How to Impress Employers During Your Interview

November 23rd, 2018

When you step in the door for your interview, you want to reassure the employer that you’re trustworthy, honest, hardworking and qualified. But every other candidate in line for the role will also be aiming for the same goals. So, you don’t want to just meet that bar of expectation; you want to soar over it! To truly stand out, you’ll have to blow your employers away. You’ll have to provide more than the minimum and make a truly lasting impression. Here’s how.

Bring everything you need.

When something comes up during the conversation about your past projects, your references or just the everyday details of your resume, will you be ready? Employers are typically impressed by candidates who can just reach into their portfolio folder—or phone—and produce the item, evidence or visual aide in question. It’s a polished gesture that makes you come off as ultra-prepared.

Ask the right questions.

Most employers will provide you with a chance at the end of the interview to ask your own questions about the role, the company or anything you choose. So, ask questions that elevate your profile. Don’t just say “No, but if I have any questions later, I’ll contact you.” Instead, ask about room for advancement. Ask if this job will provide you with the training or exposure you need to advance your career. Ask anything that’s on your mind and do it boldly.

Demonstrate you’ve done some research.

Of course, you can also simply just tell your employers you’ve been spending some time online learning about the company (not many candidates do this, especially at the entry level, so this move alone can set you apart). But it’s also nice to show—not just tell—when you share what you’ve learned and how you processed that information. Based on what you independently discovered, how would you describe this company’s needs, and how are you uniquely prepared to meet those needs? How can you contribute in a positive way to the better aspects of this company’s brand and reputation? How can you alleviate the negative aspects? How can you help this team meet its long- and short-term goals?

Think, talk and listen at the same time.

Most candidates can do one of these. Many can do two or three of them as the moment requires. But how many candidates can listen to what the interviewer says, process that information, and provide intelligent insights, responses and contributions to the conversation at the same time? Surprisingly few. Intelligent conversation is an art form, and it’s a task that happens to be especially difficult during times of anxiety or pressure. If you can stay poised, smart, verbal and tuned in, let it show. You won’t be forgotten.

For more on how to impress your interviewers and land the job you need, turn to the staffing pros at PSU.

Interviewing for Soft Skills

October 12th, 2018

Assessing a candidate’s “hard skills” during an interview can be fairly straightforward (depending on the circumstances). Since hard skills typically include demonstrable abilities or simple facts, you can always ask the candidate to demonstrate the skill or ask if they possess it. Can you speak a foreign language? Did you win this award? Are you certified in this subject area? Have you held this role before? Easy. How you weigh the candidate’s response is up to you, but by asking the question, you place the ball in their court.

By contrast, soft skills can more difficult to assess. Asking a candidate direct questions in this area won’t get you very far. For example, “Are you easy to work with?”, “Are you a team player?” and “Do you like to work hard?” are silly questions, because the answer will always be yes. Try these moves instead.

Ask for stories.

If you’re looking for leadership, ask your candidate to describe an episode in which they were required to demonstrate leadership under challenging circumstances. If you’re looking for resilience, ask the candidate to describe a time they failed at something. What happened and what did they learn? If you’re looking for teamwork, conflict resolution or negotiation skill, ask for stories that can give you a sense of these traits. As the candidate responds, read between the lines.

Consider the interview a stress test.

Never bully, intimidate or behave rudely to a candidate—that goes without saying. But keep in mind that all interviews, no matter how friendly and professional, are inherently stressful. Monitor the candidate’s response to this baseline stress. Pay attention to body language (are they twitching and sweating?) and pay attention to how the candidate bounces back from the little hiccups of the process (awkward pauses, minor disagreements, misunderstandings).

Ask questions with no wrong answers.

Questions with clear right answers (like “Are you a hard worker?”) just waste time. But when all answers are equally valid, the truth can come to the surface. Try either/or questions like these: “Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?” “Do you prefer leadership or team roles?” “If you have to choose between turning in excellent work OR meeting a deadline, which do you usually choose?”

Share some unpopular aspects of the job.

Tell your candidate about some of the more difficult, unpleasant, tedious, disgusting, boring, frustrating or unglamorous aspects of the job they’re targeting; then observe their response. A cringe followed by a long silence can speak volumes. So can a candidate who lights up and leans forward. Cleaning grease traps, dealing with angry customers, spending lonely days on the road and working odd hours are daunting to most people. If your candidate isn’t one of them, that’s a good sign.

For more on how to choose the best candidates for your position, talk to the team at PSU.

Evaluating a Candidate’s Teamwork Skills

July 13th, 2018

You probably mentioned in your job post that you’re looking for a “team player”, and after publishing your post, you’re probably receiving plenty of resumes from candidates who describe themselves using this term. Chances are, just about every application you receive will use the word “team” at least once, and maybe several times. “Team players” are everywhere. And of course there’s no universal consensus on what this term actually means. So how can you make sure you’re selecting candidates who hold the specific team skills you’re looking for? Here are a few quick tips.

Ask, then check for alignment.

During the interview, ask your candidate to tell you a story. For example, try: “Tell me about a time on the job when you had to demonstrate team skills,” or: “Tell me a story that demonstrates what teamwork means to you.” Let the candidate think for a minute before answering, and compare what she says with your own definition of teamwork. See how well they line up.

Be clear, not vague.

Vague statements might seem safe and appealing in the interview setting, but they really just waste your time and contribute to bad decision making on both sides of the table. As far as possible, be clear and honest with your candidate. If you want someone who will keep quiet about company wrongdoing and execute questionable orders obediently, don’t call this “teamwork”. Call it something else. If you want a candidate who will work long hours and show up on weekends, don’t say you want a “team player”. Say you need someone who can work long hours and show up on weekends.

Teamwork may or may not make the dream work.

How will dedication to a “team” help your candidate, the company, or both? Some employers staff positions in the face of long term projects that require an extended investment, and they need candidates who are willing to stay in their seats for the next several years. Energetic, ambitious candidates who are contributing to teams left and right and working their way quickly up the ladder may not want to park here for very long. They’re great with teams, and their contributions are invaluable…but when the winds change and it’s time to move on, they shift team loyalties as well. Will this kind of teamwork work for you? If not, find out now. If so, make sure your ambitious candidate knows that staying on board for a while will be worth the sacrifice.

For more on how to define “teamwork” and “team players” for your candidate, your hiring partners, your recruiter and yourself, reaching to staffing experts at PSU.

How to Master the Interview

June 22nd, 2018

Despite what some employers want you to believe, most job interviews are more-or-less the same. Some employers want you to assume that an interview with their unique company represents a special opportunity to connect in a special way with a special enterprise. Of course that isn’t true; most companies develop their interview process using research, trial and error, and careful observation of the interviews conducted by other successful companies. As a result, nothing they do is new or special, and every question and observation they apply during the process will be drawn from a long-established set of patterns and formulas.

The good news for job seekers: If employer interviews are research-and-formula based, then employee interviews can (and should) be as well. There’s a science to this process, and a method that works in one case will likely work almost everywhere. This is a dance with known and recognized steps. Learn the steps and you’ll do well with almost every interviewer you encounter. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Settle down.

This tip applies across every industry from food service to surgery. When you’re nervous and uncomfortable, you make others nervous and uncomfortable. But when you relax, you make others feel relaxed and happy. If you can’t calm your nerves or steady your shaking hands by forcing yourself to do so, start thinking of the process as a favor to your interviewer. Help them. Make them feel at ease. Let your calm demeanor reassure them. Turn the tables, even if only in your mind.

Focus on a few key points, not a huge file download.

An interview is a conversation, not a massive exchange of data and information. You don’t need to tell your interviewer about every single accomplishment or A plus you’ve ever earned. They won’t remember these details anyway. Touch on some highlights (maybe two or three) and don’t worry about the rest. If you’re scrambling to blurt a laundry list of facts about yourself and you’re so focused on transmitting that you aren’t listening to your interviewer, something is wrong. Think of the interview as a date. If the two of you enjoy the conversation, you’ll have plenty of time later on to share more facts and details.

Look and sound trustworthy.

When we meet someone new, most of us want to look and speak in a way that makes us seem friendly, stable and pleasant. But in an interview, there’s one quality that exceeds these others in weight and value: trustworthiness. Before you convince your employer that you can expertly remove a gall bladder or design a website, you need to convince them that you will show up every day and present yourself honestly. You’ll do your best and you won’t embarrass the company. If you hit the mark, you won’t have to say these things because your voice, clothing and body language will send the message for you.

For more on how to master the basics and make a great impression in every interview you attend, contact the team at PSU.

Job Failure: What have You Learned?

September 23rd, 2016

During your interview session, your employer may ask you to directly address some of the stumbles and setbacks from your professional past. In some cases, your interviewer may ask you to explain a resume gap (which can be tough to do if you were fired). In another common scenario, you may be asked to describe the “greatest failure” in your working life, or simply discuss a time in which you let your team down, missed a deadline, lost a client, or otherwise fell short of the expectations placed upon you. What should you do when these questions come your way? Start by keeping these tips in mind.

Go all in.

When you answer this question, don’t hedge. Jump in with both feet. Instead of timidly choosing an event from your past that doesn’t qualify as a “failure” (“I was almost five minutes late to work once!”), choose a serious disaster. Going all in will help you achieve two key goals: it will demonstrate the depth and breadth of your experience, and it will also get your interviewer’s attention. The bigger the failure, the better the story.

Stay positive.

Your darkest moments and biggest failures felt truly terrible… at the time. Five minutes after they happened, you may have wanted to go home, crawl back into your bed, and never come out. But no matter how bad they felt, those dark moments are long in the past now, and your story has arrived at a happy ending. So focus on the rain that followed the rainbow. Before you even begin telling your tale, recognize that this is a tale of triumph, not tragedy.

Emphasize the personal qualities that turned your ship around.

When the worst happened (you lost, failed, crashed, etc), you had nowhere to go but up. And you climbed back to victory by relying on your rigorous training. Or your hard-earned experience. Or your tenacious nature. Or your special talents. Or your innate courage and determination. Let this quality—whatever it may be—become the hero of your story. Explain how the better elements of your nature came to your rescue.

Share the credit.

Of course you’re great (that’s why your story ends happily), but you’re also aware that you couldn’t have pulled
out of your spin without the help, knowledge, generosity, kindness or competence of those around you. Whatever you do, don’t throw anyone else under the bus or blame another person for your shortcomings and problems.

Describe what you learned.

No matter how your story plays out, make sure your take-home message is clear: your failure provided you with valuable lessons that you won’t ever forget. Explain what the entire experience taught you about the nature of your industry, the keys to success, or what you might have done differently and will surely do differently the next time the situation arises.

For more on how to grab the spotlight and ace your interview, reach out to the Cleveland County staffing team at PSU.

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Shy? You Can Still Make a Bold Impression

August 5th, 2016

If the thought of public speaking puts you into cold sweats and you’d rather do almost anything (anything at all) than be cross-examined and challenged by a stranger during a job interview, then the traditional job search process may be a long and winding road for you. But interviews are among our most entrenched cultural traditions, and they won’t disappear from the hiring process any time soon. Employers will always want to meet with candidates in person before they bring them on board, so the best you can do right now is make the most of the situation. Work around your social anxieties, or even better, use them to your advantage. Here are a few moves that can help shy candidates project confidence.

Own your shyness.

Instead of hiding or denying your anxiety, simply own it from it from the start. Explain that you’re a little shy and you intend to work around it. This might prevent confusion if you happen to give off mixed signals in an effort to hide your true feelings. Besides, most employers will completely understand that your anxiety has nothing to do with your competence on the job.

Work on one problem at a time.

If your shyness runs from head to toe and influences almost everything you do and say, focus on controlling just one aspect of your body language. Don’t try to tackle the entire project at once. You aren’t a professional actor, and completely faking your entire persona won’t get you anywhere. Try focusing on eye contact,
for example. Or work on maintaining a level voice.

Bring the conversation back to your areas of strength.

Shy people often feel a wave of confidence and interest when they’re talking about something that inspires them or lights up their passions. Do yourself a favor and push the conversation toward areas that will bring out the best in you. If you know a certain topic will help you shine, bring up the subject and let your inner light do the rest.

Ask questions.

People like to talk about themselves, even employers during a job interview. Asking polite, genuine questions can serve as a legitimate way to keep the spotlight from blinding you while still creating a meaningful dialogue that can help the two of you understand each other. Make sure your questions are serious and listen carefully to the answers.

Don’t worry.

If you’re already worried about landing the job, worrying about how worried you are won’t help you. Worrying about your shyness won’t help you either. Try to stay in the present and enjoy the moment (even if it seems impossible).
Don’t focus on the outcome; focus on the process.

For more on how to overcome shyness and let your competence and confidence shine through during your interview, contact the Charlotte job search experts at PSU.

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How to Ace the Panel Interview

May 25th, 2012

Ordinary one-on-one interviews can be challenging enough, but hiring managers sometimes decide to make the selection process more efficient and gain a better sense of a candidate’s readiness by having him or her face a group of interviewers all at once, rather than a single person. This is often called a panel interview, and this interview format can take place in person or via conference call. In either case, the pressure on the applicant can be high. But remember, the rewards of such a situation rise along with the risk. Acing an interview conducted by a large, intimidating panel can be one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. Here are a few tips that can help you shine.

First, know what to expect. Don’t be caught off guard by the number of people in the room, and don’t be surprised or rattled by predictable questions. The following questions are very common and are likely to be asked no matter the circumstances:

Tell us about yourself.
What are you looking for, exactly?
Why should we hire you?

Second, breathe. Candidates in high pressure interviews often become tense and start taking short shallow breaths that contribute to the body’s general stress response. When this happens, thoughts can get panicky, speech can become rushed, and the stakes can seem higher than they actually are. Paying attention to your breathing will help you think clearly and maintain better control over your words and gestures.

Third, slow down. It’s natural to be nervous, and your audience will expect this to some degree. Rushing to answer every question and blurting jumbled responses will not impress anyone. Your interviewers set aside time to be here. They want to hear what you have to say. So don’t hurry. After each question, try to pause and gather your thoughts for a full second before you speak.

Third, rein it in. Whatever “it” may be, take it down a notch. If you have the urge to joke, don’t. If you’re feeling a little overconfident, scale it back before you begin to sound arrogant. If you’re depending on the flash of your million-dollar smile, flash with restraint. Your personality will come through no matter what you do. That’s a good thing. Just don’t let any one aspect of your persona become over-exaggerated and steal focus from your words, your background, and your other fine qualities.

Finally, enter and exit with grace. Show up prepared, neatly dressed, and at least ten minutes early. Try not to sit until you’re invited to do so. Never interrupt your interviewers, and give your undivided attention to whoever is speaking at any given moment. When the interview ends, thank the interviewers, and remember to say goodbye before leaving the room. For more advice on acing the interview contact PSU.

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