Have you ever heard of Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation? It’s kind of a mouthful, but the tenet basically says that when you write about punctuation or grammar, there’s a good chance you’ll make an error in your punctuation or grammar.
Category Archives: Tool Box
You know that you should edit your resume before you send it off in the world, making sure it’s error-free. But to make sure that resume is in the best possible shape? You should really take the editing process a few steps further. Here’s the thing: Editing is more than just giving something a once-over to eliminate egregious typos and grammar mistakes. It’s really about looking at something with a critical eye, then making changes to ensure it’s the best it can possibly be. And that’s what you want for your resume, right? From someone who edits all day, every day for a living, here’s a five-step editing plan that will take your resume from good to full-blown awesome (and—of course—eliminate the typos, too).
Step 1: Consider the Big Picture
When I look at an article for the first time, I have to resist the urge to fix typos or make style changes (and believe me, as an editor, it’s hard). But it’s important—the first thing I need to determine is whether the piece is working as a whole. Is this right for our publication? Is the message of the article the one we want to send? Are there any major gaps or sections that are superfluous? On that first read of your resume, try to do the same thing. Ignore typos or formatting issues, and think about the overall message your resume is sending:
- Does this sell you as the perfect candidate for the types of roles you’re seeking?
- Are there any gaps between the experience on the page and the experience required for the job?
- If so, are there ways in which you could bridge those gaps?
- What makes your experience stand out among other, similar candidates?
- Does the top third of your resume serve as a hook to get the hiring manager to read more?
- Is there anything on your resume that doesn’t need to be there?
Pro Tip: Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people at your level in your field, and see how they tell their stories. Which ones are most compelling or stand out the most? See what you can learn from them and how you can apply those lessons to your own resume.
Step 2: Scrutinize the Bullets and Details
As editors, we ask constantly ask ourselves if each word is the best one, if a sentence structure is right, if there’s anything that could be said more clearly, effectively, or quickly. And oh, do we add examples! Why say something if you can show it? It makes for better writing and a more interesting read. Walk through your resume again. Your job at this point is to look at every section, every sentence, and every word, and determine if there’s a better way to get your point across. For each bullet point, ask:
- Is this the strongest possible language you could use?
- Can anything be said more clearly? Or in fewer words?
- Is there any language that someone outside of your company or industry wouldn’t understand?
- Could anything benefit from examples?
- Can anything be quantified? Can you show a benefit?
- Are any words used over and over? Can they be replaced with more creative language?
Pro Tip: Have a friend who’s not in your field read your bullet points, and ask what he or she thinks your strongest achievements are. Do you agree? If not, adjust so the most important ones really stand out.
Step 3: Fact Check
Every so often, I’ll edit what I think is a great, well-written article—and realize suddenly that one of the source’s names is spelled wrong. I’ll take a closer look and see that—wait—a book title is incorrect, research numbers are not quite right, and that other “facts” in the article need a second look. It’s a good idea to do this for your resume, too. It can happen even with the right intentions—I, for example, recently realized that my resume said “3 million” on a figure that most certainly should have been 1 million. Whoops. Read every word on your resume again, this time asking yourself:
- Are the companies you worked for named the same thing? Still located in the same city?
- Are your position titles accurate?
- Are your employment dates correct?
- Are all of the numbers and percentages you use to describe increases, quotas, budgets, savings, and achievements (reasonably) accurate?
Pro Tip: In the editorial world, we have to make sure every number we print is 100% accurate, but you have a bit more leeway with your resume. As long as you’re reasonably sure that you increased customer satisfaction, fundraising numbers, or sales 25%, don’t worry about having the “official” numbers to prove it.
Step 4: Proofread
As I well know, you can work intently on a document for three hours and somehow not notice that you’ve used “their” instead of “there” or mistaken “bran” for “brand.” So, proofreading one last time is a step you can’t skip. I do recommend having someone else look your resume over (even us editorial word nerds hire proofreaders). But before you do, proof word by word, asking yourself:
- Are there any typos? Wrong word usage?
- Does each bullet point end with a period (or not)? Either is fine, just be consistent.
- Are you using the serial comma (or not) throughout?
Pro Tip: When proofreading, it’s helpful to temporarily change the font, or to read your resume from the bottom up—your eyes get used to reading a page one way, and can often catch new errors when you mix the format up.
Step 5: Make Sure it Looks Nice
When I worked for a print magazine, I’d often submit what I thought was a perfect final draft of an article—until I’d get a proof from our designer. More often than not, my masterpiece would need some adjustments to look right on the page: shortening the copy so that it didn’t require a miniature-sized font, or lengthening a paragraph so that one word didn’t hang over on a line by itself, for example. Because part of great writing is making it look great, too. While you don’t have to send your resume off to a graphic designer, do keep in mind that presentation is important, and that a few adjustments to your text can make a big difference in how it looks. Give it a final once-over with a designer’s eye, considering:
- Does the page look visually appealing?
- Is the page overly cluttered?
- Is the font size too small? Is it difficult to read?
- Is the font size and format for each section consistent?
- Does the layout make sense?
- Is your contact information easily findable?
Pro Tip: Make your document easier to skim by adding divider lines between sections. Check out section three of this great guide to resume formatting from LifeClever for instructions.
As a final note, I recommend editing your resume again and again—adding in your new accomplishments, shifting the way you talk about an experience based on something you’ve seen someone else do, and making sure there’s nothing you’ve missed. After all, as any writer or editor will tell you: The best masterpieces are never done.
cross posted from thedailymuse.com
When you don’t know how to answer a question during an interview, the silence can seem excruciating. You might even wish the floor would open up and swallow you whole. Not to worry, though — keep these tips in mind the next time you’re strapped for an answer.
1. Calm down.
First of all, the most important thing to do is stay calm. If you start freaking out, your body will begin reacting physiologically. For example, your blood pressure will start rising, and your heart may race. Once you start a stress response, you won’t be thinking clearly, and you may throw out answers without thinking. Take deep breaths, and tell yourself that it’s OK to not know the answer to the question. You’ll just have to work through it; there’s nothing you can do to change things, but you need to stay calm to find the right answer.
2. Don’t say, “I don’t know,” off the bat. And don’t make stuff up.
You should not tell the interviewer you don’t know the answer without mulling it over. Then again, be careful not to make stuff up, because your interviewer can see right through that.
3. Ask questions.
Maybe it’s the question you don’t understand. Ask your interviewer to clarify what she said. Go deeper into the question to see if you can get more details that will help you figure it out.
4. Tell your interviewer what you do know.
If you do have some knowledge of the question, then take the time to tell your interviewer what you do know of the situation. Saying everything out loud can start you on the process of figuring out the problem.
5. Tell them how you would find the answer.
Even if you don’t know what the answer is, you can tell the interviewer the steps you would take to figure out the problem. Interviewers ask you hard questions, because they want to see what your thought process is. Sometimes, the thought process may be more important than the actual answer. They want to see that you can take initiative and have the resources to come up with a solution on your own, instead of needing someone to hold your hand through problems. While you’re trying to find the solution, you can admit to not knowing certain parts; this way, you come off as being honest, and the hiring manager will know you are not trying to fake it. For example, if you need to calculate something and you’re not good at math, you can respond with “I can’t do the calculations off the top of my head, but I think these calculations will give me the answer. And what I can do is use a calculator to find that answer.” Showing a little honesty shows vulnerability and transparency. It also makes you more likable.
6. Know the right time to come clean.
Although we mentioned not admitting to the interviewer that you don’t know the answer, there is an exception to this rule. If the answer is something that you will only know through memorization, such a definition of the word, then it’s probably best to admit that you don’t know the answer, as it may be impossible to figure it out independently. Here’s what you can tell the interviewer: “It’s a good question, but I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer off the top of my head. I will be sure to follow up with the answer after the interview.”
7. Send a follow-up email.
The follow-up email for an interview could become your second chance. Try to talk about the answer you were stumped on, but be smooth when you’re talking about it. And make sure you’re only naming the mistakes your interviewer caught and not drawing attention to the ones she did not catch. Don’t say something like “I’m sorry I did not know the answer to that question.” Instead, tell her that after more time and thought, you managed to come up with a couple of solutions that could work for the problem.
cross posted from savvysugar.com
In a bid to make the most of everyday, we all try and manage time effectively.
I have put 16 of my favorite time management tips together today to give you some ideas of how to be clever with your time so that you effectively create more of it to play with – basically its a gift of time, from me to you!
There is a word of warning here though – once you have made more time, what will you do with it? Don’t let it get sucked into the abyss of general “stuff” – why not really make it count….
Time management tips #1 – Do things in groups
There can be a considerable amount of time savings when you group like with like, for example:
Try saving all errands in town for one day each week rather than doing them ad hoc
When cleaning try and do one job like hoovering the entire house rather than doing all the cleaning for one room at a time – this saves the time as you only have to set up for each job once rather than once per room.
Save filing up and do at the end of the week rather than one document at a time
Time management tips #2 – When training, try HIIT
High Intensity Interval Training is on a lot of peoples lips at the moment – thanks in part to Dr Michael Mosleys BBC documentary on the subject last year. The basic premise is to do short bursts of intense exercise with small rests in between, for a few minutes in total. It is meant to increase your fitness and have a whole heap of other health benefits.
Of course – please be careful and read up on this if you do decide to try it out – and consult a doctor if you have any medical conditions first – but in my own experience of trying this I have to say it really does help, and is worth doing especially if you are pushed for time – although I do still like a long run or walk to clear my mind as well…
Time management tips #3 – Put everything in your diary
Most people use their diary to write down appointments and scheduled activities – which in itself is a perfectly OK way to use your diary of course – but they may well be missing a trick that will help them to make better use of their time. When writing down appointments, also block out travel and prep time in your diary – this means that you have a real indication o your available and unavailable time at any point. The available time can then be utilized to get some of your TO DOs out of the way. This means you are less likely to try and do too much, you are more realistic on what you can achieve in a day, and you are less likely to double book and/or forget something.
Another great way to make use of your diary is to try and group your appointments together. If you are trying to find a time to go to the dentists and you can see you will be in the area on a certain day, it makes sense to try and make your dental appointment fit around this – or what about if you plan to visit a friend in another city and you find that you have to go to that city for a meeting – try to see your friend while you’re there as well!
Time management tips #4 – Multitask when its easy
Multitasking is known to reduce your effectiveness rather than increase it – as you aren’t concentrating on one thing fully – so why is it in a list of things to improve your time management? The answer is that there are very valid times throughout the day where multitasking makes perfect sense, for example – Listen to an audiobook when driving rather than finding time to sit and read at home. Talk to a friend on the phone when you are out for a walk or doing something around the house such as cooking.
Time management tips #5 – Keep busy
Try and not have too much dead time in your day – try and keep busy in these pockets of time to maximize them wherever possible. The other stuff you manage to get done means that you don’t have to find extra time for them as well. Unload of the dishwasher while the kettle boils. When your bath is running – do some quick exercises. Waiting at the doctors? Take some paperwork to get through, or a magazine article you have wanted to read.
Time management tips #6 – Get rid of your TV
If you want to gain more time, a very quick way of doing it is to take away the TV for a while – or at least minimizing what you watch. Most of us watch at least an hour a day (some a lot more), and as such you can make considerable changes to your life by just taking away this one thing for a while, or limiting to just one program a day. Make the TV work for you as well – and utilize recorded TV so that you don’t need to waste time watching ads, and you can watch it when you are ready and not the other way around.
Time management tips #7 – Be conscious of time
Time can all too easily slip away if we don’t keep an eye on it. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have started something that was only meant to last 30 mins and the next thing I know – 2 hours have gone past. The more conscious you are of the time things take you to do, and the time passing – the more you will become aware of when you are wasting time. A great time management exercise to do is to keep a time diary for a day or so – write down everything you do in that time frame, minute by minute – you will very soon see exactly where your time goes – and you can then go about getting rid of things that you do for no real reason.
Time management tips #8 – Use the 80/20 rule
This rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. The trick is to work out what 20% you should be concentrating on, and get rid of the rest as much as you can as they will make little difference to your results. For example – you have a clean and tidy home. You clean everyday. Actually – cleaning it less frequently will still leave you with a clean and tidy home – but you will have gained more time as a result. Its a win-win!
Time management tips #9 – Don’t get distracted
There are so many distractions in this world – the telephone, email, other people etc…. to name just a few. To manage your time more effectively – try and block out your time and focus on the job in hand whatever that may be. If the phone rings while you are doing something else, let it go to voicemail and get back to them when you have finished – don’t check your email until you have finished what you are doing etc….. – it takes much more time to get back into a job after getting distracted than it does to just get the job finished and move on to the next thing.
Time management tips #10 – Declutter your life
Take a look at your diary for the past month and see what you did on each day. Are there things that you spent time on that you really didn’t need to? These sorts of things are clutter in your life and need to go. Just as you would declutter a room – declutter your diary by taking away things that are not important. (As a side note – if you actually declutter your home as well you will save loads of time – time spent cleaning your stuff, buying your stuff, maintaining your stuff etc…You can give the unneeded items to Goodwill!)
Time management tips #11 – Say NO more
Leading on from #10 – if you have decluttered your diary, then don’t let it get cluttered again. When you start to look at how you spend your time alongside how you want to spend your time – you start to become more and more aware of where you are wasting time, and what you don’t want to be doing. Saying “No” when you haven’t got the time to commit to something can actually be very uplifting – as you can start to feel you have more control over your time again.
Time management tips #12 – Be decisive
Theres nothing that wastes time more than procrastination.To manage your time better – don’t waste it. When you have something to do, just get it done and move onto the next thing.
Time management tips #13 – Delegate and Automate when you can
Managing your time means being clever with the time you have – and if you are doing too much then ultimately you won’t have as much time as you could have. Try and identify areas where you could get help – and delegate or automate things wherever you can. For example – get the family to help more with chores around the house, or set up direct debits for paying bills rather than spending time each month online banking.
Time management tips #14 – Do what hurts most, first
The basic premise is that if you have to do something you are dreading – you usually put it off and waste time in the meantime – but if you just bite the bullet and get it done then you tend to feel happier and are more productive for the rest of the day – makes sense!
Time management tips #15 – Know your body clock
I am actually writing this post at midnight. I like working late at night and I tend to be more productive in the wee hours. Conversely, in the morning my brain tends to wait a few hours before getting into gear. As such, I do my errands/cleaning/fitness in the mornings, and work afternoons and evenings whenever possible. If you get to know when you are most productive, you will end up making the most of your time a lot more.
Time management tips #16 – Look after yourself
This has been saved until last but its the most important one. Its crucial to take care of yourself – eat healthily and keep fit. If you don’t look after yourself, you won’t be able to manage your time as effectively, and may well have less time as a result of illness or injury. Whats that saying? When the oxygen masks come down – fix yours before helping others.
cross posted from organisemyhouse.com
The expression “less is more” is good advice to follow in your everyday life. In most situations, you will find that the less you do the more successful you will be, and this is especially true when it comes time to craft your resume.
You might think you are bolstering your case for the job by adding more information to your job application, but in reality you are doing yourself a disservice. Employers receive countless resumes and cover letters every day so the last thing they want to do is read something that is full of content that is irrelevant to their needs. It sounds simple enough to stick to the basics when writing your resume, but what exactly are the basics?
Information that seems irrelevant to the hiring manager might seem important to you, making it difficult to edit your resume. With this in mind, here are the eight things you should always leave off your resume:
- Your picture
- Interest and hobbies (unless they are specifically asked for in the job description)
- Minor tasks you performed at previous jobs
- Decoration (plain font will do just fine)
- Objective statement
- Your family history
cross posted from the Nonprofit Times
A great site worth checking out is
It is free.
The mission and goal of The Unemployment Handbook is to provide a free and easy to understand guide to:
- Surviving getting laid off from your job and being unemployed.
- Filing for unemployment benefits.
- Conducting a successful job search.
- Getting back on your feet, getting another job, and beginning again.
It is a shock to lose your job, no matter who you are or where you work. It is an even bigger shock to lose your job when your husband or wife lost their job 2 months ago, and you’ve been the only income for your family of four. Most people go through a range of emotions: disbelief, anger, resentment, surprise, shame, pity, helplessness, and more. Through UnemploymentHandbook.com we give you the information you need to handle the problems that go along with losing your job, but we also try to help you cope with all of the emotions and fears you may be experiencing and be a source of support, and a big part of that is through the discussion forum.
We want to show people that they are not alone, there is help for them, and that others have been in the same situation and gotten through it. The forum includes a section where you can tell your story about getting laid off from your job, and the things you go through being unemployed. It also has a section where you can tell your success story. There are several more forums, about job hunting, etc… and we’ll be adding more.
We’ll be adding more information every day, doing design changes, etc. but we wanted to get the site up as soon as possible, because the need is great, and growing every day.
With unemployment in the U.S. hovering around eight percent, looking for a job has become relatively tough for many people. Even some people with advanced academic qualifications, such as bachelor’s degrees and even MBAs are currently having a rough time on the market.
However, there are still plenty of jobs out there for the right candidates. With that in mind, one of the ways of differentiating yourself from other job seekers is by having transferable skills. Broadly speaking, a transferable skill is expertise that you can use across a wide range of industries.
According to the University of Southern California, many graduates change jobs as many as four times within a period of five years. If you are a job seeker, identifying your transferable skills and articulating them to employers is likely to increase your chances of getting a job. Some of these skills include:
In almost every career, from banking to the hospitality industry, good communication skills are vital. As such, it would be to your advantage if you have the ability to articulate your ideas in writing as well as orally. Since communication normally involves more than one party, you should be a good listener as well. Employers often look for people who can negotiate with employees in an objective manner.
2. Analytical Skills
This is a vital skill in almost every field of work mainly because the majority of businesses generate revenue by solving problems that clients face daily. For example, cloud-computing companies provide data storage solutions, thereby ensuring that their clients have a backup of data stored on-site. Employees can access company data on the go knowing they have secure storage for their information.
In such an environment, analytical skills are likely to come in handy when clients face problems such as uploading data or updating certain files. To solve those issues, one would have to identify and define the problem’s parameters. This skill also involves collecting and analyzing data in order to design creative solutions to complex problems.
Most organizations and business enterprises employ more than one employee. Because of this, it may not be possible to have all the employees in leadership positions. Therefore, a few employees who show the ability to lead generally take charge of the others. Leadership is all about motivating fellow employees and leading them to work toward a common goal. In addition, leaders analyze tasks and set priorities for the other employees as well as identify and allocate resources that employees need.
4. Information Management Skills
Traditionally, businesses kept a few records such as sales, purchases, and salaries in-house. In most cases, this data was no more than a few gigabytes. However, the emergence of social networking, adoption of e-commerce by consumers, and the large number of data points generated by businesses and corporations has upended the traditional model of managing information.
As a result, most employers need employees who can sort and present data objects in an understandable manner. Information management also involves evaluating and synthesizing information against industry standards. Industries where you can apply this skill set include finance, education, manufacturing, and print media.
5. Project Management
Project managers are in high demand in many industries. Your work as a project manager will involve planning projects, assessing potential risks associated with the project, allocating project finances appropriately, and overseeing the execution of the project on time. You can use this transferable skill in industries such as education, energy, consulting, and even the military.
The job sector is becoming increasingly competitive with every passing day. With this in mind, jobseekers need to broaden their horizons when searching for a job. Leverage the power of transferable skills acquired in previous jobs to get ahead of the competition. These include analytical skills, project management, communication, leadership, and information management skills.
The annual survey carried out by the Career Center at the University of Southern California has shown that the majority off employers prefer candidates with transferable skills.
cross posted from careerbuilder
You might consider grammar an annoying technicality, a minuscule detail of speech and writing not worth much effort.
But a study last year from the Society for Human Resources and Management shows that 45% of employers plan to increase training for grammar and other language skills (meaning they’re unhappy with the levels now).
So what you say does matter as much as how you say it, especially in a professional environment. We’ve compiled a list of the top mistakes people make whether drafting an office memo or just chatting with coworkers around the water cooler.
1. “Fewer” vs. “Less”
Use “fewer” when discussing countable objects. For example, “He ate five fewer chocolates than the other guy,” or “fewer than 20 employees attended the meeting.”
Use “less” for intangible concepts, like time. For example, “I spent less than one hour finishing this report.”
2. “It’s vs. “Its”
Normally, an apostrophe symbolizes possession. As in, “I took the dog’s bone.” But because apostrophes also usually replace omitted letters — like “don’t” — the “it’s” vs. “its” decision gets complicated.
Use “its” as the possessive pronoun: “I took its bone.” For the shortened version of “it is” use the version with the apostrophe. As in, “it’s raining.”
3. Dangling Modifiers
These are ambiguous, adjectival clauses at the beginning or end of sentences that often don’t modify the right word or phrase.
For example, if you say, “Rotting in the refrigerator, our office manager threw the fruit in the garbage.” The structure of that sentence implies your office manager is a zombie trapped in a chilly kitchen appliance.
Make sure to place the modifying clause right next to the word or phrase it intends to describe. The correct version reads, “Our office manager threw the fruit, rotting in the refrigerator, in the garbage.”
4. “Who” vs. “Whom”
Earlier this year, “The New Republic” published a review of Mark Leibovich’s “This Town.” Regardless of his opinions, the author deserves praise. The title reads, “Careful Whom You Call A Hypocrite, Washington.” Yes, Alec MacGillis. Just yes.
When considering whether to use “who” or “whom,” you have to rearrange the sentence in your own head. In the aforementioned case, “whom you call a hypocrite” changes to “you call whom a hypocrite.” “Whom” suits the sentence instead of “who” because the word functions as the object of the sentence, not the subject.
It’s not always easy to tell subjects from objects but to use an over-simplified yet good, general rule: subjects start sentences (or clauses), and objects end them.
For reference, “who is a hypocrite?” would be a perfectly grammatically correct question to ask.
5. Me, Myself, And I
Deciding when to use me, myself, or I also falls under the subject/object discussion. “Me” always functions as the object (except in that case); “I” is always the subject. And you only use “myself” when you’ve referred to yourself earlier in the sentence. It’s called a reflexive pronoun — it corresponds to a pronoun previously in the sentence. For example, “I made myself breakfast” not “my friend and myself made lunch.”
To decide usage in “someone else and me/I” situations, take the other person out of the sentence. “My co-worker and I went to lunch.” Is “I went to lunch” correct? You’re good then.
6. “Lie” vs. “Lay”
Dear everyone, stop saying: “I’m going to go lay down.” The word “lay” must have an object. Someone lays something somewhere. You lie. Unless you lay, which means lie but in the past tense. Okay, just look at the chart.
7. Irregular Verbs
The English language has quite a few surprises.We can’t list all the irregular verbs, but be aware they do exist. For example, no past tense exists for the word “broadcast.” “Broadcasted” isn’t a word. You’d say, “Yesterday, CNN broadcast a show.”
“Sneak” and “hang” also fall into the category of irregular verbs. Because the list of irregular verbs (and how to conjugate them) is so extensive, you’ll have to look into them individually.
8. “Nor” vs. “Or”
Use “nor” before the second or farther of two alternatives when “neither” introduces the first. Think of it as “or” for negative sentences, and it’s not optional. For example, “Neither my boss nor I understand the new program.” You can also use nor with a negative first clause or sentence including “not.” For example, “My boss didn’t understand the program, nor did I.”
9. “Then” vs. “Than”
There’s a simple distinction between these two words. Use “then” when discussing time. As in, “We had a meeting, and then we went to lunch.” Include “than” in comparisons. “This meeting was more productive than the last one.”
10. Ending Sentences With Prepositions
First of all, don’t do it — usually. Second, for those who don’t know, prepositions are any words that a squirrel can “run” with a tree (i.e. The squirrel ran around, by, through, up, down, around, etc. the tree).
“My boss explained company policy, which we had to abide by” sounds awful. In most cases, you can just transpose the preposition to the beginning of the clause. “My boss explained company policy, by which we had to abide,” or better yet, rephrase the sentence to avoid this problem: “My boss explained the mandatory company policy.”
11. Subject (And Possessive Pronoun) And Verb Agreement
This rule seems a bit counterintuitive, but most plural subjects take verbs without an “s.” For example, “she types,” but “they type.” The pronoun agreement comes into play when you add a possessive element to these sentences. “She types on her computer,” and “they type on their computers.”
As a caveat, the pronoun “someone” requires “her or his” as the possessive.
Feel free to email your boss with any questions. The Wall Street Journal thinks he or she will appreciate it.
cross posted from Business Insider.
“Tell me about yourself.” While this isn’t exactly a question, answering this the wrong way could really hurt your chances of getting a job, Teach says. “I was once told by an HR executive that this can actually be a trick question. Hiring managers can’t ask you certain questions legally but if you go off on a tangent when answering, you may tell them some things about you that are better left unsaid.” The worst way to approach this request is to tell them your life story, which is something they’re definitely not interested in. The best way to approach this is to only discuss what your interests are relating to the job and why your background makes you a great candidate.
“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” It’s easy to talk about your strengths; you’re detail oriented, hard working, a team player, etc.–but it’s also easy to get tripped up when discussing your weaknesses, Teach says. Never talk about a real weakness unless it’s something you’ve defeated. “Many hiring managers are hip to the overused responses, such as, ‘Well, my biggest weakness is that I work too hard so I need try to take it easy once in a while.’ The best answer is to discuss a weakness that you’ve turned around, such as, you used to come in late to work a lot but after your supervisor explained why it was necessary for you to come in on time, you were never late again.”
“Where do you want to be five years from now?” “What employers are really asking is, ‘Is this job even close to your presumed career path? Are you just applying to this job because you need something? Are your long-term career plans similar to what we see for this role? How realistic are your expectations for your career? Have you even thought about your career long-term? Are you going to quit after a year or two?’” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.
Show them that you’ve done some self-assessment and career planning. Let them know that you hope to develop professionally and take on additional responsibilities at that particular company. “Don’t say something ridiculous like, ‘I don’t know,’ or “I want your job,” she says.
Teach says no one can possibly know where they’ll be in their career five years from now but hiring managers want to get a sense of your commitment to the job, the company, and the industry. “In fact, I would even mention that it’s hard for you to know what job title you may hold five years from now but ideally, you’d like to have moved up the ladder at this company based on your performance. You’re hopeful to be in some management position and your goal is to help the company any way you can.” If you give the impression that this job is just a stepping stone for you, it’s unlikely the hiring manager will be interested in you.
“Please give me an example of a time when you had a problem with a supervisor/co-worker and how you approached the problem.” “I think that the hardest thing about work isn’t the work, it’s the people at work,” Teach says. Most employees have a problem with a supervisor or co-worker at some point in their career. How they handle that problem says a lot about their people skills. If you can explain to the interviewer that you were able to overcome a people problem at work, this will definitely help your chances of getting the job, he says.
“What are your salary requirements?” “What employers are really asking is, ‘Do you have realistic expectations when it comes to salary? Are we on the same page or are you going to want way more than we can give? Are you flexible on this point or is your expectation set in stone?’” Sutton Fell says.
Try to avoid answering this question in the first interview because you may shortchange yourself by doing so, Teach says. Tell the hiring manager that if you are seriously being considered, you could give them a salary range–but if possible, let them make the first offer. Study websites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com to get an idea of what the position should pay. “Don’t necessarily accept their first offer,” he adds. “There may be room to negotiate.”
When it is time to give a number, be sure to take your experience and education levels into consideration, Sutton Fell says. “Also, your geographic region, since salary varies by location.” Speak in ranges when giving figures, and mention that you are flexible in this area and that you’re open to benefits, as well. “Be brief and to the point, and be comfortable with the silence that may come after.”
“Why are you leaving your current job?” Hiring managers want to know your motivation for wanting to leave your current job. Are you an opportunist just looking for more money or are you looking for a job that you hope will turn into a career? If you’re leaving because you don’t like your boss, don’t talk negatively about your boss–just say you have different work philosophies, Teach says. If the work was boring to you, just mention that you’re looking for a more challenging position. “Discuss the positives that came out of your most recent job and focus on why you think this new position is ideal for you and why you’ll be a great fit for their company.”
If you’ve already left your previous job (or you were fired), Sutton Fell suggests the following:
If you got fired: Do not trash your last boss or company. Tell them that you were unfortunately let go, that you understand their reasoning and you’ve recognized areas that you need to improve in, and then tell them how you will be a better employee because of it.
If you got laid off: Again, do not trash your last boss or company. Tell them that you were let go, and that you understand the circumstances behind their decision; that you are committed to your future and not dwelling on the past; and that you are ready to apply everything that you learned in your last role to a new company.
If you quit: Do not go into details about your unhappiness or dissatisfaction. Instead, tell them that while you valued the experience and education that you received, you felt that the time had come to seek out a new opportunity, to expand your skills and knowledge, and to find a company with which you could grow.
“Why should I hire you?” A hiring manager may not ask you this question directly but every question you answer in the interview should contribute to helping them understand why you’re the best person for the job. “Stay focused on why your background makes you an ideal candidate and tell them how you are going to contribute to that department and that company,” Teach says. “Let the interviewer know that one of your goals is to make their job easier by taking on as much responsibility as possible and that you will be excited about this job starting on day one.”
Salpeter suggests you print and highlight the job description, looking for the top three or four most important details. “Do they include terms such as, ‘cross-functional team,’ ‘team work,’ and ‘team player’ several times?” If so, your answer to, “Why should we hire you?” (asked directly or as an underlying question) should mention and focus on your abilities as they relate to teams.
There are plenty of reasons why people ask you to help them out at the office.
Maybe they need an extra pair of hands, and they think you’re the perfect person for the job. Maybe they’re feeling overwhelmed and are trying to be fair in distributing their tasks among their team members. Or maybe, frankly, they’re trying to get some grunt work off their plates. And you’re the one who’s been asking to take on new projects, right?
Whatever the case, it can be difficult to be a team player who’s open to new responsibilities without being a pushover who’s overwhelmed with miscellaneous tasks and projects on your plate. Even if you do want to take on more around the office, that doesn’t mean you want everyone to load up your inbox with their castoffs (or that you should say yes to every request for your time).
So, what should you do when a peer asks you to take on a project that’s technically part of his or her own job? Here’s a three-step plan to assess and address the situation.
Step 1: Assess the Request
First, take time to think about whether the project would be beneficial in your career growth. Would it help you gain a new skill? Would it lead to quantifiable results that you could tout on your resume? Would it help you form relationships with colleagues you’ve never worked with before? If so—and if it wouldn’t interfere with your own work—it might be a great task to take on.
Also consider whether picking up the extra work is just part of being a team player. For example, at a previous job of mine, after a co-worker was let go, another member of her team received her entire workload. He expressed to his boss the need for another pair of hands to carry the weight, but in the meantime, he approached his other team members to mete out various responsibilities. In times like this, you may want to suck it up and help out, especially since there will probably come a time when you need to ask for assistance, too.
It’s when you’re feeling taking advantage of or when it’s interfering with your own work that there’s a problem. In another scenario, my cousin and another employee were competing head-to-head for a promotion. My cousin’s officemate wanted to impress their manager by tackling a new project, so he asked my cousin to shoulder a daily responsibility that he wouldn’t have time for thanks to the bigger-and-better project. Not cool.
Step 2: Address the Situation
In cases like my cousin’s, when you you’ve decided that the request isn’t one you should be taking on, it is definitely OK to say no.
In an offline (emphasis on offline) conversation with your co-worker, explain that you’re always happy to help out and that you recognize that each of you in the office are contributing to an overall team product—but that ultimately you have to prioritize your own work. Who can argue with that?
If it makes sense, you can see if there’s a deadline for the project and let your colleague know that you’d be willing to pitch in if your time allows. You can also suggest a few alternate ways he or she can tackle the project—for example, are there interns available to take on one or two parts of the work? In one situation at a previous job, a co-worker was feeling overwhelmed and asked me for help in project-managing one aspect of her work. Since I had done work for the same client, I was familiar with the background—I just didn’t have enough room on my plate to take on her part of the process, too. But after I had completed my own tasks for the week, I lent a hand with hers, and she was thankful for the assistance.
Chances are, your colleague isn’t trying to dump work on you—he or she is just feeling a little overwhelmed and will appreciate any contribution.
Step 3: Bring in the Big Guns
Of course, there are definitely times when someone is trying to push work on you, and it’s not something you want to do—or should be taking on. Or, you may agree to shoulder a responsibility for a co-worker once, and find that opening that door made it hard to shut. If the situation persists, or if you’re getting pushback from your colleague, schedule some time to chat with your boss about his or her expectations.
At one point in my career, I found that helping someone a few times had placed her task permanently, rather than temporarily, under my jurisdiction, and that started to erode the time I had for my own workload. I wanted to clarify with my boss that she was fine with me devoting a large chunk of time to something not originally meant for my role—and it turned out, she preferred to refocus my energy elsewhere.
You don’t have to throw your colleague under the boss—just keep the conversation focused on your workload. Try, “I love getting experience with different facets of the company, but I’ve been spending about 10 hours per week lately on client reporting for marketing. And I just want to make sure the percentage of time I’m spending on that is compliant with what you need from me.” If it’s not, you or your boss can talk to the other party and shift the work back where it belongs.
It’s always a good idea to be open to taking on new responsibilities—but you also need to make sure what you’re spending your time on is in the best interest of your career and your department or team as a whole. Bottom line: Help out when you can, be honest when you can’t, and don’t let anyone else take advantage of your awesome work ethic.
Cross posted from The Daily Muse