Three Common Job Interview Mistakes To Avoid

Three Common Job Interview Mistakes To Avoid

Are you preparing for an interview? Following the advice in this post can be the difference between landing your dream opportunity or walking away empty-handed.

Over the last four years, I have filled over 30 entry-level through senior management positions and I have watched qualified person after qualified person bomb their interview. As an interviewer, it is so frustrating to watch top candidates be their own worst enemy. It is even more frustrating to be in the “hot seat” and struggle to communicate why you’re the right person for the job.

Regardless of skill, intelligence, education or experience, we’re all susceptible to the pitfalls of nerves and lack of proper preparation. (Trust me—despite knowing all the right things to do, I am still prone to terrible interviews from time to time.) Do yourself a favor. Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid these three common job interview mistakes:

Interview Mistake 1—Not using your resume to communicate how great you are.
Not only is your resume your ticket to the job interview, it is also the first impression you give the selection panel. Captivate them by giving detailed descriptions of how past jobs have prepared you for this one and support each with facts and figures. For example, last year I submitted more than 40 permit applications, allowing 12 public infrastructure projects to begin construction on schedule. Doesn’t that approach communicate my value as a prospective employee better than just saying I prepare permit applications?

Interview Mistake 2—Giving vague or unnecessarily long answers.
Nothing is more frustrating to an interviewer than hearing the same generic response over and over and over (and over and over and over) again. Not only do specific answers set you apart from other candidates, but they’re also the best way for the panel to get to know you. Where applicable, use stories to support your answer, but keep them concise and to the point. You don’t want to eat up your entire interview time on one question.

Bonus tip: If you notice yourself rambling, close out your thought immediately and allow the interview to move on to the next question. Don’t try to fix your answer. I can tell you from experience on both sides of the table that it usually makes things worse.

Interview Mistake 3—Not preparing for those tricky questions.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “Describe a time you had a conflict with a supervisor and how you resolved it.” Tricky questions like these are a fact of interviews so come prepared to answer them. If a question catches you off-guard, like several did in my most recent interview, try pretending like you’re having a conversation with a friend and answer accordingly (albeit professionally). It helps calm the nerves and drive out solid, truthful answers. Just be careful not to overshare.

Interviewing is an iterative process that only gets better the more you do it. Over time, you learn to describe yourself and your talents more eloquently, as well as expand your inventory of potential questions to anticipate. Still, there will be good interview days and bad interview days. (You need only look at my very sweaty, very ramble-y Miami Fellows interview from last month for evidence.) Hopefully recognizing these typical job interview blunders and how you can avoid them improves your odds of achieving your professional dreams.

Have you ever made any of these job interview mistakes? Have you borne witness to others that we can learn from? Please share your stories and advice below!

Shake Up Your Reading List, Join Our Book Club

Shake Up Your Reading List, Join Our Book Club

Are you looking to shake up your reading list? It’s your lucky day! My friend Diana and I are launching a book club and we want you to join us.

Over the last year, you have been an amazing reading buddy. You’ve graciously accepted my reading recommendations, shared some of your own, and engaged with me in light yet educated discussion on the themes covered therein. Diana and I want to start a book club with you to build on our current momentum and give it a more formal structure.

The idea is simple. We will be releasing a new reading list once a quarter focused on professional, personal, and/or spiritual development. These are the themes we have already been covering in my seasonal reading lists. In fact, some of your favorites from past lists span the full range of topics: Who Moved My Cheese covers professional development, Option B covers personal development, and Why Buddhism Is True covers spiritual development.

Join-Our-Book-Club-Crossing-Borders-Miami

We want this book club to transcend borders, both literary and geographic. Diana and I are based in Miami but we want you to participate no matter where you are located. For that reason, we will be creating an online group, called “Crossing Borders Book Club,” where we will be releasing the quarterly reading list and moderating discussions. (We need your help figuring out which platform works best. Is it a Facebook group? Is it a WhatsApp group? Is it something we haven’t considered yet? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.)

We also want to see you in person! We are planning to organize one quarterly in-person meeting at a local coffee shop or bookstore so we can talk books over drinks and nibbles. Think quaint spots with yummy food like the Bookstore in the Grove and Books & Books. We promise to vary the meeting location throughout the Miami area to give everyone a chance to join us.

For our very first quarterly reading list (“The Summer Edition” if you will), Diana and I joined forces to bring you the following three selections:

  1. The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud
  2. Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin
  3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

We will be reading them in the order in which they are listed at a rate of one book per month through the first day of Fall (September 22) when we will release a new list. Feel free to skip around and to read them at your own pace. We purposefully picked books with minimal spoiler potential and in the online group, we’ll be working to separate discussions by title.

Please reach out to us—personally or in the comments below—if you are interested in joining. We’re excited to have you and to build future reading lists on your suggestions! Don’t forget to start compiling a list of books on your wish list. At our in-person meeting, each member will be putting a suggestion into a hat from which we will be drawing the titles for our next reading list. Until then, happy reading!

Miami-Book-Club

Four Insightful Articles That Changed My Perspective (Updated)

Four Insightful Articles That Changed My Perspective (Updated)

In December I underwent a professional transition—one which I will share in the future, along with my long overdue spring reading list—and I have been busy recalibrating ever since. Part of finding my bearings amidst the changes has involved a lot of soul searching and a lot of reading. While the soul searching process is still in progress, it has benefitted greatly from all of the reading.

I have poured over every topic, ranging from how to become more assertive and more focused to key life lessons. Each article offers a new perspective to help define my new path. There are four articles in particular that have been impactful in changing my personal outlook. As I tend to do with insightful articles, I have shared them separately on my Twitter account over the last few days but they are so valuable that I am consolidating them here for your reading pleasure.

  1. “Tell Me What You Say ‘Yes’ To, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are” — A solid argument about why we need to say “no” more often.
  2. “How To Be More Assertive At Work When That’s Just Not Your Personality” — Valuable tips on how to be more comfortable getting what you want.
  3. “How To Stay Motivated in Life and Work Using the Goldilocks Rule” — An interesting read on how we are most motivated when we face tasks of “just manageable difficulty.”
  4. “You’re Too Busy. You Need A ‘Shultz Hour.'” — An opinion piece that argues for disconnecting to allow for creativity and bigger picture insight on our day-to-day tasks.

Do you agree or disagree with their points of view? What other impactful articles have you read recently?

Update (4/13/2018, 1:30 p.m.): It is a great week for insightful reads. After posting this morning, I came across two other relevant articles that I just HAD to add to this list. They are too good not to share immediately. Alas, I give you not four, but six insightful articles that changed my perspective:

5. “Three Power Moves That Are Better Than A Shrug” — A discussion on how shrugging your shoulders communicates uncertainty, with three alternatives to improve your body language.

6. “How To Pick A Career (That Actually Fits You)” — A satirical piece that discusses the importance of stopping to reflect on your career path and provides a framework for helping you evaluate its fit.

Four Newsletters You Need In Your Inbox

Four Newsletters You Need In Your Inbox

My e-mail inbox is an absolute disaster. Between my personal e-mail accounts and the e-mail accounts for my three blogs, I average around 300 e-mails per day. I try to keep it organized, but the volume is difficult to manage and gives me so much anxiety. Over the years the unmanageable amount of communications that bombard me on a daily basis not only fail to get my attention, but also have fostered an antagonistic relationship between me and e-communication.

There are a handful of exceptions to this rule. More specifically, there are four newsletters that brighten my day when they pop up amongst the chaos even if I can’t read them right away. For these select few, I make a “inbox zero” exception, leaving them unread until I find a few rare minutes of spare time to savor them. These are the five newsletters I can’t live without and that you desperately need in your inbox:

1. Harvey McKay’s Weekly Tips and Inspiration

Parent e-mail spam is the worst. My mom is guilty, like many moms, of forwarding those pesky chain e-mails about scams at the gas pump and Nigerian princes wanting to send us money. On the other hand, my dad forwards professional development gold. The newsletter that I love getting from him (although I could subscribe on my own like an adult) is Harvey MacKay’s weekly newsletter with tips and inspiration. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve seen me quote him like a madwoman because he gives seriously sage advice about business and life.

2. The “Wait But Why” Newsletter

“Wait But Why” was the first newsletter I ever subscribed to. (The stick figures that accompany each post caught my eye.) The messages are serious but, between the stick figures and heavy sarcasm, approachable. Take these spot on posts about how we approach marriage as a society or how life is fleeting. The writer is making some very intelligent, albeit depressing observations about the human experience but the way he delivers them is not overwhelming. Instead, I listen and apply his good advice toward improving my outlook. My only complaint? His posts are infrequent and sporadically scheduled.

3. The Daily “PRSUIT” Newsletter

I recently discovered PRSUIT’s daily e-mail “dedicated to helping you become the badass human you really are.” I can’t remember where I found it—it was a day where I was sucked deeply into the black hole that is the internets—but I am forever grateful to whoever/whatever introduced me to it. I’m drawn to its tongue-in-cheek tone and its solid life advice, like today’s article on how to deal with embarrassment. You can catch me on twitter, frequently reposting their opening blurbs which are intended to summarize the day’s theme but often carry nuggets of wisdom in and of themselves.

4. Ryan Holiday’s “The Reading List” Newsletter

It’s no mystery I love to read, which is probably why my friend Matt recommended I sign up for author Ryan Holiday’s “The Reading List”. It arrives once a month and includes a hodgepodge of fiction and non-fiction suggestions across a wide variety of topics. I don’t read them all—Heck! Sometimes none of the books he recommends interest me whatsoever—but it is a good way for me to keep up with what’s out there and he sneaks updates on his writing in there. If you haven’t heard of Ryan Holiday, start by watching his December 2017 interview with behavioral investigator Vanessa Van Edwards.

What are some of your favorite newsletters? Leave them in the comments below or send me a tweet @margaritakwells because what’s a few more e-mails in my overcrowded inbox…

Three Books You Need To Read This Winter

Three Books You Need To Read This Winter

Welcome to the first day of winter. As with past seasons, it is time for your friendly reminder to freshen up your personal library. (Here are my book suggestions from this past summer and fall, in case you missed them.)

This series of posts is my favorite to write because I love reading/sharing quality books. I also love that you’ve responded so positively to my suggestions and that a lot of you take this opportunity to give me your own. Some of you have gone so far as to send me books. Apparently you’ve realized sending me books is the quickest way to get me to like you. Kudos.

Unfortunately, it seems my library is expanding at a quicker rate than I can find time to read. The last time I counted, I was actively reading four books at once: 1. The Comic Toolbox, 2. Los Presidenciables, 3. The Ecstatic, and 4. What The Dog Saw. So in this season’s list, rather than include books I have read or am reading, I have decided to include the books I will be reading next. Proceed with caution.

Here are the three books you need to read this winter:

1. What The Dog Saw

I know I said this list includes only books I haven’t read and that I said I am actively reading this. The reason it qualifies as both is because I haven’t even finished the first chapter. I picked it up at a friend’s house a few weeks ago when I was waiting for him to finish a phone call. (Malcolm Gladwell’s name called to me amidst the hundreds of books in his library. It’s a compilation of 19 articles Gladwell published in The New Yorker focused on psychological and sociological topics.) I had just enough time to read the first few pages and am excited to keep going once I have the chance to order myself a copy.

2. The Swamp

As a Floridian and environmental professional, I am shocked I haven’t yet read this book. According to David Lawrence Jr., a former Miami Herald editor that sent me a copy after I joined him on a tour of the Everglades, it is the best book he knows for basic Everglades understanding. I consider it my right of passage into full Miamihood and also a critical part of my preparation into becoming a South Florida National Parks Trust ambassador in 2018. (I received word last week that I was selected into their inaugural class! I’ll share more about what it means in a future post.)

3. Why Buddhism Is True

The moment my friend Victor realized I am more high strung than he initially anticipated, he sent me this book about the transformative practice of meditation. He hasn’t read it but he has read other works by Robert Wright and was impressed by his intellect. Both Victor and I are huge fans of analyzing the human experience—he’s a philosophy major, I’m an aspiring psychology major—so there is no question that Wright’s New York Times Best Selling assessment of the “human predicament” is going to be right up our alley.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what book he reads.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Three Books You Need To Read This Fall

Three Books You Need To Read This Fall

I’ve gone book crazy. It’s been building since the summer (see my summer reading list), but it has recently reached a fever pitch. It hasn’t helped that in the last few weeks I have found myself in actual brick-and-mortar bookstores—yea, they still exist—starting with the West Kendall Barnes and Nobles last month and ending with the Books and Books in Coral Gables last weekend. To add fuel to the fire, I took an incredible storytelling workshop with Miami writer Anjanette “Anja” Delgado which resulted in no less than 10 book recommendations curated just for me. Alas, all of my money has been invested in knowledge, imagination, and stacks of paper of varying heights neatly glued together.

My library has tripled in a few short weeks. When I moved in April, I kept a paltry 15 books including a 200-page manual for using my Canon. Today I am the proud owner of 45 books, with a couple more on their way. My apartment looks like a bomb went off with half-started books on every surface: the two nightstands, the coffee table, the dining table, even the floor is not safe. I couldn’t wait to get to them so I started and am reading several at the same time.

Here are the three you need to read this Fall:

1. The Comic Toolbox
This is the last book I started and my favorite one on my fall reading list by far. It arrived on my doorstep yesterday so I’ve only made it through the introduction and it has made me laugh nonstop. Plus, the concepts that the writer discusses made me think completely differently about writing. I am a person that loves rules. In only four pages this book has convinced me to toss them out the window when it comes to writing. Read the passive voice excerpt on pages xiii and xiv and see if you don’t feel the exact same way.

2. How To Read Literature Like A Professor
While I love literature, I have had a hard time since middle school getting all heady about the deeper literary meaning of a text. In fact, as recently as my storytelling class this past weekend, that type of banter makes me roll my eyes so hard they hurt. I am hoping that this book, which on its back cover claims to be “lively and entertaining”, will open my eyes to what other people see or experience when they are engaging in those types of discussions. I’ve got nothing to lose.

3. Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Poetry is another subject popular with literary types with which I have never connected. During elementary school, I participated annually in poetry reading contests and I only remember Margarita, está linda la mar by Rubén Darío, most likely because it includes my name. Then, Anja read us The Book of Genesis According to St. Miguelito on pages 349 through 351 of this collection of poems. It was so powerful, so captivating, so approachable, so memorable that it completely changed my opinion of what poetry can be. I’m excited to see what else is hidden between its covers.

P.S. If you don’t feel like committing to a book but you want to exercise your brain, I occasionally take breaks from reading to do the daily workout on the brain training app, Peak. It probably comes as no surprise given how much I love writing that my favorite game is called “Word Fresh”. And now, for your quote of the day:

“You’ll only get out of this book what you put in. Or to put it another way, the more you pay, the more it’s worth.” —John Vorhaus on The Comic Toolbox

So You’re Looking For Career Advice…

So You’re Looking For Career Advice…

It’s your lucky day! Today I launched a new career consulting page through which you can hire me to help you reach your career goals. On the page, you will find a list of some of the ways we can work together one-on-one but—let’s be honest—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

For years I have been the go-to resource for people in my network who are new to the workforce or are looking to make a career change. For example, I recently helped a friend strengthen her cover letter and resume before she applied for her dream job. (She landed the highly coveted interview.) I also worked with another friend in cohesively branding his thirty-year career history and developed a strategy to improve his online presence.

I have experience in personal branding, in recruiting personnel, in managing staff, and in evaluating employee performance, skills that I have acquired and honed firsthand as a job candidate and as a recruiter-slash-manager. I build upon this solid foundation through continuing education (like the Dale Carnegie course I took earlier this year) and regularly referencing related resources and research (like these articles on achieving success). With these skills, I can help you reach your untapped potential. Let’s put them to work!