Categories
Career

Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions

Getting a job interview can be tough! As a recent graduate, you likely don’t have vast work experience or networks to draw on. After submitting dozens of applications, you finally get a call: you have an interview! It’s time to practice for those interview questions.

Unfortunately, some interview questions are really dumb. We’ve all been there: interview questions we don’t expect, or questions so stupid you wonder why employers bother to ask them at all. Unfortunately, many companies still ask dumb interview questions, so it’s best to be prepared for them. Here are several stupid interview questions you may face and the smart way to answer them.

What Did You Not Like About Your Last Job/Boss?

This interview question is terrible for so many reasons: it tries to bait you into speaking badly about your previous employer, it may embarrass you, and it doesn’t help the company hiring you. Employers want to know about your personality and if they’ll like you, so being negative in this negative question sets you up for failure.

The smart way to answer negative interview questions like this is to be positive about what your previous jobs have taught you. If a micromanaging boss ruined a job for you, you may want to highlight how you’ve learned to communicate effectively with managers. This shows the interviewer(s) that you’ve thought about challenging aspects in the workplace but have learned how to handle them. It’s important to stay positive throughout an interview.

Tell Us Your Greatest Weakness

This stupid interview question is terrible because it’s old and won’t go away, and because almost no one tells the truth with this question. If your greatest weakness is difficulty waking up on time, you likely wouldn’t tell your future employer this.

The smart way to answer interview questions like this is to focus on the things that make you great. Use your knowledge of the company to highlight things they’re looking for in the job: writing skills, analytical skills, or technical knowledge. You can also talk about a weakness you’ve improved, which shows your tenacity and willingness to learn. Again, stay positive!

Why Should We Hire You?

This is one of those dumb interview questions that just makes you want to stare at your interviewer in disbelief. They will meet your competition. You will not. You don’t know what qualifications the others have. How could you possibly know who’s the best person to hire?

The smart way to answer this interview question is actually pretty easy. This question usually comes at the end of your interview. It’s your time to remind the interviewers why you think the position is right for you. This question is a chance for you to summarize your qualifications. A strong close will be remembered.

Tell Us Your Salary Range

This dumb interview question is sometimes asked during the interview or on your application. If you’re applying to a public sector job, you can look up salary ranges online, making this question irrelevant. If it’s a private sector job, you can try to use sites like Glassdoor.com to find salary ranges. Or there are many ways to determine what the job will pay.

This question is stupid, especially for recent graduates with limited work experience. Don’t say that $12/hour would be good enough to pay rent. You have to answer this question very carefully.

The smart way to answer this question is to say that you expect the salary to be commensurate with experience. If you can find salary ranges, state those ranges and add any experience you already have in the field to boost your salary estimate. Give them a reason to pay you more.

Where Do You See Yourself in 5/10/15 Years?

This interview question is not just stupid, but difficult. No one can predict with certainty where they will be in 5 years. You may not even expect to stay in that job for 5 years, as you could move or choose to start your own business.

The smart way to answer this question is to talk about skills you hope to acquire or improve over the next few years. If you do see yourself interested in becoming a manager, you could talk about your interest in mentorship opportunities and training. This will show your potential employers you’re interested in improving yourself, which is what they’re looking for in an employee.

It’s Time to Get out There

While many employers are moving away from stupid interview questions, you will occasionally run into them.

Above all, stay positive during negative interview questions. Employers want to hire people they can get along with. Life will always be a bit of a popularity contest.

[Tweet “”People won’t always remember what you’ve done but they will remember how you made them feel.” -Napoleon Hill”]

Originally posted 2015-10-05 10:00:48.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

National Coffee Day: How Much Do YOU Pay for Coffee a Week (And How You Can Cut That Cost in Half)

In celebration of National Coffee Day, celebrated on September 29 this year, let’s talk delicious, hot (or iced!) coffee! Coffee is one of America’s favorite beverages, with it coming in only behind water as a drink of choice.  More than 75% of Americans drink some type of coffee, from lattes to cappuccinos to plain coffee.

According to the Huffington Post, the average American drinks 2.1 cups of coffee a day. We spend an average of $3.28 per drink, a number that has increased annually since 2013.

While it seems like we all celebrate national coffee day pretty regularly, it’s worth estimating how much you pay for coffee in a week. Let’s face it, unless you’re dedicated to brewing only the most basic coffee at home every day, you’re likely spending money on coffee out. That money adds up! Here’s how you can cut your coffee consumption costs in half – and still get your caffeine fix.

Estimate Your Average Coffee Expenses

If you’re curious to see how much you spend on coffee regularly, USA Today has a nifty coffee calculator that tells you how much you spend monthly, annually, and over the course of 30 years on your coffee habit. For example, if you go to Starbucks for 2 cups of coffee a day, the calculator predicts you’ll spend $126 a month. That’s approximately $31 on coffee a week!

Of course, your expenses may vary widely. Not every day is national coffee day, so it’s likely some days you’ll make coffee at home or possibly skip it entirely. According to the USA Today Coffee Calculator, if you make 2 cups of coffee at home every day, you’ll spend $4.80 a month – basically a dollar a week on coffee.

Being aware of your regular coffee expenses will go a long way toward understanding where your money goes weekly. Here are additional ways to continue cutting those expenses, especially if you’re one of those people who has more than 2 cups of coffee daily!

Brew At Home

As the USA Today calculator shows us, you’re better off overall if you make coffee at home. The best part of brewing at home is you can be more creative in your coffee flavor choices. Every day can be experimental national coffee day when you have your own coffee machine!

By brewing at home, you can try different types of coffee (not just Starbucks – there are many coffee brands out there with very distinct and tasty flavors!), flavors, and sizes. The “tall” size you get at Starbucks may be more affordable, but you can brew yourself a giant cup at home for less than half the price.

Plan Ahead

One reason why many of us purchase coffee is lack of time. Have you ever been rushing out the door only to realize you desperately need coffee, so you swing by the drive thru on your way to work? You can cut down on these unplanned coffee runs by planning ahead.

There are a few easy steps to planning ahead. When you go grocery shopping, make sure you’ve stocked up on coffee grounds, or pods if you use a single-brew machine, flavored syrups, creamer, or half-and-half. By having everything on hand at home, you’ll be less likely to make an excuse of running to the coffee shop.

The morning you get up, stumble over to the coffee machine, put in your coffee of choice, and press “on” or “start”. Then get ready like you normally do while your coffee brews. You can even have everything pre-measured the night before, so it’s ready for you to just press “start”!

You Don’t Need a Fancy Machine

While it’s really handy to have a coffee machine you can set, so it automatically brews coffee for you at the time you choose, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on a fancy coffee machine. Keurigs are nice, handy, and easy to use, but they’re not your only choice.

Mr. Coffee is an excellent brand that makes coffee machines you can pre-set, ones for single-serve cups of coffee, and smaller sizes that fit easily in an apartment or in an office cubicle. If you simply can get up early enough to brew your own coffee at home, consider a smaller, affordable coffee pot you can use at work! None of those machines should cost you more than $30, and if you can’t afford one now, you can always ask a loved one to buy it for you on national coffee day!

Make Educated Coffee Choices

Even after purchasing your own home machine and brewing coffee there, sometimes you just can’t help going to Starbucks and buying a cup of coffee. It happens! However, you can save money by making the right coffee choices.

Instead of purchasing a grande latte from Starbucks, approximately $4, consider other coffee choices. Could you purchase a grande plain coffee, approximately $2.50, and add your own flavoring, creamer, etc.? If you’re willing to try different types of coffee, or bring your own creamer or syrups from home, you can save money by buying a plain coffee and adding to it.

Splurge When You Have Coupons or Freebies

Many coffee chains offer perks to regular customers. If you’re a regular Starbucks customer, for instance, you can download the Starbucks app and redeem rewards for free or half-priced coffees and meals. On days you’re offered these perks, it’s like a national coffee day celebration for you! Take advantage of these rewards by indulging in your coffee fix.

Use your rewards or discounts to purchase a large size of your favorite coffee, or to get your regular-sized coffee at half-price. This is a great chance for you to get your grande latte for $2 instead of the regular $4+.

 

By brewing at home, making educated choices, planning ahead, using the right machine, and taking advantage of freebies, you can cut your coffee expenses in half quickly. It may take some getting used to, especially if it’s a habit for you to visit the drive-thru every morning, but think of the savings. If you cut out just one Starbucks visit every day, you’ll save an estimated $766 in one year. Now that’s something to celebrate National Coffee Day over!

Originally posted 2015-09-28 10:00:59.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

How You Can Afford To Live On Your Own

If you’ve just graduated from college and don’t make a lot of money, you may think you’re destined to live with others forever. Whether it’s with your parents or roommates, you may think that living on your own is out of reach.

However, don’t get depressed. You’re not destined to live with roommates or your parents forever. By following a carefully created budget, you can afford to live on your own. Here are three simple steps you can take towards independence:

Create a Budget

You’ll never be able to live on your own until you know where your money goes. By creating a budget, you can determine how much money you can afford to put toward rent or owning your own place.

Creating a budget doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as listing your income and your expenses like car payment, any debt payments you make, etc. Only account for those things that you absolutely have to pay for monthly. Note: don’t include the current amount you pay in rent. That money will go towards your new place!

The difference between your income and expenses is how much you can potentially put toward living on your own.

For example, let’s say you bring home $2,000 a month:

  • Say your current expenses total $800 a month, not including current rent
  • Subtract out a small cushion, like $100-300 a month for emergencies
  • Total of approximately $1,000 in fixed monthly expenses

This means you’ll have about $1,000 a month to put toward living on your own. Not too shabby! Time to see if that budget buys you freedom.

Look Beyond Traditional Renting

Once you’ve determined a reasonable budget for your own place, it’s time to start looking for your own place! You can look in all the traditional places, like Zillow for rentals and asking friends for recommendations, but think outside the box.

In addition to looking on Zillow (or Trulia) for apartments, branch out and look at homes. Yes, like homes for sale. While you may not be able to put down any type of down payment now, some homeowners looking to sell their homes in the future offer “rent-to-own”, where you live in and pay rent on a home while saving money to purchase that home in the future.

Rent-to-own is not your only option for purchasing an affordable home. Many townhomes are the perfect size and price for single Millennials (even if single means 2 people). Townhomes are typically smaller than the average single-family dwelling and generally don’t offer large backyards. However, they’re perfect if you want to live in the city and not deal with yard maintenance. Since they’re smaller and don’t offer the amenities people with children want, townhomes are typically more affordable than other homes.

Make Extra Money

While looking for a place to live by yourself, you may realize your budget doesn’t allow you to live in a decent place and afford your other expenses. This doesn’t mean you can’t afford to live on your own, but it means you’ll have to work a little harder to be rid of those roommates.

[Tweet “Don’t like roommates? Work harder so you don’t need them.”]

The easiest way to elevate your living situation is to earn more money. If you currently have a full-time job, but find yourself with some free time, pick up another job. Your second job could be anything from waiting tables to designing logos for local businesses.

Use your skills, be they graphic design, social media marketing, or bartending, and put them to work for you. By making extra money for a few months, you may be able to save up the difference in your budget to afford a place on your own. Remember to ask for raises as you continue with your full-time job.

Even if you have to work on the side to afford your own place, you’re not destined to live with roommates or parents forever (unless you want to, of course). By being proactive and creating a budget just might buy your independence.

Originally posted 2015-08-26 10:00:54.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

10 Ways College Students Can Save Extra Money

You’re in college.
That means you’re probably broke. Like, scrounge-for-change-between-couch-cushions broke.
Like go-to-boring-club-meetings-just-for-the-free-food broke.

Most of us have been there and done that, and we want to help you save as much as you can while in college. Follow these top ten ways to save extra money while in college. Who knows – maybe you’ll even leave college with a surplus of cash.

1. Save Money on Room and Board By Bossing People Around

Room and board is one of the biggest expenses you’ll pay. Many merit scholarships don’t cover room and board  and colleges typically make you live on campus for at least the first year.
However, there are ways to reduce your expenses in this category. While not usually open to freshmen, explore the option of becoming a Resident Advisor (RA). RAs do more than boss people (usually freshmen) around . RAs are there to mediate disputes, make sure everyone gets out during fire drills, and make first years feel welcome. If you’re social, like to plan fun events, and don’t mind being “the bad guy” every once in a while, an RA is an awesome job that gets you free room and board.

2. Free, Yes I Said Free, Textbooks

You’ve heard everything about buying and selling your old textbooks online. While that common knowledge still holds true, don’t overlook the best place of all to get textbooks: the library!
Yes, not many people know, but you can borrow textbooks through your school’s library. Even if your school doesn’t have your textbook, most universities have reciprocal agreements with other schools and libraries around the state. You may have to make some calls but trust me: you will save a bundle borrowing textbooks this way.
Note that you can’t write in the book like you own it, but you can’t do that with rented textbooks and you shouldn’t do it if you buy a textbook with an intent to sell. Also, you can’t usually borrow textbooks from your library for the entire semester. However, you can renew. If there’s a hold on your book, request another copy (well in advance!) to have waiting for you when it’s time to return. You may be surprised how much librarians are willing to help you acquire the book you need – for however long your need persists.

3. Stop the Starbucks Addiction (Or At Least Reduce It)

Make coffee at home. I know, buying coffee from Starbucks before class is practically a religion, but trust me: home brews are better. Even if you’re in a dorm, you can buy a small coffee pot and brew to your heart’s content. The best part of at-home brewing? You can make as many cups as you want, all for a fraction of the price of a grande latte! Getting more and save extra money at the same time… and who said life is expensive?

4. Go In As a Group

If you have to feed yourself, either because you don’t have a meal plan or are on a limited plan, consider shopping at big-box stores. Instead of buying your own individual big-box membership, go in with friends. This will allow you to reduce the cost and allow you to purchase tons of coffee at stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. Top tip: Before you get your own membership, ask a professor if you can get a buddy pass. Often, people with memberships can get one-day access cards to the store. The professor can give you the card and you’ll get to shop – for free – at the store for a day.
Don’t want to shell out for a big-box membership? Check for high-volume discounters in your city, or outlet grocery stores. Simply do a Google search for “grocery outlet + (your city)” to find the closest store with discounted food. Don’t worry, the food is still quality.

5. Use Your Student ID

There’s a reason you still see 30-year-olds trying to use their old student IDs to get discounted movie passes: your student ID rocks! Your student ID can be used to get discounts on movies, restaurants, drinks, events in your city, and more.
[Tweet “Remember your student ID when going out! Gotta love those discounts!”]
Not sure if you can use your student ID for discounts off campus? Ask! Many places, particularly in college towns, are accustomed to giving discounts to broke students. The worst thing they can say is no!

6. Get An On-Campus Job with Perks

Work at the library (get the best books reserved first), gym (no excuse not to exercise at your free gym!), or as a tour guide for your school (you’ll never know who you may run into). Seriously, in almost every on-campus job, there’s an opportunity for you to learn, network, and improve your skills. Even if you end up hating the job, you learned something: that line of work (or that type of boss) is not for you.
Plus, who couldn’t use extra money in school?

7. Go Attend Free Events on Campus

Whether you live on campus or off, it’s worth it to check out free events. Many colleges host lectures with eminent scholars and even celebrities. These events are usually completely free to students. You’re paying for all these activities through tuition anyway, so why not use them?
In addition to lectures, your college likely offers all types of free entertainment including movie screenings, intramural sports, and free concerts. You’ll miss having all this free entertainment after graduation. Take advantage of it now!

8. Be Smart About Planning Classes

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only one-third of full-time students seeking bachelor’s degrees graduate in 4 years. More than half graduate in six years. Given the exorbitant cost of college, unless you’re given a very generous scholarship package, you won’t want to spend more money on extra class time.
If you focus and plan your class schedule 2 years ahead, you can graduate on time without taking an insane course load. Once you have your major mostly decided (hopefully mid-sophomore year), sit down with the course catalog and your major’s requirements to determine what classes you need and when they’re offered. Some classes are only offered in the spring, and may have pre-requisites. You have to get classes out of the way first before even taking that only-offered-once-a-year class. Planning is key to graduating in 4 years!
Your college adviser should help you plan out your course schedule too. Beware as good adviser’s often book fast. Schedule a meeting with your adviser early every semester, before your appointment gets lost in the shuffle.

9. Curb the Partying

No, I’m not telling you to stop partying, just set limits. If you love to go out and have a good time, by all means, keep doing it (safely). Just how about instead of going out WednesdaySaturday (or beyond), pick one day to go out and give yourself a budget. You can survive going out with $20 by planning around happy hours and discount drink nights. It might mean you’re drinking $2 PBRs or bottom-shelf rum and cokes, but you’re in college – you can deal.
Of course, the best idea is to just go out once a month and spend the other weekends having less-expensive fun with friends. Why not plan cheap events with your friends? You can have a ton of fun hosting movie nights, planning dinner parties, getting out of town for camping (and s’mores), or attending the tons of free activities put on every weekend by your school.

10. Learn How to Cook

Even dorms often have kitchens at the end of the halls. Take advantage of your broke-student status and learn a few handy meals. Stir-fry and one-pot meals are best for college students. They’re quick, easy, and don’t require a lot of clean up. Now you’ll never go hungry at 2 a.m. when the cafeteria is closed!
By following these frugal college student tricks, you’re well on your way to enjoying college while saving a little green!

Originally posted 2015-08-19 10:00:29.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

I Forgot Day: 5 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Forget to Save This Year

I bet you forgot it, huh? No, not your brother’s birthday… I Forgot Day! I Forgot Day fell on July 2 this year, and it’s a day celebrated by apologizing to people whose important days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) you forgot over the year. Don’t worry! While the day itself may have passed, we can celebrate I Forgot Day year ’round when it comes to not forgetting about saving.
We all like the idea of saving, but how many of us consistently forget to save regularly? Here are 5 tips to make sure you don’t forget to save this year:

Make Automatic Deductions for Retirement

You can’t forget it once you set it! Make saving automatic by setting up a direct deposit straight into your retirement account. How much you choose to save is up to you and your budget, but most financial planners recommend setting aside 10% per paycheck for retirement.
The best part about putting part of your paycheck into a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or Traditional IRA, is your tax status. If you set up an automatic deduction from your paycheck through work into a retirement account, this reduces your taxable income. Automatic retirement savings and less in taxes? Win-win!
[Tweet “You’ll never forget about retirement if you automate the savings process!”]

Pay Yourself First

Beyond saving for retirement, remember to pay yourself first. Come up with a system where you pay yourself first. After all, if you’re not cared for, you can’t care for anyone else. This is especially important if you’re a parent or a business owner. Don’t forget about yourself.
You can get a jump on next year’s I Forgot Day by setting up automatic deductions from your paycheck into your savings account. Again, how much you save is up to you and your savings goals, but 10% of your monthly paycheck is a good rule for your savings account. You probably won’t even miss 10%.

Make it Fun

You’ll never forget your savings goals if you give your account(s) fun names like ‘Travel to Hawaii to see the Dolphins’ or ‘My Awesome Mansion Fund’. If your bank offers you the option of naming your own savings accounts, go ahead and give them big, audacious names. Or stick with practical names, like ‘My Just in Case Fund’ or ‘Chill Wedding Fund.’ Do what makes you happy.
Whatever your goal, own it by naming it. Check on the account regularly. It’s harder to forget adding to your savings account when it bears a memorable name. Plus, we name everything else we care about – our car, our dog, our children… why shouldn’t we also name our bank accounts?

Save Your Change with a Goal Jar

Save that spare change in your pockets by setting up a goal jar. While a goal jar full of change won’t accumulate as quickly as your retirement or savings accounts, you’ll be surprised by how much money you’ll add to the jar.
You won’t forget I Forgot Day if you keep your goal jar in plain sight. Consider placing it atop a table which can be seen right when you walk in the front door. This will keep the goal jar fresh in your mind and remind you to go through your pockets or wallet for change every day. Physical reminders are powerful.

Make it a Habit

Setting up automatic withdrawals, giving your accounts fun names, and keeping your goal jar will go a long way to making saving money a habit. Beat I Forgot Day forever by making saving money a daily habit. Set a time, weekly or monthly, to check on your savings accounts and savings habits. After a few months of regularly saving habits, you’ll realize saving money can be second nature.
By making saving a habit, you’ll never need I Forgot Day to remind you to save. In fact, you’ll be so good at saving, you’ll forget I Forgot Day! That is, unless you always forget your brother’s birthday!

Originally posted 2015-08-10 10:00:32.

Categories
Career

How to Shake Hands Like a Professional

For entry-level young professionals, there are a myriad of office-related rules to follow. These are rarely talked about so it’s hard to master them as a young professional. But this is YoungFinances! We talk about taboo topics. The purpose of this post is to show you how to shake hands like a professional. Few people discuss it but it’s important to know. After all, not knowing how to make a good handshake could ruin an interview. It sounds silly but it’s true. Many people hold a lot of stake in a handshake.
You must master the art of the handshake. And I’m not using ‘art’ lightly. It takes skill to do it properly. If you don’t think so, shake the hand of a child. They don’t know how to do it well. Furthermore, go to a networking event. Many people there don’t give confident handshakes. Heck, even go to church and shake hands with the people around you. It’s not something everyone has been trained on.
[Tweet “Learning how to do a proper handshake is important. No one likes to feel like they’re shaking a dead fish.”]
But men and women can both master this skill by following the rules outlined below:

Knowing When to Shake Hands

According to Psychology Today, the old rule that communication is broken down into 55% body language, 38% tone of voice, and 7% actual words spoken, is true in most cases. Of course, some people may cross their arms because they’re cold, not because they dislike you. In these cases, it’s necessary to take into account their personal environment.
All things equal, body language is incredibly important. The statistic that most language is nonverbal (55%) is true. This means you have to approach every encounter with professionalism and confidence.
There are certain definitive times you will need to shake hands. They include:
  • Job interviews
  • Initial meetings of coworkers and your supervisor
  • Greeting and saying goodbye to business partners or clients
  • When acting as a host for an event
  • When introduced as a guest at an event

How to Properly Shake Hands

The best handshake does not try to dominate the other person but it does display strength along with respect. The best way to shake hands is to follow this basic outline:
  1. Go in straight for the handshake, with your palm vertical to the ground. Don’t put your palm over the other person’s palm, as this signifies dominance. Dominance is not something a young professional wants to convey in most circumstances. It may come off as arrogance and disrespect for the status quo. Save the palm-over-palm technique for when you’re the boss.
  2. Clasp the entire hand, curling your index finger and thumb slightly in to each other.
  3. Squeeze their hand and release after approximately 2-5 seconds. During this time, the other person may pump your hand up and down from the elbow.
  4. Make eye contact while introducing yourself. In most cases, your superior will start the introduction and offer their hand to you first. Respond with a proper handshake while making eye contact and say your name.

If you’re uncertain of the importance of proper hand shaking, realize that a poor hand shake generally reflects negatively on you.

For better or worse, many people base their assumptions about you on how you shake hands. Do you approach a hand shake professionally and decisively, or do you shy away and offer a limp handshake? Do you try to overpower your client? Or do you respectfully grasp their hand and release?

How you handle these interactions can shape how others think of you. Learning how to properly shake hands is not an insurmountable task. I recommend practicing this technique with people which you are comfortable. It takes a little practice but it can be mastered fairly quickly.
Good luck and inspire confidence!

Originally posted 2015-07-29 10:00:26.