Owning the Interview Process

The interviewI have always found that interviewing for a new job to be one of the more stressful processes I’ve gone through in life, so much so, that have often been tempted to remain at a position longer than is beneficial. The feeling of starting over, learning how to navigate a new business culture and the thought of leaving the comfort of familiarity can be worrisome for anyone. On the other hand, I tend to be a good interviewee; I am because I’ve learned to overcome my feelings of stress and nervousness and channel those emotions into a sense of enthusiasm for meeting a new challenge. Through trial and correction, I have discovered some successful ways for job candidates to walk into almost any interview feeling prepared and confident.

 

No one can tell you exactly what will happen during an interview process, every organization develops their own style and every manager has their own preferences. In general, most hiring managers are looking for candidates who are qualified to perform the duties required and mesh quickly into that organization’s culture. It is that second need which separates the hirees from the also-rans. There may dozens or even hundreds of people in your area who have similar skills and education as you, so the better you are at demonstrating to the interviewer how you’ll connect with that organization’s principles and structure, the more you will stand out and the more memorable you will become.  

 

Research and connect

Any HR professional worth their certifications will tell that it is critical to your hiring success to learn about an organization before you interview. What you are looking for is, who that organization says they are and what they are trying to accomplish. Use whatever tools you have in your arsenal, the internet is convenient, but any personal contact you have that you can talk with will trump anything you find on a corporate website, just be wary of using proprietary information and absorbing personal bias. Organizations that have a web presence will always have a section that says “About Us”, so learn about their history, their products and services, their mission and their executive management team. Don’t be shy about investigating their social media footprint either; they won’t be when they are looking at you. What you should take note of is what’s out there that is relatable to your own skills and interests and can be highlighted during your interview. Effectively connecting yourself to that organization’s interests and culture during the interview is the primary purpose for research and it makes it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to “see” you working there.

 

Be responsive not animated

Hiring managers tend to enjoy an interview more if the candidate is upbeat and responds appropriately to questions. Those who follow the interview playbook will always leave room for candidates to expand on answers so there is no need to be overly chatty and so animated that you look like you need sedation. The types of questions you’ll be asked will follow a familiar pattern from interview to interview, so get comfortable with them, but DO NOT become so rehearsed with your responses that you come off as unnatural or canned – it requires practice and there’s no way around it. Author and employment expert, Alison Doyle has a great article on interview questions at About.com that should help you prepare for the types of question you can anticipate.

 

Be in control – don’t take control

Hiring managers have sat through more interviews than you could possible go through in your career, so avoid thinking you can win them over by dominating the conversation. At the same time, you want to demonstrate genuine interest in the organization and the specific position. The absolute best way to do so is to ask questions. If you have not been given the opportunity to ask questions during the interview, near the end is where you can let your interviewer know you have some questions; this is where all the research you’ve done will pay off. Candidates should use this time to learn more specifics about their initial responsibilities, the corporate culture, expectations and special projects. Don’t waste the responses by not, briefly, connecting your strengths to the answers. This is your pre-close.

 

Ask to be hired

You would think that the fact that you showed up for the interview would be indication enough that you want the job, but something as simple as asking for the job is often over-looked, but can strike a chord with even the most hardened HR manager. If nothing else, it should at least get you to a second interview. Try the following examples and make them your own:

  1. “Based on our conversation, I believe I have much to offer your company and that the company has a great deal to offer me. Have I given you enough information to make a decision?”
  2. “I’m certain this is the right place for me. What can I do to convince you I’m the right person for the position?”
  3. “I’m sincerely interested in this position, what is the next step to move forward?”
  4. This position seems to be a perfect match for my skills and experience, I’d really like to work with you and your team.”

Asking for the job is a delicate matter; it should be handled in the most respectful way. You do not want to blow your chances by appearing too pushy or arrogant. You should be completely genuine and don’t leave your enthusiasm at home. This is your close.

 

 

~ Richard

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WORKING IN BOXES

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I have always found it odd that some managers strongly suggest that their employees do not stray too far away from their assigned duties. To do so would invite a variety of repercussions, up to and including termination. I once worked for one company that created a culture in which communication between departments was so restrictive that employees could receive a curt talking to if they did not follow the proper channels. What were those proper channels? Because there was, a military style hierarchy set in place one always had to observe the chain of command. Even bringing up an issue to a manager within the same department, but not your direct manager could land you on a virtual list of potential troublemakers. This seems antithetical to the current business ideal of “thinking outside the box.”

In many organizations, almost every department relies on each other for information or support in order to bring a final product or service to customers. Restricting communication between departments to only senior managers is not only counter-productive; it can lead to a literal stagnation of ideas. In these types of confined management structures, the only ideas that ever permeate the inner sanctum are those that already exist. I’m NOT suggesting some communication free-for-all where no protocols exist and anyone can reach out to anyone…. Or am I, rarely have my best ideas occurred to me during a scheduled meeting, and judging by the number of people who mentally wander away during meetings, the same could be said for many others. So why not break down a few barriers and at least provide some opportunity for department staff, at every level, to learn from each other.

The benefits of that level of open communication are that it provides employees a sense of shared decision-making and allows them a greater understanding of their role in the organizations success. In addition, business needs change quickly and many companies view contraction as a way to spur growth. Having teams of staff members who are at least comfortable within the confines of departments other than their own, will allow greater flexibility when change inevitably comes. By keeping employees boxed up within their own departments, you deny them the opportunity for personal growth; in addition, you deny the organization the benefits of fresh ideas and alternative perspectives.

~ Richard

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