This article on Job Interviews was originally featured on LifeHack.org on July 9th, 2018. Many thanks to LifeHack for adding me as a contributing writer.
I should have my name somewhere in the Higher Education Book of World Records for the total number of interviews I’ve attended in my life. Ten? Twenty? I think it’s more like 75 or so. And that doesn’t even count phone interviews. I’m well over 100 if you count those.
Most of my interviews have been full day experiences on a college campus featuring multiple interview panels and several meals; sometimes campus tours, presentations and student events. I’m not sure this is the norm for corporate America but I like to think that this experience has given me a certain amount of unique insight on how to ace an interview.
But beyond that – as an employer, I could easily double that number in terms of the total number of interviews I’ve conducted. Chairing search committees? Yes, I’ve had experience there as well. I know exactly what I’m looking for when a candidate sits down across that table from me or the table of folks with whom I’m interviewing.
Because you will be doing a good amount of preparation for that interview (um, yes, you totally will), here are 17 things that will assist you as you prepare to ace an interview:
1. Do your homework
If I’m going to invest my time into speaking with you about my vacant position, I want to be sure that you are interested in my organization. And the only way I will know that is if you’ve done your homework. You should be prepared to connect your previous experiences and skills with how you can contribute to my company.
“Tell me how your skills and experience have prepared you for a position at This Company?”
2. Fit the company (almost) perfectly
Candidates should be interviewing the employer in this session as well! As the hiring manager, I want to know that my candidates have thought about how they connect with our mission and values and whether they agree with them. Dr. Kerry Schofield wrote on Good&Co:
“The average correlation between good cultural fit and these positives outcomes is about 0.43, which means that cultural fit accounts for nearly half the variance between employees in job satisfaction!”
As for myself, I just want an employee who wants to make a difference for my company, not just earn a paycheck.
“How do you see yourself contributing to this organization?”
3. Aware of your own weaknesses
As a hiring manager or supervisor, I need to know that YOU, the employee, are self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses – but particularly the weaknesses.
Let me explain that a little further because it sounds harsh. I am going to assume that you are pursuing a job with my company because you feel pretty good about your ability to do Skills A, B, and C. But I need to know where you struggle, so I can assist you and support you; so I can connect you with a team member or mentor who balances your challenge areas.
“What are two of your strength areas, and name one area where you struggle from time to time?”
4. Know how to manage conflicts
Don’t tell me that it’s always been rainbows and sunshine between you and your co-workers. You may actually have had a big challenge with a previous supervisor.
I want to know how you manage conflict in the workplace and what you’ve learned from workplace conflict. Understanding the way you respond to negative situations tells me a great deal about how you can contribute.
“Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a coworker. How did you resolve the situation; and what did you learn about yourself in the process?”
5. Solve problems skillfully
In the face of confusion or frustration, how do you solve a problem and move the project forward? As your supervisor or hiring manager, I’m definitely interested in how you manage those bumps in the road and recover from the distraction. In an article on the HuffPost, Ken Watanabe said regarding problem solving,
“It’s important to realize that being a problem solver isn’t just an ability; it’s a whole mind-set, one that drives people to bring out the best in themselves and to shape the world in a positive way.”
“You and your team have realized that you completely under budgeted the advertising project that is due in 48 hours. How do you approach this situation and prepare for the deadline?”
6. Have a good personality
I mean, can you talk about a variety of topics? Do you connect with others in the room and make eye contact? Do you have something to say or do you just sit there? I’m not talking about whether you are an introvert or extrovert; it’s your uniqueness that sets you apart. Demonstrate your individualism and show how you will approach tasks and projects.
“What would your former supervisor say is the most unique thing about you?”
7. Be a leader and a follower
Depending on the position you are pursuing, the hiring manager may be looking for a supervisor or team leader; or they might be looking for someone to complete their team. You should be able to show how you can do both. In certain circumstances, different leadership and teamwork styles emerge, so you want to be able to indicate where the division is for you.
“Describe a project or event where you were clearly the leader; how did you demonstrate this and what was the result?”
“In what circumstances do you prefer to serve the team as a member, or follower?”
8. Know your expectations
If your hiring manager is also going to be your supervisor, he will want to get a sense of how you like to be supervised; or how you need to be supervised.
Are you looking for a supervisor who is also a mentor? Or do you work better if you are left alone? Are you going to ask for clarification every time a task is delegated to you? Or are you more likely to ask for forgiveness rather than permission?
“What expectations do you have of this position, or of your supervisor?”
9. Able to achieve work life balance
You won’t be any good in the workplace if you aren’t taking good care of yourself. No one can serve from an empty vessel.
Employees who focus on work life balance are more engaged, more productive and happier in their positions. Doing a little extra hustle in the early days while you learn the ropes and get to know your team is one thing; skipping lunch hours and staying late multiple times a week is another. Show the hiring manager that you have alignment and you aren’t just your job.
“What are your hobbies or interests?”
“What strategies do you use to make good use of your down time?”
10. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity
You don’t need to do cartwheels or be a cheerleader (unless you really are that person); but answering questions with no interest or eagerness will demonstrate otherwise. Convey genuine excitement in the opportunity this position brings you.
“Why do you want to work for us here at Blah Blah Company?”
11. Show your confidence
You’ve made it this far because you truly believe you can do this job. You genuinely want this position. The interview is not time for you to beg for a job, so you need to be prepared that you can demonstrate your abilities and belief in yourself.
“What previous experiences have prepared you to assume this position?”
12. Strive for results
Walking the walk isn’t enough. Your new boss wants to know if you can get things done and provide results. How exactly are you going to prove that in an interview? Make sure you can explain a time where you completed a project from start to finish and can show how it made a difference.
Furthermore, as shared by Audrey Fisher on her blog, being results oriented allows you (and your supervisor) to measure your progress and take ownership.
“How have you specifically contributed to your previous employer or organization/department?”
13. Show your positivity
Employees with positive attitudes are more productive in the workplace. And frankly, positivity is contagious. Your tendencies to show that you are a Glass Half Full person helps with overall morale, and managers really like this. No one wants to work with Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy. And chances are, no one wants to supervise these ladies, either.
“Tell me about a time when you have achieved a negative result in a project or event. What did you learn from that experience?”
14. Be specific when you explain yourself
As a hiring manager and supervisor, I got really sick and tired of hearing these various responses:
- “I’m a people person.”
- “I have excellent leadership skills.”
- “I’m such a perfectionist.”
- “I’m a total team player.”
By making these statements, you’ve told me exactly nothing. What made you that people person? What specific leadership skills can you perform? The ability to provide specific examples in your interview responses are so much more effective than generalizations.
“Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team through a project. What skills did you leverage to complete this project?”
15. Demonstrate that you’re a team player
No woman (or man) is an island. Unless you are interviewing for a telecommunications gig (and even some of those have teams), you’re going to have colleagues and peers and fellow staffers who will rely on you and need your participation.
Be prepared to express and explain how you contribute to the teams you are assigned, and what your role usually has been.
“Tell me about a time where you worked on a project with a team. What was your role, and what was the outcome?”
“Trust is the basis of every relationship.” I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember the name of the comedy film where this came from although I’m sure that screen writer wasn’t the first person to say this. Just in this particular film, it’s ironic because the character speaking it is shifty.
And no one wants to work with someone they can’t trust. Whether you’re part of an advertising team, a medical rotation or a residence hall staff, staff members need to trust each other as do supervisors and employees. Jennifer Scott shared this interview question (and many more) on LinkedIn:
“What would you do if you were given credit for something a co-worker actually did?”
17. Be patient
Each organization and corporation has a specific procedure for hiring. Some HR departments are completely in charge, or the departments take the lead and HR makes the offer. Either way – don’t bug the hiring manager or administrative assistant to death about an answer.
You can ask about the timeline during your interview and make a note of this. Follow up only if the timeline hasn’t been met.
This extends to the workplace as well once you get an offer. The department or team may not be advancing or changing as fast as you’d expected. You may not be getting promoted as quickly as you’d hoped. Just hang in there and be patient.
You’re the new guy, remember? Explore your concerns with your supervisor and ask good questions. Your time will come. I’m sure of it.
Here’s an interview question that was shared on Glassdoor.com:
“How would you handle stress in a situation with a customer where you can’t immediately solve the problem?”
Preparing for a job interview should be taken seriously, especially if this position is one that excites you and will fulfill your passion. You’ll definitely have a leg up if you focus on some of these areas of importance to hiring managers.
Now go out there and ace that job interview.