Answer These 3 Questions; Ace Your Next Job Interview

We all know we’re supposed to prepare for a job interview. So why don’t we? It’s a question I ask because in the past few years I’ve probably served on a dozen interview panels.

Some individuals are quite prepared. It’s obvious they’ve done their homework – from reviewing the company website to researching their future colleagues to connecting their skills and experiences to the mission of the company.

And then there are those who seem surprised by some of the questions. And yet, if you go to any website about interviewing the questions are right there. Here are a few that you should think about in advance and be prepared to answer:

  1. Would you tell us about a weakness? Most individuals think the goal is to turn it into a positive so they mention things like they are perfectionists or they work too hard. That might work when you are first starting out, but as you interview for increasingly complex jobs, what interviewers really want to know is how self-aware you are. More importantly, they want to know how you are addressing the weakness. One candidate I interviewed was asked the question during three separate interviews and never could answer it. It certainly didn’t help the candidate’s cause.
  2. Why do you want to be part of this team or company? Interviewers expect to hear that you believe in the mission of the company and that you’ve heard great things about the team. The interviewers already know that since they work for the company. What they really want to know is “What are you passionate about?” and “What gets you excited to come to work?”
  3. Why should we hire you? This is the softball pitch, meaning that the candidate should be able to hit this one out of the ballpark. And yet, too many candidates stammer when asked this question. Those who have to think about it or stammer their way through it usually have blown the interview. Almost always, I’ve hired the candidate that heard the question and immediately provided a tight synopsis of his strengths and how those strengths would benefit the company.

Are you ready for your next job interview?

3 Tips to Handle Bad News

When your job hands you lemons, how do you make lemonade?

It’s not always easy but recently three individuals who have been handling difficult news each shared a tip for making lemonade from difficult news.

  1. Identify your value proposition. Mary Ellin Arch, spokesperson for Pocahontas 895 toll road in Virginia, shared how nobody likes toll increases. However, when she talks about how a road saves the person time, it lessens the impact of the rate increase news. “It becomes the good news,” she said.
  2. Share your own bad news. Ray Kozakewicz, who formerly worked for Media General, said it’s important to get your own bad news out before others report on it. “It is very important that you don’t sugarcoat your bad news,” he said. In dealing with staff layoffs, Kozakewicz also emphasized the importance of holding special meetings and identifying key message points.
  3. Identify stakeholders and their issues. Once you know the issues, you can build the message points, said Chet Ward of Dominion. Even though Virginia rates are lower compared to others, customers don’t want to hear that, Ward said. “They want to know about reliability. We have to provide reliable information about reliability. We don’t talk about rates, we talk about what you get for your money.”

Give Yourself the Gift of NFPW Renewal

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the hustle and bustle of trying to find the perfect gift for someone else. I’m talking about the decision to renew your membership to the National Federation of Press Women.

NFPWlogoI asked members on Facebook why they choose to renew. If you’re still in doubt, perhaps their reasons will encourage you to stroke that check and give yourself the best gift for yourself – and maybe your career.

Here’s what they had to say:

Walter Brasch of Pennsylvania: “I joined because two-thirds of my J-students were women, and I thought it important that I (a) learned more of the issues that affected them, and would affect them, and (b) so they would have an organization that had woman as a majority.”

Kim Atchley of South Carolina: “I was invited by a professional friend who reached out to me as a freelancer when I had no connections at all. I’ve stayed all these years for many reasons. It’s about the connections and the strong thread of friendship that is a given within our membership.”

Sandra Latimer of Ohio: “I joined because of the contest (at the urging of my then boss). When I was asked to be the contest chair for my affiliate I went to my first conference. I met a few people and kept going back. I have also been able to travel to places I never dreamed I’d get to. And I’ve made a lot of contacts.”

Nancy Wright Beasley of Virginia: “I’ve asked many, many jounalists to join, describing how friendships run deep, careers are made and encouraged and everyone finds a way to help someone else. The hand of friendship of NFPW extends from every corner of the U. S. around the world, and I’m so thankful I’m a part of this great organization.”

Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas of Illinois: “Fabulous members who I now count as friends.”

Barb Batie of Nebraska: “By the time I switched from full-time work to freelance work so I could stay home with my young family, I appreciated the value of that membership and continued to pay the membership and convention expenses because I got such a return on the investment.”

Constance Huff of Alaska: “Great contacts made in our local chapter, some became close friends. The annual conference and especially pre- and post-tours are a highlight of my year.”

Julie Campbell of Virginia: “I like going to NFPW conferences and visiting with all kinds of interesting women who work in all aspects of communications. Most of the time, we talk less about work and more about other parts of our lives. After those conversations, whether they take place over coffee, wine, or the silent auction, I return home feeling refreshed.”

Digital Journalism Requires Curiosity, Good Writing

Today Lois Lane is going to be carrying her trusty smartphone when she heads out to try to interview Superman.

During a mock interview, a journalist uses a smartphone to conduct the interview.

During a mock interview, a journalist uses a smartphone to conduct the interview.

She may still have a notebook and pen to scratch a few notes down, but she’s going to want to capture video of Superman flying through the sky to save the day and upload to the Daily Planet’s website.

“The smartphone is becoming the journalist’s tool,” Danny Finnegan, editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, told a group of communicators during a workshop.

For one thing, a smartphone makes it easier for reporters to transmit their stories. And because a  smartphone takes photos and videos, Finnegan said, “It makes enhancing stories so much easier.”

Some things about journalism haven’t changed, though, Finnegan said. Newspapers continue to hire curious reporters who have an understanding of a good story and can write well.