Today on our expert interview section, we are featuring Interview and career Coach expert MargaretBuj.
Margaret is the founder Interview Coach where she focuses on helping professionals get hired and promoted.
Today, she will be sharing her tips on career advancement, succeeding in a job interview and discuss strategies to help you get recognized and promoted at work.
Let’s dive into it.
- Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
I do a number of different things – I am a Head of Recruitment at the fastest growing technology start up in London called Yieldify – we’ve recently received $11.5m funding from Google Ventures and Softbank so it is really exciting for me to build the recruitment function for such a fast growing company.
I also run my interview coaching practice where I coach clients at all levels and from different sectors to help them get the jobs and promotions they are after. Occasionally I run a job search or interviewing workshop and I blog on a regular basis and I am one of the approved writers for Careerealism.
- Why did you decide to start Interview Coach?
It happened a bit by accident. A friend of a friend has been unemployed for 8 months and knowing I’d worked in recruitment, he’d asked me for help. We did a session after which he’d started getting more interviews. After an additional session, he got the job and had been getting every job he wanted since then.
I also knew from my recruitment work that sometimes even very accomplished people struggle with interviewing and selling themselves successfully as the best candidate for the job. I’ve decided to use my experience in recruiting internationally + my training as a coach to help job seekers get more interviewing confidence so that get any job they want.
- As a career expert, what do you think is your secret to being a successful?
Hard work! Constantly investing in myself through coaches, mentors or self-study and loving what I do are important too.
- You come across hundred of job seekers regularly, what is the favorite part of your job?
Definitely helping people break through their limiting beliefs they have about getting a job they want and seeing them get some really desirable jobs. I’ve had clients who got hired after one session with me even if they’ve had 20 unsuccessful interviews before. I’ve had someone I helped get a job after he’d been out of work for a year. It is really rewarding to be able to help people in that way.
- Let’s talk about getting employed. The first impression headhunters get about potential job seekers is their resume. What are some of the common mistakes you see job seekers make when it comes to preparing a winning resume?
There are so many – the biggest one being that the resumes are very duty-oriented – they list a lot of responsibilities but not tangible achievements which are relevant to the jobs they are applying for. Also, most people send the same resume for various job, without tailoring it, and they are then surprised they aren’t getting interviews.
I talk about how recruiters read resumes in video 1 of my free video course ‘You’re HIRED!’ at www.YouAreHiredVideoCourse.com
Before you send out an application, you need to think why employers would be interested in you when they may have a few hundred candidates to choose from.
What can you say that will make your resume stand out?
You must provide the most comprehensive picture of your capabilities in order to catch the attention of the reader.
Also – no clichés.
Even now, I often receive resumes with phrases such as “Self-motivated team player,” “responsible,” or “innovative.” If your resume if full of these mundane and boring phrases (with no examples to back them up with!) it is going to be difficult for you to stand out or for recruiters to really see your value proposition.
It is not that certain ‘power words’ can’t be used on your resume. But you want to use them effectively so that you don’t sound like everyone else.
The problem is these words are very subjective. Anyone can say they are efficient or well organized or that they have great leadership skills. NOTHING about that makes you stand out from the competition unless you show some examples.
Here are some tips on how to prove your value on a resume/LinkedIn profile:
Use evidence and concrete examples to back up your statements.
Let’s suppose you’re an internal auditor who’s implemented new payroll and tax accounting systems that will save your company $200k in staff costs over the next three years. It is a result driven example that demonstrates you being innovative or good at problem solving.
Perhaps you’re an admin assistant and you’ve managed switchboard with eight incoming lines, routing an average of 300 calls per day. You immediately sound more impressive than a candidate who simply says they have great organizational skills.
I see lots of resumes of people who are “results-driven.” I’d suggest adding some information that actually PROVES your drive for results. In what ways has your performance outpaced that of your peers? Perhaps you’ve earned three promotions in 18 months. If so, put that information on your resume.
Numbers are great for demonstrating your skills and expertise. Did you increase revenue, saved time, or money? How many events did you organize? How many clients did you deal with every month?
Another clichéd quote I see on resumes is “proven success” or “proven track record.” Again, unless you prove it, I wouldn’t bother with such phrases. If you’ve exceeded quota every year for the past three years or finished all projects under budget, then mention that.
These tangible achievements will help a hiring person understand the scope of your work and the reasons behind your career progression.
To summarize, remove all redundant phrases from your resume and LinkedIn profile. Provide specific details of your achievements and watch your interview invites go up!
- Social media recruiting is now main stream. A recent statistic quoted that 80% of recruiters now make use of social media platform like Linkedin when looking to fill a role. How can a job seeker increase their visibility on Linkedin.
Indeed, all recruiters I know (including myself) use LinkedIn to find good candidates.
Here are my top tips on how to get noticed by recruiters on LinkedIn:
Fill in a complete profile.
Unless you complete all sections of the profile, you will miss out on opportunities.
Therefore, I’d recommend that you implement this linkedin tips so you do not lose out on your profile views:
- Create a strong summary section
- Put relevant keywords into the specialties
- Write about every job you’ve held (in the last 10 years at least)
- Include universities/schools you’ve attended as well as any associations you might belong to
- If you speak any foreign languages or know some sought-after technologies, mention them. If I am looking for a German speaking Account Manager, I won’t find you unless you list ‘German’ as one of the keywords!
- Choose a professional photo (I’ve seen a lot of beach or party pictures on LinkedIn – not a great impression!)
- Create a strong headline – you have 120 characters under your name on your profile to sell yourself. If you can, don’t just mention your job title but show how you solve a problem
- List some tangible achievements – keep your profile concise but use bullet points to highlights some specific achievements
A lot of people join LinkedIn, add a few connections and then they stop any activity, yet they are surprised they are not getting many emails.
Instead of waiting to be noticed:
- Identify recruiters in your target companies, and invite them to connect with you. If you make a good first impression, you increase the likelihood you’ll be considered for a future role.
- Make connections on a regular basis. Add your current and previous colleagues on LinkedIn and regularly keep adding connections, for example, after visiting an industry event. The larger your network, the easier it is for you to connect with employers and leaders in your field. I also connect with people I meet professionally and I accept invitations from those I haven’t met if we have common professional interests.
- Engage with your network – you can keep in front of recruiters by posting relevant information, news and interesting articles
- Join groups – joining relevant industry groups on LinkedIn is a great way to showcase your expertise. Recruiters will often search groups looking for strong candidates – show them you are one by proving thoughtful answers and comments.
- Participate in discussions. Intelligent, articulate responses may attract attention from recruiters and lead to an interview or job offer.
Post recommendations on your profile.
It is a good idea to both offer and ask for recommendations on LinkedIn as these appear not only on the profile of the person they’re for, but also on the profile of the person who wrote them.
Very important – only post recommendations from people who have worked with you and can vouch for your professional skills. I am always amazed when I get requests from people I’ve never met – I’d never recommend anyone I’ve not worked with and would not expect a stranger to write a recommendation for me either!
- If so many people believe that declaring one’s availability for work on LinkedIn is bad form, then why should job seekers be on LinkedIn?
With over 180 million LinkedIn users in the world, I don’t think that even half of them are actively seeking work. More than likely, they are happily employed and networking.
You need to have a large network so you can use it later. Imagine you’ve just lost a job and you only have 20 people in your network – this won’t help you get hired. So don’t wait to build your network until you need it and be active and provide value even if you are happily employed.
Also, when you’re on LinkedIn and have a strong profile, opportunities come to you as recruiters are looking for passive candidates.
Various industry groups can offer you value and enable you to meet others in your industry and you will also have a chance to demonstrate your expertise through commenting and discussions.
- Most people once they get a job get involved and lost that they don’t bother to think about their career advancement until probably two years into their new job. What advancement tips can a new hire immediately implement that will aid them in their new job.
Here are some tips:
Find out more about your new company before you start. What are their goals and mission, who are the key staff members? Doing a bit of research before you start will be a confidence boost and it’ll shorten your learning curve.
A candidate who’s accepted a new job offer as a Software Development Engineer at Expedia (my previous company) asked me to find out what technologies she should brush up on/learn about before starting. This shows initiative and it’s impressed the hiring manager.
Make sure you are clear on expectations.
You need to know your key priorities and understand how your performance will be measured. The first few weeks in a new role is also a great time to ask questions. So make sure you ask them now, not 6 months later when people will expect you to know things.
Be aware of your appearance and attitude, as this is what people will notice first. Check what the company’s dress code is, and above all, make sure you are polite, courteous and a good listener.
Find out how your boss likes to communicate. Is it email, memos, face to face meetings?
Take time to get to know people. As a ‘newbie’ you have no preconceived notions or ideas. So allow time to get to know everyone, make up your own mind instead of listening to the ‘this is what they are like’ stories from other people.
9. What are some tips to earn a promotion at a job?
Promotions are not a given. It used to be that employees progressed along specific career paths during their careers, but the impact of technology, globalization, and flatter organizational structures, has changed that paradigm. Today, we have to create and manage our own career paths – through one or multiple organizations. And remember that a promotion is not always an upward path. Sometimes – especially in today’s business environment – you may need to make a lateral move to position yourself for a later upward move.
Here are 10 strategies to incorporate into your promotion plan:
- Concentrate on doing the best you possibly can in your current position.
Excellent performance reviews aren’t sufficient to get you a promotion, but they’re necessary for it. So are good attendance, punctuality and a willingness to go the extra mile when the company needs it. Showing up 5 minutes early and leaving later can turn into a fortune of extra income over your lifetime when you are the one that gets the promotion.
- Be visible
Be a self-marketer, not a self-promoter,’ says John Lees, author of Take Control Of Your Career. ‘Self-marketing focuses on the needs of the buyer rather than the qualities and features of the product, and is not about projecting an ego.’ What’s your employer’s biggest challenge? How can you help them overcome this?
Sell yourself – and let it be known that you are seeking a promotion. I know someone who sends out a monthly email to his boss and his boss’s boss to keep them updated on his progress on various projects – and to share any accomplishments and accolades that occurred in the previous month.
- Develop mentoring relationships
A strong relationship with a manager or someone higher up in your department can open a lot of doors for you. For one thing, you’ll likely learn a lot about the organization and about the jobs you might want to get in the future. One recent study found that in four out of five promotions, those promoted had a mentoring relationship with someone higher in the company who helped spread the good word about them. Some companies have formal mentoring programs, but even if your company does not, there are still ways you can build relationships with people in higher positions in the company.
- Quantify results
While promotions are not necessarily based on your past performance, you can certainly make a much better case for a promotion by showing detailed information about your past successes. Those who get results get ahead.
Keep a record of everything you do that enhances the company’s bottom line, that puts the company or your department in a good light, that is creative and innovative, and that shows your loyalty and commitment to the organization.
- Acquire new knowledge and skills
It goes without saying that one of the best ways to succeed in getting a promotion is to expand your knowledge and skills sets in areas that are critical to the organization. As technology and other environmental forces change rapidly, you need an ever-increasing skill set not only to perform your job, but to stay marketable.
Experts also suggest that employees who want to get ahead should not only keep current with industry news and events, but to also pay attention to trends and events outside their specialty.
- Master office politics
Relationships with others become more important as your career advances. Senior roles demand a higher level of political sensitivity, so show that you can navigate the minefield of office politics. Communicate openly and transparently and, if you must confront someone about a situation, go through formal channels.
- Build your network
The more people who know you, know your strengths and abilities, know your value to the organization, and know (at least some of) your ambitions, the more likely your name will be discussed when opportunities arise. It really is not enough to work very hard if nobody knows about you.
An added benefit of networking is that you will learn much more about the company if you network with people in other areas of the organization.
- Be a team player
Because so much of work is now accomplished through teams – departmental or cross-functional – it becomes even more important to share successes with your team and to avoid pointing your finger when there are failures.
And by being a team player, you only build your reputation and increase your value to the organization.
- Embrace change
Research by The Academy of Management found that inability to cope with change makes bosses unwilling to promote otherwise capable employees. Whether it’s a revision to your hours, budget or team, don’t moan about how unhappy you are – actively seek ways of making the changes work for you instead.
- Ask for more responsibilities
Volunteering to help out other departments or teams – or simply asking for more responsibilities – increases your value within the organization. Asking for more work shows your interest and desire to help your department and company to succeed – as well as putting a spotlight on your value to the organization.
- Create your own opportunities
After studying the needs and challenges of the organizations, if you see an area that has been neglected – and you have key skills in that area – write a proposal for a new position.
And even if the company does not go for the new position, you have again shown your initiative, creativity, and value to the firm – and these things can only help you the next time you request a promotion.
- Prepare for a ‘no’
Even if you’re denied a promotion, now is the best time to lay foundations for the future. Ask when you can re-apply: in three or six months, for example, or after a certain milestone has been achieved, such as landing a certain number of new clients. Follow up with an email thanking your manager for their time and confirming the details you discussed.
10. What are the skills that top level companies look for during an interview before hiring a candidate?
Every company is looking for various things, depending on the nature and level of the job, but every company is looking for someone who can do the job, will fit in, will be a good ‘cultural’ fit, has good communication skills etc.
11. Can you share with us 5 expert tips to help candidates pass any interview?
- do your research on the company – you want to go there having some information they don’t expect you to have. Read recent news about the company, learn about their products, competitors etc
- back up your answers with examples – it is not enough to say you have great leadership skills or a problem solver – you need to prove it
- prepare examples using STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) format
- practice as much as you can – most interviews follow a very similar format, so make sure you’ve thought about how you’re going to answer some common interview questions
– make sure you sound really enthusiastic and passionate about the opportunity – sometimes candidates sound bored in interviews and that will never get you a job
12. You have a great resource on your website where you share strategies to help people get recognized and promoted at work? I highly recommend this book for everyone as I believe it is a great game changer. Can you tell us more about this?
I have a lot of free resources on my website e.g. http://www.interview-coach.co.uk/free-resources/
13. Lots of my readers are having trouble finding their career path … can you give a couple of tips on how they could get started finding it?
I think you do that by trying out different things and talking to different people. It is hard to know sometimes what you’d enjoy doing until you know more about a specific job. Try conducting some informational interviews with people doing jobs that interest you, or get some work experience in an area that interests you.
- What is the single greatest piece of advice you can give to anyone want to change their career?
Get clear on what you want, why you want it and get support to create a plan to get there.
Thanks for talking with us, Margaret. We appreciate your taking time to do this, as always with us.
I hope our readers have learnt a lot from this. If you have any question for Margaret, please email her on Margaret@interview-coach.co.uk
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