This page is a compilation of previous posts on the topic of interviewing. It starts out about preparing your success stories, goes into questions that you can expect during your interview, questions you should ask, and ends by discussing how the interview process never really stops. I hope this provides insight for your job search PathForeWord.
Much has been made recently about “behavioral interviewing”. This technique asks you to describe specific examples of how you addressed key issues or projects during your previous employment. The fundamental premise is that what you’ve done in the past is the best predictor of your future results. It’s a very sound way of conducting an interview. But it is not new.
I have stashed away in my employment files a series of articles published in the National Business Employment Weekly in the late 1980s. This printed weekly was published by the Wall Street Journal and contained all their employment ads for the previous week. How things have changed…
What hasn’t changed is how best to prepare for those interviews. One of the articles is titled “Scripted Answers to Interview Questions”. Another is sub-titled “Interviewers need to see future potential, not former titles”. This last article goes into the S-T-A-R approach. This is the principle of building stories around previous Situations. The Task that you took on. The specific Actions that you took. And ends with the Results that you were able to achieve, ideally with measurements. I have usually combined the Task and the Action into a single action step.
The point is to look at the key competencies, skills, and experiences you need to excel in open position. Then prepare STAR stories that demonstrate those things in action — proving not only that you can do the job but that you have already done elements of the job and done so successfully. Having a short scripted response for each one can also help you feel confident in your message and ensure that you address the critical items of each story.
I’ll note that when my daughter Kyla was interviewing for her first job after college. I coached her to first build the STAR stories and then use them in the interview. I noted that some interviewers will ask for specific examples that tie into the current job opening. I further noted that others will only ask general questions. The key is to use your STAR stories no matter what. If you’re confronted with a general question, address that question and then transition into the most suitable STAR story to demonstrate how you’ve handled those situations in the past and will in the future. After the interview she noted that as she moved from office to office interviewing with several people, she confronted both approaches and was ready with her STAR stories to get the important message across — I can do this job, here’s why.
Questions to Expect
These questions were developed for my own interviewing process, generally for candidates that had been previously qualified through skill testing and rigorous interviews by the direct hiring manager. My role was to provide a second or third interview that allowed the direct hiring manager to sit to one side and just watch. Typically, there would be two finalists and this was a great way to get the direct hiring manager off the spot, allowing them to really see the candidates in direct comparison.
With that framework in mind, I developed these questions not to pose technical issues or skills, but instead to see how well each candidate could think and communicate. Here’s the key questions that I used during those sessions.
- Tell me about yourself. Why did you choose this type of work?
- What attracts you to this position? How does this position relate to your past work/career experience?
- What things in your job do you feel that you have done particularly well, or in which you have achieved the greatest success? For what things have your managers complimented you?
- What is the area in which you would most like to improve? What aspects of your previous jobs gave you the most trouble?
- What was your biggest failure in your last job?
- Wherever you worked before, what made it a good day?
- What are some of the things you would like to avoid in a job and why?
- How do you define teamwork? Give an example of a project that you have worked on that shows experience in working in a team environment.
- What kind of people do you find most difficult to work with? How have you been successful in those situations?
- Describe how you determine your priorities on your current job. Give me a specific example of how you schedule your time on an unusually hectic day.
- Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
- What kind of person is your supervisor? What are your supervisor’s greatest strengths? In what areas could they have done a better job?
- If I were your supervisor, what would be the most important thing for me to say or do to support you?
- If you were hiring someone for this job, what qualities would you look for?
- Let’s assume for a minute that you have one concern about accepting this job. What is that one concern?
- Why should we hire you?
Questions to Ask
This section goes into the often overlooked aspect of what question you should ask of the interviewer. This is your opportunity to first surface any issues that the interviewer may have that you need to get out in the open and address. Second, you can learn more about the position, the organization, and the interviewer. And, third, it is your opportunity to impress the interviewer with your thoughtful questions. After all, your interviewer has already heard their questions and most of the answers before. It’s your questions that will bring something new to the conversation.
On the first point above, I always like to ask if the interviewer has any concerns at this stage of the process. This quite often surfaces some hidden concerns that are quietly resting below the surface and getting ready to send your prospects to the bottom of the ocean. Getting them out in the open allows the interviewer to candidly express them and allows you to address them. Don’t ever pass up the opportunity to ask this most critical of questions. Of course, if the concern is truly a deal breaker that you can’t overcome, it does help you prepare for your next interview…
Your key focus should be on the organization’s needs. Then you can focus on how you can use your expertise, experience, and enthusiasm to meet those needs. Here’s the list of questions that I’ve prepared as I get ready for an interview:
- How did the opening occur?
- What were the previous person’s best attributes in the position? Any improvements you’d like to see?
- What are the key goals for this position, for the organization?
- What do you want accomplished in the first 60, 90, and 120 days?
- What are the biggest stumbling blocks to expect?
- Are there any gaps between what we’ve discussed and what you’re seeking? Any concerns at this point?
- What are the next steps in the search process?
That next to last question zeros in on one way of articulating the question — are there any concerns with me that I can address?
Interviewing Never Stops
Even after you’ve landed the job. Even after you’ve proven your value to your new organization. You’re interviewing for your next position. That next position might be a step up. Or, it could be a step out of the organization.
I’ve always been amazed by the guys that would show up for a promotion interview with a new suit on. Of course, this showed that they were taking the interview seriously. But when they wore wrinkled khakis and polo shirts every day for the last several years, was the suit now really going to make a difference? Like it or not, they had already made an indelible impression on the hiring manager.
I’m also reminded of hearing a recent story about Southwest Airlines. The story goes that when they fly someone in for an interview, they ask their gate agents and stewards if this is someone who should be joining the Southwest team. In this case, the interview started before the candidate expected it to start.
Given all this, how about your references — will they be your champions when discussing your past job performance or your character? Haven’t you been, in essence, interviewing with them for the past several years? Will they be able to honestly say that you’re a great fit for the job? The same applies to past and current supervisors.
A friend of mine once told me about his organization where he would receive direct feedback from his supervisor based on his attendance at sales conferences. This wasn’t about after meeting parties. Instead, it was detailed feedback about his work in meetings and how he could better participate, engage, and contribute. It was feedback compiled from many different observers from all levels of the organization and assembled for the express purpose of improving his current performance and preparing him for his next position. Depending on your viewpoint, it could be a superb performance evaluation system or an interviewing system with feedback. The point is, you’re always under observation.
So, while you’ve been prepping for the interview, keep in mind that the effective presentation of you, your skills, and your operating style never, never ends. You’re always on stage and constantly being evaluated by those around you — whether that is a formal evaluation or the informal categorization of who you are and where you might fit in the future of your organization.
In your PathForeWord, don’t stop interviewing for that next job and to be the one selected to continue with your current job.