Posts Tagged ‘Job interview’

In my most recent blog, I discussed 10 practices that will optimize your job security. Today, I want to elaborate on the first practice; Ask questions and be an active listener. Are you asking the right questions on the job? The biggest challenge I see for people who are looking for a new job is that they cannot identify the value of what they have been doing in their career. A vast majority of professionals view their job in terms of the process or tasks they do on a regular basis. The problem is that this just reinforces the fact that you are a commodity in the eyes of the employer. What you have to keep in mind is that in order for you earn a salary, you need to:

  1. Help the company generate more revenue than the cost of employing you
  2. Help the company save more costs than the cost of employing you
  3. Help the company mitigate more risks than the cost of employing you

If you do this, there should NEVER be a reason for your position to be eliminated in a cost reducing restructuring. Unfortunately most people when asked to identify and quantify their accomplishments, they just say that they do not have that information. If you are an IT manager, and you develop and implement a system for the company, what are the results of your work, and what is the return on the company’s investment? Just because you have done a project or task, does that mean you have done it successfully? How do you then define the success? In order to really understand this you need to ask questions about the purpose of the task, process or project you are working on.

In our career, we need to be extremely proactive in asking questions. These questions can include some of the following:

  1. What is the purpose of what I am doing?
  2. How does it fit into the achievement of the company mission?
  3. How does it impact the performance of others?
  4. What are the measurable metrics before you start?
  5. What are the measurable metrics after you finish?
  6. What is the cost of your project, task or process?

You should be talking not only to your supervisor, but talk to the stake holders in the project or tasks you are working on. Make sure you understand the objective and what they are looking to achieve from your work. Understand how it will impact their job. Talk to team members in other departments, and learn how your work impacts them? By taking these steps, not only will you better understand the value you deliver, but people you work with will also understand the value you bring.

Almost every job interview begins with the interviewer asking the interviewees to tell about themselves. This seemingly innocent and obvious question sinks more interviews than any other part of the interview. Everyone knows this question is coming, however, very few candidates prepare for this. They assume that they know their background, and so they can just talk about it. However 90% of candidates talk themselves right out of a job just in telling about themselves. Because they have not prepared they:

  1. Ramble
  2. Bore the Interviewer
  3. Say irrelevant or even damaging things
  4. Do not demonstrate relevancy to the company or the position
  5. Do not demonstrate track record of success

Nailing this part of the interview makes the rest of the interview so much easier. If you strike out on this, recovering is almost impossible. Since you know they are going to ask the question, wouldn’t it make sense to prepare? I have heard recommendations to respond by asking the interviewer to first explain what the job entails. If I am interviewing, and a candidate asks this question, I will wonder why they did not read the job description, and assume they are unprepared. So how do you answer this question? Keep in mind, when interviewing, your primary objectives are to:

  1. Answer “What is in it for the interviewer”?
  2. Demonstrate how your values and culture align with the company values and culture.
  3. Articulate what you are known for, and how that is a benefit for the company.
  4. Articulate your value proposition.

Also you need to be concise and to the point. In preparing for the “Tell Me About Yourself” the following tips will help you nail the shot when the game is on the line.

  1. Read and understand the job description.
  2. Research the company.
  3. Total time should be between 1½ and 3 minutes.
  4. Give a BRIEF synopsis of your career. Shape your synopsis to the needs learned from the job description and prior research.
    1. Do not list every title and company you have worked for, but give a range.
    2. Do not give a laundry list of responsibilities tasks or processes you performed, but give a range.
  5. Based on the job description, as well as the required skills and experiences, give 2 or 3 SHORT accomplishment statements to demonstrate your success.
    1. Do not go into details.
    2. Do not take time to “set the stage”.
    3. Give a simple Quantified Result and action statement including key skill or experience.
    4. Should be 20 words or less.
  6. Summarize skills and experience inferred from the accomplishment statements focusing on skills and experiences required in the job description.
  7. Say why you want the job! Why are you interested in the company, and their products or services?
  8. Solicit their agreement that your background and experience enable you to meet the objectives of the position and the company.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the interview “Tell Me About Yourself” and how you prepare.

My mentor and good friend John Hall likes to share that In the January 3rd 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine, Geoff Colvin talks about how Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for oral arguments he would meticulously write down hundreds of questions that he thought he could conceivably be asked, pondered and refined the answers in his mind, then he wrote the questions and answers on flash cards. He would then shuffle the questions and practice, practice, practice. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died on September 3rd 2005, George W. Bush nominated Roberts to succeed Rehnquist as Chief Justice. For what might be considered the ultimate job interview, Chief Justice John Roberts prepared for the confirmation hearing the same way. For anyone who was able to watch portions of the confirmation, his answers were quick, concise, and delivered in an easy manner.

You might think, “I know myself. I know my career. I know my industry. Of course I can answer interview questions.” The fact is, more times than not, candidates hurt themselves in the interview. Interviews can be so hard to come by, yet we often wing them, rambling on and talking our way out of the job. Preparation and repetition is the key to setting yourself apart from others in the interview process. Like I said in What Do Free Throws Have To Do With Interviews, you cannot afford to shoot an air ball when the game is on the line.

Finally, video tape mock interviews are a great way to see how you appear to interviewers. So many people are shocked by what they see in the video replay. The good news is I have seen many people make the necessary changes, and successfully land their next position. Practice and eliminate bad habits. For those of you who live in Southern California, Above The Rim Executive Coaching offers Mock Interviews once a month. Check the schedule and register online.

Can You afford an air ball when the game is on the line?