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Interview Intervention: The Next Level To Acing Your Interview

Updated on March 1, 2015

The Purpose of the Interview.

I have conducted countless interviews for all levels of employment opportunities; entry level, management, supervisory, administrative and even internship interviews. One thing that seems to stand out time and time again is people do not understand the purpose of the interview. Yes, it is clear, the person interviewing for the job is looking for a employment. I think we all understand that. But, the purpose of the interview is bigger than just showing up in the right clothes with resume in hand.

The purpose of the interview is to showcase yourself. It's to convince the interviewer you are worth his/her time. The interviewer is looking at you, listening to you and trying to picture you in the job. This is your dress rehearsal!! You must own it. If you do not show up prepared to demonstrate that you know you have what it takes, don't show up at all.

Understand this: The interviewer knows early on if you are wrong for the job. So, take control of your role in the interview as soon as you walk in the door by following the steps below.


Step 1: Do Your Research

Speaking as an interviewer, there is nothing more frustrating when the person you are interviewing clearly has no clue about the organization or position they are interviewing for. So please, do your research!!

After you have been scheduled for an interview, research the organization you are interviewing for. Who are they? What is their purpose, their mission? Do they have a product and if so, what is it? Know their philosophical beliefs- whether it's a profit making business or a non-profit social service organization, you must know who they are from their perspective. With the internet, there is absolutely no reason a person comes into an interview and doesn't know about the company they are interviewing with. Visit their website and do your research.

I once interviewed a candidate for a therapist position in a creative art therapy program to work with children who witnessed domestic violence. When I asked him what he knew about the program, he actually replied that he knew nothing about the program and asked me to tell him what I know about it. Really? It was his job to tell me what he knew, to demonstrate that he wanted this job so bad that he had taken just the few minutes necessary to at minimum, look into the program he was interviewing for. Right there, he lost the job because he was the only candidate who didn't know about our program. He wasted my time and his by showing up unprepared.

Additionally, if you are interviewing for a position that requires specialized skills or work with a specialized population, whether sales, or social services; make sure you know about said skills and population, as well as the philosophical approaches the organization works from. Let's go back to our unfortunate candidate above and look further into another cringe-worthy moment of his interview. Remember, he was interviewing for a position working in the field of domestic violence. Domestic Violence information can be found anywhere, but we made it easy, we had the information on our website at the time of his interview. So, it wasn't too much to ask that interviewees would have the basic information regarding the popular approach when working with survivors of domestic violence. Not our interviewee. No, he presented from quite the opposite approach. He failed to understand that our perspective was that no one asked to be abused or deserved to be abused. When we asked him what causes domestic violence, he launched into a dissertation about how female victims have masochistic tendencies that attract them to abusive men. Say what? Clearly, his belief clashed with our belief that no one wants to be abused!

Before you interview, know now who your interviewee is looking for by doing your research. Then, when you show up to the interview, be that candidate!


Step 2: Professional You Must Show Up!

All too often during an interview, I have found that somewhere along the line, people forget that they are interviewing as a candidate for a job...not a friend. Let me tell you how this has demonstrated itself to me when asking one very common question that most interviewers will ask during an interview:

What are your short/long term goals? This question has one intention; it's to understand what your goals are so the interviewer can determine if you have ambitions and if such ambitions are inline with the goals of the organization. That said, when I ask someone what their goals are, I am not looking to find out if they are in need of scheduling an annual physical, if they want to get back into their garden or if they want to meet the "right one" and settle down and start a family. These are conversational points to have with friends, not perspective employers. As an employer who is meeting with an applicant, strictly to determine if there is a match between our job opportunities and the candidate, scheduling a physical will not advance the organizational goals we are interested in achieving. Therefore, answer that question in a way that is truthful, and relevant to the job you are interviewing for. For example, if you are interviewing for that same position the candidate above was interviewing for, your short term goals might be to find a job where your skills as an art therapist can support individuals in their healing process. Your long term goals may be to expand your knowledge/education to advance your skills and professional growth for career advancement. These goals are relevant to the job the candidate is interviewing for as well as demonstrates a desire to grow professionally.

You must be personable and genuine during an interview. Of course you do not want to be a robot when you interview and where ever you go, you bring yourself with you. But, first and foremost, you are interviewing for a job and if you leave your professional self out of the room, even if for only one question, you may have just lost the job.

Step 3: Always Be Confident...But Not Cocky

In today's economy it's no secret that there are more candidates than there are jobs. Therefore, employers are looking for the person who knows they have skills, can be an asset and aren't afraid to be assertive. That said, employers also want to know the person they are interviewing is not arrogant, self-serving and narcissistic. Here's how our interview process demonstrates this:

Tell me three of your strengths and three areas you would like to improve upon. Seems like a simple question. But, nothing about an interview is simple, and in fact, many questions are purposeful to learn more about how a candidate sees him/herself and how they choose to answer a question. So, when I ask someone what their three strengths are, I expect that they know what they do well and are ready to share this with me. These strengths should again, be relevant to the position that is being interviewed for, and be professional as stated above. So, if I am interviewing for that therapist position, I might want to say my three strengths are the ability to empathize, good listening skills and the ability to think outside the box to make sure I can provide services that support each of the children I counsel. This speaks directly to the needs of the position I am interviewing for. If I can't list three strengths that are relevant, there's no way this interviewer will want to hire me.

On the flip side, an employer wants to know that while you recognize you have skills, there's always room to improve and grow professionally. When I ask someone what their three areas of improvement are, I expect three answers. Not one. And especially not none. I want a professional who is self-reflective and is self-aware as to who they are as a professional and is always trying to improve their skills. Every time a candidate can quickly answer their three strengths, I expect they can quickly answer their weaknesses. I expect these weaknesses will not be life shattering areas that will be obstacles to the hiring process, but areas that build on current strengths. The candidate interviewing for a therapist position might want to say something like: Because working with individuals who experienced trauma can be difficult work, sometimes I have to remind myself to engage in good self care. I'd like my self-care to become more second nature. Or, I love the work I do and sometimes I struggle with maintaining a balance between work and personal life, so I have been making more efforts to be more aware of this.

These answers build on a strength, demonstrate how it can become a weakness, and most importantly speaks to how the interviewee is trying to address the weakness. The answers are relevant, not obstacles to doing the work, and easily corrected.

When someone says, I have no areas of improvement, the candidate has moved from confident to cocky and honestly, I do not want to hire someone who thinks they know it all-how awful for their supervisor who might need to provide constructive criticism on how to improve their work performance. And worse yet, when a candidate says something that's counterproductive to the position they are interviewing for, I am left just as uneasy. This would happen if someone identifies a weakness such as poor writing skills, and they are applying for a job that requires a significant amount of documentation.

Know your professional self by knowing what skills you have that match the skills the interviewer is looking for, while being able to demonstrate we all have areas to improve. Your above mentioned research should help you with this step.

Thank You!

How do you follow up after your interview?

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Step 4: Follow Up But Don't Stalk

Dare I say it, follow up is a good post interview practice, but please, do not become a stalker. Send a simple letter, via mail or email, or reach out by phone to thank the interviewer for the interview. But one contact is enough...seriously! I may like Candidate A, but have fifteen more interviews to go conduct before I'm ready to commit to offering a second interview. In the meantime, Candidate A has sent me an email thanking me for the interview the day after we met. Then, I come in and find she left me a voice mail asking me if I received her email from the day before and asks when l be calling her back. A day later, she emails me again and indicates she has emailed me and called me and I have not replied yet. Basically, she is telling me that I have failed her and has put me on the defense rather than feeling thankful for her indication that she appreciated her interview and is excited to learn if she will be selected for a second interview. While I considered contacting her for a second interview, I now find Candidate A to be annoying and impatient- especially when I had indicated at the conclusion of the interview that it might be another week before she hears back and it's only four days later and I feel like she is harassing me. Candidate A went from a successful first interview and slid headfirst into stalker territory. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but when the interviewee begins to criticize me, I'm done with her and I have moved on to the next candidate. I will get in touch with her sooner than later, as she seems to want, but she will now be getting a thanks but no thanks letter.

Be courteous. Follow up. Then wait. If they like you, they will tell you. If you have to hound them, you may have moved from interested to bothersome.


Good Luck and Carry On

Many of you have already researched the basics of interviewing skills and have followed the basic steps, yet still have found you continue to get passed up for the jobs. However, if you follow this next level of interviewing techniques, you may find you get called back for the second interview, and better yet, get offered that job you have been dreaming of!

You can do this if you know who you are interviewing for and prepare yourself for the role! Now get out there and get that job!


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