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Archive for June, 2010

how to answer the question, “tell me about yourself”

June 29th, 2010

How to Answer the Interview Question “Tell Me About Yourself”

There is no excuse not to be prepared for this question in an interview. And, in fact, rule number one is to always, always be prepared for it. You know this question is coming up, the interviewer knows this question is coming up, and, most importantly, the interviewer knows you know this question is coming up. Therefore, if you’re not prepared, then it’s almost certain that the interview will terminate there and then – at least in the interviewer’s eyes.

What The Question is About

The reason this question is asked at interviews is to help the interviewer assess you as a person. It lets the interviewer see how confidently you can talk about yourself, and how focused you are on your career aspirations. In asking this question, the interviewer wants to see how you can relate certain aspects of your career to the job on offer, how well you know what’s involved in the advertised job, and how much you want it. This question is nearly always posed at the beginning of an interview and largely determines its success: answer well and you have a very good chance of being hired or at least being invited for a second interview; answer it badly, and it will take something akin to a miracle in order to turn the interview around in your favor.

So while you may know that you need to be prepared for this question, how exactly do you prepare for it?

What The Question is Not About

First, this question is not about any aspects of your personal life; it relates entirely to the job on offer. The interviewer doesn’t want to know about your marital status, how many children you have, or where you went on vacation last year. The interviewer wants to know what you did before in your previous job, how it changed you, and how it positioned you for the future, and, most importantly, how you can relate what you’ve done to date in your professional life to the qualities needed for the advertised job.

Make it Short and Snappy

While most people dread this question, it does actually present a candidate with the perfect opportunity to put him- or herself in good light. But to do this you need to be well prepared. When thinking about what to say in your answer, remember that you won’t be expected to talk for very long (nor will the interviewer want you to!). Make your answer short, no longer than one to two minutes. However, you should be prepared to provide more details if requested to. Once you’ve given your answer, ask the interviewer if he or she wants you to elaborate on any points and if so, do so.

What to Say

When preparing your answer, ask yourself what are the skills and expertise required for the position on offer. Once you’ve worked this out you can then tailor your answer to highlight the skills you’ve have gained over the years that make you the ideal candidate for the job. For example, if the job is in sales and you believe the qualities and skills needed include the ability to set goals, stay motivated, and handle rejection well, you can say in your answer that you possess those skills, and then give examples of when and how you’ve brought them into play in your previous professional positions, and what they’ve helped you achieve for your previous employers (remember, this isn’t so much about you as it is about what you can bring to the company!).

The details you should include in your answer are:

–  Your current or last position

–  What you do or did in that role

–  One or two significant achievements in that role that directly relate to the job on offer

–  Why you’re applying for the position

For example: “For the past ten years I’ve worked as a sales manager for XYZ Promotions. During that time I’ve mastered the skills to enable me to train and motivate team members to consistently reach company sales targets. The sales campaign I implemented in the company’s southeast division involved focusing on procuring new contracts as well as nurturing existing ones, and turning around those that were under-performing. Within a six-month period, my team and I were able to achieve a 75 percent sales increase in that region. Given my proven experience in this area, I believe that I can assist your company’s sales team with the current challenges it’s facing.”

Remember to always back up your statements with examples.

From Interrogation to Discussion

At this stage, it’s always a good idea to try to get the interviewer talking as well so that the interview becomes more of a discussion rather than merely an interrogation. Therefore, once you’ve delivered your statement about who you are and what you’ve achieved to date, finish off by saying that you’re interested in delivering something similar for the recruiting company and then let the interviewer tell you how you can do just that.

Being prepared for this question will help enormously when you’re in the hot seat and have to answer it. Don’t refer to notes, or to your CV or résumé. Presenting a polished and professional attitude in response to this question will ensure that the interview gets off to a flying start, and, as a result, your increased confidence will help you to sail through the rest of the interview.

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Five Ways to Succeed in Your Performance Appraisal

June 6th, 2010

When you are waiting for your performance appraisal interview, you can use the time between when it is scheduled and when you walk into the room to ensure you get the best possible appraisal. There are a number of strategies that you can use when it’s time for a performance appraisal, the best of which is to have performed your job to the best of your ability in the preceding year. Beyond that, however, here are five tips to help you succeed in your performance appraisal.

1. Be rational and not defensive.

While it can be hard to resist jumping out of your chair and protesting when you hear that you aren’t doing a satisfactory job, take a deep breath and try to remain unemotional. Take an outsider’s viewpoint if possible and think about what someone new to the company who didn’t know you or your past sacrifices for the company’s sake would think of what you do in your role now. If necessary, take a few moments to clear your mind before answering when your employer says something that hurts your feelings.

2. Familiarize yourself with the discussion topics.

Before you enter the interview, you should have read the interview forms, your job description, the employee handbook, and anything else you think may be under discussion during the session. Familiarize yourself with your accomplishments and failures over the past twelve months, as it can be hard to remember just what you did right once a few months have passed.

3. Clarify what your manager means.

When you receive any feedback that can be used to improve your performance, clarify or ask for examples. It can be hard to improve based on a generic recommendation to focus on the team goals or pay attention to the policies in the employee handbook, for example. Ask your manager, in a non-confrontational way, to tell you some more specific instances of when you did things wrong and when you did things right. This will give you an idea what to focus on improving over the next year.

4. Don’t focus on the money.

Many employees use the performance appraisal as a chance to get considered for a raise. This makes you seem greedy and uncaring about your performance. While it’s understandable that you hope for a raise, just about everyone does, so focus on improving your performance first and the money will come later.

5. Communicate openly.

The performance appraisal is a chance for you to voice your own concerns and opinions, letting your employer know what you need in order to improve your performance. If you feel there are barriers holding you back from doing the best job you can, don’t let them monopolize the conversation; talk about what they can be doing to help you improve, too.

Some people see the performance appraisal as scary, while others see it as a chore. If you make sure you prepare for it properly, it doesn’t have to be either. Follow these steps to succeed in your next performance appraisal!