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What is Your Biggest Weakness?

One of the favorite interview questions of hiring managers continues to be, “What is your biggest weakness?” This is a tough question all the way around. If you are too honest, you may eliminate yourself from consideration and not get the job at all. But, if you’re not honest enough, you may come across as evasive.

So, what can you do when you’re asked this question during a job interview?

The very first thing to do is prepare. There’s a good chance you will be asked this question, so think about it in advance. Write down how you might answer the question, and practice your answer. Share your thoughts with a friend (or two), and get feedback. Find out what you could do better, and put time into perfecting your response.

Don’t give an answer that is truly critical to the job. For example, if you are interviewing to be a project manager, don’t confess that you struggle with organization and are often late on deadlines. These qualities are key to succeeding as a project manager and would immediately eliminate you from consideration.

On the other extreme, don’t give an answer that is not genuine. Many job seekers tend to give answers along the lines of, “I just work so hard. I can’t stop myself.” Or, “I’m such an overachiever and I have high expectations of those around me.” These answers come across as not being authentic, and no hiring manager will want to hear them.

Instead, I like to think of this question as an opportunity to address the elephant in the room (assuming there is one). For example, I was once asked to consider a part time coaching role with a large organization. During the job interview, the hiring manager asked me, “What is your biggest weakness?”

This was my response. “As you know, I don’t come from a human resources background, like many coaches do. That may be considered a weakness in comparison. However, I have extensive corporate experience in many industries and many job functions – from engineering to marketing. I have interviewed for many different roles myself, and I’m able to bring my own authentic experience to the table to help job seekers do their best.”

In this case, my hiring manager already knew that I had not worked in human resources. It was clear from my resume. She was probably trying to decide whether or not this difference in my background was a problem. Because I brought the issue up directly, I was able to put it to rest quickly. It also gave me a chance to explain why my own unique experience would be an asset to the organization, and might even give me a leg up on my competition. My answer worked well and created space to talk openly about my background.

There’s no one right way to answer this question. In order to give your best answer, prepare in advance. It will allow you to turn your potential weakness into a perceived strength.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Don’t Overlook Company Reviews

Being happy at work is an essential part of career fulfillment. Sometimes, it seems we spend more time researching where to eat the best hamburger than where to work. Much like skipping restaurant reviews, failing to research a company can come back to burn you later. The good news is that you no longer have to know someone personally to get the scoop on a company.

There are many employment related websites, including Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com, where current and former employees can leave anonymous reviews about their experiences. If you read the reviews, you’ll often notice patterns. Much like hotel reviews, those who leave reviews are either very happy or very unhappy. Have you ever noticed that many hotel reviews are left by customers who had some kind of awful experience, like bed bugs or dirty sheets? Typically, to be motivated to take the time to leave a review, an employee (much like a hotel guest) must have extreme emotions about the place where they work.

Glassdoor recently released a study on this very topic. They wanted to take a look into how balanced online employer reviews really are. Glassdoor’s study wanted to find out whether their site provides more or less balanced reviews than other review sites. In other words, are all of the company reviews very negative or very positive, like the hotel reviews.

If you’ve used Glassdoor before, you already know this. The site is free. But, in order to use it, Glassdoor requires you to leave some type of feedback on a company where you have worked (past or present). Glassdoor uses what they call a “give to get” policy. In other words, it encourages everyone to leave a review – not just those who are unhappy. As you may have guessed, this policy encourages people to leave reviews that are more neutral in nature.

“This study gives strong evidence that company reviews on Glassdoor are more balanced because of the way they are collected. The policy creates incentive for people to contribute to the site, who may otherwise opt out. It should help quell misconceptions that employees only provide really positive or really negative opinions about companies on Glassdoor. The data show that’s not the case — Glassdoor’s give to get policy creates a more balanced picture of companies,” said Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor chief economist.

Another great feature on both Glassdoor and Indeed is this. Although the websites have a financial relationship with hiring companies (companies pay them to advertise their jobs), the sites don’t allow employers to edit employee reviews. In other words, just because an employer doesn’t care for a particular negative review, Glassdoor and Indeed won’t delete it. The company must face the review and correct the problem directly with the employee.

In order to increase the odds that your next workplace will be a positive one, don’t skip the company reviews. They’re there to help give you a little insight into what it’s really like to work at a particular company.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Increasing Your Executive Presence

I recently had the honor of speaking on the topic of executive presence, not just once – but twice. I participated in panels where we discussed the importance of executive presence to your career and how to increase yours.

The first question that comes to mind is, “What is executive presence, anyway?” There are many ways to answer this question. Business Insider says that it’s made up of these seven traits: composure, connection, charisma, confidence, credibility, clarity, and conciseness.

As it’s clear, many of these qualities are superficial. It’s unfortunate, but it makes sense. First impressions are made in about seven seconds. And, a hiring manager makes their decision about four minutes into the job interview. That doesn’t leave much time to make a good first impression.

Executive presence is even more important when you’re new to a field, or when you’re different in some way. At my first job, I redesigned parts on cars for General Motors. I was nineteen and twenty years old. Soon after starting, the plant manager called my boss and said, “Who is this little girl, and what is she doing with MY cars?”

It quickly became clear to me that in order to get my job done, I needed to do my best to fit in. As time went on, I worked to refine my own executive presence. I dressed more formally. I worked to speak more loudly and confidently. I paid attention to my posture. I made a point to be on time, and to keep the commitments that I made.

My devotion to this idea helped. Despite being young, I was promoted to director at twenty-seven and vice president five years later.

Don’t get me wrong. The types of biases described are not necessarily fair. Many are not terribly related to our ability to do a job or our intelligence. But, they are real. Because of that, it’s important to be aware of them and of how they influence your career.

So what can you do if you want to increase your executive presence? One of the best things is to observe those around you. For example, what do your colleagues at work wear? How do they communicate during meetings? Then, consider the details, such as how you react under pressure and whether or not you follow through on your commitments.

Your colleagues will notice these things when they decide how they feel about you. Work to be genuine. Even if you’re professional, if your presence is off-putting, it won’t help you in the long run.

The feelings others have toward you will have a large impact on your career success. Often, our success in business isn’t just about how smart we are. It’s about how good we are with people. And, how well we work together with people is influenced by our own executive presence.

If you’re struggling to achieve career goals, this could be a moment to take a step back and look for opportunities to grow your executive presence.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Using social media in your job search

Social media isn’t part of a job search. In order to find a job, you only need a resume, business cards, and a nice suit. Right? This was true – if you were looking for a job in 2001.

In today’s wired world, there are so many more options available to you. Why not try them? After all, submitting your resume blindly just isn’t working. If you want to try something new, social media is a great place to start.

Hands down, the best social media site for the job seeker is LinkedIn. It’s an extension of your resume and a Rolodex of your contacts all rolled into one. I often hear the question, “Do I really need a LinkedIn page?” The short answer is yes. LinkedIn is free and it allows you to decide how much you share and with whom you want to connect. In fact, there are estimated to be half a billion users on LinkedIn from over 200 countries.

Use LinkedIn to expand on your resume, connect to old colleagues, and grow your network. The LinkedIn search tool is a great way to find (and to connect with) your future boss. It can also be a great way to learn who else works at your target company.

But, don’t stop there. I have been impressed at the number of business executives who use Twitter. It’s not uncommon to tweet to someone in the C-suite, and to actually receive a real response. It can be an unexpected way to grow a new relationship.

Another site you may want to consider if you’re in a creative field is YouTube. An advertising agency CEO once shared with me that some of her most impressive applicants submitted a short video about themselves via YouTube. It helped them to get the agency’s attention in a sea of other applications.

The one social media I would think twice about using is Facebook. Facebook has long been considered a private space to connect with friends and family. In fact, if you send a stranger a direct message, Facebook will typically filter it out of their inbox by default. That means that the person may never see your message. So, before using Facebook, try other social media sites.

Using social media in your job search can give you a leg up on your competition. It can also help you to shape your online presence. After all, when a company searches for your name on Google, your social media pages are certain to be the first thing that pops up. Think of Google search results like the new cover letter. Your social media pages tell a personal narrative about you and your beliefs.

Don’t worry too much about bothering the person you’re contacting via LinkedIn or Twitter. Social media is just another form of communication, similar to email or phone. Be professional and polite and you’ll find an entirely new way to grow your network. It’s far more effective than blindly submitting an application on a website.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Will my job be replaced by a robot?

In the age of computers, the way we do business is changing at a record pace. Some change is good. But, inevitably, some is also quite painful. One concern many professionals have is whether or not their job may be replaced by a robot.

Although it may seem impossible, there is a reasonable chance your job may be impacted over the course of your career. A study released from the University of Oxford found that approximately 47% of all U.S. jobs are at risk of automation over the coming decades. So, which jobs are safe and what can we do to minimize any negative impact?

Let’s start with the jobs least likely to be impacted. They fall into three categories. Creative jobs such as artists, engineers, and business strategists are least likely to be automated. These roles all require new, unique, creative thoughts each day.

Jobs that require a high level of human touch are also less likely to be impacted. They include social workers, nurses, and clergy members. These roles all require an extensive amount of human interaction to be successful.

Highly unpredictable jobs are also less likely to be impacted. Included are roles such as emergency plumber. They occur at random times and require unique solutions.

So, which jobs will be impacted? Anything that is routine and has the ability to be replaced by a computer is at risk. For example, a tax accountant may potentially be replaced by a computer program.

The same holds true for many logistics, transportation, and manufacturing jobs. Factory positions once held by people are being replaced by robots. Since 2013, Amazon has increased their use of robots almost seven fold. They’ve gone from an average of 461 robots per facility in 2013 to an average to over 3,200 per facility in 2017.

The area that’s the most surprising is sales. Sales has been a potentially lucrative job, tied to revenue and company goals for growth. But, predictions show that sales roles may be hit the hardest. In fact, it’s estimated that retail sales jobs may go away completely.

If you work in one of these areas, the prospect of a computer replacing your job can be scary. But, there are a few things you can do to prepare and to minimize the negative impact.

First, don’t assume you’ll work for one company forever. Working for more than one company diversifies your risk, and increases your professional network.

Second, work to develop more than one skill you could be paid for. This reduce the chances that you may end up with no options if your current job is outsourced to a robot.

Third, never stop learning. Gone are the days when you could learn one trade and stick with it. Change is constant, and to stay employed, you must also stay on top of trends.

Although the thought of robots replacing our jobs is a scary one, preparing will ensure you’ll be ready to grow and change along with the evolving job market.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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