Interviewing is an issue fraught with myth, controversy and sweaty palms. There are a myriad of books and articles on the subject, many of which conflict with one another. One expert will tell you to be yourself while another will intone with a flourish, “Job search is theater!”
As with many of life’s more sophisticated processes, hunting for a job is both an art and a science. Science will tell you there is only one right answer. Art, on the other hand, leaves itself open to many interpretations.
Below is a short quiz on some major issues involved in interviewing. Decide whether you think the statements are true of false, then read the rationales for the “correct” answers. If the answer makes sense to you, use it. If it doesn’t, develop your own course of action, recognizing that sometimes the artful route can be a grand success (or a dismal failure).
Ready to check your answers? Pencils down, everyone:
Interviewing should be an investigative process. Its main purpose is finding a good match between employer and employee.
Consider the parallels between getting engaged and finding a job. Both are relatively permanent, require large amounts of time and energy, and thrive on a mutual respect and trust. While most people spend months getting to know their potential spouses, they have only a few hours to size up their employer. Consequently, they can’t afford to squander precious moments concentrating exclusively on selling themselves. They must use some of their time to decide if the employer will be a good partner as well. Approach any interview as a prelude to a potential professional marriage and the likelihood for an untimely divorce will decrease dramatically.
In a method similar to preparing for an interview, an actor learns his lines, examines his character’s personality and tries to understand the context of his script. Yet, he is only playing a role. In an interview, you are taking part in a real-life event, which requires real-life people. Posing as someone you are not is very hard work and can lead to nasty complications.
Interviewing can be unnerving, especially when you don’t know much about the job, the company or its management. Fortunately, with some research and forethought, you can replace potential panic with quiet confidence.
If possible, uncover the job opportunity through networking. In an information interview, you can ask about position descriptions, company goals and philosophy, and profiles of ideal employees. Then when you approach your employment interview, you’ll already know what the organization wants.
Online research can also be very helpful. Annual reports, general business and trade journal articles, 10K reports and a host of other resources await you on the internet. If you don’t know where to start, google the company name. If you’re really lost, head for the public library. Librarians are both patient teachers and information search gurus.
Two old clichés point to the veracity of this statement:
- People appreciate good listeners more than good talkers.
When you ask a well-conceived question, you demonstrate your understanding of the subject and give your interviewer a chance to showcase his expertise. Interviewers like this.
Good questions elicit revealing answers which tell you about the firm’s philosophy, structure, goals, problems and strengths. You’ll also find out how your potential manager deals with open-ended queries, which require more than pat replies. If your questions easily intimidates him, or he gives you the standard reply, remember this in evaluating if he’s the right boss for you.
Many managers are on their best behavior in an interview. You may not discover the real person until you actually start working with her. This is another good reason to ask probing questions about management style, reaction to stress, problem-solving techniques and more.
On the other hand, if someone is rude, distant, incompetent, indecisive or disorganized in the interview, you’ve probably captured a glimpse of your future relationship. If this behavior is her best, imagine her “business as usual” demeanor.
Individuals who know themselves know both their strengths and weaknesses. A savvy interviewer will hoist a red flag when a candidate either says he has no Achilles heel or can’t think of a response. Everyone has some traits he would like to improve. Be prepared to discuss yours.
How did you do on the quiz? My next column will continue with more interviewing “true and false” questions.
Continue Reading Interview Quiz, Part 2: Make a Winning Presentation