Job Interview Advice
Job interviews can be scary since you don’t really know what the interviewer is looking for. So now, as promised, we will take a moment to think about the job interview. Here, I will give you some insight into what I look for in a candidate. For me, these thing make or break the interview. Clearly,these items may not be the pet peeves of every potential employer, but hopefully thinking on these things (and the way your answers are perceived) will help you to think about how you can improve your interview skills.
During the interview, I ask several questions that establish who and what you are. I don’t always look for experience (depending on the position). More important to me is character, personality, ability to learn, and creativity. The questions I ask are very common; however, my interpretation of the candidate’s answer may be a surprise.
Rule: Use your interview to prove that you are creative and have strong communication skills - Don't just say it - SHOW IT
One of my favorite interview questions is “where do you see yourself in five years?” Frequently, people tell me that they see themselves in a different industry or a different job from the one for which they are currently interviewing. That’s not the right answer if you want the job with me. The right answer is that you see yourself working in a job like the one for which you are interviewing. I will not hire someone who plans to leave when ‘better offer’ comes along.
Want to really impress me? Tell me you see yourself furthering your education in a way that will benefit the company for which you are applying. For example, do you plan to get a project management certification or an MBA? Tell me that!
If you do not know where you want to be in five years, DO NOT TELL ME THAT! That answer shows a lack of ambition. I want to know that you have aspirations; however,I want aspirations to be in the same category as the job for which you are applying.
The next question I love to ask is about strength and weaknesses. When I ask a candidate what their strengths, I don’t want to hear “I am detail oriented and have strong communication skills”. You know why? Because everybody thinks they have those skills and in reality few people really do. If you have good communication skills, I will hear that during the interview. Are you clearly articulating your value as an employee and your professional goals? That is how to prove strong communication skills. Further, generic answers like detail oriented and good communication skills do not show creativity. Business needs creativity and I need a creative answer to that question.
The next of question is about your weaknesses. The most common answer to this question is something along the lines of “working too darn hard”. I hate that answer. I don’t find it amusing. I want to know what your real weaknesses are so if you are hired, I can work around them. Just because you’re not good at something mean you’re not getting the job. As a matter of fact, I am pleased to know that you have identified your weaknesses – that is the first step in overcoming them. In addition to this, I expect the candidate to tell me what they are doing to overcome that weakness. Are you taking classes? Are you reading a book? What are you doing to improve yourself?
Last, I generally add some sort of question about the company for which you are applying or something industry related. I don’t expect that you’ll have a complete knowledge of everything pertaining to the industry or the company; however, I do expect that to be able to talk intelligently on a generic topic. The topics I choose are always something in the news and/or readily available on the company website – never anything too complicated that a little research would not answer.Prepare for the interview don’t disappoint me by coming in and saying I don’t know what this company does. Know what going on in industry news.
Now here’s the kicker. With these questions, I’m not necessarily judging your actual answer instead I'm looking at something else. I’m looking at how you answer to imply your communication skills and creativity. If you give me a ridiculous answer to your strengths and weaknesses, I’m going to assume that you’re not taking the interview seriously. If you don’t tell me how you’re capable of applying your strengths and correcting your weaknesses, I’m going to assume that you have no interest in doing either. If you don’t know where you want to be in five years or you’re not able to give me an answer that shows me that you have an interesting career development, I’m going to assume that you have no goals. And if you don’t bother doing a research in preparation for the interview I’m going to assume that you just want the job… and guess what you’re not going to get it.