30 Career Related Questions You Were Afraid To Ask
(Here are the answers…..)
In the years that I’ve been advising people on job hunting, CV writing and interview coaching, I’ve collected the most popular questions most people are afraid to ask. I hope you find them useful.
1: I’ve been out of work for six months. How can I jumpstart my job search?
A: First, make sure you’re not limiting your search. I recommend for starters using your contacts to network. Ask friends and family to let you know about jobs that are advertised where they work. You can also speak to recruiters at recruitment fairs and employer presentations. In addition, register your details on job boards and you’ll be informed about any new jobs straight away. Tap into social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to connect you to a wider pool of contacts. You can also use Twitter to search for someone who works at a company you are interested in or to search for recruiters. Also make sure you update and customise your CV and cover letter.
2: Everyone is doom and gloom about the job market. Are companies really hiring?
A: Yes, companies are still hiring even though the economy is not especially great right now. Companies know that to stay in business they have to be planning for their company’s future, which means attracting and retaining the best talent. If you search the major job boards like www.totaljobs.co.uk and www.monster.co.uk you will see some of the big name employers recruiting.
3. I have a degree but no work experience. What’s the best thing to do?
A: If you have the qualifications, but lack the experience, consider volunteering, charity work or internships with local businesses to build up your experience. Breadth of experience matters more than length of time. You may also have some valuable experience you haven’t even thought of for example being a member of clubs or captaining the sports team. This can show your commitment and leadership abilities.
4. My qualifications aren’t up to it, should I apply anyway?
A: Anything expressed as necessary in a job description means just that and recruiters are unlikely to consider candidates that don’t have exactly what’s specified. However, if you have a lower grade of qualification than the one advertised but some related experience it may still be worth applying. Highlight in your CV and cover letter what your relevant skills are and how they match the requirements.
5. I remember reading that only half of vacant positions are actually advertised. How are the rest of the positions filled?
A: It’s true about half of all job vacancies are not advertised anywhere. Companies usually advertise internally on notice boards or take on people who have already contacted them. Ask friends and family to let you know about vacancies that are advertised where they work. Many companies have an Employee Referral Programme where your friends or family can earn some money for referring you.
6. I am a recent graduate and have been applying to advertising graduate training schemes but have not had any success. What should I do?
A: Advertising is highly competitive and you might want to consider related fields where you can hone these skills while you continue to apply for your dream job. Unpaid work shadowing is a good way to gain experience and make contacts. Also, don’t only consider graduate training schemes, there are plenty of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) who take on graduates.
7. Is it fair for recruiters to use Facebook profiles as a means to decide whether to hire you or not?
A: Personally, I wouldn’t look at candidates’ photos on Facebook. But your potential employer may just take a little peak at your photo before they hire you and be influenced by what they see. Remember, first impressions count and this may well be a recruiters first impression of you!
8: I keep sending out my CV but getting rejected. Why?
A: Check your CV for typos, abbreviations and technical jargon. These are always in the recruiter’s top lists of pet hates. Have you highlighted your specific achievements that are relevant to the job? Your CV is about you and your results and not about the jobs you did. Are your skills a match for the job requirements? You should aim for a 70% match in terms of your experience and skills. Recruiters don’t have time to sort through hundreds of CVs that are in no way a match for the requirements they are trying to fill.
9: I want to change careers. What do I need to change on my CV?
A: Think about the CV format that is most relevant. If you have no direct experience of the job you’re applying for, a functional CV is the best idea. This places emphasis on your skills and achievements you have used or learned throughout your entire career rather than listing your experience chronologically. Because your previous jobs may not have any direct relevance to your new career, it’s worth switching your CV around so the skills section is the first thing a reader sees. Include a career objective at the start of your CV to make your new direction clear and pick out the skills and achievements that are most relevant to your new career. Describe what you’re looking to achieve in your next role, as well as highlighting any experience in a different field that might still be appropriate in the job you’re applying for. You will also need to rewrite sections of your CV where you’ve used technical jargon and keywords related to your current role so it has broader appeal.
10: I had a job that lasted only four months – can I leave it off my CV?
A: If the job you had is not related to the job you’re applying for and it was for less than six months, then it’s okay to leave it off or you could say you took this as a short term contract or as a networking opportunity. However, if the job is important to your skills, then you may have to include it and explain why it was so short.
11. How long should my CV be?
A: On average recruiters take 15 seconds to decide whether to screen a CV in or out. Keep your CV punchy and highlight all the relevant skills needed for the job you are applying for. Ideally your CV should be no more than two sides of A4 paper.
12. A lot of people say I should exaggerate the truth on my CV, what do you think?
A: Obviously, you have to describe yourself in the best possible light. But avoid the temptation to go too far. Recruiters are not stupid. They can spot information that doesn’t stack up. They’re always on the look out for inflated qualifications, salaries, job titles and achievements and it’s becoming more common for companies to do background and reference checks prior to hiring.
13. Why should I use a professional CV writing service?
A professional CV can dramatically reduce the length of time it takes you to find a new role and can have a direct impact on your salary potential. It also pays to have your CV written by someone who knows what recruiters look for. The cost of a CV should equate to less than 1% of your new salary. If you are planning to use a CV writing service, remember to check their background and whether they have experience in your industry.
14. Should I include a photo in my CV?
Do not put your photograph on your CV. No matter how attractive you make yourself look, it will not improve your chances. Candidates are judged based on their skills, education and work history and not on race, sex and age. The exceptions are jobs where you wouldn’t be considered unless you have certain attributes e.g. appearing on a reality TV show!
15. What do recruiters look for in a CV?
Your CV should include your name and personal details at the top and be tailored to the job you are applying for. It should include education, work experience, interests and achievements and skills. You can supply references later. Your CV should be easy to read and clearly highlight your relevant skills and experience to sell you into the role you’re applying for.
16. I was fired from my last job. Should I tell the truth in my interview?
A: You should be truthful. You never know when someone might call up your old employer looking for a reference. If they find out you were lying about being fired, you’re going to lose all credibility. If prospective employers ask what happened, be careful not to say anything harsh about your old company – keep it brief and keep it simple. You could say that being fired helped you to realise that it’s time for you to move on and you are now looking for a new career that’s right for you.
17: I am overqualified for a job I’m interviewing for. How should I position this in an interview?
A: The interviewer’s main concern will not be around your ability to do the job but around your commitment to the role. They will be concerned that you will get bored and leave as soon as something better comes along. Be clear about your reasons for applying and be honest. Talk about what you like about the position and explain about any changes in family life, financial circumstances or a desire for a less stressful job. These are all genuine reasons and will not prevent you from getting the job
18: I get so nervous before I go into an interview. How do I keep calm and control my nerves?
A: Take two deep breaths before you start, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This will encourage you to slow down when you start to speak and help you create a more confident first impression. When you first start to speak, it helps to pause at the end of your first sentence for a couple of seconds. This will help you to control your pace and you will be less likely to speed up once you start speaking. Pausing also gives you time to collect your thoughts and you will be less likely to lose track of what you are saying or for your mind to go blank. Before your interview, brainstorm all the difficult questions you could be asked and practise the answers until they are very familiar. Having prepared answers to hand can help you to avoid any mental blockage which can happen when you are under pressure.
19. What is an interview coach and why should I use one?
A: An interview coach empowers you to do your absolute best during an interview to get the job you want usually through role plays and feedback. Studies have proven that by using an interview coach you can get a job up to 45% quicker. I’ve personally coached 100’s of job seekers on how to improve their interviewing skills and my clients have been offered jobs with top companies. Ultimately, the value of the interview coaching depends on the coach’s experience so check whether the coach has had real life experience interviewing and hiring for companies
20. What’s the proper way of handling the what are your greatest weaknesses question?
A: You should select a weakness that you have been actively working to overcome. For example, I have had trouble in the past with time management. However, I’m now taking steps to correct this. I have been on a time management course, have been making to do lists and learned effective delegation techniques. It’s best to avoid a generic answer like “I’m a perfectionist” and chose a weakness that’s not too serious and won’t affect your performance on the job.
21. I’ve been on several interviews, and I haven’t landed a job yet. Can you tell me what’s wrong?
A: The interviewer wouldn’t have brought you into an interview unless you were qualified for the job. It’s likely that something crucial wasn’t said or demonstrated during the interview. An interview checks the competencies of candidates and shows employers your motivation and ability to fit into the company. You should always ask for feedback and this may indicate something you can easily improve or provide useful tips for future interviews.
22. I have been invited to a situational interview. What is involved and how should I prepare for it?
A: You will be asked to respond to a job specific situation you may face on the job. Situational interviews are designed to draw out your analytical and problem solving skills as well as how you think on your feet. To prepare, review your past work experience and the steps you took to solve problems. Have some antidotes up your sleeve so you can incorporate them into your answers to show you’ve had experience handling similar situations.
23. What questions should I ask the interviewer?
A: Anything relating to the team/department the job is in e.g. how many other people are in the team? What are their roles? What is the structure of the department? Anything related to the job. What are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job? What kind of work can I expect to be doing the first year? Anything related to the company. What are the company’s plans for the future? And lastly, do you have any concerns about my ability to do this job? When can I expect to hear from you?
24. I am sitting some psychometric tests next week. Any advice on how I can prepare for them?
A: The first thing I would advise is to find out exactly what tests you will be sitting. There are a variety of tests on the market personality, verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning. For numerical tests find out in advance if you can take a calculator with you and plan your time carefully. Don’t spend too long on a single question. Brush up on the calculation of percentages, ratios and interpreting graphs. For verbal reasoning tests read some relevant business reports to familiarise yourself with the style and for personality tests answer the questions honestly. They are harder to prepare for but there are no right or wrong answers and no real time limit. Try to practise some tests or at least some sample questions beforehand at http://www.shldirect.com
25: I’ve just been made redundant. What should I do next?
A: While there is nothing you could have done to avoid losing your job, there is plenty you can do to help you get a new one. Retraining or improving your skill set is one of them and this is one of the best ways to spend your free time as you search for a new job. Make sure you spend at least 30% of every day trying to find a job. That means working on your CV, getting your cover letter finished, sending out your CV, searching the web for jobs and networking. Spread the word that you are looking for a job among your friends, family, former co-workers and join online networking groups like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You could also look at temporary work which is a good way of getting back into the job market. It gives you an income and also ensures CV continuity.
26: I’m currently working in a job that was very enjoyable, but is not now thanks to my new manager. What should I do?
A: It all depends. Take a long hard look at the situation. What is it about your manager you don’t like and can you find a way to live with it? If you really love your job it might be worth it. You should also try to address your concerns firstly with your boss and then if nothing changes with Human Resources. Before you do this make sure you have the documentation, are able to describe what you’ve done to try to solve the problem and know what you are asking for e.g. a transfer.
27. I just had a bad appraisal with my boss. What should I do?
A: Think about what concrete steps you can take to improve your performance and ensure that your improvements are noticeable. Remember that you don’t have to demonstrate things in the next week. After about 3 months, ask your boss for feedback on how you are doing on the specific issues that were addressed.
28. Why should I use a career coach?
A: Expert career guidance is essential if you want to maximise your career potential. The job market is full of rewarding career opportunities but it’s also increasingly competitive. Career coaches can help you plan a change of direction, get your career off the ground with job hunting tactics, identify your career options and provide recommendations for your career development.
29. I’ve been in my current role for two years and my boss has gradually handed me more and more responsibility without a promotion or change in job title. Is it unreasonable to ask him for more money?
A: Ask yourself is it more money that you want or is it appreciation. A change in job title could help if more money isn’t an option. Many companies are still recovering from the recession and can’t afford pay rises. At your next appraisal talk about your future with the company and see how you can progress. A helpful tool for salary comparison in your industry is www.mysalary.co.uk
30. How do I get good work references if I’ve been at university and don’t have work experience?
A: You can use university tutors, mentors or get a character reference from a family friend that works in a business. You don’t need to stipulate who your referees are on your CV. Just put at the bottom of your CV that you do have referees available to be contacted if necessary. If your future employer wants to take up references, warn your referees and find out how they would prefer to be contacted.