Workshops - Job Search Strategies: Competing in the Job Market
Preparing for Interviews
Currently working as Manager, Recruitment & Selection for Wal-Mart Canada, Sharon has worked as an HR generalist and recruitment manager in both the IT and retail environments. She has built a career helping people find jobs that match their skills and aspirations. Sharon holds a B.A. and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Guelph, and a post-graduate diploma in human resource management from Sheridan College.
An interview is an opportunity for both the employer and job seeker to evaluate each other, and to determine whether there is a match for the available position. This presentation will review the best ways to prepare to make the most of a job interview. This will include a summary of the different types of interview techniques, tips on research, and understanding how to frame your experience to match employers’ expectations. It will also discuss what to expect in an interview, your rights and what not to say or do during the interview.
Sharon O’Hara, a recruiter with Wal-Mart Canada, gave participants an overview of the different types of interviews they were likely to encounter during their job search, and helpful tips on how to best present themselves to potential employers. “Opportunities like this conference raise you in the eye of the employer, so make sure to add it on your resumé,” she said.
When called for an interview, candidates should immediately research the company, the position, and salary expectations. It is also a good idea to ask the recruiter or the person conducting the interview for more details about the position or any other relevant information. O’Hara suggested participants practice answering questions and become comfortable speaking about their resumé and experience. The best way to do this is to enlist the help of family and friends to conduct mock interviews and review strengths and weaknesses. “Practicing makes you less nervous,” she said.
O’Hara told participants to prepare questions for the interviewer and to bring a copy of their resumé and a list of references to the interview. She said that by preparing for an interview, candidates show potential employers that they are interested in the organization where they are seeking employment. “Recruiting is like running a dating service,” she said. “It’s all about putting people together to create successful relationships.” She encouraged participants to “find out what a good job looks like” and to ask the interviewer why he or she works for the organization. The interview process is not simply one-sided, she said. It is also a good opportunity for individuals to determine whether a particular organization would be a good fit for them in light of their interests and goals.
On the logistical side, O’Hara recommended that participants plan their route and transportation needs, dress appropriately, know the name of the person they are meeting, and arrive on time.
Interviews are not meant to intimidate, said O’Hara. When employers request an interview with a candidate, “they want that situation to work out.” By asking what type of interview they will be participating in, candidates are better able to prepare. Knowing whether candidates will be interviewed by a panel, interviewed as part of a larger group, or asked to give scenario-based answers to interviewer questions can indicate the type of information employers are looking to glean from the process.
“Be confident,” O’Hara said. “You’re there because your qualifications meet the employers’ requirements.”
She told participants that a key element to successfully answering interview questions is to use the STAR technique: situation, task, action, result. This technique involves providing the interviewer with an overview of a situation the candidate has faced, explaining the task that was required, the action that was taken, and the subsequent result. Most interviewers are looking for these elements in candidates’ responses. This technique is also useful when interviewers ask candidates to give an example of a situation where they were not successful. “If you’ve rehearsed, you can put a positive spin on it,” she said. Experience gained at school and through volunteer work or club membership is just as valid as work experience, she added.
O’Hara said participants should not hesitate to take a few moments during the interview to formulate an answer. “Don’t rush to fill a silence,” she said. “Recruiters often use this as a tactic.” She said that asking the interviewer to repeat a question or formulate it in a different way is also perfectly acceptable. She added that candidates should never ask for validation during an interview, since it shows a lack of confidence.
O’Hara said recruiters are looking for candidates who are interested in the organization, who are prepared for the interview, who are positive and enthusiastic about their skills, and who are aligned with the organization’s needs.
“Don’t be afraid to say you’re nervous; don’t swear; and don’t use slang,” she said. O’Hara told participants that the interview “begins when you enter the building and ends when you leave the building.” She said that in her case, she often asks her office’s receptionist her thoughts on a particular candidate. “You are ‘on’ the whole time you’re there,” she said.
O’Hara continued with her list of do’s and don’ts. “Don’t stalk the recruiter, arrive on time, dress appropriately, come prepared, smile and shake hands, make eye contact, turn off any cell phone or electronic device, take notes, be specific, don’t interrupt, do your research, and be prepared to tell the interviewer why you want to work for this organization,” she said.
O’Hara also suggested candidates ask some general questions on the position but refrain from direct questions regarding hours of work or salary. She said that bringing a portfolio of past accomplishments is also acceptable, and that candidates should send a thank-you note.
On the issue of disclosure, O’Hara said that any gaps in a candidate’s resumé should be addressed. How these are addressed, or how an individual chooses to deal with disclosure, depends on his or her own comfort level and employment situation. In certain work environments, “the need to know” may be more pressing. O’Hara told participants that if they chose to disclose their disability to their employer, they should be “matter of fact and aware of what you need.” O’Hara said disclosure should be viewed as an opportunity to educate others.