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Tips For Answering the Interview Question “What Are You Passionate About?”

If you’ve been in the job market for a long time, you’ve probably been asked, “What are you passionate about?” more than once. It’s one of these standard questions similar to, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses?” that is almost inevitable in any interview process.

However, the question could be awkward; who wants to share what they’re truly passionate about (“My spouse.”) (“My paycheck.”) with a total stranger? Too, if you’re working to live and not living to work, it may feel like the words “passion” and “job” don’t fit together. While you probably don’t want to lie and run the risk of the recruiter sensing it, you should give a professional answer. But what should it be? How should you answer the question, “What are you passionate about?”

First, Understand Why They’re Probably Asking

Remember that interviewers do want to get to know you both personally and professionally. Chances are, you’re going to spend a lot of time at their office, so the hiring manager just wants to get a sense of who you are and if you’ll fit the culture of the organization. When you think of it this way, the question doesn’t seem intrusive, but a fair way to assess what interests you.

Next, Consider How To Answer Professionally

The answer should reflect well on your professionalism, energy, and general strengths as a candidate for the job. Think about the job itself and the tasks you’ll likely do every day. Is there one that you’d particularly enjoy? Does the job do something to help the social good in some way? Maybe it would allow you to learn a new skill.

In these cases, you could tailor the answer to make your skills stand out as a good fit for the job. Above all, be real with your response while still being professional. Here are some good examples of how you can respond to, “What are you passionate about?”

  • Do you have a side project that relates to your profession? Say you’re a software engineer interested in innovation and start-up businesses. Do you volunteer for hack-a-thons or go to meetups? Maybe you’re a gamer and like to play with friends from all over the work on the weekends.
  • Maybe you’re a project manager that has a great love for organizing. Do you volunteer to organize events for your church on the side? Or maybe you help out at a non-profit by organizing their books?
  • Or, perhaps you’re a content writer that just started a blog. That’s certainly an appropriate passion to share if you’re going after a marketing or content writing job.

But What if Your Passion Isn’t Work-Related?

Truly this is okay. In figuring out how to answer this question, you may realize there are crossover skills from work that you use in your off-the-job passion project. Or, maybe that passion taught you skills that you apply on the job. Or, perhaps that passion is simply a way to decompress after a hard day’s work. There’s nothing wrong with that.

At Top Stack, our passion happens to be matching candidates to their perfect job. We can help you meld your work and personal passions in a new career in 2010. Contact us today.

 

3 Tips for Finding a Career You’re Passionate About

To find a career you’re passionate about, be sure to ask yourself, not other people, what you feel passionate about. You also want to think about where that passion can lead you. 

There are lots of Americans right now that believe it’s impossible to find a job that they’re passionate about. We know this because of the latest research that shows 70% of workers are disengaged from their work. Employers are very concerned about these trends because disengaged workers are demotivated, possibly demoralized, and certainly less than fully productive. 

Do you know what might shake these workers out of their apathy and disengagement? The millennials. The studies show this youthful population is actively seeking out jobs that have a purpose. Millennials want to be passionate about their careers. This article will give millennials—and other workers of any age, three tips for finding a job they can be passionate about.

Tip 1—Define Your Passion

If you’re ready to look for a career that is more than just a job, start by defining what you’re passionate about. When was the last time you became so engrossed in an activity or project you were working on that you lost track of time? Start paying attention to the little voice inside you that points you toward the true work that makes you happiest. Look around at your friends and family. Are they engaged in work they love or work that just pays the bills? Can you do both? Try to surround yourself with people that are excited about their work. What did they do that led to the job they have now? 

The first step is to ask yourself what is it that you like to do. After you’ve defined your passion, step two is to determine if it can make you a sustainable income. 

Tip 2—Put Your Passion to Work

The good news is that there are all kinds of flexible work arrangements out there today. The Freelancers Union says more than 56 million Americans had some sort of side hustle going last year—and that number is expected to grow. Side hustles can be conducted even if you hold a day job, and; the work benefits Americans not only for the extra income it brings, but it can serve as a conduit toward the passionate pursuit of a job that makes you happy. There are all kinds of platforms online that can connect you with employers. Staffing agencies can also help you with part-time or other flexible work options. But you have to make an effort to find your passion and put it to work. 

Tip 3–Consider Contracting

One of the biggest benefits of connecting with a staffing agency like Top Stack is that we help give you a taste of what’s possible in the work world. Through flexible contract arrangements with top employers, we help candidates “try it before they buy it.” For employees engaged in the passionate pursuit of what makes them happy, we have a variety of roles available that will let you explore jobs and work environments in shorter-term arrangements. Contracting is perfect for anyone interested in building their work portfolio and experiences until they are ready to settle into a longer-term arrangement. These engagements can help you determine the kind of culture and the type of work that will ignite your passion—and perhaps, even fill up your wallet. Call on Top Stack today to find out more.

“Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?” Learn How to Answer This Important Question

Some standard questions that show up in almost every interview process include, “Why are you seeking a new job?” or behavioral questions that begin with, “Tell me about a time when you…” But another common question that crops up is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” While we don’t know what it is about five years that somehow is the magic number employers have settled on, it is probably a question that you’ll want to formulate an answer to in advance. Some of the standard responses that you make think about in your head may not come across well during the interview. We’ve compiled a few responses that are polite, professional, and strike the right tone with employers.

Best Response to the Five-Year Question

The first thing to consider is where the job could take you in the future? Saying something like, “In five years I want to run this place,” can come across as sarcastic at worst and unrealistic at best. Think about the general expertise you will learn or how the job will prepare you for a move up the corporate ladder. What will the job potentially teach you, and how will that align with your personal and professional goals? Do you want to hone your managerial skills or become an expert in the industry you’re working in? 

Many people, especially those just starting on a career path, simply may not know where the job could take them. It’s fine to say you don’t know exactly what the future might hold, but you’re looking for an opportunity to broaden your skills, whether they are to become better at customer service or to learn a new piece of software.

Think about what the interviewer wants to hear from you:

  • That you’re going to stay with the company during that time.
  • That your long-term career goals fit within the corporate mission and vision.

Next, think about the company and what they value. If they offer tuition assistance and seem to value training and growth, perhaps you talk about how you’d like to go through a training program they offer or participate in a mentorship program, or maybe receive some sort of credentials or additional degree. 

The idea is for you to take your goals and filter them through the funnel of what’s valued at that company. Make the goals that you share with the interviewer relevant to the position and realistic. Skip any flippant answers like, “I want to win the lottery,” or “I want to retire at 25 from my bitcoin portfolio.” Be professional, warm, and enthusiastic. Express your commitment to the company, even though you may not be entirely sure about the position yet. 

But what if you don’t yet know what career path is open to you at the company? In this case, stick to generalities, like, “I hope to hone my organizational skills in this role.” You can talk about your personal goals, like, “I’d like to finish my BA,” or, “I want to work toward my CPA.” Certainly, don’t say you want to use the role as a stepping-stone to a better company—even if it might be true.

Top Stack can connect you with top employers and help you prep for your interview. Call now.

 

How to Follow-Up After Attending a Career Fair

Career fairs may seem a little outdated in today’s modern digital application process. But they’re great for networking and may even land you a job. This is an especially pleasing thought if you’ve been sending resumes into the digital void and coming up empty. Contrary to what you may have heard, career fairs are not just for college students; they allow qualified candidates to sync with potential employers in a comfortable environment that puts applicants face-to-face with employers. 

If you’re a job seeker, these events are worth your while. But one question we hear is, what happens after the career fair? How should candidates follow up with the recruiters and hiring managers they just met? 

This article will give you our best tips for following up after a career fair.

Get Organized for Better Follow Up

When you show up to a career fair, make sure you come armed with a nice portfolio or briefcase filled with professionally printed resumes. Many companies will want you to fill out online applications after the career fair, but the general rule of thumb is that you should give your resume with contact information to everyone you meet. 

Try to engage in as many face-to-face meetings as possible; this is not the time to be shy. Ask for business cards so you can follow up with the people you met. Also, write down the names and email addresses of employers if they don’t have a card and will share the information. Career fairs are the perfect networking event. Your job is to get out there, meet employers, and share your resume. But there is one thing you can do after the event that will leave a long-lasting impression, and that is to send a thank-you note.

Thanks for Meeting

Within 24-hours of the career fair, go through all the cards and contact information you have, and send personalized notes to the people you met. Speed is important; recruiters and hiring managers usually take a few days to wade through all of the resumes they received. If your email hits their inbox, it will be like pulling your CV to the very top of the pile. 

You don’t even need the email to be very long. Just thank the person for their time and say you’d like to connect with them over job opportunities in the future. If you can remember something you spoke about, it may make them remember the conversation, so feel free to include any details about the meeting. The tone should be concise and professional; the relationship is too new to be super casual. 

Make sure you end your email with your name and contact information and attach your resume electronically again to be sure they have it. If you visited a booth and didn’t meet anyone specifically, you can also research the hiring manager or HR coordinator of the company and send them a short note saying that you appreciated the opportunity to visit the booth at the career fair. 

Finally, as the last step, we recommend connecting with anyone you met on LinkedIn to increase your professional social networks.

If you’re looking for a job and haven’t talked to the Top Stack team, we are standing by. Contact us to be connected with great employers in your area.

 

Learn How Goal Setting Affects Your Brain

There are dozens of articles on goal setting as a tool for getting ahead in business. Goal setters seem more organized and achieve more in the workplace. Employers look for the goal-setting motivated employee. Goal setters seem to have it together more than the rest of us. But did you know there is scientific research that shows that goal-setting improves higher brain function?

Here’s what the science says about goal setting and your brain.

Setting Goals Rewires Your Brain’s Effectiveness

Goal setting is powerful. It can motivate people to build for the future and accomplish tasks they might not have thought they could. What’s puzzling is why some people seem to drift through live aimlessly and why others set and achieve goals. Top-level achievers in all industries set goals that they often achieve. How are they able to pull it all off?

A study in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Reviews proves what we’ve known all along; people that set goals are generally more together than everyone else. That’s because goal setting rewires our brains to make the component parts work more effectively. The study showed that when you set a goal, multiple parts of the brain are suddenly engaged:

  • The amygdala, which is the brain’s emotional center, evaluates the goal for how important it is to you.
  • The frontal lobe, which is the brain’s logical problem-solving portion, defines the goal and digests it.
  • Both the amygdala and the frontal lobe then work together to push you toward the completion of the goal.

As the brain moves you into situations to help you achieve your goal, the organ changes in structure to help you optimize behaviors and tasks.

Another study, this time with multiple sclerosis patients from the University of Texas, showed that MS symptoms lessened when goals were set and achieved. The symptoms of MS included severe fatigue, speech impairment, loss of muscular coordination, and numbness. These symptoms were lessened when patients set goals.

Inc. reported on another study, this time in the Journal of Applied Psychology that found people who established an ambitious goal usually achieved it. People who created a simpler goal failed to achieve it. The study suggested ambitious goals stimulate the brain more, motivating the person to accomplish the impossible. The study found the higher the goal, the more likely you would achieve it.

The Psychological Bulletin said 90% of the studies showed that more challenging goals led to higher performance. More manageable goals, “do your best” goals, or no goals did not have the same effect on the brain, or the person’s ability to achieve their goals. The article reported, “Goal setting is most likely to improve task performance when the goals are specific and sufficiently challenging.

Ironically, it should be noted that these studies suggested the brain rewiring must occur when the individual sets the goal. The brain doesn’t change when your boss or coworker sets the goal for you. Inc. reports, “All a leader can do is have ambitious, challenging goals for themselves in the hope it will inspire others to do the same.”

If you need assistance with your career goals, contact the staffing professionals at Top Stack today.

5 Ways to Advance Your Career as an Accountant

To advance your career as an accountant, you can become a CPA, find a CPA mentor, keep up with new technological developments, focus on soft skills and more.

Accounting is one of those careers that remain secure even during hard times. As a result, it’s a popular career option that allows you to work in multiple fields or as an entrepreneur if you have the skills to run your own business.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says there will be more than 1.5 million accountants by 2026, and the field has good job growth. But what kind of advancement is there for the average accountant? It turns out there are opportunities for you to go after. Here are some of the best ways to keep your career moving forward when you’re an accountant.

Start with the CPA

It’s worth the effort to land your Certified Public Accounting credential. Having a CPA behind your name can open doors, whether you’re working in finance as part of an enterprise organization, if you’re working in public accounting, or even if you start your own firm. Landing your CPA takes dedication; you must study and then pass the challenging CPA exam. Each state has slightly different requirements, and most cost somewhere between $30 to $200 per section, plus $125 to $170 for the ethics exam, and another $50 to $300 for your CPA license fee, so passing the test the first time is important. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) says you will benefit from earning the CPA designation in the following ways:

  • Earn prestige and respect from your peers.
  • Earn the ability to go after higher-level accounting roles.
  • Have more career security.
  • Have more job satisfaction.
  • Earn more money and greater benefits.

Either before or after you’ve earned your credentials, we recommend finding a CPA mentor as your second step up the ladder.

Find a CPA Mentor

A CPA mentor can help you understand the ins and outs of the profession. Look for someone you both trust and respect who can help you navigate the challenges of the profession. They will help you find answers based on their own experience, which will help you avoid mistakes that could threaten your career. You could even have more than one mentor to share information and seek advice when you’re struggling with a seemingly insurmountable problem. Make sure you recognize that the mentor/mentee relationship should be give and take, so take good care of these partnerships; they will pay off in the long run.

Improve Your Networking Efforts

Like any job, who you know is important to your career. All accountants should work hard to develop an extensive network of colleagues to help further their careers. Networking can help find new business if you’re in business for yourself, or it could help you find your next job. Given that 85% of all jobs are filled through networking and making an effort to connect with others is imperative for your accounting career.

Advance your career by networking with Top Stack. We can help you with your next career move. Contact us today.

Not Sure How to Address Your Cover Letter? We Have a Few Tips

Writing a clear and concise cover letter still matters to your job search. But so much of the application process is generic these days that you may not know who you’re sending your cover letter to. Everything is electronic and streamlined; many applications can be sent at a click of a button, which leaves something to be desired if you’re seeking a human connection with the job you’re applying for. How can you even address your cover letter if you have no idea who is on the hiring team? How can you come across as genuine and smart if all you’re left with is the generic “To Whom It May Concern?”

Here are some tips that may help.

A Little Legwork Can Go A Long Way

Sometimes the ad can help you determine how to address the cover letter. For example, it may tell you what position you’ll report to in the company. Many times, you can look at that particular role up on the company website to get the name of the person. Or, LinkedIn is a useful resource for finding someone that works at a specific company. Internet research is your friend in this area.

As you’re looking at the corporate website, try to understand the culture. If it’s very formal, your salutation should be the traditional “Dear Mr./Ms.” You may be able to just use the person’s first name, but be careful if you can’t figure out if the person is male or female. Drop any gender-specifics for names like “Robin,” if you can’t confirm the person is male or female.

But what happens if you can’t figure out the reporting structure? How can you avoid the old school “To Whom It May Concern?” Try these approaches:

  • Can you find the name of the department head under which you’ll work? While this may be a mismatch because you would report to someone below the department head, at least it shows you made an effort.
  • If you can’t find the right name to send your cover letter to, why not address it to the department itself. For example, how about “Dear Sales Department,” or “Dear Production Team.”
  • What if you can’t figure out the department head, or the department you’re reporting to? Do you have a name of a recruiter or hiring manager that’s doing the interview? Bingo! What’s wrong with putting their name on your cover letter? They’ll likely be the first one to review your credentials, anyway.
  • What about “Dear Hiring Team” as a cover letter salutation? Nothing wrong with that, unless the company calls these professionals by a different title, like, “Recruiting Team,” or “Talent Acquisition.” You can make it a little less generic by adding the name of the company. For example, “Dear Oracle Hiring Team” is a little warmer and shows that you’re not just recycling a generic cover letter. You can even add in the title you’re applying for, such as, “Dear Account Manager Search Team,” or “Dear Sales Executive Search Team.”

While these are just some of the ways you can get to the next step in the hiring process, the best thing you can do for your career today is to reach out to Top Stack. Contact us when you’re ready to jump-start your career.

The Best Questions to Ask At the End of the Interview

A few great questions to ask at the end of an interview include “Beyond the hard skills required to successfully perform the job, what soft skills would serve the company and position best?” “what have past employees done to succeed in this position?” and more.

Interviews are hard. You meet with strangers for an hour and somehow have to thrill them to the point where they offer you a job. If you’re shy or lack self-confidence, it can make the interview process awkward and uncomfortable. Even if you are the most qualified person for the role, the interview could be a slippery slope that you have a hard time with.

One of the most awkward moments of an interview can come at the end. Is there a way to neatly wrap up the discussion in a polite, professional manner that leaves the hiring managers wanting more? This article will give you some great ideas for wrapping up the conversation.

Best Ways to End an Interview

Finding the right questions to ask your interviewer shows that you have done your research and have skin in the game. This includes the end of the interview process, where the hiring team may tell you that they’ll get back to you. Instead of leaving the ball in their court, why not try one of these questions that will show the interviewers you are very interested in the position—and ready to go to work.

When the interviewers ask you, “Do you have any questions for us?” try one of these questions to leave on a positive note.

  1. Who is the ideal candidate for this position, and how do I compare?
    This is a good way to determine if your skills are even close to what the hiring team is looking for. If you don’t seem like a match, you’ll know it on the spot, so you can move on with your search instead of waiting for the company to get back to you with a “No.”
  2. What soft skills are you looking for in a successful candidate?
    Soft skills are the ones you need to get along with the team and fit into the company culture.
  3. What have past employees done to succeed in this position?
    If it’s a new role, this question doesn’t fit. But if it isn’t, this is a great question to determine what metrics you’ll be held to and what the company believes is important. It could also lead you to ask what kind of advancement is available to the person in the position.
  4. How has this position evolved?
    Again, this is another question that may not apply. It’s important to know if the person in the role before you was fired or let go. This is an excellent question to get a sense of company stability and how the firm has evolved.
  5. What would a typical day look like in this position?
    Don’t you want to know what the job really entails? This is a good question to understand workflows, who you report to, and the daily grind.

Ending your interview with these intelligent, respectful, but probing questions, is an important way to leave hiring teams with a positive impression. For more tips and tricks, why not send your resume to the team at Top Stack. We have great jobs and information to share. Contact us today.

Learn How to Connect with Your Interviewer

Making a meaningful connection with someone that you’ve just met is challenging. When it’s a face-to-face interview, you also have the pressure of somehow connecting respectfully with the interviewer in a way that lands you a new job. No pressure, right? Here’s how to connect more thoroughly on the spot with an interviewer to improve your chances of getting the job you want.

Step 1 – Prepare

Prepping for an interview is extremely important. Make sure you take the time to understand the company and the person you are interviewing with. You can find out more about the interviewer or panel of interviewers and the company on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Taking the time to understand the background of the individuals you’ll meet is just as important as understanding the kind of company you’ll be working for. Try thinking about how you will relate one-on-one to the person you are interviewing with.

The added benefit of preparing for the interview by researching background material is it will help you feel more confident and in control during the process.

Step 2 – Establish rapport

Many times it is the soft skills that will get you the job. Interviewers will measure your friendliness and communication skills. If you come across well during the interview you’ll likely interact more effectively with co-workers, clients, or managers. If you don’t establish a connection during the interview process the hiring manager or recruiter may assume you are not a good communicator or generally pleasant to deal with, so making a good first impression is highly important. Here are some suggestions for how to create rapport with your interview team:

  • Greet the interviewers warmly as if you’re happy to see them. Stand up, shake their hand, and share that you appreciate the opportunity.
  • Smile and be genuine in your interactions. Try to express positive emotions, even when the interview questions are difficult. Always be optimistic and enthusiastic about chatting with your interviewer as you share your story.
  • Make small talk by asking the interviewer or recruiter questions such as, “How is your day going so far?” Ask the interviewers how long they’ve worked at the company or whether they’ve had other roles at the company. This will help relax the interviewer and warm up the conversation.
  • Sit up straight and lean into the interview questions to show that you are engaged. Always make eye contact to show you’re listening to what they’re saying. Acknowledge that you’re listening by nodding and affirming the conversation with, “I see,” or, “I understand.”
  • Many times you’ll interview with a team of people, so try to pay attention to everyone in the room as much as you can. This is hard to do sometimes, especially if it’s one primary person doing the interview. However, it’s important to try to build rapport with everyone in the room.
  • At the end of the interview, thank everyone for their time. Follow up immediately with an email to your contact and reiterate your interest in the position.

Top Stack can put you in touch with major employers who are standing by to interview you. Practice these interview skills by reaching out to our team to see what’s available in your community. Contact us today.

What You Need to Know About Working with a Recruiter

What if you had a free human resource professional to help you find your next job? What if that resource could help you improve your resume and connect you to your next job? Recruiters can do all that, and more. If you haven’t worked with a recruiter, this article will help you understand how you can benefit from establishing this relationship.

Understanding the Role of a Recruiter in Your Job Search

Applying to jobs from a job board is like tossing your resume into a black hole. Many times you never even hear back from the company you’re applying to. If you’ve been longing for a more human-centered presence in your job hunt, it’s probably time to reach out to a recruiter and build a relationship.

Some companies have internal recruiters and you may have worked with one in the past to interview for a job at their company. But some external recruiters work for third-party staffing agencies. These firms provide additional help to companies seeking new employees. They usually have a close tie to a hiring manager and can help fill you in on the company’s long-term goals, culture, and process for employment.

Third-party staffing firms often work with several employers and the benefit is that they may hear about jobs even before they’re posted. They often have a unique insight into a company’s hiring practices. If the recruiter is a good one, they are heavily networked with the local community, which makes them a terrific resource for job seekers.

Did we mention that this is a free service? That’s because the employer pays the recruiting overhead as part of their fee when they hire a candidate. Look for a recruiter that works in your field. There are recruiting firms that work in healthcare, manufacturing, technology, and all kinds of other professions. Start by selecting a firm that specializes in the types of jobs you’re looking for. Check their website and connect with some of their recruiters on LinkedIn. Then pick your target for building a relationship that will help you find your next job.

Benefits of Working with a Recruiter

You and your recruiting partner both have the same goal in mind; finding your next great job. Here are some of the benefits of working with a recruiter:

  • They will keep your search confidential and are careful to submit your resume and pitch your candidacy to firms that are the best fit for your skills.
  • They will help you revamp your resume so you stand a better chance of finding a job.
  • Give you feedback on how you interviewed and what you need to work on or improve.
  • Share background and insider information on the company you’re considering.
  • Discuss whether your salary expectations are in line with the market.
  • Get your resume out to a huge network of employers.

If you’re looking for a job, contact Top Stack. We will find you the best recruiter who can advocate for your candidacy with employers and find you a better job.