Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Uncover What the Interviewer Is Looking For

This Guide is written for all job hunters - both first time job hunters and seasoned professionals alike. It is assumed that you are already familiar with the basics of preparing a decent resume and cover letter.
Interviewing: The Basics
Employers look for employees because they have a NEED. Don't mistake that the interview is about you – it is really about their NEED. You have to sell yourself as the right person to satisfy that SPECIFIC need. Certainly, you may have great experience, but WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM?
Managers hire people mainly to make their own job easier. How are you going to make the Hiring Manager's job easier? How are you going to make the Hiring Manager look good in THEIR boss's eyes? You need to be able to make your skills, experience, and education relevant to them and their needs, goals, and situation. After each statement you make to the Hiring Manager, you need to mentally add ' … and this will make your job easier because …' or” … and this will make you look good in front of the others because …'
Imagine the Hiring Manager asking you '… so how would that benefit me and my needs?' Make your answers and examples relevant to THEIR needs and communicate that offering this position to you will benefit THEM as well as the company.
If Managers hire based on their needs, then you are going to have to uncover and reveal their needs in order to come up with answers that will get you hired. Questions are a great follow up to any winning answer.
Early on in the interview you should use your own questions to uncover the hidden needs of the Hiring Manager. This will help you tailor your answers and attitude to show that you understand their needs and that YOU are exactly the perfect person to solve those needs.
What Are Hiring Managers Looking For?
Hiring Managers are looking for certain characteristics or 'Behavioral Competencies. ' One of the most important is CONFIDENCE. We have all made mistakes in the past, and maybe all of your performance reviews have not exactly been 'glowing,' but the point is not to live your life looking in the rear view mirror. If you know you have made mistakes, and you are working on improving yourself, then there is no reason why you shouldn't move forward with confidence and an expectation of success.
Review the following Behavioural Competencies with CONFIDENCE. Nobody is a super-man or superwoman that exhibits all of these characteristics at 100%, however if you have ever worked then you have exhibited all of these characteristics to some degree. EMPHASIZE THE POSITIVE when you read these, and think of times on the job when you HAVE exhibited these characteristics – NOT times when you might have failed to.
Demonstrate the below to the Hiring Manager:
Commitment: This is your capacity for becoming dedicated to your work. You should demonstrate a strong belief in what you do. Demonstrate that you are willing to make a sacrifice for people when appropriate because you are a COMMITTED person. Show a strong responsibility and commitment to not only the Hiring Manager and the company, but even more importantly, to customers and clients.
Work Orientation / Stamina: This is your capacity to handle mental intensity and hard work. Indicate the high tempo and speed at which you work, and your capacity for endurance. Show that you invest the TIME and ENERGY necessary to get the job done right the first time – consistently.
Interpersonal Skills / Charm: This is your capacity to know how and when to get things done with people. Show that you are outgoing and charming, and that you are especially effective in this regard when you have an objective in mind, or need someone to do something. Demonstrate that you have an intrinsic need to win the approval of others, fit in, and get along. Show that you have the ability to build quick relationships with people.
Discipline: Demonstrate that you have inner standards that make you both predictable and productive. Show that you enjoy the responsibility of planning and carrying out your own schedule. Indicate that you can motivate yourself to work on a task until completion.
Competitiveness: This is your drive to be better than others. Show that you like to compete and have the desire to win, and show the maturity of knowing how this benefits everyone.
Courage / Persuasion: This is your ability to increase your determination to get the job done when you are faced with resistance or a difficult situation. Show the ability to move people towards a commitment to buy or act. Demonstrate that you are fair and nice, but also show that you can be very firm and even a bit aggressive when necessary. Don't be modest. Demonstrate confidence and the fact that you are not easily intimidated. Indicate the desire to influence the thinking of others. Show that you can gain agreement from others via logic, alternatives, and emotional appeals.
Beliefs / Ethics: This is your capacity to believe strongly in what you do and emphasize service. Indicate loyalty so that the Hiring Manager knows that you won't leave the job within the first few months – or leave your clients hanging and out of the loop. This quality is key to the development of accounts and customer satisfaction. Show that you will act in terms of what is right. Demonstrate that you follow through and actually do what you say you will do.
Focus: This is your ability to determine what is important, set priorities for tasks, and maintain direction. Show that you understand how to set short and long-term objectives and how to intelligently schedule these objectives so that you hit your goals and complete tasks on time.

Big Picture Thinking: This is your ability to see the big picture, and not get bogged down in the minutia of small tasks. Demonstrate a tendency toward project closure. Show your ability to see the real goal and what it takes to get there.
'Show,' Don't 'Tell'

You may have noticed in the above section that it is suggested that you 'show' and 'demonstrate' that you have what it takes to fill the Hiring Manager's needs. This is contrasted with simply 'telling' the Hiring Manager that you have what it takes. Employers are more interested in what you can achieve for them, than the skills you possess. The interviewer will try to establish what benefits you will bring to the company, and where your benefits might be greater than those of other candidates.
The formula for this is quite simple:
1) Clarify the interviewer' s question.
2) Confidently answer the question by 'telling' using two of the above Behavioral Competencies.
3) 'Show' that you have demonstrated these competencies in the past by GIVING EXAMPLES.
4) Ask and verify that you have answered the question to the satisfaction of the interviewer.
A simple answer might then look like this:
'So … you are asking me if I have worked with important accounts before. That is a good question and I am glad you asked. Well, I definitely have the ability to work hard to earn the trust of my clients, and then focus on customer service in order to keep them happy with the business relationship. FOR EXAMPLE, in my last job I was brought in to work with a disgruntled client after another Account Manager left. Although it took a lot of hard work, I was able to fix what was wrong by listening to the client carefully and making sure that we delivered exactly what was expected of us. It took a while, but I was able to rescue the relationship with this important client. Does that answer your question? Good. I think I could be an asset to your group having worked through this type of experience with an important account.'

About using 'FOR EXAMPLE'
'FOR EXAMPLE' is the most important phrase in your job interview arsenal. Don't be afraid of using it frequently as a part of the answer to every question! The more examples you can provide of specific instances where you have demonstrated the characteristics Hiring Managers are looking for – your ability to fill their needs -- the more likely you will be hired.
There are two things to be said about using 'FOR EXAMPLE,' however. First, don't overdo it on the examples. You only need to provide enough examples to satisfy the interviewer, or basically instil the confidence that you will be successful in filling their needs. Don't oversell yourself by giving too many examples! Watch for cues that the interviewer is satisfied that your examples back up your statements or claims. You could also ask questions to probe the effectiveness of the answer.
Ask questions like:
* Does that make sense? Is that a good example?
* Have I addressed that 100% to your satisfaction?
* Does that answer your question about 'X'?
* Do you think that my experience with that type of situation would be relevant to my work here?

I think that's the kind of experience you are looking to bring to your team, isn't it?
Most importantly, when you use 'FOR EXAMPLE,' make sure your examples are specific, measurable, and relevant. You are telling a story. You need to PAINT THE PICTURE. Be specific. Use people's names. Give background info on clients and colleagues, and indicate your role and involvement. Make the situation as relevant to the Hiring Manager's work as possible and use terms and ideas he or she can understand and relate to. Give dates and measurable information and statistics relating to the time and money you have saved by deploying your Behavioural Competencies on the job. Use gestures and pauses, and don't be afraid of drawing simple charts or diagrams on paper or on a white board. Practice telling these stories! It is your examples or 'stories' that people relate to, and it is your examples and stories that will get you hired. Show, don't tell!
A useful tip before the interview is to practice putting together useful phrases starting with:-
Which means that........ ......... .....?
Which resulted in.......... ......... ....?
So that........ ......... ......... ......... ....?
The benefit was......... ......... .......?
We gained because..... ......... .....?
The advantage was......... ......... .?
To emphasize your achievements, quantify the facts where you can and use positive action verbs where you can.
In the next session, we will cover the S.T.A.R statement format which is very useful when giving examples.
What Questions To Use To Uncover The Hidden Needs Of The Interviewer?
Throughout your interview, you are going to want to tailor your answers to the interviewer. Each interviewer will have his or her own hidden needs depending on their role. For example, a person in HR will want to be convinced that you understand the corporate culture, you will fit in with the company, you will get along with everyone, you will not show any disruptive behavioural or ethical problems, and that you will generally be easy to deal with. A person at the VP level will want to know that you are going to be an asset to his or her department and reflect well on him or her. The Hiring Manager will want to be assured that you will be dependable and that you are completely capable of doing what it takes to be successful at the position you are being interviewed for. Remember that that the Hiring Manager in particular will want to hire someone that:
1) they like, and are likable
2) will make their job easier, and
3) will make them look good.
Each interviewer will also have their own set of hidden needs. Use the following question early on in the interview to uncover hidden needs so you can frame your answers to speak to those needs:
'What could the ideal candidate do to make your job easier?'
'What would be the most important ability for a person to have in order to succeed in this position?''What are the most important short term goals for this department?
'What are the most important long term goals?'
'What are your formal goals as a manager? What kind of challenges are you facing in meeting these goals?'
'How is your success and the success of your department measured?'
'What qualities are you looking for in the right person for this position?'
'What would be the top priority of the person who accepts this job?'
'Can you describe a typical day for someone in this position?'
'What are the day-to-day expectations and responsibilities of this job?
'What would make that person a superstar?'
'What kinds of challenges are you currently facing in your department?
'How will my leadership and management responsibilities and performance be measured? By whom? How often?'
'What is your biggest challenge coming up in the next eight weeks?'
'What is currently the greatest opportunity for you and your department? The biggest threat?'
'What are the qualities and skills of the people who have been most successful at this company?''I sense you're frustrated by 'X' … What would make it easier?'
'How does 'Y' affect your group and your ability to make your numbers?'
'If I could do just one thing over the next three months for the maximum benefit to you and your department, what would it be?'
Bye for now & good luck with the job hunting.

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