My journey from desperate to employed.

‘When I first visited The Skills and Jobs Centre, I had been looking for work for 8 months. I was job seeking 6 hours a day and applying for everything, jobs I was eligible for and jobs that I wasn’t eligible for. I worked at Black Salt for 6 months, over 40 hours a week, working at night and job searching during the day. I didn’t want to give up because I would hate myself and I couldn’t do it. I felt very frustrated. I thought my resume was OK and couldn’t believe it was so unfair.

I saw the Resume Workshop on Facebook on the Geelong Careers page. I had never been to anything like this, but thought I had nothing to lose. At the workshop, I was negative, ranting and I hated everything. I had been to University and had previously held a senior role but I was desperate. Robyn asked me to come in for an appointment. I thought no initially, but then what have I got to lose. I had pressure from family and so came in for a resume review.

In my first appointment, Robyn wouldn’t let me be negative and was encouraging. She gave me general advice on my resume. Robyn immediately built a rapport. Before I had my job interview at the Department of Health and Human Services, Robyn gave me tips and put me in the right head space. She said to research the company, which I did.

We went over and over the Position Description (PD) and this was the biggest thing. We highlighted words, including key words and it was someone to bounce ideas off. You think you’re doing it right, but it seems so obvious now. I was telling employers what I knew, rather than what they wanted to know.

In my job interview, I said annual report 3 times, repeating a key word. Now I know my boss only hears key words! There was a practical component to the interview, including Excel and doing Pivot tables. I had 15 minutes to complete it. After the 15 minutes, I came back and had to say I couldn’t do it. I thought I had stuffed it all up.

I went home and googled it and then drafted an email to say I could do it. I called Robyn and she said to send it. She said that job hunting is a delicate balance! They had over 100 applicants, but I got the job and they changed the role to put in more environmental management. I think my updated resume helped me to get the job and tailoring my application to the job – as soon as I did that, I got a job!

I’ve been there now for 4 or 5 months. I’m a Project Officer in the Environmental Management Unit at the Department of Health and Human Services. I am responsible for Environmental Management Systems Reporting. Also, staff engagement and staff behaviour change, including recycling, lights, energy etc. My role is 30% projects and I concentrate on renewable energy. I am working in Melbourne, so I leave at 7 am and get home at about 6.50 pm, but I am using my Bachelor of Science (Environmental) and Graduate Certificate in Applied Science in my new role.

Now I have a job, I feel like an adult. I feel like this is what I’m going to do. I’ve fluffed around for so long and now I feel like I’m on my way. I have financial security and the security of having a job. It’s great not to feel so desperate and to not have to be job searching.

The best thing I learnt from The Skills and Jobs Centre was the resume templates. I used the 2 page resume template. Also, that I needed to stop talking so much in my applications and use dot points.

The advice I would give to other job seekers is re-do your resume. You might think that it’s good, but it’s not. Also, get some assistance. Research the company. And just keep going until something happens!’ – Nat James.

img_1671

Sample answers to common interview questions.

Although you can’t predict exactly what questions will be asked – you can think about possible questions and prepare BRIEF responses beforehand.

Some questions will be behavioural (on the assumption that past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour). This requires examples of where, when or how you did something.

For these use the S.T.A.R. method to help keep your responses relevant.

star
S.T.A.R. = Situation, Task, Action & Response

 

Straightforward Questions

Tell us about yourself?

  • Be concise, relevant and interesting.
  • What has lead you to this interview:
    • A passion for . . . . . .
    • Studied &/or worked &/or volunteered with . . . . . .
    • Gained relevant employability skills by . . . .
    • Now keen to . . . . . . .
  • Focus on how and why you became interested in this area or role & show the skills you bring to this position – show that you are a good fit for the position.

A Poor Response: Too few details, not convincing or focusing on one aspect e.g. your childhood.

Why did you apply for this role?

  • Why you are keen to work in this particular role and for this particular organisation.
  • Employers want people who are connected to working for them and working within their team.
  • Focus on the key factors that make you a great fit for the role.
  • You need to match your skills to the skills the role requires e.g.
    • ‘I have always been interested in . . . . ., and valued my studies in . . . . . .
    • ‘I have also gained relevant employability skills such as . . . in my work at/with  . . . and gained further skills such as . . . in my work placement/volunteer role at . . . .’
  • Next: Link that information to what the organisation does and how that connects to the role.
  • Finally, focus on what it is about the organisation that drew you to apply and why you want to be a part of that.

A Poor Response: I need a job.

What do you know about the company?

  • Show you have done some research. This requires information that is found on their website and/or under the ‘About us’ button.
  • Perhaps you can focus on an aspect from their Mission Statement, Values or History e.g. The fact that they are in a new, cutting edge industry.
  • It may require further research about the organisations future plans, or even knowledge of their achievements or the awards they have received.
  • Your networking skills may connect you with a contact person who works or worked there, and may provide more information.
  • Be clear as to why this information or knowledge about the company appeals to you.

A Poor Response: Not much.

Why should we hire you?

  • This is a great opportunity to sell your skills & experiences.
  • You need to show that you are capable of doing the work and delivering the results that the company wants.
  • Show you can fit in with the team as well as the company culture.
  • Show you are the best fit by focusing on examples that demonstrate the required skills and abilities from your recent experiences.

A Poor Response: Little detail.

What are your greatest strengths?

  • Be genuine, accurate and relevant.
  • Show your true skills – not just what they want to hear. It may also include values.
  • Choose the strengths that are most suitable for this particular position and be specific.
  • Give an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.

A Poor Response: Everything!

Really Difficult Questions (Don’t be afraid!)

How would you deal with conflict?

  • Examples need to reflect an understanding that we are all different and have different perspectives and ideas. In team meetings you need to show that you embrace the diversity of views, listen to others, appreciate their perspective, contribute and let the group and/or leaders make the decisions.
  • Sometimes people become frustrated and may behave badly. Whether this is someone in the general public or within an organisation, any conflict requires you to remain calm, listen carefully and focus on resolving the issue, or seek assistance from someone who can resolve the issue.
  • For issues with team members it may be that this outburst is unusual and may indicate that someone is struggling with other issue. You may need to check they are OK and encourage them to seek assistance.
  • In any example steer clear of being negative in your example and never criticise others.

A Poor Response: Criticising management

Why did you leave your last job?

  • This is such a tricky question.
  • Turn the focus to why you are seeking a new position.
  • You do not have to divulge personal details or mention everything you thought about your last position.
  • In the end you are seeking a new opportunity, a change, to gain more or broader skills, to work in a different or related area or to take up a promotion. You may have been training in a new area whilst working and now want to use the training and your employability skills in a new or different position. Or you may be passionate about what this company does and want to be a part of that.
  • Even if you felt unappreciated, that the culture has changed or you were no longer happy, now is not the time or place to discuss these issues.
  • It is better to focus on positive aspects such as seeking new challenges, extending skills & experiences, new qualifications and wanting to work in that area, limited opportunities where I was, retrenched, the business closed or had time off to have a family.

What are your weaknesses?

  • Another really terrifying question.
  • It is best to focus on something you have since addressed, that you used to do but have worked on so that it is not a problem now.
  • Focus on something you have improved e.g. skills such as planning and organisation, communication or working in multidisciplinary teams, or perhaps your personal life such as work/life balance or introducing more exercise in your daily routine.

Written by our resident interview champion, Robyn. If you need help with preparing for an interview, come along to Robyn’s interview workshop or make an appointment for interview coaching with any of the Skills and Jobs Centre advisors.

Picture credit: Geralt

So you think you’ve got the gift of the gab?

Phew! I’ve got an interview…

So I’ll be right now!

As a careers counsellor I sometimes hear people say,

‘Once I get to the interview, I’ll be right!’

‘I have the gift of the gab. I can talk to anyone about anything so it’ll be sweet!

This makes me want to cry!! An opportunity could be missed simply because you have not prepared.

It is never a good idea to speak ‘off the cuff’.

Even for politicians who believe they have the gift! They come unstuck. Regularly.

It is true you do not know what will be asked, so what can you do?

1. Be prepared, and you might have a chance to land the job.

2. Allow plenty of time. Seriously, it takes a lot of effort to think through what you might say.

Doing your research is essential. Research the organisation: online or through contacts, observations, talking to others, ringing to ask relevant thoughtful questions.

Find out as much as you can about who they are, what they do, plans for the future, what they value, what the culture of the place is?

  1. You can prepare some responses. Take a punt on other questions and prepare responses.
  2. Keep these responses brief. Dot points only.
  3. Use examples that demonstrate what you have done. Sum up by ensuring that it is clear how past training, volunteering or work has equipped you for this new role.
  4. Have a practice asking and answering.
  5. Transfer this information to prompt cards or notes with even briefer words that remind you of what you have been practicing.
  6. Practice your responses in front of the mirror, or family & friends.

Handy hint: As you go in you can ask if you can have your notes on the table.

If it is OK make sure you DO NOT READ the notes as you respond. Glance down to remind yourself, if stress has made your mind a vacuum.

These notes are a prompt resource only, to allow you to consider whether you have covered what you wanted to say and address it if not.

If they do not want you to bring these notes in, at least you have prepared yourself by practicing and you may in fact remember this information as you relax and enjoy the process of having a chat with the interviewer(s)!

Tips:

It is a chat! Enjoy meeting with new people and relax a bit. Smile. Look at the interviewer or interviewers.

They want to know if you have the skills and experience. So you have to be specific. You do have to talk about yourself and why you would be a good addition to the team. Don’t forget you are also trying to gauge whether you want to work for them. So listen carefully to their language.

You can do it. But only if you really prepare!

Written by our resident interview champion, Robyn. If you would like to find out more about preparing for an interview, come along to Robyn’s interview workshop at our Festival of Change.

Most common interview questions & how to answer them!

What will they ask? What do I say?

About them questions 

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What do you know about our company?

About you questions

  • Tell us about yourself?
  • What has been your greatest strength?
  • Why should we hire you?

Behavioural questions

  • Tell us about a time . . .
    • You made a difference to a team or process or colleague?
    • You had conflicting deadlines at work? What did you do about it?
    • When you built rapport with someone at work, even in a stressful or challenging situation.
  • Can you give an example of a time when you had to cope with interpersonal conflict when working on a team project and how you handled this?

How will I answer?

  • Focus on real examples
  • From a diversity of situations

Written by our resident interview champion, Robyn. If you would like to know more about answering interview questions, come along to Robyn’s interview workshop.

 

Practice makes perfect!

But Practice what?

Firstly, prepare!

  1. Common Interview Questions – it’s an educated guess!
  2. Responses to these common interview questions – use the STAR method & keep it brief!
  3. Focus on your strengths, experiences and skills from a range of areas.
  4. Talk about your education choices and achievements.

And then practice!

  1. Identify examples of achievements you want to promote & how they are relevant to this job.
  2. Get help – friends, colleagues, family or the Skills & Job Centre team – to practice potential responses.
  3. Focus on speaking clearly and concisely.
  4. Prepare a list of 2 to 3 questions you’d like to ask – Choose wisely!

And remember, practice makes perfect!

By our resident interview champion, Robyn Gray. If you need to prepare or practice for an interview, make an appointment with Robyn or another of our lovely advisors.

 

So you have an interview.. HELP!!

So, you’re wondering what you need to do to prepare you for an interview?

question mark man

Firstly, Don’t panic!

Follow these fail safe tips to kill it at the interview and land yourself that job!

1. Research, research and more research!

What?
The company’s website

Who?
Who they are, what they do,
how long have they been doing it

How?
Find the ‘About Us’ Button or ‘What we Do’
What are you looking for?
The Aims, Mission Statement &/or Values

Where?
Under History, Strategic Plan or ‘Who We Are’
Look for annual reports or other company publications

Why?
To show knowledge of the company
To show you are a suitable fit

2. Check out rival companies

What are the points of difference
Why do they think they are different

3. Re-check the position description

To expand on your application information

4. Prepare examples

Use a range of experiences (work, clubs, voluntary) to show how you have gained the specific skills, experience or qualities the job requires

5. Re-read the job advertisement and your resume

Think about what makes you a good choice for this employer
Specifically, which of your skills, experiences and knowledge make you a valuable asset to the company

Written by our resident interview champion, Robyn Gray. Subscribe to our blog to receive all of Robyn’s amazing interview tips straight to your inbox.

photo credit: Marco Bellucci via photopin cc