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Hopes and Dreams: Answering “Big Picture” Interview Questions
Posted on: February 28th, 2018

interview questions 

“What do you want to do with your life?”

As if this question wasn’t tiresome enough when you were a child, it can induce some serious anxiety as an adult. So why do prospective employers seem so keen on asking it again and again during job interviews?

The short answer: they’re not necessarily asking it because they want to know your response. They’re asking it because they want to see how you respond.

Because there are no “wrong” answers, you may think these are a cinch – but failure to take these questions seriously can mean the difference between landing the job and missing out.

Here are a few pointers for preparing thoughtful responses to open-ended interview questions:

Make it a sprint, not a marathon

You want to be thorough in your response, but the interviewer does not want to hear your life story. Make sure your response is concise and always bridge back to the details that show you’re a good fit for the position. A response of 30 to 60 seconds should answer the question, plus leave time for follow-ups.

Keep it professional and interesting

No matter how conversational the interview might seem, remember that this is a professional environment. This isn’t the place for off-the-cuff remarks that might raise red flags with the interviewer. Unless it directly relates to your potential position, avoid topics you wouldn’t address in polite company (religion, politics, etc.). It’s also important to be creative in your response; don’t rely on tired, old phrases (e.g., “I want to make a difference in the world.”) that the interviewer has heard dozens of times. Talk about your aspirations in unique terms, while staying realistic and always keeping the position top-of-mind.

Think big, but bring it back to earth

It’s OK to be ambitious when stating your future goals, but it’s also important to be realistic and remain relevant to the conversation you’re having. While a prospective employer might be impressed that you want to “change the world,” the interviewer will want to know how the position offered will help you attain that goal.

Keep in mind the importance of “soft skills”

While you may not know your ultimate professional goal right now, it’s useful to give your interviewer a taste of what you enjoy and excel at doing. Interviewers – particularly those hiring entry-level talent – are interested in learning about candidates’ transferable skills like leadership, communications, teamwork and resilience. Share a story about how you led your high school lacrosse team to victory, or how you overcame initial setbacks and landed that great internship last summer. Use those moments as opportunities to show your interviewer that you have “life skills” that will pay dividends beyond the initial job for which you’d be hired.

Answer the question: “How does this position help further my ambitions?”

This is perhaps the most important part of your response to open-ended interview questions: tying everything together with the position you’re seeking. As you anticipate and prepare for this question, consider why you want this particular position and how it fits with your career goals. Then, create your response accordingly.

Candidates might think these are softball questions, but they’re incredibly useful for employers because they can reveal parts of a candidate’s personality, work ethic and values that may not otherwise be visible. Many candidates rise or fall based on their responses to open-ended questions like these, so it’s best to do some “dreaming” about your ambitions before you take a seat across the table. Good luck!

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Navigating the Professional World
Posted on: October 25th, 2017

So, you’ve landed your first professional job out of college – congrats! With the relief of job searching coming to an end, it can feel like the hard work of setting a good impression and showcasing your strengths is behind you. But in many ways, this work is just beginning. Beyond excelling at your day-to-day job, there are a number of ways to continue to set a good impression with your boss and colleagues. Here are five ways to navigate the professional world like a pro:

1. Dress to impress
Just because you saw one of your co-workers wear a hoodie to work last Friday, does not make it the new normal. While dress codes may vary, seek to dress on the more professional side and take pride in a well-maintained physical appearance. Not sure what to wear? Good rule to follow is that it is always better to be over-dressed then under-dressed!

2. Keep your social media clean
Your online persona is just as important as your workplace behavior and can go a long way to show maturity. Regardless of privacy settings, you should assume that anything posted online is public information. From photos to opinionated posts, only share what you’d be comfortable sharing with your boss and/or the senior leaders at your company.

3. Approach your work with humility
Some of the most attractive qualities in a new hire are the eagerness to learn, the openness to assist outside of the job description, and a willingness to do typical entry-level work (aka “grunt work”). Aim to be resourceful, but don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know the answer. Offering to pitch in on projects or tasks that are outside of your job description—as long as you are getting your assigned work done—is a great way to offer added value. Also, recognize that some of the work you may do won’t be glamorous, but that can be the nature of entry-level jobs; keep a positive attitude, and before long, you may be managing the person doing that work!

4. Drink responsibly

Navigating your first corporate happy hour can be exciting, but it’s important to remember that you’re not at the pub with your friends. Regardless of what your other co-workers are doing, limit your alcohol intake to what you can stay in control of and responsible for.

5. Keep your emotions in check
With most jobs come with a certain level of pressure, uncertainty and even conflict. Keeping your emotions in check is a sign of maturity and responsibility. Confide in friends and family when you find yourself getting emotional, but stay committed to keeping your composure in a work setting.

Although the initial, formal interview process is over, you are now informally interviewing for your first promotion. Be yourself, but recognize that your interactions (at all levels of the company) are making an impression and impacting your future prospects within the company. When in doubt, look to role models and professionals above you who are well respected to emulate their behavior and/or seek mentorship and advice.

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Job Search Success: 10 Strategies for December Grads
Posted on: December 28th, 2016

Congratulations to the many fresh graduates receiving their diplomas as a member of the December graduating class of 2016! Their reward is an early start to their job search in hopes of finding the right entry-level position to begin their career. However, for many college graduates, uncertainty is what sets in first upon graduation. Many recent grads coming out of school these days are either unsure about where their skills may fit in the workplace or they simply don’t know what kinds of positions are out there for them.

GradStaff CEO Bob LaBombard was recently featured in an article by College Recruiter that focuses on job search strategies for December grads. These tips can help new grads find their way in their job search by providing ways for graduates to set themselves up for success early on in their job search. From starting out with some self reflection to setting up information interviews, GradStaff’s CEO shares his best 10 tips for December grads to gain early momentum in their job search. To read the full article, please follow the link HERE.

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Skype Etiquette 101
Posted on: October 25th, 2016

Well, it’s official! The hype and excitement of graduation has ended, the pools have closed, and your friends are starting to ditch the weekly ‘Thirsty Thursday’ hangout as they have to be up early for work. Where does this leave you? Job searching – in full-on Desperation Mode. Within a job search, there are several types of interviews: phone interviews, in-person interviews, panel interviews, and the increasingly used– Skype or other video-based interviews. It’s true, there is an art to interviewing, but no worries, I am here to clarify a few important details on how to prepare and be confident in this process!

Follow Instructions- I cannot express enough the importance of (what should be) the easiest part of the interview! The first thing you should do is reply to the email confirming your attendance for the interview. If you are truly excited about the interview, it’s important to confidently accept with a documented response. This would be a good time to thank them for the opportunity. If you are unsure or unable to interview at that time, do NOT accept the invitation promising attendance or email saying you will attend. If you have questions or concerns, it is best practice to reach out and get more information or explain your situation. Most hiring managers are willing to be flexible if there are legitimate concerns. It is also not okay to confirm that you will be attending the interview 5 minutes beforehand. Don’t do it, trust me!

Test your Skype- If you can spend 3 hours FaceTiming your significant other who lives out of town, you sure as heck can find someone to take 2 minutes to test your Skype….Even better, Skype has a test function built in! Genius, I know! Test it. Please spare yourself the uncomfortable and awkward silence while you stumble to fix the sound or video. I can tell you from experience, if you are not prepared or ready at the time of your Skype, it does not look good to the hiring manager. It can also make you more nervous and uneasy when you do start the interview. We look for confidence, nice clear sound, and clear video with good lighting.

• Staging your Skype Interview- Okay, this is by far my favorite topic to discuss. Why, you ask? Every time I go into a Skype interview, I’m never too sure who or what I may see on the other side. It is very important to make sure you are in quiet place with good lighting, no distractions, and a good backdrop. Please (for your benefit) make sure your Bob Marley poster is not visible, the bottle collection you acquired during college is hidden, and your cat does not walk across the screen mid-interview. A blank wall background is a good choice or the spare room that has a desk is professional. It’s also very important not to sit on your bed, pow-wow style, constantly moving your laptop. Place your computer/tablet on a solid surface, preferably a table, and sit up straight in a non-swivel chair. Staging your setup is something that should be done the night before, not 2 minutes before the interviewer calls you!

• Attire- This should go without saying, WEAR A SUIT! Yes, it’s true that we may only be able to see you from the waist up, but a sport coat with a collared shirt and tie or a conservative blouse/dress with a blazer is important. This is your first impression and it’s an interview – your background and skill set are not the only things being observed. Men, make sure you shave, and ladies, keep your hands out of your hair and your hair out of your face. Men, I know full suits can be uncomfortable sometimes, please do not wear your basketball shorts or even just boxers because you don’t feel the need to wear a full suit. What are you going to do if I ask you to go turn another light on because the video lighting is poor? Think about it. I recommend having two solid interview outfits or power suits picked out that make you feel confident and ready to go if you are called for any type of interview.

• Communication- It may be the last topic mentioned here, but it’s definitely the most important! To anyone who rolls their eyes when adults say “communication is key”, you best listen. During an interview this is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest skill set your interviewer is assessing. Make sure you speak clearly, avoid using headphones at all costs, test your microphone the day before, and do not, I repeat, do not have a snack waiting during the switch of a twofold interview. Speak with confidence and know your resume inside out. Your resume should be an outline of your experiences, but during an interview, it is your job to tell your full story. There should be no need to look down or read off of your resume – you know the contents better than anyone else. Smile during your interview – it is okay to laugh and have fun while speaking to your interviewer, just remain professional as it is still an interview! Ask questions, but don’t sound like a broken record by quickly google-ing “top interview questions”. Again, not going to help in the long run! If you do your homework about the company, you should be able to prepare questions relevant to the position and company. Watch your ‘eye contact’ (I say that in ‘ ‘ as you are in a virtual setting). I know you look good, but stop staring at yourself in that little box down in the corner or only looking at the screen – you need to make eye contact with that tiny camera at the top of your computer – that is your eye contact during a Skype. I’ll say it one last time, communication is key!

Every Skype interview should be treated as seriously as an in-person interview. Several companies conduct Skype interviews for your convenience so in return it is important to remember to value their time. I have conducted countless Skype interviews and time and time again candidates do not take advantage of these simple tips that can determine the outcome of an interview. I encourage you to take these basic steps to help you be successful the next time you are called to connect via video!

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Networking Earned You a Referral, Now What?
Posted on: October 20th, 2016

Networking, either through your personal contacts or by using social media tools like Linkedin, is an important part of any job search strategy. However, getting referred to a working professional who may be helpful in your job search is only the start. Here are some things to do to maximize the value of that referral.

Research the Referral – Use Linkedin, profiles that may be on their employer’s web site, published articles, etc. to learn more about the contact. Look for similarities between their backgrounds and yours (same college, same major, etc.).
Contact Information – To start, make sure you have received the referral’s contact information – especially business phone and email. A cell phone number is nice to have, but should be used with caution depending upon the advice of your referral source.
Initial Communication – The initial communication is crucial. It should be clear and concise. Include these elements:

Explain the Connection Identify who referred you and how you know the referring party.
Describe Your Background You have some leeway here, but college major, important skills, extra-curricular activities, and possible career interests are possible subjects. Keep it to 3-4 sentences at most.
State Your Purpose – Unless you know of a specific position that is open at the referral’s company, ask for an informational interview. State that your goal is to learn more about the referral’s education and career experiences, to communicate career options that you are considering and to get their feedback.
Close End your email by thanking them and summarizing your contact information.

In most cases, your first outreach should be by email. A call to the referral’s business number is also acceptable, especially if you know the person. Either way, make sure your communication is professional and error free. Be sure to proof-read and spell-check emails. Similarly, with telephone communication, practice what you want to say and be sure to use a confident voice.

If after your initial outreach you do not hear back, be sure to follow-up. Keep in mind that you are contacting busy people – they may not put responding to your email or voice mail message at the top of their to-do list. Be prepared to follow-up two or three times. Given this, you may want to alternate email and phone follow-ups. If they see a call from you on their caller ID, they might just pick-up in order to get an item off their to-do list.

Finally, keep in mind that professional networking is among the best job search strategies and most professional people will be very willing to help. They remember when they started their careers and the help they received during their job search process. Once you get started and have success, you’ll find that it’s actually a skill you’ll be using throughout your career.

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10 Industry Experts Share Their Best Job Hunting Tips
Posted on: August 8th, 2016

GradStaff CEO Bob LaBombard was recently featured in an article by Career Addict focusing on industry experts and their most important advice on how to conduct a successful job hunt. These experts – CEOs, authors, professionals, etc. have walked the path of a young professional and are in a great position to help young job seekers given their experience and success. Tip # 2 focuses on creating a Modern Resume, but keep in mind this is tailored more toward creative roles, and a more traditional copy of a resume is important to have for non-creative positions. You can see all 10 job searching tips by reading the full article HERE.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Following Up After an Interview
Posted on: July 27th, 2016

You hop in the car, crank up the volume and start jamming to your favorite song. You don’t even care who is watching because you just nailed your interview! Now all that is left to do is patiently wait for a few days until the offer is sent your way, right? Wrong! The interview isn’t over quite yet, there is still one important step to take in order to be sure you hold your ground as a top candidate.

That last step? Following up with a Thank You Letter.

These days, forgetting to send a thank you letter can simply be seen as unprofessional. With that being said, you shouldn’t send a thank you letter just to “check it off the list.” A thank you letter can be another chance for you to stand out to the recruiter or hiring manager and make sure they don’t forget about you.

Following these few simple rules can help ensure that your thank you letter leaves an impression:

Send BOTH an Email and a Note Through the Mail (Yes, Snail Mail Still Exists!)

As today’s workflows become more fast-paced, sending a thank you email before your handwritten note will reduce the gap between your interview and when the hiring manager hears from you again. Your email can be sent as soon as two hours after your interview, but no longer than 24 hours. The recruiters are constantly meeting people, so staying in front of them with a friendly reminder will only help them remember you and your interview.

Be sure to send a physical note at the same time, so it arrives within a few days after the interview. People enjoy opening an old fashioned letter. It shows that you aren’t lazy, and that you’re serious about the position. Also, don’t send the same letter by mail that you sent via email. Switch it up a little bit!

Use Professional Language

Even though this is a thank you letter and may seem a little less formal, it is still a business transaction. It will give the interviewers a chance to see how you communicate through writing as well (i.e. how you would represent the company). Tip: If you are unaware whether or not the woman who interviewed you is married, “Ms.” is a safe bet to use while addressing her in the letter.

Send a Thank You to Everyone You Met With

Sending one general thank you letter to the entire team or sending the same generic letter to each person that you met with defeats the purpose, as it won’t help you stand out amongst the crowd. Don’t get lazy, and be sure to send an individual thank you to everyone who was involved in the interview process.

Thank You Card

Personalize Each Thank You Letter

Recruiters and hiring managers are experts when it comes to this stuff, so they know a template when they see one. Whether it’s mentioning the hometown that you share, the sports team you both root for, or thanking them for a rundown of a large project they talked through with you, incorporating something personal lets them recall who you are and shows that you paid attention throughout the interview process.

Conclude With a Summary and Acknowledge Next Steps

If they mentioned in the interview that they were expecting a decision the following week, address that in the final paragraph. Sign off with something along the lines of “Again, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to interview with XYZ Company, and the time you took out of your day to meet with me. You mentioned that a decision on the XYZ role is expected by next week. I look forward to hearing from you regarding your decision. In the meantime, if there is any additional information you may need from me, I would be more than happy to provide it for you.”

Have Someone Proofread Your Letter

A simple misspelling of a word or name can be enough to remove your name from consideration. You worked so hard to land (and crush) that interview, so don’t let a typo make all of that go to waste! It’s always good to have as many sets of eyes on your writing as possible. If you are unsure about how to spell a name, don’t guess. You can look them up on the company website or their LinkedIn page, or even better, you could glance at their business card (which you hopefully asked for at the end of the interview!)

From now on, instead of looking at a Thank You Letter as a simple formality, use it to your advantage. Show the company that you are truly thankful for their time and the opportunity. Also, use it as a tool to make a lasting impression and showcase one last time that you would be a great fit for the company.

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GradStaff CEO Talks Job Search Tips for 2016 Grads on Local Fox Affiliate
Posted on: May 6th, 2016

GradStaff CEO Bob LaBombard recently joined Fox 9 News to talk about upcoming 2016 graduates and what they can do to strategize their job search. Catch the full video clip below!

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