Here are some stories from Christina and Matthew, about some critical mistakes that can be avoided before and during a job interview:
A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Situation: A colleague resigned from his job to go work for a different company making the job of my dreams available. I was taken by surprise, but in a selfish way, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to move up. Little did I know that I was considered a really good fit and that they would interview me, without any notice, the same week.
What did I do? I was flattered to be the first person to be interviewed for the job. I spoke from the heart making sure he understood how important this opportunity was for me, how my academic and professional experience meshed with the job requirements, so on and so forth. However, I did not have an updated resume nor did I provide him with my measurable results. I hadn’t taken time to understand the challenges that came with the job, nor did I ask him what it was that he expected me to do in that position. I spoke from the heart and not the brain.
What happened? I followed up with a resume. I was sure I did all the right things, especially considering that it was an impromptu interview. A month later, I found out that I didn’t get the job. Lesson: Keep your eyes and ears open all the time, ask yourself the questions that others might ask, always be prepared, update your resume and please, don’t forget to mention your results: That you grew sales by 5% this year or you saved the company $$$, or that the marketing campaign that you were part of resulted in a 3 points market share.
Situation: I had an interview for a mid-level position with Xxxxxx (a large retail food store chain). The interview was going well until, I realized later, I misunderstood a very simple but crucial question. The question was “What does customer service mean to Xxxxxx?” What I heard was – “How important is quality customer service to Xxxxxx?” I wasn’t listening carefully enough.
What happened: I went on to answer the question that wasn’t asked: About the rise in the number of gourmet supermarkets; the need to compete on differentiation through customer service, not to compete on prices. I listed other strategic reasons and thought that I had nailed the question. The interviewer gave me a bit of a confused look and I should have stopped and said “Did I understand the question correctly”, but didn’t. After leaving the interview I realized that what she meant was simply – “What types of customer services do we currently offer that are most important to us?” I knew the answer to these simple questions because I was a current customer. They always throw out fruits and vegetables that are anything less than perfect, and offer the newest products, have lot attendants etc.
Result: I blew it! The lesson, of course, is what we all know but easily forget. If there is ANY ambiguity about a question always ask for a clarification. Most importantly though, be careful of trying to impress with complex answers, as insightful as they may be. TAKE YOUR TIME. Process each question before beginning your answer and repeat the question in your mind before answering. Make sure that you completely understand the question being asked of you. Confusion about a question is not intentional. They want to hear you create and articulate an answer to the question they intend, not to a question you think they want to hear.
Here is a story by one grateful Ohio customer who applied her learning from My Greener Future in her job interview and aced it!
Situation: I had just completed the My Greener Future sessions # 6 and 7 on interviewing, when I received a phone call requesting an interview with an executive at a high growth company I was very interested in. The changes we made to my resume were successful. I’m getting an interview!!!
What I did differently: Before My Greener Future, I would have interviewed in my normal way, being proactive in “selling” my abilities and competence. I now had a new set of skills I put to use. I assessed and “read” the style of the interviewer, and applied my interview approach to the “profile” of the executive. In a sense I became an extension of the executive’s style in order to increase his comfort zone, identify his issues, and apply my background to his business needs.
Results: Instead of a 15 minute cursory meeting, the interview became a 90 minute strategy session as to possible marketing approaches for new products. As I “bonded” with the executive, using the interview approach taught in the My Greener Future text, I became a valued collaborator who was able to add value to his organization. At the end of the interview he apologized for having to cut the meeting short, but wanted me to return to further discuss the job opening and continue our discussion.
Situation: I was a bit young, but highly successful, and interviewing for a Director’s job with the Vice-President of a major NYC based corporation. The interview was going well when he said to me: “We have a similar problem that you seem to have found a solution. How did you accomplish that?”
What did I do wrong? I answered the question. Always answer a question with a “WHAT” answer, and NEVER a “HOW” answer. Respond as to What you did but never How you did it. In this case I noticed that he took copious notes during my half-hour soliloquy as I laid out a detailed strategy.
Results: I didn’t get the job even though I was sure I hit a home run in the interview. A year or two later, I found out that he took “my plan”, hired someone junior and told him to implement it. Of course, one can never take someone else’s plan and make it succeed. I learned a very good lesson. Never give the plan away, only the outline of the steps…. never how you did it!!
Situation: Right after I graduated from college and learned of a job I suspected I would be good at, I sat down to start writing a cover letter to email along. Before I sent the email, however, my mom stopped me and told me to hit “Print” key instead of the “send” button.
What did I do? The next thing I knew I was putting on some business casual clothes and we were driving to the company. Even though I was a bundle of nerves, my mom told me to go inside and hand-deliver my resume and cover letter, hopefully to the hiring manager. Even though the hiring manager was out for the day, I chatted a bit with a woman seated at the front desk and a man standing nearby. The man offered to deliver my resume personally.
Results: Unbeknownst to me at the time, that man I met was one of my soon-to-be-boss’s good friends at the company. He later told me that he just had a good feeling about me when we met. I knew he didn’t have to deliver my resume at all, but I will always be grateful to him for doing so. I enjoyed that job for almost four years.
Situation: After leaving the Air Force where career planning was pretty much done for me, I was faced with the challenge of planning a career without a clear picture of what I wanted do.
What did I do? I began my job search by asked a lot of questions regarding different career opportunities so that I could begin the life long journey with the end in mind. A mentor advised me to first identify outcomes and then develop the strategy to achieve those outcomes.
Results: Action steps flowed out of my strategy that enabled me to focus my search, identify required entry level and advanced skill sets, and obtain the needed education/experience.
Situation: I had advanced to the third screening for a director position, but blew the final interview because I had recently experienced a death in the family and accepted the appointment while still emotionally numb and I should have postponed.
What happened: During the final interview I was unable to demonstrate the chutzpah I had previously; my responses were lackluster. They went with a younger candidate who was more energetic. When I emerged from my lull, I had a strategy to optimize every job search experience – even the rejections – by expanding my social media connections with all my rejecters. I electronically requested to link with the executives with whom I had interviewed and thanked them for considering me and wished them well in their endeavors (in addition to the traditional hand-written, hand stamped notes).
Results: When the younger candidate did not show the enthusiasm once hired as when interviewed, they rescinded their offer to her and offered me the job! My communications savvy and creative approach to rejection made an impression on them.
Situation: When it became obvious the company I worked for was looking for a buyer, I began tapping my network which included business associates, friends, church members, volunteer associates etc.
What happened: Because of the head start I was able to identify several excellent opportunities before the layoff occurred. I chose to contract with a company to provide my specialty services for a period of eight months with no payment until the eight month project was completed.
Results: The arrangement was win-win, because the contract did not constitute a job, which would have caused me to forfeit my severance. The company I contracted with could make use of the cash until the completion date. The payment provided the seed money for me to begin my own consulting business. Success was made possible by having clearly established outcomes for the next phase of my career.
Situation: I was interviewing for a key Director’s job with the President of a high growth servicebusiness, with about 25 field offices in the Mid-West. He asked me to outline my most recent experiences that relate to the job being offered.
How did I respond? “My current position is with a consumer products company, with flat growth. However, my prior company was with a services business with 225 branches across the country. Your growth projections take you from 25 offices to 150, nationally. Would it be of greater value to outline those experiences first?”
Results: I got the job and in one year was named Vice President. The business accelerated across the country as we added services, market segments, products and staff.
Situation: I was looking for the best college for me after 4 years in the Navy after Desert Storm/Desert Shield. During the interview with the Admissions Officer at a large well respected university, he asked me, “Tell me about your Navy experiences – what did you do?”. A normal question. Since my high school grades were mediocre and my Navy Schooling was very high, I felt comfortable talking about it.
What happened? Long story short, he had the same rank and duties in the Navy as I had, but during the Viet Nam war. We talked about ships, experiences, common duties, and so on. He understood the intensive training I received as a petty officer in operations (missiles) and related to the giant move in motivation and academic training from high school until now.
Results: I was accepted, even though my high school grades were well below their standard, but my life experiences were stellar. What did I learn? Always research the organization and person you are interviewing with if you can. It can make the difference in the result if you know where to steer the conversation. I am an executive now still working in missiles for the government.