Part 2: How To Maximize Effectiveness During a Job Interview

November 15th, 2018

 By Andrew Heikkila

So you’ve arrived at your interview, on time, and dressed to impress. What next?

Interview Behavior

As soon as you arrive, be mindful, and be on your best behavior. Even before the interview begins, your disposition in the waiting room might be under scrutiny.

When you are met for the interview, project confidence. Establish eye contact and smile, and give a firm (but not too firm) handshake if offered. Turn off your cell phone, and prepare for questions.

Throughout this process, you’ll want to be mindful of all your behaviors — including nonverbal communication. Nevertheless, don’t let that make you stiff. You need to be aware, but relaxed. Throughout the interview, remember:

  • Sit up straight, but don’t look uncomfortable or unnatural. Look attentive, and avoid fidgeting, twiddling thumbs, foot tapping, etc.
  • Maintain good eye contact, but try to avoid staring. Lack of eye contact can come across as unprofessional, inattentive, or a sign of disinterest.
  • Feel free to talk with your hands and gestures, but don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t let reactions or subconscious behavior betray you — excitement and disappointment are healthy to express in a managed way.
  • Lastly, no matter how successful you think the interview is going or how “chummy” the recruiters might be, don’t say things that are sexist, offensive, or simply inappropriate for the office.

Answering Questions

The object of any interview is to get to know a candidate via series of questions and answers. Read through a couple of lists of common interview questions by searching for them online, and think about how you might answer them. Don’t memorize responses word for word to avoid sounding mechanical. Instead think about why the interviewer is asking that question and what they’re trying to determine from it in relation to the position you’re applying for.

“Simply spending some time thinking through what you might say, or examples you could share in response to those common questions, should be enough to help you prepare and still sound natural in your responses,” write the experts at Ohio University. They list four standard interview questions that you’ll probably encounter, regardless of industry or position.

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Can you give an example of a time when you encountered a difficult situation and how you handled it?
  • Describe yourself.
  • Why should we hire you?

When in the interview, try to keep your answers detailed, but concise. Don’t meander around the questions. Instead, answer directly and certainly.

Asking Questions

An interview is not a one way street. While the recruiter has been using this opportunity to determine whether you might be a good fit for the position and organization, too many people pass up on the opportunity to do the same. Asking your own questions will help you determine whether you think you’d be a good fit for the company, and will also demonstrate initiative on your part. Here are a couple of sample questions:

  • What does the average day-to-day look like? Ask about responsibilities, schedules, and expectations to better understand exactly how you’d be spending your day.
  • What direction is the company headed in? This question simultaneously gives you a feel for what a future at the company might look like, and demonstrates that you’re forward thinking.
  • What does your employee turnover look like? If employee turnover is high, there’s a reason. Employees might be dissatisfied, or could be prone to leaving for higher pay in the same position. If it’s high, ask why.
  • What are the biggest challenges the company or department are currently facing? This will give you a clear view of what you’re up against if you end up with the position.
  • What do you love most about working here? This will give you insight on the company’s culture — if the recruiter has a hard time answering, you might too later on.
  • Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I’d be a good fit? This question allows you to address any final apprehensions that the interviewer may have, and also shows that you’re serious about getting the job. It also shows that you can handle criticism and analysis.
  • What Happens Now? This is a great question to end the interview with, because you’ll hear directly from the recruiter what your next steps will be. Whether that’s waiting for a call on a follow up interview, submitting to pre-employment testing, or signing the employment papers right then and there, you won’t be in the dark.

Pre-Employment Testing

There are different types of pre-employment testing that you might want to be prepared to take. While these aren’t the types of tests that you can necessarily study for, their outcomes could heavily affect whether or not you’re hired.

Background Check & Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Many employers require pre-employment drug testing as well as a background check on all applicants, either due to company policy, state law, or both. Sometimes hiring is contingent upon passing a drug and alcohol screen, though this has been complicated by state’s rights and the legalization of cannabis. If you’re serious about the job and want to hedge your bets, assume that the company has a zero-tolerance policy on illicit drug use. You’ll have to provide prescriptions to the testing center for reference.

The background checks that employees run will generally consist of:

  • Criminal Records
  • Credit Report
  • Driving Records
  • Education Records
  • Employment Records
  • Identity Validation
  • Personal Information
  • License
  • Military Records

 

Certain adverse information may disqualify you from the position. More extensive information concerning background checks can be found here.

Aptitude Tests

Tests to measure a candidate’s potential and/or ability to execute specific operations may or may not be administered. If they are, they might be given before the interview to weed out candidates that aren’t technically proficient with applicable skills. On the other hand, they may be given after, if the company is soft-skill focused.

There is no one standard for aptitude or hiring tests — they come in many varieties. However, they are all essentially geared to measure traits of employees that the specific organization deems important. For example, Kavita Verma, in an article for CosmoBC, writes about Predictive Index testing, and the parameters that PI tests evaluate. She writes that Predictive Index tests judge on the basis of:

  • Dominance: Candidates who score high here are assertive, self-confident and independent. Likewise, those who score low are more likely to be cooperative, manageable, and accommodating.
  • Extroversion: Those who display extrovertive traits are more outgoing, persuasive and socially-poised. Introverts, on the other hand, generally keep to themselves, work well alone, and are less likely to get distracted chatting at the water cooler all day.
  • Patience: This will measure how consistent and stable a candidate is, and is highly valued in customer service roles. If the candidates score low here, they are likely better suited for a high-intensity, fast-paced line of work
  • Formality: This will measure how well the candidate will conform to the rules and structure of the company. Some organizations are strong on formality, while others prefer a more loosey-goosey company culture and atmosphere.

Once the interview is officially over, you can breathe deep — but not too deep! You’re not done yet. See part 3 on November 16.

 

Andrew Heikkila is a Millennial (whatever that means), a writer, an artist and musician, and a small business owner. He believes in the power of change and the power of people. By combining those two elements, he believes, anything is possible. Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Nov 12, 2018, at 12:42 PM, Michael W Kirst <mwk@stanford.edu> wrote:

 

I can post these Thursday and

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