Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Interviewing: Tell Me About Yourself

Most interviewers will start with a request to “Tell me about yourself.” Even though it is an easy request to anticipate, it often causes undue stress and anxiety, resulting in rambling responses that include complete life stories. With a little preparation, you can use this question to clearly articulate your strengths and accomplishments, setting a confident, positive tone for the rest of the interview.

To craft a strong response, start by carefully reviewing the job requisition, researching the employer, and asking these questions:
  1. What strengths do you have that are pertinent to the position? (3-5)
  2. What are key accomplishments that have benefited past employers and are relevant to this position? (1-2)
  3. What personal traits (or soft skills) do you have that complement your other skills?
  4. What educational credentials enhance your employment background? (diplomas, degrees, and professional certifications)
Create a script including information from your answers.  Keep your response relatively succinct. It is surprising what can be said in just 30 to 45 seconds.  For example:

My passion is numbers. With more than five years experience in accounting, I have been recognized for completing complex accounting projects under stringent time restraints. In my current role as a fund accountant, I generated over $230,000.00 in cost savings by identifying expense reduction opportunities. I enjoy collaborating with others to understand my employer’s pain points and addressing problems head-on.  My bachelor’s degree in accounting is a strong foundation for my accounting career and I am currently on track to obtain my CPA License by this October. 

In most instances, avoid sharing personal matters or ancient work history. Instead, focus on highlighting:
  • how you can do the job
  • what you have previously accomplished 
  • how you can help the organization
Practice with your script until you feel confident, but avoid memorization. Your response should sound natural and conversational. With a thoughtful, prepared response, you are bound to make a memorable and positive impression.

For additional interview preparation resources or to schedule a mock interview, please contact WGU Career & Professional Development. We are here to help.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Types of Cover Letters: Pain Letter

A cover letter can be a vital tool for setting you apart during a job search. The key to a great cover letter is that it has to be to targeted specifically towards the company and job you are interested in. Templates rarely work well in any form and especially not for a cover letter. Many employers have admitted they do not read cover letters because they are often boring and unoriginal. Everyone wants to feel special and companies are no different. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to research the company in detail. Read about the company culture, community outreach, press releases, awards received, and, if possible, connect with people who work there to gain additional insight about the company. Targeting your cover letter may seem a bit time consuming but it will pay off in the end.

There are several different types of cover letters. A pain letter is one example of a cover letter you can use when applying to jobs that will help you stand out.

Pain Letter – Designed by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, this non-traditional cover letter will certainly grab the hiring manager’s attention. The idea around this letter is that companies hire people who are able to solve problems for them. Every company has a set of challenges or “pain” that they are experiencing at the moment. Your job is to position yourself as the solution to the “pain” they are experiencing. There are 3 short paragraphs to this approach.

The 1st paragraph grabs the reader’s attention by mentioning the hiring manager by name and talking about a specific accomplishment the company has achieved. Again, this will require some research to find out who the hiring manager is. You can usually find this information on the company website, LinkedIn, or conducting research online. You can find out specific information about the company achievements on their website under press releases.

The 2nd paragraph addresses the business pain. This is where you make an educated guess as to the challenges the business may be facing. Maybe they are growing and they will need great new employees. Whatever the case, during your research you will spot trends on the happenings inside the company or you connect with a company insider to find out more information about the challenges.

The 3rd paragraph talks about a time when you experienced a similar challenge that the company may be facing and you were successful in addressing that challenge. Finally, you close the letter with a few sentences about the next steps in the interview process and request a meeting.

Look for more examples of non-traditional cover-letters in blogs to come. In the meantime, WGU’s Career & Professional Development Center has put together all the resources you need to feel confident and prepared!  Review WGU’s cover letter resources to help you create a compelling letter. For a critique of your resume or cover letter or individual assistance in creating your own pain letter, contact your WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist.