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cover letter
Interview Q&A

How to write a Cover Letter ?

March 16

A ‘Cover Letter’ known as well as a ‘Letter of Intent’ is a one page letter that should be sent together with the job application. The Cover Letter should write about why do you want to work for the company, why do yo want to be part or the team and needs to demonstrate in few words why you are a good candidate for this job. It is a brief summary of your Curriculum Vitae emphasising on few important aspects mentioned in the job description.  Writing the perfect Cover Letter requires a bit of preparation, research about the company, its values, results..

What does the Cover Letter need to contain ?

Cover Letter Template:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Refer to the role, job, position you are applying for
  • Match your skills, experience and knowledge to the ones required in the job description
  • Encourage the reader to read your Resume
  • End the Letter of Intent with a call to action (e.g., requesting for an interview)

Customise Your Cover Letter

You need to stand out from the crowd. This is the reason why your Cover Letter needs to be specific to the job opening, it needs to demonstrate that you researched about the company, job requirement. Be as clear and specific as possible about your knowledge, experience and skills  to demonstrate that you a the perfect candidate for the job. Having said this, is very clear now that you should  NEVER use the same cover letter for all your job applications.

Preparation steps needed for writing a specific Cover Letter

    1.  Find Out Who to Address your application To

Avoid generic introduction like “Dear Mr/Ms” or  “To Whom It May Concern”. If the job opening was posted on social networks (e.g., LinkedIn ) then most probably the name is mentioned there. If not, call the employer or the recruiting agency and ask about this information.

    1. Research more about the company

Look for the company online. Read articles written by the company itself or by others about the company.

What to Include in a Cover Letter or .. Letter of Intent Template

  1. Your Name and Contact Details (email & phone nr)
  2. To: Mr./ Ms. Last Name of the contact person, Position or the Name of the Company together with their contact detail.
  3. Regarding Job Opening Details
  4. List of Relevant Skills which should contain a brief summary of skills and experience relevant for that job description. The cover letter needs to respond to most of the items listed in the section:”We are looking for” or “Desired Skills or Experience”. Examples on how you have used the skills or how you’ve got the experience will always help. Try to keep the explanations as short as possible.
  5. A brief summary of why you are the best candidate for the job, explaining why your skills and experience are a good match for the opening. (e.g., “My passion for X combined with my expertise in Y makes me a good candidate for this job”)
  6. Use the Same Language. By speaking their language, you will be more close to convince people that you are a good candidate for what they are looking for.
  7. Call to Action Ask the reader to look at your Resume and to contact you about an interview.E.g., “I have attached attached a copy of my resume for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you about this application.”

What NOT to Include in a Cover Letter

Typos or Factual Mistakes . Always double-check EVERYTHING or even better ask a friend to read your Cover Letter and check for mistakes or confusing phrases.
Copy-Paste sections from your Resume . Try to rephrase the information from your Resume. Keep your cover letter brief and concise and let your Curriculum Vitae detail the entire story of your experience.
Too many “I” like ‘I have’ ‘I am’ ‘I managed’

Good Luck!

S.B.

Interview Q&A

Why do You want This Job?

March 14

Why do I want This job or .. Why do I want to work there…

Is obvious right? I am looking for a new job, you have a job opening so… BANG! This is why … Duh… As simple as that, Right?

Well … Not really.

This is again, one of the most common interview question. And… this is a little trickier that it seems.
Why do you want to work here?” is intended to understand two other complex questions:

  1. Why do you want to work for this company ?” and
  2. Why are you interested in this job ?”

What is the hiring manager of human resources representative looking for?

  • Understand your professional goals and how this position fits in.  If you will enjoy working in the company.
  • Understand how motivated you are to perform if hired
  • Understand how much you have researched about the company, industry, job role.
  • Understand which aspects of the company attracted you and why

Be aware of the Most Common Mistakes:

  1. A too-general answer like “It’s a good company and I would love to work there” that could apply to any company
  2. A too-honest answer like “I am unemployed for the moment and I am desperate to find a new job” which could be interpreted like:  “I am so desperate that my standards for what I’ll do are pretty low, including working for you”
  3. An uninformed answer that indicates that you didn’t research about the company at all.
  4. An unenthusiastic answer. 
  5. Being inappropriate funny: like “You guys need me, I’m the best of the best so… here I am”

Lets go deeper into each question and start with the first one: “What do you like about this company?”

The answer demonstrates the knowledge you have about the company and industry. To have a good answer, you need to do your homework by reading about the company, the industry it operates, its employees, its products, its initiatives, company awards, company values and its position in the market.

The reason “Office location” will NEVER be good reason. The same like “I heard there were some job openings, so I applied for it”.

To answer this question you need to do few steps back, do your homework and research about the company and be honest with you on the answers. Analyse what else is the company offering? Is just the pay-check?

Yes, money is a great incentive but it shouldn’t be the only one. 

Why do I want to work here? What is it about the company that attracts you? What aspects appeal to you?

  • Is the company representing your own value?
  • Would you be proud to put it in your CV and discuss about it with your friends ?
  • Is it the job, position itself, Is the company name? Is the Customer Support? Is the

Big SECRET revealed:  ALL hiring managers prefers people who are motivated and want to work with them! This is the reason why, an answer might be seemed as good when you mention about company programs, employee awards, management philosophy.

In the answer you need to clearly articulate that you are perfect fit for THIS JOB and THIS COMPANY by answering another questions like “What is appealing about this job? Why did it draw your attention?”. You’re enthusiasm will be a criteria after which the hiring manager will take the decision. You can also sneak information about how good you are at the work required.

Examples of answering the question: “What do you like about this company and Why?”

  1. ” ‘Think Lean, Agile, Smart Teams’ drew my attention. I am passionate about Lean & Agile and interested to work in an environment where this duo is applied. I am experiencing in my current work the benefits of creating solutions tailored to the customer’s needs. During the Lean Startup Machine event, I put in practice and understood the power of the Pivot. With more than five years’ experience in Agile Project and Product Management, I possess a blend of business and technical savvy, big picture overview and can direct team members towards turning vision into reality. I believe that I will be a good fit for this role.”

  2. “I read about an article few months ago about the outreach your company does. Thinking of this, i realised that this is a big part of my personal philosophy and I was very enthusiastic to find out that there was a job opening in my skill set. I would really hope to be able to come to work every day to a place where I know that not only my technical skills are valuable but my personal philosophies as well “

what are your weaknesses?
Interview Q&A

What are Your Weaknesses?

February 24

What is your greatest weakness? Uhm… That’s a ‘great’ question!

This is by far one of the most arrogant question that an interviewer could ask. Be aware that this is one of the most frequent asked questions as well.

But hey, you shouldn’t take it personally and get pissed-off. Reflect a bit on your own response by reading the next thoughts on this topic. By articulating a humble response, your judgment can actually influence the attitude of an arrogant interviewer. And by humble I don’t mean adopting a defensive behaviour by reciting again your Resume… No, No, No! Humble in terms that you really know who you are, what’s best for you and that you are the only one who is fully in charge of achieving (or not) personal and professional long term goals.

Let’s dig a bit further on the great question about: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

What does self-improvement mean? Is it about correcting deficiencies? But in the end… who decides what skills should an adult have? Listening my inner voice, I feel is about getting better at things I do best. Because I am already doing them well, it means I am passionate about it. Improving your strengths could only explode your capabilities as the upper limits are sky high. And it goes both ways: when you’re passionate about something, you will find time, energy and methods to learn and automatically improve on it.

On the other hand, about things I am not good at. I felt a kind of frustration about not being able to obtain the same results as others do. But if I could choose, I would be gladly living without doing it. I actually don’t care about it and if possible, I would always postpone, avoid or skip things I am not passionate about.

As I grew up and ‘got older’, I started to think differently about weaknesses. I just realised that there are no such things as deficiencies or areas where I am not good enough and I need to improve on. It is just the opposite. Focus should stay on what I am good at, discover things that I love doing and resonates with my long term goals, keep doing these and continue to improve on.
I should be doing product and program management, I am a motivator and I have have technical background. I am good in visualising the big picture as well as in understanding the technical aspects. I love playing back and forth and adapting my style to both business and technology. I am good in defining meaningful projects. motivate and get people onboard. I simply love it and I am continuously researching and learning about leadership.

I’ve learned that I don’t have an eye for details, actually I am pretty awful at it. Even more, I can actually feel a sort of ‘pain’ whenever I find myself in this kind of situations. I definitely don’t like it so I steer clear of it.

In time, I’ve also learned that there are persons passionate about things I don’t find so interesting and the other way around. I learned to respect the differences and to appreciate other’s strengths. These days, I don’t think in terms of weaknesses that need correcting. I ask myself instead, what am I good at and how can I share with the others my strengths. I think everyone has strengths.

And to go back to the initial question: “What is your weakness?”: Don’t waste time getting better at things you’ll never be good and more important, have no desire to do. You figure out what your are good at.

 

Reasons for Leaving Job
Interview Q&A

10 Good Reasons for Leaving Job

February 24

As you’re looking to change jobs, obviously is something about your job you are not fully happy with. You don’t like your last job otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this post.

There are several reason the interviewer is trying to figure out about you when asking this question. So while formulating your answer, be careful not to trigger big question marks.

Reason 1: What are the things you DON’T like. Are these things important for the job opening? Did you leave (or you are about to leave) for the right reasons? Are you a reliable person or you are easily getting bored. Are you impulsive? Are you just testing the job market? Do you feel unappreciated?
In the end, the employer wants to know if you are a reliable person, stable, responsible and reasonable. A pleasant person to work in.

Reason 2: Did you leave on your own or were you asked to leave? What are the reasons that made you leave – are these good reasons? If you were asked to leave, what were the reasons? Poor integrity, poor performance or there were factors out of your control like downsizing or restructuring and you were one of the last who join the company.

Reason 3: Did you leave as a professional? Are you in good terms with your managers or were you escorted out of the office by security? Obviously the interviewer doesn’t want to take on board a ‘trouble making’ person and a good reference from the former employer will always help.

Either if you like it or not, brace yourself as… this question will come .

This is NOT the time to get defensive or talk trash but is yet another opportunity to demonstrate WHY YOU ARE THE PERFECT CANDIDATE. The more you think about the reasons before you get to the interview, the better off you’ll be answering it! Keep your answers positive and clear. Look straight in the interviewer eyes and have an open body language.

Here are 10 good reasons for leaving a job that could be used during the interview.

Try to respond by mentioning a factor out of your control.

Scenario 1: Change of Environment

‘I have been working in a large company for ‘x’ years now. I am missing the dynamics that you find only in Start-ups. I want to be a key person from the group and be part of a growing project.’

Scenario 2: Change of Environment

‘I have been working in the company ‘x’ years now. I feel I reached one point and I am doing by heart all the things I already know and I am good at. I am driven by challenges and my energy comes from discovering and learning about new topics.’

Scenario 3: Change of Environment

‘I have been working in a Start-up company which I enjoyed. I realised after a while that that specific business didn’t have its act together and that I am missing having an organised approach. I want to work at a company that does.’

Scenario 4:

‘My company was aquired and the atmosphere changed since then.’

Scenario 5: Weakness which is not relevant for current position – Avoid words like “quit” or “walked out.’ and try instead:

‘My last job required extensive knowledge on ‘xyz’. I felt behind everyone else on that topic. I also don’t find this sort of work very exciting. I’m much more interested in doing ‘ztw = described as main responsibility in the current opening’, which I do have experience in.
OR: ‘I am currently looking for a position better matched to my skills and long-term career goals.’
OR: ‘I am looking for a position within a company where I can contribute and grow.’

Scenario 6: ‘Old boss is no longer with the company’ – Keep your answers positive:

‘When my boss left, it made me realise that it was time for a change and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to move on as well.’

Scenario 7: ‘Personal projects to deal with’ – Trying out a new business on your own may be a very good reason.

Scenario 8: ‘Personal projects to deal with’ – Family always comes first and there are times you need to step back in order to take care of a personal situation.

‘I left my last job in order to take care of a family issue. The circumstances have changed and I now find myself in a position where I’d like to reenter the workforce.’
OR: ‘I decided to take five years off to start a family.’

Scenario 9: You’ve Been Laid Off.
Don’t take it too hard, you are not the only one. Some of the best influential people in world have been fired too.“You’re nobody until you’ve been fired at least once.”
As long as you weren’t laid off due to reasons related to performance or integrity, a potential employer isn’t going to hold it against you… especially if you weren’t the only one laid off from the company at the same time. With restructuring, it’s not unusual for a company to let go of a group of employees, regardless of performance or skills.
Be careful as usually employers see being fired as a red flag, regardless of what the reasons might be. Avoid saying ‘I was fired’ and don’t put the blame on other people.
DON’T LIE; there are ways to answer this question.

“Although I was hired, it was clear as the job progressed that other skills (i.e a task which is not required in the new opening) and knowledge were needed to perform the tasks. It became clear that someone with more experience was needed and I was let go. It was not an easy moment for me, but it made me realise this was an opportunity to move my career in the direction I really wanted. ”

‘My position was eliminated and I was let go. Although I no longer work with the company, my former manager is one of my strongest references and would be happy to answer any questions you might have about my performance and skills.’

Scenario 10: ‘Money’ – Even money is often a good reason to change jobs, be careful and better avoid mentioning it.

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Interview Q&A

What Do You Want to Do?

February 23

This question is a tricky one and pay attention who is asking the question.

If this question is coming from a person with similar skills set as you, be careful! Red lights are blinking now!
This question is asked in order to determine about your goals and how much interest you have in actually doing these future tasks. If you will not give a detailed response then most probably you will not be considered in the next step. In case you really want the job then make sure you are very clear in indicating your interest in doing it.

I have been always interested in “xyz” and I am hoping to join your comany and being able to do it.

If you are not sure about what exactly you will be doing, you can always refer to your similar past activity.

If this question is coming from the Hiring Manager then you can tell about your long term goals.

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Negotiate Job Offer

Preparation steps for starting negotiating on job offer

February 22

Step 1: Do a research and discover the salary ranges for the job position you are applying. For example if you discover that similar jobs are being paid in a  $50.000- $65.000  range a year then most probably you will not be paid with $85.000 per year.

Step 2: Follow the golden rule: Never undersell yourself! If you’re expecting $70.000 a year, don’t tell the negotiator that you are looking around $60.000 hoping that the person will see how valuable you are and that you worth more. This will not happen unless that specific position has a higher budget allocated. It triggers anyway the question if you are indeed the right candidate for that position.

Step 3: Analyse carefully the total compensation package: vacation, travel costs, learning opportunities, stock options, bonuses, benefits, salary. If you freshly graduate the college you might need some help with the costs of finding an apartment, moving , accommodation until you find a place and so on. Big companies often have this included in their package. It is important to understand WHY you want this job, what would make you happy. In the end, you will be spending there most of your time…  and should worth it.

Interview Q&A

How to Decline a Job Offer

February 22

About accepting and rejecting the job:

In each case, either you are happy with the offer or the opposite, you need to conclude and move forward. Make sure you stay in contact with the person who coordinates the entire process and set up the start date and paperwork.

Be professional when you’re declining an offer. Contacts are very important, especially in IT business where people change jobs frequently.

It’s also important to be professional when declining an offer. Contacts are very important, especially in the computer business where people change jobs frequently. It’s foolish to fail to inform the company about your decision.  It is advisable to personally call the hiring managers who made you an offer to thank them and let them know what you decided. For example:  “I want to thank you again for extending me the offer. I was very impressed with your company, but I’ve decided it’s not the best choice for me right now. Thank you again, and I appreciate your confidence in me.” Besides simply being classy, this approach will often get a response such as, “I was pleased to meet you, and I’m sorry that you won’t be joining us. If things don’t work out at that company, give me a call and maybe we can work something out. Best of luck.” This gives you a great place to start the next time you need to play the game.

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Negotiate Job Offer

Tips on Negotiating the Job Offer

February 22

As a general rule: when an offer is made, don’t accept it immediately. Take you time, reflect on it. Consider all pros and cons and put them in balance. Analyse the current offer and see points where to negotiate for a better deal. Most of the offers are not fixed in stone, regardless of what the recruiter might say.

Once you’ve been given a specific offer that includes details about salary, signing bonus, and stock options, you need to decide whether you’re satisfied with it. This shouldn’t be a snap decision — never accept an offer on the spot. Always spend at least a day thinking about important decisions like this; it’s surprising how much can change in a day. Dealing with Recruiter Pressures Recruiters often employ a variety of high-pressure tactics to get you to accept offers quickly. They may tell you that you must accept the offer within a few days if you want the job, or they may offer you an exploding signing bonus, a signing bonus that decreases by a fixed amount each day. Don’t let this bullying rush your decision. If the company really wants you (and it probably does if it made you an offer), then these limits and terms are negotiable, even when a recruiter claims they aren’t. You may have to go over the recruiter’s head and talk to your hiring manager if the recruiter refuses to be flexible. If these conditions really are non-negotiable, you probably don’t want to work for a rigid company full of bullies anyway.

There are situations when the salary  offer meets of exceeds your expectations. If this is the case, you’re all set and you should close this post. Because you’ve just opened this page, I assume that you’re still interested in the topic ;).

If, after careful considerations, you’re not completely happy with the salary offer, it’s the right time to try to negotiate. Almost every offer can be negotiated – to some extent. In many cases, people assume that offers are non-negotiable and reject offers without negotiation or accept offers they’re not pleased with.

Don’t reject an offer because of the monetary reasons without trying to negotiate. If you’re ready to walk, there is nothing to lose anyway. Try to negotiate even if the offer is in the range you expect to.

In fact, almost every offer is negotiable to some extent. As long as you are respectful and have reasonable demands, you will not lose an offer just because you tried to negotiate. But… what is reasonable?

There are few steps to consider:

Step 1: Focus next on WHY you want this job. Figure out what you really want and what is important for you. You might want to have flexibility, working from home of a flexible schedule, to reduce the time spent in the traffic therefore the location is important, more vacation days, signing bonus, better pay, more stock options, learning packages.

Step 2: Schedule a call with the person who gave the offer. Give some time for the person to prepare before having this discussion. Explain your case in a clear and simple way. Be honest – by means not arrogant  – and explain why you’re not completely happy with the offer. You might start with:

“Thank you for the offer / I am very pleased to have received the offer, I am having hard time (trouble) accepting it because .. is not competitive with my other offer or I know from discussions with my peers and other companies that this offer is below market rates.”

Possible reactions:

Scenario 1: If the negotiator asks  more details about the companies and the other offer, you are not obliged to answer. In fact, by not responding, increases the confidence level.

“Unfortunately I cannot disclose / I keep all my offer confidential, including yours, and I am sure that you will understand this.”  

Thanks the negotiator for his time and always conclude that you’re looking forward to hearing from him again.

Scenario 2: The negotiator might also ask what you have in mind, what offer would make you happy.

  

Scenario 3: The negotiator might also tell that the offer is non-negotiable.

In both cases, your response should be polite and respectful spelling out exactly your expectations, by giving the negotiator a chance to consider what you’ve said. The last one is often a hardball negotiation tactic.

Rarely a negotiator will change the offer on the spot. They will need to put in balance the current budget, options and your skills.

Be aware of the fact that many people find negotiation uncomfortable and also that is very common for people to accept the very first offer just to avoid this negotiation step. So, the chances for you to feel the same are high. Don’t be afraid as you don’t have anything to lose. Even in the case when you negotiate for as little as an annual increase of  $2000-$4000 consider it like this: If it takes you a 30 minutes phone call to increase the offer, you’ve made $4000-$8000 per hour. Even lawyers aren’t paid that much ;).

Negotiate Job Offer

Negotiate a job offer when the amount is about what you expected

February 22

Here is how to negociate a job offer when the range is about what you expected

In this situation, you can usually gain a slightly higher salary but be careful on your reaction:

1: Stay cool – don’t act to act too excited.
2: Mention that you had a similar but slightly higher range in mind by setting the minimum at the maximum of the offer range.

Scenario:
Negotiator: “ Our budget for this position is between $50,000 to $55,000,”
You: “That seems about what I had in mind; I am looking for $55.000 to $60.000 hoping for the high end of that range”.

3:  Negotiate in a professional manner until you agree on a number. If you convinced the interviewer about your skills, most probably you will receive an offer between $53.000-$58.000.

what are your salary expectations
Interview Q&A

What are your salary expectations?

February 22

A common practice is for the recruiter, hiring manager or human resources person to ask you:

“What are your salary expectations?”

If you are embarrassed to talk about the salary, don’t worry. Most of the people feel the same. Just keep in mind that you are going to commit into a business relationship and salary is a main aspect. No employer expects you to work for free and there is no reason to act like you don’t care about it.

This question can be asked at any stage of the interview. Generally is wise to postpone this question as long as possible. Discussing about numbers in the beginning, before being able to demonstrate your competencies and value might not be in your interest.

If it is asked in the beginning  – prescreening phase – the employer maybe wants to know if it worthing talking to you or, most often in startup cases, he doesn’t have any idea what the position should pay. In case you cannot escape and the negotiator insists on the topic, try to give a big range of salary considering the amount you would be happy to consider at the low end. This will give you room for negotiation later on. A possible answer could be:

“Salary is important for me, but not a major criteria when deciding for a new job opportunities. Learning opportunities, friendly environment are important for me as well and play a decisive role. I am sure that you have a budget allocated for this position, could you share the salary range with me?”

Another scenario might be that the recruiter or hiring manager tells about the budget allocated for this position meaning how much they plan to pay you.  This will serve you as an input for the later negotiation.  

If the question is asked near the end of the process, this can only indicate good things. It might be a good indication that the company is ready to start negotiating. It is very important to understand that most often the person who represents the talent acquisition or HR don’t know how to make a competitive offer. This is the moment when you could lead them and help them to do so. But in order to do it right, read about the preparation steps you will need to make when negotiating a job offer.

If the interviewer has no interest in hiring you in this point, he won’t bother to ask you this question.

Instead of answering a question about salary directly, ask what range the interviewer is prepared to offer.  Here are the possible answers, you need to be prepared in order to know how to react.

Scenario 1: If range is about what you expected, here are our tips on how to continue the discussion.

Scenario 2: The negotiator starts with a higher range than you have expected .
Again, stay cool – don’t act to act too excited. But this is great … you might want to push it a bit more or you’re happy with it anyway :)

Scenario 3: The negotiator does not answer your question but asks you instead on your expectation. This is can be a good or a bad sign as well. Maybe the person wants to negotiate or subject to some hardball negotiating skills. Respond with one number – remember the high end of your range. If you’re expecting between $50.000- $60.000 answer with ‘ I am expecting $60.000 a year’. This will leave less room for lowball. Try to avoid expressions like ‘I would expect … , I am hoping for …, I would really like …’ These are buzz words which have the effect of weakening your statements.
Again, the response could be that the negotiator accepts it, negotiates it further or stops the negotiation. If you remain calm and professional your final salary might fall within your expectations.

Scenario 4: In the last case, if the answer is that the salary is not in the current allocated budget for that position then try the strategy described in the article: Negotiate a job offer when the amount is less than expected.

Read more about … Tips on Negotiating Your Salary

Read more about … About accepting or declining a job offer

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