Going through a job interview is usually the most stressful part of a job search process. It may help to prepare for an interview if you understand how employers look at job candidates and their way of thinking. To help us with that we’ve asked seasoned hiring managers and professionals in the industry to describe how they rate job candidates and list some of the things they pay attention to when interviewing. Here is what they’ve shared with us:
- For most employers the most important objective of an interview is to verify that you are who you say you are in your resume. After all, if they invited you for an interview – this means they like your resume. Now it is your turn to show that you are the worker described in the resume – the qualities, the experience, and accomplishments must all match the face the employer sees. As Marjorie Kavanagh, president of Panoramic Resumes has described: “I've had candidates whose faces have gone blank when asked a question about something on their resume. When I reference the information from their resumes, their responses have been, "Oh, my girlfriend (insert anyone else here) wrote my resume." Most employers don’t really care who wrote the resume but if your name is on it and you can’t back it up – this may be it for you.
- Interview is all about presentation and you are on the spot. Interviewers will look at how you are dressed, your manners, how confident your handshake is, eye contact, etc. Their job is to evaluate you from a professional standpoint but also understand that the personal impression has a huge influence. If they don’t like something about you personally, chances are they will not like you professionally either.
- Many employers look for signs and qualities during the interview that cannot be put in a resume. They will analyze your critical thinking ability, thought process, ability to handle difficult situations, communications skills, work ethic, etc. Keep that in mind throughout the interview.
- There are also things that could negatively influence employer’s decision right way. If they catch you lying – you are out. Some things may work against you in the longer run when compared to other candidates: poor listener, inability to convey understanding of the job, unfamiliar with the company culture, had not questions about the job, does not fully understand the responsibilities, etc.
- If an interviewer has specific concerns they will most likely focus on that issue. Chances are if they like the answer, they will move on but if they don’t they will “dig deeper”. Repetitive questions may mean that they haven’t received the answer they wanted to hear and this should be a red flag that you haven’t given the “right” answer.
- Don’t be nervous. It is easier said than done but it is very important. If you are nervous, some interviewers will look for a reason to why and their conclusions may be unfavorable to you. If you are nervous and you are having a hard time, it is best to admit to it and explain why you are nervous. Many professional interviewers will relate to that and will try to help you by adjusting the atmosphere to more casual and relaxed. Turning an interview into a conversation (rather than question-answer session) always help. Regardless of how nervous you are, always try to be your best professional, well mannered, polite and communicative.
- Always come prepared. Make sure you understand the job and the company to the best of your ability. Do research on the Internet. Read things like corporate mission statements and messages from the CEO/President. This will help you understand the company culture better. Also, come prepared with questions about the job and responsibilities. Finally, prepare a list of things that you want the employer to know about you and gently weave them into the conversation.
- For most employers it comes down to two questions: A) do you have the skills/experience required for job? B) Will you fit into the existing team/structure? During your interview they must have a solid “Yes” answer for both of these questions. It is your job to convince them of that. You should actually bring this up if the employer doesn’t explicitly cover it. Employers will listen carefully to you explaining why you think you have the skills for the job or how you would fit in. These are two questions that ALL interviewers are guaranteed to have on their mind.
- Don’t expect all interviews to be the same. Keep in mind that each job has different requirements, each company’s culture is different and finally, interviewers are different people, too. It is impossible to foresee all possible questions but the best way to prepare is always by researching the position. “What are the requirements? Do you have the technical, transferable, and adaptive skills required? Research the company. Is it a company for which you'd like to work? Are you motivated to do the job? And know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses?” –Having answers in mind to these questions, as recommended by Bob McIntosh - an experienced innovative career trainer, is the best way to prepare.
- Listen carefully to questions asked and respond accordingly. Many employers rate job candidates on their ability to listen. “Too many candidates have their own agendas. They barely listen to what's being said, don't answer the question, then go back to their own agenda - what they want from the position. Individuals who have a sense of entitlement, either to the job or perks, don't go far. I'm interested in what the candidate can bring to the position.” Says Darlene Zambruski, Managing Editor at ResumeEdge.com.
We would like to extend our thanks to the LinkedIn community with the help in putting together this article, and especially to Marjorie Kavanagh, Bob McIntosh, Darlene Zambruski, Paul Mullan, Eugene Fridman, Abdul Rahim Hasan, and others.
Cartoon by David Farley