Polishing Your Job Search Skills – Part One

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Interviews With OFE Staff

We talk a lot about interviews on this blog, and no wonder! Interviews are a key piece of the job search process. Whether you speak to someone in person, over the phone or through video conference, knowing how to present yourself well gets you one step closer to a job. Now that you know the basic elements of an interview, we can get into the nitty-gritty – answering interview questions.

On the blog today is part one of my interview with Dylan Soriano, one of the facilitators who teach job search courses at OFE. Usually he spends his time outside the classroom preparing for the next one, or helping our participants practice for specific interviews. Below he gives a sneak preview of topics he covers in the Self-Marketing Preparation Workshop. Want to know more? Ask your Employment Consultant (EC) to sign you up today!

What interesting things have you noticed about the interview world recently?

For starters, interviews are mostly being done remotely through Zoom, Skype, etc. due to Covid-19. This will likely continue even as we transition back into the real world, so spend time familiarizing yourself with these programs, and how to interact with others through them.

You may also notice a decline in in-person interviews to ensure social distancing measures. Nowadays shaking hands with others is a no-no.

Tell us about your most memorable interview. What made it memorable? What did you learn from the experience?

My most memorable interview was the one I did for OFE because I faced many first time situations:

  • First time an employer approached me.
  • First time applying with a “career-focused” mindset.
  • First time being in a panel interview (approx. 7+ people).

At the time, I didn’t pay attention to my interview or presentation skills, and surprising no one, I wasn’t chosen for the position, but a silver lining happened a few weeks later when OFE reconsidered my application and offered me a job.

This was such an eye-opening experience, and I was able to learn that:

  • Being nice and genuine with others can lead to unexpected opportunities.
  • “Winging it” may not be the best decision to take. Practice and preparation helps a lot!
  • There’s no need to hold a grudge when you get rejected by an employer. Continue to develop a professional relationship, and be optimistic about future opportunities with them.

Alright, before getting to business, for participants just learning how to interview, where should they start?

I suggest taking our Self-Marketing Preparation workshop (in-person or online) because we discuss topics that help with the start of your job search to after the interview. Alternatively, many online articles and videos can help improve your interview skills. Both are great places to start and you can use one to complement the other!

OFE published a post with free online resources that help with job search skills. Job seekers can go there if they’re eager for more after reading this. What common misunderstandings do participants have about interviews?

That the employer leads the interview, but actually it’s the job seeker who decides how the session will go. The employer’s knowledge of them is limited to what’s on the resume and cover letter so they’ll have to highlight connections between their experiences and personality and what’s written on paper in a clear and easy to understand way.

Another is the feeling of “not being good enough”. Though it’s natural to be doubtful of your abilities, keep in mind that YOU were invited to the interview BECAUSE of what you presented to them. So on a base level, you are good enough!

It’s impossible to cover each and every interview question. How do you choose which questions to focus on in class?

I tend to gravitate toward common interview questions first because they appear in most (if not all) interviews. These questions include:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Where do you see yourself in x years?

Afterwards we discuss answer approaches for other questions (behaviour-based, situation-based, oddball, illegal, etc.), which can be used to better answer unique questions as they appear.

What are “illegal” interview questions?

“Illegal” interview questions are questions that address personal identifiers not applicable to the job/company and can include:

  • Age
  • Race/Origin
  • Gender/Sexuality
  • Family Status/Children/Marital Status
  • Physical or Mental Health

If employers ask these questions and they’re unrelated to the job/company, you have the opportunity to respectfully decline answering the question. If you voluntarily share this information employers can address it. If you’re comfortable answering the question, use the “common” interview approach.

It’s good to know you don’t have to answer those if you’re not comfortable. You mentioned using a “common” interview approach. What is that and what other answer approaches do you teach in class?

It’s a two-point approach. You can use it to answer “common”, “oddball”, and “illegal” questions – except “what is your greatest weakness?” which I’ll talk about separately. First, answer the question directly (e.g. “My greatest strength is…”), followed with how that idea will positively impact the job/company OR how it will prevent any negative impact.

For “tell me about yourself” I use a past, present, and future approach. Start with sharing and reflecting on your past experiences. From there, discuss how those ideas will help positively impact this present job opportunity. Wrap up with what you hope to gain or accomplish while working with them.

For “what is your greatest weakness?” I use a three-point approach. Again, start with answering the question directly. Next, share what you’ve done (before the interview) to improve on that weakness, and finally tell them what you plan to do (after the interview) to continue improving yourself.

There’s so much more to say about interviewing (we really recommend you sign up for a Self-Marketing Preparation Workshop!) but we’ll end part one with one last question. What elements should you always include in your answers?

  • Highlight information gained through research (of the company or position).
  • Consider using ideas/stories that can be verified from the resume.
  • If possible, provide examples of you successfully using that skill/qualification. Comments made by others or recognition for it can also be used.

Check back for part two of this interview!

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INBOX AND TAKE YOUR CAREER FURTHER.

Stay up-to-date on topics that can boost your career, give you a fresh perspective on job searching, and help you meet your goals faster.