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How to Take the Pain Out of Interviews

Tips to Help both Sides Make the Most out of these Encounters

Good news! You have an interview scheduled; now, it’s showtime! However, this stage can be the most stressful portion of the hiring process for both candidates and the hiring team. How can you make the most out of your 30 to 60-minute interview? Is it possible to give and receive an accurate representation of your skills or your company and open role in such a limited amount of time? The answer is yes, but as with most things in life, it only comes with hard work – and preparation is key.

According to Glassdoor, the average corporate job opening will receive over 250 applicants spread out on various job boards and advertisements. Of these applications, an average of 4 to 6 candidates will reach an interview – but only one will get the job. Preparation can help you set yourself apart from the pack as a candidate and be confident that the best candidate succeeded when making tough hiring decisions.

Hiring Managers | Interview Prep-Guide

Whether you are a seasoned interviewer or are just being pulled in to consult on a single hire, preparation is just as important on this side of the table! There are several strategies that companies use to formalize their interview process, but by spending a little extra time on your “pregame” strategy, you can avoid a stale interview that will turn candidates off from your job openings and/or company.

  1. Understand the job and your ideal candidate. The biggest mistake many interviewers make is walking into a room with a candidate having no idea about the specifics of the job they are hiring for and what the ideal candidate will look like. Take the time to review the job description with the interview team and gain perspective from employees who will regularly interface with this position or have in the past.Understanding the qualities you are searching for will allow the candidates to differentiate themselves by answering targeted questions instead of wasting time on vague prompts and guessing what you want to hear. What you don’t want to do is give a false representation of the job’s responsibilities or your company’s culture. Doing so can put your hiring team right back at square one when the person you hire doesn’t last.
  1. It’s a conversation, not an interrogation. An interview that does not grow into a natural conversation can feel forced and limit the candidate’s ability to expand on their wealth of experience. You should be looking for demonstrated value but can easily sabotage your opportunity to mine for this information if you fail to discuss their accomplishments in depth! Prepared interview questions are important but know how to balance those initial prompts with organic exchanges that immerge from a natural progression of the dialogue.One way to help ignite the conversation is to fully review the candidate’s resume and LinkedIn profile and select accomplishments or job duties that you believe to be important or relevant to target your questions. When brought up, you can break away from the robotic Q&A session and really dive in deep on those stories.
  1. Collaboration, not condescension. One of the easiest ways to have an offer declined is to treat candidates as lesser than employees that are already working for your organization. Every candidate is coming to you as a subject matter expert and is looking to make an honest contribution to your company. Respect is the name of the game.The interview is about finding the best match, be receptive to their questions, and be prepared to speak about both the positive and negative aspects of the job opening. If you are facing a large challenge in the department, offer candidates the opportunity to weigh in! Chances are, they will appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, and you will be able to narrow your candidates to the right hire.

Now, we navigate to the other side of the interview table. Whether you’re a passive candidate “kicking the tires” on a potential career change or an active candidate looking for their first employment opportunity out of college, the interviewee chair holds the spotlight of the interview. How you “show up” to this meeting will make or break your chances at an available opportunity to be selected as a semi-finalist. No pressure!

Candidate Preparation | Part 1: Hiring Agencies

Calls from recruiters and hiring agencies are getting more and more frequent these days, especially with unemployment as low as 3.7 percent through Nov. 2018, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data from Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiting Benchmark Report estimated that 4.15% of hires came from Agency submittals, but the effectiveness of those was higher than the top two sources combined! The sources that deliver the highest percentage of applicants don’t necessarily translate to the highest percentage of hires.

As most recruiters will tell you, candidates are not doing everything they can to ensure success when partnering with an agency. Most candidates utilize this option for the first time, so here are some quick tips to help your recruiter relationship blossom!

  1. Understand what recruiters are looking for. Recruiters want to develop a relationship with you so they can help their client companies fill their open jobs. Many of them take pride in helping candidates succeed, but at the end of the day, they do not work for you but with you. In your first call with a recruiter, make sure you are clear about what sets you apart from other candidates and how you will fit in with their client company’s workplace. Be a triple-A candidate (AAA)!Ability – What skills do you have, and how have you used them in the past?
    Attitude – Which sort of work culture/environment is the best fit for you?
    Aspirations – Where do you want to grow in your career, and how quickly?
  2. Be honest and upfront about what you need from a new job. Make sure you are clear about the kinds of offers you are willing to accept. Recruiters don’t want to waste your time with jobs that you would never accept – and they don’t want to waste their time either!Salary ExpectationsCommute and BenefitsContract Length/Structure​Job Duties/Role in Organization
  3. Stay relevant and on their radar. Keep your recruiter updated on your job search so they can make more informed decisions.Do you have interviews coming up from other sources?Are there any jobs on their in-house job board that look interesting to you?Follow-up with them when you haven’t heard back in a while!

Candidate Preparation | Part 2: Company Interviews

Interviews with hiring managers can be a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. It’s your big shot to really demonstrate what you are capable of and how you conduct yourself in a stressful situation. This is by design.

Being prepared will not only help you ace those really common questions but allow you to speak calmly and in detail while under pressure. This is a real asset that companies are looking for!

  1. Understand what you bring to the table. In the interview, it is crucial that you have a deep understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Why do you think that question always gets asked? Delve into your past experiences and pick out key moments where you had great success and moments where you took a hard hit and had to re-evaluate.What qualities did you exhibit that made you successful in this situation, and how do they apply to the job you are interviewing for?How did you react when you failed?Were you able to convert that into a teaching moment, and have you encountered a similar situation since that went differently?
  2. Lean into the format! Companies are learning to use a variety of interview formats, but the most common is the Behavioral Interview. Have you ever been asked to “Tell me about a time when…?”, this is your answer key!These questions are inviting you to tell a story, and being a great storyteller is one of the secrets to interview success! You don’t have to come up with a scenario on the fly if you prepare key experiences beforehand. Commit them to memory and practice your delivery in advance.The STAR method for formatting your answer:
  • Situation – Provide context for the scenario, give a brief background to the events
  • Task – What was the task assigned to you, was there a roadblock?
  • Action – What did you do, and what skills did you use to accomplish your goal?
  • Result – What happened, and how did this affect business outcomes?

You might think that the most important section is the Action piece – and while that is your chance to demonstrate competency – the most important section is Results. Being able to contextualize your impact with the business’s greater needs says a lot more about your work and capabilities.

This is especially true if you are discussing a failure, as in the Results section, you get to discuss what you learned from the experience and how you handled future issues.

3. Take ownership. The most important advice for a killer interview is to take ownership of your work. Showcasing your passion for your work and your commitment to development can go a long way towards an eventual offer. Companies are always on the lookout for employees who can stand up for themselves and the value they provide while taking the initiative to drive strong outcomes.

The best interviews leave both sides excited to start working together, and you won’t find a better opportunity to answer questions about value alignment and work style than this important meeting. We hope you find these tips helpful in elevating your interviewing techniques!

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