Dr. Randall Hansen is the Career Doctor. Discover more about Dr. Hansen read about the purpose of this column and find previous issues of this column at the home page of The Career Doctor.
If you have any career- or job-related questions or comments that Dr. Hansen could provide valuable assistance with please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue (11/23/01):
- Getting a sense of the corporate culture during an interview
- Considering a career change from teaching
- Finding typical interview questions — and answers
- College senior with “no experience” worried about job-hunting
|Q:|| Kit-Tong Ng writes: How does one get a sense of the corporate culture during an interview? Are there questions to ask or any observations that I should be more aware of during the short 1-2 hours interview period ? I am a software developer.
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: First let me congratulate you on wanting to learn more about becoming a better interviewer. The interview is such a critical time for both the employer and the job-seeker and the better prepared you are for your interview the more likely you will progress to the next step — and hopefully a job offer.
What is corporate culture? At its most basic it’s described as the personality of an organization or simply as ‘how things are done around here.’ It guides how employees think act and feel. Corporate culture is a broad term used to define the unique personality or character of a particular company or organization and includes such elements as core values and beliefs corporate ethics and rules of behavior.
Why is understanding the employer’s corporate culture important? Because the organization’s culture will affect you in many many ways such as: hours worked per day and per week availability of options such as flextime and telecommuting how people interact with each other in the workplace how people dress for work benefits offered employees office space training and professional development opportunities perks — just about everything related to your time at work.
How can you learn more about the climate and culture of companies? By observing all the employees while at the interview — what they wear how they relate to each other what their office space looks like. You can also learn more about an organization’s culture by going to the company’s Web site taking informational tours speaking with people who work for the company reading annual reports and company newsletters researching the company in business and industry journals and interviewing human resource personnel or recruiters.
Get even more advice and resources about understanding corporate culture by reading my latest article Uncovering a Company’s Corporate Culture is a Critical Task for Job-Seekers.
|Q:|| Kristin Fenwick writes: I am a 27 year old English teacher with 5 years under my belt. I am considering a career change and am wondering what opportunities are available for former teachers. Are there jobs/corporations which specifically target former teachers?
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Kristin teaching is such a noble profession yet I also understand there is a fairly high rate of burnout especially when working at under-funded public schools.
As a teacher you really have two sets of skills that you can use to your advantage when contemplating a career change. You have your subject-specific set of skills — your writing and communications skills and your professional skills — training and teaching skills. Between those two sets of skills you have so many possible career options — but you aren’t limited by those skills because if you have the interest the time and the expertise you can switch careers in any direction.
Based on your experience some immediate fields that came to my mind: journalist proof-reader researcher editor technical writer publicist trainer lobbyist admissions recruiter camp director curriculum specialist.
I suggest you read my article The 10-Step Plan to Career Change.
Your choices are really limitless. You now just need to spend the time contemplating the direction of your life — and your next career move.
|Q:|| Andrew writes: I am going for a job interview as a web designer.
In your opinion what are typical questions?? (And answers.)
How would you answer if they asked “E-Commerce is very important what skills can you bring?’ Also “Sell yourself in 1minute.”
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: If you want to be prepared for just about any kind of interview you need to use the latest feature added to Quintessential Careers. Check out our Job Interview Questions Database which includes The Interview Question Database 109 typical traditional and behavioral job interview questions and The Practice Interviews where you can test your responses to typical interview questions.
The key to successfully answering interview questions is having an understanding of the purpose behind each question. Your answers should always be focused on the prize — getting to the next step getting the job offer. Thus your answers should always be framed in the context of how your mix of education experience and skills is going to add to the company — and make the interviewer’s job easier/better.
So for your first question you need to have an understanding of the skills the employer is looking for in the web designer position — is the position more focused purely on design does it incorporate an e-commerce aspect does it involve strategic planning? Once you have a handle on what the position entails you should have a better idea of how to frame your answer identifying and matching the key skills you can bring to the employer.
And for your second question’well every job-seeker should have a one-minute sales pitch. While parts of the pitch can be general strengths and skills you can offer to any employer — including your unique selling proposition (USP) you should of course tailor your answer to the employer and job at hand to provide the strongest possible sales pitch. And by the way regardless of whether you end up using the sales pitch in the interview you should most certainly write it in your thank you letter following the interview. To learn more about using marketing and sales techniques in job-hunting read my article Using Key Marketing Tools to Position Yourself on the Job Market.
|Q:|| Anonymous writes: Hi! I am a college student about to receive my Bachelors Degree in Business Management. I would like to know what advice you can give me about job seeking because I have no experience. I feel so useless and the reason why I don’t push myself to get a job is because I am afraid that employers will look at my empty resume and think I’m not worth anything.
I have done some volunteer work at health centers where my mom worked. I have not done any internships nor am I trying to get involved with one. Please tell me what I should do. My mom tells me to just tell employers the reason I haven’t worked is because I am in school but everyone I know has had at least one job. Please help!
|A:|| The Career Doctor responds: Sadly yours is not an isolated situation. We get numerous emails from college students who are about to graduate with little or no actual experience. And I need to make a mini-lecture here and say there is simply no excuse for any college student not to have some kind of work experience through summer jobs and/or internships. There are just so many advantages to gaining work experience from learning first-hand about corporate culture and office politics to gaining a better understanding of your career path and learning valuable skills.
In your particular case I see two issues.
First many — if not most — employers recruiting college graduates especially business school grads want the students they interview to have some work experience. That work experience typically occurs through internships and summer jobs. Why did you avoid getting an internship? You probably should have some sort of answer prepared in case the question gets asked.
Second let’s separate and define the differences between work and experience because I think you are being too hard on yourself. You may not have ‘worked’ but you do have experience. Let’s look at all your volunteer experiences and your class projects. Through your volunteering at the health centers you probably acquired numerous valuable skills that can easily transfer to the workplace. And if your business school is like most you probably have been involved with numerous major projects in your classes where you also learned and employed new skills.
I strongly recommend that you go to the Transferable Skills section of Quintessential Careers to learn more about emphasizing your set of key skills.
Finally I would also recommend that you immediately go to the career services office at your college and work with those professionals to build a job search strategy designed especially for you. You’ll be able to find a job but it’s going to take developing a resume that focuses on your key skills and experiences using your network of contacts and implementing the advice from the career services office.
Best of luck.