Get Ready for Your Next Interview
Posted July 29, 2007 in Business, Lifestyle
Sometimes getting a job can be harder than doing the actual job itself. How many times have you said, “I’d be perfect for that position” only to miss the opportunity? There are a lot of keys to getting the job you want – networking, a strong resume and cover letter, etc. The final step and the one you have the most control over is the interview. Interviewing is a skill unto itself and being good at it can be the difference between getting the money you deserve and spending your time looking for the next opportunity.
I recently had an interview for a position I was very interested in. I hadn’t interviewed in a few years and although I consider myself a strong interviewer, I was woefully out of practice. The interview was a phone interview. With a phone interview you can’t get by on charm or appearance; furthermore, you can’t read the interviewers body language and tailor your responses accordingly.
In a phone interview your answers are all that matters… period. I didn’t get the job and at the end of the day I had no one to blame but myself. The following are some tips to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Going Through Your Resume
Generally the first thing your interviewer is going to ask is for you to walk him through your career history. You should know this cold and be able to talk about your contributions in detail. Simply stating what you did is inadequate. Talk about what you accomplished. Did you save the firm money? Did you make the firm money? Did you affect positive change? Your anecdotal information on accomplishments should always be geared to showing how your involvement helped a company advance.
Lastly, he has a copy of your resume in front of him and so should you. You don’t want to stumble on details you represented as factual in your resume. Make sure you can back everything up you submitted. Nothing will get you axed from the interview process faster than getting caught in a misrepresentation.
The Tough Questions
Every interview is going to have some tough questions that you never get asked or think about except when you interview. It’s with these questions that most people stumble. No matter how good you think you are at talking about yourself and your career, the only way to prepare for these types of questions is to practice. Have someone (ideally someone who has hired people before) pepper you with questions until you can craft a strong answer to all of them.
Here are some examples of questions you need to be able to answer well:
- How would you or your former employers describe your strengths and weaknesses?
- What is an accomplishment you are most proud of?
- How have you dealt with failure?
- Describe a conflict you have had with someone at work and how you have overcome it?
- Why should I hire you?
- What do you like most and least about your current job?
- What do you want to be doing in 5 years?
This is an extremely short list and I could give you another 30 questions I have personally received or given. There is no way to prepare for every question you might get but the more questions you prepare for the better off you will be and the more comfortable you will feel answering questions you didn’t anticipate.
Ultimately the key is to be able to give honest, brief “stories” for every curveball thrown at you.
Here is an example of a weak and strong answer to a question:
Describe a conflict you have had with someone at work and how you overcame it?
I once worked with a woman who was difficult to get along with but she was more senior than me and I knew that to get my work done I needed to keep her happy. I learned to tiptoe around her and not get in her way. This kept her happy and made my life easier allowing me to focus on my work.
This is a terrible answer. Although it may be true it is certainly not what you want to share with your interviewer. This answer paints the interviewee as someone who just “gets along” and can’t handle adversity. Your potential employer wants to see how you have handled a challenge and turned it into a positive, not how you have avoided it.
It’s quite common where I work to have differences of opinion. Ultimately we all want what’s best for the firm but we might not always agree on what that is. Recently I worked to convince my Partners that investing in stock “X” was a good idea. They were strongly against the investment and cited the Company’s declining margins and revenue growth as major objections. I presented them with evidence to show that margins had likely bottomed and that the Company had the strongest position in its sector due to the patents it held. I also informed them of an impending court decision that I believed would fall favorably for them, as well as the huge market opportunity they had in the consumer space. We ended up putting on the position and netting a 25% return due to my work.
This is a strong answer because it shows how the interviewee dealt with a difference of opinion, built consensus, and made the firm money as a result.
Your Turn to Ask Questions
If the interviewer asks you what questions you have for him, chances are you’ve done pretty well. Don’t blow it now. Make sure you have done as much homework on the firm and the position as you possibly could so that your questions are intelligent and pointed. Make sure you’ve visited the firm’s web site and explored recent news. Also try and get information on the person with whom you will interview. At the very least, you should always have a quick and comprehensive answer to: “What do you know about our company?”
While the questions you ask are obviously going to be different depending on the firm and position you are applying for, they should show your knowledge of the firm as it currently is, and your curiosity about its direction going forward. Ultimately you want to know why the firm is the right one for you and this type of questioning, if done diplomatically, can only impress upon the interviewer that you care about your career and where you spend your working hours.
While you can’t prepare for every question an interviewer will ask or every direction an interview can take, the onus is on you to be ready to let your interviewer know why you are the best candidate for the job. Try putting yourself is his or her shoes and think about what you would want to hear if you were doing the hiring. The more effort you put into the pre-interview process, the higher your odds for success.
If you like Goldy, go ahead and check out his personal blog, GoldyWorld, where he talks about absolutely nothing important and has fun doing it.
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