Skip links

Don’t Get Spooked by the Interviewer!

By Giana / October 27, 2016

On Halloween, we celebrate scary things, but nothing is scarier than an awkward job interview! Well, maybe a few things… But job interviews are no joke! Here are a few tips that can take the terror out of five tricky interview questions.

Halloween is just around the corner, and while we take delight in scaring ourselves with fake spiders and creepy tales of horror, many of us are also feeling serious heebie-jeebies (or at least anxiety) based on something comparatively mundane: the job search process. Specifically, interviews. While supernatural ghosts and goblins haunt our dreams, our waking hours are often haunted by something much more grounded in reality, and therefore much scarier: the prospect of having an everyday conversation with a total stranger who holds power over our professional and financial destiny. Eep.

There’s no doubt that interviews can be frightening. But a few simple considerations can take the terror out of these five tricky questions and help nervous job seekers move forward with confidence.

Why should we hire you?

When you hear this question, your thoughts may move toward the things you want. For example, you may think you should be hired because you’ve worked hard to get where you are, or because you have bills to pay, or because this job can help you advance your career. These things may be true, but when you answer, focus on how your presence in the workplace can help your employers reach their goals and get the things THEY want. So…what do they want? Give this matter some thought before your interview session begins.

Why do you want to work here?

Note, this question is not asking “Why are you looking for work?” but is instead asking, “Why are you looking for work HERE?” In other words, what do you find appealing about this company or organization that you haven’t found anywhere else? How does this specific job or company match your personality, your training, your special skills, your long term goals, or your job search needs? When you answer this, think about all the ways your plans align with the company’s plans, and shine a light on these details.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Of course you don’t know what the future will hold; nobody does. But thankfully, this isn’t a pop quiz and you aren’t applying for the job of a fortune teller. You’re simply being asked to describe your long term goals and demonstrate that you have the capacity to plan, dream, and think ahead. You aren’t living from one day and one paycheck to the next, and you recognize a future that lies beyond this moment and this specific open position. Be honest about your vision.

Describe your greatest weakness.

Nobody likes to talk about their weaknesses and shortcomings during an interview (and this question carries a trick element that borders on rudeness; many interviewers avoid it for this reason). But if you’re faced with this curveball, don’t panic. Simply describe one area or skill set in which you’ve had to work hard and learn tough lessons. For example, if you don’t love public speaking, describe how you’ve practiced and grown in this area during recent years.

What’s the story with your current (or most recent) job?

If you have a current job, why are you leaving? If you aren’t currently working, what happened to your last gig? Did you leave voluntarily? If so, why? Tough questions about past (or present) work situations can throw interviewees off balance; after all, perfectly content and thriving workers aren’t usually beating the pavement for jobs. But if you keep your answers positive and short, you’ll move quickly past this question and present yourself as an ambitious person in search of new opportunities.

For more on how to get past your fears and anxieties and move on to the next stage of your job search, explore the resume resources available at LiveCareer.

African American man working on a laptop computer.

How to Write an Excellent Project Manager Resume

By Giana / December 19, 2016

You need a project manager resume that sets you apart from the crowd. Here are a few tips that can help you land the job you’re looking for. As a project manager in search of a full-time or contract based job, you’ll need a resume that sells your skills, education, and experience, just like an applicant for almost any profession or industry. But your resume will also need some details that are specific to your project-management goals. For example, you’ll have to demonstrate your ability to clarify and rein in a sprawling mission, a.k.a. “project-creep”. You’ll need to showcase your leadership skills, even at the entry level. And you’ll need to explain how your specific skill sets can support your employer’s specific enterprise. Here are a few moves that can help you accomplish these goals.

First, focus on your summary.

You may be searching for work in a wide range of fields that require expert project managers. So in the summary section of your resume, clarify exactly how your experience lines up with the needs of your target audience. To assess those needs, do some research or make your best guess based on the information available to you. By the time they’ve read your summary, your reviewers should know-- for sure—that this open position falls into your area of interest and expertise.

Move experience above education.

Your education section will be very important, but for most project management positions, reviewers like to assess your experience first. Again, they want to know that the projects you’ve worked on in the past reflect similar challenges to the ones you’ll face on this job. Focus on the client problems you’ve solved, the budgeting restraints you’ve dealt with, and the ways in which you—and your past projects—have exceeded expectations. After briefly listing and describing your past positions and your proudest home runs, you can share your education, training, and certifications.

Highlight skills that grab attention.

After your education and experience sections, you’ll create a resume subheading focused on your special skills. Keep in mind that a long list of marginal and forgettable skills (like proficiency with the Microsoft office suite) will easily slip out of your reader’s memory after they close your file. But a shorter list of rare, highly valuable, and very specific skills will stay at the forefront of your reader’s thoughts. Cull and curate your “skills” list carefully. Don’t include every single one of your software skills—only the most relevant. And don’t list bland, broad categories like “communication” and “leadership”. Instead, be specific. Cross out “communication” and replace it with “public speaking”, “grant writing”, or “PR management”.

Show results.

Your experience section will highlight what you’ve done. Your education section will highlight what you’ve learned and what you know. Your skills section will demonstrate what you can do. But for all three sections, emphasize the end results. Did you earn cum laude status? Did you successfully advance your employer’s interests by expanding market share or raising revenue? Describe the specific problems you’ve solved, honors you’ve earned, or changes that have come about due to your own personal actions. Use numbers to make your point. For more on how to tighten each essential section of your project management resume, turn to the resume creation tools available on LiveCareer.
Business people working together in office

Communication Counts: 83% of Recruiters Consider it Key to Sizing Up Cultural Fit

By Giana / December 14, 2016

To impress your interviewer and land your dream job, you’ll need to communicate clearly and well…but what exactly does this mean? It’s no surprise that most employers and hiring managers cite “good communication skills” as a positive trait when evaluating candidates for open positions. But “good” or “strong” communication can mean different things to different people. In fact, a recent Jobvite survey that polled 1600 recruiters and HR professionals found that 83% consider communication style the most important element when evaluating candidates for cultural fit. This means that if your method of speech and message-shaping matches that of your employer, you’re in. If not, you’re more likely to slip through the cracks. So as you search for work, make sure that you’re communicating well, in the universal sense. While you’re at it, make an effort to understand the unique culture and style of your interviewer and your target employer. Here are a few moves that can help.

Be clear.

Clarity means delivering your message using impeccable grammar, proper spelling, complete sentences, and a logical link between each written or spoken thought and the next. This may sound like a no brainer, but far too many candidates assume that text speak, abbreviations, and broken phrases are acceptable when speaking to a recruiter by text, email, or voicemail. They aren’t. Edit your messages, even the simplest and shortest.

Be mindful of nuance.

Grammar matters, and so does tone. There’s a difference between: “Thanks for your message! We’ll talk soon!” and: “Thank you for your message. We will talk on Monday.” Both are grammatically correct, but they convey a different voice and tone. Word choice and punctuation contribute to your conversation and help readers gain a complete picture of who you are as a person. Stay in control of that picture.

Listen first.

If you’d like to present yourself as an adaptable person with a flexible personality who can get along with almost everyone, that’s great. It’s an excellent way to open a dialogue with an unknown person or company. But once the dialogue is open, stay tuned in to the culture of the company and the personality of the person on the other end of the line. Don’t keep cracking jokes if your audience isn’t responsive to your sense of humor. And if your audience seems relaxed and forthcoming, smile and take it easy. Demonstrate your ability to receive social cues and respond appropriately.

Remember details.

Write down the details and facts your interviewer or recruiter shares with you. No matter what information comes your way, the more you retain, the better. Make note of names, numbers, the company’s history, the needs of the open position, and the details of your own background that you have and have not already shared.

Keep records.

As you search for work, you may create long email or text chains with various employers and contacts. Keep these records straight and accessible. They can and will come in handy as your conversation develops.

Learn to brag appropriately.

Almost every job search comes with a universal conundrum: The need to brag about your abilities and while being self-aware and socially well-adjusted. Finding balance between the two is an art. But you can pull off this tricky maneuver if you place yourself in your listener’s shoes and think carefully about your messages before you send them. It may also help to review some successful cover letters and/or watch videos of successful interviews (you can find both on LiveCareer!) For more information on how to ace your interviews and establish meaningful connections with recruiters and employers, explore LiveCareer’s job search and resume creation tools.
man with a beard looking over documents

How to Survive the Holidays as a Freelancer

By Giana / December 5, 2016

The holiday season and the end of the year can be a challenging chapter for freelancers and independent contractors. If you fall into this category, here are a few strategies that can help you survive.

The holidays can be a harrowing time for anyone. We’re all familiar with the social stresses, high- pressure event planning, lonely moments, and workplace drama (it’s review season after all), that accompany the last few months of the year. But freelancers are in a unique position, and as it happens, gig economy employees and independent contractors often find themselves in the crosshairs of all of these problems at the same time. Freelancers may need to miss social gatherings to attend to work during non-business hours, and are often trying to line up enough work—or any work—for the year ahead. While their clients leave for holiday vacations, freelancers rush to finish jobs on corresponding deadlines (without regard for their own vacation time). If you’re a proud representative of the gig economy, here are a few tips that can help you face the holidays without missing a beat.

Expect a slight slowdown.

Most freelancers who work for large companies as contractors and subcontractors can expect a work slowdown between December and February. Almost all projects that require freelance input (from design, to project management, to accounting) go through a lull as corporate clients and their own customers turn their attention away from work-related matters. When this slowdown happens, be ready. Have a financial plan in mind so you can spread out your yearly income to cover a few quiet months, and have an action plan in mind so you aren’t left spinning your wheels.

Keep your contacts close.

The holiday season offers plenty of opportunities to build and strengthen your network. While you’re searching for new jobs, stay in circulation socially. Attend events, reach out to old friends, and send friendly seasonal messages to current and former clients. Connect with old friends, meet new ones, and don’t hide at home in the glow of your screen.

Make changes to your business model.

If you intend to change your rates, change your methods, or adjust your business model (offering new services or phasing out old ones), take care of this now. Most of your clients will be working on budgets and needs assessments for the following year, so this may be a perfect time to draw their attention to changes that may affect them.

Manage your time wisely.

While the holidays can mean a slowdown for freelancers, they can also present the opposite: a rush of work with tight, holiday-related deadlines. These deadlines can be hard to meet while also navigating social obligations and holiday travel. Be ready to handle some tricky planning, and if it helps, let your clients know as much about your circumstances as you can. For example, tell them when you’ll be going out of town, even if you intend to take your work with you.

Maintain a regular routine.

Waking up and starting work early can be hard during the cold, dark winter months, and while steady office employees have alarm clocks and watchful bosses to keep them on track, freelancers need to handle their schedules on their own. Exercise your self-discipline… and get some exercise. Don’t slide into a state of hibernation like a bear. Stay busy, and you’ll thank yourself for your happy clients, strong relationships, healthy body, and full work schedule when spring rolls around. For more on how to stay focused and on track throughout the winter no matter what your work schedule looks like, explore the tools and resources on LiveCareer.