79 – Interviewing for a Job
Your vocation will be one of the best opportunities you will ever have to express your identity and purpose as a follower of Christ.
You asked if I had any interviewing advice for you. I responded, “Just be yourself.” I said that, partly, because you are who you are (no sense making them think they’re hiring someone else!). But mostly because you are exactly the kind of man any thinking person would leap to hire!
In the meantime, I recall how much time I’ve spent interviewing myself, and what has been important to me. It got me thinking about you, all your friends, the graduating children of men I know and of friends of our ministry. So, I decided to write an article that could be useful for any young person who wanted advice on how to have a good interview. Here are my thoughts…
Getting Ready for the Interview….
Look nice, be nice. You don’t have to look like a banker (your interviewer knows you are a student!), but however you decide to present yourself will send a message. The questions are, “What message do I want my appearance to send?” and, “What will make the best impression?” Borrow a coat and tie if you need to.
Hop on the web and check out the company. Sprinkle your conversation with a couple of company facts, and watch the interviewer warm to you.
Prepare. There are plenty of things to think about in advance mentioned below. Do them, but then try not to think much about it on the actual day of your interview.
Try to relax. Don’t take your interview right after a high stress exam, after an all-nighter, or the day a major paper is due. Instead, plan some chill time. Get a good night’s rest.
Pray. Ask God for wisdom and clarity of thought. Ask Him to animate you and help you make a positive impression. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with power and purpose. Tell God of your willingness to submit this interview to the sovereign pleasure and purpose of His will.
Be ten minutes early. Punctuality is one of the biggest problems in the work world. Besides, if you’re cutting it too close you’ll just make yourself nervous (and you’re going to be nervous enough already).
Eye contact. Look your interviewer in the eye, especially as you first shake hands. About your wet hand-don’t worry too much about it. It will not be the first time your interviewer has shaken a damp hand. Do, however, wipe your hand discreetly just before you go in for your meeting. And about that hand shake-yes, people do form first impressions this way, so be firm and confident.
During the Interview Itself…
Early in the interview find out how long the interview will last. This will help you to pace yourself. Also, after the first couples of questions it might be a good idea to ask your interviewer, “Are my answers about the right length, or should I give you more or less.” This will be appreciated-nothing is more frustrating than talking to someone whose answers are too brief or “tmi” (too much information).
About ongoing eye contact during the interview-be sure to have plenty of it. Research shows that the speaker normally makes eye contact about 60% of the time. When the interviewer talks you should look into his or her eyes nearly 100% of the time. It’s very distracting to be talking to someone who isn’t looking at you.
Think of four or five really good questions to ask, then work them in during the interview. Why? Because you want to both understand the “culture” of the company and show interest. It’s okay to have them written out. Ask questions that show interest in what you can do for the company, rather than what the company can do for you. For example, don’t ask, “Are there benefits?” until after you have been offered a job. Do ask questions like,
- What is the history, long term vision, and mission of the company?
- What are the values of the company?
- How long have you been with the company, and what do you like most about it?
- Where do you think I could make a contribution?
What Your Interviewer Will Be Looking For…
Chemistry and competence. Or, if you prefer, personality and performance. These are the two sides of the employment see-saw. Employers want likeable people who can get the job done.
Your interviewer will be sizing you up for, among other things, politeness, motivation, ability to communicate, technical competence, attitude, character, emotional maturity, social skill, willingness to be part of a team, leadership qualities, flexibility, self-discipline, conscientiousness, perseverance, and native intelligence.
The company you are interviewing has a mission, probably in writing. They are vitally interested in finding someone to fill this position who will be a “getter-doner” and a team player. They are interested in hiring someone for their reasons, not yours.
Questions you might be asked…
- What are your ambitions?
- Why do you think you would be suited for this position?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Don’t assume your interviewer has even read your resume, much less remembered anything on it. Make a list of five, six, or seven points you really want to get across, then memorize it. Perhaps an acrostic to help you remember? Don’t oversell yourself, but don’t undersell yourself either.
Possible points to include…
- Your ability to get things done. Give an example of how you finished a complicated school or extracurricular project while maintaining your other responsibilities. Employers are nervous when they don’t hear any “signals” about a strong work ethic.
- Your technical competence/training to do this particular job description. If you will need assistance, be sure to say so. They no doubt expect you will need some amount of training.
- Your willingness to learn and take direction. They are not looking for a 22 or 23 year old to come in and help them restructure the company for more productivity. They want someone who will work hard, wants to grow, and will follow directions. Give an example of how you have done this as a son/daughter or as a student.
- Your attention to detail and follow through. If you have it, they will want it-so tell them. If you have an organized mind, give an example of a project that required you to juggle a lot of balls.
- Your major accomplishments. You may get a question like, “What are your major accomplishments?” Be prepared to share milestones that required grit and tenacity. Did you have a job during college? Work it in.
- Your ability to work with and get along with people (signals: team player, management potential). Tell them about how you chaired a committee that helped elect the SGA president, or how you organized a study group.
- Your attitude and character. Contrary to anything you may have heard, the foundation of business is integrity and trust. Your character is key to success-meaning what you say, delivering on your promises, and dependability. Let them know your personal values.
Be as concrete and specific as possible. For example, don’t say, “I am willing to learn and take direction.” Instead, give them an example of how you have learned a difficult skill or subject, or learned how to take direction from a coach. Don’t get bogged down trying to think of “everything.” Instead, pick your best points and leave it at that.
Sometimes I will ask an off-the-wall question in the middle of an interview just to see how an interviewee thinks on his/her feet. One example for me is, “How do you keep score?” Or, “Who is the most interesting person you have ever met, and why?” Or, “What kind of people annoy you most?” Don’t let a question like this throw you. Pause for a moment and, as a friend suggested, say the second thing that comes to mind.
I have two questions I like to ask near the end of the interview. Chances are you won’t get asked either one, but you ought to be ready in case you are. First, “What else should I have asked you?” Second, “Is there anything else you would like to ask me?”
The Secret Weapon…
The most successful employees are the ones who take their jobs personally (technically we would call this “consientiousness”). Try to get across that you are not just looking for a job, but a company and vision to which you can dedicate yourself. Tell your interviewer straight out, “If you select me for this position, you can be sure that I will take it personally. It won’t be just a job.”
Ending the Interview…
Be prepared to end at the appointed time, but let your interviewer do the ending. About where to go from here-the interviewer will probably give you a signal or mention a “next step.” But if they don’t, be sure to say something like, “I am very interested in pursuing this. Where do we go from here?” or, “I really appreciate this opportunity to learn more about your company. What is the next step?”
You’ll do super by being who you already are.
So relax as much as you can and have fun! God’s will be done.
I love you and am so proud of you,
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
©2000. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved. This may be reproduced with proper attribution for non-commercial purposes.