The interview process is brutal. I’ve never met anyone who looks forward to it or gets misty-eyed when it’s over. It helps to know you’re not alone and to see the humorous side of feeling exposed and vulnerable, as this post demonstrates so well. It’s so unfair really. In an environment where companies are competing for talent, shouldn’t prospective employees be conducting the interviews and assessing which company would best align with their career objectives?
If you are gearing up for your interview by rehearsing answers to traditional questions like “Why do you think you would be a good fit for this job?” and “Where do you want to be in five years?”, consider shifting your preparation strategy to include questions with a hidden purpose. According to an article published in Business Insider, recruiters may base their hiring decision on your response to questions like these:
On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?
What was the last costume you wore?
If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What would you do in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
Companies today want to ensure their new recruits fit the company culture. If that culture includes festive, goofy events, an important attribute will be someone who is productive but also likes to have fun in the workplace. Some organizations foster the work hard/play hard concept. To that end, recruiters would take the interview process in a new direction to glean from the candidate’s answers not only their qualifications but their personality traits.
The lesson here is to do your homework. Research your prospective employer and find out as much as you can about their office environment. If they adorn costumes on Halloween, put on skits and hold pie-eating contests, be prepared to share your lighter side. If the organization is high-energy and innovative, get ready to verbalize your out-of-the box mindset in imaginative ways.
In her LinkedIn post, Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions, Liz Ryan made me laugh and sigh with relief. I’ve experienced interview questions that made me feel dumb and it was refreshing to read how she turns the tables.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” always irked me. Ryan’s suggested response is perfect: “In five years I see myself happily engaged in projects that excite me, working among smart and supportive people. Is that the kind of environment you have?”
I also like the idea of tagging a question onto an answer. This keeps the discussion moving and drives the interviewer to give, not just take, information.
Seek the juncture of your strengths and passions rather than focusing on the compensation. The money will come.
Before the interview, study the company well enough to be conversant on what matters to them.
Benefit from your parents’ experience in communicating with professionals. Let your parents (or in my opinion, a mentor too) help you plan what to say, how to dress and how to follow up after an interview.
As a big fan of interviewing the interviewer, I recommend preparing carefully constructed questions for the end of the discussion that demonstrate your knowledge, interest in the position and critical thinking. Find sample questions in my FAQ page.
Many job applicants squirm at the thought of the dreaded behavioral interview. Turning the table by asking the recruiter to give you examples of various scenarios enables you to probe and evaluate key information about the potential opportunity. These questions also send the message that you are an active participant in the process rather than someone who is meekly waiting in the wings for a job offer. The decision-making process works both ways.
“The Job Description is Just the Start”, published in The New York Times, is an interview with Susan Story, the CEO of a utility company who generously offered advice on positioning for success. The executive offered many great insights to job seekers and new hires that lend itself to a post in this mentoring blog.
In response to a request for three decisive interview questions, Ms. Storry provided the following, and thinking about your responses would be a great exercise. Some variation of these questions may be asked since they probe motivation, initiative, collaboration and leadership skills.
“Tell me why you want to work here.”
“What two or three things do you think you can accomplish in the first year?”
“If you were in charge of a project with about 15 people none of whom report to you, how would you go about doing that?”
Ms. Story’s advice to college graduates: “Focus on doing the best job you can where you are…go in thinking this could be my last job, and I’m going to be the best I can at it.” In addition, she suggests exploring ways to add value to the organization that go beyond what is written in the job description. I agree – this is the way to learn, grow and demonstrate a vested interest in the company.
During an interview some time ago, George Clooney told a story about his climb to fame. It stuck with me because it can easily be applied to any type of job interview or audition.
Clooney explained the disappointment of losing one audition after another; how he traveled long bus trips to auditions only to be rejected. One day he had an epiphany while riding the bus. He realized that the casting director had a job to do. If Clooney didn’t get the role, he would simply get back on the bus and return home; then do it again the next day. But the casting director was left with a problem – he or she still needed to find an actor for the part, mostly likely under a tight deadline. Thinking in those terms, Clooney relaxed and that was the day he landed a role. The rest, as they say, is history.
What is the moral of the story? Relax and you will get a job offer? Not necessarily. But it may help to remember that the interviewer’s mission is to fill the position with a qualified candidate. They have no reason to derive pleasure from rejecting a prospect who meets the need. So make their job easier by showing them you are their solution. Listen. Feel their pain. Detect the void they must fill. Then connect the dots between the position criteria and your qualifications.
We place so much emphasis on our qualifications during interviews, office activities and networking that it’s easy to forget the importance of likability. Of course, being educated, skilled and articulate is critical, but all things being equal, people who are positive, make eye contact and demonstrate sincerity are easier to be around. Those long hours in the office can feel even longer when spent with Mr. or Ms. Grouch.
This isn’t simply a popularity contest or an effort to nestle in with the office clique. Likable people tend to foster trust, influence change and build collaborative, productive teams. These are the personalities more apt to get hired, gain support at work and receive forgiveness for mistakes, according to The Wall Street Journal article, “Why Likeability Matters More at Work.”
Playing nice in the sandbox does not mean being agreeable all the time. Diplomacy is key to expressing frustration and driving process improvements. Comment on the situation and propose solutions without targeting individuals. The same idea holds true for interview discussions. Talk about challenges overcome in terms of the processes, not the people.
Corporate social responsibility has taken a strong foothold in the business world. Caring and compassion may hold equal significance to the hard skills brought to the job.