Landing an interview at your dream company is only the first step toward landing a job offer. Whether it’s working in a corporate organization, a trendy startup, or the public sector, you can be sure that the interview process is bound to be rigorous and you will most likely encounter a few curveball questions along the way.
Questions such as, "If you had a choice between two superpowers - being invisible or flying - which would you choose?" may seem to have nothing to do with the job to which you just applied. However, these tricky questions are meant to test your creativity/your ability to think on your feet, your problem-solving/critical reasoning skills, and your personality. Don’t fret, curveball questions can really throw you off in a job interview, but often there is no right or wrong answers. Here are 5 tips on how to make sure you provide good answers to unexpected questions.
Tip # 1: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Did you know that a quick Google search or search on Glassdoor can help you get a feel for the type of curveball questions out there? You might even find some hints about the questions used at specific companies. For example, "How many ridges are there around a quarter?" asked at Deloitte, or "How many basketballs can you fit in this room?" asked at Google. Remember the interviewer is looking for what separates you from other candidates, preparation is key and by practicing a few curveball questions ahead of time, you will really build your confidence.
Tip # 2: Give it your best shot: Getting it right is not the point. Instead, focus on demonstrating your ability to think it through logically and talk them through the steps you would take to find the solution. Answer the question while providing the situation, task, action and result to your solution. Whatever you say, as always, justify your answer thoroughly. Show them how you cope with the unexpected and how you remain rational and calm under pressure.
Tip #3: Know your main messages: Make sure you have identified the main messages you want to emphasize throughout your interview. Reflect on your strengths in terms of your skills, competencies and personality as they relate to your goal job and goal company. Use these themes and weave them into your responses. For example, let's say your main messages are around your logical thinking, calm approach, integrity and fairness. Then you are asked what's your favorite colour and why? You could choose blue which is known for trust, respect and calmness which reflects your personality.
Tip # 4: Don't second guess your answer and be yourself: It can be tempting to try to figure out what personality they are looking for to answer a curveball question "correctly" but STOP! Before you do this think about it carefully. You might be able to fake it in the interview but faking it consistently on the job is probably not realistic and very stressful. Better not to land the position than find yourself in the wrong fit job and organization.
Tip # 5: Take your time to answer: Don't rush your answer to a curveball question. The interviewer knows you probably didn't expect it so do take some thinking time. You can say "That's an intriguing question, let me just take a moment to think that one through'. This will buy you a few seconds of thinking time before you answer in a way that emphasizes the key messages you identified in your preparation.
Yes, interview questions like these can be more than a little intimidating, but, they can also give you a chance to show an employer who you are, how you think, and if your work style is a match for the position. It's unlikely you'll know in advance the exact question you'll be asked, but that doesn't mean you can't practice answering a curveball question ahead of time. Have a go before your next interview, because you never know where the next curveball is coming from.
For more tips on curveball questions and how to ensure perfect preparation for your next interview, see our full course, “Interview to Land” at https://www.eloftcareers.com/elearning-online-courses.html and follow us on social.
by Madison Ross, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and Recent Graduate, B.Sc. Honours Food Science Degree (Co-op), University of Guelph
What is networking? And why is it a valuable tool to have in your professional artillery? The term “networking” refers to a system of connections formed by individuals who share a common interest. Through the transfer of knowledge and ideas, business professionals can form essential ties and crucial connections. There are a plethora of networking opportunities available to people at all stages of their careers and getting started as early as possible with building great networks is the focus of this blog. Thanks to the internet, networking has never been easier. Everything from networking advice to business etiquette to LinkedIn how-to and much more can be made available to you at the touch of a button.
LinkedIn is one way you can grow your professional network and is an excellent tool to help you keep track of the people you meet and how their careers develop and evolve over time; however, finding ways to meet people face-to-face and get out from behind your computer can be much more effective and successful when it comes to building great networks. To improve your networking results, consider taking up a new hobby such as sports including golf, cycling, squash, hockey, yoga, sailing, tennis, etc. If you are willing to put in the time and have the budget golf would be a great skill to have for anyone interested in building a career in the business community. It is a game that has been associated with business networking for many generations! Alternatively, if you already play sports or are not the athletic type, consider joining groups or clubs that align with your areas of interest.
During my time at University, I grew my network by joining the Food Science Club, participating in College Royal, going to the Institute of Food Technology (IFT) Food Expo convention, and joining a recreational women’s hockey league.
One of the first things I did during the start of my first year was join the food science club, where avid foodies would meet biweekly to discuss various food science topics, work opportunities and other areas of common interest. This club provided me with several networking opportunities since a majority of the other food science students were in the co-op program. Through the food science club, I learned about an annual spring tradition at the University called “College Royal”. It provides an opportunity for current undergrads to setup elaborate displays and games to gain the interest of the public, to teach, engage, and excite guests about their majors. Overall, it was a great place to volunteer because you never knew who was going to walk through the doors, what questions you were going to get asked, or who you were going to meet.
Another great networking opportunity I had at University was the IFT Food Expo. It is an event that brings together more than 1000 food employers and allows food industry professionals and food science students to interact, learn and experience the most forefront food innovations in ingredients, equipment, packaging, processing, etc. As a food science student, I always saw it as a way to grow my professional network, and enhance my knowledge about the industry I wanted to start a career in.
To grow your professional network, the best thing you can do is to reinvigorate those extracurricular activities you enjoyed when you were younger and consider joining/picking-up new hobbies such as yoga, platies, gardening, cooking. At the end of the day, you want to invest in a hobby because you never know what opportunity will come knocking at your door. Good luck building your networks!
By Emily Wiseman, eLoft Careers Blogger, Bachelor of Commerce Graduate (University of Ottawa, 2016) and current Manager, Operations and Technology at Scotiabank
In the days of social media where more likes on your posts and followers on your various channels validates your social success, it is easy to translate this more-the-merrier concept over to your LinkedIn account and professional networking approach. However, the corporate world is a competitive and busy place - simply having a connection with someone online is not enough to have them take time out of their day to advocate for you and your career. In this post we will be looking at the importance of honing in your networking efforts to those individuals who can, and are willing, to help you take that next step closer to landing your dream role.
First a little bit about myself, I graduated from the University of Ottawa’s Bachelor of Commerce program with specialties in Finance and Accounting. In my final year I landed a summer position with Scotiabank and have now been in my current role as Manager, Operations and Technology for a bit less than two years. The titled concept of this blog is one that I believe was a key factor in my landing of the summer job that led to my current position shortly after graduation
Research and Select Employers of Choice
In the Canadian Accounting and Finance fields there are quite a number of big players, not to mention the medium sized firms who also present wonderful career opportunities. All of these firms market themselves towards business students as post-graduate career-launching pads and are actively seeking to hire. With such a large selection, one approach could be to try to connect with as many of these companies as possible with the hopes that one will see the potential in you and take you on. While these firms may all appear quite similar, I would advise looking deeper into the characteristics that make them unique and selecting your top choices to pursue. Some great starting points are to read up on company histories, mission statements and core values. Look into what really matters to you, for me this meant; corporate social responsibility efforts, a focus on advancement of women in leadership roles, international opportunities and support of inter-departmental transfers. By narrowing down the pool and really getting to understand your top choices’ culture and stories, you will be able to convey true interest in these firms rather than a “please anyone, anyone at all, hire me!” attitude. Firms want to hire people who will be dedicated to them as it is a large investment to hire and train an individual; they want you to be envisioning growth within their company - not simply wherever a paycheque can be found.
Find Key Contacts Within Your Employers of Choice
Once your research and selection phases are complete, your next mission is to get in front of some key people. You want to be able to make a connection with someone who either has the ability to make a referral to a job for you or can introduce you to someone who can. With job postings receiving sometimes hundreds of applicants, having a referral behind you can help you stand out and hopefully land an interview. Following your preferred companies on social media and LinkedIn can be a great way to catch upcoming local events being held near you. Some typical in-house events that present great opportunities to network are; speaker series, office tours, lunch and learns and alumni events. Beyond company-hosted events, industry events are another great source for connections – keep an eye out! In the following sections I will look at some isolated topics with specific advice on how to best leverage your surroundings.
Your first year of University comes with so many new hurdles and adventures, probably not one of your first year bucket list items is learning how to network. However nerve-wracking it may seem to attend a networking event, I hate to break it to you – the nerves will only go away with practice, not time! The sooner you take the leap and start finding your networking groove the better. Landing a summer job whilst in school can be a great way to ensure you have a job lined up post-graduation – so long as you perform well in the four month trial you are given!
Everyday contact potential
You never know who in your circle may know someone, or know someone who knows someone, that works or has worked at your dream company. Let it be known to those around you what companies and roles you are interested in so that if there is a potential connection in your existing network, you find it. Having someone who is further along in their career or even a retiree from the company can be an incredibly valued opinion to have backing you. Think of your Professors, family, family friends, co-workers etc.
How to approach and solidify a connection
First meeting is in person...
Should you be so lucky as to first meet your potential connection in person, ensure that you highlight the following in the time you have with them:
Someone in your circle has been able to give you a name and contact details - fabulous! Start by sending them a formal email:
Advice for the classic conference style networking event
Particularly common with University and College Business Faculties, these events gather together numerous firms looking specifically at hiring students for both summer and post-graduate positions. These events are the holy grail of networking opportunities and should not be approached frivolously. Typically each attending company will be represented by some recent graduates who have done well in their first years and by their Talent or Recruiting Managers.
Often the attending companies of these sorts of events will be posted online weeks ahead of time, take your time in reviewing their company profiles and research their typical entry-level jobs. Hopefully your top firms will be in attendance and if not, look into some of the lesser known companies to see if you could have the right fit and would like to learn more about them. Prepare for these types of events as you would for an actual interview.
e-Loft Careers – be a step ahead
In this post we have strategized how one can meet and impress a valuable connection in the hopes of securing a job referral. However, the preparation for an interview is a much larger topic than what can be covered here. While you can find many articles and YouTube videos online that go over the typically expected questions, I have found that for myself such exercises still leave me full of nerves that I am not adequately prepared. Luckily, if you are looking to take the interview opportunity seriously, there are more fulsome options available. Personally I prepared for my interview by taking the eLoft Careers Interview to Land course and I cannot recommend it enough. The course is designed by HR experts with long careers in the field who share the ins and outs of what employers are looking for throughout the interview process, helping you craft personalized responses to all of the key underlying topics that can be expected. The course walks you through all aspects of preparation; from what to not do two nights before an interview, what key experiences you can draw from, strategies for every type of interview style, to the perfect follow-up approach. This company also offers one-on-one sessions for a coaching session catered to you!
by Marco Maccario, eLoft Careers Student Blogger, Graduate Political Science and Spanish Literature (University of Western Ontario) and International Development (Humber College)
Starting Your Career Isn’t Easy
In the world we currently live in, I feel like everyone is always trying to uncover the best formula to make finding an ideal job that much easier. Back in my parents’ day, it seemed like work and jobs were so easy to find when you graduated. Now, things seem so much more complicated when you are starting out in your career. It is all about the connections you make, the websites you apply on and the networking coffee meetings you go on. I agree that all these are necessary ingredients to a successful job search recipe and finding an ideal job, but, I think there are other ingredients that are missing to this recipe that could truly enhance your success today and go a long way to future career success. The next several ingredients really helped me in landing a true dream internship at the United Nations and I would love to give you some insight on why I believe they helped me.
The 1st Ingredient: Learn Languages
The first ingredient that has helped in many aspects of my life: learning another language. Whether I was travelling, meeting new people, in a work setting or interviewing for a job, knowing another language was truly a differentiator! I was lucky to be raised in an Italian family, so I was blessed to know Italian by birth. However, I did not stop there as I came to understand that languages are not only interesting but an essential ingredient to success. It is never too late to learn a language and even basic working knowledge of a language can be helpful in life and work. I took on Spanish at the high school level and as a minor in University. From there I worked abroad using my Spanish and now have clients from Spanish speaking countries. The United Nations were looking for people that could speak other languages so having been raised in English/Italian and learning Spanish starting in high school, I had a good edge over other candidates. Many companies operate outside the Canadian or North American borders, so languages can be a terrific asset.
One of the easiest ways to start learning a language is online through websites such as duoLingo (https://www.duolingo.com/) or Rosetta Stone (http://www.rosettastone.ca/). From there I would recommend joining classes, local cultural clubs and go out in the community and learn the language real-time by speaking it. Going out and interacting with people who speak the language you are trying to learn is a great strategy and perhaps you can exchange languages by teaching someone English while you are taught their language. Finally, if you are able, travel and immerse yourself in the language and culture you are trying to learn. Even if you have to start with hand gestures, being forced to speak another language works wonders to progress your skills.
The 2nd Ingredient: Go Global
This leads me to my second ingredient...international work experience whether that is volunteering or a paid job. Being able to show a future employer that you immersed yourself in a new country and culture, lived on your own while going to work and getting familiar with your new surroundings are important ingredients in the right direction for a perfect recipe. Employers will see that you are adaptable, resilient, open-minded, adventurous, and open to change and challenge. All of these are qualities many employers are looking for in a new employee. The United Nations were looking for someone with these qualities to be an international advocate, and my languages, combined with my experience of having done an exchange, supported my success both at United Nations and when I went to Mexico to work for a not for profit.
The 3rd Ingredient: Post Graduate Education
Finally, my last ingredient, post graduate education. If you are able, pursuing a post graduate degree in the field that interests whether a Master’s Degree or a one-year post-graduate program at a College or University can help bridge your success into a great career. Each field is different but, in my case, a one-year degree at Humber College worked perfectly following University. It gave me that extra education piece that the United Nations was looking for. Graduating from a University is great but sometimes you need to follow up those four years with an intensive postgraduate degree to tie it all together. There are plenty of Colleges and Universities out there that offer great programs. To be completely honest with you I was always steered away from Colleges, but I learned more in my one year at Humber College then my four years at Western University. I have always been a University person but College was just so much more hands-on. The classes were practical and useful, and it really helped me be able to practice things I would need to do in the field and the work place. Post-graduate degrees often consist of a co-op component that gives you work experience (international in my case), but may also lead to a future job opportunity with that co-op employer. On that note I truly believe any relevant experience, whether that is volunteer work or as an intern, is very useful in building a great resume. In the end, when an employer looks at your resume, they won’t care if you were paid or not for your experience. They will just appreciate that you have the experience. If you ever have days off from school or some weekends available definitely try to volunteer, work somewhere or take classes… don't let that time go to waste, when it could be for the benefit of your future.
In conclusion, looking for a job is a full-time job. Stay humble and accept anything you can related to your field to gain experience because you may not get your ideal job right off the bat, but related experience will only help you to progress in the future. Spending time trying to become the next Foodie on Instagram or trying to think of an app no one has discovered is great, but even more important is to think about where you want to go, the type of job you dream of and add the ingredients bit by bit that will move you in this direction. I believe this approach was the recipe that helped me arrive at the UN headquarters in New York and will help you arrive wherever you would dream of for the future!
by Madison Ross, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and Recent Graduate, B.Sc. Honours Food Science Degree (Co-op), University of Guelph
I am a recent graduate from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. Shortly after University, I began chasing something many people want but few ever get: a job they love. Therefore, I am writing this blog in hopes to share the various tips/strategies/skills that I have learned during my journey over the past nine years that have allowed me to become successful in job interviews. I have had my fair share of failed interviews, the majority of which occurred while trying to land my first co-op job in second year university. It took me four months (or two days before my first final exam) to get an offer of employment for a co-op position. There are a million things I would rather do than prepare for a job interview. I would rather go into the ring with Mike Tyson or face a slap shot from Alex Ovechkin! This is mainly due to the fact that I have a Non-Verbal Learning Disability, meaning that I come across as very quirky and awkward in social gatherings, and that I have difficulty picking up on facial expressions, tone of voice, and maintaining eye contact.
I have working since the age of fifteen. My first job was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Toronto at Yonge and Lawrence and my first experience with interviewing for a job occurred when I was about seventeen years old. I was asked to come in for an interview for a position as a Prep Cook. To be honest, I vaguely remember the actual interview and the questions that were asked, however I do remember the preparation that took place which is a key component of success when getting out into the job market. Below I've included some interview tips that will make your experience a little less stressful.
Tip #1: The Hand Shake
One of the first interview skills I learned was how to properly shake the interviewers’ hand. A person should always make eye contact when doing this and shake the person’s hand with a moderate grip that expresses confidence and dignity. You do not want to show the person how strong you are by bruising and breaking every bone in their hand, but you also do not want to be the person who has a very airy hand shake. The later example is one that I have come across numerous times (particularly from women) while interviewing for co-op jobs.
Tip #2: Smile
A smile goes a long way. It shows the interviewer that you are excited to be considered for the position.
Tip #3: Breathe
You are going to have a lot of emotions spinning around in your mind. It is extremely common to get stressed and anxious about job interviews. But with the proper preparations and thorough research you should be feeling confident and relaxed. Therefore, breathe, relax, and go into the interview knowing that you have done everything possible to prepare for that moment.
Tip #4: Do your Research
My most recent job interview started off with the question “So what do you know about our company?” Whether you are applying for a job at McDonald’s or a job in a corporate office you should go into the interview knowing the history of the company, what they do, how it has grown/expanded, when it was established, why it was established, recent news articles, etc. Treat a job interview like a class assignment and when the assignment is due, show the teacher that you have done your homework.
Tip #5: Social Media
We live in the age of technology. There are numerous social media websites/apps that can seriously affect your job search success depending on how careful you are about what you post. Try typing your name into Google or whatever search engine you use and see what comes up, and ask yourself “if my potential boss saw this what would he think?” My parents taught me that when it comes to Facebook or any public post one should refrain from posting anything that you would not want your Grandmother to see. Be smart, be careful, and think before you post.
Tip #6: Ask Questions
It took me a while to figure how important this part of the interview process was. By asking job related questions at the end of the interview it shows the interviewer that you have gone above and beyond expectations of the interview, you have come in prepared, done your research, and you have actively taken an interest in the company. Some examples of great questions to ask are: What is the history of this position? What is the most challenging part of your job? What is your favorite part of your job? How did you get to your role?; How is the feedback process structured?; What would you want me to accomplish in the first six months?
Tip #7: Ask for a Business Card
At the end of the interview ALWAYS ask for a business card. This provides you with the contact details of the interviewer and the company, so you can follow up with them after the interview or if you have any further questions related to the position or questions you forgot to ask during the interview.
Tip #8: Write a “Thank You” email
This is perhaps the most helpful piece of advice I can share with you. If there is one thing that you should take away from this blog post I hope it is this. A “thank you” email lets your interviewer know that you appreciate them taking time out of their day to sit down and talk with you. Furthermore, it should include a blurb about how much you are looking forward to starting at [fill in company here] as a [fill in position here]. You should also discuss one or two points from the interview conversation, and what you are interested to learn in your new position. Very few people remember to do this and it is perhaps the one thing that sets a person apart from the other candidates.
Tip #9: Preparation
If you are feeling nervous about your interview, sit down with someone, either a friend, sibling, parent, or in front of your laptop or smartphone, and perform a mock interview. This way you can get feedback on your answers, or if you choose to record yourself, you can see how you are coming across to the interviewer. This has really helped me in the past when preparing for previous job interviews.
Tip #10: Dress for Success
You should present yourself to the interviewer in a respectful attire, preferably “smart casual” or “business informal” is preferred. You should be clean shaven or trim your beard, no nail polish (clear is fine), minimal to no deodorant/perfume, brushed teeth, showered, light make-up, and matching shoes and belt (for men).
In conclusion, (being prepared for a job interview there are nine important skills to learn for a successful job interview. These are the hand shake, smile, breathe, do your research, social media, ask questions, ask for a business card, write a “thank you” email, preparation, and dress for success. If you can remember all of these tips than job interviews will become less of a burden for you. For more advise on how to succeed in job interview, please refer to the links below. Good luck!
In addition to the above resources, check out the Interview to Land course by eLoft Careers for more great tips and tricks to ensure you are prepared for your next interview: https://www.eloftcareers.com/student-grad-job-search-courses.html
About the Author (Madison Ross)
I recently graduated from the University of Guelph with a B.Sc. Honours Food Science (Co-op) degree. I was labelled by my elementary school as "at risk" of not graduating high school. With the full support of my parents, family, and friends, and countless hours of hard-work and studying I was able to rebut the people who labelled me as "at risk." I have recently started a full-time career at Select Food Products Ltd. in North York, ON as an Associate R&D Scientist. My future goals and aspirations are to work towards gaining the knowledge and experience to work towards a more senior level R&D position. In addition, I am considering taking some classes at George Brown part-time on the weekends sometime down the road to help me enhance my education and experience in the food and agriculture trade. Outside the office I enjoy living a quiet, introverted lifestyle hanging out at the driving range, boxing/working out at my local boxing gym, doing jigsaw puzzles, spending time with my family and my dog Guinness, and watching Netflix.
by Sam Harding, eLoft Careers Student Blogger and 3rd Year Film and Media Student
Did you know that 70% of jobs are found through networking?
Networking, like any other skill, is one that can be taught and finessed through studying and practice. Having grown-up with a father who worked at two of the big four accounting firms, and a mother who gives career advice for a living, I’ve been surrounded by networking horror stories and glowing accounts for the best part of two decades. As a student entering my third year of an arts degree in Film and Media, I have never been more attuned to the importance of growing my network before I graduate than I am in this very moment.
First Step – Dive In!
When I first dove into the water, I felt as if I might panic and find myself unable to swim. But that wasn’t the case. Although I was anxious going into my first networking meeting, I came out the other side realizing something very important. To my surprise, the person sitting across from me that morning was constantly clasping their coffee cup, smiling too much, and occasionally in need of a moment to gather their thoughts before responding. Much like myself, they were nervous. In this instance, I believe they might have been more on edge than myself which ironically allowed me to feel more at ease and relax as the conversation progressed. After taking a deep breath and coming to the realization that I can do this, I found myself asking more questions, giving more insightful answers and just all around becoming more comfortable engaging with a complete stranger. Based on this experience, each time I now meet someone new, whether it be over the phone or in person, I notice the interactions flow easier. After a dozen or so introductions I had a good sense of how these things play out on a ‘normal’ day.
Tips for Your Networking Meeting Success
The most relevant and practical experience I have gained in the film industry, has come from meeting with strangers for coffee, asking lots of questions, and offering them something in return such as paying for their coffee or offering to connect them with others etc. If you don’t drink coffee (you’re missing out), tea, water or literally anything else will suffice. Here’s a list of networking questions you could use during these conversations:
You get the picture, it’s not exactly Aristotle but these are just a few of the questions that worked for me. Initially I was apprehensive to talk too much and decided listening was a much safer approach. However, after a few meetings I discovered that networking is relationship building and it takes two people sharing ideas to have a conversation. Without any sense of direction indicated, the other person has no framework within which to maneuver.
Confidence Will Come with Practice
For those of us who lean towards the more introverted side of the spectrum, fear not, confidence in networking can be built through practice. Try to be as self-aware as possible when determining which aspects of networking you need to polish up on. Whether it’s a subtle bouncing knee of nerves, or a simple matter of correcting one’s posture, every little improvement helps to present yourself in a more positive light.
If you’re looking to get a job out of an introduction meeting, you will most likely be disappointed. What I’ve found is that if you focus on building a connection and relationship with the other person, they’ll let you know when an opportunity arises. Always start a networking conversation by soaking up every detail of their story and finish it by offering to do them a service such as providing information, introducing them to others in your network etc. Present yourself smartly (overdressing is fine but never under), talk politely, and be on time. As someone who’s late to most of my life, I made a huge effort to be punctual to all meetings.
In my industry, often the first gig turns into a “favour” with little to no money on the table. But, it’s these favours that enable you to meet other people in their network who might have a more lucrative offer for you down the line. One of the first gigs I landed in my industry was providing script coverage for a film company. This was a volunteer type job that then developed into a paid one later.
My future plan is to keep growing the network, each time I interact with a new connection, I’ll try to come away with another name or two to explore. All it takes is one fluke connection through a family member, a friend, or the pizza guy to get things rolling and hopefully all this effort now will pay off once I graduate from my program.
Are you a student or graduate with some great job search advice to share? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the possibility of becoming one of our student or graduate bloggers!