How do I find a new job? (6)

need a jobSo your hard work has finally paid off. You prepared well; you networked like a professional; and you submitted targeted applications to firms with problems for which you would be the ideal solution.

And now you’ve been offered an interview for a role that would be perfect for you.

At this point, remember two things:-

1. Being offered an interview means the hiring manager believes that there is a strong possibility that you are the right person for the job; however

2. There could be perhaps five other candidates in a similar position to you.

This means that you have a very good chance of success but you must assume that you will be up against some serious competition.

So how do you rise above the competition and ensure that you are seen as the best candidate? The simple answer is careful but detailed preparation.

Some preparation you should have done already, notably producing your ‘quiver full of arrows’ [See: How do I find a new job (2) – Tip 5].

Nevertheless you still have more homework to do.

If you really want to secure that job offer, you still have to do some more research prior to the interview, starting with the company.

Tip 16: Do your research on the company thoroughly

If you are going to impress at interview then you must appear to be both knowledgeable of and excited about the company and its prospects.

However, as a hiring manager, it never ceases to amaze me how many candidates fail to do even basic research on the company prior to being interviewed. Failing to do this is not only unprofessional, it also has the potential to be a costly mistake.

If it is clear that you haven’t done your homework on the company, I am likely to be so unimpressed that the chances of you receiving a job offer from me will be close to nil.

If you haven’t been thorough when you really must impress me, why would I believe that you would be thorough in carrying out your duties if I were to offer you a job?

If you’re being interviewed by me I expect you to know some facts about the company and I will be looking for signs that you’ve done your homework. For example at the very least I expect you to know what the company does; what products and services it has to offer; the industry sector in which it operates and its competitive position relative to other leading players in the sector.

Ideally you should also have some idea about the company’s financial position, as well as its plans for the future; any recent announcements relating to major contracts won or projects in the pipeline; what’s going on in the industry; any major challenges it faces; and so on.

None of this is difficult as you will find most of the information you need on the company’s website. A simple Google search will also provide you with plenty of information.

However, if you can, it is also important to get inside the company as part of your research. For instance, if the company is located in a large office building, go in, sit in their reception area if you can and just observe.

Watch how visitors are being treated by staff at the reception desk. Listen to conversions to get a feel for the vibe of the business. What is the atmosphere like? Positive and friendly or is there a hint of unhappy people and/or dissatisfied customers in the air?

A field trip to the company is also a good opportunity to observe dress code. At interview you must dress to impress but the way you dress should be consistent with the company dress code, if you are to demonstrate that you are a good fit with the team. So information gleaned on a field trip can help you with making a good first impression.

If the business has retail outlets, go in and observe. Pretend to be a customer. What are the shops like inside? Are they inviting and friendly or chaotic and unfriendly? What is your impression of staff? Speak to staff and ask them what it’s like to work there. Are they helpful and positive? Speak to customers. Are they happy and satisfied?

Phone the company’s main switchboard with an enquiry and see what that experience is like. Good or bad?

The point of this is for you to be able to gauge company values and corporate culture. This research will shine a light on the way they do things and their values.

Can you spot any obvious things you would change or correct? This might provide you with ammunition for the interview.

It will also give you a clear idea as to whether you will be a good fit within such a business. Remember one of the things the hiring manager will need reassurance on is your fit with the team.

When researching the business on the internet, watch for anything critical of the business and the way it operates.

Do your research thoroughly and the chances are that you will shine.

Just think, if you’ve done your homework and your competition hasn’t then that would put you ahead of them all straight away.

The points made here are not exhaustive, they simply provide an illustration.

In order to get inside the organisation you might need to think a little creatively. However do whatever it takes to get as much information as possible.

Obviously your research should not be limited to the company though.

An interview is conducted by people, or at least one person. Either way you need to do some background research on anyone you are likely to meet, particularly the hiring manager.

Tip 17: Research the hiring manager

Hiring is a risky business and hiring managers are wary about making mistakes.

A key judgement they have to make in the hiring process is whether they will be able to get along with the individual.

Therefore it is essential during the interview that you try to establish a rapport with them. How do you do this? The simple answer is to engage them in conversation, not only at a professional level but at a personal level too.

As a hiring manager, I am always flattered when a candidate mentions a paper I’ve written or a presentation I’ve given, particularly if their comments are favourable and it is clear that they are actually familiar with my work. I’m human, why wouldn’t I be flattered? We all like to think our work matters.

If someone mentions Liverpool Football Club and a recent game they’ve seen, then that too would get a favourable reaction from me and on this subject I can easily be drawn into conversation.

The point is that if you’ve taken the trouble to find out something about me, you have the chance to engage me in informal conversation. Which means you’re on your way to establishing a rapport.

You’re also on your way to becoming a memorable candidate. And that matters too.

So researching the person or people that will be interviewing you is an important element of your pre-interview preparation.

This is easy to do nowadays. A Google search will usually reveal information about individuals.

Social media sites like LinkedIn also contain a lot of information and most people of any significance will have a social media footprint these days.

Also company websites will often contain a short biography for each of their senior staff. So that’s another avenue you can explore in your research.

It’s not difficult, so make sure you do it and do it thoroughly.

And then once you’ve done your research it’s time to anticipate the questions you will be asked.

Tip 18: Anticipate questions

People often worry about being interviewed because they’re afraid that they may be asked a question they can’t answer.

It’s certainly true that if you struggle to answer a question it doesn’t reflect well on you with the interviewer. It is equally true that if you ramble on and on when answering a question that too does you no favours.

When answering questions you need to come across as sharp and professional.

The good news is that questions tend to follow a predictable pattern, so you can anticipate them and your answers can be prepared and rehearsed.

The key thing to remember is that during the interview the hiring manager will be looking at three things; Skills, Motivation and Fit.

So the underlying questions at the back of his or her mind will be:-

  1. Do you have the skills required to do the job?
  2. Do you have the motivation to do the job well?
  3. Will you fit in with the team?

Every question asked will be intended to establish whether you have the qualities and attributes they seek.

Remember this though; if you’re asked a question, you have an obligation to respond to the question but you’re not necessarily obliged to answer it. There is a subtle difference between a response and an answer. Politicians understand this point all too well. You never say anything, if it would not be in your best interests to do so. Why shoot yourself in the foot?

So what questions might they actually ask you during the interview?

Typical interview questions include:-

QUESTION 1: Tell me about yourself?”

This is the classic ice breaker. Don’t panic, the interviewer is simply trying to get the ball rolling.

There are variations of this question, such as “What makes you special?” or “What adjectives best describe you?” or “How would you describe your character?” Essentially the point is the same; give me a quick 10 cent tour around who you are.

Your response should be concise and to the point and it’s important to get the right messages across.

It should have a past-present-future structure to link you and your past with your future in the job for which you are being interviewed. Your response should not exceed two minutes in length.

In that two minutes you should briefly outline your background, what you’ve learned and experiences gained. Outline achievements and how they reflect your personal strengths. Then pull all the threads together to provide an indication of how it all relates to your interest in the job for which you are now being interviewed and how you see yourself developing.

You can be sure of this question as an opener so prepare an answer and then have it well-rehearsed.

If you rehearse your response well, it should come across naturally and it should not sound contrived or learned parrot-fashion.

When asked the question, do not respond with What exactly do you want to know? The last thing the interviewer wants is to be put on the spot.

QUESTION 2: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

This is a very common question at interview. The interviewer is trying to establish whether the vision they have for their department is compatible with your ambitions

Again there are variations of this question, such as “What are your long-term goals?” or “What kind of future do you envisage for your career?”

Essentially the interviewer wants reassurance that any ambitions you may have will not create problems later.

In responding to the question the key point is to communicate that you have an endless appetite for the kind of things they will throw at you.

Start by saying that what happens in five years depends on your performance in this job.

Then say you hope for a career where you can build on what you would be doing in your new role.

Make your long-term goal fit the job.

Don’t make the classic error of forcing the job to fit your deeper ambitions.

Find out what previous incumbents went on to do and whether they did it with the blessing of the interviewers or not.

And don’t give any answer which might suggest that you have hopelessly unrealistic expectations.

QUESTION 3: Describe your strengths?

We’ve all got them and this is your chance to sell yourself. So it’s important to get this one right.

And don’t just waffle on about having ‘good interpersonal skills’ or any of the other hackneyed expressions other people will fall back on when stuck for something to say.

Make them real and make them relevant. And back them up with examples of where you’ve used them and how they’ve helped you with real achievements.

QUESTION 4: What is your worst quality?”

Obviously this is the other half of the strengths and weaknesses question.

As always, the underlying question could be phrased differently. For instance the interviewer might ask, “If you could change one aspect of your personality what would it be?” Alternatively he or she might ask, “Tell me the worst decision you ever made?”

Essentially this is a test of your self-awareness. The interviewer wants to see how honest you can be about yourself. This question is designed to find out how objective you can be when talking about yourself.

However the danger is that you reveal a weakness that is vital to the job. So be careful in responding.

The thing to remember is that there are only three kinds of weaknesses you can safely reveal in your response. These are as follows:-

1. Those that everybody has; providing that you don’t suggest that you have them worse than anyone else.

2. Those which are completely irrelevant to the job.

3. Those you had in the past, but following much hard work on your part to correct them, they no longer apply.

A good answer might be that when you are very tired you can forget the need for a short break.

Remember that whatever weaknesses you do reveal, the interviewer will assume that there are probably three other worse ones that you have kept to yourself.

So don’t pick your worst quality and describe it in detail. The interviewer will simply assume that things are actually much worse.

QUESTION 5: What are your hobbies and interests?

A variation on this question might be, “How do you spend your evenings or weekends?” They might even ask, “What was the last book you read?” The underlying question being, are you a well-rounded and balanced individual?

That is, they want to know whether your life has a healthy balance to it.

However it is also a sneaky way of finding out a bit more about you.

For example, if you do voluntary work for a charity that would suggest you have strong moral values and therefore you’re unlikely to fiddle the accounts.

In responding to this question you need to show them that you do have a balanced life and that you can successfully juggle a variety of tasks successfully.

People who have the energy to play squash or badminton after work are unlikely to be exhausted by a long day in the office.

As always, in responding to this question, be careful. For instance, it would be a mistake to list a series of hobbies where you have moved from one to another over a relatively short period of time, indicating you can’t settle at anything.

QUESTION 6: Reason for leaving?

Your response to this question should enable the interviewer to understand your underlying motivation in seeking a new job.

However it is also another sneaky way for the interviewer to glean some additional information.

For instance, if you bad-mouth your current boss then that would be a red flag to a hiring manager. The assumption would be that if you’ll make disparaging remarks about your current boss then you’ll do the same with any new boss.

So never bad-mouth anyone.

And never reveal commercially sensitive information about a previous employer either. The interviewer will assume that you can’t be trusted.

Moving only for more money would also be a warning sign for a hiring manager. Once you’ve got more money and you’ve got used to having more to spend, where will your motivation come from to do your job well?

Therefore your response to this question needs to be all about your personal development; gaining greater responsibility; broadening your experience; a new challenge; and so on.

Your responses to these questions will result in supplementary questions and the interviewer may have other questions too. However if your responses to these key questions are well prepared then you’ll have a good chance to shine and show yourself in a favourable light.

One final question from the interviewer is likely to revolve around your salary expectations. So be sure to do some research on the market rates for jobs with similar levels of skill and responsibility to the one for which you are being interviewed. You need to be able to be able to back up your expectations with knowledge of what the market will stand.

Also make sure you’ve prepared three or four intelligent questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview. Giving you the chance to ask questions is another way of the interviewer testing you. Are you thoughtful with an enquiring mind or are you nothing more than an empty vessel?

More will follow in the next article in this series.

© Roy Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved.

How do I find a new job? (1)

How do I find a new job? (2)

How do I find a new job? (3)

How do I find a new job? (4)

How do I find a new job? (5)

What job can I do?

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