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"Thought this may be helpful to some......" - VooDoo
Being prepared is half the battle.
If you are one of those executive types unhappy at your present post and embarking on a New Year's resolution to find a new one, here's a helping hand. The job interview is considered to be the most critical aspect of every expedition that brings you face-to- face with the future boss. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and quickness as one does for a fencing tournament or a chess match.
This article has been excerpted from "PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of a Job and Find Another Successfully" by William J. Morin and James C. Cabrera. Copyright by Drake Beam Morin, inc. Publised by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Morin is chairman and Cabrera is president of New York-based Drake Beam Morin, nation's major outplacement firm, which has opened offices in Philadelphia.
tmimeh: My advice mainly stems from corporate-based interviews – feel free to adapt to whatever company you are applying for. Obviously a part-time shift at the local pizzeria will not need a three-piece Versace to intimidate the boss by making him feel like you’re smarter than he is.
A lot of this may seem like common sense, and it is. But we err because we are human, and a little knowledge never hurt anyone.
Stages of Interviews
Many corporate-based interviews are based on a series of ‘stages’. This is a culling process to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is no set formula – every company is different and expects different things from their future employees. You will need to manage their expectations of you, and exceed them where necessary.
Depending on the industry, there will be an "application season" when you will see calls for applications to fill graduate positions. You can find these on company websites (again, industry specific), or you see an ad in the newspaper. You may need to fill out an online application which will consist of a number of questions. It will cover basic details like where you live and your prior experience. It will also extend to short answer questions not unlike the questions presented below. Do not waffle your answers – be descriptive yet succinct. They will often impose word limits on their answers. Do not be discouraged if you can not fill the boxes up – quality is better than quantity. Remember your answers: you may need them later. You will also need to attach your CV.
Use reputable referees. Past employers, school principals and certain university officials who can vouch for you personally are good references. Your mum or your mum’s friend who knows nothing about you is a bad reference. Let your referees know that they may be contacted for your job interview. There is nothing worse than having your referees not remember who you are, then suddenly say, "Ooh, that’s right, that guy. Yeah, he’s tops."
You will need to send the employers a cover letter. It is crucial that you get this down pat – get examples if you can. Once again, be concise and use direct sentences. Talk briefly about your previous experience, how it will help you in this employment position and why you are right for the job. It needs to grab their attention and make them think, "Geez, this one is serious. Okay, let’s see what they’ve got."
They will either notify you by an email or a phone call. If you get a call back, congratulations: you have been selected over many other candidates. If not, bad luck – learn from the experience, look over your application and cover letter, refine it, and get someone else to have a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Then try, try again.
Some companies may require you to take an online test. It will vary from company to company, and not all companies do it. It may test maths / finance skills, or it may be completely psychoanalytical. It is not something you can study for, so don’t fret over it. Just answer the questions to the best of your ability.
If they call you, you may be subject to a phone interview. If you don’t recognise the number, you should answer your phone with “Hello, (your name) speaking.” This makes a hell of a difference to “Yeah?” or “Hullo???”
You should be anticipating their call. Be prepared, be prepared, be prepared. If you are not ready (e.g. you’re driving), don’t be afraid to politely say that you are busy, and offer another time to have them call back (preferably within the same day if it is okay with their schedule). That way you won’t be fumbling for answers when they start interrogating you, and squander that precious first impression.
Prior to undertaking your phone interview, make sure you remember your answers from your application. If you give them some answers off the top of your head and they do not match the ones on your written application, they will notice. Be courteous and speak clearly. Be succinct and do not waffle on - you are using your employers time as a way to get a placement with their company. Having said that, do not be afraid to ask for a couple of minutes to think about responses to their questions. It will seem a bit suss if you are rattling off answers from a piece of paper mindlessly, and they will take your responses with a fistful of salt.
Finally, always have some questions ready for the employer. It shows that you are actively thinking about this position, you have done your homework and you want to learn more about the company. Basic questions like salary, hours and so forth are appetizers for them – do not rely on them. Ask about company structure, their future direction, team roles, current projects, maybe even possible suggestions to their recruitment process. Again, you need to demonstrate your value to the company and how much you want this job.
1st / 2nd / ... Interview
Quite simple, really:
1. Go to the interview location a day or two in advance so you know how to get there and what the place looks like. Nothing like rocking up to the wrong place, all suited up and nowhere to go.
2. Eat well.
3. Sleep well.
4. Be prepared (lay out your clothes, shine shoes etc. etc.), and don't forget your resume, any relevant certificates and your written references.
5. Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
People will instinctively be drawn to others that are well groomed and attractive, and those that are already presentable will have a much easier job of impressing their future employer. This doesn’t mean dressing up in D&G – just look presentable.
• Sometimes the interviewer will be nice enough to supply clothing hints for you on the day. If you do not have that luxury, being overdressed is usually better than being underdressed. One step up from smart casual should be sufficient.
• At the very least you should have a buttoned, collared shirt that is easy on the eye, chinos or suit pants, and black socks to match your polished black leather shoes (women interviewers can’t help but inspect the backs of men’s shoes to make sure they are polished – that’s how much emphasis should be placed on this). Refrain from wearing white socks – you are not going to school, you are applying for a job.
• A nice tie will improve your overall appearance and make you stand out from everyone else – no cartoons or overly garish ties.
• Depending on the calibre of the job interview (especially if you are competing with other interviewees in “group” interviews), you may need to wear a full blown two-piece suit. Make sure your suit is dry cleaned and free of any stray tags or broken seams. It should also be well fitted so it doesn’t look like you’ve borrowed someone else’s suit – if you are buying a suit you can ask for them to fit and alter it.
Grooming and presentation:
• Brushed and flossed teeth, washed face.
• Well maintained hair. If it is long, make sure it is presentable. Try to avoid going in with a No. 1 (unless you’re applying for the Marines).
• Cut your nails. Manage any facial blemishes and pimples.
• Get plenty of sleep the night before so you don’t look like a train wreck.
• Stand up straight, chest out, shoulders back. Yes, your mother was right to nag.
• Project your voice well so they can hear what you have to say, but don’t shout. Do not mumble or “umm” and “aah”. Avoid using expressions such as “like” and “sorta thing” too much. In small amounts it can contribute to your personality, but if it’s excessive it can detract from your professionalism.
• Smile. If you smile, then others will instinctively smile back. When they smile, they get reminded of good times. They will then draw a link between happiness and you. So smile and mean it – don’t force it like you’re going to mongle certain male appendages. If you aren’t happy that you got this far in an interview, then you’re probably applying for the wrong job.
• If it is a group interview, interact with the other potentials. Make contacts, exchange jokes, be friendly. The employers will notice and you’ll only be better off for it by standing out from the crowd, while making a few new friends along the way.
Interaction with interviewers / interviewees:
Shaking hands is an important element of first impressions. Touch is a powerful medium of communication – it can easily sway a person’s first impression of you. Smile, say their name and greet them, maintain a suitable distance, take their hand, match the strength of their grip, and shake twice. Let go. Keep smiling. If you’re feeling particularly friendly, use the other hand to enclose theirs in a two-handed shake. They may even return the favour. Don’t put it on top though – it can be seen as a powerplay against them ;)
• Do not let your hand go limp and let them do the shaking (dead fish).
• Do not grip their hand with excessive force, especially with females (bone crusher).
• Do not shake it too vigorously over and over (hand pump / wrench).
• Do not let it go stiff and wooden (hand of carrots).
• Do not take their hand by their fingers (pansy).
• Try not to offer them a clammy hand (fresh fish); this may be hard if you’re nervous.
Body language is also an important factor that often gets overlooked. There is far too much to cover here, but here are some basic elements (adapted from Pease, 2006). A lot of this may seem somewhat ridiculous. :)
• Sit in a neutral stance. Safest bet is hands on your thighs; feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor; back straight; shoulders back; head level. Crossing your legs is acceptable for women as long as your feet are pointed towards the interviewers.
• You have the least amount of control over the points in your body that are furthest from your head i.e. your feet and your hands. Resist the urge to “jiggle” your feet when you are talking – this is saying you’d rather be somewhere else.
• If your feet are pointing anywhere but the interviewers, your body will follow and you will “close” yourself off from them, making yourself less receptive to their questions. They will get a “negative vibe” from you – this is their subconscious talking.
• Same goes for hands and arms. Do not cross your arms. Do not fold them behind your head – this is conveying arrogance and an “I know everything / whatever” attitude.
• Don’t be afraid to use your hands to talk, as well. I think it’s 85% of all communication is non-verbal (and 63% of all statistics are made up). Point is, be a little animated when answering, and you will find that your interviewers will get the message much more easily.
I strongly recommend reading the referenced material, even if for enjoyment.
You can prepare some answers for them if you feel it is necessary, but this is a gamble. Nowadays it is extremely difficult to simply rattle off answers as the job interview becomes a more critical part of recruitment. It is useful to have some basic principles in mind and to build answers around those, but in the end experience and practise will win the day. Have your friends or family ask you practise questions, even if they are completely ridiculous – it will prepare you well for the real deal.
• Some employers may ask abstract questions that have no set answer e.g. “How do you find a needle in a haystack?” In this case, take a moment to analyse the question and answer creatively (note: this is not being a complete smart-arse).
• Some employers may ask you technical questions – one question that I had asked to me was “Where do you find the MAC address on an IP phone?” Of course, it was on the unit itself ;) The interviewer explained that every other candidate gave a long winded process of searching through the menus in the phone, looking in the manual, using programs downloaded off the Internet etc. Be mindful of differentiating yourself from the rest.
Do not assume that just because you completed one interview, you do not need to apply for more. Assume the worst and expect to not receive a reply. Apply to as many companies as you can, even just for "interview experience". You can only gain more skills by taking more interviews, and it'll at most take a couple of hours out of your day.
If you have got this far and have not been selected, do not be discouraged. Be proud that you got this far. Consider what went well and what didn't work, and then start all over again. At least you'll get the drop on everyone else. ;)
If you are successful, congratulations! Now you can begin negotiating salaries and whatnot...
But the most critial piece of advice is to have fun! Don't think that just because it's an interview you can't feel comfortable and need to shrink under the interviewer's shadow. Be friendly, use good natured and clean humour to your advantage, and above all be yourself (cue Dr. Phil music). It'll make the interviewer's job a lot easier, you'll build good rapport and they might even slip past the tough questions.
The 25 most difficult questions
1. Tell me about yourself.
Since this is often the opening question in an interview, be extracareful that you don't run off at the mouth. Keep your answer to a minute or two at most. Cover four topics: early years, education, work history, and recent career experience. Emphasize this last subject. Remember that this is likely to be a warm-up question. Don't waste your best points on it.
2. What do you know about our organization?
You should be able to discuss products or services, revenues, reputation, image, goals, problems, management style, people, history and philosophy. But don't act as if you know everything about the place. Let your answer show that you have taken the time to do some research, but don't overwhelm the interviewer, and make it clear that you wish to learn more.
You might start your answer in this manner: "In my job search, I've investigated a number of companies.
Yours is one of the few that interests me, for these reasons..."
Give your answer a positive tone. Don't say, "Well, everyone tells me that you're in all sorts of trouble, and that's why I'm here", even if that is why you're there.
3. Why do you want to work for us?
The deadliest answer you can give is "Because I like people." What else would you like-animals?
Here, and throughout the interview, a good answer comes from having done your homework so that you can speak in terms of the company's needs. You might say that your research has shown that the company is doing things you would like to be involved with, and that it's doing them in ways that greatly interest you. For example, if the organization is known for strong management, your answer should mention that fact and show that you would like to be a part of that team. If the company places a great deal of emphasis on research and development, emphasize the fact that you want to create new things and that you know this is a place in which such activity is encouraged. If the organization stresses financial controls, your answer should mention a reverence for numbers.
If you feel that you have to concoct an answer to this question - if, for example, the company stresses research, and you feel that you should mention it even though it really doesn't interest you- then you probably should not be taking that interview, because you probably shouldn't be considering a job with that organization.
Your homework should include learning enough about the company to avoid approaching places where you wouldn't be able -or wouldn't want- to function. Since most of us are poor liars, it's difficult to con anyone in an interview. But even if you should succeed at it, your prize is a job you don't really want.
4. What can you do for us that someone else can't?
Here you have every right, and perhaps an obligation, to toot your own horn and be a bit egotistical. Talk about your record of getting things done, and mention specifics from your resume or list of career accomplishments. Say that your skills and interests, combined with this history of getting results, make you valuable. Mention your ability to set priorities, identify problems, and use your experience and energy to solve them.
5. What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive about it?
List three or four attractive factors of the job, and mention a single, minor, unattractive item.
6. Why should we hire you?
Create your answer by thinking in terms of your ability, your experience, and your energy. (See question 4.)
7. What do you look for in a job?
Keep your answer oriented to opportunities at this organization. Talk about your desire to perform and be recognized for your contributions. Make your answer oriented toward opportunity rather than personal security.
8. Please give me your defintion of [the position for which you are being interviewed].
Keep your answer brief and taskoriented. Think in in terms of responsibilities and accountability. Make sure that you really do understand what the position involves before you attempt an answer. If you are not certain. ask the interviewer; he or she may answer the question for you.
9. How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
Be realistic. Say that, while you would expect to meet pressing demands and pull your own weight from the first day, it might take six months to a year before you could expect to know the organization and its needs well enough to make a major contribution.
10. How long would you stay with us?
Say that you are interested in a career with the organization, but admit that you would have to continue to feel challenged to remain with any organization. Think in terms of, "As long as we both feel achievement-oriented."
11. Your resume suggests that you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position. What's Your opinion?
Emphasize your interest in establishing a long-term association with the organization, and say that you assume that if you perform well in his job, new opportunities will open up for you. Mention that a strong company needs a strong staff. Observe that experienced executives are always at a premium. Suggest that since you are so wellqualified, the employer will get a fast return on his investment. Say that a growing, energetic company can never have too much talent.
12. What is your management style?
You should know enough about the company's style to know that your management style will complement it. Possible styles include: task oriented (I'll enjoy problem-solving identifying what's wrong, choosing a solution and implementing it"), results-oriented ("Every management decision I make is determined by how it will affect the bottom line"), or even paternalistic ("I'm committed to taking care of my subordinates and pointing them in the right direction").
A participative style is currently quite popular: an open-door method of managing in which you get things done by motivating people and delegating responsibility.
As you consider this question, think about whether your style will let you work hatppily and effectively within the organization.
13. Are you a good manager? Can you give me some examples? Do you feel that you have top managerial potential?
Keep your answer achievementand ask-oriented. Rely on examples from your career to buttress your argument. Stress your experience and your energy.
14. What do you look for when You hire people?
Think in terms of skills. initiative, and the adaptability to be able to work comfortably and effectively with others. Mention that you like to hire people who appear capable of moving up in the organization.
15. Have you ever had to fire people? What were the reasons, and how did you handle the situation?
Admit that the situation was not easy, but say that it worked out well, both for the company and, you think, for the individual. Show that, like anyone else, you don't enjoy unpleasant tasks but that you can resolve them efficiently and -in the case of firing someone- humanely.
16. What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager or executive?
Mention planning, execution, and cost-control. The most difficult task is to motivate and manage employess to get something planned and completed on time and within the budget.
17. What important trends do you see in our industry?
Be prepared with two or three trends that illustrate how well you understand your industry. You might consider technological challenges or opportunities, economic conditions, or even regulatory demands as you collect your thoughts about the direction in which your business is heading.
18. Why are you leaving (did you leave) your present (last) job?
Be brief, to the point, and as honest as you can without hurting yourself. Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. where you considered this topic as you set your reference statements. If you were laid off in an across-the-board cutback, say so; otherwise, indicate that the move was your decision, the result of your action. Do not mention personality conflicts.
The interviewer may spend some time probing you on this issue, particularly if it is clear that you were terminated. The "We agreed to disagree" approach may be useful. Remember hat your references are likely to be checked, so don't concoct a story for an interview.
19. How do you feel about leaving all your benefits to find a new job?
Mention that you are concerned, naturally, but not panicked. You are willing to accept some risk to find the right job for yourself. Don't suggest that security might interest you more than getting the job done successfully.
20. In your current (last) position, what features do (did) you like the most? The least?
Be careful and be positive. Describe more features that you liked than disliked. Don't cite personality problems. If you make your last job sound terrible, an interviewer may wonder why you remained there until now.
21. What do you think of your boss?
Be as positive as you can. A potential boss is likely to wonder if you might talk about him in similar terms at some point in the future.
22. Why aren't you earning more at your age?
Say that this is one reason that you are conducting this job search. Don't be defensive.
23. What do you feel this position should pay?
Salary is a delicate topic. We suggest that you defer tying yourself to a precise figure for as long as you can do so politely. You might say, "I understand that the range for this job is between $______ and $______. That seems appropriate for the job as I understand it." You might answer the question with a question: "Perhaps you can help me on this one. Can you tell me if there is a range for similar jobs in the organization?"
If you are asked the question during an initial screening interview, you might say that you feel you need to know more about the position's responsibilities before you could give a meaningful answer to that question. Here, too, either by asking the interviewer or search executive (if one is involved), or in research done as part of your homework, you can try to find out whether there is a salary grade attached to the job. If there is, and if you can live with it, say that the range seems right to you.
If the interviewer continues to probe, you might say, "You know that I'm making $______ now. Like everyone else, I'd like to improve on that figure, but my major interest is with the job itself." Remember that the act of taking a new job does not, in and of itself, make you worth more money.
If a search firm is involved, your contact there may be able to help with the salary question. He or she may even be able to run interference for you. If, for instance, he tells you what the position pays, and you tell him that you are earning that amount now and would Like to do a bit better, he might go back to the employer and propose that you be offered an additional 10%.
If no price range is attached to the job, and the interviewer continues to press the subject, then you will have to restpond with a number. You cannot leave the impression that it does not really matter, that you'll accept whatever is offered. If you've been making $80,000 a year, you can't say that a $35,000 figure would be fine without sounding as if you've given up on yourself. (If you are making a radical career change, however, this kind of disparity may be more reasonable and understandable.)
Don't sell yourself short, but continue to stress the fact that the job itself is the most important thing in your mind. The interviewer may be trying to determine just how much you want the job. Don't leave the impression that money is the only thing that is important to you. Link questions of salary to the work itself.
But whenever possible, say as little as you can about salary until you reach the "final" stage of the interview process. At that point, you know that the company is genuinely interested in you and that it is likely to be flexible in salary negotiations.
24.What are your long-range goals?
Refer back to the planning phase of your job search. Don't answer, "I want the job you've advertised." Relate your goals to the company you are interviewing: 'in a firm like yours, I would like to..."
25.How successful do you you've been so far?
Say that, all-in-all, you're happy with the way your career has progressed so far. Given the normal ups and downs of life, you feel that you've done quite well and have no complaints.
Present a positive and confident picture of yourself, but don't overstate your case. An answer like, "Everything's wonderful! I can't think of a time when things were going better! I'm overjoyed!" is likely to make an interviewer wonder whether you're trying to fool him . . . or yourself. The most convincing confidence is usually quiet confidence.
External Links, References
- Pease, A. & Pease, B., 2006, The Definitive Book of Body Language, Pease International Pty. Ltd.