Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you had an interview, you felt it went great, and then you were completely mystified when you weren’t selected for the position. What you might have missed is an understanding of what hiring managers are looking for in the selection process. There are several steps involved in the preparation process, and addressing each step is critical to assure you truly will have a great interview and a stronger likelihood of being selected for your next career move.
Reading through a job posting, you think “I can do this job, just give me a chance.” Yet, your application and resume submission only generate a “thank you for applying” email response. Hiring managers are looking for ability and suitability. Nearly every Abel Recruiter can recall a candidate who had a strong desire and motivation for a position but didn’t illustrate the skills and qualifications in their previous work history or training.
Step One: Orientation Research
You know you have the skills to do the job based on the posting (I recommend that you keep the job post handy to refer to as you prepare for the interview.) Beyond your ability, suitability means that you have an understanding of the industry, the terminology, how to do business, and why things need to be done the way they’re done. If this would be a new industry for you, do your research. Go on LinkedIn and look up people who currently hold the role, read through their profile and posts. Another good online resource is the Occupational Outlook Handbook to obtain detailed information about the role and the industry. These are just two resources. You’ll find so much by exploring YouTube and following industry influencers.
Two important foundational thoughts to keep in mind as you prepare yourself for interviews:
- Every role exists to solve a problem.
- Every company wants to make money.
As you look at your past roles and the responsibilities you handled, flush each of those items through the filter of how did this task solve a problem and contribute to the company’s goals. WRITE that down. How did it solve a problem (specify the problem)? How did it prevent a problem? How did you anticipate a problem? How did it provide a solution? The answers to these questions are critical when it comes to interviewing preparation. Make detailed notes because you’re going to refer to these in the next step of your preparation.
Step Two: Identifying the Soft Skills or Transferable Skills
Looking at what you’ve noted in the previous step, you want to consider which soft skills you applied to accomplish each task. Identifying soft skills and being able to convey them is a priority when comes to the interview itself. A hiring manager wants to know how you’d do as an employee. It’s not enough to list your soft skills as strengths or capabilities (never “I’m an organized, results-driven, team player…”). You need to illustrate these skills, paint a picture, tell the story of you as an employee so that it conveys an image in the mind of the hiring manager. And when you do this well, that person will be able to envision you in the role and working with you.
Let’s take a look at some of the top behavioral skills employers have identified as what they look for in employees (this is the shortlist; your Abel Recruiter can help you identify more skills that employers consider critical no matter what role, what level):
- Critical thinking – The ability to think through a problem, define the challenges, generate possible solutions, and then evaluate and implement the best solution.
- Communication Skills (there are a lot of variables to this):
- What you say and how you say it
- Listening to understand rather than thinking about what you want to say
- Clearly communicating in writing including email and texting (knowing the protocols as to how written communication will be perceived)
- Self-Presentation Skills – These support your Communication Skills:
- Dress and grooming
- Cordial and social graces
- Body language
- Emotional IQ (self-awareness and maturity when dealing with others)
- Multitasking – We all do this in one form or another, and I’m not referring to driving while sipping coffee listening to your favorite motivational podcast on your way into work. We want to boil it down to time management, prioritization, and organizational skills (be prepared to describe what methods you use to stay organized, establish priorities, and manage your time).
- Teamwork – This skill insists on a commitment to the team and that its success comes first. You illustrate this by always cooperating, consistently making decisions based on team goals, keeping team members informed, upholding commitments, always sharing credit – never blame.
- Leadership Skills – This is the most complex skill and refers back to Teamwork; when others believe in your competence and believe you have everyone’s success as your goal, they will follow you. People don’t follow those who are disrespectful and have self-interest at heart. To quote Spider-Man (written by Stan Lee), “with great power comes great responsibility.” Flipping this quote around is also true: with great responsibility comes great power.
- Creativity or Creative Thinking – This is different than having ideas. It is the ability to develop those ideas with the strategic know-how that brings them to life, obtaining tangible results. This skill generally springs from technological skills, multitasking, communication, teamwork, and leadership.
Additional criteria hiring managers are looking for are your professional values:
- Ability to make a judgment call in any given situation.
- Your motivation and energy, engagement and enthusiasm:
- Motivation is expressed by your energy; you always give that extra effort to get the job done and get it done right.
- Your engagement and enthusiasm for the role may be expressed by keeping up with trends, changes in the industry, and how they apply to your role. You incorporate new and relevant changes within your areas of responsibility as well as share them with the team. You also bring commitment, reliability, and dedication to your profession and the knowledge that comes from how your part contributes to the whole.
- Determination is illustrated by not avoiding challenges; you step up to the plate.
- Pride and Integrity – pride equals doing your work well, having and maintaining high standards you set for yourself. Integrity/honesty applies to all of your dealings in the role, including when you made a mistake.
- Productivity through efficiencies of time and money resources (frugal know-how, making the most of what you’ve got, using everything with the greatest efficiency).
- Systems and Procedures – understanding the chain of command, you don’t implement your own improved procedure; you work through the system to get it changed.
Step Three: Scenario Planning
Now that you have considered the above criteria, it’s time to fill your “toolbox” with actual real-life scenarios from the list you’ve created. Writing out these scenarios will help you to set up your responses to interview questions. Write out the scenarios including:
- State the problem/situation
- What was the cause
- What was the desired outcome
- What skills did you use to tackle the problem; include if the situation illustrates some of your professional values
- Recall the solution, who benefited from it, and how (put numbers to it if applicable).
Your “toolbox” is now full of excellent resources that will help you when it comes to the interview. Going back to suitability, consider how any of these scenarios may be applicable in the industry you are pursuing. Perhaps you correlate the terminology from your past industry to the new industry. Put this information into your scenarios as well.
That’s the bulk of the preparation. Abel Recruiters have more tips and information, but we don’t want to give away all of our trade secrets! Reach out to a recruiter today to assist you in your job-seeking journey and help make that next interview a successful interview (we’ll also help you navigate through the job offer and salary negotiation).
Resource: Author, Martin Yate, Knock ‘em Dead Job Interview.