Insider Tip: What I’m Looking for During an Interview

June 13, 2012 at 11:25 am 2 comments

Today I am very happy to introduce you to my colleague Aimee Fahey.  She’s an HR professional specializing in talent acquisition.  She’s here today to give us some insight into what’s going on in her mind during the interview process…

There are soooo many articles out there about interviewing.  And yet there are soooo many people flubbing interviews in ways I think are so often preventable.  So, as someone who’s conducted hundreds and hundreds of interviews both by phone and in person, here are some insider tips on what drives us recruiters nuts, what makes our eyes light up in happiness, along with some other things to think about.

Remember, interviewing is a lot like dating.  You don’t need to be perfect but you do need to put your best foot forward.  Let us see who you are – this is not a trick (eventually we’ll find out who you are!).  Follow up without stalking.

Do your homework.  Hello…this does not mean just a quick scan through our website.  What stands out about our company to you?  Have you read articles about us? Bring your notepad with your prepared questions (oh, you better have questions at the end, folks), and feel free to take notes during the interview.  I love to know someone has paid attention and is interested in retaining what we talk about.

Understand our product/service.  Can you describe the product we are selling or the service we provide (or both)?  I’m amazed at how many people just apply for the job and even with time to prepare for an interview, often can’t tell me what my company’s product is that they’d be expected to sell/develop/operate/market.  If you applied for the job, you better have known what you were applying for.  Speaking of this, also understand the job. Do NOT ask the interviewer to “summarize the position” – you should already have this information!!  Instead, ask for clarification on something about the job – show you were paying attention when you applied, and are curious to know more.

Articulate your interests.  What are you passionate about and how does it tie in to this job, this company?  What in the job posting stood out and why?  Avoid cliches.  Don’t tell the interviewers that you heard we’re a great place to work if you can’t name that person who knows this for a fact, otherwise it actually comes across sounding artificial.

Know your strengths.  Be able to communicate why you think you’d be a good fit for the job (without being cocky).  What have former bosses and coworkers said they like about you?  This is a great precursor to the reference check.  (I’m thinking, is the candidate self aware?  Cool.)  PS – Remember, you can say you’re great without saying you’re the best.  Anyone who says they’re superior kinda freaks me out.

Be genuine.  I’ve got a pretty good BS detector.  Recruiting is matchmaking – I need to understand who you are so I can assess if this is a good fit.  And you’re not doing anyone any favors if you’re artificial in any way.  And guess what?  If you’re real, I’ll be real.  Try to develop a rapport with the recruiter, hiring manager, whoever is interviewing with you.  Be courteous to every single person you encounter during the process.  Be aware of stereotypes – i.e., salespeople, try not to sound too slick.  Techies, show you can talk to more than just technical people.  Don’t be fake, be self-aware.

Understand your own opportunities for growth.  While I’m not sure how many employers still ask the ‘weakness’ question directly, they’ll often try to get at it in a different way, where you know by the question they want to hear where you are not perfect.  So, with this, do NOT do a “negative that is really a positive”.  People, we’ve heard it all before and it’s, well, nauseating to listen to a candidate say “I just work too hard,” “I’m too hard on myself,” or “I’m a bit of a perfectionist.”  Instead, think about a great learning experience where you overcame a weakness – now That is cool.

Don’t waste your time or ours. This is not a Vegas poker game.  If someone asks you your salary requirements, don’t say “negotiable” or ask “what is your range?” Soooo passive aggressive.  Give them a range rather than a minimum, but do give them some numbers.  We all know that, duh, you’d be happy with a million bucks, but in the meantime, give us the range you can live with. If you have questions, ask them.  Express your concerns.  Be honest.

Under no circumstances are you to ask about benefits, paid time off, stock options, parking, etc.  If you are offered the job, you can ask those questions then.  In the meantime, as Archie Bunker would say, stifle it.  We want to know you’re interested in working for OUR company in THIS job, not when you can take your next vacation.  And along this tangent, while it’s OK to ask about the general career path about the job, please don’t ask me how soon you can be promoted. I’m here to fill This Job.

Don’t burn any bridges.  You never know who they know, or how they might cross your path in the future.  Be kind, be respectful, be considerate.  Treat the interviewer as you would like to be treated. Go for the good karma.  Thank them even if you withdraw or don’t get the job.  Ask for feedback if you don’t get the job.  If a candidate is cool, but not a fit for this role, I’ll often either keep them in mind for a different role, or refer them to companies who I think they might be a better culture &/or technical fit for.  A little goes a long way.

Got more questions?  Want to learn more?  I’d love to hear from you!

Aimee Fahey is an HR professional who loves bringing people and companies together through her work in recruiting, human resources management, career coaching and community partnerships.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her “9-to-5” column on her blog, EcoGrrl.

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2 Comments

  • […] peeps!   Go check out my guest blog post over at Compass Human Resources and get some perspective about what I’m thinking about and looking for during an […]

  • 2. Five Seed  |  June 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Great post, Aimee! I love the way you framed a good way to describe our weaknesses in an interview. I always worry about that. I feel like I’m supposed to answer in the present tense, and basically feel like I’m saying, “Well, we all know I’m flawed cuz I’m human, but here’s one really specific reason NOT to hire me even though I’m just trying to honestly answer your question.” Giving them a story about how we overcame a weakness – so much more positive! Thank you!


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