SUCCESSFUL JOB INTERVIEWING
SUCCESSFUL JOB INTERVIEWING
Interviewer: Do you understand? George: I enjoy understanding.
source: George Costanza (Jason Alexander) during interview, Seinfeld
Often, you may be asked during an interview a question about your greatest weaknesses. Be careful of this dangerous question. Usually answer with a minor weakness, such as you are overmethodical. This minor weakness bolstered with a comment about you often working long hours for the firm will suggest you are a team player and willing to go the extra mile. You don't have to be so honest that you reply: "I find it difficult sometimes to get up in the morning and get to work." That sends up all kinds of bells and whistles in the prospective employer's mind and may deny you further interviews or a chance at the position. We can be too honest in this world; that honesty as commendable as it may be sends signals to a prospective employer you never intended. I am not asking you to lie; simply make sure how you tell the truth.
You are judged when you enter a job interview on the first 30 seconds. You will be evaluated from head to toe. Therefore, as you hear me say on all the links, dress for success. If you are a woman, are you relatively free of most accessories, especially the ones that jingle? If you are a man, have you made sure your shoes are shined and your hair is combed? If you are a woman, have you made sure to wear a skirted suit? As John Molloy, the famous advocate of Dress for Success, suggests, dress for one position better than the one you are applying for.
If you are think you are good at job interviewing, try these questions from Martin Yate's Knock 'Em Dead:
- What is your energy level? Describe a typical day.
- Describe a difficult problem you have had to deal with.
- How do you take direction?
- How did your boss get the best out of you?
- How have you benefited from your disappointments?
In the videotape, Successful Job Interviewing, published originally by Business Week Careers magazine, the following question was raised:
- Where do you want to be in five years?
Recently, I had the privilege of listening to the opening moments of a job interview. The student, apparently, was going for a position in an aerospace company with heavy technical emphasis. The interviewer started out by explaining the products of the organization. I detected certain problems in the interviewing process immediately:
Then, suddenly, the interviewer turned the tables on the interviewee and asked: "Do you have any questions about what has been said?" I waited patiently for the student to respond with product know-how. The student should have been reading articles about this company in selected business journals and magazines. Instead, the student said: "No, not really." I was stunned by the response. What did the student forget about the interview?
- The interviewer matter of factly explained the products.
- The interviewee did not ask any questions and simply listened to the long explanation.
- Always do your homework before going to the interview.
- Explain to comment on the products and services to show you are becoming aware and knowledgeable.
The interviewed student should have started talking about the products and explaining what he would like to learn. The interviewer would have been impressed with the ability to dig out information and comment. The interview ground to a dead halt because of the interviewee's response.
Then, another major faux pas occurred in the interview. The second interviewer now took over and explained that the position involved computers and technical work. The position could be a steppingstone to more important work. The interviewed student should have picked up on the interviewer's remarks and explained what computer knowledge he possessed. Then, an effort should have been made to mention the interviewee was willing to start at a lower position and learn the in's and out's of the company. Golden opportunity after golden opportunity was lost because the interviewee did not pick up on the probes from the interviewers. I would not hire the candidate, because he expressed little enthusiasm and did not volunteer valuable information about how he could contribute to the firm.
Before you freeze going into the job interview(s), think about what preparation you can make. First, consider investing in the book, Knock 'Em Dead: The Ultimate Job Seeker's Handbook (current edition), or any suitable job search or interviewing handbook. Look over the kinds of questions that might be asked. One of my former students posed the following question he might be asked in an interview: "You currently work for one of our divisions. Why are you interested in changing to a larger division? I thought you were happy with your job opportunity." Before you gulp at such a question, consider it might be asked in some form. You have to respond positively:
"My human resources person has suggested that even more opportunities exist higher in the parent firm. I am happy with my current status as the excellent work record attests, but I see even more opportunities for contributing to your fine organization. It is not dissatisfaction, but an opportunity to serve even more interests in this firm."
Think about: Respond positively and take time to consider your answer. Even though the interviewing books may not have all the questions, you need to practice possible responses. Make sure the responses do not sound canned.
One of my older students questioned me about an interview question he was asked at a job fair: "Why do you want to work for a small firm?" At the time he was interviewing with the Big Five accounting firms and smaller firms. He visited about 15-16 booths during the day. He asked me if his response were appropriate. He had stated in answering the question about small firms: "A small firm gives you a range of departments, such as tax, auditing, and so forth. You are able to experience numerous kinds of accounting transactions as opposed to specializing in one branch for a large corporation." I thought his answer was excellent.
Think about: He did not put down the large firm. He immediately saw the value of showing his flexibility and adaptability. He answered what the employer wanted to hear. Further, he showed he understood the major differences between large and small firms. This interviewee understood the profession.
Job interviewing preparation requires considerable thought. Even when you think you know the most about the interviewing process, along comes an idea you may not have considered. Many of my ideas come from National Business Employment Weekly, a publication of Dow-Jones & Company. It has some of the most pertinent advice you can read anywhere. The articles are usually written by career search professionals who have been there.
In an article, "Getting Interviewers to Really Like You," the author, Douglas B. Richardson and vice president of Key Executive Services for Right Associates, Inc., suggests we often spend too much time preparing for all the possible questions. We find, instead, in the interview that we have "to play it by ear." Sometimes we get muddled in expressing a particular idea. Interviewers, according to Richardson, look for credibility. Are the interviewers getting what they really see?
Suppose you are not sure what to say next. Richardson immediately sees the difference between the lyrics and the music in the interview. You may say: "Mr. or Ms. Jackson: I have really been keyed up about this interview, and it really shows." Here you are putting a human face on the interview. You are admitting you don't have all the answers. Such a suggestion allows you time to pause and get your thoughts better organized. The interviewer may appreciate your honesty and seeing the credibility you exhibit. I am not recommending you use this tactic when you don't have any qualifications to mention. You still need the credibility of qualifications. Check the August 24-30, 1997 now defunct National Business Employment Weekly for additional ideas by Richardson.
At a recent PHIRA meeting, Roselle Kasten, Director of Human Resources, for TECOM, a manufacturer of wireless telecommunications for the military, commented on the kinds of questions that might be asked during a job interview. She stressed it was most important to rehearse for the interview. Your answers--I might add--don't have to sound memorized, but they should be rehearsed. She provided approximately 17 different questions that might be asked during a job interview. You may find the information about practice makes perfect on the web links. Mrs. Kasten emphasized not talking too much during the interview. Answer the question and stop. You don't have to elaborate forever. Always tell the truth, because the employer will end up checking. Here are some additional questions that you might ponder:
- What are you looking for in this job that you haven't had until now?
- Tell me about a time when you had a stressful situation and how you solved it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to former Professor John Yudelson of our Management Department talk about the factors in interviewing. First, I observed he presented much common sense. You could tell he had been there from both sides of the desk. He echoed some of my own thinking gleaned from books, lectures, and experience. Interviewing should never be taken for granted.
BONUS QUESTION--FIFTH WEEK/SIXTH WEEK. Note: All fifth week bonuses also include the sixth week. You may answer once.
You have become aware of a book by Harvey Mackay, Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty. In this book Mr. Mackay developed the concept: Your best network will develop best from what you do best. What do you think Mackay meant by this idea? Can you think of instances (explain) in your own life where you have applied this idea?
Think of the interview as a conversation. As Professor Yudelson said, you are talking to someone, and you are selling a product, you. You have to match your needs to the company's needs. You are giving information, and you are receiving information. First, you need to find information. The Internet may now become one of your best friends. See if the company has an Internet site. How extensive is the site? Is the company publicly traded on a stock exchange? I liked Yudelson's advice: Pump the company for everything you have got. The first advice still remains:
Do your homework.
MAKEUP--FIFTH WEEK (DAY AND NIGHT STUDENTS)
Assume you are in an actual job interview. You are asked to answer the following questions, and keyboard your answers on a separate sheet of paper.
- Use five different words to describe you.
- Think of your last position or job. Give a specific example of how you were successful on that job.
When you have finished keyboarding these answers, please turn them in the next class period.
We live in a commuting world. Therefore, you have to worry about whether you are going to be late to the interview. Therefore, how do you avoid such an experience? Go to the intended interview location a week early. Check out the place and become observant. Ask the receptionist or secretary about the company. Show interest. Never get anyone mad by the kinds of questions you ask. Observe how long it took you to drive to the location. What kinds of problems did you have with parking? How will these parking issues during the actual interview affect your arriving on time? I will never forget an interview I was late for. The parking was horrendous, and I did get lost. The company still gave me the interview and the employment test, but I knew my chances of being employed were nill. However, if I had listened to Professor Yudelson, all these concerns would have been checked out in advance.
See how the people are dressed within the organization. Does the attire appear casual or quite formal? How do people wear their hair? Check the facial hair with the regular hair. When I listened to a recent TV program, "Revolution in a Box," on Nightline, I observed the casual style of many Silicon Valley firms. That is a tipoff about what kind of environment in those firms you might experience when becoming employed.
As with all communications, job interviewing requires a great deal of listening. Listen carefully to the questions that are asked. Pause for your responses. Think about what the interviewer is really asking. Decide how you want to answer the questions. Suppose you are asked how many children you have. That is technically an illegal question. You might reply be asking "why" that question is being asked. Does that question have a particular bearing on the job application? You may decide to simply answer the question, because you recognize you are dealing with a small firm. The small firm has probably not checked out whether that question can be asked. Be careful about worrying you won't get an offer. That is a natural response, but you have to interpret the question asked.
Professor Yudelson, now with Burt Decker Communications, has recommended you should never quit a job. Don't quit the job unless you are in physical danger. I would add a caveat. You should never quit a job until you have another one in your back pocket. You are usually in a tough position explaining about previous employment. As former Professor Yudelson phrased it, you have to explain the quitting was not your fault. You can turn your quitting into a positive statement. You had to quit your part-time job to go back to school. You could say you are looking for a full-time job as you finish your last semester. Focus on the career, not the job. How does this position you are applying for fit with your career plans?
A recent conversation in a elevator between two students caught my attention. The students were talking about their upcoming mock interviewing. One male student told a female to not ask questions in the interview that could be found by doing research. That became such good advice for the female student. How often have you pondered asking a question where the answer could be found in the company's annual report? How often have you thought about asking a question that could be found in the company's benefit literature? Always do your homework. Ask questions that cannot be found somewhere else. Ask questions that are penetrating. Ask questions that show you care about the company. Ask questions where the answer is not readily apparent. Take that student's advice about doing your homework. Overlearn the company's mission, its products, its services, and its environment. Be prepared with well thought-out questions that will penetrate the cloak of interviewer indifference.
The screening interview, your first interview with this large firm, is going well. You are being interviewed by three different people. One of these individuals suddenly comments after you answer a question: "Do you have anything else to say?" You pause thoughtfully and say: "Not really." You may have killed your chances to be invited for a second interview at this point. It is so subtle. You could have avoided this possibly embarrassing situation by having the old 5 x 3 card handy in your head. Before the interview, jot down or have ready five comments you want to make when the inevitable question is asked: "Do you have anything else to add?" At that point, you may reiterate your qualifications or provide additional information you want to express. The interviewer is probably looking for your creativity, your originality, and your ability to think on your feet. Don't disappoint this person by not adding something. The interviewer is giving you a chance to "shine." Warm that person's heart and get your second interview.
One of my students recently had an interview with a major city fire department. During the course of the interview this student was asked: What have you invented in the last five years? No matter how much preparation you may have done for the interview, certain questions can throw you.
Most of us freeze with the previous question. Don't do that. Think what my student did. He rose to the occasion by saying he reinvented himself and going on to explain that endeavor. The student proved his mettle under fire. You could also think about how you invented certain ideas in the last five years. Above all, pause, and answer the question. Don't leave the interviewer(s) thinking you can't or won't answer the question. Every question in an interview deserves some kind of response. Think like my student; think on your feet.
Invariably, the questions will turn to your weaknesses. Obviously, you don't say you possess no weaknesses. You are justified, according to Professor Yudelson, in saying you have limited experience. I would also add you can talk about minor weaknesses. You can say you are overly methodical. Most people expect you to avoid saying, "I work too hard." As Professor Yudelson would phrase it, that statement possesses whiskers.
At a recent student PHIRA (Human Relations) meeting, a speaker from a human resource company and temporary agency, talked about the Do's and Don'ts of good interviewing. She has given her permission to excerpt those remarks on this web page.
Do's for the Interview
For these different types of interviews I am indebted to Laura DeCarlo (given permission), current President of Career Directors International and an authority on job interviewing. The lunch interview is exactly what it says. It occurs during a meal. You are on display during that meal. Employers are interested in whether you salt and pepper everything before eating. They want to know whether you order something greasy. They look carefully at your table manners. More important, you have to remember this admonition: You are not there to eat. You are there to make pleasant conversation and answer questions.
- Do arrive on time.
Comment: You should consider arriving perhaps, even an hour early for your interview. That will give you time to check out the place and its people. In the waiting area or lobby, you may check out the comings and goings of the people. You will soon sense what kind of place you might be working. The speakers at that PHIRA meeting urged individuals to arrive at least 15 minutes early for the interview.
- Do ask intelligent questions. Do your homework.
Comment: Talk to the receptionist beforehand about what the company manufactures or produces. Find out its services. Check the annual report, if a publicly held company, in your library.
- Use a firm handshake.
Comment: Shake that web-to-web grasp. Don't break off the other person's hand. Avoid, at all costs, a limp, wimpy handshake. If you perspire too much with your hands, wash them before going into the interview. Also, consider holding them at your sides to let some of the moisture evaporate.
- Use small talk effectively.
Comment: A good interview will bring out your understanding of the job and the situation. A good interview will ask you whether you had any difficulty reaching the firm. How was the traffic? What did you think of the roads? Questions of that kind "break the ice." They allow you and the interviewer to make small talk. Be prepared to answer questions, but don't give too much information. I watched a mock interview where the applicant didn't even give his last name. That is a no-no. Give your first and last name to the interviewer, when it is requested.
- Bring extra copies of your resume.
- Bring references.
- Dress for the interview, not the position. Wear that uniform.
- Confirm your interview and directions.
- Be sure to get their business card.
- Learn something about the company before you go.
- Be prepared to talk about each position you have worked and what your responsibilities were.
- Look interested when listening to the interviewer.
- Send a thank-you note/letter/e-mail after the interview.
- Establish eye contact throughout the interview.
Don'ts for the Interview
- Be late.
- Talk negatively about any past job and manager or coworker.
- Forget you are interviewing with the company; treat everyone with respect.
- Wear too much cologne or perfume.
- Chew gum.
- Forget to say thank you at the end of the interview.
- Forget to take a pen and paper.
- Talk about salary requirements in the first interview, unless asked by the prospective employer.
Certain strategies should be employed in a lunch interview, according to Mrs. DeCarlo:
Travel interviews usually occur with the airlines, but these types may not confined to that industry. Usually, the company will send you a ticket and ask you to appear at a certain time. It might not be a bad idea to ship your clothes ahead that you plan to wear at the interview. That is, you are assuming some problems may occur with your luggage.
- Don't order the most expensive item on the menu
- Signal for a moment to chew if questioned with a full mouth.
- Treat the server staff with respect; don't send the food back.
- Don't ask for a "doggie" bag.
- Ignore the bill if it is set next to you.
- Avoid messy foods like ribs or past (bib is not a good idea).
- Avoid a smacking speed, and practice good dining manners.
Mrs. DeCarlo recommends you should plan to stay overnight, unless concrete information to the contrary has been given. The point is leave enough time for any contingencies. If you are driving instead of flying, do a dry run to the place of business a few days beforehand.
Some other suggestions help on flying. Don't fly in the morning or or try to predict an end-time to fly out. The company may want you to take a company tour and meet other executives who will want some of your time. For driving instructions, don't forget www.maps.com or mapquest to help in your trip interview plans.
You are on display once you enter the airport. You never know who may be evaluating you before you board the plane and when you deplane at your destination. A travel interview can be quite taxing, if you are not prepared for the ins and outs of the actual traveling.
Have you ever seen how couples are learning to know each through speed dating on television? Similar principles apply in speed interviewing. You could have as many as 14 mini-interviews of 15 minutes apiece in a row. These interviews, according to Mrs. DeCarlo, usually concern entry/lower level employees, but the emphasis could be for higher level, too.
Again, you need some kind of strategy for surviving the speed interview:
- Never let them (the employers) see you sweat; stay calm and upbeat, and remember: It's a first impression just like a date.
- Maintain consistency in your answers from interviewer to interviewer.
- Absolutely be prepared with concrete answers to questions.
You can see that consistency makes all the difference. Interviewers will later compare answers, and you want your answers to ring true. As in speed dating, put your best foot forward and answer directly. You want to appear in control. People will make flash judgments about you.
Last updated Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Please check the home pages, especially the resume and employment communications, ethics, and etiquette links for additional information.
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