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do you want to be a grey nomad?

Erin Landells
Saturday, December 20, 2014

I had heard of grey nomads before. I imagined lovely oldies travelling the country in their caravans, having adventures, experiencing new things, meeting amazing locals, and seeing amazing sights. There were a few of those to be sure.
But as we discovered on our recent three month trip up the East Coast of Australia, the vast majority of grey nomads leave their homes in the southern states of Australia during winter and travel directly to a large caravan park in the north of Australia where the climate is much more enjoyable during winter. And they stay in the same caravan park for three, four or five months. And they do this every year for ten years. The same caravan park. With the same people. Who all do the same thing every year.
The ladies have craft mornings on Tuesdays. The men go fishing if the conditions are ideal. Or they sit around and share fishing stories. Every day.
I am not oversimplifying it. That is what happens.
It seems to me they are transplanting their usual day-to-day life for the same day-to-day life in a warmer location. Except there is really not much to do.
I realised that I could not live like that. Three and half months travelling was enough for me. I felt like a long-term sightseer. We didn’t really connect with anyone. We didn’t make a difference to anyone. I missed my family and friends. And I wondered ‘is this all there is?’
And the trip ignited a passion in me for helping people work out what they really want to do with their lives—now and in retirement. And actively planning their retirement so that it is something they look forward to and find fulfilling. And incorporating our long-awaited retirement dreams into our lives now.
What sort of grey nomad do you want to be?

How to conduct yourself in an internal interview—or what to do when everyone knows you

Erin Landells
Monday, February 03, 2014

 

If you already work for an organisation and you are applying for an internal position, this post is for you. This is particularly important if you work in a government organisation where merit and equity principles are applied to all roles and where your job interview plays a major part in the decision of who to appoint to a role, and essentially you’re competing on an even footing with external candidates.
As an internal candidate, you are often in the best position to win a role. However, some of the most disappointing interviews I have conducted have been internal people who have applied for internal roles. People in this situation traditionally undersell themselves and the interview panel is often disappointed. The interviewee assumes the panel already knows of their achievements and fails to describe their achievements throughout the interview.
My key pieces of advice here are:

  • Assume the panel has never met you
  • Use the word ‘I’ rather than we wherever possible
  • Direct your answers to the members of the panel who do not know you well (rather than your manager who is already very familiar with your work)

Assume the panel have never met you—and don’t be afraid to talk yourself up. Use the word ‘I’ to describe your personal contributions to key projects. Internal candidates tend to use the word ‘we’ as their manager is often on the panel and the interviewee is afraid to take credit for joint projects. Yet, the interview panel is then confused about what role the candidate played in the project. So, make sure you use the word ‘I’ and describe your personal work.
Another useful trick is to answer the questions by directing them to the people on the panel who do not know your work. Your manager is probably already ‘barracking’ for you—so use the interview as an opportunity to promote yourself to members of the organisation who are not already familiar with you.
As an internal candidate, you are likely in the best position to win a role—keep this in mind and use these tips to secure your new role or promotion. 

What to wear for an interview

Erin Landells
Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A common question is ‘what should I wear for a job interview?’ Surprisingly, responses to this question vary.

When I told a colleague that I had heard you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have, she laughed and responded ‘so I should dress in a fireman’s outfit?!’ Point taken.

Jokes aside, my three top tips for what to wear for an interview are:

  • Dress professionally
  • Ensure your clothes and accessories do not distract the interviewers
  • Be confident

Dress professionally

How you present in an interview is you putting your best foot forward. You need to have made an effort and to show how important this is to you. When I interview people, I think to myself ‘this is their best effort.’ Your attire at an interview reflects how you will present for work—except you will not put this much effort into your everyday outfits.

I believe in dressing quite formally for an interview, regardless of the level of role or type of position. Other people believe in guessing what might be the acceptable attire in the place of work and dressing similarly. For example, in a design studio, there may be a more relaxed dress code and people sometimes feel comfortable to ‘dress down’.

I suggest that men should always wear suit pants and a formal shirt as a minimum. They don’t need to wear a tie or suit jacket, but their shirt must be a formal shirt. For higher level roles, a suit jacket is essential.

Women can wear a suit, a professional dress, a professional skirt and blouse or crisp shirt. Google ‘what to wear for an interview’ images and you can see the sorts of recommended attire.

Regardless of how formally you are dressed, you should look professional. I suggest wearing toned-down colours—now is not the time to display your fashionable peacock dress. Bright colours, gaping shirts, drycleaning tags, ill-fitting clothes—I have seen it all and it creates a lasting impression—although not the impression you want to create!

So, dress professionally and put your best foot forward.

Ensure your clothes and accessories do not distract the interviewers

A key point about your attire is that you do not want the interviewer or interview panel focused on your outfit. You want them focused on you and what you are saying.

Outlandish outfits will not win you a job. I recall conducting graduate assessment centres around Australia and some of the outfits were totally inappropriate. This was for a very serious government organisation. One girl I recall wore slouchy boots and a short mini skirt and a green t-shirt. That’s all I can remember of her. A manager of mine interviewed a lady who had a different nail polish colour on every nail. This was incredibly distracting.

Make sure you look in the mirror—or better yet ask a family member to have a quick look at you. I have interviewed a young graduate who had the drycleaning tags on the outside of her outfit.

Ensure you look professional with no distractions and keep those interviewers focused on what you have to say.

Be confident

Finally, confidence is key. Wear clothes that fit you well and that are comfortable. You don’t want to be uncomfortable in the interview and thinking about your clothes. If you are distracted, you may look as if you lack confidence.

Once you are dressed and happy with your outfit, do not think about your clothes anymore. Be confident in your outfit and don’t give it another thought!

So, to give yourself the best chance at an interview:

  • Dress professionally
  • Ensure your clothes and accessories do not distract the interviewers
  • Most importantly, be confident.

Should I include a photo on my resume?

Erin Landells
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
The short answer is no, you should not include a photo on your resume. I have seen many photos on resumes and I can answer without hesitation that I have not found any of them added to the application. The ones I can recall all detracted from the application. These include a graduate whose photo was a selfie from a night out where she had cropped part of her friend out of the photo (highly unprofessional), a very American-looking glamour shot (cheesy), and a man who took a photo of himself with his pet carpet python (just plain weird). When submitting an application, you don’t know the demographics of the interviewers and what is appealing for one person can be displeasing for another. I strongly recommend against including a photo on your resume.

 

Top ten resume tips

Erin Landells
Thursday, June 13, 2013

Advice about the best resume varies. We have included here some great tips about how to present your resume. Let us know what you think!
  1. Customise your resume. Your resume should be designed with the positions you are applying for in mind. This will determine whether you place your qualifications or your career history first. What will be most relevant to the positions you are applying for? If you are a student, your qualifications are likely to be most relevant. If you are more experienced, your career history is likely to be most relevant. If you are applying for a position outside of your current field of work, your qualifications or older experience may be more relevant.
  2. Brainstorm your relevant attributes. Make a list of your positive attributes and experience that could be relevant. This will help inform which resume sections to include. Do you have a second language? Do you have tertiary level qualifications? What training courses have you completed? Are they relevant? Have you completed any volunteering? Have you received any awards? Do you have any publications? Do you have any memberships of professional organisations?
  3. Potential sections. Potential sections include a) personal details, b) career objective or profile or summary, c) employment history or career progression, d) work experience (for school leavers), e) qualifications, f) languages, g) training completed, h) professional memberships, i) skills, j) interests, k) awards, l) referees, and m) publications. Select which sections to include. You might consider having a ‘Career Objective’ at the beginning of your resume where you talk about how you make a difference through your career, or a ‘Profile’ section where you provide a one sentence high level overview of your strengths and attributes.
  4. Relevant positions. You do not have to include every position you have ever held and for how long. Group older positions together. If you worked in one organisation and had a range of different roles, consider grouping this together under one heading. Think about the role you are applying for, the places you have worked and the types of positions you have held. Is it the places or the positions that will appeal to your prospective employer? Consider arranging your resume so that either the position or place is first and in a larger font.
    When listing your positions held, try to focus on what you did to make a difference in that role and quantify these impacts where possible.
  5. Reverse chronological order. Your employment history should usually be in reverse chronological order with the most recent positions first. Clearly state the year in which you commenced and ended and state whether the position is current. So,
    Customer Service Representative 2008 – current OR
    Customer Service Representative 2008 - 2011
  6. How to include your qualifications. If a university qualification, include the full title of your degree, the full name of the institution that awarded it and the years in which you commenced and concluded the degree. If it is an institution based overseas, include the name of the town and country of the institution. For example,
    Bachelor of Education (Psychology Major)
    The University of Melbourne 1995 – 1998
    Is the title of the qualification self explanatory? If you are at the beginning of your career, you might like to include the names of the subjects most relevant to the roles you are applying for. Reverse chronological order applies here also.
  7. Relevant training only. If you are at the beginning of your career, you might like to include all of the training you have completed. Think broadly about what you could include. Have you attained your Bronze Medallion? Do you have your First Aid Certificate? However, if you are quite experienced, select the most relevant training and the highest level training and include these only. Interviewers do not need to see every course you have ever completed, including courses for now defunct software etc.
  8. Brief personal details. Your personal details are not the focus of your resume. I have seen 7 page resumes with the entire first page dedicated to the personal details. We recommend including two lines of personal details at the top right hand side of your resume in the header section. Include your name, a professional email address (e.g., michaelbrown@blabla.com NOT sexykitten@blabla.com), your contact number, and your address.
  9. Include skills and interests sections only if relevant. Advice about whether to include skills and interests sections is varied. Consider what you have that is relevant to the roles you’re applying for. If you’re just getting started in your career, you might need to include skills that are relevant to the jobs you’re applying for. For example, Proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint. If you’re more experienced, your career history may be self explanatory and you don’t need to include skills. The same thinking applies to the Interests section. Include them if you think your Interests will assist you to win the role. For example, when I was younger, I worked at Melbourne Aquarium. I included my scuba diving qualifications in the qualification section and interests as snorkelling, sailing, etc to demonstrate that I was an outdoors/ active/ environmental sort of person. My current resume does not have an interests section. But it might depending on what sort of role I was applying for.
  10. Keep it simple. Use a standard font such as Arial, Calibri, etc. No need to use fancy fonts, fancy paper, etc. Your email will usually be emailed or uploaded so keep it plain and simple. No need to include any photos or clip art.

We hope this has been helpful and that your resume is looking fantastic. Leave a comment below to let us know which information you found particularly helpful. 

Best interview preparation tips

Erin Landells
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Best interview preparation tips

Some people love interviews. Others hate them. Whether you’re a lover or a hater, we can help you prepare to put your best foot forward in an interview situation. From our experience of interviewing hundreds of people for a wide range of positions, nerves can really affect the interview performance of all candidates. Some candidates forget everything they were going to say. Some candidates can’t think past their current position and keep providing the same project examples for every question. Some candidates can’t think of any examples at all.

If you have applied for the position and won an interview, chances are you have the required skills, experience and knowledge. The trick is how to overcome your nerves and communicate them in an interview.

We recommend that you use the template linked here to prepare for your interview.

The template has five sections.

  1. Tell us about yourself
  2. Capabilities required for the position
  3. Key projects or examples
  4. Why should we hire you
  5. Questions

1. Tell us about yourself

Record three brief dot points here with the top three things you want to tell the interviewer about yourself. These are not personal things. These need to be relevant to the role. For example, you’re an experienced project manager of ten years, you’re an experienced manager of teams over ten years, and you’ve applied for this role because you’re really interested in working for this company.

2. Capabilities required for the position

In the left hand column, write the key things that the organisation is looking for—one in each box. In a government job selection process, these will be the key selection criteria. In a private organisation’s selection process, these will be the ‘highly desirable attributes’, ‘capabilities required for the position’ or generally the list of attributes high up in the advertisement. For example, experienced project manager, ability to build relationships internally and externally, business development skills, etc.

In the right hand column, list up to three dot points per criteria. For the project management example, these might include ‘BHP Billiton Conversation Program’, ‘Investigations Capability Project’ and ‘Leadership Conversations Program’.

3. Key projects or examples

In the lower section of the page, write some examples of key projects that you have worked on. If you’re asked for a project that demonstrates your stakeholder management skills, quickly refer to the list and use one of your examples there. For a more entry level position, record some activities that you’re particularly proud of and that demonstrate your suitability for the position. For example, a change you made to a process, a team you led, etc. These can include school or university projects and also experience gained whilst volunteering.

4. Why should we hire you

This question is quite similar to the Tell us about yourself question but may be asked at the end of the interview. This is your last chance to impress the interviewer.

Record here three dot points that you really want to communicate to the interviewer. For example, you’re passionate about this type of work, you’re passionate about the company, and you have the experience they require.

5. Questions

Record here a couple of dot points of questions you might like to ask. Use one or two words if possible. For example, ‘measure success?’, ‘key projects?’ or ‘key responsibilities?’

Print this template and take it with you to the interview. It is good etiquette to check with the interviewer or panel if it is okay to bring your notepad into the interview. I’ve rarely heard of any interviewer refusing.

We guarantee this will improve your interview performance. Even if you don’t need to look at the page during the interview, you will have thought through what skills, experience and knowledge make you suitable for the role and will be drawing on these throughout the interview.

Best of luck!

The best interview tip ever

Erin Landells
Thursday, May 23, 2013
The best interview tip ever

It’s a big claim, but we are confident that this will be the best interview tip you ever receive. We think this tip is particularly relevant to applying for government jobs where there are usually a standard set of questions for all candidates.

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. This is the time when you can ask questions that haven’t already been covered during the interview. Perhaps you might want to know what your key responsibilities will be, or how your success will be measured in the role.

Regardless of what questions you have, we have the best question for you to ask at every interview.

And the question is…

“Is there anything that I haven’t addressed that you would like me to discuss further?” (or something along those lines that comes naturally to you).

This question is the perfect question because it gives the panel a chance to probe further about any concerns they have.

In my experience, there are a couple of responses from the interviewer.

  1. “No, thank you. We don’t have any further questions for you.” Delivered warmly, this usually means you’ve been brilliant and have nothing to worry about.
  2. “No, thank you. We don’t have any further questions for you”. Delivered very professionally, almost sympathetically, means you really haven’t demonstrated your experience and suitability for the position but we don’t want to waste any more of your or our time by prolonging this interview any further.
  3. “Yes, actually, can you tell us a little bit more about your project management experience?”. This provides an invaluable opportunity for you to elaborate further on your project management experience and potentially win the job.

We have used this question ourselves and have recommended it to many of the people we coach and it is definitely the best interview tip!

What are your weaknesses? - Best answer

Erin Landells
Thursday, May 16, 2013
What are your weaknesses?

Without a doubt, the most talked about interview question is ‘what are your weaknesses’ or something to that effect. I have heard many people sarcastically comment ‘Oh, I’m a perfectionist’ whilst discussing this question. In my view, it is not a question to be taken lightly and it provides a great opportunity to position yourself for the job. It can also be one of the most damaging questions.

I have interviewed new graduates who have not been able to identify a weakness, even with significant prompting. This really makes me question their suitability for a role and their level of self-awareness. Admittedly, we phrased the question as ‘Tell us of a time when someone has given you negative feedback in the workplace and how you implemented some self-improvement as a result.’ This is still a weakness question.

You need to demonstrate your self-awareness by identifying a genuine, honest weakness, and at the same time showing how you have taken actions to make it work in the workplace. This is not the time to talk about a weakness that has no obvious strategy for making it work. This question requires preparation and forethought.

I respond to this question by talking about my struggle to say no (a genuine weakness of mine). I identify this as a weakness and then talk about how my managers generally love it (you can imagine!) and that as a result I have to implement strategies to help me be effective at work. One of the strategies is excellent time management (seriously). Another strategy is directing a question back to my manager when I have too much to do and know I can’t do everything to allow my manager to work out what they don’t want me to focus on.

As another example, a friend of mine is a perfectionist, so she can answer this question honestly by talking about her perfectionism. And then discussing how she has implemented strategies to help her be effective at work. She will talk about things like allocating a set amount of time to a task and concluding the task within the time limit so that she does not agonise over the remaining 1% that may not be perfect to her standards but which is still wonderful by anyone else’s. She could jokingly talk about how many hours she spent researching the company before the interview, including reading the annual report (clearly only to be mentioned if it’s true!) as another example of how it affects her work and how it can be positive.

You might talk about how much of an extravert you are and that you love to engage with people socially but that in the workplace you have learnt to reserve this social interaction for the break times.

You might talk about how naturally introverted you are but that in the workplace, you have to work outside your comfort zone to engage with clients or provide excellent customer service.

Everyone has weaknesses. This question is not asking for your deepest dark secrets. It is a way of finding out how self-aware you are and also providing your potential manager with an insight into how to work with you. Identify a genuine weakness that could affect your work and describe your strategies for overcoming it in the workplace. Prepare for this question. Practice it with a friend. And when they ask you in the interview, you can confidently address it rather than scrambling for the first example that comes to mind—which in my experience is usually something fairly alarming that you probably don’t need to tell the interview panel about!