The Job Hunter’s Toolbox, by Rob Sauls
Rob Sauls, Aka: The Job Hunter answers your job hunting questions.
Question: Rob, I’ve an interview with a great company. What can I do to “ace” the intereview?
Rob’s answer: Congratulations on landing the interview. I hope you get a call back and receive an offer that meets your needs.
Now, that you have just landed an interview for a seemingly wonderful job! Now what? Successful interviewing is essential in order for you to lock in an offer. Here are some tips and strategies for effective interviewing. First, here’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone and if you do tell, you didn’t hear it from me. The secret is about the hiring managers- most don’t know what they are doing when it comes to conducting an interview! Just a few hiring managers have received training other than being handed a book of questions from their companies human resources department. The hiring manager has to follow the company’s set questions in order to avoid discrimination lawsuits. Believe it or not, knowing that most hiring managers are not trained interviewers gives you an advantage if you do your homework.
Your homework begins with Researching the Company. Research should always be your first step. Gathering background information on employers is a crucial element in successful interview preparation. You will need to be prepared to answer the questions "What do you know about our company"? and "Why do you want to work here?" Knowing as much as possible about the company's past performance and future plans can make your interview more interactive and could be just the leg up you need in a competitive job market. Before the interview review the company’s web site and don't be afraid to contact your prospective employer to request details on the position you are interviewing for or to ask for company literature. Google the company to see what other information is available online.
Practice Makes Perfect. Practice makes perfect (or at least leads to improvement). Practice with a friend and record or videotape your responses so you can replay the interview and see how well you did. Prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Here are some questions you're likely to be asked, and how I have learned to answer them. In next week’s article, we will take a look at a few more questions and focus on interview preparation dos and don’ts. Remember, being interviewed is a skill, and if you do the preparation you should ace it every time.
1. So, tell me a little about yourself. I'd be very surprised if you haven't been asked this one at every interview. It's probably the most asked question because it sets the stage for the interview and it gets you talking. Be careful not to give the interviewer your life story. You don't need to explain everything from birth to present day. Relevant facts about education, your career and your current life situation are fine.
2. Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)? This should be a straightforward question to answer, but it can trip you up. Presumably you are looking for a new job (or any job) because you want to advance your career and get a position that allows you to grow as a person and an employee. It's not a good idea to mention money at this time in the interview, it can make you sound mercenary. And if you are in the unfortunate situation of having been downsized, stay positive and be as brief as possible about it. If you were fired, you'll need a good explanation. But once again, stay positive.
3. Tell me what you know about this company. Did you do your homework before you go to the interview? Whether it's being the VP of marketing or the mailroom clerk, you should know about the company or business you're going to work for. Has this company been in the news lately? Who are the people in the company you should know about? Do your homework, it will make you stand out as someone who comes prepared, and is genuinely interested in the company and the job.
4. Why do you want to work at XY&Z Company? This should be directly related to the last question. Any research you've done on the company should have led you to the conclusion that you'd want to work there. After all, you're at the interview, right? Put some thought into this answer before you have your interview, mention your career goals and highlight forward-thinking goals and career plans.
5. What relevant experience do you have? Hopefully if you're applying for this position you have a toolbox of related experience, and if that's the case you should mention it all. But if you're switching careers or trying something a little different, your experience may initially not look like it's matching up. That's when you need a little honest creativity to match the experiences required with the ones you have. People skills are people skills after all, you just need to show how customer service skills can apply to internal management positions, and so on.
6. If your previous co-workers were here, what would they say about you? Ok, this is not the time for full disclosure. If some people from your past are going to say you're a bore, you don't need to bring that up. Stay positive, always, and maybe have a few specific quotes in mind. "They'd say I am a hard worker" or even better "My manager has always said I am the most reliable, creative problem-solver he has ever met."
7. Have you done anything to further your education/experience? This could include anything from night classes to hobbies and sports. If it's related, it's worth mentioning. Obviously anything to do with further education is great, but maybe you're spending time on a home improvement project to work on skills such as self-sufficiency, time management and motivation.
8. How are you when you're working under pressure? Once again, there are a few ways to answer this but they should all be positive. You may work well under pressure, you may thrive under pressure, and you may actually enjoy working under pressure. If you say you crumble like the last cookie in a cookie jar, this is not going to help you get your foot in the door.
9. What's your greatest strength? This is your chance to shine. You're being asked to explain why you are a great employee, so don't hold back and do stay positive. You could be someone who thrives under pressure, a great motivator, an amazing problem solver or someone with extraordinary attention to detail. If your greatest strength is looking busy while not doing anything, keep it to yourself. The interviewer is looking for work-related strengths.
10. What's your biggest weakness? If you're completely honest, you may be kicking yourself in the butt. If you say you don't have one, you're obviously lying. This is a horrible question and one that politicians have become masters at answering. They say things like "I'm perhaps too committed to my work and don't spend enough time with my family." Please, let's keep your feet on the ground. If you're asked this question, give a small, work-related flaw that you're working hard to improve. Example: "I've been told I occasionally focus on details and miss the bigger picture, so I've been spending time laying out the complete project every day to see my overall progress."
In next week’s article, we will take a look at a few more questions and focus on interview preparation dos and don’ts. Remember, being interviewed is a skill, and if you do the preparation you should ace it every time.