TEN JOB INTERVIEW TIPS . . . TO HELP YOU STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
A successful job interview is the essential key in
your chain of job-search events. This important
meeting between you and a hiring manager is not
a place to talk about football scores, movie hits, or
the latest joke, though a bit of light conversation
can be appropriate as you get to know one another.
It is much more than this. It is your golden
opportunity to make a first-class impression on the
man or woman who has the power to offer or
withhold an offer for the job you want.
Therefore, it’s important to prepare for it carefully
and to stay focused while in the room answering questions, posing some of your own, and discussing what you can bring to the company that will help it grow and prosper.
From the moment you put your foot in the door till you close the door behind you when you leave, make every second count. Be your best. Do your best. Give your best. Follow the great tips we’ve included here to stand out from the crowd.
Of course you won’t walk into an interview with mustard on your tie or a broken heel on your shoe. But important as your appearance is to an interviewer, the way you speak and respond to questions is even more important.
Be prepared. How? By considering the questions that might be asked and having your answers in hand. That doesn’t mean you should memorize your responses word for word. But it does mean you should know enough about the company, its mission, and your potential place within it to be able to have a lively and high-quality conversation with the hiring manager.
It’s also wise to do a bit of role-playing with a business colleague, friend, or relative ahead of time. Dress the part. Walk into the room as you would on the ‘real’ day and conduct yourself in as professional a manner as you can so you’ll feel ready when the time comes for the interview that counts.
Avoid treating this opportunity lightly. Approach it in a way that suits your personality and comfort zone. Be warm and friendly, look the person in the eye, offer a firm handshake, and sit forward in your seat so you can stay alert.
Think ahead of time about what you want and review what you know. In other words, have your employment objective, related experience, education, and previous professional duties thoroughly memorized so you can engage in dialogue with the hiring manager without hemming and hawing.
When a person hesitates, rolls his or her eyes, or fidgets with coins in a pocket or a hemline on a garment, the interviewer will turn off. He or she doesn’t have time to waste on people who are unclear about what an interview is for and who can’t respond in a professional and courteous manner.
Therefore, it’s essential that you plan for such a meeting as you would a long-awaited vacation. Lay out on paper and in your mind the details you’ll need. Have a note card with you in case you have to refer to a couple of key words to remind you of what you intended to say. Better that than stumbling through an answer because you’re nervous or scared. Your appearance and your presentation can make the difference between a yes and a no.
If you acquired an MA degree or completed your training as a car mechanic or medical lab technician, you can work that into your conversation—even though you may have included it in your resume.
A hiring manager may have read your resume some time prior to meeting you and may not recall every detail. Therefore, it’s fine to refer to such training in a subtle way. For example, “I remember while training as a dental hygienist that it’s important to . . . ” or “One of the best experiences I had relating to training sales people at my last job was applying the principles I learned while studying for my master’s in sales and marketing.”
These are simple reminders to the hiring manager of your background and education without sounding like you’re bragging.
If a hiring manager asks you to talk about your unique strengths for a teaching position, for example, be ready to mention something specific, such as “I’ve studied the four basic personality types and that helped me more than anything when faced with individual differences in the students I dealt with at the two inner-city schools where I taught.” This is a much better response than “I have a sixth sense when it comes to students and their differences.” Refer to a trait or aspect of your training that will mean something to the hiring manager.
Also be prepared for questions that might arise from your response, such as: “What personality type are you?” or “What type am I?” You may need to go a step further than a simple one-word answer such as “Sanguine” or “Choleric.” Add a sentence or two that illustrates the traits that describe that personality type. For example, “I’m a combination of Sanguine—friendly, outgoing, encouraging––and a Choleric, one who delegates authority and gets the job done on time.” And then show how those characteristics can be an asset on the job you’re applying for.
The hiring manager may ask about your weaknesses. This is not the time or place to say, “I haven’t given that much thought,” or “I’m not sure I have any when it comes to this kind of work. I feel totally qualified for whatever comes my way.”
No one has it all together no matter how well he or she is trained or prepared. It’s more realistic and professional to refer to something that has challenged you but do so in a way that shows what you learned from it and how you’ve changed because of such and such an experience.
For example, suppose you took on a sales position but realized you don’t like ‘selling.’ Your stats were low month after month and you were in danger of losing your position. But then you sought the advice of a more experienced salesperson and he suggested that you ‘Serve, don’t sell.’ He reminded you to put the customer’s needs ahead of your statistics, and watch how that alone could transform your attitude and your sales figures. Following that event, you had a very successful quarter and eventually you were promoted to sales manager. Having this conversation with the hiring manager will convince him or her that you can handle whatever comes your way.
Suppose you’ve lost a job or you were laid off temporarily because of a downturn in the company’s business. Or perhaps you had to take extended sick leave due to an injury.
Such events can happen to anyone at any time. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Speak right up, admitting what occurred, without giving way to emotion, and acknowledging that although it was a tough time, you understand that lay-offs and accidents are part of life. But now you’re ready to resume your profession and you’re eager to make a full commitment to the job and to the company.
With such a positive attitude and an acceptance of life on life’s terms, a hiring manager will be more likely to consider you seriously. Employers are always interested in hiring people who are willing to speak the truth, leave the past behind, and make a fresh start.
It may be difficult to state with absolute clarity where you want to be five or ten years down the road. The economic downturn in recent years has proven that it’s nearly impossible to project one’s work life beyond a few months or a year or two at the most.
However, if you are asked about your long- and short-term goals, be forthright without being too specific. You can hardly say, “I plan to be store manager in five years or president of the company in ten years,” but you can say with integrity, “I plan to walk though every door that opens in this industry, especially those that lead to management—where I feel I can best use my natural and learned abilities in leadership and communication.”
That kind of response does two things. It shows the hiring manager you have a commitment to the future of a particular profession (whether sales, law, medicine, teaching, international trade) and that you are a flexible individual—one who can adapt and adjust to the changing job market.
You may consider your personal standards just that—personal. But in today’s job market where so many individuals have been brought down because of corrupt behavior, many employers are looking for people who have high standards of integrity and ethics. They want to know whom they are taking on, and how that person will respond if asked to compromise his or her beliefs or standards for whatever reason.
No job or salary or position of importance or power is worth sidestepping your personal code of ethics. In the end, that’s all any of us really has. So if you are asked to talk about your standards or how you’d respond to a proposition that would compromise the company or yourself, be truthful. “I don’t accept payment for favors.” “I treat all customers as equals.” “I delegate responsibility according to an employee’s commitment to the company and his or her record of performance.”
You don’t have to answer ‘personal’ questions about your family or religion, and most employers won’t ask such questions, but be prepared to talk about your standards as they apply to your work life.
Keep in mind that as the hiring manager is interviewing you, you can be interviewing him or her in your mind. Notice the person’s attitude, demeanor, and presence. This individual represents the company, so be on the lookout for clues that will help you decide whether or not this is the organization you want to join.
Then when the time is right, pose some questions of your own. You may want to put them in a written list so you can refer to them easily. For example, what are the vacation and health benefits, and what growth opportunities are available? Will you be working with people in other departments? If so, what will that require of you? How much leeway would you have in making decisions, exercising your creativity, responding to the demands of those around you? How soon might you be promoted to a higher position with additional responsibilities?
The important thing to remember is that the job you accept has to work for you as well as for the company. Never back away from asking your questions. Then in the event you’re offered the position, you’ll be able to accept or decline with complete confidence.
Decide what you’re worth, based on your skills, training, experience, degree, and according to the going rate for similar work in your industry. Then walk into your interview certain of the compensation you need and want, as well as your ability and willingness to do what the job requires.
Of course the hiring manager will open this subject, but don’t assume he or she has the final say. If you’re told the company has a certain limit on salaries for new employees or for people in the position you’re seeking, speak up. When you know what you’re worth and what the profession is paying for such a job, you can counter that statement and be prepared to negotiate. You won’t be able to do a truly effective job if you feel underpaid and unresolved about this essential issue––your livelihood.