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How to Ace an Interview: 17 Things That Hiring Managers Look For

How to Ace an Interview: 17 Things That Hiring Managers Look For

I should have my name somewhere in the Higher Education Book of World Records for the total number of interviews I’ve attended in my life. Ten? Twenty? I think it’s more like 75 or so. And that doesn’t even count phone interviews. I’m well over 100 if you count those.

Most of my interviews have been full day experiences on a college campus featuring multiple interview panels and several meals; sometimes campus tours, presentations and student events. I’m not sure this is the norm for corporate America but I like to think that this experience has given me a certain amount of unique insight on how to ace an interview.

But beyond that – as an employer, I could easily double that number in terms of the total number of interviews I’ve conducted. Chairing search committees? Yes, I’ve had experience there as well. I know exactly what I’m looking for when a candidate sits down across that table from me or the table of folks with whom I’m interviewing.

Because you will be doing a good amount of preparation for that interview (um, yes, you totally will), here are 17 things that will assist you as you prepare to ace an interview:

1. Do your homework

If I’m going to invest my time into speaking with you about my vacant position, I want to be sure that you are interested in my organization. And the only way I will know that is if you’ve done your homework. You should be prepared to connect your previous experiences and skills with how you can contribute to my company.

“Tell me how your skills and experience have prepared you for a position at This Company?”

2. Fit the company (almost) perfectly

Candidates should be interviewing the employer in this session as well! As the hiring manager, I want to know that my candidates have thought about how they connect with our mission and values and whether they agree with them. Dr. Kerry Schofield wrote on Good&Co:[1]

“The average correlation between good cultural fit and these positives outcomes is about 0.43, which means that cultural fit accounts for nearly half the variance between employees in job satisfaction!”

As for myself, I just want an employee who wants to make a difference for my company, not just earn a paycheck.

“How do you see yourself contributing to this organization?”

3. Aware of your own weaknesses

As a hiring manager or supervisor, I need to know that YOU, the employee, are self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses – but particularly the weaknesses.

Let me explain that a little further because it sounds harsh. I am going to assume that you are pursuing a job with my company because you feel pretty good about your ability to do Skills A, B, and C. But I need to know where you struggle, so I can assist you and support you; so I can connect you with a team member or mentor who balances your challenge areas.

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“What are two of your strength areas, and name one area where you struggle from time to time?”

4. Know how to manage conflicts

Don’t tell me that it’s always been rainbows and sunshine between you and your co-workers. You may actually have had a big challenge with a previous supervisor.

I want to know how you manage conflict in the workplace and what you’ve learned from workplace conflict. Understanding the way you respond to negative situations tells me a great deal about how you can contribute.

“Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a coworker. How did you resolve the situation; and what did you learn about yourself in the process?”

5. Solve problems skillfully

In the face of confusion or frustration, how do you solve a problem and move the project forward? As your supervisor or hiring manager, I’m definitely interested in how you manage those bumps in the road and recover from the distraction. In an article on the HuffPost, Ken Watanabe said regarding problem solving,[2]

“It’s important to realize that being a problem solver isn’t just an ability; it’s a whole mind-set, one that drives people to bring out the best in themselves and to shape the world in a positive way.”

“You and your team have realized that you completely under budgeted the advertising project that is due in 48 hours. How do you approach this situation and prepare for the deadline?”

6. Have a good personality

I mean, can you talk about a variety of topics? Do you connect with others in the room and make eye contact? Do you have something to say or do you just sit there? I’m not talking about whether you are an introvert or extrovert; I know a ton of introverts who also have personality. Demonstrate your individualism and show how you will approach tasks and projects.

“What would your former supervisor say is the most unique thing about you?”

7. Be a leader and a follower

Depending on the position you are pursuing, the hiring manager may be looking for a supervisor or team leader; or they might be looking for someone to complete their team. You should be able to show how you can do both. In certain circumstances, different leadership and teamwork styles emerge, so you want to be able to indicate where the division is for you.

“Describe a project or event where you were clearly the leader; how did you demonstrate this and what was the result?”

“In what circumstances do you prefer to serve the team as a member, or follower?”

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8. Know your expectations

If your hiring manager is also going to be your supervisor, he will want to get a sense of how you like to be supervised; or how you need to be supervised.

Are you looking for a supervisor who is also a mentor? Or do you work better if you are left alone? Are you going to ask for clarification every time a task is delegated to you? Or are you more likely to ask for forgiveness rather than permission?

“What expectations do you have of this position, or of your supervisor?”

9. Able to achieve work life balance

You won’t be any good in the workplace if you aren’t taking good care of yourself. No one can serve from an empty vessel.

Employees who focus on work life balance are more engaged, more productive and happier in their positions. Doing a little extra hustle in the early days while you learn the ropes and get to know your team is one thing; skipping lunch hours and staying late multiple times a week is another. Show the hiring manager that you have alignment and you aren’t just your job.

“What are your hobbies or interests?”

“What strategies do you use to make good use of your down time?”

10. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity

You don’t need to do cartwheels or be a cheerleader (unless you really are that person); but answering questions with no interest or eagerness will demonstrate otherwise. Convey genuine excitement in the opportunity this position brings you.

“Why do you want to work for us here at Blah Blah Company?”

11. Show your confidence

You’ve made it this far because you truly believe you can do this job. You genuinely want this position. The interview is not time for you to beg for a job, so you need to be prepared that you can demonstrate your abilities and belief in yourself.

“What previous experiences have prepared you to assume this position?”

12. Strive for results

Walking the walk isn’t enough. Your new boss wants to know if you can get things done and provide results. How exactly are you going to prove that in an interview? Make sure you can explain a time where you completed a project from start to finish and can show how it made a difference.

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Furthermore, as shared by Audrey Fisher on her blog, being results oriented allows you (and your supervisor) to measure your progress and take ownership.[3]

“How have you specifically contributed to your previous employer or organization/department?”

13. Show your positivity

Employees with positive attitudes are more productive in the workplace. And frankly, positivity is contagious. Your tendencies to show that you are a Glass Half Full person helps with overall morale, and managers really like this. No one wants to work with Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy. And chances are, no one wants to supervise these ladies, either.

“Tell me about a time when you have achieved a negative result in a project or event. What did you learn from that experience?”

14. Be specific when you explain yourself

As a hiring manager and supervisor, I got really sick and tired of hearing these various responses:

  • “I’m a people person.”
  • “I have excellent leadership skills.”
  • “I’m such a perfectionist.”
  • “I’m a total team player.”

By making these statements, you’ve told me exactly nothing. What made you that people person? What specific leadership skills can you perform? The ability to provide specific examples in your interview responses are so much more effective than generalizations.

“Tell me about a time when you had to lead a team through a project. What skills did you leverage to complete this project?”

15. Demonstrate that you’re a team player

No woman (or man) is an island. Unless you are interviewing for a telecommunications gig (and even some of those have teams), you’re going to have colleagues and peers and fellow staffers who will rely on you and need your participation.

Be prepared to express and explain how you contribute to the teams you are assigned, and what your role usually has been.

“Tell me about a time where you worked on a project with a team. What was your role, and what was the outcome?”

16. Trustworthy

“Trust is the basis of every relationship.” I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember the name of the comedy film where this came from although I’m sure that screen writer wasn’t the first person to say this. Just in this particular film, it’s ironic because the character speaking it is shifty.

And no one wants to work with someone they can’t trust. Whether you’re part of an advertising team, a medical rotation or a residence hall staff, staff members need to trust each other as do supervisors and employees. Jennifer Scott shared this interview question (and many more) on LinkedIn:[4]

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“What would you do if you were given credit for something a co-worker actually did?”

17. Be patient

Each organization and corporation has a specific procedure for hiring. Some HR departments are completely in charge, or the departments take the lead and HR makes the offer. Either way – don’t bug the hiring manager or administrative assistant to death about an answer.

You can ask about the timeline during your interview and make a note of this. Follow up only if the timeline hasn’t been met.

This extends to the workplace as well once you get an offer. The department or team may not be advancing or changing as fast as you’d expected. You may not be getting promoted as quickly as you’d hoped. Just hang in there and be patient.

You’re the new guy, remember? Explore your concerns with your supervisor and ask good questions. Your time will come. I’m sure of it.

Here’s an interview question that was shared on Glassdoor.com:[5]

“How would you handle stress in a situation with a customer where you can’t immediately solve the problem?”

Preparing for a job interview should be taken seriously, especially if this position is one that excites you and will fulfill your passion. You’ll definitely have a leg up if you focus on some of these areas of importance to hiring managers.

Now go out there and ace that job interview.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Unhappy but Pays Well? 9 Practical Ways to Achieve Work Life Balance in a Busy World How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Stop Feeling Stagnant at Work

How to Make a Career Change at 40 and Stop Feeling Stagnant at Work

There are plenty of people who successfully made a career change at the age of 40 or above:

The Duncan Hines cake products you see in the grocery store are a good example. Hines did not write his first food guide until age 55 and he did not license his name for cake mixes until age 73.

Samuel L. Jackson made a career change and starred alongside John Travolta in Pulp Fiction at the age of 46.

Ray Kroc was age 59 when he bought his first McDonald’s.

And Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at the age of 44.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. If you have a sound mind and oxygen in your lungs, you have the ability to successfully make a career change.

In this article, I’ll look into why making a career change at 40 seems so difficult for you, and how to make the change and get unstuck from your stagnant job.

What’s Holding You Back from Making a Career Change?

There are a flood of amazing reasons to make a career change at 40. Heck, you could argue the benefits of making a career change at any age. However, there is something a little different about making a career change at 40.

When you are 40, you probably have lots of “responsibilities” that come into the decision-making process. What do I mean by responsibilities, you ask?

Responsibilities tend to be our fears and self-doubt wrapped in a bow of logic and reason. You may say to yourself:

  • I have bills to pay and a family to support. Can I afford the risk associated with a career change?
  • What about the friends I have made over the years? I cannot just abandon them.
  • What if I do not like my career change as much as I thought I would? I could end up miserable and stuck in a worse situation.
  • My new career is so different than what I have been doing, I need additional training and certifications. Can I afford this additional expense and do I have the time recoup my investment?
  • The economy is not the best and there is so much uncertainty surrounding a new career. Maybe it would be better to wait until I retire from this company in 15 years, and then I can start something new.

If you have experienced any of these thoughts, they will only pacify you for a short period of time. Whether that time is a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years.

Since you know that you prefer to do something else for a living, you start to feel stagnant in your current position.

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Your reasons for inaction that used to work are no longer doing the trick. What used to be a small fissure in your dissatisfaction in your current position is now a chasm.

Ideally, you never stay in a situation until that point, but if you did, there is still hope.

4 Tips To Change Your Career at 40

You do not have to feel stagnant in your current role any longer. You can take steps to conquer your fears and self-doubt so you can accomplish your goal of changing your career.

The challenge of changing your career is not knowing where to begin. That feeling of overwhelm and the fear of uncertainty is what keeps most people from moving forward.

To help you successfully change your career at the age of 40, follow these four tips.

1. Value Your Time Above Money

There is nothing more valuable than your time. You are likely receiving a pay-check or two every month that is replenishing your income. Money is something you can always receive more of.

When it comes to your time, when it is gone, it is gone. That is why waiting for the perfect situation to make a career change is the wrong mindset to have.

Realistically, you will never find the perfect situation. There will always be something that could be better or a project you want to finish before you leave.

By placing your time above money, you will maximize your opportunity to succeed and avoid stagnation.

If you feel disconnected when you are at work, understand that you are not alone. According to a Gallup Poll, only 32% of U.S. employees said they were actively engaged at work.[1]

Whether you think your talents are not being properly utilized, the politics of promotion stress you out, or you feel called to do something else with your life; the time to act is now.

Do not wait until you retire in another 10 to 20 years to make a career change. Put a plan in place to make a career change now. You will thank yourself later.

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2. Build a Network

Making a career change is not going to be easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.

One benefit to being further along in your career is the people you associate with are further along in their career as well.

Even if most of the people in your immediate network are not in your target industry, you never know the needs of the people with whom they associate.

A friend of mine recently made a career change and entered the real estate industry. The first thing he did was tell everyone he knew that he was a licensed real estate agent.

It was not as though he thought everyone he knew was getting ready to sell their home. He wanted to make sure he was in the front of our mind if we spoke to anyone purchasing or selling their home.

You may have had a similar experience with a financial adviser canvasing the neighborhood. They wanted to let you know they were a local and licensed financial adviser. Whether you or someone you knew was shopping for an adviser, they wanted to make sure you thought of them first.

The power of your network being further along in their career is they may be the hiring manager or decision-maker.

You want to let people know you are considering a career move early in the process, so they are thinking of you when the need arises.

Let me put it to you in the form of a question: When is the best time to let people know you have a snow shoveling business?

In the summer when there is not a drop of snow on the ground.

Let them know about your business in the summer. Then ask them if it is okay to keep in touch with them until the need arises. Then you want to spend the entire fall season cultivating and nurturing the relationship. As a result, when the winter comes around, they already know who is going to shovel their snow.

If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, start throwing out those feelers before the need arises. Then you will be ahead of your competition who waited until the snow fell to start canvasing the neighborhood.

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Learn about networking here: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

3. Believe It Is Possible

One of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to try something new, is they never talk to people living the life they want.

If you only talk to friends who have not changed their career in 30 years, what kind of advice do you think they will give you? They are going to give you the advice that they live by. If they have spent 30 years in the same career, they most likely feel stability of career is essential to their life.

In life, your actions often mirror your beliefs. Someone who wants to start a business should not ask for advice from someone who never started one.

A person who never took the risk of starting a business is most likely risk adverse. Consequently, they are going to speak on the fact that most businesses fail within the first five years.

Instead, if you talk to someone who is running a business, they will advice you on the difficulties of starting a business. However, they will also share with you how they overcame those difficulties, as well as the benefits of being a business owner.

If you want to overcome your fears and self-doubt associated with changing your career at 40, you are going to need to talk to people who have successfully managed a career change.

They are going to provide you a realistic perspective on the difficulties surrounding the endeavor, but they are also going to help you believe it is possible.

Studies show the sources of your beliefs include,[2]

“environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs.”

By choosing to absorb the successes of others, you are choosing to believe you can change your career at 40. On the other hand, if you absorb the fears and doubts of others, you have chosen to succumb to your own fears and self-doubt.

4. Put Yourself Out There

You are most likely going to have to leave your comfort zone to make a career change at 40.

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Reason-being, your comfort zone is built on the experiences you have lived thus far. So that means your current career is in your comfort zone.

Even though you may be feeling stagnant and unproductive in your career, it is still your comfort zone. This helps explain why so many people are unwilling to pursue a career change.

If you want to improve your prospects of launching your new career, you are going to need to attend industry events.

Whether these events are local or a large conference that everyone attends, you want to make it a priority to go. Ideally you want to start with local events because they may be a more intimate setting.

Many of these events have a professional development component where you can see what skill-sets, certification, and education people are looking for. Here you can find 17 best careers worth going back to school for at 40.

You can almost survey the group and build your plan of action according to the responses you receive.

The bonus of exposure to your new industry is you may find yourself getting lucky (when opportunity meets preparation) and creating a valuable relationship or landing an interview.

Final Thoughts

Whatever the reason, if you want to change your career, you owe it to yourself to do so. You have valuable in-sight from your current career that can help you position yourself above others.

Start sharing your story and desire to change your career today. Attend industry events and build a mindset of belief. You have everything you need to accomplish your goal, you only need to take action.

More Resources About Career Change

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/HY-Nr7GQs3k via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] News Gallup: Employee Engagement In US, Stagnant In 2015
[2] Indian J Psychiatry: The Biochemistry Of Belief

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