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Opinion Editorials

The interview tool for shorter attention spans: Sound bites!

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Let’s talk about an unexpected tool you should definitely be using during interviews – sound bites. It may sound intrusive, but there’s ways to do it right.

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Business woman holding her hand to a headphone as she listens to important sound bites.

There’s a brilliant Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin tells his dad he only wants ten second sound bites for all future communication as “a new policy in this house.” “I don’t want to hear any reasons, explanations, subtlety, or context.” Predictably, this is met with angry backlash from his dad, with Calvin concluding so much for that policy.

But let’s not dismiss sound bites – they are an incredibly effective tool when it comes to making a direct point, and there’s no shortage of instances where they can be leveraged with great results. Sound bites are takeaways – little bits of boiled and stripped down data that reveal powerful, memorable cores. They are succinct yet captivating, intentionally driving home a clear message.

See also: Elevator pitch, media training, literally everything on Twitter, quotations (I like to think of movie critics here), abstracts of abstracts, and dating profiles (ugh). They are built to grab attention, deliver a specific idea, and leave themselves etched in someone’s mind. And they are wildly useful for job interviews.

Attention spans keep falling, and you’re already in a high pressure situation when you’re doing a job interview because you have to sell yourself as the best candidate for a contested position. Politicians and other persons of influence and power have relied on this tactic for ages, generating a rallying cry that unites through simple and straightforward rhetoric. Even the great speeches of Shakespeare are frequently distilled down to singular lines and phrases against their majestic choirs of thoughtful composition.

Let’s take a look at some ways you can craft a worthy soundbite to give you an edge during your next job interview:

Vivid figures of speech and other literary devices: Similes, metaphors, and analogies all function as fancy comparisons between different elements. If possible, avoid overly used examples – “busy as a bee” – and instead substitute something a bit more organically derived. There’s no harm in using tried and true idioms, but putting your own personal spin – perhaps using another area of interest – can help here. Anyone can increase profits, but cleverly saying your impact causing meteoric rises paints a nice picture.

Triples: There’s an old law in comedy that you should do things in threes. Listen to any sitcom and you’ll hear this – characters will frequently list off several throwaway jokes rapidly to focus the audience. Talk about how your work did positives x, y, and z, as this helps provide background and illustrate how you succeed in multiple areas simultaneously.

Superlatives: This might be a bit more obvious, or perhaps seen as disingenuous, but it never hurts to put a stamp on your contributions as the peak of performance. Using -est words (strongest, best, etc.) or directly making comparisons where your work excelled may seem potentially hackneyed, but people will listen to these and remember that hey, this person was at the top of their game in a competitive environment.

Repetition: A powerful phrase that can link together your objectives, goals, and accomplishments can build a strong association. If you know you’re going to be the best in a particular area, try to emphasize that aspect of yourself frequently. It helps if you can link this to related duties for the position, as it shows consistency and dependability.

Clear Goals: Don’t walk into an interview unless you have practiced distinct and specific messaging that is built around goals you know will relate to the job at hand. You should always be building your case in a way that is relevant to the company, position, and – if you’re quick enough – to the interviewers. Knowing what you can bring and how this will help the company will always give you an edge.

Practice, practice, practice: I wrote it out three times, so you know it’s important. Once you’ve got your angle and how to present it in a catchy way, continue to practice it. It’s an extension of you, and it should never appear otherwise. You’ve got a powerful phrase to pepper in – don’t trip up on it!

While not directly related, know that no matter how intimidating an interview is, you are in control – the interviewer is there to listen to you and learn all about you.

I frequently tell people that this is the same as giving a speech – yes, it’s an incredibly scary thing, but the first step toward getting comfortable is to know that you are unquestionably able to control and maintain the situation. This isn’t meant to make someone anxious or nervous – it’s meant to instill a sense of hey, they have to listen to me and I’m going to exercise the freedom that comes with knowing I’m in charge.

Of course, if you think you need more help than just juicy bits, always know that there’s a lot of resources out there that can help you with your interviews. I don’t want to tell you to pin everything on a morsel of yourself – I’m just saying that sound bites are effective when used in tandem against a greater backdrop of tips, tricks, methods, and proven strategies.

Sound bites help you maximize the amount of time you have and elevate you above others. You want to walk into an interview with your prepared remarks and materials, and you want to leave the interview with the confidence that when your name comes back up in consideration, there’s a strong and immediate correlation in the interviewer’s head (and hopefully isn’t centered around “had a mustard stain on their shirt”).

Maybe a cynical take is that you’re reducing yourself down to a few words or a single sentence that can’t capture every facet of your abilities, personality, and experience. But that’s the beauty of the sound bite – you’re not so much minimizing yourself as you are revealing your absolute best traits, all polished up and shiny.

It’s like getting a song stuck in someone’s head, only it’s a song they really like and the lyrics are all about how great you are. Who wouldn’t want that kind of branding?

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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Opinion Editorials

Have an in-person job interview? 7 tips to crush the competition

EDITORIAL) While we all know the usual interview schtick, take some time to really study for your next face-to-face job interview.

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Job interview between two women.

So, you’re all scheduled for an in-person interview for a job you’d kill for. It’s exciting that you’ve made it to this step, but the question is, are you ready? Especially with remote interviews being the new norm, your nerves may feel shaken up a bit to interview in person – but you’ve got this! And many of these tips can be applied no matter the interview setting.

We all know the basics of a job interview: dress nice, get there early, come prepared, firm handshake, yada, yada, yada… However, it’s good to really sit and think about all of the requirements of a successful interview.

There are seven steps for crushing a face-to-face interview. Do your homework upside down and inside out in order to walk into that room.

Which brings us to the first step: know everything you need to know backwards and forwards.

This can be done in two steps: getting to know the company and getting to know yourself. By doing website, social media, and LinkedIn research, you can get a feel of the company culture as well as the position you’re interviewing for.

By getting to know yourself, have a friend ask you some interview questions so you can practice. Also, take a look at your resume through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you. Make sure everything is clear and can compete with other candidates.

The next step is to anticipate solving future problems. Have some insight on the department that you are interviewing for and come prepared with ideas of how to better this department. (i.e. if it’s marketing, give examples of campaigns you’ve done in the past that have proven to have been successful.)

Step number three requires you to go back to the research board and get some information on the employer. Find out who you’re meeting with (head of HR, head of the department, etc.) and make your self-presentation appropriate for the given person.

Next, work on making the interview conversation a meaningful one. This can be done by asking questions as people like to see you take an interest in them. Also, be sure to never answer the questions as if it’s your regular spiel. Treat each job interview as if this is the first time you’re presenting your employability information.

With this, your next step is to have stories prepared for the job interview. Anecdotes and examples of previous jobs or volunteer/organization experiences can help bring life to an otherwise run-of-the-mill resume.

After this, you’ll want to make sure that you’re showing enthusiasm for the position you’re interviewing for. Don’t jump on the couch in the lobby like you’re Tom Cruise on Oprah, but definitely portray that you’re excited and up for the challenge.

Lastly, make a good impression by being impressive. Be professional and in control of your body language. Put yourself in the mindset of whatever position you’re interviewing for and show them that you have what it takes.

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Opinion Editorials

The benefits of remote work are just too good to overlook

(EDITORIAL) Employees scream it from the rooftops and businesses don’t want to admit it: Remote work is just too beneficial to pass up- and here’s why.

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Work from home written with scrabble letters.

Remote work has been rising in popularity in the past several years. Especially following the COVID-19 global pandemic, more companies saw significant benefits for both their business and their staff that went beyond the realm of finances by allowing remote labor.

Less happily, many people lost their job during the pandemic, but they ended up having more time to put toward their passions or were compelled to get creative with their remote business ideas to ensure a consistent stream of income.

If you remain on the fence about allowing your employees to work remotely, or are considering a career shift yourself, take a look at the top four benefits of working remotely, which may sway your decision.

Better Overall Quality of Life

Allowing your employees to work remotely doesn’t necessarily mean they work from home full time. There are benefits to having your employees work in an office part of the time – say, two or three days – and working from home, in more familiar surroundings, the rest of the week.

In this way, your workers enjoy some freedom and independence while retaining the ability to interact face-to-face with their peers. That provides human interaction, which can play a substantial role in terms of improved mental health for your staff.

Happy employees means healthier employees, which can save your outfit money in the form of healthcare costs and lost productivity. But we will get further into the cost-saving benefits a little further on.

If you’re a remote worker, you should see yourself becoming significantly more productive. But why would this be the case if you don’t have a manager over your shoulder watching your every move?

It’s true that when employees have a greater sense of independence, they also experience a significant sense of trust on the part of their employers and managers. This is one of the huge benefits of working remotely because it has a trickle-down effect on the quality and overall production of people’s work.

Can Work Anywhere with Internet

Whether you are a small business owner or have crafted your work to tailor toward a life of remote labor, this is an opportunity for someone who has dreamed of being a digital nomad. You have the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have access to the Internet. If you love to travel, this is a chance to spend time in various places around the globe while continuing to meet your deadlines.

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Set Your Own Hours

In some cases with remote businesses, you have the freedom to set your own hours. Content writers, for instance, tend to enjoy more flexibility with regard to when they work because a lot of what they produce is project-based rather than tied to a nine-to-five schedule.

When you’re a business owner, this can be incredibly useful when you outsource tasks to save money. You can find a higher quality of performance by searching for contractors anywhere in the world and it doesn’t limit you to workers who live near to your office.

Saves Everyone Time and Money

 In the end, remote work typically saves money for every person and entity involved. Businesses save costs in terms of not having to pay for a physical space, utilities, Internet, and other expenses. This allows you, as the owner, to spend more of your income on providing quality software and benefits for your employees so your operation runs more smoothly and efficiently.

According to FlexJobs, employees or remote business owners may save around $4,000 on average every year for expenses such as car maintenance, transportation, professional clothing in the office, or even money spent dining out for lunch with coworkers. Eventually, the costs add up, which means extra money in your pocket to take that much-needed vacation or save up for a down payment on your first home.

These benefits of working remotely only skim the surface. There are also sustainability factors such as removing cars from the roads and streets, because people don’t have to travel to and from an office; or employees missing fewer workdays since they have the ability and freedom to clock in from home.

Weigh the pros and cons as to whether remote work is right for you as a business owner or online professional. You might be surprised to find that working from home for more than the duration of the pandemic is worthwhile and could have long-lasting benefits.

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