Whether it’s a New Year’s resolution, a stagnant career track, or a desire to try something new, if you’re looking to make a career move, the best plan of attack is planning. Looking at your resume from an interviewer’s point of view, making sure it’s perfect, and getting it to the right people are the first steps to getting you in the door. As a recruiting firm, it’s our job to make sure candidates are prepared to ace the interview, and the following advice provides some tips on how to best prepare for the process.
Interviewing models change and evolve. Today there are many types of interviews: structured, unstructured, behavioral and situational questions, all designed to get the most, and the most telling, information from you. Your task is to make sure you’re giving the responses that put you in the most positive light. The best recruiter can help you do well in an interview: cueing you on what information the interviewer needs. The best candidates are set to be lead through the process with information at the ready.
Some experts warn that your interview answers should never exceed two minutes, with the exception of reviewing your background and education, and that’s sound advice. Savvy interviewers will let you prattle on and on, hoping that something in that rant will be juicy enough to exclude you from consideration. Next!
Maximizing those two minutes, then, should be your goal. What you say, how you say it, and what your body language reveals when you speak are important considerations when you’re hoping to put your best foot forward. Like actors rehearsing their lines, pre-interview practice can get you ready for your close-up.
Whether your interviewer uses behavioral or situational questions, open-ended inquiries, or yes/no questions, you need to be ready with answers that fit those models. Here are two types of questions you should be ready to answer.
Behavioral questions hope to gain insight on how you will cope with situations that arise. Be ready to tell about the times everyone else in the office panicked, while you remained calm and promptly addressed the problem (but leave out the part that you were merely out of coffee). Having several of these stories on deck and ready to bat is a smart move.
Another type of question we use are situational inquiries. Situational questions are designed to trip you up. You’ll be given hypothetical scenarios and asked how you would deal with them. Here’s where those planned behavioral answers can really fit the bill. Not only can you answer the hypothetical, but you can show that you’ve “been there, done that, saved the day,” with a quick follow up of “no thanks necessary, just doing my job.”
Here is an excellent rule of thumb for all interview questions: take a breath before you answer. Never just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, (unless you’re being asked your name) until you take a moment to consider your answer. And a moment is really all you should take: a two-minute muse on how well you work with others will raise a significant red flag. Take a breath or two, and then answer to the best of your ability.
Find the Fit
When you speak about your background, experience and training, try to connect the information you impart with the position that’s vacant. Speak about your most relevant experience first, then tailor the “not-such-a-great-match” jobs to suit.
You’re vying for that first HR job: but your background is in retail. Focus on how satisfying customers, even difficult ones, is a matter of pride for you. That skill set applies almost everywhere. Much of your experience can translate into another industry if you focus more on the big picture, rather than the daily duties. Look for aspects of your work that apply and capitalize on them.
Mirroring is a critical skill for an interviewee, and it starts with pre-planning. Dressing for the job to which you aspire, rather than the one you have, starts the interview off on the right foot. Dressing well shows respect – for the company, the interviewer and the hiring process. You’ll show the interviewer that you are serious and respectful.
Mirroring goes beyond dressing the part. Your posture, composure, language, and even your hand gestures demonstrate whether you’ll fit like a glove or stand out like a sore thumb. Look to the interviewer for cues: are they sitting at attention? Then let your inner mother remind you not to slouch.
Send the Right Message
Nothing says “I’m only in it for me” more than asking the wrong questions. If you want to take the fast track to the elevator and out the door, ask, “when do I get a vacation?” Or “how soon can I start using sick time?” You may really want to know the answers, but refrain.
While those might be fairly obvious faux pas, there are subtle ways you could be translating you’re not going to become team captain. Letting the interviewer know that you didn’t go to college for four years so you could do you own <insert menial duty here> might be counterproductive. Ask about the manager, the department, turnover, and the culture within the workgroup, to garner the information you need, without appearing self-involved.
Ask Smart Questions
A little homework on the company is also a smart choice. Look into what their successes have been, and mention them during the interview. Ask questions about plans and growth, how they have managed in a difficult economy, and where they plan to be in the next five years. Ask your interviewer what they believe is the best aspect of working with the company.
You might even want to do a little research on the hiring manager. Are they on LinkedIn, do they hold any professional awards, or have they earned any accolades? The company website may be a good place to look, but don’t take it too far. A mention that they’d recently been honored shows you’ve done your homework. Asking them to friend you on Facebook is a step too far. The important factor is to demonstrate you’re the type of candidate who does their research, even before they get the job.
Say Thank You
It sounds so trite, but so few people remember to say thank you: for the opportunity to meet, for the interviewer’s time, for consideration of any other available positions, if you’re not the right fit today. Whether it’s a hand written note or an email, that extra last step demonstrates a willingness to do more than the minimum required. Yet another selling point in your favor.
Whatever motivates you to seek out a new position, remember that recruiters are preparing to spend their time with you wisely and productively. We’re anxious to get the right fit and fill that open slot. Planning to maximize the recruitment process for yourself is a smart step toward getting hired. Best of luck on your search.