Tag Archive: interview advice

by Tony Restell
Preparing for the job interview questions you might face has to be one of the more stressful aspects of changing jobs. Here we share insights you can put to work in your interview preparation right away.
What does your job interviewer want to uncover about you?

The starting point for success in responding to job interview questions is to understand why those questions are being asked. So what reassurances is your interviewer looking for during your interview?

– Can you do the job?
– Are you someone who’d fit in and be a good addition to the team?
– What risks are being taken by employing you?
– Will you take the job?
– What would be your motivations for taking the job?

Can you do the job?

Sounds obvious right? Yet unless you are moving between two competitors to perform the exact same role, your ability to do the job needs to be established. Your challenge in preparing to face job interview questions on this topic is to understand the job as thoroughly as you can.

Firstly this means revisiting the job advert and picking through the key requirements specified. Try to play detective and figure out why those criteria are important. What can you infer by reading between the lines? What contacts do you have who may be able to shed additional light on the role and the company? Have you researched the LinkedIn profiles of people in similar positions at the company, their descriptions of what they do – and their recommendations – may prove very telling. Who can you find who has recently left the company and who you could reach out to for insights?

What you’re most interested in identifying are i) the factors that are of greater or less importance than at your existing company (so that you know which strengths to play to in the interview) and ii) the differences that exist between you performing strongly in your current role and in this potential new role.
Examples would be there being greater political infighting to deal with; poor morale to contend with; different systems than you’re used to working with; different sales challenges to overcome; organisational challenges or deficiencies in capabilities that you’ll need to learn to work through.

In all respects that the role is similar to the one you already hold, your answers should pretty much take care of themselves. It’s the aspects that differ from what you’ve shown you can do that need to be bridged.

Are you someone who’d fit in and be a good addition to the team?

One key function of job interview questions – and the hiring process more generally – is to establish that there would be a good personality fit between you and the company. This takes two forms. Firstly companies have characters and an ethos that your earlier research may well have uncovered. It may be a very goal-focused business; innovative; focused on work-life balance… Whatever it is, you being a fit rather than a clash with that culture is a key hiring consideration.

Secondly – and no less important – you will be slotting into a team somewhere within the company. That team will have its own personality and traits that are a function of the existing team members. How you are likely to blend with them is another key consideration.

The topics so far are best addressed by doing your research before the job interview; and by asking as many questions as you can during the interview to fill in the gaps in your knowledge. As far as possible, you want to know the answer the interviewer would like to hear before you answer any question or show your hand.

What risks are being taken by employing you?

Everyone involved in the hiring decision is taking a risk with their careers by rubber-stamping you as the best person to hire. The candidate who looks best for the role may not always be the least risky hire. The most talented candidate may be likely to become dissatisfied in the role (and leave for greener pastures). They are more likely to be in the running for other openings and drop out of the recruiter’s interview process altogether. This explains why those willing to take a demotion and paycut to get back into work are often left frustrated. They’re considered overqualified precisely because they could become dissatisfied or receive a better offer once hired.
Similarly, those with inconsistencies in their application or unexplained developments in their careers can generate anxiety that undoes an otherwise strong performance. That’s why you need to think carefully about your shortcomings and how best to handle any anxieties these may cause. It’s better that you address these concerns directly than leave your interviewers to stew on them behind closed doors. And related to this point you also need to address…

Will you take the job?
Come the final stages of the hiring process, your interviewers probably have a number of candidates they’d be happy to hire. What they’ll be loathe to do is offer the role to someone they think may well not accept it. In doing so, they risk losing all the other candidates in the running. This doesn’t reflect well on the interviewers and could be a serious setback for the company if they find themselves without a key hire for an extended period as a result.

In answering job interview questions, I’ve seen good candidates come unstuck if they’ve left the interviewer with the impression that they might not accept an offer. It’s fine to challenge an interviewer on why you should think their role is more compelling than your other career options. But unless you’re the only candidate in the running, you probably don’t want the interview to come to a close without having made your interest in the position clear.
What would be your motivations for taking the job?

Your reasons for being interested in the role can also be very telling – and make you a better or worse fit for the position. During your research you may have uncovered what makes employees in this organisation tick; or when asking your own questions you may have gained some insights. Be wary of revealing motivations that are not consistent with what you have learnt about the organisation. They could be your undoing.

So now you have a better understanding of what your interviewer may be trying to uncover with their job interview questions. You know how to tailor your answers for a better chance of achieving a successful outcome.

We highly recommend the following 10 tips to follow before attending an interview.

1. Research the company

Make certain that you are familiar with its website, learn what it does, where it stands within its industry. Try and gain a good idea of their culture.  Then, you will be able to ask intelligent questions and speak about ways you can contribute to its success.

2. Learn about the people who will interview you

When you are invited to interview, don’t be shy about asking with whom you will be speaking and what his/her/their roles are within the company. Then, check them out on LinkedIn, company website and Google to learn all you can about them.

3. Pay attention to your grooming and attire

Always present yourself as a professional.  If you have gained a good idea of their company culture, try and dress accordingly.  Don’t ever show up dressed casually.  Take your sunglasses off your head, remove any gum.

4. Give a firm handshake

It may seem cliché, but people do read a lot about you into the way you first present yourself, and a firm handshake is key in projecting a strong personality. That said, don’t go overboard and crush bones to show power for its own sake.

5. Always maintain eye contact

When you look down or away from a person with whom you are conversing, it appears that you are disinterested, bored, or even projecting a sense of inadequacy. Show your engagement by looking at the person across the table.

6. Answer what is asked

Before you begin to answer any question, think for a moment to make sure you are addressing the question that the interviewer posed.

7. Be concise

Have short, succinct answers ready for the most typical questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” An interview is a conversation, not a time for you to drone on and on.

8. NEVER bad mouth

Never say anything at all negative about any person or employer, no matter how bad, evil, mean, or nasty you believe them to be. When you are disparaging, you put the interviewer in a role of judging between you and that other person. It also leaves the interviewer wondering what you will say about him or her if your relationship sours in the future.

9. Don’t ask about things you should already know

It is up to you to do your research about the company ahead of the interview. You show that you are unprepared if you ask something you could have easily found out by yourself.

10. Don’t waste time with questions that don’t matter – yet!

Of course, you want to know about when they will decide to hire, how far they are in their process, salary, benefits, vacation, and things of this sort. But when you are given a chance to ask a question, remember that NONE of this matters until they have figured out you are their top choice among all your competition. Keep your questions focused on the role to be filled and ways you can be a standout employee. Then, you are most likely to proceed to the next round of discussions.

adapted from:  Dr. John Sullivan

Six Seconds of Resume Review Means Recruiters Will See Very Little

When you ask individual recruiters directly, they report that they spend up to 5 minutes reviewing each individual resume. However, a recent research study from TheLadders that included the direct observation of the actions of corporate recruiters demonstrated that the boast of this extended review time is a huge exaggeration. You may be shocked to know that the average recruiter spends a mere 6 seconds reviewing a resume.

Obviously six seconds only allows a recruiter to quickly scan (but not to read) a resume. We also know from observation that nearly 4 seconds of that 6-second scan is spent looking exclusively at four job areas, which are: 1) job titles, 2) companies you worked at, 3) start/end dates and 4) education.

Like it or not, that narrow focus means that unless you make these four areas extremely easy for them to find within approximately four seconds, the odds are high that you will be instantly passed over. And finally be aware that whatever else that you have on your resume, the recruiter will have only the remaining approximately 2 seconds to find and be impressed with it. And finally, if you think the information in your cover letter will provide added support for your qualifications, you might be interested to know that a mere 17 percent of recruiters bother to read cover letters (BeHiring).

A Single Resume Error Can Instantly Disqualify You

A single resume error may prevent your resume from moving on. That is because 61 percent of recruiters will automatically dismiss a resume because it contains typos (Careerbuilder). In a similar light, 43 percent of hiring managers will disqualify a candidate from consideration because of spelling errors (Adecco). The use of an unprofessional email address will get a resume rejected 76 percent of the time (BeHiring).

A Format That Is Not Scannable Can Cut Your Odds by 60 Percent

TheLadders’ research also showed that the format of the resume matters a great deal. Having a clear or professionally organized resume format that presents relevant information where recruiters expect it will improve the rating of a resume by recruiter by a whopping 60 percent, without any change to the content.

Weak LinkedIn Profiles Can Also Hurt You

Because many recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn profiles either to verify or to supplement resume information, those profiles also impact your chances. Ey- tracking technology used by TheLadders revealed that recruiters spend an average of 19 percent of their time on your LinkedIn profile simply viewing your picture (so a professional picture may be worthwhile). The research also revealed that just like resumes, weak organization, and scannability within a LinkedIn profile negatively impacted the recruiter’s ability to “process the profile” (TheLadders).

Making it Through a Keyword Search Requires a Customized Resume

The first preliminary resume screening step at most corporations is a computerized ATS system that scans submitted resumes for keywords that indicate that an applicant fits a particular job. I estimate more that 90 percent of candidates apply using their standard resume (without any customization). Unfortunately, this practice dramatically increases the odds that a resume will be instantly rejected because a resume that is not customized to the job will seldom include enough of the required “keywords” to qualify for the next step, a review by a human.

Even if you are lucky enough to have a live recruiter review your resume, because recruiters spend on average less than 2 seconds (of the total six-second review) looking for a keyword match, unless the words are strategically placed so that they can be easily spotted, a recruiter will also likely reject it for not meeting the keyword target.

Remember a Resume Only Gets You an Interview

Even with a perfect resume and a little luck, getting through the initial resume screen by the recruiter only guarantees that your resume will qualify for a more thorough review during what I call the “knockout round.” During this next stage of review, the recruiter will have more time to assess your resume for your accomplishments, your quantified results, your skills, and the tools you can use.

Unfortunately, the recruiter is usually looking for reasons to reject you, in order to avoid the criticism that will invariably come from the hiring manager if they find knockout factors in your resume. If no obvious knockout factors are found you can expect a telephone interview, and if you pass that, numerous in-person interviews.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, much of what is written about “the perfect resume” and the ideal job search approach is based on “old wives’ tales” and is simply wrong.

Rather than leaving things to chance, my advice both to the applicant and to the corporate recruiting leader is to approach the job search process in a much more scientific way. For the applicant that means start by thoroughly reading the position description and making a list of the required keywords that both the ATS and the recruiter will need to see.

Next submit a customized resume that is in a scannable format that ensures that the key factors that recruiters need to see initially (job titles, company names, education, dates, keywords, etc.) are both powerful and easy to find during a quick six-second scan. But next comes the most important step: to literally “pretest” both your resume and your LinkedIn profile several times with a recruiter or HR professional. Pretesting makes sure that anyone who scans them for six seconds will be able to actually find each of the key points that recruiters need to find.

The Secret to answering:  “Why did you leave your last job?”

“Why did you leave your last job?” The question can strike fear in even the most confident candidate. Whether your answer is simple or complex, being asked to talk about it puts you on the spot, and it can be tricky to balance the truth while still painting yourself in the best possible light to your hopefully-soon-to-be employer. But, it doesn’t have to be as painful as you might think. Aside from wanting to know that you’re not a flake, your interviewer is asking this question to find out why you’re interested in the opening.

So, there’s an art to formulating your response that’ll enable you sail through smoothly and come out ahead (even if the circumstances were a bit dicey!). Here’s how to craft an expert answer.

Be Honest

This should go without saying, but you absolutely have to be up front about your reason for leaving, particularly if you were terminated—a prospective employer can (and in many cases, will) call your references or your last supervisor. And if you’ve been let go, don’t panic: It doesn’t mean you’re out of the running. Your best bet is to chalk it up to a learning experience and showcase what you’ve gained from it. People are often able to overlook mistakes if you admit to them and prove that you’ve grown in the process.

Stay Positive

Even if you suffered under the wrath of a Devil Wears Prada-type of supervisor, do not rant about a previous boss or company during an interview. And if you think were laid off unfairly, you still don’t want to paint yourself as a victim. According to corporate recruiter Deborah Osbourn, it’s fine to say the job wasn’t a good fit, but be prepared to give some concrete reasons to back up that statement—for example, you want to work in a more team-oriented environment, or the position didn’t make the best use of your skill set.

Keep it Short

Once you’ve answered the question, there’s no need to keep elaborating. The longer you continue talking, the more likely you are to start opening up about things that aren’t necessary. Yes, your back-stabbing co-workers, the CEO’s anger management problem, and the company’s “creative” reporting practices are all good reasons to leave, but they’re not appropriate to share during an interview. And if you’re leaving on good terms and are simply looking for a new challenge, that’s all you need to say on the matter. If the interviewer wants more information, she’ll ask you to expand.

Focus on the New Job

The best way to conclude your response is to spin it back to what’s most important—why you are interested in the job you’re interviewing for. “The person interviewing you wants to know that you want that job and will be interested in it for a while,” says Osbourn. “You would be surprised how many people are unable to clearly express their interest in the job.” Highlight job duties for the new position that spark your interest (“in my last role, I didn’t have much opportunity to collaborate with other departments, so I’m excited about working on cross-functional teams here”). And definitely beware of citing any dislikes from previous jobs that are clearly defined in the job description for this role. Hated cold calling prospects? Be sure that’s not listed as a requirement before spouting off! Remember, every question you’re asked is a chance to showcase your qualities, personality, and interest in the position. You’ve already passed the initial screen, and the interview is your time to shine.

So when asked about your previous job, just keep your answer short, honest, and positive, and you’ll be on to the next question in no time (and hopefully, the job!).”


This month’s newsletter article was written by Elizabeth Lowman, a freelance writer whose work has been featured in publications such as Forbes and the Huffington Post.

Resources: Interview Advice

Before Interviewing:

At Interview:

%d bloggers like this: