Attention HR and Interviewees: Great Behavioural Interview Questions

I have some wonderful clients. Once client, let's call her Monique, stays in touch and sends me random info or updates. She is a true networker. Her name stays in my mind even though it's been about two years since I revamped her job search documents.

Last week she sent a LinkedIin message to share an interesting new group. You'll find it at I've long said that the recruitment process is broken and this group is setting out to improve recruitment. I'll see if I can join one of the sessions in the future, out of curiousity.

And then Monique shared with me a site she found with great samples of interview questions. Meant for the recruiter, they are excellent behavioural questions. And, I can actually see how someone being interviewed could use this info to his or her benefit, which I will be sharing with interview coaching clients.

You'll find the list at this URL:

Interview Follies

I've heard it said that the job search is a numbers game. I believe it was Tony Beshara in the Job Search Solution.

It's not enough to send one resume; you must send many. You can't count your success just because you are prepping for two interviews; you must keep applying, as a recent client confided.

My client emailed: "

Wrapped up my interviews (whew). I did well but not sure that I am what they are looking for. One job isn't what they advertised (they are basically looking for a graphic designer) and the other, well the manager who interviewed me was totally disorganised, and made it pretty clear that i wasn't what she was looking for but she wanted to meet me (and then proceeded to read through my resume and writing samples while I sat there)."

I cannot justify why a job posting would claim the department is looking for a Manager of Digital Marketing when the team needs a graphic designer. It doesn't make sense from any point of view.

The second scenario I can explain to some degree. Perhaps there were few good candidates and the recruiter expanded the parameters so that at least five or so candidates could be interviewed. It's a bit of a "job security" strategy.

Sure it's not fair, but it's reality. And hey, it gave my client an opportunity to practice her interview skills (once the manager read through her submission).

It's a similar case with resumes. Not all land in bonafide opportunities. Some jobs are already pegged for an internal (or external) candidate, but to meet corporate policy, the recruitment process must be adhered to. Other job postings are ongoing recruitments for job pools or positions with exceptional turnover; you might hear in six months and you might not hear at all. Others may be "fishing expeditions" by companies who want to see what kind of talent exists out there.

Such is the way of recruitment. Unless you want to don a cape and take on the role of crusading for reform, there's no point in getting upset. Remember that recruitment is a numbers game and keep on going!

Of course, if you are not landing any interviews at all, perhaps you need a champion in your corner. If so, New Leaf would be honoured to work on your behalf.

Answering the question of how you fixed a workplace blunder

I've been asked about my weaknesses and strengths (once being asked to list five of each, which I respectfully reduced to one each), but so far I've not been asked about making a mistake at work.

If I were to be asked that question, my first reaction would be like the fellow in the photo, although I'd keep that scream silent!

The recruiter's aim would not be to count you out or make you feel "less than"; rather, it would be more likely related to a) seeing how you react to a bit of stress and b) tapping into your ability to take ownership and resolve a situation.

In this blog - How to Tell a Story in a Job Interview - the writer takes us through answering this exact question. It's a great read and well told; I highly recommend you read it.

I agree with everything; however, I see that there's a missed opportunity to further build confidence in the job hunter as a suitable candidate. Here's what's missing.

Pull in the Skills

What a great opportunity to showcase why you were able to fix your mistake by using the skills you posess. Pointing out the skills (keep them relevant to the new job, of course) you called on to resolve the issue is essential to continuing to build yourself up as an ideal candidate.

You'll find relevant skills in the job posting, and these can be hard skills as well as soft skills. Hard skills are the job-specific competencies and soft skills are related to personality, qualitites, motivation, and talents.

Now the answer is complete and influential. You've taken the issue of having caused a mistake and turned it into an opportunity to "sell yourself." Perfect!

New Leaf Resumes offers award-winning interview coaching for those who see the need to polish up interview ability.

How to Impress Your Interviewer without Saying a Word

This post is not about how to impress with clothes, shoes, or style; it's not about how to impress with great answers to interview questions.

This post is about how to impress your interviewer with the written word.

It's about a leave-behind document.

A long-time client, currently working in a great role for a leading financial service, let's call her Jill, needed help. We've been working together for 8 or 9 years now, during which time she has transitioned through three positions. 

Jill recently found out her position was being reorganized and was given a few short weeks to find another position within her firm. Thankfully her resume was up-to-date and we only had to tweak it a wee bit to get her ready to apply for a couple of suitable postings that came available. Contacted with an invitiation to an interview, and wanting to make sure she did everything she could to land the job offer, she asked whether I could recommend anything else to help her stand out.

I suggested creating a T-chart, which lists the position's requirements, as taken from the job posting, and matches the applicant's corresponding experience, skills, and knowledge.

Having created one, Jill asked for my feedback on her draft. Here's what I told her.

Make it easy to scan: Keep your info in bullet form. Start with a strong and accurate verb. Rather than "assisted," pin down exactly what you did to assist - organized, researched, took notes, kept team members accountable. And keep the verb tense consistent as much as possible. Usually the past tense, unless it's very much a present and ongoing example where the past tense would be potentially confusing or an outright lie.

Give it oomph: If you want your information to have impact, add context. Maybe numbers, maybe name dropping, perhaps outcomes or results - there are tons of ways to ensure that the reader truly understands what your contributions meant to a division, to business, to a project's success, to the bottom line.

Get specific: Now's not the time for generalities. Rather than referring to "communications," narrow it down. Blog, news release, user instructions, meeting minutes, executive report - these are all communication pieces but each is appropriate for a different kind of job. Select your specifics strategically, according to what is needed in the position to which you are applying.

This kind of document serves a few functions.

1. It shows the interviewer (or hiring manager) how serious you are about the position. You put in the time to communicate exactly how you are well suited for the job, and by extension, how fast you're likely to become fully productive.

2. It distinguishes you from your competition. How many job hunters are going to go to this trouble? Very few.

3. Going through this exercise will help you interview well because relevant info will be top of mind. You'll spend less time fumbling and you'll be more confident as you'll be well prepapred. 

Standing out is not about bringing copies of your resume on fancy paper, it's not about having a graphic resume (unless you're in an artistic field), it's not about impressing with flair, pizzazz, or smoke and mirror tactics. It's about knowing exactly why you'll be great in the job and being able to communicate it.

Give it a try.

Empowering All Through Career Management

The photo is one of me, conquering my fear of heights while scaling Mount Benson in Nanaimo, B.C. Although that time I didn't make it to the top, I did make it a third of the way up and one day I WILL make it to the top, and back down again. It's the return that is scariest as that's when you see how high you are and how far you can fall. But I am determined.

Today a LinkedIn connection, Sunitha Narayanan, a Career Coach based in Cinncinati, challenged me to reply to a question posed on LinkedIn. She wrote:

"So, I am borrowing the ice bucket challenge concept and calling out to Linda Tefend, CMF, Morgan O'Donnell. Katherine (Kit) Prendergast and Stephanie Clark BA, MCRS, MRW to respond to the What If Wednesday post by PROMARK Company. Ladies, I am counting on you! Thanks."

And I replied:

"I love TED talks - what an honour that would be and how lovely to daydream about this "What if" scenario! Thank you Sunitha Narayanan!

I would talk about career management - resume, tracking accomplishments, specific tactics to take at work, interviewing - the whole kit and caboodle of proactively, honestly, authentically, whole-heartedly managing one's career.

No tricks, no pretense, no putting anyone else down, as I don't like that, but easy-to-use ideas that empower the average working person and contribute to his/her sense of worth, and also while respecting others.

Thank you again, Sunitha Narayanan for challenging me to this - it was rewarding to put my thoughts into words!"

That is what I am about; that is what I strive for when serving my clients. It feels good to see it in print! If you have a career challenge that you want to conquer, I'd love to be of service.

The Power of Story in the Resume and Job Interview


Last week I took a class at Waterloo Wellington Community Futures. I take a lot of business development / professional development courses at this fabulous small business help centre. And located in Elora, Ontario. a delightfully charming town, it's doubly the pleasure as I can sneak in some shopping.

Last week's class was on how to speak about one's business not in a dry, technical (and oh-so-boring) way, but in a way that will engage a listener. I learned a great deal. And I could see the benefits of the approach to the job hunter.

Here's the kernel of what I learned: identify a story that epitomizes what you do, and use this story to create intrigue and interest.

For me, it's not about outlining to you what a strategic resume is and isn't, with technical details like grammar, content and context, and so on. It's about sharing an example of how it has worked. Here's one of the stories I crafted as an in-class assignment.

A few months ago, it was the beginning of the summer as I recall, I worked with a fellow, a Senior Vice President who had spent most of his career in the brewery sector. His original resume still held a "Career Objective," which is pretty much passe these days, and his "Professional Experience" was composed in long, dense paragraph form. And I mean long - one position was almost an entire page.

To put this issue in perspective, I recently had a CFO client engage me to condense his resume after a recruiter had one look at long, dense text and declined to review him as a candidate. Absolutly true!

Back to the beer guy. I recreated his resume, modernizing the appearance, categorizing the information, introducing snappy bullets, and just making it far more readable. And off he went to conduct his job hunt.

Last week he sent me a message on LinkedIn. "Oh, by the way," he wrote, "I landed my dream job. I am now leading the largest brewery in the Carribbean."

I live vicariously through my clients!

(I need to share that he gave me permission to use that much detail, as I usually don't.)

And that story, so much more interesting than a technical explanation of "what" I do, demonstrates what belongs in every job hunters' toolbox: stories. Stories about every one of the skills you use in your work and how it has impacted colleagues, clients, decision-making, productivity, performance, and profits.

I challenge each of you to use this approach. And if you need help, New Leaf Resumes is at your service.

Is it a good idea to take a step down to make a step up?

Recently two clients have made decisions to take positions that represented a step backwards. Although there are certainly times when this makes sense, in these cases my instincts say that's not the best strategy.

Here's why.

The first one, as senior manager with global accountability, took a junior management role. This would make sense if a) the opportunity was with one of his identified preferred employers or b) the opportunity was in a new sector that he wanted to transition into. It was neither. Now, only a few months into the job, he has had me integrate this new job into his resume as he wants out. The culture is wrong for him, the position far too junior, and the management style - micromanaging - doesn't allow him to proactively make improvements. All of this makes the possibility of great resume content for the next great job almost impossible to achieve.

The other client is making a transition into a new world, that of HR. She completed her CHRP, achieving top marks, and holds transferable knowledge and skills from her current role, credentials that further sell her into an HR role.

Transitions tend to take longer than lateral or small step up career moves (many factors to consider, so this statement is but a generalization). The typical job search takes 3 to 6 months, with true career transitions coming in closer to the 6-month period. This client wrote to say that she is considering taking a low paying, non-HR position, which is also not related to her previous role in which she achieved  expert-level recognition. This is not a strategic career move. If one is committed to making a change (and she'd be fabulous in HR as her attitude, strengths, and interests are perfect), one really needs to make a full effort, giving it about six months.

(In Canada, EI or severance pay help bridge that time gap, and I do encourage folks not to panic, but to keep working that job search. Life often demands sacrifices: choices mean letting something go in favour of that new "something." One simply cannot "have it all," as some career books suggest.)

In the first case, my senior manager client landed interviews, but only this one offer. My advice is to immediately ensure your interview skills are second to none with interview coaching, so as not to lose out on a great opportunity as the number two choice.

In the second case, my client musn't panic and take the first thing offered (and shouldn't even be applying to low-paying, non-HR related position). A concentrated, dedicated, energetic effort, and strong belief that with a strategic resume a transition is possible - these are the ingredients of a successful job hunt.

As a service provider, I encourage my clients to reach out to me when doubts arise or challenges present themselves. I have oodles of resources ready to share and lots of reasoned and seasoned insights that can overcome negative effects like wellmeaning but ill-informed naysayers. You know, those friends and family members who "read something somewhere" or heard from a neighbour about someone they know who thought s/he could land a job but didn't and is now desitute, last known address a park bench in a local town.

Without a doubt those folks who cannot land interviews were not leveraging the power of the written word (as in a strategic resume), and were not backed by a service provider whose one goal is to see each and every client gainfully employed in his or her field.

Nor did they integrate interview skills that teach them how to sell themselves - their skills, knowledge, talents, strengths, attributes, reputation, and proof of abilities - with coaching from an award-winning employment interview coach - yours truly!

I love helping job hunters succeed and measure my success as a service provider by each individual client's success in landing interviews, and with interview coaching, job offers.

My interview coaching is available to all, whether I helped you with your resume or not.

The Art of the Interview

Next to public speaking, is there anything more stressful than the job interview? Sure the odd interview team makes you feel at ease, but many have you perspiring and stressed out.(There is an interview style called the "stress interview," but the style is not overly popular - thank goodness.)

It's just that so much seems to hinge on how well you do in the interview. Yes, a job offer, but also what that represents: a good living, security, that Tuscan vacation you're dreaming of ... or maybe catching up on bills and rebuilding your savings.

Sheesh! No wonder your armpits are leaking!

Here at New Leaf, I've been building an interview coaching system for some years. I'm so happy to share that it has been formally recognized for its value by Career Professionals of Canada. The other day I received an email from Sharon Graham, Executive Director of CPC, who wrote:

Dear Stephanie,

 Career Professionals of Canada’s Awards of Excellence program was developed to recognize members of our community as Canada’s Top Career Professionals for outstanding performance and contributions to the industry and community.  This year's competition was extremely tight as we were fortunate to receive several excellent submissions.

 It is our great pleasure to offer you congratulations as the 2015 Awards of Excellence recipient in the Outstanding Employment Interview Strategist category.

I'm thrilled! There are few interview coaches in Canada and we are needed, if only to help relieve acute pre-interview stress! But more to the point, to help job hunters jump this final hurdle on the final stretch to employment.

My system marries a generous hour of a lesson in strategy with an eBook that you can refer to time and again. Some clients elect to hire me for another session to practice the tools I taught them and get feedback on their efforts, but many interview happily with the basic lesson.

My system is simply full of immediately actionable tools. In fact, my first-ever interview coaching client literally begged me to take her on as a client  after having been told that she interviews poorly; she was desperate to make that critical transition into management. (I hadn't written her resume and doubted the lesson's impact without customized input, hence my hesitation.)

Can you guess? Yes indeed, she landed the job offer two days after her coaching session. In fact, she received a call on her way home from the interview. And the interview team? They shared that she was the strongest interview candidate they had ever had.

The tools I teach go beyond the job interview: they are equally useful in your annual performance review.

If you're interested, give me a shout!


Post-Interview Wait-a-thon

A client this week lamented on the lack of post-interview manners (on the part of recruiters, alas!). Like being ignored after a date that "seemed to go well but who really knows because s/he hasn't called and it's been a week," being ignored after an interview feels awful, especially if you felt it went well.

The parallels between dating and job hunting are interesting. You put your best face on for both, you stick to safe subjects (maybe no religion or politics on the first date/interview), and then you wait.  A recent Globe Careers article, "Interviewed for a job? Prepare to wait" speaks to the hoops job hunters must be prepared to jump through in today's recruitment process. One line in particular jumped out at me: "... following up within 24 to 48 hours remains critical. Write a personal e-mail to each interviewer, keeping in mind that they may compare notes."

Yup! I agree. To capitalize on the opportunity to pen a potentially tie-breaking email wait until after the interview to see if there's a specific topic or question that requires clarification or amplification. (I had a client who admitted to snail mailing thank you notes BEFORE her interview, hence this clarification on the timing.)

When clients ask for my input, I offer the following ideas:

- a short but specific email is preferred to a generic, cliche-ridden one. Skip the reference to "insightful questions" in favour of "wow, I loved the question about how I handled a Help Desk disaster, and after thinking about it on my way home, it reminded me about the time I ..." You can see how this approach allows you to add valuable info that provides insight into your skills, knowledge, and value in this new position.

- write a separate email to the HR rep and the hiring manager. Each has a different agenda or "buying motivator," and thus your email message to each may differ.

- whenever you're writing a message that you want to be influential, you must account for the recipient's "buying motivator." (Google that! Business buying motivators usually relate to the bottom line: saving money, earning money, saving reputation, earning reputation, etc.)

And if and when they compare emails, rather than identical content, they will have messages that although customized to each reader, build trust by building your brand, reinforcing the overriding message that you are a great recruit.

Marie Burns of TalentAmp of Boston, the recruiter who in this article voiced the opinion of writing emails within a 2-day period, went on to say: "not writing a thank you can lose you the job."

Powerful reason to make the post-interview thank you email a routine in your job search strategy.

Weird Interview Questions

Last week I heard from two clients who are landing interviews and both had been asked weird questions. Like I've said before, synchronicity happens a lot in my world!

BTW, this is a topic that I cover in my interview coaching.

One client, a Marketing Professional, had been asked whether she was a cat person or a dog person. Now, this client is an uber creative who loves working for start-ups, so she is not without creative resources. But even she could not figure out what the interviewer hoped to gain. She knew that cat people are typically seen as being quite independent, and dog people more sociable, but truth is she is allergic to cats and thus has a dog. If you answer the question "incorrectly," you feel like you may have blown your chance, but what is the "correct" answer? Well, it has nothing to do with the actual animal; it has everything to do with your backup reasoning.

The second client, an Engineer turned Senior Product Manager specializing in technical manufacturing products, was asked "If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?" Really? His take on it was that the recruiter was inexperienced. Not having met the recruiter I cannot really comment, but I gotta tell you he may be onto something.

What valuable, critical, insightful info can the recruiter really gain with the answer? Given that most of us do not ponder this question, at all, ever, it would be difficult to come up with a particularly useful answer on the spur of the moment. And again, it's not the actual object that is important, it's the commentary you provide on your choice that gives you at least some opportunity to influence the recruiter's perception of your suitability for the position.

What weird question have you been asked? Did you answer? And if so, how, and were you comfy that the answer didn't blow you right out of the race?

Interview Coaching

In two days' time, I've learned that three very recent clients have all landed interviews! It's so exciting for me as quite often clients forget to include me in their good news broadcast. Most of the time I only hear their story years later when they return for a resume update in preparing for their next step up the career ladder.

The clients really differ. The youngest is a new grad of construction management. His goal was ambitious: to land a few interviews quickly and be in a bargaining position! He has a firm strategy!

The eldest is a seasoned medical professional, internationally trained and moving to Canada in April. He landed an interview for the first position he applied to with his new, Canadianized resume.

And the middle one is again internationally trained, a young woman who moved from Europe to fulfill her dream of living in Canada. She is a marketing and event planning specialist. We haven't even gotten to her resume yet, but I helped her with an online application when she found a job posting for her "dream job." She handled the graphics and I finessed her words. She called me a "writing rock star"! Love it!

Two booked my interview coaching - the two new Canadians - to become familiarized with what to expect and how to approach it. My coaching goes beyond the usual by diving deep into strategy so that no matter what you are asked, you have a strategy to handle it.

It's so empowering and effective! It's not at all about embellishing and certainly requires no "fudging" of the truth. (I never - ever - advocate lying, not even if you've been terminated for cause.)

Once you know what it takes to convey your value, the plain truth will do very well. Here's an example.

I can tell you that I am a skilled resume writer who writes resumes for all levels of clients, along with cover letters and LinkedIn profiles and even complete executive portfolios. I can add that my credentials include certificates from Canadian and American associations.

Okay, that's nice, but that makes me very similar to oodles of other resume writers!

But if I tell you that my clients have a high success rate of landing interviews and making career dreams come true, that I have never yet missed a client's deadline for delivery of documents, and that I support my clients with loads of info on every conceivable topic related to today's job search and recruitment processes - maybe now you're excited!

One last thought: did you know that it's not always the best qualified candidate who lands the job offer but the candidate who interviews best? And that furthermore, this approach translates well into annual performance review conversations?

I'm available for interview coaching for those who are job hunting!

The Best Interiew Tip Ever!

A few weeks ago I wrote and posted a blog on LinkedIn. And today, I received an email from LinkedIn titled "See how your posts are doing, Stephanie."

I get these email updates as I post new blogs or articles regularly. I like to check them out, see how they're doing, read and respond to comments.

Well, did that blog ever hit a nerve!

Previously my most read blog had had 824 views 22 likes and 2 comments. This one, which is titled "Perhaps the Most Important Interview Advice You'll Ever Get," has already had 2889 views, 182 likes and 20 overwhelmingly positive and encouraging comments.

Quite honestly, I almost fainted! LOL That's a lot of traffic and traction in a short time.

You know, I do feel that the recruitment process needs an overhaul.  The "power" lies with the employer, and in my opinion it's ridiculous that job hunters feel like the "poor country cousin" in the process. That is shifting. With baby boomers retiring in an ever-increasing pace, there will be less talent for the positions vacated, and that will restore a much-needed balance.

Have a read of the article as it definitely is amongst the best interview tips you're likely to read!

What not to say when interviewing for your dream job!

I like to see what other blogs write about, and these often spur an idea of my own, which is precisely how today's blog evolved.

Although all 30 points are good, the one below reminded me of a client from years ago. (To read the article go to 30 Things You Should Never Say in a Job Interview.)

23. “What the hell!”

You’d think not swearing is Interviewing 101, but you’d be surprised how often people still do it. Even if your interviewer drops a few S- or F-bombs, you’re better off keeping your language PG.

Some years ago I worked with a Toronto-based headhunter, who has now changed vocations, but who back then recruited candidates for top Canadian employers, among these a well-known furniture store (the one that has the best commercials)! This company doesn't recruit much as turnover is low. It's an awesome place to work!

The headhunter sent a client my way for a strategic resume and cover letter, a young woman who was quite talented in terms of bringing value to the workplace, with quantifiable accomplishments. I gathered these, created her resume and cover letter, and you guessed it, she landed an interview.

And promptly blew this awesome opportunity by swearing in the interview!

My recruiter friend even got a call from the company's hiring manager, wondering what he was thinking, sending over a candidate that clearly did not fit the company's ideal staff profile.

Funny thing was, she dropped no bombs in our conversations, or I would have alerted her that she must not swear in an actual interview, nor did she swear when conversing with my friend the headhunter.

Go figure. Opportunity of a lifetime lost to poor judgement.

Job Interview - Great Answers Great Questions

I am just beginning my reading and review of the McGraw Hill Education publication (thank you to McGraw Hill for sending me a copy of the new 2nd edition for review!), Great Answsers, Great Questions for Your Job Interview (2014).

So far I am loving what I am reading! Kudos to authors Jay Block and Michael Betrus!

Chapter One provides a fine overview of how to research the company that is interviewing you - you've got to check that out, but what got me excited was Chapter Two, "Identifying Company Culture."

I believe that this is a critical first step in not only preparing for the interview, but for composing the resume! Yes! If you don't take into account the type of culture in which you would be most happy and effective, you may just accept an offer from a company that is the opposite. Jumping from the frying pan into the fire, as the saying goes. That's not a good strategy for long-term career management.

"First, there are two types of cultures to be aware of: company culture and the manager's culture."

Absolutely. I have had plenty of clients who say they liked the company, supported its values, were in sync with benefits and so on, but didn't get along with their manager, director or VP. This happens, and that level of culture is only worth investigating when contacted for an interview. The book suggests online research, asking questions in the interview, looking at the dress code, picking up on vibes even!

But the larger culture should be considered before you apply. I suggest that for the purpose of your job search, knowing yourself and conveying, in subtle terms, your motivation, your working style and so on will attract like-minded interest. Will it turn away some potential interest? Yes, but that's a good thing. Better to reel in an interview call from a company that has similar values and style than to share a resume that either pretends you are someone else or neglects to include this level of insight, which leads to being snagged by a company that is so not "you" that you have little chance of success.

Why will this work? As the authors say "When people enjoy what they do and their environment, they perform better." Employers and recruiters know this well and select a candidate purposefully. They want to see engagement, passion for the work, and yes, a great fit for the team!

I'll be writing more on this book over the next few months, so stay tuned for updates on interesting topics like what employers are really looking for and alternative interview models, like group interviews and the telephone interview!

Mark your calendars

Yesterday I devoted some time to listening to Career Professionals of Canada's incredibly generous presentations, recorded in celebration of this Canadian leader's 10th anniversary to coincide with Canadian Career Week 2014.

As one of the presenters, I got a sneak preview. And I was blown away by how comprehensive, generous, and useful the many presentations are!

From career management to job hunting to the job market scene, there are six broad categories in all with several presentations within each that develop the different aspects of the topic.

The three recordings in which I participated include:

Different People, Different Challenges - Stephanie Clark: Dealing with Barriers in the Resume

Generational Career Intelligence - Stephanie Clark: How New Grads Can Stand Out

The Resume that You Need Today - Stephanie Clark: How to Showcase Transferable Skills

These recordings will be available - free of charge - for the week of November 3rd.

Mark your calendars now! This link will provide you with more information:

"See" you there!

Words to Avoid?

Yesterday I conducted an interview strategy coaching lesson. The client who hired me wanted to make sense of some of what she'd been reading on the internet. Most of her questions were based on fear: fear of saying something wrong, fear of alienating an interviewer, fear of losing an opportunity.

"I read about words that recruiters don't like, like 'results-oriented' that were in a list of words that you should avoid. I wouldn't want to use one of these by mistake in the interview. What do you think?" she asked me.

(My initial response is not fit for quoting in the title of this post - I have strong feelings about some of the fear-mongering messages on the internet today, especially as they concern job hunting. Looking for work is stressful enough without worrying about silly stuff like this.)

It's nonsense. My suggestion was that she be truthful and authentic to her strengths, talents, skills, knowledge and passions. "If you are results oriented," I said, "own it, speak out and say so, but be ready to prove it."

I don't believe that an arbitrary list of words must be avoided simply because the words are over-used. However, I do believe that if you don't or can't back up the claim with examples from your career, you need to avoid the terms in favour of ones that you can back up.

However, here are two words that you could strive to avoid on the resume and interview.

all - as in responsible for all reception duties (as a receptionist) It is an unnecessary word that uses valuable resume real estate without adding any substance.

just - as in "I am just doing my job." This word infers that it's nothing at all and belittles your contributions, which is not in sync with the idea of "selling yourself" in a job search.

The cow? Well, I felt rather "in your face" with this post, hence the bovine close-up!

Why you didn't get an interview for an internal posting

You thought it was straightforward: you work there, they know you, you'll get an interview. But it didn't work out that way and you did not get a call to an interview. How can that be?

Some years ago, while still working in the corporate environment before I launched my own business, I learned of a new position that was being considered. Genuinely interested in it, I went to my boss for advice, asking what kind of training I might need to position myself as a viable candidate. Unfortunately he told me that this new position was unlikely to become a reality and that I shouldn't worry about it.

A year later another internal applicant landed the newly created, well-paying, create your own job description position. Mmhmm. Which brings us to reason number one.

1. An internal candidate is already pegged for the job. Sometimes it's obvious and other times, not at all obvious. I had no idea and quite honestly, to this day, I do not see a good fit between the successful candidate's personality and history, and the needs of the position. These things happen, though, as recruitment isn't always fair, equitable, or predictable.

2. Corporate policy dictates you have to have been in your position a certain length of time before you can begin applying to internal postings. Such was the case recently in a career chat. A fairly new employee, already showing promise in accomplishments, was not invited to an interview after applying to an internal posting. Often written in formal policy, perhaps sometimes in unwritten guidelines, it makes sense to keep a new hire in his/her position for a specified length of time, given the cost of onboarding/training and workload.

3. You may be working under someone who is threatened by your skill, doesn't like you, or has ego issues that don't support staff advancement. It happens. To circumvent this situation, join committees, be vocal in meetings, speak to HR about your ambitions in the company, and get to know those in other departments and your boss's boss, so that one person's lack of support cannot hijack your career.

4. It could be that your resume is so poor that you knocked yourself out of the race! I had a co-worker who confided in me this exact scenario. He'd been told that he didn't get the job because his resume was "mickey-mousish." Ouch. Even though his work was well regarded, a lot more goes into the recruitment process, especially where transparency is a requirement. The resume must be justifiable in case it is contested. There are lots of qualified applicants for most jobs, so why take the chance on a hire that might cause work later, in trying to defend the hire of Applicant A over Applicant B, equally talented and accomplished, whose resume positively sings out amazing value?

Bet you haven't heard these interview questions before!

I'll qualify that headline by saying that if you apply to highly regulated employers - government, unionized, military - you're unlikely to hear these questions, as they are not as easy to evaluate as "This position requires a hightened ability to (insert). Please tell us about a time when ..."

No, these questions are different. I found them in this article: These 8 Questions Reveal the Most About if You'll Get a Job. These questions require you to know yourself.

What's Your Brand?

In my opinion, this question restates the traditional "Why should we hire you" or "What do you bring to the table" kinds of questions. The word "brand" demands that you communicate what makes you different from your competitors. Are you able to do this?

"If you found $5,000, no strings attached, how would you spend it?"

The article's example points at the value of spontaneous creativity that the answer may elicit. Obviously creativity is not part of every job, nor does every recruiter value creativity; some may value process, responsibility, and reliability more. Perhaps that recruiter would rather hear that you would pay off debts!

"If your best friend was sitting here what would s/he say is the best part about being your friend?"

Wow, that's a toughie! At least I think it is. One recruiter suggested it stirs an honest and candid reply and thus provides insight into whether you fit the corporate culture.

These questions may or may not work as suggested and the reason is that recruiters are human, possessing human idiosyncracies, bringing personal experiences, dragging personal baggage that influences their perception and interpretation, making it impossible to know what is the "perfect" reply.

But that's not the point! These questions, as the article suggests, are about evaluating "fit," a critical component of the interview process. I recommend replying in an authentic, truthful manner. Just be you!

(If, however, you have specific obstacles to your employment - lack the credentials you think are required but have tons of experience; lack the experience but have state-of-the-art credentials, worry about the few years off work while you studied, travelled, took care of a sick relative or got through your own illness - there are strategic ways to reply to questions that touch upon these potential interview landmines!)

Maybe your issue is that you really don't know yourself well enough to reply to such questions? You're not alone! I have many clients who are light on their ability to define themselves. They can list their hard and soft skills, but really fall short of being able to share their talents and personality in a meaningful way. And knowing these would really help in replying to unusual questions.

So what's the most unusual question you've ever been asked? Send me an email and I'll share a 9-page interview strategy report as a Thank You!


Three Benefits to Interview Coaching

I have offered interview coaching for some seven years now. I love empowering my clients with this critical career management skill. And yet, I honestly don't feel that enough people engage me for this service - I wish all but the most articulate and strategic communicators booked an interview coaching session. Those that do sign up for interview coaching reap the rewards with confident skills that lead to great offers. Here are three of the benefits to taking a one-hour interview coaching session.

1. Calm those nerves. Many of us get a wee bit nervous before or during an interview. And even those who are pretty chill about a job interview can all of a sudden find themselves sweating and fretting when asked a question that spurs no answers, or if challenged about an aspect of their background that they were not prepared to address! My approach is to teach strategy and what this means is that no matter what you are asked, you can come up with an answer. Yes, no matter what.

2. Wow the interview team. Yes, I will teach you how to "wow" the team without hoopla, boasting, or bringing flowers, chocolates or passes to an event! (I don't endorse unusual tactics.) Impressing an interview team has to do with knowing what to communicate, how to articulate it, when to stop, and when to add more. It's also about how to skillfully deflect a potential negative like lack of related experience, lack of Canadian experience, missing credentials, employment gap and so on. I teach all those things.

3. Apply the skills beyond the interview. Mmhmm. The interview strategies I teach are career management skills. Communicating your value goes beyond the interview. Imagine impressing your boss during your annual review? Or structuring an influential informal presentation during a departmental meeting? Or knowing how to approach your boss for a well-deserved raise?

The job search isn't about spending hours on the internet, researching the newest job search techniques (I've seen too many of these flame and extinguish without ever catching); it's not about wasting time on the internet reading about the latest doom and gloom unemployment figures or "must do's" (a sure path to depression or utter confusion!); it's not about asking your friends, family and neighbours for advice (likely negative, conflicting and plain wrong). I'd suggest that finding a trustworthy source for reasoned and seasoned expertise will get you a lot further faster. Just sayin'.

Sun Media artice - Group Interview Ideas

New Leaf is quoted in a recent Toronto Sun "Careers" article on how to stand out in a group interview. 

Stand out from the crowd 's freelance author Joanne Richard has written a great article  that explains the reasons why some companies select this form of interview to begin their selection process, as well as the strategies that will help you, if you're asked to attend one of these, to shine!

From the article:

Actioncoachcanada.compresident Brad Sugars inter-v iews in group settings because this allows managers to evaluate leadership qualities, team player attributes and see firsthand how you communicate with others.

From someone who has experienced many group interviews:

A group interview can be tough because although you want to stand out to employers and share what you have to offer, you are competing for their attention with others who are trying to do the same thing. There is usually limited time, which adds even more pressure.

And to learn what I had to say about how to relieve the pressure, you'll have to read the article. Just click on the article's title, Stand out from the crowd, above, for access to the PDF.