How to Score High in a Job Interview
Proven tips to get you hired
Ace your job interview by using these strategies
Ever wonder what in the heck hiring managers do when they look down and take notes while you're in an interview? Sure, some of it might be doodles. But those sheets they're marking hold the key to whether or not you'll be a finalist, or better yet, get the job offer you want.
Those are not doodles, they're points the interviewer or team award for each question you answer, and there may also be notes on how thoroughly you responded to each part of the question.
Job interview scoring process:
The list of questions managers refer to during interviews generally includes a scoring section. Each question has a value, and often the potential score for a question will be weighted based on the importance of the question to the position.
For example, you might get only five points for having basic computer skills, but you might garner 30 points for having solid experience in a specific area of the job description.
The score breaks down even further within each question. If I ask a prospective employee a 20-point question about her experience in a certain area (pick an area, it doesn't matter) the score might allow five points for basic similar experience, five more for extensive experience, another five if she answered the question specifically and accurately, and another five for giving a specific example of that work.
How to prepare for a job interview
Do some background work and preparation before you go to your interview:
How does the hiring process work? Read on!
It's helpful to know what happens before you even get to the interview. In today's hyper-competitive workplace, many firms get hundreds of applicants for every posting. At that rate, managers start looking for reasons not to interview an applicant rather than reasons to interview them.
Before interviews are scheduled, many companies assign scores to applications during the screening process (more on that in an upcoming post). If you've gotten an interview, congratulations! You're at least halfway there and you have a shot at the job!
Understand where managers come from:
Managers hate to interview. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Why? It's like one big, long blind date. Sure, just like on a blind date, they secretly hope, "This is the one!" But as with blind dates, many applicants are not 'the one' for the job.
In recent years, a big reason managers hate to interview is that with group interviews or panel interviews (when more than one person conducts the interview), it's extremely hard to get the same two, three, four or more people together for a series of candidates. The scheduling process alone is a nightmare.
What do YOU think?
Do you feel comfortable in job interviews?
Tips to score high on employment interview questions
These basic tips will help raise your stock with the interview panel:
Be sure to address the question in your answer. Seriously, many applicants just plain don't listen to the question, or they're busy trying to weave in details that aren't related to what they were asked. There's a reason behind each question, and part of the score includes points for actually responding to what you were asked. Listen carefully to the question, ask the interviewer to repeat it if you're uncertain, and then give an answer that reflects the question.
If you don't have exactly the same type of experience the question refers to, use a segue phrase and give an example that closely relates to the skills underlying the intent of the question. Suppose you interview for a sales position in a high-tech firm, but your sales background is in machinery. The interviewer already knows this, but has to stick to a preset list of questions. When a question goes outside of your experience in some way, bring it back into your experience through examples of similar skills.
For instance, you may be asked how you satisfied a customer with some specific technical requirements (for that high-tech sales job, which you know you can do, even though your background is in heavy equipment). Your answer could be, "I know how important it is for your sales representatives to understand and address specific technical requirements of your customers. I've worked with many corporate clients who had very detailed requirements for the equipment we sold, and I was always able to identify and meet their needs." Then give a specific example about how you did this.
Through this answer, you've shown the interviewer that you understand the question, you recognize the importance of it, and you have the talent to translate your background into the setting for the position at hand.
Give real-life examples:
Always give specific examples about what you've done. This tip alone can mean the difference between a mediocre interview score and landing a spot on the 'top three candidate' list. Managers (good ones, with solid training, that is) are actually schooled to ask questions that elicit examples of how candidates have performed jobs.
Sometimes managers will try to cue you that they need a real example, not a hypothetical idea of what you would do in a certain circumstance. If you hear questions such as "Tell about a time that you . . . " or "Give an example of a workplace situation where you did so & so," it's your signal to tell about a real situation in your career that answers the question.
If the hiring manager repeats the same question, that means you didn't answer some element of the question, or you failed to give a real example. It's actually a good sign when you're asked a question again - it may mean the hiring team has clicked with you and they want to give you a good chance at the job. Otherwise, believe me, they will simply smile and go on to the next question, and you'll never know you didn't make the mark.
Be prepared for traps and trick questions:
"What's your worst fault?" or similar questions are huge traps for the unsuspecting. The nature of the question can be varied, so plan ahead to have a few answers in mind. You might be asked questions such as, "What did you least like about your previous job?" or "Tell about a time you didn't succeed at something." Answer the question (don't try to divert), but try to turn the answer into a success story. If you learned something the hard way, use that challenge to your advantage and you may earn points for candor and for showing how you've grown.
How to make a good first impression in the hiring process
You'll be rated on your visual cues as well as the content of your answers, and you'll also be rated up or down for your verbal style. Pay attention to these things!
Do it again - it looks good on you! Look in their eyes and, whenever possible, smile with confidence. Candidates don't realize that in the aftermath of an interview, the team will comment to each other about things not discussed through the questions. You want them to say, "I really liked her smile - she was friendly and confident," rather than, "He wouldn't even look at us when we asked the questions!"
Don't fidget or distract the interviewers!
And don't scratch, slouch or otherwise look unprofessional. I interviewed one candidate who leaned back in the swivel chair we provided and swung back and forth during the entire interview, repeatedly clicking a ballpoint pen the whole time. His actions were distracting and annoying and his scores reflected it. Bottom line, don't distract from YOU!
What other kinds of things distract people? Perfume or heavy aftershave is a big one; you're not on a date, and heavy fragrances not only distract from messages about your job skills, they send a social message rather than information about you as a prospective employee. Don't wear jewelry that distracts from your presences (such as clattering bracelets or dangly earrings).
Pare down what you take into the interview - a briefcase or simple bag is fine, but have anything you plan to use during the interview (a tablet, pen, etc.) tucked into the front pocket or in a place where you can easily locate it. Too many people enter an interview room and shuffle around unpacking their gear.
But be on point. Don't give long answers when concise answers will do. Overly long answers work to your disadvantage and cause interviewers to tune out, which means they will not remember well enough to score you accurately. Remember, managers hate to interview. Don't be one of the reasons they feel that way!
What do managers say when you leave a job interview?
Key ways to be among the top candidates for a job
Do managers talk about you when you leave? You'd better believe they do!
Many job applicants don't realize what managers say about them after the job interview. There's a point at which the hiring team relies on human reactions to an applicant rather than impersonal scores. Read the above link about what managers say to get the full picture.
What happens after they interview you?
Managers tally their scores individually and then compare their scores and discuss the applicants with each other. Sometimes scores are tweaked a bit at that stage if one of the interviewers interpreted a question differently than it was intended.
Usually, the scores of one or two people will stand out among the others. This is a hugely helpful tool for managers who need to narrow the search to one or two final candidates. You want to be in that small group, so study the tips above, practice your interview technique and increase your score!
Finally, the finishing touches below will put you in the top tier of candidates.
Do your homework:
Research the organization or corporation and phrase your answers in the context of the firm. Look for news articles or reports about what the company has done, where it's headed and any challenges it faces. Weave that knowledge into your answers and tie in any experience that relates to what they've got in the hopper. The hiring team will be impressed that you took the time to come prepared.
You can also run the traps through your professional network. Search the name of the company on LinkedIn (you are on that site, aren't you?) and see who you might know with contacts there. Call and ask what the company is looking for; not all the information will be in the job posting.
Ask smart questions:
At the end of the interview, you'll probably be asked if you have questions (if not, simply mention you have a few questions). Show them you're interested in their firm and you want to know more about it. Mention what you learned about the firm before you interviewed. Ask about the culture of the company. Do not mention salary!