Some Thoughts on Interviews

I’ve sat on both sides of the table over the years but these are just ideas to ponder, not more ‘expert’ advice.  So let’s take a deep breath together because that should happen more leading up to the interview and during the interview.  Your brain needs that oxygen.

You don’t have to like something to be good at it, you just have to be open to appreciate the possibilities that participating well will bring.  And keep in mind that it is highly likely that the person who is interviewing you isn’t too fond of the task either (I’m the exception, unless I was crazy busy – I liked the challenge).  So we have that hurdle cleared.

You’ve already done something or several somethings right at this point since you have secured the interview.   That must mean that being your best you is working, so you just want to keep going in that vein.

Years and years ago (when job hunting was a buyer’s market and employers were excited about anybody who showed the slightest potential) I had a simply dreadful interview.  This was before the Internet so I hadn’t been able to do much research on the company.  I realized within the first 15 minutes of the interview that this would not be the job for me for several reasons.  I resolved to stick it out and use this as an opportunity to practice my interview skills.  The lady who conducted the interview was terrible.  She was ill prepared and rambled on and on.  I became nervous that I was going to be late for a second interview at a more promising prospect.  My big mistake at that point was that I didn’t politely advise my interviewer that we had exceeded the time that I had allotted for the interview and I had to move on.  Instead I tried several times to surreptitiously look at my watch.  She picked up on my fidgeting and became even more flustered.  We both closed badly and I rushed off to my next interview.   I was shocked and amazed when the company called me about 2 weeks later for a second interview.

My point in this story is to be polite and honest.  I don’t know why I thought I couldn’t mention an interview with another company; I was job hunting after all.  Also, use what you have – the interviewer knows that you are nervous so don’t let it be the elephant in the room.

When I switched to the interviewer side of the table my only experience and training happened to be as a Boy Scout Board of Review volunteer.  It is actually very common that supervisors & managers (outside of HR) have little to no training in effective interviewing.  I got on the job training over 7 years.

I admit I didn’t put much prep time into interviews themselves (your resume got a 10 minute read through on a good day).  I was looking for obvious mistakes or something to rule you out first and foremost so heed that tip.

If you wrote a cover letter, I never saw it.  But that doesn’t mean that HR wasn’t using them in their initial screening.  When I asked them to post a job, they probably nixed two thirds of the resumes they received and gave me what they thought were the maybes.

The objectives section – just so much blah, blah, blah because I could tell it was canned 9 times out of 10.  I appreciated the switch to the career summary in the past few years – that is where I got my first clues whether you were going on the maybe or the yes pile to schedule an interview.  Tell me how your experience up to this point is going to help me to meet my department objectives.   And please read it out loud to yourself before it goes in the final version of your resume – if it sounds like nonsense to you then I’m not going to like it either.

In the experience section, give me clear points on accomplishments that I will find meaningful based on the job description from the ad.  I don’t want to have to sift through every little detail of your daily tasks to find what I need to know.  In fact, I don’t – I just start skimming if I already saw something worthwhile, or stop reading if I didn’t.

I personally never cared much about gaps in your experience as an interviewer.  I might be in the minority on that, but if you can prove to me that you are a critical thinker, then that puts you in the maybe pile at least.

I’ve gotten side tracked from the actual interview.  I never liked asking the same old questions – likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses – I wanted someone who could think, who could adapt.  I wanted someone with a strong narrative.  I wanted someone who was already thinking about their next actions after securing the job.  A lot of job seekers are so focused on the seeking part that they clearly haven’t put much, if any, thought into what getting the job will entail.  That shows through.

Dos & Don’ts:

Do accept water if it is offered – talking can dry out your throat and make you cough

Do brush up on the job description from the original posting

Don’t forget to breathe

Don’t rush your answers

Do pay attention to your surroundings and make eye contact with everyone at the company that you encounter

Do show energy

Focusing on things that you do not know or have control over will give you anxiety, instead put your focus on things that you do know and can control.   You know your skills, you know the job description that was in the ad and you can control yourself (at least I hope so).  This will give you confidence.

“I am the only expert of my own life.”

~Cassie Green

© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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