Monday, May 12, 2014

Job Interviews: What The Interviewer Wants You To Know

Today we're speaking with a person who interviews people and makes decisions as to who will be hired and who will not. Pay attention to the things that can make or break your good impression:

Interview 101 - a view from the other side of the table

Preparing for the Interview

·         Just prior to your interview, reread the job description and your application.  You’ll want to be prepared to speak to your application and to the job, and it might be hard to recall what you wrote if some time has passed between when you applied and when you are being interviewed

·         Read about the company beforehand- look online, ask around, visit the building if appropriate.

·         If you are interviewing for more than one job (first of all, that’s great!), be sure you are in tune with which job it is that you are interviewing for

·         Remember that just because you meet the job requirements and have an interview, this does not mean that you have the job.  Your application says you meet the requirements.  Your interview should let the company know that you are qualified for the job.

·         Update your resume to fit the job you are interviewing for.  It’s very easy to tell when you have not done so.  Interviewers like to at least think that their job is the only one you really want.

·         Think about why it is that you want the job you are interviewing for.  This will likely be one of the first questions you are asked, in some form. 

·         Browse the internet for interview questions, and have a friend ask you a series of questions.  It’s much easier to formulate the words silently in your head than it is to spit them out.  Practice.

·         Think of some examples of times you learned something, times you had to step out of your comfort zone, times you had to stand up for someone, and/or times you tried something new.  Examples are the best way to show your personality and strengths at an interview.  There is a mantra that past performance predicts future performance.  You never know what questions you will be asked, but having some examples of work/school/home life experiences will give you the tools you need to successfully answer many questions. 

·         Also, think about at least 2 or 3 areas in which you know you could use some improvement.  This is the most dreaded question:  “what is your biggest weakness.”  It may be worded differently at the interview, but you will likely be asked about it.  Be prepared to say something (see below, under The Dreaded Questions).

Arriving for the interview

·         Plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early. Be SURE you have the right day and time-there is nothing wrong with calling ahead to confirm when you are to be there. I have actually had people show up on the wrong day and still expect to be interviewed. When possible, I have done the interview, but that lack of consideration for my schedule made up my mind for me:  I would not be hiring the person.
·         Be sure to give yourself plenty of time in case you get lost, have to wait in line anywhere, or need to stop at the restroom.

·         If you arrive more than about 15 minutes early, find a lounge to wait in or relax in your car for a few extra minutes.  While it is often a deal-breaker in the interviewer’s mind if you are late, arriving incredibly early is not good either.  It may seem like you are proving your punctuality, but it puts the interviewer in an uncomfortable position.  Remember that your interview is scheduled within someone else’s day, so that person is planning on meeting with you at your scheduled time.  Your interviewer likely has other tasks/meetings/duties before and after you, and possibly other interviews

Introduce yourself

·         Be aware of everyone you interact with when you arrive at the place of business, including other team members and front desk personnel.  Be friendly and courteous.  Instead of saying to the front desk person “I’m looking for Ms. Smith,” you might say something like “Hi, my name is John.  I have an interview with Ms. Smith at 1:00.  Could you tell me where I should wait for her?”  Often the first people you encounter will relay their interactions with you to your interviewer.  Keep that in mind.

·         When you meet the person or persons who will be interviewing you, clearly introduce yourself and shake his or her hand.  Make eye contact and smile.  Thank the person for their time. 

·         If you have brought a resume, and hopefully you have, now is the time to give it to the interviewer(s).  Don’t wait until the end of the interview, as you want to speak to your experiences/resume during the interview).

The Dreaded Questions

Ø  “What is your biggest weakness?”

§  Do not say that you do not have one or that you cannot think of one.  I warned you it was coming!

§  Put a positive spin on your answer.  Example:  “Something I have really been working on is…”  This proves that a.)  you know you are not perfect, and b.)  you are aware of your shortcomings and are actively trying to make them better. 

§  Use past reviews, manager or teacher/instructor feedback, or even comments from friends and family to create your “weakness” list.  Mention that you have considered this feedback in your response.  “My current manager told me at my most recent review that I...”  This shows that you are open to feedback and want to improve.

§  If the question centers around work and you do not have much (or any) work experience, perhaps that is your weakness.  “Since I am new to this profession, my biggest weakness is that I don’t have a lot of experience.  However, I am a fast learner, I am excited for this opportunity, I enjoy new challenges, etc, etc…”  You get the idea.

Ø  “Tell me about a conflict you have had with a coworker.”

§  Again, do not say that you have never had a conflict with a coworker.  If you haven’t had a job before or can’t think of a work related example, think about a situation with a classmate, teammate, or even a situation with a friend.  We have all had disagreements with coworkers/classmates/teammates.  If you tell me you have never disagreed with someone, I think you are lying. 

§  Put a positive spin on this one too.  “While it was stressful at the time, I learned…” or “After that experience, my relationship with that person was improved because…”  Often times, conflicts are good opportunities for learning about ourselves and others, and for learning new lessons.  It’s not a bad thing to have conflicts.  The interviewer is looking for examples of how you will handle inevitable conflicts/disagreements on your new job.

Ø  If you get really stuck on a question, ask to come back to that question.  “I’d like to think about this one a little more.  Can we come back to it later?”  A pause to think of your answer is perfectly acceptable, but if you are getting uncomfortable with how long it is taking you to find an answer, this can help you move on.  Just be sure not to skip past more than one or two questions during the interview.

Another common question at interview might be: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Your prospective employer wants to know if you intend to stay in this new position for a while. If you say you plan to take this job for 2 or 3 years and then probably move to Ohio, the employer isn't likely to bother hiring you. Neither is saying that it's close to home so it's an easy commute, or you really like the benefit package, or you're anxious to get some paid vacation. While probably true, this is not what a potential employer wants to hear from you. He or she wants to hear that you're genuinely interested and eager to get started.

 Also, considering the 'five year' question, if you say you're only doing this to 'have a job..any job" that isn't going to bode well for you, either. You can mention an aspiration to advance within the company, or some personal goal you might have, or you can say "Hopefully still doing this job, because I think it's such a good match for me."

Did you know that in some instances, employers invest over $40,000 over a period of three to four years in order to have an employee properly trained for his/her job? They are considering that kind of commitment on their part before they offer a position to someone
Be honest with yourself about the 'mechanics' of the job before you apply: Are you really OK with working different shifts, if that is in the job description and/or interview? Do you have a good idea of the salary range, and is it OK with you? Are you ready to work part time or fulltime without conflicts at home? Do you have care lined up for your children? Because the job is as listed, and you can't expect the employer to change it to suit your needs.  Some people have asked at interview and also after receiving a job offer, if they might change the hours to be worked or the pay level. The answer is no, and you wasted a fair amount of resources  by interviewing at all. If the job doesn't suit you, don't even apply.

You do not need an expensive outfit to make a good impression. You do, however, need to be dressed appropriately. A clean, crisp dress shirt and pants and a decent pair of shoes will be adequate for either men or women, although if you have a sport jacket, this does add a polish to your look. Men should wear ties.  Women should wear something modest with closed-toe shoes (this is not a place to wear something you'd wear to a wedding). Keep in mind where you would be working; if it will involve a uniform (such as in the health field), then for the interview you will wear business style clothes. Make sure your nails are clean and your hair is neat. Remember, you really only need one 'interview outfit.' The next people who interview you, won't know you've worn the same thing five times. And, fair or not, body piercings and tattoos may at the least be a distraction for a job interviewer. Remove piercing jewelry and cover tattoos if possible.

 Take some advice from someone who's seen it all: Make the best of your interview.

What would you like to ask the interviewer? If you have questions, please let your advisor know.

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