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Most Important Interview Question

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 12, 2020

Tell me about yourself.

This introductory question often serves as an icebreaker and can come in many forms like “Walk me through your resume.” “What will I not see on your CV that I should know about you?” “Tell me about your career path.”

This question helps recruiters and hiring managers get to know you and your suitability for the role and the organization. Your hard skills of course will be assessed but interviews are often about culture and “fit” and what you say will help them assess whether you will be a match.

This answer is your opportunity to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly, effectively, and professionally. If you answer it well – with a degree of rehearsed authenticity – then the rest of your interview will likely fall into place as well. Tailor your answer for the job and the company as much as you can. What strengths could you bring to this position? What unique skill sets can you offer?  How can you help the employer solve their challenges? Why do you want to be a part of their team?

Be prepared to sell yourself for the position as early as the first question. After all, first impressions are formed very quickly. If you need help with an upcoming interview and you are a trainee at the NIH, consider making an appointment with a career counselor for help.


Job Satisfaction, Ethical Leadership, and Trust – Work Legacies of the Coronavirus?

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 5, 2020

Adam Grant, an Organizational Psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an article for The Economist entitled “The World After Covid-19; Adam Grant on How Jobs, Bosses, and Firms May Improve After the Crisis”.  Grant argues that covid-19 is likely to transform three features of our work lives: job satisfaction, ethical leadership, and trust.

Job Satisfaction
Studies have shown that employees who enter the workforce during a higher unemployment rate, rank themselves as more satisfied with their work even 10-15 years later. This seems to be true even when accounting for income, industry, occupation, and experience level.

During the pandemic we have watched unemployment rates skyrocket and we have seen countless other workers take pay cuts or furloughs. If you are fortunate enough to have maintained your job, there can be a much greater feeling of gratitude and appreciation. 

Many other employees have commented on feeling a renewed mission within their line of work. Jobs at a grocery store or Lysol factory have been imbued with new meaning and purpose. One specific example is highlighted with NYC bus operator, Terrence Layne. In a NBC News story, he noted that he continued to drive buses around New York during the pandemic and he felt very anxious and fearful about contracting the virus. At the same time, he said “In my almost 21 years of service, I’ve never felt so important and the job has never been so fulfilling.”

Ethical, Compassionate Leadership and Trust
The covid-19 crisis may inspire a movement toward more ethical and compassionate leadership simply because employees will demand it. People are watching how companies have handled this crisis and are taking note. Some organizations have worked to save and protect their workforce. Grant notes in his article that there has also been some “spectacular fails – notably at the electric-scooter company Bird, where more than 400 employees had signed-in for a “covid-19 update” videoconference only to hear a disembodied voice announce they were being let go.” Or take Florida State University as another failed example. FSU informed its employees that as of August, they will no longer be allowed to care for children while working from home during the pandemic. A move that not only jeopardizes employees’ livelihood but health as well.

Layoffs do reduce costs; however, they also cut productivity and innovation. Often times, employees spared during a layoff are so anxious about a next round that they devote more time and energy to finding a more secure job.

All of this leads to another important facet – trust. As of last year, nearly half of global companies still prohibited remote work. Why? Employers still had a belief that employees couldn’t be trusted to do their work at home and that productivity would suffer. According to Grant, during covid-19, the work day has actually seemed to expand – by two hours in Britain, France, and Spain and by three hours in the United States. In the largest ever work from home experiment, companies have realized how productive and efficient remote workers can be. Many companies have implemented permanent work from home policies. 

Almost thirty years ago, management consultant, Peter Drucker, argued that “commuting to office work is obsolete.” It took a pandemic to drive this point home. While we will have to wait and see what long term changes stick, it does seem that the landscape of work has been forever altered.


Networking: The Strength of Weak Ties

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 19, 2020

In a Harvard Business Review article, Claudio Fernández-Aráoz contends that research by an American sociologist and professor at Stanford University, Mark Granovetter, in the 1970s still has relevance in today’s job market.  Granovetter’s research focused on how professional, technical, and managerial job-seekers found most jobs, especially good ones. As is often the case, most applicants had the best luck by applying through personal contacts instead of other more formal means like direct applications.  People who managed to secure a job through a contact often greatly benefitted from higher pay and an overall greater satisfaction with the secured employment.

Granovetter coined the expression – “the strength of weak ties” – because he and many subsequent researchers have found that you are more likely to find jobs through personal contacts who are not too close to you, speak to you infrequently, and work in occupations different to your own. Having a wide array of diverse acquaintances can be especially helpful. These contacts might come from your community, college, hobby groups, etc.

Given these findings, Fernández-Aráoz  recommends creating a list of 100 (!) contacts. The number is meant to be large to encourage you to think of as many peripheral connections as you can. He encourages you to then rank and prioritize your list given the quality of your relationship with them and the possibility that they might be able to expose you to new opportunities.

Next, start reaching out to these connections….but start with number 10 or so. Anytime you engage in informational interviewing, you might feel a bit rusty. You might be anxious and your “Tell me about yourself” pitch might not yet be well honed. Work your way up to your #1 person after you feel a bit more comfortable. He suggests being upfront about why you are reaching out explaining  your reason for being in touch, what you are hoping to find, and a little bit about how you could add value.  You can read the full article here, but the key takeaway message is don’t discard casual connections as a potential resource for new opportunities.


From the Archive: Career Tricks & Tips for Halloween

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch October 26, 2020

If a job search scares you more than ghosts and goblins this Halloween, we invite you to visit our graveyard. Tombstones in this cemetery are full of antiquated career practices, myths, and other negative emotions one might have around a job search. Past trainees have successfully buried these demons and threats and we hope you will too!

RIP – Objective Statement
Statements like “Seeking a responsible position in an industry lab doing cancer research” used to be common on resumes. Now it is seen as unnecessary filler. Instead, opt for a “Qualifications Summary” which highlights your main accomplishments relevant for the position at hand. For examples, check out the OITE Resume & CV Guide.

Here Lies – The Resume with No Cover Letter
A resume and a cover letter go together. If you are sending in a resume, it should have an introductory cover letter. The only exception to this rule is if the job ad specifically states “no cover letters”.

RIP – Self Doubt & Fear of Rejection
It is very common for doubts and fears (especially imposter fears) to arise during a job search; after all, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities. You are not only evaluating your viability for options, but others are evaluating your candidacy as well. There is not a magic potion to give you confidence, but speaking with your career mentors and counselors at OITE can help demystify the process for you and hopefully help you feel more prepared.

Here Lies – Not Networking
A fair number of jobs are still not widely advertised. You can only tap into this hidden job market by speaking to people. A majority of job seekers make the mistake of allotting most of their time online to looking for positions when that time would be better spent doing informational interviews.

RIP – Lack of Preparedness for an Interview
A CV/resume can help you get an interview, but the interview is what gets you the job! You need to spend time researching the organization and preparing for the interview. Understand what type of interview (behavioral, technical, case) you might encounter and get busy doing your homework. If you need help preparing for an interview, OITE career counselors can help. You can sign up for a mock interview here.

Let us know of your job search success by updating your contact information in the Alumni Database.