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Are You Prepared For a Successful Interview?

Warren | 18.06.2012

Has it been awhile since you've had to interview for a role you want? Interviewing is like anything else in life and business, you get what you prepare for. If you're serious about the role you're interviewing for, then read on to learn more. Click here to download PDF
I’ve coached a lot of candidates of all levels prior to the interviews that landed them in career changing roles. I like to think that much of what I told them ultimately made all the difference between them getting the offer they wanted versus potentially getting passed over. Of course, I can’t say with all certainty that it was the pearls of wisdom I shared with them or if they just happen to be the perfect candidate even if they were digging in their ear with a cotton swab in the midst of the interview. I think we all know that like anything else in life and business, you get what you prepare for. In this case if you’re aiming for a successful interview I would strongly advise you to prepare for it and read the tried and true tips I’ve enclosed in this article. I have always taken the position that a man or woman of talent should think of themselves as a stand-alone business or an independent consulting firm with unique intellectual capital and a service to sell. This can be particularly hard for some people who have gone years without having to interview for their next role. High performers are often promoted from one role to the next without having to interview for their next role. Such people can grow to view their professional identity bound more by the confines of the company’s mission and vision statement than their own personal identity. Eventually, however fate has its way and an interview is deemed necessary to make the next move. If you’re approaching this process after years without an interview, consider that you have an opportunity to pitch your services to a potential customer (the potential employer), but put it in the context of thinking that the more you know about their needs, the better you’ll be prepared to properly communicate and “sell” the services of your business (yourself). Assuming you’re qualified for the role you’re striving for, the outcome of your interview will be largely dependent on your ability to discover and empathize with the needs of the interviewer. You can do this by asking questions that verify your understanding of what the interviewer has just said, without editorializing or expressing an opinion. By establishing empathy in this manner, you’ll be in a better position to freely exchange ideas, and demonstrate your suitability for the job. In addition to empathy, there are four other intangible fundamentals to a successful interview. These intangibles will influence the way your personality is perceived, and will affect the degree of rapport, or personal chemistry you’ll share with the employer. They are:

Enthusiasm.

There should be no doubt in the interviewer’s mind that you are interested in the role. You may think it’s unnecessary or overkill to do this, but in the case that there’s a two-way tie, employers often go with the more enthusiastic candidate. Besides, it’s best to keep your options open. Wouldn’t you rather be in a position to turn down an offer, than have a prospective job evaporate from your grasp by giving a lethargic or less-than-enthusiastic interview?

Technical Expertise / Competence.

Hiring managers more readily identify with people who have both a passion for their work, but also have key expertise they are seeking and can articulate how they can solve the hiring manager’s problem.

Confidence.

Bragging or wearing your ego on your sleeve will get you nowhere. There’s a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. Being confident of your abilities will be more favorably received than boasting of your expertise.

Intensity.

The last thing you want to do is come across as “flat” in your interview. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a laid back person; but sleepwalkers rarely get hired. Most hiring managers have ample interview experience and are very much aware of how stressful it can be to interview for a new position. Competent hiring managers will do everything they can to put you at ease.

Other Important Factors.

Since interviewing also involves the exchange of tangible information, always make sure to present your background in a thorough and accurate manner and gather data concerning the company, the industry, the position, and the specific opportunity. It is critical, that you be prepared to engage in “informed dialogue” regarding the company and the direction they are going in. A worthwhile interviewing goal is to link your abilities with the company needs in the mind of the hiring manager so you can build a strong case for why the company should hire you. The more you know about each other, the more potential you’ll have for establishing rapport, and making an informed decision.

Don’t Talk Yourself Out of an Opportunity

There are two ways to answer interview questions: the short version and the long version. When a question is open-ended, I always suggest to candidates that they say, “Let me give you the short version. If we need to explore some aspect of the answer more fully, I’d be happy to go into greater depth, and give you the long version.” The reason you should respond this way is because it’s often difficult to know what type of answer each question will need. A question like, “What was your most difficult assignment?” might take anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes to answer, depending on the detail you choose to give. Therefore, you must always remember that the interviewer’s the one who asked the question. So you should tailor your answer to what he or she needs to know, without a lot of extraneous rambling or superfluous explanation. Why waste time and create a negative impression by giving a long-rambling speech when a short summary would do just fine? Let’s suppose you were interviewing for an operations management position, and the interviewer asked you to describe, “What types of operations management experience have you had in the past?” This is exactly the sort of question that can get you into trouble if you don’t use the short version/long version method. Many people would just start rattling off everything in their memory that relates to their operations experience. We’ve seen cases where the candidate begins a lengthy accounting of their entire career history leading to the experience in question. Though the information might be useful to the interviewer, your answer could get pretty complicated and long-winded unless it’s neatly packaged and can result in your entire effort being a waste when you are ultimately rejected. One way to answer the question might be, “I’ve held operations positions with three different types of food processing and distribution organizations over the past 16 years. Where would you like me to start?” Or, you might simply say, “Let me give you the short version first, and you can tell me where you want to go into more depth. I’ve had 16 years experience within the food processing industry with four different companies, and held the titles of Plant Manager, Business Unit Manager, and Vice President of Operations. What aspect of my background would you like to hear more about?” By using this method, you quickly communicate to the interviewer that your thoughts are well organized, and that you want to understand the intent of the question before you travel too far in a direction neither of you wants to go. After the hiring manager gives you the green light, you can spend your interviewing time discussing in detail the things that are relevant, not whatever happens to pop into your mind.

How to Answer Interview Questions

Here are eight of the most commonly asked (and basic) interviewing questions. Do yourself and the prospective employer a favor, and give them some thought before the interview occurs. Why do you want this role? Why do you want to leave your current role? What are your personal and professional goals? What do you like most about your current position? Where do you see yourself in three to five years? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What do you like least about your current role? The last question is probably the hardest to answer: What do you like least about your current role? I’ve found that rather than pointing out the faults of others (as in, “I can’t stand the politics,” or, “My boss is a jerk”), it’s best to place the burden on yourself (“I feel I’m ready to expand on the experience I’ve gained in…..,” or, “The direction the company and industry are going in is not of high interest to me and I feel it’s time for me to look at companies such as yours.”). By answering in this manner, you’ll avoid pointing the finger at someone else, or coming across as a whiner or complainer. It does you no good to speak negatively about others. I suggest you think through the answers to the eight questions above for two reasons. First, it won’t help your chances any to delay or spend too much time thinking over fundamental issues such as these. (The answers you give to these types of questions should be natural responses that further illustrate that you’ve thought these things through in advance.) And secondly, the questions will help you evaluate your career choices before spending time and energy on an interview. If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers you come up with, then maybe this new opportunity isn’t right for you.

What Should You Ask the Interviewer?

An interview will quickly disintegrate into an interrogation or monologue unless you ask some substantive questions of your own. Candidate questions are the lifeblood of any successful interview, because they create dialogue and help clarify your understanding of the company and the responsibilities of the position. Additionally, the questions you ask serve to indicate your grasp of fundamental issues, reveal your ability to probe beyond the superficial and challenge the hiring manager to reveal his or her own depth of knowledge and commitment to the job. Your questions should always be slanted in such a way as to show empathy, interest, or understanding of the employer’s needs. After all, the reason you’re interviewing is because the employer’s company has a problem to be solved or a role to be filled. Here are some basic questions that can prove to be helpful at stimulating further dialogue with the hiring manager/s: What’s the most important issue facing the company (or department)? How can I help you accomplish this objective? How long has it been since you first identified this need? How long have you been trying to correct it? Have you tried using your present staff to get the job done? If so, what was the result? Is there any particular skill or attitude you feel is critical to solving this problem? Is there a certain aspect of my background you’d like to exploit or leverage to help accomplish your objectives? Questions like these will not only give you a sense of the company’s goals and priorities, but they will also indicate to the interviewer that you have the appropriate insight and concern for satisfying the company’s objectives.

Four Classic Interview Questions—and How to Prepare for Them

Experienced job seekers know there are four basic types of interview questions—and they prepare accordingly. First, there are the resume questions. These relate to your past experience, skills, job responsibilities, education, upbringing, personal interests, and so forth. Resume questions require accurate, objective answers, since your resume consists of facts which tend to be quantifiable (and verifiable). Try to avoid answers which exaggerate your achievements, or appear to be opinionated, vague, or egocentric. Second, interviewers will usually want you to comment on your abilities, or assess your past performance. They’ll ask self-appraisal questions like, “What do you think is your greatest asset?” or, “Can you tell me something you’ve done that was very creative?” Third, interviewers like to know how you respond to different stimuli. Situational questions ask you to explain certain actions you took in the past, or require that you explore hypothetical scenarios that may occur in the future. “How would you stay profitable during a recession?” or, “How would you go about laying off 1,300 employees?” or, “How would you handle customer complaints if the company drastically raised its prices?” are typical situation questions. And last, some employers like to throw you a test with stress questions such as, “After you die, what would you like your epitaph to read?” or, “If you were to compare yourself to any U.S. president, who would it be?” or, “It’s obvious your background makes you totally unqualified for this position. Why should we even waste our time talking?” Stress questions are designed to evaluate your emotional reflexes, creativity, or attitudes while you’re under pressure. Since off-the-wall or confrontational questions tend to jolt your equilibrium, or put you in a defensive posture, the best way to handle them is to stay calm and give carefully considered answers. Remember, your sense of humor will come in handy during the entire interviewing process, just so long as you don’t go over the edge. I once heard of a candidate who, when asked to describe his ideal job, replied, “To have beautiful women rub my back with hot oil.” Needless to say, he wasn’t hired. Even if it were possible to anticipate every interview question, memorizing dozens of stock answers would be impractical, to say the least. The best policy is to review your background, your priorities, and your reasons for considering a new position; and to handle the interview as honestly as you can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so, or ask for a moment to think about your response. Your professional life is an extremely important piece of your overall life experience. The satisfaction you derive from how, where and when you work impacts your personal, family and spiritual life. Take it serious. Properly think it through and prepare yourself for the interview. If you have any questions over any of the content of this article or need further help in getting ready for your interview, feel free to contact your AgriFind search consultant for whatever additional assistance is needed. We’re here to help you!!!

Otherwise, best wishes for a successful interview!

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