by Joyce Lain Kennedy
Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Cut out the loyalty oath
Answers to certain questions are pretty much the same year after year, but watch out for one humdinger requiring a new response: Why do you want to work here? The old “I’m looking for a home and I’ll be loyal to you forever” statements don’t play as well as they once did.
Companies typically no longer expect that you will stay with them forever — nor do they want you to. They may not even want to see your face a year from now. Doing the math, managements don’t want to have to deal with high health insurance and pension costs. Many employers now solicit contract employees — no muss, no fuss in getting them out the door when a project’s finished, or when a decision is made to outsource the work.
Rather than pledge eternal fidelity, talk about your desire to do the work. Talk about how you are driven to funnel substantial amounts of productivity into the job quickly. Talk about wanting to use your superior technology skills. Talk about your interest in work that excites you, work that matters. Talk about work that — with its combination of work-life balance and stimulating tasks — is too tempting to pass by.
But fidelity? Pass on that as a theme song; it won’t make the charts.
Revisit the dramatic pause
In face-to-face live interviews, allowing a few moments of silence to pass, pausing to look at the ceiling or glance out an open window — taking time to think — can make you look wise and measured in your response. Pauses can raise the ante by reflecting disappointment in a salary offer. Pauses can suggest that you’re reluctant to travel 50 percent of the time but you’re a team player and will consider the requirement.
A pause is effective body language and works great in live face-to-face interviews. But today’s interviewer may call on a telephone or use online video interviewing where dead air time can make you appear dull-witted rather than contemplative.
Moral: Exercise judgment in using the reflective pause as a communications tool. (When you just don’t know the answer immediately, that’s another story; stall by asking for clarification.)
Polish your storytelling skills
Behavior-based interviewing is said to predict future performance based on past performance in similar situations. The behavioral interviewing style is not new but it seems to be more popular than ever.
Advocates of the behavioral style claim that it is 55 percent predictive of future on-job behavior, compared to traditional interviewing at only 10 percent predictive. The reasoning is “If you acted a certain way once, you’ll act that way again.” Hard proof of this claim is hard to come by. But, for you as a job seeker, it doesn’t matter the least bit whether the claim is true or false. The behavioral style is such a big deal with employers today that you need to know how to use the style to your advantage.
It works like this: Interviewers ask candidates to tell them a story of a time when they reacted to such and such a situation. How did you handle an angry customer? Can describe an example of a significant achievement in your last job? The more success stories you can drag in from your past, the more likely those interviewers using this approach will highly rate your chances of achieving equivalent success in the future.
Learn new lines for small-business jobs
Have you grown up professionally in a large-company environment? If so, carefully consider the answers you give when applying to small companies. That could happen sooner than you think if you’re forced into an involuntary change of employment. Prime-timers in countless droves are discovering that the small company sector is where the action is for them.
Emphasize different aspects of your work personality than those you emphasize when interviewing for a big company. Interviewers at big companies and small companies have different agendas.
Among the reasons that owners of small ventures reject former big-company people are these stereotypical perceptions: People who come out of Big Corporate America often are though to be
- Unaware of the needs of small business
- Too extravagant in their expectations of resources and compensation
- Too spoiled to produce double the work product their former jobs required
- Unwilling to wear more than one job hat at a time
- Deadwood, or they wouldn’t have been cut loose from the big company
Get ready for the global job interview
For professional jobs, the basic format of interviews globally is Western-style accomplishment-oriented, but cultural interviewing differences among nations still matter. Newcomers to the United States may be surprised to learn, for example, that they aren’t expected to dress up in pinstriped suits to interview for a technology job, nor are they encouraged to speak extensively of family and other personal issues.
Americans who hope to work overseas for the first time may be surprised at such local customs as those of China, where interviewees are expected to nod, showing that they’re listening and understanding the Chinese speaker who is communicating in English, or of certain European countries where a female candidate might be asked directly, “Are you pregnant?”