We all need an interview upgrade.
In this article we reached out to long time professionals in our recruiting company, CareerNet, to company clients, and to experts we know outside of our company.
Interview. Just the word can send ripples of anxiety through the most confident professionals. Yet in most instances, the Interview is the most important part of the new job process. We conducted a search and reached out to a number of long standing HR professionals who have interviewed 100,000’s of candidates over their collective careers to find out:
- What their interview techniques are, and
- What the intention of these techniques are in vetting candidates like you.
How important is a first interview?
The short answer is “Very”. In a first interview, you are doing 2 things.
1. Establishing a collegial relationship with the company through the person interviewing you.
2. Discussing and confirming the important details of your resume.
Stats to consider
A typical company interview process begins with 4 – 6 candidates.
The number of people invited to a second interview depends upon factors and processes that are unique to each company.
250 people apply to online posted jobs on average. The numbers can be significantly higher or lower.
These are Not Interview Upgrades
We do not simply offer up the typical fare of hints and guidance, like dress professionally, make eye contact and smile occasionally, have some questions ready about the company and the position you are interviewing for, and have some knowledge about the company and the position you are interviewing for. This are certainly important, but are not the real solutions to better interviews.
CareerNet Nation has lots of ways to upgrade your career. Learn about Interviewing following resume guidance. Then move on to other career upgrades.
Your first Interview Upgrade
At CareerNet Nation we know or know how to find the best people for the job. And we found her. Our professional guest on the real real of interviewing is Gail Williamson.
Mrs. Williamson is Human Resource Senior Manager with 30 years+ of expertise in: Recruitment and Staffing with The US Treasury / IRS and The US Air Force. She has also been a Graduate level instructor in Human Resources (HR) Management. Her full Bio appears at the end of this section, Upgrade Your Interviews, Part 1.
We rely heavily on her writings and advice in this series. It’s the inside track for candidates like you to better understand the interview process and to really prepare for great interviews. We feel this series is invaluable for your next job and for the lifetime of your career.
What is the real purpose of Interview Questions?
The goal is to find indications AND evidence that the candidate possesses signs that they will be a good fit for the business. The soft term is “Cultural Fit.”
Once established, the second goal is to determine whether the candidate has the ability to fulfill the job description and tasks in a successful manner.
Let’s consider these two critical points.
Interview Upgrade in two parts.
Part 1. Hiring Professionals want to know about you.
The first is to ask the candidate about themselves, generally referencing the candidates resume. Can the candidate communicate their resume properly? Can the candidate answer in a way that gives the interviewer comfort that they have the personality and conversational skills to fit in with the other people in the company.
That gives you, the candidate some real information.
The first is to know your resume so well that you can speak about the information you have provided in a way that is similar BUT NOT EXACTLY the way it is presented on the resume.
Here is an example using a section of text from Mrs. Williamson’s own resume, from the fist section which she titles “Summary of Experiences and Competencies”:
“Strategic Thinker; Goal and Detail Oriented; Team Builder; Change Agent; Instructor/Trainer; Facilitator; Financial Manager; Skilled Communicator; High Organized; Committed to Excellence in Customer Service”
Certainly we all wish that we had such a broad range of experiences and competencies. The important idea here is, how would you communicate this to the interviewer knowing that they will ask something like, “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell me what brings you here to our company”
If you were Mrs. Williamson you would likely say,
“In my experiences through past work and activities, I’ve learned a lot about this industry and your company’s role in this industry. I’ve also learned a lot about myself, I’m a strategic thinker, I enjoy achieving short and long term goals, and I love the details required to achieve these goals. I’ve applied my skills for some time working with my current company. I am always looking see opportunities for improvement and then to play a role in brining those changes forward to improve the company. Now I am seeking a new set of challenges and opportunities to apply my skills to.”
Do you see how the response reflects significant parts of her resume? It’s certainly consistent with her resume. Both of these reasons are important for an interviewer to hear.
To present it well she will have had to practice this response. This is another important part of interview preparation. People who engage in a lot of public speaking practice this too. Think about your initial statement and practice it a lot.
Practicing the answer to “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell me why you are here” will:
- Make you comfortable and conversational and confident in your interview.
- Set the tone for the interview.
- Show that you are serious and prepared.
They lead to the 3 “C’s” that you’ll want to accomplish before that first interview.
- You will want to be comfortable – you will be comfortable as can be when you understand the company and the position you are applying for.
- You will want to be confident – that you know the company you are interviewing with and what the requirements of that position are BEFORE you attend the interview.
- You will want to be conversational – this comes only when you are relaxed. And if you are anything like most people, its very difficult to relax in an interview if you haven’t prepared ahead and practiced.
These 3 C’s alone are a significant Interview Upgrade.
Before we get to the “Second Goal of Any Interview” let’s do a bit on resumes. A bonus interview upgrade.
If you have followed our resume building guide or used our resume builder, your resume is already set. But for review your resume should have your most recent job experience first and then the rest of your job experiences in most recent order next. Why? Because your most important experiences are your most recent experiences to any interviewer.
The other key point to creating a resume is to include only the experiences you have that can be applied to the job you are interviewing for. This means do not include experiences that do not offer value to the company you are interviewing for. That is another way of saying, make it easy for the person interviewing you to find your value to the company.
We will talk more about resumes in a future series.
Part 2. Verifying you have certain skills by examples of their use in your past experience.
The second goal of any interview is to determine whether the candidate has the ability to fulfill the job description and tasks in a successful manner.
Recall from the beginning of this article, that the second goal of any interviewer is to understand how your experiences and skills apply to the job they are looking for you to fill.
Let’s use another example:
In this example, a current waiter or restaurant worker is interviewing for a job in Data Entry. Seems like a bit of a jump right?
Their experiences are described in their resume as they might be useful for the Data Entry Position.
- Submitted orders and order changes or adjustments using the Toast POS system during low and high volume shifts.
- Verified check amounts and made adjustments in real time to speed the customer service requirements
- Reviewed end of shift computations within the POS system for accuracy prior to submission to management.
- Reviewed monthly reports of customers served, including avg. check size and discussed solutions to increase check sizes to offer better service to the customer and to the company.
Doesn’t sound like a table service job right? Well in the modern day, point of sale (POS) systems are data entry systems.
What it says is that this waiter recognizes the value of details and accurate data entry. It also shows they focus on all aspects of their job, including their customers each time the enter data into the POS System.
Having read this, an interviewer may say “I see you are currently a waiter. Tell me about your experience there.”
Again your response needs to be practiced, honest and conversational. You might respond:
“Waiting tables is a people first business. But the devil is in the details. The difference between a happy customer and an unhappy customer often comes down to getting the order right. We don’t have time to speak with the kitchen staff and they don’t have time for us. So we have to rely on the accuracy of the information we enter into the POS system. I double check it even if it takes another 30 seconds to make sure its right. And you can’t improve your performance without understanding your past. Which makes the review of the data at the end of my month even more valuable to me and to the company.”
Once a waiter, now a data entry professional. Think about how quickly you can change your career by thoughtfully approaching your interview.
Understanding the 2 Part interview sequence is an important skill. Practicing and preparing for an interview will put your interview upgrades into action. When you have this knowledge, you can better prepare for any interview. Remember these important steps:
- Prepare – learn about the company and the job you are applying for.
- Adjust – prepare your resume to show how your skills and experience suit the position you are applying for.
- Practice – You don’t get a second chance at a first interview. Make sure you know your resume and can communicate it clearly and in less than a minute. Once you have mastered this, it will lead to greater conversation between you and the interviewer.
In Part 2 of this series we will learn more about the interviewer and their strategy to learn more about you.
Gail Williamson is a 30+ year Human Resource Senior Manager professional with significant expertise in:
Recruitment and Staffing; Classification; Workers Compensation; Training; HR Automated Systems Management; Labor Relations; Employee Management Relations (Discipline, Separations, Performance, EEO Complaints, Ethics, Unemployment Insurance); and, Work Life and Employee Assistance Programs.
She served in many positions with the US Airforce in many personnel related positions including Personnel Management Specialist, GS-201-13, 40 hours, April 97 to Dec 99 at The Pentagon, Employee Relations Specialist, GS-230-12, 40 hours, November 95 to April 97, and Civilian Personnel Officer, GS-201-12, 40 hours, Feb 89 to Nov 95. Following her Airforce Service she moved to the Department of the Treasury / IRS where she held the positions of Supervisory Human Resources Specialist, Program Analyst, and Personnel Management Specialist between December 1999 and October 2004. She has since been an Adjunct Professor at Tusculum College in Knoxville Tennessee where she taught Human Resources (HR) Management.
She has a list of commendations and awards from her service with the US Airforce including:
- Personnel Services Director’s Award, 2004
- Air Force Outstanding Civilian Personnel Officer of the Year, 1995
- Air Force Personnel Center Quality Award for Automating AF Benefits and Entitlements, 1997
- Sustained Superior Performance Awards 83 thru 87, 90 thru 91, 93 thru 04
- Employee of the Quarter, Beale AFB, CA First Quarter 93
- Letter of Commendation, 9th Support Group, Beale AFB, CA, 1992
She served in the US Marine Corps between May 9, 1965 to May 9, 1968, before her Honorable Discharge.
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