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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

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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