The job interview. It’s the necessary, angst-ridden big step in the process of landing a job.
It’s no wonder we get jittery: we all know that we’ll be asked some outlandish, abstract or just plain ridiculous questions. What’s more, there’s a hidden code — a language of interviewing that the hiring manager knows, but doesn’t tell candidates. If only we could be in on the secret.
Maybe we can, with a little insight from several LinkedIn Influencers who weighed in on these topics this week. Here’s what two of them had to say.
Liz Ryan, chief executive officer and founder at Human Workplace
“A job interview is a weird experience,” wrote Ryan in her post Smart Answers to Stupid Interview Questions. “The standard interview script is brainless and insulting and it doesn't even do a good job of separating the best candidates from the worst ones. Still, people who are afraid to try new things don't dare deviate from it.”
That script inevitably includes “these three stupid questions,” Ryan wrote. “What's your greatest weakness? With all the talented candidates, why should we hire you? Where do you see yourself in five years?”
You probably have a canned answer to these questions. But, wrote Ryan, “You can get off the script and stay human in a job interview… For starters… give your interviewer an answer s/he wasn’t expecting.” Why? That forces the interviewer to think more and “you’ll be more memorable that way.”
Ryan offered alternative answers to these three dreaded questions. Among them:
In response to the question, what’s your greatest weakness: “I used to obsess about my weaknesses. I used to think I had a million defects that needed correcting, and I read books and took classes to try to improve on them. Gradually I learned that it makes no sense for me to work on things that I'm not great at, and it makes no sense for me to think of myself as having weaknesses. These days I focus on getting better at things I'm already good at — graphic design, especially."
That’s a far cry from the usual answer that entails talking about how hard you work and how you can be too hard on yourself.
“You already know how it feels to sit in the chair and play the Good Little Job Seeker,” wrote Ryan. “What would happen if you stepped out of the box on your next job interview, and played yourself?”
Jeff Haden, speaker and owner at BlackBird Media
“In the best job interviews, the candidate says a lot and the interviewer very little,” wrote Haden in his post Nine Things Interviewers Never Tell Job Candidates, But Should. “But there are some things interviewers would love to tell job candidates before the interview starts.”
“I really want you to be likeable. Obvious? Sure, but also critical. Skills and qualifications are important, but we all want to work with people we like... and who in turn like us,” he wrote. “So we want you to smile. We want you to make eye contact, sit forward in your chair, and be enthusiastic. A candidate who makes a great first impression and sparks a real connection instantly becomes a big fish in a very small short-list pond. You may have solid qualifications, but if we don't think we'll enjoy working with you, we’re probably not going to hire you.”
“I love when you show you can hit the ground running. We expect you to do a little research about the company. That’s a given. To really impress us, use the research you’ve done to describe how you will hit the ground running and contribute right away — the bigger the impact the better,” Haden wrote. “If you bring a specific skill, show how we can immediately leverage that skill. Think about it from our side of the table. We have to start paying your salary the first day, so we love to see an immediate return on that investment starting the first day.”
“Please don’t start by telling me how much you want the job. We may need you to work 60-hour weeks, or travel more than half the time, or report to someone with less experience than you. So sit tight,” he wrote. “No matter how much research you've done, you can't truly know you want the job until you know everything possible about the job.”