August 1, 2013
Ace your job interview by getting specific
Too many job interviews are general, rather than specific. This is bad, because the best way to wow a potential employer is to specifically show him or her how your specific skills and experience relate, specifically, to that employer's needs.
Woo-woo questions -- such as, "If you were a breakfast cereal, what kind would you be?" -- might reveal something about your personality, character or eating habits. But what do they say about your ability to do a given job?
It may be up to you to steer the interview to the specific.
First, enumerate your experiences and successes. If possible, bring along some samples of your work. If that's not possible, consider photos of samples of your work. Nothing is more powerful than a good visual aid.
Second, discuss the issues confronting your potential boss in a way that shows you understand them. Then segue into how, hypothetically, you would address those very issues. This is the time to repeat a mention of your skills and experience. Extra points for dropping in a real-life usable suggestion for solving an actual problem your potential employer is currently facing.
You'll need to do your homework beforehand. Networking is key to identifying the employers that best fit your qualifications, and then discovering what issues and challenges confront those employers.
This kind of conversation is best conducted not with an HR person, but with the manager you'd be working for if you got the job. Are you saying, "But my interviews are always with HR"? Ha. We love HR folks, but the fact is that you greatly increase your odds of getting hired if you meet with the actual person you'd be working for.
Use your networking skills and contacts to help you bypass HR and go directly to the relevant manager. Yes, it's OK to do this. Once you get there, show that you can do the job. That's all employers really care about.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at email@example.com.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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