The Job Interview: Eight Tips for Preparing to Answer Job Interview Questions

For most job candidates, the interview process can be pretty intimidating. It involves not only successfully communicating your value and experience, but also building rapport with your recruiter, the hiring manager, and any other decision makers you may come into contact with along the way. And the whole time you are supposed to appear comfortable, confident, and relaxed. That’s quite a task!

As a recruiter, I do my best to make job candidates feel at ease during job interviews. But I must admit, I am most drawn to those who are naturally self-assured and able to clearly articulate their abilities, accomplishments, strengths, and experience. In doing so, they quickly win my trust and interest.

As a career coach, I wear a different hat. I put a great deal of time and energy into preparing my clients to successfully navigate the interview process. While it may be the #1 step of the job seeking process that most people love to hate, an interview serves as a sign from a hiring company that you are strongly being considered for the role.

My advice? I believe one of the ways to build confidence is being able to answer interview questions in a manner that is clear, direct, and relevant. In preparing for you next job interview ¬— be it in person, over the phone, or online — consider the following tips:

  • Do your homework.
    Find out as much as you can about the job and the company beforehand. Read the job description. Review the company website. Take a look at where the company stands within the industry. Think carefully and objectively about how well you align with the job responsibilities, as well as how you might potentially fit in the company.
  • Create a conversation.
    While you may expect to be grilled, a good interview should feel less like an interrogation and more like a compelling conversation. Answer questions with an easy-to-listen tonality and rhythm in your voice. Show enthusiasm in sharing your accomplishments with your audience, as well as a genuine interest in learning more about the opportunity and the organization.
  • Provide examples.
    Be prepared to answer typical interview questions with a story about yourself. Cite specific examples of past work experience, activities, and accomplishments that demonstrate you have the right background for the job.
  • Play upon your strengths.
    Perhaps most important, be yourself and play up on your strengths. Know your weaknesses, but don’t get stuck on them. Talk candidly and briefly about any challenges you may have faced — as well as the steps you took to resolve them. Being able to demonstrate your ability to learn a new skill or task — or respond quickly to address an unexpected situation — can be helpful way to communicate your ability to adapt to change.
  • Use numbers.
    When appropriate, cite metrics. Did you implement a $20M+ enterprise resource planning (ERP) project across four national offices? Were you responsible for introducing 14 new products that ultimately doubled business growth in just four years? Maybe you implemented a solution that cut customer call waiting times in half? Find ways to weave numbers into your conversation. Being able to quantify your achievements can be a powerful way to create impact and be memorable.
  • Speak their language.
    Use keywords, action-oriented words and phrases that are common for the job and work environment you want. Try to identify situations where you and your interviewer might have shared experiences, interests and/or acquaintances. This can help to build trust in an interview.
  • Ask questions.
    Be sure to prepare a few good questions of your own. Curious about what markets the company may be planning to explore in the future? Want to know about your interviewer’s own experience with the company? Asking questions is a compelling way to demonstrate your interest, create a dialogue, and establish a bond with your interviewer.
  • Practice makes perfect.
    Consider what questions you anticipate your interview might ask. Think about your answers. You may want to ask a friend or family member to help you practice your responses. Not only will this help you structure your preparation, it will also provide you an opportunity to become more comfortable with giving answers, sharing examples, and using the appropriate terminology.

Finally, stay positive! Look at an interview on as an opportunity to communicate, share and learn. Taking the time to think about, talk about, and practice what you want to happen is a great way to enhance your chance of being invited for the next round of meetings.

Happy interviewing!

LinkedIn Invitations: To Accept or Not to Accept?

“Do I accept this LinkedIn invitation?” As a recruiter and career strategist, it’s a question I hear all of the time.

Should I accept an invite from that person who has been following me on Twitter? Or the person I regularly bump into at the gym? What about my boss’ girlfriend who sells tutus and tiaras online?

On the flip side, it can be just as trying to decide when it is appropriate to initiate the connection:

Is it okay to send an invite to Richard Branson? Should I connect with all of the people who work in my company, regardless of department or affiliation? Is it appropriate to connect with the manager who interviewed me for a job this morning?

The question of who to connect with can be puzzling, largely because LinkedIn serves a variety of purposes. It is a social media network, a public platform, and an incredible Rolodex file all in rolled up into one!

What do you want your LinkedIn profile to achieve?

When utilizing your LinkedIn profile, it’s important to consider how you want to build it over time and how it can be used to help you achieve your present — and future — professional goals.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Am I using my profile to build my clout in my current position and organization?
  • Do I hope to attract recruiters and hiring professionals who are using LinkedIn to recruit people with my background and talents?
  • Am I planning to reach out to recruiters as part of my own job search efforts?
  • Am I interested in growing my professional network and expanding my circle of influence in specific areas or industries?
  • Am I looking to secure a Board position or find volunteer opportunities that complement my personal and professional goals?
  • Am I interested in sharing my professional insights and opinions with the world at large in order to better position myself as a subject matter expert?
  • Am I interested in simply communicating that I understand the importance of having a strong online presence and participating in social media?

There are dozens of good, solid reasons to be on — and utilize — LinkedIn. Use your reasons for being on LinkedIn to guide you in deciding what types of invitations you will accept and send.

Accept? Or not to accept? That’s the question.

My advice? Be selective about which invitations you choose to accept. Aside from concerns about privacy or potential spam, you are also opening up your network and sharing your connections with another person — in some instances, a complete stranger. Plus, the quality of people you’re connected with can potentially send mixed messages about who you are as a professional.

Before accepting that LinkedIn invitation, consider the following factors:

  • Is this person someone I already know or have shared connections with?
  • Is this someone who is associated with a company, group, or accomplishment that I am interested in or admire?
  • Is the person’s profile content appropriate and professional?
  • Does the person have a professional picture posted online?
  • Is this person someone I am comfortably being professionally associated with?
  • How might we both mutually benefit from this connection?

Do they pass the favor test?

In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter with LinkedIn suggests applying the “favor” test. Ask yourself, “Would I be willing to do a favor for this person or ask a favor of them?”

These favors go beyond simply accepting the invitation. Would you be willing to learn more about their company? Are you interested in attending one of their conferences? Would you feel comfortable asking them to introduce you to someone within their network? If so, make the connection.

“It’s the people you’d go out of your way to help or whom you trust to go out of their way to help you, however modestly, who pass the favor test,” she says.

When extending an invitation, apply the same thought process and consideration in deciding whom to reach out to. If you do decide to send an invitation to someone you don’t know well, avoid sending a simple, generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” It’s best to include a brief, one-to-two sentence personal message that explains your reason for reaching out.

LinkedIn is a powerful way to grow your network and connect with like-minded professionals, both nationally and worldwide. Whether you accept or extend an invitation, create your connections wisely. Choose quality over quantity. You’ll see how quickly that having the right connections can be a benefit in many ways.

Job Interviews: The Dos and Don’ts of Body Language

You’ve got great skills and experience, an awesome resume, and even references to prove it, but will your body language betray you in an interview? Whether it’s the inability to make eye contact, a limp handshake, or slouchy, sloppy posture, body language speaks so much louder than words and can kill your chances at convincing an employer you’re the right candidate for the job.

Have you heard the saying, “You never have a second chance to make a good first impression?” This is especially true when it comes job interviews. From the moment you walk in the door, say hello, and extend a handshake, your actions and demeanor are being analyzed and scrutinized by your potential employer. Your first impression will be made in about three to seven seconds.

Studies vary slightly, but it estimated that during a job interview about 93% of how you are judged is based on the tonality of your voice and body language. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Like it or not, you’re going to be quickly judged by your interviewer, so you need to make a favorable impression.

Does it sound like too much pressure? Relax! Here are a couple dos and don’ts to help keep your body language in check:

DO show confidence.

Confidence is very appealing and a must during any job interview. The way you stand and hold yourself, your eye contact and smile, the relaxed nature of your face — all say a lot about what you are feeling.
DON’T fidget.
Actions such as looking around the room, rocking back in your chair, twirling a strand of your hair, drumming your fingers or scratching your… well, anything! — all of these may communicate to your interviewer that you have trouble staying focused.

DO sit comfortably.

Sit up straight and lean slightly forward in your chair. This shows that you are engaged and interested in what you are talking about – be it the responsibilities of the job, or your interviewer’s perspective of the company. If you are comfortable with yourself during the interview, chances are in your favor that your interviewer will be comfortable with you.

DON’T sound too rehearsed.

While you do want to prepare and practice what you want to say during your interview, this isn’t a recital – it’s an interview! Be able to articulate clearly about your accomplishments and experience and how your background can bring value to the position.

DO act natural.

Maintain good eye contact and modulate your voice when you talk. Speak clearly, sound natural, and be conversational! If you’re a “hand talker,” go ahead and use them. Hand gesturing often works in people’s favor, but don’t overdo it. Too much gesturing (unless you are interviewing to be a puppeteer) could work against you.
Don’t cross your arms.
Crossed arms may communicate that you are unfriendly, unapproachable and disengaged. Instead, try pressing your fingers together in front of you to form a steeple suggests attentiveness and thought.

DO take notes.

Taking notes is acceptable, but don’t get buried in details. Take just enough to remind you of what has been discussed, not so much that you lose focus of the interview. Notes will help you remember important components of the interview that you may want to mention in your follow up thank you letter. And by all means, you DO want to send a follow up thank you letter within 24-48 hours of the interview.

And finally, do you best to show your earnest interest in the position and potential hiring organization. No matter how solid your skills for the role, recruiters and managers want to hire people that fit into their corporate culture and people everyone will enjoy working with. If hired, it’s your job to hold your own, produce excellent work, while working well as part of the team.

Good luck – and happy interviewing!

The Long and Short of It: What is the Difference Between a Resume and a CV

The words  “resume” and “curriculum vitae” are often used interchangeably. They are both used in job applications and share the same intent — to communicate an individual’s professional background, accomplishments and experience. However, in the world of human resources they are not the same thing. Key differences between the two are length, how they present the facts and the inclusion (or absence) of personal information.

Resume, CV … what’s the difference?

A resume is typically shorter than a CV. It’s a summary that provides a snapshot of a person’s education, work history, relevant skills, and professionals accomplishment. It’s not uncommon to re-organize your resume — or even create several versions — so that it is relevant to the position you are applying for or better reflects the perspective of a company you’re interested in working with.

A curriculum vitae (CV), on the other hand, is typically longer and bears all of your information. It includes every detail of education, employment, achievements, any publications you’ve written for or have been featured in, speaking engagements, affiliations, special training and seminars, volunteer work, etc. Because of its breadth, it’s not uncommon for a CV to be 6-8 pages.

“In the United States, the biggest difference between a CV and a resume is structure,” says Master Resume Writer, Debbie Ellis of the Phoenix Group. “Typically required for medical practitioners and academics, a U.S. CV – when written correctly- follows a very specific, defined order of presentation that, by nature, tends to be quite long. A resume, on the other hand, is a more informal marketing tool that can be written in as many ways as there are writers. It can include anything you want, and be long or short, depending on the mood of the market.”

Which one do I need?

In the United States, most hiring companies will ask for a resume. A CV is often used when applying for academic, education, scientific or research positions. They are also relevant when applying for fellowship or grants. CVs are much more commonly requested in Europe, the Middle East, Africa or Asia.

What information do I include?

In the United States it is not customary to include personal information such as age, race, religious affiliation and marital status. In fact, in an effort to ensure fairness in assessing and reviewing candidates, including such information is generally discouraged. Professional? Yes. Personal? No thank you. As Oprah Winfrey might say… it’s TMI (too much information)!

However, in many foreign countries, the exact opposite is true. It IS customary to include personal information on a CV and can sometimes be your global golden ticket to landing a job. Examples could be your photograph, age, place of birth, personal hobbies and marital status. Yes, that’s right…I did say photograph, age and marital status!

Keep in mind that other countries are not bound to the same Equal Opportunity Employment (EOE) laws we have in the United States.

If you are a candidate applying for international positions, be sure to do your homework and tune in to what hiring companies expect in that country.  You will want to research whether it is best to apply using a resume or CV, what format it should take and what kind of personal information to include.

One of my favorite resources for country specific career and employment  information is Mary Ann Thompson’s The Global Resume and CV Guide. It covers over 40 countries and includes job sources, Internet sites, work permit and visa requirements, and more. She also has an information-rich website,

Have questions or a comment? Please post them below. I’d love to hear from you!