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The Bird – Soaring Through The Interview Questions

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 19, 2014 in Interviewing Skills

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Interviewing Questions Series: 3-4 of 29 Bird2

Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.

“Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?”

Generally, we start off with what someone wants to hear, but in this case let’s discuss what they DON’T want to hear. The three main landmines to avoid are:

1)    You want to start your own company

It sounds like common sense, but if you are interviewing for a paying job at a company, you should not divulge any personal plans or dreams you may have of entrepreneurship down the road.  Companies want to hire someone who wants to be there, so try to focus on a logical career path that this position might offer rather than exposing personal goals that have nothing to do with working there. While you might see an advantage to having worked there that you can capitalize on as an entrepreneur down the road, the interview is not the time to discuss that.

2)     You want to go back to school

Even if the company touts its support of continuing education as a benefit, you should not discuss how you want to use that in the interview.  Focus instead on how you would like to have responsibility and possibly take on a role that requires more leadership rather than how you will use the program to obtain your MBA, CPA or another advanced degree or credential.

3)    You want their job

Telling someone you want their job is often just offensive; they don’t think it’s funny and it doesn’t express drive and enthusiasm for success like you might think that comment would. A better strategy for success is discussing a logical career path that isn’t focused on a particular job title, but rather a career oriented position in the same field, having assumed more responsibility and contributing to the overall goals of the organization at a higher level.

“Why does this job interest you?”

This answer should focus on what you will be doing in the position as well as the corporate culture, but not all one or the other. Choose 2-3 areas of the actual work they need to have done in the position that you enjoy; perhaps something that really makes use of one of your particular strengths. Also, choose 1 or 2 items about the company’s culture, values, or other environment focused areas that you particularly align with. You will need to have done your research on the company’s website prior to the interview to prepare this question. In non-profit organizations, they want to hear that you are committed to their cause. At a for-profit company they want to know that you will easily assimilate into their corporate culture.

At this point, don’t talk about benefits, commute, money, or other areas that are technically specific to you. Those are all great reasons to happily accept a role that you find challenging, but all of those things can all change, so stay focused on the work duties.

 

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The Ostrich – Head In The Sand With A Criminal History

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 10, 2012 in Interviewing Skills, Job Search, Lessons Learned, Thinking Positive

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Ostriches will attempt to avoid dangerous situations by burying their heads in sand and pretending the threat does not exist. Although this saying comes from a false legend about Ostriches, it is true that you cannot avoid risky situations, such as a criminal history in a job search, by pretending that it does not exist.

A criminal history is one of the most difficult things to overcome when it’s time to find a job. Many employers require criminal background checks, or at least self-disclosure of criminal history on applications, and the thought of losing out on an opportunity due to even minor charges lurking in your background can be nerve-wracking. But, this is no reason to lose hope for future employment or faith in your career. In fact, there are many steps you can take to overcome a negative background check during the interview process and even give off a better impression than you would have otherwise. Read on for some steps and ideas:

1. Address it head-on.

If you already know that you have some criminal history on your record that could potentially affect your employment, then it’s a very good idea to address the issue head on. This is something that you have to balance, though. If the charges are light enough, such as a few parking tickets, then you may not want to bring them up at all. If there are some serious misdemeanors or felonies on your record it is never a good idea to stay silent.  Rather than waiting until your interviewer brings it up or (even worse) hoping they don’t notice, take the matter into your own hands and let him or her know in the initial interview stages. You will look much more professional by addressing the issue clearly and honestly than by skirting the possible hesitations of the employer.

2. Tell the truth.

This is probably one of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to dealing with a negative history during a job search. It can be tempting to simply keep this information off your application or make certain charges seem less serious than they really were, but this is almost certain grounds for dismissal if your employer ever learns the truth. If you are honest about your past, many employers will take your honesty into account when they are considering whether to hire you. If you are dishonest, an employer would not be wise to ever consider you for hire. Besides, it is much better to approach a job interview knowing that you are being forthright. Getting through an interview based on lies will only mean that you have to keep up those stories to your boss and everyone else who works there.

3. Discuss what you’ve learned.

If you need to bring up some criminal history during a job interview, try to turn this potential negative into a positive. Depending on the charges and how long ago they occurred, you can use this as an opportunity to discuss your own life with a potential employer and what you’ve learned from past experiences. Everyone has a past, and no one is perfect. If there were issues in your life that caused you to go down the wrong path, own up to them and express why you are a different person now than you were then. Learning from your mistakes does not make you less of an employee, it simply makes you human, and every successful person has gone through trials to get to where they are today.

4. Don’t be picky.

Even though the thought of a future employer uncovering a less-than-stellar background in your past makes you cringe, there is no reason to feel like your life and opportunity for success is over. However, knowing that you have a record that would make many employers look the other way, you have to be prepared for multiple rejections. But, there is always opportunity to re-build and start again. If you have to work in less than desirable positions for a while, then that is what you have to do, but there is always a way to come back from a criminal past, as long as you have a true desire to work hard and continue moving in a positive direction. So keep your head out of the sand!

This guest post was contributed by Jane Smith. Jane is a freelance blogger and writer for http://www.backgroundcheck.org/. She specializes in career issues, managing an online reputation, and making healthy life choices. She welcomes you to email her any questions or comments and can be reached at janesmith161 @gmail.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Fish – Swimming Through The Interview Questions

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 20, 2010 in Interviewing Skills

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Interviewing Questions Series: 1-2 of 29

Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.

“Tell me about yourself.”

This is a very common ice breaker. An interviewer that starts off with this question is trying to buy time and get focused. This is your time to shine and help them feel comfortable with you. Smile, and ask politely, “Where would you like me to start?” They might ask why you chose your college, or why you want to leave your current role. Move into your best 2 or 3 sentence summary going forwards or backwards from where they asked you to begin. Think TVGUIDE version…only give the basics so you can get more detailed in your next answers after they are ready to focus on YOU.

You SHOULD NOT launch into a 5 minute discussion about your entire life’s story. Keep it professional, focused and thank them for inviting you in should it be appropriate. Avoid personal topics like family, religion, personal beliefs, and hobbies. Also avoid topics that might be negative like why you want to leave your current job. It’s more important why you’re there and where you’re trying to go, not what you want to avoid and/or what you’re trying to escape. Keep the conversation moving forward, you are trying to swim up to the job offer, not let your self fall back with the current.

“What are you looking for in your next position?”

If you are interviewing for a specific job, make sure you talk about things that are obviously included in the position you are interviewing for and the company. Be honest, but don’t make it all about you, and don’t focus on only soft skills (i.e. reliability, personable, flexibility, etc.). Discuss measurable, content related work (i.e. software, how many people you have managed, money you have saved the company, projects you’ve worked on and the monetary outcome, etc.)

AVOID talking about things that have gone awry in the past or that may obviously not involve the type of job you are interviewing for. Boasting about skills that you probably don’t even need in the position won’t make you sound more qualified. Keep your conversation focused on the work, the opportunity at the company, and what you will do for them; not what they will do for you. You should never ask about benefits in the interview or demand them as part of your compensation before you have been offered the job. (such as fully paid health insurance or work from home flexibility, etc).

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