Having a Successful Job Interview
By Margaret B. Hentz
(reprinted with permission from SLA CapLits, Summer 1997, Vol. 13.1, pp. 23-24)
The goal of a job interview is to sell yourself. Many of the same questions are asked by interviewers time after time. Therefore, the best way to sell yourself and have a successful interview, is to prepare answers that are honest and tell the interviewer what they need to hear. The good interviewers know which questions to ask to find out not only about the applicant’s skills, but also about how the applicant thinks and how committed she/he is to getting the job done. Here are some of the questions and some possible responses given by Raymond P. Harrison, a vice president in the Philadelphia office of Drake Beam Morin Inc., an international consulting firm.
Tell me about you.
“Keep your answer to one or two minutes; don’t ramble. Cover four segments – early years, education, work experience, recent times – with an accent on the later.”
What do you know about our company?
Know products, size, income, reputation, image, goals, problems, management talent, management style, people skills, history and philosophy. Don’t say you do not know much … you should state that you would like to know more.”
Why do you want to work for us?
“You wish to be part of a company project; you would like to solve a company problem; you can make a definite contribution to specific company goals.” What can you do for us that someone else cannot?
“Relate past experience that represents success in solving previous employer problems that may be similar to those of the prospective employer.”
What do you look for in a job?
“Keep your answer opportunity-oriented. Talk about the opportunity to perform and be recognized.”
How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our firm?
Be realistic and say six months to one year.
You may be overqualified or too experienced for the position we have to offer.
Strong companies need strong people; experienced executives are at a premium today; the employer will get a faster return on investment because you have more experience than required; a growing, energetic company rarely is unable to use its people talents. Emphasize your interest in a a long-term association.”
Why are you leaving your present job?
Stick to one response. Don’t change answers during the interview. Give a ‘group’ answer if possible – “Our office is closing”. Another possible answer is “We agreed to disagree.”
How do you feel about leaving all of your benefits?
“Concerned but not panicked.”
Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.
“Where people are treated as fairly as possible.”
How would you evaluate your present firm?
“An excellent company that afforded me many fine experiences.” It is important not to bad mouth past employers or bosses. Bad mouthing tends to reveal more about you than about those who are the objects of your comments.”
Why haven’t you found a new position before now?
“Finding a job is easy but finding the right job is more difficult.”
Had you thought of leaving your present position before: If so, what do you think held you there?
“Challenge, but it’s gone now.”
If I spoke to your previous boss, what would she/he say are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
This ‘threat of reference check’ question almost always produces honesty but also perspiration. It is important, in your response, to “be honest but not too negative.”
What are your weak points?
Don’t say you have none. Turn a negative into a positive answer: “I am sometimes impatient and I get too deeply involved when we are late.”
How much do you expect if we offer this position to you?
“Be careful; the market value of the job may be the key answer – ‘My understanding is that a job like the one you are describing may be in the range of …'”
What was the last book you read? Movie you saw? Sporting event you attended?
“Talk about leisure books to represent balance in your life.”
Will you be out to take your boss’ job?
Not until I get the current job done.”
How would you describe the essence of success? According to your definition, how successful have you been so far?
“A sense of well-being … Pretty successful with the usual ups and downs.”
At some point in every interview, the interviewer would ask the applicant if she/he has any questions. It is important that the applicant has some questions – and some good ones – because questions can reveal as much about the applicant as answers.
Here are some good questions to ask the interviewer when the time comes:
Why is this position open?
How often has it been filled in the last 5 to 10 years?
What have been the primary reasons for individuals leaving?
What would you like done differently by the next person who fills this job?
What is the most pressing problem? What would you like to see done in the next 2 to 3 months?
What are some of the longer term objectives that you would like completed?
What freedom would I have to determine my work objectives, deadlines, and methods of measurement?
Where could a person go who is successful in this position and within what time frame?
How is one judged? What accounts for success?
This column was a synopsis of a handout composed by Darrell Sifford of Knight-Ridder Newspapers titled “Rehearsed Answers Give an Advantage in Job Interviews.”