So when was the last time you interviewed? How did it go for you? My guess is that it went poorly for you and that is no slam on you personally its just that most people fear interviews and lose a lot of jobs as a result. I read something like 85% of people in the work force right now had to go through 5-6 interviews before they landed the job that they are in right now. Now there may be multiple reasons for this figure but let me tell you the overwhelming majority of people, if they knew the secrets of successful interviewing skills would land the job they want every time. Instead of getting turned down, they would be turning down job offers.
So isn’t it just a personality thing? Well yes and no. Personality certainly goes a long way in carrying a conversation and presenting yourself in a good light, but very few people have this endearing personality. There are a lot more people who land jobs than people with gregarious personalities–and that is because they now how to interview. Yes, interviewing skills can definitely be and should be learned. So how do people learn?
Well a lot of people have learned interviewing skills through trial and error. The more you do something the better you get at it (usually!). But who wants to learn like this…I mean there are few things that are more painful than getting a rejection letter. Also how fun are interviews in general? Basically most people want to avoid them entirely! Then, wouldn’t it be great if you could learn what makes a successful interview from the eyes of the potential employer? Wouldn’t it be nice to go into an interview with the mindset that you are evaluating them and not the other way around?
Another important thing to remember is that this goes much deeper than learning interviewing skills or tricks. In fact the training that makes you good at interviewing, makes you successful in life. Communication for instance is a fundamental part of success whether it be social confidence, or ability to manage, or network…and on and on.
Learning (and I 100% guarantee that you can learn this stuff) interviewing skills is profitable for anyone from the fresh graduate to the seasoned business man. It is also great for you life outside of work including parenting, dating, marriage–you name it! So don’t wait any longer to get this valuable part of your success under your control!
An interview almost invariably closes with the potential employer asking if you have any questions. Often an applicant will ask for clarification on benefits -insurance, vacation time, etc. While these are obviously important for you to know, they plant a seed in the interviewer’s mind that maybe you are more interested in what the job can do for you than in how you can help the employer.
Try to have three or four questions ready to ask that demonstrate your interest in the company and your desire to be a problem-solver.
If you have been able to do some research, trot out a question or two that came to mind. If you have been able to come up with some ideas that relate to the problem, throw them out to see how the employer reacts.
If you have been able to identify some trends or problems in the industry, ask how that is going to affect the company and what they are doing to deal with it. Show your concern about industry developments and what that may bode for the future.
If some current challenges have been brought up earlier in the interview, ask for clarification and more detail. If you have networked with the “newly departed”, you will know where all their pain-points are and should be bale to ask questions around those issues and bring up examples where you have solved those issues in the past.
The more the interviewer interacts with you as if your concerns are mutual, and that possible solutions are something you could consider together, the more you will be seen as a valuable future member of his team and the more likely you will be asked to join that team. Remember, no one gets out of bed in the morning and decides “today’s a good day to hire someone!”, no they get up and say “oh my goodness how am I gong to solve XYZ problem?”. You, my friend want to be their solution to that problem!
What, would you say, is your greatest weakness?
No one likes admitting to weaknesses, but this is a favorite interview question, and one you need to be prepared for.
This is not the time to confess your deepest secrets or expose embarrassing mistakes you have made in previous jobs. You should choose an area in which you don’t have quite as much experience or confidence as you’d like – something which you will have the opportunity to work on in the job for which you are applying.
It should not be something which you are expected to have already mastered, but something which will be useful for the post and can be developed over time. If you will be expected to give regular presentations, for example, saying that you find this difficult won’t go down well. However, if this isn’t expected at your level, but would be once you’ve moved up the ladder, you might say that you find it a bit nerve wracking and could do with more practice.
Check the job description and person specification for essential and desirable skills and be sure to choose something which is non-essential. It could be that you are unfamiliar with a particular software package which only plays a small part in the job.
Once you have decided on your weakness, be sure to emphasize your willingness to improve and your awareness that you will have the opportunity to do so in the job.
And your greatest strength?
Many people have much more difficulty finding a strength than admitting to a weakness, but if you are asked to supply the latter, there is a good chance you’ll be asked for a strength as well. So be sure to prepare something.
Which aspects of your present job are you naturally good at? Is there anything about your work which has been praised by managers or commented on by co-workers?
If you are just leaving college, which skills did you develop as a student or in other activities such as voluntary work – being a team player, researching information, communication skills?
You should also relate your chosen strength to the job you’re applying for. What is it that the interviewers want and that you know you can deliver?
Your strength needs to be based on reality and should be strong. This is your chance to shine, to bring your best qualities and abilities to the attention of the interviewers. Saying you’re quite good at working in a team won’t cut any ice. You must illustrate your team-working skills with an impressive example, something the panel will remember when they come to make their decision.
Preparation is the key to answering interview questions – make sure you do it.
© Waller Jamison 2005
Questions about your present, or most recent, job can be tricky and if you aren’t careful you can ruin your chances by making negative or undiplomatic comments. So make sure you are prepared.
In an ideal world, we’d all get on brilliantly with the boss and our colleagues – and we’d love every minute of the job. If this were the case, it’s very unlikely we’d ever look for another opportunity. In the real world, the reason you want to leave a job may well be that you don’t get on with the boss or your immediate supervisor, or that the routine has become mind-numbingly boring.
However terrible your present job, the interview is not the time to discuss it. You must be professional and don’t forget, if you are offered the position, the people interviewing you will be your boss and colleagues and they don’t want to work with someone who will complain about them at the first opportunity.
What questions might you be asked about your recent work history? How do you get on with your boss? And how about your colleagues? Why do you want to leave? What do you dislike about your job?
Let’s start with the first two.
How do you get on with your boss or your colleagues?
Whatever the reality, you must give a positive answer. You could say, for example, that you have a good working relationship and that you have always found your boss helpful and supportive; there is a good team spirit and you get on well with your colleagues or that you work together effectively. If you are asked for specific faults in your boss or co-workers, don’t be tempted to run anyone down. This question is not about them, it’s about you and your loyalty. So never say anything against anyone you work with or have worked with in the past. If you feel you can’t honestly give any of the above answers, really think about the people you work with and find something positive that you could say about them.
Why do you want to leave your present job?
You need to think carefully about this one, as employers don’t want to think that you hop from job to job, get bored quickly or are more interested in your after work activities. If there is an obvious reason, such as the end of your contract, redundancy, or you are moving to a different area, say so. Many people are reluctant to say that they have been made redundant, but remember that it’s the post which has been redundant, not you.
What do you say if the truth is that you are bored to death in your present post?
Think carefully about why you are applying for the job in question. What do you think it will give you that your present job does not? Money and longer holidays are the wrong answers. If these are the real reasons, you may well end up just as bored in this job. Take a close look at what the company has to offer. Will it give you an opportunity which is lacking in your present post, for example, to develop existing skills or learn new ones? Or will you have the chance to use specific qualifications or abilities, such as foreign languages, which aren’t needed in your present post? Is there the possibility of advancement, receiving mentoring or taking on new responsibilities which you are unable to do now?
What do you dislike about your job?
Again, caution is needed. If you say that you specifically dislike something, it may be a part of the new job, which would indicate you didn’t read the job description properly and that you’ll dislike this job just as much.
You could say that you enjoy your job but feel ready for something more challenging or that you have learned a great deal but are now ready to move to a post in which you will have more responsibility.
The bottom line – before applying for a new job, make sure you can give positive reasons for leaving the old one and clear motivation for choosing the new one – and never criticize any of your co-workers.
© Waller Jamison 2005
I don’t recall exactly how many girls turned me down when I asked them to the senior prom, but there were a few. Even though that was 35 years ago, I still remember how much I wished I was one of “the beautiful people”. Today, I’m glad I wasn’t. When I finally made it to the major leagues of my industry, two things immediately struck me.
The first was how accepting everyone was. People were amazingly supportive and oddly non-competitive. I later realized this came from their sense of security and accomplishment, since successful people don’t feel threatened by others who succeed.
The second thing was that most of the powerful and famous people I met looked like ordinary average individuals, even though some of them get more for a one hour speech than many people pay for a house. This made me wonder how much one’s looks really impacts career success. Being attractive can certainly help in the short term. Television news magazines such as 20/20 have conducted tests which confirm that society gives special consideration to attractive people. However, being so attractive that one draws excessive attention to him or herself can impede long term career success. Beauty can become the temporary crutch that some people try to keep leaning on long after it has been taken away.
While attractive people can skate by on looks for a while, eventually beauty fades. They may then struggle when it’s gone and they can no longer charm people with their million dollar smile. Meanwhile, their average looking counterparts start to excel in their careers because their greatest assets –their job skills– are increasing. This success principle of “what matters most is what’s on the inside” isn’t limited to work. It also applies to personal relationships. While the newest glamour couple here in my hometown of Nashville is the equally attractive Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, not every pretty woman goes for the handsome leading man look. Just look at Lyle Lovett, who married Julia Roberts in 1993, and Billy Bob Thornton, who married Angelina Jolie in 2000.
Both Thornton and Lovett readily admit they don’t have Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise looks. The one thing they needed to get these beautiful women to say yes was the same thing that made their careers so successful – confidence.
So what’s the moral of this story? If you happen to be an ordinary average looking individual who’s competing against a job applicant or coworker who has drop dead gorgeous looks, don’t assume they have an advantage. It could turn out that looking average helps you become more than average in your career.
Epilogue – persistence helps too… although she turned me down several times I did eventually get a date with the beautiful girl I met at summer camp… and I’m still with her today 34 years later