How to Blow a Job Interview
This gem is from the Wall Street Journal. I have to say that as someone who has been in the staffing business for a billion years (and I actually have interviewed more than 1000 people!) that an interview should be a conversation! Let me say that again: AN INTERVIEW SHOULD BE A CONVERSATION. Granted that the interviewer needs to be skillful at making this an interview versus checking off a list of routine questions, but it’s your job, too, as the interviewee, to make this an interesting conversation for both of you.
How can you do that?
1) Be a politician and tell the story that YOU want tell. I always coach my peeps looking for jobs to find the three core things that you want to pound into their heads. These three core things should also be reflected in your cover letter and your resume, natch! Take these three core things and make them into stories and by stories I mean weave in your experiences to illustrate your points. If this is unclear, watch some video footage of politicians, say debating or giving Q and A with the press. You don’t have to answer exactly what your interviewer is asking. The ball in now in your corner. You have to just answer and relate your answer to the question.
2) Relax. This may be your dream job but, just like actors auditioning, it’s the one who appears confident and not desperate that intrigues. Desperation comes of as … well, as disease that you don’t want to catch. Physically make sure your body posture is relaxed. Don’t tense up. Don’t lean forward. When all else fails, emulate the body language of your interviewer.
3) You are also interviewing them! Oh yes you are! They want to get to know you and you want to get to know them. Taking a job that is not a good fit means another job search for you, so yes, you certainly are interviewing them, the company and using your interviewer as a yardstick of what this company is like. Don’t be afraid to ask them! “What keeps you here at this company?” or “Why did you take this job initially?” or “What would be some changes you’d make if you were CEO?” Pry away!
4) Think of this as a tennis or ping pong game. Do your part to keep the ball in the air. Every time we have to serve up a new question, it’s painful for both of us! Actively listen and ask questions while you are conversing NOT just at the end for that routine “Do you have any questions?” i.e. (I gotta get of the phone/out the door now.)
5) Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. This is actually what the interview is trying to figure out. The more plastic the facade, the harder it is for us to see if you will fit into our company culture. And if there is not a fit but still a hire, this is not good for either of us.
p.s. If you want a chuckle on this topic, you’ll like this post: 6 Crappiest Interview Questions (from The Oatmeal) and 10 Types of Crappy Interviewees (also from The Oatmeal).
What Not to Say in a Job Interview
By Kelly Eggers
It’s not all that difficult to completely blow a job interview.
Showing up late, wearing inappropriate clothing and answering your cell phone are a few good ways to kill your chances. But sticking your foot in your mouth will do the job as well.
Many hiring managers say that on occasion, candidates that seem perfect at first get crossed off the list by saying something senseless when asked a routine interview question.
Here are a few responses to some of those frequently asked questions that will be sure to kill the conversation and send you straight out the door.
1. So, tell me a little about yourself.
If your answer begins with anything remotely related to your place of birth, experiences in grade school, or your bad relationship with your parents, you can pretty much consider the interview over. And remember, this is often the first question you’ll face.
It’s hard to know what exactly an interviewer is looking for you to say to this question, but it’s safe to assume they want you to give a bit of background on your professional history. “Ask them where they’d like you to begin,” says Carolyn Thompson, an executive recruiter and author of 10 Steps to Finding the Perfect Job. Are they looking for your entire professional background, or just your most recent work experience? “It gives you a point to work forward or backward from,” Thompson explains.
2. Why do you want to leave your current job?
First and foremost, you should actually want to leave your job if you’re going on interviews. If you meet that qualification, you shouldn’t say you are just looking for a change and you definitely shouldn’t badmouth your employer.
“It’s ok to bring up a problem with your current employer,” says J. Patrick Gorman, co-founder of the iFind group, an executive recruiter based in New York, “but you have to show how you attempted to solve it so you don’t sound like a whiner.”
Rita Boyle, a senior executive search consultant with New Jersey-based Cornerstone Search Group, suggests explaining how the change is the next logical step for your career path.
“Explain why you’re running to their company instead of why you’re running away from your current one,” Boyle says
Other no-nos? Noting that you want to leave your company (or join a new one) because of anything relating to location, pay, or benefits.
3. What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
The worst way to answer this question is without the slightest pinch of modesty.
“‘Weaknesses? I don’t have any weaknesses,’ is the worst thing possible to say,” says Gorman. A less-obvious-but-still-awful answer? Identifying a weakness, but not explaining how you got through it, he says. It’s important to acknowledge your downfalls, but explain how you’ve been able to work around them as well.
When it comes to discussing strengths, don’t give yourself an endlessly glowing review — but don’t go with a one-size-fits-all answer, either.
Mark Herschberg, a career skills professor at the Levin Institute in New York City, says almost every candidate trots out a platitude about being smart or hard-working.
“In those cases, I respond, ‘95% of the candidates gave me that same answer, can you tell me anything that distinguishes you from them?'” he says.
4. How would your current or former colleagues describe you?
This is not an opportunity to simply re-frame your strengths. “There’s a difference between how you and everyone you work with would describe you,” says Thompson.
You should also steer clear of responses like “the only employee who did things right,” or “a great guy to hang out with after work,” says Lynne Sarikas, director of the MBA career center at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration.
Think about what people at each level of the workforce look to you for, says Thompson. Your subordinates, for example, might say you’re fair, and are always looking to pass along useful knowledge and opportunities to gain experience.
5. What is your goal for the short-term?
Never imply that you’ll be leaving in short order to start your own business, go back to school, or that you see yourself in the interviewer’s job. Another gaffe? Not knowing what your interviewer means by “short term.”
You might define short-term as the next six months, and your interviewer might be thinking in terms of the next 18 to 24 months, so it’s important to clarify the timeframe upfront. “A lot of people think ‘I know what my short-term goal is,’ but if you don’t know their definition of ‘short term,’ your answer may or may not be appropriate,” says Thompson.
6. Are there certain tasks or types of people you don’t like?
This is a particularly loaded question, according to Steven Raz, co-founder of Cornerstone Search Group, so make sure to tread carefully. Steer clear of any answer that is abrasive to authority figures, he counsels.
At the same time, Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, a New York City executive recruiting firm, advises not to feign a universally agreeable demeanor. Be honest here, and note the things you tend to avoid — whether it’s people who are overly chatty, or jobs that require endless data input — as long as the tasks or personalities aren’t going to be an inherent part of the role.
7. Do you have any questions?
If there’s a question that’s a guaranteed game-changer, it’s this one. Coming up blank is a good way to show that you aren’t thoughtful or interested in the job, says Raz.
And not just any questions in return are appropriate. No-nos include asking about compensation for the job, what the company does, if you can work from home, how much vacation time you’ll get, or if the drug and background testing are really mandatory. Ask queries that will help “match up your skills, experiences and accomplishments with what they’re looking for,” says Raz.
Instead of fumbling in the final minutes of the interview, be prepared with a few great questionsthat show you’re interested in both the company and the job.