The Job Interview – Make the Sale

by: Ian McEwen

You have all the qualifications for the position, and you’ve got a great resumé, but the one who is successful does the best job in the interview.

The interview allows you the opportunity to be yourself by presenting a positive image, style and personality – one that will fit the culture of the organization. You must look, act, sound, and talk like what you claim to be. Know the job opportunity, the hiring company, and your resumé thoroughly, and be ready to elaborate on any point.

Here are some key questions to which you will likely be asked to respond:

Why did you apply for this position?

Your answer should show that you have a thorough knowledge of the company, its products, and reputation in the industry. Outline your skills that support the qualifications listed in the job description. Give specific and concise examples of accomplishments that are pertinent to the position.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Resumés often do not identify a person’s strengths. And, they never spell out one’s weaknesses. Describe your strengths in terms of accomplishments, results and successes. Be prepared to provide specific examples of skill sets, like your organizational skills and your ability to achieve both company and personal goals. A weakness might be that you sometimes get too involved in your assignments and work long hours. What you are really saying is that your weakness is an overused strength. When describing a weakness, make sure you end on a positive, and identify a process that corrects it. Interviewers want to know what you have learned from your mistakes.

Give five adjectives that best describe your personality.

Here is another question that is not answered on your resumé. Prior to any interview, write down adjectives that describe you – words like: versatile, flexible, resourceful, self-motivating, competitive, organized, personable, professional, leader, communicator, good listener, results driven. Give examples of these personal character traits in your expert knowledge-based and transferable skills.

Why did you leave your last position?

Make sure you are comfortable with your leaving story. And, never bad mouth your former employer. Your leaving may be the result of reduced professional growth, responsibilities shifted or amalgamated into another area, or products/services that did not keep pace with customer expectations. You now want to explore new opportunities and career options in the marketplace. Personal and professional goal setting is an important trait employers want and demand. Individuals who empower their own future by being proactive are usually happier in their career choices.

In what ways do you think you can contribute to our company?

Describe your understanding of what is required to be successful in this role. Elaborate on specific background experiences that would directly relate to it. Give examples of your team skills, decision making, operation style, and leadership style. Companies are generally looking for two things – competence and compatibility. Don’t present yourself as the “White Knight” coming in to solve the company problems. Provide examples and approaches from your experience that you have used in the past to resolve similar problems.

What are your salary expectations?

Consider three elements – need, worth, and value. Need is your basic financial requirements to fulfill monthly obligations. Worth is what someone at your current level of employment should be paid. Value, the most important, is the compensation that a prospective employer is willing to pay to acquire your services. We don’t recommend engaging in a discussion about salary in the first interview. You may want to answer this question by asking the parameters of what is budgeted for the position, how your commission structure would work, bonuses, stock options, RRSP’s and benefits. When considering compensation, it is important to look at the entire package, not just the base salary.

Interviewing is a two-way street. There is an evaluation going on for both sides. Successful interviews generally result in a job offer where the character of the candidate matches the culture of the company to get good chemistry. When this happens, compensation rarely becomes an issue.

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