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3 Tips for Job Interviews


It’s been a while since my last post. Blame that on a very demanding toddler and some new, exciting stuff happening at Central Park Conservancy.

I’ve been thinking about the job interview. How do you improve your chances once you’ve got your foot in the door? Most job interviews are pretty short and first impressions are set very quickly. In my last post I had a few quick pieces of advice: be on time, bring a resume, and listen. The last one is critical; so many people jump right into talking about themselves before they even learn what the interviewer is looking for. Let’s say you’ve got the basics. What else can you do?

1. Brag. A friend of mine shared this great book: Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, which teaches you to talk yourself up. Like many other women, I have the problem of often downplaying my expertise and skills. When you’re in a situation (like an interview) when you are being asked to share your achievements, you need to be able to pull from an accessible list of anecdotes that allow you to highlight your best qualities and experience. A simple way to do this is to think about your career like it’s a story: what were the challenges? How did you overcome them? If you observe yourself as if you are an omniscient narrator, you may be able to give yourself more credit than you would normally. Write your anecdotes down so you can recount them easily.

2. Ask really thoughtful questions. I hate when someone asks nuts and bolts questions like “When are you making a decision?” or “How much does the position pay?”. It tells me you’re not looking to really understand the role. Here’s a fantastic list of questions from Business Insider that will spark discussion and understanding of the job.

3. Pay attention to your body language. If you haven’t done it yet, have a friend mock interview you and tape it. Watch how you sit and how you gesture. Do you maintain eye contact? Are you fidgeting without knowing it? Is your voice loud or soft? The last time I did this I couldn’t believe how my “resting face” made me look angry. Now, I make an effort to smile slightly during meetings because my neutral face isn’t inviting during a discussion. See more body language tips here.

Anything to add? Tell me in the comments below!

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Six Ways to Improve Your Job Search

My very talented husband is looking for a new job due to restructuring. His company, Fuse, was just recently sold. As he starts to polish off his resume, it reminded me of the advice my father gave me when I graduated and was looking for a job. He told me to read What Color Is Your Parachute. At the core of the book, it’s all about networking and managing your expectations for transition. If you’re looking for a new job, I’d recommend reading it.

While you’re waiting for amazon drone to deliver, here’s some wisdom I’ve rounded up with my perspective as a hiring manager:

1. Tell everyone you’re looking for a job. (If you don’t want your employer to know that you’re looking, then only do this with people you trust—-i.e. not on facebook or by the Keurig machine in the break room at work.) Social media is a obvious. What about sending your resume to friends and relatives via email? You may think that your Aunt doesn’t know anyone in the news world, but you never know who she goes to brunch with (the grandmother of the guy who works at NY1, that’s who).

2. Be clear about what you’re looking for. I can’t help you if you’re simply looking for a job. But if you’re looking for a job as a digital content producer with expertise in social media and are interested in the nonprofit space, then yes, let’s definitely meet because I’m hiring!

3. Find a good fit—for you and for them. There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they can do or be anything. A resume that lands on my desk that isn’t a good fit for the position is a waste of time for everyone, and indicates that the individual is desperate, or not realistic about what their skills are. So you’ve been in the hospitality industry for the last 5 years but think you are a good candidate for my digital strategy position?

4. Once you get the interview, don’t be stupid. For the love of god, be on time. Bring a copy of your resume. Do a google search and know what’s going on in the news for the company, the industry, etc. Browse their website and social media. Listen to the interviewer.

5. Say thanks. Send a follow up, right away. Don’t just do the cursory thank you note. If you’ve listened and asked questions during the interview, you should understand the problems they are facing so that you can tell them how you would approach solving them in your thoughtful follow up, which I do read, carefully, I might add.

6. Ask why not. I once interviewed someone who didn’t get the job but had the wisdom to ask why not. I really appreciated that she wanted to know what she could do better next time. If you’ve made it to a second round and don’t get the position, ask why. It may help you to fix a flaw next time round. (FYI she was qualified but didn’t seem passionate about our work. See #3.)

If this all seems obvious, then good! Tell me what you’ve learned during your job search that was successful in the comments below.

Other resources:

* This amazing article about organizing your search from HBR. Must read.

* Don’t write a cover letter, write a pain letter.

* More on writing a simple cover letter. I barely read the ones I get because they’re too long and there’s no time. The one I liked the most last week had bullets because it made it easier to read, but that’s just me.

And by the way, my husband’s linkedin is here. He’s a writer with a background in print and online journalism, as well as digital strategy. He’s funny and cute. Send any leads his way, please!

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Author Brigid Schulte says companies should stop rewarding overworked employees and focus on productivity instead.

At one company, staying late at the office is actually viewed as a sign of inefficiency and can result in dismissal. “[This company says] if you cannot figure out how to do your job in 40 hours, we will fire you.”

Read More>

(via hopehelen)

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This is a fantastic article about the qualities of top performers. I like to think that I’m coaching my team on these qualities, but the one that struck me as the one I’m failing on the most is challenging my team with stretch goals.

We set goals, and we don’t always hit them, but for the most part, I try to be realistic about what we can accomplish so that we can see results. However, that means I am not encouraging my team to be awesome. Forbes argues that stretch goals are about vision, and ambition. You know, the kind of stuff that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? Not the day to day incremental tasks that are nice to check off on paper but don’t really make you love what you do.

However, I worry about stretch goals. Is it too much pressure? Will it stress everyone out? It’s not like we’re not already doing a lot. I have a hard working, high performing team. Should I be pushing them more?

I’m going to think on this a bit. In the mean time, I’d love to hear your perspective. Please leave a comment below!

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Have you seen this yet?

I have to admit that I feel rather bad for Gwyneth. I wouldn’t wish going through a divorce, with kids, on anyone. Publicly seems even worse. I found this article interesting, not because it targets Gwyneth, but because it highlights the daily challenges of families everywhere—getting up, getting to work, dealing with your kids, and trying to manage your career, in the middle of extreme chaos.

Money doesn’t solve problems, but it does help a lot. The ability to have dependable child care is huge. So is the ability to move your entire family to your film shoot so you can be together.

If my life was somehow magically merged with Gwenyth’s, I’d live a few minutes from work, with a live-in nanny (we’ll call her Mary Poppins) and I would be able to go to my job knowing my child was cared for, stimulated, and fed organic food, and then I’d stroll and spend some QT bonding over my lunch break.

Clearly, that’s not how things go right now. If you’re a working parent (not a movie star working parent), you can stop reading here. If you aren’t and want to understand why it’s so hard just to go through the normal daily stuff we all go through, then you’re in luck. Stay tuned!

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One of my fellow Sternies posted this fantastic article on facebook last weekend. It was such a great reset button, especially on a Sunday night when you’re thinking about all the things you have to do in the week ahead, and if you’re like me, you wallow a bit over your weekend regrets. What are weekend regrets? Well, this past weekend it was:

I wish I had gotten a pedicure; it would have been nice to do something for myself.  I wish I had gone for a run instead of having taken a nap. I wish I hadn’t eaten all those M&M’s at the movie theater! I wish I had worked on my side project. I wish I had done that thing for work instead of procrastinating. I wish I hadn’t spent even a second comparing myself to other people on facebook.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s exhausting! Of course, this means I’m not appreciating all the fantastic stuff I did do this weekend:

I’m so glad we had a family dinner together. I’m so glad we had a date night. I’m so glad we gave Benny’s great-grandmother a surprise visit. I’m so glad I got to relax with some yoga.

Now if only I focused on the important things, I’d feel a lot better, right? I think we do the same thing at work. We all have work regrets:

I wish I hadn’t handled that situation so poorly . I wish I hadn’t cried in front of my boss. I wish I hadn’t slacked off. I wish I had asked for help.

But none of this worrying and mental circling does any good. I know that, but it’s so hard to divorce yourself from the day to day to think about the big picture. Here’s another great source for hitting the reset button and getting big picture perspective: the musings of Harvard Business School’s class of 1963 on a variety of topics. Here’s one of my favorite nuggets:

"Choose work you enjoy and that serves as many people as possible. Focus on serving others — not on building wealth. Serve well, and money will follow."

I hope you enjoy all the other nuggets of wisdom. Tell me what helps you hit the reset button in the comments below!

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they look over their strategic goals for the year and the next week’s schedule on Google Calendar. They inset the goals for each meeting, and if the goals don’t tie into the overall plan, they either add a goal to the plan—or nix the meeting.

From this article on how a couple of startup founders manage their time.

Made me think about how I manage my team’s annual goals in conjunction with the every day. We review them once a month, but they aren’t integrated into everything we do. Does my team get the game plan and know where we’re going? Maybe, maybe not.

I’m going to try using our annual goals at every weekly staff meeting to give every meeting/project the test of whether it’s actually worth our time by helping to achiever our larger goals. Stay tuned for results!

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It’s been a long time, not just because of my kid with the serial ear infections, but because of changes at work. I’ve never been more thankful for taking a class at NYU called Power and Politics. It taught me to look at conflict with a cool head and think strategically. In my last job I had a really tough time with conflict. I took things personally.

A person I admire greatly once told me that when she was faced with difficult situations, she could either go home, get into bed and cry, or simply move forward. As tempting as it was to not only cry, but do so with a giant bottle of wine, I put my big girl pants on and decided to take control of what I could and move forward. I also had the voice of an energetic Indian man shouting “DEPERSONALIZE CONFLICT!” in my head. So this time, I’m approaching things differently.

Thanks, Kabi. Thanks, Therese.