Sunday, September 4, 2011

Make the Top 5 - don't blow it in your interview

With the age of technology, horror stories of applicants who send in resumes on scented paper have been replaced with stories of job seekers who send in blanket resumes to 40 different companies in seven different industries. As experts, we're quick to remind folks that if you want the interview, you need to tailor your message.
So what happens when you are selected as one of the top five candidates among 100 applicants? You'd be surprised how seriously some of these applicants blow it.
I recently transitioned from career expert to hiring manager for one of the hospital marketing communications teams I oversee in Central Washington. All applicants were asked the same questions and evaluated on the same scale. Here were three bad answers, and what they should have said instead.
Question: Why do you want this position?
His answer: Well, I used to live there and I still own a home that needs a lot of repair. It would be great to be able to get back to that.
What went through my mind? You want to repair your house? What does that have to do with marketing?
Right answer: Because I used to work for the local newspaper, I have a lot of contacts in the community and through regular networking, I'd be able to add valuable input about what matters to our patients.
Question: Give me an example of a time when you demonstrated integrity in your job.
Her answer: That's a hard one. I guess there was a time when I was working for a fast food restaurant in high school and there was money missing from the till. I told them I didn't do it and they did an investigation and they realized I didn't do it. So that was good.
What went through my mind? Really, you're applying for a professional position, you have an MBA, and that's the best example you have?
Right answer: Any response where you found yourself at a cross-roads and you made the right decision, especially if it cost you, but you knew it was right or somehow helped a co-worker, a customer or someone else. Show me your empathy. Show me your committment. Show me that when the rubber hits the road I can count on you to represent yourself, our team and our company in a positive way.
Question: If offered the marketing assistant position, how long do you see yourself in this position?
Her answer: Well, probably at least a year. I think it's really important to learn as much as I can and who knows what else will be available by that time.
What went through my mind? In one year you will barely have moved through one complete cycle of calendar events. So essentially, once you've tried everything once, you may be ready to move on?
Right answer: I'm looking to commit to a position and learn from it until I master it, no matter how long it takes. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and we end up making decisions or changes sooner or later than we planned, but I would only accept a position fully intending to give it my all for my entire foreseeable future.
The point is not to just say the right things, but to enter every interview fully expecting to give the prospective position 100 percent. As much as you may need or want a job, if you're applying for positions that you aren't prepared to commit to, it will come across in the answers you give.
Multiple times, I wanted to jump into career coach mode and give strategic advice to the job candidates I interviewed. Every person in the top five had a solid chance at the job for which they were being considered. Four of them blew it in the interview.
Next week, I'll share tips on what you MUST DO when you make it into the top five if your goal is to get offered the job!