The Interview: What Employers Really Want

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For many, a job interview is more stressful than the job itself. The worst part - we all have to deal with them. Even if you are self employed, winning your next consulting contract is contingent on your interview skills. Interview stress is the result of not knowing what the hiring manager really wants. If you knew what he is looking for before the interview starts, you would increase your chances of winning the job - and make the whole process a lot less stressful. So your best bet is to be prepared. Here are ten ways to strengthen your interview aptitude and help you win the job.
  1. Don't Monopolize the Conversation - An interview is a two-way street. Be interested and then be interesting. Be interested in the hiring manager, his company, and its challenges. Go equipped with questions and engage employers in dialogue. You want to learn as much as possible about the job, while at the same time not taking over the conversation. Give the impression that you're interested in more than just "what's in it for me."
  2. Sell Yourself - The most important thing to remember to do is to sell yourself during the interview. You want to explain what sets you apart from the rest and what you have to offer. This includes carefully tooting your own horn (have facts, figures, and testimonials ready). Make known that you're a great problem-solver if you are. Show that you have an immense amount of drive and ambition if you do. Explain that you're flexible and are able to roll with the punches when change is needed if you are. Report that you can deliver without constant oversight if you can; you get the idea. You have to impress upon them why you're the one they should hire and not the guy right in front of or behind you. If you don't do this your name will end up in the slush pile like most everyone else.
  3. Be Definitive - Learn and understand the employer's needs and goals and be clear about your own. "Unclear job goals eliminate many candidates from further consideration," says Christopher Hansen, entrepreneur and president of The Home Based Business Council. "If you are an IT supervisor and you don't know specifically what you want to do, are not sure if you want to supervise again, or can't communicate your interest during the interview, you're in trouble," says Hansen. Don't come off wishy-washy. Know what you want. Know what the employer needs. And know how your goals will align with the goals and needs of the employer.
  4. Make Sure You're Qualified - "You may have nothing to lose by applying for every job that even remotely peaks your interest or looks like it might fit your personal skills but if you overstate your qualifications, it will come out during an interview," explains Hansen. At that point you're only wasting both your and the hiring manager's time, not to mention possibly upsetting her in the process. "On the other hand," says Hansen, "it doesn't hurt to ask if the person whose position you are filling had all of the qualifications on the job description and if you can grow into the position."
  5. Dress for Success - First impressions are everything. Walk into an interview dressed like Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness and contrary to the movie, you won't win the job. In fact, you'll be rejected even before you shake hands. Your thirty-minute interview will take ten minutes and the interview will be much harder to win. That said, you may not want to dress in a suit. It's always a good idea to check out what kind of clothes employees are wearing to work for the company you're interviewing for and then follow their lead. For example, if you're interviewing for a job at Apple, you might consider wearing something business casual. If you're not comfortable wearing a dress shirt and jeans to a job interview, throw on a blazer but forget the sport coat. This will impress the hiring manager because she'll see that you've done your research.
  6. Be (Really) Prepared - Think having a two-minute speech rehearsed for the question "Tell me about yourself," constitutes as being prepared? Think again. When preparing for an interview, the most important thing you can do, aside from practicing your answers to different interview questions, is research the company you selected. Find out what they sell or what service they provide, what their mission is, challenges they face, who their customers are, etc. "It's always impressive to us when you know something about our company," says Hansen. Really dig deep. Consume yourself with everything about that company for at least a few days. Live and breathe it. Then, enter the interview with some ideas already prepared on how you could make positive changes to the company, be it the way it operates, the products or services it sells, or anything else that will add to the company's bottom line. The ideas don't have to be earth-shattering, just plausible. The big idea here is to sell solutions. Aside from impressing him, this will show the hiring manager that you have value that you could bring to the company.
  7. Demonstrate Your Interpersonal Skills - You may have an impressive resume and aced the phone interview but if you have poor interpersonal skills and don't know how to be a team player, it's a deal killer. The face-to-face interview will show the hiring manager a quick snapshot of your personality and give him a good idea of how well you'll get along with other employees and whether you're going to be a prima-donna or not. In today's business climate, no man is an island and employers don't have time to deal with those who clash with colleagues and can't play as part of the team. So be sure to put your best personality forward during the interview and impress the hiring manager with your fantastic ability to get along.
  8. Show Enthusiasm for the Job - You must express real interest for the job if you really want it. By not showing enthusiasm you're telling the hiring manager that you're not really interested in the job and wouldn't care one way or the other if you were offered the position. So be enthusiastic about the job. Communicate using the tone of your voice that you really want this job. Passion is difficult to fake and the hiring manager will take notice.
  9. Ask For It - Sometimes people lose a job simply because they don't ask for it. If you want the job, you need to communicate that you want the job; physically ask for it. At the end of the interview tell the hiring manager that you're really interested in the job and would appreciate an offer. Occasionally that alone can seal the deal.
  10. Remember to Say Thank You - "Follow-up with a phone call three or four days after an interview. We expect it," says Hansen, "and it's a great way to reinforce your interest in the job as well as ask a question or two that you may have forgotten to ask." Another advantage to the follow-up thank you call is that it may lift your resume from the bottom of the pile to the top. Above all else, it's good PR to do so. Even if you don't get the job, the hiring manager may just pass your name along to another hiring manager at a different company and a word-of-mouth recommendation always has impact.

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  • Loreen
    The article what employers really want is a valid article, but employers tend to forget the humanistic side to a candidate. I have a MBA in management and have worked for 10 years as a manager and also had the job of being the interviewer for 3 companies. The interviewers are looking at the company’s bottom line profit when they step into an interview but be aware a candidate with an exceptional personality is also trainable. I have been pounding the pavement for the last 6 months with no luck although I have followed the 10 steps outlined above. Good Luck to all in you job search.  
  • Dorothy Battle
    Dorothy Battle
    I have 15 years Collecting experience. I have 16 years as an Office Clerk and I also have 1 year as a Customer Representavive. (part-time) I have been going on interview for the past 9 months and have not been able to land a position, I feel I'm interviewing well, I think I'm not getting a position because of my age.  I'm doing all the things that are listed above, what else can I do?  
  • Richard
    I agree with Deborah on the difficulty of a job search in the current economy. I am having a similar issue. I also have 25 years experience, the MBA education, all the necessary certifications and licensures, but still could not convince the hiring managers that I was the "right fit" for their organization. I began stressing the problem solving experience and the value driven management style that I used in my previous positions. I have found that at interviews, this has been an eye opener. Deborah, I think you may get more results if you rely on and accentuate the people skills you learned and had to use in your 20 years. I am sure that you have become quite adept at these due to the nature of your past positions. These positions had to involve people, behavioral, political and problematic situations. This is what HR managers and Administrators have to be experienced at. Try a different approach and try to read body language. Its been several months for me as well but above all, don't give up!! Good luck!
  • Anita
    It is certainly a valuable point wise advise which could prove to a amiable conversation rather than a stereo-typical interview and eventually bear fruitful results.Thank you.Regards,Anita Issar91-9818164056
  • Darlene Rhoads
    Darlene Rhoads
    Thank you for the valuable information that you have given.  It helps to know what is needed to get hired in this day and age.  There are hundreds of people looking for jobs and any additional information and education is a plus.  It was presented well and easy to follow.  Thank you again and have a great day.  D. Rhoads
  • Ang'Lia Dixon
    Ang'Lia Dixon
    The above mentioned tips are very helpfully and can really land you the job. As stated always show interesst in the job and that you are interesing yourself, without over doing it with small chit chat that has no real meaning. You could be mistaken as a social butterfly.
  • Benita Mata
    Benita Mata
    I thought a "Thank You for the Interview" letter was appropriate, NOT a phone call ?
  • Melisa Pineiro
    Melisa Pineiro
    Really, what a helpful article.  Sometimes I just get so nervous during interviews I forget my own qualities I'm trying to sell!  This article really makes me feel more confident in my abilities.  Thanks!
  • Rachael Roberts
    Rachael Roberts
    These are very strong pointers.  Basically I would summarize them by one statement. "If you fail to plan, prepare to fail!"
  • Veronica
    I apppreciate the time you given me for this interview. I hope to hear from you soon.
  • Tom Bozeman
    Tom Bozeman
    Very good reading and a lot of good advice! So much of this is good info and a lot of common sense that we all tend to overlook when under pressure. The question, "Tell me about yourself", is a deep one and I'm not sure what direction to go in with that one. What do you recommend?Best Regards,Tom Bozeman/ Columbia, SC.
  • Deborah
    Even though I feel that I do all of the above, or maybe I'm mistaken, I still have not found a job after 7 months.  I'm finding that many employers do not see how my 20 years of skills in the fields of COBRA/FSA Administration and Section 8 Housing Administration apply to an Administrative or HR Assistant position. I realize that the job market is really bad right now, but this is getting ridiculous.  How can I get employers to envision me in a position that they just don't see me working in due to my prior experience?

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