Career Advice: Questions about Job Searching, Answered
From handling technical interview questions and cover letters with confidence, to when to broach the ‘salary talk,’ we’ve got another round of Job Seeker and Interview Questions: Answered!
What do I say if the interviewer asks me about technical experience I don’t actually have?
First of all, don’t panic. Hopefully you had an idea of this gap in your skills after looking at the job description, and have had the opportunity to prepare. If so,
Tell the interviewer what you know about the tool (even if you haven’t used it): “I’m not an expert in Smartsheets, but I know it’s a project/work management tool”
Talk about related experience: “I haven’t used Smartsheets but I did use project management tools Basecamp and Asana in my previous role at X Company.”
Storytell about a time in your previous experience when you had to ramp up quickly on a new tool, and how you did that effectively: “I’m confident that I’ll be able to ramp up quickly on any new software platform. When I first started at X Company I had never used Outlook before, so I did my research and leveraged YouTube tutorials along with my company training and within a few weeks, I was able to teach other people on my team some great efficiency hacks that they hadn’t been using previously.”
If you have no idea what the interviewer is referring to, ask for more information. The interviewer may give you a clue that you can then apply one or all of the three above principles to. The most important thing is to remain calm, collected and confident.
When should I bring up salary?
Early and often! Many job seekers feel unsure about broaching this topic, but it’s important for both sides of the table that the basics of compensation are laid out early.
Start with broad strokes by asking something like “What is the compensation/salary range for this position?” If you're searching for a job in California, law mandates that employers disclose a range for each open position, so this shouldn’t be a difficult question for them to answer. The same law prohibits employers from asking you what you currently or have previously made, so be prepared to tell them the ideal salary you are looking for if they ask. Hopefully your desired salary falls within their range, if not, now is the time to see if there is any room for flexibility with that number, or if those are hard limits: “Ideally, I’m looking for 90k, is there any flexibility within your 80-85k range?”
There is no need to aggressively negotiate in these early conversations, you’re just feeling out the landscape. If their landscape matches yours, great. If not, it’s time to consider if this job opportunity is worth pursuing further within the limitations that they have laid out (knowing that cash compensation is only one part of the offer). If it is, be sure to let the interviewer know how interested in the role you are.
How do I structure a cover letter?
Cover letters are your chance to bring your resume to life and your personality to the forefront. Usually, they follow a bit of a “formula”: an introduction, information connecting your experience to the role, and conclusion. Here are some tips to write the perfect, personalized cover letter for the role:
Write with a high content-to-word ratio-- a cover letter is not the place to wax poetic. Keep your writing concise and impactful by being intentional about your messaging.
Use the appropriate tone-- look for clues on tone on the company’s website and in the job description. Is the company’s writing style funny and casual? Or are they more buttoned-up and professional? Take their lead when writing your cover letter, and be sure to don the right “hat” for the job.
Connect with company values--your resume is a great document to draw parallels between your work experience and the job description, but the cover letter is perfect for connecting your values with company values. Most companies will list their values on their website or job description, so do your best to explain how you connect with them.
Storytell-- but keep it brief-- we already talked about sticking to the point, but telling a story to demonstrate what you are trying to say is a memorable route to go. For example: “I, like X company, always go above and beyond for my clients.” vs. “Going above and beyond for my clients is a core value that I share with X company-- I once tracked down my client’s favorite snacks (Cool Ranch Doritos and peanut butter pretzels) and had them delivered to his hotel room prior to arrival.”
Why interview me?-- your entire cover letter should address this question in one way or another, but this is a great prompt to address when wrapping it all up.
And don’t forget, we’d love to hear from you! Got a question about interviewing, job searching, resume writing, or any other career-related topic? Shoot us an email, or message us through Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Want to learn more (because we could dive into all these topics, in fact we love to!)? Send us a message about our career coaching, interview preparation, strategic job hunt planning, and resume, LinkedIn & cover letter writing services and packages!