Monday, May 10, 2010

Interview U

There is only one goal in any job search - to get offered the job. The choice to accept is up to you - but only if you get an offer. What can you do to make sure that you will get the offer, and get to choose whether or not to take the job? The answer is in how well you know yourself, and how well you have prepared to share "you" in the interview process.

When most people prepare to interview, the first thing they do is look for books or research online for the best/right/smart answers to tough interview questions. Big. Mistake. To be able to answer questions about anything, the most important step is to know your subject matter. And when it comes to interviewing, you need to be a subject matter expert.

The only way to truly prepare for the interview process is through self-examination. You should have an honest understanding of your strengths, and be able to clearly articulate how those strengths will be of value and can fulfill a need for your prospective employer. And, you also need to be honest with yourself about those areas that are still under construction, and be prepared to articulate a clear plan to meet your own growth and development needs.

Once you are a subject matter expert on you, your next step is to thoroughly research the organization with which you will be interviewing. Use every tool at your disposal, i.e., the organization's own website, the job posting, Google, news searches, blog searches, and LinkedIn. Get a keen understanding of the culture and communications style of the organization, and frame your presentation of you by highlighting those areas of commonality that you share with the organization. By presenting yourself within their context of understanding, you will demonstrate your "fit" with the culture and mores of the organization.

In the course of the interview, you will be asked to articulate your abilities and cultural fit for the position through only four possible types of questions:
1. Personal Challenge Questions - These are those questions that offer the interviewee no clue as to what answers the interviewer is seeking. They are abrupt, and seem to be designed to expose your shortcomings and/or uncertainties. These are the questions that will allow you to demonstrate that you are, in fact, a subject matter expert! Examples: "Tell me about yourself." "What are your strengths?" "What are your weaknesses?" "Why should we hire you?"
2. The Abstract Calculation - These questions are nonsensical, in that they have no actual answer, but are utilized to demonstrate to the interviewer how the interviewee will respond under pressure, and their problem-solving style and abilities. Example questions: "How many baseballs are there in the United States right now?" "How many band-aids are used in Texas each day?" "How many jelly beans does it take to fill a five-gallon jar?"
3. Behavioral Interview - These questions are presented in a format that requires the interviewee to reflect and look back on their past experiences, and describe examples of their behaviors that demonstrate specific outcomes. Examples of behavioral questions are: "Tell me about a time when you had to overcome challenges to achieve your goal." "Tell me about a time when you were recognized for providing service excellence to a customer above and beyond what was expected in your job description." "Tell me about a time when you did not achieve your goal, and how you handled the situation."
4. Situational Interview - These questions are real-time. They present complex situations to the interviewee, and ask the interviewee to describe how they would respond and resolve the situation. These type of questions also tend to reveal the values and stress demeanor of the interviewee. An example of these type of questions is: "It is after midnight, your patient is not responding to prescribed treatment, and their physician has made it known that they do not want to be disturbed during the night except in an emergency situation. Although they are not in an emergent state, you believe that the patient will respond immediately to a different course of treatment. Will you call the physician now, or wait until morning? When you do call the physician, how will you present the patient's status to convince the physician of the need for the differing course of treatment?"

Are you a subject matter expert on you? Are you prepared for any or all of the four types of interview questions? Are you prepared for your next offer?