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?

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?

Don’t let shame get in the way of your job search

Don’t let shame get in the way of your job search

When I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, “Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again”—my gut reaction is, “What a badass” ~ Brené Brown

A couple of years ago I interviewed for a job I really wanted. It was only a casual job but I knew it was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door and work with some great people. The only problem was I blew it because I was so nervous. I was blindsided because I expected to ace that interview. And I should have totally aced that interview. Instead when the time came, I could not make my brain connect with my mouth.

I left feeling mortified and every time I did a mental replay I felt more ashamed. By the end of the day I had convinced myself that I could never apply to work there again.

When I reflected on this later I realised that my perfectionism was driving the ‘asshole’ story in my head. So I came to my senses and reached out to one of the interviewers. They offered to give me feedback, we kept in touch and recently I contacted him to see if we could have coffee or a phone call. Of course he said yes (this happens way more often than you think by the way). I called him and we had a great conversation. If he remembered the interview he never let on.

Looking for a new job can leave you feeling raw and vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there and some people are going to flat out say no. Like me, your confidence might take a hit. But it’s all fine as long as you learn from it. If you can worry less about what people think (a perfectionist tendency) and instead focus on what you can improve next time around then you’re on the right track.

In the words of Brené Brown: When perfectionism is driving, shame is riding shotgun. And as I discovered, shame can lead to unhelpful stories in your head that get stuck on repeat, blocking you from getting ahead.

When this happens my advice is to throw those guys out of the car and get back out there any way you can.

Even if, like me, all you do is pick up the phone.

Because that phone call led to a job offer.

Mistakes won’t define your future unless you let them.

Keep on rising like a badass.

How to change careers when you’re a mom

How to change careers when you’re a mom

There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. – Jill Churchill

As every working mum knows, juggling a job and kids can drive you crazy at times. Throw in the extra time involved in figuring out a career change, studying or searching for a job and the wheels can start to fall off pretty quickly.

When I changed careers my son was only 20 months old and my marriage had recently ended. To say my timing was a little off is like saying Donald Trump is a little controversial.

But regardless of your circumstances I want to let you know that you can do this. Maybe it will take you a little longer than you would like. You will need to be adaptable and get creative for sure, but managing a career change when you have kids is doable.

Here are a few tips that I learned from changing careers with a kid:

1) Have a (flexible) schedule

When it comes to your schedule, I would have to say, please don’t try and be a superhero. I’ve worked nights. Early mornings. While my son napped, played or ate. You do what you have to do in these situations. But I also came close to burning myself out a couple of times and I learned that the only workable answer is to get help.

I know there are people out there who talk about how they get up at 3am or stay up until 2am to fit their work in around their kids. I honestly have no idea how anyone can do that. For me there was little joy in getting up at 5am every day and I get run down when I burn the candle at both ends. You’re going to need support during this time. Hire someone or call in free babysitting favours and give yourself some space.

2) Let go of guilt

I’m a mother therefore I must feel guilty if I’m not with my children on a 24/7 basis. If you feed this collective guilt our society perpetuates around motherhood you are just hurting yourself and other mothers, so let it go. Remind yourself that what you are doing will ultimately benefit your family and make a conscious decision not to buy into the guilt. You’re a great mum and you are doing your best.

3) Forget perfect

If you are studying do you really have to get an A in every subject? While I was studying my mantra became ‘done is better than perfect’ and it served me well. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to excel in your new field but there will be times when you will have to compromise. Do your best and let the imperfections go.

4) Edit your life

I highly recommend you streamline or edit your life in any way you can during a career transition. I’m not talking about fun or social activities because you still need your downtime. Instead look for obligations that fill time you could use for study or working towards your career plans. What needs to come off your plate so that you can achieve what you want? Whose needs are you prioritising? Some of these decisions will be tough but you will thank yourself in the long run.

5) Always trust your heart and your gut

The truth is you know best. Not the gurus. Not your mentors. Not your boss. You alone can make the right decision for you. Even when you don’t know how you’re going to manage it all and you just want to hide in your car with chocolate, you will figure it out.

It’s a juggle managing your career when you have kids, whether you’re going through a career change or not. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t work out and then course correct.

Thankfully most decisions are not irreversible so you can always make a different choice.

What tips do you have for juggling motherhood and work?

How to choose the right job

How to choose the right job

Image by Unsplash

Image by Unsplash

Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that – that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself  ~ Amy Poehler

You know when the perfect job offer comes along and you jump at it knowing that it’s perfect for you?

You probably also know it doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes you really don’t know if you should take the job or not. And that’s when you drive yourself crazy writing lists of pros and cons and asking everyone what they think you should do.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned about how to choose the right job or opportunity for you.

1) Is it going to get you where you want to go?

Is this job or opportunity going to move you further along the path to your bright shiny goal?

It’s easy to get distracted by opportunities that sound good at first. Maybe the money is great or you know this particular company would look awesome on your resume. But when you take a closer look you realise it’s not really going to help you progress your career in the way you want

When you ask yourself this question there’s nowhere to hide. Either it’s going to help you achieve your goal or it’s not.

And remember, if this opportunity isn’t right for you something else will come along. There’s always more than one option.

2) Is it a Hell Yeah?

Opportunities can be a little like buses. You wait for what seems like forever and then three come along at once. How do you decide which one to jump on?

If you’re overwhelmed with choices you’ll appreciate Derek Sivers’ approach to editing your life. It’s one of my favourites.

His philosophy: It’s either a ‘Hell Yeah’ or it’s a No.

In his excellent book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown calls this the power of extreme criteria. In other words, if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes. Anything less should get a thumbs down.

This is very similar to the KonMari approach to tidying and decluttering your life. If you don’t absolutely love it it’s got to go.

I love this approach, because simplicity is a wonderful thing. It cuts through all the ‘I shoulds’ to bring you back to what really matters. Sometimes you may need to say no to everything until your Hell Yeah comes along. And that’s ok too.

3) Do you feel ‘ready’?

Do you feel that you’re absolutely 100 per cent ready for this opportunity?

Then you should say no.

Here’s why.

When you read about people who’ve achieved great success (such as Marissa Mayer and Amy Poehler) you’ll find a common theme. They take risks and grab opportunities before they feel ready. They take on opportunities they’re not really sure they can do.

Opportunities that stretch them and test their limits.

Opportunities that scare the hell out of them.

Opportunities that lead to breakthroughs and outrageous success.

So if you’re feeling ready for this job offer.

It’s time to aim a little higher.

What do you feel ‘not ready’ for?

How to handle job interviews with confidence

How to handle job interviews with confidence

How to handle job interviews with confidence

You’ve just landed an interview for your dream job. Congratulations! Now all you have to do is hold your nerve and give yourself an opportunity to shine. Having fluffed my lines under pressure a few times, I know it’s no fun. Here are my top tips for handling job interviews with ease and confidence.

1) Act like you’ve already got the job

I’m not encouraging you to be presumptive here. But let’s say you’re interviewing for a Marketing Director position. You need to answer the interviewer’s questions as if you already have the job. What do I mean by that? Well a common mistake job candidates make is to answer questions from the perspective of their current role. This is appropriate when talking about past events of course. But when you’re asked ‘what would you do in this situation’ what the interviewer really wants to know is, if we give you this job how are you going to handle it? It’s the future version of you they’re interested in, not the here and now. So instead of launching into your answer right away, ask yourself, what would the new head of marketing do? Respond as if you are that person already and you are much more likely to impress.

2) Deliver a compelling case

When you want to persuade someone to take a particular course of action – like hire you for example, you’ve got to create a compelling case to make them say yes. Don’t rely on your sparkling personality to seal the deal (although that’s important too). You need to lay the groundwork before you head into your meeting. Think about accomplishments you’re really proud of. Make sure the examples you choose highlight your strengths and the value you have to offer and when you recount them, focus on the actions you took and the results of those actions (this comes from the STAR approach, read more here). You need to sell the interviewer on the benefits of hiring you. It also really helps to think of yourself as a product.

3) Don’t forget to breathe

When the pressure is on, you’re feeling anxious and you need to do a lot of the talking, it’s easy to get a little out of breath. We tend to take shallow breaths when we’re anxious which makes us feel worse, but if you focus on breathing into your stomach instead it will have an instant calming effect. Here is a great article from Zen Habits about how to calm down and breathe.

Those are my top tips for handling job interviews with confidence.

How do you keep your cool in high pressure situations?