I came across this article on Monster.com. Michael Neece makes six concise points about interviewing that has relevance to an applicant
interview. I formatted this article so that my comments appear after each point made by its author:
Six Interview Mistakes
by Michael Neece, Monster.com, Contributing Writer
#1 Confusing an Interview with an Interrogation: Most candidates expect to be interrogated. An interrogation occurs when one person asks all the questions and the other gives the answers. An interview is a business conversation in which both people ask and respond to questions. Candidates who expect to be interrogated avoid asking questions, leaving the interviewer in the role of reluctant interrogator.
Dr. Munroe: I agree. Even though the interviewer is there to direct the process, you as the interviewing applicant have a responsibility to keep up your end of the exchange. You can best do this by understanding why they ask the questions they ask, and therefore, what type of information they seek, and then deliver it with energy and conviction.
If the interview were to indeed be an interrogation, your answers would need to be brief and minimal. This is not what occurs in an applicant interview. The interviewer is trying to get to know the applicant, which means they are looking for his or her personality to shine through. From your answers, the interviewer makes judgments about not only content, but also emotional intelligence. This cannot happen if you respond to the interviewer like he or she is an interrogator.
#2 Making a So-Called Weakness Seem Positive: Interviewers frequently ask candidates, “What are your weaknesses?” Conventional interview wisdom dictates that you highlight a weakness like “I’m a perfectionist,” and turn it into a positive. Interviewers are not impressed, because they’ve probably heard the same answer a hundred times. If you are asked this question, highlight a skill that you wish to improve upon and describe what you are doing to enhance your skill in this area. Interviewers don’t care what your weaknesses are. They want to see how you handle the question and what your answer indicates about you.
Dr. Munroe: I agree. The only problem anyone truly has is one that they are unaware of and therefore, unable to fix. Everybody is a work in process, and I mean everybody! You will demonstrate emotional intelligence by being aware of your weaknesses and especially if you cite ways in which you actively manage them or even more importantly, that you are objective about yourself and always learning more about what makes you tick.
#3 Failing to Ask Questions: Every interview concludes with the interviewer asking if you have any questions. The worst thing to say is that you have no questions. Having no questions prepared indicates you are not interested and not prepared. Interviewers are more impressed by the questions you ask than the selling points you try to make. Before each interview, make a list of five questions you will ask. “I think a good question is, ‘Can you tell me about your career?'” says Kent Kirch, director of global recruiting at Deloitte. “Everybody likes to talk about themselves, so you’re probably pretty safe asking that question.”
Dr. Munroe: I agree. Doctors are curious people who love to solve problems. You can demonstrate this very quality by having the same curiosity about our optometry program. Besides, how can you NOT have questions about one of the most important decisions of your career?!
I recommend that you have the questions written down in a sleek portfolio (no Peechee folders for this task).
When asked by the interviewers, “Do you have any questions for us?,” produce your ready-to-be-an-optometry-student-business portfolio with a well-thought out list of questions you had the foresight to write in advance. This touch demonstrates that you put intention into the process.
Make sure that you have genuine interest in the answers you seek to your questions. You don’t want to just be “feathering your nest” by asking gratuitous questions because conversation may result if the interviewer asks, “That’s an interesting question. Why are you asking?”—a common response to any kind of question—you don’t want to respond with something embarrassing like “I don’t know. Just asking.”
Another caution is to not ask questions about information that is readily available on our website, which will make it look like you haven’t done your homework.
After the interviews are done, I can tell you that interviewing faculty dialogue most about the kind of questions applicants ask them. Your questions not only reveal volumes about you but they make the interview fun and engaging for the interviewers as well. Make the exchange more “two-way” with your own personal questions. They reveal more about your personality and passion than you can imagine.
#4 Researching the Company But Not Yourself: Candidates intellectually prepare by researching the company. Most job seekers do not research themselves by taking inventory of their experience, knowledge and skills. Formulating a list of accomplishments prepares you to immediately respond to any question about your experience. You must be prepared to discuss any part of your background. Creating your talent inventory refreshes your memory and helps you immediately remember experiences you would have otherwise forgotten during the interview.
Dr. Munroe: Couldn’t agree more! In his book, The Medical School Interview: Secrets and a System for Success, Dr. Fleenor provides practical tips on how to create your personal talent inventory. I love this book! He explains why aspects of your temperament and your experience are valuable inventory. He explains how to get these beneficial aspects pre-articulated and ready for “delivery” on demand. This book is the single best resource I recommend to all applicants interviewing for a graduate program in the health professions. Also, you MUST have an Elevator Speech, which is tool used by salespeople and very effective for the graduate school applicant. Click here to read the article I wrote on this subject.
#5 Leaving Your Cellphone On: We may live in a wired, always-available society, but a ringing cellphone is not appropriate for an interview. Turn it off before you enter the company.
Dr. Munroe: Duh?!?
#6 Waiting for a Call: Time is your enemy after the interview. After you send a thank-you letter to every interviewer, follow up a couple of days later with either a question or additional information. Try to contact the person who can hire you, and assume that everyone you met with has some say in the process. Additional information can be details about your talents, a recent competitor’s press release or industry trends. Your intention is to keep everyone’s memory of you fresh.
Dr. Munroe: I am so glad he mentioned this. Yes, this applies to the applicant interview too. Those thank-you cards end up front and center in your file. A follow-up correspondence shows class, maturity, consideration, and respect for the process.
#7 Mushy Handshake: (I added this one) A firm handshake is the symbolic power-language of the business world! It is important that you learn how to shake hands properly, and along with that firm handshake, to smile and make eye contact with comfortable connectedness. I’ve written an entire article expanding on this advice: read a full context on how to avoid this mistake that in general is too often made by young people in formal settings.
In summary, if you are well prepared for the interview, it will be a delightful process. When imagining themselves interviewing, most applicants may envision sweat and white knuckles. No!!! If you are well-prepared and your mind has dress-rehearsed the process, it will be the same feeling you get before an exam when you have prepared well: you are confident that there is no question that can be asked that either you know the answer to outright, or you know what knowledge the question is attempting to assess. That’s a powerful self-affirming feeling.
So I say, YOU CAN DO THIS!
For more blog articles about preparing to interview, I recommend:
The First Interview Question—It’s Always the Same!
Interview Day: A Student Perspective
Favorite Personal Essay and Interview Question: “What Will You Bring to the Table?”
Shadowing and the Interview: Build Your House with Bricks!