This series was inspired from my seven years experience listening to the good, the bad and the truly hideous interview. About half the applicants I turn away could have done the job and done it well. This guide will lead qualified candidates to avoiding major pitfalls in how they are presenting themselves during the interview process.
Be Prepared To Start from Scratch Establishing Who You Are: Your interviewer does not know you. Most likely they have not seen or remember your resume. Until someone called them down to the office they didn’t even know they were interviewing anyone. There's a 50/50 flip the interviewer will take a minute to scan your application, but odds are they won't know you're education, previous experience, how many hours you want to work, or anything else relevant.
- Your interviewer was pulled away from a time sensitive task. Value the interviewer's time. Be direct and brief in your answers.
- Your interviewer is following a script to create the most uniform experience. Whatever you said before got you to this point, you have to say it again. It is all new to this interviewer.
Have NO more than three traits about yourself that make you perfect for this job and always use one of these traits in every answer you are asked.
- Be truthful regarding your personality traits.
- Make sure your positive traits align with the job & the company you're applying for. For example being friendly could be a great trait in a cashier if the company prioritizes guest experience. If the company prioritizes the bottom line, being efficient or being vigilant against price inconsistencies may be more important traits
- Have tangible examples to back up your traits. For example if you're friendly have examples of times you've welcomed new people to clubs/school/groups or show some interactions where you commonly go the extra mile. If you like to meet new people provide examples of positive experiences where that happened. If you're efficient explain how you completed tasks faster than expected or times you changed a process to make it faster for everyone to complete.
3 Questions on Nearly Every Interview:
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Name 1-2 things you like about this company.
- Talk about how you like the experience with the company as a guest but only if you can work in how as an employee you'd be excited to facilitate that experience in these ways.
- Match your skill set to the company's goals.
- If you know anything about the company's pay and benefits from your phone interview or from a friend now is a time to talk about how the company meets your needs in these ways too. Companies like mutually beneficial fits. It suggests that you'll be satisfied with the work and stay with the company long enough for them to make their training dollars back.
- If you are looking for a career, now is the time to talk about how the company may fit into your career aspirations. You're starting at position X but you have these skills and would really like to see yourself move into these other positions with a great company
- Service Industry groups accept that we're often transition jobs for college students, high schoolers, and stay at home parents. If applicable, now is the time to speak to how this job ties to the other part of your life. Once a stay at home mom discussed how my company's charity work had helped her family/community and she wanted to work for a company with values active in her community. A student explained that the consistency of work schedule we provided vs competition could allow him to schedule classes while providing him school funds.
- What is your relevant experience?
- I don't care if you've had a job or not YOU HAVE RELEVANT EXPERIENCE
- Go back to the job requirements and relate them to part of your life. Maybe you've run or helped to run events before where you greeted people, helped people find something, made a suggestion to another person, prepared food for a group bigger than 8, introduced a new person to a school or club. The list is literally endless. Think about it a little before you go in to the interview and have relevant experience ready. The interviewer will be impressed with your effort, ingenuity, and creativity. Also making deep connections into your life will show that you really “get” and “live” the philosophy—which will make you easier to train.
- If the interviewer spoke to a teacher, coach, previous boss, or peer name 2 strengths and 1 weakness they would say you have.
- DO NOT say you have “no weaknesses”. It's arrogant and it's not true. Those “no weakness” people almost always remain unemployed.
- Diminish your weakness by framing it and showing how you try to solve it. For instance, if you get overwhelmed when “too much” is going on, you could first elaborate what that really means. Is it 2 things or 10? Show how you have a strategy for overcoming this. Maybe, you take a moment to review what needs to be done and prioritize it as a list. Maybe you call for assistance with the tasks. Almost any weakness sounds reasonable with the right framing.
- You can try to pick a non-applicable weakness like “I'm bad at geography”but DON’T. Based off of that non-answer, I can think of several more realistic answers like: “I don't take important tasks seriously”, “I don't value other's time”, “I get very nervous in stressful situations and react inappropriately”, and “I have no concept of how inane I sound right now”.
If everything is amazing in your interview, than you may get away with a flip non-answer but this type of response may make you seem cocky. If your interview is mixed, a joke answer might be a nail in the coffin. They'll remember you, but it might not be a good thing.
- Make sure your strengths relate to the job, it's best to actually talk about how you see them helping you in the job. Reliability, dependability, and honesty are traits necessary for all jobs. Examples showing these are always winners. In service related jobs caring, empathy, and desire to please are traits that get high marks. Certain companies appreciate integrity, an eye for visual display, and a knowledge base of technology/apps/social media.
That's the first third of your interview. Smile, you're not quite half done! Next time we'll cover the “tell me about a time when” questions and all the best scenarios you could choose to stand out while being exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.