I'm generally not one to throw around hyperbole, but I truly believe that what I'm about to reveal to you is the best question you can ask in an interview, simply because it reveals so much about a candidate and his character. I can't tell you how many times I've stumped people cold with this question. So whether or not you're an interviewer or interviewee, it would be best to prepare for it. Are you ready? Click below to see the answer.
Your Job Interview Checklist
Everyone loves a checklist, right? Well, this one is a pretty good one because it's what you should do before you go to your job interview. But before we get to it, let's be clear that the purpose of going through and completing this checklist is so you can be as impressive as possible to your interviewer(s). Anyone can muddle their way through a meeting with a potential employer. Do you want to knock their socks off? Well, then you're going to have to put more effort in than your competition. But here's the good news, it doesn't take that much more effort to really shine and differentiate yourself. And if you think that you're just too busy to prepare, or just plain don't want to put in the effort, just try and think of it as an investment of time where the ROI is massive. Spending 6-8 hours preparing for a job that you might spend the next two to three years at breaks down like this:
Who's really interviewing you?
Most candidates come to job interviews with one thing on their minds – nail the interview and impress the interviewer. Not a bad strategy, but often a shortsighted one. I’m never going to argue that impressing your interviewer is the most important thing you can do. But what you always need to be aware of is that everyone you come into contact with during your job interview may be ‘interviewing’ you – whether you know it or not.
There’s an old saying in business that you can't manage what you don’t measure. Performance measurement through metrics and data is incredibly relatable to businesses, large and small. So, why not position yourself as a strong candidate by demonstrating that you already measure your past efforts? If you read any resume blogs out there, most recruiters will say that quantifying results in a resume really makes a difference because it builds credibility in the candidate. And it shows that you’re thinking the way employers do about performance.
If you have some work experience, or even if you've just worked on school projects there are lots of ways to calculate the results of your efforts on your resume through metrics. Here are a few examples:
Many times in a job interview you'll be asked an old favorite of interviewers: "So, tell me about yourself." After so many years of asking this question myself, I can tell you that the majority of interviewees don't know how to answer this correctly, because they think it's a chance to talk about themselves and their interests. More of a getting to know you kind of question.
Well it's not. The only thing an employer wants to hear when he asks this question is anything about you as it relates to the job he's offering. He doesn't care that you've been to Europe or that you went on an exchange. He also doesn't care that you snowboard every year at Whistler. All he wants to hear from you is how your experience, whether at work or personally, makes you a great fit for the job he'd offering or the company he works with. Below, here's a video of a classic answer we see all the time from new graduates who apply for a marketing position at our software company.
Just because she gave a lousy answer doesn't mean that she doesn't have the appropriate experience to answer this question correctly. She just misread the question. Remember that when you're asked this question, no one wants to hear about your Pokemon collection or your new age eating habits, unless it's in the context of the job being offered. The answer given below is the way to knock it out of the park.
When you’re looking for work, what’s your end goal? To get hired, right? Many job seekers make the critical mistake of only considering their goal when they go in for an interview. In fact, they generally make this mistake long before they even make it to an interview – and that’s why they often don’t get the job they want.
The funny thing about looking for work is that a job seeker’s goal is in total misalignment with employers’ goals. Employers don’t exist to give you a job. When they’re hiring for a position, they’re not thinking, “Oh, I just hope a warm body shows up, so I can give them some work!” They’re hiring because they have a need to address. They have too much work to handle with their current resources. In essence, they’re looking for the best way to solve their resource problem.
In my opinion, this is a really dumb question, because I’m not really sure what employers expect as an answer. “Hmm, my biggest weaknesses would have to be my exceptionally low IQ and my penchant for kleptomania. Am I hired?"
Regardless, it’s still one of the most commonly asked questions in interviews. There’s never a really good answer to a dumb question like this one, so I would try and steer it back towards them and turn it into an advantage for you. I’d start by answering their question with something fairly innocuous like:
“I’d like to have more knowledge about X.” That shows that you have some self-awareness about a perceived weaknesses, but it also doesn’t really tell them very much. Also, by saying you’d like more knowledge in a certain area (that hopefully isn’t a core need for the position you’re interviewing for) your interviewers aren’t aware of how much knowledge you have already – maybe you have more than them, but you’re striving to be an expert, who knows? Anyhow, wanting more knowledge is always a good answer because you can always go and learn about that thing you’d like to have more knowledge about, therefore mitigating your weakness. But after you’ve answered their question, here's how to really turn it back on them for your advantage. Ask them this:
Inevitably your future employer, or a recruiter, is going to do a Google search on you. So what does a Google search say about you, and more importantly, what are recruiters looking for to eliminate you from their hiring process?
When we look at candidates we don't start Googling them until we get past the second interview. So we already know them pretty well before we start our due diligence, which also comes with in depth conversations with references to clarify some things that stuck out to us in the interviews.
Why do we eliminate you?
We generally eliminate candidates after a Google search if we see a red flag, which can be anything from compromising photos (think Laremy Tunsil and his Twitter bong shot) to controversial associations or posts, like your membership in the Church of Satan (not judging, you're just not for us!). A bad Google search can be a killer for a strong candidate especially if you're being judged against another strong candidate and we need to make choice. But another staggering red flag these days is if we find nothing on you on Google, because it tells us that you haven't really been engaging with the world, and we like well-rounded candidates for our company who have been outside of their house in the last 10 years. So if you have suspect Google results, or worse you don't have any results at all, here are 4 things you can do now to optimize yourself for a Google search:
I’m not a big fan of the ‘Objective’ on resumes even though I see them all the time. The reason I don’t like them is because they usually don’t mean anything to me, i.e. they’re irrelevant. And if something on your resume is irrelevant to the person reviewing it, you shouldn't include it.
But I get that an Objective can be a good filler of space, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. Keep in mind though that the Objective is generally the first thing an employer sees at the top of your resume. It’s basically your introduction to them – your first impression on paper. So a generic sounding Objective just ain't going to cut it. So if you’re going to include one, make it awesome by making it totally relevant to the company you're applying to. Here's how:
Did you know that first impressions are made in just under seven seconds? So if your first encounter with a recruiter or a hiring manager is over the phone, the way you answer the phone is a big deal. The reason I think it's such a big deal is that I get to see how someone acts in general, because they may not be aware that it's an employer calling. In may career I've had people answer the phone like this:
(a comatose, hungover sounding) "Hello?"
Not exactly the best first impression. So if you give bad phone (or aren't aware of your phone presence) you may be doing yourself a disservice without even knowing it. Here's what I'd suggest:
Rodger Banister is an award winning copywriter and author of It's Not About You: How to think like an employer and get the job you really want.