Tag: "interview advice"

Interviewee question: tell me about yourself

I just had an interview with a decent company. I think it went OK. I just want to ask your opinion on something.

In school, we had several accounting professors who were partners in big fours, some were CFOs, COO, and CAO. Basically they weren’t people from the street, they were successful individuals.

Whenever it comes to interview they always tell us to ASK QUESTIONS. Not only ask questions at the end, but also in the middle and in the beginning. They always put an emphasis on this.

Today I had an interview where the first question was tell me about yourself. After I finished answering, I asked the interviewer to tell me about herself. She gave me a smile like WTF you asking me questions/almost like rolling eyes, and did not answer the question.

Did I do something wrong? Should I have been one of those guys who should have waited until the end? I swear it was an awkward moment.

Well, yeah, you did something wrong. Asking questions is good advice but why would you ask her to tell you about herself?

You should be asking questions about the job and the company, not about person interviewing you. So the work environment matters but not specifically the personality of the interviewer. There are exceptions though – if you can ask the interviewer a question about them and the job, that’s good. Something like how long they’ve been there and how long they plan to remain (if the interviewer is leaving soon that might matter to you) could be appropriate. Something about their management style makes sense if you’d be working under the interviewer. Would you tell me what’s made you so successful here? would be a strong question to ask thanks to the embedded compliment. It doesn’t sound like ass-kissery but it ought to give the interviewer that warm fuzzy feeling that says you respect her.

Hired! by Elinor Stutz – book review

I approached Elinor Stutz’s Hired! published by Career Press with some interest since I actively teach interview skills and I want to make sure I’m giving my students the best ideas to work with. Plus I have no real sales experience so perhaps someone trained in sales would have some good insights on applying sales techniques I don’t know into job interview advice.

I ended up with 7 of 216 pages marked, which for me, is a disappointing number of things I found interesting. Some of them were things I already teach my students. For example they Stutz says to make a list of your top attributes and how they will help the company before heading to the interview. Well, yeah, everyone who gets an interview should walk in with some messages about how they can help the company. I teach my students to identify the pain points – the problems the company faces relevent to the position you’re interviewing for and focus on how you can help the company overcome those problems. What can you do for the listener? The cornerstone of effective communication.

This idea of finding out how you can help the company is revisited about 100 pages later (I would have organized the book differently) when the author suggests that you find out why there’s an opening in the first place. Stutz asks you to find out what the problems are while you’re in the interview chair but if you’ve done your homework, it’s actually time to confirm what you’ve already figured out – what are the pain points related to the position?

One idea I did like was to approach companies you want to work for full time and try to sign up for some freelance work to ‘get your foot in the door.’ Another good idea is to make sure you market yourself correctly at networking events. The author had better success when she switched from ‘I’m a sales trainer’ to ‘I help clients increase revenue by teaching relationship selling.’ Women were turned off by the first because of the word sales but liked the second because of the relationship selling. Men were turned off by the first because of their prejudice (women don’t know sales) but liked the second because of the increse revenue.

It would be interesting to see some research done on whether men and really do respond to different parts of that sentence as the author suspects.

Also, I should mention the danger of following advice that isn’t mine. For example you might think the advice in Hired is trustworthy – hey it’s a book, not a website, right. But the author gives some advice that is just plain wrong when she says to answer the question, ‘what’s your biggest weakness?’ with a positive trait like ‘I’m a perfectionist so I spend more time on projects than anyone else. But I meet my deadlines by working extra hours.’ To me, and to many interviewers, this sounds dishonest. How can I believe that your biggest weakness is that you do better work than everyone else? Sounds to me that you’re biggest weakness is being a liar and thinking I’m stupid. One of these days I’ll write a blog entry about how you should actually answer this question.

Two more ideas worth mentioning:

1. On page 171 and 172 of the book, Stutz discusses agreeing with objections, mentioning overcoming a related challenge, and using buy-ins. A buy-in is something like, ‘Is that the kind of work ethic you’re seeking?’ basically trying to trick the interviewer into saying, ‘yes you do have the work ethic we want.’ You could even look for objections – “Do I seem like the type of candidate you’re seeking?” and if the interviewer has any reservations about hiring you, you now have a chance to deal with them and remove the thing between you and the job.

2. Mirroring – Use the interviewers facial expressions, tone of voice, vocabulry, inflection, etc. But only if you’re good at it and can use the technique to make yourself more likable.

Despite feeling the book was too long for the number of good ideas it got across, and depsite what I feel is a bit of poor advice, this was still an interesting read.