It doesn’t take long for a boss to know if they are going to hire someone. Studies show that at times it can take less than 90 seconds. There are many things that you can do to make sure that these first 90 seconds and the remaining time in the interview work to your advantage. How Interviewers Know When to Hire You in 90 Seconds helps point out the biggest mistakes, what makes the biggest impact and other tips to create a great first impression!

After reading through the article check out how you can get some Interviewing Practice through Career Services!

Making a first impression is more than an impressive resume and answering interview questions. Your body language can have a huge effect on how people and employers percieve you. Amy Cuddy takes this idea and goes further. She talks about how our body language can effect how we see ourselves. Her study showed that taking on power poses for two minutes can raise testosterone and lower cortisol, thus improving confidence. Cuddy states, “Tiny tweaks and lead to big changes.” This change in self image can improve confidence in, presentations, giving a pitch, or job interviews! Check out the Ted Talk to learn more…

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

 

It might sound strange, but “storytelling” is an important skill to have when job searching. I have been providing interviewing consultations for the past year and a half, and this is the most important thing that I have learned. Why is it important to be able to tell a story? Ultimately, a good story is memorable and teaches the listener something about the teller. When job searching, the most important thing you need to do well is to be able to paint a picture of yourself for others. Employers want someone with (a) skills to do the job, and (b) ability to fit into their work culture and environment. Your resume will demonstrate your skills. Everyone interviewing for the position probably has the same skills that you do, otherwise they wouldn’t have an interview. So what sets you apart from everyone else? You. You set yourself apart with your personality, values, and goals. All of these things should align with the company or organization and position, for which you are applying. A good story can illustrate this fit.
Now you might be saying to yourself “but I do not have any good stories” or “I am not good at telling stories”. Well never fear! Anyone can become a good storyteller with some preparation and practice. We will start by explaining commonly used method for creating stories. The STAR method:

  • S is for situation. Set up your story with the situation. What was happening? For example, “we were working on a project in math class.”
  • T is for task. What was your job? “I was assigned to create a formula.”
  • A is for action. What did you do? “I did a lot of research to find out what would be the best formula, by utilizing a database.”
  • R is for result. End your story by stating what happened as a result of your actions. “I got an A on the assignment and my professor told me it was well researched.”
  • Now that you know the STAR method, here are some tips on how to create the best stories:

    1. Research common interview questions. These are easy enough to find via google. Sometimes these questions might not seem as if they are looking for a story, but always tell a story. For example: What are your greatest strengths? You might answer simply by stating “I am hardworking, a great listener, and always positive.” But this is not very impactful or memorable. Instead, start with this statement and then follow it up with a story about a time in which you have demonstrated these traits. The story that you come up with, could probably be applied to other questions, even if they do not ask you this exact one.
    2. A good story is specific. A generalization is not a good story. For example “I am a great multitasker because I do that at work all the time. I am always having to balance talking to students, answering e-mails, and programming.” A specific version of that might sound more like this “Yes I can multitask. One day at my job with Career Services I was feeling very swamped. I was trying to finish a blog, create some powerpoint presentations, and answer e-mails, all in between my consulting appointments and meetings. So in order to get it all done, I made a list of all my tasks with the due dates next to them. Every time I had a free minute, I focused on the task at hand. I temporarily ignored other things, like e-mail so that I could accomplish the most important ones. I was able to focus enough to get everything done on time and my work was some of my best quality because I was focused.” This version tells you much more about what I do, how I handle those situations, and if way more memorable.
    3. You can make anything into a story. Think about activities you have been involved with (i.e. school, work, clubs, sports, volunteering, internships, job shadowing, etc.) Which of these activities could contain some stories? Have you ever had a particular experience that has stuck with you? A time when you learned something? If so, great! Use that as a story! If you are having a hard time thinking of a particular story, think of the things that you did on a regular basis and consider turning that into a story. For example: Perhaps you are a student and every term/semester you have to balance school, your part-time job, and time for yourself. Was there a particular term/semester that was hard for you? Think back to that time and think of it as a story.
      “One particular term, I was very busy. I had a lot of hard classes and I was swamped at work. I started to get behind in my classes, so I was feeling overwhelmed. So, in order to make sure I was able to do well, I started asking my professors for help during office hours. I also talked to my boss at work so that they understood what was going on and could help by lessening my hours temporarily. I organized my homework on a calendar so that I always knew when the deadlines were. I ended up catching up in my classes and doing great that term. I learned that sometimes in order to do your best you have to ask for help.” This might seem like something everyone does, but putting it in the form of a story, grabs the attention of the listener, and helps them to learn more about you.
    4. A good story has an end. A common mistake that many people make, is start a great story, but not give it the ending it deserves. I believe this is often due to the fact that they are focused on the tasks and action aspects of the story. These parts are important. But the ending demonstrates the impact of your tasks and actions. For example someone might tell a story like this: “For my science class we were assigned a group project. We were supposed to create a demonstration of a volcano eruption. At first, no one was sure where to start, so I assigned tasks for the group and made sure everyone had something important to do….” And then what? What happened? Always conclude your story with result. How did it go? Did you make the volcano? What grade did you get? Were your group members happy and cooperative? The ending demonstrates that you learned or earned something from the experience.
    5. A good story is authentic. Do not be afraid to tell a story because you think it might make you look “bad”. Unless you learned nothing from a bad experience (unlikely) you can always make it into a good story. For example, everyone is always afraid of the infamous, “what is your greatest weakness?” question. This means that you must reveal your weakness! But, if you are honest, you know what your weakness is. We all have one. What the interviewer wants to know is that you recognize it and know how to deal with your weakness. So how could you demonstrate that…Oh I know! A STORY! Tell a story about a time when you struggled with something. Maybe you failed a test because you procrastinated, or maybe you forgot to pick up your sister because you were not organized. Whatever, your story is, I am sure you learned something from it and now practice ways to combat making the same mistakes again. Or you caught yourself just in time to fix the problem before it got too big. Sometimes the weakness stories are the best stories. They show growth and ability to solve your own problems, which is very valuable.

Well, those are my most amazing tips for storytelling! Remember, storytelling is all about revealing who you are. That person is amazing! Everyone wants to know that person, including your interviewer or potential employer. Limiting your answers to what you think they might want to hear, only puts a barrier between you and your audience. Storytelling can break that barrier. So go forth and tell stories!

posted by Rebecca Schaffeld, Career Assistant

“From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it.” As a member of the Greek community, I am completely aware of the many stereotypes and challenges that accompany an affiliation with Greek life. Every person has a different experience with Greek life but there is no doubt that you have gained valuable skills from your Greek involvement. From attendance at weekly meetings (time management, punctuality, commitment) to officer positions (leadership, delegation, public speaking) to volunteer opportunities (altruism, service, communication), Greek life has not only had an impact on your life, but also the many skills that you can use to serve companies in the work force.

Here are my top 6 tips for how to positively market Greek life on your resume:

  1. Ask yourself questions about your Greek experience:
    • Did you have leadership positions?
      • What did you do?
      • What skills does this require?
      • How does this relate to your future job?
    • What were requirements of membership in your chapter?
    • What skills do you have now that you didn’t have before you joined Greek life?
  2. Use “Greek” power words: Power words are used to describe experiences listed on your resume and should represent a specific skill gained from that
    experience
    • Suggested “Greek” power words: Achieved, Arranged, Assisted, Attended, Chaired, Collaborated, Coordinated, Communicated, Entrusted, Led, Organized, Planned, Publicized, Ran, Served, Sponsored, Supported, Volunteered
  3. Quantify your experience (to the best of your ability): When providing details about your experience, give concrete quantifiable details. These numbers will give your employers a better idea of what you did, how often you did it, and give your experiences more relevance to their company.
    • How many… People at events? Number of events planned? Dollars raised/counted? People working together as a team? Hours put into planning an event?
    • How often… Do you public speak? Attend meetings? Volunteer? Plan events?
  4. Include details: The easiest way to explain the importance of your experience in Greek life is to provide concrete details about your experience. If you don’t provide details about what you did – employers will fill in those blanks on their own, which could be a benefit OR a detriment
    • Ideas of details to provide include:
      • The purpose of an event
      • Who an event served (community, Greek life, alumni, etc.)
      • Your role in the event (coordinated, planned, attended, facilitated)
  5. Tailor your resume: Each resume you write should be focused on the job at hand. Therefore, use Greek life to highlight the specific skills that a company requires. Does their job description include communication skills, organization skills, or management skills? Use specific examples from your Greek experience to show these skills.
  6. Be confident in your experience: No two Greek experiences will ever be the same. Be confident in your experience and recognize the importance of the skills you gained from that experience. If you are unsure about why you joined your organization or what you gained from the organization, interviewers will feel the same way about the experience. While it’s hard to explain your personal attachment to your organization – the skills you learned from Greek life will remain with you forever.
  7. posted by Kirby Erdman, Career Assistant

 

Joshua M. Hunsaker
Joshua M. Hunsaker

While a student at OSU, what have you done so far to gain experience?

Over the past two years at Oregon State I have gained experience in several ways. Although I have not become involved in school clubs or activities, I have found ways of

my own to gain invaluable experience. One way I have done this is by running my own tutoring business and aiding students in the areas of my major. This helps me to stay fresh with basic concepts and helps my communication and organization skills. A second way I have gained experience is by volunteering my time. An example of this is by participating in a mission trip to Mexico. On this trip, with my church, we build houses for people in need from the ground up.  We do everything from mixing the cement for the floor to framing walls and finally putting on a roof.  Over the years it has shown me that time is often much more valuable than money. I have learned I need to budget my time well, not only to get all of my work done but to create time in my schedule to help others. A third way I have gained experience is by working. Over this last summer I worked for a general contractor which has given me experience not only as an engineer but as an employee. As an engineer, seeing the building process is invaluable because it helps me design better and more efficient products. Working has also given me experience as an employee and allowed me to see the many different hierarchies that businesses utilize.  The more I work the more experience I gain with these different work structures so I know which one works best for me. These are just a few of the ways I have gained experience over the past few years as a student at Oregon State and though I am not involved with University clubs or activities I am very proactive about finding other ways to stay involved.

 What are your career plans?

 As a mechanical engineer my career plans involve internships, hard work and possibly more school. As an engineer at Oregon State I have had the opportunity to apply for the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program (MECOP). MECOP allows engineers to participate in two separate six month paid internship experiences which helps them to gain industry experience and to connect with members of industry.  As a result of a great deal of hard work and preparation I was accepted into this program. Over the next two years I will be involved with these internships. After I graduate I would like to work for an engineering firm and hopefully have a job specializing in fluid/thermal dynamics. With diligence and perseverance, I hope to make my way into management so that I can work with teams of engineers, oversee projects and work with administrative branches of the firm. In this pursuit, if it becomes advantageous to acquire my MBA, and if I have the time and the resources, I will. My career plans any further into the future are still forming and depend on what the next few years hold and what opportunities present themselves.

 What advice do you have for others who are preparing for their job or internship search?

 If I had to give a single piece of advice to anyone preparing for a job or internship search, I would say, “Prepare, prepare, prepare.” Without preparation it is almost impossible to succeed and I have found this true with job/internship searches. When I was preparing for my internship search I first went to career services and had them review my resume and give me hints for success. I then scheduled mock interviews and continued to do so until I felt comfortable answering all of the questions the counselors could find. I recommend rotating through as many of the counselors as possible because each one gives different, yet helpful, advice. Career Services can help with everything else in your search as well. Frequently, I would find myself at the end of a mock interview asking all sorts of questions about my search. The next biggest piece of preparation I had was researching the individual companies themselves. Whether it is for an internship or a job, I have found knowing the company you’re looking to be with imperative. In my opinion it is better to know too much than too little. That is my advice for anyone looking for an internship or a job, start preparing and do so early.

 Did Career Services and/or anybody else assist you with your career development and preparing you for an internship or job? If so, how?

Career Services helped me immensely in preparing me for my MECOP Internship interview. I scheduled more than five mock interviews and would have done more if I had time. They helped answer all of my questions from general process to advice on particular courses of action. I would not have been as prepared as I was without the career services. I highly recommend them to anyone preparing for industry in any way.

You walk into an interview, and the employer asks you a variety of questions. You jump through every hoop, and nail it, but then you are asked one question that you brush under the rug, and don’t think about: “Do you have any questions for me?” Most people will just answer this with a simple evasion, “nah, can’t think of anything.” But there is a reason that those people didn’t get the job. Luckily for you, I can give you some advice.

One of the more important questions in the interview, and one of your best opportunities to “strut your stuff”, is when you get to ask your own questions. You get to show that you were prepared for this interview (hopefully) and illustrate that you really care about, and are excited by, this job opportunity. But what questions should yinterview questions blog picou be asking?

Well, I can certainly tell you which questions not to be asking. Don’t ask about salary or wages. It comes off as really self-centered, and as if you will be a bad employee once hired, like you’ll only care about making money, not customer satisfaction or being productive. Also don’t be blunt and ask, “So did I get the job?” When they know, they will tell you, don’t worry. Also don’t ask about benefits, or about what the company does at a basic level.

Alright, we know what not to do, let’s go to the next step… what should you be doing? Ask in-depth questions about one of three things: the atmosphere and culture at the company, your job position specifically, and in depth questions about the company’s agenda. What does this look like? Here are some example questions you can ask:

What have past employees in this position done to make them stand out as successful in your memory?

Is this a new position to your company? What is the first project I will be working on in this company?

What do you (the interviewer) enjoy about working for this company?

What sort of management style can I expect in this position?

The kinds of questions you can be asking should never be simple yes or no questions; yes or no questions lead to boredom and awkward silences, but mostly awkward silences. Just remember, this is your last chance in the interview to leave a lasting, and hopefully good, impression. If you did your homework, and came prepared to this interview, then you can aim to impress. Keep in mind, some of the questions you prepared might get answered throughout the course of the interview, so come prepared with 3-5 ready to ask, and see how many you have time for.

Good luck out there!

 

posted by Richard Thomas, Career Assistant

Ready to get inspired for your job, internship, or career search? Each month we will spotlight an OSU student that has inspired us when it comes to their career development. Check out their success stories—besides inspiration, they also show that academic major does not have to restrict your goals and that there are many ways to define success.

Want to nominate an OSU student or alum for the Student/Alum Spotlight series? Or do you want to share your own success? Then please fill out this quick form and Career Services will contact the person nominated.

Name: Marcella FlorezMarcella Flores _POlk County Itemizer Photo (2)

Major: Masters of Education in College Student Services Administration

Year you graduated: 2013

Company: Coordinator for Orientation Programs at Portland State University

Tell us about yourself (include major, career goals/aspirations, etc.)

I have my bachelors of art in American Sign Language and English Interpreting from Western Oregon University. While at WOU, I was heavily involved with Orientation Programs, Service Learning, Career Development, and student leadership. From these experiences, I learned I loved Higher Education, particularly Student Affairs. After searching nationwide for a master’s program, I decided on staying in Oregon and am currently in my second year of the Masters of Education in College Student Services Administration program. I prefer to dream big when it comes to my career goals/aspirations, particularly within Student Affairs, I would love to someday be a president of a small liberal arts institution or a dean of student life. Until then, I want to be in Orientation and first year programs because of the energy and variety of students and family members we have the opportunity to interact with consistently.

How did you land your dream job (Coordinator) in New Student Programs at PSU?

How did I land… Well, personally it was all of the experiences I had leading up to such a wonderful opportunity. After my first year as an Orientation leader at WOU, I knew that is something I wanted to do in my life at some point. So from there on out, I kept thinking what things would I enjoy doing and what would prepare me to get a position in New Student Programs (at any institution). In addition, the people I have met. I have had the pleasure to work with, and have been mentors with me since I realized I wanted to work in New Student Programs. I can HONESTLY say have been the number 1 reason I landed this job. They taught me the ins and outs of the field, provided me opportunities of growth, supported me in every aspect of my experiences, and helped me network around the nation in Student Affairs.

 What advice do you have for others who are preparing for their job search or career?

Take your time and enjoy the process. I know there are a lot of people who just want to apply to a lot of jobs and hear back as soon as possible, because finding a job upon graduation can be stressful and daunting. But allow yourself time to create your resume, time to find references and discuss the job itself with your references, set up mock interviews, have your friends/family/former employers/mentors look over your resume, cover letter, and other aspects of your application. The more eyes you have on your materials, the better they will become. Allowing time to create the best application and prepare for the best interview you can give, the more relaxed and confident you will feel in the end.

Did Career Services assist you anyway? If so, how?

Yes! I had worked in Career Services for 4 years prior to coming to OSU, and I thought “oh I don’t need a mock interview, resume help, etc.”. I still set up an appointment to have a mock interview JUST in case. It really helped me begin to rethink all of my experiences, convey my experiences that were applicable to the job, and just become used to “talking about m myself” again (something no one really enjoys doing)! In addition to my mock interview, the career counselor (Marian), knew my first interview was a phone interview. She sent me helpful tips and ideas to help me prepare for a phone interview as well, which was really helpful since phone interviews and in-person interviews can be very different.

Thanks Marcella  for being our Student /Alumni Spotlight! If you are interested in learning more about interviewing,  there are many resources available to you on the OSU Career Services website.

Situational interviewing is different from behavioral interview questions. In the behavioral type, the interviewer delves into the past work experience and asks the candidate to recount instances and how they were handled. On the other hand, situational interviews, also known as ‘hypothetical interview questions’ are those where the interviewer gives certain hypothetical situations and asks the candidate to respond to it.

Here, the idea behind asking situational interview questions is to judge the spontaneity of the candidate and to test problem solving abilities.  The spotlight is on the interviewee to evaluate if he/she can handle situational pressure or cower under it. Most HR professionals believe that rather than asking generic questions, it’s better to pose situational questions as it helps to select the right candidate.

For instance, the interviewer might ask questions like:

  • What would you do if your supervisor asks you to do something which is unethical? How would you handle it?
  • What would you do if you find a colleague stealing?
  • If on certain days your workload is heavy because of staff shortage, how would you handle it?

…and so on!

Below are some tips to answer situational interview questions and hopefully, get the job.

1.      Guess Questions

You can easily guess the situational questions that the interviewer can ask if you know your role and responsibilities thoroughly. For example, if you are applying for the position of a supervisor, you will be asked questions about managing employees and teams, budgeting, organization vision, and so on. Once you know, you can draw up hypothetical questions and practice. Practice the questions with someone who can point out the positive and negative aspects of your answers and help to improvise. It helps to have someone provide constructive feedback.

2.      Know the Organization

Guessing questions are fine but you need to know the organization and its hierarchies and its level of working. You can easily do this research by going through the organization website and its press releases. When you know about the organization, you can answer situational questions better. Secondly, know the advertised job profile and find out the responsibilities attached with it. If you know what the employer seeks, you can prepare better.

3.      Draw on Previous Experience

Situational questions are hypothetical but it doesn’t mean you cannot rely on past experiences. Prepare a list of situations you handled in the previous organization/s and how you sorted them out with a positive outcome. Note how you handled situations and how they enhanced your understanding. You should use this knowledge in the present situational interview questions. Take this question, for instance.

Question: What will you do if you find a team member not contributing towards a project actively?

Answer: There has been an instance in the past where one particular team member was not contributing as other members. This attitude was affecting the whole team negatively. I would react to this situation similarly. I would communicate with every team member right at the beginning and delegate responsibilities. Communication will be non-confrontational. When team members do not understand the work involved, it causes problems like this. Therefore, the best way is to find the cause of the problem and sort it out at the beginning.

4.      Use Factual Representation

Answers to situational interview questions should be short, to-the-point and concise. No need to give long and rambling answers. Secondly, try to quote facts to support your answers. You can take examples of concepts and examples set by senior managerial leaders in your field. You will come across as well-read and knowledgeable.

5.      Be Imaginative

Some of the situational interview questions could be those you haven’t even heard of before so you need to be quick witted and imaginative to deal with them logically and convincingly. This is an attribute that you need to practice actively.

Conclusion

Answering situational interview questions is easy if you know your job well and know how to use past experiences to solve current problems, while keeping an open mind for newer solutions.

Posted by Diksha, Social Media Specialist and Blogger, studynation.com, a leading education portal that provides the genuine information about educational institutes like medical and engineering colleges, latest education trends, courses, etc.

NOTE: This post was written by a guest blogger and the content for the post approved by Oregon State University Career Services. We are not responsible for the content of  the websites linked in the post.

Greetings from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida!

phone interviewJust a few short months ago, I applied for an internship here at Disney World at the Disney College Program. I completed a web-based application and was then scheduled a phone interview. My head was spinning with confusion after the phone interview was scheduled, because I had never done an interview over the phone before. I have a very outgoing, cheerful personality, and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to relay those characteristics over the phone.

I sat down with my roommates here at Disney World and talked to them about their own phone interviews and some tips they would give to those preparing for an interview over the phone.

If you already have a phone interview set-up, or are in search of a job where you could potentially have an interview over the phone, here are some tips from our Disney College Program experiences to ensure that you are successful:

  • Make notes ahead of time & take notes during: My roommates, Maddie and Amanda, say writing down potential questions and answers before the interview proved to be most beneficial to them. They both wrote down short bullet points in regards to common interview questions such as “Why are you applying for this internship?” and “What would you say your number one skill is?” This can be helpful in all interviews, however, over the phone you have an advantage and are able to have the notes in front of you, so making sure they are well written and thought out can be helpful. Dana Schwartz, of Come Recommended Blog, also suggests using a hands-free device in order to take notes on important key points during the interview.
  • Call a friend ahead of time to practice your interview on the phone: Being on the phone forces a barrier between you and the person on the other line. Something that my roommates and I all did was call a friend and have them ask us potential questions, not only to practice responding to the questions, but also to see how our voices sounded and were coming off over the phone. This can also be beneficial if you have a phone interview scheduled early in the morning, like I did. If your voice tends to be fairly scratchy when you wake up, waking up an hour or two before the scheduled interview time to call a friend and practice can relieve that scratchiness in your voice. (I called a friend the night before to practice, but didn’t call anyone the morning of my interview, so I hadn’t talked to anyone yet and my voice was still a little scratchy. It was frustrating to me throughout the interview, as I’m sure it was for my interviewer as well.)
  • Treat it like an in-person interview: Without the interviewer physically with you, it can be easy to lose that sense of professionalism. Dressing up as you would for an in-person interview can boost your confidence and ensure you are not losing that professionalism. The Come Recommended Blog also states that using a hands-free device can additionally allow you to use gestures that you normally would, helping you feel more natural and comfortable while on the phone.

In addition to phone interviews, our modern advances in technology have also caused a rise in interviews conducted over Skype. Skype interviews allow you to showcase a little more than phone interviews, but there are still some key tips to keep in mind:

  • Being familiar with proper webcam etiquette, such as looking at the camera rather than the screen and sitting up straight
  • Speaking slowly and clearly because of freezes and stalls that webcams sometimes endure
  • Being in a location with few visual distractions for the interviewer, such as a room with a solid background behind you

Whether you have a phone or Skype interview scheduled, or may have one in the future, the most important thing, like during in-person interviews, is to relax and be yourself! You want the interviewer to get a sense of who you are and how you will fit in with their company. On the phone and over Skype it may be a little more difficult, but with these tips and the right preparation, you will be just as successful as if you were in-person!

OSU Career Services offers a convenient room and webcam set-up if you need a place for your phone or Skype interview!

Reference:
Come Recommended Blog

Posted by Erica Evans, Career Services Assistant and currently interning at Walt Disney World in the Disney College Program

A tough grilling in an interviewer’s office can be a stressful experience no matter how well-prepared you are – and few questions cause more interview-morning heartburn than the dreaded “What’s your greatest weakness?” inquiry. Answering this question is no cakewalk for any professional, but the right approach and attitude can give you a solid advantage over the competition. Here are some expert tips to get you planning ahead and thinking positive.

Understand what employers want to know
A question about your greatest weakness might seem like an attempt to trip you up or test your reaction speed, but it actually contains a few different shades of meaning. On one hand, “an interviewer asks this question to determine if you are forthright and honest about your flaws,” says Heather McNab, author of What Top Professionals Need to Know About Answering Job Interview Questions – so your response should be clear and upfront. At the same time, says Alison Doyle, job search expert for About.com, “they’re also looking for insight into what you think are the skills you may need to improve.” That means they’ll be looking for cues about your self-assessment abilities – and how you handle your own shortcomings – so it may be helpful to focus on a weakness you’re already acknowledging and trying to improve. In the end, though, “they’re trying to find out if you’re capable of doing the job,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself (St. Martin’s Press, fall 2013). Thus, it’s better to describe a general weakness than one directly related to the job’s core functions.

Understand what’ll turn them off
As mentioned above, no employer will hire a candidate who claims a main weakness in an area crucial for the performance of the job. But that doesn’t mean you should err too far on the side of vagueness – or worse, dishonesty. Your interviewer will likely be well-trained to sniff out avoidant answers. “Many professionals try to take a strength and turn it into a weakness – ‘I just work too hard’ – but the interviewer won’t buy it,” McNab says. Instead, what’s most important is to give the interviewer proof that you’re human, aware of your flaws, and committed to self-improvement. Even more importantly – though this might seem to go without saying – no employer will be happy to hear you claim that you don’t have any weaknesses. “This could indicate that you aren’t flexible, or are unwilling to improve when improvement is needed,” Doyle explains – or worse, it could imply that you’ve got something to hide. In short, you’ve got to pick a weakness, admit it openly, and spin it as a net positive.

Understand what kinds of stories they like
Putting your weakness in proper context means walking a delicate line. The goal is to describe the weakness as a motivation for positive self-change without sounding too defensive about the problem. In other words, “saying you lack the right skills but are a quick learner won’t help your candidacy,” Doyle says. A far better approach is to think of an area in which you’re currently working hard on improving, and frame that as a weakness. “Explain that although you’ve had difficulty in a given situation, you recovered from it, learned something and have performed better as a result,” Schawbel says. An alternate route is to talk about a weakness that has little or nothing to do with the job for which you’re interviewing. If you take this path, though, it’s important to focus on a weakness that conveys a genuine struggle – otherwise your answer may sound like a cop-out. If you tell a personal story well, though, your answer may satisfy the interviewer and cast you as a fully developed “character” at the same time.

Keep these tips in mind as you rehearse your answers, and you may wind up surprising yourself – and your potential employer – with a unique and thought-provoking answer.

Guest Blogger – Ben Thomas, a member of the Riley Guide writing team, is an expert on a variety of topics related to the job search.