How’s the old interviewing skills these days? Lots of you are getting them now. Been out of practice for a while? Only interviewed at Target in the last 10 years?
Feels like the interview process out there in the world has changed a bit. Not to mention if you’ve been at Target for a long time, the way other companies do interviews is probably going to be quite different from you’ve experienced.
I was chatting with one of my friends about his progress through the interview process. He made the comment that while he thought it was going good, he didn’t think he’d had a “real” interview yet. “What makes you think that?, I asked. I haven’t had any behavioral questions yet. So far it feels like they’ve just been get to know you sorts chats. Nope, those are the interviews. HR organizations are HIGHLY disparate in their process, sophistication and approach to candidates. The good news is they’re not all as formal and structured as Target is.
At Target interviewing was a very prescribed process. In many cases, and for many jobs the questions were prewritten in a list. Interview “teams” would be assembled for given jobs, each interviewer would get their list of core competencies they were to ask questions about, all drawn of course from Target’s “approved list” of leadership dimensions. And after the interviews were completed the interviewers would compare notes and decisions were made. I find in talking to people that’s not very common out there. Certainly almost never happens at any mid-size or smaller company. Target folks, don’t expect the same rigor, which frankly I think is a good thing, that you had at Target.
And if you’ve been at Target for a while or just out of the interview game, it’s not like was the last time you put on the suit. Things have changed and you should be prepared.
So here’s some interview methods I’m hearing about-
- The Group Interview. More and more companies are doing panel interviews, usually later in the interview process. Good news if you get the chance to do a panel interview, they probably like you and you’re most of the way there. Expect to be interviewed by 2-3 people, and often as part of that process you might be expected to create and deliver a presentation. They want to see how you think on your feet, evaluate your presentation skills and get a chance to compare notes based on a common interview. In other words get away from the “he/she didn’t do that when I talked to them”. Preparing for these inteviews, it might be helpful to really bone up your strengths and why you think you’re the best person on the planet for job you’re interviewing for. Chances are you’re going to be asked the same questions a couple different ways. If you’re well-grounded in what your strengths are and who you are, you should be rock star when it comes to giving clear and consistent answers to questions.
One general note about the group interview, also applies to one on one interviews. Sometimes, the best advice, and this is counter intuitive in interviewing is to STOP TALKING. If you ramble, if you find yourself over answering the question.. which you’ll know because you’ll find yourself wondering where you were going with this, if you get nervous and start chatting away.. STOP IT. If you’re in a group interview, your nervous as hell already, and you get that question that you just can’t answer, take a pause. Yup- take 5 seconds and stop what your doing and formulate your answer. Even if that answer is “I don’t know”. Which happens. Don’t take a pause to answer what college you went too, unless your my age and really did forget, but for tough questions.. it’s ok to pause to answer more thoughtfully. You’ll come off a lot more confident as well.
- Automated Interviews. This is a new one for me. Heard a report of a company that provided a candidate with a link to an automated interview. The process worked like this. The link was received with a 48 deadline to complete the interview. During the interview the system would present the candidate with a question, give them 5 minutes to think about their answer, and then record their response. My sense, and this was more or less confirmed by the person who took the interview, these are very position specific questions that are designed to prove your competency for the job you’re applying for. It also gives HR a file they can pass around with your verbal responses. Basically they can get a feel for you before they meet you.
To prepare for these interviews, I suggest that you read, read and read again the posted description of the job and have talking points ready to go when HAL9000 asks specifics. And since it’s automated, take notes and have them at the ready.
- Video Conferencing. I suppose since businesses in general have become more virtual, why not interviews. A lot of folks are intimidated by thought of video conferencing for some reason. My advice here is to make sure you’re making eye contact with the camera on your computer. And obviously STAY FOCUSED on the camera in your computer. And do the obvious, especially if you’re talking the interview at home, look at see what’s behind you before you share it with you future employer, and for heaven’s sake put the dog out, unplug the phone and the doorbell and send the kids out to play with matches if you have to. You want the cone of silence.
All of the above seems pretty obvious. I mention it in case you’re hadn’t thought about the idea that you might be interviewing virtually, or with a group, or in a combination of both. Just be ready and go with the flow.
Us Older Folks-
Something that came up this week with some of my contacts who are older, they’re feeling like they may be having some issues with age discrimination. Fact is, they probably are. But it’s so subtle that even the persons doing it may not realize that they’re doing it. I was thinking about this quite a bit the last week and I’m thinking that like any other characteristic of your super powers, there might be ways you can use this in your favor, especially later in the interview process, after you’ve built a bit of rapport. Experience is a good thing if you can demonstrate that gives you the ability make connections and anticipate the impact of decisions. It’s a bad thing if it demonstrates that you still use an abacus. You get my point. Experience means you can look at data and make better contextual conclusions from it because you’ve got more context draw from.
If you can subtly bring that up and add it what a great mentor you’ve been over the years, that you make people around better at what they do, are free with information and have coached folks in your previous positions.. you’re going to be very interesting to a company that has a staff filled with folks who don’t have a lot of experience. Believe me, there’s a ton of those companies out there that would kill for that competency because you’re know helping them and their staff get better.
Also critical, demonstrate that you are a fast study and that you stay current in technology and trends.
Last word interviewers- look out for the “pigeon holers”. Lots of examples I’ve heard of HR reps, and typically these are younger in their careers, who have a req in their hands and check list of what they’re looking for and if you don’t have one of the items on the check list, you’re out in the initial screening. I had a contact I was working with who had years of high level merchandising and optimization experience at Target. She is fantastic and I was able to help her get an interview at a major ERP software provider. They were looking for someone to support their presales effort, meet with potential customers and talk to them about how their software would meet their needs. This woman would have been the bomb, with her Target experience she would have commanded attention with any retailer she met with. And in the interview screening process she was eliminated in the first 10 minutes because she had “no sales experience”. Conversation ended right there. The way you get around this one is, once again, prep. Read, read and re-read the job posting if you can. Do your research on the company and their business. Know what they’re looking for before you talk. She didn’t have “formal” sales experience by I guarantee you she is highly skilled at persuasion, influencing other and negotiating deals. Exactly what sales people do.
Now, sometimes the HR person is so black and white you just aren’t going to get around them. Some roles require certification, can’t get around that either. But if my friend had repositioned her opening statements to “I leverage impact and influence to sell my executive team on new initiatives..” May not of worked, but you never know, it may have.
At some point it’s a numbers game, more touches=more opportunities.
Stay positive peeps. It’s been a couple months now and I’m starting to hear about folks getting hired. I told you it would take 6-8 weeks. Good things are ahead. And if you haven’t started yet.. Not too late.