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Managing Stress During Critical Moments:

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

examsAt exam time the tension and stress in the air is palatable.  I will walk down a hall lined with students waiting to enter the exam room and could hear a pin drop.  It is as if they are not even breathing.  Similarly, I have conducted numerous mock interviews, where the greatest obstacle that the student faces is his/her own nerves.  In these cases I tend to focus more on mindset and less on the content of the answers.

The reality is, if your mind is paralyzed with anxiety and stress, it will not matter how much you have prepared, you will not be relaxed and confident enough to access that information.

Here are some tips to help you prepare for those critical moments, to decrease your stress, and increase your focus and confidence:

Create a plan to study and prepare.  Do your research well in advance.  I have found that I cannot study effectively for more than about 6 hours a day.  Beyond that, I find that my eyes may be scanning the material, but my brain is not processing or storing any of the information.

Be sure to eat properly before you go in for the interview or exam.  This should include plenty of protein to provide a longer source of energy.

Get a good night’s sleep.  Don’t stay up preparing into the wee hours of the morning, what is most likely to set you up for success is rest.  Disconnect from the material a couple of hours before you head to bed, so that your mind can gear down and you can get some restorative sleep.

Instead of getting worked up and anxious counting down the hours and minutes, take yourself outside and go for a walk or a run.  I find that my clearest thoughts come when I am walking my dog.  The combination of increased blood flow, fresh air, and stress relief is great for increasing focus.

Finally, instead of standing silently holding your breath before you enter the exam or interview room, take yourself somewhere quiet and take a few deep breaths and focus on your breathing.  This is proven to slow your heart rate, decrease your blood pressure and enhance your memory.  Going into the room calm will enable you to focus and perform at your optimum.

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What Not to Do In An Interview – The Dick and Jane Series Contd.

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Do not show up late, but don’t be too early either:  Take the time before the interview to find out exactly where you are going and how long it will take to get there and then plan to be there about 10 minutes early.  If you end up getting there a lot earlier, take a breather, go get a drink of water, find a rest-room, but do not head into the main building until about 10 minutes before the interview.  It will seem a little odd if you are sitting in the office for 30 minutes before they are ready for you.

Do not show up unprepared:  You want them to know that you are specifically interested in this job at this company, so do your research.  Read their mission and vision statement, review the job description, find any documents that you can on the company’s strategic plan etc.  Also pay attention to what is in the news that relates to that industry.  You want to be up to date on current affairs and how they may impact the job that you are applying for.  If you are not prepared an employer will feel that you are wasting their time and are not dedicated to the company or this specific job.

Do not chew gum, bring your cell phone in (even if it is on vibrate),  wear perfume or cologne, wear anything too casual or revealing (no cleavage, no baseball caps, no yoga pants [yes that includes lulu lemon]  I don’t care if they cost as much as a suit, they are not appropriate).

Do not ask about holiday time, sick days or other perks during an interview.  This sort of stuff is fair game when you are negotiating a job offer, but not at the point of an interview.  If they are going to be an important factor in your decision to take the job, you should take some time to find out what the salary range is and  benefits are ahead of time.

Do not complain:  Don’t complain about your old job, your current job, your boss, the weather, your cold, how tired, stressed, rushed, overwhelmed, anxious, . . . you are.  Just don’t complain.  Employers are looking for someone that they want on their team, someone who is going to be a positive addition, not bring them down.  Not only is it entirely inappropriate to complain about past employment or bosses, but that negativity will compromise more than just your sanity.

For further tips on interview etiquette check out:

Preparing for an Interview – the Dick and Jane Series:

November 5, 2012 2 comments

I would like to say that this video is an extreme example of what not to do; however, I have been told many tales from employers that make Dick look like a pretty good candidate.

  1. The reality is, like everything in life, you get from it what you put into it.  If you want to impress, take the time to get to know the company that you are interviewing with. Read the mission and vision statement, look for strategic plans and other planning documents that will help you understand what the company’s goals and challenges are.  Stay up to date with market trends and information that may be impacting them at the moment.  If you can reference current conditions in that industry and show your awareness, they will see that you are a focused, diligent and generally aware.
  2. Think of an interview as a conversation about possibilities, a chance to learn and an opportunity to share information. Make the most of your interview: relax, take the time to respond clearly, and be yourself. The more worked up you allow yourself to get about an interview, the worse you will perform.
  3. Practice potential responses out loud, in front of a mirror or patient friends and family members. Discover various strategies, transitions, and lead-ins for answering different kinds of questions, talking to one person or a group, and changing topics or focus.
  4. Practice asking questions. Employers will expect you to ask one or two questions at the end, so prepare something ahead of time.
    Ask things like: What are your priorities for this position within the first 6 months?
    What are you looking for in an ideal candidate for this role?
    Do not ask things like:    What is your vacation allotment?
    Do you have a maximum number of sick days that employees can take?
    If you ask the right sorts of questions, it will give you an opportunity, once they answer it, to follow-up with further examples of how you would be a good fit.  If they mention that their ideal candidate would be exceptional at multi-tasking and time management and you did not highlight that in your initial responses, now is the time.
  5. Anticipate commonly asked questions by interviewers and develop a set of related responses that you can mold to a variety of individual situations. Prepare responses that cover the main areas that just about all employers are going to want to know about.  Such as: ability to work in a team, ability to work independently, communication skills, work ethic and reliability, interpersonal skills and conflict management, multi-tasking and time management skills, project management and organizational abilities, career goals, greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses.
  6. Choose an interview outfit that is clean, respectable, and modest.  What you wear tells them how seriously you are taking this interview.  If you show up in a suit, they know that you respect them and the job.  If you show up in regular pants and a sweater, you are not too keen or interested in making a good impression.  If you show up in jeans and have a baseball cap on, then you are wasting their time.

Tell me about your best and worst interview experiences.

8 Steps to Ace an Interview

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment

An interview is a conversation about possibilities, a chance to learn and an opportunity to share information. Make the most of your interview: relax, take the time to respond clearly, and be yourself. The more worked up you allow yourself to get about an interview, the worse you will perform.  Remember that the interview is not just an opportunity for a company to decide whether they want to hire you, it is an opportunity for you to decide whether you want to work for that company.  Keep this in mind so that you feel empowered and confident in the interview.  Follow these 8 tips and you will be well on your way to getting that job.

1.   Be prepared! Learn as much as you can about the company and position in which you are interested.

2.   Practice potential responses out loud, in front of a mirror or patient friends and family members. Discover various strategies, transitions, and lead-ins for answering certain kinds of questions, talking to one person or a group, and changing topics or focus. Practice asking questions. Employers will expect you to ask about matters that concern you.

3.   Anticipate commonly asked questions by interviewers and develop a set of related responses that you can mold to a variety of individual situations.

Some interviewers may ask, for example:

  • How does your previous work experience relate to this job?
  • What suggestions have been given to you to improve your performance?
  • Have you had experience working as a part of a team?
  • What accomplishment has given you the greatest satisfaction?
  • How do you organize and plan for major projects?
  • How do you handle conflicting priorities?
  • What three things are most important to you in your career?
  • What contributions can you make to this department?
  • How does this job fit into your career path?
  • How has your education prepared you for this career?
  • Why did you choose your particular area of study?
  • Do you feel you will be able to adapt from an academic environment to a corporate one?
  • Give me an example of a major problem you have solved?
  • Give me an example of how you respond to professional criticism?
  • How would you resolve conflict in a group situation?

When answering questions try to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

Situation: give an example of a situation you were involved in that resulted in a positive outcome

Task: describe the tasks involved in that situation

Action: talk about the various actions involved in the situation’s task

Results: what results directly followed because of your actions

4.   The interview is an opportunity to share information. You will have to talk about yourself, your interests, and your values. Don’t be shy about your accomplishments and experiences. Practice ways of phrasing replies about yourself that highlight your talents in a way that feels comfortable to you.

5.   Demonstrate to your interviewer your engagement in the conversation. Ask perceptive questions, be alert, make eye contact, provide relevant information, and relay your knowledge of and interest in the field and the organization. They want to know not only are you qualified, but that you are interested in their field, their company, and will be a dedicated member of their team.

6.   Observe all rules of courtesy and respect. Be punctual. Dress appropriately. Call people by their titles unless specifically directed to do otherwise. Express your thanks for the organization’s consideration of your candidacy.

7.   Arrive at least 15 minutes before the interview to collect yourself and take a few deep breaths. You’d be surprised how much that will help as compared to rushing in at the last minute. If you’re at the company location, use that time to observe what’s going on. Does this seem like a place where you’d like to work?

8.   Bring an extra resume with you. This process is by no means an exact science and you will learn to expect situations like . . .”We seem to have misplaced your resume.”

Rest assured that both interviewers and job seekers enter into the process hoping that it will proceed successfully. It is possible, though, that in spite of this good will the interview might not go as well as planned. To the greatest extent that you can, muster your courage, keep your chin up, and keep your confidence, dignity, and humor intact. Interviews are great ways to learn about career fields, particular positions, and, perhaps most importantly, yourself, whether or not you get a job offer.

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