Interviewers are very busy people. When you walk into an interview, consider that they want to hire you. They want you to be the right fit so they can get on with their next hire or task at hand.
Start the interview with the idea that you have 100 points, you basically have the job. With each question you answer incompletely or fail to impress the listener(s) with, you lose points. Prepare strong answers to these 5 questions, run them by a hiring manager or HR professional then practice, practice, practice. People remember stories they don’t remember words so for each skill you have identified that you bring to the job create relatable and meaningful stories to validate your professional wonderment.
1. What have you done that has caused you to stand out amongst your peers? Explain how you have gone the extra mile by taking courses or volunteering outside of work in a certain skill set area. Even if you are a student interviewing for your first job you can talk about your school involvement in clubs, teams, camp leadership or creative hobbies.
2. What have you done that has caused your company department to either generate income or reduce its costs? Using a Situation, Action Result model, tell a story. Include sourcing a cheaper supplier, recycling a product usually thrown away, or taken a course so a consultant doesn’t have to be hired to do the work. If this ‘result’ hasn’t been a part of your reality then relate how you personally respect and treat company equipment and supplies that may positively affect the environment or recycling programs.
3. What have you implemented to help your company save time? Using SAR’s again, tell of the resource database you put together or a telecommunications implementation. Maybe you designed a form that saved a few steps in a process and was easier to fill out. Be careful about multi tasking stories unless they are moderate and manageable and haven’t led to a weakness like stress or taking on too much or not being able to say no.
4. How did you contribute to the interpersonal element in your company?
Tell about how you organized the company golf day, or have stayed late to help others. Talk about how you make a point of ‘walking around’ to engage your colleagues and comment on something they have accomplished lately or a new clothing item. Make yourself more visible by sitting on a committee and taking the initiative to mentor or orient new employees to your department.
5. What are your weaknesses? Make sure however you answer this question that the weakness does not pertain to any skill required to do the work involved in the position. You might mention how you aren’t as accomplished at something that you would like to be so you are taking a course or practicing daily on your own. It is also perfectly acceptable to say that as far as the skills required to do this job, you don’t have any weaknesses though you are unfamiliar with the way this company executes such and such, but you can learn than in no time and be up and functioning fully within two days, or whatever time line you determine. There are many different answers for this question, whatever you say, be sure to turn it into a positive.
Keep in mind that you are selling yourself first and foremost. Interviewers want to know what results you bring not the features. Be sure to tie what skills you have to what benefits you will deliver, it’s called benefit selling and all successful salespeople use this technique to close a deal. Good luck.
Career Specialist and Corporate Trainer
Author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count and How to Get a Job and Keep It