Calling all 2018-2019 graduates or parents of graduates! Are you ready and prepared for the job search process?

grad1Perhaps you are graduating this year or maybe even next year (and you’re looking to get ahead of the game) or perhaps you are the parent of a graduate or ‘soon to be’ graduate.  In my latest blog series over the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping I can provide you with enough useful information that you can feel that much more prepared to execute a highly effective job search within the graduate market.

In an ideal world, the job search process starts way before you’ve even graduated. However, it’s never too late to follow these tips that I’ve put together for new grads if you haven’t yet decided on what you’d like to do or you’re still looking for a job.

And remember, the process of getting paid to do what you love isn’t always straightforward – it may be a longer journey for some to get to their ideal job/lifestyle – but hang in there – everything you do along the way will be part of the learning process, rich in experiences and hopefully fun!

So, let us get started….

  1. Update your resume and cover letter with your degree if you have already graduated – Congratulations! This is a big reason to celebrate. If you don’t yet have a resume, there are tons of websites out there that provide templates to get started.  Just google ‘resume templates’. See my resume checklist to ensure you cover off everything necessary.
  2. Use your school’s career services – if you haven’t already made use of this, check them out – they will hold databases of graduate jobs, often companies will come to campus to interview students for job positions and they will also help you find internships and cover basic career search skills.
  3. Ask for References – Every recruiter will want to see these. If you’ve done an internship you can ask to use one of your superiors from that role.  Ask for letters of recommendation and include them in your application for any jobs. You can also name professors as your references.  If you think you have been shortlisted for a role, it’s just polite to let your references know that they might be contacted.
  4. Internships – look into doing an internship if you haven’t already done one to build up your experience. When looking for an internship, unlike when looking for permanent jobs, online searches can actually really help you find an internship. Try some of these sites; LinkedIn – go to the jobs tab and search for internships and you’ll be able to see which of your contacts works at one of the companies or know people who work there – so there are real benefits of looking for connections after setting up your profile! Also try google, glassdoor,,, Idealist (non-profit sector) and Global Experiences.
  5. Set up a LinkedIn account and ask for ‘recommendations’ – Building a professional presence on LinkedIn is a must and it needs to be done well to get positive results! Start by writing a headline that attracts attention and include a professional looking photo of yourself – these two things are super important! In the headline (it needs to be short) aim to include what you’re doing now and what you hope to do and if you haven’t yet graduated you can include your Major and your aspirations. In the summary section, find a way to stand out and bring your personality into it so that recruiters are drawn to find out more about you – what makes you tick? What do you do for fun? What is your biggest accomplishment? In the Experience section, include any jobs, internships or voluntary jobs describing what you were doing and how it has helped you develop a whole range of skills.  Use the STAR approach to help you include information on (1) the situation you were in, (2) tasks you were required to do, (3) specific actions you took and (4) the results of work you did, ideally in a qualitative format. Its good to include plenty of detail of your work here. Make sure you complete the skills list section too. Fill out the education section and feel free to upload great school work/projects that you are particularly proud of and shout out your successes – the more you can do to grad2differentiate yourself from the competition the better. Connect with professors and any employers from jobs/internships.  Ask them for recommendations. Look for groups on LinkedIn that are relevant to your career goals – join them and aim to positively contribute to these groups so that potential employers get to know your name.  You will also learn a lot from industry experts in the groups you join.  You could also ask your school career’s office for details of alumni in the industries you are interested in so that you can connect with them too.  Ask parents if they know anyone you should connect with that might be in the industry you’re interested in.  If you want to explore a particular company, you can check if you have any 1st or 2nd connections that are connected to anyone that works for that company and ask them to introduce you on LinkedIn.  Don’t immediately ask connections for a job – ask them for advice or ask them questions about what its like working for that company – build up rapport first before asking to be put in touch with someone who might be good contact for your area of work.  And remember, not all graduate opportunities and internships will be available earlier in the year – not all companies will be in a position advertise early on, especially if they are going through restructuring during the year, so its always worth asking about possible jobs at any point in the year.  When searching for graduate jobs on LinkedIn ask your parents to do a search on their LinkedIn too as they may have more connections.
  6. Find a mentor – mentor picIt is a competitive job market, especially for those with little or no experience and mentoring can really help. Try to find someone in the field you’re interested in – LinkedIn is good for this and parents’ contacts of course.  Find out about what they do, what they like about their jobs and how their career evolved.  You might speak to several people before you find someone you want to ask to be your mentor.  You want to find someone who can offer you a supportive environment and encouragement and has good links in the field you’re interested in, perhaps even old alumni from your school.
  7. Put together a blog on a professional topic you’re interested in – this will highlight your professional knowledge and show your resourcefulness.
  8. Apply to jobs – ensure you tailor both your resume and your cover letter for each and every job you apply to. This means identifying something about the company and/or the role that you are particularly interested in and stating that in the cover letter. Make sure that your resume highlights any skills/experience that supports the application.  And finally, always follow up with emails and/or phone calls after making the application.
  9. Hire a career/interview coach – coaches can help graduates with a number of areas including writing resumes and cover letters, creating LinkedIn profiles, effective job searches and mock interview practice, putting you in a stronger position than other candidates.

For more information about how I can help you if you’re a graduate looking for work or parent of a graduate, please check out my website ‘thewinninginterview’.  I can provide you with the following support:

  1. Skills and strengths identification if you haven’t yet found your passion and just need a little extra support in working out what kind of jobs or careers you’re interested in.
  2. Resume and cover letter support, teaching you how to tailor these to each job that you apply to.
  3. Development of a LinkedIn profile to help you stand out from the competition.  This is a must in today’s job market.
  4. Mock interview practice tailored to the specific jobs/companies you are applying to, specifically aligned with the company’s recruitment approach/values.

In my next post, I’ll be providing you with information about how to prepare for upcoming interviews.  For tailored interview coaching, please contact me.

You can see full details of the services I offer here.

Joanna Brook

How to network your way to your dream job

blog picDuring the job search, there is always the question of how to find and secure that dream job – do you sign up to all the job sites, insert a list of relevant criteria or relentlessly search job sites using ‘keywords’?  My issue with this (having seen how recruitment works within companies) is that not all jobs are truly ‘open’ or ‘available’.  What I mean by this is that jobs are often posted as part of an internal recruitment process or policy, but really the job has effectively been filled before it even goes on line, i.e. an internal candidate or other known candidate has been identified and is being put through the recruitment process (including posting the job online) to meet company guidelines. In addition to this, employers often ask their own employees to help them recruit the best talent to save both time and money – often rewarding employees financially for their efforts.

Knowing this, it is not always going to be the best use of your time to apply for a list of jobs that you are not even sure are available.  And this is where the importance of networking comes in.

My true belief is that to be effective in your job search you need to be more targeted, either by going after a company or a specific role.  You need a process that you can use in your job search that is going to most efficiently get you the job you want and I’m going to outline below the stages I recommend to navigate your way in front of employers that are truly recruiting rather than spending all your time going through online applications.

“He or she who gets hired is not necessarily the one who can do that job best; but, the one who knows the most about how to get hired.” – Richard Lathrop (author of ‘Don’t use a resume’)

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on networking online – since 2008 there has been a massive shift in the way that people are hired thanks to modern technology and most importantly GOOGLE.  Recruiters can just google your name and there’s a chance they will find information about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and anywhere else you have an online social presence.  Suffice it to say, you want to make sure that anything that is there is going to help, not hinder you when it comes to your job search!  Google yourself or ask someone else to google you and check out what you find from a recruiter’s perspective!  You may need to make a few changes to your social networking site settings if you don’t have it set on private.  Of course you can also use social networking sites to positively influence your job search.

How to target your job search using online networking?

dream inspring desk picture

  1. LinkedIn is an absolute necessity to any job search and is a great way to network with the right people.  It should be your first priority in any job search, or you will significantly be reducing your job search chances.  Get a profile together based on your resume and work hard to make sure it stands out from others.
  2. Use Linked in to learn about companies you’re interested in and identify jobs you’re interested in.
  3. Once you have your linkedin profile, if you haven’t already, send connections to past employers and colleagues (even and sometimes especially if they have moved elsewhere) and ask any that you worked with closely to provide endorsements on your skills and qualifications.  One effective way to do this is to provide endorsements to others first.
  4. Targeting a company or a specific job – you can search a company name on LinkedIn and use your 1st connections to ask for an introduction to a specific person of interest.  If you have no 1st connections, you can ask to link in with 2nd or 3rd connections but I recommend you have a very well written introduction of yourself politely asking if you can ask them a few questions about the company/their area of work and why you are interested in the company.
  5. What if I am not able to connect with someone who is of interest to my job search?  If you know of someone you want to connect with and they are a member of a group, if you join the same group as them you will be able to contact them directly through the group. Again you will want to make sure that you have something well written when you make your connection and its also worth being active in that group for a while before making contact –  you can like, comment or share threads.
  6. And once I have my connections I want?  Tell them what it is you’re interested in and a short synopsis of your background with something that stands out that they are more likely to remember you by.  Ask them what they like about working there.  Once you have built up a little rapport (this might be a few messages but make sure that it IS two-way so you don’t scare them away and just become a nuisance!), then ask them if they can help you one of two ways – either by asking them where you can get more information about a specific job or team you’re interested in OR ask them to connect you to another person if you have someone in mind specifically.  Next, you will want to build rapport with that next person you get referred to and slowly but surely you are getting closer and closer to your end goal.  It might be that there is no job available at this specific time and you are just exploring a team, but once you are on the radar and have given them something to remember you by, your name may just pop up when a relevant job becomes available.

For more information and support on how you can target your job search, please contact me here.  I can provide help with your LinkedIn profile, building your online brand presence and working with you on specifically how to communicate with your target employers.

Thank you for reading this post and if you liked it, I’d love you to share with friends/contacts on facebook or linked in.





Got an interview coming up? How to confidently answer behavioral interview questions.

photo woman with arms outRemember that excitement/relief you felt when you got invited to that job interview you spent ages on your application for? Your resume or application got your foot in the door, but the interview itself will swing it open and land you the job, which is why you must be as prepared as possible before the big day.  It is best to assume you are up against a bunch of other top-notch candidates and to get yourself into maximum competitive and preparation mode!

The first step is to ask the employer or recruiter about the format of the interview:

–         Who will the interview be with? Check that person/people out on Linkedin (what is their specific area of work? Look at their past experience. Consider how this might affect the questions they ask in the interview).

–         How many interview rounds will there be? Will there be any presentations or tests?

–         What format will the interview take?


What is the difference between traditional and behavioral interview questions?

Most clients that come to me for interview help want support with both ‘traditional’ interview questions (i.e. ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses?’ or ‘why have you applied for this job?’) AND ‘behavioral’ interview questions (i.e. ‘Tell me about a time when you dealt with conflict in your team’).  The behavioral questions are more in-depth questions about your past experience which they want to test in relation to specific skills or competencies required for the job (teamwork, communications, dealing with conflict, negotiation skills, leadership skills etc).

The interviewer is looking for details about past relevant experiences. They want to know what the situation/challenge was, what your actions were and what the result was. Your responses will give the interviewer an indication of how you will perform in similar situations in the job you are applying for.


happy intelligent woman workingWhen a client first approaches me for support, I will ask them to send their resume and the job description.  It is the job description that is key here – I will go through a detailed review of it and make a note of all the personality traits, skills and experience that are required for the role.  I will then formulate likely interview questions, both traditional and behavioral, based on the requirements of the role. For the purpose of this post, I am focusing on behavioral questions – for example, if being able to deal with change is of particular importance to the role, I might ask the following:

“Tell me about a time when you were very much against a change that affected your work. How did it make you feel and how did you deal with it?”

You need to show how you have viewed things in an unbiased manner, how you demonstrated the strength of character to voice your concerns if you think a new practice will have a negative effect on the team or company and articulate your thoughts with well-reasoned arguments.

How do I answer behavioral interview questions?

Practice, practice and more practice!

women with coffees

First you need to get prepared and this is where the homework can really pay off.  I suggest using the STAR technique to answer the question, to give both structure to your preparation, but also for the interviewer to easily follow your answers (which trust me will score you extra ‘points’).


SITUATION – Explain when the specific example took place and where (company name, team you were working in, what your job was and your key responsibilities in that role).  Set the scene at the start of the answer.

TASK – Give an introduction to the specific ‘story’ in terms of what the challenge or project was, why it was so important to you/the company, what the issues were.

ACTIONS – What specifically were the actions taken by you and what were your responsibilities? Use action words to describe your major achievements, i.e. developed, established, led, supported, managed, engaged etc.  Avoid using the term ‘we’.

RESULTS – What were the results and what might you do differently/what did you learn?  Describe how you solved the problem or made improvements. Quantify if possible.  Here are some examples:

  • $8m increase in revenue
  • $5m decrease in cost
  • 30% reduction in processing time
  • Signed up 20 new customers

It is likely that you would be asked what you learnt or what might you do differently if confronted with the issue again, so be prepared!

 Sample answer to a behavioral interview question.

Using the STAR approach, I’m going to give you an example of an answer to a behavioral interview question.

Describe a time when there was a significant change in your company. What was your response towards it?’

Last year in my role as Sales Team Leader in xx company, we were undergoing a huge restructure having been bought by another company.  We had a large number of critical projects happening at the time and it was important that we stayed on track to deliver.

In the face of significant change for my team of 10, where individuals were not sure of their new teams and who they would report into going forward, I needed to keep them motivated to deliver on our goals.  Part of this was making sure that they were supported through the restructure that was taking place.

I wanted to make sure that despite the changes, people felt supported and part of a team and had clear goals to deliver on. 

I started by inviting my team to a weekly Q&A session where I kept them up to date with all the information I was allowed to share on the restructure so that they felt informed and supported by their team leader whatever the outcome was.

I held 1:1s with each team member to review goals with them throughout the restructure process and worked with them to edit where appropriate, i.e. where we knew that they would be transitioning across to a different team, I worked with the appropriate new team leader. I emphasized importance of focusing on current goals, and not letting speculation or conjecture of future changes distract them from delivery of their day-to-day responsibilities.

I produced a weekly email update to the team informing them of performance in relation to targets and congratulating them on new business successes.

My manager was really impressed with how I supported my team through the restructure, exceeding our sales targets that year by 20%.  The annual staff satisfaction survey reflected how the team felt well supported through the process, with the overall score not being materially impacted despite it being a period of uncertainty.

When preparing for these sorts of questions, its important you spend the time thinking of good examples and writing out your thoughts/ideas in detail – not scripted, but plenty of information you can draw upon. Practicing is essential, over and over again so that you can sound relaxed and confident when the time comes to share your proudest achievements and land that dream job!

For more interview support and preparation, please get in touch with me here or my email is 

I offer remote one-to-one coaching sessions focused on helping you with your quest for your dream job/lifestyle along with developing your job search and interview preparation strategy.  You will have the opportunity to practice traditional and behavioral interview questions and receive feedback that will enhance your confidence and performance in your interview.  See details of the services I offer here.

Joanna Brook

Overcoming stress in job interviews

stressAlthough we see stress as negative emotion, my belief is that in interview and presentation situations, stress CAN actually become your ally!  The key is to see the stressful situation as a challenge that you are going to step up to and can manage in some positive way, rather than an overwhelming nightmare you would rather avoid.

With that in mind, I’ve outlined below how I think, whilst not trying to eliminate all stress, we can somehow manage our anxiety throughout the whole process of interview preparation through to the interview itself.

1.    Being thoroughly prepared – you can work through a checklist making sure you have done everything you can to be able to perform at your best when the interview day comes:

  • Study the job spec in detail and pick out the key skills and competencies that are required for the job.  Come up with 5 or 6 interview stories (key achievements over the course of your career) that you can use to demonstrate you have the skills/experience they are looking for.  You need to go into depth here and include specific examples of what you did and what happened as a result of your actions.
  • Find out who will be interviewing you/how many people and ideally the type of interview that will be conducted (admittedly this is easier for internal interviews) – the fewer surprises on the day, the better!
  • Research the company and/or department in depth so that you can ask meaningful questions on the day and show your genuine interest in the company and the job.
  • Practice with a coach, friend, or colleague or even in front of a mirror so that you have ample opportunity to get feedback and tweak your answers. Remember, practice makes perfect!
  • Plan way ahead of time how you will get to the interview, so that you are not worrying about this on the day of the interview.
  • Don’t make the success of the interview the only thing that matters to you – just think of it as an opportunity you have been given – you’ll get to meet new people (useful for networking) and get to brush up your interview skills.
  • Try to apply for more than just one job – ‘have many irons in the fire’ – again to alleviate the feeling that this is the only thing that matters.

2.    Just prior to the interview

  • Aim to arrive early so that you are not stressing about getting there on time.
  • Use visual imagery to imagine the interview going well, particularly just before the interview.
  • Get a good night sleep and a good meal on the day of the interview.


3.    During the Interview

  • If you are still feeling nervous when the interview starts, remember to breathe. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax.
  • If you can’t answer a question straight away, just ask for a minute to think about your answer.
  • If you think you may not have performed well at any point in the interview, try to stay positive. There are plenty more opportunities to impress the employer. Most interviewers are looking for evidence to show you can perform in the role, not to catch you out.


Please share your experiences below of how you like to prepare for interviews and how you stay stress free!