Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interviewing 101

I am the Ward Employment Specialist in my ward. With the economy taking a nosedive and the cost of gas and other comodities going up, I have started having seminars at our chapel to help people find a new job, upgrade from a current job, or simply develop job finding skills if the need arises.

Tonight's seminar was on interviewing. Many people are very nervous about interviewing for a new job. A good point to remember is that while they're interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. With a few helpful hints and a little bit of practice anyone can come across very polished. Here are some of my thoughts on interviewing. Please post your thoughts in the comments section. Any interesting or humorous interviewing stories, please share.

Steps to follow:

1. Make eye contact throughout the interview.
2. Understand the importance of a good hand shake. Most Mormons don’t have a problem with this, but I have interviewed several people that just didn’t get past the “wet fish” handshake. A wet fish does not exude confidence.
3. Research the company on-line. Nothing impresses me more than someone that can tell me about my company. Remember, you are interviewing them at the same time they are interviewing you. Come prepared.

A person should expect to be asked, "What are your greatest strengths?" It is important to know what the interviewer is looking for and to make that the person's greatest strengths. Typically this can be found in the job ad.

A person should also expect, "What is your greatest weakness?" People really struggle with that question. Sometimes when I've asked it, people hem and haw and then don't answer the question. Here's the answer to that question..."People have told me that I'm a perfectionist. I like things to be done right and sometimes I can get a little frustrated when they aren't."

Do you see how I just used a strength and called it a weakness? It's very clever of me I know. ;-)

An always asked question, “Why are you looking to leave your current job?” The worst answer is, “Because I hate my boss and the company stinks.” That may very well be the reason, but if you throw your current employer under the bus, the company interviewing you will expect you to do it to them. Good possible answers include, “I don’t have any more upward mobility at this job. I like the company that I’m working for, but I feel the need to move on.” “I like the company that I’m working for but the job is not very challenging. I have gone to my supervisor and asked if there was more that I could do, but unfortunately, there isn’t. I’d like to feel that my work is not only challenging but actually makes a significant contribution to the company’s success.”

When answering the above question, just like answering any question, it is important to tell the truth. So don’t use the above answers if they aren’t true. Insincerity or contradictory answers will sink you in an interview quicker than anything else. The point is, don’t throw your previous employer(s) under the bus. Find a better way to answer the question.

The interviewer will ask if you have any questions. That absolute worst thing you can say is, "No. You explained everything very well." Nothing says, "I'm really not that interested" more than not having any questions to ask the interviewer.

Questions that you should ask the person that is interviewing you:

"Can you tell me who the ideal person is for this job?" The interviewer will tell you exactly what he/she's looking for, and after he/she has finished you will interject into the conversation how you have done the things he/she uses to describe the perfect employee. "Oh you like someone that is a team player? I think that's important too. In fact when I worked at..."

"How will be I best be able to help you right away? How will I be able to help you 6 months to a year from now?" This helps the interviewer see you in the position.

"How am I doing in this interview? What questions or concerns do you have that I haven't resolved yet?" People are afraid to ask that, but it needs to be asked. When you are sitting with the interviewer you want to know if there are lingering questions. I've interviewed people where their answers contradicted other things they have said. However, I never mention it to them. If one of them would've asked that questions though, I would've told them about my concerns regarding their flip-flops and given them a second chance to answer the question. If the interviewer has no concerns or questions, it helps them see that you are an ideal candidate for the position.

I can't tell you how many people I have interviewed and at the end of the interview I wasn't really sure if they wanted the job or not. If you don't want the job then no worries, but if you do, the last words out of your mouth should be something like, "I really appreciate the time that you have taken to speak with me. Before I leave your office I want you to know that I'm very interested in this position. It sounds like it would be both challenging and rewarding. I think that I would fit in well with your team and could make a great contribution to your organization. What are the next steps you will go through to find the best candidate?"

If the person you are interviewing with has a business card, get one. After the interview send them a follow up thank you note. Thank you notes are nice if they are handwritten, so if the interviewer is going to take a week or so to get to the next step then send the thank you note in the mail. However, if the company is looking to fill the position right away, send the thank you note that evening in an e-mail.

The thank you note could say something like, “Dear ____, I want to thank you again for the time you took to meet with me the other day. (name of company), sounds like a very exciting place to work. I really liked how well we seemed to mesh as we interviewed each other, i.e. your interview of me as a possible candidate for the job, and my interview of you as a possible employer. I believe that we would work well together. I would like the opportunity to bring my skills to the team and contribute in a meaningful way. If you have any questions about me or my qualifications since we met, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, (Your name).”

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