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Dated August 24, 2005

Questions answered on career concerns

When responding to questions in an interview what are the things one should remember?

Md YOUSUF,
NELLORE

While attending interviews, you must keep four important aspects in mind: listen carefully, make your answers specific and organised, frame the answers positively while emphasising your strengths, and discuss your weaknesses honestly.

Listening carefully is important because it's imperative that you hear the question correctly. It would be very embarrassing if you answered a question inappropriately because your focus was on how it was phrased.

Make your answers specific and organised. Think about the question and then consider your answer before you speak it. Organise your thoughts, so that if the question, for instance, is, "What were your main duties at your last job?" you can concentrate on the top duties and avoid irrelevant information. The more you tell the interviewer the bigger the risk you run; they might forget something you said. If you stick to only the most important information, it won't get lost among unimportant facts.

Try to answer positively. An example of this would be replacing "I work hard" with "I am very determined." Being positive does not mean you should be dishonest. Finally, honesty enhances your credibility. More often than not you will be asked what you believe is your greatest weakness. Answering this question insincerely (for example, "I am a workaholic") will be figured out by the interviewer and will reflect poorly on you. You can discuss your weaknesses and then tell the interviewer what you have learned from them and how you intend to improve upon them. You can turn a weakness into a positive learning experience.

What should I answer when an interviewer asks, "How do you handle pressure? Support your responses with good examples."

SAI MANSA
HYDERBAD

By asking such question, interviewers try to assess your ability to handle work pressure. You can answer saying, stress is very important to me. With stress, I do the best possible job. The appropriate way I deal with stress is make sure I have the correct balance between good stress and bad stress. I need good stress to stay motivated and productive.

I react to situations, rather than to stress. The point is if you handle a situation appropriately, the situation would not go out of hand and become stressful.

I actually work better under pressure and have found that I enjoy working in a challenging environment.

From a personal perspective, I manage stress byreading a book or listening to good music every evening. It's a great stress reliever.

Prioritising my responsibilities so that I have a clear idea of what needs to be done and when has helped me manage job pressure effectively.

If the people I am managing add to my stress level, I discuss options for better handling of difficult situations with them.

So, it's a good idea to give examples of how you handle stress. That way, the interviewers get a clear picture of how well you can work in stressful situations.

I recently attended an interview for a call centre job where the interviewers asked me: "Don't you think you are overqualified for this job?" I replied, but not satisfactorily. How should one respond to such a question?

SHARANYA
PONDICHERRY

Most people don't expect to be asked if they have a great deal of experience. This question could quite easily catch a candidate off guard, which is exactly the interviewer's intention. You can respond by saying that, "Not at all. My experience and qualifications make me do my job only better, and in my opinion, my skills in this area will only help me improve my work. My experience helps me to work in a cost-efficient manner, thus saving the company's expenditure.

Finally, I think I have been able to attract better business opportunities because of my industry contacts. My qualifications suit your company too, since you would get a better return on investment. Again, I'm interested in establishing a long-term relationship with my employer, and if I did well, I would expect expanded responsibilities that could make use of even other skills."

One of the panellists at the interview I attended recently asked: "Why are you interested in this company/job?" How should I answer such question?

MOULI
VISAKHAPATNAM

This is a common question that requires candidates to demonstrate some forethought and preparation. If you have done your homework, you should know something about the strategic direction of the organisation, its marketing niche, the skills required for the particular job, etc. All of these should fit in some way with your background.

"All the things that I have read indicate that your company is expanding by acquiring small enterprises. That is an area in which I have a great deal of interest and quite a bit of experience. I am an expert at merging systems and upgrading those that are behind in the technological curve. I also know that there are considerable savings that can occur through the integration of common support bases. In my last role, I could save the company crores of rupees through such an upgrade."

"My network meeting with _____________________ was a great chance to hear about how your company was repositioning its ______________ product line. When I worked for ______________, I had the opportunity to reposition a similar line with the result

of expanding the revenue base."

This also serves as a good platform for demonstrating how an individual has contributed substantially on their previous jobs.

Please enumerate some tips for writing good cover letters?

DENNIS
CHENNAI

If you decide to include a cover letter with your application, here are a few ideas:

Address your letter to a specific person by name, if possible.

The first few words are important. They should attract the reader's attention at once.

Tell your story in terms of the contributions you can make to the employer; emphasise how your skills and experience match the job requirements.

Refer to your application and résumé. They give the facts.

Use simple, direct language and correct grammar and spelling. Avoid hackneyed expressions and type or word process the letter neatly.

Keep it short. You need not cover the same ground as your résumé. Your letter should sum up what you could offer and act as an "introduction card" for your résumé and application.

Let your letter reflect your individuality, but avoid appearing aggressive, overbearing, familiar, cute, or humorous. You are writing to a stranger about a subject that is serious to both of you.

Another effective written tool is the use of a thank you letter. It is appropriate to send a brief note of thanks letter after an interview. It gives you a chance to show your strong interest in a job or to emphasise specific skills or experiences. This is also an opportunity to include information you may have left out of at the interview. The most important aspect of the thank you letter is not so much what you say, but the fact that you cared enough to send it. The letter should be brief and to the point. Of course, it should be typed or word processed, with correct grammar and spelling.

The FAQ column deals with career concerns addressed to the C&K Management Ltd. P.O. Box 2178, Secunderabad 500003 or emailed to faqs@cnkonline.com

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