Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Round 2 Interviews: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Recently a good friend of mine started looking for a new job. She’s been through several rounds of interviews with several companies and has a lot of great opportunities coming her way. We’ve been discussing interviewing techniques a lot lately and that got me thinking…for college grads these days it’s tough enough to get a first interview. But what can you expect on the second interview? And how do you prepare for it?

Getting asked to a second interview should be a huge confidence booster. It’s a clear sign that a company is interested in you. Hiring managers only call back the candidates who they wish to learn more about. And therein lies the secret to acing the second interview – making sure the employer gets to know you and how you would add value to the company.

The structure of second interviews vary widely. During the second interview you may meet more members of the team, discuss salary ranges, and even take some sort of practical test. Or you may be simply called back to reassure HR staff that you are always punctual, have more than one appropriate work outfit, and are actually interested in the job. (Though this happens rarely in today’s era of multiple interview rounds before job offers are extended).

More commonly your interviewer will ask more probing interview questions in round two, and attempt to determine how you will fit in with the rest of the company. Instead of general questions about your strengths and weaknesses, HR managers may have written down notes from your first interview and ask you to expand on things you said then. in other words, are you telling a cohesive story or just answering questions without much thought as to how one question relates to another. You need to be consistent in your answers about why you applied to that company, what type of experience do you hope to gain there, how do you plan to continue to develop as a professional.

Ultimately, interviewers are not interested in perfect answers to their questions. They are far more interested in finding out if you are:

– Sincerely interested in working for their company?
– In possession of the skills required to do the job without too much hand-holding?
-Actually going to cause more problems than solutions because of an attitude problem?
-Going to be a pleasant person to have as a co-worker?

Here are some more tips for preparing for the interview.

1. Prepare for the interview by going over your resume and making sure you have a very cohesive story to share about your professional journey up until this point.

2. Know how to answer questions about salary expectations. (Hint: Always state a salary range, not a specific number)

3. Be pleasant to every member of the staff you meet. You may even be interviewed by someone who would be reporting to you if you were to get hired. Until you are hired, they have more say about your future at that company than you do. Be mindful of how you come across.

4. Practice bragging about yourself. Learn how to answer every interview question in a way that describes how you could add value to the company’s current situation.

5. Practice speaking with confidence and with a smile. No one wants to work with a super intense downer. (Even if you can write algorithms while doing handsprings over a bed of hot coals.)

6. Remember that you are learning about this company too. Write down some questions you have for the interviewer and bring those to the interview.

Ultimately, if you can show enthusiasm, competence, personality and confidence; you have a great shot at landing the job.

22 Reasons You Bomb the First Interview

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

1. You sound like you don’t know what you want
Companies want to hire people that have long-term goals. You need to walk with a purpose, and be able to talk about it.

2. You say the phrase “I deserve this job.”
Most hiring managers don’t like to hire someone who feels entitled. You have no idea what someone had to go through to achieve their success: don’t make the mistake of conveying the idea that you feel success should be handed to you. *This point is illustrated beautifully in the 2005 movie “Hustle & Flow”.

3. You don’t smile
People will think you are either a) really uncomfortable, b) really nervous, or c) really don’t want to be there for the interview. None of these perceptions of you is likely to culminate in a job offer.

4. You smile too much, or act flirtatious
Coming on to the person who is interviewing you is not a good strategy. C’mon.

5. You look frumpy, sloppy, or clueless
If hired, you become a representative of that company. What you do reflects on their brand. No company wants to be represented by someone who’s stuck in a past decade, doesn’t have enough pride to iron a shirt, or take the time to learn about what’s appropriate to wear at work.

6. You are clueless
Again, a company does not want to be represented by someone who has no idea what’s going on around them. Know current events. Know how to dress. Show the hiring manager you’re with it.

7. You keep nodding your head when the person interviewing you is talking
Many hiring managers study body language to help them determine if what a candidate is saying is the truth. They look to see if the body language is consistent with the words. According to the body language experts,  people who excessively nod their heads aren’t really listening.

8. You lean too far back in your chair
This indicates cockiness or boredom.

9. You never blink
This just freaks people out.

10. You sound boring or depressed
No one wants to be around somebody who is a complete snooze inducer. Or a total downer. Companies are no different from your friends on this one. 

11. You make the person interviewing you uncomfortable for some reason
Perhaps they think you don’t like them. Or, maybe you’re giving off vibes like you know everything and they feel you won’t be easy to manage. Whatever it is, try to put the interviewer at ease. In some cases, they are just as nervous as you are.

12. The interviewer can’t get a feel for who you are
Be authentic and let the interviewer get a sense of who you really are. Don’t just say what you think they want to hear. It’s easy to see through that and doesn’t leave a good impression.

13. The interviewer feels intimidated
If the person interviewing you will be your boss, this can sometimes be a concern; especially if you’re interviewing for a position requiring technology expertise. Be sure to convey that you possess the qualifications, but demonstrate that you’re a team player.

14. It’s obvious you just need this job to tide you over until your “real” job comes along
Belittling the position or company is not a good strategy. Even if you don’t come right out and say this is your “safety job”, your body language may reveal your true feelings.

15. You seem needy
You become an HR headache when you constantly talk about advancement opportunities, reviews, raises, ergonomics, recycling programs, improvements to the company newsletter, a new company intranet that’s “just like Facebook”, and new initiatives…before you’re even hired. Take a breath. You’re annoying already. HR doesn’t want to deal with you.

16. You act like the interview is a waste of your time, or at least a major inconvenience
Showing up late, acting distracted, filing your nails in the waiting room, checking your phone…all of these things tell the hiring manager that you don’t really need this job. When you show up for the interview, make sure you are physically and mentally present.

17. Your cell phone goes off in the middle of the interview
This is just rude and inconsiderate of the interviewer’s time. Shut off the cell phones before the interview starts. If this does happen to you, tell the interviewer how embarrassed you are and let them know you realize that was inexcusable. (Exceptions for those expecting a baby, or caring for a sick relative).

18. You bad mouth someone
If you are willing to gossip about a former employer, there is no reason to believe you won’t do the same about this company.

19. You can’t give at least one example of a situation you handled poorly and learned from
Hiring managers want to know how you’ve grown as a person in the past few years. Being able to learn from difficult situations shows you have:

  • determination to succeed
  • the ability to learn from mistakes
  • the capacity for growth
  • your ego in check
  • experience to draw from during tough times at this company

20. You don’t ask any questions about the company
They may not think you’re really interested in the position if you leave the interview without asking any questions. Or, they may think you don’t know enough about the company to ask any intelligent questions.

21. You start negotiating your salary
Do not talk about money on the first interview. Just don’t do it.

22. You wear clothes that cost more than your house
Though I realize that in this economy this is a real possibility…in most cases it looks pretentious.  Wearing overly expensive clothes may make the interviewer assume that you expect a huge salary. Or, that you’re so independently wealthy they can offer you a lower starting salary. (*This tip is for entry-level grads only)

Business Majors: Do You Know How to Ace a Case Interview?

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Are you a business major hoping to score a gig with one of the major consulting firms? If so you need to be prepared for a different kind of interview. It’s called the case interview and it’s likely you haven’t been prepped for it by your college career center. 

In a typical case interview scenario, the interviewer will verbally present a business problem. You will be given the rundown on a hypothetical (or real) company, their business dilemma, and asked to offer your initial recommendations for solving the problem. 

The interviewer will be assessing you in several areas including, but not limited to:

  • How logically you approach the problem
  • How open-minded and creative you are in searching for solutions to the problem
  • How well you can communicate your thought process and strategies  

To help prepare you for a case interview, one of the top consulting firms, AT Kearney, offers these insightful techniques.  Click here to read their helpful hints for acing your case interview.

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Ace Any Job Interview

Monday, January 26th, 2009
Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career (Dalidaze Press, $18.50)

Grad to Great: Discover the Secrets to Success in Your First Career (Dalidaze Press, $18.50)

Beware of Questions Designed to Trip You Up

Christine, a senior executive at an investment bank, warns, “Some questions asked during the interview process are meant to kibosh you.” Consider number 21 from the list of sample questions on page 50 (Can you envision having your boss’s job?). What’s the real meaning behind this question? The interviewer asks you this question to determine if you are ambitious and expect to be at your boss’s level within a year. If this company wants ambitious entry-level workers, they want you to say yes. But what if their corporate culture does not encourage new hires to advance too quickly? Then the response more likely to get you hired would be,“Maybe in several years after I have gained enough experience.” How can you know how to interpret the real meaning behind the interviewer’s question? These tips were designed to help you get at the real meaning behind the question:

  • Determine whether it’s a question that could be meant to “kibosh” you.
  • Listen to the tone of the person’s voice.
  • Give a culturally appropriate answer for the company with which you are interviewing. (Do your homework ahead of time and during your informational interviews.)
  • Consider your tone of voice as you answer and think about what someone is likely to read into your tone.

Sally is a senior executive in Chicago. She advises to pay attention to the questions people ask you at a job interview because they say a lot about the company’s corporate culture:

Several years ago I was interviewing with a major retail company and they asked me a series of questions that all related back to what my reaction would be if my coworkers were stealing. They asked me what I would do if my inventory logs got stolen, or even, I think, if my purse were to be stolen. At the time it didn’t register, but guess what started to happen as soon as I started working there? My coworkers stole my inventory logs, and another colleague had her purse stolen. I later went to a different retail company and their questions were a stark contrast to my previous company. They asked me if I liked to make customers happy and if I genuinely liked people. It’s funny, but both companies told me in one interview exactly what their values were.