Educate May 2017

How Good Is Your Interview?

Written By: Craig W. Petrus

“When somebody wants to interview me, I’ve always got something to say.” PETE ROSE, RETIRED PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER

So you say you’re good at interviewing? How good are you really? Far too many times I have heard executives tell me that they do not need to conduct a mock interview, as they feel they have honed in on this skill and can nail the interview perfectly. I then proceed to ask them, “When is the last time you interviewed?” More often than not, their last interview has been several years ago and they have not been in the situation where they’ve needed to do interview since. If anything, one key thing to remember about interviewing, is that it’s not like riding a bike. You can’t just hop on and take off. Interviewing is a skill that atrophies. The less you work at it, the less successful you will be.

As you think about your next interview, it is important to keep in mind, and put into practice, a few key things that will ensure your success in that interview.

Just like anything in life, the more practice we have at something, the better at it we become. The very same can be said about interviewing. Do not let your next interview be your first one in a long time. By this I mean to take some time to conduct a few mock interviews with a close friend, spouse or trusted colleague. You will want to choose someone who you feel comfortable with and are confident that they will provide you with valuable and constructive feedback throughout the process. Start with a few basic interview questions and then solicit feedback after each. Once you feel comfortable with this process, graduate to a full-on mock, where you simulate an opening greeting, small talk, interview questions, and the close. Preparation time in this case is your biggest ally. Make sure you take advantage of it.

Something that many people tend to overlook, is the fact that the interview starts even before the first question is asked. It is important to remember and be prepared for such things as:

  • Proper attire — Related to the company and industry you are interviewing with
  • Attitude — Always positive, upbeat and confident
  • Handshake — Firm
  • Note taking — Bring a pad folio and a pen
  • Kindness — Be nice to everyone from the front desk attendant to the person you’re interviewing with
  • Confidence — Feel secure in your qualifications but do not get cocky
  • Smiling
  • Fidgeting and filler words — Keep your composure, avoid filler words such as “um,” “kind of,” “you know,” “like”
  • Posture — Mirror that of the person interviewing you
  • Preparation — Come prepared with at least 5 questions of your own to ask during the interview

We all have a unique story to tell about our career, so make sure you tell yours in an organized and concise manner. Nine times out of ten, the first question you will be asked in an interview will be “Tell me about yourself.” This is a fairly easy question to answer, but one that could easily derail the interview right from the start. It is important to communicate the Cliff Notes of your background in this instance and not the novel of your career. Answer this question with a low-level of detail and save the specifics, more detailed answers for the specific interview questions that you will encounter. Depending upon where you are in your career, you most likely will want to start your story with your educational experience such where you went to school and what degrees you have accumulated, then move on to the middle part of your career by detailing your functional areas of expertise and the companies you have worked for. End your response with your current company, your role and why you are sitting in the interview chair today. Overall, your opening answer should take no longer than two minutes at length.

Whether it comes to your resume or the interview itself, you need to showcase the impact that you have had in your career over your current responsibilities. As a former recruiter, I can often read a job title on a resume and immediately tell at least four to five things that that person is responsible for. What I don’t know is the impact that this person has made in each of their jobs. While highlighting the fact that someone manages a team of ten account executives within a sales organization is fine, how does that differentiate them from anyone else who manages people? The key point in this case is to merge your responsibilities together with career impact, so that you can highlight the specific successes in your career that are unique to you. Here is an example of what I mean: “I manage a team of ten account executives responsible for the southeast. Through various training and development initiatives that I have implemented with my team, we have been able to increase our overall sales volume by 25%, placing our region first overall within the company.” As you can see, this combines responsibility with impact. Focus on the impact of your responsibilities and not just your responsibilities alone. Do this by communicating your unique actions and results throughout the entire length of your interview utilizing the S.T.A.R.T. method: Situation, Task, Action, Result, Tie-Back.

“Tell me a time when…” is a perfect example of what a behavioral, based question will sound like and something that you certainly need to be prepared for. A high number of recruiters and hiring managers incorporate this style of interviewing into their process. To my point above, recruiters and hiring managers are looking for the impact and experiences that you have had, so that they can relate and compare them to what you could potentially do at their company. More so, these questions tend to focus around challenges that you might have faced in your career and how you overcame them. It is very important to answer these questions with specific examples of what you have accomplished in your career because again, they show impact and are unique to you and no one else.

As the saying goes, “It’s not over until it’s over.” The same thing can be said for a job interview. Too many times individuals leave an interview without making one final statement of impact. You want to make sure you finish strong by executing a few key elements. Be sure to reiterate the fact that you want this job and are excited about the potential opportunity of joining the team. Close with a firm handshake while smiling and making direct eye contact with the interviewer. Most importantly, write them a thank you card or email within twelve hours of your interview. Tactics such as these can really set you apart from your competition.

Interviewing doesn’t have to be the one aspect of your career growth that holds you back. With a little practice, along with sharpening your ability to communicate the career accomplishments that you are most proud of, it can be one of the easiest things you go through throughout your career. Just remember to have fun with it! 

CRAIG W. PETRUS joined the Warrington College of Business in June of 2009. As Executive Director, Craig is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Business Career Services Office and ensuring the delivery of quality career development programming and services to students within the College of Business at the University of Florida.

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