Interview Tips for Job Hunters
As the year end approaches, we thought we’d mix things up a bit from our usual technology and geek culture focus and provide tips for job hunters in the new year. Good luck!
It can be exhilarating knowing that your CV or resume was good enough to get you in the door of the company where you want to work. But now you need to pass the job interview. What do you need to know?
First of all, you can assume that you’ve made it to the interview because the employer is interested in hiring you. You possess the basic criteria needed for the job – otherwise, the employer, or his/her representative, wouldn’t be meeting with you.
What can you do to ace that interview?
Be prepared so that you won’t be faced with questions that might throw you for a loop. Plan out your answers to some of the most-asked questions so that the employer sees you in the best possible light.
Some potential questions, and ways to respond, include the following:
The interviewer wants to get a sense of what type of salary you expect. Unless the job description included the proposed salary, you can figure that a question about your salary expectations will arise.
The question may come in the form of “how much did you make at your last job?” or an outright “how much are you expecting to make?” Regardless of how the question is raised, if you’re a man you should be prepared to answer in a forthright manner, while if you’re a woman… maybe not.
In her study “Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations” Victoria Brescott of the S.C. Johnson School of Business at Cornell University focuses on what happens to women who dodge that question. She determined that women who refuse to disclose past salary history earn 1.8 percent less than a woman who discusses her salary requirements. Men who decline to ask, however, are paid more.
If you’re job searching in Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco you should know that it’s illegal for an employer to ask for a candidate’s salary history. Otherwise, you should do your research before you go in for the interview and research the job’s market value.
Then consider how your experience and skills match what the employer wants. By all means, don’t anchor yourself to your previous salary since the market has almost certainly changed since you were last hired.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Asking about your strengths and weaknesses is a basic interview question. The interviewer wants to know about those specific strengths and weaknesses, but s/he also wants to know how well you know yourself.
Be honest, but try to discuss the attributes that you possess that will set you apart from other candidates. You want to demonstrate the qualities that qualify you for the job while acknowledging that there are things that you want to address as you work on yourself. .
When discussing strengths, you might want to make a list of skills that match those that the job description requests: training or education, past work experiences, etc. Then, be prepared to elaborate on a particular strength with examples of how you have used that skill in the past.
When you discuss weaknesses, be honest (“I need to work more on organizational skills”) but be prepared to provide examples of how you are meeting those challenges. For instance, if you become stressed when there’s too much going on at once, you may want to note that you’ve developed an internal system for yourself that forces you to stop and prioritize the tasks when you see that you’re becoming stressed.
Many recruiters want to know a little general information about job candidates. You want to seem open and forthcoming during your job interview but, at the same time, you don’t want to be too chatty or give out too much personal information.
Recruiting advisors suggest that you share some of your personal interests that don’t relate directly to work. Hobbies, sports activities, and volunteer interests are some of the things that can present you as a well-rounded person.
At some point you’ll want to move the discussion to talk about work. You might say something like “In addition, my professional life is a huge part of who I am” and then you can go on to talk about some of the ways that you think the job would fit your skills and strengths.
Employers are often interested in your employment history. They might want to know why you’ve left a previous job or ask you to describe events from your previous job that highlight your skills.
Be honest, but don’t bash your previous employer. Even if you were working in a job from hell, that truth isn’t going to come out in your interview – what’s going to come out is that you are a disgruntled ex-employee who might one day go around bashing your new employer.
Some good answers to these questions include:
- I wanted a more challenging work environment. I was bored and found that I wasn’t giving my all to my work.
- I’m ready to move on to a new challenge and my previous job didn’t offer room for growth.
- There was some restructuring going on at work and our department was eliminated/downsized.
- I want to move into a new direction in my work life. I’ve gone as far as I can go in my old job and want to expand my responsibilities.
- I want to work as part of a team and in my last job I was working on my own too often.
- I have developed new skills (attained a new educational level) and want to use those skills where I’m needed.
- I want to work on a full-time basis now – my previous job was only on a part-time basis.
- I’m looking for more opportunities for growth and advancement in my job.
- I would prefer to be closer to home and reduce the commuting time that I had been putting into my job.
One of the simplest answers that you can give may be the best — “I wasn’t considering leaving my company but when I saw this job posting it intrigued me. I realized that the position matches my skill set and I’d be honored to work for this particular company.”
Succeeding in a job interview is more than Vegas luck. Review the possible questions and prepare your answers and you’ll enjoy a much better chance of landing that dream job.