With the level of technological integration into nearly every facet of life and business, it’s practically essential for companies, large or small, have an Information Technology, or IT, department to handle all the technological issues that arise.
Most of us probably don’t know much about the IT department beyond the fact that they’re the ones who occasionally come by to install new software or fix computer-related problems. And while those are among IT’s general responsibilities, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, the IT department does much of their work behind the scenes, and may be much more integral to your company’s success than you realize.
Overview of IT Department Responsibilities
One of the biggest drivers of a successful business is efficiency, and the ability to automate routine tasks is a great way to increase overall efficiency. By and large, the IT department is responsible for providing the infrastructure for this automation.
At an even more basic level, by implementing the governance for the use of network and operating systems, the IT department enables the company’s employees to communicate, collaborate and automate routine tasks, and generally provide teams with the functionality they need to perform their duties.
It’s important to note that although the IT department implements and facilitates the flow of information, it doesn’t create the policy that defines which information is correct or accessible to others.
Here are a few of the things the IT department does besides reboot your computer:
The Three Major IT Functions
Governance refers to the implementation of operational parameters for working units and individuals’ use of IT systems, architecture, and networks. In layman’s terms, they enact the rules about how you and your team can use the company’s technology and what you can use it for. This is part of the conventional IT security as well as the data assurance for which the IT department is also responsible.
Infrastructure refers to the hardware components, the network, the circuitry and all other equipment necessary to make an IT system function according to the established needs and system “size” of the company.
Functionality is perhaps the most visible task performed by the IT department, and therefore what they’re most commonly associated with in many workers’ minds. It refers to creating and maintaining operational applications; developing, securing, and storing electronic data that belongs to the organization; and assisting in the use of software and data management to all functional areas of the organization.
IT Network Responsibilities
The IT department oversees the installation and maintenance of computer network systems within a company. This may only require a single IT employee, or in the case of larger organizations, a team of people working to ensure that the network runs smoothly.
The IT department must evaluate and install the proper hardware and software necessary to keep the network functioning properly. As this involves working within a budget allocated to the department for network devices and software, the IT department must make sure that the equipment it invests in will optimally serves the needs of the company without going over budget.
Networks can be simple or extremely complex depending upon their size and composition. In addition to staying current on trends within business technology, IT employees may require college degrees in a computer field to adequately handle the issues that arise in maintaining such a network.
Should a network system go down, the repercussions can be costly — not just to the company and its operations, but outside entities that require products or services from the company. These outside entities could be affected and lose faith in the company’s ability to provide them with what they need. The IT department must put a crisis plan in place that can be implemented should the system go down. It must be designed to put the network back up quickly or allow it to switch over to an alternate system until the necessary repairs are completed.
Through the maintenance and planning of a network system, the IT department must forge professional relationships with outside vendors and industry experts. This helps the department employees perform their duties more efficiently as well as stay current on the latest technology that might be beneficial to the company for which they work.
Quite often, companies see the main role of the IT department as creating the applications that serve its core business needs. The right applications allow a business to be innovative, more productive, efficient, and to move ahead of its competitors. In many ways, this makes the IT department crucial in driving a business forward.
The work necessary to create the applications that can set a business apart from the others requires an IT department with programmers, analysts, interface designers, database administrators, testers, and other professionals.
Most people are aware that the IT department is responsible for the success of computer operations and other information technologies within a business. However, as many new forms of electronic communication have become staples of the modern office, IT departments have been taking on a greater role in the technical side of company communication. This includes point to point phone calls, conference calls, and video and web conferences, as well as less direct forms of electronic communication like network drives, email systems, and secure servers.
The IT department must fully understand how these systems work and interact with each other, and is responsible for ensuring that these systems remain operational at all times.
The IT department is at least partially responsible for creating and maintaining the company’s website. While the content and design of the site may be handled by another department – often Marketing – IT typically creates the code and works with other departments to test the site for usability.
The IT department provides this service for all the users who need access to the company’s computer systems. This might entail installing new software or hardware, repairing hardware that has become faulty, training employees in the use of new software, and troubleshooting problems with the system or with an individual’s computer.
It’s apparent that not all the IT department does is apparent – it creates and maintains many systems that go unseen or get taken for granted by employees, creates emergency response plans to protect the business from unforeseen problems, and constantly works to improve the entire company’s ability to function efficiently and effectively.
It’s not that you don’t like people, per se. It’s just that you’ve never in your life been invited to a networking event and thought, “Well, that sounds fun!” You’d rather spend a quiet night in with a few friends – or by yourself – than go to a packed party. For you, making small talk is a form of torture. Ron Swanson is your spirit animal.
In short, you’re not a people person. And that’s okay. Some people just aren’t built that way. Fortunately for you, there are a slew of lucrative career opportunities that don’t require a lot of customer interaction and group collaboration.
Not only do the following jobs lend themselves to a more introverted lifestyle, they all pay more than$20 per hour and are projected to grow at or above the average pace over the next several years*.
1. Accountant: Are numbers “your thing”? Accounting might be for you. Accountants prepare and examine financial records and prepare taxes for people and businesses. They also help assess businesses’ financial operations and help them run efficiently.
2. Actuary: Are you known as the fiscally responsible one in your group of friends? Actuaries analyze the financial costs of risk and uncertainty and help clients develop policies to minimize the cost of that risk.
3. Archivist: Do you fancy yourself a history buff? Would your organization skills put Martha Stewart to shame? As an archivist, you appraise, process, catalog, and preserve permanent records and historically valuable documents.
4. Chefs and Head Cooks: Always experimenting with new recipes? Do your Eggs a la Francaise give Countess Luann’s a run for their money? There might be a career in cooking for you. Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation, direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns at restaurants.
5. Electrician: Sick of the 9-to-5 grind and cubicle life? As an electrician, you get to work with your hands, there’s no such thing as a “typical day,” and you won’t go into debt with student loans because much of the training is on the job.
6. Film and Video Editors: If you loved the action sequences in movies like “The Avengers,” “Kill Bill” and “The Mummy,” you can thank film and video editors for that. If you have a way with editing software and a passion for storytelling, film and video editing could be the perfect fit.
7. Financial Analyst: Do friends come to you for financial advice? You might be a budding financial analyst. They help guide businesses and individuals toward sound investment decisions.
8. Interpreter: Are you fluent in another language? Consider transferring that skill into a career as an interpreter, one of the fastest-growing jobs over the next five years.
9. Market Research Analyst: There’s a reason some people are strictly Pepsi drinkers while others are team Coke all the way – and it’s the job of a market research analyst to know that reason. They look at consumer buying behavior to help businesses understand who their consumers are, what they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it.
10. Marriage or Family Therapist: Do you pride yourself on your listening skills? Do friends and family members come to you when they need advice or a sympathetic ear? Consider a career as a marriage or family therapist, who helps people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.
11. Medical Laboratory Technologist or Technician: Did you live for science lab when you were in high school? Consider looking into being a medical laboratory technologist or technician.These professionals collect samples and perform tests to analyze body fluids, tissue and other substances.
12. Paralegal: Not crazy about the idea of law school, but have a passion for all things “Law & Order”? As a paralegal, you would do a variety of tasks to support lawyers, such as maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research and drafting documents.
13. Software Developer: Does your love for computers run deep? Consider software development. While some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer, others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.
14. Technical Writer: Do you have a knack for simplifying complex information? As a technical writer, you’ll prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles and other documents to break down technical information and communicate it more easily.
15. Zoologist or Wildlife Biologist: If you’ve always preferred the company of animals over people, than a future in zoology may be for you. Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife, how they interact with their ecosystems, animal behaviors and the impact humans have on wildlife.
Life isn’t always easy for working parents. Yet, if you look around, you’ll likely see plenty of people who are managing to build careers and raise happy families at the same time. That’s because according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, of workers who have a child living at home, 78 percent say it’s possible to be successful in your career and as a parent. Further, more than half of working parents say they feel equally successful in both of their roles.
What’s their secret? Corralling a career and kids requires lots of flexible prep, an always changing plan of attack that includes certain carefully plotted strategic steps including:
See if work can be flexible: Flexible working hours benefit both parents and non-parents, but in different ways. For parents with young children, their work schedule can be tied to the baby’s sleep schedule. Parents with older kids may need to work around school or activity schedules. This helps parents be more productive with their time, and makes balancing their work and personal lives easier.According to the CareerBuilder survey,half of workers who are parents (46 percent) have not taken advantage of flexible work arrangements, but of those who have (54 percent), 37 percent say it has not affected their career progress, and 12 percent said it has made a positive impact on it.
Make “you” time a priority: It’s not being selfish to set aside time to do something you enjoy. Schedule time to hang out with adults and focus more on quality rather than quantity of time. Be flexible and remember that doing something for yourself, even for just a few minutes, is always better than nothing.
Make a family calendar: Not only will it help you keep on top of things, it’ll encourage your whole family to stay organized and make sure events can be planned for far in advance. According to the research, while the majority of working parents (66 percent) spend at least three hours a day with their kids each day, more than a third (38 percent) have missed a significant event in their child’s life due to work in the last year. More than 1 in 5 (21 percent) have missed three or more events.
Keep an “it’s done!” list: Uncompleted tasks torture us. Instead of tormenting yourself with an endless list of undone items, keep a brief, informal list of completed items from both work and home. Write down this year’s finished projects, problems solved, your wins — whatever “win” means for you. Then look over this list and remind yourself of how much you’ve done — how much you’ve produced and accomplished, in both spheres. This practice will make your to-do list seem more manageable and your days calmer.
Give up on perfection: It’s OK if home’s a little messy and meals aren’t cooked from scratch every day. Life is too short to worry. Remind yourself that every family has a system that works for them, and avoid comparing your efforts to others.
Do you have any tips for working with parents? Tweet us at @CareerBuilder and let us know!
As if job interviews weren’t stressful enough, what with trying to remember the right things to say and do, you also have to think about what you’re going to wear. After all, interviews are all about showing yourself in the best possible light, and your interview outfit is part of that, says Heather Tranen, founder of Schtick, which offers career coaching and personal branding.
“Showing up to an interview polished and dressed appropriately for the role you are interviewing for shows that you put effort into yourself and into understanding the organization’s culture,” Tranen says. She adds that a good interview outfit can help with your confidence going into the interview. “If you feel great on the outside it will calm the inner crazy person shrieking insecurities inside your head.”
Deciding what to wear, when
You’ve likely heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want,” but it’s also important to dress for the company for which you want to work. While a suit used to be the universal standard, that’s not necessarily the case anymore.
“Lately it seems like hoodie culture of the Silicon Valley start-up world has replaced the boxy pantsuits of the Wall Street glory days,” Tranen says. “However, many industries still remain fairly traditional. While many companies are relaxing their dress codes, a lot of industries, such as finance and law, expect you to be on your suit A-game when you come in for an interview.”
Because there are no hard and fast rules anymore, your best bet is to do your homework ahead of time to figure out what the standard dress code would be for the role and company at which you’re interviewing.
6 tips for dressing for job interview success
Because every company is different in what they consider appropriate workplace attire, here are some tips to ensure you dress for success every time.
Do your homework. Don’t know much about the company? Tranen suggests engaging in “a little light internet stalking” to find out what the dress code is. Go on the company’s website, for example, to see if there are photos and videos of employees. “This can give you insight into the company’s overall vibe,” Tranen says. “Model yourself accordingly.” It’s also OK to ask a friend at the company, or seek out alumni from your college who may work there to gain insight.
Err on the side of overdressing. “A good rule of thumb is to dress one level above what folks at the company wear on a day-to-day basis. For example, if they are business casual then it’s best to break out that suit collecting dust in the back of your closet,” Tranen says. (See “Decoding the dress code” below.)
Pay attention to details. Make sure you always look polished. In other words, don’t show up in wrinkled, stained, ripped or ill-fitting clothing. Comb your hair, and check to make sure none of this morning’s spinach omelet ended up in your teeth. Consider keeping a small grooming kit with you for any last-minute touch-ups you may need.
Keep it simple. You want the interviewer to focus on you, not your attire. “Avoid distracting an interviewer by embracing a simple approach to interview attire,” Tranen says. That means going easy on the jewelry, makeup, hair and clothing. Stay away from “outrageous” colors and patterns, as well as pieces that show off too much skin. “Let your awesomeness speak for itself through the answers you give throughout the interview.” That doesn’t mean you have to be boring, however. Tranen says investing in “a good, classic handbag or briefcase that can fit your interview materials comfortably…will make you feel both organized and stylish.”
Put the perfume away. Once you’ve showered, shaved and applied deodorant, avoid the urge to “bathe yourself in cologne or perfume,” Tranen says.She recalls interviewing a job candidate whose scent was so powerful, it nearly made her sick. “Needless to say, he didn’t get the job.” Again, you want to be remembered for your skills. Not your scent.
Have a dress rehearsal. Tranen recommends always trying on your interview clothes before the day of the interview to prevent any possible wardrobe malfunctions. “If things don’t fit right anymore, if your go-to jacket is missing a button, or if the shirt you love is wrinkled, it gives you time to troubleshoot,” she says.
Decoding dress codes
Sometimes even asking about the dress code can still leave you confused. For instance, you might hear that a company is “business professional.” But what’s the difference between that and business casual? Or if a company describes its dress code as “casual,” how do you know what’s too casual? Here’s a cheat sheet to deciphering some of the most common office dress codes:
Business professional: In a business professional atmosphere, suits are the norm. Women might wear a skirt or pant suit with heels, while men may wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie and dress shoes.
Business casual: Forget the suit when interviewing at a business casual company. Men might opt to wear dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might consider wearing a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.
Casual: When interviewing at a casual office, it’s still important to look polished and professional. (Save the jeans and flip-flops for when you actually have the job.) Men might consider wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt, khaki pants a belt, and dress shoes. Women might wear a collared shirt with pants or a pencil skirt, or a work dress.
If you’re devoted to living a healthy lifestyle, why not bring that dedication into the workplace? There are many jobs related to health and wellness that let you practice what you preach.
Here are four jobs for people who want to put health first – both personally and professionally.
1. Nutritionist. If eating healthy is an interest of yours, consider a job where you can help others do the same. As a nutritionist, you’ll connect with people who want to make a healthy change to their lifestyle.
With food allergies and intolerances on the rise, there is a need for people who can customize diet plans for (and educate) these growing populations. The rising concerns over obesity – in children and adults – have also opened up more positions for nutritionists.
Typical education*: Depending on your state, you’ll probably need either a certification in nutrition or a license. However, four states don’t require any certification. Check with your state before making any education decisions. If your state requires a license with experience, look for a program that offers an internship with its course offerings. You can also pursue an advanced degree in nutritional science. This places you one step closer to being certified through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.
2. Health food store employee. If you love leading a healthy lifestyle and want to pass your insights on to as many people as possible (without spending years in school), a job as a health food store employee may be the perfect fit. Customers will have plenty of questions and those who don’t will enjoy sharing their healthy-living experiences.
To work in a health store, you’ll want to be customer-focused and an eager problem solver. Most stores will expect you to have great product knowledge and suggestions for its customers to pursue a healthier lifestyle. As a bonus, some stores will offer commission on your sales and/or a discount on products.
Typical education: Typically, no formal education credential is required. Depending on the store, your level of education may be less important than your dedication to encouraging wellness.
3. Blogger. Blogging is another way to impart information about your healthy-lifestyle choices to a larger audience. There are multiple paths to blogging. While most blogs are in written format, video blogs or a YouTube series are options as well.
You can create your own blog about wellness and build an audience, but know that building an online presence takes time. As a result, it might be worth blogging on your own time while you work at another job – at least at first.
If doing it on your own sounds risky, you can work for a company instead. This ensures you will have a steady paycheck and benefits, but the marketing team will likely dictate content strategy.
You can also freelance for a wellness-centric company. There may not be a steady paycheck, and you won’t receive benefits, but if you can publish under your name, it’s a way to build an audience through a well-known publisher and translate that into your own blog later.
Typical education: Writers typically have a bachelor’s degree. While there are no education requirements for bloggers, a strong command of the language in which you write is a plus. You should also feel comfortable around technology because there’s a certain amount of experimentation that goes into setting up your site.
4. Personal trainer. To excel as a personal trainer, you’ll need the right combination of coaching skills, knowledge of how the body works and dedication to customer service that will make people want to use you in the long term and refer friends and family to you as well.
You will need to push your clients without breaking them, and encourage them even when the results don’t happen overnight. You will need to understand your customers’ health goals and customize a program that suits their needs. Some trainers also cross over into nutrition and create meal plans for their clients.
Typical education: The education and training required varies by type of specialty, and employers prefer to hire those with certification. Personal fitness trainers, group fitness instructors and specialized fitness instructors each need different preparation.
Employers often like to boast of their team environment and workplace culture, but maybe you’re just not comfortable being all buddy-buddy with your co-workers. Maybe you’re more like a competitor on a reality TV show: You didn’t come here to make friends. You came here to win. (And by ‘win,’ you mean do your job, get your paycheck and get home to finish binge-watching “Wild Wild Country.”)
And that’s okay. Maybe you don’t care if your co-workers like you; however, you should care if they dislike you. Being a quiet loner type won’t necessarily prevent you from contributing and being a part of the team, but being actively dislikable can have a negative impact on your career. After all, the less likable you are, the less likely others are to collaborate with you, volunteer their help when you need it or recommend you for a promotion.
So what makes someone unlikable? We asked experts to share some of the most common reasons someone’s co-workers might dislike them and, more importantly, what they can do to improve.
1. Being a glory-hog.
We all like to get some praise and recognition for our hard work. That’s something everyone – not just you – appreciates.
“If people are only concerned with boosting their own names and careers, act superior to others, or steal someone else’s thunder, it’s pretty tough to like them,” says Josh Dziabiak, COO of a Texas-based car insurance company.
How to fix it: Be gracious in your success and give credit where credit is due. “Great team members deflect attention and give credit to their teammates when things go right,” Dziabiak says. “When there is success, they recognize it’s not theirs alone.”
2. Ignoring your own mistakes.
Everybody makes mistakes – just ask any motivational poster or educational after-school cartoon. The mistake itself isn’t going to cause anyone to dislike you. But if you handle your mistakes poorly, then they just might.
“Someone who makes a mistake and, rather than fessing up, tries to cover it up or even blame someone else, is going to be disliked,” says Sarah Schewitz, a licensed clinical psychologist.
How to fix it: Allow yourself to be more vulnerable in the workplace by owning up to your mistakes, apologizing for them and, if necessary, asking for help with the solution, Schewitz advises. “Not only will this increase your likeability, but also your authenticity and integrity in the workplace.”
3. Complaining all the time. We all gripe about work from time to time. But constantly complaining to your co-workers isn’t going to help anyone – least of all yourself.
“We all feel unhappy with our circumstances at times, but a consistent pattern of negativity typically ruins the environment for others and pushes others away,” says Donna Lubrano, adjunct faculty at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies.
How to fix it: If you’re consistently unhappy at your job, it may be time to look for a new one. Identify your biggest complaints, and start looking for other opportunities where those issues won’t be a problem. In the meantime, focus on what you can do to change your current situation. Next time you feel like complaining, try looking for solutions before speaking up. (Or try one of these quick fixes for an instantly happier workday.)
4. Being anti-social. Just because you prefer keeping to yourself doesn’t mean you always should. When it comes to co-workers, a little socializing can go a long way.
“You don’t have to be joined at the hip with your co-workers, but those who don’t at least make an attempt to participate in some workplace social activities can be seen as isolationist, stuck-up, stuffy or even rude,” says Lubrano.
How to fix it: Make the effort to get to know your colleagues as people. Say ‘yes’ to the occasional after-work social event or suggest lunch with a colleague. Not only will you be more likable, but research shows bonding with fellow employees can actually make you more engaged and happier at your job.
5. Displaying negative body language. Just saying the occasional nice thing or exchanging pleasantries with your co-workers may not be enough, particularly if your body language undercuts your words.
“It may surprise you to learn that bad body language can make people unlikeable,” says Carrie Glenn, founder of Etiquette at Hand, a professional etiquette consultancy. Yet, given that the majority of communication is non-verbal, it makes sense that certain behaviors (such as refusing to make eye contact, crossing your hands in front of your chests, slouching, etc.) can make you appear cold and unfriendly, turning others off.
How to fix it: Glenn suggests taking a yoga or ballet class to improve posture or joining a club like Toastmasters (or taking a speech class) to improve the way you present yourself.
6. Disrespecting others’ space and time. While you may not intend for it to be taken personally, being disrespectful of someone’s personal space or wasting someone’s time is often interpreted as a personal affront.
“Bursting into someone’s office, invading someone’s space, and being loud in an office (especially in an open-floor plan) can all make someone ‘unlikeable,'” says Chad Daniels, co-founder of buildthefire.com. These behaviors indicate a lack of consideration and respect for others who are trying work.
How to fix it: Don’t assume your colleagues can drop everything at your convenience. Remember they have their own responsibilities and priorities that require their attention. Give them a heads up by giving them a call or email and asking if they have a moment to talk, Daniels suggests. Also, be mindful of the volume of your voice and try to meet with others behind closed doors so as not to disturb others.
7. Gossiping. People tend to like people they feel they can trust, and gossiping is a quick way to show your co-workers you might not be super trustworthy. Not only that, but a 2015 CareerBuilder survey found gossiping to be among the top behaviors that hurt an employee’s chances for promotion.
How to fix it: Aside from not engaging in office gossip yourself, remove yourself from temptation by changing the subject or finding a way to excuse yourself from the conversation.
You may never be liked by everyone – and that’s okay – but you can make it so you’re not reviled by them, either. You may be surprised by how little effort it takes to make a big impact on your colleagues’ opinions of you – and your satisfaction at work as a result.
Landing a job doesn’t mean your days of navigating difficult questions are over. You should be prepared to handle uncomfortable queries, an especially tricky feat when it’s coming from your boss.
You may face one or more of these awkward questions at some point in your career. Here are ways you can respond to them professionally and keep the relationship with your boss intact.
1. “Are you looking for a new job?”
If you’re putting yourself back on the job market, tell the truth. Chances are that your boss has a good reason for asking, so a denial will only make you look bad. But don’t overshare. This question isn’t an invitation to air all your complaints about the position or the company. When responding, keep the focus on you and your career.
Keep the answer short and to the point:
“I’m interested in exploring positions in a different industry.”
“I’m thinking about relocating to another city.”
“A former colleague contacted me about an exciting opportunity, and I feel I should look into it.”
“I’m looking for a position with more flexibility.”
“I don’t feel I’m making much progress here.”
Be polite and emphasize that you’re committed to performing your current job to the best of your ability.
2. “Have you heard the latest about Jamie?” Co-workers who spread rumors are difficult enough to deal with, but having a boss who engages in office gossip is a potential landmine. You don’t want to sound disapproving or like a Goody Two-shoes. Your best option is to offer a noncommittal response such as, “I really haven’t heard,” and then either change the topic or try to leave the conversation. Maintain an attitude of polite disinterest. Once your boss realizes you’re not a gossiper, he or she will drop the subject.
3. “How would you rate my performance as a manager?” This question is particularly tricky because you might not know your boss’s motivation. Has upper management requested that he or she seek feedback from employees; is the person just fishing for compliments; or is he or she genuinely interested in constructive criticism?
To remain on safe ground, lead with positive feedback. Then choose one aspect of the person’s managerial style that could use some work, and make it actionable. For example, “The next time there’s a new project, I’d like a little more guidance so I don’t go in the wrong direction.”
4. “How would you rate your performance during Q1?” Balance is key. Outline what you did well, and reference tangible results such as exceeding goals or meeting tight deadlines. Then discuss a few ways you might do better next time. To show you’re serious about self-improvement, ask your boss for an assessment — and any tips for Q2.
5. “Can you take on this project (that no one else will do)?” You may feel pressure to say yes to every request in order to maintain a good relationship with your boss. While it’s occasionally necessary to “take one for the team,” you need to be honest about how Project X will affect your present workload and whether it’s within the scope of your job description.
If you’re genuinely reluctant to lead this project, tell your manager that you simply don’t have the bandwidth to do it justice and get all of your regular assignments done on time. But also think about what may happen if you agree: If leading Project X will win you points with the boss and prove your leadership skills, it might be worth the extra work to say yes — this time.
Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, read our blog at blog.roberthalf.com or follow us on social media at roberthalf.com/follow-us.
Survey a group of job seekers about their least favorite interview question, and the consensus typically is: “What is your biggest weakness?”
It’s seemingly impossible to provide an adequate response to a question like this. You don’t want to twist it around into a positive because then you’re not answering the question, but you also don’t want to confess a flaw that may sabotage your chances of getting hired.
There are better ways for an interviewer to get you to think critically about your skills than asking this question. Karen Southall Watts, a trainer, coach, author and professional encouragerfor entrepreneurs and managers says that “What are your weaknesses?” is one of her least favorite questions. “It’s been encouraging over the years to see managers move to more situation-based and results-focused questions that serve both [the] candidate and employer better. Yet, it is always wise to prepare for traditional interview questions like this one.”
So, how do you successfully answer the dreaded question?
Avoid the strength disguised as a weakness. Let’s start with how not to answer this question. While some people may tell you this is an opportunity to share a strength masked as a flaw, that’s not the answer most interviewers are looking for these days.
“Over time, the strategy for answering ‘What is your greatest weakness?’ has changed,” says Donna Shannon, president of Personal Touch Career Services. “The old school method was ‘to turn a weakness into a strength,’ such as ‘I am a perfectionist, so you know my work will always be top quality.’ The modern interviewer wants to hear a real weakness and then dive into how you deal with it.”
James Pollard, owner of a marketing consultancy that works specifically with financial advisors, agrees, saying that when he asks this question in an interview, he does not want to hear the typical strength-disguised-as-a-weakness response. “If you Google how to answer this question, this is what you will see. People recommend saying, ‘I work too hard’ or ‘I’m a perfectionist’. I can see through these answers and I know that if you say something like this, you aren’t being genuine. You’re just giving me a rehearsed answer that you read online.”
Be honest, with a twist. Interviewers can also easily spot a dishonest response. “Don’t lie! Interviewers are surprisingly adept at seeing through scripted and false answers,” says Rebecca Horan, personal branding expert at Rebecca Horan Consulting LLC. “Be honest – with yourself and your interviewer. But … we all have multiple weaknesses. Choose one that is not going to torpedo your chances of landing the role.”
Instead, Horan says to make it clear that your weakness is something you’ve worked to overcome and won’t hinder your job performance. “Show that you care about personal development. If you’ve struggled in a specific area of expertise but you’re taking a class in it to bolster your skillset, great! Talk about that. If you’ve always turned to jelly at the thought of public speaking but have joined your local Toastmasters chapter or you’re taking an improv class to get more comfortable with speaking in front of a large group, you’ll want to talk about that. Whatever it is, your interviewer should be able to envision the ‘happy ending’ to the story.”
Just don’t self-sabotage. “Don’t name a weakness that is going to get in the way of [you being able to do] your job successfully, working well with others, or otherwise succeeding in the position for which you’re applying,” Horan cautions. “Be honest, but very selective about which example to use.”
To that end, Shannon also says to avoid choosing a “fatal flaw” – something that would knock you out of the running. “For example, saying that you lack attention to detail when you are interviewing for an accounting position would immediately disqualify you, no matter how good your strategies for dealing with it are.”
The best communication skills for your CV:
1. Excellent Speaking Skills
When most people think about communication, they think about speaking. While this area is only one part of communication, it’s a very important one. Speaking well matters, whether you’re a manager delivering motivational speeches to inspire your team, a bookkeeper explaining a client’s financial situation, or a public relations specialist interacting with members of the media.
Having good public speaking skills helps you talk to others and persuade them with your point of view. Your speaking skills will help you command others’ attention. You can showcase your excellent speaking skills during a job interview, so make the most of the opportunity.
2. Good Telephone Skills
While good speaking skills go some way toward making someone competent on the telephone, phone communication skills are skills unto their own. Without the visual clues of face-to-face communication, telephone speakers must take cues from what they’re hearing and express themselves only through their voices.
The more you use the telephone, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Try to resist the urge to simply text friends or book restaurant reservations online. Pick up the phone to make your arrangements instead.
Remember to speak clearly as the person you call can rely only on your words. You may also deal with people who don’t want to take your call, particularly if you’re cold-calling them. While they may be frustrated or even rude, you should always stay polite and friendly.
While speaking to others is important, you can’t claim to be a good communicator unless you have good listening skills. One of the best ways to listen is a process called active listening, because it reinforces what a speaker has said to you. Active listening helps clear up any areas of confusion and highlights the message in the listener’s mind.
You can improve your active listening skills by practicing it when someone speaks to you, whether it’s at work or during your leisure time.
Focus on what the speaker says.
Notice the speaker’s body language.
Wait for the speaker to finish, without interrupting.
Ask questions to clarify any unclear points.
Repeat the message you heard back to the speaker. Phrases such as “I understand you want to …” and “So you’re saying that …” are good starting points.
People love when others listen to them. When you demonstrate active listening, you’re making others feel valued. You’re also learning what they need from you, which will help you do your job better no matter what industry you work in.
4. Exemplary Written Communication Skills
While spoken communication is important, communicating using the written word is important in many roles. While some professionals such as journalists and advertising copywriters rely heavily on their written communication skills, they’re also vital for anyone who needs to prepare reports or write emails as part of their job.
Practice is one of the best ways to become a better writer. Start writing regularly on a blog or in a journal, and you’ll find the process becomes less daunting and starts to feel more natural. Focus on your ideas flowing smoothly as well as mechanical concerns such as grammar and spelling. You may also want to enroll in a writing course if you feel your writing needs some special attention. Specialist business and technical writing courses can benefit people in certain industries.
Searching for a job will give you plenty of opportunities to showcase your written skills. Write a custom cover letter, e.g., customer service, for each position you apply for consideration. Make sure the letter is persuasive, concise, and free of spelling or grammatical errors that could undermine your application.
Show a prospective employer that you have mastered these communication skills, and you’ll prove that you could be an asset to any place of business operating in any industry.
You can find lots of information out there about the traditional one-on-one job interview, but that’s just one way employers are interviewing people these days. Sometimes they use a different type of setting – or a combination of interview tactics – during the hiring process.
Here, we’ve laid out some of the less traditional types of job interviews and how you can excel at each one.
What they are: An informational interview is an exploratory, face-to-face meeting with professionals in your industry – or in an industry you’d like to learn more about – to help you gain insight into the their career path and experiences. These meetings aren’t considered true job interviews, so don’t expect an offer at the end of it.
How to succeed: While this type of interview is less formal than the traditional job interview, you should still prepare by doing research on the person you’re meeting with, the company he or she works for, and any big news or trends influencing the industry. Expect to be the one asking the questions, so come with a list, but don’t feel like you have to stick to it if the conversation goes in a different direction. Just as with a traditional interview, send a thank you note afterwards, but unlike a typical interview, don’t ask for a job, since that wasn’t the objective of the meeting.
What they are: Phone interviews are often conducted as a first-round screening by a recruiter or as a way to connect with someone on the team who works remotely or in a different office.
How to succeed: “Phone interviews are a critical part of the screening process that can help a job seeker land a face-to-face meeting,” says Steve Saah, Global Executive Director with Robert Half Finance & Accounting. “Showcase your interpersonal skills by listening to what’s being asked, pausing and then responding. What you say and how you say it can make a big difference. It may seem obvious, but make sure you’ve done your homework about the company itself and the person interviewing you. It’s important to be a bit more energetic than in person, as the interviewer can’t see eye contact or body language. Let them ‘see you smile’ through the phone.”
What they are: Video interviews are also becoming more common as more employees work remotely. And since most people have capabilities on their smartphones or computers to conduct video calls, they are easy to set up and execute, and still give that “in person” feeling without actually having to be in the same room.
How to succeed: “The best way I recommend to prepare for these types of video interviews is to prepare just like you are going in for an actual in person face-to-face interview,” says Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at New York City’s Baruch College, who coaches marketing executives, students, small business startups and brand clients to Get Brand Productive. “Of course, a quiet room and professional appearing background are key, as well as ensuring the computer camera [is] properly positioned.”
Hecht says that with the rise of live streaming across Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, as well as Millennials’ and Gen Z’s agility with video, interviewing via video is making interviewing less formal and more personality driven. “Just like brands succeeding today are purpose driven, employers are looking for candidates to show how their personalities and passions can align with company purposes in their video interviews,” he says.
What they are: During a group interview, the company interviews several job seekers at the same time. It’s a way to make the hiring process more efficient, but it’s also a way to see how job seekers react in a stressful or group situation.
How to succeed: Saah says that before going into the interview, be sure to have an elevator pitch ready. “How you introduce yourself and the impression you make will matter. At least once during the interview, try to be the first person to answer the interviewer’s question. You don’t want to dominate the group by answering every question first.”
What they are: Panel interviews is another type of group setting, but this time there are multiple decision makers from the company in the room. While intimidating, prepare yourself by asking who will be attending in advance; that way you can do your research and tailor your responses appropriately.
How to succeed: “For a panel interview, maintaining eye contact with each person as they speak is important,” Saah recommends. “This is typically an opportunity to meet different people at the same time, from senior executives and HR contacts to potential co-workers. Remember that it’s a two-way street, so have questions in mind to ask the hiring manager or panel.”