I do a lot of interview coaching in my life. Friends, family, job search clients all eventually come to the place where they are ready to put their best foot forward and sell their skills for a new job. Many of them are self-aware and well prepared to do just this...but there is a small, but mighty group of folks out there who think that to be successful in an interview, you have to be who the hiring company wants you to be.
Let me channel my two year old in giving you my opinion on that...NOOOOO!
To me, the definition of a successful interview is one in which a candidate and a company agree to compare the candidate's true skills/abilities/experiences with the hiring company's needs/culture/goals. These areas collide and a hire should result in the effective matching of the two. Does it always? Of course not-there are plenty of lousy interviewers out there. But for today, let's talk about what we can do as job seekers to make sure that we are holding up our end of the bargain. Let's start with what I consider to be interviewing myths:
1) Revamp my resume to reflect what the company is wanting: On the surface, this is an excellent suggestion...if you actually have the experience that you have written on your resume! Too many job seekers think that they won't get caught if they add an extra title here, some extra tenure there, or skills in a certain technology that they only have seen on TV. You will eventually get busted-let's just hope that it's not when you are on the job. Where this can be good advice is when you highlight certain skills/experiences or even reformat your resume to bring attention to certain parts of your background. There is nothing wrong with revising a resume, as long as it's completely honest and accurate.
2) I should always match my communication style to the person interviewing me: Again, another great suggestion on the surface...unless your interviewer is a jackass. It's ok to slow down your pace, or use SAT words if that is what would mirror your interviewer's communication style. However, if he/she is cursing, badmouthing someone, or being aggressive-just remember it may be an interviewing tactic to get you to let your guard down. Don't!
3) I don't need to prepare for interviews. I've been in this industry 30 years...I know my stuff! I'm sad to say that I have heard this one before...and I can also say that these are normally the interviews that go slightly awry. Everyone can use some prep beyond knowing the hard skills of the job. Do your research-what's going on with the company, what's the title/background of the person interviewing you, what's the organizational culture, etc. Great that you can speak to the technology involved, but honey-it's not enough.
4) In prepping for the dreaded strengths/weaknesses question, it's ok to spin a weakness into a strength: I would like to take a moment here and speak for the entire recruitment community and say....STOP THIS! Come on...we know when you are BS'ing us. We're just too polite to let you know it. We all have actual weaknesses. I only know one guy who didn't have any, and I'm pretty sure He already has a job. If it's the rest of us, we're flawed, so you don't do yourself any favors by pretending otherwise. What do I mean by spinning a weakness into a strength? Here's one of my personal favorites: "I work too hard. I'm a workaholic. I am often at work 12-15 hours a day." The sad thingis that for some people, this is a real weakness...but for most, it's what you think employers want to hear. Where I might believe this particular one is if it went something like this: "I work too hard. I'm a workaholic. Where I'm challenged by this is that if I go too long with too many hours, I find that my innovation suffers and I'm not solving problems as well as I would were I experiencing a more balanced life. What I'm doing to fix this is limiting myself to one late night a week unless something major is going on. This way, I'm more rested and ready to tackle the tough situations." Ok..so here..you are acknowledging that it's a true area of development for you and how being a workaholic might actually hurt the work you do. This is believable! But this only works if it is a real area of development for you. So think long and hard about this question and prepare an appropriate..and honest response. You'll gain a lot of points with the interviewer if they know you are a "real" person.
5) I'm good...I don't have any questions!: I've seen this one more with people with less professional experience. In your desire to please, you decide that asking few to no questions is one way to keep the person interviewing you from taking too much time out of their day. Ok, that's so nice. I get it-you don't want to be an imposition. Thank you for letting me get back to watching episodes of Grey's online, but it's not gonna get you the job! Always have questions prepared for every single interview. I always like to ask a couple of the same questions for every single person I interview with at a company-it gives me an idea of how they think, plus tells me a lot about consistency of belief, value, and methodology runs through the company. The last company that I interviewed with had extremely consistent answers and that impressed me a bunch. By failing to ask questions in an interview, you rob yourself of a crucial opportunity to determine if this is a good place to work.
6) I have to impress them with my intelligence! There is a reason that God gave you two ears and one mouth...listen twice as much as you talk! Hear what I am asking for! You do not need to beat me over the head with your awesomeness. If you made it this far, I must not think you are a total nincompoop. However, I want to know about your awesomeness in the form of specific experiences rather than you telling me how wonderful you, your mom, and everyone on the planet thinks you are. Be prepared to relate stories to me in the STAR (situation/task/action/result) format, and I promise you-your fabulousness will tell it's own story.
7) I don't want them to know I'm nervous! Uh..why don't you want them to know this? See item 4..the one about us all being human. It's ok to be nervous-it can actually help you. It can even serve as an icebreaker if you let the interviewer know that you have a case of the nerves because you are so excited about your ability to do this job. It's ok to ask for a glass of water or take a deep breath. I can honestly say that while I have conducted interviews that have run into at least the quadruple digits if not higher, I still get nervous from time to time, so realize it happens to almost everyone. You should however be prepared to control your outward expressions of your inward feelings. What do I mean? No leg tapping, hand grasping, or for me, brow furrowing. Do a practice interview with a friend if you aren't sure. I interviewed someone for my church who was (and still is) wonnnnderful, but I thought she was going to pop her hands right off her arms she was grasping them so hard. Body language sends a powerful message-make sure yours is speaking the right words.
Bottom line is this. Be yourself. Be self-aware in your answers. Prepare regardless of how much you already know. Give specific examples that highlight your ability to do the job well, and you will do great! Need a little more inspiration? My blog today was inspired by a great and much more efficient post by Laurie Ruettimann over at www.punkrockhr.com. Check her out-you won't be sorry!
I am thrilled to be able to work as a consultant in the greater HR field, specializing in recruiting and outplacement. As a Job Search coach, I spend my time helping professionals make the leap from looking to landed. I also get to do some interviewing/recruiting for organizations across the
Prior to my consulting life, I spent about a decade working in the recruiting industry doing just about every job possible from Agency Recruiter, Corporate Recruiter, HR Manager, and Area VP. I was also lucky enough to work on some cool career progression programs that put employees in the driver’s seat along with new programs to focus more on the needs of Gen Y hiring.
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