it straight out of your CV.

2. Demonstrate your passion and knowledge of the industry. Maybe including a cool historical fact or the event or person that got you interested in the industry in the first place.

3. If you can relate your desire for the job to an anecdote or story then do it. It shouldn’t be long-winded though. In fact, your whole cover letter should be three paragraphs/half a page or less.

4. Summarise how your experience will help you do the job and always finish by saying how and when you’ll get in touch.

When you’ve written it, read your cover letter as the recruiter. Does it interest you? Does it make you want to speak to the person that sent it? Does it make you smile?

Remember hiring managers and recruiters are people, not automatons. They do need facts, but they also need to know the person behind the facts.

Reference: Forbes; about.com; business.financialpost.com, Abintegro
16 Nov 2016

 

It’s the one that was always coming and yet the question that invariably causes the most interview headaches. As self-deprecating as we may be in our daily lives, it is surprising how uncomfortable many of us feel when faced with the question: “what do you consider your biggest weaknesses?”

While the temptation may be to go for an ingenious response that highlights how amazing you are under the cover of modesty and self-deprecation, what your interviewer is really testing you on is your self-awareness and how well you stand up to pressure. Here are some handy tips to help you safely navigate this potential interview stumbling block.

1. Don’t trot out the “I’m a perfectionist” line
Offering a weakness that is really a strength is an age-old tactic. Employers and recruiters have been listening to answers like these for years and they recognise there’s no sincerity in them. This kind of canned response also risks undermining the rapport you are trying to build with the person opposite you.

2. Identify a weakness you’ve worked to overcome
This is an effective technique for illustrating your resolve as well as a willingness to develop your professional skills. It’s also a much better way to put a positive spin on the question than the above “I’m a perfectionist” answer.

3. Stick to non-essential skills
Identifying a weakness that isn’t a major requirement in your day-to-day job is a low-risk option. For example, not possessing great presentation skills might be fine for a role which does not require much customer contact

4. Save the brutal honesty
Honesty may not always be the best policy when it comes to interviews. As you might expect, telling your assessor your biggest weakness is punctuality is unlikely to win you too many admirers. Your answers should be genuine, but be careful what you admit to.

5. Keep it strictly business
Don’t include any personal weaknesses. Interviewers do not want to hear about your private dramas. Don’t give them proof that personal issues will affect your job; stick to work-related weaknesses.

If you’re struggling to think of any weaknesses(!) try taking a personality or working styles assessment. It is really important that you understand the areas in which you are less strong if you are going to add value in a new work environment.

It’s good to prepare for these sorts of ‘dreaded’ questions so they don’t become your weak point in the interview, but be careful not to over rehearse your answer otherwise it won’t sound genuine. Remember, your interviewer is not looking for the perfect answer – your success depends far more on your ability to connect with them and build rapport.

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Questions you need to ask yourself before accepting a job offer

Reference: The Muse; Business Insider, Abintegro
17 Nov 2016

We might have always been told not to look a gift horse in the mouth but when it comes to applying for a job sometimes you need to do just that.

While it’s impossible not to feel excited and flattered on receiving an offer, before you sign on the dotted line it’s important that you take a step back and pause to think. In the cut and thrust of the application process, you mightn’t have been able to sit down to ask yourself whether you actually want or need the role, or whether it’s the right move for you. Now’s the time to do so.

1. Is it a good place to work?
This is a basic point but have you actually considered whether the organisation looks after its staff and is an enjoyable place to work? Due diligence is key – read through new sites, scan the employer’s social media pages and check out reviews on Glassdoor.com. Negative stories or a high turnover could be a warning sign.

2. Can you see yourself thriving there?
However, even a company that receives glowing reviews mightn’t necessarily be the right environment for you. Is the organisation one that you could feel passionate about working for, and can you see yourself sticking around for the long term?

3. Do you like the people?
An organisation’s culture and identity ultimately revolves around its workers. The interview process should have given you an idea of the people you’ll be working with – was there good chemistry between you? Did they share your values and outlook, and can you see yourself working well together as a team?

4. Do you know what the job entails?
While employer and colleagues may tick all the right boxes, you need to know the nuts and bolts of what you’ll be doing each day. Will you be doing what you enjoy and
will the role use your talents and skills appropriately? Go back to your job description and ask for further clarification if needed.
5. Will the employer support your long-term career goals?
Short-term gains (like offering a way out of your current situation) shouldn’t come at the expense of your professional development or future career prospects. Make sure you understand where the role is leading and that you’re clear on the training and development opportunities on offer.

6. Does it feel right?
Ultimately you need to trust your gut instinct. When you’ve done your thinking and got the hard facts in your hand you need to have an honest conversation with yourself on an emotional level – whether positive or negative it’s important to listen to your feelings and your instincts and to allow them to have their say.

While it’s always flattering to be wanted you owe it yourself to pause and consider the answers to these questions. If after doing so the answer is still a resounding ‘yes!’ you’ll find yourself walking into your new role with greater positivity and confidence.

Most articles about improving the way presentations are delivered focus on body language and content. Body language accounts for an amazing 55% of the impact you have when talking or presenting to people; what you say or show, only 7%. The remaining 38% of your impact comes from the way you speak.

If you are heading to an assessment centre, doing a presentation may be one of the tasks on the table, or if you’re about to start a new job – congratulations by the way – presenting is a key skill that you will probably be required to use in some capacity throughout your career. So it’s worth focussing on this rarely considered aspect of presentation skills.

The three things you should consider when thinking about the way you speak are:
• Volume
• Speed
• Pitch and tone

1. Your volume
You need to make sure you’re speaking loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear. There’s nothing more irritating for an audience than a mumbler. A microphone may do this job for you, but if you don’t have one simply ask: “can everyone hear me ok?” Look around the room and make eye contact with as many people as you can as you ask.

Do this confidently and with a smile to boost your own confidence and engage with your audience. It’s important to get the volume right at the beginning so you won’t get distracted or interrupted once your presentation is flowing and it gives you a chance to hear your own voice before you really get going.

When you want to add emphasis to a given point it’s a good idea to increase your volume slightly, while making eye contact with various people around the room.

2. Your speed
Never speak too quickly. It shows you are nervous; it will mean you are more likely to make mistakes and it is less likely the audience will understand what you are saying.

It’s always faster to other people’s ears than it is in your head – so think ‘slow’. Pause just before you’re about to make an important or complicated point and just after to give your audience time to engage with and digest what you’re saying.

3. Your pitch and tone
Avoid a monotone voice at all costs. People lose interest very quickly without a song in their ears. Varying the pitch and tone keeps people’s brains engaged.

Reading from a script increases your chances of presenting in a monotone. So try to do your presentation from notes, rather than a script. If you have to read it, practice varying your pitch in an exaggerated way as if you’re reading a scary or exciting child’s story. Don’t deliver your presentation like that, however, just get used to hearing that range in your voice.

Using either genuine or rhetorical questions will help keep the flow of your speech varied, which will keep the audience engaged.

Enunciate clearly and don’t mumble into your notes.

Regardless of how nervous or self-conscious you may feel speaking in public if you can think ‘confident’ and match your body language and voice accordingly no one will ever know, and you will have an engaged and attentive audience.

Never forget how important your voice is – practice out loud, playing with volume, pitch, speed and tone, and record yourself to look for the areas in which you can improve.

Reference: Abintegro News

Making sense of our strengths, weaknesses, skills and our instinctive feelings about them can help us define our personal brand and guide our career choices. But how do we even start making sense of them?

Strengths based interviews these days ask what are you good at? And what do you enjoy? This would suggest that a strength can be ascertained from a positive response to both these questions. But what’s the difference between a strength and a skill, and what happens to those areas that you’re good at, but don’t like or vice versa.

A skill is an ability, which can be gained from knowledge and practice as well as aptitude, and can be objectively measured. If you are proficient in a given area you can claim it as one of your skills; if you’re really good at something, i.e. you generally find it easy AND you really enjoy it even when the challenges come along, if it gives you that buzz then it’s a strength.

Once you’ve got your head around that here are five ways to categorise your strengths and skills:

1. Prime Strengths
If a strength is also important to your role or potential role then it becomes a ‘Prime Strength’. These are the abilities you should be focusing on, developing and highlighting at every opportunity.

2. Untapped Strengths.
But what if some of your strengths aren’t important to the role in question? Well providing they genuinely could add value in a working context these strengths represent your potential. Your ‘Untapped Strengths’ could help you to reshape a current role or change your career direction, and along with your ‘Prime Strengths’ they present a picture of you at your best.

Once we lose either the enjoyment or the proficiency factor they are no longer strengths, but how do we label them?

3. Necessary Skills.
A ‘Necessary Skill’ is important to your role and you’re good at it, but you don’t enjoy it. Everyone has them at work: reconciling spreadsheets, proofreading documents, doing research, fixing bugs, dealing with customers – of course one person’s necessary skill may be another person’s strength – it’s very personal. However, a necessary skill could become a strength if you can find a way to enjoy it more – perhaps through truly recognising your ability. Or perhaps it should remain a ‘bonus’ skill – not something you highlight as a core strength, but it could help you clinch a new job, role, responsibility or project.

4. Underdeveloped Skills
If you enjoy doing something that’s important to your role but you’re not particularly good at it then that it is an opportunity for development. Your enthusiasm could turn ‘Underdeveloped Skills’ into strengths through a willingness to practice. Or perhaps they should simply remain in your ‘I’ll have a go’ pile.

5. Weaknesses
Those skills that you neither like nor are good at, but are important to your role fall into your ‘Weaknesses’ pot. Proactively developing proficiency in these skills may lead to enjoyment of them and as such they could ultimately become a strength. However, it’s important to accept that there are some things that you’re not so good at. Really qualify their importance to the role in question and consider whether this is truly the direction your career should be taking.

Historically strengths have been defined as something you are naturally good at, but sometimes it is not until you have practiced something a few times or found the right teacher that you discover you have strength in that area. So don’t develop a fixed mindset about your strengths OR your weaknesses.

Spend time thinking about your skills and strengths because categorising them can help you to more clearly define your working role and your career direction, to celebrate what you are good at, accept the things you are not and appreciate others for their strengths in your areas of weakness.

Reference: Abintegro News