Can you believe that we are at Part Six of Engaging in Your Job Search? Who knew that it was more than updating and sending your resume out. Guess what, there is still more to come.
If you haven’t read my previous five posts, I will reference them throughout this post, as each is not a singular process; they each build upon one another to make you, the job seeker, more successful.
Today, I’m going to write about interviewing, not interview questions, (because there are thousands of posts about questions) but rather the how to best prepare for an interview, and the different types of interviews.
Interview prep can make or break how successful you are. The questions you must answer for yourself are, 1.) Why are you interested in the position? 2.) Why are you interested in this company? and 3.) Why should you be the preferred candidate for this role?
There are no wrong answers to these questions, but you must know what your answer is to these questions. In my first post clarifying your goals, values and where you want to go, and assessing your capabilities, competencies and development needs. I list questions regarding your job search that you must know the answers to.
What story is your resume (second post) telling – make sure you have the backup stories for each bullet point on your resume, and prepare a few more in the event you are asked for other information.
Research the company deeply, go beyond their website. Hopefully, you’ve networked (fifth post) and learned about the company, but if not, use your LinkedIn (third post) network to find people who are working in the company, or better, have worked for the company (if they are no longer there, you might get more honest feedback)
Get the name or names of all the individuals you’ll be meeting with and look at their LinkedIn profile to gather information about them. (Remember, they have your resume and have looked at your profile - it’s okay and in some cases expected that you’ll do the same.)
Typical interview processes
While companies have different processes for interviewing, I’m going to outline a “typical” process. However, I welcome input from recruiters to help explain your process.
Phone Screen is typically the first step after the company contacts you to schedule an interview. The phone screen is just that – a screening process to determine if you are a solid candidate or not. This is your first personal introduction to the company. Be aware of your voice – is it active or passive? What is the noise that is going on in the background (kids, pet’s, lawn mowing, etc.) ? I do quite a lot of phone meetings. About five minutes before I was scheduled to have a call with an Executive (for coaching) someone started with a jack hammer, breaking up the cement right outside of my office window. I was lucky enough to find another space for the call; my lesson learned is to check with the management company before I schedule any vital phone meetings.
In the phone screen, you might be asked “Tell me about yourself.” This is where your 60 Second Intro comes into play (as described in my Networking post) This is a high level overview of what you bring to the table.
You might also be asked to explain your background and job history. For this you do not need to go back to the beginning of time. Start by saying “over the last 10 years I’ve been…” again, keep this high level and relevant to the job in which you are interviewing for.
The pre-screen is also the time when you’ll be asked about your salary. The question might be “What are your salary expectations?” or “What was your last salary?” This is also where many candidates are screened out, if they have not done their research. Also, remember that if the job posting is looking for five years’ experience, and you have 15 years’ experience, the job will probably still only pay for five years’ experience. Here are a few ways to respond to this question, without really answering the question. However, if you are pressed, you must have an answer.
I’ve done my research, and learned that the typical range for this type of position is between $XX and $XX, and I’m comfortable with the mid-point (or where ever on the scale you are comfortable)
Ask: can you share with me what your range is?
My last salary is not really relevant to this position, as I was there for XX years and earned my salary based on my work and tenure.
I’m not comfortable responding to that question quite yet, I don’t have a full scope of the position requirements.
NOTE: It’s important to remember that your personal financial situation is not a concern of the company. You never want to respond with “Well I have a new house with a big mortgage, two kids in college, student loans and a big car payment, so I’ll need a minimum of $XX”
Face-to-Face is usually the next step following a phone screen. This might be with the hiring manager, team members and/or the Human Resources person for the business unit and/or company. At this point the interview will typically become more technical.
This is where it’s important to have your stories rehearsed and ready. If the company uses behavior based interviews, this will be the place where they use this practice.
I recommend practice interviewing with someone who is experienced with interviews and who will provide you with honest feedback. Often during interviews, candidates can come across very knowledgeable but might have little ticks that are distracting. For example, a client who is very intelligent and qualified used throw away comments during her/his practice interview. When I asked a behavioral question about how s/he works with upper management – s/he started out beautifully, then under her/his breath said “oh but that manager.” Other ticks might include – talking with your hands – or no movement, playing with your pen, no eye contact, sweating, etc.
Panel/Group interviews are a common practice. These are usually interviews with the management team and/or colleagues of the position you are applying. This is a great opportunity to learn the personalities of the people that you might be working with. Some of the common failures with these interviews are:
Responding to only one person, vs all
Not tailoring your communication to the group
Become too comfortable and saying something or joking about something that is not relevant.
Here are a few examples of what I’m referring to:
Three of us were interviewing a male candidate for a position. I was the hiring manager and I had two of my direct reports who happened to be male. The candidate only spoke to the other men in the room, and did not have any eye contact with me, even when I asked the questions and he knew that I was the hiring manager. While he was very qualified, he didn’t get the job.
I was being interviewed by two Executives. One would have been my boss and the other was the head of the business that I would have been working for. My boss wanted to know the whole story behind his questions – Was it a sunny day? Was there food? Was it good?, etc. The Business Leader just wanted a one or two word answers. So when my would be boss asked a questions, I told him everything. When the Business Leader asked, I was straight and to the point.
I was also a candidate where they used a panel interview. They all came in with their interview questions typed up and sat on one side of the table. The person in charge asked the first question from her paper, I responded and they all put their heads down to write down how I responded. Then the same person asked the second question and then again, all head’s down to write my response. To me this was comical and I almost started laughing. To others this might be very uncomfortable. I didn’t get this position, but I after that experience, I also didn’t want it.
Skype/Facetime: We live and work in a global economy. The likelihood that you’ll have some type of electronic interview is quite high. I have a client whose whole interview was done electronically. He has now been at his new job for over six-months and hasn’t personally met this boss yet.
These interviews are just like any other interview, except they take place electronically and in many cases, in your home.
If you’re not comfortable with this, you can practice using the technology by Skyping/FaceTiming with your family and friends. Take a look at what is behind you while you’re doing this. Is it neat, clean and professional in appearance? How do you appear? Where are your eyes?
Final Interview is typically an interview with the decision maker. You’ve been interviewed by HR, the team, etc. – they thought enough of you to have you become a final candidate to meet with the decision maker. This might take place on the same day as the other interviews; it might take place weeks later.
Again, have your stories ready. Also, recap what you’ve learned from all the other interviews and be prepared with questions.
At one point in my career, I had over a dozen separate interviews for the same job. My last interview was with the Executive VP of the Business. I remember telling my Dad that I don’t know what else they can ask, and I also don’t know what else I can ask. He had noticed a dip in the stock price and said that he would ask about that. I arrived to the interview and the Executive VP started the interview with “Well, Jean, I know that you’ve talked a number of people, I just want to answer any questions you might have.” I’m so thankful that I talked to my Dad the previous night so I could have questions ready
Questions to ask during the appropriate time in the interview process:
Always be prepared with questions that are directly related to the job posting.
Listen carefully to the questions that are being asked. If you’re curious why a question is being asked, ask the question back. Also, the questions you are being asked may reveal a problem that they are trying to solve. For example, if you are being asked questions about a certain methodology, ask “What is the methodology that is being used here?”
Based on our discussion today, is there any reason why I might not be considered for this role?
If selected for this role, what would my first 90-days look like?
What is the timeline where you’re expecting this position to start showing results?
How are decisions made?
Describe the company/department culture
Since you’ve researched the LinkedIn Profiles of the people you interviewed with, ask questions like:
Jane, I see that you’ve been joined xx company a year ago. Tell me what made you decided to make the move to this organization?
How was your on-boarding?
What do you know now that you wish you knew more about when you interviewed here?
Jane, I see that you’ve been here for xx years. What has kept you here?
Tell me about how the company has changed over the years
Evaluation: After your interviews, think about (and write down, if that’s helpful for you)
Three things that you did really well
Three things that you’d do differently next time
My next post will be about negotiating; then there will be one more – on-boarding