How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

How to Answer the Interview Question “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

This question is a standard interview question…and like every interview question… you need to be prepared to answer it.

Interviewing cWhile not a trick question ….it does give you a chance to torpedo what has otherwise been a good interview.

First – let’s examine what the interviewer is looking for. He or she knows no one is perfect and they are looking for someone who can admit that that they have made mistakes or are not without flaws. The interviewer is looking to see if you “know thine own self”…if you truthfully know those areas where special effort  is called for to address your weaknesses.

If you give an answer like “I really don’t have any I can think of” you come across as either conceited or naïve.

You have them… we all do. Think them through and what you do to address them or compensate for them.

Keep your answers in the professional realm; personal issues should not be raised. The fact that your home is messy or that you hate the traffic you endure to get to work has no place in a job interview discussion about weaknesses. Remember – the interviewer is trying to find out during the interview what they will know for sure about you after ninety days on the job!

Be sure the weakness you identify is one that has been resolved or where you have put into place mechanisms to address it and keep it in the background.

For example – “I used to be too much of a perfectionist – both in my own written work and of those that reported to me. I realized that the important thing is to get the work done error-free and on time or earlier. You can write and re-write until the cows come home – but the important thing is to proof once or twice and if it says what it is supposed to say – great.. shut it down and move on.”

Or – “I used to get upset about co-worker being five minutes late coming to work…after all – I am on time! Then it dawned on me that my co-workers were doing great work…the work got done ….and they weren’t coming in thirty minutes late…just five or ten and they made it up time-wise by often working through lunch. I was taking it personally that they came in late…and in retrospect – that is silly.”

Be sure the “weakness” you are going to disclose is not one that is injurious to the kind of job you are applying for. An accountant who says a weakness is “their obsession with detail” is not helping their cause – accountants need to be very concerned about detail! Rather state the weakness as “I used to check my work over and over to be sure it was perfect. I found out that once I double-checked the foot and cross-foot and carefully scanned the final work product I never made any changes. So I just check carefully and then move on to the next task at hand.”

A side advantage to preparing for this question is that it does give you a chance to examine yourself and re-examine what you have done in the past to address the issue and whether it is truly working or not. If not – here is a chance to further refine what you can do to address the shortcoming or weakness!

Remember – the job interview is “The Bridge Between You and Your Next Job”… you need to be prepared to answer every possible question – it is a critical step to getting a job offer! Some of the questions are easy – this one isn’t – prepare for it!!

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5 Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Your Job!

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Lose Your Job!

Getting a new job is hard work…and you don’t want to undo it by either adopting or reverting to some really bad career habits! Whether you are new to the job….or you are a tenured employee…here are five habits of highly unsuccessful people. Purge them bad habitsfrom yourself and safeguard against them creeping into your daily behavior. These on-the-job-habits are often fatal to jobs …and careers if not corrected.

Fact – when your behavior becomes disruptive to team performance, attitude, moral and overall harmony – the boss’s job is to “fix it”. Often that means firing you if earlier steps of progressive discipline have failed to resolve it.

Fix these five factors in your mind and do a self-examination to see if you are guilty of any of them. Ask trusted co-workers if you are guilty of any of them. Job and career success are dependent on you NOT wearing any of these “hats”.

Keep in mind that the business section of the newspapers and publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Business Week have story after story of CEOs that have lost their jobs due to “management style”. This really means that they couldn’t get along with the right people; they have behavior habits similar to anyone of these five factors!

Ford Motor Company Chairman Henry Ford II fired the very successful Ford President Lee Iacocca with the comment “I just don’t like you” ending years of disharmony between  the two. An extreme example of mannerisms costing someone a job!

1. Gossip. Don’t participate in the chatter than can pollute a workplace. A comment or observation leads to someone turning it into a fact. People start discussing the non-fact and speculating on outcomes. At its extreme it undermines reporting relationships, creates distrust and can destroy the harmony of a team. Rest assured if you participate you will be quoted and if  your boss catches wind of your involvement one too many times … out you might go. The reason?….  “enough is enough”.

Use as your benchmark the “Momma and Washington Post (or your local newspaper) Rule”. Say nothing that you aren’t prepared to see quoted on the front page above the fold and delivered to your mom’s (or your boss’s) front door.

Stay away from those do gossip and if you must interact with them do so only in conjunction to the job to be done. When they raise the gossip factor, simply say “I do not want to discuss that or get into that….and you’d be wise to also do the same”.

2. Assertive or Aggressive Body Language. When making a point don’t stab your index finger in the air like a dagger – it is insulting and overly aggressive. Don’t cross your arms when others are talking – it says “I don’t agree”. Don’t roll your eyes when someone says something your disagree with – it mocks the point they are making. You need to avoid judgmental body language; when it gets to the point that no one wants to interact with you… it might be time for your boss to clean house.

3. Offensive and Inflammatory Statements. Avoid inflammatory statements such as “Let me tell you something” or “Trust me on this”. It isn’t just the words… they are usually accompanied by an assertive approach. When that occurs, it is a total annoyance at best on the part of whomever you are talking to. Purge from yourself those annoying (and predictable) statements and comments.

4. Mood and Attitude Swings. When you are up and enthusiastic one day and moody and uncommunicative the next, it confuses and annoys people. Consistency of behavior is important to teamwork and understanding co-workers. When your presence becomes a drag on others you have become a supreme annoyance to others. No one wants to work with a team member for whom the glass is usually  half empty! When it impacts productivity, it is not uncommon for a boss to step in to solve it…often by termination.

5. Poor Clock Management. Tardiness, late for meetings, reports and work not done on time, not returning phone calls in a timely manner (or not at all!) Reliability and dependability is critical to a team. You waste the time of others when you are not on time. It drives those that are on time nuts! Think “Lombardi Time”* …. 10 minutes early is ON TIME!

OK… unless you have an extremely tolerant boss, five  sure-fire ways to lose your job is to participate in any of these areas. Keep them in mind as you go through the work day and be determined to not let any of them represent who you are!

* “Lombardi Time” comes from a characteristic of the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi (the Super Bowl Lombardi Trophy is named for him). There are lots of different versions of what constitutes “Lombardi Time” as it became known. One is “Ten minutes early or it’s too late.” It became well known that Lombardi expected his players to be 10 (some say 15) minutes early for all meetings – what he actually told them probably varied, so an exact quote may not be possible to determine.

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4 Tips to Successfully Start a New Job!

4 Tips to Successfully Start a New Job!

Top 4Just as there is “only one first impression”…so it is with starting a new job. Start off poorly and you will at best be playing catch-up. You wrote and re-wrote your resume, you interviewed  successfully and accepted a job offer. There is still much to do to leverage that job offer into the next step towards a successful career!!

Print this blog post and carry it with you as you begin your new job. Refer to the 4 tips and be sure you follow them!!

1. Introduce yourself to everyone. Especially those in other departments that you run into in the cafeteria, parking lot, hallways, etc. With the same confident smile and handshake you used during all of your interviews. Have an introductory statement “Hi – my name is Robb Mulberger and I am the new controller  here at XYZ.” Make note of their name and ask where they work in the organization if it is not offered. As soon as you can write it down – in fact you can do it right on the spot with the comment “I have met so many new people here – I want to jot down your name to help me get acclimated!” Enter all of these into your contact list but also prepare a typed “cheat sheet” you will carry with you until you know who is who. Always address people by their names – “Hi Bill”…or “Good morning Susan” – not just a simple “Good morning” –  it will impress folks that you took the time to remember their name, especially those you don’t interact with on a regular basis!

2. Be organized. I use Outlook’s calendar feature synced to my iPhone. I make liberal use of the “alert” feature when adding an appointment or task via my iPhone (“reminder” on your PC’s Outlook access) to prevent me forgetting an appointment or pre-determined action to be taken (make a phone call, mail a document, etc.). I also print the Outlook calendar month-by-month for six months and carry it in my briefcase . On it I pencil in appointments since it was printed as I enter them either via my PC or iPhone. Never throw away past months – keep them as a diary of past events. The objective is to be really organized and never miss a task. Get up to speed with your employer’s internal communications processes (email, tele systems, etc.).

3. Create a job reference manual. In addition to the “cheat sheet” list of names and job responsibility you created, make note of other helpful pieces of information such as your new company’s website and site map to find employee information, mission statement, etc. During the interview and hiring process you no doubt determined how you would be evaluated and what the definition of success in your job is. Write this down in bold ….burn it into your brain… so as you go about your job you are focused on what is important to your success.

4. Listen more than you talk … at least during your first few months on the job. Be sure you know the “lay of the land” before you offer any opinions. Few things are more of a turn-off than a new person becoming a know-it-all! Listen and learn how things are done before you chime in.

OK… 4 tips to successfully starting a new job. Follow them and you will get off to a good start to career success!

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Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Nervous at Job Interviews? Here are Some Tips to Staying Calm and Collected During Job Interviews!

Interviewing can be stressful, especially if you have just started a round of it. Much hinges on how well you do… each interview is usually a “single elimination process” (do poorly and you are eliminated from consideration).

Some interviewers are better than others making you feel welcome…and some are downright brusque!

Hellmans Mayo LidFollow what I call “The Hellman’s Principle” when Interviewing! Mirror what used to be printed on the jar lid of Hellman’s Mayonnaise – “Keep Cool But Do Not Freeze”! (Today it says “Refrigerate After Opening Do Not Freeze” on the label – not the lid).

Follow the following 4 tips to minimize or eliminate the interview jitters:

Tip #1 – Preparation – The first “must” to staying cool and calm during an interview is Preparation. No substitute for it. Anticipate every question you will be asked, draft and re-draft until you have a perfect answer committed to paper…and then repeat it in rehearsal until you can just let it roll off your tongue. If possible, have someone ask the questions and you answer them, referring to your notes if needed – this kind of practice will result you in being able to do so without those notes.

Tip #2 – Be on time… and be at the right place – Nothing can cause you to be more frazzled  than running late stuck in traffic unless you are  late AND you can’t find the address of where you are supposed to be. Many office locations are hard to find: suburban office parks with building numbers you can’t easily see;  confusing street signs; GPS mapping software out of date, etc. If ANY doubt as to where to go and how long it will take to get thee (in traffic!) – do a dry run. And have you POC’s tele number in the phone with you to use to call if in fact you are running late (but don’t be!). Remember – on time is 10 minutes (or more!)  early!

Tip #3 – Dress and groom for success – Your discomfort level will be greatly increased  if you are significantly “under-dressed”. You don’t want to be “a pair of brown shoes in a room full of tuxedos”!. You can’t go wrong with dressing like you are headed to church or to a funeral. Subdued and business-like (not the latest fashions for sure!) is the byword.

Tip #4 – Get your mental game together. Think “I am well rested, I know where I am going and I will be there at least 10 minutes early. I have prepared to answer questions – I have rehearsed them and know them cold. I am dressed for success. There is no reason I won’t do well. I  may not get the job, but I will be a viable candidate for the job. This is not my only opportunity. I am gonna knock ‘em dead.”

Getting job offers entails interviewing… and you gotta be good at it to make the cut. Being your natural self and self-confident will help you master the interview process!

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Don’t Leave $$ On the Table!! – Negotiating Salary For a New Job

Don’t Leave $$ On the Table!! – Negotiating Salary For a New Job

dollar signOK – your job search has been successful – you have a job offer!! Congrats!! What is your approach to NOT leave $$ on the table? … to negotiate the best salary deal you can get?

The time to negotiate salary and benefits is after you have received a job offer. Why not earlier? Because you don’t want to negotiate against yourself. Your employer contact  knows your compensation history and knows the compensation range for the job he or she is trying to fill (and hopefully you know the range also!). This person is aware of all the answers you and other candidates have given during the interviewing process. Your employer contact has also made comparisons of whom else they have been interviewing for the job and how large the pool is of people to choose from (your competition for the job). From this base of information, a decision will be made as to whom to make the offer and at what salary. These factors will determine if the offer is at the high end of the range or not. Another factor that enters into formula is your current employment status; if employed, the offer may be higher than if you were unemployed. The benefit package is probably formula-driven for the position you are interviewing for, so little opportunity to tinker with it.

What then do you negotiate? Actually, very little. If the salary range is $45 – $50,000… and your last salary was $46,500 and the offer comes in at $47,000 or $47,500 – yes, you are disappointed it wasn’t more. Recognize, however that it is an increase and be assured that the hiring official thought it through and felt that the offer was a fair one. In almost every case, the salary detailed in the job offer has been carefully thought through; the employer wanting to pay as low an amount as is reasonable to attract and hire the talent to do the job. If you ask for an adjustment because you don’t feel it is enough you are not sending not the best of messages!

The best approach is to “pre-negotiate” the salary during the interview process.

If the interviewer asks “What salary are you looking for?”

Answer carefully. Hopefully you know the salary range ahead of time. If so, you answer: “Well, I know the salary range is $X – $Y. My last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I would like to be at the high end of your range, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”.

If you don’t know the range, then you answer: “Well, my last salary and bonus plan paid $Z on an annual basis. While I would prefer to make some upward strides, I am primarily looking for opportunity first and am prepared to be flexible about the compensation package”. Never inflate your current or past compensation. It is not uncommon for an employer to ask to see a W-2…and you’re sunk if it doesn’t match what you have said!

By these responses, you have put a salary number on the table.

If for some reason you aren’t asked this question, towards the end of the interview, say:

“We haven’t discussed compensation. What is the range?” And depending on the response, from there offer one of the two responses above.

Keep in mind that one of the advantages of working with a staffing service (shameless plug for NRI Staffing Resources!)  is that they can negotiate on your behalf without you personally interacting with the prospective employer.

Be also aware  that employers wants some consistency regarding salary levels for the same job. It avoids the hard feelings that arise when workers doing the same or similar jobs find out there is a significant difference in their comp compared to others doing the same work.

For further information on the subject – see The Ultimate Job-Seeker’s Guide – Chapter 11- Congrats!! You Have an Offer!! Now what?? Evaluating Job Offers; Negotiating Salary and Benefits.

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The absolute worst – and dumbest – question to ask in an interview!

The absolute worst – and dumbest – question to ask in an interview!

I recently was at a dinner function talking to a senior HR manager at one of the Fortune 100 companies. She was in the process of hiring a new administrative assistant that would report to her.

As is usually the case in most interviews she asked “do you have any questions?” after she had completed asking her battery of questions to best understand the candidate,

You can't be serious!!

You can’t be serious!!

To which the person replied – here it comes – “Yes, I’d like to know how soon I can have a one-on-one lunch with the CEO?”

My dinner companion was stunned!! Had the candidate lost all perspective of what I call “the world of work”?? An AA working for a multi-national multi-billion dollar firm can count on NEVER having a one-on-one lunch with the CEO even if he or she is the AA to a senior corporate manager.

I have heard of many inappropriate questions candidate ask while interviewing… but this one “takes the cake”!!

Other equally WRONG questions you should never ask include:

“When can I count on getting a raise”? The correct question is “what is the performance and salary review process”?

“Does the company have any resort facilities for staff to use”? Dumb question – has no basis on the job-seeking process. You will find out soon enough is such a thing exists …and if you are far enough up the food chain to enjoy it!

“How big of an expense allowance do I get”? The issue of expense allowances only arise in two situations:

You will be traveling on company business …or you are interviewing for a sales position where you will incur everyday expenses (parking, tolls, etc.). The correct question in those circumstances is “How are travel/everyday expenses handled”?

“What kind of charitable work does the company support”? If this is important to you – discover the answer via research rather than taking time in an interview to ask it. Asking the question begs the response – “why – is it important to you”? Which in turn triggers in the interviewer’s mind that you might be more of a social activist than they want to bring on board.

In summary – there are right questions to ask … and there are wrong questions to ask. Be sure you know the difference!! Getting a job offer may depend on it.

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5 Must Ask Questions You Raise in a Job Interview

5 Must Ask Questions You Raise in a Job Interview

The job interviewing process has one objective for you – to get a job offer that is a good fit for you and your career path.

You will be asked lots of questions and as I have discuss numerous time, you MUST be prepared to nail the answers….. every time. You will be evaluated to a large degree on your answers and behavior during the interview. Remember – job interviewing is a single elimination process!!top-5

However, you will also be evaluated  in light of the questions you ask…so let’s review the top 5 questions for you to ask! Each of these questions brand you as a serious job seeker and one who understands that “things may not be what they seem to be”.

1. What is the training or orientation program for the position we have been discussing? Note – if applying for a significant management job – then ask What is in place to get me up and running as soon as possible –  what is your “on-boarding” process?

2. How would you characterize the culture of the organization overall and of the XXX department/division/etc. where I will be working? Formal? Informal? Collegial? Tough – best perform or else?

3. Is it possible that I meet who I will be reporting to during the interview process?

4. What are the areas of performance that – when accomplished to a high degree – will mark hiring me as a successful decision and mark me as a valuable asset? What is important to accomplish in this job; how will success be measured?

5. Based upon the people that have been in this job before – what are the most enjoyable aspects of it and what are least desirable? Are there any hidden challenges to this job that don’t appear on the surface?

My suggestion is to memorize these questions or study them sufficiently that you know them cold. Of course, you can have them in written form in your notes you have before you but you don’t want to appear to be reading them. Referring to them – yes; reading them – nope!

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Successful Delegation Requires a Process

Career success and job success is a function of your skills and abilities. If you are – or ever will be – in a supervisory job… in charge of a project…or chairing a committee… delegation skills are critical to success. Someday getting the job offer you want might hinge upon your ability to answer successfully  the interview question “Tell me about how you delegate – how do you go about it?”! Interview preparation is job search tip #1!

Delegation is universally understood to be necessary to the success of any organizational unit. For delegation to be successful,  however, it must be structured –  a process must be determined and then followed.

To delegate successfully follow these guidelines from MindTools:

1. Articulate clearly the desired outcome. Specify the results that will make the effort a success. Include any “stakeholders” in the discussions leading to the definition of success for the effort. Provide initial timelines and deadlines.

2. Identify the degree of authority and accountability of each person involved.

3. Define who and when are the people involved to:

a. Develop a plan and ask for approval?…or

b. Develop a plan and proceed to implement, reporting status/results on what frequency?

4. Be sure authority and responsibility are in sync; if someone has the authority to act in a particular aspect of the project – he or she is also responsible for the results.

5. Delegate as far down in the organization as possible; the people closest to the action are in the best position to know what will work and what won’t.

6. Make answering procedural questions and clarifying issues a priority of all. You don’t want the process to come to a halt because someone can’t get an answer to a procedural question.

7. Don’t permit “upward delegation” to take place; where someone shifts responsibility upward or to you. When someone comes to see you with a problem  – picture the issue  as a monkey on his/her back. Don’t let that monkey jump on your desk, and then you are left with the monkey (the problem or issue)! Don’t answer such questions – ask questions instead as to possible approaches/solutions until they arrive at one you would agree with….then just nod approval!

8. Focus on results – not procedure, so long as procedures don’t exceed pre-determined parameters (cost, not a violation of any law, etc.). How you would do it is not necessarily the best way – if the right people are in the mix, the “how” should not be an issue.

9. Every now and then – there will be a glitch. That is, “the cow will get in the ditch”. This can be a great learning exercise – instruct whomever of the three-step process:

a. Get the cow out of the ditch.

b. Find out how the cow got into the ditch

c. Develop and implement procedures so it can’t happen again!

10. Have periodic meetings to discuss progress, stressing the objectives and what the desired results will have in terms of payoff for the organization and the team members. Review timelines and deadlines. Be sure to give recognition when earned. Document progress and distribute to all involved.

Successful delegation can only be achieved by understanding that it is a process that needs to be put into place and then followed religiously.

For further reading on the subject – go to http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_98.htm

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Internships – How to Find Them and How to Get One

How to find an internship is a subject of great interest to students; internships  are a great path to getting a job offer!

Internships can result in you gaining great experience as well as being a stepping stone to your first post-college job!

internship-1How do you find them? They are rarely advertised because organizations don’t need to…..employers that offer internships – paid and unpaid – are often swamped with correspondence from students seeking to work for the summer as well as referrals from friends and family.

Many colleges and universities build internships  into their curriculum and that might be a consideration when you are choosing where to go to school … or where to transfer.

What we are going to focus on here is unearthing internships that are not part of a school’s program.

There are several ways to unearth internships…and then be considered for them.

1. Ask fellow students where they and their friends have worked as interns in the past. Ask them to ask their parents where internship opportunities might be found. Ask your school guidance counselor. Have your parents ask their friends and peers the same question.

In other words, mine friends and family for leads.

2. Make a bunch of telephone calls. Call organizations in your general area of interest… with a prepared script. If you are studying accounting with an eye to be an accountant your script might be:

Hello. My name is Robb Mulberger and I am studying accounting at American University. When I graduate I will be looking for a job as a staff accountant. In the meantime I am searching for internships where I can both learn as well as contribute. Does your firm have internships?

If “Yes” then proceed to see how you would apply.

If “No” then thank them, ask if they have any leads for you and proceed to make more calls.

If you make enough calls, you WILL unearth an internship opportunity!

Paid vs Unpaid? – unless the finances absolutely don’t permit it… an unpaid internship that is meaningful is better than any of the standard summer jobs (lifeguard, camp counselor, waiter, etc.). It is much more impressive on your resume, can be a great learning experience and can often lead to getting a job offer upon graduation.

When do you begin the process of seeking an internship. Summer ones are usually locked up by Christmas… so start the process in the fall for the following summer.

For more info regarding internnships check out this University of Iowa post.

Note – when you do land an internship, you are entering the adult world. Dress for it and act accordingly!

Good luck!

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Getting a Job Offer – Avoiding a LinkedIn Pitfall!

Getting a Job Offer – Avoiding a LinkedIn Pitfall!

Let’s talk about LinkedIn photos.  For starters, make sure you have one.  When you reach out to a prospective employer,  they are going to do a Google search on your name and iterations of it; e.g. – Robert Mulberger AND Robb Mulberger AND Bob Mulberger. Your social media profiles speak as to who you are. Look at your LinkedIn  profile.  If you don’t have a picture the employer may feel like you have something to hide.  You don’t, so don’t make prospective employers feel that way. 

Any old photo won’t work.  Make sure you have a good professional picture that wasn’t from a wedding, and where you aren’t cropping out your significant other.  I hope it goes without saying that your significant other shouldn’t be in the picture.  Nor should your dog.  Or your cat.  Or an alcoholic beverage.  And no “selfies”! friendly eye contactMake sure it’s a professional picture. Friendly warm smile. Here is an example of a good picture/smile…as well as one that doesn’t tripangry eye contact the “he looks like a nice guy” meter!

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and you don’t want yours to cost you thousands of dollars by ruling you out of a possible job offer!

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