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Articles on Interviewing
Here are some simple notes on preparing for an interview that would be useful:
Every job interview is different -- but some general principles can guide you in just about any interview, for any job. When you're talking about yourself and your experience, keep the following six points in mind.
1. Be the Solution
Companies fill or create positions because they have problems they want to solve -- for instance, ineffective advertising or long customer-service lines. So prepare for an interview by identifying the problems hinted at in the job ad (if there's no job ad, research the company and industry) and then preparing examples of how you'll solve those problems -- and how you've solved similar problems in the past. Practice telling stories about specific results you've achieved.
And if you're changing careers, keep in mind that many problems -- such as a lack of effective project management or a breakdown of teamwork -- are not industry-specific. Offering solutions to these problems is a great way to overcome a lack of directly applicable experience.
2. Be Specific
Avoid empty cliches. Be prepared to back up your claims about your skills or characteristics with relevant and specific stories. For example, don't just say you "work well with others" -- talk about the types of teams you've worked with and what you've learned from them. Or if you plan to say you're "detail-oriented," come to the interview prepared with a story about how your attention to detail saved a former employer money (or otherwise saved the day).
3. Prepare Sound Bites
Prepare three or four effective sound bites that highlight your skills and past successes. A sound bite is succinct and direct, so it's catchy and easy to remember -- for example, "I've designed logos for three Fortune 500 companies" or "My efficiency plan decreased product-delivery times by 15 percent without costing the company a cent."
When you're coming up with your sound bites, ask yourself, "What were my greatest achievements at my most recent job?" and "What sets me apart from other candidates?"
4. Prepare to Talk About Your Resume
Your resume and cover letter will likely form an outline for at least part of your interview. Because a resume has to be brief, it probably says many things that could be elaborated on or explained in more detail. Often a resume explains the "what" (for instance, "supervised two people"). Use the interview to talk about the "how," as well as skills you gained, praise you received and so on.
5. Be Aware of Nonverbal Communication
You "say" a lot about yourself with nonverbal language: your posture and your facial expressions, for instance. Sit up straight -- leaning forward can make you seem closed off, as can holding a briefcase or purse in your lap. Maintain eye contact when answering questions, and smile frequently. Also, practice your handshake with a friend: An overly aggressive handshake can be as off-putting as a limp one.
6. Be Positive
Avoid complaining about a former employer or laying blame at a former manager's feet -- doing so will likely make you seem difficult to work with (or just disloyal). Even if you quit your last job in a rage because you had an incompetent manager, saying something like "I felt I was ready for a more challenging position -- like this one seems to be" turns a potentially interview-killing situation into something that makes you look very attractive to a hiring manager.
Five Questions to Always Ask on an Interview
These five questions go beyond the obvious ones, such as the title of the job, the job description, to whom it would be reporting, and other such basic questions. In fact, it's unlikely you'll even need to ask those questions, as they're usually outlined for you.
With some preparation and thought, you should be able to easily come up with 15 - 20 first-interview questions to ask. But these five - in some form - should always be asked. Not only will they help you to ascertain if the job for which you are interviewing meets the criterion of your perfect job, but the answers, when put together, will give you a fairly accurate picture of what's really going on behind the interview.
1. What are the priorities that will need to be addressed immediately in this position? A title alone tells you nothing. The job description won't reveal much either, except whether or not you're capable of doing what's required functionally on a daily basis. For the same reason that you put your accomplishments on your resume - and not just the job description - here, too, you want to get a sense of the individuality of this job in this company. Was everything left running smoothly? Is it pretty much picking up and continuing daily functions as normal? Or is there damage control that needs to be done? If so, is there a time line for the repair, and is it an achievable one considering your capabilities? Is it realistic regardless of who holds the position? If you don't have any information, this will begin to clue you in about both the supervisor and the previous employee. If you have been provided with some detail already, then the answer should track with what you've already learned.
2. How long was the previous person here? Why did they leave? Generally, in answering the first part, the interviewer will answer the second part as well. But if they don't, then ask it. And if that person was there an oddly short time, you also want to know how long the person before that was there. See where I'm going with this? If the job is in disarray, and the last two people were there a short period of time and were fired, you don't need to ask any of the other questions here. Exit gracefully and then run! Because before long, you, too, will be terminated for not achieving whatever it is they want done - regardless of if the stated time frame sounded realistic or not.
3. Tell me about your management style. How do you bring out the best in your employees? Is he a micro manager? Is he an information hound that needs to be kept informed of everything? Does he leave people alone to do what he hired them for and simply keep on top of what's going on? Does he help you if you have trouble? Do any mentoring? Or is he a berating, derogatory, jerk?
3.Obviously he's not going to come right out and tell you he's a micro manager! Instead he might say, "I like to keep a very close watch on what's going on in my department," or "I visit with each member of my department on a daily basis to make sure they're staying on track," or something similar. You'll find that the person will be fairly straightforward in sharing their management style with you. What you want to pay attention to is how they word it.
4. What types of people tend to excel here? Workaholics? Ones who are self-motivated and manage themselves well? People who work well in teams or committees? Employees who keep their supervisor informed of "where they are with things" on a daily basis? This tells you something about the pervasive culture in the company or department. Generally speaking, companies - or departments - tend to be made up of similar types of people that are in harmony with the company culture and philosophy. An entrepreneurial person won't function well in a committee environment. While sales personalities can vary greatly, the top achievers are goal driven and motivated to achieve, rather than complacent. People who are accustomed to thinking for themselves will find themselves chafing in a company that has a more dictatorial style, while those who perform better when they're told what to do will find themselves adrift in a company that requires its employees to think for themselves.
5. How long have you been here? Why do you stay? The answer to this question will give you an indication as to the feeling or health of the department or company. The way in which he answers the question will also give you additional insight into your potential boss, his management style, and what type of people excel in the department or company.
These are informational questions, not challenges. Be genuinely interested in the answer, because you're gaining valuable information that has to do with your future. When you leave the interview and process it within yourself, you'll be matching what you learned with what you are looking for.
Pay attention to the interviewer's body language and facial expressions. Is he relaxed? Does he fill in some of the spaces? Does he speak TO you - or AT you? Does he answer the question briefly and then quickly fire off another one? These, too, are valuable cues, and after the interview, you'll need to piece them together with the verbal information you received.
Your perfect job might land in your lap by grace and good fortune. But more likely, you'll need to look for it. It's there - but to recognize it, you'll need to know what it doesn't look like, as well as what it does.
- Judi Perkins
Prepared for NhN by Jacque Weiss. SPHR
Experienced HR Professional
Interview process Interviewing with McKinsey allows:
What you can expect in the interviews While there is slight variation across some offices or roles, there are typically three elements to our assessment process: