Tag Archives: Interview techniques

The Job Interview—Morphed into Something Else

5imagesNot too long ago, much-respected blogger Tim Tyrell-Smith of Tim’s Strategy conducted a survey, clearly finding that interviewers’ number one concern is “fit with the company’s culture.” From other articles on that subject, too, it seems as if the old-fashioned “Tell me about yourself” and “What are your key accomplishments?” questions—even when answered well—are apparently less important than newer questions such as, “What movie did you see lately?” or “What apps have you uploaded lately on your smartphone?” Another article compared job interviewing to a first date, when you’re trying to find out the other person’s more-general likes and dislikes and not assessing skills.

Years ago, I attended a one-day workshop held by the Disney organization; and the only sentence I remember about the company’s hiring policy was, “We hire for personality and train for skills.” It’s such a simple and yet profound philosophy, and in fact, it obviously works well, because Disney is among the most admired employers.

Glassdoor, a jobs and career community Web site, emphasizes that a pleasant and homogeneous work environment is almost as important to employees as compensation is. Sometimes I ask job seekers the question, Which would you prefer: an intolerable and toxic boss? or $20,000 less and a pleasant work environment? Invariably, the answer is less money and a great boss.

Work environment is a very important commodity. And that’s precisely the reason interviewers are paying more and more attention to whether new hires would fit into their organizations. Unfortunately, in most cases employees cannot change their bosses; but bosses can at least try to hire people who would work well together. And how very logical that is when today’s work environment is so stressful and every employee is expected to perform outstandingly. Additionally, nowadays many company and department goals are being accomplished via teams. And if a team member is not well liked—for whatever reason—the team’s output in its entirety will suffer.

In practical terms, the word fit—when it involves the hiring process—covers such concepts as, Do I like you, and would I enjoy working with you in the future? Would your future peers tell me how much they enjoy having you as part of the team, or is the opposite true? Is my boss going to compliment me for selecting you, or will I hear negative comments about my choice?

So, with the understanding of the importance of fit—in the hiring manager’s mind—how can a job candidate tilt the pendulum favorably? First, appear congenial. Next, stay away from controversy and ambiguity to the extent possible. Next, actively engage the interviewer from your own perspective. In other words, don’t let yourself be positioned as an “accused” in an interrogation wherein you are there to just answer questions; ask questions of your own. And above all, smile. Smile a lot!

How to Sell Yourself in a Job Interview

6imagesSo, finally the phone rings and the caller ID displays the name of a company you sent your résumé to. The caller is from the company’s human resources department and wants to schedule you for an in-person interview. Fantastic, this is music to your ears, but what now? Are you prepared? Do you have time to get ready? More important, do you understand the interview process and in what context the company wants to explore your candidacy? Plus, also remember that such interviews are competitive. In other words, your résumé provided some clues about you that may fit the company’s need, the company’s culture, the skills sought, and so on, but in addition to exploring hiring possibilities with you, the company does so with several additional candidates as well. So now the question is, What can you do to maximize your chances?

Know your relationship with the interviewer

From the moment you hung up the phone with the person arranging the interview, this upcoming face-to-face meeting becomes the focal point of your next few days. Such is not the case, however, with the person who’s going to conduct the interview. For that person, the excitement about meeting with you is minimal—sometimes even to the point that the interviewer might not be prepared to conduct the interview. Sometimes the interviewer does not have with him a copy of your résumé—or even the job description!—and will just wing it, as they say. On top of that, you think that well-rehearsed answers to common interview questions are very convincing. Well, think again. The interviewer knows you came in to sell yourself and knows to expect from you many self-proclaimed adjectives about how great you are. But do you really think the interviewer believes everything you say? Well, maybe some of it—and probably more of it if you have factual examples and you describe them as viewed by others.

What’s actually important to the interviewer?

This is where the candidate is at a disadvantage. Don’t forget that the hiring manager initiated the quest for the “ideal candidate” because there’s a problem to solve. It’s most likely the hiring manager (or interviewer) did not agree to meet with you because of your beautiful hands—well, unless you’re a professional model and the company is selling, say, wristwatches.

Seriously, your focus should be on identifying what the hiring manager needs done. And most likely, that information does not get revealed even via a candid dialogue. The thing is that job descriptions are typically rather general by not highlighting the specifics that are in fact the driving forces behind the hiring process for the positions advertised. Additionally, a large survey conducted among human resources personnel and hiring managers exposed the fact that 100 percent of them were looking for candidate fit into their companies’ cultures. And 82 percent of interviewers said they look for passion and excitement in candidates. So, based on this information, you may think your past speaks very well and you’d therefore be a shoo-in for the position. Not so, says the survey, unless you fit into the culture and you exhibit passion and excitement while interviewing.

As a reader, you may have your own opinion. I’d welcome your comment.

Is Your Elevator Pitch Working?

Photo credit to Ambro

Photo credit to Ambro

I frequent job search networking groups where people stand up and recite what’s called the elevator pitch. Ideally, people are supposed to be able to concisely sum up unique professional aspects about themselves in a way that intrigues and excites listeners so that the listeners will want to connect later—for mutual benefit—with the one giving the pitch. Yet most people fail to achieve that objective. It’s too bad, because the elevator pitch is the single most important part of group networking. If you’re unsuccessful and simply sound like each of the other fifty people in the room, you miss the opportunity to brand yourself.

Most people at such job search networking meetings disappoint for a number of reasons. First, they announce their first and last names way too quickly and way too softly—to the point that the name is not audible by those sitting at a bit of distance from them in the room. Second, the overall gist of most people’s pitches involves praising themselves by talking about how great they are at what they do and how much they saved their companies. Frankly, probably no one in the audience cares about those self-promoting sound bites. Most of the people in the room look at you and pretend to be listening, but their minds are elsewhere. If they haven’t had their turn yet, then they’re most likely preoccupied with reciting in their own mind what they’re going to say when their turn comes. And if they’ve already given their pitch, everybody else is boring them.

A successful elevator pitch is much more than words and facts. It’s supposed to inspire the listener to action, but in order to achieve that, your delivery must express authenticity, and it has to involve your body, your voice, and the content of your pitch. You are onstage. People want you to be successful and not to disappoint. Your attire matters too, because attire is part of your overall image. If you look like you just finished mowing the lawn minutes before delivering your pitch, you’ll probably be memorable, but not in a way that’s positive. Project your voice so that everyone can hear you. Make sure there’s congruence between your body language and the words you say. Show passion and excitement that will radiate through the audience. And most important of all, offer your assistance to others. That’s what will attract the audience.

I’ve seen many people fail with their elevator pitch because it was evident that they were winging it. They had not prepared for it, which completely eroded their confidence. A first impression happens only once: at first! Listeners are picking up on this instantly. It takes only seconds to set the stage for a great elevator pitch or to ruin one.

Craft your elevator pitch very carefully. Run it by people who have a flair for marketing.

Adjust it till it seems comfortable for delivery in front of a large audience. Practice it several times till it feels natural. Then improve on it to make it even better. It needs to sound confident and natural. Make it short, because in this case, less is more. Don’t expect at the end that someone’s going to offer you a job; that would be highly unrealistic. The purpose of the elevator pitch is to establish relationships with new people. So it’s all about relationship building, because relationships are the sources for 60 to 80 percent of job offers.