Our economy isn't as healthy as it was a decade ago. The job market hasn't recovered from the financial crisis, and getting the job you've always wanted isn't as easy as it was before. Perhaps more than ever, competition for already scarce jobs has become even fiercer. But as always, job interviews still remain a critical aspect (perhaps the most important aspect) of your getting hired by the company of your dreams. Many people acknowledge the importance of the job interview, but few truly prepare for them. And those that do prepare can definitely have an edge. For most companies, interviews are either behavioral or technical or a mixture of both.
For behavioral interviews, the questions that are asked are subjective and geared towards your personal traits. These are generally questions that allow your interviewers to better understand and gauge your leadership skills, teamwork, personality, efficiency, attitude, strengths, weaknesses, and the like. These questions can also cover subjective factors such as being a "fit" for the company's culture. Behavioral questions, while seemingly easy, are difficult because of their open-ended nature. More often than not, interviewees don't place too much emphasis on preparing for these questions in advance, and during the interview, provide utterly unsatisfactory answers (most of which are not well-thought out). Keep in mind that every opportunity to talk during an interview is your chance to tell the interviewer something about yourself that will make the interviewer want to hire you!
In order to prepare for behavioral interviews, you should brainstorm at least three instances in which you've demonstrated a certain character trait that you want to highlight. This trait may be leadership or teamwork or efficiency or something else, but what's important is that you use concrete examples to demonstrate these traits (it's not convincing to just claim that you are a great leader -- anyone can say that). Moreover, behavioral interviews include speaking about your previous professional and/or educational experiences. Not only should you be able to clearly articulate what you did, it's also important to provide context on why you did it and also how. Of course, explaining these things may not all be relevant for every interview, but many studies have shown that your "story" may be the most compelling reason for employers to offer you a job. Why did you do what you did? What did you learn? What did you like/dislike? And finally, given your experiences, what has led you to apply to this company? These are questions that allow you to tell a compelling story about why want to work for your potential employer. And trust me, your motivations for wanting to work for a certain company usually outweighs various other factors.
For technical interviews, questions are generally not open-ended, and in most cases, are specific toward the job in question. If you are applying for a programming or engineering job, it's certain that you will get questions testing your competencies in these areas. If you are applying for consulting jobs, it's almost certain that you will be given case studies or would need to demonstrate problem-solving abilities (how many ping-pong balls can fit into a school bus?). In order to prepare for technical interviews, you will need to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the job for which you are applying, and plan accordingly. The most important part of the technical interview, however, is not the fact that you can answer the question correctly, but rather, that you can explain your process of thought that led you to your answer. In many cases, you may be offered a job even if your answer wasn't necessarily "correct." Ultimately, the goal of the technical interview is to gauge your competence, so demonstrating the reasoning behind your answer is just as important to the interviewer in assessing your qualifications as getting the right answer. Practice explaining difficult concepts in terms that are understandable to the average person. You'll present yourself as more articulate and competent.
Finally, search the internet for information about the company for which you are interviewing. Sites like Glassdoor provide invaluable resources to help prepare for interviews. If you know people working at the company, it may also be wise to reach out to ask for interview advice and what kinds of questions you should expect.
Also, check out some of my other articles:
- Invaluable Tips to Advance Your Career
- Improve Your Business Writing
- The "Art" of Avoiding Questions
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