Avoid These Mistakes: What Not to Do For an Interview

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In the past, we have talked about the things which should be done before, during and after the interview. Today, we are going to talk about the things which shouldn’t be done when it comes to interviews. In other words, we are going to talk about some common mistakes to avoid if you want an interview to go well.

First, let us look at some very basic mistakes:

  • Turning up late: Time management and a margin for handling unforeseen delays should be thought of beforehand.
  • Dressing inappropriately: This includes being over-dressed and/or under-dressed. Being appropriately dressed matters, not only because of the impression it will create, but also because your level of comfort in your own skin will be reflected in how you conduct yourself.

Now, let us look at some not so basic mistakes to avoid:

 

  • Not Knowing Your CV Thoroughly:

An updated CV is important. But what is also important is knowing what you have included in it.

As basic and even silly as it sounds, it is a good idea to go through your own CV and polish up on your own understanding of the kind of brand you have created for yourself.

A question like “can you walk me through your CV?” shouldn’t leave you clueless about where to begin and what all to include in your response.

 

  • Talking Negatively About the Current/Previous Employer:

Perhaps the reason you are looking for a change is because your experience with your current employer is not going too well. You can’t wait to resign and you are desperate for a change. Or you have already resigned.

Your experience with your current or former employer may or may not have been that great, but it’s necessary to remain as diplomatic as possible when asked about them (except in very serious cases). That is, if being positive is out of question.

Bad mouthing the current or your former employer can go wrong in multiple ways:

What if the interviewers know them?

What if it gives the impression that you are telling only your side of the story?

What is the guarantee for the interviewers that you will not bad mouth them in the future?

 

  • Not Doing Enough Research:

By this, we mean research about the company, about the position you are interviewing for, the work culture and if possible, also about who is going to interview you. Good research gives the impression that you are taking the process seriously. Bad research leaves you clueless, hesitant in your responses and often leads to misunderstandings.

Moreover, research also includes researching on some potential generic interview questions and preparing loose scripts as responses. While it’s necessary to give space to spontaneity, it is also important to be as well prepared with the available information and knowledge.

That brings us to the next point.

 

  • Not Paying Attention to Social Cues:

Remember, we are talking about a “loose script” and not a recorded answer.

As the interview goes on, paying attention to the social cues, the changes in body language, expressions is necessary. And it’s not entirely one way: as you pay attention to what the interviewer says, you could ask relevant questions wherever necessary, or at the end of the interview.

Trying too hard to stick to a script only makes the response come across as too superficial, too generic, too robotic, too mechanical and less human.

 

  • Not Directly Answering the Question Asked:

A question is asked because the interviewers want to take away some key points from your answer.

Many candidates might feel the urge to side-step a question, especially if it means talking about a not so successful stint. Questions like:

-What are some of your weaknesses?

-Can you tell me about a development goal you have set?

-What is that one thing about you which you think you can improve upon?

As we talked about the article about answering such questions, it’s a bad idea to dismiss the question altogether by asserting you don’t have any weakness. Also, you don’t want to talk about a weakness and then through logical leaps and play of words prove that it is in fact, a strength. This may sound clever but can make you come across as cocky and a wiseacre.

If you are uncomfortable answering the question, let them know but don’t remain silent.

That brings us to the next point.

 

  • Over-sharing or Under-sharing:

Sharing only the relevant information about skills and experience is necessary, no matter what the interview question is. Unnecessary personal details and digressions, using too much jargon don’t lead anywhere. On the other extreme, giving only generic or incomplete answers could also become a problem; you don’t want to miss out talking about the remarkable things you did.

In one of our previous articles, we talked about the STAR method, especially when it comes to behavioural questions. To freshen it up a bit, STAR, stands for:

S: The situation and its details.

T: The task one is assigned with.

A: The action taken.

R: The result of the action.

 

Keeping this formula in mind will help you make sure you don’t over-share or focus on irrelevant details. It will also keep you from going into the other extreme of not sharing  crucial bits.

 

 

 

A clear grasp of the don’ts will ultimately result in a confidence necessary to ace any interview. Sometimes, a not-to-do can be more useful than a to-do list!

How to Answer “What is Your Biggest Weakness?”

 

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We can never talk enough about interviews. In the past, we have talked about answering some generic interview questions like “can you walk me through your CV?“, “can you tell me about yourself?“among others. Today we will discuss about how to talk about your weaknesses during an interview. In other words, how to answer “what is your biggest weakness?”

Some variations could sound like:

-What are some of your weaknesses?

-Can you tell me about a development goal you have set?

-What is that one thing about you which you think you can improve upon?

 

Why is this question asked, you wonder. There could be a couple of reasons like:

  • To try to look beyond your interview persona, wanting to get a more comprehensive understanding.
  • To see how self-aware and self-reflective you are.
  • To try to understand your standards of good and bad.
  • How you overcome a professional hurdle and a challenge which is essentially self-created.

 

Interviews can be really stressful and talking about one’s weakness can further increase the level of anxiousness. The following tips and cues will help you to prepare well and answer the question with conviction.

You can’t talk about each and every minor weakness you have. You need to “pick” a weakness which is real, relevant to the professional setting and fixable. Let us delve more in the three adjectives used:

 

  • Real:

The weakness picked should be real and authentic. You shouldn’t randomly “pick” a weakness from a Google search generated list of generic weaknesses just because its answer is readily available online and it sounds good.

Nor you should just invent or “borrow” a weakness you don’t actually have just for the sake of answering the question.

For your answer to be convincing and specific you have to talk about a weakness you think you actually have. Interviewers can generally see past inauthentic storytelling and generic answers.

But make sure to differentiate between a peculiar habit and a weakness. That brings us to our next point.

 

  • Relevant:

Peculiarly bad habits might be seen as a weakness in a sense but if they don’t interfere with your professional life in any way, talking about them is useless. After all, the interviewer wants to know how you overcome challenges at work and more specifically how you overcome professional challenges which involve just you.

For example, nail biting when nervous is a peculiar habit but it doesn’t really concern work.

Talking about weaknesses which will never even potentially affect your work in any way is useless. Your inability to draw won’t matter if you are not involved with the fine arts and graphic designing.

 

  • Fixable:

The weakness you talk about should be fixable.

Let us look at an example of a fairly quickly fixable weakness and one of a weakness that may take time to fix. Lack of delegating skills is a fixable weakness which can be learnt by simply reminding oneself to delegate and learning a few tricks; whereas a fear of public speaking is a weakness one overcomes gradually.

So when you talk about a weakness, let the interviewer know the steps you are taking/planning to take to tackle that.

A note of caution here: a weakness which goes against the nature of your job should get you thinking whether you want to go for such a job in the first place. Plus it risks becoming a red-flag for the interviewer. Could a salesperson who doesn’t have good interpersonal skills be a good salesperson? Or could a person who works in an ad agency afford to not be creative? Your shyness might be irrelevant in a job where you mostly work on your own but a hurdle if your job will involve talking to team members and large groups.

 

Finally, this brings us to how not to answer this question:

  • By not answering the question: No one is without a weakness. Make sure you don’t dismiss the question altogether by asserting you don’t have any weakness.
  • Mental gymnastics: You don’t want to talk about a weakness and then through logical leaps and play of words to prove that it is in fact, a strength. This may sound clever but can make you come across as cocky and a wiseacre.

 

Thus talking about one’s weakness could be seen as one exercise of planning self-improvement and self-reflection. Talking about a real, relevant and fixable weakness can help the interviewer as well as the interviewee in seeing things with clarity.

 

Professional Lessons to learn from Diwali Festivities

 

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As many of us know, Diwali is not just about a day. The festivities and the rituals begin right from Dhanteras, and go on for days till Bhai Dooj.

Now, here are some professional lessons to be learnt from the five days. Don’t worry, we are not asking you to work during the holiday season, but the following lessons can always be implemented after you come refreshed from a Diwali break.

 Dhanteras:

This day, the thirteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month Kartik, is associated with cleansing and purchasing.

The day gives us lessons about the importance of getting rid of chaos and old clutter , and thus make space for order, novelty and freshness.

In the office space, it is similarly necessary to get rid of old, obsolete technology, and be up to date with the emerging trends. Plus, it is a great idea to keep the work station clean, tidy and ordered. There is known to be a positive correlation between work efficiency and a well-lithygienicpeaceful work environment with minimal disturbances.

 

 Chhoti Diwali:

The fourteenth day of the fortnight is associated with preparation of sweets using various ingredients like flour, semolina, dry fruits, milk solids, etc.

Remember how the various sweets are not simply “sweet”, but the taste of the main ingredient always lingers? Be it milk, cashews, almonds, pistachios, there is an instant recognition.

It would do us good if we keep this in mind: it is necessary to retain one’s essence to gain recognition.

For example, an HR manager of any company, would prefer a candidate who is honest  and transparent as opposed to someone who is showy (flamboyant) and ingratiating.

Sooner or later, the inner qualities of that candidate would be recognised, like the main ingredient of the “sweet.”

 

Diwali:

Here comes the festival of lights! There is sound, there is colour, there are feasts, there are Pujas performed, there is celebration everywhere! The young people visit and take blessing from the elders. Oh, and there are diyas, rangolis!

In the professional lingo, this teaches us the importance of good networkingbonding, the importance of mentors. It tells a lot about the power of one small diya. About the power of one single colour to add that missing touch in a rangoli. Sometimes, a rangoli remains incomplete without that one colour. Team work is the Key.

A line of diyas has the capability to light up an entire place. Collaboration, not competition is the way to go.

 

Govardhan Puja and Bhai Dooj:

Govardhan Puja is celebrated to mark the feat of Shri Krishna when he lifted up a mountain to save cowherds and farmers from incessant rains. Some regions celebrate this day as a New Year, and some as the Annakut, literally mountain of sweets. Some celebrate the bond between husband and wife.

Bhai Dooj celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, here, the sister acting as a protector of the brother.

Anyhow, the two days teach us a lot about the importance of being supportive to our colleagues, especially in the time of crisis.

Taking responsibility, having empathy, handling interpersonal relationships effectively are some of the lessons we can take with us. It tells us about the importance to have Emotional Intelligence. In short, the importance of taking leadership in little things.

Emotional Intelligence could be used in handling meetings, negative feedback or appraisal, client relations, empowering your colleagues, etc.

Diwali festivities not only give us good times, but good lessons which could be applied in a professional setting.

Delving into meanings of festivals and traditions, could help us a great deal to understand the values and their timelessness.

Happy Diwali!

 

 

(This article has been reposted by us.)

All About Cultural Fluency

 

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Cultural fluency, intercultural fluency, cross-cultural fluency, cultural sensitivity, culturally aware: there are many expressions which convey the idea we are talking about today.

Have you ever had a really awkward interaction with an international colleague, even though both of you spoke the same language? Or even with someone from your own country but of a different culture? Have there been occasions when a seemingly well communicated thing actually didn’t get communicated at all? When the languages are known but there still seems a lack in the communication, there might be a problem of cultural fluency, or rather the lack of it.

 

 What is Cultural Fluency? :

You aren’t necessarily culturally fluent if you know multiple languages. Cultural fluency is more about the non-verbal cues. It is the ability to understand the norms and perspectives, attitudes and values of other cultures, and the ability to adapt to them in the particular cultural context. It is the ability to respectfully communicate with members of a culture different than one’s own.

Having cultural fluency is a necessity, especially if your job entails working with international clients. Technological advances may have bridged the gap of literal communication but it is cultural fluency that bridges the more subtle gaps of communication.

A lot of it comes down to communication style; each country’s work culture has unsaid rules which say how much is too direct, how much is too informal, how  “equal” is the relationship between the person who reports and the person one reports to.

That being said, cultural fluency isn’t just about countries. The ability to understand the norms and perspectives, and display sensitivity towards people from a different state, race, religion, gender, orientation, age is also part of being culturally fluent.

 

How to Acquire Cultural Fluency :

To cite from a post by Harvard Business Review, the three ways to improve cultural fluency are:

1) Assessing your own level of competence and getting an expert guidance if necessary. You wouldn’t know what you want to improve upon if you didn’t know what level you are in the first place.

 2) Acting with intent and to be curious and open about new ways of managing. It’s your job to try to understand the “other” culture, not the other way round. (Remember, your culture is the “other” for them, so it’s not like you are the only one who might be feeling “strange”.)

 3) Remaining non-judgmental when conflict surfaces. Trying to understand the cultural logic and thought pattern would be a good idea.

 

Interview questions:

Having a global perspective is valued, and to assess if the candidate has one, many interviews consist of questions about cultural fluency. So, what kind of questions could be asked?

  • Describe a situation where you had to work with someone from a different background.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to take into account the sensitivity of a party from a different background.
  • What experience have you had with recruiting/training/supervising/leading a diverse workforce?
  • Describe a situation where you had to work as a part of a culturally diverse team, and how you dealt with it.

 

To make sure you are prepared, go through the job description. It will help you see what kind of cultural fluency might be expected from you:

  • Are you going to have to work in different countries? Your ability to adapt to new environment and a different work culture might be judged here.
  • Are you applying at a multinational? Your ability to deal and coordinate with your global counterparts might be judged here.
  • Are you applying for a leadership role? Your ability to lead a culturally diverse workforce might be judged here.
  • Are you going to deal with people of a certain class, region or orientation? Applying for jobs at certain NGOs or some government posts can also require this other sort of cultural fluency. Remember, in an Indian context, cultural fluency is not just about being global. For example, if you have been raised in an urban setting, a part of being culturally fluent would be the ability to interact well with someone from a rural area, or vice versa.

To cite a blog post from Big Interview the best way to answer such questions is to adopt the STAR method, where step by step:

  • You talk about the specific Situation (S) that arose
  • The Task(T) that was at hand
  • The course of Action(A) you took and
  • The Result(R) which it brought about.

 

Be it global or local, cultural fluency is a necessary skill that ensures respectful communication and provides great scope for collaboration, not to forget the growth that comes with understanding multiple perspectives.

 

Constructing an Answer to “Why Should We Hire You?”

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There are some interview questions which are generic and commonly asked by most interviewers, but still leave the interviewee clueless about how to answer them. One of the most commonly asked confusing question is “why should we hire you?

Let us take a look at some tips for answering this deceptively simple question.

Similar questions are:

  • Why are you the best candidate for this job?
  • What would you bring to this position?
  • Are you the best fit for this job? Why?

It is a good idea to think of a response for these questions beforehand as a part of your interview prep.

 

Evaluate:

As part of your interview prep, the obvious first step is to take a look at the job requirements. See which requirements you meet and which ones you fit just about and which ones you don’t really meet.

This gives you an idea about your own strengths and weakness. This, in turn, would let you construct a “script” where you can play up strong points and find a response to compensate for the weak points, if any.

That brings us to the next point.

 

Emphasize the Right Things:

It is necessary to emphasize your skills and knowledge when you are asked this question, because that’s what the employer wants to hear; in fact they want to know what you can contribute to the company. Putting emphasis just on your interests and requirements might not work.

Some do’s and don’ts would make this clear.

Do put emphasis on:

  • Your skills
  • Your knowledge
  • How you can contribute to the company
  • Your experience

Do not put emphasis on your personal reasons like:

  • I have always been interested in xyz…
  • I really need this job…
  • I could really use a raise in my income..
  • Your office is really close to my house and I wanted to reduce my commute time…

It is necessary to remember you are talking in a professional setting, and not casually talking with a couple of friends.

 

Keep it Concise:

As with most interview answers, this should also be clear and concise. It is a good idea to keep in mind four or five points about your:

  • Technical skills and qualifications
  • Industry experience
  • Awards and remarkable accomplishments
  • Education and training
  • Soft skills

 

Imagine you are structuring a sales pitch…for yourself. This mental trick should help you to quickly think about what all you want to include. Keep the loose script in mind and then use it according to the situation.

Make sure the pitch is about how you can contribute to the company through your skills/education/experience. Remember, we aren’t answering “tell me about yourself”.

 

But what if we you have applied for a different industry?

Simply saying “I am interested in…” will not do, right? Worry not! Many skills are transferable and a lot of times, the interviewer could be looking for a certain positive and confident attitude. So, how do you talk about your interest, without making it just about you? Let us look at an example.

Example:

“Although I am an IT person, I feel this is a good opportunity for me to explore teaching. My previous job involved interacting with clients from all kinds of backgrounds, while delivering suitable IT solutions. I have interacted with people from small districts in the state who wanted to educate the denizens about IT, with teachers from international schools who were looking for a technological upgrade for their classrooms. I feel I have the necessary interpersonal, social and educating skills that would help me pay attention to the needs of each individual student.

I have always been interested in technology, and it would be nice to impart my skills to budding minds.”

This communicates the interest, the soft skills, and of course the motivation behind applying for a job in a different industry.

 

So the next time you are prepping for an interview, you know what to do!