Proving Microsoft Word or Excel Skills to an employer even before they call can boost your credibility.
Prove your skills with a checklist
Most job postings specify Advanced Microsoft Office Skills, but not every interviewer confirms those skills for every applicant by asking a specific question. But there are situations where they will need to know that you really have those skills or are just gambling that they won’t ask or will accept an evasive or vague answer.
When your Microsoft Office Skills need proof, nothing less will substitute.
Begin by clarifying in your own mind exactly what is included in an advanced level of skills and then make sure you can actually perform them!
Here are 5 situations when vague, unsupported responses to job interview questions just won’t do and your Microsoft Office Skills need proof.
1. Your MS Office skills are better than your work history suggests
If you have lots of relevant experience in positions requiring Microsoft Office skills, the interviewer may not ask you about them.
On the other hand, if very basic skills are likely all that’s needed in your current position and the employer needs advanced proficiency, they will be more skeptical and require evidence. and that just might mean they don’t invite you for an interview. Continue reading →
Sanjit P., a banker from India, Paul M. a newly unemployed tool and die machinist, and Andrea S., a former accounting clerk, may not appear to have much in common. But all three are frustrated job seekers looking for employment in Southern Ontario and all face difficulties in the job market for what is essentially the same reason. Too often, prospective employer concerns about hiring them are significant barriers that never are addressed.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, all these worthy job applicants see is a total lack of response.
Morning after discouraging morning, they send cover letters and resumes to posted employment opportunities.
Evening after discouraging evening they wonder what they need to do differently.
In each of these (fictitious) stories of typical job seekers, one significant piece of information stands out to an employer like a red flashing light and sends the application to the trash.
Know the Precise Employer Concern
Sanjit worked as a banker for 15 years but it is hard to tell from his application exactly what his responsibilities might have been and he is applying for a much more junior position than a banker with an MBA and 15 years of Canadian experience would consider. The employer concerns are that he will not accept the work environment and more junior duties that go with entry-level employment opportunities and that he will need significant training to get up to speed in the job. He will not be able to “hit the ground running”. Continue reading →
If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications every week without response, you are not alone and it’s your job to figure out why.
Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? If I just send more applications, sooner or later it is inevitable that I will rise to the top of the pile. Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long.
Communicate Your Skills Clearly
Not every opening that is posted online is filled from online applicants but some are. If you aren’t among the winning pllicants, it may have something to do with how you are applying, but you may be perplexed as to what to change.
Do you understand the hiring process from the perspective of an employer that receives thousands of applications? Often its a junior staff member who reduces the pile to a manageable number. It’s easier than you think. Just discard applications that don’t mention the key words related to the required qualifications. Then calls are made to conduct an initial screening interview or to schedule an interview. So what if that prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? Continue reading →
If you submit 10, 20 or more job applications weekly with no response, you are not alone.
Are you treating the job search as a numbers game, like telemarketing? “If I just send enough applications, it is inevitable that I will reach the top of the pile eventually.” Or do you believe those who say “nobody gets hired from online job postings”. If that was true, how long would employers continue to accept online submissions? Not very long! Someone is no longer unemployed. Why shouldn’t it be you?
Is Your Approach Working?
Not every opening that is posted online is filled by an online applicant but some certainly are. If you aren’t hearing back, it probably has something to do with your qualification or how you are applying. But how can you know what to change? It may help to understand the hiring process from the employer’s perspective. When a position is posted, there may be thousands of applications. Often a junior staff member or a computer program screens on predetermined minimum qualifications. Now the pile is more manageable. Calls are then made for an initial screening interview by phone. So what if the prospective employer called the top 20 applicants but your phone didn’t ring? And what if that happened 50 times every week? No phone call, no interview, no job. Continue reading →
I was puzzled. I had in my hand one of the first editions of “What Color is Your Parachute” by Richard Bolles, (much like the one at the right) long before it became the best-selling career book in history. Unlike other career guides, it didn’t start off with resume or interview skills. Instead, Bolles asked you to complete a series of exercises that produced “one piece of paper” that succinctly described your dream job. That is where I was puzzled. In his stories it was normal to precisely describe your ideal job and then methodically set out to land precisely that position. That couldn’t have been further from my own experience to that time or that of anyone I knew. In my world “beggars couldn’t be choosers”. Unless you had scarce skills that we were in high demand, you were grateful to be offered any job. If it wasn’t what you wanted, you just adapted.
After I completed the exercises, I had identified 8 characteristics of a dream job. I no longer have that one piece of paper, but I recall one particular requirement that seemed especially unrealistic. I wanted to commute less than 30 minutes of my home, which limited my options to our small city. The kind of job I wanted was typically found in the much larger city an hour away. I filed the little piece of paper and forgot it. After I had been hired, I happened across the list and compared my dream to the present position. To my astonishment, 7 of the 8 desired characteristics had been satisfied, including a 20 minute drive time! Did creating the list help me to get that job? I couldn’t tell you, but I no longer considered Bolles’ promise to be a pipe dream.
What kind of boss do you prefer? Would you rather work alone or as part of a team? You will be asked these questions in a job interview and you may be tempted to provide an evasive response. After all, you reason, you can adapt to whatever circumstances you encounter. In today’s job market it is essential that you credibly and persuasively communicate to an employer that you are already a good fit for that position. It is precisely when there is the glut of applicants for the position that you must distinguish yourself. The question of whether you prefer to work alone or with others is standard. If you haven’t sorted that out in advance you will likely give the unconvincing answer that you imagine the interviewer wants to hear.
So knowing yourself well is not a luxury in a competitive job market. It is more valuable than ever. Thank you, Mr. Bolles.
Your job interview vocabulary may matter much more than you expect. I’ve seen first-hand how powerfully the words you use in a job interview affect the impression you convey to the interviewer. significantly more than I believed. Recently I was privileged to participate in a series of mock interviews. The impact of vocabulary was especially noticeable in their responses to behavioral questions. One interviewee omitted entirely any reference to the specifics of the detailed job description that she was provided.
I was astonished, given that several similar positions were listed prominently on her resume. During subsequent interviews, I observed specific vocabulary more closely. Applicants responding to behavioral questions using the same vocabulary as those included in the job description clearly gained credibility by doing so. Very simply, you just believed as you listened to their words that they were already in the position. The incremental impact was especially strong for interviewees who had previously worked in a different field, but made the effort to prepare. On reflection, it became clear to me that effective interview strategies pay close attention to the vocabulary of the job description. It sounds very simple, but I think it is commonly overlooked. Continue reading →
Savvy employers have always looked for reliable short-hand methods for identifying a “poser” – the one who talks a good story but doesn’t really know how to do the job.
In the early 50s, my father worked as a carpenter on construction projects in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unemployment was high and would-be carpenters approached the foreman virtually every morning. He didn’t ask for a resume, he just asked ask to see what was in that toolbox that each one brought to the job site, hoping to work that day. Anyone with a toolbox full of shiny new tools was summarily dismissed as an obvious “poser”. Brilliant! The tools of an experienced carpenter are well worn.
Here are a few lessons we can learn from this simple story:
Know the typical indicators that hiring managers in your field use to screen applicants. Conduct information interviews with people already working in similar organizations, the one you’re applying to if possible. Don’t just guess. Be sure.
Once you know “well-worn hammer” for your field, demonstrate it. Today’s hiring manager may have had more formal training in modern interview techniques, but is just as busy as that foreman. That places employs simple “rules of thumb” to eliminate unsuitable candidates at a premium.
Prepare thoroughly to avoid elimination. If they don’t like to see shiny new briefcases, borrow one that has seen a little use. If they care more about attitude than grades, practice that smile!
Build a portfolio of completed projects as evidence that you really do know how to use a hammer and bring it with you to the interview.
You may dislike some of the decision rules that you encounter. You might think they’re unfair or arbitrary, even idiosyncratic! That’s OK. When you have their job, you’ll get to have your own arbitrary policies!
In his new ebook, “’Headhunter’ Hiring Secrets”, Skip Freeman advises jobseekers that today’s employers are looking for reasons to exclude you from consideration, not to include you. Hoping that a kindly foreman will overlook your shiny tools ensures that you stay excluded.
My first impression on meeting someone new is a very unreliable guide for the important decisions. In the workplace and even in the church, we often need to ascertain who is dependable or trustworthy. In my recent training, I have learned in some depth about the implications of our differing temperaments. I began to wonder whether I might simply be less skilled than others in employing first impressions for hiring and other important decisions. Perhaps I am, but I was intrigued a few years ago to encounter an excellent book by “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She wrote “Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior– Anytime, Anyplace.” As a jury consultant, her livelihood depends on adroitly culling those prospective jurors who are likely to view the accused adversely. Her excellent advice is invaluable for anyone who needs to assess individuals. Despite being a highly skilled and experienced predictor of individual behaviour, Jo-Ellan defers a decision as long as possible, because she knows there is always one more vital piece of highly relevant information that she doesn’t yet know. Thank you Jo-Ellan!
When I meet a client, I notice a limp handshake or a broad confident smile just like anyone else and I find that interesting but far from conclusive. So I endeavour to watch and wait and grant others the benefit of my doubt (thanks, golden rule!). When I coach individuals including jobseekers, my first impression of them provides nothing more than tentative information that I can share to their benefit when appropriate.
A future entry will address the challenges we have with those we experience as “difficult” in the workplace and other environments. I have identified more than 15 distinct reasons that my coworker might seem to be “House” or “Jezebel” in my workplace. Many of them have nothing to do with me but neither do they neessarily indicate an evil nature in the other person. For now, consider that every one of us is likely to be a “difficult person” to someone!
Do you record your first impressions in ink or pencil? Let me know!
Miguel, a newcomer to Canada seeking full-time employment sits across the desk from a career counsellor, carrying a simple resume that exactly matches a job posting circulated earlier that morning. A quick phone call sets up an interview and at the evening meal he celebrates with his family his wonderful new job that begins the next day. His younger brother, Carlos, presents himself a few days later at the same career centre expecting a similar outcome. His timing is also fortuitous (or so he is told) as a full-day workshop on job search techniques is about to begin. When the longest day of his life mercifully concludes, he arrives at the same kitchen table with a fistful of paper bearing advice/mandates about networking, information interviews, accomplishment statements and one mysterious insight. Carlos is mostly orange which is unusual in a bookkeeper but he shouldn’t be alarmed. Like everyone, he is really plaid. In Carlos’ home town, plaid is worn only by sedentary male tourists who wear belts at chest level and black socks with sandals.
Like Carlos, many of us are dismayed to learn that the job market of the past is gone forever. A whole new portfolio of job-seeking competencies is required to find our next position, even if it pays half our former salary. Mastery of these competencies requires us leave our comfort zones to a degree that dwarfs any adjustment to a new workplace.
If Carlos embraces this opportunity and masters those new job search skills he will build a foundation that will serve him well for the rest of his working life. Information interviews will open his eyes to a broader range of opportunities and introduce him to some new friends. As he begins his next position, he will recognize opportunities to create accomplishment statements by taking on challenges and realize that his evil supervisor is really just gold and also plaid. When he finds himself back in the job market (and he knows that he will), those tools will fall readily to hand.
Miguel, on the other hand, will also be unemployed again and may never learn what Carlos knows. He is encumbered by his erroneous belief that job search for him should continue to be easy and by his pride. After all, if he steps out of denial and attends those workshops he will be admitting that it was just dumb luck the last time.
Success in every arena of life comes to those who are willing to do what others will not. Including preparation for the employment marketplace.