SELL FIRST, BUY LATER
One of the biggest mistakes that most people make when interviewing is tied to their mindset: most people go in as a “buyer” (what’s in it for me?) when they should be going in as a “seller” (what can I do that will benefit this company?). The buyer’s approach almost always guarantees that the job offer will go to someone else. It is human nature to go to an interview and wonder, “would I want to work here?” However, that’s a moot point until the company is prepared to make you an offer. You have to push that question out of your head before you walk in the door for the interview, and make sure your focus is “I need to SELL MYSELF today and make sure this company understands what strengths and experience I can offer them.” You need to EARN THE OFFER first, and then you can perform your final due diligence to determine if you want to work for the company.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
We live in a world of free information. Companies have a wealth of information on their websites. Wikipedia has great summaries of many companies. LinkedIn will likely have information on the background of the interviewers. Review this information prior to the interview. This may seem overly obvious, but our clients consistently tell us that interviewees who applied to their jobs online often know very little or nothing about their organizations.
Be positive, be energetic, and show some enthusiasm about the company and the position. Whether it’s their industry, their size, their reputation, the nature of the work, all of the above, or something else, find something positive to discuss that explains why you are interested. If you don’t show any enthusiasm towards a company during the interview process, they will assume you will bring no enthusiasm to the job, so they’ll never make you an offer.
Yes, your image matters. Shave, remove nose and tongue piercings (yes, people really come into our offices with these), cover your tattoos, avoid perfumes and colognes, and wear a suit unless instructed otherwise. Avoid off-the-wall colors when selecting shirts, ties, blouses, etc. Again, this may seem overly obvious, but we hear stories regularly about people violating one or more of the tips listed above. These candidates are usually ruled out before the conversation has begun.
STANDARD QUESTIONS TO BE PREPARED TO ANSWER
1) Why are you looking to leave your current employer?
Always be positive! Do not badmouth any employer.
Example: “First of all, I’d like to point out that working for XXX has been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot about A, B, and C (you could discuss systems, the industry, technical matters, anything relevant here). That said, I feel like my learning curve has plateaued (or we’re being sold, we’re downsizing/moving, mention a plausible reason for change) and I’m ready to move to the next step in my career and take on new challenges.”
2) The “Strengths” Question. What are your Strengths?
Don’t just rattle off a list of strengths and hope your audience believes you. Mention your legitimate strengths and elaborate with some real-world examples that will provide evidence that you truly possess those strengths.
Typical strengths to discuss:
- Technical skills and industry knowledge
- Team player
- Multi-tasking capabilities
- Global thinker (able to see the big picture and the detail)
- Optimistic/Can-Do Attitude (not above any task)
- Oral and Written Communication Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
3) The “Weakness” Question. What are your weaknesses?
Be careful here, because the interviewer is really asking you “give me a reason not to hire you.”
One of the best ways to answer this question is to mention a weakness that is related to one of your strengths. Then discuss what you have done to improve upon your weakness. Here’s an example:
“Well, I think that one of my biggest weaknesses is tied to one of my biggest strengths. As I mentioned earlier, I believe I’m a true team player and I like to see other people succeed as much as myself. One weakness that I’ve had to work on is that I can be overly eager to say ‘yes’ to people when they ask me to take on more work. In the past (make sure to use the words IN THE PAST to help emphasize that you have been improving), I would sometimes find myself with too much on my plate, so I would be scrambling to finish everything that I had committed to.”
“Over the last few years, I’ve become much stronger in taking a moment to consider what someone is asking me to do before saying ‘yes.’ I will let someone know that I definitely want to help if possible, but now I’ll ask questions to understand how long it will take to do something and understand how urgent the request is, and I’ll only say ‘yes’ once I know I can truly help them. If I can’t do it, I’ll share some ideas to find an alternative way to solve their problem.”
4) The “Similarity” Question. Do you have experience with “X”?
Never just say “NO” – Focus on SELLING yourself and your existing skills, and keep the interview positive.
Example answer: “While I haven’t worked with X, I have worked with Y and I believe that they’re quite similar. Plus, I’m a quick learner, so I am confident that I can learn X quickly.”
5) What type of job are you seeking? OR What are your short-term goals?
Answer this by doing a couple of things:
- Generically describe the job that you’re interviewing for.
- Take a look around at the culture of the department and describe it.
Example: “I’m looking for a position where I can take my current experience with doing X and make a positive contribution while learning to do more activities like Y. Also, I want to work in a fast-paced environment with a lot of dynamic and bright people in a growth-oriented company.”
6) What are your long-term goals?
Don’t be too specific and only mention one path here, and don’t be glib and say “I want your job.”
Example: “In the long term, I would like to utilize my experience and interpersonal skills to one day move to the position of Director or VP, and ideally be leading and managing others. That said, I’ve learned throughout my life that things can change and you need to remain flexible and adaptable. I’m confident that if I work for a good company and I focus on doing the best possible work in the short term, then good things will happen over the long-term.”
7) How much money do you need?
Your first response should not include any type of number or range of numbers. (Because if you come in too high, you put yourself out of the running for the position, and if you mention a number too low, you miss out on money that could be waiting for you)
Example answer: “It’s hard to give you an exact dollar amount. While compensation is an important factor, I’m really more focused on the overall opportunity.”
8) Do you have any questions?
First, DO NOT ask about overtime, benefits, compensation, tuition reimbursement, equity, bonuses, parking, working weekends, retirement plans, etc. If you ask these questions now, you’ll sound like you assume the company wants to hire you already, and you’ll turn them off. You can ask about these topics AFTER they make you an offer. These questions are fair only when you are deciding whether to accept their offer.
Instead, this is where you continue to show your enthusiasm for the position and open the door for you to sell any points that you haven’t had an opportunity to discuss during the course of the interview. After the interviewer answers your questions, take time to give examples of how you fit the descriptions given.
Examples of the questions you should ask:
- “What qualities do you think it takes to be successful in this position?”
After the answer is given, give examples of how you possess those qualities.
- “What do you think the biggest challenges will be in this position?”
After the answer is given, give examples of how you’ve dealt with similar challenges, or tell them why you are comfortable that you can deal with those challenges successfully.
- “How would you like to see a person develop in this position in the future?”
(Use this language instead of, “what is the growth opportunity for this position?” – you’ll get the same answer, but your phrasing is more constructive and exhibits that you respect their opinion)
After they describe how someone can grow and develop, take this opportunity to show your enthusiasm and communicate that you are confident you have the ability to develop in the way described.
- “Can you tell me more about the culture of your company?”
People love to talk about themselves and their companies, so they’ll describe some positive things about their organization, which will allow you to say, “Great, this is the type of environment I would love to work in.”
- “You’ve given me some great information and I’m very interested in this opportunity, so I don’t any more questions right now. Is there anything else you’d still like to know about me?”
This is a very polite way to wind things down, and you’ve expressed interest in the role near the end of your meeting. It then gives you the opportunity to address any remaining questions that the interviewer might have.
END WITH A FIRM HANDSHAKE, A SMILE, AND ONE LAST COMMENT:
“Thank you again for your time. I’ve enjoyed our discussion and I hope I’ve earned the chance to continue exploring this opportunity. I hope to hear from you soon.”