Archive for March, 2010

3 words that will help you answer ANY job interview question

March 31, 2010 3 comments


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We’ve all been there:

You’re acing your job interview, regurgitating all the BS that you’ve read on how each question should be answered, and then all of the sudden you are hit with it!  “It” could be a curveball, a question that you’ve never prepared for, or just a question that you know how to answer but for some reason are just blanking on.  No matter what the situation is, or how tough the job interview question is, there are three words that can always save you.

    What are those three words?

    “Just be attractive”?  Nope.  Just ask Miss South Carolina Teen USA.  It didn’t work for her. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you owe it to yourself to check out this video)

    “Use the bathroom”?  An interesting strategy.  Excuse yourself in mid-questioning, giving additional time to come up with a well thought-out answer.  Although I have never field-tested it, I’m gonna have to say no.

    The three words that you need to know are “tell a story”.  The truth is that if 10 people are asked why the company should hire them, often 8-9 of them will simply recite a list of ideal qualities for the position.  Even a bad story will make for a better answer than that.  Let me give you an example:

    Answer 1: “Well, I’m an extremely hard-worker.  I graduated with honors at Syracuse.  My old boss said that I was the most creative person that she had ever worked with.  And I’m extremely detail-oriented, some even call me a perfectionist.”  Blah, blah, blah.

    Answer 2: “It’s funny that you should ask that.  My boss at my last job started off the interview with the exact same question.  I didn’t really know how to answer since I had just gotten out of college and lacked the experience that the position required.  But he saw something in me and took a chance.  I felt a constant pressure to validate his choice, so I would take online courses at home to teach me the skills that I needed to excel in the position.  My hard work paid off after a couple of years, and I was promoted to an advanced position where I gained even more valuable experience.  But even after my promotion I always continued my efforts to advance my knowledge whenever possible, knowing that one day it would give me the advantage over others in instances like this.”

    It isn’t the best answer ever, but it demonstrates the difference that a story can make.  If you can apply the story to the position or company that you are applying for, even better – but let’s just focus on baby steps for now.

    The bottom line is that a story is much more engaging than a list of qualities.  You have to tell it from the heart though.  While I’m definitely a huge supporter of embellishment, people rarely tell a story with the same passion if it’s one that is completely fabricated.  But if you happen to be a person that can fake this, maybe you should be at an audition in Hollywood instead of a job interview.  Or in law school.

    What’s the toughest job interview question that you have ever been asked?  Please share your story below.



How March Madness can help YOU land a job

March 24, 2010 1 comment

    My bracket is busted!  How often have you heard this?  The truth is, unless you have Utah State defeating San Diego State for the championship like one of my colleagues, it’s still anyone’s game (sorry David).  But even if you haven’t filled out a bracket, you can still learn some very important life lessons from the tournament, including tips you can use to land a job.

    What you did during the regular season doesn’t matter.  Analysts often refer to a team’s regular season performance as their résumé.  And if this is the case, then the tournament is the job interview.  It always boggles my mind when I hear people say that they won’t get a job because they’re not qualified enough.  This self-defeatist attitude is truly your biggest obstacle.  Similar to March Madness, your résumé is just to get you in…what happens after that is entirely up to you.

    The best team on paper doesn’t always win.  Every college basketball fan knows that any team can win under the right circumstances (hence the “Madness” in March Madness).  If your experience is good enough to get you the job interview, then you have the same opportunity to get the job.  Underdogs win all the time, and they use the following tactics to increase their odds.

    Preparation is paramount.  Teams prepare for their games by studying tapes of past games.  Think of the internet as your tapes – research the company and interviewer by reviewing the company’s website, searching news articles and press releases, and cyber-stalking them on LinkedIn.

    Develop a solid game plan.  Strategize by preparing questions to ask in a job interview.  Hiring managers want to see that you are knowledgeable about their company, but also that you are eager to learn more.  Know the company’s mission statement (find it in the “About Us” section of their website), and ask them about its significance…no hiring manager has gotten to where they are without being passionate about their company’s mission statement.

    Follow through to the finish.  How many times have you seen a team take a lead into the closing minutes, only to collapse at the last possible moment and lose the game?  This is because that team lacks follow-through: the ability to play with the same intensity for every second until the game is over.  You should demonstrate your follow-through by sending a thank-you letter soon after the interview.  I suggest mailing a hand-written note…it’s more personal and will really set you apart from the crowd.  Check out this helpful article for other thank-you letter tips.

    For other tips on landing a job, check out my past posts:

    What team do you think is going to win the whole thing?  Leave a comment below.  I personally have Ohio State winning the whole thing…but anything can happen.

    Kris Alban


5 easy and effective April Fools’ pranks

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment


    With April Fools’ Day right around the corner, it’s time to start ramping up your arsenal of pranks.  Now, if you’ve read my last couple of blogs (4 ways to get a job without even trying and 4 job-hunting tips that you HAVEN’T heard), then you undoubtedly have been successful finding a new job…congratulations!  Because of this I am going to focus on computer pranks…because nothing will win over the hearts of your new coworkers like belittling them with a clever little office prank.  To perform these pranks you will need to access your coworker’s computer when they take a break, download a program and then run it.  These programs take seconds to download, and are easily removable.  Here are five of my favorites:


I absolutely LOVE Clippy.  Clippy is an extremely annoying, absolutely useless Desktop Assistant shaped like a big paper clip with eyes (similar to the old Windows assistant).  Once you install this and run the program, Clippy will appear once every 60 seconds with a tip that’s either completely useless or shockingly condescending.  A couple of my favorites are:

“Background processing has rated your typing speed to be below normal.”

“I noticed you have Internet Explorer installed on your system. You can use that to find things on the Internet.”

    You can even write your own tidbits of advice for Clippy to use.  Visit the discussion board on iGrad’s Facebook Page to submit your best suggestion for a Clippy quote.

    Blue Screen of Death
Blue Screen of Death

"Blue Screen of Death"

You may already know about this one, but the great thing about it is that even if you have heard of it, you will still end up with the same panicked look on your face as a man crossing the street in front of a Prius.  All you have to do is download and install the screensaver. ..and your coworker will come back to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.  Depending on how high you want your coworker’s blood pressure to spike, you may also want to unplug the mouse and keyboard for maximum effect.

Download Blue Screen of Death here.

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    Click Me

Downloading this program will place a “Click Me” box to appear on the computer’s desktop.  The box will move whenever the mouse cursor gets near it, so no matter how quick you are you will never be able to click on it.

    Email Fun

No matter what button they press the program will continue

    Imagine that your computer takes it upon itself to open up an email, start typing a message, and proceed to send it to your entire Address Book.  Now imagine it happening to your coworker as you try to refrain from laughing at the horrified look on their face.  All of this is just an illusion, but it looks real enough to make your heart skip a beat or two.  The only thing that you have to do for this gem to work is to send an email to your coworker with this attached.

    Total Confusion Combo Pack for Firefox

What makes this program so great is that you can download it to your coworker’s computer whenever you want, and it will automatically become active on April 1st.  The only downside is that this will only work on people that use the FireFox browser.  This program has several pranks:

“Two Steps Back” will make the “Back” button on the browser go back two screens instead of one…not all the time, but just enough to get very annoying very quickly.

“Rick Roll” will sporadically replace videos with a great ’80’s Rick Astley video.

“The Devil’s Inbox” will change the number of unread emails in your Gmail account 666.

“Highs and Lows”, “Sarcarsm Enhancer” and “For Real” will add comments like “LOL”, *sigh*, “yo”, “for real” and “whatever” into many of the web pages that come up.

Download Firefox Pranks here.

      Do you have a better prank?  Please share it below…the best one will be played on my boss, videotaped, and posted on iGrad’s Facebook page.

      Kris Alban

    iGrad Contributor – articles on jobs, internships, budgeting & lifestyle tips for college students & recent graduates

    iGrad Writer's Guild - articles on financial, lifestyle & career advice for recent college graduates

4 ways to get a job without even trying

March 12, 2010 7 comments

This is how my cat found a job.

    Do you ever wonder why some people seem to find a job without even trying?!  Meanwhile you’ve sent out close to 1,000 résumés and all you have to show for it is one interview for a Multi-Level Marketing job?  Well, that’s all about to change.  Now, I’m not saying give up your job search, sit back and watch American Idol, and a job will just fall in your lap.  But there are some things that you can do in addition to your job search, that are very productive and a lot more fun.

  • Volunteer. It’s fun, rewarding and no matter how much you slack off you can never get fired.  Check out…most of the time you can find volunteer opportunities that will actually give you experience in your field.  There are positions for Marketing, Web Design, even Tax Preparation.  Most of the time you will be working alongside others that are in your field and actively employed…instant networking!!

  • Paint Your Résumé on Your Car.  Here’s an article about a Loyola student who got job interviews just by driving around.  I have to to thank my sister Kelly in Maryland for telling me about this.  You don’t necessarily have to defile your car…the morale of the story is be creative.

  • Interview the Interviewer.  Sick of going on job interviews?  Then conduct some of your own.  Find some people in your field (or other fields you’re interested in) to interview.  An easy way to find and get in touch with them is through LinkedIn.  If you do not know how to do this, please take a second right now and watch this video showing how to network on LinkedIn.  The people that you interview will often be in a position to hire you or connect you to someone that can…either at their company or another.  Everyone loves giving interviews…it makes them feel important…especially when you tell them it’s for a report or for your blog.  What??  You don’t have a blog??

  • Start a Blog.  Make sure that your blog is relevant to your field.  Promote your blog on all social media outlets.  Once you get 1 million followers you can make enough money off your blog that you won’t have to work.  Okay, this may be a long-shot…but blogging will keep your creative juices flowing and will also give you material for a portfolio.  If you don’t have a portfolio than you really need to read my last post: 4 job-hunting tips that you HAVEN’T heard.

    • Do you have a good story about how you got a job without even trying?  Or any other tips?  Please share below if you do.


  • Kris Alban

    iGrad – Resources for life after college

4 job-hunting tips that you HAVEN’T heard

March 8, 2010 3 comments

Yes, I know that this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this subject.

We’ve all heard the standard tips that everyone else is using…and that’s exactly why they don’t work…because everyone else is using them!  You have to make yourself stand out…be memorable (without offending anyone…that’s the tricky part).  I interviewed several recruiters and hiring managers to find out what is setting the chosen few apart.  Here are some of their answers:

  • Optimize your résumé for HTML.  Most companies use Applicant Tracking Systems which parse out and display resumes in an HTML format. Many Word résumés, though they look great in Word, do not display well in HTML based Applicant Tracking Systems.  A company called ResuWe has a free service on their website that will optimize your résumé to display well in Applicant Tracking Systems.

  • Keep it fresh. Wherever you have your résumé posted, make sure to update it once every month…even if you don’t really have anything to update.  Many résumé searches on popular job boards have the search defaulted to only pull up résumés that have been posted or updated in the last 30 days.

  • I only have eyes for you. Making yourself seem “in demand” by namedropping other companies that are interested does not work in this economy.  Treat every potential employer like they’re your soul mate.  Employers love hiring people that are excited to work there and have demonstrated interest in the company by doing their homework ahead of time.

  • Have a portfolio.  Maybe you have heard of this one, but most people think that portfolios don’t cater to the field that they’re in…WRONG!  It’s not about what’s in your portfolio as much as the fact that you went above and beyond 90 percent of all the other applicants.  If you really can’t think of anything to include, ask all of your friends to write a quick recommendation for you on Facebook and/or LinkedIn, then print those out.

    I’m not including this last tip in my list since you’ve heard it before, but it needs to be mentioned.  You MUST actively use LinkedIn!  Almost every recruiter that I spoke to said that they are using this more and more everyday and using the traditional job boards less.  Several of them added that their contacts at Monster and CareerBuilder are terrified that the LinkedIn model will replace traditional job boards.

    It’s not enough just to be on LinkedIn though – you should join some groups, get involved in the discussions, and do some networking!  Check out this video that shows you how to find a job using LinkedIn.

    Happy Hunting!


How do I use a business plan to find investors?

March 3, 2010 Leave a comment

If you took any business classes in college, chances are you learned how to write a business plan.  What many colleges fail to teach you is how to use that business plan to raise money to start your business.  My professors taught me the “Field of Dreams” approach to finding investors…”If you write it, they will come”.  We all know that doesn’t work though, so here are some tips on how to raise money to open that topless coffee shop, start your ChatRoulette website, or make those Snuggies.

Finding Investors

The easiest way to find investors is by asking friends and family…but if that was an option then you probably wouldn’t be reading this.  A good way to find investor groups is the ACA (Angel Capital Association).  They have a directory on their website which shows all of their members by geographical region.  Each member has a link allowing you to read more about them…obviously you’ll want to look for members that cater to the area that your business will fall into.

Another good resource for finding investors is LinkedIn.  The “Answers” section of LinkedIn has two very useful categories: “Venture Capital and Private Equity” and “Startups and Small Business”.  Also, there’s plenty of groups that you’ll want to join for networking purposes…some examples are “Private Equity Investment Group”, “Venture Capital”, “Angel Investors”, “Start-ups and Entrepreneurs Get Funded”, etc.  Don’t forget to join your school’s alumni group as well.  Make sure to get involved in the discussions in these groups.

Then What?

Think of your business plan like a résumé.  Just as the goal of a résumé is to get a job interview, your business plan is just a tool to get your foot in the door.  Once you’ve located a target list of investors, then the fun starts.  Some techniques to use to aid your cause:

  • Try to develop an advocate within the group that has similar interests or connections.  This can be done through a little web research on each group member (ie. LinkedIn, Bios on the Investor Group’s website, or just Googling each name).
  • Compile references from potential clients that state they would purchase your product or service at the price it will be offered.
  • State your “Unfair Advantage”.  This means why you have a better chance at success than others in the same business.  It could be your current network (clients, partners or potential employees), knowledge, experience or talent.
  • Focus on “Financial Efficiency”.  Even though investors know that most businesses will require more money than originally planned for, they’re typically are attracted to entrepreneurs that really believe that they can do it for less.

With the state of the economy right now, many recent college graduates are starting their own businesses out of despair.  While to some this is upsetting, I think this is exactly what is needed to produce a better economy.  I compare this to the forest life-cycle, where an old decaying forest must burn down to ignite the life-cycle.  Similar to this cycle, the strong businesses survive and the weak ones perish to make way for new startups.  We just need to make sure that the tools are in place for the new economy to grow.

I’m definitely no expert on this subject, so if you have other ideas or suggestions please feel free to contribute.

Kris Alban

iGrad – Resources for life after college