Monday, February 12, 2007

Beyond the Resume: Getting an Interview and Surviving it!

When you right after college, and are in the quest to find your first job, the first thing you do is to mass email resumes to every email that resembles hr@...... That i feel is the first big mistake that you can make.

If you are reading this article, and have not read the article on creating a resume, then i recommend that you read this first.

Firstly, do not mass mail organizations for your email will either end up in junk or get deleted. Organizations have peculiar, fragile, and vulnerable personalities. They like to think that you have thought about why you want to join them seriously and expect some demonstration of that dedication in your applications. It’s like asking a girl/boy to start a relationship with you. If you ask any random person (will you be my bf/gf), then s/he is most likely going to reject you on the grounds that you did not make her/him feel special. Organizations are no different in wanting to feel special.

If you are working with an agency/job bank then ask the agency all the relevant questions you can think of about the organization. Remember they will give you lots of information provided that you ask. Further, look at the organizations website and if possible try to get any brochures or other marketing material from the organization.

Sometimes we tend not to take this step seriously. Time and again, i have been asked at the interview “soo…. Tell me/us what you know about my/our organization”. If you find this happening to you, heres your chance to tell them that you know in-depth about their organization. It will help them gauge that they are special and not just another ‘item’ on your list. Besides, it’s a golden opportunity for you to do some well deserved ego-stroking.

When you get the first call inviting you for an interview, then try to ask them about the interview process, how many interviews will there be, and with whom. Find out if there are there any: technical areas to cover? tests to perform? Where will the interview be? And if you don’t know where their office is, then its okay to ask for directions and/or land marks.

Questions to ask
Think of what you would like to ask the interviewee. You have choices to make as well. Some questions that worked for me in the past include

Where do you see me fit in your organization?
Whats the working culture of the organization like?
What would be some of the challenges of working here?
What am i expected to accomplish during the first year?
How will i be evaluated?
What does the future look like for this company?

While they are assessing you, you have to make up your mind if you want to work for them too. Questions also served as a tool for persuasion (think self-generated arguments in social psychology). Regardless of your motivation to ask questions, do no forget that you are being assessed with regards to your enthusiasm, your curiosity, your eagerness, and your level of insight.

If you do know something that is not so good about the organization, do not put the interviewer on the spot. If you don’t like the organization, don’t join it. Remember, your goal is not to bash the poor interviewer ego. Stroke, don’t bash.

I like visiting the organization a few days before the interview. You can play the “i am lost” card. This clandestine visit can help you visualize the company culture.

At the interview
Make sure to dress appropriately. For example for interview with corporate companies, make sure you were corporate attire but dress down for social service organizations.

Some of the standard questions you may be asked are:

Tell me something about yourself
What has been the most disappointing time in your career?
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
What has been the most rewarding time?
What benefits can you bring to the business?
What are your long term goals (ie. What do you want to do in 3, 5, 10 years from now)
Why did you apply for this job/company/Division? Why this career?
What can you offer to us? What do you think we can offer you?
What are something’s that have given you the greatest satisfaction? Least satisfaction?
Could you tell us of some instances of how you react under pressure?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What other jobs did you apply for?
What courses did you like best? Least?
Why did you choose your major? Plans for graduation?
What can a psychology major do for this organization/position?
How did you finance your education?
Did you do the best you could in school? Why or why not?
if you had a chance, what would you change about your education?
What 3 things would you like to achieve, that you did not get in your education?
How do you describe your ideal job?
Have you ever experienced conflict? How did you deal with it?
Have you worked in a group?
What qualities do you think that a successful manager should have?

Some pointers:
So if you think about the questions, they can vary from the easy to the rather difficult.

Some items that have helped me survive them were: Use humor appropriately (humor about yourself and NOT about the organization); Know that you have limits to how much you want to reveal about your self; Know that you may not know any thing; Remember be enthusiastic (at least during the interview)

It may be a good idea to get to your interview 20-30 minutes early. Remember, that they do know that you may be anxious, but will be impressed by your attitude to what you are doing to deal with the anxiety. And yes, this means getting to a place early allows you to deal with your nerves. It gives an opportunity to chat with the receptionist, get a feel of the work culture, and generally get an image of what it would be like to work for them.

While at the interview, give time for some small talk. Complement them if the office looks beautiful. Do thank them for giving you the opportunity. Introduce yourself confidently yet be friendly. Smile.

Non-verbal behavior (such as gesturing and eye contact) should be culture appropriate. This is why it will be useful to come to the company 20 minutes early.

Relate your experience with the role they are interviewing you for talk about your experience. Its ok to be chatty, but don’t over do it.

Some do’s and donts:
Never swear even if the employee does so. Yes, i do have a foul mouth, but i would never dare swear at an interview.

Never make negative remarks about your current or previous work experiences. If you cant talk about it without being negative, then it helps to say that you cant talk about it because of the personal nature of the encounter.
Never reveal secrets that belong to the previous work place. Keep in mind that modern organizations need you to be ethical in your behavior. Hence, if they push you to tell them, then tell them that its confidential. Remember your goal is to demonstrate that you are self sufficient and responsible individual and NOT a blood sucking secret leaking fool.

End the interview with your positive points on why you would like the job and how you feel that you are right for the position and the company. Remember they are looking for someone that wants to work for them and can show that ability.

Finally – Enjoy the experience. You may ‘booboo’ the first experience. But, that’s just it. Its your first, and don’t let that wack your mood because its just the first.


Kuther, T. L. (2006). The psychology majors handbook (2nd E.d.). Wadsworth: NY

N.B. I find the cited book extremely useful. Specially if you are a psych major like myself. It has important information about what you can be doing after your first degree in psychology. It should be given to every psych student out of undergraduate school.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I can talk trash too, but it is important to be professional.

Happy Valentines Day to you my friend.


Steph said...

You've pointed some very important and useful infos that I overlooked on my first formal interview. I'm sure to be more tactful in surviving in future interviews. Thanks for sharing this.