Tag Archives: Job interview

Prepare for the why you chose this career job interview question

“So tell me why you chose this career.”

The interviewer might just be putting you at ease, or they could genuinely be mystified. If you are changing career, expect the question and be ready for it.

Why on earth did Julia Roberts marry Lyle Lovett? There’s probably a wonderful reason, but that won’t stop you from wondering every time you think about it.

Why on earth did they hire you? And why did you ever pick this field? The interviewer is meeting you in person for the first time and they really want to know that other people in the company won’t have the same mystified look. Part of your agenda in the job interview is to help them stop worrying.

“Why You Chose This Career” is more than a conversation starter

Ideally, your answer reassures the interviewer, leads to a very lovely bit of conversation

Why You Chose this career

Why Did You Choose This career?

between you and sets you at ease. But if you don’t handle it very well, neither of you is at ease.

If the question seems to catch you off guard, that’s not a good sign. After all, they expect an applicant in the middle of a career change to welcome the question. If you are enthusiastic about your answer, maybe it was your own decision.

Simply, if you can’t give a 45 to 60 second answer that makes some sense and demonstrates some enthusiasm for why you chose this career, you have raised the Lyle Lovett worry.

When you aren’t ready for the question, you might just blurt out the truth!

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Faking competence on a resume? Don’t Even Think About it.

Being caught faking competence in a job interview can be embarrassing and even worse. If you claim to be a  hotshot be ready to back that up.

It’s not so hard to impress them once

Can-you-draw-Ernie.jpgWhen my daughter was small she had a Sesame Street coloring book. I had been struggling to learn to draw and a simple line drawing of Bert caught my eye. With a few almost straight lines, some ovals and a scribble or two, you can create a recognizable likeness of Bert. My daughter was impressed, but just like every child since, it was obvious to her that Bert without Ernie was like Dean Martin without Jerry Lewis. (OK, I recognize that’s going back a while, Try Johnny Carson without Ed McMahon.)

Every child recognized Bert instantly and concluded that I possessed outstanding drawing skills. But my Ernie looks like a football with ears.

But it’s harder to impress them many times

But I would forget that when I had a small child for an audience, I liked to pull out a scrap of paper and in a few seconds approximate the iPad sketch at right. And every time the smile of delight turned into a frown. It’s not that I haven’t worked at drawing a recognizable Ernie, but something about his face eludes me.

Raising expectations, intentionally or not, by doing something well once can make others believe you have skills that you can’t repeat at the same level of proficiency. When you tell others about how great you are, you take expectations to a new level,

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What on earth are strong Microsoft Office skills?

Is “strong Microsoft Office Skills” too vague for your comfort? Then decide for yourself what that means to you and let employers know exactly what you can do for them tomorrow morning if they hire you. There may be a reason for the vagueness of what the employer is asking for, but you can rest assured the vagueness isn’t for your benefit!

Take care of your own interests by setting out a clear list of things you can do with Microsoft Word, Excel and the other great and useful programs that let you accomplish more work of a higher quality in less time. That tells them in a very understandable way how you will add value far in excess of the salary they will pay you.

4 Easy Steps to a clear story employers understand and believe:

  1. Do your homework: Research the specific programs that are needed to do the job you would like to have. Talk to someone who actually works there!
  2. Honestly compare your current skill level for each relevant Microsoft Office application to what employers need. The many skills checklists on the Free Resources page are intended for exactly that purpose.
  3. Upgrade your skills as needed by self-study and taking courses.
  4. Assemble completed checklists along with supporting evidence as needed.

You’ll find MS Office Skills Checklists here.

For more detailed explanations, check out my Slideshare presentation, then have a look at  some earlier posts that I’ve listed below.

I welcome any questions and suggestions for additional related materials.

Prepare for the Difficult Person Job Interview Question

I never met a man I didn’t like. Will Rogers

Inquiring employers want to know. How do you handle difficult people in the workplace? You can’t get away with a nice story about an annoying boss and now you work together in uninterrupted harmony.

handle the difficult person

Can You Handle this Difficult Person?

Forget about claiming that you have never met a difficult person unless your name is Will Rogers. The interviewer knows exactly what difficult person you will encounter your first week.

Last post, I laid down some background on why some people find you difficult and that other guy really grates on you. Given your temperament, entirely predictable. Now we can build on that foundation to accomplish two objectives.

First. we want to effectively relate to difficult people. Second, we want to communicate those skills to a prospective employer in a way that reassures them.

That is one of my consistent themes in this blog and my other material. I don’t just want to convince the employer that I can handle difficult people by offering one isolated, contrived story.

I want to be effective because I have learned how to respond to difficult people in a way that prevents any conflict from sabotaging my success and the organizations interests.

Then as I continue to do so mindfully, I accumulate a repertoire of relevant stories that I can tell very naturally.

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How do you Handle the Difficult Colleague?

Are you prepared for the “difficult colleague” job interview question? Expect the interviewer to ask for an instance when you dealt with a difficult person to get a handle on your interpersonal skills. Don’t just count on winging it unless you have prepared stories of past successes.

Do you have a great interview story of how you used your skills to handle a difficult person? Can you describe your approach? It is best to start your preparation for this question by developing a simple approach that you can apply consistently. That way your interview answer will be clear and easy to follow and will be more credible to the interviewer. After all, if you just improvised, how can the prospective employer believe that your lovely story conveys the way you might handle a similar situation in the future?

You Need a Strategy for Handling a Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Spot the Difficult Colleague

Common strategies usually begins with first informing  the other person that what they are doing is a problem for you. If that’s not successful, you may need to involve other. In exceptional cases, more formal actions may become necessary. In the case of an abusive co-worker, that’s prudent advice, but not an ideal story for a job interview!

You don’t want to imply that every awkward or frustrating interaction with a fellow employee ends up with a meeting with HR! Whatever story you tell will leave them with the impression that you handle all situations in that same manner. Choose that story carefully!

First, lets explore why someone seems “difficult” to you.  Continue reading

“Credential Yourself” on Microsoft Office Skills

credential yourself

Can You Credential Yourself?

Responsibility for credibly communicating your competence in advanced Microsoft Word Skills is entirely in your hands.

Fortunately, even if you can’t point to a fistful of recently-completed certificates, you can quickly create effective documentation of those essential skills and credential yourself.

If you follow the steps I will lay out for you, you will never need to worry that you will be over looked for promotion or have your job application tossed out simply because you learned barely enough skills to get by in fulfilling your current responsibilities.

And you can do that without spending a single dime!

Can you really “Credential Yourself”?

You could just create a nice colorful certificate but that would have about as much credibility as a “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt! But you can prepare something at least as effective and more relevant and current within groupings of skills that are generally considered to be basic, intermediate, or advanced skills in Microsoft Word.

You can start with the Advanced Microsoft Word Checklist that I have provided in the free resources section. Then once you have satisfied yourself that you can perform all of the listed tasks, you need to decide how you will substantiate that claim as needed when you are challenged in a job interview. Continue reading

5 Reasons Microsoft Office Skills Need Proof

Proving Microsoft Word or Excel Skills to an employer even before they call can boost your credibility.

Prove your skills with a checklist

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

Communicate Your Microsoft Excel Skills Clearly and Succinctly

In the middle of a job interview, you sense that things are going smoothly. Everyone is smiling, lots of encouraging nods, and most of your initial nervousness has faded. Then a question that you hoped they wouldn’t ask rears up in front of you.

Microsoft Excel Skills

Microsoft Excel Skills

Some job interview questions are designed to throw you, questions that you can’t specifically prepare to answer. For those questions, you can learn and practice how to respond when they show up. Find a list of such questions and practice responding.

“How strong are your Microsoft Excel skills?” is not one of those questions, but it’s not very specific. And when you answer it vaguely it is obvious to you that it is obvious to the interviewer. And there is no excuse not to have a very specific answer to that question. Continue reading

Document your Advanced Microsoft Word Skills

I frequently see resumes from job applicants claiming Advanced Microsoft Word skills. When such a high level of proficiency seems highly improbably given their previous work experience and education, I am very skeptical. When I have doubts and the answer is important to me, I ask questions. I want to know what specific things you can do on the job tomorrow.

Document Your Advanced Word Skills

Advanced Word Skills – Really?

Many job postings ask for advanced skills beyond what is essential, but that doesn’t really matter. When you are asked in a job interview some sort of vague question about your Microsoft Office skills, you still need to nail it convincingly.

That is the reason I created the checklists that are now available in the MS Office Skills Checklists section. By making sure that you know exactly what advanced skills are, you can avoid an awkward conversation that doesn’t answer the question. You don’t want either error. You don’t want to be embarrassed when you learn that you actually don’t have any advanced skills. Pretending you have skills that you don’t makes for an entertaining movie, but I think the thrill of the experience falls short of that in real life. Continue reading

What Credentials on Microsoft Word Skills can you offer?

What evidence of your Microsoft Word skills could you offer in response to job interview questions?

“Pretty good, I guess” isn’t very precise, but without advance preparation, a mumbled vague response is the best you have.

You don’t even know exactly what advanced skill levels are for this particular interviewer and you don’t want to reveal your ignorance by asking. You don’t know exactly what they need you to be able to do. Very often, the interviewer doesn’t really know either! So they wait to see what you say and write that down and go on to the next question.

You are justifiably proud of your accomplishments and references and university degree. But wouldn’t it be beneficial to state very precisely what things you can do with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint  Access, Publisher and Outlook?

What if you could say “I have all the Intermediate skills for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and basic skills for Access and Publisher. I have already sent you a PDF file that lists my Microsoft Office software skills in detail, along with a series of documents and projects that together are my “credential”. Continue reading