We all want to win the interview. But sometimes, no matter how much preparation you do, you can get caught off guard. It happens to the best of us. There are so many questions that may come up in your next interview, and it is impossible to predict what a potential employer could ask.
We all have examples of job opportunities we were sure we were going to get, but didn’t. We have horror stories of terrible interviews, and we have been asked questions that seem to have nothing to do with the job.
Here are a couple examples of my job interview experiences:
What Was the Last Book You Read?
I once had an interview where the first question was, “What was the last book you read?“
I told the interviewer that I read mostly industry-related material that could potentially increase my ability to be effective in my career. I thought it was a great answer and felt the rest of the interview went stupendously.
I walked out of the interview with my head high, convinced I was a shoo-in for the position. Well, I was wrong. When I found out I didn’t even get a second interview, I called the original interviewer to get feedback.
He told me that the book question was very important to him. He wanted to learn more about me as a person; he didn’t want me to give him the answer I thought he wanted to hear, an answer that was robotic and uninteresting.
He told me it was asked at the beginning of the interview, and the first question was more of a get-to-know-you question, rather than one that would allow him to assess whether I had the skills and experience to be successful in his company. All those questions came later.
If I had told him the last book I read was a biography on Neil Young, and I enjoy reading biographies about musicians, maybe he would have thought I was an interesting individual who also had the skills and experience to do the job and would have hired me.
Was he right to put so much emphasis on the book question? Maybe, and maybe not.
The Multi-Step Interview
I had an interview with a very large national telecommunications company. At the time, it was a company that had a lot of cache if you had them on your resume. The interview process was quite long.
The first step was to spend a half day at their office where I completed several aptitude, skill and intelligence tests, then came two face-to-face interviews, then reference checks. After more than a month, I found out that I made it to the final round, and I was excited. The last round was an in-person sales simulation.
When I arrived, I was put in a room with a chair, a desk with four turned over pieces of paper sitting on it, and a phone. The interviewer came in and told me the following:
- The four pieces of paper were four specs for different cars.
- The potential client had a spouse and two children, lived 10 minutes from work and goes to a cottage frequently during the summer.
- I had 10 minutes to review the different car options.
- In 10 minutes the phone would ring, and I was to sell the potential client one of these cars.
At the time, I was a single 25-year-old man. I had no spouse, no kids, and no cottage and knew nothing about cars. I took the subway to work. Did I mention this was a telecommunications company?
The phone rang and I decided to sell the mid-range sedan, enough room for the family, economical on gas, and good value – sounded good to me.
Not to the interviewer – the piece I missed was the trunk room. He had two kids – kids have a lot of stuff; he goes to the cottage, people bring a lot of stuff to the cottage, and I was out.
I scored well on the testing, interviewed with several people, all of whom gave me a green light, my references were perfect, my skills and work experience mirrored the job description, but I didn’t get the job based on my lack of car knowledge.
Keys to Being Prepared to Win the Interview
The point of these two stories is that you can never be fully prepared for an interview. Everyone has different interviewing strategies and tries to come up with innovative ways to assess candidates, even if these strategies may seem somewhat ridiculous. Would I have shown my solution-selling skills if I had sold the car with bigger trunk? Would I have gotten the job if I talked about interesting literature I was reading? Who knows?
Most of the time there are four main things you need to be prepared for:
- Why are you looking?
- An explanation of your job history
- Your skills and experience
- Your personality fit within the organization
If you can master these four areas, you will put yourself in a strong position to be a top candidate for any job you interview for.
More Job Interview Advice
Winning the Interview originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. View the original article here.
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