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Tidbits on Travel and Jobs, Part 7
Interviewing – The 80/20 Solution
The 80/20 Solution provides practical tips on practical themes. It’s named after the 80/20 rule which generally states 80% of the results are from 20% of the effort. That’s the point of The 80/20 Solution – to give you most of what you need without much work. The 80/20 Solution targets audiences looking for general to intermediate information. The 80/20 Solution provides useful tips on a specific theme – you’ll be informed and ready to immediately apply what you learned.
If you’re in the job market, you need to be good at interviewing to get the job you want (to get started with the job hunting process, make sure to read The 80/20 Solution for resume writing!). This 80/20 Solution is for you because you’re going to learn how to dazzle the company with your impressive interviewing skills!
This 80/20 Solution is also for you if you’re asking the following questions…
How do I improve my interviewing skills?
A lot of people get stressed out over interviewing because they don’t know what questions are going to be asked or how to properly interact with the interviewer. If I can give you one piece of information, it’s to make the interview a conversation – you’re interviewing the company just as much as the company is interviewing you. That, however, makes it a little too simple, so I have a number of tips and tricks for you to use. This 80/20 Solution is going to focus on the standard interview questions and knowing how to prepare for and answer those questions. This 80/20 Solution is also going to give you advice on the questions you should ask and how to market yourself.
Everyone is concerned about the questions that are going to be asked. In theory, there’s an infinite amount of different questions they could throw at you. However, the questions are grouped into just a few areas, and knowing those areas can give you a huge advantage.
The initial question is most likely to have you walk the interviewer through your work history. This is where it’s important to know your resume and how it relates to the job (don’t assume the interviewer as taken the time to read your entire resume). Use this as an opportunity to chronologically walk the interviewer through your work experience and highlight how your jobs and accomplishments can help the company or person you’re interviewing with. Always stay positive – don’t talk negatively about another company, boss, job or experience. If you had any trouble in those areas, focus on what you learned and how you became a better person and employee because of it.
Then there’s going to be a few questions that try to get at your work style. Things like your greatest strengths, your weaknesses, how you approach different situations, how you work with others in a team. Do an Internet search for top interview questions and you’ll quickly get a feeling for the various types of questions. Think through each type of question and how you’d answer it, given how your experiences relate to the job you’re interviewing for (you should have different answers for different types of jobs you’re interviewing for). Always stay positive and continuously try to demonstrate how your past experiences relate to the job.
For specific examples of questions you might be asked, use the Internet to search for “common interview questions”. You’ll get plenty of links with plenty of examples.
The last type of question is about your motivations. Things like where you want to be in the future, why you’re leaving your current job and why you want to work at this new company. Again, stay positive and make sure to have a good story before you sit down for the interview. Do research on the company so you can say why you like it and how it’s going to motivate you to come into work each day.
STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result
You should answer each of the behavior questions in STAR format. The behavior questions are ones asking about your work style – such as, explain a time you worked on a team and someone wasn’t doing their job.
STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s the four main areas of your answer.
Situation – start your answer by concisely describing the situation. Try to think of a recent (the last couple of years) and important (many people were affected or it was worth a lot of money) work situation.
Task – then talk about the task you needed to accomplish.
Action – this is where you impress them by explaining how you added value – the action you took. Try to stay focused on what YOU did to accomplish it, as opposed to what the team did. They want to know you can work with a team, but they also want to know you can take individual and proactive actions to help the team.
Result – don’t forget to state the result. Try to tie the result to an area of your resume so your story and resume are consistent.
One way to go above and beyond is to include what you learned from the situation…STAR-L. Tell the interviewer what you learned and how it made you better (and how you’ll be able to apply that learning to the new role).
Tips and Tricks
There are a few ways to make you really stand out. They are mostly simple things; things you might even laugh at. However, those that do them well are the ones that get the job offer.
If they ask you about your weaknesses, find a way to state a strength as a weakness (and then talk about how you’re improving it) – such as…
A weakness of mine is my drive. I like to get things done quickly, efficiently and effectively; and I’m always expecting great things of myself and others. I recognize not everyone can do things according to my aggressive schedule. As such, I’m learning to better understand the capacity and strengths of others, and collaborate with them to find a win-win situation where I can accomplish tasks within the constraints of others.
Sounds pretty corny, right? The interviewers love it and the HR people eat it up!
A close cousin of this tactic is to make your failures part of a larger success. If they ask you about a project that failed, don’t give them a standalone failure. Find a small part of a successful project and explain how the larger project was a wild success, but this one small part could have gone better. Then explain what you learned from that one small part so you can make it a success next time.
Another tip is to make sure you have a personality in your interview. Remember, the interviewer is going to have to work with you, so you want to demonstrate you’ll be a good fit for the team. Smile, show a sense of humor and express genuine interest in the interviewer and the company. Things like this go a long way to make you stand out.
Send an email to say thanks. Reiterate your excitement for the role and your confidence that you’re the right person for the job. However, don’t send the exact same email to each person; instead, mention something specific that you discussed with the person you’re emailing – for example, a common acquaintance or school. One last thing – make sure to double-check the spelling of their name.