Most people would think that the job interview, from a candidate's viewpoint, would be a "slam dunk" for the human resource (HR) professional who knows everything there is to know about the hiring process. The truth, however, is that most HR professionals find the job interview as daunting as the candidates when they sit on the "other side of the desk." And many of them blow it.
The following are some myths and truths about the HR professional in the interview as the candidate, followed by some tips worth reviewing -- even if you are an expert.
1. The HR professional feels calm and relaxed during the interview, because this is familiar "turf."
False. The HR professional is vulnerable to the same anxieties as anyone else. You are going out to "sell yourself" just like everybody else, and it is not unusual to want to make a good impression. The same fear of not wanting to "make a fool of yourself" is present for you as a professional as it is for the job candidates.
2. The HR professional can relax during the interview, because this will be an informal interview between professionals.
False. It is a mistake to think of this interview as an "informal" interview between professionals, even if it is. While you may feel more relaxed because you are talking to a colleague, that colleague is attempting to find the "best person for the job," not a new friend.
3. The HR professional can talk "shop" about the frustrations of the job, because you will be talking to a "colleague."
False. Becoming too familiar, or "unprofessional" in any way, may hurt your chances of being taken seriously as a qualified candidate for the position. Using language or discriminatory remarks that are in any way inappropriate for a job interview will be a huge mistake, even though you are speaking to someone who knows the truth about what goes on behind "closed doors."
4. The HR professional has contacts in the industry, and that will ensure they will get the job.
False. While it is true that knowing people in the industry will be a tremendous help in getting the interview, there are no guarantees that you will get the job once you begin the process. You will be on your own to try to convince the interviewer that you are the best person for the job.
5. The HR professional doesn't have to prepare for the interview, because they know the process and what the employer is looking for.
False. This is the biggest mistake of all. Not preparing or taking the process seriously because you are an HR professional may be your own undoing. You should know what you are seeking, analyze what the interviewer is looking for in a candidate and prepare to sell yourself -- just like everyone else.
1. Know what you are seeking
The first thing worth spending time on before you begin your search is to determine what you are seeking in your next job. Do you want a job just like the last one? Do you want "more of" something in your next job? Or do you want "less of something" that you don't want to do again? Here's your chance to make up your "wish" list.
An exercise that will help you with the answers to these questions, as well as assist you in looking inward to determine when you were working at your fullest potential, is a simple one. Begin by making a list of the tasks at your last job -- the tasks that you were energized by. In other words, "when your job turned you on." Think about the last time you were so involved in a project or task that you woke up thinking about how you could improve the situation. Write those experiences down and try to determine what the satisfying factors were.
By making lists of motivating experiences from your last two or three jobs, you will hopefully begin to see patterns of projects and tasks that stand out. Analyze what you did before and begin to ask yourself some important questions about what you are seeking. The answers to these questions will give you possibilities for fulfillment in future jobs that have similar responsibilities.
2. Assess what is needed to perform the job
Any salesperson would tell you that in order to sell anyone something, you have to know what they need. Job postings are "pieces of gold." Read through job postings to find out what your customer (the interviewer) is looking for. What is the need?
Read the job posting three times.
- Read the first time for content.
- Read the second time for words -- vocabulary. What words appear consistently in almost every posting?
- Read the third time and read between the lines; what would it take to get this job done? What are they looking for?
When you have analyzed the job posting, begin a list of qualities that are necessary to do the job so that you can compare and contrast yourself as a fit for the position.
3. Assess your skills
"What can you bring to this position?" is an important question and one that your preparation will help you answer in a confident and self-assured manner.
To aid you in the assessment of your skills, divide a piece of paper into three columns and label the columns "previous experience," "transferable skills" and "personal traits." Begin to fill out what you have to offer in each column.
Knowledge-based skills: Skills learned through experience or education -- business savvy, employment law, compensation, benefits, training, management, coaching, leadership.
Transferable skills: Skills that are general and can take with you to almost any job, such as communication, listening, decision-making, judgment, initiative, negotiation, planning, organizing and time management.
Personal traits: Qualities that make you who you are -- flexible, friendly, dependable, decisive, reliable, calm, high energy, patient, good attitude, loyalty, high integrity, detail oriented.
When you are finished, check the list over. You might be surprised at how easily the list comes together, describing who you are and what you have to offer. By dividing the skills in this way, the task becomes manageable.
The next task is to compare what "they are seeking" and "what you are seeking," against a possible match with "what you can bring to the position." When you have completed these exercises, you will be better prepared to sell yourself as the "solution to the problem" and a serious candidate for the job. The ideal win-win situation is to find a position that will fulfill your needs while being the best fit for the position you are seeking.
The HR professional may be knowledgeable about the hiring process, but there are no guarantees when it comes to getting hired. Assessment and preparation will make a big difference in your success. Don't let the industry myths get in the way of your getting the job you want and deserve.
The Interview Coach, Carole Martin, is a celebrated author, job coach and speaker on the subject of interviewing and recruiting. A contributing writer at Monster.com, Carole uses her proven methods for coaching job seekers on competitive interviewing skills in technical and non-technical industries.
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