the art of interview



the art of interview

Both Abel Personnel’s clients and applicants confide to us that the job interview can be one of the most stressful parts of the job placement process. Hiring supervisors need to quickly confirm facts, gain an overall impression, give an even better impression, and try not to run afoul of any discrimination laws. The applicants want to make an equally great impression, sound thoughtful in answering whatever questions are tossed at them, and not make any mistake that dooms their candidacy. All this in as little as thirty minutes!

We believe that interviews can be highly productive, maybe even fun, with proper preparation, like any other endeavor. Aside from the hiring supervisor carefully reading the resume and checking online resources, and the applicant fully parsing the company’s website, the focus is on the questions and answers that each of them will share. Doing the homework will minimize any surprises for either participant.

First, what not to ask:
  • Any information already on the resume or the website, although drilling down on any items to find out “why” should be done, if only to acknowledge that you’ve done that homework.
  • Salary and company benefits; will be addressed in follow-up contacts if both parties want to pursue the opportunity further.
  • Anything that might pop up on a background check; follow-up items, sometimes better covered with the hiring supervisor by the Abel Personnel recruiter.
  • Hiring and job search schedules are typically follow-up questions, best handled by the recruiter, although in some cases can be used in the interview to indicate a sense of urgency by either party.

Next, our recommended top five questions. Below are questions (adapted from Martin Yate’s “Knock ‘em Dead Job Interview”) we think each side should pitch and be ready to answer:

  • Anomalies: 
    • Interviewer Question: Walk me through your job changes. Why did you leave/want to leave each job?

    Applicant Answer: For each past job, explain what you learned from that job that applies to this job, and an acceptable reason why you left.

    • Applicant Question: Ask about something in the company history. If the website does address the history, ask why the company happens to be in its current locale.

    Interviewer Answer: Explain in terms that the applicant can relate to; it’s okay to admit a company misstep.

  • Strategic Vision: 
    • Interviewer Question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

    Applicant Answer: Indicate how the job you are applying for is a step toward your longer-term goals.

    • Applicant Question: Where does the company see itself in five years?

    Interviewer Answer: Share the strategic plan with emphasis on what opportunities this offers the applicant.

  • Strengths and Weaknesses:
    • Interviewer Question: What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

    Applicant Answer: Present your must-have technical skill plus a skill that will most help you execute the most critical part of the job. If there is a minor part of the job where you lack knowledge, present that. Otherwise, identify a weakness that has no possible relation to the needs of the job.

    • Applicant Question: Where are your company’s strengths and weaknesses?

    Interviewer Answer: Focus on strengths that assure the company’s stability and growth, and in areas that might be of most interest to the candidate for their personal growth. Be candid about the weaknesses and emphasize how the applicant will help the company address these.

  • Teamwork:
    • Interviewer Question: What is your role as a team member?

    Applicant Answer: Start with your understanding of how your department would affect the company’s bottom line. Next, indicate how you think your role and skills will most help your department succeed as a team.

    • Applicant Question: How does the company promote teamwork?

    Interviewer Answer: Address how the company believes it’s the responsibility of every team to make sure each member is respected and career advanced; each person must succeed for the company to succeed.

  • When Things Go Wrong:
    • Interviewer Question: Tell me about a time when things went wrong?

    Applicant Answer: Choose an example of when everything turned out fine, and how you contributed to the solution. Identify what you learned.

    • Applicant Question: How does the company address failure?

    Interviewer Answer: Suggest that minor failures are part of business and are growth opportunities for the entire team. The only personal failure is failing to learn from the experience.

When planning the interview, your Abel Personnel recruiter can assist in tailoring the above questions to the interviewer and applicant’s particular situation, as well as suggesting other questions each could pose.

Inevitably, the interviewer will need to bring the interview to a close, and will inquire, “Do you have any other questions?” If the applicant has not had an opportunity to ask any questions yet, there are some great ones above. Otherwise, you can select one or two of the following questions (but always have a few questions to ask in the end):

  • Who succeeds in this job and why?
  • Who fails in this job, and why?
  • What are the major projects I would work on in this job in the first six months?
  • What will you want me to have achieved in the first ninety days? In the first six months?
  • What will my first assignment be?

Not included above are any questions related to COVID vaccinations, masking, and remote work, the subject of another Abel Personnel article.

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