since the start of my, albeit short, hr career i have spent most of my time in the talent acquisition sphere. i often refer to this as ‘recruitment land.’ that is, the workforce planning and recruiting of talented people for specific job opportunities. i’ve screened thousands of candidate resumes, conducted hundreds (possibly a thousand +) of interviews, facilitated and led offer discussions, and on-boarded several worthy new hires.
i’ve worked at all levels, and in both the public and private sector. from hiring executives in one of the world’s largest banks or interns for a small company to blue collar plant operators and what i can tell you is that these interview principles are generally the same for all positions. here are my top ten (first five):
first: know you better than the interview panel knows you.
this is the BIG one! i can’t tell you how many times i’ve started an interview along this line: why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself? and the candidate clams up. really?!?! study your resume. be able to talk about how you found your way into that particular line of work, about your education, your past work experiences, and ultimately how that fuels your interest in the position at hand.
don’t stop there. that’s all in the past. employers selfishly want to know about your future as well. talk about where you want to go and speak with conviction. your career path and it’s progression should not be haphazard. most interviewers will ask at some point about your short and long term goals. if your response is one of those listed below you should reconsider interviewing; it’ll be a waste of time for both you and the interviewing parties.
- interviewee says: ‘i plan to be in this position.’ recruiter thinks: presumptuous.
- interviewee says: ‘i want to see where this position takes me.’ recruiter thinks: do we have the resources to ‘see how it goes?’ – no
- interviewee says: ‘this position will help me build my resume for my next job.’ recruiter thinks: candidate sees this as a stepping stone which is fine only if the company has logical promotional opportunities available in that area of interest. (note: know the organizational opportunities or better yet steer clear of this line.)
- interviewee says: ‘i’m not really sure yet.’ or ‘oh, that’s a good question.’ recruiter thinks: no ambition, no drive, no assurance this person actually wants the job.
when it comes to your future don’t be afraid to share some of your goals and aspirations. companies are interested in people who have some intrinsic drive and ambition; it’s what makes the business world go ’round. the caveat here is that you know and can articulate the connection between your goals, aspirations, and the position you’re hoping to land.
finally, know your personal professional brand (more on this in a later post) and live by it daily, not just on the day of the interview. does your Facebook page have pictures of your boozing it up every weekend? does your Twitter feed offer controversial dialogue, at best? be cognizant that the higher you go the more prevalent a role social media plays. this isn’t me being hypocritical, my Facebook could use a good scrub, it’s me being honest.
second: come prepared.
study both behavioral based (tell me about a time when) and situational based (what if) questions and be prepared with well thought-out answers. present answers that demonstrate you level of knowledge, your ability to work well in teams, communication skills, etc. this requires you to know yourself. (refer to #1.)
also, know the company’s values and mission statement! this is paramount. at the end of the day the company is going to assess you as an ‘organizational fit.’ if you aren’t able to demonstrate your alignment to the values through your shared experiences and your genuine actions you likely will not move forward in the process.
the quickest way to learn more about an organization is to visit their website. you should be able to access information on their history, organizational structure, and fundamental operation.
based on your findings come prepared with thought-provoking questions. it’s my personal philosophy that i may not always have the right answers but, i’ll always try to have the right questions.
third: mind your manners.
this should go without saying but, you would be surprised at what happens during some interviews. i’ve been in interviews where people have cursed like a sailor (ALWAYS inappropriate), taken off their shoes, burped, and monopolized more time than they were allotted. my biggest per peeve though, this question: ‘so, when can i start?’ my internal reply is usually ‘never, are you kidding?’
just be polite.
next: own it!
more often than not you’re going to be asked about a time when you messed something up at work. your response to these types of questions alone can be a deal maker or a deal breaker. recruiters and hiring managers alike are looking for people who cannot only talk about the mistake in a way that make sense (i.e., without unnecessary details, or long, drawn-out descriptions or unorganized thoughts) but, also about what they learned from the situation and how they later applied that learned knowledge.
along these lines, candidates that scapegoat blame are almost always written off; if you can’t own a mistake then your likely a little bullheaded and unable to work well in a group. also, you’re probably lacking some self awareness. talk about mistakes and achievements in the same light and you’ll be surprised by how receptive your audience is in what you have to say.
fifth: every interaction matters.
the janitor who saw you walk in, the assistant who coordinated the interview logistics, the security guard at the front desk – all of these people matter! i can’t begin to tell you how intuitive these individuals are when it comes to sharing thoughts on candidates that ultimately become new hires. they just seem to know. i’ve been on both the coordination and recruitment side of the interviewing process and have found tremendous value in knowing how well a candidate treats others, especially those they perceive as ‘beneath’ them in stature.
hopefully this is helpful. i have another five i’ll share at a later time. happy interviewing!!