The Fit Student—Crushing the Job Interview!

Do you go into job interviews like a front-line paratrooper on the defensive?  Your arms tied behind your back and a gag stuffed in your mouth?  Well, that’s how I feel in job interviews.  And apparently, so might you—and many others.

Now, I’m going to show you how to crush the job interview.  But I had help—lots of it—namely from Rodger Banister, author of It’s Not About You: How to Think Like an Employer and Get the Job You Really Want.

I hope both you and I can use his wisdom—sketched within this article—as a template for interviewing.  But do read Rodger Banister’s five-stars e-book, as every one of his chapters is brilliant.  Unbelievably, what follows below is only a small sampling from his book:

The first trick for winning the job is to get interviewers talking about their company. This shows you are curious and passionate about the business-and have done your homework. So, answer the question and then ask a question.  Here’s the skinny:

When they ask, “Tell me about yourself,” here’s what you do:

“Do not give them your life story.  Only talk about your experience as it relates to the position they are offering” (Banister, 77%).  When I talk about myself, I give a long list of skills that already exists on my resume.  About halfway through my spiel, the interviewers start to yawn.  I never realized that the answer had to be terse and well-planned.  Another interviewer said I spent too much time stumbling over my words.  She needed a brief to-the-point communicator.  And do you remember the election with Trump?  I recall candidate Carly Fiorina was so tightly scripted that she repeated nearly the exact same response in two different situations.   But author Rodger Banister says don’t memorize your spiel.  Bring notes instead.  They show you’re prepared.

So, answer the question, “Tell me about yourself,” with “I’m a (type of relevant degree) graduate with a specific focus in (specialization with a focus on the job being offered).  I’ve spent the last X years working in (a discipline relevant to the job or company).  I am passionate about (something in the job description) and am very eager to learn more about how you’ve been successful (doing something relevant to the industry of something relevant to the position being offered).  Could you tell me more about that?”  (Banister, 71%).  Refer to the job description when filling in the blanks (Banister, n.d.).

Here’s what to say when your interviewer asks, “What interests you about this job?”

“Keep your answer relevant to the job description” (Banister, 77%).  Use keywords in the job description; for example, you could say, ‘We studied agile methodology in school and want to work with a company that is dedicated to doing it right.  I am obsessed with quality and take a great deal of pride in watching customer reported bug counts decline.  You mentioned that you follow Scrum-based development.  Can you tell me more about what aspects of Scrum you focus on?” (Banister, 73%).  You can guess what the keywords in the job description were.  And note how your response asks a question of the employer at the end.

Unfortunately for me, in interviews I’d say, “I’m passionate about stone tiling.  I especially like boulder stone.”  Or I’d say, “I have a weakness for pasta.  As a teen, Mom used to make spaghetti before my basketball games.”  I bet everyone interviewing said the same type of things.  And sometimes I’d have to work harder to find enthusiasm: “I think everyone needs a pair of shoes, and, besides, I love marketing.”

And the following is how to respond when the interviewers asks, “Why are you thinking about leaving your current job?  Or why did you leave your last job?”

“Resist all temptation to trash your last or current employer.  It doesn’t win you any points with your interviewers.”  Instead, say, ‘I like my current job and I really like the people I work with.  But I’m ready for a new challenge in my career.  I want to be with an organization that’s dedicated to professional development and challenging me on a day-to-day basis.  Can you tell me a little bit about how your company grows its people?’” (Banister, 73%).

Author Rodger Banister says that we all left our former job because of garbage treatment.  But don’t tell the interviewer.  If you don’t reveal your woe, you might win the job.

I told one interviewer that I had a bad experience at one business.  She told me that her husband applied to the same business and had a terrible experience, too.  I got lucky with that coincidence.  But don’t take the risk.  Keep quiet.

And don’t say you left your last job because of the pay, lack of benefits, or long hours.  The interviewer might think you’re high maintenance.

“Why would you excel at this job?”

“Make some notes from the job description about some critical success factors they’re considering for the position.  Then parrot them back to them with your answer.  If accountability is number one for them, then say how you’ve been accountable in the past” (Banister, 78%).

For instance, say, “I’m a doer and I have always excelled in positions where I’m given a degree of autonomy to achieve my department’s goals.  I crave accountability in my teammates and myself, so I am happy to see that you have stated KPIs that you use to measure performance ….  Can you tell me about some KPIs you’d use to gauge my performance in this position?” (Banister, 74%).

Just don’t say to a shoe seller, “I’m a shoe horse.  What more needs be said?”

If the interviewer asks: “What do you consider to be your weakness?”

Once I said to a recruiter that I was “oversensitive and unconfident.”  She thanked me for my honesty, and that was the last I heard from her.  Never reveal anything remotely weak about yourself to an interviewer.  And don’t use the clichés, such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” (Banister, n.d.).

Instead, “always use the example of ‘knowledge’, i.e.  I’d like to have more knowledge about X.  So long as it isn’t a critical element of the skills they need for the job you should be fine” (Banister, 78%).  A comical but ineffective answer, in my opinion, is to say, “My weakness is that I didn’t apply a year ago.  I could’ve really helped you guys.”  That’s just a joke comment.  Please don’t use it.

When they ask, “What do you know about our company so far?” you should reply:

“’I’m interested in knowing more about your [insert something that is topically relevant – maybe from a press release or something you read on their web site].  What were some of the challenges you had to overcome and what long-range plans do you have?’” (Banister, 78%).

I try to recite from memory a list of services they offer.  Yawn!  Bores every employer.  I even say, “Your Facebook page looks professional.”  But when they ask me how I could improve their Facebook page, I say, “Just keep doing what you’re doing!”  Wrong answer.  Complimenting the current marketing staff and impressing the interviewer are two different ballparks.

The interviewer might ask you about a time you showed either “leadership, independent, thinking or action, strategic thinking, teamwork, conflict resolution”

“Once you’ve answered the question turn it back on them and ask them to give you an example of when you’d need to demonstrate that attribute working for them” (Banister, 78%).

And add metrics to your response, says the Bannister.

For teamwork, I might cite the time a manager asked me how to build a Venn diagram in PowerPoint.  I taught him how to build the diagram from scratch, but I knew he needed a different diagram.  But he wanted the Venn.  Later, during a meeting, he took credit for the Venn diagram—even though I was sitting at the table, too.  When the boss asked him to revise the diagram, he asked me to help him again, which I did.  Again, he gave me no credit.  So, in interviews, I’ve used that story as an example of teamwork, but it’s less teamwork, more doormat.

And never tell a story about how you curled up and cried.  I used to cry a lot.  And never break down crying during an interview (Banister, n.d.).  A hard lesson I’ve learned is that sulking makes us doormats.  On the flipside, we empower ourselves by taking 100% responsibility for our errors, by assessing how we could improve, and by staying upbeat.

When an interviewer asks, “What is most important to you in a new position?” talk about this:

“Finding a more efficient way of doing something, learning about customer needs and increasing market insight, providing leadership or great teamwork” (Banister, 78%).  If these don’t do, find buzzwords in the job description and parrot them.

I often say company culture is most important to me.  But this answer offers nothing to the employer.  It expects; not gives.  And whatever you answer, be prepared to answer the question, “How have you demonstrated these traits in the past?”

And “just remember to make your answer about something the company is trying to accomplish—otherwise, you’re in danger of discussing something that they have no interest in and isn’t relevant, which doesn’t bode well for you” (Banister, 77%).

When asked, “What would you do in the first 90 days in this position?”

“How would you define success for me in this role after 90 days?” (Banister, 77%).  Author Rodger Banister says, “this question is ridiculous, and I can’t believe employers even ask it.  I wouldn’t even answer this question if asked because I’d just be guessing at the answer” (Banister, 77%).

One rude headhunter would email me a blunt note that said, “Why you? How will you hit the ground running?”  He’d give no background on the company.  I felt like asking his higher-up: “Why him?”

Never miss a chance to impress when the interviewer asks “What questions do you have for me?”

“Do not end your interview with ‘Nope, I’m good.’ It’s your last opportunity to ask one more, good question, even if it’s asking about the next steps in the process” (Banister, 78%).

I sometimes ask, “What do you love most about the job?”  I read about asking this in another book or possibly a video.  “I also ask, ‘What would a perfect day of the ideal employee look like?”  I used to ask, “Who are you competitors?” and “What are your long-term goals?”  Yet, better questions would ask about events newsworthy to the company.  So, check the press releases, financial statements, and blogs for the final slam-dunk.

A couple of times I answered with “When do I start?” Everyone laughed, but the job offer never followed.

So now you’ve got what it takes to crush the job interview.  And you might just snatch a six-figure job—even if you’re not qualified.

References

Banister, Rodger.  (n.d.).  It’s Not About You: How to Think Like an Employer and Get the Job You Really Want.  Victoria, BC.  E-book.

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