Job Interview 101: How To Ace Your Way Through An Interview

CRS 26 | Job Interview

 

One of the biggest changes that people make is changing jobs. On one hand, it’s exciting to take on a new role or get increased responsibility and it’s fun to start in a new place. On the other hand, it’s scary leaving something where you’ve been working for quite some time and you’re comfortable; but sometimes, that choice is made for us. Changing jobs is a topic that’s pretty stressful for almost anyone. In this episode, we’re going to talk about all the things that you need to know to ace a job interview to get that dream job that you’re looking for. Take the mystery out of the interviewing process by joining us because those that do well have the upper hand on all the other candidates.

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Job Interview 101: How To Ace Your Way Through An Interview

We talked about the good, the bad and the ugly on what happens on Thanksgiving dishes. I had Wayne Harvey on the show and he is the co-anchor of TV5 News up in Maine. He told us about his tradition on set. He makes Thanksgiving dishes and sees how they come out. Some of them come out good and others not so much. When he used a blowtorch to light his lemon meringue pie, that’s probably not the best lemon meringue pie you’re going to see. He set it on fire. That was probably one of his classics. He told us he was cooking a turkey stuffing ravioli. I talked to him to find out how it came out and he said it came out great. He had some turkey egg roll also. Maybe we can add those dishes to the menu. It sounded like a great dish to add to Thanksgiving. Congratulations, Wayne Harvey, on preparing another great dish on live TV. That’s fabulous. That’s the fun of Thanksgiving, trying new things.

You can’t be scared to try something new on Thanksgiving. What happens? The cooking usually starts on Wednesday and then continues most of the day on Thursday. I think I told you that I was having Thanksgiving in our house and we typically go to my brother’s house. Since we moved back to Tampa, we weren’t going to go to Orlando. My kids are all in the Tampa area and my mom’s down here. We had Thanksgiving over our house and my husband was putting together the meal menu because I’m not the cook, but my husband is. We went to the store to get all the stuff for the meal. I was pretty surprised that he wanted to make everything from scratch, the stuffing. Not using the bag of dried bread or whatever that was those crusted bread things. He wanted to make the cranberry sauce and not use a can. That’s all foreign to me. I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie since he hadn’t done it from scratch before. He went online. He got all these new recipes and it was unbelievable. It came out fabulous.

We only had one mishap. Our granddog, Riggins, he is a puppy still. They turned their heads for a minute, I was out and he got into the sweet potato casserole, but we caught it in time. You can’t leave him alone with any food because he’s a growing dog. What are you going to do? The meal was a huge success, turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, salad, bread, cranberry sauce and the big turkey. We had a brie appetizer. It was a fantastic meal. That’s what Thanksgiving is. It’s a time when we all get together with our families and friends for a fabulous feast. For years, I used to run out at midnight and start shopping. When my kids were little, getting those deals on Black Friday was good. It was great but that’s a crazy night because you stand in line for a long time to get some of the things that you want. I can recall one year, standing on a Best Buy line for two hours outside the store just to get a deal on whatever the electronics were and running around to all the different stores because this store has this deal and that store had that deal. You have to get what the kids want and they need.

My kids are older now and for the last couple of years we did go out shopping with the kids and did that whole thing. It was just a little different because we’re going to clothing stores and fun stores for ourselves. I don’t know, the last few years we went, we didn’t find any good deals worth that trip. We decided we’re not going to go shopping this year. We’re going to hang home. I know that sounds terrible to those of you who love that tradition, but we stayed home this year and it was great because we played games with friends all night long instead. No lines, no traffic, we had a great time. My sister-in-law, she still goes out shopping every year. She left her house at midnight with my niece and they shopped until 7:00 AM. They are shopping die-hards, but maybe we’ve changed. We have a new tradition now. It’s all about game night and chilling and hanging out. Probably that will be for a little bit and then something else will change. That’s what it’s all about.

All the preparation in the world won't help you unless you understand what they're looking for. Click To Tweet

Preparing For A Job Interview

This show is all about change, challenging the status quo, looking for ways to constantly improve yourself. As I was planning for my show, I was thinking about what should I talk about? What is going to be relevant to people at this particular point in time at this time of year? I was talking to one of my clients and she was asking me some questions about preparing for a job interview. One of the biggest changes that people make is changing jobs. On one hand, it is so exciting to take on a new role, to get increased responsibility. It’s fun to start in a new place, but then on the other hand, it’s scary leaving something that you’ve been working at the same place for quite some time and you’re comfortable. Sometimes, that choice is made for us. If we go from one job or our job is redirected. You don’t have that choice to make. Changing jobs is a topic that’s pretty stressful for almost anyone. I have interviewed over a thousand candidates over the years for all different types of jobs, from executives to those people just starting out.

I’ve seen some great interviewers when I was interviewing for a job, but more importantly, I’ve seen people that struggle during interviews. I’ve been on both sides. I’ve interviewed for huge roles and sat through one-on-one interviews, panel interviews, video interviews. I’m going to talk about all the things that you need to know to ace an interview, to get that dream job that you’re looking for, to take the misery out of the interviewing process. There are certain things that you have to prepare for and those that do, they have the upper hand on all the other candidates. This time of year, a lot of people are looking for new opportunities. It’s funny because at the end of the year, there are either a lot of jobs that open up because people have to fill those jobs before the end of the year or else they lose the budget. They’re posting new jobs because at the beginning of the year they get money for their budgets to hire new people. This is the perfect time where people are looking for new opportunities.

The Behavioral Interview

The first thing that we have to discuss when looking at the interview process is taking a step back and understanding what exactly is the interviewer looking for. You have to see it from their point of view. If you’re looking for a job, you need to understand what the interviewer wants. All the preparation in the world won’t help you unless you understand what they’re looking for. One of the most popular techniques that interviewers use now is called a behavioral interview. One of the things that good interviewers need to understand that past behavior predicts your future potential. Meaning that what you’ve done in the past and how you think about getting things done will be similar to what you do in the future because that’s the way you operate. That’s how your brain works. Interviewers are looking to understand exactly how your particular mind works. How do you approach problems? How do you make decisions? These are the things that they’re looking for and they want specifics.

The STAR Method

They don’t want you to be loosey-goosey. They don’t want you to just touch on the surface of some of the things. They are looking to see exactly what you’ve done. They’re not going to say that to you. They’re not going to say, “I’m going to give you a behavioral question and I’m looking for your past behavior.” You have to be listening for that. Let me give you an example. One example of a behavioral type question is tell me about a time when you had to take the lead on a difficult project. Think about that. What do you think that that question is looking for? This question is looking for how are your leadership skills. You’ve got to be able to answer this question. What you do is you link it back to some of your success stories that highlight your leadership skills. The technique that’s used for answering these types of questions is called the STAR Method.

CRS 26 | Job Interview
Job Interview: Changing jobs is a topic that’s pretty stressful for almost anyone.

 

To some of you, this might sound gibberish. I’m going to break it down for you. Our show is all about learning. The S stands for the Situation. What is the background? Set the scene. What is the company about? What is the culture? Talk about why the project came about. Give them the background information. That’s the situation. The T stands for Task. What are you looking to accomplish? What are the goals and objectives? Think of it as the when, where and who of the project. It’s what you are trying to accomplish. The A stands for Action. What are the steps that you took to complete that task? What was your process? What did you do to make things happen? How did you push that project forward? The last thing, the R stands for Results. Did you accomplish the task? What was the outcome? It’s the situation, task, action and results. That’s the star. When you think of it, you want to get a complete STAR with every single question that you answer. Let’s continue along with this leadership question. You have to think about the situation where you actually took on a leadership role. When I asked this question, what I’m looking for is, are you taking initiative? What is your vision for the project? How were you able to get people on board with your vision? How successful were you with the project?

Those are the full STAR things that I’m looking for. I want you to answer those questions for me when I asked that one question. What did the project accomplish? How did you handle the problems? All of those things are very important when you’re answering the question. Those are the things that the interviewer is looking for. This question offers so much insight into what you’re capable of doing. To answer the question effectively, you have to hit all of those points and you have to link it back to the project that you were working on. Therefore, you can’t do this on the fly. You have to think of this ahead of time. You have to prepare. You have to think about what that situation is. The STAR technique is what’s used in all of those behavioral interviews and if you answer your questions using that technique, you’re one step above the competition.

The Application

What they’re looking for is a complete STAR. The STAR again stands for Situation, set it up. Task, what are the goals and objectives? Action, what actions did you take to complete the task? Results, what did you achieve? They want to see a complete STAR every single time you answer a question. How they differentiate from one candidate to the other is those people that do that effectively. Let’s get down to some of the basics. Let’s talk about the interview process itself. Think of it this way. You applied for a job and you get a call for a phone interview. These days, that’s the first step in the process. You fill out the application online and you wait for a response. Remember, all of the companies are using this new tool, the AI tool, artificial intelligence. In today’s world, people are no longer looking at resumes. They have a system that does it for them. The entire process has completely changed. Companies have purchased these programs that scan resumes for specifics. They’re looking for keywords. There are so many people that apply for jobs every single day.

The only way that you will get your resume noticed is by having the right words in your resume that are linked to the jobs that you’re applying for. If you don’t, you’re never going to get through that first step. Nobody’s going to call you back. Think of it this way. If you’ve applied for several jobs, a lot of jobs and you haven’t got one response, look at your resume. See if you can find the same keywords inside your resume that you see in the job descriptions. That’s step one and a little tidbit. If you don’t have that, there are plenty of companies out there that will take a look at your resume. You’ll give them some key job titles that you’re looking for and they’ll fix it up and they’ll put all the right keywords in there for you. There are plenty of places to go for that. If you need more information about that, go to my website, CarolynJRivera.com. Send me a message and I’ll give you some information.

Try to find some connection that you can talk to with this person because connection is critical. Click To Tweet

The Interview Process

Let’s assume that you got that. You have that done. Your resume’s fabulous. Let’s look at the interview process. You applied and you got a call. That’s the first step in that process. That’s the greatest thing you want to hear. Companies are doing these phone screens. All companies will have someone do a phone interview with you first before you get any face-to-face. What I’m going to discuss now is how do you prepare for that first step in the process? Think of it this way. The interview process itself has three steps: before the interview, during the interview and after the interview.

Before The Interview

Before the interview, you need to understand fully what the job is you’ve applied. The first thing you do is you go to your website, you print out the job description, so you know exactly what you’re applying for. Many times, what happens is people apply for jobs. They apply for so many jobs. They don’t print them out, they don’t keep track of them. They get a callback. They have no idea what they applied for.

Let’s say they want to talk to you right then and there, you’re not going to be prepared because sometimes that happens. You should print it out. You should know what you apply for. You should have some organized process of keeping the data together. The job description and the resume that you sent them. That’s a good process to follow. You review the job description inside and out. Know exactly what they’re looking for because most every job description will give you the inside details of what they’re looking for. This is a critical step in the process and I don’t mean just look at it quickly. You need to know it inside and out. Then you need to go online and research the company. This is a non-negotiable step and this doesn’t mean just type in the website name and scan it for two seconds and be done. What I mean is you need to do a deep dive into that website. What you’re looking for is you’re looking at the company as a whole. You’re looking for the history of the company. Who’s on the leadership team of this company? How long have they been at the company? What are some articles that they’ve published in the company?

You need to do your due diligence. Is the leadership team diverse enough? What are the things that you can link back to? Find out as much as you can about the company and it’s not just on the company website. There are so many other tools for you to use. Dun & Bradstreet is a great place to look for company data and information. It will tell you a lot of things about the company that you want to know. Especially if you are leaving a company that you’ve been with for a long time and you love that company. You don’t want to make a mistake. You want to make sure that you’re going to the right place. You can just do a Google search and see what comes up about the company. The Wall Street Journal is another great place to look. The other thing is you want to see what the people who work for that company are saying about the company. You might want to go on Indeed and look at some of the reviews for people that work there. Are they saying good things? Are they saying bad things?

CRS 26 | Job Interview
Job Interview: So many people apply for jobs every single day that the only way that you get noticed is by having the right words in your resume that are linked to the jobs that you’re applying for.

 

When you are interviewing for a job, you’re just as much interviewing the company to see if they’re a good fit for you, as they are doing the same to see if you’re a good fit for them. Now you’ve done your homework. You’ve researched all there is to know about the company. You know it inside and out. You’ve taken notes. You’ve made all these notes and you’ve taken them down on paper. Now you have a name of who you’re interviewing with. The next step in the process is to go on to LinkedIn and do some research. LinkedIn is a professional network. This is used for business. You type in the person’s name. You can also add the company and their names should come up. I would think that 90% of the people who are in business in Corporate America or even business by themselves have a LinkedIn account. LinkedIn is a very powerful tool and you want to use it. A lot of people have mentioned this because when I coach people, I always tell them to do this.

Some people are a little bit skeptical about doing that because they’re worried that on LinkedIn it shows that you looked at somebody’s profile. I’m going to give you some insight as to why I think that that is a great option for you. People have said to me, “Carolyn, I don’t want them to know that I’m looking.” What I say to them is, “Why not? Why don’t you want them to know that you’re looking? It shows that you’re doing your homework. It shows that you’re trying to get a little bit more insight into the person that’s interviewing you.” Big deal that they can see that you checked out their LinkedIn. I don’t care. When I was interviewing people, it didn’t bother me that people were checking out my LinkedIn to see what I was all about. You’re trying to find some connection that you can talk to with this person because the connection is critical. You’ve got to figure out what they’re looking for. Don’t be shy of going on LinkedIn and doing your homework.

The other things that you have to do before the interview is you have to think about what are the typical types of questions that would link to the job that they’re going to ask you. You’re not going to know every single one. Some people interview people well and some people ask the most ridiculous questions on Earth and we can’t help that. You can just do as much as you can do. You think through the typical types of questions that people will ask you about the job and you make a list of those questions. You prepare for them ahead of time. You think about success stories that you have had in your career that will link to answering those questions.

You make a list of the questions that the interviewer is going to ask you. Then it is very important to also make a list of questions that you are going to ask the interviewer. These questions should be linked to all the research that you did on the company. It shows that you know a little bit more about the company. For example, if the company had just gone through a merger and acquisition. One of the questions that you can ask could be something like, “Are you planning any additional mergers this year?” Then they know, “You know that we just had a merger,” because you checked out, you did your homework, you checked out our website, you looked at some of the articles. Those are things that they’re looking for.

The goal of the phone interview is to make it through to the next step, and the next step is always the face-to-face interview. Click To Tweet

They want to know that this is not a hobby for you, that this job that you’re applying for is something that you want. When you want something, you do research, you make it happen. You have to think of a list of questions that you will ask them. Preparation is the key. I can’t say it enough that the more you prepare, the better off you are. That is the fundamental skill. The success that you will have in an interview is totally linked to how much preparation you do ahead of time. Let’s assume now that you have fully prepared. You’ve practiced it. You’ve done these practice answering questions at home and you feel totally comfortable and you’re ready for the interview.

During The Interview

Let’s talk about during the interview because this is it. The first thing you get is this phone interview. The benefit of a phone interview is that you could just have notes all over the place, but then some people get caught up in the notes and they don’t sound like they’re focused on the interview. They sound like they’re fumbling through the paper and looking all around. Do what feels comfortable for you. If you prepare ahead of time, you’re not going to need as many notes. Most of the time those notes are just there to make you feel better, but you never really look at them. Typically, if you get a call and you’re going to do a phone interview, you’re typically going to be home. Make sure you’re in a place that doesn’t sound like you’re home. You should not hear kids screaming in the background. You should not hear a dog barking. You should not hear anything. It has to be an environment where it sounds like you’re sitting in an office at work. It should be a nice quiet place where you can focus on the interview.

A person who’s a good interviewer will always be a good listener. In the communication process, listening is so important and you have to be focused and you have to truly listen to what they’re saying. Many times, you’ll get some background on who they are and what they’re looking for. As you’re talking to them, you should take notes. You should take notes throughout that entire phone interview. As you answer questions, you can then reflect back on some of the things that they are telling you. That’s the benefit. You’re taking notes, you’re using their words and then as you’re answering questions, you’re reiterating their words back to them. That is a very effective way to interview the best possible way of using their information. You’ll be taking notes throughout the process and you have to sound confident. In an interview, you can’t sound cocky and you can’t sound wishy-washy. You have to be confident in who you are and what your skills are and you have to connect with the person on the phone. Remember, this is their first impression of you. If you can’t connect with them, then you’re not going to make it to the next step in the process.

The goal of the phone interview for you is to make it through to the next step and the next step is always the face-to-face interview. Maybe not every single solitary time, but most of the time it’s a face-to-face. I’ve had two phone interviews before because sometimes you’ll be interviewing with a recruiter and then if you make it through the recruiter, you might have another phone interview with the hiring manager before they do a face-to-face. There are critical steps in making it through to that next phase. There are three things that I always do on the phone interview. The first is to understand the candidate pool. You want to understand how many people they’re interviewing. What is that process? The second is I specifically ask these questions, “What type of person are you looking for and what are the skills that the candidate needs to have in order to be successful in this role?”

CRS 26 | Job Interview
Job Interview: Do what feels comfortable for you. If you prepare ahead of time, you’re not going to need as many notes.

 

The second thing is at the end of the interview, “How do you think my skills and competencies match to what you’re looking for?” This is a great question. The reason why I asked that question is that I want to know from them in their words how they think that I match up. If it’s great they will say, “Your skills are great. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I think you’d be a good match.” That’s what you want to hear. Let’s say they don’t say that. Now you know and now you have the opportunity to give them some additional information that you might have missed the first go round. Remember, when you hang up after that first phone call, if you haven’t convinced them that your skills match the job description that they’re looking for, you’re done. It’s game over. You want to make sure that you understand how well you did.

The last thing that I do when I’m on the phone with them is I want them to know that I am very interested in the job. I say something like, “After speaking with you, I believe that my skills match exactly what you’re looking for. I am so excited about this opportunity that I’d love the opportunity to move on throughout the process.” It sounds bold but if you don’t ask for the job for yourself, who do you think is going to do it for you? Nobody. Show them that you want the job. There are so many candidates out there that don’t do that. Differentiate yourself. You are the one to do it. There may be ten other candidates with the exact same skill set that you have. We all want to think that we’re fabulous and we are, I guarantee you that. There are a lot of people out there that are fabulous as well. They’re coming maybe with the same skills that you have, maybe with similar experience. What is going to differentiate you from them? You’re connecting to the person. You’re asking for the job. It’s your enthusiasm with the role. Those are all the things that make it or break it. Now you’ve made it through that phone interview. You’ve got it. You aced it. Now they call you for a face-to-face.

The preparation you did for the phone interview is still very relevant because most of the time you’re going to be either speaking with additional people. The person that you spoke with initially, you didn’t get through all the questions because typically, a phone interview takes about 30 minutes. You have to look at your notes, the notes that you took on the phone interview will help you through this face-to-face process. Right now, you can’t use notes in a face-to-face interview. You’re not going to go in there and have these notes all around. You have to be prepared. You have to study them. You have to think about them. You have to think about those questions that they’re going to ask you. You can go in there with your list of questions that you’re going to ask them. You can prepare a list of questions that you will be asking them and read from that when it’s time. That’s something that you don’t have to worry about.

Let’s assume that you’ve got this face-to-face. I’m not going to talk about the clothes that you’re wearing or the fact that you have to bring extra resumes or be on time. I’m assuming that you all know what you should wear to an interview, how you should look for the job and that you should probably not be late. Let’s all assume that we have that under control. Now you’re sitting face-to-face with people. It could be a panel interview with more than one person in the room or it could be one person and you’re interviewing with five different people, whatever the case. This is your one shot. This is your audition tape. Think of it that way. You don’t get a redo. It’s not actually a tape because it’s live.

Challenge yourself to do more and to go after the things that you may have thought to be impossible. Click To Tweet

The PIE

When you’re in the interview process, what I want you to think about is think about PIE. What is PIE? PIE is an acronym for you have to be passionate, interested and engaged. PIE, passionate, interested and engaged. You have to show the person that you are passionate about the job, that you are interested, that you are engaged. This is so important to you that you are 100% focused. You should also let them lead. Remember at this point you’ve practiced all your answers. You know how to link it back to the job description because you focused on that and what they are looking for. Think about what is an open job. Jobs are solving problems. Solving problems within an organization. What problem is this job solving and then think of how you can show that you are a problem solver in that way. Link it back to the job. I don’t think I mentioned this before, but you also need to make sure that your answers are crisp and that they don’t go on forever. I can give you some examples of what I have gone through in interviewing over a thousand people in my career. The do’s and the don’ts.

The last thing I wanted to tell you is that you have to make sure that your answers to questions are not going on forever and ever. I had this one interview one time where I asked one question and the guy talked for twenty minutes. Needless to say, he did not get the job. The maximum amount of time per question that you answer should be anywhere in the neighborhood of two with a maximum of four minutes. Those are the things to think about. We’ve talked about before the interview and during the interview and I didn’t get a chance to go through the rest of the process. We’re probably going to have to pick it up again next episode. This show is all about change, challenging yourself to do more, to go after the things that you may have thought to be impossible. If you never take that step, you’re sure not to make it happen. Whether you succeed or you fail, as long as you learn something from the experience, you’re a winner.

When you take a step to go after a new job to seek more responsibility, to try something new, you’re helping yourself to improve and to get better. Interviewing skills for both the interviewer and the interviewee are critical now. Both people need to understand what the process is to make it successful and how to do it effectively. Some people are not good at interviewing but you still have to master it. We talked about the things that you do before the interview and during the interview. Those are the most important takeaways that you can do. Plan and do your research before the interview. Check out the reviews and go to the websites. During the interview, make sure you stay focused. Use PIE: Passionate, Interested and Engaged. Answer the questions using STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Results. Those are critical. You’ve got to stay focused. These are the types of programs that I offer my clients. I deliver training on these topics as well as keynote speeches. I would love to share my programs with you and your teams. Go to my website at www.CarolynJRivera.com to see what I have to offer. Send me a message.

This show is all about the audience. My goal is to understand exactly what are the things that people are struggling with? What are the things that people want to learn more about so that I can share those things with you? There’s only one way for me to get that information. That’s by you sharing it with me. If you’re ready to ignite your will to win, to enhance your leadership effectiveness, to build a strategic plan, reprogram your mindset, go to my website, www.CarolynJRivera.com. Send me a message. My passion is to watch people succeed. That’s what I’m all about. Helping you achieve more than you ever thought possible. Taking that step and challenging the status quo.

CRS 26 | Job Interview
Job Interview: You have to show the person that you are passionate about the job, that you are interested, and that you are engaged.

 

I always talk about believe, commit, achieve because that to me is the secret sauce to being successful. You have to believe in yourself. You have to commit to what you believe in. When you do that, you can achieve things far more than you ever thought you were capable of doing. That’s what it’s all about. We want to make sure that we constantly learn and grow. Taking a new job is a learning experience. It’s one way to take you to the next level to increase your skill set. That’s what this is all about. Go to my Instagram account, @CarolynRivera14. Press that Follow button. Send me a message. You’re going to want to read my book, Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. This is Mama C signing off.

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