How to Prepare for an Interview
A well structured resume gets you in the door but how you interview determines whether or not you’re offered the job. Our team of HR experts are well versed in the interviewing process from the hiring side and they know what to look for in a great interview. Discover how to prepare for an interview and what to expect before your next job opportunity!
What is Recruiting & Interviewing?
Recruiting is the process of finding qualified individuals to fill a job opening. This includes evaluating interested candidates, selecting the most qualified candidate(s), and bringing them on board. Interviewing is a part of the recruiting process. Interviewing is a multi-stage process itself and it’s where interviewers evaluate potential employees for the job and interviewees have the opportunity to evaluate the role and the organization.
Companies can conduct the interviewing and recruiting process internally or use external HR support, like HR NOLA, for their hiring needs. Using external HR support reduces the amount of time a company spends internally working on bringing in a new team member. External HR resources are also more likely to have the knowledge and know-how that will bring in higher quality candidates, hopefully leading to a top notch new hire.
“A good HR support service will know an organization in and out and work to bring in candidates who will be a good fit for both the position and the organization. When an organization with no HR infrastructure goes through the hiring process, they typically spend more time and often can expose themselves to non-compliant behaviors and actions that could land them in legal trouble,” our HR practitioner Ashley Sorrells advises.
The Application Process
It’s crucial to follow the process outlined by the company you’re trying to work for. Organizations put interview processes in place for a reason. If their website says to email a ‘jobs’ address or submit your resume on a Career page, this is going to be the most efficient way to apply. It also tells the organization that you know how to follow directions and that you respect their process! If you can’t follow the rules as an applicant, how will you function as an employee? Candidates should also pay close attention to any pre-screening questions/questionnaires that are involved in the application process, such as cognitive ability screenings or skill specific testing, as these will help separate top candidates. Completing these within requested time frames should be of high importance.
Different Types of Interviews
Depending on the type of job you’re applying for, you will most likely go through various types of interviews. Understanding the purpose of each will help you to prepare for an interview.
The Phone Interview
Whether it’s an interview or a screening, a candidate’s first contact with an employer is usually over the phone. This is typically a brief phone call with HR discussing your interests, why you’re leaving your current position, what you’re looking for in your next role, and so on. This is a high-level conversation that should be casual and allows both parties to get a feel for one another.
“This is the most efficient way to determine whether a candidate should be brought in to the office and helps you quickly sift through candidates. This also allows candidates to get a feel for the organization and whether or not you are interested in moving forward in the interview process,” HR practitioner Molly Bruner advises.
The In-Person Interview
If the candidate is local, chances are they’ll be invited to go onsite or meet somewhere to conduct the in-person interview. If they are not local to the client’s location, typical options would include virtual interviews or flying candidates to the interview site.
Whether you’re flown out or interviewed virtually depends on the size of the organization and hiring team along with the budget allocated to hiring. Some companies conduct virtual interviews with all local and non-local candidates before conducting in-person interviews to save time. “I firmly believe in the importance of a face-to-face meeting, whether virtual or in-person,” Molly says.
How to Prepare for an Interview
Practice makes perfect. Just like the Saints have practices before their big games, you should practice with a mock interview. Practicing your interview skills will help you become more comfortable when you are in the real life situation. This helps you from getting too wordy, speaking too quickly, and helps to identify any ticks or quirks you might have and to work on eliminating those. Practicing in a mock interview also gives you practice refining your answers for standard questions and can help work through any potential issues in your background, such as gaps or terminations, by practicing what you’re going to say.
Don’t know what questions to expect during your interview? Here are our top 4 interview questions we ask an interviewee:
Why are you looking for a new opportunity? Employers want to know that you’re not a job-hopper when you get bored, you’re not leaving on bad terms, and so on. Be honest with this question though. They might check your references and lying about this will get you nowhere.
Tell me about your greatest weakness and what you’re doing to improve in this area. Molly said she likes this question because it’s not your typical “tell me where you struggle,” but rather allows candidates to highlight an area where they are trying to improve and draw attention to the steps they are taking to better themselves. It takes the focus away from just where you struggle and lets you demonstrate skills such as problem solving, self-awareness and intuitiveness when it comes to fixing something about yourself.
While being interviewed, you should expect to talk about any projects and/or assignments you’ve worked on, including success, failures, and potential improvements you could have made to those projects. Be sure to have at least two examples of each prepared to discuss with the interviewer.
Situational questions are also becoming the norm these days in the interview process. “Think about different challenging situations you have been in and be prepared to describe them, and if it wasn’t your best moment be ready to relay how you could have handled the situation better,” Ashley advises. Company’s don’t expect you to be perfect, but they want to know you are accountable and can learn from past experiences.
Acing the Interview
While we’ve all been on the other side of the table, you’ll be surprised to know that the interviewer is generally just as nervous, anxious, and excited about the process as the interviewee. To help the interview go smoother for both you and the interviewer, here are some of our tried & true tips:
Let your personality come out. Interviewers want to meet real, genuine people.
Research the company. “Check out their website, look up the team members through LinkedIn, read reviews on Google and Glassdoor,” Ashley advises.
Be yourself and don’t rely on your resume alone. Your resume is great for outlining your background and accomplishments but it doesn’t do your personality and personal experience any justice.
Send a Thank-You Note. This seems like a no-brainer, but fewer and fewer candidates are taking this extra step and employers are noticing. Make sure that you do what you can to stand out. Include a personal note from your interview and send it in a timely manner, usually 24-48 hrs after the interview. “I have a client who will immediately disqualify candidates if they don’t receive a thank-you note within 48hrs - don’t disqualify yourself over this simple step,” Molly advises.
How to Stand Out
Asking the interviewer questions at the end of your interview will help you stand out as a candidate. These are some of our favorite questions to hear prospective candidates ask:
What is a big red flag that will count someone out of the prospective applicant pool?
Ask about the company’s mission, vision, and culture.
Find out about their performance management processes. This is crucial to your development as an employee and shows they care in your success at the company and are prepared to discuss any missteps in a timely and efficient manner.
If you are meeting with your potential supervisor, ask them about their management style and how they manage their team. Depending on their answer, this will give you some insight into whether or not you will be happy working for them and if that is going to be a good fit.
Ask about internal communications. Do they email or do they meet when information is being disseminated? Does the CEO or President deliver this information personally or is don’t by mid-level managers? Molly encourages this question because it gives you an idea of how they operate.
Ask them to describe a day in the office.. This should give a high-level overview of what your day-to-day interactions will be like, what you can expect, etc.
The first follow up is when you send that Thank-You note that we mentioned earlier - usually within 24 to 48 hours after the interview. You may note your appreciation for them taking the time to meet with you and you can highlight why you think you would make a great addition to the team. “This gives you the chance to follow-up with them under the guise of a thank-you note without being pushy,” Molly advises.
The second follow up would be a week or so after the interview, if you haven’t heard anything back from them after sending your thank-you note. You can be direct during this email or call and tell them that you’re following up your interview to see if you could answer any remaining questions for them or could discuss any concerns they might have. Also, reiterate that you are interested in the organization and would be interested in a chance to work there. It could be they got busy, are finishing up other interviews, etc. and just need to circle back to who they’ve spoken with.
Need some help getting the team together? Hiring the right person for the job can be tough! HR NOLA is staffed with trained experts in the recruiting process that can work with your business to ensure you get the best candidates possible. Contact us today to set up a consultation to find out how HR can boost your business!