It’s amazing that you can present the same core material to someone in a way that offends, flatters, excites, disappoints or impresses. It’s all in the tone, delivery and content. This especially applies to interviews. So, how do you make sure you communicate in a way that represents the best “you” to hiring managers, friends and colleagues? Fine tuning just a few of these everyday interactions will truly go far in all of your relationships.
How your words can portray the best OR worst “you”
Some of these examples may seem overly simple, but recruiters see a surprising number of candidates who leave a negative impression in the first 30 seconds of a conversation or interview by not following these basic guidelines.
Let’s go over some questions that you will almost definitely hear during the course of interviewing and see how to approach them in a way that will best represent you.
Answering the phone: A little goes a long way!
This small response leaves a huge impression. People draw conclusions about your professionalism, confidence and skill level simply by how you answer the phone. That said, the majority of recruiters would probably agree that MOST of the time, candidates will answer “hello?” with a low-energy voice. Plus, they usually sound confused (since they might not know who’s calling yet) or they may sound muffled like they’re putting in their Bluetooth headsets. Instead of a low-energy “hello,” unless it’s a close friend on speed dial, you should always answer, “Hello, this is John” with an upbeat tone. I truly cannot emphasize this enough. It sets the tone for a professional, positive conversation. Answering the call this way makes you seem light years sharper, more in control and more confident than a simple “hello.”
How are you doing today?
“I’m okay” (Insert crashing sound). I get this answer all the time and it’s a true conversation killer and missed opportunity to show the caller that you have personality. “I’m okay” or even, “I’m good” sounds negative because it is short, expresses nothing about your day, and shows zero interest in the other person. Especially when you’re aiming to impress someone, you should answer with something like this:
- “I’m great, it’s a beautiful day out! How about yourself?”
“Thanks for asking, I’m having a great day. I just got my favorite latte from Starbucks — I’m addicted to this stuff. Are you a coffee fan too?” (they respond with yes) “Oh then you should try Dunkin Donuts and Corner Bakery too, those are my top three favorites.” Ta-Dah — the conversation starts with flow!
Why did you leave your last job?
Uh oh. You immediately think back to your last day and all the negative emotions that came with it. Since this question likely catches you off guard you answer, “My manager and I didn’t see eye to eye.” Then there’s dreaded silence, so you feel the need to keep talking and divulge all the inner-office drama you experienced over the last two years. Please do not fall prey to this kiss of death during job interviews. Instead, try one of these great responses:
- “I had a great experience at XYZ Company. I learned a lot during my time there and left on great terms. I simply felt it was time for the next step in my career which is why I’m interested in your company. I’ve heard great things about the technologies you use, the growth potential and your culture.” — If you can use this answer to refocus on why you’re interested in their company, that’s ideal.
- “I had a great experience and learned a lot from my last company. I’m so grateful for the time I spent there. Recently, there were a lot of (leadership, financial, team structure…fill in the blank) changes in the environment so it prompted me to be open-minded to a new opportunity where I can feel comfortable being a part of a team long-term. That’s what interested me about your company, the culture, leadership and growth here are very impressive.”
- “I really enjoyed my time with XYZ Company, and made some great friendships there. They gave me an awesome opportunity to learn a lot and as much as I loved it there, I’ve realized that I can grow and contribute even more somewhere else where I can (learn more technologies, work with a larger team, work in a new area…fill in the blank).”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Interviewers know that odds are you don’t truly know where you will be in five years because you never know what life will bring. So what the manager is really asking is, do you have goals or do you just want any job? I always, always encourage candidates to not only answer this question but also find a way to inject some “you” into it. Remember, most interviewers have probably heard similar answers from at least three other candidates, so make it personal and different. Here are some examples:
- “It’s funny, if you had asked me five years ago, I would have never thought I’d be here in front of you because I didn’t make a specific ‘plan’ for myself. But, I did promise myself that I would: 1) Work in a field I love, 2) Work for a company that shares my values and 3) Work to improve at what I do every day. Doing those three things led me down a great path. I can make that same commitment to you, that I will work hard and work with passion if you give me this job and I expect it to lead me to more great things here in five years.”
- “I want to pursue my ABC and XYZ certifications, really make a network for myself in the community by becoming more involved with XYZ group (TechBridge, WIT, TAG, PHP users group…) and be able to point to at least three major ways I’ve changed or improved processes for the company I work with.” — Now that’s a refreshing answer because it’s specific and confident.
- “I’ve found that being open to opportunities has been the smartest thing I’ve done, so I don’t have a hard and fast goal of a position or title I will have in five years. But I do know that I love my field and that each year I want to look back and feel like I’ve advanced in an important way. With that mindset, my values and the importance I place on working hard, I know I’ll do great things with whatever company I’m partnering with, and I’m hoping that company will be (YOUR COMPANY).”
- If you are the rare breed who knows exactly where you want to be, then great! As long as you are tactful and considerate when stating this goal. You do not want the interviewer thinking you are after his/her job in two years. “I know that I want to use my technical knowledge to eventually transition into a leadership role since I enjoy leading teams and being hands-on. I’m open to what that will look like, but within the next three years, I want to manage technical projects, coach new hires and oversee deliverables. Do you believe that is a realistic goal at (YOUR COMPANY)?”
I hope these reminders stick with you and make an impact during future job interviews. Here at Thompson, we provide this and more feedback to our IT consultants in order to ensure they’re fully prepared and ready to make a great impression during job interviews. What other tips or preparations have you found success with?