By Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox
Faculty Member, School of Business at American Public University
Second in a series, Ask the Experts: Interview with Senior Director of Top 25 Forbes Global 2000 company.
The interview participant asked not to be identified so as to speak candidly. Throughout his career, he has served in various corporate roles from president to general counsel. In those capacities, he has interviewed and hired hundreds of employees and now shares with our readers how they can best position themselves to land the job of their dreams.
Question: Thank you for your insight into the pre–interview process. Now I’d like to discuss the interview phase of the job search. What advice can you give to job candidates who are getting prepared for a job interview?
Answer: Actually prepare. Think about what you are going to say. And practice. I mean, really practice. Do it in the mirror so you can see yourself and how you look. Practice on your partner, with your kids, with your roommate. If you cannot keep them interested, it’s unlikely you will keep an interviewer interested. Whether you use it in the interview or not, you should create your own “elevator pitch.” When you meet the decision-maker during your interview, you will have 30 seconds to make the first impression. What will you say?
Question: How do you evaluate job candidates during the interview?
Answer: Presence is key. In a recent interview, my boss and I were talking to a finalist candidate. The candidate was fidgety, tapping his pen on the table, rocking back and forth and talking a lot. I was watching him and my boss, and I could see the moment my boss disengaged. Don’t do that. Be respectful or your interviewers and be aware of your presentation. Listen to the questions and answer them as directly as possible. Give examples to demonstrate you can implement what you are saying.
Question: What are the most difficult questions for job candidates to answer? How can they best prepare for those questions?
Answer: What’s the one thing you don’t want me to know about you? That’s a zinger that is difficult to overcome. But you have to answer it. And don’t give the standard, “I’m a perfectionist and over-think situations…” or “I work through the holidays and don’t take the time off I need…” Think about some humor; make yourself a real person. Maybe discuss a bad work experience that you overcame or a job you took that you should not have taken. But no matter what, be honest and don’t avoid the question.
Question: We talked about your resume deal-breakers. Do you have any interview deal-breakers?
Answer: Don’t be late. Don’t dress down. Don’t fidget. Do be prepared. Do take notes. Do act like you want the job and that you want to keep it. One standard question is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Don’t answer that with “I want to start my own business.” While you may think interviewers want to hear that you are entrepreneurial, and they do, they do not want to hear you plan to leave even before you get started.
Question: How should a job candidate close the interview with the hiring manager?
Answer: Ask, “Do you have any concerns about me in this role?” Allow the interviewer to answer, then make calculated responses, slowly, with eye contact. After you are done, ask “Did I address all of your concerns?” Then tell the interviewer, if it’s true, and only if it’s true, that “I want this job.” and close with your 30-second elevator pitch on why you uniquely meet the requirements for the role.
In Summary, Here Are the Top Three Things You Can Do to Leave a Lasting, Positive First Impression
1. Make a 30-second elevator pitch for yourself.
2. Practice your interview questions. Practice out loud, with your friends, in front of a mirror. Know what you look like.
3. Be still. Listen. Answer. Don’t fidget. No nervous tics.
About the Author
Dr. Alexandra McDermott Wilcox has 20 years of professional business experience as an executive, attorney and entrepreneur. Alexandra has earned a Juris Doctor, Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Global Executive Doctor of Education and a B.A. in English Literature. She has authored many published articles covering business and employment topics, as well as poems in a variety of literary journals.
Ready When You Are
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