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Interviews

Updated 09/13/2016

This will be an evolving section - check back periodically for more information.

RELATED ADDITIONAL MATERIAL
  • TED Videos 
    •  Topics of General Interest
      •  Believing
      •  Happiness

    •  TED Video Index of Career Transition Related Topics
      •  Behavior
      •  Career Breaks/Careers
      •  Communications
      •  Confidence
      •  Courage
      •  Emotions
      •  Hiring
      •  Interview
      •  Leadership
      •  Listening
      •  Learning
      •  Lying
      •  Passions
      •  Perservence
      •  Purpose
      •  Reputation
      •  Success
      •  Talking
      •  Work

  •  Articles about Interviewing

Let's be honest ... few will attempt to view all of the videos in each of the sections
shown above. Some will have little relevance to an Interview. Some are 100% on
target for you. Some, such as Listening, Talking and Body Language can help you
make a significant impact with your Interviewer(s).

Knowledge is always power and you can acquire that power by watching videos and think through what YOU need to do to make this magic work for YOU.

Learn, understand and practice as this will help your Interviews and future meetings with friends, social groups, your job or being part of groups where you may have some influence.



OVERVIEW OF WHAT THE INTERVIEW IS
Whether it is an informal conversation, a screening interview or a formal interview there FOUR areas you need to be prepared for and do them well:
  • Answer Questions Well
    Responding with confidence and to meet the question is key here.

  • Ask Questions Well
    These are questions YOU ask the interviewer to show interest in the position
    and knowledge you already have of the company, also showing interest.


  • Present Yourself Well
    You will represent your Manager if hired, your department, your division and your company to many people inside and outside of the company. Being able to have confidence in yourself is important.

THE INTRODUCTION AND EXPERIENCE
     
Your objective:  1)  Highlight who you are
                              2)  Showcase what you bring to the company that they need
                              3)  Make the sale: ARE THE BEST CANDIDATE for the job 

     Some interviewers will ask you to tell a little bit about yourself. Only talk about
     items relevant to the job. Maybe you start at college, maybe high school. This
     is an opportunity make a great initial impression and get insight into your skills
     for communicating.  


         1.  You are here about the job; all conversations should be job focused.

         2.  Discuss your contributions and accomplishments.

         3.  Be honest at all times.  Lies are not difficult to detect and they are fatal.

         4.  Keep the conversation focused on the job.

         5.  They want a solid reason to hire you so provide them solid reasons.
              -  include your passion for what this job involves
              -  include any awards received for your work
              -  include any team achievements that you managed or led
              -  reaffirm your strengths and passion for this position

              These areas touch on relevant area of the job and your focus/interest.
              It touches on your experience and accomplishments showing a winner.
              It shows passion (which needs to be genuine) for the position.


      DO NOT TALK ABOUT:
         1.  Where or when you were born?
              Your place of birth is irrelevant if you are a US Citizen.
              Date of birth may hurt you as it reveals age. Age discrimination starts
              when you reach 40.

         2.  About children, spouse, anyone with age, permanent or terminal illness
              Pick any one and it's an illegal question. So where are their questions
              about your accomplishments? Talk about your accomplishments and
              avoid the question.


         3.  Dislikes about anything
              This opens doors you may not be able to close once you start up.

         4.  You want to do work you stumbled into and had no other ideas

         Why should you NOT talk about these:
         a)  Your place of birth is irrelevant to the job; Date of birth may hurt you
         b)  There is nothing here about accomplishments of any sort
         c)  No mention about prior work/employment
         d)  Discussion only on what the job brings to the candidate, no enthusiasm
              for the work, and nothing about what the candidate brings to the job


      PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
         Use your computer or cell phone to practice your Introduction. Use a fixed
         mount or placement to keep your hands free and a good volume level. This
         allows you review on session to improve on. Save these as you should see an
         improvement over a number of days!

         Have friends view it. Does it seem like a natural conversation and showcase
         you in a positive way? Is what you talked about RELEVANT TO THE JOB?


THE CONVERSATION
     Here, the conversation turns to specific questions from the interviewer(s). It is a
     common practice to ask candidates about a "weakness" they have. The key is to
     turn a negative into a positive. Had a bad manager? Show how you helped to
     turn them around. Hated Calculus? Talk about getting help and learning the
     few pieces you didn't understand. Knowing your weaknesses requires that you
     learn more about yourself and act to improve yourself. Make sure your area of
     weakness are NOT tied to job skills required for the roll you are seeking.

     Everyone has weaknesses to respond accordingly or harm your credibility.
     Avoid using cliche's or buzzwords as they may come across as avoidance to the
     question. This is where you reveal your career story and career brand that will
     engage the interviewer into your every word with interest and excitement.

     Some interviewers may ask unexpected or unusual questions that may or may
     not be related to the job or your responsibilities. These are popular with some
     interviewers as it reveals how you may perform under pressure and how you
     think. Studies indicate about 50% of interviews include one of these questions.
     These include questions like "How many mini-marshmallows are required to fill
     the trunk of a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle?" This assesses your abilities in creative
     thinking, logical thinking, ability to cope with big questions, ability to remain
     cool and calm while under pressure. Often there is no one right answer but will
     be evaluated on HOW you handle the question and for the answer's content.

     Taking time to think and stay cool is encouraged. Indicating you "do not know",
     "can't solve it" or "don't care" are not passing answers. To show your thinking,
     always explain how you reached your answer.  

     
INFORMATION GATHERING
     Interviews help the company assess you and you assess them! Are you a fit for
     each other as a bad fit either way will be in most cases a BAD HIRE. Have your
     questions written down to ask INTELLIGENT QUESTIONS that will help you
     accomplish four main things:

       -  
show interest in the company
              - talk about what you find exciting here as a candidate
              - this is more than just a paycheck

       -  show you are a good fit for the position

       -  clear up any reservations the interviewer may have about you

       -  learn about the company culture
              - understand the company culture, values, and how goals align
              - What does the interviewer like most about this company? The least?
              - How is success defined at the company?
              - How does the company grow? What about new product releases?
              - What may have given you cause to leave the company and why?

       -  show interest in the company by:
              - asking questions showing your interest to become part of the team
              - what skills and experiences defines the ideal candidate?
              - how would my skills help solve the problems your team face?
              - what opportunities exist for additional education and training?
              - ask what the company culture is like

       -  dispel concerns by asking:
              - is there anything in my qualifications that make you hesitant?
              - do you see me as a good fit and bring value to the team?

       -  if anything brought signs of concern, discuss them now to end concern


PRE-INTERVIEW JITTERS
Career transition will always be an emotional roller-coaster until they remove one thing:  humans. Until then we try to deal with the jitters in ways we know the best.
Yes, it is a big thing and you don't want to self-destruct during the interview but there are some basic steps that often help to avoid such problems.

The preparatory steps are rather simple but effective:
PRACTICE   Get someone to ask you several questions commonly used in an
                   interview (check the Internet, there must be millions of them).
                   Record yourself to see how you are doing; ideally use a video
                   camera to capture your gestures, facial expressions, etc.
                   Get someone to throw though questions at you to see if you can
                   remain in control and save the question to your benefit.

                   Do not fall for the "worst" question trap.  This may be a question
                   about your worst manager, worst class in school, worst person to
                   work with, etc., etc. This question opens a trap and you MUST
                   close the trap by ending with how you made it better. Anyone
                   can have a "worst" and generally they have multiple of them. It
                   up to you to give it an honest and happy ending to get this
                   question in your "WIN" column.

                   Be convincing, be credible, be pleasant and be confident. You
                   need to leave a clear message with the interviewer YOU are the
                   RIGHT Candidate for the position from your experience, your
                   hard AND soft skills, plus your belief in yourself without being
                   boastful. A confident person can state facts of success in a calm
                   factual matter versus boasting and bragging.


                   Do not quickly answer questions with "I don't know". A growing
                   number of seemingly complex or even impossible questions to
                   to answer can be answered indirectly. This question is more to
                   determine if you will work to find the answer, try to wiggle out of
                   it, or get it turned over to someone else. Rarely are these really
                   complex questions but just sound like it.
Here are some real
                   examples and the approach to answering them:

                   1.  Stay Puft Marshmallows & 1964 VW Beetle with Moon Roof
                        Question:  How many Stay Puft Marshmallows can you put into
                                         the passenger area of a 1964 VW Beetle with a
                                         Moon Roof?

                        The question sounds impossible to figure out until you say:
                        a)  Call Volkswagen for the capacity of the vehicle required
                             in terms of square inches.
                        b)  Call Stay Puft Marshmallows about the dimensions of their
                             marshmallows and maximum compression percentage.
                        c)  Get a good calculator and have a reasonable estimate
                             without doing the actual testing.


                   2.  Quarters & The Empire State Building
                        Question:  How many quarters would it take to create a stack
                                         as high as the Empire State Building?

                        This also sounds impossible until you start saying:
                        a)  Call the US Treasury for the inch thickness of a quarter.
                        b)  Google the height of the Empire State Building for both
                             without and with the big antenna atop the building.
                        c)  Get a calculator and obtain a reasonable estimate with the
                             assumption no compression and the quarters will not fall
                             over due to any factor to achieve that height.

                      

PLAN           Do your homework early like:
                     1.  confirm the interview date/time no more than 24 hours
                          in advance along with any additional people you will be
                          meeting with and at what time, building and who you check
                          in with and how? If there are surprises, learn then now!
                          Will this session include any presentation you need to give
                          and if so for what topic?

                     2.  Make sure your clothing is BUSINESS APPROPRIATE and has
                          been cleaned and pressed and shoes shined if needed. DO
                          NOT wear much jewelry; DO NOT wear any perfume or any
                          cologne and avoid from smoking as fragrances are strong
                          memory triggers and you 
don't want to smell like that no
                          good lying bum they just 
spend 2 years trying to divorce.

                     3.  If a video conference have you prepared a room to use that                               meets all the requirements for you to look your best?
                          [See Tips for Video Conference]

                     4.  Have you practiced the questions ideally with a friend for                                 good feedback and in a setting like you will be in?

                     5.  Have you made a "dry run" to the location at the same time
                          of day to determine traffic issues or see signs of pending
                          construction that will potentially impact your arrival time?

                     6.  Have you practiced breathing?  This sounds stupid but some
                          people panic and stop breathing normally ... not good at all.

                     7.  Practice your interview the morning of the interview.  Helps                               to stay fresh and be as professional as possible. Have you
                          put multiple extra copies of your Resume unfolded in your
                          professional note pad should they be needed? Were you
                          asked to bring anything specific with you?

                     8.  Arrive early as you can always stay in your car. Allow some
                          time to visit the restroom and to check your clothing and
                          hair to insure you are looking your best.

                     9.  Make certain you park where you were directed to. This can                             be a test for following basic directions.  It can be guidance
                          to prevent you car from being covered with tar.

                   10.  Review your notes, what you know about the company, your
                          Resume forwards and backwards. Not having clarity on your
                          past bring clouds over your future.

                   11.  Do not rush or run to arrive at the designated location. You
                          may get over heated, looked exhausted, look like someone
                          who can't plan, look like a bad hire before the interview.
                          Try not to reach the Reception until 10 minutes before you
                          interview unless told to do otherwise. Earlier will cause the
                          people you will interview with to be interrupted due to your
                          unanticipated early arrival.

                   12.  While waiting continue to review your material, as you have
                          to do something with this time to take advantage of it!  It
                          also shows making good use of available time.

                   13.  Be nice to everyone and assume from the time you enter the
                          property until the time you are back on the road, you will be
                          under video surveillance.  

CONTROL     You control very little of what goes on in an Interview.
                    If you find you have considerable control, use it to talk about
                    your great 
strengths they need for the position. This often
                    suggests you 
have an inexperienced or reluctant interviewer.
                    Help them by showcasing 
your strengths and high values to the
                    company. It takes 
them out of an ugly situation makes you their
                    hero from the enjoyable interview!


                    Few leave totally happy with an interview so do not expect you
                    will automatically be one of the very few who was excellent.

THE TALK     An interview is a conversation to explore how well your skills
                    and experience/education align with their needs, some of
                    which may not have been in the Job Description.
 Avoid asking
                    closed ended 
and non-important questions (like "Do you have
                    a cafeteria 
here?") but questions on the organizational structure,
                    what tools 
you would be involved with, typical assignments, what
                    your skill 
levels are in these areas to build confidence in your                           abilities.

THE FOCUS  Remember, they are looking to hire someone for all the things
                    they need. Showing how you can meet and exceed their needs
                    to make THEM successful is important. This is business so stay
                    in the focus of their needs, their organization, their charter. A
                    lengthy discussion on your great skills used by another business
                    unit most likely will fall on deaf ears and take you nowhere.

NERVES        Few can walk into an interview without some nervous impact.
                    The secret: build confidence in your ability to WOW! everyone in
                    the room by prior practice and knowing you 
forwards and
                    backwards. Confidence in yourself without being 
boastful and
                    backed by examples will do you well! Often, the calm person is
                    perceived to be an honest person. 


YOUR TURN!
So you have completed about 50 minutes (or longer) of handling questions from the one or more interviewers, possibly doing an "off the cuff" presentation on a topic they select, then someone has the gull to ask "Do you have any questions?"

You should be thankful they had the gull as now you have more power ... you get to ask questions that they should have good and direct answers for. If they fumble the response, have some concern just as they would with your response not coming across well. So .... now that you have this power, what are you going to do with it?

You want to take full advantage of this opportunity to establish you have done your homework to determine if the job is a good fit for you. Most applicants just say "No." which is always the wrong answer no matter how you try to explain it away.

Create your questions with great thought as you want their responses and you want responses that are specific to your question. Think of ways your questions may be or could be misunderstood and place bounds around the question to help them.
This is what a good interviewer does, so act like a good interviewer!

  1.  Ask questions that reflect your knowledge of the company, their work ethics,  their level of professionalism, and of course, your interest in the role. All of
     this signals you less a hiring risk than others and bad hires come back to the
     hiring manager.
    Avoid questions that may seem like you are self-serving
     or give an impression you are NOT a real player and may not be willing to
     give 100% of your effort to the position. Commitment and dedication are
     in fashion along with personal integrity.

  2.  The purpose of the interview is to reaffirm you have the needed skills and
     experience for if those are missing the interview is of no value.

     It is to determine if you are a good fit for the company and if the company
     is a good fit for you.

     One company raises money for charity by hitting up the employees to bake
     items that are then to be bought by the employees. And if you bought an
     item that does not sell out, you are expected to buy back what you gave.
     This is part of that company's culture you will only learn from networking.

  3.  You will have questions pertaining to salary, vacation, sick days, holidays,
     benefits costs, insurance coverage, promotion policies, salary reviews and
     frequency of increases and under what conditions, retirement benefits,
     parking, free mass transit tickets, discounts for merchandise, concert tickets,
     special local events, employee product or services discounts, discounts for
     personal air travel, car rental, hotels and many other things.  
    These are
     appropriate ONLY during negotiations after you receive the job offer from
     then. Before that point you appear to be more interested in the
     perks than the position and may talk your way out of the job. DO NOT undo
     hard work and good image you have presented by getting over ambitious.


WHAT IF IT ALL BLOWS UP?

Sometimes you see that you are important and people want to dive into your skills and get the details of your history. Other times you wonder if you were really scheduled for an interview. You spend more time sitting waiting on them after the appointed time. People are coming and going and no one person remains the entire time. You are starting to wonder if this company is worth you taking a risk on as an employee.

In such a case, when the next person enters and takes the role in this sometimes revolving interviewer showcase, simply explain that it is apparent that this position is not something that you are interested in, that you appreciate being with them, but you are withdrawing from consideration and gracefully walk out.

You are not pointing any fingers or assigning blame. You are simply withdrawing from consideration due to indications this would not be a good fit for you. The fact they have presented the company to be highly disorganized for a formal scheduled interview and left you alone during the scheduled interview window is a good sign it is time to get out of there. You want a career to be a long term relationship where people respect each other not a place where chaos and dismal planning rule.


  WARNING SIGNS 

        Here are warning signs shared by others for you to be alert to:

         1.  DISORGANIZED
               An inability to organize their people. You will be meeting with the hiring
               manager. A date is set. The phone rings and you will now be meeting with
               one of the team and another Manager but they don't have a date for you yet.
               Two weeks later the date is set ... absolutely set for two weeks from then.
               The phone rings and another Manager has to interview you but they can not
               make the date/time set for you so you will be called with another interview
               appointment. You are called and informed one of the Managers is no longer
               available but they will work to get everyone scheduled and call you.


               Even in a situation where you are the first person they ever hired, the lack of
               any planning internally raises questions about their internal communications
               and management planning capabilities.

               When organization is lacking, start asking more questions and reasking old
               questions to ensure something has not changed since your last conversation.
               Additional documents may be required from you that have not been discussed
               with you. The interview period may now be longer as they neglected to tell
               you each person will interview you in separate sessions. If these people are so
               often unavailable near the scheduled date, will this persist in the future?  If this

               is how they impress people, what happens when things go horribly wrong?
               Is this an environment you can be your best?

               There are two basic thoughts on this:
                  (1) the inability to organize needed people to resolve a pressing need in the
                       company should be a high priority matter or is this just a unique crisis
                       situation and they are not good in a crisis?
                  (2) you will be another "machine cog" in a failing machine where being a
                       "firefighter" is your primary role with little real work being achieved.

                Is this a job that will "light you up" or simply "burn you out"?

          2.  SECRETIVE
When asking questions you are recognize one or both of these happening:
(1)  your reasonable request is not coming to happen, and/or
(2)  information to help you assess a fair price for your service is also dead.

If offered a position, a reasonable request is to see what the benefits are:
(1)  what does the Health Care program offer and at what costs?
(2)  what contribution does the company name for retirement and/or as part
      of a match to your contributions?
(3)  requests for the company's Employee Handbook or equivalent document

These may be deemed confidential but you are being offered employment
and signing a simple Non-Disclosure Agreement should be sufficient. These
may be items of concern as most companies will openly answer any questions
and/or provide the Employee Documents. This is a "courtship" period. If you
can't get what everyone else in the company has, stop dating this company.

          
3.  HANDLING EMPLOYEES
Networking often reveals these and other aspects of company behavior and culture which are unlikely to exist in any official document document.
Every company has unique aspects; some simply don't need to be hidden.

What one company sees as an honor and tradition may be viewed by you as
something that more closely resembles a College Hazing every week.

Offices normally expect appropriate Business Casual attire in an office. Yet on one day each week you will wear the "Company uniform" to show support for others in the company. Unfortunately the "others in the company" could care less and see it as a joke as a substitute for more important matters.

Some meetings are reported to be no more than pep rallies for management while the "troops" have real work to accomplish.

People are ridiculed even cursed for their failure to know that a Director changed their mind but failed to communicate to those needing to know.
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