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Published on July 9, 2018

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

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Kris McPeak

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

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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