How to Prepare for a Job Interview in 2016

preparing for your interview2016 will bring a ton of new job opportunities for new college graduates as well as employed workers looking to advance their career or try something new.

With the economy slowly rebounding, unemployment being down, and a lack of qualified candidates in so many fields, this is your year to get the dream job you’ve always wanted.

However, are you prepared for your interview? Have you memorized 101 interview questions and answers? I hope not – this is not effective, and in my 25 years of experience job interviews quickly reveal people that have memorized questions and are basically following what I call a “job interview script”.

Nobody wants to hire a robot. Worrying endlessly about possible interview questions is not going to give you the poise and confidence you need to ace your interview and get the job.

Common Questions During a Job Interview

So you’re not going to memorize an entire book of questions and their associated answers. Good. But should you know some of the common job interview questions and how to answer them? Sure – this makes sense. In fact, in my best selling book on interviewing I outline a very core set of expected questions and go into detail around what the hiring manager is looking for. Understanding the why behind the question and some possible responses gives you exactly what you need. Once you know why a particular interview question is asked, you can actually respond naturally and address the need based on your job experiences and educational background. Not a canned response out of a book – which we recognized immediately.

Often you will hear some variance of these key questions:

  • Why do you think you are a good fit for this role?
  • What do you bring to our company that other candidates don’t?
  • Give me a brief overview of your background
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your biggest weakness – this interview question trips up a lot of people
  • Tell me about your biggest accomplishment
  • Tell me how you handle conflict and provide an example
  • Provide an example of when you had to collaborate across an organization to achieve a goal

Preparing for these interview questions shouldn’t take a ton of time. Either find them in my book, or research them on the internet. Based on a fairly decent search of job sites, I’ve been able to validate that most of the advice out there is generally good. But please do not memorize canned answers. Think about why you are being asked the question, and structure your response accordingly. And be brief. I have seldom hired someone who talks for 10 minutes to make one point.

Send a Job Interview Thank You Email? How About a Letter?

My opinion on this is pretty consistent with everyone else in the recruiting or management field. Yes. You have to realize that even by taking time to interview you for the position the company and individuals have invested in you and the process. Everybody is busy – especially those in management roles. However, finding great staff is a top priority for any manager, and it is well worth clearing our calendars to interview promising candidates.

Keep the thank you letter brief, and focus on thanking them for the time they spent with you, express enthusiasm for the role, mention 1-2 pertinent facts you learned during the interview [to show you were paying attention], and close with you’re looking forward to next steps.

Not Selected for the job – Interview Failure

How many job interviews have you had where you didn’t get a call back, and wish employers offered feedback on what you did wrong in the interview?

This rarely – if ever – happens, for a variety of reasons, primarily time related and legal liability. However, what if you could read insights from a hiring manager on what he has seen over a span of 20 years – how valuable would that be to “hear” the feedback that you never actually receive from a failed job interview?

As a hiring manager for both start-ups and several Fortune 500 companies, let me share some key interviewing  tips for maximizing your effectiveness in 2016 so you don’t get one job offer – but several. My advice after doing this for so many years is to not focus on memorizing questions and answers, as this comes across as so robotic, causes breaks in the natural flow of the conversation, and honestly is so visible to me that I rarely get to know who you are and if you’d be right for my organization.

Here are 5 tips to help you present well in an interview outside of worrying about your answers, and hopefully land that job you’ve always been dreaming of:

  • Professional Appearance – What to wear for an interview. This sounds obvious, but most people concentrate on dressing professionally which is important, but then may ignore some fringe elements that can influence the perception of you as a professional. This includes things I have experienced personally such as: bad body odor, unkempt facial hair, too much cologne or perfume, and believe it or not poorly matched footwear. So watch every aspect of your appearance and presentation – not just your clothes.
  • Body Language – Do you know how to act in an interview? Some studies suggest body language is 93% of communication and only 7% of what you say. Short of referencing entire books on this subject, do some research on mirroring body language – you will be astounded how effective this can be in forming a connection with the manager and moving to a 2nd interview and an offer.
  • Be Assertive But Not Aggressive – Feel free to initiate the greeting handshake, be deferential relative to taking a seat but don’t hesitate to ask to sit down after an extended period. Ask tough questions during the interview about the business, the culture of the company, and what the manager likes and finds challenging in this line of business. Wallflowers very seldom get a call back.
  • Be a Person – Nobody hires robots. Be prepared to let some of your personality shine through in your language, discussion of interests or parallel experiences, your body language, etc. Don’t hesitate to take opportunities to paint past experiences or hobbies in a humorous or interesting light. Let the manager get to know you as a person, just don’t overdue it.
  • Focus on Value You Will Add – Remember, the interview is all about the value you can bring to the company, and to the manager’s team. It isn’t about what a great person you are, or how awesome you’ve been in the past. It is about how your experience, passion, and teamwork can help deliver on the goals of the organization you want to join.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful. Every hiring manager I have worked beside over the years wishes they could pull you aside and tell you what you did wrong, and what you could do better. However, that isn’t an option given legal guidance and ramifications, nor do we honestly have time to do that with every candidate. That is why I have written a book providing that feedback outside of a specific interview or candidate – so you can see what so many candidates do wrong and how to fix it!

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