No two interviews are ever the same.
You can prepare for an interview for hours or days on end, but it still won’t fully prepare you for the potential quirks or spontaneous inclinations that might cause an employer to delve deeper on any given subject. Outside of the technical specifics and vocational skill-set related to the position you’re being interviewed for, there are 5 key areas you should aim to cover while answering interview questions.
1. I Can Complete the Tasks Assigned as Needed, But Better than Others Can
Avoid the trap of using fanciful, hyperbolic wording at all costs! Use direct specifics to answer how you will do your job. Explain what tools and programs you will use and how you will meet the requirements and goals of the position. Specific examples from the past are good, as long as you can make it relevant to the role at hand and you have a logical plan. Use key words from the job posting and reiterate that you understand what is needed to be done. As a bonus, add a simple short truth that quantifies how you can do all of this fast and accurately. If you can show (not tell) why you will never have to be told to do something twice, you’re on the right track!
2. I Am Easy To Correct and Instruct— I Am Teachable
In an era when retraining and constant learning is a part of every position, employers need to see clearly that you are easy to correct and comfortable being instructed; that you are adaptable because you are teachable. This can include both direct statements related to your education and training as well as subtle comments on taking the initiative to learn more than what your role requires. Specific examples including computer programs and additional courses and certifications are also great examples, so long as you ensure that the employer understands that you did this for your work and not simply as a means unto itself. Indicating that you like feedback and can take criticism well — along with specific examples where you happily and quickly handled additional responsibilities and change — help to solidify yourself as a teachable candidate.
3. I Am a Loyal Employee
Regardless of your future plans and ambitions, all of your interview answers concerning the future need to reflect a commitment to that company. When asked about your future don’t be the applicant who a.) names another position in a company elsewhere, b.) lists the school and program they’d like to attend, c.) shrugs their shoulders and/or d.) declares, “I WANT YOUR JOB!” The latter does indicate both gumption and long-term company interest, but it’s been done before. You’d be better suited to researching the company and knowing what its long-term interests are and how you could contribute to that. Equally advisable is matching your personal traits with the company culture, and then indicating how you see your position evolving within that culture and the changing demands of the labour market. Knowing the company’s history and complimenting it in a sincere way will also help.
4. I Can be Creative When Needed
In terms of expressing creativity in an interview, the objective is less to do with demonstrating a genesis of pure original thought and more towards marketing your initiative, spontaneity, and interest in what the company does. Come to the interview with an idea – a pitch, if you will – that separates yourself from other applicants. A “pitch” is a small idea; a tiny business plan that would drive company profits and/or objectives. Remember that during the interview process, the employer has likely seen other candidates. Therefore, it’s likely that most candidates have come looking for a job opportunity and have spoken solely about themselves. It stands to reason that if you bring ideas that correspond with the employer’s business plan, the role you’re applying to, and the overall ‘big picture’ of what the company is looking to achieve, you’ll stand out. That’s exactly what you want. Remember that the goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to demonstrate your energy, your initiative, and your ability to bring value to the employer. This is not a contest of creativity but a tool to serve yourself – to self-market your talents.
However, if you ARE hired and you DO become the company’s next Picasso, that’s fine, too.
5. I Am an Agreeable Person
Put simply: experience, education, and competence won’t help you ace the interview if you’re an irritable jerk. An employer is hiring someone they will likely see every day. They want someone they can critique and instruct without fear of moodiness, or even worse, retribution. They also want someone they can share lunch space with. A warm smile topped with genuine active listening is almost enough. Add to your pleasant demeanour the ability to avoid defensive posturing at all costs. It’s also a bonus during an interview to demonstrate your willingness to offer to help and be involved at every level as often as possible. In some interviews employers can strategically place stress tests during questions. A carefully timed yawn or a deliberate delay at the onset of an interview might be used to see how you really feel when things don’t go your way.
Jason Douglas Smith is a Training Application Coordinator with The Career Foundation, and has successfully directed clients in not only developing personalized job search strategy plans, but in circumnavigating the rigorous demands of applications for provincially-funded retraining. When not working, this self-professed Futurist can often be found reading, writing and barbecuing in his native Burlington.