COVID-19 has had a profound impact not only on the job market, but also on traditional job interviews. For the first time in decades, job applicants suddenly have leverage amid falling unemployment and a labor shortage. The pandemic has also changed what many job seekers are looking for, such as the opportunity to work from home, and the type of skills employers value most, including the ability to take punches when a crisis strikes.
Today, a successful job interview will feel more like a stimulating conversation than a one-sided questioning, according to career experts. It also means avoiding some of the more common risks. Here are some mistakes to avoid at your next interview, along with some tips that can help you stand out from the crowd.
Don’t underestimate your old boss
First, don’t offend your former employer when asked why you are leaving or looking for a new job elsewhere, a question they are likely to ask you.
“You shouldn’t throw your ex-captain or company under the bus,” said professional coach Ken Coleman. “Even if it’s true that you’re leaving a toxic environment or a terrible boss, that can make the insecure leader say, ‘Are you going to say that about me? Or are you the problem?'”
Instead, focus on why you are excited to be part of a new team.
“Leave well, take the highway and focus on the positives about why you want to join them,” Coleman added.
Get rid of WFH clothes
Don’t make the mistake of dressing casually, which can appear unprofessional, even if the work environment is comfortable or you’re interviewing from home.
“One of the top red flags for employers is interviewing candidates with an unprofessional appearance,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at global job site Monster. “Be sure to comb your hair, don’t wear a baseball cap, and don’t wear sweats. Look polished, even if it’s a casual environment or a remote interview.”
Bob Slater, a real estate executive and career expert who runs an apprenticeship business with his son, Nick Slater, also urged job seekers to “take off your bunny slippers and dress better than you think.”
Don’t read your CV
Another mistake many job seekers make when responding to a common “Tell me about yourself” interview prompt is listing the awards or degrees they have earned without putting them in context.
“Almost always the first question is, ‘Tell me about yourself,'” writer and communications coach Carmine Gallo said, “and they’re not looking for you to go through your work history, college degrees, degrees, and titles.”
Instead, it’s an invitation to tell a story about yourself.
“They may not use the word ‘story,’ but they ask you to tell them a story, not to recite facts,” he said.
Know your strengths
The standard, but potentially tricky, question that’s easy to get wrong in a job interview is, “What are your biggest weaknesses?”
Hopefully the role you’re interviewing for will play out your strengths, and your weaknesses won’t interfere with your ability to perform well on the job. So the best way to address this question is to highlight a weakness that you have worked hard to improve or eliminate, for example, taking online classes in a particular discipline.
General rule: “Don’t say, I have a drinking problem,” Slater said sarcastically. “Start by naming your strengths and showing that you know what they are.”
Nick Slater agreed that the worker who knows their best — and where they can improve — will stand out from the other candidates.
“Everyone has weaknesses, and part of being a good and productive worker is figuring out what they are and working on them. He said, “I was able to point out a weakness in me – say legal writing – and then show an improvement in it.” “You are honest about a weakness, but at least it is one that you have identified and taken steps to improve.”
Show that you are very interested in a job by asking survey questions about the role, such as, “How will success be measured?” and “What is the growth trajectory of this role?”
It may also be helpful to send pre-made questions to the interviewer before the meeting, according to Joe Mullings, CEO of The Mullings Group, a research company. This shows initiative, while ensuring that you have a substantive conversation—one that you have had the opportunity to prepare for in advance.
“It seems a bit bold to send these questions to the hiring manager, but if they think you need a lot of maintenance or you are dismissive, imagine how the rest of your interaction would be,” he said.
It is also good – and even recommended – that the candidatesin the recruitment process.
“There are a number of elements in your offer, including a base salary, bonus, ability to work remotely, relocation fees and additional investments in connection with client-supported seminars,” Mullings said.
One of the most important traits a candidate can display in today’s job market is flexibility, Amanda Livinggood, career expert for job search site Glassdoor, told CBS MoneyWatch.
“In this new environment, lean on showing how flexible and resilient you are to change. Share examples of adaptability, and show enthusiasm,” she said. “There have been very few constants in business over the past two years. Show your resilience.”
Likewise, you may be asked if you prefer to work remotely or from an office, and it is important that you are familiar with the company’s policy on telecommuting prior to the interview.
You’ll ask questions about the new world of work like, ‘What’s your favorite work environment? “We recommend that you be honest and authentic out there about how you are going to be able to do your best,” Livinggood said.
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