Keys to being prepared for the 1st interview.
Here’s a general rule of thumb: when the job market is not good and unemployment is high, employers are more selective because they have more qualified candidates in their labor pool than they would have otherwise. What does this mean for you? Well, if you are one of the fortunate people to get the opportunity to interview with an employer, this is when your real work begins.
You received the interview because you were deemed to have the qualifications for the job based on your initial application or resume. This usually means you are among the most qualified but don’t get a false sense of confidence. You are most likely in a pool of people who have similar basic qualifications and now the employer wants to see who the best match is for the position and company. How can you position yourself to make sure you shine during your first interview?
The interview is often a litmus test for personality, cultural match, understanding of the company’s goals, vision, and mission, and understanding of the duties of the position. Let’s look at a couple to make sure you are not caught in front of the firing squad without a plan of attack:
What do you know about our company?
This question should be answered with the information you’ve been able to retrieve from the company website and a basic Google search on the company. Are they in the news (for a positive or not-so-positive reason)? If so, your response should focus on how your skills contribute to move the company forward. I was screening for an HR Director position and one of the candidates included this in her answer: “I know your company is not performing well in sales and I noticed that they are considering bankruptcy if things don’t turn around soon. Will I have a job in a year if I take this job?” That answer definitely turned me and the rest of the panel off because (1) the information was incorrect and should have indeed been applied to a competitor, and (2) the answer was presumptive and had an air of arrogance.
Tell me a little about yourself.
This is not your opportunity to share your love for hat knitting, cat rescues, or your seven year old’s undefeated tee ball team. Instead, your company research should come into play again. How do your skills and values match the company’s values and goals? Does the company have a dedication to being a ‘green’ employer that is earth friendly? Do you? Then make the cultural match evident: “I volunteer with Earthcents to help raise funds for solar panels to be placed in public parks in underprivileged neighborhoods. I noticed ABX Company has a similar dedication that I admire and am interested in exploring further as an employee that shares this vision.”
What would your former co-workers (manager, supervisor, etc.) tell us about you?
This question is asking how well you get along with others and whether or not you will be congenial to team work. Feel free to share hints of your personality. Three descriptors are always great for this response: My co-workers would say I’m funny, professional, and reliable. You can then detail further by offering an example that typifies your personality: I like to enjoy what I do but also enjoy who I work with. I work hard to get my work done, serve as a resource to my co-workers if I have a skill set that I can share while also treating people with respect and a pleasant demeanor.
As you can see, the trend is to make sure you find a way to highlight your strengths and your match with the company’s needs. Your goal in the first interview is to have the employer like you as a potential employee and make them interested enough to bring you in again for the next interview. It is your job to peak their interest in you as a professional. Therefore, always remember your professionalism and be prepared knowing that any bombs they might throw your way in the interview all have a directed purpose. Your preparation is your flack jacket.
Danny Zendejas is the Hospitality Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. He has over eight years of experience in the hospitality industry and workforce development and is a native of San Antonio, Texas.