The Value of a Good Interview
The interview is the final stage before being hired. Your resume got you in the door (or remotely on camera). You will be judged on your mannerisms, your choice of clothes, your poise, your confidence, your rate of speech, your tone of voice, eye contact, handshake, et cetera. Feel the pressure mount? If not, there is a panel interview, where 3, 4, 5 managers will place simultaneous values on all of the aforementioned.
Public speaking is nerve-wracking even for the savvy, so many factors can affect the outcome. Let’s start with the basics and build some confidence.
Crucial importance - make sure your resume is up to date. This seems as though it is best left unsaid, but the interview doesn’t happen without it. When you like the look of your resume or you’ve updated often, which I recommend, the oft overlooked section is your contact information.
Current mailing address, email address and phone number must be included. If your resume has lapsed and you submitted it, you may never know of an interview you missed. Interviewing remotely or, dependent upon the profession, may require your comfort with digital communications. Include your Skype handle. If you don’t have a Skype account, open one, at least a professional profile. (While you are at it, clean up your social media presence. If you aren’t comfortable with what content your boss would see if he looked at your Facebook page, how do you think a potential manager will view it?)
Now that you can be found; when you are contacted for an interview, research the organization.
A basic interview question is: ‘Why do you want to work here?’
If you don’t know anything about the institution, this will be a difficult question to answer. Doing your homework shows initiative. You did work without being told to or paid and they will notice. Start simply, become familiar with the mission statement. Find an inception date and read the topics displayed on the website.
Working in education, school officials know they will not retire wealthy and careful consideration must be made to why they do what they do. A mission statement is an announcement to the world of an overall goal. It is pored over and reviewed before it is posted, but then it appears in all aspects of policies and procedures along with communication for parents, students, faculty and regulatory agencies. If you know it, you are ahead of the curve.
The stories on the website are events or programs a school wants to celebrate. At the very least, familiarity will help you generate questions. Asking questions shows engagement and interest and is a good skill to develop.
‘If you could be any kind of tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?’
These types of questions were once in vogue, but have since been abandoned. Human Resources all over adopted the idea pop psychology was a sound way to get to know an applicant. Luckily, conventional wisdom has given way to a more direct line of questions. Be prepared to talk about yourself. Be honest, but aware of the impression you leave. This is not a place for self-deprecating humor. You are sincerely looking for work and they want to know why them.
‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’
This question might seem cliché, but it originates in a good place and will be asked in 95% of your interviews. I ask to determine your self-awareness and to hear your answer. Making a weakness into strength is a good tool only if used correctly. If used incorrectly it comes across as dishonest and does more harm than good.
E.g. My weaknesses:
Well, I’m a workaholic. I come early and stay late because I can’t get enough.
I’m a perfectionist. I’m not satisfied unless I’ve given the absolute best.
(Remember the judgments, here’s one.) If you don’t see a problem with these examples, you’re a big phony and I don’t want to hire you.
The passion or interest that brought you to the field is your strength. Look at it and practice expounding upon it for an audience. Find a real weakness and make it relatable. If the fault you identify is a detriment, couple your example with how you’ve addressed it. i.e. I take mistakes personally and feel bad about a poor performance. Preparation helps and learning from my mistake helps me make better decisions the next time.
Remember, the topic of the interview is you and your skill set. You are the expert on yourself and confidence in your background is the best study tip you can receive. There are, of course, other factors to consider, particularly when working abroad.
Cultural differences can make seemingly innocuous behaviors seem to be poor manners or cast the appearance of over-confidence. The tone of voice or clothing accessories can be misinterpreted. Aside from a close familiarity with the expected etiquette of every civilization the world over, I’m going to pare it down to the essential: Be polite and dress professionally. Be slightly more formal than you expect the interviewer(s) to be. Mannerisms are cultural and one of the many benefits of hiring an individual from outside your culture is the different views, experiences, and perspective he/she brings along.
‘Do you have any questions before we wrap up?’
The only wrong answer is, “No.” Ask at least one question about the position you just interviewed for. Taking notes during the meeting helps nervous hands and might be a spark for a query. Thank them for their time. Shake hands. Ask when you can expect a decision and remember to smile (your best accessory).