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Job Search Interview Skills

Interview between two males

Are you on the job search path?  Do you have an upcoming interview that is making you nervous?  If so, you aren’t alone.  Trying to find a new job is hard work and can be intimidating.  Even so, it is important to be as prepared as you can be in today’s market.  Doing a little research on hiring trends and brushing up on your delivery can only help prepare you.

Today’s employers ask questions not so much to hear your answers, but to study your personality.  They want to glean a picture of how you communicate.  It’s not just important to answer a question, it is important to do so in a concise, ordered and confident way.  

Making Small Talk:  The Way to Start Off Right

Trained interviewers will attempt to calm applicants by making small talk, maybe adding in a joke or two.  This is a common method of breaking the ice in order to help the applicant feel more relaxed.  It’s a good idea to be prepared with a little small talk yourself so that you can warm up to hearing your own voice before getting into the heart of the interview. 

If the interviewer starts by telling a joke or revealing something personal, don’t take it as a cue that you can let your guard down.  As important as it is to show your personality, it is equally important to know how much to divulge and when. 

Always take your lead from the interviewer.  If the interviewer seems pressed for time, agitated or distracted, be cautious of pulling random bunnies out of your hat (like jokes of your own or sidebar stories) that will head the conversation off on bunny trails he may get lost trying to follow.

The Interview:  Interviewer Styles and Your Answers

You’ve already passed the first test by achieving an interview. Your resume has already proven you have the type of education and job history that might make you hireable.  Unless it seems like the interviewer needs refreshing, you probably don’t need to spend time on reviewing those details.

Your interviewer has asked you for an interview in order to assess if what he sees in person matches what is on paper.  He wants to know more about you personally and to evaluate if you are a good fit with his company. 
Walk into an interview knowing your strengths.  Mention skills of equipment or processes you are familiar with but also refer to some of your soft skills such as how successfully you work with others, how you’ve found solutions to problems, how you approach building client confidence, etc.
An interviewer can learn much from a conversational-style interview.  Prepare yourself for a variety of questions you might be asked by preparing some concrete examples in situations such as these:

  • How you cope with change.
  • How you solve technical problems.
  • How you deal with timelines and tight deadlines.
  • How you’ve worked as a team.
  • How your skills will fit into the position.
  • How you organize yourself.
  • How well you work independently.
  • How you deal with difficult people.
  • Why you want the position.

An interviewer might also want you to describe some of your faults or to give an example of a negative experience.   The wrong thing to do is suggest you have no faults or that you have never been through a negative experience.  Find some area of yourself that needs improvement and suggest ways you’re working on it.  Always focus on what you’ve learned in difficult situations or how you have turned a situation around. Of course, the interviewer is hoping to hear good results, so don’t make a mistake of bringing up something that reflects poorly on you or previous workmates.  
Bring the Focus Back to the Position

When giving examples from your work history or personal life, try to focus on areas that connect with the position you’re applying for.   The interviewer is likely looking for a certain type of personality and skill set for the position he has in mind.  If you don’t get the job, don’t worry.  You don’t want to end up in a position that is wrong for you. 

The interview process is a time for you to find out more about the position and company you are working for.  The interviewer will be happy to know you’ve done your homework in finding out more about what it is the business does, who their clients are, etc.  You will be able to show what you know by asking questions about various things in order to gain clarification. 

Make sure during the interview you understand what the requirements of the position are as far as work hours, who you would report to, what types of tasks are involved and what type of future is in store for you. 

It’s just as important that you evaluate whether or not you’re a good fit for the position as much as it is about them liking you.  There’s no point taking a position that in no time you want to leave.  You’ll end up without a job and a question mark on your next resume.

Some hesitation about changing jobs is normal, but if there are several things that don’t feel right after an interview, request another meeting to clarify missing information.  Even if offered a job, the ball is in your court as to whether or not you accept it.  Every career step you take builds on your previous one, so make smart moves at the right time that are in your favour, if at all possible.

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