One of the most memorable interviews I’ve ever had was about an hour long, a reasonably normal length of time for an interview. The memorable part was that I recall speaking no more than 3 complete sentences during the entire hour. Let’s just say that some people are long-winded. Then let’s say there are people who are ridiculously long-winded. Then there are also those who are completely unaware that they are ridiculously long-winded. That was this guy. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt because I am not a big talker, but I was under the impression that the purpose of an interview was to learn about the applicant (in the case yours truly) to see if they are a good fit for the position and the company… but not in this interview apparently.
This all begs the question—what is the purpose of interviews? Based on the answer to that question, what is the best way to approach them?
I worked really hard to Google the first question and I got this:
“The purpose of a job interview is twofold: It offers the employer valuable insight into your personality and abilities, and it allows you the chance to discern whether your credentials and career goals match up with what the company seeks.”
Let’s break this down into some concrete ideas for you to use in your next interview!
Insight into Your Personality
First impressions are important. You should dress and look like your best professional self. Don’t try to present yourself as someone or something you are not. Fakers are easy to spot. Remember, they’re looking for “insight into YOUR personality.”
To me this also includes being happy to be there—the interview is an opportunity! Smile and address the interviewer like they are a friend or colleague. You can even ask them questions about themselves to build rapport such as, “How long have you been here?” “What is your position?” “Do you like working in this part of town?” Small talk is ok. It’s something most people do well and are comfortable with. The idea is to get them to open up just a little and break them out of the formality of the situation, making both of you more comfortable, which is when they will get the true “insight” they want.
Your resume highlights these, so why talk about them? Your resume is CliffsNotes—your job is to tell the complete story, including the important details and areas of emphasis. This is your socially acceptable opportunity to brag about yourself. Before your interview, practice talking about your accomplishments in narrative form, like telling a little story. Give a brief explanation of a problem, how it affected your job or the company, and how you used your abilities to solve it. Having 4 or 5 of these stories goes a long way in helping you address behavioral questions. These questions are very common and usually begin with “Tell me about a time when…”, or “Give me an example of when you…” Interviewers are looking for specific examples in response to these questions. It is in your best interest to tell a story that showcases your strengths and abilities. You don’t need to give it any Dr. Seuss flavor, but everybody loves a well told story.
Discern Whether Your Credentials and Career Goals Match Up With What the Company Seeks
This is the part where you get to turn the tables—you are there to ask questions too! Know the job description of the position you are applying for backwards and forwards. If you are sincerely interested in working for a company you should do your homework and know why. Look at the companies “resume” by doing some online research about what they do and what they stand for. This preparation gives you opportunities to formulate educated questions to ask during the interview. These questions can be directly related to the job description or general questions about the company. General examples could be:
• Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
• Can you tell me about the ____ team I’ll be working with?
• What types of continuing education or professional development opportunities do you provide?
Your questions are a big deal. They show your interest level and your ability to research and prioritize.
My interview with Sir Talkalot was not a normal situation. Interviews are not usually (nor should they be) a one way conversation. Try using these tips to make your next interview a success!
Do you have anything to add to our tips? Leave your interview success strategy in the comments below!