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How to Talk About Weaknesses in a Job Interview
Posted on: February 20th, 2019

Whether you’re interviewing for your first out-of-college, entry-level position or a more experienced leadership role, you’ll find one topic of questioning remains the same and can be a challenge to answer no matter your experience level. And that topic is about your weaknesses. Successfully answering this question can distinguish you from your competitors and help you land the job. But be careful, interviewers can trick you and pose this question in several ways.

From keeping it positive and honest to having the ability to identify weaknesses and share how you’re addressing them and self-correcting when possible, Avenica’s own Jacqueline Wolfson, vice president, Eastern region, provides some great advice for tackling this question for an article in which she was recently interviewed about this topic. Read the article currently posted on Tribune Content Agency.

For more than twenty years, Avenica has been the leading U.S. recruiting firm exclusively focused on placing recent college graduates into entry-level, career-track positions. Learn more about our process, or upload your resume to be considered for an open position with one of our amazing clients.

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Use This Resume Template to Get the Job
Posted on: January 24th, 2019

Okay, we admit it, creating a resume isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun time. Actually, it’s the worst. Trying to summarize your entire professional life story–all you’re good at, all your career goals and aspirations, and all your achievements and accomplishments–all on one page sounds difficult, and that’s because it is. Crafting the perfect resume is all about telling the right story so a hiring decision maker can quickly determine if you’ll be a good fit for the job. As cliche as it sounds, first impressions are extremely important. And when it comes to resumes, it can make or break your chances of even being considered for an interview. No pressure, right?

We go through hundreds of resumes every day and can spot the good, the bad, and the ugly from a mile away, so we’re going to make it easy on you. Use this resume template, enter in our own info, personalize as needed. You’re welcome.

Here’s why it works:

 It’s simple.

Keeping your resume formatted in a simple format is extremely important. Many companies use automated resume filtering systems that don’t always properly render design elements, certain fonts, and formatting. While the design might look great on your computer, it might look completely different on their side. It’s best to use a Word .docx file and have a backup in PDF format. Also, keeping it to one page is advised–especially in the entry-level space; any more pages and you can guarantee it won’t get read all the way through.

It’s clear.

No beating around the bush here. Everything you need in a perfect resume is clearly stated. There’s a clear hierarchy of information that isn’t confusing or difficult to read and gives the hiring manager everything they need to know. Also, it’s important that your bullets be phrased in a way that describes your achievements, rather than just a list of your tasks. We’ve included a couple action verbs to start you off, but here’s a solid list you can use as well. It might seem kind of hard if you have little experience and are entry-level, but here’s an example of how you can make a regular task look more polished.

Before: Assisted customers by answering questions
After: Built strong customer relationships by providing excellent customer service to up to 50 customers a day.


It’s professional.

This template is just simply that; it’s what’s going to make you look like a superstar candidate. Hiring managers are looking for a clean and intentional design with consistent formatting that says, “I know what I’m doing.” It’s not too often you get to say that when you’re just graduating college, so relish in this moment. You got this!

Now, all you have to do is use this to apply.

For more than twenty years, Avenica has been the leading U.S. recruiting firm exclusively focused on placing recent college graduates into entry-level, career-track positions. Learn more about our process, or upload your resume to be considered for an open position with one of our amazing clients.

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How to Sell Your Summer Job in a Professional Interview
Posted on: August 15th, 2018

For job-seeking college grads about to enter a competitive job market, every bit of experience can help pave the way to a future career. But while some of you may have entered the professional world upon graduation, others may be looking for work in the fall after seasonal employment ends.  

You may not see much valuable work experience in typical summer jobs, such as child care, lifeguarding, serving/bartending, and other similar jobs, but these positions build valuable soft skills and emotional intelligence that transfer well to a professional environment. How you articulate what you’ve accomplished and learned on the job – in any job – can give hiring managers a good sense of your ability to learn and adapt on the job.  

Here are some interview scenarios you can use to gauge how well you can promote your soft skills acquired as part of a summer job: 

Child Care
Skills enhanced: Leadership, problem-solving, multi-tasking
Accomplishments to highlight:
·       Talk about a time when you made a difficult decision on the job
·       Discuss how you juggled priorities and made sure everything got accomplished
·       Share how you’ve handled and resolved criticism from an employer
Ideal professional roles: Project management, human resources, office management/administration

Lifeguard
Skills enhanced: Responsibility, decision-making, accountability
Accomplishments to highlight:
·       Talk about a time when you had to make split-second decisions while on the job
·       Discuss how you helped your colleagues ensure a safe environment for guests
·       Share an example of a mistake you made on the job. How did you resolve it?
Ideal professional roles: Administration, compliance, accounting

Restaurant Serving
Skills enhanced: Working in a fast-paced environment, customer service, conflict resolution
Accomplishments to highlight:
·       Discuss how you’ve diffused a tense situation on the job
·       Talk about how you’d respond to customer criticism directed at you personally
·       Share an example of how you’ve pushed back on a customer and said “no.”
Ideal professional roles: Customer service, sales, marketing, communications

Retail
Skills enhanced: Customer service, sales, multitasking
Accomplishments to highlight:
·       Share how you helped your store exceed sales expectations
·       Talk about how you learned to excel at the most difficult aspect of your role
·       Describe how your work helped improve the customer experience at your store
Ideal professional roles: Sales, merchandising, marketing and communication

When it comes to entry-level positions, hiring managers are increasingly looking for skill versus experience. In such a competitive hiring market, it’s more essential than ever for employers to consider a diverse range of candidates. That’s why you should sell your own experiences as skill-building opportunities and demonstrate how those skills apply to the job being pursued. Whether you’ve honed your skills in an office, at the pool, or on the golf course, your ability to market these skills in lieu of professional experience will be a critical factor in your success on the path toward your future career.

Learn more about how Avenica looks for transferable skills when connecting job-seekers with careers.

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Procrastinating on your job search? Here are some tips to get started.  
Posted on: May 17th, 2018

With spring commencement just a few days or weeks away, soon-to-be college grads who have yet to line up a job are probably feeling the heat from parents and advisors, encouraging them to start looking for a post-graduation job. But between studying for finals, cleaning out the dorm fridge and making plans for grad parties, how can college seniors keep their eyes on the prize?

Here are some career-planning “dos and don’ts” for the Class of 2018:

Start with an objective assessment of you. By now, most seniors preparing to graduate have done some thinking about post-college career plans. But paying a last-minute visit to career services or scanning job postings weeks before graduation may result in continued uncertainty and frustration. The best approach? Start with a complete and objective assessment of your full set of talents, skills and interests, based on academic and extracurricular experiences.  Marrying this assessment of your underlying skills with your interests can yield a more focused list of career options, which will translate to a more effective job search.

Don’t settle for a job when you can start a career. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure for recent graduates to simply “get a job” to pay the bills. While this may be unavoidable, it’s unwise to sacrifice your career ambitions in pursuit of any job at any cost. A smarter approach is to look for “transitional” work in your desired field or an adjacent industry, which can satisfy your need for a paycheck while providing invaluable experience for your future career. For example, if account management is where you want to end up, then customer service positions can be a great starting point.

Ask for help early and often. If you feel like you’re behind the eight-ball, don’t despair: there are an abundance of resources at your disposal. First, start with parents, parents’ friends, advisors and even friends’ parents. Grow your personal network and leverage those connections to make inroads with prospective employers. Ask for advice on your résumé, cover letters and targeted industries or job leads. Don’t be afraid to ask for introductions to people outside of your network – most will be eager to help.

Think outside the job search boards. The Internet can make job searches seem like a rote exercise: punch in some keywords, scroll through a few listings, find a job and upload your résumé. It seems simple, but it’s a highly ineffective “shotgun” approach that does not account for passion, interest, transferable skill or cultural fit. Rather than going it alone, career-bound seniors should consider all options, including third-party recruiting services that specialize in entry-level hiring. These solutions take the individual into account rather than relying solely on algorithms and applicant tracking variables. Third-party recruiters may also have access to positions that are not advertised publicly, giving you a better shot at the right career opportunity.

Stay positive, even if prospects seem slim. The right fit for you is out there somewhere. It takes patience and perseverance to find the perfect opportunity, but you should resist the temptation to sell yourself short, and you should never compromise for the sake of simply landing a job. Employers want energetic and engaged entry-level team members who are passionate about the company’s mission. If you are not enthusiastic about an opportunity, it will show during the interview process and ultimately, if you land the job, will make you more likely to jump ship. Stick to your strategy: you and the right opportunity will find each-other.

Learn more about how Avenica can help you find your future career.

 

 

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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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Making a Great First Impression
Posted on: November 16th, 2017

 

When heading into an interview, there are a number of ways that you can come prepared to make a great first impression and focus the employer’s attention on your strengths and the value that you could add to the organization. Here are a few to consider:

1. Dress comfortably and professionally

Coming to an interview looking polished and professional is one of the most important aspects of making a great first impression. While a clean and sophisticated appearance is critical, it’s also important to be comfortable in your wardrobe and accessories to avoid fidgeting with clothing, hair or jewelry. Keep your hair pinned back and ensure that the outfit you choose is one that won’t be distracting to either you or the interviewer.

2. Anything that could be a distraction, will be

To the point above, candidates should assume that anything that has the potential to be distracting needs to be cautioned against. Keep technology off and tucked away, and be sure that you come prepared with a good working pen and portfolio notepad. Some note-taking is okay, but to stay engaged in the conversation, maintain good eye contact and limit too much other activity.

3. Show interest without interrogating

Candidates should do their research on the company and be able to articulate what the company does and its market position—what it does to win against its competitors. They should come to the interview prepared with four to six relevant questions about the company’s future plans, the position, how it fits with the organization, and what has made previous employees in that position successful. While good questions can display knowledge of the company and interest in the role, it’s important not to overwhelm the employer with too many questions. Instead, use the employer’s answers to your questions to convince them that your experience and skills are a great fit for what they need. Oh, and save salary and benefits questions for later rounds of interviews, or even after you get the offer; focus the first conversation on ways that you can add value to the team.

While poor first impressions can be a quick way to miss opportunities that might have otherwise been a good fit, good preparation and conscious choices during the interview can put candidates on the desired path to be a leading candidate for prospective employers.

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Using the STAR Method to Showcase Your Skills
Posted on: November 14th, 2016

GradStaff has helped thousands of recent graduates find great entry-level positions to begin their career. One of the main keys to landing a position is taking the time to properly prepare for interviews. About half of each interview will consists of the interviewer gathering information as to why your qualifications make you the best choice possible for the available position. To answer questions like these, our experts recommend using the STAR Method.

To prepare for using the STAR Method in your interviews, practice the exercise below to familiarize yourself with the model.

  1. Make a list of all the transferable skills or attributes that make you unique (Ex. Strong Communicator, Assertive, Persuasive, Focused, Adaptable, etc.) This requires dedicating time for self-reflection, and StrengthsFinder (published by Gallup®) is an example of a great resource that can help with this process.
  2. Read the job description of the position for which you are interviewing. After reviewing, pick at least 7 of your strongest attributes that, based on your research, will be most appealing to the company/hiring manager.
  3. For reach attribute, provide three specific examples of situations in which you have clearly displayed these strengths. Keep in mind, these do not always need to be professional examples. Extracurricular activities, part-time, and non-professional work can provide valuable examples as well.

While coming up with these examples, each should:

  • Describe a Specific Situation
  • Identify the Task or objective needed to address the situation
  • Highlight the Action you took
  • Discuss the Result of your action (this should be a positive outcome)

*Using the acronym STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is a great way to remember the process.

Keep in mind that each of these examples should be concise (able to complete in a minute or less) and clearly illustrate your attribute.

Let’s take a look at what a specific example might look like while applying to an account management position:

  1. Read the job description. Identify the transferable skills and attributes required for success in the account management position job description. Keep in mind that some of these skills won’t be “listed,” and will need to be implied based on the information you have.
  2. Of all the attributes listed in the job description, list your 7 strongest that you would like to highlight in the interview. For the account management position, my 7 strongest attributes might be goal-oriented, competitive, persuasive, assertive, outgoing, strong communicator, and active listener.
  3. Prepare stories for each of these attributes, and practice responding to sample questions. Example Interview Question: Tell me about a time you had to gain commitment from a group of people for a new or popular idea.

For this question, I want to highlight my ability to be persuasive and communicate effectively.

Situation: In college, I served on a volunteer committee for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Task: Our committee was chosen to plan a concert fund-raiser that could produce at least $10,000 in revenue. We narrowed the musical options to two well-known bands. The committee was leaning toward the less expensive band.

Action: I was convinced that overall we would net more money by hiring the more expensive band because it had better name recognition with college students, so I put together a series of scenarios and presented them to the committee in a clear and detailed manner. My presentation showed that although it would cost more to hire a notionally recognized band, we would be able to sell more tickets at higher prices.

Result: When it came time to vote, it was unanimously decided to accept my recommendation. The even was held as scheduled and netted roughly $375,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, which was exponentially higher than the initial goal.

*As you can see, using the STAR method allows you to display even your extracurricular and non-professional work experiences in a very concise and powerful manner.

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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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