The Exclusive Career Coach is presented by Lesa Edwards, CEO of Exclusive Career Coaching. This weekly podcast covers all things career management including job search strategies, interviewing tips, networking tools, maximizing LinkedIn, salary negotiations, and managing your mindset around your career.
How to REALLY Prepare for the Job Interview
I have done plenty of episodes on how to answer various types of interview questions. What I want to touch on today is everything else surrounding the job interview.
When I was the director of a University Career Center, I noticed my students would spend hours preparing for an exam – and yet very little time preparing for a job interview.
The last time I had a job interview, my goal was to be so well prepared that the interviewers couldn’t throw me a curve ball. There would be nothing they would mention about the university that I wouldn’t at least know something about.
At the end of my grueling, two-day interview gauntlet, the man who was to become my boss said that he felt more like I interviewed him than the other way around.
OF COURSE. I was considering a 1,000-mile move with two small children. I wasn’t about to make that huge leap without being sure of what I was getting myself into.
Here, then, are the 11 tips to help you be optimally prepared for your next job interview.
1. Carefully examine the job description.
Here is what Indeed has to say about this: “During your prep work, you should use the employer’s posted job description as a guide. The job description is a list of the qualifications, qualities, and background the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate. The more you can align yourself with these details, the more the employer will be able to see that you are qualified. The job description may also give you ideas about questions the employer may ask throughout the interview.”
What does this look like? If, for example, the job posting indicates a high priority on a certain skill or credential, you want to make sure you weave your ability with that skill or the fact that you have the desired credential into one or more of your interview responses.
You can also use the job description to anticipate behavioral questions you may be asked.
2. Get crystal clear on why you want the job, why you want to work for that employer, and what you bring to the table.
You need to be able to clearly articulate what attracted you to the position and the company and why you believe you are the best candidate for the job.
Rather than telling them how excited you are about the position, demonstrate your excitement with tangible details as to the skills, characteristics, and qualifications you will bring to the position. Your excitement will be evident.
3. Conduct in-depth research.
There are a few levels of research you want to do prior to a job interview.
-Research the company
Articulating Your Brand on Your Resume
Why is personal branding important?
To differentiate yourself in a crowded candidate pool
To clearly convey the benefits an employer will get from hiring you
To avoid being the “generic” candidate
NOT an objective – which tells the employer what YOU want, rather than what you can deliver
The problem with most people’s attempt at branding is that it is generic and non-differentiating.
Here’s an exercise to begin the branding process:
Pick one of the following brands, and write down three adjectives that describe them:
You probably didn’t have any trouble coming up with three adjectives to describe the company you chose. You want others to be able to quickly identify your brand.
Branding is important for your resume and LI profile; your brand can also serve as a guidepost in making career decisions.
Questions to ask yourself
Pick one of the following to compare yourself to:
-A model of car
-A breed of dog
-A household appliance
-A restaurant chain
Ask yourself these questions:
-Which one (model, breed, etc.) am I?
-Why did I choose that one? How does that choice describe me?
These are also great questions to ask those who know you well, in a variety of capacities.
The next step is to select 2-3 of these questions to answer:
What have you consistently been asked to do in your work?
What is your “secret” sauce?
What do others say you do well?
Developing Your Job Descriptions & Achievement Bullets for Your Resume
Here’s what I see on almost every resume that comes my way: either there isn’t an achievement in sight, or the few achievements that are there are mixed in with bulleted job duties.
This creates what we resume writers call “death by bullets.” A looooong laundry list of job duties, maybe a few achievements, that don’t impress the reader and causes them to lose interest fast.
Let’s start with your job descriptions. This should be a 2-3 line paragraph of the daily job duties you performed – either most frequently or those that are most applicable to the specific position you are applying for.
There’s no room for fluffy words or extra verbiage in this paragraph. Stick with the most important, most relevant, and/or most differentiating tasks.
Here’s an example:
Manage daily operations of 23 facilities in Florida including all construction, remodels, maintenance, repairs, equipment installations, warranty work, and operations budgets. Hire and collaborate with contractors. Recruit, hire, train, and coach facility managers; develop managers for promotions. Directly supervise 28 including 23 general managers.
(This is 4 lines on her resume – written in present tense because this was her current job at the time I wrote her resume:
Here’s another example:
Identified opportunities and developed/implemented solutions for general operations management, project management, human resources management, and staff development. Managed project portfolio and facilitated monthly review of all projects and resource allocation breakdown with senior leadership team. Direct supervision of 3; indirect supervision of teams as large as 100.
(4 lines on resume – written in past tense because it is a previous job)
You need achievements on your resume because they tell a prospective employer HOW WELL you did your job – not just THAT you did what was expected of you.
It is your achievements, not your job duties, that market you.
When you mix your job duties up with your achievements, you dilute the effectiveness of your achievements.
Ideally, you will have progressively more achievements as your jobs are more recent. At most, 5 achievements per role.
What makes an achievement impactful?
-Starts with an action verb (parallel structure)
-Leads with results
-Leaves the reader wanting more (2 lines max)
Grew customer base
Making Sure Your Resume Gets Through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
Let’s begin by explaining what the ATS is: software that manages the entire hiring and recruitment process. From posting the job online to making the job offer, an ATS keeps track of all the activity that takes place in the recruiting department.
If you have applied to a company’s website or uploaded your resume to Indeed or LinkedIn, you’ve used an ATS.
The ATS was first created for employers who demanded features that could discourage and filter out unqualified candidates in no time. ATS is supposed to save time, speed up the hiring process, and keep the hiring process fair and non-discriminatory. It also keeps track of things like EEO and diversity metrics that can be used to protect the company legally and make governmental reporting easier.
All ATS work in one of three ways:
The ATS compares your resume to the job description and ranks each applicant based on how well their resume scores. This allows the recruiter to focus on candidates with the best job description match.
Keyword rankings are available in almost all ATS. The ATS might search on your current job title, a particular degree, or a required skill.
This process saves only candidates who have that exact thing on their resume; anyone else would just be kept in the system.
At some smaller companies, recruiters or hiring managers will look over all the applications. Much like a manual submission, recruiters will look at your past highlights, job titles, and employers to determine whether they want to learn more about you or not.
Because of this, it’s important that your top skills and qualifications are easily identifiable, not only for the ATS but also for the recruiter’s eyes.
What does this mean for you?
-Use a .doc or .docx format – not all ATS can read pdfs.
-Translate any images, graphics, text boxes, or chart information into the body of the resume.
-Use traditional headers in clearly defined sections so the system can locate key details.
-The length of your resume doesn’t matter in the ATS.
-Populate your resume with keywords from the job posting, but don’t just stuff your resume full of keywords. The system searches for keywords used in proper context.
-Remember that once the resume makes it through the ATS an actual person will read it – so be sure to demonstrate proof of skills, not just fluff.
-If you are allowed to upload a copy of your nicely formatted resume as a PDF, do so. Same with a cover letter.
-DON’T have any content on your ATS resume in text boxes, graphs, charts, etc.
-DON’T try to “hide” keywords in your ATS resume (this trick ticks hiring managers off)
Four Times When You Need a Mentor
For this article, I pulled heavily from the Real Simple article “4 Moments When You Need a Mentor” in the November 2020 issue by Ronnie Koenig.
According to the article, 63 percent of women in one study said they had never had a mentor.
The article also states that employees with mentors are promoted five times more often than those without a mentor.
Why is having a mentor important?
-Ask for advice
-Talk about uncertainties with
-Help you practice tricky conversations
-Think about your future goals – and how to realize them
-Be your cheerleader, supporter, tough talker
If you’re just starting out
If you are at the beginning of your career, you need a caring cheerleader.
It can often feel like you have to pick a lane before you’re even sure where the road goes or how long it will take to get there.
The best person for this type of mentorship is someone in your department, a member of a professional organization you belong to, or even someone in a different industry who can advise you on the pitfalls and direct you toward opportunities.
Your goal at this point in your career is to stay in a learning mindset so you become well-rounded and not become pigeon-holed in one direction.
A good way to find this type of mentor is to ask to help with a project or event at your employer or in an organization you belong to.
If you’re trying to pinpoint your passion
If you are coasting along in your current job but believe you’re not following your passion, you need inspiration.
A mentor can help you plot your next move and help you build your confidence to take the leap.
To find this type of mentor, search LinkedIn or attend industry events to find people who are leading causes you care about. Ask people about their career path and it will help you uncover the path you’re meant to be on.
Email the person to ask if they would be willing to share how they got started.
If you’ve been downsized
If you have been laid off, the mentor you need is a staunch supporter.
Your immediate reaction to being terminated is to look for a job just like the one you lost, but instead take some time to think about what you really want to do next.
This type of mentor can be an admired former boss or senior colleague, who can offer their take on your career thoughts and provide a boost of optimism from their encouragement and faith in you. They can also help you see how your skills and interests will transfer to opportunities you hadn’t previously thought of.
How to Have a Successful 1:1 With Your Boss
For this episode, I leaned heavily on the article “7 Essential Tips for Effective 1 on 1 Meetings with Your Manager” from the getlighthouse.com blog.
Expert in all things career!
Highly recommend checking out this podcast for anyone seeking career-related information. She was vital in helping me land a new role and I’m confident she can do the same for you! Knowledge professional with unique expertise and an enthusiastic personality. Worth checking out!
Lesa is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to job searching, interviews and how to move forward in your career. Her podcast gives you access to her breadth of knowledge in a digestible way that helps relieve the stress of finding a new job. She is the reason I have my job now. After six years I needed a change but didn’t know where to begin. Lesa helped with each and every step. I highly recommend her podcast as well as her 1:1 approach for anyone looking to advance their careers.
A great podcast with lots of advice in all aspects of life!