You have been called in for an interview as the company believes what they have seen and heard to date establishes you as a viable candidate for the role that they are looking to fill.
Frequently, individuals spend many hours creating resumes and cover letters, searching through the job boards and postings on the internet, reviewing classifieds and networking — all in order to get an interview. Yet few of them spend anytime developing the most crucial skill of interviewing.
In today’s economy, it may take 5 or 6 interviews in order to secure a position versus the 2 or 3 interviews that was more of the “norm” in healthier economic times. So by developing your interviewing skills you will develop the ability to “outsell” your competitors and land the job.
Anyone who has ever been through the job hunting process has probably walked away from at least one interview knowing right away that they botched it or even if they feel confident about the interview, they know that they still could have answered one or two questions much better than they did.
Remember that any activity that we value creates a certain degree of angst or anxiety which is a natural human emotion. The only way to remove this “pressure” and to perform in a way that we know that we are capable of is preparation!
Question: What is happening in the hiring companies industry?
Resources: Major news outlets, stock market reports etc.
Question: What is happening to other hiring companies in the local market (Twin Cities)? How is the hiring company perceived in the local market?
Resources: Local news outlets and community or philanthropic annual reports. Unlike the standard annual report, which focuses largely on financial performance, many companies produce a second publication that highlights “soft topics” like culture or community outreach. This will give clues about how the company lives its image or brand. This can help you decide if there’s consistency between what the company says it is and what you observe.
Question: What is the “tone at the top”? Is there a strong, positive workplace culture? The leadership team (CEO, CFO, Chairman or President) sets the standard for workplace culture.
Resources: The company website will typically reveal the names of senior leaders, and a broader Internet search using those names will often turn up revealing media coverage about executive actions, providing insight on the team’s values, which have the greatest impact on a company’s culture.
Question: What is the company’s mission or vision statement?
Resources: Again, the company website will provide these statements which will reveal what a company wants everyone to believe about its culture and values. This is a good way to discover if the stated characteristics align with their personal values system.
Question: What is the workplace environment like?
Resources: The physical location! Is the interviewee brought in for an onsite interview, the physical environment can provide a snapshot about the workplace culture i.e. fancy offices near crowded cubicles can illustrate cultural norms about rank and power. Similarly, a polite, respectful interview process – rather than one that is seemingly rushed or poorly coordinated – offers valuable cues about the overall environment.
Question: What are the roles and responsibilities for the position? What are the expectations for the role? What does good look like?
Resources: The job posting. The HR / recruiter contact.
Apply the same rigor to one or two of the hiring company’s closest competitors.
“Do you have any more questions for me?” may seem innocent and simple enough to answer, but candidates who give a weak response are usually the ones screened out of consideration for the job.
Utilizing the research results, create a series of questions that will help you fill in the blanks and assist in your determination if both the company AND the job are a right fit for you!
Please be aware that every question you ask is an opportunity for you to sell yourself as the most outstanding, must-have candidate for the job.
All of the above preparation is for naught if you fail to show up at the right place or on time, so plan accordingly.
Do you clearly understand:
- The location of the interview?
- The amount of time it will take you to get there?
- The start time?
- Who you are interviewing with?
- Expected duration of the interview?
- Do you have a copy of your resume?
As with most professional’s today – everyone is busy, hurried and subject to the same delays and roadblocks in their day-to-day activity. So being where you are supposed to be at the right time with the ability to be “flexible” will go a long way to establishing you as an easy individual to work with and a good “fit” for the company.
Smart, formal business attire even if the interviewer is in jeans.
Interviewers will form an opinion of you within the first 5 minutes of the interview and this opinion is not always based on what you actually say, but on something you are doing i.e. your “body language”.
85 percent of what you communicate is not with words, it is through the tone of your voice, the way you sit and a wealth of other messages that your body involuntarily sends.
- Be natural. Greet the interviewer with a smile that engages your eyes, and offer a firm handshake. Say something like, “I’m pleased to meet you” to provide a positive anchor. Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest.
- Watch out for excessive energy. The more energy you have, the more will need to be vented. This often results in fidgeting i.e. repeatedly touching your face, throat, mouth or ears, a definite sign that you’re nervous or ill at ease
- What to do with those hands and arms. Clasped hands are a signal that you are closed off and palm-to-palm gestures with one thumb over the other thumb sends the signal that you need the interviewer’s reassurance. To come across as confident, receptive and unguarded, have your hands open and relaxed on the table. When your body is open, you project trustworthiness. Avoid crossing your arms over your chest. When you do, you signal that you are close-minded, defensive or bored and disinterested.
- Crossing those legs. Don’t cross your legs as this posture creates a wall between you and your interviewer. It can also become a distraction when you keep crossing your legs back and forth. Crossed ankles are a “no-no” because you are signaling that you want to be elsewhere.
- Posture. A straight posture is imperative during an interview. Pull your shoulders back and sit up straight. You’ll give yourself a burst of confidence and allow for good breathing. This can help you to avoid, or at least reduce, feelings of nervousness and discomfort.
- Finger gestures. Never point your index fingers like gun barrels as these are the types of aggressive messages you want to avoid sending.
While body language is a very important component of your communication style, no one ever received a job offer purely on the strength of their handshake or posture; regardless of what was actually said.
Interviewers will often rely on questions that start with “tell me about a time when?” or “give me an example?” To provide meaningful answers to those questions, you must prepare and have some stories in your pocket. As human beings, we love a good story so practice your ability to paint a good picture around your experiences.
Painting a Picture
Stories to prepare in advance of the interview should include “good examples about how you’ve interacted with team members – what kind of team player you’ll be.
Interviewers also frequently ask how you have dealt with a difficult problem. Being negative is a pitfall, so describing the situation succinctly, focusing on what you were thinking when handling the situation. The interviewer’s goal is not to learn about the company you were working for or the people you were working with, but about how you maneuvered through difficult situations.
Don’t forget to ask early on, “Please let me know if this is not what you’re getting at or if you need more detail?”
Interviewees can also create dialog by asking questions like, “Tell me about the characteristics of the people who are most successful in this department or role. What kinds of people or experiences have worked well? What won’t work in your group?”
Rehearsal is key so talk out loud to yourself, family or friends. Listen to how it sounds. When the right answer doesn’t come to you fast enough, you miss the golden opportunity to share your best story.
The key is to have a great interview, where the interviewer actually pictures you doing the job.
If you want to be that person, utilizing and practicing the steps detailed above will allow everyone who interviews you – the recruiter, hiring manager to picture you filling the position and to visualize actually hiring you — ASAP.
Diligent preparation will guarantee that you will stand out from the crowd and shoot straight to the top of the “must hire” list.
Finally, KEEP SELLING your services and the value that you would bring to any hiring organization, with the same vigor and enthusiasm all the way through to signing on the dotted line. Why? Because you never know………………!
Follow Graham @GrahamKRiley
CareerToolbox International, LLC