The reason you’re not nailing interviews anymore (and 3 ways to fix it)

The reason you’re not nailing interviews anymore (and 3 ways to fix it)

This post was first published on the Firebrand Talent blog.

I used to be that girl. The one who breezed through interviews and always got the job. But then something changed or rather I did — to a new industry. Suddenly interviews became more challenging and the rejections started to pile up. I could no longer rely on my ability to wing it.

These days clients come to me with similar issues, most often when they’re applying for more senior roles or switching to a different industry.

If you’re not nailing interviews like you used to, it could be that you don’t have the right experience, but it could also be because you’re unclear about what you have to offer. Don’t take for granted that you’re communicating this information in the right way. It’s trickier than it looks.

There are a few key things you can do to prepare for the interview, boost your chances of nailing it and make yourself more hireable:

1. Be prepared to tell your story in your interviews

In a recent mock interview when asked about project outcomes, a client spent 15 minutes telling me about the great projects she’d worked on without outlining what she did to create these impressive results. She’d been leaving out the most important part because she was worried interviewers would think she was taking credit for other people’s work.

I’ve coached a lot of very smart people who get tongue tied when it comes to talking about what they’ve accomplished. They focus on the success of the company, the team and the projects they’ve led, leaving out the crucial details of how they contributed.

If you’re worried about sounding arrogant, write down five things that make you the perfect candidate for the role. Imagine what your current boss would say about you (provided it’s positive of course!).

Are you able to turn projects around quickly under deadline pressure? Do you have an innate ability to magic up creative ideas that always match the brief? Or does your outgoing personality mean you can instantly put new clients at ease?

Don’t forget to mention why you want the job, particularly if you’re changing industries. Maybe you’re passionate about health and wellbeing because you experienced a health crisis that forced you to radically change your lifestyle. Be prepared to tell that story in the interview because it’s something people will remember. Sometimes it’s the seemingly insignificant details that can give you an edge.

2. Understand the company and its current challenges

Your interviewer will want to put your skills in context. What can you help them to achieve? Spend some time researching the company and understanding their values, the type of projects they’re involved in and the budgets they’re dealing with. You’ll want to do your homework because you might be asked for ideas in the interview, particularly if it’s a senior role.

How do you get up to speed without spending hours on research?

Start with the company website and then search for recent news about the organisation.

Read up on industry developments and make sure you’re across any issues like new legislation, funding cuts or technology advances.

Next check the company’s LinkedIn company page and see if there are any current or past employees in your network who you could contact for more information.

When you’ve done your research, write down how your experience and skills can help the company solve the challenges you’ve uncovered or help it to achieve its goals.

3. Get specific about your experience in your interviews

While it’s perfectly acceptable to pause and gather your thoughts when you’re asked a question, humming and hawing over every answer is not a good look.

Take some time before the interview to think of specific examples from your previous work history that demonstrate your skills. If you work in marketing or advertising it’s likely that you’ll be asked how you’ve dealt with conflict, missed deadlines or managed client expectations. Write down five or six examples of scenarios that had positive outcomes. Be prepared to talk about challenging experiences and how you dealt with those too.

If you do this prep work (and it can be done in a couple of hours I promise), you’re far more likely to impress the panel.

How do you go at interviews? Do you get tongue-tied or nail it every time?

23 excuses that stand between you and the career of your dreams

23 excuses that stand between you and the career of your dreams

1) I’m too old and no one will want to hire me:-(

2) I can’t earn decent money doing what I love.

3) I don’t have enough time to study/attend interviews/figure out what I really want to do.

4) My life is already too stressful. I haven’t got the energy to focus on changing my job.

5) The industry I want to work in is full of low-paid workers in casual employment.

6) The job market is too competitive.

7) If I started my own business I wouldn’t have a consistent income.

8) I’m not an expert in anything.

9) I can’t change my job because I have a mortgage and kids.

10) The field I’m interested in is too political/specialised/hard to break into.

11) My husband/wife/mother wouldn’t like it if I went back to study.

12) Someone else deserves the job/promotion more than I do.

13) I haven’t worked hard enough for it.

14) There are no opportunities for someone like me. You need experience/a higher degree/more confidence.

15) I wouldn’t want to work 60 hour weeks and all the social workers/lawyers/business owners I know work those hours

16) The economy is in a downturn so I should hang on to the job I have until things improve.

17) I want to be in a senior role but I don’t want to manage a team or take on more responsibility.

18) It would take too long to retrain, and then I would be too old (see pt 1 above).

19) You need to be really aggressive / cut-throat to make it in that industry.

20) I’d have to take a pay cut.

21) I don’t know if I would really like it.

22) I don’t know what to do.

23) I should probably wait until the kids go to college/my husband gets a better job/we move house/I win the lottery…

Do you recognise any excuses on this list?

The first step towards making any change in your life is getting honest and real about what’s stopping you (hint: it usually has a lot more to do with what’s going on between your ears than reality).

As Woody Allen has said, 80 per cent of success is showing up.

What will you show up for today?

PS: If you want to get over your objections and create a viable plan for your future I can help. You can book your Free Discovery Session here to chat with me first, or book your Single Shot Coaching Session here.

Do you worry that you’re not ready for your next career move?

Do you worry that you’re not ready for your next career move?

What we know matters but who we are matters more. ~ Brene Brown

This blog post was first published on The Firebrand Talent Blog.

It’s been over a decade since I got my first job as a journalist for a local newspaper. At the time I was thrilled but also baffled as to how I had landed such a sought-after gig. For a long time I lived with the constant fear that someone would tap me on the shoulder and say: What are you doing here and who let you in? You’re not a journalist!

That feeling that you’re about to be found out – also known as imposter syndrome is very common, particularly among women. It tends to rear its head when we’re in transition, starting a new job, a new career move or taking on more responsibility.

For me, imposter syndrome had a major impact on my work performance, my confidence and my career satisfaction. The funny thing was when I shared how I felt with a couple of my colleagues, they told me they felt like imposters too! It made me realise I had wasted a lot of time feeling inadequate for no reason.

This feeling of not being ready or good enough can really hinder your success unless you catch it before it spirals out of control. How can you pursue bigger and better opportunities if you’re convinced you don’t have what it takes?

Here are 3 ways you can tackle this and get over imposter syndrome or the feeling of not being ‘ready’ for a career move:

1) Get out and talk to people

When you’ve been in a job for a while, you can get a bit one-eyed and start to believe everyone in your industry thinks the same way, when of course that’s not true. Meeting new people and networking will give you a much broader and more objective view of your skills and what you have to offer. You might find that other hiring managers’ opinions of your knowledge and experience differ greatly from those at your current workplace. When you start connecting and talking to people it’s also going to become obvious just how much opportunity is actually out there which will (hopefully) boost your confidence.

2) Get real about your fears about a career move

Next you need to get real with yourself. What are you really afraid of? From what I’ve observed in myself and others, this feeling of not being ready stems from a fear of what other people will think. Peers, clients, managers and co-workers. What will they think if you have the nerve to go for an opportunity that on some level you feel you haven’t earned yet? This is why it’s so important to unhook from any need from approval from others. A lot of the time it’s not going to be forthcoming in any event. What you think about what you’re doing is much more important. Sure, other people may be triggered by your actions, but that just reflects their own fears and has nothing to do with you.

3) Practice kindness and self-love

The next step is to pour on the love. The only antidote to feeling insecure and fearful is to give yourself a break. Tune out your inner critic. Love yourself through the changes and accept your limitations for what they are – a temporary state of affairs.

I get that it’s not always easy to do especially if you’re a perfectionist, but the good news is the more you practice being kind to yourself the easier it gets and mercifully, the less influence your inner critic will have over your decisions.

No one is perfect no matter what you see on the surface and your success in the end won’t be based on whether you have a smooth transition into a new role, but on how you handle the inevitable challenges you face day to day.

Even if you don’t have much experience in your industry, you still have value to offer in your next career move. Employers don’t hire you solely based on your experience, they hire you for the person that you are.

So if you worry that you’re not good enough, remember the contribution you can make goes far beyond anything it might say on your resume.

How do you handle that feeling of not being ‘good enough’ for your next career move?

3 ways to instantly create more career opportunities

3 ways to instantly create more career opportunities

This post was first published on the Firebrand Talent blog.

When I was 17, I decided I wanted to work in the travel industry. It was my final year at school and I had no clue what I wanted to do, but jetting off somewhere exotic sounded like a cool way to live while I figured it out.

Unfortunately my last year in school coincided with the worst recession in Irish history. Determined to find a job in spite of this, I went with the only strategy I knew at the time, a mass mail out. I wrote letters to every travel agent in the phone book (this was pre-internet so I’m talking over 100 handwritten letters!). While I got plenty of nice letters back, sadly for me, there were no job offers.

It’s frustrating when you put a lot of effort into getting a job or progressing your career only to get rejected, or worse still ignored altogether.

Often though, as I have discovered, it means you weren’t necessarily giving yourself the best shot in the first place.

If I had tried a different approach back then, like offering to help out at my local travel agents, I might have fulfilled my travel plans.


1. Make a list of your barriers

If you’ve been trying to make changes with your career, what is standing in your way? Is it your lack of experience? An unsupportive boss? There might be some less obvious ones too.

Maybe you want to work in a more dynamic environment but you hold yourself back in case you don’t meet the high performance standards, for example.

Write a list of everything you perceive as a barrier, whether you’re dealing with difficult work colleagues or a highly competitive environment.

When you’ve written your list it’s time to get honest with yourself.

How many of these things are really an issue?

My point is that sometimes we get stuck blaming others, or ourselves, instead of focusing on what we can actually do to help our situation.

So suspend your disbelief for a moment and pretend none of those barriers exist.

Write a list of the actions you would take if you had no impediments. Take action on three of them right away and diarise three more for tomorrow. Fast action gets fast results.

2. Ask better questions

Have you ever noticed that when things aren’t going your way, you tend to ask yourself really negative questions?

Why am I always screwing up? Why can’t I do better at interviews?

The trouble with negative questions is that they contain assumptions and those assumptions are usually not even close to the truth.

The other problem is that when you ask yourself a negative question, your brain goes looking for answers to support that assumption, which doesn’t help your confidence.

In his book, The Power of Asking Questions: The Book of Afformations, Noah St John says that when you ask better questions, your mind automatically begins to focus on what you have instead of what you lack.

So instead of asking: Why can’t I get a job? Or: Why is there never enough money in my bank account?

Turn those questions into positives like:

Why am I so good at my job? Or: Why am I so awesome with money?

Your brain will search for a positive answer. When you change your subconscious assumptions about your career, you will change your results.

St John argues that when you switch your focus in this way, you will naturally see opportunities for yourself where you previously only saw barriers.

3. Face your fears

For years I dreaded public speaking. If I had to introduce myself, even to small groups, my heart would pound, my hands would shake and I would rush through my speech just to get the discomfort over with as quickly as possible.

When I started running workshops and training events, I knew this approach wasn’t going to help! So I made a decision that I would face my fear and look for opportunities to present to groups. As soon as I did that, invitations to present and speak started pouring in. I don’t believe this was a coincidence! I won’t pretend I know how it works, but when you make a commitment like this, you will start seeing opportunities to make it happen. Often they just land in your lap without you having to do much at all.

In my experience, facing your fears is one of the fastest ways to create more opportunities in your life, so think about where your fear might be holding you back.

Remember if you have a fear of public speaking like me, you don’t have to go all out and speak in front of big crowds right away. Take baby steps, start with small events and work your way up.

What do you do to create more career opportunities in your career? Please share in the comments below.

Why you need stop ‘networking’ (especially if you’re an introvert)

Why you need stop ‘networking’ (especially if you’re an introvert)

In a gentle way you can shake the world ~ Mahatma Ghandi

After conducting hundreds of career counselling sessions, many on the topic of networking, I have made a few discoveries.

The first one is this: People hate networking.

Not one single person has expressed any form of delight when I suggest networking as a viable job search strategy.

It’s more like: Please Denise don’t make me do it, anything but that.

From my research this resistance is based around three main fears:

1) Fear of coming off as some kind of fake

2) Fear of what other people will think of you

3) Fear of not knowing what to say and ensuing awkward pauses

I totally get these fears (and if you’re in Melbourne I’ve got you covered, see below). I’m an introvert who used to dread networking to the depths of my being.

But your resistance is a problem because no matter what your career path may be, the best way to find a job is always gonna be through people you know.

This nugget of truth doesn’t come as good news to introverts. For us, facing large roomfuls of strangers is uncomfortable at the best of times, without the added pressure of having to make small talk and ‘impress’ potential employers and contacts.

If you are only interested in networking for what you stand to gain, you’re never going to feel wholly confident and at ease with that exchange. And the predominant advice to offer assistance to others first as a sort of quid pro quo is no less transactional.

So here’s what I want you to do.

Stop networking.

And start connecting.

Don’t worry about your elevator pitch, your business cards or the dress code. I heard Susan Cain (author of Quiet) say recently that she doesn’t network anymore. Instead, she seeks out kindred spirits wherever she goes.

So next time you go to an event look for one person, not to impress or offer assistance to, but simply for the purposes of connecting at a human level. Talk about work if you want, or movies, dogs or this awesome TV show.

Free yourself from traditional forms of ‘networking’ forever.

It could be the start of a beautiful friendship, which was surely the whole point of networking to begin with.

How I learned to love networking

How I learned to love networking

Back when I started my freelance writing business I knew clients weren’t going to show up unless I put myself out there. I had to start networking right away. The problem was I had no idea what I was doing. Much as I like people, I’m an introvert so I was never going to be good at throwing myself into the middle of conversations. Cue lots of standing around awkwardly holding a wine glass.

I have to hand it to myself. I tried it all. Local networking. BNI. Speed networking. Meetup. I went to all of them. I didn’t always get clients but I learned a lot about what to do (and not do) in networking situations.

When I first started out I thought networking was going to as many events as possible, giving people my elevator spiel, handing out lots of business cards and voila… people would call and hire me.

But that’s not how to network and it never felt right to me. Networking isn’t about selling yourself, it’s about building relationships.

It’s about being genuine in your interactions and asking people questions about what they do and what kind of challenges they’re facing. That’s how you find out useful information that will help your job (or client) search. Don’t forget, networking isn’t just something you do to find a job, it’s also hugely valuable when you’re making a career shift or making a decision on which career path is right for you.

Here are a couple of power tips to help you start networking even if you break out in hives just thinking about it.

1) Network in the groups you’re already in

I’m a great believer in pursuing the path of least resistance. Why make things hard on yourself? Start networking in the groups you’re already in, whether it’s your kids’ sports events, social outings or a hobby like a running group meet-up. Ask people about what they do, what they enjoy about their work and how they got their jobs.

2) Bring a wingman or woman 

If you want to attend a networking event, bring along a wingman or woman. This is a particularly effective tactic if you’re an introvert because hopefully your more extroverted friend can introduce you to people and help you out if the conversation stalls. Your comfort levels will go up automatically when you know you’re not going to be left hanging in the corner like a wallflower.

3) Create small challenges

If you’re nervous about attending events like I used to be, give yourself small challenges and then reward yourself for a job well done. For example, stand up and ask the speaker a question if you’re attending a conference, or give yourself permission to go home after you’ve met and talked to two new people. Remember networking is more about sustained effort than pushing yourself to the max at one event.

4) Practice having conversations with strangers

Another issue I used to have with networking was making small talk. It only occurred to me later why this was. I hate small talk. I’ve never been good at it. But if you want to broaden your network you’re going to have to learn to get good at it. You can do this by practicing talking to strangers or people you interact with on a regular basis, like checkout people at the supermarket or the woman who works at the post office. Strike up conversations with people you don’t know. The more you do this, the more natural it will become and you will be a power networker in no time.

Want to learn more about networking?

I’m running a Networking for Introverts workshop in Melbourne on Friday 5th May where I’ll be teaching powerful strategies for building your network, and I’d love to have you there. You will learn how to create a network even if you’re starting from scratch, how to approach people you want to meet both online and in person, how to network your way into a new job and how to build your confidence so that you can network with ease.