Let’s say you’ve been applying to jobs like crazy and you FINALLY get an interview. Someone actually likes you on paper and wants to meet you in person or online or on the phone. What an honor!
Now, let’s take it even further. What if the interview was only 10 minutes long? That’s a game changer. There are stoplights that last longer than that, but you’re expected to convince someone to hire you within those few minutes?? Hopefully that won’t be the case for you, but we’re pretending for a reason. You should be prepared to convince a potential employer to hire you within 10 minutes.
Most professional interviews are conversational so it’s almost impossible to “study” for one. Some employers have a more relaxed approach, others are more structured. A few employers have group interviews and most do one-on-one interviews. You just don’t know what to expect until it’s done. That’s not very re-assuring for someone looking for a job. But there is hope! You can prepare for some commonly difficult questions and have some answers ready to go, no matter what type of interview you will encounter.
For example, you should always know what sets you apart from everyone else. What makes you special? Everyone becomes a hard worker, great under pressure, and wants room for advancement when they are in an interview. Those are not unique. Even though they may be true, for you after the interviewer has heard that from every person that is interviewed, everything starts blurring together.
You will need to find reasons why the employer will feel like it’s a mistake NOT to hire you. What makes you tick, in what situations and areas do you shine and what drives you up the wall? Even something that irritates you could be good for a job. There are no bucket answers for this – you will have to do some soul searching and find these out on your own. But being able to tell the interview about yourself will get you noticed and make you stand out (in a good way).
How about the one where you get asked to “tell me about a time when you achieved something or had a conflict with a co-worker or supervisor”. Ouch. If you are with a group of friends, you’ll probably talk about the stuff that makes you look good, like how the co-worker or supervisor were wrong and unrealistic or brag about your accomplishment. But when your potential employer asks you this, you need to have a professional response. Always remember to keep answers professional. If you accomplished something when you were volunteering somewhere, that is relevant to your work experience, so talk about that. It doesn’t necessarily have to occur at work, but it should be kept professional. Unlike Elle in Legally Blonde, you will not get selected for a job (or law school) based on how successful your keggers have been in the past. When you have to talk about conflict, never play victim or talk bad about the co-worker or supervisor. No matter how good of an interviewer you are, if you answer this negatively, you will not get hired. A positive attitude speaks volumes. So, without lying, explain the issue, how it was resolved and move on. Don’t go into too much detail and get your feelings involved. Anger is a terrible accessory in an interview.
All of this leads to that one-million dollar question: WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU?
No one gets turned down a job because they researched too much or because they had too many good answers. Have the core information available during an interview: why you applied, what makes you the best candidate, etc. None of these questions should take you off guard. You should already know how you are going to answer them. Having word-for-word replies written on your palm or memorizing lines won’t work in interviews, but having the information ready will show the employer that you’re prepared and confident for stressful situations, like, oh, I don’t know… an interview.
For the math folk out there or for those of you who need a secret formula to a good interview, here’s an equation for you:
practice + research = employment