Written Interviews; What It Takes To Write A Winning Interview Essay?

How to write a job application essay

In many cases, written interviews involve you having to take an aptitude test and writing an essay related to the job you could be applying for. You could be required to write about a specific topic given to you by a recruiter or on a topic of your own.

Whatever the situation, knowing what it takes to write a good essay helps you prepare better for your written interview and keeps you ahead of your competition.

With essays, recruiters are able to test important aspects about you such as:

  • How good your grammar is
  • How articulate you are when it comes to explaining your arguments
  • How fast and creative you are at thinking of ideas and presenting them
  • Your thought process when it comes to solving a problem or giving ideas
  • How informed you are about topics related to the job you could be taking up
  • What your personality is. The way you write and the choice of words you use has the capability of revealing your personality to a recruiter

What steps should you then follow if you want to write a good essay that could land you your dream job?

Step 1. Read all instructions:

Before you begin writing, first read all the instructions you are given and pay attention to whatever the recruiter has to say about the essay.

By doing this, you will be sure you have all the important information such as the topic you are to write about, how long the test is set to take and what format or number of pages you are required to use.

Knowing all this information and having it at the back of your mind as you develop the content in your essay will help you plan better and avoid misfiring.

Step 2. Plan your time:

Having read the instructions and, therefore, knowing how much time you may have, allocate that time appropriately.

For example, if you have 30 minutes for the test you could allocate your time in such a way.

  • Ideating and jotting down ideas-5 minutes
  • Writing the body-25 minutes
  • Putting final touches on your essay-5 minutes

Be careful when allocating time and ensure you try to stick to the plan you have made. This is bound to help you write a complete, good quality essay.

Step 3. Think about your ideas and note them down:

Now that you have allocated your time, go ahead and begin the ideation process of your essay.  The first step is to ensure you have fully understood the topic you are to write about and what the recruiter could be looking for.

Think about the topic and write down any ideas and arguments that will come to mind; prioritising them from the most important argument to the least.

This process enables you to better organise your essay and to capture ideas as they come hence, you do not forget the ideas you have along the way. It also makes the actual writing of the essay quite easy and faster since you already have an idea of what you would like to write about.

As you come up with your ideas, desist from arguments or points that provide too much information about you and may make the recruiter biased. Be creative yet still remain professional putting into consideration the company and role you are being interviewed for.

Step 4. Make an outline of how your essay will flow:

Brainstorming and having your ideas put in place is not enough to guide you on how your essay should run. It is important for you to have a structure in mind that you are to follow.

For example, you can say your essay will be structured in the following way:
Introduction; a brief paragraph the topic you are writing about.
Body; this is where you present your arguments in accordance to the instructions you have been given. Remember to prioritise your arguments as well, beginning with the most important.
Conclusion; this concludes your essay and gives your final remarks about the topic and marks the end of your essay. It should also take about one paragraph. This further enables you to write your essay in an organised way.

 

Step 4.Mind the language you use:

After the planning, the next step is for you to begin writing your essay.
Mind the language you use. Ensure you use professional language without any jargon. Be specific and ensure that you put across your ideas accurately.

Avoid using ambiguous or vague statements that do not show your exact potential. For example, avoid statements such as, “I am a very creative person”, but rather go ahead and show exactly what makes you creative  and unique.

Generally pay attention to your sentence structure, punctuation marks, and spellings.

Step 5. Back up your ideas or arguments with proof:

The most important thing that is bound to make your essay stand out is how well you defend the arguments within it. In as much as you may have similar arguments with your counterparts, the way you present your arguments with factual information will make you stand out.

For example, if you are seeking to address why you think agriculture should be focused on in entrepreneurship, state facts showing how agriculture has improved the Ugandan economy shows the recruiter that you are well informed about the topic you are addressing.

Step 6: Proofread your work:

After completing your essay, take a few minutes to read through it and make any changes you think can make it better.

Proofreading also helps you identify any grammatical mistakes you could have made, allowing you to change them before handing in your essay to the recruiter.

Here are some sample essays that could further guide you on how to go about this. Your essay has the great capability of landing you your dream job. Make it memorable in the eyes of the recruiter reading it and beat your competition.

15 questions to ask and 30 questions to avoid in interviews

Questions you should ask and shouldn’t ask in an interview

An interview is not meant to be a one-sided process where only the recruiter asks all the questions. It is ideally meant to be a two-sided communication process between a job seeker and a recruiter hence, giving you as the job seeker the authority to also ask questions. Knowing what questions you could be asked in an interview is simply one step to preparing for an interview. What kind of questions you ask during an interview makes an impression on the recruiter and plays an important role in determining whether you get hired.

Asking questions presents you with an opportunity to:

  • Showcase your interest in the job; the questions you ask enable a recruiter to assess your level of interest. Desist from asking obvious questions or questions that require, yes or no answers.
  • Find out more information about the company that could help you in determining whether or not you would want to work for this company.  Ask questions that will help you get relevant and detailed answers.
  • Enable you to get more information about the possible role you could be taking on in the company and what it entails.

Even when the recruiter does not invite you to ask questions, go ahead and ask a few questions. Do not ask too many questions but just a few that are well-thought of and could have a positive impact.

So, what exactly should you ask about in an interview?

1.The role you are being interviewed for;

Questions under this category are generally related to the role or job you are applying for. They enable you to get information about the role that may not be in the job description which you can use to further assess whether or not you should take it on. Such questions include:

  • Any additional information about this role that may not be stipulated in the job description?
  • What additional knowledge do I need to have to better perform this role?
  • How is the success in this role measured?
  • How can I succeed in this role?
  • What are the prospects of growing in this role?

2.The company you may work for;

Questions under this category are meant to help you get more information about the company and help you determine whether you want to work for the company or not. Such questions include;

  • How would you describe your organisational culture and work environment?
  • How has this company managed to consistently remain at the top?
  • How does one get ahead and grow in this company?
  • How is the performance in this organisation measured?
  • How are the structure and the reporting lines in this organisation organised?

3.The recruitment process and next steps after the interview;

These questions are usually directed to the person interviewing you. In as much as they are directed to the recruiter, they should be related to the recruitment process. Avoid questions that are too personal, inappropriate or would make them uncomfortable. Possible questions you could ask include:

  • When can I expect to get feedback about this interview?
  • What next after this stage of the interview?
  • When do you expect the successful candidate for the job offer to take on the role?
  • How do you expect to give feedback about this interview (will it be through a phone call or email)?
  • Who can I contact if I do not receive feedback in the communicated period of time?

Now that you know what to ask about, avoid questions that show:

1.You did not carry out research about the job or company:

A recruiter expects you to have some information about the company and role you are going to be interviewed for. Asking obvious questions that make you look like you did not research anything about the company could affect you negatively. Here are some obvious questions you should avoid:

  • What does the company do?
  • Who are your main company’s competitors?
  • What products do you deal in?
  • Do you have branches in other countries or places?
  • What am I supposed to do in this role?

2.You are more interested in the salary and benefits of the job than the job:

It is okay to inquire about what benefits and salary the offer is to give but not at this stage of the recruitment process. The best time to ask such questions is when you have got the offer and are negotiating your remuneration package

Asking these questions too early communicate to a recruiter that you are more interested in what the job has to offer than actually doing the job which is a negative perception for you. Stay away from questions such as:

  • How much salary does the job offer?
  • After how long can I request for a salary raise?
  • By what percentage is the salary in this company increased by annually?
  • What benefits do I get to enjoy as an employee of this company?
  • How much do the employees in this role earn?

3.You may be a risk to hire:

Your main goal in an interview should be to present yourself as the best fit for the job and not to raise questions about you. Do not ask questions that could make the recruiter suspicious. Such questions include:

  • Do you carry out background checks?
  • Do you monitor how the internet in the organisation is used?
  • Can I report to work at whatever time is best for me provided I get my work done in time?
  • Do I have to work very long hours?
  • Do you carry out abrupt drug or alcohol tests here?

4.You will be such a demanding employee:

Do not ask questions that may make a recruiter believe you may be difficult to work with and are a lot to handle. Remember that you have not been offered the job yet and therefore, do not have the right to demand anything or what the company does not provide to other employees. Such questions include:

  • Do I get my own office?
  • Do I have to always ask my boss for permission each time I have to do things?
  • I get regular back pains, can I have a specific chair made for me?
  • Do I have to dress up in the uniform each time I am selling to clients?
  • Does the company provide lunch or lunch allowances?

5.You like to intrude in other people’s lives:

In as much as you are allowed to direct some questions to a recruiter that may not necessarily be about the role or organisation, remember to be professional. Do not ask them questions such as:

  • How old are you?
  • Why are not married yet? Or Are you married?
  • How much does this company pay you?
  • How many children do you have?
  • Are you free later for a date?

6.You are not interested in the role you are being interviewed for:

Whatever questions you have to ask, always ensure they are relevant and are connected to the role you are being interviewed for. Avoid, diverting too far from the role as a recruiter may think you are interested in something else. Such questions include:

  • What other opportunities does the company have to offer?
  • How long do I have to be in this role?
  • After how long can I switch roles?
  • What tasks do the other roles advertised entailed?

Is it possible for me to apply for a department transfer after some time?

Asking irrelevant questions is as bad as not asking any questions. Exploit the opportunity to showcase your personality, analytical skills, communication skills and interest in the job through asking well-thought and relevant questions. They will go a long way in landing you your dream job.

 

Aptitude tests and how you can prepare for them

What aptitude tests are all about?

Aptitude tests are some of the most common interview tests job seekers encounter today. Knowing how to prepare for them sets you apart from your competition. In almost every recruitment process, written interviews often precede oral interviews and are considered a very important step in selecting potential candidates for a job. During this step, many candidates are subjected to what are known as, ‘Aptitude tests’.

Aptitude tests seek to examine your logic, how fast you are able to think, how you react to situations, and how you use prior knowledge or the information given to you to solve problems. These tests are strictly timed and usually last for about 30 minutes regardless of how they are administered (in written form or online).

Types of Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests can be classified into either power tests or speed tests.

Power tests;

These kinds of aptitude tests examine your fluid intelligence which entails your ability to reason abstractly, think strategically and solve issues. Fluid intelligence is related to the innate abilities you have and not necessarily the knowledge you could have acquired from education or experience.

These tests contain relatively few questions that are complex and require a lot of reasoning.

The specific skills an employer looks for by administering these tests are;

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to easily comprehend information
  • Strategic thinking
  • Ability to learn new skills
  • Your creativity

Examples of such tests include;

  • Abstract aptitude tests; these measure your ability to think abstractly, identify important information and apply that information to solve problems.
  • Diagrammatic reasoning tests; these tests are similar to the abstract aptitude tests but involve questions that are in form of diagrams where you have to follow a number of logical rules and think abstractly to complete the diagram.
  • Logic reasoning tests; these tests entail questions about solving puzzles that require you to understand the logical rules a certain puzzle follows and then use that information to solve the puzzle.

Power tests are usually used to test candidates applying for managerial positions.

Speed tests;

Contrary to power tests, speed tests seek to examine crystallized intelligence which entails the ability to apply the knowledge you have acquired from their past experiences or education to workplace situations. Such situations include coming up with reports, comprehending rules, and instructions, to mention but a few.

These tests contain relatively straightforward questions and seek to examine how fast you can comprehend and answer questions.

The specific skills an employer looks for by administering these tests are;

  • Communication skills
  • Numerical skills
  • Ability to understand rules and instructions

Examples of such tests include;

  • Verbal aptitude tests; these tests examine your ability to communicate and use the English language.
  • Numerical aptitude tests; these test your numerical ability, ability to understand information from numerical data and apply it to the workplace.
  • Mechanical reasoning tests; these are usually administered for engineering or technical positions and seek to examine your ability to apply mechanical concepts to solve problems at the workplace.

Speed tests are usually used to test candidates applying for entry and mid-level positions.

What type of questions could you encounter in an aptitude test?

Whether you are taking a power or speed test, the key to passing any aptitude test is preparation. Preparation entails practicing various aptitude questions. Hence, you need to know the type of questions you could be asked.

Here are some types of questions you should expect in your aptitude test:

Questions testing verbal ability; such questions generally examine your oral communication skills; how well you comprehend statements; whether you are able to follow instructions or not; as well as, your verbal logic.
These kinds of questions are on grammar, sentence structure, and comprehension. These questions can further be grouped into:

  • Verbal reasoning questions; these test your verbal logic that entails the ability to draw conclusions from a given statement. For example; based on certain information given, you can be required to find the right answer to a question or to determine whether a statement is true or false in relation to the given information.
  • Verbal comprehension questions;  under this, a short or long passage is provided followed by questions about the passage. What is tested with these types of questions is your ability to read information, understand it and come up with the right answers.
  • English language questions; these examine your grammar, spelling, sentence structure and general use of the English language.

Questions testing numerical ability; these questions examine your ability to use numbers and deduce information from them. They could include questions requiring you to solve numerical problems, solve numerical sequences, or analyze information from graphs.

Work sample questions; such questions present a candidate with various work situations after which they are required to identify what they would do if faced with those situations. They could involve:

  • How you can solve a workplace problem
  • Coming up with a concept or new idea
  • Being asked to organize and prioritize tasks

Questions testing abstract reasoning; these test your ability to analyze logic patterns and use the information you get to solve problems. They also test your ability to reason logically and  learn new skills.

Questions testing spatial ability; with such questions, employers test for your ability to visualize, understand and remember how objects fit together or are related to each other.  They test your ability to manipulate different objects or shapes and are usually asked to candidates applying for design or engineering positions.

Questions testing mechanical reasoning; these test your ability to use physics and mechanical concepts to solve issues at the workplace. They are usually asked to candidates applying for technical, mechanical or military positions.

Questions testing your ability to identify errors; these test your ability to detect and solve errors in complex databases. These are often used to select candidates applying for data entry and clerical jobs.

Knowing what questions you could be asked guides you better in preparing for your aptitude test.

Here are some more tips you can follow that could help you pass your aptitude test:

Before the test:

 

  • Practice; it is advisable for you to find different examples of aptitude tests that you can practice with, before the actual test. This helps to grow your confidence and helps you get familiar with questions that they may be asked. Having an idea of these questions places you in a better place to pass the test than one who has no idea of what they could be asked.

 

It is also advisable for you to practice these tests in a comfortable and relaxed environment where you are able to think very well. you should also ensure that you time yourself when practicing the tests to assess their speed.

 

  • Prepare all the tools needed; before the test, you should ensure that you have all you need for the test. Such things include; pens, rough paper, and a good calculator. It is also advisable for you to practice with the different tools you are to use before the actual test. Finding all the necessary tools you need and having them in time prevents any tension that could arise from being disorganized.
  • Find out more about the test; should you have the liberty to ask, you should go ahead and use this opportunity to your advantage and ask about the type of aptitude test you will be taking, how long the test is to last as well as where it is to be taken. This helps you to further prepare for the test.
  • Relax; you should remember that aptitude tests mainly examine your ability to think logically. You are able to think better when you are more relaxed and not tensed. Therefore, before you take an aptitude test, you should try to clear your mind of anything that could destruct you or prevent you from calming down.

 

During the test:

 

  • Read instructions and questions very well; before beginning the test, you should ensure you read the instructions provided and understand them. You should avoid attempting questions before reading them in full and understanding them. For example, if you do not, you might miss out on an important instruction, which could actually be the basis of the whole test” e.g some tests have the instruction not to write your name on the paper but a number.
  • Avoid spending too much time attempting a question; should you get stuck and fail to come up with an answer for a question, you should go to the next question and come back to that question later. You have to remember that time is very key when attempting aptitude tests and instead of spending a lot of time on one question, you could attempt other questions. The best way you can go about this is, by allocating the maximum amount of time they are to spend on a certain question.
  • Avoid being too hasty; much as you may want to attempt all questions in time, it is important for you to take the right time to answer each of the questions. You should not just guess answers haphazardly.
  • Ask for feedback; you should ensure you ask for the results of the test after taking it. This helps you to assess your strength as far as the test is concerned and how to improve.

 

In conclusion, taking an aptitude test is similar to taking any other exam. If you are relaxed and well prepared, chances are high they will pass the test. We wish you the best of luck.

How to Handle Rejection and Failure after Interviews.

“Your biggest problem is that you think you shouldn’t have problems…but problems are what make us grow”

—Tony Robbins

Congratulations, you are alive! By the time you have graduated and attained a Diploma, Degree or Masters, you probably have gone through myriads of episodes of failure. In fact, the ratio between those who have ‘made it’ thus far and those who totally been discarded is so vast!

In your transition from Junior School to Senior School, a multiplied millions of people failed that stage for one reason or another. From Senior school to College, University or Graduate school, another multiplied millions of your age range have also been discarded by the system, and some even labeled “Failures!”

Brace yourself: At one point in time, that title might be yours immediately after an interview. You have probably seen that graphic explaining the difference between what we think success is, and what success really is. The graphic shows a straight line from point A to point B, depicting what we think, or better yet what we wish success would be.

We want to finish school and have myriads of job opportunities available to us for our comfortable choice. We want to get into an interview (and a multiplied million people would rather not go through the interview process) and at the first attempt, we pass it and get our dream job.

Fortunately (that is written on purpose), that is not what life works. One of our greatest psychological needs that trump many others is the need for growth. And life in its greatest wisdom provides us two choices for growth: By choice or by Force. Growth by choice is what you are doing right now: Taking some time to read through these articles as you prepare yourself to forge ahead in life (read grow).

Growth by force is what we are talking about today. This is when you face uncertainty and life throws you off the balance. One of those ways is through failing an interview. Let us advise you a little on this:

a)  You are not the first one to fail an interview

b)  Those who have failed interviews before are not failures in life (The founder of Whatsapp was rejected by Facebook, for example)

c)  Failing an interview does not mean you are stupid, neither does it mean you are a failure

d) It is not written that you must pass any interview that you attend

e)  This is not the last interview you will ever attend in life.

f)   Failure is best written when you choose to call it “Feedback”

In a nutshell, what we are sharing with you is that failure of an interview is normal, should be expected and it is not the end of life, but rather a process necessary for your growth.

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”

—Winston Churchill

Please note that there are two major reasons as to why you might fail for an interview:

You are incompetent: At times you even know this yourself. But this is an opportunity to go and work on that area of your weakness or strengthen that area of your strength so that next time (believe me, there will always be another interview), you will be better prepared.

The Interviewer(s) Did not like you: This might have no linking to you being incompetent. Whatever the reason for your failure, remember that this is not what defines who you really are. You are gifted, talented and are called to make a massive difference on earth. Whether you pass this interview or fail it, does not alter the fact that you are called and have a definite life purpose for which you have been prepared, skilled, gifted and talented to carry out.

You are a blessing to many and this is what we call your moment of obscurity. Probably nobody knows you now…but that does not mean that you are worthless or not valued. This is one of your most important moments of your life. In this obscurity, you can grow your muscle and keep growing until one day the world will know your name.

The worst thing that you can ever do is to brand yourself a failure just because an interviewing panel somewhere found you unfit for a position. You need to continue seeing yourself as significant, needed, worthy, talented and filled with purpose here on earth. You also need to understand that all you are going through is  a process of growth.

Some people already do know what to do immediately after a disappointment or a rejection. Remember the first time your heart was broken in a romantic relationship? What did you tell yourself? We bet you said, “Let them go, they do not know what a valuable person they are putting away!” Now that is the spirit! Because it is the truth! You are a valuable person!

Immediately after failing an interview, please take the following steps:

1.Review and affirm yourself: What you tell yourself after the failure and rejection must be positive and must affirm the fact that you are worth being alive, are called to contribute and make a difference on earth. Do it because it is true.

2.Face the brutal facts: If you are incompetent, accept the fact as it is. If you were unprepared, accept the fact as it is. If the failure was to do with anything that you did or did not do, accept the fact as it is, however ,brutal it might be.

3.Take Immediate Corrective Action: You now have a mighty Arsenal that you can prepare by focusing on what you did not do well. Decide to become the Master of it now and let it be under your belt as a conquered foe.

4.Confidently apply for more interview: Walk around with your head held up high for you are better off today than when you first began.

You shall make it!

 

Interviews; 7 Things to Help You Mold the Right State of Mind for an Interview.

Note: It is best to practice these concepts way before you ever attend any interview.

Your state of mind when you are attending an interview can make or break you. At times, you might be very nervous. It is understandable that you might be worried and a little bit afraid of the outcome of the interview. But you know what? You are afraid because of your focus on the negative outcome of the interview.

Quite a number of people have lost their chances of getting a job because they could not handle the pressure of sitting through an interview. In fact, some pretty well qualified people have seen their chances for a job slip by on this count alone. They have the skills, they have the aptitude but they fail in maintaining a great state of mind at the interview.

Assuming that all things are constant:

  •         You have the desired qualifications that the interview panel is looking for,
  •         You have the desired references,
  •         You have the needed experience,
  •         You have prepared yourself well after school as experts recommend
  •         You have a great appearance and grooming
  •         You have a pretty well prepared Resume

Assume also that you are not the only person who meets the above criteria. Assume that there are 50 other candidates who are just like you. What varies therefore falls into the following categories:

  1.      Your Difference in Personality
  2.      Your Difference in the way you tell stories

Without beating about the bush, we can tell you straight up that if you can master the habit of being ‘carefree’, then you get into a heightened state of self-confidence. This greatly influences the chances that you have as compared to the other 50 people. Many people lose their self-confidence because they care too much. Caring too much is not necessarily a bad thing but the problem is that they care too much about not getting the opportunity!

What this does is to effectively paralyze them. Therefore, they lose creativity; they lose their charisma, flair and appear as if they need grace and mercy from the interviewing panel. They appear as if they are needy and only banking (it appears to the panel as if you are begging) on the interviewers to show some great human trait of loving kindness to give you a job.

Grace, Mercy, Loving-kindness on the part of the interviewers is not what will give you a job. Your self-confidence and the ability to showcase your worth, flair and charisma is what will endear you greatly to the interviewing panel. So if you get into this habit of “putting your life in the hands of the interviewing panel”, remember that you are selling yourself short.

Your state of mind, your self-confidence and esteem are factors that determine whether you get the job and if applied appropriately can give one a competitive edge.

They are looking for a self-motivated person, a leader, a go-getter, an influencer, a problem solver and maybe a critical thinker. This means that you have to be sure about yourself. If you are not, at least you have to present yourself as if you are sure about yourself. The only way that you can do this is to get in a great state of being ‘carefree’. Whenever you are in the presence of an interviewing panel, what they need to see is someone who is motivated, inspired, confident, happy, with an aura of certainty about life, not about the outcome of the interview.

The following seven simple principles can be used to improve your state of mind.

  1. Know that you do not know everything, so do not sweat it: They are also not looking for a genius. They just want someone who can do the job well. So even if you are not able to answer a question correctly, do not anchor your emotion on it. Your anchor for your state of mind should be that it shall be well in your life regardless. So do not sweat it.
  2.   Realize that your life does not necessarily depend on this interview: This is a fact. Before you can go for the interview, you should be fully aware and totally surrendered to the outcome of the interview before you can sit for it. This comes by realizing that one way or another, you are a great person and you will make it in life, with or without this job you are interviewing for.
  3.   Realize that it is OK to fail an interview: And on that note, also realize that what you have failed in is not really a failure, but an opportunity to learn how to do better. So anytime you fail an interview, do not think you have become weak. No! Treat this as a wonderful learning experience. Promise yourself to be better in what you failed the next time.
  4.   Practice detachment: This is the ultimate way of being carefree. To be detached means that you are confident with what you have to present and you do not have to sweat it and spend sleepless nights thinking about the interview
  5.   Practice psychology that generates a great state of mind: Believe it or not, you need to practice how to smile, how to grin, how to wink and a host of all other positive emotions over and over again. Your physiology automatically determines your state of mind. Do not do this principle the night before the interview, but make this a lifestyle. Go ahead and imagine that you are the Manager they are looking for and start modeling how a manager behaves. This will attract that position to you.
  6.   Be an inverse paranoid: Have this belief that all things are working and conspiring together for your good. All the good, the bad and the ugly. Regardless of the outcome of the interview, you should believe that your life will still be okay.
  7.   Practice to ask yourself better questions: Questions create focus instantly. Ask yourself questions such as: Suppose I succeed? How can I be a great help to this company? Why are these people finding me so inspired and cut out for this position? Ask these types of questions and shun the negative ones such as: Will I really get this job? Will they like my new suit? And so on.

What attracts positive or negative outcomes in our lives is also a result of the State of Mind we are in. The thing with State of mind is that you can consciously practice to put yourself in a better State of Mind at all times. When many people are attending interviews, they are never at their best state of mind. They are nervous wrecks. They are worrisome. They are in an inferior state of mind. They present themselves as a lamb ready for slaughter in a slaughter house. They are not in control. They cede control of their emotions to this moment. A host of them are allowing a hoard of negative emotions to calibrate their thoughts and feelings.

The outcome is normally lack of confidence from the people interviewing them. However, once in awhile when an interviewing panel finds someone whose skill set are good and at the same time they do have great confidence, great attitude and most importantly a great sense of self assurance and carefree attitude, they are a special blend for hire. They are emotionally intelligent.

The good news is that you can practice having an amazing positive state of mind for a period of time before you attend an interview. Please also note that this healthy state of mind is not just for you to pass an interview, but it is a great tool to use throughout your life.

Interview Questions: What are Your Weaknesses and Strengths?

How To Answer This Common Interview Question. 

Quite often, interviewers will pose this question, “what are your weaknesses and strengths?” during an interview. While it may be very easy to describe one’s strengths, describing one’s weaknesses does not come easy for anyone.

Knowing exactly what a recruiter is looking for when they ask this question not only gives you the confidence to answer it but also helps you calm down when it comes to the much-dreaded bit of having to describe those weaknesses that could cost you your dream job.

When interviewers pose this question, they are are trying to find out more about your personality, who you really are and more importantly your level of self-awareness. Saying you do not have any weakness may seem the right thing to say, but on the contrary, it presents you as a dishonest person because the reality is everyone has a weakness.

In case you are faced with such a question. It is always advisable to address your weaknesses first before you go ahead and praise yourself through your strengths. This factor, enables you to complete this question on a more positive note that the recruiter is more likely to remember.

Since you know that honesty is key when talking about weaknesses; the hurdle would be how to go about defining the weaknesses in a way that paints you in a positive light.

The recruiter does not by any chance expect you to describe your worst habit  about you being a perpetual latecomer or often not meeting your deadlines on time. They also don’t expect you forge an answer or give one that still puts you in a positive light such as  ‘I always report to work too early or I love my job too much’. This is still you being dishonest and remember one of the things being tested here is your honesty and self-awareness.

Let your answer be real yet not completely put you in the negative light in relation to the job you are applying for. It is always best practice to make it somewhat relevant to the job you are applying for.

The answer you give should not be one of those bad habits you cannot get rid of quite easily. Ensure it is something that you are able to overcome. Letting the recruiter know about this weakness and going an extra mile to describe the measures you are taking to overcome it gives the interviewer an even more positive impression about you as someone willing to learn and change.

Determining what exact weaknesses to spell out to an interviewing panel can be another challenge. So how do you do this? Begin by thinking of any constructive criticism from your work colleagues, friends and family about areas needed to improve on. Be sure to make it relevant to the job you are interviewing for.

Having identified these traits, go ahead and think about the times these traits affected your work.  Identifying these times helps you show that you are well informed of these traits and therefore are in a better position to work on them.

Your ability to pinpoint your areas of weakness while showing that you possess the initiative to improve them and have actual ways you are improving will present you in a very positive light.

Click here to get some more examples of some weaknesses you can customize to yourself. 

Now that we have got the much-dreaded question about weaknesses out of the way, how do you then describe your strengths?
Much as this may seem easy to maneuver, it can cause a bit of confusion between whether one should go ahead downplay their strengths in an attempt not to seem a braggart or whether one should go ahead and praise themselves and brag about all the positive aspects about themselves.

The best answer to give is one that is midway between the above two responses. When recruiters place this question on the table, they are giving you the rare opportunity to skills, ability and personality in relation to the job, therefore, remember to maximize this opportunity.

The best approach to this is to appear confident, self-aware and yet not too arrogant.

The first step is to get this right is to take some time before the interview  to determine what your strengths really are. Make them specific to you and your talents. Desist from trying to copy someone else’s traits but focus on what makes you unique. Having thoroughly thought about these, make a list of 5 of these traits you have discovered in yourself.

Remember to thoroughly describe these strengths in order to show your potential employer how your strengths will make the company happy and more successful.  

Asking your family or friends that know you best and value your unique qualities can also help you identify these unique aspects about yourself. Further, still, there are also online tests such as these that can help you determine your strengths.

Here is a list of  some strengths you could fit into your answers.

Remember, the recruiter doesn’t want to know all the intimate details of your life, they just want to know if you have the right skill-set for the job. Therefore the answers you give should be those that are relevant to the job.

Now that you are well informed about how to go about this question, the next time a potential employer asks you about our strengths and weaknesses be sure to place yourself as that candidate that will be the most suitable in their corporate environment and in the role .

Stand Out From Your Competition: Tell Your Story

Most job applicants spend a lot of time crafting the aspect of their lives one could term as, “the known facts” usually embedded in their Certificates and Resumes. In fact, a lot of young people are so particular about certificates for any little course they attend.

So when one gets into an interview room with a battalion of Certificates and well-crafted Resume, what they are doing is simply presenting facts about their life. To some extent, these facts are mostly things that are the obvious and the bare minimum. These are things like what subjects one studied in school, which school they went to, what course they took, which year, what grade, what other courses they took and so on.

In order to enhance one’s chances of being hired, one needs to present information that is outside of what is expected. This is because there is stiff competition for few job vacancies not just in Uganda, but around the world. For example, in Uganda, Makerere University alone will see more than 30,000 students each year graduate. There are more than 10 universities in the country. There are also tens of reputable tertiary institutions too offering Diplomas and Higher Diplomas.

So we have a tentative number of close to 50,000 ‘graduates’ every year. When granted the opportunity for an interview, most of these graduates only arm themselves with facts about their academics. That is what they have been preparing themselves with all along.

That should not be the same case with you, if you have to enhance your chances in getting a job ahead of everybody else, you need to add this one small nugget—the art of ‘Storytelling’.

People get hired mostly because of the blend of skills they have and the initiative they can show. If the 50,000 graduates are all super-skilled and interview panels have to make a decision on whom to hire, they will almost always hire the “story-teller”.

Now, we are not just talking about stories of the hare and the elephant. Far from it. We are instead talking about your exploits away from school. These are the things you:

  1. Took a personal initiative of: A good example is rallying your community to clean your neighborhood
  2. Volunteered your skills, time and knowledge: A good example is teaching children a particular skill in the weekends
  3. Personal Challenges: Where you challenged yourself to do something new such as run a marathon under one hour.
  4. Part of as a social club or any unofficial initiative: E.g. Rotaract, Youth Group, Church Group, etc
  5. Internships you were part of after school and so on.

The tragedy we see in interview rooms is lack of stories but lots of facts. This tells you that many young people are not personally developing outside of the school structure. Anybody who can tell you stories of personal achievement is someone who is intentional, disciplined, and action-oriented. Such a person stands a great chance of getting a job.

Another tragedy is that many young people wait for an opportunity to have an interview so they can do the above. In this day and age, that can be a little bit too late.

As you await your opportunity for an interview, we invite you to sharpen your ‘story-telling’ skills. This means that you need to accumulate hours upon hours of positive activity that you can be part of in order to create experiences from which you can share personal stories of inspiration and achievement with an interview panel.

As you do this, remember the following simple format to use in sharing your story:

  • Describe the situation before you got involved with it. A good example is, “there was a huge dump site in the community that was posing health hazards”
  • Describe your intention and goal to remedy the situation: A good example is, “I wanted to accomplish two things: First, to get rid of the dump site and second, to educate the community on the collective responsibility on our health”
  • Describe the real action that you took: A good example is, “I talked to my brother and cousins and we mobilized other youths in the community. Luckily, one of our friends is the son of the Elder in the community and so it was easy to get the buy in of the Leadership in the area”
  • Describe the situation after you were through. Did you achieve your set goal?
  • Identify obstacles and how you overcame them: This is what the panel is looking for. How did you handle the challenge and what did you learn. Could there have been a better way of doing it? What is the next big thing that you are thinking of pulling off?
  • Add emotion: Use words such as, “I really felt”, “It was pretty frustrating”, “I am so proud”, and so on
  • Add details: Be as expressive as possible

Now, we are not advising you to be mechanical with your story telling, but to be spontaneous. The panel would ask you questions such as, “What is the thing that you are proud of in your life?” That’s your cue to story tell.

Advantages of stories:

  1. Emotional attachment by the panel: They will be intimately involved in your story and that increases your chances.
  2. Showcases personal involvement and initiative outside of the facts of school certificates
  3. You take the platform from the panel to yourself: For the period of time that you are talking, you are ‘the boss’, so to speak. The more you own the platform, the higher the panel trusts you and the better your chances are.
  4. You have an opportunity to inspire the panel with a personal story of achievement outside of school.

You want to be successful in your job interview, add to the facts about your academics, your stories of achievement outside of school.

A Recruiter’s Perspective; What are the Special Qualities Today’s Employers are Looking for in Job Seekers?

A friend of mine has written a very powerful book on employment. The title is “You are not Just an Employee”. It is an interesting read. In one of his social media engagements, he poses a very interesting question and I quote:

“Advise on this practice. Graduates and candidates vying for a job tailor their vision according to the job they are chasing. Good or bad practice?”

What is your Spiritual Capital?

Of the few employers that responded to that question, they agreed that one of the most worrying trends with all job seekers is a definite lack of Spiritual Capital. Most people do not have a sense of personal purpose, values, beliefs, interests, aspirations, mission, vision or passion. They do not have direction in life. One school of thought with this is driven by fear: That if you zero in on a particular area of passion, you effectively lock yourself out if your vision is in dissonance with that of the organization from which you are seeking employment.

Your Lack of Authenticity is affecting your Employability

The end result? Many people walk into interviews with phony ‘Objectives’, singing praises of the company from which they are seeking employment. What does that do? It robs you of authenticity. It also shows that you are potentially shallow and cannot be trusted.

A few weeks back, I attended an event organized by the Innovation Village in Kampala where one major innovator was being interviewed. When it came to the subject of employing people, he had an amazing revelation, something that I have been talking about in the previous posts. This is what he said:

“I never hire people because of their academic papers. I need to talk to them first and see what they are made up of”

Do you know what this recruiter is looking for? He is looking for that much needed Spiritual Capital. Do you have it? How will it show up?

Spiritual Capital is Never Emphasized in School

Harvard and Stanford Universities have reported that 85% the reason a person gets a job and gets ahead in that job is due to attitude; and only 15% is because of technical or specific skills.

There is this thought pattern that tells job seekers that if you specialize, you greatly limit your chances of being employed. That is why many graduates walk around seeking for “any kind of job that I can do”. Now, I do not even want to begin talking about the Education System because there is so much to say about it in formation of this school of thought.

Your take out today is this: When a potential employer will even as much as sniff an aura of Focus in you, and passion that comes from a high sense of awareness of your purpose, you stand a greater chance than someone who is yet to discover himself. Why? Because someone who knows their purpose:

  1. Looks Organized: An organized individual means less supervision from the bosses and increased attention to detail by the candidate. That is a major plus to you.
  2. Have Focus: They know what they are looking for in life and that translates to industry and hard work. An employer these days is not interested in enslaving you, but in your immense contribution to the organization. It turns out that the people with focus think like company owners, not just like employees. This is what a prospective employer is looking for.
  3. Can be counted on: Focused people are principled. They would not waste time on what does not matter. Again, if you are looking for people that are to be told what to do, these are not the types.
  4. Can lead others: And they can do it even without a title. They are great team players and team members. Those without a vision lack initiative that makes them leaders. Employers are looking for people with leadership acumen, not just follower mentality.
  5. Have Massive Passion: You can count on such a person to show industry, organization and a massive ‘buy in’ to the vision of the company. Those whose ‘buy in’ is at the level of the salary might not be as passionate as those with a clear vision and mission.

How to Increase Your Spiritual Capital

For the most part, what people are bringing into interview rooms is their Intellectual Capital. Unfortunately, that is not enough to make a difference in life today. So before you set your foot in an interview room, and as you are rigorously preparing your CV, make sure that you spend months shaping your spiritual capital. Use the following ways:

  • Ask Massive Questions: You need to have answers to the following questions: What is my vision on earth? What is my mission? What Am I passionate about? What am I good at? What is the perfect world to me? What are my top 3 values?
  • Write it Down: Document the answers to these questions and keep refining them as you go. The key is to make sure that these answers are inspiring enough to you and inspiring enough to elicit action from others who encounter you.
  • Recite it: Every time you introduce yourself, start by proclaiming your vision, mission and purpose on earth. Speak this to yourself on a daily basis.
  • Take Action: Do something that lends credence to what you are saying. Have something to show of what you are passionate about. This is what will indicate to the prospective employer that you have initiative in you
  • Relentless Reading: Keep gathering data, information, stories, inspiration and instruction in your area of passion. My prediction is that in the next few years, we shall enter a purpose Revolution and you ought to be prepared for it.
  • Find Help: If you need a Coach to help you find the direction of your life, invest in this more than you invest in any other venture before you get a job.

So what’s your purpose in life? What is your spiritual capital?

Important Job Search Tips Every Job Seeker Needs to Know

Every year, Uganda’s higher education institutions release hundreds of graduates into the job market. These prospective career individuals join the millions of educated and uneducated youths that are unemployed.  Different studies estimate unemployment rate among Uganda’s youth in excesses of 60%.  We have a shrinking labor market, where we are seeing more job closures and fewer job openings. These dynamics are not peculiar to Uganda but a global trend, with approximately over 70 million unemployed youths worldwide.

This implies that young people are graduating but taking long in the job search process. Others get jobs and lose them quickly, yet the openings for re-employment are totally limited. Nonetheless, we still see a few young people scoping jobs very fast, and growing their careers very fast. This implies that actual and perceived employability play a big role in determining how long an individual will stay in the job searching process. Here are a few tips for young individuals who have never been able to get jobs for long, to help them enhance their chances in the labor market.

The first question is who do you know (networks) and what do you use your social media for?

Young people spend most of their time on social media but the contribution of what they do on these forums in the direction of their life goals is questionable. Two things here. Who in your networks can link you to job opportunities? And have you tried to inform them? Well, there are also distant friends on social media who can help your job search. It is common these days that some companies and individuals will post job openings on Facebook or inform their WhatsApp friends. In other words, let people know that you are looking for employment. Also think about contacting your former employer not only for recommendations but also for helpful contacts. You could also think of friends who can be mentors in the job search process. They can vet your CVs, your application letters and coach you on how to deal with interview situations.

Volunteering and freelancing; what experience do you have?

Human capital is still a big thing that employers long for. How much of it have you accumulated through your experience? All employers want experienced people. But let’s be real, there is no school that offers experience training. One of the few opportunities you have to enhance this kind of employable capital is trying out volunteering. Volunteering is not for the desperate or those who can’t get jobs. In fact, clever young people begin with either a volunteer job or participation in graduate training programs. Freelancing is also an alternative that will not only earn you some little income but improve your skills and networks. There is an increase in the number of specialist agencies offering such opportunities. There are also increased opportunities in graduate training programs and credible organizations are increasingly recruiting real talent through this procedure.

Have you signed up with a recruitment agency or online recruitment platform?

Well, all you need is your CV and scanning your academic documents. Signing with recruitment agencies or recruitment platforms such as www.brightermonday.co.ug improves your chances of learning about opportunities in your profession. You also stand better chances when such agencies are hired to headhunt.

How resilient and persistent are you in the job search? How much time do you spend on your job search daily?

It is not uncommon that people will give up job search efforts after a year of offering one’s self on the labor market. With increasingly fewer opportunities, you are required to fasten your shoe lances so that you can run longer. It is possible that you give up the run when the marathon is a kilometer to the end. It is probable that job search is the biggest job you have at present. So, how committed are you to this search? If employed people work 8 hours a day, then how much time are you committing to your search? It is often that we complain after one trial. This won’t help you.

Are you also staying current with information and trends?

There are often free workshops, conferences, seminars and public dialogues in our areas of specialization. How often do you attend these? When you watch news or read newspapers, what do you get out of it? How many radio/ TV stations do you know that make job announcements and when these are made? And are you tuned in at that right time when offers are being announced?

Retraining is also another option.

The question is how big and full is your skill set. If put in some kind of a container, would it be half full or half empty? How heavy your skill set weighs determines the number of options, and how likely an employer will be impressed by your abilities. Consider both hard and soft skills. Important are behavioral skills that seem irrelevant in performing tasks, yet they are important for behavior on the job. Recruiters are able to observe these through the series of assessments they use. But also going back to school or attending accredited/chartered short courses is a better use of time than just waiting for a job.

What is the scope of your job search? Are you confining your niche or are you open minded in your search?

One big mistake is to think that you have to get engineering jobs if you are trained as an engineer. The dynamics have changed, therefore people searching for jobs have to be dynamic too. Every opportunity that fits within your skill set is a possible gold mine. But again you don’t need to be desperate to try even the irrelevant ones. Be aware of the effects underemployment can have on you in the long run.

What is your CV like, how do you write your application/ motivation letters?

Its length may not be the matter. But how rich is it? Try to keep it positive, don’t over disclose yourself at this level, yet providing all the relevant information will attract the attention of the recruiter, as well as remaining honest. Avoid having a generic cv or application letter template. Keep adjusting them to each opportunity’s requirements. Keep note of the Skills Knowledge and Abilities (SKAs) required for each job and tailor your documents to these. Endeavor to emphasize your strengths moreover without overhyping.

What have you learned from the few job interviews you have been called up to?

How are you using those lesions to better your chances in the next trial? Are there behavioral issues that draw the attention of the interviewers away from you? For example, do you tend to be cynical, complaining, pessimistic or you don’t convince the panel about your abilities and work ethic?

In your job search and when given opportunity, try to be as positive as possible.

Particularly, remain optimistic. Are you the kind that holds the belief that it is who you know rather than what you are able to do when it is time for applying or doing interviews? Perhaps you are quite wrong. One of the causes of failure is negative thought. This limits our ability to act positively even in situations where you have real chance of succeeding.

Show the recruiters that you will be more of an asset than a cost to the organization.

How much private time do you need off work? How healthy are you? How much supervision do you need? Are you flexible enough (it is versatility as is used in sporting world). Being versatile means you can play in many roles within the organization, and thus one of the stuffs that impress employers.

Prove to the employer that you are an expert and not an amateur. How good are you for the job that you are applying for? Are you one that the recruiters see as requiring retraining to be able to do the job. Most organizations want people who will hit the road as soon as they arrive on the job.

With all this at the back of your mind, there is no doubt no matter how long it could take that eventually your persistent job hunt process will pay off with positive results.

 

A Recruiter’s Perspective: How to stand out in Interviews

“Give me Six Hours to Chop Down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening my axe”

–Abraham Lincoln

The Most Frustrating thing of a recruiter

I have had the privilege of working in three different African Countries: Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. Throughout my past 10 years in Trade Development, specifically with Mobile Money, I have been tasked with the unenviable charge of recruiting and raising teams from scratch and leading these teams to exemplary performances.

It goes without saying that I have interviewed close to 1,000 individuals in the process. I can tell you that was one of the most frustrating things ever. I realize now what predicament different employers face when trying to head-hunt for the right people.

Organizations these days want to spend less time and resources developing people for their jobs. The training that they want to give is specifically for their products. It is the dream of an organization to land an individual who has the correct blend of skillset, prowess, attitude and drive in order to deliver. Many organizations are not looking for people to baby-sit. Unfortunately for you, this blend is not the focus of the school system to provide or equip you with!

Will the Interviewer Hug you?

So at times when we are interviewing people for jobs, and after going from one exasperation to another, if and when an individual that fits the profile of what you are looking for, you feel like getting out of your chair and hugging them…literally. You have just unearthed a gem…a rare one at that. One thing is for sure, two things that you can take to the bank: that degrees are as common as table salt these days, and appearances are a myth—you cannot judge a prospective employee by his/her CV.

Your Biggest Mistake

The biggest mistake that many people do when they are looking for jobs is what they do (read don’t do) between school and an interview. This is what I call the forgotten times. Yet these are the most critical moments of one’s life. It seems to me like all people do is to apply for jobs. They seldom work on themselves! We need to borrow a leaf from some of the movies/series that we watch. Do you remember the latest installment of the TV Series 24, when the Chief of Staff was ‘prepping’ the President just before his appearance at the British Parliament?

It was ruthless. It was pointed. It cut deep. There was a general concern that the President was losing is grasp of things, and that his health had deteriorated. So the Chief of Staff and the Communications Director put him to the test, using dummy questions, sometimes anticipated and hard hitting that the President would probably face.

Needless to say, this is what happens in many developed countries. The key word is PREPARATION. What are you doing between your graduation and sitting in an interview room? What are you doing between your current job and sitting in an interview for the next? What are you doing between this current position and your promotion?

Preparation is a conscious effort you put. It is an intentional thing. You have to plan for it. Some people wait for a chance before they can start preparing for it. Then when they show up for the interview, they appear like zombies. They have crammed several tactics from Google overnight. You think that a smile here and there, shaking my hands firmly and speaking audibly are the little tactics that will wow me to give you a job!

Think again. An employer is able to sniff through a pretense with so much ease and show you the door diplomatically sooner than you think.

Your preparation has to be intentional, sustained, planned and thorough. Remember this: You are not just preparing for an interview; you are preparing to make a difference in the earth! There is a major distinction between these two mindsets. Here are a few tips of how you can keep yourself sharp in order to pass an interview:

  1. Constantly Reading: Your greatest asset is not your Degree or Diploma. Your greatest asset is your mind. What have you been doing with it lately? As an Interviewer, I will be able to easily see a mind that is alert, independent and sharp. Such minds are what we need in boardrooms. We don’t need people waiting to tell us what to do. We need people pestering us on better ways of doing things in the organization. Such people are readers. They relentlessly research and read instructional and inspirational content. Many people stop reading after graduating. If your drive for reading is to pass an exam, my friend, you have not been preparing yourself to make a difference on earth; you have actually been preparing to pass an interview, and in my interview, you will fail.
  2. Physical Fitness: If you come to my interview sweating like you have been climbing a mountain, just about out of breathe, it tells me that you have been doing nothing with your body. Anyone who engages in daily physical fitness routines are actually again sharpening their minds. They are learning to push themselves, lead themselves and have victory over themselves. They are more alive, happy, and joyous and it easily shows the way they behave in the interview. It costs you nothing. Do it.
  3. Personal Goals: “Tell me about your next five years” is a common question. Mark my words. If an interviewer finds someone who eloquently, inspiringly and passionately shares their plans for the next year, they will stop all traffic to hire you…regardless of your qualifications. I kid you not. They would rather train you than lose you. Many people are not clear of where they are going in life. These three things in their order should help you with this: CBA. Clarity, Belief, Action. What are your goals, how much do you believe in them and what Action have you been taking about them lately. We are not looking for waiters. We are looking for men and women in motion.

In closing, remember that what you are doing on a daily basis counts a great deal towards how you will not only perform in life, but also pass an interview. My question to you today is: Have you done your very best to prepare so far?