Friday, July 26, 2013

Successful Interviewing Tips - Part One

You need a job?  Three ways to get one

1. Have an insider connection

2. Work for your daddy

3. Have a successful interview.  Let's elaborate on this!

My first few interviews out of college were total disasters.
I did appear like an idiot hopeless for an accounting job.  After each interview, I resolved to do better than the last one.  

I'm not an HR expert.  But I've learned quite a bit of what works and what doesn't work, from my interviewing experiences.  I've come a long way from not being invited for second rounds to always being asked to come back again and sometimes with offers.  Here are my tips, and I know they work.

After completing the job application, email a copy of the job description to yourself.   Once the job closes for applicants, chances are you will not be able to view the job description online and you need the job description to prepare for the interview.  

Job descriptions are a great way to determine what questions could be asked at your interview.  Take a look at a portion of this job description.

...this individual should have an ability to lead and motivate groups and individuals; to overcome obstacles to cooperation and to foster harmonious relations; to balance competing priorities, complex situations, and tight deadlines...this individual must be able to work in harmony with others.

Reading this description, you should expect to get behavior-related questions related to that job description, and get ready to answer them.

To get ready for those behavior related questions, I do a little exercise:
I turn around the job description into questions and ask myself:

How do I motive groups and individuals?

What do I do to overcome obstacles to cooperation and foster good relations with external and internal customers?

How do I balance my workload, difficult situations, and deadlines?  What has been successful?

How do I work well with others?

Going through this exercise, you are most likely to answer 99% of the behavior related questions in the interview.

I love this database of interview questions HERE.  Save and/or print for your future reference!  

If you don't know a good answer to an interview question that could be asked, seek input from someone older and wiser with job experience, management, and interviewing.  The internet has a great resource but it's best to seek the opinion of others who have been on the other end of interviewing.  My father and my father-in-law were extremely helpful with that.


Do not ask questions about the company that anyone can answer by reading the website. 

Do not ask about salary, or time off.  Leave those questions out until you receive an offer! 

Let me explain a true story.

After being hired at my last job, there was another position to fill.  My former supervisor said that one applicant who applied internally asked about time off because she was getting married.  The fact that I was taking time off for my wedding around the time she was became a factor in getting hired because in his words, he "didn't want to run the risk of both of us getting pregnant around the same time and having us both out on maternity leave" and went off on how hard it would be for month-end, and finding coverage and blah blah blah.  

So he hired another female applicant that was older and done with having kids.

Looking back at this...I'm now thinking "WTH, nobody informed you of their family plans and I was told by my boss that he didn't hire someone just because she could get pregnant?!"  I should have reported that incident to HR but alas, I was naive and inexperienced at the time.

When I was interviewing for that job, I made no mention about me getting married until I had my offer and negotiated the time off there.

Lesson learned: Don't bring up anything that will promote a bias in hiring!

If the salary question comes up during the interview...
What are your salary expectations?
For me this is a tough question.  I am not sure if I am the best in maximizing the most out of salary.

When I was asked that, I decided to respond by asking innocently, "Well what is the typical range for a position like this in your company?"  This job was through a recruiter/head hunter so I knew that they were open to salary, but it was a new position, so I really had no idea.  Then the interviewer gave me a range and then I replied "Yes, this is where I'd be okay with"  Especially since the range was significantly higher than what I made at my last job.

I wasn't comfortable with answering something like "I expect to be paid fairly for my experience" or "My salary requirements are flexible" because that would lead to them pushing you for a number, or low-balling you.

Lesson learned: From my haggling experiences, make them say a number first, not you  Check out shows like Hardcore Pawn and American Pickers to see how it works.

Take notes during the interview.  This isn't strange to do, because interviewers take notes too.  If there is any clarification or elaboration you need, ask:  
I noticed you mentioned X.  Can you explain about how X turns to Y and Z?

Why is this position open?
Reasonable answers from interviewers are that the employee retired, moved out of state, this is a new position, or the employee accepted another job outside the company.  If they left, ask them how long have they been working there, and how often has this position been filled before that person left.  Depending on the job and industry, if there is high turnover, that is an indicator that bullying and/or harassment is taking place.  

If they said the "employee got a promotion, or moved to another department" take note.  
If you get an offer, ask for a reference from that employee or former employees so that they can corroborate the account.
It may be they transferred because that boss was a jerk, and the company just promoted him/her so that they wouldn't leave the team and not work for that boss!

Hiring managers shouldn't have a problem with providing you references if they are checking YOUR references.  They want to know from your references if you are a good employee.  You want to know if you will work for a good boss based on references from employees that worked under that boss.  

If the hiring manager has a problem with that, then you know that the hiring manager has something to hide.  

How many employees work here, how many I would be working with as a team?
Just an idea in general of the environment and how many people you will need to work with. 

How are your employees evaluated and given feedback?
You can learn a lot from a manager's management style this way.

Questions about training and development
Do you want to be at a job where you are bored and never learn anything?  Does the manager even care about your professional development?

Is there anything else that you would like me to clarify concerning my work experience or resume?
This is a great question to ask your interviewers.  That way you know what they're thinking and hopefully answer any questions that may enable you for second-round and/or hire.


What's the next step in the interview process?
If the hiring manager says something vague like:
"We'll call you in a couple of days"
Chances are you are not considered for second-round or for hire.

If they are more specific: "We are still interviewing and we should have a decision by the end of this week"  OR "Next Tuesday, Thursday etc"
Then there's a chance.  

TIP:  When scheduling for an interview, take note of the days that are available for interview.  This is a good way to measure the timing of the first round interview.  

May I contact you if I have questions? 
That way you remember their names, and send them a thank-you note via email.  

I participated in an interview where the applicant did everything that one must NOT DO during an interview. Seriously.  Everything from phone ringing to asking about salary.  Very unprofessional.  Very goofball.  He had a bachelors degree, but not the degree required for the job!  His resume was ridiculous and vague.  

But he got the job because the hiring manager was one of his friends that worked together in a previous job.  The hiring manager knew he was trainable and could do the job but not good at interviewing.
Lesson learned: If you don't have a connection, you need to do well in your interview!

Yes, there may be a chance you won't get hired, but at every interview, you will get better with time.
Keep interviewing if you want a job!  

What do you think about these tips?  Comment or share any insights you may have on interviewing below.  Your suggestions may help somebody!  

I'm working on a special post on pregnancy and interviewing.  Keep checking back for it! 

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