How to Prepare for Job Interviews

The average worker over 35 will job hunt every five to eight years (those under the age of 35 every three to five years). Though most would agree that interviewing well is critical to securing a good job, a surprising number of job hunters are poorly prepared for the interviewing process — with predictable results.

Prospective employers have all heard the same claims: “I’m a self-starter, an excellent communicator, team player/leader and I work well with others.”

These general claims are no longer good enough to land a good job.

Job seekers today need to provide proof of their ability to do the job successfully.

Prospective employers know there is no greater predictor of potential future performance than past performance; they want solid examples — beyond your resume — of your past performance.

Eighty percent of companies today are using “behavioral” interviewing, which may be new to anyone who hasn’t been on a job interview recently.

Using this technique, interviewers ask potential employees open-ended questions designed to elicit specific examples of how you performed in the past.

Typically, employers identify a laundry list of specific qualities, skills and competencies that applicants must have to succeed in the open position. Examples might include displaying good judgment under stress, being a team player, demonstrating initiative and creativity or being able to resolve interpersonal conflict effectively.

The interviewer then asks questions to determine if the candidate can prove their proficiency with past work examples of the desired skills and qualities.

Job hunters who truly want to nail their interview opportunity need to anticipate these kinds of questions for the specific position they are seeking. The next step is to identify and prepare the best examples from your past to demonstrate success using these skills and competencies. Here are some examples of common behavioral-style interview questions:

  • Tell me about a workplace conflict or challenging issue with a co-worker and how you resolved it.
  • Give me a previous work example that demonstrates your initiative (or creativity).
  • Tell me a work story that sums up why we should hire you.
  • Describe the most difficult work situation you ever encountered and the process you used to resolve it.

Another interviewing trend is for prospective employers to ask candidates to imagine a difficult situation they believe the candidate will likely encounter in the new job. They pose the challenging scenario and then ask the candidate how they would respond. For example: “Imagine you have an irate customer on the phone yelling at you for an error, how would you handle it?” Some will even present scenarios and ask candidates to role play.

The “deer in the headlights” look to just about any question posed during a job interview typically won’t land you a good job. Preparation is key. Give some thought to how you will answer these kinds of questions in advance. Better yet, invest in yourself with a career coach to help you prepare.

Results and your ability to communicate your past achievements will positively impress prospective employers. Quantify your achievements when possible. Bringing samples of your work into an interview (portfolio, Web site links, strategic plan examples, etc.) can help you stand out as a doer and achiever. Many job hunters use memory discs as a “leave behind” with work samples.

Prospective employers are looking for those who can demonstrate they go the extra mile — like being fully prepared for a professional interview. Prepare well, do your research (on the company and the position) and leverage the available professional resources to help you secure what might be the most significant opportunity of your career.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I help prospective job hunters land jobs all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

10 Ways to Blow a Job Interview

A JOB INTERVIEW can be a golden opportunity to move up in your career or improve your life. It’s prudent, therefore, to do everything you can to increase your odds of landing a desirable position. Like first dates, job interview first impressions are critical (and can change your life!).

The following are 9 ways to blow a job interview.

  1. Be curt, impolite or unprofessional to anyone at the office where you are interviewing, particularly the receptionist or assistant to the hiring manager. These individuals often have earned the confidence and trust of their supervisors. In surveys, two out of three executives claim they are influenced to some degree by input from their assistants. If you were rude to the assistant and didn’t get the job, you likely shot yourself in the foot.
  2. Show up in a bad mood (i.e., frowning, not making eye contact, standing around with your arms crossed) or displaying an attitude that says, “I really don’t need this job” or “I’m too good for all of you.” Poor hygiene is equally bad; no one wants to work alongside Pigpen. Chemistry matters in the hiring process — big time. Hiring managers take many factors into account when making hiring decisions (beyond your résumé, education and experience). Key influencing factors include: appearance (avoid slouching posture), habits (avoid nervous fidgeting or knuckle cracking), communication style (speaking softly can indicate a lack of assertiveness or self confidence), and attitude (tone of voice and body posture can indicate interest and enthusiasm, or a lack of them). Think of the interview room as a “No whine” zone — complaining is often a one-way ticket out the door.
  3. Come to the interview unprepared to answer “Tell me about yourself” or “Why should we hire you?” or present answers without confidence, clarity and purpose. These questions are the most frequently asked and, if you are prepared, offer an excellent opportunity to go over your key talking points such as your unique value proposition for the position. Give them the Reader’s Digest version and let them dictate how specific you get — by asking, “Let me know if you’d like me to go into further detail.”
  4. Don’t have “your best stories” ready. Being prepared means coming in with examples from your past work experience that relay or give the hiring person some proof of your capabilities, creativity, initiative and how you go above and beyond. Hiring managers remember stories — good ones can set you apart from other candidates. As a coach, I help job seekers fine tune and practice presenting their “best case” stories, as these can make a difference in an interview. Deciding which story or example best represents your talents and abilities is important.
  5. Make immediate compensation demands during the initial interview. Most career experts advise against negotiating salary and/or benefits before the hiring manager fully understands what you bring to the table and what your potential value is to the organization. Ideally, compensation should be negotiated only after they have said they want to hire you. Tip: it’s often easier to get a commitment for additional compensation (more pay, bonuses and vacation) for a time in the future; in other words, base additional compensation on a review of your short-term job performance.
  6. Make inappropriate small talk, tell off-color jokes or ask personal questions of the interviewer (hint: anything related to gender, sex, religion or politics). Any of you who think this is a “duh” — I have stories to share! The bottom line — you won’t get hired if they in any way view you as a potential “risk” or not a “fit” with their team or culture.
  7. Don’t use your internal company contacts. Most companies have a strong preference in hiring individuals their own people refer. Contact anyone you know who works for the company you are interviewing with to ask them for interviewing insight and/or a potential referral.
  8. Answer the interviewer’s inevitable question, “Tell me about your weaknesses,” with, “I have none.” We all have opportunities for improvement. Communicating that you are self-aware of your own “growth” opportunities demonstrates your willingness to learn, grow and to receive direction and input that will make you a more effective (and valuable) employee. Prepare to provide a couple of weaknesses and then explain your plan to improve them.
  9. Forget to send a personal thank you note to those who interview you. It surprises me how many job seekers miss this important last step — the good news: doing so will set you apart from all those who don’t (and offer you one final opportunity to either correct any wrong impressions or add anything you may have forgotten).
  10. Not investing in this important opportunity with a career coach.  Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach.  I coach job seekers from all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

5 Top Job Interview Mistakes

As a career coach, I often help professionals prepare to secure what are many times the biggest career opportunities of their lives, from entry-level positions to senior executive positions requiring board of directors’ review and approval. For many workers, there is a lot at stake in a job interview – opportunity, financial security, happiness and making dreams come true.

I’ve come to recognize (repeatedly affirmed by my clients) just how important it is to be prepared for an interview. In fact, preparation is key to landing the job.  Don’t just wing it,  you have WAY to much riding on this opportunity.

Yet I continue to be amazed by the stories hiring managers tell me of what goes wrong. So you won’t be the one left wondering why you didn’t get the job, here are 5 top interview mistakes:

  1. Simply show up for your interview – in other words, unprepared. Failing to do sufficient (or any) research on the business or company prior to the interview is a mistake. Check out the company’s Web site, their annual report and current news articles (check online or at the library). Understand how and what the company is doing today – and what is changing. During the interview, find an opportunity to convey some of what you have learned and inquire about what it may mean for your position. Don’t ask the interviewer obvious questions about things that could (or should) have been gleaned from the company Web site. More often than not you are wasting your interviewer’s time and hurting your chances.
  2. Arrive late and breathless for your interview, explaining you “got lost trying to find the office.” Consider driving to the interview site the day before so you will know a) how long it takes and b) how to get there. Introduce yourself to the receptionist. Ask if they have any suggestions or information that might help you be more prepared for your upcoming interview. This extra effort will help you to be better prepared and decrease your stress level for your actual interview.
  3. Fail to ask questions. A good rule of thumb: you should be asking about the same number of questions as the interviewer asks you. The questions you ask convey a great deal about you, so ask intelligent ones. (“From your experience, what’s the No. 1 challenge I would face in this position?” or “What are the key skills to be successful in this position?”) Having no questions conveys you really aren’t that interested or prepared. Coach’s tip: Pay close attention to their answers. They are frequently the “keys” to what the interviewer is looking for in the position. If the interviewer identifies “working well on a team” as important and you respond with, “I know how to use Word,” you probably weren’t listening closely enough.
  4. Rant about your previous boss (as in, “My previous boss was a jerk”). This is a big red flag that indicates that you may have difficulties getting along with management and others. In trashing your previous boss, the potential new boss is now imagining you doing the same thing to him or her. If there was trouble in your previous position, speak to it briefly (less is more), with something along the lines of, “It wasn’t the right fit,” then describe your desire to be a contributor to a high-performing team and workplace.
  5. Be unrealistic. Starting the interview by asking when or how you will be promoted is inappropriate. Demonstrating you are goal-oriented is good, such as inquiring about the typical career path for the position; signaling to the interviewer that your interest in the current position is only as a stepping stone to another isn’t. Don’t leave interviewers wondering if you will bail at the first wind of something you perceive as a better opportunity.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I help job seekers all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com