Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Job Hunt Tips: The Interview Prep

Thanks for keeping up with my series on Job Hunt Tips.  Click below for previous posts.
Part 1: The Pursuit 
Part 2: Linkedin 
Part 3:  The Resume
Part 5: The Interview 

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What to do BEFORE your interview and common interview questions



So you have an interview scheduled!  This is great!  You have already passed the first test, and now you have them interested.  Next comes your chance to seal the deal, and I really believe that these tips can bring the odds more into your favor.  I know it's a lot, but I believe that looking through all this will help you feel more prepared, it will help you look more confident, and it could really be clutch in an interview.  Good luck!

Research the company
I assure you that the interviewer is expecting you to know about the company, what it does, and how you think you might fit.  Researching will help you seem knowledgeable, and it will give you a chance to really think about how you'll fit.  All this knowledge can come through in your interview and make for a good impression.

Prepare questions for your interviewer
You can bank on being asked "Do you have any questions for me?"  Even if you feel like you've gotten all of your questions answered, not having a question could make you seem ill-prepared.  Alternatively, having questions ready will make you seem interested and engaged.  Just don't ask about salary; that conversation will come when you're hired.

Feel free to ask about the things you want to know, and then ask a question or two that show the interviewer you mean business or that you were paying attention.

 Here are some great questions to ask:
What is the culture of the company (or department) like?/What do you enjoy about working here?
Asking about the culture is my favorite question, because it shows that you're interested not just in the money, but in the company, which is very good and can be impressive!
What traits do you see as important to work here/in this role?/How do you see me fitting into this role?
This requires the interviewer to visualize you in the position, which can be very helpful to you when they're remembering your interview.
What can I expect the day-to-day to look like in this position?
This shows interest and could lead to some very valuable information about the position.
Do you have any concerns about my eligibility that I can address for you?
I think this is a great question because it gives you a chance to find out what they're thinking, and it gives you a chance to change their minds if they don't love you already.  Save this question for near the end.
When can I expect to hear from you?/When is a good time to follow up?
Asking about the next step in the process projects an avid interest in the position.  This question should be last.


Study your résumé
Be prepared to answer any questions about where you worked, when you worked there, why you left an employer, or why you took a break from the workforce.  If you were fired from a position, work on a gracious, tactful, and positive way to briefly explain what happened.  For example: When cleaning the photo processing machines, I used the incorrect cleaning solution and destroyed valuable pictures.  I took full responsibility, but I had to be terminated.  I know that this was a mistake that I made, and I am determined to learn from it and to not make the same mistake again.  Google "exit statements" for more information and better examples.

Prepare for behavioral interview questions
Practicing possible interview questions could help a lot with feeling prepared and keeping the interview conversation going.  Things like "Tell me about yourself," "What do you think you bring to the table," "Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses" are typical.  I highly recommend checking out this list of wrong and right answers to common interview questions.

Another kind of question that interviewers usually ask is called a behavioral interview question.  These ask about a past situation at a previous job.  When asking these questions, the interviewer is looking for clues about how you would act in a future, similar situation.  For example, he/she may ask, "Tell me about a time when you had to resolve a conflict with a coworker," "Tell me a time when you overcame a challenge," or "Tell me about a time when you made a mistake."

Okay, here's where we get to for real homework time.
I'm not kidding.  Get a pen and paper, or at least someone to talk to about these things.
  1. Before your interview, think of some of your past accomplishments and challenges from work, school, or other projects.  Think of times when you went above and beyond, when you had to resolve conflict, or when you took the initiative on something.  Look at this list of 50 behavioral interview questions for ideas, but you should only have to think of 3 or so stories.
  2. Take the time and WRITE out #1 the Situation/Task, #2 the Action you took, and #3 the Result(s).  (Acronym: STAR!)  Do this for each of those those situations you thought of.
  3. Having these stories ready in your mind will help you when you're asked a behavioral interview question.  Oftentimes, you can use the same story for different questions, so having a few stories in your pocket is a great way to make sure you're ready for many different questions.  Also, it's a great way to show what you've done and how you work.
  4. Be sure to present your story in the STAR order.  It's the best progression to keep your audience engaged.  People remember stories, and I'm sure that your interviewer will have a better chance of remember you if you tell them a good story.
Here's a real life example from when I was teaching in Korea.
In one of my classes, I had a special needs student who was very far behind the others.  Learning disabilities are taboo in Korea,  so I couldn't talk with the student's parents about the issue.  The administration basically brushed the kid under the rug, because, being a business, they legitimately cared more about the paying parents' happiness than the student's learning.  The student's parents had even complained about how he had been feeling made fun of in the class.  I realized that I had to choose whether to push the student to do better in the class or to just let him have fun.  To make the kid comfortable and to cover for him in the class, I had to work hard to give him the right attention  from me and to pull away the wrong attention from the other students, while still giving him moderate grades, too.

Situation/Task: Challenged by the parents and my supervisor, I chose to make the student feel comfortable and get as much out of the class as possible.
Action: I manipulated the class dynamic to make the student feel more comfortable (which required quick thinking and keen perception).  I did this by setting the other students on a task and spending extra time with the special needs student to prepare for the tests and quizzes that were coming up.
Result: The student's parents felt better about having him in my class, and he became visibly happier to be in my class.

Now.  Looking at this list of 50 different behavioral interview questions, I can think of how I could use this story and package it properly for 25 of these questions.  TWENTY-FIVE questions.  One story.  After going through this homework exercise and having this story in my back pocket, I found that I used it two times, maybe more, in my interviews last year.  When behavioral interview questions came up, I felt prepared and ready to give a good answer.

Practice
Practicing with a friend or family member, though it might sound silly, will help you get in the groove of answering questions and thinking about your presentation.  Have your partner ask you some typical interview questions and then some behavioral ones, too.  Allow yourself to take a moment to think if you need to, but hopefully practicing with someone you're comfortable with will allow you to give natural answers, which will then help you give more natural answers in the real interview.  If you're pretty sure you're going to be asked certain questions, why not practice!?

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Have you had any memorable interview experiences?  Any other recommendations?  Leave a comment below!

1 comment:

  1. Most of my interviews have been over Skype. The benefit of this is that I can have notes laid out in front of me if I get stuck on a question. I wrote answers to common questions and the questions I had for the interviewer to discreetly glance at if I needed! The downside is that it's a lot harder to let my personality come through via Skype.

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