April 14, 2016 |
Wow! Your resume was one of the few that impressed the hiring manager enough to call you for an interview. Congratulations! Just to show you how hard it is to get that interview you just landed, take a look at these stats from Talent Function Group LLC:
“For the specific case of an online job posting, on average, 1,000 individuals will see a job post, 200 will begin the application process, 100 will complete the application, 75 of those 100 resumes will be screened out by either the ATS or a recruiter, 25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager, 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview, 1 to 3 of them will be invited back for final interview, 1 will be offered that job and 80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept it (Talent Function Group LLC).”
That was just the first step. Now you have to live up to what you wrote on your resume. More importantly, it’s time to prepare for that interview. There are several different types of interviews, and if you are lucky they may let you know if it’s a group or panel interview ahead of time. Most of the time however, you aren’t really sure what you are walking into so it’s best to be prepared for any and every situation.
A standard interview is the most common type of interview for entry-level jobs. The questions typically get asked in every interview. They are usually the first questions you get asked before the tougher behavioral or situational questions arise. Just because these are “easier” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare. How many times are you asked what your strengths and weaknesses are and you freeze and forget what you usually say? Practice and that won’t happen.
A few examples of standard interview questions are:
Behavioral interview questions are more about how you handled different situations in the past. The goal is to hopefully be able to predict how you would respond to similar situations in the future. These questions are the most important to prepare for. They make you think. If the first example you can remember is one where you responded in a way that wasn’t great, you might want to find an example of when you responded well and have that at the forefront of your mind when going in for an interview. Be honest, but definitely share your best example. Most behavioral questions start with “tell me about a time when you…” That should clue you in as to what type of question you are about to be asked.
A few examples of behavioral interview questions are:
Situational interview questions are very similar to behavioral questions; however, they are more about what you would do, not what you did do. They are hypothetical questions. You have an advantage here. You get to determine how you would respond in those situations. You are not being compared to your past mistakes, rather you are given an opportunity to present yourself for how you would be on your best day. These are important questions to think through ahead of time to give the best answer possible. It’s okay to take a minute to think while in the interview. Don’t feel pressured by a few seconds of silence. Reflect back on some past experiences you’ve had and draw from those. Chances are you’ve come across these situations in the past. Just make sure you answer with the best possible version of yourself. These questions usually start off with a scenario and finish with, “how would you handle… or what would you do….”
You are in the backroom and you see a co-worker who you know is struggling financially put a few clothing items in her purse. She has a few kids but not enough money to buy them nice things. You also know that if she gets caught, she’ll lose her job. How would you handle this situation?
A lot of times, situational questions like this can put you in tough situations, and that’s kind of the point. The interviewer is trying to figure out your moral compass as well as how you think. While this question was more about right and wrong, other questions are more about how you deal with people around you that affect your work.
You have a deadline for a project approaching but two people on your team haven’t finished their part of the project. They happen to be leaving town tomorrow and will be gone until the day before the deadline. What do you?
Oh, group interviews! Some people love them and some people despise them. Group interviews are a whole different ball game. There can be anywhere from 3 – 10+ people in a group interview. . If you are an introvert, this can sound like an episode of Survivor. You will have to push yourself a little harder in this type of interview. You won’t get noticed if you don’t speak up. While they sometimes go around the table with a question, other times they wait to see who will speak up first. Don’t always be the one to speak up first. In group interviews, the interviewers are looking at how you interact with the other candidates as much or more than they are paying attention to how you answer the questions. If you make it through this, you may just get called back for a second interview. Group interview questions are usually a mix of fun, standard and behavioral questions.
Some typical questions asked in a group interview are:
You may also get asked to do group activities and even give a presentation. The best way to prepare for this type of interview is to relax, be yourself and be ready for anything.
The last interview type we will discuss is panel interviews. In this type of interview, you are the only candidate in the room with 3-5 interviewers. Sound intimidating? It definitely can be. Think of The Voice or American Idol. You have a panel of people asking you questions and evaluating you. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just remain calm, cool and collected. You will most likely be asked the standard, behavioral and situational questions. So the best way to prepare is to review possible questions, have your answers figured out and be confident.
Regardless of the position, you are interviewing for, there are some standard questions that you are highly likely to hear from employers. These questions have stood the test of time and are still favorites among hiring managers because of what they tell you about a candidate. Here are five of the most popular interview questions you can expect to hear and should be prepared for.
This seems straight forward but it is something you should practice and prepare for in advance. When speaking about your strengths you should be able to relate them to the job you are interviewing for and make that connection for the interviewer. For example, if one of your strengths is being organized, explain how that will help to make you more successful in the position you are applying for.
Similar to your strengths, this should be prepared for in advance and related to the specific position you are applying for. The worst thing when you can do when asked what your weaknesses are is to say you don’t have any or you don’t know. What this really communicates to employers is that you aren’t humble and/or you don’t know yourself well enough or you don’t have the confidence to admit where you can improve. When talking about your weaknesses, be prepared and specifically address how you are working to improve in those areas or how you use your weaknesses to benefit you in your career.
This is typically asked by employers who are looking for long term employees. It is important for them to hear that you are hoping to be in a job or career where you can learn and grow. They are looking for longevity and growth. They are also looking to see if you have goals. Are you meandering through life without purpose and aim or do you have specific goals that you are driven to achieve? Even if they aren’t work-related, goals, like purchasing your first home or finishing a degree, show an employer that you are forward-thinking. When talking about your five-year plan make sure you are prepared to answer the question of what you are doing to get yourself there and the specific steps you are taking to achieve those goals. This shows employers that you aren’t just a dreamer, you are a doer and there is action behind your dreams.
This question seems simple but this is a key opportunity to tie your skills, background, knowledge, and abilities back to the position and company you are interviewing with. This is where you can bring everything full circle. It is your opportunity to sell the interviewer on what you are able to do. Many people answer this question by commenting on the stability, reputation or benefits of the company. While that answer is not wrong per se, it will be much more impressive to the interviewer if you focus on what the company does and how hiring you will help them achieve their goals. You can talk about how you can fit in and contribute to their culture, how you can use your skillset to grow the company, etc.
This question is similar to the “Why do you want to work here?” question but should be focused more on you specifically, rather than the company. Both questions allow you to highlight the research you have done on the position and company to prepare for the interview. This is where you want to highlight what you bring to the table and what differentiates you from other candidates that may be going through the interview process as well. When you do this you want to come across as confident and capable but humble at the same time. If you are perceived as lacking humility, and that alone could rule you out as a candidate for the position. Remember that skills, knowledge, and drive are important but they do not make up for an over-inflated ego.
Whether you are interviewing with an experienced hiring manager that does interviews all the time or a small business owner that has only interviewed a couple of times, there are some things that all interviewers will want to see.
This is critical. It may seem self-explanatory but it happens more than you might think. Most employers that interview on a regular basis will have a story about catching a candidate in a lie. That would be the nail in the coffin for your interview. There are creative ways to phrase things and there is outright lying. Even if you are perceived to have not been truthful, you are unlikely to be offered the position. Employers don’t want to hire someone if they are already wondering whether they can trust them.
Using generalities or being vague in an interview will not help you to stand out from other candidates and it can often leave an interviewer questioning whether you really answered the question. Be specific and direct with your answers and make sure you are answering the questions that were asked. Stay on point all the time.
Business owners and hiring managers are busy. Respect their time. It is better for you if they decide to have a longer interview because they are enjoying the conversation and not because they aren’t getting the answers to the questions they are asking. Be concise with your answers and don’t allow yourself to “squirrel”. Stay on point, don’t go down rabbit trails. A sure sign of this is if you find yourself talking about something but can’t remember the actual question that was asked.
Make sure you leave the interview on a positive note. Ask questions when given the opportunity that shows you have a genuine interest in the position and company. Stay away from questions about pay, benefits, time off, etc. Asking this in your initial interview could make it sound like you have an entitled personality or that you are only concerned about what is in it for you. There will be a time and place to discuss those things later in the process. Instead, focus on questions like “What is the top quality you are looking for in a candidate for this position?” or “What would you need from me to most benefit the company in this position?” or “How could I best support the company goals in this particular position?” These questions show that you are interested in the company and how you can best contribute.
After leaving the interview, consider sending a thank you note to the interviewers. Make sure you know their names and titles. This can be done with a follow-up email or handwritten card. Thank them for their time and consideration and reiterate your interest in the position. Being specific here can make you stand out more. Be sure that when you send an email you have proofed it for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and if you send a handwritten note, it is legible enough for them to read. If your handwriting is terrible, send an email.
Plan to follow up with an email or phone all in a few days if you haven’t heard anything back. Some companies may have longer hiring processes than others. You want to stay on their radar and make sure they know you are interested but don’t come across as pushy, demanding or annoying. If they say they may take a week to get back to you, give them a week before you check in again. Remember that while getting this job may be your highest priority, an employer could have a hundred things that come up or fires that need to be put out that you are not aware of. It doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. It just means they are busy.