Category Archives: Job Interviews

Need a jolt of pre-interview confidence? Put down your smart phone and head to the bathroom, says Harvard research

If you spend the minutes before your interview nervously tapping away at your phone, STOP! And watch this video.

OK, it was 17 minutes. Maybe you didn’t watch the whole thing.

Quick summary: Harvard research shows that our confidence and stress levels can change in just TWO MINUTES depending on how our bodies are positioned.

If you sit hunched forward — like you do when you’re reading news on your phone — your stress hormone (cortisol) levels rise and your confidence hormone (testosterone) levels decrease.

BUT, good news! If you spend just two minutes in a ‘power pose’ (the researcher’s term, not mine), you will see opposite effects. Stress levels decrease, confidence rises.

Even better news, the study shows that people who adopt power poses are more likely to get hired, largely because they come across as more charismatic and enthusiastic.

Are you now wondering how to pose powerfully? Look at the video image. She’s in a power pose. She’s standing up straight and tall, with her chest puffed out and hands on her hips. Her body takes up as much space as possible.

That’s why the researcher advises heading to the bathroom before your interview. You’ll be standing up on your way there, and inside, you’ll be able to spread out a bit without attracting weird looks from the receptionist.



Lessons from TV: Showing versus telling on America’s Next Top Model

If you didn’t see it, Angelea almost went home last night on America’s Next Top Model. (Right, like you don’t have any guilty TV pleasures.)

She didn’t take a bad picture or even write a terrible song (the models were singer/songwriters last night). She almost went home because she was telling one thing but showing another. (To get all technical, her brand wasn’t aligned.)

Watch her video. She’s singing about being a tough girl who gets up when she’s been kicked down. The words are feisty, punky, even a little angry. Despite Angelea’s best attempts at fist pumping and head swinging, the judges said things like:

  • “It never registered”
  • “It was a little flat”
  • “You were blank”
  • “You need to sell everything”
Tyra even showed her that she needed to get her angry-pretty face on and really put some force in her air punches. Basically, she needed to align her words with her actions. She needed to SHOW and tell.


Apply it to your job search

Let’s clear up one thing first — I am NOT advising you to begin forcefully air punching during interviews. With that out of the way, how can you avoid falling flat like Angelea?

Angelea was trying to convince the judges that she was tough and feisty. You, on the other hand, are trying to convince an employer that you’re the best person for the job. To break it down, you need the employer to know that 1) you have the skills and 2) you have the passion.

SHOW you have the skills

1. In your resume. That little skills section isn’t enough. You need to show how you’ve used those skills. That’s why your experience descriptions should contain lots of accomplishments.

2. In the interview. If you find yourself speaking in generalizations like, “I really enjoy working with people,” you need to get acquainted with the Situation-Action-Response interviewing strategy. It forces you to turn your experience into illustrative stories.

3. In a portfolio? Nope, they’re not just for artists. Even if you’ve revamped your resume, a portfolio can help employers see the accomplishments you’ve mentioned. For example, if you talk about writing a 20-page research paper, put it in a portfolio.

SHOW you have the passion

Remember how the judges called Angelea ‘blank’? That’s the absence of passion. Other synonyms are blah, boring and safe.

Here’s the thing — sometimes, when you’re trying really hard to be professional, you can come across as blank. This is especially true for new job seekers. You’re worrying about being labeled immature or unprofessional, so you stick with uber-formal language or play it very tight laced in interviews.

Being excited doesn’t make you unprofessional, and employers want to know that their job and company make you light up. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this cover letter written by a hiring manager sick of receiving the same “professional” sounding letter.

It’s a tough line to walk, but let your excitement and passion come through in your cover letter and interview. Smile. Smize, even.

From a grad that’s been there and landed a job: Learning and Organizing

A guest post by UNC senior Courtney Miller. (Thanks for all the wonderful posts, Courtney!)

It’s been a pleasure guest posting on Kelly’s blog (thanks, Kelly!) and I hope I’ve covered helpful tips that you can apply to your job search! Now it’s time for a few final words on how to learn from the job hunting experience and how to stay organized.

On learning:

  • Interviewing. It’s unlikely that your first few interviews out of college will be your best. After an interview, take the time to write down what was said. Take special note of what you did well and what you could have phrased better. Write down the questions that took you by surprise because you never know when you might hear them again. Go over your questions and answers with someone who can give good feedback – a seasoned friend, ex-boss, professor, career counselor, or parent for example. Practice the questions you messed up on with a friend or career counselor so you’ll be ready next time.
  • Pick up new skills in the downtime. You might notice you’re finding job descriptions that mostly fit your skills, but ask for a few skills you don’t have, such as HTML, Web 2.0, JavaScript, content management systems, etc. Now is a great time to try to learn these other skills to add to your resume and flexibility. Expanding your skill set will only improve your candidacy.
  • Etiquette. Constantly watch out for the little things that usually go unsaid in phone or in-person interviews. Manners can go a long way. For example, be conscious of what you’re wearing, your body language, and mannerisms. Make sure you practice your handshake, keep your hands on the table and don’t rock back and forth if you have a chair that pivots. You can also test your phone etiquette knowledge with a quiz on QuintCareers.

On Organization:

  • Spreadsheets. An organized spreadsheet will help you stay on top of deadlines and keep records. Create an excel spreadsheet to track the jobs. Make columns for: company/organization, job title, location of the job, the URL of the post, username, password, date the job was posted, due date, application status, date you turned in your application,  contact person (and the person’s contact info), whether you followed-up or not (and dates), whether you heard from them (and dates), and if you have an interview scheduled.
  • E-mail organization. Every e-mail server is different, but it’s important to come up with an organization system to keep track of correspondence. Create a folder for job search agents, application e-mails, interview correspondence, application confirmations, and networking correspondence. Star or highlight the ones you have not responded to or the ones that contain important information. When you’re applying to ten jobs a day, your inbox can get a little crowded and you need to remember not to overlook or forget to send important e-mails.
  • Computer Files. Create a system for organizing your computer files. Keep all job hunt materials in one folder, “Job Hunt 2009.” Place your most important and used documents in this folder, such as your resume, general cover letter, job search Excel database and reference list for easy access. Create sub folders under this folder for each month and then sub folders for each organization. Save all cover letters, thank you notes, interview questions, and interview notes under the organization’s folder. Keep a separate folder for networking and save important things you learned from each contact and the contact’s information.
  • Paper files. Buy a tabbed accordion folder to keep paper files. Create a tab for each organization you actually interview and keep interview notes, directions or handouts in the section. Also create a tab for useful resources you printed or received and anything else related to your job search that is in hard copy.

From a grad that’s been there: Top 5 services that UCS has to offer

A guest post by UNC-Chapel Hill graduate Courtney Miller.

Editor’s Note: This post is particularly relevant to UNC graduates and students. For those of you not familiar with UNC’s campus, UCS stands for University Career Services.

The UNC University Career Services Web site is a great tool to get your job search going. It has tons of resources that you might not have access to elsewhere. It is free for the first six months after graduation, so use it now! After that six-month period, you must pay $65 each year to access Career Services as a alum. I’m listing a few of the resources that I found helpful from UCS and how I used them.

  1. Job Postings. When you log in to UCS, click the “search jobs and internships” tab. Opportunities are posted daily, and some are exclusive to UNC students. Many allow you to apply through UCS by simply clicking a button that submits your resume directly to the employer. Some employers listed allow you to sign-up for on-campus interviews through UCS as well. One great feature is that the posting lists the contact information of actual people, allowing you to start an open and friendly dialogue with the hiring managers, which can increase your chances of landing a job.
  2. Counselor Advice. Aside from reviewing resumes, the counselors can provide advice on applying for jobs, networking, cover letters, proper job hunt protocol and etiquette, and long-term career planning. The career counselors I spoke with were readily available and gave helpful advice in career searching. They spent a great deal of time on the phone with me listening and offering advice specific to my situation and goals (Thanks to UNC Career Counselors Jay Eubank and Laura Lane!).
  3. Resume Building. Your resume is the most important marking piece you can use to further your career search. UCS provides access to Optimal Resume, a resume-building tool that will you create and format an effective resume. Once you create it, you can also publish an online version to show employers. Once you create your resume, schedule an appointment with a UNC career counselor for advice and tips on perfecting the tool. You can submit the resume online through University Career Services by logging in and clicking on the tab that says “resumes and cover letters.” A career counselor will review your resume and give you comments once you upload the document, but I would recommend going beyond that and scheduling an appointment to talk one-on-one.
  4. Research. Before you interview with an organization, do your homework. You can access WetFeet and Vault employer and industry information. These databases give you a company profile and have message boards available that list insider information – both can be useful for your interview. The link also includes access to salary information, a career networking mentor database (see earlier post on networking). E-leads is another resource that provides a database of jobs that companies generally or potentially have open for new grads as part of the an ongoing hiring process.
  5. Interview Skills. No matter how great you look on paper, your interview skills are crucial to landing a job. You can do mock interviews with UCS counselors to prepare for the real thing. UCS also allows you to do interviews via videostream and e-mail the interview to a counselor for review. Interview workshops also are offered on-site at UCS.

Now that I’ve described the basic features on UCS that will help you maximize the results of your career search, take a look for yourself. Also check out the other services that UCS offers, including events, career fairs, and a reference filing service.

Do you know what it means to be Gen Y?

If you’ve never heard the term, or don’t quite get the connotation yet, take some time to tap into this article, this article, this article and this video, and you might be surprised by what you find.

Also known as the “Millennials,” Gen Y is a term used to describe anyone born between 1980 and 1995, so yep, that’s us. In the business and management world, we’ve acquired several not-so-hot stereotypes. This is the pretty all-encompassing list I found in the Entry Level Careers Examiner (written by @heatherhuhman):

  1. Gen Y is entitled.
  2. Gen Y is needy.
  3. Gen Y has no work ethic (read: lazy)
  4. Gen Y is self-centered.
  5. Gen Y isn’t loyal to employers.

Those five are among the most negative, but other career experts also hypothesize that we don’t crave work-life balance like Gen X; we just want our work (even entry-level) to be meaningful.

I don’t tell you to this to break your spirit or make you come to some realization that you’re a narcisstic, good-for-nothing, iPod-listening, disloyal employee wanna-be. I tell you this so you know what you could be facing from potential employers and hiring managers.

In an interview, the person across from you could be thinking, “Is this person going to do anything but come in at 10am and listen to her iPod? Will she ditch our company for the chance to fly to Mumbai for the Amazing Race?!” Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but I’ve had friends come back from interviews and say that a good many of their responses were met with, “Well, that’s because you’re Gen Y,” or, “Oh, how Gen Y.”

The stereotype is out there, so be ready to deal with it, or better yet, incorporate anti-stereotype qualities into your personal brand. Make it a point to show how you can think outside yourself and help others. Show how you’ve taken initiative. Show that you’ve started something and stuck with it. Dispel the myth of Gen Y before it even enters the employer’s mind. (And the @heatherhuhman article gives you some hints to do it, too.)

Friday article round-up

Twitter was a treasure trove of links to helpful career-search articles this week. Let me share a few of the best with you (in no particular order — they’re all great). The writers of these articles are also my #followfriday picks.

Friday Laughs

Who says job searching has to be all stress and no fun? In this new segment, I want to get the weekend off to a good start by sharing some of the funny things that a recruiter named Stephanie Lloyd posts on Twitter during the week.

She posts under the name JobSnob and tweets examples of what NOT to do and say in interviews and on cover letters and resumes. Her posts make you laugh and feel better about yourself at the same time. Enjoy!

  • What *not* to say in an interview: “I need money, so I’ve been filling out these stupid job applications for like 3 weeks now.” (via
  • What *not* to put on your job application: “On the line that asked what “sex” he was, he wrote “occasionally”.” (via Ask Annie’s)
  • What *not* to put on your resume: “Background: 28 dog years of experience in sales (4 human years).”
  • What *not* to say on your resume: “Experience: My father is a computer programmer, so I have 15 years of computer experience.”

On Twitter, there is a thing called #followfriday, where you post several people you recommend others follow and why. Obviously, I recommend you follow @JobSnob, but there are tons of other great people to follow, as well. I’ll start with some UNC seniors.

If you’re a UNC senior on Twitter, leave a comment with a link to your profile so we can follow each other!