Category Archives: The Interview

What are Hard Credit Inquiries?

Hard credit inquiries are requests to check your credit report to help lenders or credit card issuers make a lending decision. This is also known as a hard pull on your credit report. It occurs anytime you are getting a loan or new credit card, and unlike soft credit inquiries, hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score.

On your credit report, the credit bureaus may categorize these inquiries differently. For example, TransUnion calls them “regular inquiries,” Equifax calls them “inquiries in the last 12 months,” and Experian calls them “requests viewed by others.”

How hard pulls affect your credit score:

Hard inquiries may or may not affect your credit score. For many people, one additional credit inquiry may not affect their score at all. For others, one additional inquiry may lower their FICO score by 5 points. Although one hard inquiry may only drop your credit score by a few points, multiple hard inquiries in a short time can cause significant damage to your score. This scoring is dependent on such factors, including:

a)      Number of recent credit inquiries
b)      How recent your last inquiries were
c)      Number of recently opened accounts
d)      How recent your last account opening was

Inquiries also have a larger negative impact on your credit score if you have few accounts or a short credit history.

Each type of credit checks counts as one inquiry with the exception of when you are “rate shopping.” This is when your credit score considers all inquiries within a 14 or 45 day period (depending on which model is being used) as a single inquiry. You can avoid lowering your credit score by doing your entire rate researching, such as for a mortgage or an auto loan, within this short period of time.

Remember, hard inquiries should be minimized as much as possible. Applying for too much credit may signal that you are desperate for credit or that you weren’t able to qualify for credit. Having a large number of inquiries on your credit report indicates to lenders that you are a greater risk and you are more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.

Disputing Hard Credit Inquiries

If a hard inquiry occurred without your permission, you can attempt to dispute it. However, if you authorized the hard inquiry, you will have to wait two years before it falls off your credit report.

Learn about how to dispute unauthorized inquiries on your credit report.

10 Best Questions to Ask During an Interview

A common question employers will ask you at the end of a job interview is, “Do you have any questions for me?” As a candidate, you want to avoid making the mistake of saying, “No, I don’t have any questions to ask you right now.” By having no questions to ask shows the interviewer that you are uninterested, unprepared, and have no independent thoughts of your own. You want to always come prepared to a job interview with a list of questions to ask. Keep in mind that an interview is a two-street. While the employer is interviewing you to determine if you are fit for the job, at the same time you should also be asking questions to see if the position or the company is the best choice for you.

By asking quality questions and showing genuine interest, you will stand out from the competition. It’s important to show employers that you have done your homework. Employers make assumptions and judgments about you based on the questions you ask and whether you have done your research on the company prior to the interview.

Here are 10 good questions to ask the employer at the end of a job interview: Continue reading

Elevator Speech Tips

To answer the common question, “So what do you do?” effectively, apply elevator speech tips to create the perfect elevator pitch. Whether you are trying to raise capital, market your business, or promote yourself, it is crucial to have an elevator pitch. You should be able to describe yourself, your business, your goals, and your passions quickly and effectively. Keep in mind the goal and purpose of an elevator speech. If your elevator pitch is strong and compelling, it can lead to the exchange of business cards or a future meeting to discuss opportunities. Thus, elevator speeches are a great marketing tool to persuade prospective employers and clients about your product, or you as an individual.

So how can you prepare an elevator speech that will entice your audience to want to know more? Here are 3 elevator pitch tips to keep in mind when you create an elevator speech. Continue reading

How to Write an Elevator Speech

Elevator pitches are used in many situations, thus it is important to know how to write an elevator speech. Whether you are trying to raise capital, promote your business, or market yourself, it is essential to have an elevator pitch.

You essentially have one minute to describe yourself, your business, your goals, and your passions to a complete stranger.  Not only do you have to communicate your message quickly, but you will have to do it clearly and effectively in order to entice your audience to want to know more!

6 Easy Steps to Writing an Elevator Pitch

Step 1: Know your audience – Your elevator speech will be more effective if it is clearly targeted to the individuals are you speaking to. Customize your elevator pitch so that it is appropriate to your audience. Having a generic elevator pitch will not always be effective.

Step 2: Know yourself – You need to fully know and be able to define precisely what your proposition is before you can convince anyone of it. Describe what you are offering, the problems you can solve, and the benefits you can bring to a prospective employer or client.

For example, if you are trying to promote yourself to an employer, answer the following questions:

1)      What are your key strengths and skills?
2)      What are your key achievements and accomplishments?
3)      Why are you interested in the company or industry?
4)      What can you bring to the company? How can you be of a benefit to the employer?

Step 3: Outline your talk – Start making an outline of what you want an employer or client to know. At this stage, do not worry about going into details right away. Keep in mind the questions discussed in step 2 and simply bullet point your answers. Keep your outline to a few key bullet points. Your goal is to capture the listener’s attention and interest so that they want to learn more. You do not want to give them your whole life story! Any extraneous details will distract the listener from your core message.

Step 4: Write your elevator speech – Now that you have an outline of the key things you want to say, you can start writing your speech. Expand on the bullet points that you made in step 3 and structure them into complete sentences. Make good transitions so that your sentences flow smoothly.

Step 5: Edit your speech – The way we write and the way we speak tend to be very different. With that in mind, go through your written speech and change any long words or uncommon vocabulary into everyday language. Then, time yourself saying the speech aloud to get an idea of how long your speech is at this point. Cut out any unnecessary words and sentences and adjust your speech to about thirty to sixty seconds.

Step 6: Finalize and practice your elevator pitch – Practice your elevator pitch until you memorize it! You never know who you will bump into, so you want to have your speech ready for any chance meetings. Of course, just like any other speech, make sure your pitch sounds natural and not rehearsed. Ask your friends and family to listen to your speech and see if they have any suggestions or feedback.

Now that you know how to write an elevator speech, here are 3 essential elevator pitch tips to keep in mind.

What Are Your Strengths? Interview Question

Unlike the “What are your weaknesses” question, the “What are your strengths?” interview question is one of the easiest questions you’ll be asked during your interview. This strength interview question gives you the perfect opportunity to modestly bring out your key traits and impress the interviewer in just the first few minutes of the interview.

The key to answering this question is being able to support your strengths with examples! You cannot only say, “I am hardworking, organized, patient, and a quick learner” because anyone can just list a bunch of generic strengths. That will not make the interviewer remember you. Instead, use this opportunity to prove to the interviewer that those are, in fact, your actual strengths by giving concrete examples. You need to show the interviewer how you stand out from the crowd, what it is that makes you different from the next candidate, and essentially persuade the interviewer with reasons why they should hire you.

You should describe the skills that you have that directly relate to the job that you are applying for. If you are unsure of what those skills may be, a helpful hint is that usually in the job posting, there is a description of the position itself, along with the skills a qualified candidate should have. You basically want to repeat some of those skills back to them, but support them with examples that prove to the interviewers that you do, indeed, possess them.

Some specific examples: Skills you may want to emphasize if you’re applying to these positions:

- Sales – Communication skills, persuasive, self-confident, persistence, sociable
- Accountant – Attentive to details, analytical, problem solver, good with math/numbers
- Lawyer – Persuasive, negotiator, problem solver, active listener, communication skills
- Teacher – Patient, communication skills, leadership skills, problem solver

Again, for any position, make sure you do your research and find out what skills are needed for the specific role that you are applying to. Emphasize those skills in your interview. You can also observe the skills and attitudes of the people who already have the job to give you a better idea of what employers are looking for.

“What Are Your Strengths?” Examples

NO: Bad Interview Answers: Listing out generic strengths without specific examples
-    ­“My greatest strength is that I have strong people skills. I’m always interacting with people in my previous jobs and helping them solve any problems that they may have. I love working with people and it really shows. I have also received a lot of positive feedback on my skills from my customers.” 

Remember, anyone can easily say this. Simply saying that you help people solve problems is too general. Giving a personal example of how you solved a problem may make this answer stronger.

YES: Good Interview Answer: Support your strengths with personal examples
-    “I am very organized and great with time management. This is mainly because I always keep a planner, where I write down all the important dates and deadlines. I set my priorities and goals so I know what I need to get done. Setting goals and staying organized are useful because I am able to get things done without procrastinating. For example, when I am given an assignment and I know it’s not due for another month, I get started on it right away because I feel more comfortable if I am able to get it out of my way and just be ready for any upcoming assignments that may have more strict deadlines. I guess that’s why I am always able to finish projects a few days before the given deadlines…” 

You should definitely share a personal story of how your organization skills or your effectiveness with time management has helped you with your work. Sharing personal stories will give the interviewer a sense of honesty. However, remember to keep your story concise, relate to the point that you’re trying to make, and not deviate from the question.

-    Other strengths you can use for the interview include: Attentive to detail, patient, self-confident, quick learner, problem solver, team player, initiator, any technical skills etc. – All these are great qualities, but again, make sure you are able to support these strengths with examples!

This question allows you to have the absolute right to brag about yourself because you are essentially trying to sell yourself to the company! If you don’t feel comfortable “bragging” about yourself, just think of it like this: If you don’t brag about yourself right now, no one else is going to! But you want to make sure you do it humbly and avoid over exaggerating your skills. You don’t want to come off as egoistic. Nevertheless, the “What Are Your Strengths?” interview question gives you a great opportunity for you to shine and amaze your interviewer.

“Tell Me About Yourself” Interview Question

After you walk into the interview room, shake hands with your interviewer, sit down, many interviewers will then begin by asking you the “Tell me about yourself” interview question. Many candidates find this to be one of the most challenging questions to answer, as they wonder what the interviewer really wants to know and what information they should share. Since it’s such a common interview question, you would think that candidates would spend more time preparing a strong answer. Surprisingly though, many candidates mess up this question, thus creating a negative first impression and setting an awkward tone for the remainder of the interview.

“Tell me about yourself” Examples

NO: Bad Interview Answer: Rambling
-    “Well what do you want to know?” As innocent as this question may sound, never ask this question back to the interviewer. This will only show that you have not prepared properly for the interview. You should have already prepared an answer for this question, especially since this is such a popular interview question.

-    “Well I was born in California and I’m happily married with two kids…” The fact that this question is so open-ended does not mean you can spend the next 5 minutes rambling on how you grew up. No matter how interesting your personal life may be, resist the temptation to ramble. This question is often a test of how you handle yourself in an unstructured situation and what you think is important.

YES: Good Interview Answer:  Bringing out your strengths and interest
-  “I’ve been in this industry for 5 years. My most recent experience has been _____. The reason why I am interested in this position and particularly this company is ______.” Give the interviewer a little background on your prior accomplishments and experiences. Show them your genuine interest in the position. Provide as many examples as possible.

- “My real strengths are that I am very organized and great with time management. This is mainly because ______. These strengths have always helped me with my job. For example, back at my last job, ______.” After giving a little background on why you are interested in the position, mention your greatest strengths and skills. The interviewer wants to know what you can do for the company.

Since this is one of the first interview questions to be asked, it really sets the tone for the rest of the interview. This is the time to bring in your personal pitch that you have worked on for so long. This is your chance to make a good first impression and come off as a strong candidate. Practice your answer to this question out loud to yourself, your friends, or your family until you feel confident of your answer. You also do not want to sound like you memorized your answer. Regardless of how many times you have rehearsed, your answer should sound natural and conversational.

Even if you are not asked this question at the beginning of the interview, preparing your answer for this question will keep you focused on what you have to offer. You will find answering, “Why are you interested in working for this company?” or “What are your strengths?” will be similar to how you answered the “Tell me about yourself” interview question.

What Are Your Weaknesses? Interview Question

Unlike the “What are your strengths” question, the What are your weaknesses?” interview question is often what many of us dread hearing. The key to answering this weakness interview question is knowing the balance between sounding honest and actually being honest. You don’t want to be too honest and give away an actual weakness that pertains to the job that you’re applying for or give a weakness that could create problems during work. However, you do want to sound honest by giving a weakness that isn’t going to jeopardize your chances of getting the job, in addition to stressing how you’re improving upon your weakness. Keep in mind that any mention of weaknesses for the interview should not directly relate to your ability to perform the job itself. You want to discreetly turn that weakness into a positive by saying that you acknowledge it is your weakness, but instead of just accepting it, you are actually trying to improve upon it.

“What Are Your Weaknesses?” Examples

NO: Bad Interview Answers: Actually being honest
-    Emotional Weakness: An interviewer once told me that candidates have actually said their weakness was that they get angry too easily, or that they can be very dominating. Although that might be your actual weakness, that kind of honesty is not going to get you the job. You need to leave your emotional problems and personal issues at home because no one wants to work with an emotionally unstable person.
-    Weakness Pertaining to the Specific Job: For example, if you’re applying to an accounting job, don’t say that you don’t pay attention to details, or that you’re not good with numbers.
-    Necessary Skills: Don’t say, “I have bad time management skills.” Time management skills are essential to getting any job done efficiently. You don’t want to give your interviewer any doubt that you may not be able to perform the job by expected deadlines.

NO: Bad Interview Answers: Being cliché/fake
-    “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too much” are cliché answers that might have worked years ago. However, everyone has heard of this answer by now and it doesn’t impress or show recruiters anything. In fact, this answer could actually hurt you because some interviewers may think you’re insincere.
-    “I have no weaknesses!” We are human, no one is perfect, and we all have weaknesses. Not only will you appear egotistic, but saying this may cause your interviewer to doubt your honesty as well.

YES: Good Interview Answers: Sounding honest
-    There’s no “right” or “perfect” answer. But an example of what I mean by sounding honest is that if you’re applying for a job that you know doesn’t require you to speak in front of public crowds, you can say,

I’m not very good at public speaking. However, I acknowledge that this is an area where I can improve upon so I’ve taken some action by attending a communication class/workshop and reading books on how to improve on my public speaking. I’ve actually put what I’ve learned into practice and I’m starting off slowly by speaking in front of strangers, something that I was never able to do before.

For many jobs, it’s rare that you would have to present in front of large audiences so this answer may suffice. However, this is an answer that you would avoid if you’re applying to certain sales or executive positions. Keep in mind that your answer should still have a similar ideaprovide a weakness that doesn’t directly relate to you performing the job, but stress the fact that you are aware of it and taking the necessary action to improve upon the weakness.

Many times, the interviewer isn’t interested in your actual weakness but is testing your ability to answer this type of question. Practicing your responses will help you from dreading the, “What Are Your Weaknesses?” interview question!

Top 15 Tips on How to Ace a Phone Interview

Since more employers are using telephone interviews as a way of screening candidates, it is important to brush up on your phone interview etiquette. Below are tips on mastering the phone job interview:

1)      Research the company and job position – Just like you would for any other interview, research the company. It may also be helpful if you have the job description in front of you in case you need to refer to it.

2)     Be ready to take the call – Before the call, confirm the date, time, and who you will be talking to. Make sure you know whether the interviewer is calling you or if you need to make the call. If you need to be at a certain location to pick up the call, get there at least ten minutes early in case the interviewer calls early.

3)     Initial greeting –Answer the phone call by stating your name, such as “Hi, (your name) speaking.” Not only does it sound more professional, but you would also avoid an awkward “Hello?”

4)     Have your answers ready – Before any interview, it is suggested that you compile a list of answers to the most common interview questions. Take advantage of the fact that the interviewer can’t see you and have a list of bulleted items you want to cover in your answers. Having this “cheat sheet” can help you respond to questions better without you having to fumble for words.

5)     Have pen and paper ready – Take notes and write down any important information that the interviewer may mention.

6)     Disable call waiting – Nothing is more annoying than being interrupted when you are trying to listen or speak.

7)     Use a land line – If your cell phone has bad signal, use a land line to prevent interruptions caused by dropped calls.

8)     Take the call from a quiet place - Go to a quiet room where you can speak at a reasonable volume. If you are anticipating any interruptions from anyone, let that person know ahead of time that you have a phone interview and you cannot be bothered.

9)     Have your resume printed in front of you –Have a physical copy of your resume in front of you so that you can easily refer back to it during the interview call.

10)  Don’t interrupt – To avoid interrupting the interviewer, wait two seconds after the interviewer stops talking before you start. If you have something you want to say while the interviewer is still talking, quickly jot it down on a sheet of paper and mention it when it’s your turn to talk.

11)   Have internet access – Although it is best to pay full attention to the interview, this is another way to take advantage of the fact that the interviewer cannot see you. Have one browser open to the company’s website and another open to the search engine of your choice. However, if you are to search anything while you are on the call, make sure the interviewer does not hear you typing! Invest in a quiet keyboard or practice typing silently.

12)  Give yourself time – Don’t try to squeeze in a phone interview during your lunch break at school or work. Anticipate that something could go wrong, such as the interviewer may be running a few minutes late. Thus, try to be flexible and set an hour of your time for the call. Although most phone interviews may not take that long, if it’s going smoothly, it can last longer than you expected. If you’re hitting it off with the interviewer, the last thing you want to do is to rush and cut them off.

13)  Stand up – You sound more confident if you speak while standing up rather than sitting down. However, make sure you don’t pace around the room.

14)  Smile – Smiling projects a positive image and the listener will be able to tell through the tone of your voice.

15)  Have a list of questions to ask – Just as you would prepare questions to ask during an in-person interview, there is no reason not to do the same for a phone interview. The only difference is that now you can have a sheet of paper with the questions you want to ask right in front of you.

Closing the interview - Remember that the goal of a phone interview is to get an in-person interview next. Before you end the call, ask when you can expect to hear back and thank them for their time. Finally, just like any other interview, make sure you send your interviewer a thank you letter! Keep these tips in mind the next time you have a job interview on the phone.