Wednesday, 15 June 2016

How to use your Blog to Answer Interview Questions

I'm finally at that stage of my life now (at bloody long last) where I'm no longer applying for jobs as a source of income, rather trying to find work related to both my degree and volunteering and other activities I have done outwith university. I'm not going to lie I actually panic at the thought of attending interviews. I hate being put on the spot and I hate that everything about me is being judged from the shoes I wear down to how I smile or act. I've always been someone who prepares quite thoroughly for interviews and because of this I've rarely been turned down for a job. However, after a few years at university most people applying to entry level jobs have very little if any experience in a job role similar to the one they are applying for and today I wanted to discuss how talking about your blog during the interview can help. 

1. Generating Interest. You are face to face with the interviewer who turns round and asks 'tell me about yourself' I have always and will always hate this question. I'm forever stuck between wanting to make it quite personal and informal and making it formal and professional. I normally answer with a bit about my academic life and a few of the jobs I have worked in along with any particular achievements I've made. I also almost always mention my blog. I feel it can be a good talking point and also shows any perspective employer that you are self-motivated and ambitious. This can be especially important for entry level jobs which require you to learn new skills. I normally talk about how my blog has helped me to improve my social media skills, or communication skills since I've had to pitch myself to brands and promote posts. By mentioning this at the start of the interview you are helping yourself stand out against other candidates by showing that you not only have interesting hobbies but that they (hopefully) fit in with the job role in some way. In other words you are telling the employer that if money wasn't a factor you would probably still do this job and you would enjoy it too!

2. Selling Your Skill Set. I have never once attended an interview where I have not been asked in some roundabout way anything related to my blog. I currently work with a charity as a social media officer and during my telephone interview I was pretty much hired on the basis that I'd already used social media to promote my own content-my blog! In fact blogging can be used to prove that you have put many of the required transferable skills into practice. To take one example I recently used was when I was asked about my communication skills and in response I was able to talk about how through blogging I had learned how to network and make friends via social networks and yet I could still maintain professional etiquette via an email pitch to a brand or PR. To blog you also have to be able to write fairly clearly and in a way that appeals to a large audience and so I was able to use specific examples of how I was a good communicator rather than just implying that it was the case.

3. Revealing Your Creativity. Blogging can also be a great way of showing any potential employer that you have a creative side. As competition in the current job market increases more and more employers are seeking candidates that not only match the person specification but that go above and beyond it. As a blogger you are much more likely to have been able to express certain parts of your personality through your writing style or the way you take pictures or perhaps you design beautiful blog headers for people. All of these things show that you have the ability to generate ideas and at some stage this could be extremely valuable to a business or an organisation. For instance, if you are ever asked a question along the lines of 'Can you think of a time when you have used your own initiative?' or 'Have you ever created something from scratch?' a personal blog is a great place to start.

4. Working to Deadlines. This might not apply to all bloggers but for those of us who have ever written a sponsored post or worked with a brand on a product review there are a whole host of things that can come in handy for interviews. Firstly you may be asked at an interview for just about any job to describe a stressful situation and telling them about a particular product which you had X amount of time to write content which had to be a certain length or include certain imagery can be a perfect example. I once worked with a brand (no names here) who emailed me once a day for a week asking me when my post would be up. Not only is this good evidence of being able to work to deadlines but it can also be a good way of reflecting on how you worked with a particular company or person. For example, did you email them when any issues came up? Or perhaps you scheduled the post in advance so they were able to check it for themselves. Either way it definitely shows that you can do what is required in a limited amount of time and can withstand pressure in a professional environment.

5. Personality. I often feel like this last point is something that is very important when attending job interviews and yet overlooked by so many people. YES you might have all the qualifications and skills necessary to doing the job well but if you have bagged yourself an interview then the interviewer likely already knows that. Personality can make you stand out against other candidates or show how you would fit into a particular working environment. I've been asked about my blog during various interviews and in all honestly its actually refreshing to have something to talk about aside from my professional life. I can get quite passionate when talking about my experiences and its good to show a perspective employer that  you actually have something in your life you really care about and have spent a lot of time on. I've never ever had a negative experience in all the interviews I've mentioned it in and I've even been asked follow up questions!

Would you ever mention your blog at interviews? Do you think its important in getting you that dream job?

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