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"Overseeing a job search and re-employment system that helps 13,000+ customers a year looking for employment, I highly recommend that jobseekers read, The Essential Job Interview Handbook. It not only provides you with multiple ways to answer key questions, but also helps you understand why the questions are being asked and what goes into hiring managers’ decisions. You will consult this book over and over!"

—John Beauregard, executive director, Eastern CT Workforce Investment Board

"The Essential Job Interview Handbook offers specific strategies to ensure greater comfort and confidence in interviews. Baur offers numerous examples of how to effectively answer challenging interview questions and includes good, better and best candidate responses. This format allows candidates to see the logic behind questions they will be asked so they can more effectively reference their relevant skills and experiences. Baur’s MAP and ZAP strategies empower candidates to think strategically about their job search, mapping their relevant skills and experiences to the position, reframing questions when necessary, and closing with a thoughtful summary of their fit for the position. Most importantly, Baur emphasizes the fact that interviewing is a skill that can be learned and she offers candidates the educational roadmap for mastering this skill."

—Nancy Burkett, director of Career Services, Swarthmore College

"Jean Baur’s The Essential Job Interview Handbook is a practical primer for job seekers, recruiters and managers. It underscored for me how thoughtful preparation is the critical differentiator to having a successful interview. These insightful reflections and tips will assist applicants at any stage in their careers. As students and graduates ask me about the next steps in their careers, I will refer them to The Essential Job Interview Handbook as a solid resource to help them reflect on their experience and frame their answers."

—Thomas P. Chester, senior HR manager, Office of Human Resources,

Princeton University

THE ESSENTIAL JOB

INTERVIEW HANDBOOK

A QUICK AND HANDY RESOURCE FOR

EVERY JOB SEEKER

JEAN BAUR

Copyright © 2013 by Jean Baur

All rights reserved under the Pan-American and International Copyright Conventions. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without written permission from the publisher, The Career Press.

THE ESSENTIAL JOB INTERVIEW HANDBOOK

Printed in the U.S.A.

To order this title, please call toll-free 1-800-CAREER-1 (NJ and Canada: 201-848-0310) to order using VISA or MasterCard, or for further information on books from Career Press.

The Career Press, Inc.

220 West Parkway, Unit 12

Pompton Plains, NJ 07444

www.careerpress.com

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:

Baur, Jean, 1946-

  The essential job interview handbook : a quick and handy resource for every job seeker / by Jean Baur.

       pages cm

  Includes bibliographical references and index.

  ISBN 978-1-60163-282-1 (alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-1-60163-511-2 (ebook : alk. paper) 1. Employment interviewing--Handbooks, manuals, etc.. 2. Job hunting--Handbooks, manuals, etc.. I. Title.

HF5549.5.I6B375 2014

650.14’4--dc23

2013034207

For my husband, Robert.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you to Orville Pierson for introducing me to Career Press, to Mary Glynn and Frank Harvey for reading a draft of the book, and to the talented team at Career Press. And to all the others who helped: You’re the best!

CONTENTS

Introduction

PART I • PREPARATION

Chapter 1 • Where to Start?

Chapter 2 • Get Your Stories Straight!

Chapter 3 • Figure Out What Employers Want

Chapter 4 • Rephrase and Reframe

Chapter 5 • Final Preparation: First Impressions

PART II • TYPES OF QUESTIONS

Chapter 6 • Ice-Breaker Questions

Chapter 7 • Preliminary Questions

Chapter 8 • Substance Questions

Chapter 9 • Fit Questions

Chapter 10 • Other Questions

PART III • TYPES OF INTERVIEWS

Chapter 11 • Phone Screenings: You Are What They Hear

Chapter 12 • HR Screenings: Are You a Match?

Chapter 13 • Recruiter Interviews

Chapter 14 • Behavioral: Let Me See You in Action

Chapter 15 • The Panel: One of Me, So Many of You

Chapter 16 • Bull’s-Eye: Meeting With the Hiring Manager

Chapter 17 • Presentations

Chapter 18 • When There’s Travel, Meals, Skype, or Assessments

PART IV • MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Chapter 19 • Too Many Cooks and Unclear Job Requirements

Chapter 20 • Watch Your Pride

Chapter 21 • But I’m So Nervous!

Chapter 22 • Other Challenges

PART V • PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Chapter 23 • Closing the Deal

Chapter 24 • Evaluating Your Interview and Processing Feedback

Chapter 25 • Effective Follow-Up (How to Show Interest Without Being a Pest)

Chapter 26 • Negotiating an Offer

Chapter 27 • You’re Never Not Looking

Index

About the Author

INTRODUCTION

A huge challenge in the interview process is preparing for the unknown. Even with a fairly detailed job description or a briefing by a knowledgeable recruiter, job candidates often don’t know the company’s needs or what will happen during the interview. Huge shifts take place that we—the ones being interviewed—can’t predict. That is one of the reasons why interviewing successfully is so difficult; we have to pay close attention to what we’re told and what we’re not told, as well as to the many non-verbal signals we receive. And many people conducting the interview aren’t well prepared, haven’t been trained in interviewing, and often don’t like the process.

The Essential Job Interview Handbook takes a practical approach to this critical challenge, and will help you prepare effectively for interviews; become familiar with different types of interview questions and answers that focus on a wide range of functions including science, IT, finance, and marketing; know what to do after an interview; and then put it all together. You will learn how to integrate the intangibles with solid practice. What’s unique about this approach is that it’s both proprietary and road-tested. These are strategies that I’ve developed throughout my 19 years as a career coach and I’ve seen firsthand that they work.

The body of the book consists of sample questions with answers—multiple answers with an evaluation of what makes the best one. By going through these common interview questions, you are not only given an immediate way to do better on interviews, but you will also gain an understanding of successful strategies. In other words, instead of a list of questions with possible answers, this book puts those samples into a context that will prepare you for any situation.

Other interview books don’t:

use the MAP that is a critical part of both preparation and doing well in all-day interviews.

give you a systematic way to probe for needs.

explain what makes the best answer.

base the interview questions and answers on years of coaching job seekers of all functions and levels.

provide a critical technique for turning negative or difficult questions around.

help you find a way to subtly run the interview or support an interviewer who is unprepared, inexperienced, or distracted.

This book has five sections: Preparation, Types of Questions, Types of Interviews, Managing Expectations, and Putting It All Together. In each chapter there is an overview that proposes major concepts, followed by case studies, work sheets, sample questions and answers, and useful templates. Next, you’ll find a fun section called Ditch It!, which are examples of weak responses to interview questions that you want to avoid, accompanied by a brief explanation of why they’re ineffective. The last section is Tips, a list that distills the major points of the chapter and that adds additional information.

What makes this book different from many on the market is how it teaches readers to think strategically. Let’s say I’m asked a typical interview question such as: Jean, why have you pursued jobs in so many different fields?

1. My first task is to figure out the essence of what the interviewer is after. Are they worried I’m not going to be committed to the job? Or are they simply curious about how I managed to make several career changes?

2. Next I’m going to focus on the job I’m interviewing for and what I know so far about both the person interviewing me and the company. Let’s say it’s an outplacement firm looking for a career coach and I’m meeting with the person who would be my boss.

3. Now I bring these two pieces, the job description and what I know about their needs, together. In other words, I’ve recognized the type of question this is (preliminary or substance) and have taken a few seconds to figure how to use my answer to make a key selling point.

4. My answer: I’ve been lucky to have had a wide and diverse experience as a writer, corporate trainer, and career coach. What I’ve discovered is that, rather than being three separate areas of expertise, these all boil down to communications. So, for example, in my extensive work as a career coach over the past 19 years, I use my writing and training skills to help clients communicate effectively, which is critical in networking and in making sure they ace their interviews.

5. Debrief: If I were interviewing for a writing position or one in training, then my example would be drawn from those areas, not my career coaching work. I think of this as a funnel: Broad concepts need to be brought down to specifics. Another way to look at this is headline and example: give an overview that paints the big picture and then prove it through an accomplishment story. (See Chapter 2 for more on this subject.) Right now this process can feel like way too much work and you might be wondering how you could possibly go through these steps without waiting five minutes to answer the question. The quick answer is practice. With practice this becomes much easier. Think of interviewing well as developing new muscles. You can’t do that in a day, but with regular exercise you’ll get stronger and more agile a little at a time. Just be willing to start and I promise you this becomes second nature.

In looking for work, it’s easy to get lost and discouraged. Although no book has all the answers to a complicated and unpredictable process (that many people dislike intensely), my hope is that The Essential Job Interview Handbook will give you an excellent foundation for this critical part of finding your next job, and very good company for the journey. The people whose stories you’ll learn about in this book are real. They’ve been through a wide range of interview experiences as they looked for their next position, and some examples illustrate how tough it can be. But they kept going, they learned from the process, and persevered. They didn’t let the down parts of the ups and downs, stop them. And they made it to another opportunity even if this ended up being different from their initial goals.

A note on confidentiality: None of the examples in this book are based on a single client. I’ve stuck to things that really happened, but drew from several resources both to make a point and to protect my clients’ anonymity. In the outplacement field, as in other kinds of counseling, confidentiality is critical.

I am deeply grateful for my 16-plus years with Lee Hecht Harrison, a leading talent solutions company, and for all of the wonderful job seekers I’ve had the privilege to work with. You are my teachers and I’m always amazed by your courage as you enter the job search arena and prove to others how talented and valuable you are.

PART I

PREPARATION

1

WHERE TO START?

It’s the moment all job seekers are waiting for: you receive a call and schedule an interview. There is a surge of hope as you think about working again and how exciting it could be to join this company. In addition, you dream of the huge relief that your search is over.

However, the excitement is quickly mixed with panic. What should you do? How will you get ready? And most importantly, how can you know what they really want?

Let’s back up for a minute to see what you already know:

The name of the company.

How they found you.

The industry.

The title (and hopefully a job description).

The date, time, and place of the interview.

How many people you’re seeing (and eventually a schedule that includes their names and titles) or if it’s simply a screening interview.

Contact information for the person who set this up (often a recruiter, agency, or HR representative).

As a friend of mine likes to say, Facts are friendly, meaning I think that solid information is helpful and is the best place to start. So if you know the name of the company (and there are times when recruiters don’t give this to you up front), you can begin your research. You could start with the company’s website, but be careful not to stop there, as there may be more useful information on other websites or in industry journals and blogs.

You must know what the company does and be up-to-date with their current situation. If they’ve just acquired a small biotech company, you need to know about it as it could affect your potential job at the company. Having this up-to-date research at your fingertips is one of the most effective ways to prove you’re interested in the company. Never wing it and ask, What does your company do? That’s the quick path to a polite, Thank you for coming in and the interview is over.

If research isn’t your thing and you’re struggling to find good information on the company, go to your local public library and ask the reference librarian for help. They’re skilled at finding even obsolete information.

Now that you’ve done some research, think about how the company found you, or in some cases, how you found them. If it was through an Internet ad, study the job description, but keep in mind that those descriptions are almost always incomplete and in some cases inaccurate. If you were referred in by a networking contact, ask that person for a convenient time to find out what they know about the company. In some cases they may have inside information, such as why the position is open or how the department is structured, which could be very useful to you. Most recruiters have solid working relationships with the companies they submit candidates to, so make sure to ask, if you’re using a recruiter, what they know about the company, the people you’ll be meeting, and any other general information. It’s in their interest for you to do well. And lastly, if you targeted the company directly by emailing the hiring manager, review what you put in that email.

Next, make sure you’re up-to-date in the industry. Let’s say you’re going to interview with Campbell’s Soup. You need to know what their new products are, who their competition is, how their business is doing, and new trends or challenges that affect not only Campbell’s, but other companies in the food industry. There are industry journals, blogs, and associations that can help you find this critical information.

Now take a careful look at the title and job description. Titles can vary wildly from one company to another, so it’s best to study the scope of the job itself without getting concerned about the title. From what you know so far, ask yourself: What is the most important thing the person in the position must do? Start thinking about how your particular background fits or meets this need. In the sidebar there’s an interview MAP that is going to help you specifically structure how your qualifications meet their requirements. Your interview MAP will help you stay on track, reduce nervousness, and document the main points you’ve covered with each interviewer.

If you’re seeing three people, create a MAP for each meeting with the name of the company and the name and title of the person at the top. In the left column put the job description and what you’ve learned from your research. In the right, list key words to remind you of your qualifications and accomplishments that match the company’s qualifications. If, for example, they want someone with three to five years’ experience, that would be listed in the left column, and if you have six years of experience, you put that in the right column. I know you may be thinking, How silly is that? There’s no way I’d ever forget how long I’ve worked! However, in my experience of coaching thousands of job seekers, it’s amazing what can happen under stress. So even if you never refer to your MAP during an interview, I believe you’ll find it helpful. Just knowing that it’s there in your portfolio is a comfort, and if you hit a nervous moment or two, you can open your portfolio, glance down at your notes, and regain your confidence.

Also take note of the date, time, and location of the interview. Check the directions carefully; many career coaches recommend taking a dry run if it is reasonable. If you have to fly to a distant location, make sure you have all the travel information as well as someone to contact if there’s a problem. And if you have to purchase the tickets yourself, ask how you’ll be reimbursed. If a recruiter is involved, they should handle these logistics.

Try to give yourself unstructured time both the day before and the day after the interview. This is an exhausting process and you want to give yourself every possible advantage. Scheduling three interviews in one week is rarely a good idea. As soon as you can, get a sense of how the interview is expected to run. Will it be a panel with eight people asking you questions at once? If you’re a scientist, when will your presentation be given and how many people will be attending? Is it one of those all-day affairs where you might be put in a conference room and the interviewers come in one after the other? We’ll talk later about how to survive these meat-grinder interviews. Ask for the schedule and the names and titles of the people who will be seeing you. This allows you to learn something about them (through LinkedIn, Google, and so on) and it gives you time to practice pronouncing difficult names. Many times candidates are told We’ll give you the schedule when you arrive. Ask firmly but politely to have it now if possible.

The Interview Map

XYZ, Inc

Interview with Cathy Jones, MD and CEO for Director of

Operations/Medical Affairs position, 1/8/13

Your questions for them:

1. What do you see as the biggest challenges for the person in this role?

2. How would a person in this position know how they are doing? Performance management system/feedback?

3. How much of the work is outsourced?

4. What percent of people in the Newark office will be new hires (not transitioning from Dallas)?

5. What impresses you most about your company?

Ditch It

1. What does your company do? This is insulting to the company as it shows you haven’t even visited their website.

2. Sure, I can come in for an interview this afternoon. Two problems here: It communicates that you’re not busy and it doesn’t allow you enough time to prepare properly for the interview.

3. I’ve got to take the kids to the dentist so I can’t come in. Of course you have other commitments, but don’t be specific about what they are. Instead, say, I have a conflict that afternoon, but can change it if that’s the best time for you.

Tips

Research the company carefully and don’t rely solely on their website.

If possible, give yourself enough time before the interview so that you’re well prepared and rested.

Ask for a list of who you’ll be seeing, including their titles.

Make sure you have the name and number of a contact person as well as good directions.

Prepare your interview MAP (one copy for each person you’ll see) and include your questions for the interviewers at the bottom.

See if anyone in your network works for or has worked for the company and ask them for additional information.

Knowing about the company and the people you’ll be meeting with gives you a huge edge. This information will help you select the most appropriate accomplishment examples (to prove you’re the right one for the job), and is one of the best ways to demonstrate interest in the company. You can’t say you’d love to join them if you aren’t up-to-date on their latest initiatives.

2

GET YOUR STORIES

STRAIGHT!

How can you come up with a strategy or know how to prepare for an interview