Most people don’t get much practice in the art of interviewing and, when the time comes to interview, they find themselves unprepared to do so. A person could have the perfect skill set for a given role but if they’re unable to impress in the interview process, chances are they won’t get to the offer stage.
The proper mindset to take into an interview is to tell yourself that you need to find out only two things:
1. Is this something I want to do?
2. Is this something that I can do?
If you can’t answer those two questions in the affirmative, there’s no point in continuing through the interview process. Having this mindset going into the interview simplifies things and brings focus to your thought process and the conversation.
A common first question in an interview is: “Tell me about yourself.” This is a difficult question to answer because it isn’t really a question—it’s more of a statement.
There are two good ways to respond to this:
1. Where would you like me to begin?
2. I’d love to tell you all about myself but why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for out of this hire and then I can compare my background and experience with what you need.
This will inevitably lead to the hiring manager or HR representative telling you the main “pain points” that have created a need in their organization. You should have a piece of paper handy to jot down the things that they need done by this person.
For each point you have written down, you should provide at least two examples where you have done something similar or you have done exactly what they’re looking for this person to have accomplished. I don’t care if you give ten examples but you should give at least two. This accomplishes two things: 1) You now know what the most important things are to the hiring manager; 2) The hiring manager is confident that you can help their organization.
If their urgent needs don’t align with what you want to do, then after the interview is concluded you can contact your recruiter and have him or her remove you from the interview process.
Prior to the interview, chances are you’ve already developed some questions you’d like to ask the interviewer and more questions are likely to arise during the conversation. The only question that I suggest you ask – above and beyond the question you have developed on your own – would be:
“Are there any questions or concerns about whether or not I can do this job?”
Often, I find there may be miscommunication or the candidate doesn’t expand on their experience in certain crucial areas of concern to the hiring manager. If the hiring manager is open to discussing their concerns, this gives the candidate an opportunity to refute the hiring manager’s concerns—whether they be unfounded or not. An interview is a lot like a blind date in that assumptions can be made, but the best thing you can do is be direct and create an open and frank atmosphere.
A common piece of feedback I receive from HR or hiring managers is “The candidate came off kind of flat. He/She lacked the energy we need. He/She seemed like he/she could take the job or leave it.”
Candidates need to bring the proper amount of energy into the conversation. I am not talking about five Red Bulls energy, but more like two cups of coffee. Candidates should be enthusiastically curious about the role, the manager, and the organization. No one is very impressed by someone who isn’t interested in having an engaging conversation. It’s also important to be direct and to the point; going off on enthusiastically curious tangents is not a good idea. Also, be prepared to talk specifics when it comes to numbers, metrics, methodologies, and KPI’s. Being too general in your answers is a huge red flag for interviewers.
For some reason, people think it’s a good idea to play their cards close to the vest regarding their interest in the role. If you decide during the interview that this is the job you want or this is a job you would seriously consider—tell the hiring manager that you would love the opportunity to move on to the next steps, that you believe you can ease their pain, and that you will add value to their organization. There is no reason to play coy, and doing this will put you in the 5% of people who let their feelings be known.
Preparing for interviews is key in securing your dream job. Human Resources professionals and hiring managers know when someone is unprepared. Use all the resources you possibly can, do your due diligence, research the company, etc. Spend the time required to improve your work situation.
About The Author
Scott Heimberg has over a decade of experience as an Executive Recruiter. He also wrote for the Elgin Courier News while finishing up his degree in English from Roosevelt University.