Know Your Strengths &
By Debra Auerbach,
It's the dreaded interview question. "So,
what would you say are your weaknesses?" You don't want to ignore the
question all together, but you also don't want to reply back with,
"Well, I tend to miss deadlines a lot." Instead, you try to come up with
an answer that sounds like a weakness but is really a strength, such as,
"Sometimes I just work too hard -- I'm always coming in early and
While you may wish you wouldn't get asked
such a question during an interview, it actually would benefit you to
think about your weaknesses -- and strengths -- before talking to a
hiring manager. In fact, if you really want to get a leg up, you should
be assessing your skills and limitations even earlier than that --
before you begin your job search.
How to identify your strengths and
The idea of sitting down and coming up with the things you're good --
and not so good -- at can seem daunting, but there are a few methods to
try that can make the process a little easier.
- Online testing.
- Ask others who you think will give
you an honest, objective opinion.
- Review feedback from peers and/or
- Review feedback from formal
Consider both hard and
When assessing your skills, don't just
think about those technical skills you've acquired; also consider your
soft skills -- abilities related to communication, leadership,
collaboration, creative problem-solving, etc. -- which can be just as
important to employers.
Why this will help
your job search
"Once you've identified your strengths,
it will help you evaluate what kind of jobs you're best suited for,"
Vargas says. "It will also help you sell yourself in a job interview.
You want to be able to clearly articulate how you will bring value in a
Vargas notes that finding the right job
fit is important, because you want to feel both comfortable and
confident in the role. You don't want to start a new job, only to find
that your skills aren't really up to par or that you don't consider the
company to be the right cultural fit.
But if you know going into the new job
that your strengths align with your new position and you'll have the
opportunity to grow in the areas where you need improvement, it'll be a
win-win situation for both you and the employer. "You'll be engaged in
your work and a valued contributor to the organization's success,"
The Number One Skillset
Canadian Employers are Looking For
By Elizabeth Bromstein
If you want to get ahead in your career, you
must have incredible people skills.
A recent survey of Canadian CEOs found that
people skills are by far the most desired attributes in potential hires.
The great news here is that
people skills are among the easiest to develop. Here are the top ten to
concentrate on and how to hone them.
Listening: Humorist Fran Lebowitz once wrote, “The
opposite of talking is not listening. The opposite of talking is
waiting.” This is true for so many people, and it’s terrible. If you’re
letting other people talk, you might as well listen to them. You’ll be
amazed at what you learn. Experts on interpersonal relationships are
always pointing out that people like you better when you listen to them
than when you talk. After you have a conversation with someone in which
you do most of the listening, I guarantee they’ll walk away thinking
you’re the most fascinating person they’ve met all day.
Learn to express yourself and get your ideas across efficiently and
without losing the thread. Speak clearly. Don’t use too much slang. We
all use some colloquialisms. That’s expected these days, but not, like,
too much. Know when to make eye contact and how to arrange your
thoughts. A club like Toastmasters can help you develop your
communications skills in a fun and friendly atmosphere.
Sharing: It’s the first interpersonal skill we learn as
children. Don’t hog the toys. Share them. In our adult lives this
extends to snacks, space, joy, credit and blame. Don’t hog the credit on
the big project. Share it. Don’t shirk the blame when the team messes
up. Share it.
Cooperation: Another one of the first things we learn
about as kids. Projects get done faster and are more fun when we all
work together! This means doing your part and always doing your best.
But it also means not being a control freak and allowing others to do
their part without interfering, being able to take constructive
criticism and suggestions, and being able to offer the same in a
palatable manner. It means listening, and communicating. Say it with me:
Good manners: These aren’t the
only career tips that you learned before you even hit puberty. What are
good manners? Say “please” and “thank you.” Say “Hello” and “How are
you?” Shake hands, smile, pay attention, be respectful. Listen when
people talk (is this starting to sound familiar?), don’t interrupt,
don’t talk with your mouth full, don’t correct people in public, laugh
when appropriate, don’t put your feet on your desk, hold doors and
elevators…you know this stuff already.
Show an interest in your work, your company and your co-workers. Be
eager, not just willing, to learn. Be interested in what people have to
say and the things they are interested in. If you work with a bunch of
hockey fans and are not a hockey fan yourself, it would certainly not
hurt your career situation to try to develop an interest in hockey, so
you can bond over stats and games and get excited when the players score
touchdowns and baskets or whatever.
Awareness of body language: It’s important to be aware
of how you come across with your body language. Read books on the
subject – it would also be useful to learn to read micro-expressions –
to learn how you are perceived, and how you make others feel. Sample
tips: when someone is happy to see you, their pupils will dilate. If
they are not happy to see you, their pupils will constrict, maybe
briefly. When their torso and feet are turned towards you, that means
they like you, so when you turn your feet towards someone, you convey
that you like them.
Patience: You need that report done NOW! You need to
talk to our boss NOW! You need your computer fixed NOW! I get it. I
think I am the most impatient person I have ever met. (Note to self:
take own advice) And how many stupid times have you had to show the
stupid person how to use the stupid internal software? Be patient.
Impatience puts pressure on people and they will associate that pressure
with you. Maya Angelou famously said, “At the end of the day people
won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made
Trustworthiness: People should feel that they can trust
you, to tell the truth in a diplomatic manner, to keep your word, to do
what you say you will do, to have their backs and to be there when they
need you. If you let someone down even once, this will colour the way
they see you for the rest of your relationship.
Conflict resolution: The ability to resolve conflict –
whether you are involved in the conflict or not – is extremely valuable.
This skill requires staying calm, recognizing both sides, defining the
problem and negotiating a solution. It’s important to always be flexible
and be willing to compromise. When it comes to your own involvement,
it’s naturally preferable to avoid conflict in the first place,
something you will find easier to do when you have mastered all of these
The Biggest Mistake at a Job
By Peter Harris
The job of your resume is to convince an
employer that you have the skills to do the job and to make them want to
meet you in person. It’s really at the job interview that you either win
the job or lose out to another potential candidate.
In a recent survey of over
2,000 employers, nearly half (47%) said that the most common mistake
that candidates make in a job interview is having little or no knowledge
about the company. In the Internet era, there’s just no excuse for this.
The best way to win over an employer is to demonstrate what you can do
for them specifically.
The only way to successfully do this is to
know as much as possible about the job, the company, and the industry in
advance. This way you can practice tailoring how you describe your past
work experience and accomplishments in a way that is relevant to the
employer. “Here’s what I have achieved in the past, therefore here is
what I can do for you…”
Look the employer up online.
Read their website. See if they are mentioned in articles on other sites
or in news stories. Talk to people in your network who may have company
or industry knowledge.
Think about what the future
of the industry is and what the challenges of the job might be. Be
prepared to explain how you can help with those challenges and to
demonstrate how your qualifications make you uniquely suited for the
Employers are always more
impressed with candidates who are knowledgeable about their company and
who can show why they want to work for them specifically. (Rather than a
candidate who is just looking to land a job, any job.)
This same survey also
revealed that one third (33%) of employers know within the first 90
seconds of an interview whether or not they will hire someone. First
The most common job
And it is in those opening
seconds of the job interview that you will certainly be asked the most
common question of all. The exact wording may differ, but very early in
every job interview, you will be asked some variation of, “So, tell me
This is not the occasion to
tell the story of growing up melancholy in a small town or of your
passion for collecting stuffed owls. (Unless the job is at a stuffed owl
emporium.) This conversational-sounding, ice-breaking question is your
opportunity to start off the interview on a strong note and to
powerfully demonstrate how you are the person for the job.
Employers don’t only want to
know that you can do the job – they also want to know if you will like
to do the job. If you are applying for a desk job, but all of your
interests are about in being in the field, meeting people face to face,
and interacting with large groups, you won’t likely be hired. That’s
because even if you have the skills to actually perform on the job,
employers don’t want to waste time hiring and training someone who isn’t
going to be happy and is therefore unlikely to stay very long.
Tell them about yourself in a way that
highlights your background and interests so that they make you seem like
a natural fit for the role.
For example, although I have many interests
including travel, literature, and blues music, when the VP of HR for
Workopolis asked me to say a little about myself in the interview for
this job, I didn’t talk about those things. Instead, I said something
“I am a writer and editor
who has really enjoyed working on the Web for over ten years. I love the
interactivity of getting to know an audience and building increased
engagement with them. I especially love the idea of working for
Workopolis, because not only does this mean bringing the latest news and
information to a vast audience of Canadians, but it also means having
the chance to really help people. Learning to communicate your potential
in a resume, winning the job in a tough interview – we can help people
with challenges like these, and that has the potential to improve lives.
I would love to be a part of that.”
It’s true, I still love
being a part of that. It’s not that I was lying by not mentioning the
other interests, it’s just that I chose to focus on what would matter
the most to the employer.
Other common interview
questions that you can bank on being asked:
Why do you want this
Why did you leave your
What is your greatest
Do you have any
questions for me?
as much as you can about the company, and be prepared to ask smart
questions that show your interest. (Asking, “So what does this company
do?” is a deal breaker.) Tell the interviewer why you’d be passionate
about doing the job as well as why you’d be great at it. The biggest
mistake in a job interview is not being prepared, and there’s no reason
that you can’t be ready to answer the questions that you know for sure
Confessions from the Hiring Manager’s Side of the Desk
By Peter Harris
You see a job posting online. You write up
your cover letter and prepare your resume and hit the Apply button. Ever
wonder what’s happening on the other side of the equation? Here’s what
happens next from the recruiter’s point of view.
Recruiters start receiving
applications within 200 seconds of posting their job online. This is why
job applications on Mondays result in more interviews than applications
any other day of the week. More jobs are posted at the beginning of the
week, and recruiters receive an average of 250 applications for each
job. So hesitating can result in a resume being lost in a deluge of
applications when the recruiter has already compiled a short list.
A resume has to grab an
employer’s attention quickly – and make a positive impression that
sticks. Given that volume of applications, most recruiters spend only
five to seven seconds scanning each resume before deciding to reject it
or put it aside for closer scrutiny.
Your cover letter has only
a 17% chance of being read at all. It’s important to include one – but
don’t count on the cover letter alone to tailor your skills to the
specific job. That information has to be in the resume – and it has to
be on the first page.
Recruiters will only read
to the second or third page of a resume if the first page gives them a
compelling reason to. A career summary or key skills list that relate
specifically to the job applied for at the top of the page are effective
ways to stand out off the top.
It’s very easy to make a
negative first impression. Most recruiters say that one single typo or
grammatical error can send a resume to the trash bin. 30% of recruiters
say that their biggest pet peeve is receiving applications that are
unqualified or irrelevant for the job. Almost half of those say that
this bothers them so much that not only will they not consider the
candidate, but they will also blacklist them from all future
opportunities as well.
Of all the people who apply
to a position, only 2% are selected for job interviews.
Most recruiters, 68% of
them, say that will look up a candidate on Facebook before hiring them.
And over 30% say that they have rejected someone solely based on
something untoward they found out about them online. Your Facebook
profile contains numerous clues that reveal how well you will perform on
the job. If they can’t find you on Facebook at all – this could indicate
that you don’t use social media or that you have something to hide.
Although job interviews
will generally last over half an hour and consist of numerous questions
and discussions, hiring managers are really only looking to discover
three things about you. They want to know, if you can do the job, if you
will like the job, and if you will be a good fit with the team.
15% of employers say that they
won’t hire a candidate who focuses on salary more than anything else
about the job during an interview.
Most hiring managers don’t
like hiring. They want to find the right candidate quickly – and hire a
great new addition to their team so that they can get back to work.
They’re hoping that every resume will be error-free and demonstrate
great credentials. They want the candidate who comes to an interview to
be personable, confident and competent, so that they won’t have to
interview anyone else.
So as a candidate, you
start off with employers on your side – it’s up to you to avoid giving
them a reason not to be.